Last updated on September 27, 2022
Sheoldred, the Apocalypse | Illustration by Chris Rahn
Phyrexian Praetors have been slowly reappearing in the story and on new cards over the last few Magic sets. I’ve been so excited for each new set ever since Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider appeared in Kaldheim. Of all the Praetors that have been released so far, the one that grabbed my attention most for a commander was Sheoldred, the Apocalypse.
Much like previous iterations from New Phyrexia, each new Praetor card includes two contrasting static abilities. One rewards you for doing a specific in-game action while the other punishes your opponent for the same act. What makes Sheoldred, the Apocalypse so impactful is that its effect rewards and punishes one of the most common actions in Magic, making it a near-constant presence on the board.
The other reason it stood out to me as a fun commander to build around was the character’s role in Dominaria United’s story. Much like Sheoldred infiltrated Dominaria with her sleeper agents, you’ll slowly deplete your opponents’ chances of winning the game while seeming to offer them resources.
Let’s get into it!
Command Tower | Illustration by Evan Shipard
Defiler of Flesh
Seizan, Perverter of Truth
Master of the Feast
Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose
Rankle, Master of Pranks
Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Vilis, Broker of Blood
Erebos, God of the Dead
K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth
Witch of the Moors
Epicure of Blood
Teferi’s Puzzle Box
Decanter of Endless Water
Font of Mythos
Well of Lost Dreams
Because Sheoldred, the Apocalypse’s abilities care about drawing cards, this deck is built to cash in on the benefits your commander gives you and to increase its damage output. There are several ways to do both.
Black has plenty of cards that allow you to draw cards at the cost of life. Now that you gain life each time you draw cards, cards like Phyrexian Arena lose any downside they originally had. You can include a ton of powerful draw engines in your deck without worrying about the life cost. Some of these cards also allow you to target any player, like Blood Pact, so you can drain your opponents for a significant amount of life when Sheoldred is on the field.
You also have access to a decent number of cards that can deal out damage when you gain life, like Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose or Sanguine Bond. Your opponents lose life each time they draw a card, but they also lose it when you draw cards, a very deadly interaction in a deck that’s built to draw you a ton of cards.
This new version of Sheoldred has the potential to be a lot more powerful than the last one. While Sheoldred, Whispering One can be imposing to have out, it doesn’t activate that often and is expensive for a commander. Sheoldred, the Apocalypse solves both of those issues.
Players in Commander are constantly drawing cards, so the Apocalypse acts as a consistent threat on the board. It also punishes players who play powerful draw engines like Sylvan Library and Consecrated Sphinx. It consistently gains you life throughout the game, allowing access to extra resources you might not otherwise have.
This card is also a decent blocker apart from its great abilities. It’s a little ahead of the typical curve as a 4/5 for four mana. Deathtouch makes Sheoldred even more of a deterrent. I didn’t include any ways to give it indestructible so you might want to consider the option if you’re looking to use it more in combat.
Card Draw All-Around
The backbone of this deck is drawing cards, especially cards that draw you and your opponents extra cards.
Cards that allow you to draw extra cards at the cost of life like Sign in Blood, Eldritch Pact, or Damnable Pact are great because you probably just gain back any life you lose. These cards can also target other players, so you can deal out a good amount of damage to them when they draw cards.
Vilis, Broker of Blood gives you the chance to draw a ton of cards, remove your opponent’s creatures, and even gain life. You lose two life each time you activate Vilis’ ability, which draws you two cards with his second ability. Drawing those two cards with Sheoldred, the Apocalypse out gains you four life, so you give a creature -1/-1, gain two life, and draw two cards for the cost of one black mana.
Lich’s Mastery can be a risky card to play since board wipes cause you to lose the game. This card also draws you just as many cards in a deck built to gain you a lot of life. This forms a combo with Sheoldred, the Apocalypse that I’ll talk about later.
You’re already draining life from your opponents whenever they draw cards, but you can add to this effect.
Massacre Wurm allows you to drain players’ life when they lose creatures, another common aspect of the game to punish them for.
Draining your opponents’ life when you gain life is very effective, especially with cards like Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose and Marauding Blight-Priest. Vito and Sanguine Bond are combo pieces in this deck that can win you the game when played at the right time.
Gray Merchant of Asphodel (or Gary, as many know it) is very powerful in a mono-black deck. Your devotion will be very high later in the game. You can deal even more damage than usual by pairing this with a card like Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose.
Much like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted deals damage to opponents each time they draw a card. It can also act as removal and force players to draw cards, and it deals out significantly more damage when paired with your commander.
Mono-black has a lot of great targeted removal options.
Mono-black has a lot of great targeted removal options. Hero’s Downfall is nice and versatile, Defile is cheap and scales in power as the game goes on, and Deadly Rollick can surprise opponents when you’re tapped out.
There are some removal spells that work better with this deck than they might with others. Baleful Mastery allows you to cast it cheaper, but it gives an opponent a card. That’s usually a downside, but it also deals damage to that opponent thanks to Sheoldred, the Apocalypse.
Toxic Deluge is always a pretty good card, but it’s even better in a deck that gains you a lot of extra life. That makes it easier to pay a higher price for the card and take out more creatures.
Soul Shatter is nice because you probably want to be removing the highest-cost card on your opponents’ board. Forcing your opponent to sacrifice the creature or planeswalker gets around abilities like hexproof, shroud, or indestructible. This also hits all opponents, making it a very cheap option to remove three permanents.
If you’re looking to clear the board, Damnation is the most straightforward way to do it.
Torment of Hailfire also does the trick if you pay enough mana or if your opponents are too low on life to risk losing any more.
