Monday, March 26, 2012

Vish Kal's Coup

In a surprising move this weekend, the Ghost Council of Orzhova  was ousted from power by their lieutenant, Vish Kal, the Blood Arbiter. The notorious vampire instigated the coup and successfully overturned the Ghost Council’s rulership, cementing his command over the Orzhov legions.

Along with the Ghost Council themselves, Kal dismissed a number of the Council’s most loyal followers, including Elesh Norn, Hero of Bladehold, Pawn of Ulamog, Phyrexian Plaguelord and a number of other token-producers.

Unsurprisingly, Vish Kal filled those vacancies with his own loyalists, particularly a number of vampires such as Vampire Nighthawk and Bloodline Keeper.

In a statement to the press, Kal outlined the plan for his reign, which would focus less on token producing and Grave Pact effects, and would carry the pre-existing theme of “life and death” over into the creature base, by including a number of creatures with Lifelink and Deathtouch (such as the aforementioned Nighthawk, and newcomer Wurmcoil Engine).


Okay, that’s about enough of the cheesy fanfiction bullshit. Here’s the scoop: My Orzhov deck was moderately successful under the Ghost Council’s command, but it was not a complete home-run. The deck’s two themes felt inorganic and at odds – the “duality of life and death” theme was explored through mirror-image White and Black cards, as well as the presence of a high number of creature removal and reanimation. The deck was seemingly all about killing things and reanimating them. Yet, to make Ghost Council work as a general, I had to shoehorn in an awkward token-making subtheme. Many times, though, I was forced to blow up my own token armies with Wrath effects because my opponent’s creatures would outclass my measly tokens.

So the token aspect was not fully working out, both in flavor terms and in gameplay terms. I decided to swap out Ghost Council for Vish Kal as my general, and retool the deck to eliminate the token stuff and emply more useful and synergistic effects. However, I had a bit of a hard time coming up with what to put IN the deck. In short, the deck needed an identity, and it proved difficult to come up with one. I was still really enjoying the way the deck played out other than the tokens, so I wanted to keep the Life and Death theme very much intact. But I couldn’t figure out how to make the creature base gel with what the non-creature stuff was doing.

Then it finally dawned on me. Lifelink and Deathtouch. It was so obvious – both abilities have my thematic keywords in their names! Lifelink and Deathtouch... simple as that. I started with the obvious two choices – Nighthawk and Wurmcoil - then I knew I had my deck’s identity. It’d be a life-gain deck mostly, but with a minor emphasis on Deathtouch, removal and reanimation effects.

Another exciting moment came when I stumbled upon Cradle of Vitality – a card that was janky and useless before, but seemed almost tailor-made to go into a Vish Kal deck. With the Cradle out, I don’t have to sac my dudes to power up Vish Kal – just hit somebody with him, and pay 1W to give him 5 counters. As long as I can gain life in any fashion, the Cradle will keep Kal powered up and ready to neutralize threats all day long.

Once I cut the majority of the token-makers and any other cards that just didn’t make sense for the deck’s new direction (for example, Butcher of Malakir – yeah, he’s a vampire, and he’s good, but without the token fodder to sac, he’s just less appealing), I focused on making the creature base more thematically resonant with various life-gain creatures, a few Deathtouch-ers, and a healthy dose of generic “Good stuff” like Akroma, Deathbringer Liege and Mirran Crusader. Though, many of these seemingly random “good stuff” cards were in fact chosen for how they could interact with some other cards (for instance, I still haven’t had Akroma and True Conviction in play at the same time yet).

Battlegrace Angel was an obvious pick, and Mirran Crusader followed from that choice as the Angel’s bonuses are great when applied to a Crusader attacking alone. The Crusader is also one of the best guys you could equip with a Sword of Stuff and Junk.

Elspeth got the boot in favor of the weaker but more appropriate Ajani Goldmane. So many of the deck's creatures already have Flying, yet almost none have Vigilance, so Goldmane just felt like the right call, despite the obvious power of Elspeth.

I managed to keep Martyr’s Bond in the deck, and it’s now sort of mirrored by Black’s Sanguine Bond (okay, they don’t really do anything similar at all, but they’re both Enchantments with the word “Bond” in their name… give me some slack!).

I kept the draw engines in place – Land Tax + Scroll Rack, Bloodghast + Skullclamp, and of course every “Arena” effect I could find.

Also joining the party is Sword of War and Peace – a good-stuff inclusion that also manages to be relevant as it gain me life!

Finally, as one of the other efforts to really give the deck a defining theme, I managed to tweak the numbers a little to bring the White and Black cards into perfect balance! There are 12 White creatures and 12 Black creatures. 9 White spells and 9 Black spells. This, in my mind, makes the deck a more fitting representation of the “Yin and Yang” – light and dark in perfect balance – opposite yet equal. Two sides of the same coin, etc. Okay, okay, I get you - less hyperbole and more decklist!

Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter


Serra Ascendant
Weathered Wayfarer
Suture Priest
Mentor of the Meek
Mirran Crusader
Academy Rector
Wall of Reverance
Emeria Angel
Battlegrace Angel
Karmic Guide
Sun Titan
Akroma, Angel of Wrath

Fleshbag Marauder
Vampire Nighthawk
Dimir House Guard
Falkreath Noble
Bloodline Keeper
Graveborn Muse
Puppeteer Clique
Bloodgift Demon
Geth, Lord of the Vault
Sheoldred, Whispering One

Stillmoon Cavalier
Deathbringer Liege
Divinity of Pride
Angel of Despair

Solemn Simulacrum
Wurmcoil Engine


Land Tax
Swords to Plowshares
Path to Exile
Cradle of Vitality
Wrath of God
Ajani Goldmane
Martyr’s Bond
True Conviction
Return to Dust

Phyrexian Reclamation
Vampiric Tutor
Demonic Tutor
Phyrexian Arena
Unburial Rites
Sanguine Bond
Decree of Pain
Profane Command

Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
Debtor’s Knell

Expedition Map
Sol Ring
Orzhov Signet
Sword of Fire and Ice
Sword of Light and Shadow
Sword of War and Peace
Scroll Rack
Mimic Vat


Godless Shrine
Fetid Heath
Isolated Chapel
Marsh Flats
Caves of Koilos
Tainted Field
Orzhov Basilica
Command Tower
Terramorphic Expanse
Phyrexian Tower
Volrath’s Stronghold
Kor Haven
High Market
Temple of the False God
New Benalia
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Cabal Coffers
Leechridden Swamp
Bojuka Bog
Plains x9
Swamp x9


Alright, so that’s the deck as it stands now. I am missing one extremely obvious and important card – Vault of the Archangel. This land was already one of my most anticipated Dark Ascension cards, and unfortunately I haven’t acquired one yet. I have, however, witnessed the card in action a couple of times. And folks, let me tell ya, it’s a beast. It has the potential to completely reverse the outcome of a game – one match I witnessed included a Ghave deck that appeared to be dead in the water against a Thraximundar deck that was using Thrax and Sheoldred to absolutely dominate the game. Topdecking the Vault, the Ghave deck was able to use the threat of Deathtouch to hold off Thrax from further assaults, while Lifelink allowed Ghave’s Grave Titan to race the unblockabe Sheoldred with ease.

So, yeah, I’ll definitely be getting a Vault for the deck ASAP. Other than that, though, I think the deck looks great. I haven’t played it yet though, so we’ll see how it goes. One thing I might do is replace Sheoldred. For one thing I already have Debtor’s Knell, and Geth, and Puppeteer Clique AND Phyreixian Reclemation… so as good as Sheoldred is, I think she might just be a bit TOO redundant. I thought about putting Rune-Scarred Demon in her place, but ended up not doing that. What do you all think?

Leave me a comment if you have any questions or suggestions, especially about what Sheoldred’s slot should actually be (keep in mind, it needs to be a Black creature to preserve the Yin/Yang balance!).



  1. Hey Thaum, this is an interesting way to build a deck, very thematic yet maintains a decent level of power.

    As for black creatures to replace sheoldred. I could suggest a few

    1.) Spirit of the Night mirrors Akroma and would definitely add to your deck's flavor of yin/yang while still being fairly powerful.

    2.) Phyrexian Delver would mirror Karmic guide and, again, add to your yin/yang flavor of the deck. However, you might not like the life loss that comes with it. Though I figured with all the life you'll be gaining maybe a little life loss couldn't hurt. :)

    3.) Vengeful Pharaoh has deathtouch for flavor, though, I notice you don't have many cards along the lines of pitching things into your yard so maybe not so much.

    4.) Chancellor of the Dross has lifelink, evasion and a neat ability to give you some padding at the start of the game. And he's also a vampire so bonus points for having the same creature type as your general. Vish Kal's loyal Chancellor, making sure thing run smoothly while Vish calls the shots behind the scenes. :P

    Anyway, those are my suggestions for now. I'll list some more if I get anymore good ideas.

    Nice fanfic by the way xD

  2. Sweet, thanks! I think all of those suggestions are worth considering.

    Delver is probably a bit too redundant, as he's yet another reanimator, when I already have enough of those. He does nicely mirror Karmic Guide, but that's kinda what Puppeteer Clique is for...

    Pharaoh, Chancellor and Spirit of the Night are all very solid choices... will play a few games first, then decide. I'm leaning toward Pharaoh because he's cheaper, and the demise of my Mimeoplasm deck means he's without a home ATM. He's just too cool of a card to let him gather dust in a binder!

  3. What a cool way to build a Vish Kal deck. I like Requiem Angel as an opposite of Falkenrath Noble. I'm using her in my deck with Conspiracy which equals infinite tokens (granted not all at the same time) to make Vish as big as I want. With Falkenrath out you'll just win with Vish or another sac outlet.

    How about some bloodchief cards. Starting with Blade of the Bloodchief which you have several vampires to hold. Then consider Bloodchief Ascension as it has a nice life loss/life gain theme to it. If you have this equipment out with one of the swords you're missing, Sword of Body and Mind, you'll deal 2 points of damage for each card they mill from the sword. Put that sword on Mirran Crusader and you kill somebody. 40 points of damage in one double-striking attack.

    I'm guessing it's not for your deck, as mine is more sacrifice/ETB focused, but I have both Mikaeuses in mine, which makes for another nice Black versus White.

    Interested to hear how your deck performs, please post updates!

  4. Thanks for the comments and ideas, David.

    I'm trying to avoid any infinite combos, and so Mikaeus is off limits because he would enable multiple ways to go infinite.

    That combination of Mirran Crusader, Bloodcheif Ascension and SoBM is pretty hilarious. I'll consider that for future revisions to the deck. Right now I only have one copy of SoBM, and it's in my Wrexial deck, which is definitely the deck that needs it most.

    Blade of the Bloodchief, on the other hand is very interesting, and one I'd kinda overlooked. I don't know what I'd cut, just yet, but I'm definitely going to try and squeeze it in. It definitely pushes Vish Kal over the top, without going infinite. Thanks for the tip!

  5. I'm seeing a distinct lack of Horobi in your list. He's SO good with Vish Kal. Play it, target each creature with Vish Kals ability without padding priority, then sacrifice it to Vish Kal. You're never at risk of your own stuff getting targeted, and you pretty much get a very aggressively costed plague wind.

  6. Sweet tech! I'll have to remember that for later.