Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim just loves sacrificing victims for her religious rituals. This deck weaponizes her life gain. She reanimates her victims just so she can sacrifice them all over again. Multiple boardwipes and ETB exile/destroy creatures keep the board clear of threats. Please offer feedback and upvote. Please read the Notable Exclusions section. Many cards have already been playtested (including the Reveillark/Karmic Guide combo)

This is ultimately a control deck. Ayli slowly wins through keeping the board clear of threats. Once we're up to 50+ life we can use her second sacrificing ability to control the board. We can't rely on that ability alone though. We won't always be above 50 life and we may not always have enough creatures to sacrifice for the ability. The Orzhov guild offers some of the best removal in the game. Combined black and white can take care of any type of permanent, often exiling them. The deck uses boardwipes, instants, and creatures (which can be reanimated) to control the board.


Merciless Eviction: The flexibility of this boardwipe is amazing. Sacrifice important creatures to Ayli in response to casting this so that they go to the grave for reanimation.

Fumigate: On theme with the lifegain theme. This can net a lot of life.

Cataclysmic Gearhulk: Boardwipe on a stick! It gets around indestructible as it forces players to sacrifice their permanents. Great reanimation target.

Toxic Deluge: Gets around indestructible creatures. With all the lifegain in the deck, you won't miss the loss of life.

Austere Command: Another flexible boardwipe that can be tailored to take out whatever is most threatening

Wrath of God: Standard, efficiently costed white boardwipe.


Ashen Rider: Expensive to cast but can ruin board states when a reanimation engine gets going.

Archon of Justice: Baby Ashen Rider. He only exiles when dying, but is cheaper to cast.

Noxious Gearhulk: Destroys any creature and fits into lifegain theme.

Nekrataal: cheaper removal creature than the previous ones. It comes with some limitations but worth it for the lower CMC.

Merciless Executioner: Cheap edict effect creature that can be the bane of voltron decks.


Anguished Unmaking, Mortify, and Swords to Plowshares: Flexible and efficiently costed removal spells.

The deck is all about repeatedly abusing ETB and death triggers for incremental value. We need reanimation engines to do this. Again Orzhov is king at reanimation as black and white have the best creature recursion around. Gradual revisions of this deck have taught me that repeated engines are more valuable than one-time effects. However, a few one-time effects are included which are cheap and can steal from any graveyard. Please see the Notable Exclusions section for my reasoning behind not including some reanimators like Karmic Guide, Reveillark and Ravos, Soultender.

One-Shot Reanimators

Reanimate: One mana to bring back a creature from anywhere! The life lost is negligible in a lifegain deck.

Animate Dead and Necromancy: Incredibly well costed reanimation spell that also adds devotion to black. They also synergize with Sun Titan and Emeria Shepherd as permanents. Necromancy's ability to be an instant can be a nasty surprise on an opponent's turn.

Victimize: I almost don't count this as a one-time effect in this deck. The deck has so many death triggers that often I am getting one death trigger and two ETB triggers off of one card (for 3 mana!)

Repeatable Reanimation Engines

Sheoldred, the Whispering One: At 7 mana she's expensive but she acts as both a removal and reanimation engine. Black is incredibly popular in my playgroup so Swampwalk is a relevant ability, particularly useful if someone has a Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth out.

Debtors' Knell: Again 7 mana is expensive to cast. However, as an enchantment it tends to have more staying power. This is why I prefer it over Ravos, Soultender or Sheoldred, the Whispering One. It can also reanimate from any grave making it incredibly flexible.

Sun Titan: The deck has a low average CMC so there are a lot of creatures, enchantments, artifacts, and lands that can be targeted by his ability.

Phyrexian Reclamation: I value reanimators that bring creatures back to the battlefield over ones that return to hand. However, this one is just so damn cheap! One mana to cast and then only 2 mana to bring back to hand. This enchantment can go nuts later in the game when you have more mana available.

Unburial Rites: I like the surprise factor of this one. Often opponents forget that it's in your grave for the flashback.

Coffin Queen: She can bring back a different creature each turn. The creature doesn't have to be exiled if you're able to sacrifice it with Ayli. At 3 mana she is a cheap engine.

Mimic Vat: only 3 mana activation cost for a repeatable Ashen Rider, Angel of Despair, or Gray Merchant of Asphodel, among others.

Gift of Immortality: Another repeatable engine. This Aura allows you to repeatedly sac a creature during each player's turn for lots of ETB and death trigger value. It makes key creatures super annoying to kill.

As an Orzhov lifegain commander, Ayli uses life as a resource to be spent. The most obvious way to do this is her exiling ability when she gets to 50+ life. We can't always count on being north of 50 life and we want other ways to spend the life we gain. Also the deck has multiple ways to keep our life total high.

