Standard Bo1 Orzhov Clerics: The Power of Standard’s Newest Tribal Deck
Hello everyone! I’ve been on a Best of One binge and nobody can stop me. I generally wasn’t much of a Best of One player, however I’ve been quickly learning about the appeal of playing the format. Best of 3 is the premiere competitive format, but without sideboarded games, significantly more decks have a chance to shine where they normally wouldn’t.
On that note, today I’m going to highlight the first Tribal deck I’ve seen that’s been playable in this Standard rotation, Orzhov Clerics. Before anything else, let me go over quickly what I think a Tribal deck is. To me, a Tribal deck is a creature based deck mostly focused around a Tribal subtheme, like Goblins, Elves, Kithkin, and now, Clerics. There is Standard Rogues, but they aren’t so much based around the Rogues as it’s more of a Tempo/Mill strategy, rather than a dedicated creature strategy. Am I being pedantic? Probably, but calling Rogues a Tribal deck feels inaccurate to me.
Anyway, let’s take a look at the decklist.
Ok, so this isn’t a true tribal deck as only 20/26 creatures are Clerics, but I think that’s close enough! Before we discuss card choices, let’s talk about why you should consider trying this deck out.
WHY PLAY ORZHOV CLERICS?
When you’re approaching the Best of One format, the most important factor is a deck’s ability to either close games quickly or stymie your opponent’s ability to win quickly. A misconception about Best of One is that only fast decks are playable, a notion even I somewhat had, but have been corrected on quickly the more I play Best of One. Orzhov Clerics is an interesting deck for Best of One as instead of looking to close out games super fast or looking to stymie the opponent, Clerics tries to utilize the best of both worlds.
Clerics isn’t a dedicated aggro deck, but it certainly can have it’s fast starts. With 9 1 drop creatures, 12 2 drop creatures, and 7 proactive plays (Heliod, Lurrus, Maul), you can definitely have extremely fast starts. The ability to have a nut draw is an enticing feature of any deck, especially in Best of One where you can leverage being on the play, so being able to do that even if you aren’t a dedicated aggro deck is quite the boon for the deck.
As I said, this deck isn’t a dedicated aggro deck, so what is it? I would argue that although the deck has an extremely low curve, this plays out more like an aggressively slanted midrange deck. The biggest issue with aggro decks in the traditional sense is that they suffer from two main problems: if they have to play off curve it’s very hard to win or if they are disrupted a few times they can really struggle to win. The nice part about Orzhov is that, although capable of winning quickly, certainly doesn’t need to in order to win the game. A lot of threats that can be deployed early can also have late game utility where other decks early game really only shine when they are played early. Alseid is a protection spell, Speaker of the Heavens can make 4/4s, Archfiend’s Vessel comes back as a 5/5, Nullpriest of Oblivion can reanimate a creature and so on. Having a large amount of your threats good both early and late is great at mitigating drawing the “wrong” half of your deck and makes sure you’ll always have a reasonable chance to play Magic.
Alseid serves double duty as the beginning of your curve or a way to protect your other creatures later in the game. Furthermore, having Lifelink helps synergize with your Cleric of Life’s Bond and Heliod, Sun-Crowned.
Admittedly, Vessel isn’t the most exciting 1 drop you could play as the front side is just a 1 mana 1/1 Lifelink, but we wouldn’t play it if that’s all it does. The obvious function of Vessel is to bring it back later in the game to turn it into a 5/5, but it actually has more utility here than it does in most other decks. The Lifelink is relevant in this deck like it is for Alseid, and it’s a Cleric for Cleric of Life’s Bond.
Once more, a 1 mana 1/1 Cleric with Lifelink isn’t super exciting, however, if you get to 27 life, the fireworks start. Tapping to make a 4/4 every turn is an extremely punishing ability if you manage to get ahead early and puts the onus on the opponent to try and race, a prospect which is difficult against a deck that’s looking to gain a lot of life.
A lot of you don’t know the good word of Ajani’s Pridemate, but don’t worry, I’m here to share it. Unfortunately for this Cleric, you only can get one +1/+1 counter per turn which is a huge downside, however, getting a blip of life every time you play a Cleric is an extremely relevant ability. The issue with Ajani’s Pridemate is when your team gets stonewalled, it could be really hard to grow them, but as long as you keep casting Clerics, you can keep growing these hungry vampires.
