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Let 'em Die [Primer: Shirei, Shizo's Caretaker]

Commander / EDH* Combo Mono-Black Pillow Fort Reanimator Weenie




Currently 7th Highest-Rated Shirei Deck on TappedOut!4th highest without Shadowborn Apostles

As is standard with Shirei, most of the creatures are 1/x and have effects when they enter the battle field, die, go into a graveyard, or when they are sacrificed. Lots of sac outlets, lots of things to make opponents discard cards. Got a few ways to protect the Commander, ways to get things out of the graveyard (such as my bigger creatures). Let's take a closer look:

Shirei, Shizo's Caretaker is a powerful reanimator. Admittedly not as effective as Marchesa, the Black Rose in certain ways, Shirei makes up for it in others. Here, we can happily stay in mono-black while we rule the board with our (mostly) weenie army. To be truly effective, you want a majority of your creatures to be 1/X's, but this doesn't stop the creative deck builder. We want to abuse ETB and Death triggers to get massive gains during every turn, including your opponents' turns.


Soldevi Adnate and Blood Pet sacrifice themselves to produce mana, while Liliana's Shade and Pilgrim's Eye fetch your swamps. Abusing these can give you mana when you're otherwise tapped out and fill your hand with lands. Crypt Ghast is a 2/2, but worth it double your mana. Leaden Myr and Plague Myr both tap for mana, which isn't as easy to abuse due to summoning sickness, but still allows for bigger plays. With a 5 cost commander, we want these.

Card Advantage:

Black Cat and Mesmeric Fiend give you black's form of counterspells: discard effects. Thoughtpicker Witch is a great sac outlet that lets you control your opponents' topdecks. You can make sure that they never draw anything but land. Use these skills sparingly, as this makes people made at you.

Harvester of Souls, Grim Haruspex, and Smothering Abomination give you card draw. So. Much. Card Draw. Be careful not to deck yourself, especially with the latter two. Mindless Automaton kills himself as a 0/0 to give you a card every turn. Viscera Seer is one of the best sac outlets, can sac herself, reanimates with Shirei, and lets you scry for days.

Cadaver Imp and Dutiful Attendant get you creatures back to your hand from the graveyard. No matter how well you play, you'll likely lose some that won't reanimate at some point, and we want to get them back. Also useful for getting Shirei herself back to avoid high casting costs Junk Diver can get back some creatures too, but is mostly here for our other valuable artifacts. Hell's Caretaker Isn't really card advandate per-se, but rather dumps them straight from the graveyard onto the battlefield. It's tap effect is less than ideal but more than worth it.

Sidisi, Undead Vizier is creature based tutor with a built in sac outlet. This earns a spot over Diabolic Tutor (not included) because it's much easier to reuse creatures.

Life Drain:

Blood Artist, Zulaport Cutthroat, and Falkenrath Noble are game-winners. The life drain is insane enough to be a wincon. Deathgreeter gets an honorable mention here.


Bone Shredder, Big Game Hunter, and Perilous Myr are reusable spot removal for pesky creatures. Abyssal Gatekeeper isn't targeted but helps kill off their creatures and one of mine. Butcher of Malakir can be a boardwipe that leaves you on top, and is easier to recur than an enchantment. Crypt Rats lets you kill most of your little guys for , wipe the board if needed, and can be used to finish off opponents late game.

Necropede, Fume Spitter, and Plagued Rusalka work as removal in the form of -1/-1 effects, which is amazingly multi-functional. Use them to kill your own creatures in lieu of a sac outlet, kill indestructible baddies, or bring your bigger creatures (like Gray Merchant of Asphodel) down to 1 power so that they come back with Shirei.


Marsh Flitter, Skirsdag High Priest, Ogre Slumlord, Pawn of Ulamog, Sifter of Skulls, Weaponcraft Enthusiast and Marionette Master produce more tokens, because we want creatures and a lot of them. The Pawn and Sifter make Eldrazi tokens that can sacrifice themselves for death triggers and produce mana for ramping. What's not to love? Marionette Master can be used to burn an opponent to death.

And then these guys get big:

Scavenger Drake gets stupid big stupid fast. True, he doesn't stay 1/1 for long but it's easy to have a 25/25 flyer or better by the time he's lost summoning sickness. Bloodthrone Vampire is a free sac outlet that can hit face for a lot if the time is right.

