Etrata, Deadly Fugitive - Illustration by Livia Prima

Etrata, Deadly Fugitive | Illustration by Livia Prima

One of my favorite recurring characters in Murders at Karlov Manor is Etrata, the Dimir assassin. In our previous Return to Ravnica “block,” we got Etrata, the Silencer, which was one of my favorite designs from that MTG set.

Not only did Etrata get a brand-new card, but she also got a prominent role in the lore that fleshed out the assassin as a real character and had some great moments. The new card is just as interesting and leads to a niche typal deck.

Let’s explore the possibilities of Etrata, Deadly Fugitive!

The Deck

Nashi, Moon Sage's Scion - Illustration by Valera Lutfullina

Nashi, Moon Sage's Scion | Illustration by Valera Lutfullina

Commander (1)

Etrata, Deadly Fugitive

Creature (30)

Changeling Outcast
Hired Poisoner
Mothdust Changeling
Ruthless Ripper
Aven Heartstabber
Baleful Strix
Guildsworn Prowler
Kiku, Night's Flower
Scarblade Elite
Silumgar Assassin
Termination Facilitator
Adaptive Automaton
Big Game Hunter
Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor
Glasspool Mimic
Mari, the Killing Quill
Nashi, Moon Sage's Scion
Royal Assassin
The Cyber-Controller
Virtus the Veiled
Etrata, the Silencer
Grim Hireling
Massacre Girl, Known Killer
Ramses, Assassin Lord
Ravenloft Adventurer
Fallen Shinobi
Massacre Girl
Callidus Assassin
Thieving Amalgam

Instant (9)

An Offer You Can't Refuse
Malakir Rebirth
Swan Song
Wash Away
Arcane Denial
Bitter Triumph
Cyclonic Rift
Infernal Grasp

Sorcery (6)

Night's Whisper
Agadeem's Awakening
Pact of the Serpent
Toxic Deluge
Kindred Dominance

Enchantment (10)

Training Grounds
Call of the Ring
Rogue Class
Arcane Adaptation
Black Market Connections
Haunted One
Kindred Discovery
Primordial Mist
Virtue of Persistence

Artifact (8)

Sol Ring
Dimir Signet
Fellwar Stone
Lightning Greaves
Mind Stone
Sword of the Animist
Talisman of Dominance
Maskwood Nexus

Land (36)

Access Tunnel
Clearwater Pathway
Command Tower
Creeping Tar Pit
Darkslick Shores
Drowned Catacomb
Island x5
Minas Morgul, Dark Fortress
Morphic Pool
Otawara, Soaring City
Path of Ancestry
Polluted Delta
Prismatic Vista
River of Tears
Rogue's Passage
Shipwreck Marsh
Shizo, Death's Storehouse
Sunken Hollow
Swamp x9
Takenuma, Abandoned Mire
Temple of Deceit
Undercity Sewers
Underground River
Watery Grave

Etrata, Deadly Fugitive demands a lethal legion of assassins, and this deck happily complies with that command. It’s an interesting build space of a Dimir typal deck.

Typal decks tend to be the territory of other color pairs. Dimir is an intriguing choice as the color pair isn’t the first you think of when it comes to creature-centric strategies; Dimir, to my mind at least, has always been about playing the control game, biding your time in the shadows until you get a chance to take out your opponents, with the notable exception being various ninja strategies.

That gives this deck a high level of intrigue from the get-go. I was concerned that this list would be nothing but draft chaff but found my options surprisingly robust and interesting. This deck has some genuinely good cards and an exciting game plan!

The Commander: Etrata, Deadly Fugitive

Etrata, Deadly Fugitive

The lady of the hour and prime suspect of Zegana’s murder is Etrata, Deadly Fugitive. It’s quite simply the reason so many of the cards are assassins. Getting 2/2s each time your creatures deal combat damage is a pretty neat effect, but getting cloaked creatures you can flip up makes them far more intriguing than mere 2/2s.

You want to slip through your opponents’ defenses to amass a large army with Etrata’s cloaked creatures; it’s your primary source of card advantage and a crucial aspect of how your deck builds its board presence.

Its ability to flip the cloaked creatures for 4 mana is an essential key to the deck. The wording allows you to utilize permanent and nonpermanent cards swiped with the cloak ability, which is a massive step up over just flipping over creatures. It also allows you to flip creatures with more colors than just in their casting cost. This ability extends the value further.


