Last updated on November 21, 2022

Anhelo, the Painter - Illustration by Aurore Folny

Anhelo, the Painter | Illustration by Aurore Folny

Streets of New Capenna’s Grixis () faction, the Maestros, are artistic assassins, professional aristocrats that front as guardians of the culture of Old Capenna. Led by the vampire Anhelo, the Painter, they make use of the casualty mechanic to copy instants and sorceries.

While casualty typically appears on certain spells in the Streets, Anhelo opens that mechanic up to include every instant or sorcery you cast from your hand. It makes a powerful spell-slinging commander, playing a nasty control game before blasting your opponents apart with double-cast spells.

Let’s hop right into the build and see just how criminal Anhelo gets!

The Deck

Archmage Emeritus - Illustration by Caio Monteiro

Archmage Emeritus | Illustration by Caio Monteiro

This is a classic spellslinger deck. You want to cast lots of instants and sorceries, capitalizing on them with Anhelo, the Painter’s casualty ability to copy them for minor advantages throughout the game. It ends the game by doubling up on a huge Fireball or Exsanguinate.

The Commander

Anhelo, the Painter

Anhelo, the Painter is easily my new favorite Grixis spellslinging commander. But it’s not the only one. There are a few possible choices for spellslingers in this color combination.

Kess, Dissident Mage is infamous for its reliable combo-wins. Inalla, Archmage Ritualist makes a great wizard tribal commander. While a lot of wizard creatures interact with instants and sorceries, it’s still a creature-based deck. The Maestros’ Cormela, Glamour Thief can help you cast your spells, but its death trigger makes it a difficult card to feature as your commander.

Anhelo, the Painter truly trumps these other classless casters. And its deathtouch ability is just icing on the cake!

Spellslinging

No spellslinging deck is complete without, well, spells. You’re looking for powerful spells to copy, or spells that provide sacrifice fodder for Anhelo’s casualties.

Army of the Damned and Apex of Power are strong sorceries on their own and doubling down on them can easily end games. Rise from the Tides and Clone Legion serve a similar purpose, helping to give this deck some desperately-needed board presence.

Cards like Fireball, Jaya’s Immolating Inferno, and Exsanguinate become attractive finishers as the game progresses. Remember: copying X spells keeps the value of X. Go big and make your opponents go home!

You have a handful of rituals and ritual-like effects to help you get that big mana for your X spells. The classic Dark Ritual is here, and Infernal Plunge and Dark Petition can also ramp you. And a late-game Mana Geyser is a frequent game-ender for spellslinger decks. Copy these rituals with casualty to pull ahead for a huge turn out of the blue (or black, or red).

I’ve also included a couple of my favorite less-optimal spells solely because I think they’d be hilarious to copy. Casting two copies of Worst Fears in a row can really screw one opponent out of the game, or let you control the pod for a whole round. Acquire and Inevitable Betrayal let you play with your foes’ cards in a different, but still infinitely frustrating, way.

Spellstorming

Since you’re casting and copying so many spells each turn, you want a few cards with the storm mechanic to capitalize on that.

Grapeshot is the classic direct damage storm spell and can easily copy itself three or more times in a given turn. Tendrils of Agony fills the same slot.

Fiery Encore

But Fiery Encore is the best storm spell for Commander, letting you loot through your deck and throw more than a little damage around.

Remember that copying a storm spell with casualty does not trigger the storm ability again; it only triggers when the spell is cast. You’ll still need to cast a ton of spells the old-fashioned way if you’re looking to storm off, but that’s easy enough for you.

Spell Synergization

No spellslinger deck is complete without some essential instant-and-sorcery-synergizers.

Goblin Electromancer, Arcane Melee, and Cormela, Glamour Thief take the place of the typical mana dorks, while Sorcerer Class turns all those extra zombies into actual dorks for you.

Twinning Staff

Twinning Staff stretches each of those copied spells an extra time.

