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Necronomicon | Teysa Karlov | Speculation Primer

Commander / EDH* Aristocrats Control Multiplayer Primer Tokens W/B (Orzhov)

Masterful

Maybeboard



Teysa waits patiently at the center of the Orzhov web of power


Hello, and welcome to my speculation primer to the newly released Teysa Karlov as a commander. I use the word speculation because she isn't out yet. Therefore, much of the deck and primer will be refined as time goes on and more is learned about Teysa's interactions. The purpose for this primer is to serve as a starting point for those trying to make her work as their commander.

Before reading the primer, please note that everything in here is just my subjective opinion, and if you disagree with me, I welcome all constructive criticism in the comments below. If you happen to like the primer or deck, feel free to leave an upvote .

New Teysa provides us with several things, all of which we want.

  1. "If a creature dying causes a triggered ability of a permanent you control to trigger, that ability triggers an additional time." This is the namesake of the deck, an ability like Panharmonicon but for death triggers, hence "Necronomicon." Now, cards like Skullclamp or Grave Pact trigger twice off of one dead creature while we have Teysa on board. We try to abuse this with as many good death triggers as possible for maximum value, but we get value nonetheless by having only one of them in conjunction with Teysa.

  2. Her second ability grants Lifelink and Vigilance to all of our tokens. This usually won't make or break a game, but it will provide us with extra blockers and some incremental lifegain. We take advantage of it with our token-producers like Requiem Angel or Wurmcoil Engine .

Pros

  • Orzhov . Personally, these are my favorite colors thematically and aesthetically, so this is a huge pro for me. In terms of what the colors do mechanically, there is a lot of sacrificing, lifegain, lifeloss for our opponents, and cards that care about creatures dying. If you're into that, welcome to the syndicate.

  • Currently, Teysa is the only card in all of magic that allows you to double death triggers, so it makes the deck quite unique.

  • The deck plays a lot of tokens, creatures that don't care about dying, and creature recursion, so we don't care much if our opponents kill our creatures or force us to sacrifice them.

  • In contrast, we have many ways to deal with our opponent's creatures. W/B provides us with the BEST REMOVAL IN ALL OF MAGIC. Cards like Anguished Unmaking and Utter End exile non-land permanents. It doesn't get much better than that. In addition, Grave Pact , Dictate of Erebos , and more allow us to keep our opponents' creatures at a minimum. If you're facing a lot of creature decks, you'll have a good time, but even if you aren't, this deck is proactive enough to remain unhindered.

  • The combo strategy is very proactive yet retains good control elements. Often we can draw massive amounts of cards, drain our opponents for a lot of life, or make an army of tokens from only a few permanents. Our strategy also doesn't require our commander, and we can function fine without her, but she definitely helps when on board.

  • There are a lot of ways to gain life, including our commander. Therefore, cards that cost life like Ancient Tomb or even Necropotence are pretty insignificant. This gives us a lot of breathing room and makes playing with life-costing cards a lot smoother. It even allows for some Razaketh, the Foulblooded chaining that I get into in the combo section.

  • Skullclamp .

Cons

  • Without green and the heavy amount of black mana we'll be needing for many cards like Necropotence and Dark Prophecy , we can't afford to run efficient colorless artifact ramp like Worn Powerstone or Thran Dynamo . This makes ramping more difficult. As someone who greatly appreciates green, this is a definite con for me, but depending on what you're used to, it might not matter.

  • If you don't like or don't know how to deal with complicated board-states or multiple triggered abilities on the stack, this deck might not be for you.

  • Graveyard hate, exile, and especially Rest in Peace makes us cry. Our creatures function off of dying, so if they're removed without dying, we get no value. Against cards like RIP, all we can really do is pray for some removal and not waste our cards. It's not impossible to deal with, and if you're in a heavy grave-hate meta, I recommend opting in some more enchantment removal like Mortify or Return to Dust .

  • Some cards do nothing on their own (like Reassembling Skeleton ). Against heavily disruptive control decks, you may find yourself in this position more than otherwise. Since this is a combo deck, we are always going to be prone to disruption.

