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.

Wrath of God: Standard, efficiently costed white boardwipe.


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

Angel of Despair: Doesn't exile like the previous two, but still a flexible removal creature on a respectable body.

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 Utter End: 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, Sheoldred, Whispering One, 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

Emeria Shepherd: At 7 mana she's expensive but she can quickly turn into a reanimation machine when paired with Terramorphic Expanse, Evolving Wilds, Solemn Simulacrum or Knight of the White Orchid. The fact that she can bring back any permanent, including win cons Sanguine Bond and Aetherflux Reservoir is great too.

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, Kambal, Consul of Allocation, 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.

Sheoldred, Whispering One: Nothing brings out the hate like Sheoldred. Because it punishes each opponent before coming back to you for the reanimation effect, all of your opponents have every incentive to blow her up before your next turn. You've then spent 7 mana and haven't even brought back one creature. It's basically a Path to Exile magnet.

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.


Only two changes over the past few weeks as the deck continues to perform very well after the large changes earlier in the summer:

Entomb ---> Mortify ---> Grave Pact: I took Entomb out. It's a great card but my one copy was more needed in another deck. If I get another copy I'll think about throwing it back in here. My first replacement was for Mortify but the deck felt like it had enough removal. I'm trialing Grave Pact instead which came out of another deck. With all of Ayli's sacrificing I imagine Grave Pact will help clear the board. Plus its high devotion to black is great for Gray Merchant.

Mortuary Mire ---> Swamp: Mortuary Mire is just a weak recursion effect and it feels awful in the early game when you need the land drop but don't have creatures in the graveyard yet. If you're on a budget, Mortuary Mire is a good option but it wasn't needed in here with all of the stronger effects. I just threw in another Swamp which comes into play untapped and works better with Cabal Coffers and Crypt Ghast.

Reassembling Skeleton and Nim Deathmantle are still on the chopping block as I am unsure about them. The deathmantle sometimes works great when I have tons of mana to hold up for its recursion. Without lots of mana it can perform fairly weak though. Reassembling Skeleton works well with Skullclamp and when I am above 50 life and need sac fodder for Ayli's exiling ability. Not sure how good it is outside of those circumstances.

Any feedback on this would be greatly appreciated!


If you didn't want to do infinite combos why do you have Fiend Hunter + Sun Titan in here with Ashnod's Altar? That makes infinite mana, which means you can sac Kokusho, the Evening Star or Gray Merchant of Asphodel infinitely to win with Nim Deathmantle. My point is, you can choose to not play 4+ black tutors and instead play fun synergistic combos including cards like Karmic Guide (I did read your request to not suggest it so I'm not, just mentioning it as an example) that may happen as a result of the rest of the deck working but you don't have to tutor for every game. Also, why no Cabal Coffers + Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth ?

November 7, 2016 2:07 p.m.

MegaMatt13 says... #2

EternalBrewmaster, thanks for your feedback. I wasn't even aware of that infinite combo you mentioned haha. Thanks for pointing it out. I had actually taken out Nim Deathmantle as well but forgot to replace it in the decklist.

I like your suggestion about reducing the number of tutors. It would create space for more fun interactions.

Only reason Cabal Coffers isn't in there is because I only own one copy and it's sitting in another deck. Just a personal preference but I prefer not to switch out cards between decks. Urborg could definitely go into my deck though. It still synergizes with Crypt Ghast even without Cabal Coffers.

November 7, 2016 2:26 p.m.

I'm glad it was helpful. It's actually pretty hard to build a fun synergistic without infinite combos because so many of the cards just do that. For more ideas, check out my deck Vish Kal, I am the Sword in the Darkness.

November 7, 2016 3:17 p.m.

Ruffigan says... #4

Dance of the Dead and Necromancy would be cheap, effective additions. You could also add Heliod's Pilgrim to search for Animate Dead/Dance of the Dead, and Sun Titan can bring them back for more reanimator goodness. Two other good cards for reanimation are Strands of Night and Chainer, Dementia Master. The life cost is obviously negligible but the Swamp sacrifice can hurt. The good thing about them are that you can do it at instant speed.

For more reanimation targets I'd add Angel of Despair, Sepulchral Primordial, and War Priest of Thune.

November 8, 2016 11:47 a.m.

thijmnesoy says... #5

very, very, very nice deck.Sol Ring? just for mana bonus. most Commander decks have a Sol Ringand Command Beacon? most Commander decks also have a Command Beacon

November 8, 2016 12:18 p.m.