Dualcaster Mage

Haven’t had enough copies yet? Toss Dualcaster Mage down and do it again, and then sacrifice it later as a casualty for another copy.

Isochron Scepter and it’s “on a body” version, Elite Arcanist, have some powerful combos with Dramatic Reversal. But they work just as well with an exiled Call to Mind or ritual spell in a pinch.

Archmage Emeritus

Archmage Emeritus keeps the party going by replacing each instant and sorcery as you cast it.

Cryptic Pursuit

Cryptic Pursuit replaces a spell you cast from your hand and creates a token ripe for sacrificing later.

Expendable Sacrifices

You need a steady stream of sacrificial creatures to really take advantage of Anhelo, the Painter’s ability and make sure you’re causing casualties each turn. So you want to focus on creating the humble 2/2 Zombie token as your main resource.

Grave Titan

The best titan in the format, Grave Titan, fills this role nicely as a threat and a constant source of rotting bodies.

Midnight Hunt gave us two great ways to generate tokens every turn, too. Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia creates a decayed Zombie token each turn if you don’t have one (replacing what would typically be an Ophiomancer slot) while Poppet Stitcher generates a decayed Zombie for each instant or sorcery you cast. You’re doubling down on this effect with Talrand, Sky Summoner just to make sure you always have access to an expendable 2/2 creature.

Several of your zombie-generating spells can also serve as win conditions. Don’t worry if you need to cast Army of the Damned and Rise from the Tides early on because those Zombie tokens will always have use, and chances are you’ll cast those spells again later on anyway.

You also have Rise of the Dread Marn as a response to the inevitable board wipe and Rotten Reunion for some targeted instant-speed graveyard removal. Syphon Flesh pulls double-duty as removal and token generation.

Curse of Disturbance and Ghoulish Procession should both net you about one Zombie per turn, with a high probability of making two or more in a multiplayer pod. Crowded Crypt makes for a great early play since it needs lots of time to get those corpse counters before blowing itself wide open and unleashing a slathering horde of Zombies.

Falkenrath Noble

Last but not least you have Falkenrath Noble over Blood Artist in the event you run out of Zombies to sacrifice and need to copy a spell right away.

Arcane Engine

Archmage Emeritus

Topdecking with an Anhelo, the Painter deck is a recipe for disaster because you want to have the most options available before you try to control the board with your spells. The aforementioned Archmage Emeritus keeps your hand full as you play spells, even netting an extra card whenever you copy a spell with your commander.

Ardent Elementalist

Ardent Elementalist can grab one of those bombs back from your graveyard and makes for tasty fodder for Anhelo’s casualty ability.

Cormela, Glamour Thief

Cormela, Glamour Thief can also be sacrificed to Anhelo for a copy and a returned spell once you’re done with it.

Maestros Ascendancy

Maestros Ascendancy will also recur spells with the added benefit of sacrificing a Zombie token.

Protection Insurance

You don’t want to waste mana recasting Anhelo, the Painter over and over, so protecting it is paramount.

Swiftfoot Boots

Of course you have Swiftfoot Boots. It’s cheap (in dollars and mana) and reliable.

Swan Song

I also opted for my favorite 1-mana counterspell, Swan Song. It’ll save Anhelo from most targeted removal.

The Mana Base

You absolutely cannot fall behind in mana with this Anhelo deck. Ramping without access to green means one thing: mana rocks. You have a ton of rocks for the consistency they generate in this deck.

First are the requisite Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, and Commander’s Sphere.

You also have every Talisman in your colors, (Talisman of Creativity, Talisman of Dominance, and Talisman of Indulgence) plus all three Signets (Rakdos Signet, Izzet Signet, and Dimir Signet).

The Strategy

Worst Fears - Illustration by Eric Deschamps

Worst Fears | Illustration by Eric Deschamps

This Anhelo deck generally wants to do one thing throughout the entire game: sling spells.

