I started playing Magic with New Phyrexia, the spring of my sophomore year of high school. I had been playing the Yu-gi-oh! and Pokemon TCGs for quite a while, but I had never really tried to play Magic. My brother finally convinced me to actually give it a shot.
Needless to say, I played and just kept playing. I learned fast and started to play Standard. Sadly, I played when the entire format was just between Cawblade and Splinter Twin. The “fun” I wanted to have with the format was stifled, and I just didn’t end up playing all that much.
Then, during the Summer of 2011, I learned about EDH as it was being officially re-branded to Commander; 100 card singleton with a General, or Commander.
My brother had bought all 5 of the decks, and allowed me to use one of them – Counter Punch, with Ghave, Guru of Spores. The first time I actually played it against was in a pod with Cromat “good stuff,” Child of Alara Allies and Silvos, Rogue Elemental ramp. I ended up winning with the regular Ghave deck with few modifications.
After that, I aimed to build my first EDH deck from scratch – Nicol Bolas, because he was a bad-ass Dragon that I already owned. While I waited for the cards for it to arrive, I purchased Devour for Power while it was still on the shelves and played with Mimeoplasm with my brother.
I went to the local EDH league (casual multi-player with store credit awarded to winners) at my local game store and promptly got second with my homebrew, but realized that my commander was really, really expensive. I only ended up casting him once, and he got countered.
Then, I saw Sedris, the Traitor King in somebody’s trade binder and promptly picked him up for a little less than a dollar, and made changes to the deck. While I’ve changed it a lot over the years and dismantled it multiple times, I’ve always kept Grixis close to my heart.
Sedris. the Traitor is a 5/5 Zombie Warrior for 3UBR that seems pretty unassuming – until you read his ability.Each creature card in your graveyard has unearth 2B.
Unearth lets a creature reanimate itself for a cost – in this case, 2B. It’s a slightly forgotten ability – the only card relevant in any formats that I can think of with Unearth would be Hellspark Elemental.
When I first discovered Sedris and what he could do, I automatically fell in love with it. I had already been playing The Mimeoplasm so I was already well versed in reanimator decks.
As a self-admitted Johnny, I ended up building this deck as a Combo deck in my personal collection.
I chose Sedris over other Grixis commanders because of his intrinsic reanimation ability. While Marchesa, the Black Rose is easier to cast and animates stuff even easier, Sedris has the ablity to pull the cards back out of the graveyard after he hits the board instead of having to already be in play.
Despite being considered one of the most degenerate cards in the format, he actually serves a very good purpose here. Deadeye Navigator is the major enabler in this deck. On top of being fantastic with enter the battlefield effects, he enables a slew of combos in this deck, and saves our unearthed creatures from exile by flickering them with his Soulbond ability. However, one problem with this is that a lot of people seem to disagree about this ruling, so here’s the direct text from the rules compendium:
2B: Return this card to play. The creature gains haste. Exile it at end of turn or if it would leave play. Unearth only as a sorcery.
The other important thing to note about Unearth is that it causes a delayed trigger – the “exile it at end of turn or if it would leave play” part of Unearth. There isn’t anything in particular about Unearth referring to this in the compendium, but there’s this note on the Gatherer:
If a creature returned to the battlefield with unearth would leave the battlefield for any reason, it’s exiled instead — unless the spell or ability that’s causing the creature to leave the battlefield is actually trying to exile it! In that case, it’s succeeds at exiling it. If it later returns the creature card to the battlefield, the creature card will return to the battlefield as a new object with no relation to its previous existence. The unearth effect will no longer apply to it.
This makes every creature in the deck a major threat – being able to come back to life over and over again completely removes the downside from unearth, even if it costs us a little more mana. I used to play cards like Conjurer’s Closet and Teferi’s Veil, but they just felt too clunky and really only worked for either a slower control build or a faster aggressive build. Our combo build is somewhere in the middle. Deadeye Navigator takes up the slot of exiling to keep them nicely.
Duplicant is our all-purpose removal creature that has the upside of becoming just as big as the creature you exile. It gives us an easy way to get rid of annoying creatures like Iona, Shield of Emeria or indestructible creatures like Avaycn, Angel of Hope or Blightsteel Colossus.
Palinchron untaps 7 lands whenever it comes into play – essentially being a free 4/5 flyer. There’s also the fact that Palinchron + Dead-eye Navigator gives us infinite mana, to do whatever we like with it. At worst, you can also unearth it to untap some lands to unearth more creatures.
Now we’re going to cover the main combos for the deck.
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Zealous Conscripts together are one of the main win combos in the deck. Similar to Splinter Twin and Deceiver Exarch, you can get infinitely many Conscripts for a straight win against every player at the table.