MegaMatt13 says... #6

thijmnesoy, thanks for the suggestions. Sol Ring is actually banned in my playgroup for being TOO fast when it comes to mana ramp. Command Beacon is a great card and is in a few of my other decks. Ayli is so cheap to cast though that I don't usually experience being "priced out" of casting her. Command Beacon is great for commanders that are expensive to cast or tend to get hated out of play a lot.

Ruffigan, appreciate the feedback. I could definitely see a spot for Necromancy in here. Chainer is awesome. He's in my mono-black Erebos deck. My only concern with him in here is the triple black activation cost. That can be a bit trickier in a 2-colour deck. Heliod's Pilgrim is as interesting choice! I think if anything though I'm going to cut back on the number of tutors I have in here just to make the deck more variable.

November 8, 2016 12:31 p.m.

Caves of Koilos and Concealed Courtyard to further shore up your mana base.

Grave Pact and Skeletal Scrying to squeeze extra value out of your sacrifice shenanigans.

Swords to Plowshares and Vindicate for added utility.

November 8, 2016 2:28 p.m.

This is a brilliant deck. I like the dynamic in this deck and I think I could be happy being defeated to a deck like this. It is cruel but ultimately fair. A little bit more fair than mine and a little bit less flawed as well. Sliver Craze (Remastered) <- #Shamelesspromotion

November 11, 2016 11:42 p.m.

Aww man I LOVE Ayli lists. My current main deck is an Ayli combo list which is in the process of being fully foiled! I'd like to make a more durdly list too once I have the cash, when I was brewing I discovered that Tree of Perdition is a must for the list. Just imagine your opponent's face when you drop the tree, switch it's toughness for your opponent's 40 life and then sac it to ayli to double your own!

I wish I could say I came up with it by myself but Command Zone recently did a deck doctors with it that I highly recommend. Give it a listen if you're into detailed podcasts. I believe it's available on youtube as well.

November 16, 2016 8:09 p.m.

BlueGuildKnight I just wanted to say that's a dope comment and you seem like a kickass human being. Also Orzhov is the best of all guilds. Keep draining your enemies' lives.

November 16, 2016 8:41 p.m.


Thanks for the kind words! You seem really awesome yourself! Happy deckbuilding, and keep rocking the Orzhov lists!

November 18, 2016 1:40 p.m.

MegaMatt13 says... #12

BlueGuildKnight, thanks so much for your supportive feedback. I agree that Tree of Perdition would be great in here. Unfortunately my playgroup bans cards that swap life totals (like Sorin Markov). Otherwise it would totally be in here.

EternalBrewmaster, thanks for your positive engagement on here. I love seeing people treating others with respect.

SliverKing_HateMeGuts, I really like your list too! Thanks for checking me out.

November 18, 2016 3:49 p.m.

:) this is a good thread and a good deck. feel free to check out my plethora of EDH decks if you're ever looking for a new idea. there's lots of unique goodies in there.

November 18, 2016 4:41 p.m.

BalkanDS says... #14

Since all of your reanimation targets are pretty expensive what are our doing the first four or so turns before they're out?

December 3, 2016 12:25 a.m.

MegaMatt13 says... #15

BalkanDS, the first few turns are casting Ayli, ramping, and dropping pillow fort enchantments like ghostly prison, authority of the consuls, and blind obedience. I usually find there is plenty to do before casting larger reanimation targets

December 11, 2016 4:58 p.m.

So, you've got enough low-cost cards that Sram's Expertise might find a good home here. It'll give you some sac fodder, while also letting you deploy another threat for free.

Call for Unity could also be really powerful. So could Hidden Stockpile

January 27, 2017 7:43 a.m.

MegaMatt13 says... #17

PhotogenicParasympathetic, thanks for your Suggestions. Those are great cards but I think they are better suited to a token deck. My deck doesn't really have a token theme. Thanks though :)

January 29, 2017 5:42 p.m.

Ares666 says... #18

Hell's Caretaker would be a great reanimator since you sac creatures anyways and play on that

January 31, 2017 4:42 p.m.

NecroPony says... #19

I'm honestly surprised to see a lack of both Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares. I know Ayli deals with creatures, but she's not going to be available to you.

February 6, 2017 3:29 p.m.

HezTheGod says... #20

February 14, 2017 2:17 p.m.

scatteredsun says... #21

I really liked Gift of Immortality in my Ayli deck. I would sacrifice the creature (usually Sun Titan) during each opponents second main. With Sun Titan, I would get Gift back with its ETB. I could loop it for as much mana as I had. At 6 life a sac with Ayli, it added up fast.

