Rebuilding BW Aristocrats in EDH with Teysa, Orzhov Scion

Earlier this week, after I spent some time updating the deck I’m going to talk about today, I asked the masses on Twitter: do you ever consider a Commander deck completed? I wasn’t expecting to find a consensus (nor did I), but rather wanted to see where people drew their lines. Me? A deck is finished when it is ready to play at the table but I never consider it “done”, not as long as new cards come along that are slight improvements on existing options. It was edits in this vein that prompted me to work on updating my second Teysa, Orzhov Scion deck.

Teysa, Orzhov Scion

During a Scars of Mirrodin Sealed PTQ at the Ukrainian Church on Manhattan’s West Side, I was browsing the dollar box after falling out of contention. I picked up two cards that appealed to the EDH part of my brain: Lyzolda, the Blood Witch and Teysa, Orzhov Scion (the latter in Cyrillic). Back when Innistrad was the latest release, I decided to build a “Human sacrifice” deck around Teysa. It was a deck I enjoyed playing but once I added Darkest Hour, I grew tired of piloting it. Instead of being novel, the deck just did its thing game in and game out. At the time that wasn’t what I wanted out of a Commander deck and so eventually I took it apart. And yet at every release, I kept picking up cards for a potential Orzhov Aristocrats deck, eventually rebuilding one as Elenda, the Dusk Rose.

Early on in the COVID Pandemic, I decided to parse down my collection of composed decks. It had ballooned to 20 and even before the world shut down, I barely had time to play half of them. In an effort to keep together decks that did something unique and to focus on decks I wanted to keep, I decided to put Teysa back together. I decided that Teysa was going to be my dedicated Aristocrats deck, complete with Grave Pacts. You see, I had a problem – any deck I had with more than a minor sacrifice theme ended up with Grave Pact and Dictate of Erebos in them. While I enjoyed this, breaking out three different such decks in one session was a great way to lose games and friends. So I focused this sacrificial energies on one deck – the one with a sacrifice outlet in the command zone.

Grave PactDictate of Erebos

Teysa, Orzhov Scion is a slightly different take on an Aristocrats deck as it plays towards board control. You want to have black creatures that are good at dying – so Bloodghast and its ilk are in high demand – and convert those into white Spirits that can then be used to exile offending opposition. The recent advent of Silverquill’s Inkling tokens has given Teysa an appreciated boost. Inklings can not only be sacrificed to Teysa because they are white creatures, they also generate a spirit on the way out since they are also black. 



Teysa, Orzhov Scion EDH by Alex Ullman

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Let’s break down the list. First are the sacrifice outlets. Despite being an Aristocrats deck, I was not running nearly enough free options. That is part of what led me to cut more expensive cards like Krav, the Unredeemed, for more efficient options like Carrion Feeder. The deck has eight sacrifice outlets that have no mana cost (not counting Teysa): Carrion Feeder, Viscera Seer, Yahenni, Undying Partisan, Woe Strider, Ashnod’s Altar, Flesh-Eater Imp, Yawgmoth, Thran Physician and Phyrexian Plaguelord. Flesh-Eater Imp is a card I had in my collection and wanted to run. While I may never use it to kill someone with infect, having it as an option is far from a bad thing. Phyrexian Plaguelord might be expensive, but it is also one of my all-time favorite sacrifice outlets so it makes the cut here. 

Ayara, First of LocthwainWhisper, Blood LiturgistCircle of DespairPhyrexian Tower

There are also several more Limited sacrifice outlets in the deck. Ayara, First of Locthwain, Whisper, Blood Liturgist, Circle of Despair, Phyrexian Tower, High Market and Westvale Abbey are either restricted by a mana cost, tapping or in the case of Ayara, a color requirement. Still, they are redundant pieces that serve as a fine backup to the heaviest hitters.

Blood ArtistZulaport Cutthroat (Timeshifted)Cruel CelebrantNadier's Nightblade

After this comes the suite of Blood Artists, including the original. Falkenrath Noble, Zulaport Cutthroat, Cruel Celebrant, Bastion of Remembrance, Nadier’s Nightblade and Vindictive Vampire allow us to profit off of the death of our creatures. Teysa Karlov allows each of these triggers to go off twice. Ayara and Corpse Knight serve a slightly different purpose in paying us off for creatures coming into play, which is a nice change of pace. 

OphiomancerPawn of UlamogAnointed ProcessionInkshield

Speaking of tokens entering the battlefield, my Teysa deck has a decent token subtheme. It makes sense given the commander and her ability to populate the board, but when you want creatures to die you need a lot of cannon fodder. General’s Enforcer, Ophiomancer, Pawn of Ulamog, Twilight Drover, Combat Calligrapher, Elenda, the Dusk Rose, Sifter of Skulls, Ogre Slumlord, Thalisse, Reverent Medium, Dramatic Finale, Spirit Bonds and Anointed Procession provide plenty of fuel for Teysa’s fire. The card I am most excited about in this realm is Inkshield. A true bloodbath waiting to happen, Inkshield is an expensive card that will absolutely get the job done and then some.

Spirited CompanionMentor of the MeekYawgmoth, Thran Physician (Timeshifted)Skullclamp

The final bit that helps make my Teysa deck run is the card flow. Spirited Companion, Clattering Augur, Mentor of the Meek, Welcoming Vampire, Midnight Reaper, Grim Haruspex, Yawgmoth, Liliana, Dreadhorde General and Skullclamp all keep my hand nice and stacked. They do a fine job of drawing me to different game ending cards, whether they be a Blood Artist effect or Karmic Guide and Reveillark or Nim Deathmantle and Ashnod’s Altar – both are ways to loop creatures to generate plenty of triggers that should end the game in short order.

Teysa is ready for action. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of ways I can improve it and tweak it to get those play patterns I so desire. It might mean taking a look at some five-drops like Ogre Slumlord or Ravos, Soultender and exploring less expensive options. It could mean cutting Sifter of Skulls as it is not at full strength without Darkest Hour on the table. Already I’m wondering if I can fit Necrotic Sliver or Maw of the Obzedat into this build, which tells me that while this deck might be done, it is far from finished.


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