This entry is part 7 of 15 in the series Journey to Nowhere

by Judson AKA GUDoug

GUDougOne of my favorite decks is full of the worst creatures and permanents, and by worst I am referring to a pile a worthless chaff monsters and trinkets, not what most people would consider powerful game winners.  One of my favorite things to do in EDH is to demoralize people by besting them in game, killing them, and winning with crappy cards.  The deck that I am referring to has those crappy cards and can win with them.  I bring this up because I wanted to write an article that shared some of the seemingly garbage cards that I am enamored with, but while I was going through my decks I came to the realization that a great quantity of my favorite turds are in the aforementioned build.  It is a regular cavalcade of underwhelmingly mediocre ham and eggers.  That is until you notice that the general is Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker and all those turds suddenly begin to sparkle and shine like… well polished turds of course.

ShireiWhy would anyone want to play Shirei?  It started for me way back in the glory days of August 2010.  At that point I had been playing EDH for a little over two years and everyone was basking in the warm glow the newly released Scars of Mirrodin.  I found myself reading an Embrace the Chaos article by Sheldon Menery where in one of his old timey game recaps there is curious mention of some poor unfortunate soul playing Shirei named Jake.  Sheldon gets killed very quickly and quits documenting the game within about seven turns but those sweet sweet seven turns sent me on a journey of discovery.   In his ever so elegant composition he quickly and efficiently broke down each player’s turn, and within these brief recapped turns he pens some of the greatest EDH prose ever posted to the internet like “Jake: Death Cultist”, “Jake: Reassembling Skeleton”, “Jake: Heap Doll”, “Jake: Marsh Flitter…”, and “Jake: Royal Assassin. An old-school white-bordered copy.”  Having no idea what the hell Shirei did I had to know how this deck functioned off of such rotten almost benign creatures.  That was when I caught the bug and I have been chasing that dragon ever since (note to readers Shirei is not a dragon” .

It took me quite a while to get my Shirei brew to where it could function properly, win, and not peter out.  How you play Shirei is pretty simple in theory as you cast your 1/x or 0/x dudes, hopefully net some ability or abilities off of them, put them in your graveyard, return them at the end of turn, and repeat.  The deck is combo-ish with Shirei’s ability and is kind of like a differently worded one sided Lifeline, but with the restriction of having to play “more awesome” cards (or weak less than optimal cards depending on how you look at it) .  It is like hearing you are going to get free ice cream for life and you are excited, but then realize that is frozen dairy dessert (no longer containing enough milk and cream to actually be considered “ice cream”) and you are upset, but then it still tastes pretty good so you don’t care and you are back to being OK about the whole deal.  So…basically everything I have ever wanted in an EDH deck, a very unique general specific build playing crappy weird cards that nobody knows or plays with, especially in EDH, that has a synergistic verging on combo play style.  Making bad cards good is my thing.

Shirei

So I want to go through a few of the cards that aren’t necessarily your most common run of the mill EDH cards I run in my Shirei deck that may or may not have an application in other decks.  Hopefully I will have at least a few applications for these cards outside of my beloved Shirei.  These aren’t going to be the biggest turds in the deck, but several of them I have had more than one person laugh at me for playing.  If you really need to know the worst card in the deck I would probably have to say Black Cat.   I don’t want to imply that the cards I am going to talk about no one has heard.  I just don’t see them played often or at all.  It is a little presumptuous to call some of these underplayed since everyone has their own opinions on what cards are popular, and every group plays different cards and different generals.  I am just going to pretend the world revolves around me and what I see is the law.  So with that said here are some of my favorite lesser played cards that help my Shirei deck work.

Apprentice Necromancer
Apprentice NecromancerSo this dude has some obvious synergy with Shirei.  The apprentice sacrifices itself, brings back a dude that you can sacrifice to something else or simply stack the triggers so that you sacrifice it and it hits the yard and then Shirei brings it back if it is 1/x or less.  It is a great way to reanimate creatures that are stuck in the graveyard or that you just sacrificed and want to take advantage of again.
Outside of Shirei:  The ability of the Apprentice Necromancer is a little difficult to work into other decks effectively other than as a one shot reanimate for a turn that has summoning sickness.  I have found that it has some serious playable interactions with Reveillark allowing you to unbin the lark, swing, block or do whatever and then it leaves play bringing back the Lil’ Necromancer and another valid target.  Pretty neat-o stuff.  It works similar with Sun Titan, Karmic Guide, Driver of the Dead, and any number of other cards.  If you add haste to the equation you can get several triggers.  So with a little work or elbow grease you can get a bit of a combo or just use the little fellow as a single serving reanimate dude.

