After last week’s disastrous foray into the world of Advisors, we decided on a different Advisor this week (she is, in fact, the only other Standard-legal Advisor): Teysa Karlov. As a pretty clear build-around card, Teysa not only synergizes with the Orzhov’s afterlife mechanic, but also with any token-based strategies. As a result, it was time to dust off one of our old favorites—Divine Visitation is up and about once again!
This deck is capable of very powerful things when the cards line up nicely, and has a surprising amount of staying power when they don’t. Sticky threats, high-quality answers, and a range of potent late-game engines mean this deck can contest the longer game, and its abundance of annoying early plays means it’s likely to have the game go longer than an opponent might like.
Unfortunately, it’s not the most consistent list, and you’ll sometimes draw the wrong half of the deck or fail to draw the right cards in the right order. Nonetheless, the power level is definitely there, and a good start will often leave the opponent in the dust.
4 Godless Shrine 4 Isolated Chapel 10 Plains 6 Swamp 4 Hunted Witness 3 Tithe Taker 4 Orzhov Enforcer 3 Priest of Forgotten Gods 2 Midnight Reaper 1 Elenda, the Dusk Rose 4 Teysa Karlov 4 Divine Visitation 3 Open the Graves 4 Legion's Landing/Adanto, the First Fort 4 Kaya's Wrath
The cards are broadly divided into three categories: setup, enablers, and payoffs. Everything that costs fewer than 4 mana (except Legion’s Landing and Priest of Forgotten Gods) is a setup card—creatures that provide death-based triggers to allow the payoff cards to do their best work. Afterlife creatures provide tokens, Midnight Reaper draws cards—generally speaking, you’re ready to let your creatures die.
Second, there are the enablers. Kaya’s Wrath and Priest of Forgotten Gods not only reward you for killing your own creatures—they enable the payoff cards to provide immense value and push you further ahead (while still punishing your opponent with a sweeper or edict effect!). Ideally, even one use of these cards will be enough to put you in firm control of the game.
Third, the payoffs are designed to provide insurmountable advantage for playing your natural game. They’re expensive and a little clunky, especially in the face of Spell Pierce, as this week’s video showed, but when they fire it’s very difficult for an opponent to keep up. Open the Graves provides more tokens post-sweeper, Divine Visitation upgrades 1/1 Spirits or 2/2 Zombies into 4/4 Angels, and Teysa Karlov doubles everything she touches. Even just having one of these payoff cards can be enough to put you in a winning position. Happily, they all synergize terrifically with one another, so having two or three is even better!
The game plan is a simple one: flood the board early with cheap creatures, land a payoff card, then kill off your creatures to reap the rewards. Kaya’s Wrath is the best way to do this (you still get double triggers if your Kaya’s Wrath kills your Teysa), but even just blocking will get the job done.
Tithe Taker and Orzhov Enforcer have pseudo-interactive roles in this deck, attacking spells and creatures respectively. This is important, as the early game is the trickiest point for this deck. If you can survive to untap with one of your payoff cards, you should be in a good position to turn the corner. As a result, ensure you get maximum value from your early plays, and use your life total as a resource, especially with all the incidental life gain in this deck.
Teysa Karlov, Divine Visitation, and Open the Graves are all powerful on their own, but when they work together, the results are explosive. Here’s what happens if a Hunted Witness dies while you control two or more of these cards:
- Visitation + Open the Graves: Two vigilant 4/4 Angels for a total of 8 power and toughness.
- Teysa + Open the Graves: Two lifelinking, vigilant 1/1 Soldiers plus two lifelinking, vigilant 2/2 Zombies for a total of 6 power and toughness.
- Teysa + Visitation: Two lifelinking, vigilant 4/4 Angels for a total of 8 power and toughness.
- Teysa + Visitation + Open the Graves: Four lifelinking, vigilant 4/4 Angels for a total of 16 power and toughness.
Turns out the witness really was hunted. Not bad for a 1-drop!
This is illustrative of how powerful it can be for your creatures to die, and that’s just a single Hunted Witness. If you have an afterlife creature, a Midnight Reaper, or the mighty Elenda, the Dusk Rose, you’re going to be swimming in triggered abilities. Make the most of this by setting up a board where your creatures’ deaths will provide you with maximum value.
Finally, don’t forget the deck’s plan B: Legion’s Landing plus Divine Visitation. It’s easy enough to transform the Landing with a pre-Kaya’s Wrath chump-attack, and churning out a 4/4 every turn will usually be good enough!
This week’s video didn’t do justice to the deck’s power level. We got wrecked by some well-timed Spell Pierces, and some of the games we lost were incredibly close. Overall, however, the deck actually offers a very powerful game plan and doesn’t immediately fold to any opposing strategy (although Mono-Blue is definitely a very tricky matchup).
There are some slight changes we can make, however. The deck lacks “real” interaction, which is something of a weakness, and does have a few too many clunky cards at the top end. It might be better, therefore, to pull back on going all-in on the setup-payoff-enabler plan in order to add a little bit of disruption.
4 Godless Shrine 4 Isolated Chapel 10 Plains 6 Swamp 4 Hunted Witness 3 Tithe Taker 4 Orzhov Enforcer 2 Priest of Forgotten Gods 4 Teysa Karlov 2 Midnight Reaper 2 Mortify 3 Divine Visitation 3 Open the Graves 3 Legion's Landing/Adanto, the First Fort 2 Vraska's Contempt 4 Kaya's Wrath
Adding some versatile answers like Mortify and Vraska’s Contempt allows you to be a little well-rounded against noncreature threats (such as the arch-nemesis of the Arena Boys, Vivien Reid), and makes the deck less reliant on Kaya’s Wrath as the only way to deal with opposing threats.
In adding these cards, we shave a Legion’s Landing (which isn’t our plan A), a Priest of Forgotten Gods (which is horrific in multiples), Divine Visitation (seven 5-drops is a lot), and Elenda, the Dusk Rose. I don’t like cutting Elenda as she’s a heap of fun with Teysa out—Teysa doubles both the counters put on her and the tokens she creates—but the card is more of a fun-of than anything and we’re already flush with 4-drops.
This deck is a ton of fun to play and has the potential for very powerful sequences indeed. Doubtless it can be improved further, but even in this form it’s placed at an excellent intersection between fun and semi-competitive viability!