The Ten Plagues of Amonkhet are complete. The time of The Locust God is over, his holy task accomplished, and the unbelievers purged from the sands of Amonkhet. In triumph, the God-Pharaoh departs to Ravnica, to set into motion something... darker.

In this new world, the Horned One has taken a new disciple: Circu, Dimir Lobotomist. Once a lowly operative of House Dimir, a master of memory manipulation, she has become a servant to a deathless God-Pharaoh. Overwhelmed by the dragon's majesty, she has vowed to ensure that nobody recalls a tragic world lacking his holy purpose, and has pledged her skills as a member of House Dimir to his cause. There shall be no disobedience against the God-Pharaoh, for none shall remember a time without his rule.

Soon, all worlds shall lie within The Horned One's grasp, and acknowledge his glory as the mightiest being of the multiverse. And atop the Dark Tower, overlooking the vast multiverse that will soon be in his clutches, Nicol Bolas allows himself a smile.

Witness the evolution of God-Pharoah's works, ye mighty, and despair.

This is the Dark Tower, from which Bolas plots his sinister schemes:

The Dark Tower Itself Show

So, flavor aside! This is an optimized (within my budget) control-combo list centered around artifact-based infinite storm/mana combos, with Bolas's Citadel and Isochron Scepter as the primary engines. The goal is to either use Circu, Dimir Lobotomist as the finisher, exiling my opponents' libraries with her ability in the execution of my infinite combos, or to kill with Aetherflux Reservoir directly.

I couldn't resist building around Bolas's Citadel; it's my favorite card in years. Citadel is integral to several of the infinite combos in the list, and a powerful threat in its own right - with it out, you rarely lack for interaction or powerful spells, available from the top of your library. Moreover, your top-deck tutors (usually a necessary evil) become

This deck is the natural evolution of my well-known The Ten Plagues: Locust God cEDH [PRIMER] list, trading the more erratic red wheels for more streamlined black tutors, ramp, and control pieces. The deck also shifted to a lower curve with more interaction, to facilitate the introduction of Ad Nauseam and Bolas's Citadel as powerful sources of card advantage.

The deck was originally built around Oona, Queen of the Fae, with her fulfilling the same role as The Locust God in the deck's previous version -- an infinite mana sink, meant to be cast after comboing off. However, I realized that Circu, Dimir Lobotomist filled this role better, for several reasons. From most important to least:

  1. My only infinite mana combos involve casting an infinite number of blue or black spells, so Circu already wins in any circumstance where Oona would be relevant, with less vulnerability to creature-hate stax pieces such as Cursed Totem or Linvala, Keeper of Silence.
  2. Critically, Circu makes it MUCH easier to combo with Bolas's Citadel. If she is on the battlefield when you control Bolas's Citadel, and you cast a blue or black spell off the top of your library with Citadel, because of how Citadel is templated, you get to look at your top card before choosing the player to target for Circu's cast trigger. This means you can choose to exile irrelevant lands/spells from the top of your library, making it *much* hard to stall out when executing the combo.
  3. Circu can disrupt powerful opposing topdeck tutors such as Vampiric Tutor, Worldly Tutor, et cetera. Moreover, though this deck is *not* built around effects like Lantern of Insight (I think that approach is too weak for cEDH, though I’ve considered testing it), you occasionally exile relevant spells like Isochron Scepter, Food Chain, or Sol Ring, which can sometimes badly damage other decks at the table.
  4. Circu can come down relatively early, often T2 with a Sol Ring or Mana Crypt, and act as an early blocker to decks trying to get card draw using Tymna the Weaver. With respectable 2/3 stats, she can block Tymna (or mana dorks) with no trouble.
  5. Circu allows me to run Scheming Symmetry as a third copy of Imperial Seal, with no effective downside if she’s on the field.

Overall, the switch to Circu has proven to be a very positive change, and has given a measurable power boost to the list (even beyond the color-shift from UR into UB). The deck generally performs well against stax and combo, and can even out-speed much of the current cEDH meta on a good hand.

The list is itself a strong contender in a high-level pod, and is a great stepping-stone towards more expensive "classic" cEDH decks such as PST or Tasigur... not to mention that it's already very fun to play, due to its extremely complex lines of play - I would highly recommend this list to any Johnny/Jenny cEDH player! I'm certainly enjoying it immensely ;)

To summarize, the deck's primary win-cons are as follow, in rough order of importance:

  1. Isochron Scepter + Dramatic Reversal: This combo generates infinite mana, and exiles all opponents' libraries with Circu -- pretty standard cEDH material overall. This is the primary wincon that Ad Nauseam digs for.
  2. Bolas's Citadel + (Sensei's Divining Top or Necropotence): Citadel allows you to cast your topdecks without paying mana, and Necro/Top let you clear the top card. Functionally, the two form something between an Ad Nauseam and a Omniscience. The combo either leads to Combo 1, or digs to find Aetherflux Reservoir and win without our commander.
  3. (Notion Thief or Narset, Parter of Veils) + (Diminishing Returns or Windfall): Strip your opponents' hands and lock down further draw, allowing you to win at your leisure. When using Notion Thief, it also draws enough cards to guarantee the win either immediately or on the following turn.

