Table of Contents
Hello everyone! Today I’ll be going over Orzhov Clerics, a Standard deck updated for Alchemy. While the core of this deck remains the same, it gains one of the most powerful cards in Alchemy, Inquisitor Captain, and another strong two-drop in Angel of Unity.
Best of One (Bo1)
Best of Three (Bo3)
The most important card that this deck gains is Inquisitor Captain. An incredibly powerful card that has been making waves in Alchemy, Inquisitor Captain also happens to be a cleric, and therefore triggers not only Lunarch Veteran, but also Cleric of Life’s Bond twice. This, combined with the fact that this deck is packed with high-impact cheap creatures to seek for, and the fact that Inquisitor Captain fills the role of a second target for Pyre of Heroes in the 4-drop makes Inquisitor Captain an excellent addition to the deck.
The second new addition to this deck is Angel of Unity. Angel of Unity works great with clerics, because clerics are a party creature type, and Angel of Unity having flying and lifelink is just icing on the cake. Lastly, Angel of Unity is great with Righteous Valkyrie, because not only does it have three toughness, but it also pumps the toughness of creatures you have yet to cast.
The core of this deck is made up of, of course, clerics, but also a whole lot of lifegain. Cleric of Life's Bond, Righteous Valkyrie, Pyre of Heroes, and Orah, Skyclave Hierophant all directly synergize with clerics, and nearly all the cards in the deck either gain life, reward you for gaining life, or both.
The first part of any good lifegain deck is a way to gain life, and this deck certainly has no problem with that with 12 Soul Warden effects. First up is Lunarch Veteran, which is the best at what it does. The primary one-drop for this deck, Lunarch Veteran can lead to some busted starts if followed up by a Voice of the Blessed or Cleric of Life's Bond. Synergies aside, Lunarch Veteran is both at alleviating early-game pressure with its incidental lifegain and applying early-game pressure with its cheap, recursive body.
Cleric of Life's Bond and Righteous Valkyrie are more expensive versions of Lunarch Veteran, but each come with their own additional upside. While Cleric of Life’s Bond does cost a mana more and only triggers off clerics, it acts as an enabler and payoff for lifegain all in one and can get pretty big pretty quick, and not only does Righteous Valkyrie gain more life than either of the aforementioned, it provides a massive payoff if you can get to 27 or more life.
The second ingredient in our lifegain soup has to be, of course, payoffs. Lifegain in and of itself can be worth quite a lot when playing against an aggressive deck, but this deck also does an excellent job getting extra value from every point of lifegain. Additionally, one of the strengths of this deck is that many of the cards fuel their own synergies, so drawing all enablers or all payoffs is very unlikely.
Voice of the Blessed and Cleric of Life’s Bond are both variants of the classic Ajani's Pridemate, the default payoff for these kinds of decks. Both, but especially Voice of the Blessed can become enormous (and flying) in no time. Righteous Valkyrie, while initially less explosive, can make your team massive as early as turn four, giving your board a double Glorious Anthem once you’re above 27 life.
Now that we’ve gone over the basic meat and potatoes of this deck, we can get to the fun stuff.
Cleric of Life's Bond and Righteous Valkyrie give a good reason to keep all our creatures clerics, but the second real synergy piece of this deck is Pyre of Heroes because it turns out even a significantly worse Birthing Pod can still be very powerful in the right deck. Pyre of Heroes is great at gaining life by triggering enters-the-battlefield triggers, and while Skyclave Apparition isn’t a cleric, it can still be fetched by Skyclave Cleric, and fetch Orah, Skyclave Hierophant. One of Pyre of Heroes biggest strengths is how well it works with Orah, and conveniently, if you don’t draw an Orah you can still tutor it straight onto the battlefield with any of this deck’s three-drops. Additionally, the new addition of Inquisitor Captain means that if you run out of Orahs, or don’t need one, you have an excellent second option to search for.
Finally, the deck is rounded out with a bit of utility. Skyclave Apparition gives this deck some removal, and Elite Spellbinder can disrupt the opponent’s curve, as well give you information about what the opponent might be casting next.
Decks in best-of-one tend to be faster and more proactive, and slightly more consistent because of opening hand smoothing. The changes I made to the maindeck are adding two Infernal Grasp and maxing out on Skyclave Apparition to have a better matchup against creatures. To make room I cut the two Elite Spellbinder because control, the matchup Elite Spellbinder is in the deck for, is less common in best-of-one, and I cut one Pyre of Heroes because games tend to go long less often.
Finally, Valorous Stance is in the sideboard as a flexible tool against both aggro and control. It’s a great way to answer control finishers like Lier, Disciple of the Drowned or Hullbreaker Horror without risking being stuck with a dead removal spell.
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
Seeing as Alchemy is still wide open right now, more than ever don’t stick blindly to the sideboard guide. Some general guidelines to sideboarding with this deck are to board out Skyclave Apparition against control, and board in hatebears and Duress. Against aggro, board out Elite Spellbinder, as it’s worse against lower curve decks, and if you don’t see the game going long, board out Pyre of Heroes as well.
Finally, be wary of overboarding, as this deck does rely on synergies and cutting too many Clerics could lead to you having a hard time reaching critical mass.
|+2 Infernal Grasp||-2 Elite Spellbinder|
|+2 Bloodchief's Thirst||-2 Pyre of Heroes|
|+2 Valorous Stance||-3 Voice of the Blessed|
|+1 Skyclave Apparition|
This matchup is excellent, and one of the reasons why I believe Orzhov Clerics is so well-positioned right now. This deck’s abundance of lifegain makes racing very hard for Mono-One of this deck’s many strengths is its incredible matchup against aggressive decks. With a massive amount of lifegain, and creatures that can grow out of range of red and green removal in the blink of an eye, this deck is heavily favored against most fast decks.
