Hello everyone! I’m Literally A Ghost that Pushes Over Candles and I’m here to talk to you about Commander in a series called The Spirit of EDH. In the coming articles, I’ll be helping you build around specific commanders, explore archetypes, and find room for fun cards and personal touches along the way. In each article, I’ll be breaking down a deck and explaining some of the choices so that, from there, you can build the deck in a way that best suits you.
Commander is a varied format that runs the power level gambit from Planeswalker Decks to Legacy lite. On that premise, The Spirit of EDH will be discussing more about how you can build a deck, by guiding you through your own decisions rather than telling you a correct way to build a deck. Build it to match your meta, include cards you and your friends will find fun! (Of course, the option always exists to take the deck I post, which is perfectly acceptable as well.)
For today, we’ll be discussing Elenda, the Dusk Rose. A deck that’s about the middle of the road for power level.
Elenda, Aristocrat of Garrano
Saint Elenda is a powerful Aristocrat, growing larger from each death (your creatures or your opponents) and then bursting into Vampire tokens when she dies. Because of the nature of her death trigger, the deck operates as a token deck that makes use of sacrifice outlets to become resilient and build up value very rapidly.
The important three sections of your deck are Reanimation (ways to get Saint Elenda back), Token Creation (to make Saint Elenda gather up those counters) and Sacrifice Outlets (to actually get the counters onto her, then to make your brand new token army as well.)
Saint Elenda wants to see creatures die to draw power from them. While you can try to kill as many of your opponents’ creatures as possible to make use of this, the more guaranteed route to take would be to make tokens to support an Aristocrats archetype. Creating and sacrificing tokens quickly grows Saint Elenda to a very large creature, allowing you to get in with her or crack her open like a piñata full of Vampires. While there is a lot of flexibility to the type of token creation you want to run, here are a few of the standouts:
Twilight Drover — This Spirit is a self-contained token factory. Cycle tokens through your sacrifice outlets and each death gives you the ability to make two more Spirit tokens. Though it is a mana-sink, it is a problem that needs to be answered quickly before getting out of hand.
Requiem Angel — This angel lacks the text “non-token” on her card, turning every death of a non-Spirit into a Spirit token, including the deaths of your other tokens.
Animation Module — With an available sacrifice outlet, this card forms a brutal synergy with Saint Elenda: Sacrifice a creature, get a counter, pay one mana, get a servo, and repeat. For as much mana as you have, you can make Saint Elenda larger and get the sacrifice outlet effect that many times as well.
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion — A veritable army-in-a-can. In addition to letting you wrath the board of all larger creatures, Elspeth will happily give you three more bodies every turn.
Sacrifice outlets are a very necessary component to having Saint Elenda work, regardless of the direction you take her. You need to be able to control when, and how often, your creatures die. I’ve found running about 10 repeatable sacrifice outlets of various strength is enough that you won’t be short for one when you need it. A few of the more important, or powerful, cards are:
Attrition — This card is a brutal thing to be staring down unless you’re playing a heavily Black deck. The number of tokens you have access to means that you’ll prove Davvol right; our resources, unlike theirs, are limitless.
Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim — Ayli allows you to to make use of the inherent lifegain Saint Elenda offers, turning your life total into a repeated Utter End after passing her 50 life threshold.
Krav, the Unredeemed — This demon will usually draw you a card when you cast him, though it will always be Regna, the Redeemer, in addition to being a powerful sacrifice outlet. For one Black mana per batch, you can sacrifice any number of creatures to draw that many cards, gain that much life, and put that many counters on Krav. Even one activation can refill your hand as well as make a dangerous threat.
Teysa, Orzhov Scion — This Orzhov advokist can only sacrifice White creatures, so it is important to remember that Saint Elenda makes White Vampires. In batches of three, you can sacrifice them to exile a problem creature. As well, if you sacrifice any Black creatures, including Black tokens to other sources, she’ll make a White Spirit to replace it.
Now on to the elephant in the room: Saint Elenda’s death trigger. You can’t get the tokens from Saint Elenda and have the replacement effect to put her back into the Command Zone. She needs to die to get those Vampire tokens. This means we need to stock our deck full of reanimation to get her back out of the graveyard after cracking her open. I’m currently running seven repeatable effects, five powerful non-repeating effects, and one semi-repeatable.
