Epic Experiment - Lich Mastery Sidisi
(Sidisi, Undead Vizier| Art by Min Yum)
Hello, EDHREC fans! I’m Bernardo Melibeu, and this is Epic Experiment, a series where we throw all common sense aside and experiment with some unusual strategies, changing how we normally build our deck. Is it going to work? Who knows?! We’re making science here. When you’re an Izzet mage, blowing things up is half the fun.
In today's article we'll talk about the deadliest of tutors: Sidisi, Undead Vizier!
When Sidisi, Undead Vizier exploits a creature, you may search your library for a card, put it into your hand, then shuffle your library.
Sidisi occupies quite a unique space in the format, since she's basically a Demonic Tutor in the command zone.
Having a tutor in the command zone means that we're able to build a deck around any black card in the format.
Being a Zombie is a huge plus, because it gives the consistency needed for an aggressive tribe.
The Old Formula
For us to determine what new space to explore with this commander, we have to make sure we aren't trekking down already-traveled pathways with her. Sidisi's EDHREC page shows us the following:
The High Synergy list shows how competitive-minded Sidisi, Undead Vizier tends to be. There are quite a number of rituals to get to Ad Nauseam pretty quickly, which will draw them right into a deadly win condition, such as a combo.
The Epic Ingredients
Having a tutor in the command zone means that we can build around any specific card in the deck. This means we're not building around a commander so much as we're building around a card in the 99, and choosing that specific card will be the most important step of our process. Previous Sidisi builds chose Ad Nauseam as that card, but we're not here to make the obvious choice.
Lich's Mastery is a fun build-around card that's somewhat difficult to actually build around. It needs to be in a lifegain shell, but a lifegain strategy may sometimes just spin its wheels if it isn't able to draw into the build-around cards that reward it. Sidisi, Undead Vizier removes some of this pressure because she guarantees our access to Lich's Mastery.
Our shell is simple: we're the "big black" control deck. We ramp, kill creatures, and Exsanguinate people to death. As a general rule, Lich's Mastery fits in this shell as a way to refill our hand and go over the top of our enemies.
There are two main downsides that we need to be careful when playing Lich's Mastery: the loss-of-life trigger, and the 'when Lich's Mastery is removed' trigger.
We have some ways to avoid Lich's Mastery's life-loss trigger. The first is simply removal: destroying creatures before they're able to deal damage is quite effective as a way to protect our life total, and we do have plenty of removal spells in our deck. The second way to avoid the trigger is including "lock" effects, like No Mercy and Maze of Ith, because they discourage our opponents from attacking us.
The second trigger is a bit trickier, since it makes us vulnerable to enchantment wipes, especially the ever-present Cyclonic Rift. Unfortunately, there's little that a nonblue deck can do about spells like that. To play against it, we need to preemptively take those cards out of our opponents' libraries. Effects like Praetor's Grasp and Bitter Ordeal pull double duty as both protection for our pieces and as a way to hate out combo decks.
We're playing two types of lifegain cards: constant lifegain and one-shot effects. The one-shot effects are important because they're more explosive, giving us more cards on a short burst of time. They also tend to have some utility stapled into them, like Tendrils of Corruption, which also functions as removal, or Exsanguinate, which can either provide lifegain or be an outright win condition. Meanwhile, the constant effects are great in these deck because they can be played before we cast Lich's Mastery, which makes the curve a whole lot smoother. These effects are varied and most of them trigger upon specific actions, which leads into a lifegain snowball, like Aetherflux Reservoir.
Since we're trying to go big and use lots of mana to power explosive turns with Lich's Mastery (or even just with Sidisi), ramp is extremely important. Powering out Cabal Coffers can be the difference between only casting our commander versus casting her and playing the tutored card. Because of that, we're running some land fetch effects like Liliana of the Dark Realms and Thaumatic Compass. These type of cards usually are not all that impressive, but when paired with Cabal Coffers or any of the mana-doublers, having the constant land drops is quite good.
Mastery of the Lich
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer
As I said earlier, the list is the typical 'big mana' shell that is popular amongst mono-black players. We aren't afraid of the late game, and creatures won't stay on the battlefield to harass us for too long. It's worth noting that we can change our win-con suite to better adjust to our individual meta.
Our win conditions are pretty splashy, mana-wise, which means that we need to be in a leading position to authoritatively end the game. However, since most of them can gain us life, we can still play them as a way to refill our hand. After all, an Exsanguinate for X=3 still gives us 9 cards with Lich's Mastery in play.
A standout card is Words of Waste. It doesn't kill our opponents, but it might as well be the final nail in the coffin, because it quickly puts everyone into top deck mode.
For our opening hand, ramp is the name of the game. Our commander makes sure that we never flood out too much and that we do have some interaction if we need it. Our early game is basically just us playing our accelerators. We can change our strategy if we find ourselves taking too much damage, but since we have so many lifegain cards we don't need to worry about it.
For the mid-game we need to analyze the most optimal move based on the removal options available to our opponents and evaluate how our commander will fit into that. We want to grab Lich's Mastery right away to get the deck's card advantage train chugging, but if we have another tutor in hand, it might be smarter to find Cabal Coffers right away or perhaps even a Bitter Ordeal to get rid of pesky Cyclonic Rifts and Merciless Evictions. Alternatively, we might just want to get another lifegain spell to pay off our Lich enchantment once it's in play!
In the late-game, the world is our oyster. If unchecked, we tend to amass a scary board state with a constant flow of new cards, and we're very difficult to kill. However, we should still be cautious about a random enchantment wipe passing through. Once ahead, it's better to play defensively since we're very likely to win if we take our time.
If going 'big mana' is too hard, we could potentially switch up a few things by investing in some other win conditions. Blightsteel Colossus is quite the behemoth, for instance. Alternatively, we could invest in a combo win condition. We also could play more stax pieces and particularly discard spells to lock our enemies out while we accrue tons of card advantage, making it harder for them to remove our precious enchantment.
That’s it for this Epic Experiment! What do you think about this list? Did we achieved immortality? Do you have any questions about the deck? Which cards did you like? Which didn’t you? Was the Epic Experiment a success? Please let me know in the comments below!