Sac Outlets:

These are mission critical. If you can't get out a sac outlet by T5 you're gonna have a bad time. Ashnod's Altar is pure honey; thank your higher powers when you get this early. Spawning Pit is a free outlet that produces more tokens for us for cheap. Attrition is spot removal for most things. Vampiric Rites isn't cheap at for every use, but card draw is pure advantage.


Expedition Map tutors our valuable lands, and we have many of them. Use this strategically. Sol Ring is obvious. Unstable Obelisk doubles as our only enchantment/artifact removal.


Lightning Greaves and Mask of Avacyn protect Shirei from spot removal, and the mask lets her survive Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. Darksteel Plate stops damage and destroy effects, which are most board wipes. Dark Privilege does as well, and doubles as an instant speed sac outlet and gets Shirei above 2 toughness. Meekstone is a special tool; it usually doesn't stop our plan at all (unless we've gone crazy with Skirsdag High Priest already) and slows down a lot of enemy strategies (Narset, Enlightened Master, I'm looking at you).

Other Good Stuffs:

Genesis Chamber makes you a metric crap ton of tokens. Sure it helps your opponents, but it helps you out way more. Jar of Eyeballs is effectively an every-turn tutor. It's not difficult to look at the top 20 cards or more each time. Dictate of Erebos just kills everything, and it's amazing. Flash it in, kill a bunch of your little creatures like you were going to do anyways, and clear the board. And you thought Avacyn, Angel of Hope was problematic. Ha.

Killing Wave is a great boardwipe. Get X really high, then only pay for Shirei. All your other guys will come back, but your opponents have hard choices to make; they either lose their creatures or lose significant amounts of life. Great for tokens etc. Living Death is similar. Simply sac all of your creatures (including Shirei) and then cast this to get your entire graveyard on the battlefield. Can back fire if your opponents have dangerous things in their own graveyards, but you usually come out on top. Victimize helps us get things back that were lost to the grave. Hero's Downfall is spot removal that hits pesky planeswalkers too. Beseech the Queen is here to find our protection (Lightning Greaves or Dark Privilege), sac outlets (Spawning Pit), or win cons (Blood Artist and Zulaport Cutthroat), in that order.

Cabal Coffers + Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is excellent acceleration, as is Crypt of Agadeem, which helps you recover if you've lost a lot of critters to the grave. Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx wants a solid board state, but rewards you for it greatly.

Arcane Lighthouse lets you negate hexproof, so either you or an ally can hit strategic targets. Buried Ruin gets back our valuable artifacts. Bojuka Bog helps against competing graveyard decks. Reliquary Tower is our only means to keep our whole hand when our card draw goes crazy. Mortuary Mire gets a creature you lost, or maybe your commander that got too expensive to send back to Command Zone. Strip Mine deals with problematic lands, but it's more for insurance against other Strip Mines.

High Market is a sac outlet for when you have nothing else. Westvale Abbey   is a sac outlet and just plain fun (oh and it also makes tokens i guess).

Thespian's Stage becomes whatever you want it to be. Can copy Cabal Coffers, Westvale Abbey  , Crypt of Agadeem, High Market, ... pretty much anything except Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx (since it's legendary). Also useful for copying opponents' lands if they have something extra useful. Maze of Ith, anyone?

Most people describe their strategy in terms of early, mid, and late game. That doesn't work here as well, so I'll explain the three stages you can expect to go through.

Stage 1: Before Casting Shirei

This is essentially the 'early game', but you might end up back at this point later on. While it's possible to cast Shirei, Shizo's Caretaker on T2 (T1: Swamp, Sol Ring, Leaden Myr. T2: Swamp, cast Shirei) you don't want to do this. Shirei does nothing for us without a band of underlings.

In your opening hand, you want 2-4 mana, depending on the rest of your hand. 2 is fine if you have 3+ 1-drops or 2-drops in hand as well. An ideal opening hand has some small cheap creatures, a sac outlet of some kind, and protection for Shirei. That's a lot of pieces though, so don't risk the mulligan if you've only got most of these pieces.

Don't be afraid to let a few creatures die if you need to. You have 42 of them in the deck for a reason.

Once you have 3 or so 1/X creatures in play and a way to kill them, go ahead and cast Shirei, Shizo's Caretaker.