75%

This deck and primer is meant to serve as a guideline for a 75% deck meaning it is not competitive. The reason for this is metagame and fun. Personally, I have more fun playing casually, and my playgroup does the same, so I kept from making the deck function at its peak performance which would likely include combos to try to win the game as early as turn 3 or 4. However, being a 75% deck doesn't mean I'm not trying to make it function well or win.

From what I can tell, Teysa Karlov isn't the most pushed commander competitively and likely won't be able to compete with the top tier cEDH decks out there. If you wish to build her as a cEDH deck, I say go for it, but you won't find much in this primer except for inspiration.

Death triggers are the name of the game with Teysa's first ability. I use the term "Death Triggers" to denote an ability that triggers off the death of a creature. These cards make up the majority of the combos and synergy between each other and our commander. I recommend playing at least ~20 of them. We don't need a million to attain value with Teysa and can often be content with just one good one on board, especially those that draw us cards. These are the death trigger cards I chose due to a multitude of factors including mana cost, value, and power-level, but there are definitely others that could go in and may find a slot in the future.

  • Archon of Justice : A very powerful death trigger that we can hopefully repeat through recursion. It hits lands btw.

  • Athreos, God of Passage : When a creature dies, we can target the same or two different people with this trigger. If the first person gives us the creature, the second one won't have an option. Our opponent(s) will have to pay 6 life instead of 3 to stop us from getting the creature back if we have Teysa on board.

  • Black Market : In some games, this is all the ramp we'll ever need. In conjunction with Grave Pact effects, it gains counters very fast since it triggers off of our opponents' dead creatures as well.

  • Blood Artist and Zulaport Cutthroat : These drain effects add up when multiple creatures or creature tokens of ours are dying, especially with double death triggers. We could even set up a kill with enough creatures and a sac outlet.

  • Grave Pact and Dictate of Erebos : Delivering some justice for our dead creatures is always welcome, especially when they're sacrificing two creatures for our one. With a sac outlet, we can force our opponents to sac really whenever we want.

  • Dark Prophecy , Grim Haruspex , Midnight Reaper , Harvester of Souls : These death triggers draw us cards. Simple and effective. Unfortunately, other than dark prophecy, they say nontoken, but luckily we have a myriad of nontoken creatures that will die.

  • Doomed Traveler , Hunted Witness , Carrier Thrall : Their only function is to provide extra death triggers by making a bunch of creatures. With Teysa on board, each provides 3 creatures. Use these creatures and tokens as sacrifices to make mana with altars, to force our opponents to sac their creatures with Grave Pact , etc.

  • Deathrender : This enables some crazy creature strings if we have a sac outlet. It's still value if we don't. It's made better by the huge hands we'll often have with Reliquary Tower or Thought Vessel in conjunction with all of our card draw.

  • Elenda, the Dusk Rose : A death trigger that triggers off of our dead creatures to make more creatures to trigger death triggers. Beautiful.

  • Hallowed Spiritkeeper : A less cool variation of Elenda but cool as heck nonetheless.

  • Kokusho, the Evening Star : With this once-banned card's death trigger happening twice now, it drains the table for 10 each and giving us usually 30+ life.

  • Massacre Wurm : Another good drain card/win condition that has synergy with Teysa and acts as a semi-board wipe. Hitting our opponents for 4 each time one of their creatures dies starts getting out of hand very fast. It also combos very well with our repeatable removal effects like Grave Pact .

  • Open the Graves , Pawn of Ulamog , and Requiem Angel : These all give us tokens when our creatures die. These tokens not only open the door to further death triggers from other cards, but usually have lifelink and vigilance due to Teysa. The angel triggers off of our non-spirit tokens as well.

  • Skullclamp : Skullclamp

  • Solemn Simulacrum : Land ramp is invaluable with our lack of green. The death trigger is only icing on the cake.

  • Teysa, Orzhov Scion : Other Teysa does several very powerful things but needs good setup. Once we have a few black creatures on board, she starts making tokens using her death trigger. Her other ability is very good disruption and usable in a pinch by sacrificing herself and some other creatures we have on board.

  • Wurmcoil Engine : A producer of very efficient tokens on a death trigger. This is one that we'll hopefully be recurring.

These rulings all come from the official gatherer.

  • Teysa affects a creature’s own “when this creature dies” triggered abilities as well as other triggered abilities that trigger when that creature dies. Such triggered abilities start with “when” or “whenever.”

