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Conditions Allow - Isareth the Awakener
It's Time to Wake Up
Mono-black is a color identity known for playing around in graveyards. Whether it'sputting creatures into the graveyard or is pulling them back out, the graveyard is often essential for a mono-black deck. Graveyard hate like or are such powerful cards because exile is the only reliable way to handle a deck that's good at bringing back its most powerful threats over and over again. But what can you do if your own commander is exiling your best creatures one by one? Let's talk about .
seems, at first glance, to be very similar to . They both sport strong combat stats for their costs, and both bring back a creature from your graveyard when they attack. Isareth isn't able to cheat on expensive mana costs since you'll have to pay the full cost of that creature. Most important, though, is the fact that Isareth will exile every creature she revives if they would ever leave the battlefield. This is more evocative of : you'll get one extra use out of each creature instead of looping them repeatedly for value.
So it shouldn't be surprising that's EDHREC page has significant overlap with . It's full of creatures that will have an immediate, powerful impact. shows up in nearly a third of all decks, doubling the value of cards like and . Another popular tactic seems to be running creatures that revive other creatures when they hit the field, like or . This saves the really important creatures from being exiled while still giving you the opportunity to play them multiple times. One card I wasn't expecting to see on Isareth's page was . and also appear in around 10% of decks, even though at first glance they don't seem to work with at all. As it turns out, though, Isareth is the perfect mono-black flicker commander.
If You Can't Avoid It, Enjoy It
I would have assumed that the exile from Isareth's ability would override any flicker or blink effect. However,'s replacement effect is worded specifically so that it does not: because Isareth says, "If that creature would leave the battlefield, exile it instead of putting it anywhere else," if the creature would be exiled, because of , for instance, the replacement effect has nothing to replace. Then, when the creature re-enters, it will be a new game object and free of Isareth's effect. This also works with 's activated ability.
Focusing on big creatures that do powerful things when they hit the battlefield makes even more sense now.is so good in flicker-style decks, alongside the continuous removal provided by . We can also include cards like that let us draw whenever it leaves the battlefield.
These are all pretty expensive cards though. It'll take some time to build up the resources necessary to pullout of the graveyard with Isareth's ability. Focusing too much on setting up or with multiple big, splashy creatures will leave you vulnerable in the early and mid game. This is where more traditional black aristocrat cards come in. can bring back staple black creatures like and , or help soak up multiple pieces of removal. It's inevitable that some of your creatures will get exiled by Isareth, and these are perfect early game fodder. Even just the threat of a second trigger can be enough to keep creatures off the field. Plus, every piece of removal your opponents use early increases the chances of your real threats surviving in the later turns of the game.
Flickering, Just Upside Down
None of the traditional aristocrat fodder shows up on's pages. This didn't surprise me, but I don't think that these should be ignored. For one, they're a persistent source of Devotion for and . Second, they enable powerful draw engines with , , and . While Isareth does want to avoid traditional aristocrats strategies, these creatures will also feed and , strengthening the deck's early game.
There also isn't much support for a flicker deck in mono-black. You're only going to get one blink a turn with, where an Azorius or Bant deck can flicker nearly all of their permanents at once. Black can approximate this, however, by having multiple creatures enter the battlefield from other places. Keeping with a flicker theme instead of an aristocrats theme, I'm opting for over and instead of . Both of these effects interact nicely with , while and create even more triggers as our little creatures leave the graveyard and enter the battlefield.
Having, and in your graveyard at once is ideal, but it won't happen all the time. The tokens from and create a nice stream of bodies to die for , while and help produce plenty of mana to activate several times a turn. Finally, is a way to ramp additional lands into play and get into play twice a turn.
Of course, you'll need sacrifice outlets to make use of all this reanimation.is incredibly powerful; it's hard to lose the game if you can tutor for any card in your deck two or three times in a turn. and also help smooth out draws, and is a mainstay of sacrifice decks everywhere, even if they're really flicker decks.
You love him, or you love to hate him: this deck does rely onto win. It isn't difficult to have more than enough Devotion to wipe out a table in a single round, especially if you've been dealing some damage with already. will have a harder time reducing life points to zero, but this is where and really shine. These lands can exile multiple creatures and then bring them all back at once. This is useful for saving a creature that was reanimated by , but it also allows you to build to an explosive turn where multiple big creatures come back into play. Having and enter the battlefield together feels pretty good, even without in play.
This should usually win the game right away, but you can also play it early to recover against aggressive opponents.is a great way to get back and keep the chain going. Most of the deck is creatures so has as much utility as possible, but I've got most of the usual suspects for ramp and draw, as well.
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This deck ended up being a lot more fun to build than I expected. The interaction betweenand is unique, and entirely dodges the fact that Isareth is an effective counter to her own strategy. I certainly haven't built a traditional flicker deck before, but leaning into sacrifice feels plenty flavorful for mono-black. Plus, relying on effects that trigger when creatures enter the field, rather than when they die, keeps it feeling like a flicker deck, which can be just as important as actually being a flicker deck.
But what do you think? Is mono-black flicker viable? Did you know about the trick with? If not, does it change your opinion of Isareth at all? Let me know, and as always thanks for reading.