Ravos, Soultender — In addition to regrowing a creature of yours each turn, Ravos is also an anthem for your team. An important note is that Saint Elenda gives you tokens based on her power, not on the number of counters on her. This means that Ravos will net you one more Vampire when she dies.
Hell’s Caretaker and Whisper, Blood Liturgist — These cards act as both sacrifice outlets and reanimation. Trading body for body is a very uneven exchange when you have access to so many tokens and bodies with death triggers. Even just going the motions of trading the same few creatures can quickly accumulate value.
Athreos, God of Passage — While this Therosian God won’t get back your tokens when they die, the added life cost can add up quickly. Board wipes quickly become an ineffective solution to your growing board, as paying to stop the free regrowths will become too heavy a burden to bear.
Liliana, Death’s Majesty — A planeswalker that creates tokens, fills your graveyard for your reanimation spells, and is, in and of itself, a repeatable reanimation source. Sign me right up!
Cards to Consider
These cards don’t fall into one of the three previous sections but still form a powerful synergy with your deck, or your Commander, to be thoughtful inclusions.
Cathars’ Crusade — This is one of the most infamous White game enders. An 8 power Saint Elenda will die to leave behind 72 power worth of Vampires. In addition, making tokens around her will quickly grow her to a size that turns a board wipe into a death sentence for the entire board.
Blade of the Bloodchief — A one-mana equipment with a one mana equip cost that triples the growth rate of your Commander. This card is one of the most dangerous things you have access to on a decently sized board. It’s realistic to have Saint Elenda grow from a 1/1 to a 16/16 in one turn cycle.
Together Forever — This card isn’t quite a reanimation spell, but for one mana spent preemptively to Saint Elenda’s death will immediately regrow her. However, due to the triggered nature of the activated ability, you will still get all the Vampires from her death!
Deathbringer Liege — A lord that acts as two anthems for your Commander and a single anthem for your tokens that doubles as repeated removal. It is important to note that due to the wording on his second triggered ability, it is possible to cast a White and Black spell, tap the creature, then destroy it because it is tapped. You can also cast Black spells repeatedly to Assassinate any tapped creatures they may have.
Grave Pact — This card is miserable to face down. The inevitability it presents is astounding. With a sacrifice outlet and a decent board, it will wither your opponents board down to nothing in very short order.
The Spice Market
I firmly believe in having fun when building your Commander decks. In each of the articles I will write, there will always be a few cards included in a deck that may not be the proven best man for the job, or will have a weaker synergy, but are being included to either try out or just because they have fun play patterns. These cards are the most flexible if you’re customizing. Try these out or try something you think might be interesting!
Helm of the Host — This card synergizes with your token-producing cards, as well as being able to clone Saint Elenda. There will be a lot of decks you might want to include it in, but Saint Elenda offers a few more synergies past “I want clones of my Commander.”
Desecrated Tomb — With the amount of regrowing you’re doing, as well as reanimating, this card has proven to be a very consistent token maker. Victimize might make only one bat token, but repeated uses of Phyrexian Reclamation will net you one bat per use.
Thrilling Encore — The best case scenario for this card is, of course, a board wipe is played and then you cast a cheaper, slightly weaker Rise of the Dark Realms. However, in an Aristocrats archetype, the floor on this card is much higher. You are fully capable of sacrificing a bunch of your non-tokens then casting this as a Black Second Sunrise.
All of these cards were considered for the deck, but after some testing, they proved to not be worth the slot. I’ll share my experience and my reasoning but if you feel they would be stronger in your meta, or perhaps you just want to run them, just be wary.
Elspeth, Knight-Errant — This version of Elspeth tended to be much less impactful than Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. When you were behind, her lack of a minus ability meant that she could very easily have no impact before being attacked to death. When you were ahead, she was a fine card. However, Sorin’s ability to make an emblem that will stick around permanently, instead of giving a creature +3/+3 and Flying, has proven to be a very powerful tool to have.
Sun Titan — While a powerful recursion piece in his own right, his inability to get back Saint Elenda is too big of a glaring flaw. Too often he would get back something small, but inconsequential when I just wanted another card that can get back our Lady.
