Commander: Shirei, The Killing Joke

Sometimes, when making a Commander deck, I’m looking for something less serious, more cheesy. And nothing says ‘cheese’ like breaking the one-card limit imposed by Commander deckbuilding rules. So, I went for Shadowborn Apostle. To make the best of it the deck really only needs four different cards, commander not included.

swamp shadowborn
runescarred thrumming

First of all, you’ll need some Swamps. Then you use those to play the Shadowborn Apostles. These find the Rune-Scarred Demon, which in turn searches Thrumming Stone. With Thrumming Stone in place, playing just one Apostle is likely to ripple into playing all the apostles from your deck.


This turns the deck into a bit of a glass cannon, so it needs some things to make it slightly more stable. This is the reason I choose Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker as my commander. But it’s not enough to protect your army of apostles. Fortunately they are both human and cleric, so the duo of Rotlung Reanimator and Xathrid Necromancer turns them into an army of zombies in case of their inevitable demise.

rotlung xathridnecromancer


But why limit yourself to just one demon? There are plenty around that could work well with your demon summoning friends. When making a cheap and cheesy deck, there is some room for more over-the-top evil!


demonofdeathsgateYou’d be hard pressed to find something as big, flying and tramply as Demon of Death’s Gate. With all the apostles it’s not inconceivable to have it out on turn two, for the low, low cost of three of the little cultists and 6 life. What’s 6 life when you start out with 40?

Barring any early removal, you’re set, and putting some pressure on your opponents. The downside is that it’s a little more difficult to get out six apostels to summon the rest of the demons. Given that your entire deck is a glass cannon it’s not that bad though. Most of the things that disrupt blazing out of Death’s Gate would also cripple the rest of the demons summoned that quickly.

Later on in the game, you can still summon Demon of Death’s Gate through sacrificing the apostles, and it’s a big tramply thing without drawbacks. That should keep people busy while you set up your combo or bring out the rest of your demons.

Yes, things will escalate even after you bring out a 9/9!

obnixilisWhen you open the gates of Hell, opponents will probably be scrambling to find a solution to the outpour of netherworld denizens. It may be hypocritical to try and stop people searching their decks when your deck is all about having dozens of copies of the same card, that search your deck, but hey! Demons will be demons, right?

Ob Nixilis, Unshackled isn’t even that expensive at even when he starts out as a measly 4/4. Fortunately, you’ll be sacrificing a lot of guys to get out more demons, so it shouldn’t take that long before he dwarfes Demon of Death’s Gate and starts taking names.

Being a legendary creature himself, he could even be concidered as a commander for the deck. It would mean the deck will be lighter on recursion and missing out on the fact that the Shadowborn Apostles can pull him out of the deck though. While it would be nice thematically, in the end it’s not that practical.


reaperfromtheabyssWhile the Shadowborn Apostles are linked to Shadowborn Demon flavour-wise, Reaper from the Abyss does pretty much the same thing, only better. His Morbid trigger is a slightly delayed version of Shadowborn Demon’s enters the battlefield trigger. And it’s repeatable.

The Reaper is also slightly bigger and doesn’t have the hassle of requiring sacrifices during your upkeep. It may be worth to keep Shadowborn Demon available, for when you need to destroy a creature right now, instead of during the end step, but in general, the Reaper should edge him out in your ritual summonings.

They do make a good tag-team, though. Morbid will also trigger from the destruction Shadowborn Demon caused. In general, the repeated sacrifice of your cult members will keep the Reaper active, while simultaniously keeping troublesome creatures from the board.



bloodgiftNot all demons are big black terrors in the sky. Some are medium black terrors in the sky, at a still respectable 5/4. Putting all your eggs in one demonic basket means there is a certain risk that it all falls on its face. That’s when you need help crawling out of a pit.

Bloodgift Demon helps getting back card advantage when things fall apart, so you’ll recover twice as fast. It’s a stop-gap measure, for sure, but sometimes you’ll be glad to have it.

There is even the option of making demonic deals with other players, giving them cards to help beat another opponent, on the rare occasion you think they might be better suited to deal with a particular problem.

Having some kind of buffer while you are ahead will help you keep the advantage. It’s also helpful in finding the last pieces of your combo and usher in the final fase of your diabolic scheme.


harvesterofsoulsTalking about card draw; Harvester of Souls is probably the champion. Unlike the other demons he is stuck to the ground, keeping the groundforces at a distance (hopefully) with Deaththoutch.

Whether things go horribly right or horribly wrong, creatures will die a lot, so there is a lot of potential draws coming from him. Often it will be so much that it’s better to decline using the extra draws; Your cult can’t find Demons in your hand, only in your deck.

Once you hold six apostles needed to get started again when things go awry, you probably can’t sculpt your hand into something better anyway.

If a card has the potential of giving you more draws than you can handle, it’s probably good. In fact, he may just going in the deck instead of Bloodgift Demon, not along side of him.




