The Orzhov Syndicate is alluring in their nature and their design. A thinly veiled organized crime organization disguised as a religious institution that operates in a way the Mafia wishes they could pull off.
If you don’t pay your debts to the Church of Deals, not only will your family have to pay for it, you’ll still be paying for it with the enslavement of your very soul. The colors for this guild are white and black, order and evil. With a good build, an Orzhov deck can be a force to be reckoned with. So, here are some cool mechanics and awesome cards to show why you should run one the next time you play.
“Afterlife” is one of three prevailing mechanics amongst the Orzhov card set. It's quite simple; when the creature dies, you get to place a number of 1/1 black and white spirit tokens with flying on the field. The number of tokens depends on the card of course with some giving you one and others two.
This effect activates whether the creature dies in combat or is destroyed by a spell or card effect. It does not activate if the card is exiled though. Still, this mechanic is a great way to ensure that even some of your creatures die, you will still have something to defend yourself with the added bonus of flying.
“Haunt” is the second flagship mechanic for the Orzhov. An interesting fact about this effect is that when it was first introduced, the creator of it considered it a mistake and didn’t want to see it in future sets. However, in the newest Ravnica-based set that came out in 2019, it persisted.
Cards with “Haunt” have a separate effect (this, of course, varies by card) that is triggered when that card enters the field. When the creature dies, it then “Haunts” an opponent's creature. When the “Haunted” creature dies, the card’s first effect activates once more. This is great for setting up dominos and laying back up plans to stymie your foe.
The third mechanic present throughout the Orzhov is “Extort.” This effect states that whenever you cast a spell (which in Magic the Gathering, everything except land is a spell). You can pay one extra mana to cause all of your opponents to lose one life and you gain whatever life was lost.
If you’re only playing against one person, this might not seem like a whole lot of life gained or damage dealt but every single bit helps. In addition, the creature Pontiff of Blight gives all other creatures you control “Extort” as well, including tokens! So, you could easily end up becoming a huge threat.
7 Lock Down Potential
An Orzhov deck provides great lockdown potential. Depending on your strategy, you might find yourself with a field full of 1/1 tokens (we’ll get to that later), and few larger creatures. This could leave you open to being mowed over by larger creatures and quickly losing your army. So, the easiest way to stop that is to lockdown those more powerful creatures.
Two cards that are perfect for this would be the enchantments, Pillory of the Sleepless and One Thousand Lashes. You enchant an opposing creature and as long as the enchantment is active, they cannot attack or block. One Thousand Lashes also states that any abilities that the enchanted creature has cannot be activated.
6 Burn Damage
The Orzhov also has quite the capacity for dishing outburn damage over time. Most of the amounts are small, one or two life here and there. However, there are so many of these cards in the set that all of those small amounts can add up quickly. Both of the enchantments mentioned in the last section also cause your opponent to lose one life at the start of their turn.
Another enchantment, Stab Wound, causes the opponent to lose two lives at the start of their turn and reduces the afflicted creature’s power and toughness by two. “Extort” is also made to deal damage over time, particularly with the card mentioned in that section, Pontiff of Blight, that gives all of your creatures this ability.
5 Teysa Karlov (Legendary Creature - Human Advisor)
Teysa Karlov is the perfect lynchpin for an Orzhov deck. First of all, it grants your tokens vigilance (they do not tap after attacking) and lifelink, which grants you life equal to the damage the attacking creature deals. Second, this card states that any ability that is triggered by the creature dying triggers twice.
The implications are grand to think about considering that a great deal of Orzhov creatures have abilities that trigger upon their death. This means you get double the tokens from “Afterlife.” This, combined with the buffs given to your tokens by this card’s other effect makes your tokens far more formidable.
4 Teysa, Orzhov Scion (Legendary Creature - Human Advisor)
While this card features the same person as the last entry, the names of the cards are different so you can and should put both of them into a deck together. This version of Teysa also has two abilities. First, it allows you to sacrifice three white creatures to exile another creature, presumably an opponent’s.
Second, the card states that when a black creature in your control dies, you can summon a white 1/1 spirit token with flying. With an Orzhov deck, you will have no shortage of tokens to sacrifice for the first ability. Thus, if you can’t lock down opposing monsters, you can simply wipe them off the board.
3 Token Spamming
It's plain to see from everything we’ve touched on so far that Orzhov decks have incredible token spamming potential. Combine cards with “Afterlife” and Teysa Karlov (the card from entry six), and you will be creating up to four tokens every time a creature dies.
These tokens will be white and black spirits with flying, thus counting as both colors. This allows you to create a sort of endless chain using the other Teysa card from entry 7. You can sacrifice three of them to exile a creature and then activate the second ability and create tons of white spirit tokens to repopulate your field.
2 Ethereal Absolution
This enchantment is a good one to have one in your deck. Ethereal Absolution grants your creatures a buff to power and toughness of one and decreases the power or toughness of your opponents’ creatures by the same amount. For an additional cost, you can then pick a card from your opponent’s graveyard and exile it.
If you choose a creature card, you get a 1/1 black and white spirit token with flying. Not only are you making yourself stronger and your enemies weaker, but you also have a way to keep adding to your token army. In addition, this effect can also act as a good counter against opponents with decks that rely on using their graveyards.
1 Deathpact Angel
Last but not least, there is the card Deathpact Angel. This card is a sturdy 5/5 and has flying. It is black and white so it can work with both of the abilities of the Teysa, Orzhov Scion card. This alone makes a good pick to have to act almost like a leader for your army of tokens. However, for as many tricks you might have up your sleeve, your opponents have their own strategies.
If the Deathpact Angel is killed by any means that sends it to the graveyard, a token is summoned in its place. This a different sort of token though. It is a 1/1 black and white cleric with a single ability. If you pay a cost (the same that Deathpact Angel costs to play), you can sacrifice the cleric token and DeathPact Angel will return to the battlefield.