March 12, 2018

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Card of the Day – Death’s Presence

Here in Canada, at some retailers you can find these actually pretty neat Magic the Gathering repack products with some literally valueless cards in them. Sometimes you can find 15 cards for a dollar fifty, and sometimes you can even find what we in my playgroup call a “commander repack”, or 100 cards for four bucks. Any way you slice that, it’s just straight value. Especially when you consider that cards currently vary, on average, anywhere between a penny and fifty cents on TCGPlayer.

Enter the titular card. A card that’s a decent Commander piece in any green creature-based or sacrifice outlet-based deck, which had a decently high value at the time of opening for a repack card from Dollarama, and which went straight into a deck I had at the time.

So I thought I’d take some time to talk about one of my favourite, tragically underplayed cards:

As you can see, Death’s Presence basically says that every time a creature you control dies, you put X amount of +1/+1 counters on a target creature. In this case X equals to the creature’s power.

While I haven’t really found much use for this in a general creature-based deck that at least splashes in green, it definitely offers incentive to chump block a lot more provided you have a fairly large board presence and, in a creature-based deck, you most certainly should. However, I have seen this work a lot better in decks that feature sacrifice outlets.

While it’s not exactly a competitive card that’s meant to go into a competitive deck, once you team it up with a great Jund Commander that has a death trigger built into it like Sek’Kuar, Deathkeeper and plenty of sacrifice and death outlets, you have something that blends really well and turns out to be just stupid fun. While I have a deck that makes good use of this effect, I found a deck from TappedOut user Ace_Kavu that makes a little more sense in the context of this card’s usage:

Sek’Kuar, Recursion Engine

Commander (1)
Sek’Kuar, Deathkeeper

Artifact (10)
Firewild Borderpost
Golgari Signet
Gruul Signet
Lightning Coils
Mimic Vat
Minion Reflector
Rakdos Signet
Strionic Resonator
Veinfire Borderpost

Enchantment (13)
Death’s Presence
Dragon Appeasement
Flameshadow Conjuring
Goblin Bombardment
Golgari Germination
Grave Betrayal
Grave Pact
Gutter Grime
Journey to Eternity
Malevolent Awakening
Perilous Forays
Vampiric Rites

Sorcery (2)
Kodama’s Reach

Creature (42)
Acidic Slime
Bloodflow Connoisseur
Broodmate Dragon
Burnished Hart
Butcher of Malakir
Conclave Naturalists
Dawntreader Elk
Deathbringer Thoctar
Demon of Dark Schemes
Diligent Farmhand
Eternal Witness
Falkenrath Noble
Farhaven Elf
Fell Shepherd
Fierce Empath
Ghoulcaller Gisa
Golgari Guildmage
Greenwarden of Murasa
Grim Haruspex
Harvester of Souls
Hell’s Caretaker
Hornet Queen
Masked Admirers
Mitotic Slime
Mogg War Marshal
Nether Traitor
Overseer of the Damned
Pelakka Wurm
Reassembling Skeleton
Reclamation Sage
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Shattergang Brothers
Sifter of Skulls
Solemn Simulacrum
Sprouting Thrinax
The Scorpion God
Tymaret, the Murder King
Woodfall Primus
Yavimaya Elder

Land (32)
Akoum Refuge
Bloodfell Caves
Command Tower
Evolving Wilds
Golgari Rot Farm
Grim Backwoods
Gruul Turf
Jund Panorama
Jungle Hollow
Kazandu Refuge
Kher Keep
Rakdos Carnarium
Rugged Highlands
Savage Lands
Skarrg, the Rage Pits
Temple of the False God
Terramorphic Expanse
Westvale Abbey

What you’re looking at here is a deck that generates benefits from creature death, creature sacrifice, and recurring creatures from your graveyard to keep doing this again and again and again.

Death’s Presence‘s role in all this is generally to make a token creature gigantic fairly quickly especially if, say, you’re working towards flipping Westvale Abbey. That way you have two beastly creatures out on the same turn, ready to swing. Let’s say that, for some reason, they chump the creature that just swung out and got counters. Now you get to put those onto Ormendhal, Profane Prince and suddenly you have a much larger threat than what you originally started out with.

The only real problem is that in order to play Presence reliably and effectively, you need to make a choice. It does cost six mana, afterall. So, do you ramp into it, control the board until you can get it out, or simply play a mid-range game and hope to the RNG gods that you’ll draw it?

Slotting in a card like this isn’t exactly an easy decision but its straightforward, awesome, and hard to remove effect just makes it hard to pass up. Plus you don’t even have to be a big spender for this card. You can use cards like Doubling Season if you want, but even cards like Hardened scales and creatures that either double counters or add counters will work. This includes a great number of Hydras, like Managorger Hydra!

If you really want to break this card, do what I initially did and use this to make your Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice precon strictly better by slotting out one of the worse cards for it. Death’s Presence is extremely flexible, but if you’re slotting this into an existing deck you may need to justify its presence in your deck and that may mean making more than just that one change.

One way or another, this card is tragically underplayed. While there’s a good reason for that in a format like Modern, there’s really no reason not to at least experiment with it in Commander. What do you think of this card? Have you ever used it at all? Let me know in the comments below!