Underdog's Corner — Whisper, Blood Liturgist

Lemme Whisper in Your Ear

Hello, readers! Welcome back to another installment of the Underdog's Corner! As always, thank you so much for reading! If you've been away for a while, or you are a new reader welcome to the the third installment of our mini-series focused on the new legends from Dominaria! With so many new legends, there are bound to be commanders who get overlooked in favor of the more "obviously powerful" legends. However, I'm here to spotlight those overlooked generals and give them a chance to shine. In the previous two articles, I've covered both Evra, Halcyon Witness and Naban, Dean of Iteration. Since his article went live, Naban's number of decks has doubled and vaulted him into the Top 15 most played commander in the set from his previous position at #25 so I'm glad that he's getting a bit more recognition! Here's to hoping the same thing happens with this week's underdog: Whisper, Blood Liturgist!

Raise Your Voice

Without planning it, our foray through Dominaria's new legends has taken us through the WUBRG order so far. For this week, we have our mono-black commander, as well as our first uncommon entry with Whisper, Blood Liturgist. So what are we looking at?

"{T}, Sacrifice two creatures: Return target creature card from your graveyard to the battlefield."

Whisper loudly and proudly brings us a commander that boasts the ability to helm one of mono-black's most tenured archetypes: Reanimator. Black has no qualms with stepping over others to get what it desires, and Whisper embodies that perfectly as she sacrifices two subjects to bring a creature back into service. If it comes to it, she can even sacrifice herself to further the deck's goal just like she would do anything to further Belzenlok's goal.

While there is no mana investment needed, she still needs to tap in order to use her ability. This leaves her vulnerable for a turn, and it also can heavily telegraph what you want to do. This makes the inclusion of redundancy and equipment like Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves all the more important.

Also, there is a ruling to be aware of if you're playing Whisper: You are not allowed to target either of the creatures that you sacrifice. There's no easy cycling of ETB abilities, but with black's abundance access to these effects, I don't think think that will be a problem.

Willing Sacrifices

Black is no stranger to sacrificing creatures, and the easiest way to generate bodies for Whisper or our other effects will be cards that generate token creatures. Luckily for us, we have plenty of ways to generate these in our single color. Sengir Autocrat is the poster-boy of expendable bodies. A four mana 2/2 with no abilities isn't something to write home about, and neither are the three 0/1 bodies that he brings with him. For us though, we don't care about the quality of the bodies, we care about the quantities. The Autocrat gives us four bodies to work with, and that's the most important part of the equation. Generating four death triggers with Zulaport Cutthroat or four sacrifice triggers with cards like Ashnod's Altar is certainly powerful.

Boasting a Top 5 position among all played black creatures according to EDHREC, Grave Titan is truly a staple. A 6/6 deathtouch body that brings two zombies when it enters the battlefield would be strong enough on its own, but the fact that it generates two zombies on each attack pushes it over the edge. Not only is the titan one of the better token producers that we have access to, it is also one of the stronger reanimation targets that black wants as well. It feeds into itself which is phenomenal.

Speaking of black token producers, Abhorrent Overlord is probably my favorite among them all. While only appearing in 3,200 decks, nearly 10,000 less than Grave Titan, the ceiling for this demon's production is higher. Starting with two flying bodies, Overlord's creation scales with the state of our board. While the tokens may be smaller than the Titan's zombies, their evasion can be troublesome for our opponents. While the demon requires a sacrifice during each upkeep, this isn't a negative. Not only can the demon sacrifice itself to let us keep a potential army of fliers, but it also allows itself to be recycled over and over again.

Lastly, lets spotlight two cards that function nearly identically. Triggering off of the death of non-token creatures, both Pawn of Ulamog and Sifter of Skulls generate tokens from the deaths of our other creatures. These eldrazi spawns and scions can then be fed into Whisper or our other sacrifice outlets, or we can use them as blockers and one-shot mana producers.