These creatures slip through your opponents’ defenses to score cloaked creatures via Etrata; they also get a little typal support.

Etrata, the Silencer

I couldn’t build this deck without Etrata, the Silencer. It’s admittedly weaker in the 99 since the odds of seeing it again drop drastically, but it’s just such a cool design, plus a creature that attacks as a removal spell when it connects isn’t that bad. You have other ways to get hit counters on exiled creatures, so this could be a legitimate alternate win condition.

Mothdust Changeling and Changeling Outcast are fantastic evasive assassins; I ripped this tech from Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow decks to great effect. Hired Poisoner isn’t on the same level as these two, but I wanted another cheap assassin that comes down before Etrata. Ruthless Ripper rounds out the 1-drops with another deathtouch creature.

Aven Heartstabber

An early Aven Heartstabber provides an evasive creature that easily triggers Etrata. Later in the game, a 2-mana 3/3 can be formidable.

Kiku, Night's Flower

My investigation into the seedy underbelly of Magic’s assassins introduced me to Kiku, Night's Flower, one of the most interesting cards I never knew existed. It fits this deck perfectly: An early assassin to trigger Etrata before your opponents have too many creatures with a powerful activated ability you can use once the 1/1 body becomes irrelevant.

Guildsworn Prowler

Guildsworn Prowler has a really neat design. It poses your opponents with an annoying question: Do they take the damage and give you a cloaked creature, or trade a creature and give you another card?

Silumgar Assassin

I’d be lying if I called Silumgar Assassin exciting, but it’s serviceable. It’s a moderately evasive creature that can kill something small; it’s just barely better than draft chaff 2-drops like Repeat Offender.

Termination Facilitator

Termination Facilitator, on the other hand, is awesome. You’ll have lots and lots of meager 2/2s running around, and this makes it hard for your opponents to eat them with 4/4s.

Big Game Hunter Nekrataal

Big Game Hunter often trades up in mana, even if the body is unexciting; you’re virtually always paying full price for this. You also have Nekrataal for less restrictive creature destruction.

Royal Assassin

I have fond memories of Royal Assassin; it’s one of those cards that seems so overwhelmingly powerful when you’re a newer player. It’s perfectly serviceable in this deck.

Virtus the Veiled

Virtus the Veiled doesn’t have its partner, but it’s still strong. This is another rock-and-hard-place card. Will your opponent trade creatures or lose half their life? They’ll almost always take the creature, so make sure you attack players with something worth trading for; this shouldn’t go at the token play.

Massacre Girl Massacre Girl, Known Killer

Massacre Girl and Massacre Girl, Known Killer make stunning appearances in this deck. The OG provides a board wipe that you don’t want to use but leaves you with a creature; the newest version of the card makes combat even more annoying for your opponents with card draw potential.

Ravenloft Adventurer

Ravenloft Adventurer does lots of work in this deck. Taking the initiative provides plenty of value, as does its status as a moderate stax piece. It threatens tons of damage once you’ve fully explored the Undercity.

Callidus Assassin

Callidus Assassin rounds out the list with the lovechild of Clone and Nekrataal. It sadly loses the assassin creature type as part of its clone effect, but you have ways to get it back.

Assassin Support

These are the typal payoffs. In addition to cards that support the assassin creature type, I’ve added a few spells that specifically support Etrata, Deadly Fugitive.

Kindred Discovery might be the strongest typal support spell in the deck. You can find yourself drawing more cards than you know what to do with when using this enchantment. Kindred Dominance provides the deck with what’s essentially a Plague Wind.

Scarblade Elite

Scarblade Elite surprised me; I didn’t think assassins had much typal support, but this is among the cards that proved me wrong. And it’s really good! You’ll often trade assassins away early, letting this elf kill problematic threats later.

Mari, the Killing Quill

Mari, the Killing Quill rewards you for killing your opponents’ creatures and damaging them. A card and two Treasures is quite a handsome sum, well worth getting your hands dirty. It’s also an incredibly elegant, flavorful design.

Ramses, Assassin Lord Adaptive Automaton

Ramses, Assassin Lord does what it says on the tin by giving all your assassins +1/+1. It also gives you another alternate win condition—quite the flavorful addition on assassins, relying on circumstance and training rather than brute forcing your way through opposing life totals. Adaptive Automaton provides another lord.

Pact of the Serpent

Pact of the Serpent takes a little work but pays dividends. You only need three assassins in play for this to be on rate; anything more is gravy.