In the early game, default to eating damage instead of trading off your creatures before they grow or get to trigger, as you can stabilize later with lifegain from even some of the most unwinnable board states.
A rough matchup for this deck, sacrifice decks often have plenty of removal and an excellent early and late game against you. Try to outsize a The Meathook Massacre, but be wary of relying on your Righteous Valkyrie for this as a The Meathook Massacre big enough to kill your 4/6 or 6/8 Valkyries is both more than possible with Treasure tokens, and getting drained below 27 life is always a possibility as well.
|+2 Elite Spellbinder||-3 Skyclave Apparition|
|+2 Go Blank||-2 Pyre of Heroes|
|+2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben||-3 Voice of the Blessed|
|+2 Duress||-2 Angel of Unity|
|+2 Valorous Stance|
This matchup ranges wildly based on your opponent’s exact list. Usually you shouldn’t find yourself needing to overextend into a wrath, because even a couple creatures can get big pretty quick, but be careful not to let yourself fall behind to a planeswalker either. Orah, Skyclave Hierophant is your best card in this matchup because it gives you a ton of resilience to wraths, and Elite Spellbinder and Pyre of Heroes are excellent as well.
One thing that is especially important with this deck is sequencing. Many of the cards in this deck do the nearly same thing, just slightly differently, just take Lunarch Veteran and Cleric of Life's Bond for example, or Cleric of Life's Bond and Voice of the Blessed. Additionally, the amount of different enters-the-battlefield triggers in this deck mean that planning out your turns ahead of time is hugely important when it comes to maximizing value.
Another thing that is important to mention with regards to sequencing is lands. Keeping in mind lands when sequencing is very important, as sometimes you’ll need double white on turn-two for Voice of the Blessed, but you may also want to get down your Hive of the Eye Tyrant before it comes in tapped. With that being said, here are some general rules for sequencing:
- Pay a lot of attention when sequencing two-drops, and don’t forget that Angel of Unity has lifelink, and therefore can trigger your Cleric of Life’s Bonds and Voice of the Blessed the turn they come down.
- Try to get Righteous Valkyrie down as soon as possible, if left unanswered it will in most cases put you over 27 within a turn or two, and take over the game in short order. The upside from an early Righteous Valkyrie is so high it’s usually not worth playing around removal by playing it only once you’re already at 27 life.
- If necessary, save your higher toughness creatures for after you cast Righteous Valkyrie to gain more life. Getting to 27 or more a turn earlier can represent a massive amount of extra damage, so make sure to do the math. Additionally, it’s often better to pump the creature you’re planning to play after Righteous Valkyrie, rather than Righteous Valkyrie itself.
- If you play a creature that grows when you gain life, for example, Voice of the Blessed, and you have another creature that gains life, say a Lunarch Veteran, stack the triggers so that the lifegain from Lunarch Veteran resolves before that of Righteous Valkyrie. Voice of the Blessed will become a 3/3, and you will then gain three life instead of two from the Righteous Valkyrie trigger.
- You can either play a turn-two Voice of the Blessed, or play an untapped Hive of the Eye Tyrant, but not both.
- Agadeem's Awakening has a very powerful effect when cast for six or seven mana, so if you don’t think it’s likely you’ll need the extra mana from the land side, hold it instead of playing it out as a swamp. Even if you do need to play it untapped, this deck does a good job mitigating the life loss.
- Most importantly, feel free to break any of these rules if you feel it’s worth it in a particular situation, these are general guidelines and not set in stone by any means!
Tips, Tricks, and Things to Watch Out For
- Cleric of Life's Bond only triggers off of clerics, and Righteous Valkyrie only triggers off of clerics and angels, but Lunarch Veteran triggers off of anything. Voice of the Blessed triggers each time you gain life, but Cleric of Life's Bond only triggers only on the first time life is gained per turn. This means that if you gain life, then in the same turn play a Cleric of Life's Bond and gain life again, Cleric of Life's Bond won’t get a counter.
- Keep in mind there are more creature types in common in this deck than just cleric, which is especially relevant for Crippling Fear and Pyre of Heroes. Also, for Crippling Fear, don’t forget that while not many of the creatures your opponents play are clerics, some decks still run Luminarch Aspirant, which is a cleric.
- If one of your creatures has lethal damage marked on it but is being kept alive by a Righteous Valkyrie giving it +2/+2, if you go below 27 life or the Righteous Valkyrie dies, your other creature will also die. This is especially relevant if you might go below 27 during combat, or if your opponent is representing instant-speed removal.
- Sometimes it’s best not to cast the disturb side of Lunarch Veteran so that it can be reanimated by
Orah, Skyclave Cleric, or by Agadeem's Awakening.
- While for some reason Arena doesn’t tell you which creature each Orah trigger is for, you can usually deduce it by looking at what the highest mana cost creature that you can target with each creature is.
- Pyre of Heroes only searches for a creature that costs exactly one more than the creature you sacrificed. If you sacrifice the disturb side of Lunarch Veteran, you’ll search for a creature with mana cost two.
- It is possible to go below 20 creatures for Inquisitor Captain in a really long grindy game, especially if your opponent has been utilizing exile-based removal.
Orzhov Clerics is a strong proactive deck for the early days of Alchemy. It has a great aggro matchup, and is a powerful synergistic deck that rewards precise technical play, especially in the early turns.