 

Pilgrim’s Eye/Cadaver Imp
Pilgrim's EyeMaybe I unjustly pair these two together.  They are both from Zendikar block, 3 drop 1/1 fliers, and have a very useful enter the battlefield ability.  In Shirei they are excellent cards for generating card advantage outside of just drawing cards.  Since they fly and come out quickly they can immediately start getting in there and whittling away at life totals, and later be used for sacrifice and advantage engine fodder.  Turn after turn of fetching a land with the pilgrim is perfect to use with cards like Scroll Rack, acting like a pseudo Land Tax.  At one point I had Walking Atlas and Unwinding Clock in the deck and was always happy to see them in conjunction with the Pilgrim.  The imp is pretty spectacular as well returning creatures that are no longer under the influence of Shirei’s return ability or that were pitched to discard or some other reason.
Outside of Shirei:  Both the Imp and the Pilgrim are commendable little cheap roleplayers in decks.  As already mentioned they both fly, and being cheap can get out onto the table while people are setting up.  Their evasion pairs nicely with a sword, stick, or any other implement you can strap to them to put in work.  I especially like Pilgrim’s Eye just for its land fetching ability and its artifact status is great for any number of interactions.

 

Flesh-Eater Imp
Flesh-Eater ImpWow the second Imp on the list.  This is probably the card I am most concerned about not being an underplayed card.  I see him from time to time but by no means with any regularity.  Maybe it is because of people’s aversion to playing infect or a lack of respect for his power.  By simply sacrificing a few guys suddenly an opponent is dead or almost dead.  This is perfect for Shirei as it represents a potential win condition and sacrifice outlet.   The only real downside is that it is not recurrable on it’s own with the general unless you shrink its power, but there are plenty of other ways in the deck to retrieve it.  Paired with an equipment it is suddenly bonkers.  In this deck the weapons of choice are Blade of the Bloodchief instantly turning each creature into a +2/+2 swell, or Thornbite Staff.  With a sacrifice out, like say Ashnod’s Altar, the imp turns into a free Infect machine gun with the Thronbite Staff.  Who doesn’t like infect machine guns.
Outside of Shirei:  As already mention this card is a huge threat.  It can easily threaten a flying onboard death at any moment.  Also being a free sacrifice outlet is an excellent inclusion for any deck in search of a solid, effective, killing machine that enables strategies in need of putting dudes from play into your graveyard.  I don’t think you need any other infect cards in your deck to play this as it can work completely independent of the strategy and still be capable of killing with poison.

 

Mindless Automaton
Mindless AutomatonWay back when in the infancy of my EDH playing I went through all the artifacts and enchantments in Magic, kept note of all the zaniest ones I found, and the purchased all the ones that were dirt cheap.  Mindless Automaton was one of those cards and I desperately wanted it to find a home.  In Shirei the automaton says “Hey guy! look you get to draw a card for free! Every! Player’s! Turn!” This is like you being Andrew Magrini surrounded by a bunch of fluffy puppies, and for opponents it is like having to watch Andrew Magrini post picture after picture on Facebook and Twitter of himself surrounded by fluffy puppies.  So it draws cards but it also can be used to filter two cards that aren’t useful at the moment for one card that could be more useable.  This can be used in conjunction with pumping for attacking and blocking, although you must be careful doing so as it needs to have power 1 or less when it dies to return.  If I could vote Mindless Automaton for president I would.  Plus I thought I read once that it was the haywire version of the old school Triskelion but I have since been told I am crazy.  Maybe….maybe not.
Outside of Shirei:  If you need a card with art featuring a machine that is snipping the heads off goblins Mindless Automaton is your man, err robot.  In all seriousness he is a decent way of discarding cards to manipulate from the graveyard, all while not completely losing the advantage from the card as it is now a +1/+1 counter representing half a card.  It also goes without saying that +1/+1 counters love to be proliferated.