Stage 2: With Shirei in Play

Don't let a single end step occur without you killing off all your little guys. This deck wins through all the ETB and Death triggered effects, so you need to abuse them every chance you get. Proceed with caution though: If you kill off all your creatures and then somebody Murders Shirei, you can be heavily set back. This stage of the game is a glass cannon. Use discretion: maybe don't kill off all of your creatures each turn if there's suspicious untapped mana or other shenanigans.

Another strategy is to purposefully bait them to use up their removal on Shirei when you're prepared to recover from it. Perhaps you have a couple small creatures in hand and a Victimize you can use to get Shirei and some other weenie back from the graveyard. Either way, don't go full steam ahead until you've got a way to stabilize your board, most likely with some form of protection.

Stage 3: Shirei, the Unstoppable Death Engine

Once you've got some kind of protection on Shirei, your glass cannon is not longer easy to shatter. Equip her with Darksteel Plate and Mask of Avacyn and you're ready to go insane. The number of creatures you have on the battlefield will steadily increase. You will always have enough chump blockers, and you may likely be able to swarm over their defenses. You get 5, 10, or even more useful ETB/Death triggers every single end step. You have ways to get the mana flowin', get the cards flyin', and you're now a brutal force to be reckoned with. Be merciless. Find a Blood Artist or Grave Pact effect and just kill them all.

There are a few obvious weakness. Every deck has its weakness. I find it a better plan to acknowledge your weaknesses but embrace your strengths. Too much effort put into negating all of your weaknesses dilutes your strengths. This deck is a glass cannon. Don't build a wall around it. Make it go boom!

-Graveyard Hate: Tormod's Crypt, Bojuka Bog, Leyline of the Void, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. I've heavily considered adding Orbs of Warding for this reason, but it isn't a perfect defense.

-Static -X/-X effects: Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite pretty much reads "Each player with Shirei as their commander loses the game". Well, almost. We have a couple ways to work with this, but not a lot. Our creatures are small. Make them any smaller and they quickly cease to exist.

-Static +X/+X effect: Oddly enough, this ruins everything for us as well. I haven't had this happen to me in a long time though.

-Reusable creature removal: [Grimgrin, Corpse-Born], Marath, Will of the Wild, and other decks that can repeatedly get Shirei off the board really hinder our plans. You can survive without Shirei, but you won't excel unless you can keep her alive.

-Creatureless decks: Enchanted Evening + Opalescence does strange things to Shirei. It's not really a weakness, per se, but this deck deals with creatures much better than enchantments or artifacts. Instant and Sorcery bases spellslinger decks can also be a challenge. Especially Counterspell decks, but really, who isn't challenged by a sturdy counter deck.

  • Skullclamp is one of the most common terrible recommendations that Shirei gets. If you equip your creatures, their power increases, and they probably won't come back with Shirei. We use other means of card draw.

  • Blade of the Bloodchief/Sadistic Glee make Shirei an even bigger target. While yes, these can help you survive a Blasphemous Act or Languish, it's not worth the spot in my opinion. Maybe if I had a 1/1 creature that had that effect I'd do it.

  • The Bogbrew Witch + Bubbling Cauldron + Festering Newt combo isn't impactful enough for me. None of those abilities are powerful enough for me on their own, and assembling all three pieces is a strong maybe at best. It's not terrible but I've decided against it.

  • Swiftfoot Boots is an odd exclusion for a deck that wants as much commander protection, but I actually took it out for Beseech the Queen to help me tutor for whatever I don't have at the time.

  • Grave Pact... what, do you think I'm made of money? No honestly, the only reason I don't have this is it's pricey. My other higher value cards were gifts.

  • Shadowborn Apostle is another archetype for this commander that I appreciate, but is not what I want to do here. The way I see it, you can either play Apostles n' demons, or everything else. I chose everything else.

  • Chimney Imp, Triskelion, Pentavus, Workhorse have a great effects but are too expensive.


Updates Add

Kaladesh gave me some goodies in Weaponcraft Enthusiast and Marionette Master. Wanting to abuse the latter's second ability, I finally caved in and decided to add in Genesis Chamber to add to the token theme. Black Market, Rise of the Dark Realms, and Gray Merchant of Asphodel said goodbye to make room for these. I've got my fingers crossed for more black Fabricate creatures with base power 1 or less in Aether Revolt.

Also replaced Nezumi Bone-Reader with Bloodthrone Vampire as a superior sac outlet.

Discard effects are greatly reduced, but the token theme is much stronger.

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