Deadly Tempest can be a good way to deal out a lot of damage and help close out games since you probably drained your opponents’ life totals by the time you play it.
Aetherflux Reservoir serves as a way for you to put some of your extra life to good use, and it also gains you some life itself. You probably don’t want to pull the trigger too early, but the ability to remove a player from the game at instant speed is never a bad tool to have.
K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth, Defiler of Flesh, and Bolas’s Citadel all offer ways to use your extra life to cast spells. Your lifegain can be a sort of mana ramp on top of a way to stay in the game longer.
Most of the cards in this deck fall into the above categories because the strategy is pretty simple, but there are other cards that work really well with this deck.
Black Market Connections is a versatile card, and Sheoldred allows you not to worry about paying life for its abilities. You also gain two life from drawing a card, off-setting the cost.
Thought Vessel and Decanter of Endless Water are helpful mana rocks since you’ll draw a lot of cards because they remove your maximum hand size. This also interacts well with Psychosis Crawler, which can get pretty big in this deck.
Solemn Simulacrum is usually good for a bit of ramp in colors that don’t have many ramp spells of their own. It’s extra helpful in this deck because it draws you a card when it dies and gains you life.
Crypt Ghast is another great source of mana ramp in this deck because it doubles up any mana your Swamps produce.
Erebos, God of the Dead prevents your opponents from gaining life. This shuts down any lifegain-centered strategies they might have, and it ensures their life totals continue to drop into the range where you can drain them out for the win.
As a mono-black deck you can get away with running mostly Swamps. Cabal Coffers becomes even more effective because it taps to produce a huge amount of mana late game.
Some players might prefer to use more utility lands and use Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to turn all lands into Swamps. That strategy works, but I chose not to include it because it offers mana fixing to your opponents using black.
Geier Reach Sanitarium and Mikokoro, Center of the Sea are both helpful because they draw you a card and force your opponents to do so. Castle Locthwain only draws you a card, but Sheoldred, the Apocalypse can offset some of the life you lose with its ability.
Reliquary Tower is a very handy utility land in a deck that draws a lot of cards. You won’t have to worry about discarding once your draw engines get out of control.
You don’t have to worry as much about mana fixing, so the mana rocks don’t need to tap for multiple colors. You’re fine with Sol Ring and Thought Vessel. Decanter of Endless Water is helpful because it gives you no max hand size.
The basic strategy for this deck is to drain your opponents’ life through a variety of effects, mainly Sheoldred, the Apocalypse’s. Opponents naturally draw cards on their own, but you can speed this up with cards like Howling Mine, Bloodgift Demon, and Damnable Pact.
Your strategy relies heavily on keeping the Apocalypse on the board, so it’s helpful to equip it with something like Lightning Greaves. Mana ramping helps you to keep your commander out since you can keep recasting it. Cabal Coffers is a huge benefit in that regards because this deck runs mostly basic Swamps.
Sheoldred also gains you a bunch of life, so you want to pair it with cards like Sanguine Bond that drain your opponents each time you gain. You can also use the extra life you’re gaining to pay for spells with K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth, or you can activate Aetherflux Reservoir to (most likely) take out one of your opponents.
Other game-winning cards can include pumping a lot of mana into Exsanguinate or Torment of Hailfire. Sorin Markov’s -3 ability is basically a death sentence to a player who doesn’t have a way to gain life back.
Combos and Interactions
There are quite a few combos available in this deck. One is the common mono-black pairing of Sanguine Bond and Exquisite Blood. These two create an infinite loop of activations until you’ve drained all your opponents of life one by one.
The next two-card combo involves your commander, making it easier to accomplish. Play Lich’s Mastery while Sheoldred, the Apocalypse is on the field. Their abilities continue to trigger until you’ve drawn your entire library the first time you either gain life or draw a card. You won’t lose the game thanks to Lich’s Mastery, and it also gains you a ton of life. You’ll likely be able to close out the game with access to every card in your deck and with a lot of extra life.
If you have Sheoldred, the Apocalypse on the field when you activate Vilis, Broker of Blood’s ability, you’ll net two life and draw cards. If you also have K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth on the battlefield, you can activate Vilis’ ability as many times as you’d like because you can pay the two life you gain instead of paying black mana. You can draw any number of cards you’d like and deal out as many -1/-1 counters as you have cards in your deck.
One of the most expensive cards in this deck is your commander. Unfortunately you can’t really save money by replacing Sheoldred. You can instead cut the more expensive Deadly Rollick and replace it with a cheaper removal option like Vraska’s Contempt.
Black Market Connections is good, but it isn’t essential to winning. You can take it out and save yourself about $30. You can use Ophiomancer if you want ways to create creature tokens. If you want to draw more cards you can use Graveborn Muse.
You run a lot of the same cards, but with more cards that gain you life like Blood Artist, Sangromancer and The Meathook Massacre. Ayara, First of Locthwain is a good way to deal out some damage and draw yourself some cards.
Another option with this deck is adding more cards that force opponents to discard cards. You’re forcing your opponents to choose between playing the game with just the top cards of their decks each turn or losing extra life to draw more by taking away the cards they have in hand.
Lich’s Mastery | Illustration by Daarken
Sheoldred, the Apocalypse may seem like a simple build, but it’s also a very powerful one. I’ve been having a lot of fun finding cards that work well with its ability, and I’m sure there are even more I haven’t found yet. I didn’t put tutors into the deck since there are so many potential combos, but they’re a good option if you want to make the deck even faster.
Which Phyrexian Praetor would you most like to build? Do you like this version of Sheoldred better than the old one? What do you hope to see when Elesh Norn gets her updated card? Let me know in the comments below or over on the Draftsim Twitter.
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