Conditions Allow - Brisela, Voice of Nightmares

(Gisela, the Broken Blade | Art by Clint Cearley)

Give Voice to the Nightmares

Hello, and welcome back to Conditions Allow, the article series where I choose a legendary creature with a downside and try to build a deck to turn it into a strength. This week, we're delving into the horrors of Innistrad to build around one of the plane's most powerful protectors. Gisela, the Broken Blade may not be as strong as her younger self, Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, but she continues to battle resolutely against the darkness to protect the humans who rely on her.

Gisela, the Broken Blade is a four-mana Angel with flying, first strike, and lifelink. With four power, she can either fly over or kill most of the creatures you're likely to encounter in a game of Commander. Paired with Equipment that grant haste, hexproof, and/or indestructible, Gisela is a perfectly viable Voltron commander. For us, however, Gisela is simply a means to an end. An end with too many arms, an unfortunate number of tentacles, and a truly nightmarish voice. The real commander of this deck is going to be Brisela, Voice of Nightmares.

Much like Gisela, Brisela is a force to be reckoned with, picking up vigilance from Bruna, the Fading Light and gaining a significant boost in power and toughness. Brisela also stops your opponents from casting spells that cost three mana or less, which covers all of the most popular removal spells in Commander. No Swords to Plowshares here, and Brisela has certainly already found a Beast Within. This deck is going to aim to get Brisela, Voice of Nightmares onto the field consistently and quickly, and then win through combat damage before our opponents can find an answer.

As you may have guessed from the introduction, I've chosen to use Gisela, the Broken Blade as the commander for this deck. Bruna, the Fading Light is almost certainly a better, more powerful commander in her own right, as well as being a more reliable method to Meld into Brisela by pulling Gisela out of the graveyard when cast. This is why I've chosen to stick with Gisela, the Broken Blade, though. I actually considered quite a few possible commanders for this article, including many from Brisela, Voice of Nightmares's EDHREC page. Captain Sisay lets you easily tutor for our two key creatures, while Niambi, Esteemed Speaker is a great engine for taking advantage of Bruna, the Fading Light's reanimator ability. Nethroi, Apex of Death was also a contender. Ultimately, though, I felt sticking to mono-white kept the deck more on-theme, as adding colors and playing other commanders lessened the difficulty of finding the Meld pair and inevitably changed the focus of the deck away from Brisela and towards Niambi or Nethroi.

When researching cards for Gisela, the Broken Blade, I looked to Odric, Lunarch Marshal to see how best I could take advantage of the many keywords on our commander. I also looked for the best creature tutors that white can play. Finally, I included a reanimator subtheme, since we're already playing Bruna, the Fading Light.

Tasty Tasty Keyword Soup

The combination of flying and first strike makes Gisela, the Broken Blade difficult to block. With the right ramp, we can reliably be attacking for four damage from turn four onward. Brisela, Voice of Nightmares also has flying, first strike, and lifelink, so the core of our deck is going to be built around those abilities.

There are a few ways to search for creatures that this deck has access to, but we're still going to need plenty of card draw to make this deck work. Dawn of Hope is a card that I keep trying to make work, and I think that this might be the deck for it. For two mana, this enchantment will let us draw a card every time we gain life, which should be every turn thanks to Gisela, the Broken Blade. If you prefer to draw multiple cards at once, Well of Lost Dreams can draw a card for each life you gain, although it will cost the same amount of mana to do so. This is a better rate than Dawn of Hope, which makes up for the Well costing more mana up front. If you're worried about your opponents having large, flying blockers, we can abuse Reconnaissance to ensure that we can still gain life and draw cards. Simply attack with Gisela, the Broken Blade and let her deal first strike damage, gain four life, and draw some cards. Then, before moving to normal damage, activate Reconnaissance to remove Gisela from combat and safely cast our newly drawn spells.

If attacking with our commander is the engine of our card draw machine, we also need to include Tome of Legends and Mask of Memory. Tome of Legends is really good in aggressive decks, especially in mono-white. Another classic staple of Voltron decks is Mask of Memory, which pulls double duty here as a way to discard some big creatures for the reanimation effects this deck is going to play. I'm also including Mangara, the Diplomat in this section because he indirectly rewards us for being aggressive. Gisela, the Broken Blade and the threat of Brisela, Voice of Nightmares are going to put a lot of pressure on our opponents to find answers for our nonsense. These could be pinpoint removal spells or straight-up player removal, both of which require casting a lot of spells or attacking with a lot of creatures. In either case, Mangara, the Diplomat will be drawing us closer and closer to our own win conditions.

Attacking and gaining life can do more than just draw cards. Mono-white lifegain is a theme all to itself on EDHREC, drawing on the power of cards like Archangel of Thune. This deck won't ever have the field of tokens that Archangel of Thune loves best, but it can still significantly shorten the number of turns it takes us to win. Lifegain can even give us some tokens to better take advantage of the Archangel. Speaker of the Heavens will need us to have at least 47 life, but once we do, it can make a 4/4 Angel with flying every turn. Angelic Accord will also create a 4/4 Angel every turn that Gisela attacks. This isn't a tribal deck, so I'm going to throw in Griffin Aerie and Crested Sunmare as well. Every token that we make increases the power of Archangel of Thune and adds to the pressure on our opponents.

