Commander Shout Out: Whisper, Blood Liturgist

While I am largely known for Pauper, one of my favorite ways to play Magic with physical cards is Commander. There’s little I enjoy more than spending time with friends slinging cardboard and creating absolutely ridiculous game states. Over time, Commander also became one of the ways I organized my collection. Rather than putting cards into long boxes, I would just build a new deck and put it away. At one point I had 20 decks fully constructed. This was untenable. I never got to play all my decks, even when I was attending weekly game nights. More than that, I had several decks that played in the same space with the only difference being a palette swap. At the start of the quarantine, I resolved to parse down the number of decks I had and to only focus on the Commanders that made me feel something.

Let me tell you the story of today’s Commander. When I first saw Whisper, Blood Liturgist spoiled, I felt like Wizards had made a Commander just for me. I absolutely love sacrificing permanents for value and the fact that Whisper forces you to two-for-one yourself is the kind of restriction I love trying to turn on its head. I have a deep abiding affection for bringing creatures back from the grave and Whisper provided me an opportunity to store this effect in the Command Zone. But how do you turn this downside upside down? Thornbite Staff is a card that can do some silly things with Commanders like Ghoulcaller Gisa, Krenko Mob Boss, or Marrow-Gnawer. While it will not automatically attach to Whisper, it will provide two untap triggers for each time you utilize the Cleric’s ability. If you are somehow able to have this loop generate additional creatures, you can turn Whisper into an unbound enters-the-battlefield machine. Or a dies trigger gatling gun. I’m sure you can all see where this is going.

Commander Whisper Deck List - Alex Ullman

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I built Whisper to be a Mono-Black Aristocrats Combo deck. The goal is to assemble the pieces needed to drain the table out with one of Blood Artist, Falkenrath Noble, Syr Konrad, the Grim, Vindictive Vampire, or Zulaport Cutthroat. While Whisper can play the long game, it does better when we can attach Thornbite Staff to the quiet lady herself. This plays into a lot of the lands in the deck – Inventors’ Fair, Buried Ruin, and Sequestered Stash all serve to help find and recur Thornbite Staff, and Crucible of Worlds gets a slot as a way to rebuy these lands. Arcbound Reclaimer is also in the deck as a way to protect Staff but has the advantage of being reusable with Whisper. Crucible of Worlds also plays nicely with Strands of Night. This enchantment from Weatherlight gives us some protection for Whisper. Strands also happens to be one of my favorite underplayed cards, which is a common feature in my Commander builds. Corpse Dance also falls into this category, and also forces me to remind people not to rearrange my graveyard. The last key to the deck are creatures that generate tokens. Pawn of Ulamog and Sifter of Skull help to make fodder for our gray lady when things meet their end. Ophiomancer gives us a Snake every turn while Sengir Autocrat, Sling-Gang Lieutenant, Grave Titan, Myr Battlesphere, and Weaponcraft Enthusiast come with their own armies. Desecrated Tomb also plays in this space as it will bring a bat to the party every time someone leaves your graveyard. This includes when you rebuy a Reassembling Skeleton or Bloodghast. Good times.

Let’s take a look at some other packages:

More sacrifice outlets. Ashnod’s Altar also works very nicely with our token generators and Nim Deathmantle to be a backup rapid fire option. Deathmantle also works with Workhorse to give us another way to mow down opponents.

These cards help to control the board. Grave Pact and Dictate of Erebos are cards that some people love and others detest. I happen to love playing with them and until recently, had them in several decks. That being said, I understand that these cards can often make you the target at the table.

Let’s get this out of the way: I do not play this deck in pods where people are not expecting this power level. That would be a scummy move. My usual paper playgroup tends to play higher power casual decks where I feel comfortable running out Whisper. In these pods a resilient combo deck is not going to raise eyebrows. That being said if I were sitting down with a group that was more socially minded or at a table with relative strangers, I would cut some of the more oppressive cards (cough cough Contamination cough cough) and, more likely, I just wouldn’t run this deck at all.

I am a firm believer that the best way to ensure everyone at your table has fun is to communicate before hands are drawn. My elevator pitch for Whisper would be something like this:

“Whisper is my Mono-Black Aristocrats Combo deck. I have optimized it quite a bit and it features Grave Pacts, lock elements, and multiple combo lines.”

I think it’s a fair assessment of the build and my intent. If that’s not the sort of table I am sitting down at, then I’m not going to play this deck. My goal is not to monopolize the fun. Whisper is built to win in a game where everyone is trying to do the same. If that’s not the case, I’d likely bust out something less competitive.

When I build Commander decks, I struggle with two competing concepts: playing the game and winning the game. While winning isn’t the goal of every Commander deck ever, it tends to be a goal I focus on. This stems from nights when I would have limited time to play and see friends and wanted to get as many games, as many experiences, in as possible. Many of us had decks that did stuff but didn’t end the game. That never set right with me so I started including more

win conditions and victory formations. My current playgroup is far more win focused, which suits me just fine.

Would I play Whisper this weekend at CommandFest Online 2? Absolutely! But only if everyone knew what they were getting themselves into. Otherwise, what’s the point?

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