To be honest, I forgot this was a Cleric and would happily play it if it wasn’t. This card is just gross, doubly so when you have 9 1 drops to grow and they all have Lifelink to get you ahead as early as turn 2.
Ok, Child of Night generally isn’t a playable card, but Nullpriest has 2 stark advantages. First off, Menace makes this very hard to block for most decks as it’s rare they’ll have multiple creatures back when they’re forced to race. Second, although it doesn’t happen often, the reanimate trigger isn’t anything to sneeze at.
If we’re talking life gain, obviously we need the God of life gain himself. Your 1/1 lifelinkers generally aren’t that exciting, but when you have Heliod on board to take advantage of the small blips of life, you can make really scary threats very quickly.
Lurrus has Lifelink, of course we have to play it! No? Not convincing? Fine. Lurrus is great at recurring your cheap creatures that can get a lot of value later in the game, especially Archfiend’s Vessel.
1 Legion Angel (3 in the Sideboard)
Legion Angel hasn’t caught on in Best of Three since using up 2/3 sideboard slots really wasn’t worth it, but for Best of One? It’s literally free real estate. A 4 mana 4/3 flier is a decent stat line, but when you manage to draw the first one, you at a minimum have a good play for the next 3 turns as well.
Since we’re playing Black, we get to play some removal spells for no cost, a welcome addition to any deck. Thirst is particularly good in Best of One as lower curves tend to prevail compared to Best of 3, and for 4 mana, you can kill anything your heart desires.
With the high density of 1 and 2 drops, Call the Death Dweller is an absolute MVP in this deck. I like 3 copies as getting multiple copies early can be detrimental, but I can absolutely see going up to 4. Use this as a cheap way to reconstitute your board after some combat or removal.
I believe the 3/3 split to Heartless Act and Bloodchief’s Thirst is reasonable to hedge against larger creatures, but you can really split these however you feel appropriate. Heartless Act is worse against killing small creatures, but way better when the creatures are 3 CMC and up.
One of the issues with playing a deck with a lot of small creatures is the difficulty to close the game out. With Maul however, that shouldn’t be a problem. Jump up your little idiots with Lifelink to make racing a nightmare for your opponent or slap it on a chunker to kill the opponent quickly.
22 Lands – As a note, you certainly could play MDFCs like Emeria’s Call or Agadeem’s Awakening, but I just didn’t include them for the sake of wildcards. I wouldn’t play Emeria’s Call anyway more than likely, but 1 Agadeem’s Awakening is probably good.
- Whenever you are playing a deck with threats and removal, you need to know when to cast each. My rule of thumb is that if your removal spell will destroy a creature that is better than one you can deploy, and it’s mana efficient to do so, you should probably go for the removal. Otherwise, deploy your threat.
- Alseid of Life’s Bounty and Archfiend’s Vessel are great to throw away early as their value scales better into the late game anyway. Don’t be afraid to trade them off for Cleric or Heliod triggers.
- You will very likely win the game if you get to start triggering Speaker of the Heavens ability so prioritizing getting to 27 life and protecting Speaker is an easy way to win a game, but don’t think that’s your only or best way to win.
- Cleric of Life’s Bond only gains a counter for the first time each turn, thus in a board stall it may be correct to hold a Cleric in your hand to trigger it again on a subsequent turn.
- Don’t worry too much about the kicker cost on Nullpriest of Oblivion. It’s more incidental value if you get it to work rather than the card’s primary use. However, if you are very close to paying the kicker and it’s good to do so, you may as well.
- Treat Heliod more as a board buff rather than a creature. It can be very difficult to turn it into a creature so I generally don’t prioritize trying to do so.
- If at any point Call the Death Dweller will get you back 2 creatures, you should likely do that over any other play as it’s the most powerful thing this deck can generally do.
- Maul of the Skyclaves is generally viewed as an offensive tool, but if you give a 1/1 Lifelinker flying and first strike as well, it can be an extremely powerful blocker too.
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