Welcome back to the Epic Experiment!
Crimson Vow is here and we have got a metric ton of new Commanders and sweet brews that are popping up all over the internet! Don’t believe me? Checking out the homepage of Moxfield or Archidekt reveals all manner of new brews and I felt it was time I jumped in for another budget friendly offering.
So, welcome back to the Epic Experiment and it is time to roll up our sleeves and brew a budget friendly EDH deck for everyone’s favourite bride… Olivia, Crimson Bride.
Let’s start with explaining my rationale for this deck. Olivia is a powerful Commander that immediately got plenty of attention and with good cause. She is a very powerful vampire Commander that can enable all sorts of powerful graveyard strategies and return scary threats to the battlefield. A quick scrape of EDHrec shows that the majority of Olivia decks are running a heavy tribal component and plenty of vampires. The problem with Vampires as a tribe right now is that they are very expensive because everyone is keen to brew with them and looking to update the Edgar Markow pre-con from 2017. This means that it is tough to keep any new vampire deck budget friendly so if we want to run Olivia. We need to approach her slightly differently.
Olivia has the very powerful clause allowing her to reanimate creatures from the graveyard. If we can’t play vampires, the next best thing to do is to stock our deck full of beefy boys and use Olivia to help us get them out onto the board. Seems good to me.
So, if we are going to maximize how we use Olivia, we are going to need to stock our graveyards. This would be easier if we had access to Green, but we don’t. So, our deck has a series of graveyard enablers, reanimation targets that are budget friendly and a little redundancy in the shape of a handful of other vampires to ensure our beef cakes don’t vanish too rapidly. Let’s dive into the deck and see how we are going to get there.
Here’s the list!
The Ramp Package
By virtue of being in Rakdos, we need to have enough artifact ramp to get our expensive 6 mana commander onto the battlefield reliably. We are running obvious inclusions, including Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, and Rakdos Signet to get us started. Commander’s Sphere and Mind Stone also make the cut for budget considerations and utility. None of these are fancy, but they get the job done in virtually every deck.
The last ramp piece I really like in this strategy is Burnished Hart because it is just a useful creature. You can sacrifice it to help you find your land drops, but even once it has been sacrificed, Olivia can recur it 2 or 3 more times. The nice piece is that the way Olivia is templated, creatures reanimated with Olivia get exiled if you do not have a legendary vampire on the battlefield. They do not get exiled if you sacrifice them before the vampire is removed, meaning you can protect your creatures from being exiled if you have a sac outlet on the battlefield or can otherwise put your creatures into your graveyard. This is why this deck needs cards like Viscera Seer and Woe Strider to protect your creatures from being exiled and allowing Olivia to recur Burnished Hart on multiple occasions.
The Graveyard Enablers
While there are a few ways for us to mill our own deck in black, the best and most consistent ways are usually attached to green. What I would do to have access to Grisly Salvage in this list!
However, Stitchers Supplier and Venomous Hierophant, and Corpse Churn are the only three true mill cards. Everything else is us being required to pitch our cards to the graveyard, to then turn around, and use them promptly. So, Tormenting Voice, Cathartic Reunion, Buried Alive, and Unmarked Grave help us to fill our graveyard and to stock it with some of our powerful creatures. There are also a number of discard effects like the one on Chainer, Nightmare Adept, the surveil on Doom Whisperer and the ETB on Burning-Rune Demon which can all help to fill our yard.
The truth whenever you are running an expensive Commander is that you can’t just jam her into a busy battlefield and expect your 6 mana commander to survive for long. Your opponents are going to see her coming and will save something nasty for her. So, in order to keep yourself in the game, you need to have some tools to force your opponent to really consider building out their board. A couple of sweepers and plenty of targeted removal is the order of the day and should give you enough tools to force your opponents to attack elsewhere and buy you time to get Olivia online.
My personal favorite sweepers are the snow payoffs in the shape of Blood on the Snow and Dead of Winter. Blood on the Snow is terrific because it can also double as a reanimate spell meaning you can be the first to get something back out on the field and hopefully press the advantage. Dead of Winter is a poor man’s Toxic Deluge if you construct your deck properly. It isn’t nearly as consistent, but when push comes to shove it can do the job as often as not, so long as you have enough snow lands.
Being in black and red, we have plenty of strong options for instant speed kill spells and I am starting this list with Terminate, Infernal Grasp, and Bedevil. You can certainly add plenty more depending on your meta. I like having some number of single target removal spells, but I am a little leery about too many until I know what sorts of decks my opponents are apt to run.
The Beefy Boys
If your goal is to reanimate things, you clearly need a fairly healthy sized creature package with some very good targets to power your deck. Fortunately, we get access to things like demons and dragons, so there really is no shortage of targets. The real issue is how much of our budget can we sink into this if we want to play good reanimation targets. I would love to run Razaketh, Sheoldred, and other huge hitters, but the old wallet is feeling a little empty with Christmas just around the corner.
The number one mean thing I can think of is Etali, and since he has recently had a reprint, his price is quite affordable. If you can get Etali to stick around, then you are talking about a really scary snow-ball effect where the game can quickly get out of control. Doom Whisperer is another great option and can help pack our yard. I also appreciate Doom Whisperer because at 5 mana you can just jam it as a mid-range play and be 100% okay with that. Vilis, Broker of Blood is another fantastic option. The last really fun one to dig up is Sepuchral Primordial because if reanimating 1 thing is fun, getting 3 more of your opponents things is even more fun!
The one thing with Olivia that scares me is the clause that exiles my reanimated targets if I don’t control another legendary vampire. So, in order to try and hedge my bets and to ensure I can continue to smack the board around, I decided I needed to pack a couple of legendary vampires into the list to help ensure I have an extra one. Zagras, Florian, Olivia, Mobilized for War, and Drana, the Last Bloodchief can all play the role of the legendary vampire and protect your big guys, and can still offer you interesting effects to help advance your game plan.
On the whole, this deck looks like a lot of fun. There is most definitely a game plan the deck wants to put into action and it has the tools to make that happen fairly consistently.
However, let us speak plainly. This is not a fine tuned list that will smash a table full of strong decks. This is looking to be a budget friendly intro to this sort of strategy that someone could pick up, play, have some fun, and then upgrade over time to be a more streamlined and powerful version.
Hopefully having me go through my thought process for using Olivia as a Commander gets your brewing juices flowing. Crimson Vow has plenty of fun options and I expect lots of unique new brews in the next few weeks, so hold on tight!
If you enjoyed my thoughts or have something you would like to see explored in more detail, please check out our decks and much more each week on our podcast on iTunes, Google Podcast, Spotify, Amazon, and anywhere else you find better podcasts. Just look for the name The Epic Experiment Podcast! We’d love to have you join us!