Hello everyone! Today I’m going to go over another extremely underrated tribe that has been putting in some serious work for me: Clerics. I’ve been trying to make Clerics work for many sets now, but I always felt that the deck was lacking some sort of punch to get it across the finish line.
However, 2022 cures all ails and it seemed like there was no better time to try again than in a fresh format! With that, I was scrolling through the Mtgazone submitted decklists and found that someone already beat me to the punch.
Trust me, I’m not complaining! It makes my life way easier when I have a base to work off of, and better yet this deck has already proven itself a bit by top 8ing a tournament! I liked the look of the base so I got to work. The deck did a lot of things right, but it had some suspect elements to it.
First off, having Doomskar in your creature deck didn’t make much sense to me. Furthermore, Baleful Mastery is super clunky and didn’t make sense to play over a more efficient removal spell. Lastly, although it’s super cool, Pyre of Heroes was seriously underperforming for me as it only felt good when I was already winning.
Beyond those concrete issues I had with the deck, some of the other cards like Dawnbringer Cleric, Priest of Ancient Lore, and Cleric Class were underperforming for me as well. With all this information in mind, I tinkered around until I came to a list I was very satisfied with. Let’s take a look and then talk card choices.
I have no explanation beyond this card is just excellent and I’ll try to put it in any Black deck I can. It draws cards, it makes great blockers, and it’s amazing Wrath insurance.
How could you play Clerics and leave out one of the best ones!? Ok, in fairness, Luminarch actually isn’t great in this deck as we’re not an aggressive deck, but it’s still an absurdly powerful card. It also being a Cleric is just gravy.
The nutty Professor is a solid early play that also gives us access to the Lesson board. I will always play better Elvish Visionary and it being a Cleric is also quite nice!
Although a Menacing Child of Night isn’t that impressive, we’re more playing this for the Kicker ability. Getting 2 bodies for 6 mana is a pretty good deal in the late game.
We don’t necessarily have a dedicated life gain theme in the deck necessarily, but Life’s Bond is just a great card. Gaining a life and growing with every Cleric is a great deal for a 2 drop and can put a lot of pressure on the opponent quite quickly.
One of the most powerful Clerics around. This interacts with the opponent, hits hard, and is an amazing target to get back off of Orah, Skyclave Hierophant.
One of the most powerful tribal payoffs in 2022. Righteous Valkyrie is absolutely nuts as it’s a great body, gains life with every creature, and randomly becomes an anthem if you’re already ahead. Even if we had no other payoff, playing Clerics just for Valkyrie would still likely be worth it.
Orah is another great payoff in a deck that’s already packed to the brim with synergy. Although it’s a bit worse here than in the original version as I don’t play Pyre of Heroes, making every creature you play inherently gain value by threatening a reanimation on death is such an insanely scary ability.
Angel is a wincon that has seen functionally no play, but will win you games you have absolutely no business winning. It’s extremely easy to win the game after untapping with this as you only need to attack the opponent and have 35 life for the alternate win condition to activate. It can be at odds with some of the more aggressive elements, but as long as you know which game plan you’re working towards it has yet to be a problem.
MDFCs are a bit awkward in a deck that’s looking to get to very high life totals, but the chances to have this be a 5 mana doubel reanimation spell makes it worthwhile.
Same as Agadeem's Awakening where it’s a bit awkward, but this card is also nuts. It creates a huge board by itself, gives the squad indestructible (minus your Angels), and works with Righteous Valkyrie. Talk about value!
This is one of the replacements for the 2 of Baleful Mastery. It was so rare I was exiling a Planeswalker and this will kill most creatures you need to kill.
One of the best removal spells in 2022. Although this is limited to being played only in Orzhov, this kills nearly every relevant threat in the format which is insanely valuable.
99% of the time this will be used to clear out a blocker for a turn. However, this could also be helpful if you’re a turn away from lethal and you just need your opponent to not cast a board wipe.
If you need a land or 2 life at a premium.
A versatile removal spell that leaves only a marginally threatening body behind.
If you need to push through a little extra damage or you can make a huge creature against a deck that can’t meaningfully kill it.
The bomb of the lesson board.
This may be too niche, but I found having Planeswalker removal that doesn’t leave behind a 3/2 is pretty valuable. That being said, this does interact poorly with Blood on the Snow so this maybe should just be another Mascot Exhibition. Admittedly, I’ve been on the fence.