  • Teysa’s effect doesn’t copy the triggered ability; it just causes the ability to trigger twice. Any choices made as you put the ability onto the stack, such as modes and targets, are made separately for each instance of the ability. Any choices made on resolution, such as whether to pay a cost for that triggered ability, are also made separately.

  • The trigger event doesn’t have to specifically refer to “creatures.” In these cases, the trigger event may also refer to something being “put into a graveyard from the battlefield.” For example, an ability that triggers “whenever an artifact is put into a graveyard from the battlefield” would trigger twice if an artifact creature dies while Teysa Karlov is on the battlefield.

  • An ability that triggers when a creature “leaves the battlefield” will trigger twice if that creature leaves the battlefield by dying.

  • An ability that triggers on an event that causes a creature to die doesn’t trigger twice. For example, an ability that triggers “whenever you sacrifice a creature” triggers only once.

  • Look at each creature as it exists on the battlefield, taking into account continuous effects, to determine whether any triggered abilities will trigger multiple times. For example, if a land that has become a creature dies, an ability that triggers when it dies triggers twice.

  • If a creature dying at the same time that another permanent you control leaves the battlefield causes a triggered ability of that permanent to trigger, that ability triggers an additional time.

  • If a creature dying at the same time as Teysa (including Teysa itself dying) causes a triggered ability of a permanent you control to trigger, that ability triggers an additional time.

  • If you somehow control two Teysas, a creature dying causes abilities to trigger three times, not four. A third Teysa causes abilities to trigger four times, a fourth causes abilities to trigger five times, and so on. This also means that if you control Teysa and cast a second one, an ability that triggers when it dies due to the “legend rule” triggers three times.

  • An ability of a permanent that triggers when a card is put into a graveyard “from anywhere” triggers twice only if Teysa and that permanent are both still on the battlefield immediately after the creature has died.

  1. Razaketh, the Foulblooded + Deathrender : This allows us to use Razaketh to sacrifice a creature equipped with Deathrender, place a creature from our hand into play and search for a creature with Razaketh. Our next sac will allow us to place the creature we just searched into play and loop. Each loop loses you 2 life, but this is negligible since Kokusho, the Evening Star is searchable. Looping this will allow us to search for every creature in our deck and sac them for a death trigger, eventually ending the game with a combination of Blood Artist and friends.

  2. Open the Graves , Requiem Angel , or Pawn of Ulamog + Teysa + Reassembling Skeleton + Phyrexian Altar : Infinite death triggers. Sac skeleton to altar, generate two tokens with Teysa. Sac the tokens to altar to bring back skeleton. This can result in infinite mana, draw, drain, tokens, or otherwise depending on the other death triggers you have lying around.

  3. Open the Graves or Pawn of Ulamog + Requiem Angel + Teysa: The angel triggers on any non-spirit creature, so with it, Open the Graves or Pawn of Ulamog , and Teysa in play at once, a single creature dying will grant two tokens and two spirits. The tokens can then be sac'd to make four 1/1 spirits. This results in a possible total of 9 death triggers from one creature dying.

  4. Zulaport Cutthroat or Blood Artist + Sac Outlet + Teysa: Our main wincon. Blood Artist and friends can deal huge amounts of damage over the course of a game while we just play our deck normally. With them all in play, 5 creatures dying causes each opponent to lose 10 life, one opponent to lose 20 life, and us to gain 30 life (unless I'm bad at math).

  5. Blood Artist or Massacre Wurm + Grave Pact or Dictate of Erebos + Teysa: Blood artist and wurm trigger off of opposing dead creatures as well, so with Grave Pact effects and Teysa, assuming we have three opponents with two creatures each, we can get up to 14 blood artist triggers from a single death trigger of one of our own creatures (2 triggers from our own creature, 2 triggers from each of the opponents' creatures).

  6. Cabal Coffers + Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth : All of our lands become swamps with urborg, so coffers produces mana equal to the amount of lands we control which is a lot for one land.

  7. Necropotence + Reliquary Tower or Thought Vessel : This combo allows us to keep all of the cards we necro for in hand. Since necro's lifeloss is usually insignificant when we drain the board, we'll be able to keep up a huge hand to grow our death engine.

