Last updated on February 1, 2023

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic - Illustration by Eric Deschamps

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic | Illustration by Eric Deschamps

I’ve long been a fan of the Esper () colors. Since I started playing Commander nearly 10 years ago, I’ve enjoyed the level of interaction, proactive responses, and turtling nature the color combination brings to the game.

One the commanders I think does this best is Oloro, Ageless Ascetic. Providing you with a bit of lifegain every turn regardless of whether or not he’s in play, this card offers consistent and long-term value that you can easily synergize with. Esper has more than enough ways to take advantage of this, and today, I’ll be exploring how we can do that best in today’s Commander deck guide.

Let’s jump in!

The Deck

Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose - Illustration by Lie Setiawan

Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose | Illustration by Lie Setiawan

Commander (1)

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic

Planeswalker (1)

Narset, Parter of Veils

Creatures (20)

Archivist of Oghma
Aven Mindcensor
Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
Blood Artist
Crested Sunmare
Dark Confidant
Dauthi Voidwalker
Drannith Magistrate
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Esper Sentinel
Grand Abolisher
Grand Arbiter Augustin IV
Kambal, Consul of Allocation
Kunoros, Hound of Athreos
Ledger Shredder
Linvala, Keeper of Silence
Opposition Agent
Serra Ascendant
Venser, Shaper Savant
Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose

Instants (15)

Ad Nauseam
Beacon of Immortality
Cyclonic Rift
Dovin's Veto
Enlightened Tutor
Force of Negation
Force of Will
Mana Drain
Mystical Tutor
Reality Shift
Swords to Plowshares
Teferi's Protection
Vampiric Tutor

Sorceries (8)

Demonic Tutor
Grim Tutor
Toxic Deluge

Enchantments (13)

Authority of the Consuls
Black Market Connections
Blind Obedience
Bloodchief Ascension
Celestial Mantle
Darksteel Mutation
Exquisite Blood
Rhystic Study
Sanguine Bond
Smothering Tithe
The Meathook Massacre
Wound Reflection

Artifacts (9)

Aetherflux Reservoir
Alhammarret's Archive
Arcane Signet
Bolas's Citadel
Chrome Mox
Mana Crypt
Sol Ring
Uba Mask
Well of Lost Dreams

Lands (33)

Ancient Tomb
Arid Mesa
Bloodstained Mire
Bojuka Bog
Cabal Coffers
City of Brass
Command Tower
Exotic Orchard
Fabled Passage
Flooded Strand
Gemstone Caverns
Godless Shrine
Hall of Heliod's Generosity
Hallowed Fountain
Island x2
Marsh Flats
Misty Rainforest
Plains x3
Polluted Delta
Prismatic Vista
Reliquary Tower
Scalding Tarn
Strip Mine
Swamp x2
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Urza's Saga
Verdant Catacombs
Watery Grave
Windswept Heath

I’ve opted to put together a high-end, high-power list for you today. This deck runs expensive, well over $1800 USD, and has a power level that adequately reflects that. While just on the cusp of being cEDH level, this deck is meant to be played in high-power pods where your opponents don’t have consistent infinite combos, but rather win through hyper-efficient creature strategies.

I’ve found this iteration of the list plays very well versus fast Purphoros, God of the Forge, and elf decks quite well, assuming they’re well-tuned. I’d rate this as an “8” on the 1-10 power scale, because it doesn’t win on turn three or four consistently, but will absolute pub-stomp any pod without equally tuned lists.

The Commander

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic

Our commander today is none other than Oloro, Ageless Ascetic himself. Oloro provides two life per turn, regardless of whether or not he is in play. This allows us to consistently hit our lifegain triggers across our many creatures, enchantments, and artifacts, as well as draw cards off of his second ability if our commander is in play.

There’s an added bonus that we deal one damage to each opponent when we draw our card from gaining life, which helps add to the clock, especially if our Blood Artist is in play.

I love this card because it provides the ultimate abilities for a turtle game, where you’re still consistently applying pressure and gaining an advantage over your opponents, but you’re consistently gaining life and staying safe and cozy behind your wall of permanents.

