"Spain, 1518. Eleven ships are set to sail for the New World. Their mission: gold and riches, conquest and territory, honor and glory. Hernando Cortez, Captain of the expedition, has only allowed the finest and most hardened sailors and conquistadors to accompany him. The reason: the Queen of Spain herself, Elenda, the Dusk Rose, has decided to journey to the New World herself to start a new Spanish Kingdom in the riches of the far West."

"Elenda, the Dusk Rose. Strongly willed, immensely powerful, strikingly beautiful, and full of youthful ambition, the new Monarch of Spain has put her mind to starting a new Kingdom in the New World. Perhaps she has grown tired of the deeply-entrenched politics of the Spanish aristocracy, or the customs and expectations of being Queen. Or perhaps She has become obsessed with the gold and the untold riches of the New World; the stories told to her by Hernando Cortez. Whatever the case, she is coming with us, and we all know what that means."

I've been thinking about Elenda ever since she came out. For the longest time I couldn't quite wrap my head around her... couldn't quite find my unique vision. Until now. Now I am sure.

Elenda, the Dusk Rose is not your average commander. In fact, her abilities are so ill-suited for commander most wouldn't even consider her for the Command Zone. The perfect deck-building challenge for me.

For we get a 1/1 Vampire Knight with Lifelink. This would be horrible if not for her other abilities.

Whenever another creature dies, put a +1/+1 counter on Elenda, the Dusk Rose. So she gets bigger. The hoop Elenda asks you to jump through is relatively broad. Creatures have to die. Your creatures or your opponent's. And die those creatures will(unless they are commanders). The reward is buffing Elenda, which by itself is pretty great, because she has lifelink and can deal commander damage. But of course that is not all she asks for, or gives.

When Elenda dies, create X 1/1 white Vampire creature tokens with lifelink, where X is Elenda's power. Her second hoop, and this is the real killer for most, is that she has to die. That means go to the graveyard, not the Command Zone. What she gives is generous: 1/1 lifelink tokens equal to her power(not just counters, which is important).

Elenda likes a lot of things. Removal, tokens, sacrificing said tokens, attacking, lifegain/loss synergies, and so much more. All together, a fascinating commander with a lot going on.

"Her centuries-long search is ended."

First, this is a deck built around Elenda, and no one else. I don't switch commanders. This deck is an exploration of Elenda and what she can do. I also want to focus more on synergy and clever interactions, that you will see soon.

Second, this is a restrained combo list. All of my combos require 3 or more pieces, and most of them with other conditions. You will see infinite mana. You will see infinite tokens. You will see infinite +1/+1s. But you will not see the normal finishers for such combos. You will not see black X-spells, draw, lifegain, Aristocrats, mill/ping ETBs, or haste enablers. This is intentional. I want this deck to be at a certain power level, where I can combo, but give my opponents a chance to respond. For me it makes games more interesting and fun.

There are also certain thematic elements and side-quest combos/interactions that I have chosen for this deck. I am well aware that they are sub-optimal.

"I and my companions suffer from a disease of the heart that can be cured only by gold." - Hernando Cortez

"Captain of the fleet and leader of the Expedition to the New World: Hernando Cortez. He took his first voyage to the New World when he was 19; he is smart, determined, and experienced, but he is also ruthless, ambitious, and hungry for gold and power. He demands the respect and fear from all members of the expedition. Many question the Queen's decision to hire him, as Cortez is difficult to work with. But he is an unquestionably good sailer and soldier, and an ally he will make sure the Queen get the most out of the lives-and deaths-of every man in the fleet. Make no mistake, Cortez is just the man to lead a conquering army."

I see a great lack of Haakon in Elenda lists, perhaps because he is so hard to set up. But the payoff is worth it, and the respect you gain from your opponents is gravy. The hipster cred, oh the hipster cred. Step one: get Haakon into the yard to cast him using Entomb, Final Parting, Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, Rankle, Master of Pranks, or Geier Reach Sanitarium. Now we can cast Elenda from the graveyard. Beyond awesome.

But the ruthless Cortez isn't done there. Oh no. He wants you to cast Ashes of the Fallen so now you can cast every creature from your graveyard. Surprise! This is a Knight tribal deck! No creatures in your graveyard? That is what the sac outlets and discard effects are for.