Feel free to mention if I've missed any combos. There's bound to be a lot in a deck full of triggers triggering off of triggers.

With your starting hand, the priorities are cheap card draw and ramp. Getting only one card that either draws or ramps you is very good in your starting hand, but its not a deal breaker if you don't have one. Below is some cheap ramp and card draw to look out for:

  • Ashnod's Altar or Phyrexian Altar + a cheap creature or token maker: Altars alone don't do anything early, so don't count them as early ramp unless you have creatures to back them up with.

  • Burnished Hart : This card is amazing early. It's mana and activation cost might be deceive you into thinking it's inefficient since green has Explosive Vegetation for 2 less mana, but the Hart is the best we're gonna get since we aren't playing green. Two extra lands from one card is crazy good, especially early.

  • Fellwar Stone and Orzhov Signet : These are premium artifacts that act like lands for two mana and don't count toward your land drop for turn. They also allow us to play Teysa on turn 3 if necessary.

  • Pawn of Ulamog : This guy is a nice cheap early drop, but be careful if you don't have other creatures.

  • Sol Ring and Mana Crypt : The best early ramp in the deck. However, be careful about playing it on turn 1 since it paints an early target on your back. It does allow a turn 2 Teysa though if necessary.

  • Solemn Simulacrum : Like burnished hart, land ramp is hard to come by in our colors, so any is appreciated, especially if it comes with a death trigger.

  • Skullclamp , Grim Haruspex , Dark Prophecy , Mentor of the Meek , Midnight Reaper , and Smothering Abomination : These guys need creatures to get running, but when you inevitably get creatures, they'll usually be able to refuel your hand adequately so you can get more creatures and ramp. Playing them early alone won't usually attract any removal either, so they're a pretty safe keep.

  • Necropotence : Landing this early is amazing if you have the mana for it. Being able to refuel your hand with your life total (since you won't be taking damage early) is invaluable. Just don't go crazy with it until later when you have a lot of life and need to draw more specific cards.

  • Knight of the White Orchid and Wayfarer's Bauble : Like burnished hart, these two provide priceless land ramp in non-green. Early, they're amazing. Knight's search clause is a bit weird, and I recommend going second most of the time in order to make sure knight will always work because when he does, he's basically just Nature's Lore on a creature (which matters in a creatures matter deck like this). PS nature's lore is very good.

  • Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor : Don't be afraid to tutor for Sol Ring , Pawn of Ulamog , etc. Sometimes having one of those early will win games. You don't always need to save your tutors for a huge lategame card.

Keeping that in mind, I want to go over some hands that I would keep vs hands I wouldn't.

This is not a keep. It provides too few proactive options and only two lands. We would need a few more lands to start casting spells, but since we have four control spells, we likely won't cast anything because our opponents likely won't have valuable targets to remove this early in the game. Phyrexian Reclamation , while castable, won't provide us with any value without creatures.

On the other hand, this hand is great. Though it also only has two lands, it provides enough ramp to fuel us through to casting Teysa, Archon of Justice , Falkenrath Noble (no longer in the deck), and Utter End if need be. It also provides us with all of our colors with the two lands.

This hand is tough. It has a really high payoff for having three black mana but only provides 2 black mana itself. Ultimately, I would keep this hand due to the likelyhood I end up drawing another black source. The payoff of an early Necropotence is pretty big, and it will eventually lead into ramp with Crypt Ghast and hopefully a Kokusho, the Evening Star + Teysa combo. The Necropotence + Reliquary Tower combo is also a huge factor.

This hand serves as a good contrast to the previous one. It's also a Necropotence hand that can almost cast Necropotence. While the other hand I kept due to the potential upside, this hand I would have to turn down due to the fact that necro is the only thing it has going. It has no tower + necro combo and only has two lands. There just isn't enough to justify keeping this hand though it could potentially pay off.

During the early phases of the game, focus primarily on setting up your board with ramp, card draw, and death triggers. What's good about early game is that many of our setup cards look very weak on their own, especially cards like Midnight Reaper , Zulaport Cutthroat , and even Teysa Karlov . This will likely cause your opponents to focus on each other while we're able to add to our board over time. We'll play Teysa around the time we expect our creatures to start dying for value, or it's possible to play her just to get some token vigilance/lifelink value if we have nothing else to do.