Ways to Gain Life

This is a lifegain deck, after all, so we’re jamming this deck with some of the best ways to gain life outside of our already consistent commander. Since Oloro is so consistent, however, we can afford to have much more interaction and hate bears in the deck than we otherwise could. Outside of a few strong lifegain sources, we want to primarily be playing more effects that benefit from us gaining life.

Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim

With that out of the way, there are still a few solid life gain sources you should know about. Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim is one of them. This card gives you a great way to gain a boatload of life throughout the game, as well as get some sweet removal for nonland permanents.

Serra Ascendant

Serra Ascendant is a no-brainer here.

Archivist of Oghma

Archivist of Oghma is a more recent addition. While it’s certainly no Mystic Remora, it still offers decent lifegain and card draw through the entire match if it goes unchecked.

Kambal, Consul of Allocation

For the noncreature matchups, Kambal, Consul of Allocation will end up going a long way. Not only does it chip players down when they start spell-slinging, but it gains us life too!

Lifegain Synergy

This is where the fun begins. We’ve got some great reasons to gain life, and with our triggers being available to us every upkeep, we’ll be pulling ahead immediately after resolving these threats.

Crested Sunmare

Crested Sunmare will allow us to develop an insane board throughout the game, and provide us with plenty of fodder for the likes of Blood Artist and Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim.

Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose

Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose helps provide a lot of direct damage while also giving us the choice to give our creatures lifelink for . This goes great with, well, creatures, but especially Crested Sunmare!

Beacon of Immortality

Beacon of Immortality is my personal pet card on this list. It’s a great way to gain upwards of 50 or more life and can be an easy win condition in conjunction with Aetherflux Reservoir.

Aetherflux Reservoir

Aetherflux Reservoir was practically made for this deck, and it’s one of our best ways to close out games in the pods that go particularly long.

Bolas's Citadel

As we gain more and more life throughout the game, Bolas's Citadel becomes a great way to generate so much card advantage that you just bury your opponents.

Wound Reflection

Wound Reflection isn’t exactly lifegain synergy, but it synergizes well with our other synergistic cards like Blood Artist incredibly well. This deck loves stacking up effects like this, and the more you get the more fun you’ll be having.


Being in the Esper colors, we’ve got access to (I think) the best interaction in the Commander format.

We’ve got tutors in the form of Enlightened Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, Mystical Tutor, Grim Tutor, and Demonic Tutor to get the pieces we need and when we need them.

Damn, Farewell, Toxic Deluge, and Cyclonic Rift provide us with different and unique board wipes to deal with a plethora of strategies.

For single-target removal, we’ve got Vindicate, Damn without the overload (and also Cyclonic Rift), Reality Shift, and Swords to Plowshares.

Force of Will Force of Negation

We’ve got access to the best of the best counterspells in this list, too. Force of Will is a great free counterspell alongside Force of Negation.


We’ve got plenty of sweet enchantments to go over, so let’s dive right in.

Sanguine Bond and Exquisite Blood go infinite once you gain life with them both out. That’s a great way to win the game; it’s very easy and can be assembled quite early. These cards are both still great on their own, though, and work well in tandem with Wound Reflection.

Rhystic Study Smothering Tithe

We’re running Rhystic Study and Smothering Tithe since they’re in our colors, and they’re just too good to pass up.

The Meathook Massacre Darksteel Mutation

The Meathook Massacre and Darksteel Mutation provide some alternative means of removal just in case our other board wipes and counterspells don’t do the trick.

Black Market Connections

I really like Black Market Connections in this deck. It doubles our card advantage each turn and also gives us the choice to turn our lifegain into other resources, which makes it especially strong going into the late game when we may be piling up on life.

Bloodchief Ascension

Bloodchief Ascension is an enchantment that really starts to pop off as the turns progress. It gains counters whenever an opponent lost two or more life, and quickly begins to pay dividends. It also completely shuts down graveyard decks that like to mill their entire deck, which is a nice bonus.

The Mana Base


Mana Crypt Sol Ring

We’ve got some of the best acceleration in the business in today’s list. Mana Crypt is the most efficient mana rock out there, and we have plenty of colorless mana costs—like our commander—to spend it on. The same can be said about Sol Ring, even if it’s not free mana.