Mindless Trike

 

Priest of Yawgmoth/Soldevi Adnate
Priest of YawgmothThese two fellas are superb in Shirei as they provide a sacrifice outlet that is also a way of producing, in many cases, a good deal of mana.  The acceleration in mana is so explosive and a great advantage.  Theyare pretty similar as they both sacrifice specific permanents to make black mana equal to the converted mana cost of the sacrificed card.  The only thing better than doing this once a turn is having a Thornbite Staff equipped to either one and churning out an extreme amount of mana,  sacrificing all your creatures except Shirei.  The priest on the staff has a real money interaction with everyone’s favorite seven converted mana cost cure all  Spine of Ish Sah killing all your opponents creatures and then as many other permanents as you have creatures to sacrifice to untap your priest…all for free.
Outside of Shirei:  I think, like in Shirei, these cards’ usefulness is for the obvious sacrifice outlet and mana acceleration.  Dcks like Sharuum the Hegemon, Kresh the Bloodbraided, and Sek’Kuar, Deathkeeper to name a few might find these useful.  They are both very similar to Orcish Lumberjack in functionality, although the cost to activate is slightly different and potentially more lucrative.

 

Skirsdag High Priest
Skirsdag High PriestThis is one of my fun cards in the deck.  Don’t get me wrong when it gets online, which is almost always, an army of demons is nothing to scoff at.  Still the high priest in my eyes is much more of a fun maker than an integral part of the deck.  Also for the last time in this article (maybe once more I can’t lie) when you add a Thornbite Staff suddenly you can make a legion of demons each players turn in larger and larger numbers.  Pretty soon the amount of 5/5 flying demon tokens gets ridiculously out of hand.  Seriously Thornbite Staff is so gross.  I know this is suppose to be about the Skirsdag High Priest but the staff  in my opinion is one of the most powerful enablers in all of magic. There are several more cards I am not going to mention from my deck that work worth it.
Outside of Shirei:  This card is serious fun.  I am sure it is not hard to get it out and working in games outside a Shirei, although I have yet to try it.  Any build that deals in tokens and has black should probably consider having Skirsdag High Priest.  Pumping out 5/5 Demons with flying is very powerful.

 

Thoughtpicker Witch
Thoughtpicker WitchThoughtpicker Witch is one of the few sacrifice outlets I have in my Shirei deck that has a mana cost to activate.  I am fairly opposed to having to pay to sacrifice things as I would rather spend that mana on other ventures.  This card  is one of the rare exceptions since it has such a disruptive powerful effect.  It exiles cards, messes with top card manipulation, and the volume of cards it can remove piles up very quickly.  Paired with Thornbite Staff…kidding although I actually have infinite comboed with Hell’s Caretaker on the staff, the witch, and Pawn of Ulamog.  Speaking of Pawn of Ulamog, when the witch is paired with it you get a dude that sacrifices for mana for each nontoken creature you sacrifice thus paying for your witch activations.  Cool huh?
Outside of Shirei:  A great sacrifice outlet with a good ability.  If you need to sacrifice things think about Thoughtpicker Witch.  You can focus your library card removal on one player or even use it to insure multiple opponents have dead draws.  You really are only limited by the amount of sacrificing fodder you have.  So try it out if it fits your strategy because it is pretty good and annoying for you oppenents.  People really hate having library cards exiled for some reason.

 

Pentavus/Triskelavus
PentavusThese two cards I find myself putting into all sorts of decks.  Pentavus is one of my favorite creatures, and it just seems to work so well with so many different cards, in so many different colors, and different strategies.  Some of my favorite interactions are with Grave Pact effects, Salvaging StationVicious Shadows, Asmira, Holy Avenger and creatures like her, Intruder Alarm, Blade of the Blood Chief, Dross Scorpion and Cauldron of Souls to name a few.  In Shirei these two guys churn out flying tokens over and over and over, and in the case of Triskelavus those can then be turned into damage.  Both are very solid cards and easy to manipulate, and that is without mentioning the Blade of the Bloodchief and Ashnod’s Altar/Phyrexian Altar shenanigans.
Outside of Shirei:  Artifacts that make more artifacts that can fly and sacrifice themselves seem to offer plenty of application.  They also work with Reveillark, proliferate, and Grave Pact effects.  What isn’t to like.  At worst they are something to durdle your mana into.

