Meet Liliana’s brother, Josu Vess. If you understand that dating a hot girl requires getting through her tough brother, then this is a perfect example of that situation. A 4 mana 4/5 is Ripjaw stats and we see the reptile seeing tons of play in green decks. In combat, Jose Vess will not bow down to any one (sorry, I had to do that pun right here, right now). In the story though, Josu was enslaved by Belzenlok and turned him against his sister, commanding an army of undead zombies. It will be interesting how Liliana’s mastery of the undead will affect Josu and his army.
Jose packs a similar effect when kicked which zombie players from Shadows of Innistrad truly miss: Dark Salvation. Top decking Dark Salvation is like winning the lotto on a stalled board. Killing a dude and getting a bunch of 2/2 zombies buffed by lords, drawing you cards with Cryptbreaker was huge. Josu Vess does the same thing when you top deck him late in the game with so much mana up.
Today’s deck tech will feature Josu Vess’ incredible kicker ability and attempt to put him in a mid-range / go-wide strategy using some of the Dominaria cards we’ve seen so far.
Having eight 2/2 zombie tokens with menace is crazy strong. Getting 16 of them should automatically win you the game on your next combat step. Anointed Procession is holding its price quite well for a standard card and for $7, it’s not a very expensive key card in go-wide decks. It usually comes in BW decks together with Hidden Stockpile but you will also see it in UW embalm decks too.
Hidden Stockpile is the engine that makes Anointed Procession such a powerful card. Churning serves one for one is not as strong as making 2 or 4 servos for each 1 that you sacrifice to scry. We will adopt this engine but apart from servos, we’ll be making clerics, demons and zombies.
This is Rite of Belzenlok, a Saga Enchantment that says to put a sage counter when you play it and on your draw step, and you need to sacrifice it after it gets 3 saga counters.
Saga 1 & 2 makes you put two 0/1 black cleric tokens into the battlefield.
Saga 3 makes you create a 6/6 black demon creature token with flying and trample and has “At the beginning of your upkeep, sacrifice another creature. if you don’t, this creature deals 6 damage to you.”
With Anointed Procession out, you get 4 cleric tokens for Sagas 1 and 2, and you get two 6/6 demon tokens on the 3rd Saga. The drawback for the demon tokens is quite negligible if you can generate servo tokens on the fly. I really like this interaction because token decks no longer have to rely on Vraska, Relic Seeker, or have to include so much sacrificial permanents like Evolving Wilds and Renegade Map to trigger Revolt. When Sagas reach 3 counters they naturally die and trigger Revolt.
Worried about dying to fast decks? No fret, Dominaria gave us 2 sweet removal spells that work really well in a token shell. Cast Down is the Doom Blade we’re all looking for, almost a nonconditional removal spell against most of Kaladesh-Amonkhet-Ixalan’s early threats. Rekindling Phoenix? Dead. Ahn-Crop Crasher? Dead. Glorybringer? Dead. Torrential Gearhulk? Dead. Ripjaw Raptor? Dead, no draw sir!.
Vicious Offering is a slightly worse Moment of Craving but once you get some tokens around, it’s a Dismember that can take down Hazoret for 2 mana, guaranteed! Rhonas? It dies too! It also brings down The Scarab God for a turn which is not shabby.
We have his Rite, so why not play Belzenlok himself? A 6/6 body for 6 mana with trample is not a bad finisher while his ability can grab us our Anointed Processions, Rite of Belzenlok, Cast Out, Ixalan’s Binding and another card from Dominaria that costs 4 and do it again!
The other 4 mana card I was talking about is another token generator we have in Dominaria: Aryel, Knight of Wingrace. Again, Dominaria is really full of cost-efficient threats that you barely pay for its body but get so much more in abilities. A 4-mana 4/4 with vigilance, Aryel is like a grounded Serra Angel but what he lacks in flight he makes up by making a bunch of 2/2 knights with vigilance for 3 mana. With Anointed Procession out, that’s two more bodies you can feed to your demon tokens. Another thing to point out is that once you get to a critical mass of knight tokens, Aryel becomes a removal on a stick for 1 black mana. It will not be difficult to get to 4-6 knight tokens with Aryel throughout the course of a game and start killing almost anything your opponent plays. Take note, you can attack with your knights and still have them ready to tap for Ayrel’s second ability thanks to Vigilance.
Our mana base is actually pretty good that we don’t need to add so much Plains and just keep to a mostly swamp and dual land package. We won’t be playing Evolving Wilds because I don’t want to dilute our Swamp count and the reason is because I want to maximize the single copy of Cabal Stronghold’s coffers-type ability (a tribute to Cabal Coffers) when we do draw it. It will need at least 4 swamps in play to net you some profit but since it can tap itself for colorless mana, it’s not a dead card in your opening draw.
So how’s the deck list looking like?
4 Anointer Priest
2 Aryal, Knight of Windgrace
3 Josu Vess, Lich Knight
3 Demonlord Belzenlok
4 Anointed Procession
4 Hidden Stockpile
2 Ixalan’s Binding
2 Rite of Belzenlok
4 Renegade Map
2 Fatal Push
4 Cast Down
3 Vicious Offering
4 Isolated Chapel
3 Concealed Courtyard
1 Cabal Stronghold
That’s it for now, the sideboard can be built around depending on how the meta will look like once Dominaria is completely spoiled and actual decks start to break into the scene. I like how standard’s power level is getting back to the good old days. I hope you guys are as excited as I am with Dominaria. Especially those who didn’t play Magic back in 1994-2000, this will surely be a treat for you!