Arcane Signet

Arcane Signet helps accelerate our mana while also fixing our colors.

Chrome Mox

I’ve included a copy of Chrome Mox since we’re three colors and have plenty of multicolored cards to pitch to it. This isn’t necessary, but I enjoy running this card in decks with many cards with two or even three mana pips of the same color.


We’ve got a very sturdy and expensive mana base, which I’d like to look at briefly.

In addition to running all of the on-color fetches, I’ve opted to play a few of each basic and the on-color shock lands. I’ve not included any original dual lands in the list, but if your playgroup is proxy-friendly (or if you just own them), then I’d encourage you to swap out a few basics for those.

Bojuka Bog Reliquary Tower

As for utility lands, we have plenty of options. Bojuka Bog is a great graveyard hate piece that comes in handy most games. As is Reliquary Tower, which prevents us from having to limit our card-drawing escapades to a maximum of seven.

Strip Mine

Strip Mine is here to punish aggressive decks or multi-colored combo decks with vulnerable colors.

Ancient Tomb

We’re running an Ancient Tomb in this list due to the relatively high mana curve, and the fact that our commander and combo pieces can actually utilize the mana consistently.

The Strategy

The strategy for this deck is fairly straightforward: abuse Oloro, Ageless Ascetic’s passive lifegain to consistently trigger various effects and generate card advantage.

In the early game, we’re going to seek to play our early hate bears to throw our opponents out of balance and disrupt their hands while progressing our board state. Esper Sentinel, Serra Ascendant, Archivist of Oghma, Dauthi Voidwalker, and Grand Abolisher are some of the best early creatures in the game, and we love keeping a hand that can play any of these on a curve with good mana.

Getting into the later turns, we want to answer our opponents’ early aggression and threats through counterspells and spot removal while continuing to progress our plan by resolving some board-impacting enchantments. Authority of the Consuls helps pad our life total even more and delays creature-based strategies. Blind Obedience does basically the same thing.

Necropotence secures us more card advantage than we know what to do with and frees up mana that would otherwise be spent on our commander’s triggered ability.

Combos and Interactions

Rule 0 Violations Check

Sanguine Bond Exquisite Blood

Our main game-winning combo in this deck is the two-card combination of Sanguine Bond and Exquisite Blood. With these two in play, we can simply gain life to start a chain reaction where we repeatedly drain opponents to death. Considering we have multiple tutors in the deck, we can safely assemble this combo by turn seven, eight, or nine consistently.

That moves our attention to the various tutors. The tutors we run make our combo assembly much more consistent, especially since it’s just two cards. These are what take the deck to the high-power levels, not the combo. If you want to dumb down the list a bit while maintaining the combo potential, these need to go.

Lastly, the fast mana and free counterspells are a big red flag for some people. Mana Crypt is free mana, which is incredibly strong, and often a banned card in some play groups. Force of Will and Force of Negation are kind of in the same boat. They’re free spells that have a major impact on the game, and sometimes need to be removed to lower the power level of the deck.

Budget Options

This deck is quite expensive but lucky for us there are some easy cuts to chop down the price considerably.

I’d cut Mana Crypt before anything else. It’s well over $150 USD at this point, and that’s the most expensive card in the deck by a wide margin. Next up on the block would be Force of Will, the only other card over $100 USD. I’d cut both of these, throw in a Talisman and An Offer You Can't Refuse, and call it a day.

Oh, and ditch Chrome Mox. Play another Talisman or Signet and be done with that.

Other Builds

There aren’t really other builds with this commander. Oloro, Ageless Ascetic is a lifegain commander through and through, and while you could maybe go a politics theme, it’s best to leave politics to the politicians.

Commanding Conclusion

Damn - Illustration by Lucas Graciano

Damn | Illustration by Lucas Graciano

That concludes today’s look at Oloro, Ageless Ascetic! I’ve been a fan of Esper for as long as I can remember, and there hasn’t been a time where Oloro wasn’t one of the strongest commanders in the color combination!

What did you think of today’s deck? Is it right up your alley and the perfect combination of turtle and interaction, or do you find lifegain to be a dull strategy in general? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, or over in the official Draftsim Discord!

Until next time, stay safe, and stay healthy!

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