Remember not to be afraid to tutor for ramp or card draw if needed, just be sure to tutor for the best (usually Skullclamp , Necropotence , or Sol Ring ) when you do. Also get around to playing bigger ramp cards like Crypt Ghast , Black Market , and always keep a look out for Cabal Coffers + Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth . Once we have enough ramp and card draw, the wheels will start to turn. We will begin to play cards that make tokens like Elenda, the Dusk Rose and Requiem Angel with large payoffs like Razaketh, the Foulblooded and Dictate of Erebos . Hopefully, we still have Teysa in play or enough mana to recast her if she's died once or twice.

At this point, around turn 10, we've probably hit late game and the board has realized our value engine is the absolute threat and begin to target us.

Once it's late game, and, if everything's been going smoothly, we're the target or our opponent's are already dead. We should be using our resources to their full extent to slow our opponents while we search for a way to win if we haven't already.

The Best Wincons Ranked in Order of Consistency:

  1. Blood Artist and/or Zulaport Cutthroat + creatures: This is our most consistent kill since we have three of these guys and will likely have a lot of creatures. With enough death triggers, these dudes will certainly drain the board as long as our opponents aren't super healthy or have some way to defend themselves.

  2. Torment of Hailfire + Black Market or Cabal Coffers + Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth : This two to three card combo is very doable if we have torment late game. Even if we're only casting torment for X=12 or 15, it will still severely hinder many decks, often enough to win by other means. Sometimes it's beneficial or game-winning to cast torment with our mana from lands alone.

There are a multitude of cards in EDH that have synergy with Teysa, death triggers, sacrificing, lifegain, tokens, and removal, so it would be impossible to fit them all in one deck. But that's what's great about Teysa. There are so many ways to build her and none of them are wrong. In the Maybeboard section, I have a list of cards I've found that have synergy in a Teysa deck but didn't make the cut in my deck. This doesn't necessarily mean they're bad or worse than the cards currently in the deck and some I would even recommend running depending on your play style. I will try to cover a few that I need to get a word in for.

  • Yosei, the Morning Star : This card is an incredible death trigger that can completely shut down an opponent if doubled. It has insane synergy with recursion effects to keep a stax lock on someone, and I highly recommend it in terms of power level. Since I don't like playing heavy stax effects like this, I decided to omit it, but if it finds a place in your deck, it will do work.

  • Divine Visitation : This is an infinite combo with Reqiuem Angel that provides infinite creatures to sac. Requiem Angel makes a spirit, visitation makes it an angel, when it dies, make a spirit that becomes an angel, repeat. Obviously this is a very powerful effect that can win games with a sac outlet and Blood Artist and friends in play, so currently, I'm trying to slot this into the deck. It's also just good with tokens.

  • Darkest Hour : This card combos with Teysa, Orzhov Scion , allowing her two abilities to combo with each other and for us to wipe our opponent's board. With a separate unlimited sac outlet, this would also allow us to make infinite death triggers, and with Teysa, infinite tokens. However, Darkest Hour does really nothing on its own, and since it only combos with one card in the deck, I've chosen to omit it.

Suggestions

Updates Add

IN:

  • Wayfarer's Bauble & Knight of the White Orchid : Amazing early ramp card for non-green. Land ramp is invaluable because of its resistance to disruption.

  • Mana Crypt : Possibly the best card in EDH. I'm not sure why I didn't have it in here originally. It's even better in this deck due to our resistance to incremental life loss.

  • Priest of Forgotten Gods : This card does everything our deck wants to be doing and MORE. If only it had a death trigger tagged on.

OUT:

  • Merciless Eviction : While this is a great board wipe, exiling our own creatures hurts pretty bad. The other board wipes in the deck, while less versatile, have more synergy and less potential downside.

  • Dawn of Hope : This is also a great versatile card, but we have other more efficient token producers and card draw. We also aren't constantly trying to capitalize on lifegain like a lifegain deck that would really want this card might do.

  • Cathars' Crusade : A good win condition, but quite useless during setup or while behind.

  • Plaguecrafter : This provided a lot of utility by being a one-time sacrifice outlet while forcing our opponents to sac, but it didn't do any one thing amazingly that the rest of our deck couldn't already do.

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