You want to keep a hand with several ways to ramp. Cormela, Glamour Thief, Goblin Electromancer, Sorcerer Class, and a grip of Talismans and Signets is ideal. Make sure to refill your hand with Silundi Vision and Archmage Emeritus once you’ve dropped some rocks.

Your mid-game plays involve setting up your arcane engine. Cryptic Pursuit and Maestros Ascendancy keep your spells a-slinging. Ghoulish Procession, Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia, and Poppet Stitcher keep your board full of Zombies to chump as blockers or sacrifice for a copied spell.

By the late game you’ve slowly chipped away at your opponents’ life totals throughout the game, making use of Falkenrath Noble to ping them or swinging in with Talrand, Sky Summoner’s evasive Drake tokens. Finish off your foes with a big X-spell like Fireball, Jaya’s Immolating Inferno, or Exsanguinate. Search up whatever the situation calls for with a copied Dark Petition.

Combos and Interactions

This deck is running the widely-known Dramatic Reversal infinite mana combo. Exiling Dramatic Reversal with Isochron Scepter or Elite Arcanist while you can produce at least three mana with no land permanents (read: your Talismans and Signets), you can cast Dramatic Reversal infinitely, netting one mana each time.

This is your key win condition in this deck. Not only does it let you cast an infinitely large Fireball, it creates an infinite storm count, making Tendrils of Agony and Grapeshot insta-kills as well.

Rule 0 Violations Check

You could make the argument that infinite combos are Not Fun to play against, and you’d be more than a little justified in doing so. If you find yourself frequently shuffling up against such a player, it’ll behoove you to include an alternate win condition. Try getting big mana the “fair” way with more exciting mana rocks, like Dreamstone Hedron.

Budget Options

Cormela, Glamour Thief - Illustration by Bram Sels

Cormela, Glamour Thief | Illustration by Bram Sels

This deck clocks in at around $190. An affordable price point in my opinion, but you could easily spend more or less depending on your preference.

Cheaper

The easiest cuts to make to this deck are the lands. Scalding Tarn and Xander’s Lounge make this mana base very dependable but can easily be swapped for cheaper, albeit slower, duals.

You can also swap out Swan Song for a humble Counterspell.

More Expensive

What do you get the deck that has everything? The gift of consistency, of course.

Getting that infinite combo out early and often is the key here. Achieve this with more and better tutors. Ditch Rise from the Tides and Syphon Flesh and replace them with Demonic Tutor and Grim Tutor. Up that mana base by picking up another fetch land (Polluted Delta or Bloodstained Mire) or getting better mana rocks like Mana Crypt.

Other Builds

Anhelo, the Painter can be built with a variety of themes besides a simple spellslinger deck.

Go all-in on the zombies with a zombie tribal deck. There’s no shortage of cards that produce the 2/2 Zombie token, and tons of them are great targets for Anhelo’s casualty ability. Dread Summons, From Under the Floorboards, and Dark Salvation are a few examples.

Or you can go the other way and lean into a broader aristocrats theme. There are a lot of easily recurable creatures with power 2. Bloodsoaked Champion, Gravecrawler, Geralf’s Messenger, the list goes on. Grab a couple more Blood Artist-like effects and you’re good to go!

Commanding Conclusion

Fiery Encore - Illustration by Justyna Gil

Fiery Encore | Illustration by Justyna Gil

Spellslinger is one the most popular themes for Grixis Commander decks. It was previously dominated by Kess, Dissident Mage, but new-kid-on-the-block Anhelo, the Painter may unseat Kess in the coming months. Anhelo costs less mana and has a quicker pay-off than Kess. Plus it’s a much more threatening blocker! I hope to see Anhelo decks spring up all over as we find new and interesting ways to run it.

How would you build Anhelo? Are there any obviously essential spells I’ve missed for this deck? Is the Dramatic Reversal infinite mana combo BS? Let me know in the comments or over on Draftsim’s Twitter.

Thanks for reading, and keep spell slinging!

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