Clavileno, First of the Blessed
22, Nov, 23

New Ixalan Pre-Con Wins the Long Game by Creating an Undying Army!

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Article at a Glance

Blood Rites is a black and white aristocrats style deck, but it has a few curve balls thrown in to make it just that much more interesting. Featuring plenty of life gain and various drain effects, Blood Rites isn’t dying anytime soon. No, it plans to stick around for the entire game and has multiple ways to cross the finish line. Furthermore, it has removal to deal with anything at either instant speed, low mana, or as a wipe. Many of the included cards see regular play, so it’s really the choice of commander that makes this deck unique.

Better as the Stock Commander

Clavileno, First of the Blessed

Clavileno, First of the Blessed is certainly an interesting card. First, it is very low mana and works immediately. Next, it stamps on the Demon type to one of your attacking Vampires. When that creature dies, you generate a 4/3 flying Vampire Demon and also draw a card.

In a deck full of sacrifice effects for gain like Viscera Seer, you can simply print Demons and draw cards virtually non-stop if you want to go fast. Suspect a board wipe? Sit back and ready your army for the afterlife. It’s all beneficial to your plan. That’s a very interesting style of play, and it’s online every single game by turn three!

Behind this Demon upgrade plan is the shell of a Kindred Vampire deck with solid choices like Legion Lieutenant, Cordial Vampire and Drana, Liberator of Malakir. If you don’t deal with the Vampires, they will get massive and out of control. Wipe them? They just come back, bigger and flying, while also getting a hand refill. It’s a devious game plan that the deck supports well. But this is if you use Clavileno who is the better choice for the stock version of the deck. What if you branch out?

An Alternate Build

Carmen, Cruel Skymarcher

I really like Carmen, Cruel Skymarcher and think you can do a lot with her. It’s a completely different version of the deck, though. Too many added cards would not synergize with the base deck at all.

The first cards I thought of were Life Insurance and then, of course, Smothering Tithe. Unfortunately Blood Rites is much more about making Vampires and Demons and getting recursive aristocrats value than making piles of Treasure Tokens and Extorting the table. Carmen will be great in an Orzhov deck with plenty of Treasures and edicts.

An Even Better Backup Plan

March of the Canonized

Alright, somehow they cleared your Vampires. They stopped your Demons. Clavileno has been killed multiple times. You did not draw your recursion. But, you have token generation! A March of the Canonized can generate you a new board. Elenda’s Hierophant can as well. Promise of Aclazotz can let you turn your Vampire tokens into better ones. Order of Sacred Dusk costs eight mana, but also has Convoke, so your tokens can easily pay for it. Once they do, they pump it up via exalted and it has flying, lifelink, and more importantly, haste!

Multiple levels of redundancy and piles of life gain gives you the time needed to rebuild your board. Meanwhile, a pile of tokens can become a credible threat. Pair them with any number of drain effects or anthems, the deck has plenty of each! You even have Bloodghast and Oathsworn Vampire that will keep coming back forever if they can’t deal with your graveyard. The deck is incredibly resilient.

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Is This a Stax Card?

Charismatic Conqueror

What an interesting card! In a meta of token generation, Treasures, Food, Clues and so on, Charismatic Conqueror can get an absurd amount of value. The fact is this card is highly interactive in a counter-intuitive way. When you are behind, it’s unlikely others are going to make their own permanents enter tapped. Result? You are going to get free 1/1 Vampires.

Someone else is ahead? The other players can deliberately give you more 1/1s in order to gang up on the winning player. Now, if you’re the one ahead, well that’s also problematic. Making their own stuff enter tapped gives you another free attack against them as just one example. In most cases, be prepared to get free Vampires. This even fights some infinite combos. You also get that many Vampires – or at least an extra turn to do something about it!