POTENTIAL INCLUSIONS / NOTABLE EXCLUSIONS
Cleric Class definitely wasn’t a bad card, but it felt pretty clunky. The first mode was surprisingly decent, especially in conjunction with Righteous Valkyrie and Angel of Destiny. I found the second mode to be near irrelevant as it was so hard to activate most of the time and I only really got to once I ran out of gas.
The third mode, however, was once again relevant as getting back a good creatures, gaining life, and having it grow a little but was a pretty decent deal. I like the card in theory, but the second mode was just too killer for me.
If the deck had more of a go wide strategy this would be a no brainer, but it’s pretty awkward with our curve otherwise. It’s a pretty reasonable card, I just don’t think it fits.
Dawnbringer Cleric was versatile, but versatile doesn’t always mean good.
This came close to making the cut, but we aren’t so hard on the life gain theme to make this card good enough.
An Honor of the Pure variant that’s actually very good, it’s just kind of unnecessary as we don’t need a bigger board most of the time.
This is a decent MDFC as it’s a great blocker and gains a bit of life. I’m not convinced this is better than a regular land, but it’s a reasonable option.
Similar to Hallowed Priest, if we had more lifegain themes in this deck, I could see this making the cut.
Priest was pretty solid as a better Phyrexian Rager can definitely be Standard playable, but unfortunately the other 3 drops are just better.
Skyclave is a great card, but it’s not a Cleric and we already have a good amount of removal. Seems unnecessary.
Decent Wrath insurance that is also a Cleric! I could see this as a 1-2 of in this deck.
This deck is really good at defending itself in combat so having a Planeswalker that can help with that and also threaten to be a huge Dragon a few turns down the line is definitely a reasonable option.
Great card, wrong creature type.
I considered this as a 1 of just because it was so powerful in the late game. Likely unneeded but something to consider.
Surprisingly reasonable considering most of our creatures are Fliers and a lot of the time we’re pecking in This can put some serious pressure on the opponent for a pretty low cost, but I don’t know what I’d cut to realistically make room.
This is a Cleric and a darling card for many players, but I just don’t think it’s good.
This may seem like a silly inclusion, but it’s actually quite reasonable. Constant access to the Leasson board is very powerful and this could easily take the spot of something like Nullpriest of Oblivion if you prioritize Lessons higher.
Very similar logic to Hunt for Specimens but this has the added bonus of making all your Flying creatures extremely threatening. I like this more than Hunt and highly considered playing this as a 1 of.
Pretty solid card as all the modes are relevant and we have a lot of 2 drops we could potentially recur. i think this is a bit too weak, but it’s probably a fine 1 of.
Great creature, wrong tribe.
I really like this card, but it’s a bit too weak for my taste.
Kaya, the Inexorable
It was a tough call between this and Lolth, but I think Lolth is a bit better. Control can be a problematic matchup for Clerics and Lolth is infinitely better on an empty board than Kaya is. If you prefer Kaya, I wouldn’t blame you for putting her in.
TIPS AND TRICKS
Try to hold onto Luminarch Aspirant as long as possible as it’s at it’s most valuable pumping up Fliers rather than it being deployed on turn 2 and eating a removal spell. That being said, obviously run it out if you don’t have other plays.
If you don’t know what to get off of Professor of Symbology early in the game, going for either Environmental Sciences or Mascot Exhibition is generally a safe bet depending on how many lands you have available.
Although you want to play Nullpriest of Oblivion when you can kick it, it can be a really good body against aggro decks.
Cleric of Life's Bond triggers off of every Cleric but only grows with the first instance of life gain EACH turn. You can try to plan around getting life gain on both turns if it’s possible.
Always put down Righteous Valkyrie ASAP unless you’re positive they’re holding removal for it. It will win the game so quickly in conjunction with your other creatures if it survives and too many players try to hold it waiting for the perfect opportunity.
Orah, Skyclave Hierophant works really well in multiples as you can get back two 3 drops and keep an Orah around.
Against Control, you may want to consider playing Angel of Destiny post combat to get their life total lower rather than looking to win via 35 life. It’s more liekly that they can kill the Angel before you win like that anyway.
Thank you for reading!