The inclusion of Haakon and Ashes of the Fallen are intentionally sub-optimal and do indeed hold the deck back. But it makes the deck unique, challenging and fun. The Haakon/Ashes combo is like a little side quest in the deck, and to me the reward is better than winning.

"Escorting Her Grace Elenda at all times is her loyal handmaiden Teysa Karlov. Teysa's intense loyalty is matched only by the Queen's unusually affectionate treatment of her maid. Many of the crew are beginning to suspect an affair is going on between them. This would explain why Elenda never married back in Spain. Best to avoid the rumors, an officer might overhear it."

Teysa Karlov and Elenda, the Dusk Rose. No two cards have ever loved each other more and not gone infinite with each other, and no two women have ever loved each other more. She doubles the counters Elenda gets. She doubles the tokens Elenda gives. And she gives those tokens vigilance. She is Elenda's lesbian lover, and their secret love, hidden from the rest of the crew, is romantic perfection.

She also doubles all my other death triggers to boot. Liliana, Dreadhorde General, Ministrant of Obligation, Pitiless Plunderer, Skullclamp, Cordial Vampire, and Dictate of Erebos.

First Mate: "Yawgmoth, Thran Physician. Cortez's right-hand-man, whatever it is you need done, he will get it done-by any means necessary." Yawgmoth is everything this deck wants in one card: removal, discard, draw, sac outlet, proliferation (great with planeswalkers), and yes, even life-loss.

Quartermaster: "Razaketh, the Foulblooded. Razaketh is in charge of the arms and supplies of Cortez's fleet. he'll give you want you need, but you'll have to pay dearly." A game ending powerhouse. With Elenda at even low power and a few creatures he can win the game.

Ship's Cook: "Vilis, Broker of Blood. It was obvious very early on that cooking was not Vilis's main profession, nor the main reason he was here. Cortez needed someone he could trust on the lower levels of the ship. He will feed you whenever you are hungry, just don't criticize the food." Vilis is a self enabling draw powerhouse that also serves as removal. Life-loss synergies abound.

Gunner: "Krav, the Unredeemed. In charge of the ship's cannons and the one everyone turns to when there's a battle. The dead-eye Krav never misses." Krav is a very versatile card and one of the few ways to outright win with infinite tokens. With infinite tokens and a few black mana I can sac tokens and draw each other player out. Otherwise He's a great draw engine, a great late game beater, and a good source of life gain.

Boatswain: "Massacre Girl. Nameless, bloodied, and terrifying, the officer know as "Massacre Girl" is in charge of keeping the crew in line and squashing any thoughts of mutiny. She is very good at her job." Massacre is just a hipster boardwipe. With Elenda at 2 toughness or more and a decent chain of sac-able creatures, I can kill the board besides Elenda and Massacre, which is a big swing.

Ship's Stowaway: "Rankle, Master of Pranks. The young, self titled "Master of Pranks" was not supposed to be on this voyage, but apparently Cortez saw something useful in him, so he was allowed to live. Perhaps he'll make a good Powder Monkey." Rankle is an important discard and sac machine, and a desperate draw engine.

Haakon, Stromgald Scourge + Phyrexian Altar + 7 sackable creatures + Elenda, the Dusk Rose in the graveyard: Infinite tokens, mana, and an infinitely large Elenda. Sacing 4 creatures for mana to cast Elenda from the grave, sac the 3 remaining tokens(buffing Elenda, adding mana) then Elenda, get 4 tokens, cast Elenda again. Repeat, gaining an extra token each time.

Animation Module + Elenda, the Dusk Rose + one creature + Phyrexian Altar/Ashnod's Altar: An infinitely large Elenda and infinite colorless mana with Ashnod's. Sacking a creature puts a counter on Elenda, pay for the Module, which gives you another creature to sac. This can be done with another creature, substituting for Elenda with Cordial Vampire.

Nim Deathmantle + Elenda, the Dusk Rose(unbuffed) + Ashnod's Altar: Infinite tokens, infinitely big Elenda. Sac Elenda for 2 mana, stack the death triggers so you get the Vampire token first, sac the token 2 mana to pay for Deathmantle to catch Elenda. This brings Elenda back with Deathmantle attached, which givers her +2/+2, so you can continue the loop.