Haunted One

Haunted One pushes lots of damage once you’ve built out a wide board and makes trading a mess for your opponents.

This deck has four ways to give your creatures the assassin card type: Maskwood Nexus, Arcane Adaptation, and Conspiracy. The primary role of these cards is to give your disguise creatures the subtype so that they can attack and propagate on their own; it also increases the value of your other typal support cards.

Training Grounds

Training Grounds primarily supports Etrata, Deadly Fugitive’s ability to flip face-down spells, but Kiku, Night's Flower and Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor also benefit from it.

Etrata’s flip ability only cares about face-down cards, not cloaked cards, so you have Thieving Amalgam and Primordial Mist as top-end cards that manifest creatures from your deck or your opponents’. The Cyber-Controller also falls into this category, but it produces 3/3s thanks to the lord ability.


This is the good stuff holding the deck together, like card advantage and interaction as well as miscellaneous good cards that are worth highlighting but don’t neatly fit another category.

Baleful Strix

If I’m in Dimir, I’m playing Baleful Strix. It’s just so efficient! It cantrips and either trades away for a much larger creature or deters your opponents from attacking you because they don’t want to trade a larger creature with your deathtoucher. Either path leads to plenty of value from your 2-mana bird.

Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor

You want to deal combat damage, so Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor seemed like a natural inclusion to keep cards flowing. Tempting your opponents with a card draw helps you sneak in for extra damage. The activated ability can win games.

Fallen Shinobi Nashi, Moon Sage's Scion

Following a similar logic, I added Fallen Shinobi and Nashi, Moon Sage's Scion. You don’t want to ninjutsu off your opponents’ creatures, but putting one of these into play is better than cloaking cards.

Grim Hireling

The last combat damage support card is Grim Hireling, which feels like it should be an assassin, but I get the Treasure either way, so I won’t complain too much.

Night's Whisper goes in all my black decks for its incredible efficiency. The same can be said for my interaction. A couple of highlights include Bitter Triumph and Infernal Grasp to handle creatures alongside Counterspell, An Offer You Can't Refuse, and Swan Song as members of your counterspell suite to handle threats on the stack.

Wash Away

I don’t see Wash Away often outside of Brawl, but I’m a fan of the card. It primarily answers commanders for next to nothing, but the number of cards that cast spells from exile grows each set, so there’s additional utility.

Toxic Deluge

Toxic Deluge seems out of place in a 30-creature deck that wants to produce even more creatures, but sometimes you need a get-out-of-jail-free card that resets the board.

Cyclonic Rift

I know the inclusion of Cyclonic Rift in casual decks is contentious, but I generally stand behind the necessity of finishers. Games of Magic, even casual ones, need to end, and a well-timed Rift does just that.

Lightning Greaves

Lightning Greaves fits this deck well. It’s another 2-drop that allows you to trigger Etrata on turn 3 and offers protection from spot removal. I’ve never considered this a must-play like other players but enjoy it in decks with commanders who want to attack.

The Mana Base

The mana base begins with an assortment of expected mana rocks: Sol Ring, on-color Talisman and Signet, Mind Stone, and Fellwar Stone. Sword of the Animist appears here, as it often does in creature-heavy decks without access to green. This deck doesn’t have a super robust ramp package, partially because it’s not in green, and partially because you want to establish a board state in the opening turns to get a few Etrata triggers.

Moving to the lands, a handful of them provide good value. I never leave home without some MDFC lands. This deck’s selection includes Malakir Rebirth and Agadeem's Awakening for protection and recursion and Glasspool Mimic to copy your best creature.

Otawara, Soaring City Takenuma, Abandoned Mire

Otawara, Soaring City and Takenuma, Abandoned Mire make similarly expected appearances. You just can’t beat lands that are randomly spells; mitigating flood and screw makes your deck more consistent.

A handful of your lands grant evasion to help trigger Etrata. Access Tunnel and Rogue's Passage make creatures unblockable for a fee. Shizo, Death's Storehouse makes blocking your legendary creatures tricky. Minas Morgul, Dark Fortress is the best of these as its shadow counter essentially gives the creature unblockable permanently—the only shadow creature that sees any regular play in the format is Dauthi Voidwalker.

Beyond these cards, your mana base is a bunch of dual lands and basic lands to fix your mana and cast your spells.