Intangible Virtue — While we do have a strong token strategy, this again, underperformed to expectations. For one mana more you can get an anthem that can also increase the size of the rest of your creatures, or instead you can run an anthem that also regrows creatures each turn a la Ravos.
Legion’s Landing — Another card that seemed like a slam dunk but too often was just not worth the card slot. If it were just the land side, it would be an amazing card! As it stands, however, the fact that you have to still draw and play a one-mana 1/1 and attack with three creatures, meaning you can’t run it in a land slot, is just too much for too little.
Planar Void — This was a card I was suggested immediately upon building Saint Elenda. The interaction you would want is that it’s a triggered ability, not a replacement effect, so Saint Elenda can die, make her tokens, then be exiled, then allow the replacement effect to replace being exiled from the graveyard to returning to the command zone. However, this card also shuts off any and all of our other graveyard synergies, making the rest of our recursion very bad. It might be good in a very different build, but not for this one.
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite — This Praetor is a very powerful card and would be a great curve-topper to end a game. I try not to have too many of my decks rely on the same win condition so she is missing from my build of the deck, but if you wish to purchase one, it would be a powerful investment.
Ashnod’s Altar and Phyrexian Altar — Both of these cards are powerful combo pieces. Some playgroups don’t particularly like combos, which is understandable, but if you want to start down the path to have multiple combo finishers, these would be two of the first cards to consider. Either one of these makes an infinite combo with Animation Module and Elenda, the Dusk Rose.
Sadistic Hypnotist — Hand attack is another polarizing inclusion but this sadist is a powerful inclusion. If you have an issue with control decks of any variety, this would be a good inclusion. You just need to find a window to resolve it and you can rip apart your opponents’ hands.
Diabolic Intent — Newly printed in Battlebond, the sacrifice cost is usually a benefit from your deck and will allow you to find any of your powerful cards for only two mana. Phyrexian Reclamation, Skullclamp, Blade of the Bloodchief… sometimes, a tutor is just what you need.
Dusk // Dawn — If you feel you need more board wipes for your meta, the first one you should consider is Dusk to Dawn, allowing you to pick up all of your low-power creatures from your bin. Slaughter the Strong would be another strong consideration, allowing you to keep your Aristocrats but wiping the rest of the board mostly clean.
Synergies and Combos
Reveillark and Karmic Guide — So, this deck does indeed have an infinite combo in it. Both of these cards are great in their own rights, but if you combine these with a costless sacrifice outlet, they loop! Karmic guide enters the battlefield, targetting Reveillark. Return Reveillark, sacrifice Karmic guide, sacrifice Reveillark. It will return two creatures, one being Karmic Guide. Repeat until desired results.
Together Forever, Hangarback Walker, and Krav, the Unredeemed — Because Saint Elenda deals in counters, there is a small amount of synergy there. Together Forever will allow you to recycle any of your other creatures, such as Hangarback and Krav, that deal with counters as well. This also forms a very powerful synergy with Cathars’ Crusade, allowing you to rescue any of your creatures after the effect they trigger resolves.
Open the Graves, Desecrated Tomb, Hell’s Caretaker, Whisper, Blood Liturgist, and Reveillark — The other thing to remember is that you don’t need to be reanimating Sheoldred every time you use one of these. There is a lot of value to be gained from cycling a few creatures in and out of the yard over and over, getting tokens each time from Open the Graves and Desecrated Tomb while also growing your commander. If you have access to Hell’s Caretaker or Whisper, it is often better to use them every time you can, just to cycle bodies!
Thank you for reading through my first article for MTG Deck Techs! Elenda, the Dusk Rose was one of the more fun decks to build that I’ve made in recent years and is an absolute blast to play. So tell me, what did you think? Did I offer information you thought was helpful, raise some insights you might not have thought of, miss stuff you thought I should mention, or any other thoughts I didn’t call out? Leave a comment below to let me know, or you can haunt me directly on Twitter (@FrigglishTGhost) or spook my email (AMillionDifferentColors@Gmail.com).
Make sure you join me next week, where I’ll be talking about Mardu (W/B/R) Equipment!
Until then, may the Spirit of EDH possess you with creativity.
— Literally a Ghost that Pushes Over Candles
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