These two together are already pretty well known – 2 mana to untap 7 lands over and over again, the usual. Once you’ve gotten all the mana you need, you can always blink Deadeye to soulbond another creature and keep blinking another ETB creature.
These three together are another infinite mana combo, in the case your Palinchron disappears, First, you have Deadeye paired with Zealous Conscript, and then tap Gilded Lotus for 3 blue mana. You use 2 of that to blink Zealous Conscripts and untap Gilded Lotus and so on until you have all the mana you’ll ever need.
The two infinite mana combos are what enable the deck to easily finish off the game. Infinite mana gives you the ability to unearth everything in your graveyard and blink whatever you want with Deadeye Navigator infinitely many times, whether it be Rune-Scarred Demon to search your entire library to your hand, or for Inferno Titan to burn every opponent to death.
And of course, Reanimation is our forte here.
Havengul Lich gives us the ability to recast creatures out of anyone’s graveyard, and Havengul Lich gets that creature’s activated abilities, as long as you cast the creature. We don’t have a ton of activated abilities in this deck, but Havengul Lich gives us the ability to keep a board presence and possibly keep important combo pieces out of other people’s graveyards and keep a check on other graveyard-centric decks.
Feldon of the Third Path, while very new to the Commander scene, is indeed very powerful in this format. He can power out strong creatures like Nicol Bolas and Wurmcoil Engine with ease. In addition, the token is sacrificed rather than exiled and still gets death triggers, which is important for Wurmcoil engine.
As for our reanimation spells, it’s a pretty standard yet.
Now, just because I’m a Johnny, doesn’t mean I don’t know how to attack, too.
The original Commander never left – Nicol Bolas is still a very mean guy – a single hit from this guy will wipe out that players entire hand. The main thing done with Nicol Bolas is to just have him in play for one turn and hit a vulnerable player with him. Reanimation + Haste is his best friend most of the time. Feldon, of the Third Path is probably the best way to get him out consistently and against multiple players.
Thraximundar is a super-aggressive card. 6/6 haste that gets bigger and eats creatures on the swing is pretty strong. A decent commander in his own rite, but not what we’re going for here. For the most part, he’s here simply to counter creatureless decks like [card[Narset, Enlightened Master[/card], Melek Izzet Paragon or low creature count voltron decks like Bruna, Light of Alabaster, Sigarda, Host of Herons and Zur the Enchanter. Fleshbag Marauder helps with this too.
Lord of the Void is about as aggro as they come. A 7/7 for 4BBB, this 7/7 monstrosity lets you drag cards out of your opponent’s library. Against creature-centric decks, this is probably one of the first things you’re going to try to get in play. Even against decks like Narset, Enlightened Master, exiling those cards before they can get to them can be game changing.
Wurmcoil Engine is a purely aggressive card. Originally a Birthing Pod and Control finisher in standard, he’s very consistently seen in Commander these days as an all around good card. A 6/6 for 6 colorless is already easy to manage in any deck, but also having Deathtouch and Lifelink on the same creature can wipe out big creatures and combos with trample enablers (not in this deck, but still relevant with cards like Nylea, God of the Hunt and Surrak Dragonclaw in the format. In here, he’s pure value. You don’t get his “when it dies” trigger off of Sedris, but it’s a big and swingy enough creature to turn games in your favor and eat removal without skipping a beat.
In order to get to these creatures and combos, we need a significant amount of drawing and filtering to get to them.
Careful Study. Faithless Looting, Frantic Search, and Izzet Charm all draw 2 discard two at low mana costs to get us some early games to discard big hitters like Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur and Nicol Bolas.
Dack Fayden, the greatest thief in the multiverse, is the only planeswalker we need for this deck. His only real purpose is to +1 and do the same as the two above cards. His -2 is also very relevant – stealing early game Sol Ring and other mana rock plays. Also a very strong play against Artifact decks like Sharuum, the Hegemon or [cardMemnarch[/card].
Desolate Lighthouse is a basic utility card for this deck. The deck doesn’t have very many mana sinks, and this card slots right in to giving us a discard outlet even when we may not need it.
Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur is a sneaky one. 10 mana is too much even in Commander, but this deck can pretty easily get him to hit the board turn 2 or 3 with an entomb and a reanimate spell. Drawing 7 and dicarding down to your maximum hand size is just as good as the other two here in most cases. Wheel of Fortune and ]card]Reforge the Soul[/card] are both pretty straightforward – discard everything and draw 7. Whispering Madness is a windfall with a Cipher trigger. As we can easily swing in repeatedly, it’s not uncommon that we’ll get a few uses out of it.
On to the decklist:
Sedris the Traitor King
Now, this is by no means the only way to build Sedris, but it’s the way I’ve had the most luck with. The mana base isn’t 100% optimized, but it’s pretty close. It’s what I’ve run for my entire time playing the deck.
Until next time,
David M. Rowell