The primary difficulty of playing this deck is that Combos 2 and 3 are largely non-deterministic, and many of the lines involving Bolas's Citadel can have extremely complicated sequencing, and often involve controlling your topdecks carefully. With this said, when playing thoughtfully, I find that I win more than 95% of the time that I can resolve Citadel.

The primary combos and their execution/sequencing are explained in further detail in the sections below:

Combos with Isochron Scepter are bread and butter in cEDH, and are this deck's central wincon. The specific winning combo is Isochron Scepter imprinted with Dramatic Reversal, plus at least generated from mana rocks. The deck used to run a backup Paradox Engine line, before the Great Banning of ’19, but this is obviously no longer feasible.

Moreover, this combo generates infinite mana if your rocks are capable of producing . But even if you cannot generate infinite mana (say, if Sol Ring is your only rock), with Circu, Dimir Lobotomist on the battlefield, this combo exiles your opponents' libraries (as they cast an infinite number of spells).

It's also important to note that Sensei's Divining Top draws your deck in combination with this combo, by executing the following loop:

Stack Shenanigans Show

This means that if Circu herself is unavailable as a finisher, you can use Sensei's Divining Top to dig for an alternate wincon (like Aetherflux Reservoir), or a way to get her back (Gilded Drake, Cyclonic Rift, etc).

Tutors that find this combo:

I constructed this deck largely to prove that Bolas's Citadel could have at least fringe cEDH viability, and I feel that I have achieved this goal. The deck wins 95% of the time it resolves Citadel, especially if Circu is already on the battlefield.

In this list, Bolas's Citadel is a powerful source of card advantage even without any combos (something of a fusion between Ad Nauseam and Omniscience), but the card can also finish the game single-handedly through either of the combos below.

The primary issue with Bolas's Citadel is that, while it does allows you to play lands off of the top of your library, it stalls when you hit TWO lands in a row (though if the land you played is a fetch land, you get a third chance). To mitigate this, the deck plays a significant amount of topdeck manipulation, as well as two primary combos with Bolas's Citadel. Critically, both combos are capable of repeatedly clearing the top card off of your deck, to remove extra lands that would otherwise halt the combo:

  1. Bolas's Citadel + Sensei's Divining Top: While the "normal" top-deck controlling ability of Sensei's Divining Top is still good here, you can activate the second tap ability to repeatedly draw a card per 1 life paid. This also casts Top repeatedly, allowing you to dig to Aetherflux Reservoir, cast it, gain significant amounts of life, then shoot your opponents' faces with the Fishbowl of Doom.
  2. Bolas's Citadel + Necropotence: This combo does not directly go infinite with Aetherflux Reservoir, unlike the previous case, because using Necropotence's ability is not casting a spell. However, this can easily dig into one of the deck's other combos, or win non-deterministically by casting a significant number of non-Top spells with Aetherflux Reservoir out. Moreover, unlike using Sensei's Divining Top as your draw engine with Citadel, Necropotence allows you to manipulate your topdecks at instant speed. The importance of this fact is explained below.

With Sensei's Divining Top on the battlefield, you can use its first ability to alter your topdeck at instant speed, if you need to move a counterspell to the top. A more powerful variation on this effect is the interaction between Bolas’s Citadell and either Vampiric Tutor, Lim-Dul's Vault, Mystical Tutor, Necropotence, or Brainstorm. These allow you to move counterspells/disruption onto the top of your library at instant speed and cast them with life, ensuring that you frequently have mana-free counter spells available with Citadel on the field.

It’s also important to remember that once Bolas’s Citadel resolves, you have priority to cast something off the top with it, which often reveals a counterspell beneath whatever you just cast (which then protects the Citadel itself, or the critical spell you just cast).

With Citadel out, your topdeck tutors (Imperial Seal, Vampiric Tutor, Mystical Tutor, Scheming Symmetry, etc) will generally tutor for Top, or a way to acquire Top. After casting Citadel and protecting it, it’s rare to have any mana remaining, but spells like Snap or Frantic Search (as well as mana rocks) allow you to recoup your mana.

We do not generally use the tap ability on Bolas's Citadel. We don't run remotely enough expendable permanents to take full advantage of it, but it's theoretically possible as a finisher if your opponents are at a low life total. I have used it to kill someone who got too greedy with their Ad Nauseam once, since your opponents generally forget that the tap ability on Citadel exists ;) Note that if I could afford Timetwister, there would be potential loops involving Citadel’s tap ability and Twister.

In addition to these outright wincons, there are several important intermediate combos and synergies that can help lead to one of the wincons above.

These two combos don't directly win, but strip your opponents' hands and give you a significant amount of advantage. These combos make it extremely hard for your opponents to recover, and generally allow you to win at your leisure.

These should look very familiar to Leovold players - you want to resolve either Narset, Parter of Veils or Notion Thief, as well as a wheel (Windfall or Diminishing Returns, since we can’t afford Timetwister here).

