Bringing things back to life in fantasy often conjures up images of necromancy, such as a lich using black magic to reanimate a pile of bones or a rotting corpse. Less common is reincarnation or resurrection magic which is more likely to be used by holy clerics, priests, or heavenly beings (like angels). What if there was a being that could do both? As seen in our second venture to the plane of Innistrad, angels in the MTG multiverse are corruptible so it’s not outside the realm of possibilities to have a being that can use both necromancy and resurrection to bring the dead back to life, although this deck is more necromancy. Tariel, Reckoner of Souls is such a being. Tariel, Reckoner of Souls is a 4/7 angel that costs 4 generic, 1 white, 1 black, and 1 red. She has flying and vigilance for combat abilities and her activated ability allows you to tap her to put a random creature from an opponent’s graveyard onto the battlefield under your control. This is a pretty awesome ability because you can play with your opponent’s dead creatures. The downside is that the creature is selected at random, but even then, I don’t think you’ll ever get any “bad” cards as most of the creatures in EDH do something. So you didn’t get their Hellkite Overlord and got stuck with Sakura-Tribe Elder instead. That’s okay; it’s part of the chaos of red, but with proper support you will have ways to turn even the most useless 1/1 creatures into something useful.
This strategy wont work at all unless your opponent has things in their graveyard to bring back. Luckily, the mardu color combination has access to some of the best removal spells. Damnation and Wrath of God are classic 4-mana-destroy-all-creature effects and there are a bunch more of these board wipes out there. You certainly want a good bit of these, especially when you’re trying to stay alive long enough to get Tariel, Reckoner of Souls on the board. Don’t forget about targeted removal like Vindicate and Ravenous Chupacabra for precision kills when you don’t want to take the time to rebuild your board if you don’t have to. For creatures that are indestructible, use things like Death Wind.
Part of the removal package are cards that cause your opponents to sacrifice creatures. Anowon, the Ruin Sage causes all players to sacrifice a non vampire creature, if they can. This is still largely okay for you since you will have access to reanimation effects which I will get to later, plus with all of the stuff that you will be pulling out of your opponents’ graveyards there is bound to be something that you don’t care to have. Anowon is probably the worst of this package since he hits all players. Sheoldred, Whispering One causes your opponents to sacrifice creatures while you get to bring a creature to the battlefield from your graveyard. Archfiend of Depravity can really help against decks that put out a ton of creatures and it’s still effective enough against those that don’t. Butcher of Malakir and Dictate of Erebos ensure that any attempts to remove one of your creatures is met with every opponent losing a creature as well.
Once your opponents have enough creatures in their graveyards, you can start reanimating them. You will want a few spells that can target your own graveyard, but it’s more helpful to have ones that can target an opponent’s graveyard since that is the strategy. Of course you will want the original necromancy card that started it all, Reanimate, as well as the enchantment Animate Dead. The Eldest Reborn takes a few turns to go off, but it has the option to grab a planeswalker. Grave Upheaval and Rise from the Grave can also hit all graveyards.
The down side of these cards is that they are one-time-use. Luckily there are several other cards that can do a whole lot more when it comes to reanimate effects. Adarkar Valkyrie can make better use of your single target removal by activating her ability, naming the creature you want to destroy, and then casting your removal spell. Sepulchral Primordial allows you to reanimate a creature from each opponent’s graveyard when it comes into play. Debtors’ Knell allows you to reanimate a creature at the beginning of your upkeep. Grave Betrayal can reanimate every creature that dies under your opponents’ control. And finally, when you just need to reanimate everything, Rise of the Dark Realms is the ultimate necromancy spell.
Once you have enough of your opponents’ creatures on your side, it’s time to make use of them. If you have an army’s worth of creatures, Avacyn Angel of Hope will work well by giving them all indestructible while True Conviction gives them all double strike and lifelink. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite can turn small creatures into imposing threats while sizing down any opposing creatures. If you want more card draw, sacrifice smaller creatures by equipping Skullclamp to them. For a quicker win, use Anger to give all of those reanimated creatures haste. Of course Anger has to be in your graveyard so be careful to not reanimate it by accident.
Some of the spells mentioned so far are not cheap and that is a huge potential problem for non green and non blue decks. The best way to mitigate this is by making sure that you hit each land drop possible until you can cast any card in the deck. The easiest way to ensure this is with card draw and artifact ramp. Black’s card draw requires sacrifices, usually life, which is okay. Red is limited to rummage and loot effects, and white… well, white hardly has any that would be considered good. Black is the best option for keeping the cards and mana flowing. You will want Ancient Craving and anything similar to it. Underworld Connections allows for a second card each turn. Let’s not forget all of the tutors that black has access to, like Demonic Tutor. For generating mana there are two cards that can really help out a deck like this, Black Market and Smothering Tithe.
Tariel, Reckoner of Souls certainly isn’t a great commander, but she has a nice build around strategy. Typical reanimator decks use spells to mill yourself or rummage and loot effects hoping to get a big finisher into the graveyard and then use a cheap reanimation spell on it to bring it out early. This one relies more on killing creatures after they have entered the battlefield and then bringing them back under your control. That wraps up Tariel, Reckoner of Souls in commander. Let me know what commander you want to see next in the comments below.