So, you managed to bring out the entire cult of Shadowborn Apostles with your Thrumming Stone, and brought about your legion of demons. Shirei is making sure that death may die, and everything is going according to plan. All you need to do is wrap things up, hopefully in the most spectacular way possible.

ashnodsaltar exsanguinate

 Now you can sacrifice the entire cult on Ashnod’s Altar. This should leave you with more than enough mana to drain all the life force from all your opponents, laughing maniacally while they shrivel and die in what is probably total overkill.


While I choose Shirei as the commander, for his ability to keep bringing back the apostles, there are some alternatives.  The most important role of the commander is to keep bringing back the apostles, so one set of six is enough to bring out all the demons and finish the game quickly.

shirei marchesa athreos

Marchesa may be able to fill the role, as long as the Apostles can Dethrone, or get some +1/+1 counters some other way. The downside is that she has 3 colours, so the ‘80% of the deck is just 2 different cards’ thing doesn’t fly with her. She is slightly more sturdy against mass removal and she does offer a wider choice of demons, making the deck overall more varied.

Athreos, God of Passage is another option. He’s cheap enough to get out early, and by himself difficult to remove. He also opens the way to use Mirror Entity as a demon, potentially turning the Shadowborn Apostles into an army of demons themselves. Immortal Servitude is another card that could come in handy.

Multicolour decks are the opposite of where I wanted to go, though, so Shirei it will be for now.

~ Shirei, The Killing Joke ~

Commander (1)

Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker

Creatures (60)

51 Shadowborn Apostle
Bloodgift Demon
Demon of Death’s Gate
Harvester of Souls
Ob Nixilis, Unshackled
Reaper from the Abyss
Rotlung Reanimator
Rune-Scarred Demon
Shadowborn Demon
Xathrid Necromancer

Lands (36)

36 Swamp

Artifacts (2)

Ashnod’s Altar
Thrumming Stone

Sorceries (1)


I don’t think it’s a deck I’ll bring out often, because while it may be funny the first time, it does get repetative after the novelty wears off. It’s not even that novel in the first place. It’s just nice to see it in action once in a while, as the tension build towards reaching critical mass.

Having a deck focussed on demons is awesome though. Did you know that Pit Spawn got an erratum and is a Demon now, instead of being just a Beast? When I started playing my friends thought that one was totally unfair. Or how about running a classic like The Wretched? It’s a tribe with so much potential for cruel fun!

Posted under Commander / EDH

Khans of Tarkir: Zurgo Helmsmasher

During San Diego Comiccon the first of the Khans was shown. It’s Zurgo Helmsmsaher, Khan of the Mardu clan. Mardu is the clan, with a focus on , and represents the Wings of the Dragon, which doesn’t grant flying, weirdly enough but haste and other speed-focused abilities. As a named card, Zurgo is ofcourse legendary, so he might lead a commander deck in the future. So, what does he do? Let’s take a look:

zurgohelmsmasher1For we get a 7/2 haste creature. That’s allright. As a commander, you probably will see him coming, but the threat of one-third of lethal commander damage makes him dangerous. Especially since it’s in the colours of Boros Charm, Double Cleave and Psychotic Fury.

Zurgo doesn’t trample. But that hardly matters in these colours, because Zurgo is indestructible during your turn while being aligned with the colours that do mass destruction best. It’ll be common for a Wrath effect taking care of armies of chump-blockers, while leaving Zurgo the last man standing.

jokul wrath damnation

There are plenty of removal options, so why not just run all of them and keep wiping the board over and over while poking for damage? Boom! It’s not like you’re holding back blockers anyway.

The +1/+1 counter theme doesn’t seem that important, as Zurgo is rather big already and can kill in two or three hits regardless. It does fit the Voltron-style decks he seems to gravitate towards. Despite him not having much in the way of unique abilities, Zurgo does fill his own niche. So far there haven’t been that much legendary creatures, and they’re all very different from Zurgo. In fact, 2 of these originate from the same Commander deck.

kaalia oros tariel

Kaalia of the Vast is a popular commander, but plays vastly different from Zurgo, favouring an army of big creatures (Angels, Demons, Dragons) instead of going at it alone. Oros, the Avenger is an oldy, and so not very efficient. The damage clause could help Zurgo for some extra wrathing, even though the timing of it is off. Tariel, Reckoner of Souls is a three-colour Adarkar Valkyrie, although in many ways a little worse.

This is what makes Zurgo a good commander: There simply isn’t much that’s like him available. He’s good enough to go at it alone and make some quick kills with double strike or multiple combat phases, while dodging his own mass removal. Who knows what the Mardu clan has available to complement him? He’s not the most splashy commander, when even indestructibility has become a more mainstream ability, but different enough to warrant a look.

Posted under Commander / EDH,Spoilers