Andrew Jackson Highlander - Isareth the Awakener
Wake Up Call
Welcome to Andrew Jackson Highlander, a series where I share an EDH deck tech that costs twenty dollars. In this article, we are celebrating the release of M19 by building a deck based on one of the new commanders. While everyone is, understandably, excited about the new Elder Dragons, I am actually excited for the 5 new mono color legends (so much so that the next article will feature one of the mono color legends as well).
This week, Isareth the Awakener is going to give our creatures a wake-up call. To be more precise, it will be a re-wake-up call to further abuse the ETB creatures we crammed this deck full of. And to even further abuse them, I included my absolute favorite card: Panharmonicon.
When Isareth was first spoiled, I sort of glossed over her. But when I looked at her again, I noticed a striking resemblance to one of the most played commanders in our format: Alesha, Who Smiles at Death. Isareth seemed like a weaker, watered down version due to losing out on two colors and the scaling cost. However, I actually really like the scaling cost since we can (assuming we have the mana) get back any creature in our graveyard. Exiling the creatures when they leave the battlefield after being recurred is a real downside but we should have gotten plenty of value before the corpse counter clause (new band name, I call it!) kicks in. I think people are sleeping on Isareth, but I have a feeling she will eventually wake people up to her power.
Wake Up Call
This is a fun to play, value based grind deck. Virtually all of our creatures come with a powerful ETB attached and we use that to accumulate value over the game. That value just goes through the roof when we combine those Enters-the-Battlefield with Panharmonicon or when we recur the creature with Isareth… or we can take the value level to maximum overdrive by reanimating an ETB creature we already got use out of with Panharmonicon on the field.
Since we are a mono black deck that likes using our graveyard, we also use some sacrifice outlets to help us generate value and put creatures in our graveyard to set up reusing their ETBs. Also, being in mono black, we get a good suite of spot removal, some solid budget draw options, and other ways to reuse/recur our creatures.
We need to use our resources carefully to keep ourselves in the game and generate as much value as possible because (thanks in large part to budgetary constraints) we don't have a lot of high-powered finishers. We win the game by using our ETBs and spells wisely, to keep ourselves in the game, outlast our opponents, and use our creatures to peck in for the final bits of damage at the end of the grind.
Faceless Butcher- A Fiend Hunter effect in black before Fiend Hunter even existed. This is a really neat card for mono black. Plus, we run sac outlets to take advantage of this trick: Play Faceless Butcher targeting an opponent's creature. While that trigger is still on the stack, sacrifice Faceless Butcher. No creature can be returned since it is not exiled yet, so Butcher's leave play trigger does nothing. Then the initial trigger resolves and your opponent's creature is exiled permanently!
Meteor Golem- A new card from M19 that I am absolutely in love with. If it wasn't for a new commander you will see a post on in a couple of days, this card would be my favorite in the set. An ETB creature that can help colors deal with permanents they have trouble with (in this deck: artifacts and enchantments) that doesn't break the color pie and leaves behind a decent body… this is a budget staple right out of the gate.
Nekrataal / Ravenous Chupacabra- Not much to say here, but the original 187 creature and it's modern day counterpart (that I think is better, despite my love for Nekrataal) are big reasons to even play this deck.
Dark Hatchling / Heartstabber Mosquito / Gilt-Leaf Winnower- Some of the cooler Nekrataal variants. Dark Hatchling leaves behind a decent flying body. Heartstabber Mosquito hits any creature. Gilt-Leaf Winnower has a really unique condition but hits a lot of targets.
Gray Merchant of Asphodel- Our non-combat way to win the game. Gary is a budget powerhouse and recurring Gary is a legit win con.
Carnage Altar- This is a budget sacrifice outlet that I think should see a more play. 3 mana is a pretty hefty cost, but an instant speed sac outlet that draws cards is useful for just about any deck.
Malevolent Awakening- This is one of my favorite sac outlets for EDH. Cash in a creature to return a creature to your hand. It's just a strong effect even for 3 mana to cast and 3 mana to activate.
Syphon Mind- Speaking of value…this card is absolutely bonkers. All of your opponents discard and you draw a card for each card discarded. In a typical 4 player pod that's a 4 card swing for 4 mana!
Final Parting- This is a really, really cool budget tutor for this deck. Tutor for something (probably Panharmonicon) to hand and then drop a good ETB creature into the yard to recur with Isareth.
Myr Battlesphere / Skeletal Vampire- These are our finishers. They can generate a good amount of bodies on their own (Skeletal Vampire requires quite a bit of investment) and can generate a game ending army with Panharmonicon online.
Panharmonicon- I love this card. This is certainly my favorite EDH card at the moment and it may be my favorite Magic card of all time. While a 4 mana, do nothing on cast artifact is a big ask this card is just an absolute value machine. I'd say you've broken even once you double two ETBs. You win games on value if this card sticks for multiple turns.
Grave Titan- This is THE finisher that this deck absolutely wants and needs.
Sepulchral Primordial- This is another great finisher for this deck and actually isn't that expensive. This was in the initial draft of the deck and was one of the later cuts to get it under budget. A great way to get advantage from all of our removal and definitely one of the first recommended upgrades (Even better, just start the deck off with it in there if you can).
Shriekmaw- Add this card in immediately. This was the last cut to the deck and one I hated to make, but it was the best way to get the deck under budget. This is a great ETB creature that we can evoke for cheap early and then return with Isareth.
Cabal Coffers- This is one of the main reasons to play Mono Black in EDH so this is a great card to add, especially since recurring creatures with Isareth can be pretty expensive and otherwise take up our whole turn. We run enough swamps that I think Cabal Stronghold is a fine budget stand-in and actually still makes the cut once you get a Coffers, assuming you don't add to many other utility lands in.
Reanimate / Animate Dead- We will have plenty of creatures in our graveyard and so will our opponents, so the ability pick and choose the best creatures from each graveyard would be an extremely powerful ability for this deck.
Torpor Orb- This deck is extremely weak to anything that shuts down ETBs from triggering, such as Hushwing Gryff and Tocatli Honor Guard. But we are extremely weak to Torpor Orb since we have so few ways to remove it.
Graveyard Hate- While we can still get plenty of value from just casting our creatures, we gain an edge by being able to replay our relevant ETBs with Isareth. Once again, we are extra weak to this strategy since most of the common graveyard hate pieces are artifacts or enchantments.
Exile Effects- Once again, we want our creatures to be in our 'yard so we can remove them, so if you meta packs a ton of extra exile effects this deck may struggle
Go Wide Strategies- We are good at 1-for-1'ing big threats but we can be overrun by tokens or weenies fairly easily. If your meta has a lot of these decks, definitely sub in some board wipes instead of spot removal.
I think that Isareth is going to be the sleeper commander of this set. Mono black is one of the (if not THE) strongest mono colored options in EDH. Isareth is an Alesha variant, which is a very strong and popular commander, with her own unique twist. Plus, with ETB creatures being so pushed in standard there are going to be new great options for this deck coming out with each set. With Panharmonicon in the deck to help out, Isareth should have no problem riding to value town and waking her opponents up to her power before she go-goes.