These combos are notable because their individual pieces are absolutely worth casting alone, unlike something like Bolas's Citadel that prefers setup. Narset, Parter of Veils and Notion Thief absolutely pull their weight in this deck even without being paired with wheels, and the wheels themselves are vital ways of refilling your hand after a fast start. It is also worth mentioning that having Narset, Parter of Veils or Notion Thief on the battlefield makes it hard for your opponents to recover, even if you do not win immediately. However, while a vicious way to hobble your opponents, this combo isn't as easy to pull off as it may seem...

  • Narset, Parter of Veils is difficult to protect since this deck runs so few creatures. This is doubly true if you use her -2 ability to dig. I would never expect Narset to survive more than *maybe* a turn cycle or two. When planning to execute this combo with Narset, it's usually the best plan to either cast her directly after an opponent's board wipe, or in the same turn as your Windfall effect.

  • Note that, unlike wheeling with Notion Thief, wheeling with Narset on the battlefield does not give you an immediate path to victory. Narset, Parter of Veils can dig for a wincon with her -2 ability after stripping your opponents' hands, and your opponents will have trouble recovering without card draw, but it is absolutely possible to die to cards already on the battlefield. You can be particularly vulnerable to aggro damage, if you used something like Necropotence or Ad Nauseam to find this combo. In the context of this combo, Narset, Parter of Veils exists in this deck as backup to our stronger option, Notion Thief.

  • Conversely, it is significantly easier to pull off this combo with Notion Thief than Narset, since you can flash him in at your opponent's end step then wheel immediately. He offers additional card advantage as well (with or without the wheel), and usually gives you an immediate wincon before your opponents can recover from the loss of tempo. With that being said, he makes this combo vulnerable to creature removal, which is a significant downside to be aware of.
I’ve included Ad Nauseam in its own category here. Much like the previous section, this does not directly win or provide a path to victory… but if you don’t win at least 90% of games after resolving an Ad Nauseam, you’re doing something wrong. This usually leads into a win with Isochron Scepter and Dramatic Reversal, but sometimes you can step your way upwards with Aetherflux Reservoir instead, or under very very rare circumstances cast and win through Bolas's Citadel. Tutoring for an Ad Nauseam with counter backup will win the game 90% of the time, though there will be a significant number of extra steps.

This deck’s average nonland CMC (once Circu and Ad Naus are factored out) is 1.879, and when the 32 lands are included, this comes out to an average 1.265 life lost per card. This deck’s variance when resolving Ad Nauseam is a little higher than most Naus decks (it really hurts to hit Citadel off the top), but these numbers demonstrate that we can expect to draw about 24 cards off of an average Ad Nauseam resolution, if we have 30 life to spend — enough to almost always find a wincon.

In the past, I have run several other, distinct combos in this deck. The deck is still somewhat in flux, and I encourage experimenting with these combos if you're testing the list yourself!

Doomsday + Jace, Wielder of Mysteries: This combo is especially powerful with Bolas's Citadel out, as you can maintain double counterspell backup at all times in your Doomsday pile (with a pile such as Brainstorm, Mana Drain, Pact of Negation, Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, and Frantic Search/Timetwister). The downside is that the deck doesn't run Yawgmoth's Will or Lion's Eye Diamond or Gush, i.e. the necessary enablers to make Doomsday work effectively, outside of Bolas's Citadel lines. Unless you have a lot of mana and a cantrip, you usually have to cast Doomsday and pass, which allows your opponents to prepare too many responses. On the plus side, this is the only potential wincon in the deck that isn't screwed over by Null Rod and Damping Sphere, and the new Jace makes “Doomsday, pass” at least a bit more viable than with Laboratory Maniac

Mystic Speculation: In addition to being a passable way to control your topdecks (useful in general, doubly so with Bolas's Citadel out), this card goes infinite with Paradox Engine if you have rocks that produce at least , and lets you reorder your library (in addition to milling all opponents with Circu and usually generating infinite mana). This is particularly useful as it can be fetched with Spellseeker directly, and because it can still go infinite if Isochron Scepter is unavailable (currently, this deck can have trouble finding a wincon if Aetherflux Reservoir and Isochron Scepter are exiled). I've also tried Capsize in this role, and not overly found it useful - it's much MUCH harder to get 6+ mana from mana rocks, though it can be fetched with Merchant Scroll. NOTE: This is no longer viable due to the banning of Paradox Engine, but I’m seeing the information here for posterity.

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I could always use suggestions (cuts or additions) as well as upvotes! ;) honor Lord Bolas, at whose citadel we work our Dark Rituals!



Updates Add

I'll be posting an update in the next few days regarding where this deck goes without Paradox Engine. Paradox Engine wasn't... CRITICAL to the deck? But it still gave an important backup plan that the deck will miss, and will probably require me to put the Doomsday line back in.


Top Ranked
Date added 2 years
Last updated 1 year

This deck is Commander / EDH legal.

Rarity (main - side)

14 - 0 Mythic Rares

39 - 0 Rares

17 - 0 Uncommons

15 - 0 Commons

Cards 100
Avg. CMC 1.90
Tokens 2/2 Bird, 3/3 Frog Lizard, Jace
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