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How to Upgrade Blood Rites

Sanguine Blood

I went directly for the throat here. You are either playing at a table where the Exquisite Blood, Sanguine Bond combo is allowed or it isn’t. This also includes other functionally identical combo pieces like Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose, Marauding Blight Priest, Cliffhaven Vampire, Epicure of Blood or Defiant Bloodlord.

The thing is, all of those pieces are also Vampires. The more tolerant your table is for combos that end the game on the spot, the more of these you should run. As is, the deck does not include tutors, and most tables seem to be alright with combos that happen purely by chance. Equally important is the fact that removal stops all of these from working, and creature removal is the most common. Know your play group and upgrade accordingly.

One of the most efficient cards you can add to the deck is Skullclamp. As mentioned, Blood Rites is dripping with token generation, and for the low cost of one mana, you can draw two extra cards over and over again while also sending the token to the graveyard for a trigger. Clamp also works perfectly with Bloodghast, and is a perfect drawing engine that is mana neutral if you play a land off your draws.

While the deck does include Master of the Dark Rites, sometimes you just need the original Dark Ritual to go off one turn earlier. The more costly Culling the Weak is even more explosive. Alternatively, Ashnod’s Altar and Phyrexian Altar are both considerations.

I can’t help but also mentioning Tithe Drinker as a cheap Vampire body with lifelink and extort. It’s probably my extort bias talking, but I prefer the Drinker over Bartolome del Presidio and feel that the deck has an adequate amount of sacrifice enablers, so a 2/1 with the ability to get himself killed once he becomes a threat seems like a way worse card that an innocuous 2/1 that is sitting there, draining the table.

There are plenty of Vampire lords, but Captivating Vampire is low mana and has a bonkers effect. Combined with the mass token generation the deck has, you can easily dominate the board. Three mana to do that puts this choice in a class far beyond the others.

The scariest Vampire that isn’t in the stock deck has got to be Malakir Bloodwitch. Because of the added life gain from the ETB trigger, how many Sanguine Bond effects you run determines just how many players are dead from this card. I like it a lot more than Crossway Troublemakers. The deck already runs Vault of the Archangel and many Vampires already have lifelink, so the deathtouch on attack and card draw is just extremely expensive by comparison.

Finally, I would almost certainly add in High Market. Sure, I said the deck has enough sacrifice outlets. But you can add one more for zero deck space, and the life gain will also combo with your Bond effects.

For an even spicier land, consider Starlit Sanctum. It takes up almost no room and has a handful of targets in your deck including Clavileno. If you added more Vampire Clerics, it would definitely appreciate in utility as a second High Market. Many of the Vampires are quite decent, so the normal strategy of replacing them with Changelings is not that advisable here, furthermore they don’t work with Clavileno because they are also Demons already. Wizards thought of it this time!

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Final Thoughts on Blood Rites

It’s a novel mechanic to have all of your creatures potentially both draw you a card and return from death as a credible threat. Clavileno starts accruing this future value very early. The trick is to know exactly when to cash in.

Luckily, you have has so much life gain that you can’t be pressured early, and it has enough removal to punish a greedy deck. For Blood Rites, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon and one that it is well equipped to win.

On another note, Veloci-Ramp-Tor is a bit random because of the Discover mechanic so no two games are going to be quite alike. That’s fun, but you cannot exactly plan out your plays or make optimal plays because there is hidden information. I found Blood Rites to have some of the most replay value among all of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan decks because of the wide variety of play patterns. That could be considered inconsistency, but most Commander pre-cons are inherently inconsistent. The deck is constantly asking you “Can you navigate the best game state from this position?” and that can be very engaging at the pre-con level. Once upgraded, however, it may lose that novelty if it becomes an optimized Blood/Bond combo deck.

Between Blood Rites and Explorers of the Deep, I would choose Rites to remain a stock deck that provides the best overall long term play experience. Additionally, as an old school player, I cannot see running a Merfolk deck that doesn’t include Lord of Atlantis. In any case, this deck was well built, fun to play, and offered an overall experience that was worth it.

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