Bound at the Hip

Drawing cards and making tokens is great, but all of that is just in service of finding Bruna, the Fading Light to Meld into Brisela, Voice of Nightmares. Without green or black, our tutor options aren't great, but there are a couple still worth considering.

Tamiyo's Journal will take a couple of turns before we can use its search effect, but it is the only card we can use to search our library without paying extra mana. The Clues created each turn can also be a source of card advantage if we need to see some extra cards right now. There are four other artifacts that let us search our library for a card; of those, I considered Citanul Flute, Ring of Three Wishes, and Planar Bridge. Citanul Flute and Ring of Three Wishes will both put Bruna, the Fading Light into our hand, which is where we really want her, since her reanimation effect is a cast trigger, not an enters-the-battlefield trigger. Both are also very expensive, however, costing seven and five mana to find Bruna, respectively. That makes it a total of fourteen or twelve mana to reanimate one creature.

Putting Bruna directly into play will skip over the graveyard synergy, but lets us get to Brisela, Voice of Nightmares in a single turn. Planar Bridge does that for eight mana, just one more than Bruna's casting cost. We could also put all three cards in the deck, but I'm going to sit with just Tamiyo's Journal and Planar Bridge. We can find either with Enlightened Tutor, and drawing more than one of these tutor effects isn't great. Finding space for one more might be fine if you find the deck doesn't find Bruna as reliably as you'd like.

Drawing from the Graveyard

Brisela, Voice of Nightmares is probably going to die, so we're going to need one or two ways to get her back from the graveyard. Brought Back can get our two Meld creatures back into play immediately. Adarkar Valkyrie can do the same thing, targeting Brisela in response to a board wipe to bring back Bruna, the Fading Light and Gisela, the Broken Blade immediately after. If you want to revive a third creature, Twilight Shepherd puts our creatures back into our hand, so we can re-cast Bruna on the following turn. I also like Profound Journey, even though it costs a hefty seven mana and only brings back our creatures one at a time. Rebound makes it very flexible, and it sits at a perfectly fine cost since we are going to need to ramp up to eight or nine mana before we can get Brisela, Voice of Nightmares anyway. In a similar vein, Emeria Shepherd is a staple of reanimator decks that offers us the flexibility to put whatever creature we bring back into play or into our hand. Late in the game this can put Bruna, the Fading Light into our hand, then we can cast her to revive Gisela, the Broken Blade right away.

We can also benefit from getting the small cards back as well. Sevinne's Reclamation can bring back extra lands fetched by Land Tax, or one of the cycling lands we pitched, and keep our smaller utility creatures around if we need them, like Devout Witness, which destroys pesky artifacts and enchantments while fueling our graveyard for later. Icatian Crier also fuels the graveyard, but makes extra tokens to block, or grow with Archangel of Thune.

Bruna, the Fading Light can only target Angels or Humans with her reanimation effect, so the deck skews slightly towards Angel and Human tribal. The deck is also not a devoted reanimation deck, so it's missing some of the haymakers you may be familiar with in Angel Tribal decks. The focus is instead on recurring our two Meld creatures, as well as the synergy creatures that keep the deck ticking. We do have some pretty big beaters, though. Lyra Dawnbringer is fantastic, giving us additional lifegain triggers during combat and pumping any other Angels in play. Sephara, Sky's Blade can be cast for cheap, and she helps protect Gisela, the Broken Blade and Brisela, Voice of Nightmares when we do get them into play. Odric, Lunarch Marshal is also in the deck to make our whole board much scarier than it should be. Even with just our commander in play, Odric will give every creature we control flying, first strike, and lifelink during combat.

Rounding out the deck, I've included a fairly standard set of ramp and removal cards. Grafted Exoskeleton is the best way in the deck to start eliminating players quickly, although I'm also interested in testing out the new Angel of Destiny.

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Overall, I feel like this deck is pretty solid. There is a strong aggro plan built around Gisela, the Broken Blade, and the deck can usually find Bruna, the Fading Light to close the game with Brisela, Voice of Nightmares. Grafted Exoskeleton shortens our clock considerably, and there is enough flexibility to customize the list to if you wanted more Equipment, more Angels, or more tutors to make Meld happen more often. Personally, I think this list needs more ramp, but I'm not sure what I'd take out for it.

What do you think? Have you played Gisela, the Broken Blade or Bruna, the Fading Light before? Or have you played any other deck that tried to Meld two creatures together? What were your favorite cards, and what worked best?

Ben was introduced to Magic during Seventh Edition and has played on and off ever since. A Simic mage at heart, he loves being given a problem to solve. When not shuffling cards, Ben can be found lost in a book or skiing in the mountains of Vermont.

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