 

Workhorse
WorkhorseThis was another one of the cards that I purchased a long time ago because it looked like it did something.  I didn’t knowing exactly what or with what it did something , but was positive that someday it would find a home.  Workhorse found that home, and it was in Shirei.  It is a great source of mana on every player’s turn, supplying four colorless by simply removing the +1/+1 counters, and can make a bunch of mana in conjunction with Soldevi Adnate or Priest of Yawgmoth.  It is explosive mana-wise, is a 4/4 that can still come back with Shirei’s ability,  and sacrifices itself even if you don’t have a use for the mana, so it is a perfect fit.
Outside of Shirei:  I am not sure what decks you would want to play this card in other than Shirei.  Maybe in a deck that is manipulating +1/+1 counters or proliferating.  Maybe in some sort of artifact thing.  I really don’t know.  It is good with Nim Deathmantle for infinite triggers and if you add in everyone’s favorite counter doubling card,  Doubling Season, you could generate some infinite mana with the deathmantle.   I suppose you could just go the a Reveillark and sacrifice outlet route for infinite mana as well.  I am just happy I found a home for Workhorse because it is a fairly unique and compelling card.  Plus it has some boss art.  It is not often that you get a a picture of the Wizard Beardy McMustache standing next to an armored bipedal horse.  It is also slightly odd that the art has the horse in armor showing all 5 colors of mana when it only makes colorless.  Clearly it would be too good if it made any color.

 

Jar of Eyeballs
Jar of EyeballsThis is one of the coolest weirdest cards that Wirards has designed and printed as of late in my opinion.  This is the perfect card for this deck.  It collects so many eyeball counters so very quickly that you are almost impulsing your whole deck and then setting it up in the order of your choosing.  In Shirei this is almost like a janky misers Planar Portal.  Plus the card basically says three mana draw a card, which is a pretty reasonable price to do so.
Outside of Shirei:  I actually play this card in a lot of decks.  Maybe I am one of the few people who do.  I love playing decks that things die in all the time and often by my own choosing and hand.  Why not leverage that into cards.  Any of the red Goblin decks that sacrifice dudes seem like a perfect fit.  I personally have Jar of Eyeballs in my Asmira, Holy Avenger and Brion Stoutarm decks and probably could put it in several others.

 

Lightning Coils
Lightning CoilsThis is the last of the cards on this list that I bought without a deck in mind way back when in my “garbage cards that showed potential” bulk buy.  I put this in so many decks unsuccessfully trying to get it to work before it found the perfect deck.  Shirei is constantly sending dudes to the yard turn after turn and it is not uncommon to amass lethal tokens every go around.  It quickly has become a solid win condition that I look for frequently.  Just with three guys over your turn and 3 other players turns that is 12 tokens that are representing 36 points of damage.
Outside of Shirei:  Any sacrifice based deck could probably run this like a deck generaled by Savra, Queen of the Golgari, Sek’Kuar, Deathkeeper, or something similar.  Maybe in Karador, Ghost Chieftain, Ghave, Guru of Spores, or Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter this card could put in some work as well.  Since it does not trigger off tokens, depending on your build, it may not work.  I do think that Shirei maybe the optimal place for this card, but I would really like to see it shine somewhere else as well.

 

Phyrexian Reclamation
Phyrexian ReclamationI never see anyone playing this card.  That is not to say that people don’t play it, but I can honestly say aside from maybe one incident I haven’t seen anyone using it.  Sure it is underpowered as it doesn’t just straight up reanimate creatures, but I think it is better than many of it’s counterparts like Malevolent Awakening, Tortured Existence, or Oversold Cemetery.  The only thing you have to do is pay mana and a small bit of life and in Shirei you are getting back all of your cheap dudes to reuse again or to get advantage from several times in a turn.  Post wrath it is a great way to refill your hand and can easily help get the ball rolling again by getting you back a Cadaver Imp to get back another guy or maybe some artifact recursion cards like Junk Diver, or Myr Retriever, or a sacrifice outlet creature.  I think Phyrexian Reclamation is a big little deal.
Outside of Shirei:  This seems like a card that could easily slot into any creature based deck with black in it.  Sure it doesn’t have a sexy ability that puts the creature into play (that would cost more resources: Strands of Night) but it is a solid roleplayer.  Phyrexian Reclamation is especially great with smaller utility creatures as they can be cast, sacrificed, reclaimed, and cast again.

So that is slightly more than a handful of cards from my Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker deck that I have much respect for even though many other people probably don’t.  How good a card can be is only restricted by the person playing them.  Even if the card is garbage it makes it a whole lot more fun to kill someone with it or have it make an impact on the game.  These types of cards are usually pretty inexpensive as well to buy.  Let me know if you use any of these cards and what decks you play them in.  I would like to hear about it.

 

Email me at: judsonjg(at)yahoo(dot)com
Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/GUDoug

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