Incremental Life Gain/Drain

Blood Artist, Soul Warden, Soul's Attendant, and Suture Priest: Weenies that slowly ding our opponents and buffer our own life totals.

Blind Obedience and Authority of the Consuls: weenie enchantments that slow down opponents and can slowly accrue life gain value.

Card Advantage

One of the ways that Black draws cards is through spending life. The following spells use life as a resource for card advantage:

Necropotence, Phyrexian Arena, and Erebos, God of the Dead: Black enchantment staples that can net large card advantage over the long game.

Read the Bones, Sign in Blood, and Night's Whisper: Smaller sorceries that for 2 life can keep our hand fueled.

Disciple of Bolas: A reanimation target that draws us cards and refills our life total.

Large Life Drain Finishers

Exsanguinate and Debt to the Deathless: Massive life drain finishers, especially when Crypt Ghast or Cabal Coffers are out.

Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Kokusho, the Evening Star: Standard life drain creatures that can finish off games when reanimated.

Sanguine Bond : Weaponizes life gain whether it be incremental or one big hit.

Aetherflux Reservoir: A giant bomb that can kill people at instant speed. It can also be used politically, threatening an opponent with instant death if they mess with you.

The following cards have either been playtested or are banned in my usual playgroup:

Karmic Guide and Reveillark: I had this famous combo in my deck at first and it bored me to tears. If combos are your thing...knock yourself out. I just found it far too easy and non-interactive.

Exquisite Blood: Similar to above. The combo with Sanguine Bond is just far too easy and uninspiring in my opinion. Again, if combos are your thing...go to town.

Ravos, Soultender: EDHREC shows that over 50% of Ayli decks have this card. I thought it would be a no-brainer to include. However, I found waiting a whole turn cycle to have a creature return to HAND was far too inefficient. Being a creature made him fragile too. If I'm waiting that long for a creature, I'd much prefer it to return to the battlefield.

Whip of Erebos: A lot of the creatures in my deck have death triggers (Archon of Justice, Kokusho, the Eveening Star, Grim Haruspex, etc.). Whip of Erebos makes it impossible to get those death triggers, making this card too often a "non-bo".

Corpse Dance: I really enjoyed this one. A reanimator with buyback is great! If only it didn't have that clause about it only targeting the top creature in your grave. I found this frustrating at times. It is another one I may return to though.

Athreos, God of Passage: He performed alright and I may return to him. My opponents almost always opted to pay the life and it just didn't feel like a steep enough tax.

Sorin Markov and Tree of Perdition: Both of these are banned in my playgroup for their easy manipulation of life totals.

Felidar Sovereign and Test of Endurance: Again I find these to be boring win conditions.

Divinity of Pride: I can understand why this makes it into a lot of builds and spent quite a bit of time in mine. However, this build is all about repeating ETB and death triggers. This creature has neither. Also, I wanted to reduce the average CMC of my creatures.

Beacon of Unrest and Obzedat's Aid: I like the flexibility of these cards, but they are one-shot reanimators for 5 mana. That's just too rich for a one time effect. I've cut back on the number of one time reanimators in the deck. The ones I have left range from 1 to 3 mana.

Ashnod's Altar, Viscera Seer, and other sac outlets: Since I'm not doing infinite combo shenanigans, I don't really need sac outlets with 0 activation cost. My commander is a sac outlet and I don't find I need redundancy of this effect. When I'm sacrificing I want it to either be for Ayli's life gain or exiling abilities.


Updates Add

A couple cards are making it in from Rivals of Ixalan. Also made a few other adjustments over the past few weeks based on suggestions.

Nekrataal --->Ravenous Chupacabra: The Chupacabra is essentially a strict upgrade from Nekrataal as it doesn't have the non-black, non-artifact drawback.

Thought Vessel --->Twilight Prophet: Twilight Prophet is exactly what this deck is looking for, card draw with life drain attached to it. Ascend is easy to trigger.

Soul Warden + Soul's Attendant --->Vizkopa Guildmage + Fleshbag Marauder : The soul sisters were ultimately fairly low impact as a commenter suggested. Suture Priest can stay because I do find his ability to slowly ping opponents useful. Vizkopa Guildmage gets another try. With cabal coffers I often fins I do have enough mana to drain people with her ability.

Aetherflux Reservoir ---> Athreos, God of Passage: Aetherflux Reservoir painted a big target on me and was inconsistent. This deck is more about incremental value and that's what Athreos offers.

Mortify ---> Swords to Plowshares: On balance I believe the cheap 1 mana casting cost of Swords to Plowshares outweighs the ability to destroy enchantments with Mortify. The deck has enough removal that can remove enchantments.

Diabolic Tutor ---> Vampiric Tutor: Splurged on a copy of Vampiric Tutor. Better tutor overall than Diabolic.


36% Casual

64% Competitive

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