The Strategy

The most important thing to look for in an opening hand is a 1- or 2-mana assassin (or Lightning Greaves). Your first goal should always be triggering Etrata, Deadly Fugitive the turn it comes down. That gives you some value even if your opponents answer it.

This deck comfortably falls within the midrange archetype. You’re playing with a bunch of creatures and attacking, but not so fast to be considered aggro. You want to out-grind your opponents with the value from your typal synergies compounded by the board presence your commander generates.

Keep an eye out for alternate win conditions. The only two you have are Etrata, the Silencer, and Ramses, Assassin Lord, but they’re achievable and a great way to sneak victory from your opponents.

Combos and Interactions

This deck has a few potent interactions to look out for, plus one rules quirk I want to clarify.

That quirk regards Massacre Girl, Known Killer and deathtouch. A creature with wither still deals damage; wither isn’t a replacement effect. Because of this, a creature that takes damage from a creature with wither and deathtouch gets a number of -1/-1 counters, then dies from deathtouch. If a creature dies this way and its toughness is still above 0 (i.e. a 3/3 gets a -1/-1 counter, then dies to deathtouch) it won’t trigger Massacre Girl.

Now let’s look at some combos!

Etrata, the Silencer Ramses, Assassin Lord

Etrata, the Silencer + Ramses, Assassin Lord

While these two creatures present different alternate win conditions, they work together beautifully. Etrata, the Silencer provides the easiest setup to enable Ramses. All you need to do is get a bunch of creatures with hit counters exiled before Etrata connects—easily done with Ravenloft Adventurer and Mari, the Killing Quill setting up Etrata.

Etrata, Deadly Fugitive + Haunted One + Toxic Deluge

This one’s simple. You need Etrata and Haunted One in play and Toxic Deluge in hand.

Attack with Etrata, triggering the background and giving all your creatures undying. Then cast Toxic Deluge, wiping the board. Undying triggers, and you’ve cast a 3-mana Plague Wind that buffed your board!

Rule 0 Violations Check

This deck shouldn’t give you any trouble and should clear any rule 0 conversation. It’s a fairly niche typal strategy. Some players may bristle at Cyclonic Rift or the alternate win conditions, but that’s highly table-dependent.

Budget Options

While this deck doesn’t have as much draft chaff as I feared, it’s still relatively budget-friendly as it focuses on a minor typal theme. Some of the staples are expensive, but don’t forget the easiest way to trim your budget is by downgrading the mana base.

Cyclonic Rift is contentious and expensive. You could honestly play Plague Wind to keep the finisher quality or play something like River's Rebuke.

Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor provides solid card draw at a high price. Another source of steady card advantage like Bident of Thassa works.

Reanimate has seen a drastic price drop since its reprint in MKM’s precon, but it’s still a lot for a generally good card. This could be any cheap spell you don’t mind drawing later, even Sign in Blood.

Swan Song is among the most efficient counters in the game with a price tag to match. Delay can work here.

Black Market Connections is one of the best token generators in black, and as shapeshifters those tokens are assassins… and that's just a third of what this black enchantment can do! But Birthing Boughs can create tokens, albeit at a much steeper mana cost. Or you could also play Phyrexian Arena to replace the card draw aspect.

Other Builds

Etrata, Deadly Fugitive needs assassins to support it, but you could do some different builds. One alternative would be to learn heavily on your Arcane Adaptation effects, filling the deck with tutors to find them easier and turn staples like Dauthi Voidwalker and Orcish Bowmasters into assassins to enable Etrata. This option would sacrifice synergy in favor of card quality.

Another option would be to look for more synergies for gaining control of enemy creatures. Etrata does give you control of permanents you don’t own. Cards like Agent of Treachery and Tasha, the Witch Queen reward you for theft while cards like Hostage Taker and Siphon Insight are just a few of the enablers. This deck would likely lean heavily on tutoring Arcane Adaptation variants as well.

Commanding Conclusion

Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor - Illustration by Anna Podedworna

Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor | Illustration by Anna Podedworna

As far as I’m concerned, Wizards is 2-for-2 with interesting designs for Dimir’s premiere vampire assassin. This is a far more interesting typal payoff than a simple buff or card draw effect that works with additional mechanics, which only makes deckbuilding more interesting.

Do you like the two Etrata cards? What’s your favorite assassin? Did one of the more powerful ones evade my notice? Let me know in the comments or on the Draftsim Discord!

Stay safe, and keep sneaky!

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