Tithe Taker - Illustration by Aaron Miller

Tithe Taker | Illustration by Aaron Miller

The city-plane of Ravnica is ruled by ten guilds. Each of them represents both a combination of colors and an aspect of Ravnican society. So let’s talk about the Orzhov Syndicate and one of the abilities associated with them.

The Orzhov work as both a bank and the main church of the plane. The control that the Orzhov hold over both money and religion means that those who are in debt with them have no way of escaping that debt, not even in death. They’ll hold power over those who owe them well beyond their mortal bodies have expired, and the afterlife keyword is a reflection of that.

Let’s take a closer look!

How Does Afterlife Work?

Imperious Oligarch - Illustration by Johannes Voss

Imperious Oligarch | Illustration by Johannes Voss

Afterlife is a triggered ability composed of the keyword followed by a number. When the creature with afterlife dies, it creates X 1/1 black and white Spirit creature tokens with flying.

The History of Afterlife in MTG

Afterlife as a specific keyword has only appeared once in the Ravnica Allegiance set. The ability showed up in only 10 cards, four of which were white, three were black, and the remaining three were Orzhov . Of these 10, only one was rare, one was mythic rare, four were uncommon, and the remaining four were commons.

Hopefully, we’ll get more support for the ability in coming sets, whether it’s through another return to Ravnica or supplemental products like EDH decks.

It’s also worth mentioning that there are quite a few cards that have pseudo-afterlife abilities. Doomed Traveler, Elgaud Inquisitor, and Mausoleum Guard are all examples of this, and they’re also all from Innistrad, which means that the plane could be a viable setting to bring back the afterlife ability.


You could also make the educated guess that this ability was named after Afterlife considering it has a very similar effect.

What if the Creature is Exiled Instead of Dying?

Dying in MTG rules means specifically when a creature goes into the graveyard from the battlefield. If a creature with afterlife is exiled, the ability doesn’t trigger.

How to Use Afterlife

Seraph of the Scales

Sacrifice-related archetypes are easily the ones that are gonna benefit the most from this ability. While most creatures with afterlife are technically better than the token they create when they die (like Seraph of the Scales), it’s still always good when the cards you sacrifice give you some extra benefits.

Orzhov has always had support for both sacrifice and token strategies, so this ability fits right into their ranks without issue.

The mono-black cards can also arguably fit into Rakdos sacrifice or Golgari graveyard decks, though they’re far from the best options out there.

Gallery and List of Afterlife Cards

Best Afterlife Cards

Tithe Taker

Tithe Taker is by far the most useful of the afterlife cards thanks to its tax effect. It’s a really solid addition to a long list of cards that make the game harder for your opponents, which in turn buys you time to set up your own strategy.

Seraph of the Scales

Seraph of the Scales isn’t the most powerful card out there, but I think it’s a fun card that can do well by itself in formats like Limited or casual EDH.

I’ll also give Ministrant of Obligation and Orzhov Enforcer a shoutout. They’re obviously not game-changingly powerful, but they’re great cogs in a sacrifice-fueled, token-producing machine. They’re relatively cheap and work well as chum blockers (especially Orzhov Enforcer), and once they die, they refill your field with flying tokens. They encapsulate what makes this a very useful ability perfectly.

Is Afterlife Good?

I think afterlife is an ability that needs to come back for it to prove how good it can really be. The ability itself is fun, it encourages combat and sacrifice strategies, makes for great support for any archetype that benefits from your own creatures dying and it’s, in my opinion, a good addition to the game. However, there are few cards that have it and they’re not particularly strong.

I think if the ability returns in upcoming sets, it could really show how good it can be. But as it is, I think it’s still really fun and well-designed.

Teysa Karlov Afterlife in EDH

Teysa Karlov | Illustration by Magali Villeneuve

There honestly aren’t enough cards with afterlife to build an EDH deck around it. Especially considering that about half of them aren’t all that good or particularly powerful, meaning you could simply replace them for any other card that fits your deck better.

If you want to build a deck that tries to incorporate this mechanic, there are still a few ways to go about it. Teysa Karlov is arguably your best option for a commander since it’ll both double the afterlife trigger and benefit your tokens. Any cards that play into sacrifice and token strategies are more than welcome, including cards like Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim, Zulaport Cutthroat, Anointed Procession, or Hidden Stockpile.

You’d also do well to play several pseudo-afterlife cards like Doomed Traveler, Hunted Witness, or Crawling Chorus.

If you have access to colors like red or green, they both have sacrifice and graveyard-heavy strategies, and green also has some good support for creature tokens.

Wrap Up

Seraph of the Scales MTG card art by Magali Villeneuve

Seraph of the Scales | Illustration by Magali Villeneuve

That’s about it for the afterlife mechanic. I personally like it as a utility mechanic, and while the sheer ability to create tokens when the creature dies is present in tons of cards from tons of sets, I like the flavor and feel of it being called afterlife. I hope we’ll see more of this ability in the future, both on Ravnica and other planes.

But enough about what I think. What do you think of the afterlife mechanic? Did the Orzhov have other mechanics that you liked better? Have you built a deck around this ability, maybe in limited formats? Let me know in a comment! And while you’re here, don’t forget to pay our Discord a visit. There you’ll find an amazing community of other MTG fans to share your hobby with!

That’s all from me for now. Have a good one and I’ll see you next time!

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