I could see it getting really dumb with Kokusho. Get a Kokusho trigger during each opponents turn?

February 15, 2017 2:03 p.m.

MegaMatt13 says... #22

scatteredsun, nice suggestion. I see that working very nicely...especially with something like Ashen Rider

HezTheGod, Reanimate is an awesome card. I don't own it though and it's become a little pricey. If I pick one up, it would go in here.

NecroPony, Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile are great and I put them in basically every white deck...except when I'm playing Orzhov. Orzhov has cards like Utter End, Anguished Unmaking, Ashen Rider, Angel of Despair, and Mortify which can target multiple types of permanents. I would throw in Swords if I needed another removal spell on top of those, but I think the deck is good for removal.

February 15, 2017 3:29 p.m.

Opifex says... #23

Maybe you will find something that helps you with your Ayli deck in mine, I am going for grave/flicker ETB combos, I also have Liliana, Heretical Healer  Flip and Kytheon, Hero of Akros  Flip which are great because Planeswalkers that return from the grave and they both play well with Ayli.

Psychopomp Tribal

Commander / EDH Opifex


February 18, 2017 9:57 p.m.

Alookeva says... #24

I saw that Tree of Perdition is banned but, add Triskaidekaphobia to a deck running tree, it's just funny.

February 28, 2017 10:24 a.m.

Alookeva says... #25

PhotogenicParasympathetic is right, Hidden Stockpile is very strong once you can get it going. I run it over Viscera Seer

February 28, 2017 10:29 a.m.

MegaMatt13 says... #26

Alookeva, I'll definitely give Hidden Stockpile some consideration. I don't own a copy but I'll goldfish with a proxy and test it out :)

February 28, 2017 12:01 p.m.

hunter9000 says... #27

Mikaeus, the Unhallowed seems like a good addition

March 8, 2017 7:15 p.m.

wylie says... #28

What about replacing Succumb to Temptation with Grim Haruspex?

March 9, 2017 1:45 a.m.

wylie says... #29

Also given how many enters the battlefield effects you have, Panharmonicon could add a lot of value.

March 9, 2017 2:19 a.m.

MegaMatt13 says... #30

wylie I've thrown in Grim Haruspex. Good call :) Panharmonicon I've thought about. It's a little overplayed in my playgroup and I'm reluctant to jump on the bandwagon lol

March 12, 2017 3:40 a.m.

NV_1980 says... #31

Well done MegaMatt13; love this list! If you don't mind, I'm going to copy it; I have all the required cards :) I was just wondering whether you've considered adding Athreos, God of Passage? Either get something back, or strip someone of some life; sounds like a good deal to me!

April 12, 2017 2:58 a.m.

MegaMatt13 says... #32

NV_1980, glad you like :) it's one of my favourite decks to play.

I had Athreos in earlier on. I actually found he moved a little slowly. I prefer spells that bring creatures back to the battlefield as opposed to hand since you save a lot on mana.

April 12, 2017 11:16 a.m.

Lutachris23 says... #33

Did you consider switching Wayfarer's Bauble for Expedition Map? You have a lot of non-basic lands, but I could see how the bauble can have its benefits. Just wondering your thinking for it over the map. Otherwise, I love the deck, I'm using it as a guideline for my Ayli deck :)

April 14, 2017 8:10 a.m.

Razulghul says... #34

Hey man, I dig the deck but I gotta say that it's missing Wall of Blood. I run an Ayli list (Ayli reflects, Boon or Wound?) and it is just awesome. It can win the game with Sanguine Bond, no one sees it coming either.

August 12, 2017 11:42 p.m.

Enral says... #35

Great deck...I have a few questions regarding some of your card choices:

  • Aetherflux Reservoir: I've initially included it in my build (but removed it) but find that it draws too much attention and aggro when I play it early in order to keep my life totals down. When my life totals are in an activation range even without this card on the field, I will always be the first one to be gunned down. Have you been in a similar situation?

  • Soul sisters: Does those quantitative lifegain really help? I find the soul sisters work better in Karlov than Ayli.

Other than that I really digg your build +1 from me!

November 28, 2017 9:50 a.m.

scatteredsun says... #36

@Razulghul - Wall of Blood, Ayli, and Sanguine Bond is freakin' genius! Love it! Just need to follow it up with Tainted Sigil to nuke another player or three!

December 11, 2017 1:11 p.m.

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