For the above combo, Elenda can be replaced by any creature like Chittering Witch or Ministrant of Obligation for infinite tokens.

Elenda, the Dusk Rose(unbuffed) + Nim Deathmantle + Phyrexian Altar + 2 other creatures: Infinite tokens and infinitely big Elenda. Same concept as above, just requires more set-up. You have to sac two extra creatures when Elenda is on the field so you get extra Vampire Tokens. Much easier and immediately infinite if Elenda is a 4/4 or bigger.

Nightmare Shepherd + Phyrexian Altar + Elenda, the Dusk Rose(as a 3/3): Infinite tokens, infinitely big Elenda, and infinite colored mana. Elenda has to have 3 power or more, and can't have a commander tax (if she does, you just need that much more mana). A combo of my own invention, and it's super confusing. Here's how it works.

  • Using Phyrexian Altar to sac and add mana, sac Elenda, get 3 tokens.
  • Shepherd exiles Elenda from the yard, creating a copy of Elenda (ElendaCopy). Send Elenda to the command zone.
  • Sac 3 tokens (4 mana now), buff ElendaCopy (4/4), sac ElendaCopy, get 4 tokens (and now 5 mana total).
  • Sac a token, use the 6 mana to cast Elenda from the command zone. Elenda is 1/1 and we have 3 tokens.
  • Sac three tokens, buff Elenda (4/4, 3 mana).
  • Sac Elenda, send her to command zone, make ElendaCopy and 4 tokens (we have 4 mana).
  • Sac 4 tokens, 8 mana, ElendaCopy is 5/5.
  • Cast Elenda with 8 mana. sac Elenda copy to the Legend rule, Elenda is 2/2 and we have 5 tokens.

Understanding the loop: Take note of the two bold sentences. At both points we have just cast Elenda from the command Zone, and we have 0 mana. The important thing to note is we are up 3 resources (tokens and/or power on Elenda, both of which convert into mana via the Altar) in the second bold sentence, meaning we've gone positive over the 2 mana commander tax each loop. If we continue this loop, the next time we're in this position, Elenda is a 2/2, and we have 8 tokens and 3 mana (up 6 resources from previous stopping point). Thus, infinite colored mana and tokens, and an infinitely big Elenda. Risky because if we get blown up, Elenda's commander tax is infinite.

Sun Titan + Gift of Immortality + Sac outlet: Infite ETB/death triggers. Can be combined with Elenda and other pieces for infinite mana, creature destruction, draw, +1/+1 counters, tokens, etc.

Animation Module + Cathars' Crusade + Ashnod's Altar + A few creatures and/or some mana: Infinite big infinite tokens. Play a creature, it gets a +1/+1 counter, pay 1 to create a servo, they all get counters, pay for as much as you can, using the Altar to go positive on mana and tokens each time.

Gift of Immortality + Elenda, the Dusk Rose + Sac outlet: Not exactly infinite, but you can sac Elenda each turn to gain a token.


Combos and cards I've tested and like, and might go back to someday:

Decaying Soil(with threshold) + Deathrender + Phyrexian Altar/Ashnod's Altar: Infinite ETB/LBF triggers. Sac the creature, Deathrender triggers first and Decaying Soil resolves first, puting the creature you sacked back into your hand for deathrender. This can be combined with many of my creatures for infinite mana, tokens, or +1/+1s.

Deathrender + Together Forever + Elenda, the Dusk Rose + Altar: Infinite tokens and ETBs. This one is tricky to set up. To start, you need a counter on Elenda(which isn't too hard) and Deathrender equipped to her. Sac Elenda to get one or two mana depending on the Altar, stack the Together Forever trigger over the Deathrender trigger, use the mana to pay 1 so Elenda returns to your hand, put her onto the battlefield with Deathrender. Repeat for infinite tokens and mana.

The Deathrender + Together Forever + Altar can be achieved with any other creature and Cathars' Crusade for infinite ETB/LBFs. It can also work with Unspeakable Symbol but the life loss prevents it from becoming infinite.