Grave Amplifications

If we're planning around a general with a powerful, yet slow and costly cost, why not get a little greedy with it? Enter Rings of Brighthearth and Illusionist's Bracers. Both of these artifacts give us the ability to double up on Whisper's ability. What's better than reanimating one creatures? Two creatures, obviously. Rings works especially well thanks to the lack of mana investment on our commanders ability. Along with that, if we can hit our land drop, we can curve Whisper into Rings and immediately get two activations. Will that always be possible and useful? Probably not, but the possibility is there.

Thornbite Staff is a bit stranger of a choice. While its most common home is Krenko, Mob Boss and deathtouch-ing commanders, it assuredly has a home here.

"Whenever a creature dies, untap this creature."

While a pinger can be situationally useful, the second line is the reason we're including this. It's possible to create an infinitely looping reanimation cycle. Any of our token producers like Grave Titan can form one half of the cycle, and we only need one more piece like Blood Artist or Gray Merchant of Asphodel to complete the win-condition.

Can You Repeat That?

As with all commanders, if we're able it's important to include some level of redundancy. If our general gets killed, we don't want our strategy to fall apart. Underdogs in particular struggle with this as their strategies are often incredibly unique, with the commander forming the lynchpin of the strategy. Luckily for us, Whisper is just one in a long-line of reanimation spells we can access with our colors. Really, we have our choice of what we want to include.

Sorcery-speed reanimation has always been incredibly strong. Reanimate gave the archetype its name and still sees play in every format its legal in. We also have access to spells that help us leverage the aristocratic theme that Whisper points us towards. Both Victimize and Dread Return can sacrifice creatures while we cast the spells, and both are very powerful options to include. Notably, because I find it humorous, Victimize is basically a reversed Whisper: we sacrifice one creature for two from the grave.

Next we have non-creature permanent-based reanimation. Animate Dead is one of many auras we have access to in the format along with Necromancy, Dance of the Dead, and Diabolic Servitude. Each of these binds a creature from a graveyard to the battlefield as long as the enchantment stays around. While these are more vulnerable than some of our death-defying methods, they come at the premium of that being their only downside.

We also have access to new cards like Liliana, Death's Majesty. This variation is probably my favorite Liliana as she can fill our graveyard, create tokens, and reanimate our creatures. She really can do it all.

Lastly, we have our creature-based options. We have consistent reanimation stapled onto an edict with Sheoldred, Whispering One. We have a single use Reanimate stapled to Phyrexian Delver. We have a very cheap, one-shot reanimation with Apprentice Necromancer, and we also have a time-restricted, "cheaper to use" version of our commander with Hell's Caretaker. We have plenty of options in this spot, and really, there is no overall best answer. Each of these options have their strengths and weaknesses, and different decks with varying directions will be able to leverage some more than the others.

Odds and Ends

While several of these cards shouldn't be surprising to see, they still form the backbone of the deck. However, this is a series on underdogs, so what are some underdog cards that find their homes in a Whisper deck?

Appearing in 56% and 40% of Whisper decks respectively, Call the Bloodline and Zombie Infestation fulfill very similar roles. We trade cards in hand for bodies on the field. This plays perfectly into our strategy where we can toss one of our reanimation targets into the yard and immediately have bodies for our commander to sacrifice.

Rite of Belzenlok, both a functional and flavor win in my book, and regardless of its performance, I don't think I could ever cut this for those reasons. We can play this the turn after Whisper comes down, and her ability will immediately have two targets that aren't herself. Then, the enchantment gives us another pair of bodies to sacrifice. Really, the 6/6 flying and trampling demon is just gravy at this point. Once we've reach that point, if Whisper has somehow survived reanimating two creatures, she can save us from the demon's price by sacrificing herself and our demon contractor. What a noble sacrifice.

A Dead End

That is it for this week's edition of the Underdog's Corner! I hope you have enjoyed our cemetery stroll through the land of the dead with our lovely guide, Whisper, Blood Liturgist! If there is a Dominaria commander that you would like to see covered by this series, leave a comment below!

And, to all of the Rona fans out there, I hear you! She WILL be covered before the end of this mini-series. If you have any ideas for her specifically that you think I should be aware of, let me know!

Whispering Sweet Death Knells

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Thanks for joining me once again in the Underdog's Corner!

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