Deathrender + Razaketh, the Foulblooded + one creature to sac + one creature in hand: Not exactly infinite, but at the cost of 2 life I can cycle through all the creatures in my deck until victory is achieved by any number of different ways.

With Haakon out, you could cast Nameless Inversion as many times as you have mana. Trying to find room for Crib Swap to do the same thing.

A key interaction I should point out is between Elenda, tokens and altars. Imagine I have a 1/1 Elenda and 9 1/1 tokens. At any point I could sac the tokens and have a 10/10 Elenda, This is an interesting dynamic. Say you cast a board wipe. I can sac all my tokens, then let Elenda die as a 10/10, giving me 10 tokens after the wipe resolves. My board is preserved. Or say you try to spot remove Elenda. I can just sac her in response(getting a token), or do the same thing I did with the board wipe. This is a strange resilience that the deck has, and has come in handy many times.

Animation Module is great with my planeswalkers, able to add loyalty counters on them for a surprise ultimate. Animation Module is even better with Cathars' Crusade, as I can make as many tokens as I have mana and buff them all in the process. As mentioned this is infinite with Ashnod's Altar. Animation Module with Krav, the Unredeemed is also a sweet draw engine. to sac a creature, draw a card, but a counter on him, to make a new creature. Repeat as many times as I have the mana. Krav and my life total get bigger each time.

Tombstone Stairwell can get pretty insane. Imagine You have it and Elenda, the Dusk Rose out, and each player has just 1 creature in their graveyard. Pass turn. Upkeep 1 each player gets a toke, endstep 1 they all get destroyed. Elenda is now a 5/5. Same thing happens on the other 2 player's turns, meaning you untap with a 13/13 Elenda. It only gets more crazy from there.

Burnished Hart is a pet card, great ramp that goes well with any cheap recursion, but especially Sun Titan.

Nightmare Shepherd, in addition to being a combo piece, is just solid value. At the cost of negating reanimation, he can double ETB's, save important creatures from removal, and even save your whole non-token board from a boardwipe.

Strip Mine is also very good when used in conjunction with Sun Titan, especially if one is looping Sun Titan in and out of the battlefield.

Westvale Abbey   - Going wide not working? Go tall.

Reanimate, besides being a great recursion spells, goes very well with Entomb and Final Parting as a cheap way to sneak Razaketh, Haakon, Krav, or Sun Titan onto the battlefield. Reanimate plus Vilis, Broker of Blood is a 1 mana draw 8 cards.

This deck is inspired by these awesome decks from builders and podcasts I really respect:

Hymn of Darkness: Elenda EDH [PRIMER] by Daedalus19876.

Rainbow in the Dark: Haakon&Korlash (Cleganebowl) by FenIsABasicSwamp.

Kyle's Teysa or Krav/Regna Switch Commanders Deck by LegendaryCreature-Podcast.

JLK's Elenda l Game Knights #14 by CommandCast

Check out their stuff!

Coding provided by scotchtapedsleeves also check out their stuff!

Note: the score, and thus the deck name, is called "Cortez Cowboys" by Hans Zimmer and John Powell. The original video was deleted.


Updates Add

A new round of changes to Cortez' army. Some new, some old.


  • Nightmare Shepherd: A fantastic graveyard value piece, very cool utility, plus combo potential with Elenda and Phyrexian Altar.
  • Tombstone Stairwell: An old gem I've seen in a few Yawgmoth lists, and let me tell you: it's insane.
  • Bitterblossom : Broke down and bought the Secret Lair. Worth it.
  • Utter End: I found myself in need of more instant speed catch-all answers.
  • Tome of Legends: Great repeatable draw.
  • Arcane Signet: The best mana rock printed in years.


  • Hatred: This might seem odd, as it's an Elenda staple, but it's too conditional and it feels bad to kill just one opponent sometimes. It kinda feels dirty.
  • Sling-Gang Lieutenant: Out for Tombstone.
  • Legion's Landing  Flip: I regret taking this out already. The art and flavor is too good. It will find it's way back in.
  • Attrition: Black is becoming bigger in my meta.
  • Reliquary Tower: I can lose a land right?
  • Thought Vessel: Out for signet. I found that having no max hand size prevented overflow discard, which I want half the time.

Thanks for reading! Please comment what you think of the changes!

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