Magic The Gathering Commander Deck Brew: Exile Everything With Umbris, Feat Manifest

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  • Ramp
  • Draw
  • Mill
  • Exile
  • Time To Win
  • Powering The Deck Down

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Though Magic the Gathering's Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty is but a few short weeks away, there are still a few more Commanders from Innistrad: Crimson Vow we need to build first. One of them is potentially the meanest, scariest Commander of the entire set – so much so, he doesn't even appear in Crimson Vow itself. Instead, they were relegated to the made-for-Commander cards found in set boosters (like Lynde, Cheerful Tormentor was for Midnight Hunt).

Umbris was confined to the Ulvenwald region of Innistrad who steals and feeds on the bad memories of anyone who falls into its grasp. This lead to the human Taivas to capture it and make a deal: it would take the memories of the residents of the neaby villagers of Traublassen, making them happy and easily manipulated, and in exchange regular sacrifices would be fed to it.

The pact lasted for a hundred years, until the soldier Torens was sent as its sacrifice. Freeing Umbris from its captivity and rescuing Eruth, a woman haunted by constant demonic visions, he made a new deal. Umbris could leave, unharmed, but in exchange it was to release the memories of the villagers, letting them see the horror they've been living under and rise up against Taivas' descendants. On their next meeting, Torrens vowed to destroy Umbris once and for all.

This week, we're doing an extra spicy version of mill and exiling our opponent's libraries with an incredibly mean Umbris, Fear Manifest.

Umbris, Fear Manifest is a 1/1 Nightmare Horror that costs three generic, one blue, and one black. Whenever it, or another nightmare or horror, enters the battlefield, a target opponent exiles cards from the top of their library until they exile a land card. That on its own is nasty, but Umbris also gets +1/+1 for each card your opponents own in exile.

The idea is simple: either through exiling cards directly or milling them out and exiling their graveyards, we want to remove most of each player's decks from the game to make Umbris absolutely massive. If we can't win through mill, we want to smash them in the fact with an overgrown horror. As an added bonus, we're also going to try and steal the cards people exile at the same time.

Ramp

As was the case when we built Runo Stromkirk, ramping in Dimir colours can be tricky. There isn't a lot in the way of playing extra land, so we're going to have to rely on mana rocks and great lands to shore us up.

For mana rocks, alongside the usual Sol Ring and Arcane Signet, we're going to run Dimir Signet, Talisman of Dominance, and Thought Vessel. Moonsilver Key continues to be an amazing card for Commander, letting you search for a land of a mana rock and put it into your hand.

Crimson Vow had a lot of exiles-matters cards, and one of them is Honored Heirloom. It's a mana rock with the added ability to pay two generic and tap to exile a card from someone's graveyard. It isn't going to be the biggest exile engine, but spot removal is always nice, especially if you're playing against a graveyard deck.

Draw

Surprisingly, our draw options are pretty restrained for a deck with blue in it. We want draw that will be painful for your opponents, rather than simply grabbing as many cards as possible.

Two underrated classics for card draw are the blue Minds Aglow and the black Peer into the Abyss. Minds Aglow forces every player to draw cards equal to the total amount of mana paid into it, while Peer into the Abyss makes a player lose half of their life and draw half of their library. Combine either of these with a Thought Vessel or Reliquary Tower, and you'll be getting significant card advantage straight away (and a lot of mill, but we'll get to that).

As a backup, Notion Thief is a nasty card. Whenever an opponent draws more than one card each turn, you'll draw instead. This gives you card draw while also turning off other people's (and, again, it synergises super well with Peer into the Abyss, as you'll be drawing half of your deck while someone else loses half their life).

As another of the made-for-Commander cards in Crimson Vow, Doom Weaver is well worth considering. When it enters, you soulbond it to another creature, then, when either creature dies, you draw cards equal to its power. If you've got a 15/15 Umbris, that's an absurd amount of draw and could easily persuade people not to target your Commander.

We'll be throwing in a Phyrexian Arena for good measure. Draw an extra card at the start of your turn for just one life? Easy decision to make.

Mill

Though milling and exiling cards isn't the same thing, there are many ways to turn milled cards into exiled ones, which makes devoting a lot of your deck to doing it worth it.

First, Bruvac the Grandiloquent is a must. He doubles the number of cards your opponents need to mill, letting you quite easily synergise into a one-turn mill win when used with cards like Peer into the Abyss and Teferi's Ageless Insight.

There are a number of ways to cut through the faff and just mill a large number of cards all at once. Traumatize and a kicked Maddening Cacophony mill half of their library at once (doubled to be almost their entire library with Bruvac), while Court of Cunning and Nemesis of Reason both mill ten cards at a time.

Mindcrank is a fantastic card, as it mills cards equal to the amount of life an opponent loses. Used in conjunction with a card we'll go over in a moment, it lets Umbris grow bigger, deal more damage, exile more cards, and get even bigger in a scary synergy.

For smaller sources of mill, Teferi's Ageless Insight and Psychic Corrosion both make players mill whenever we draw. This will be a small, repeatable effect most of the time, but with big draw outlets like Peer into the Abyss, Minds Aglow, or a well-timed Notion Thief, they can also be a major threat.

Thanks to counterspells like Didn't Say Please and Thought Collapse, we can even use mill in our suite of control cards.

As mentioned, milling and exiling don't do the same thing, and Umbris only cares about exiled cards. So how do we wake this mill package and turn it into something a bit more Horror-friendly? Well…

Exile

Leyline of the Void. Leyline of the Void is one of the single most important cards in this entire deck, and it's the only you need to protect like your life depended on it. When Leyline of the Void is out, whenever an opponent puts a card into their graveyard, it exiles instead. All that mill you've set up is instead turned into an exile engine that will power Umbris up so ridiculously quickly. More than that, it also shuts down Artistocrats decks, as now non-token creatures no longer technically die – they're exiled instead.

If you can't keep Leyline of the Void out, though, there are other ways to turn that mill into Umbris food. There are plenty of cards that exile opponents' graveyards, like Tormod's Crypt, Tormod's Cryptkeeper, Mnemonic Betrayal, Bojuka Bog, Author of Shadows, and Crook of Condemnation. Some exile one player's graveyard, while others exile all of them simultaneously, but even one exiled graveyard is enough to make Umbris scarily big. As a slightly less powerful alternative, Szat's Will can exile all creatures from all graveyards, before giving you a lot of creature tokens to work with.

Tasha's Hideous Laughter, one of the best cards from Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, is an excellent piece in this deck. Every opponent exiles cards from the top of their library until they've exiled cards with a combined mana value of at least 20.

Joining our mill counterspells are exile counterspells like Faerie Trickery, Dissipate, and Summary Dismissal. The last one in particular is amazing for when the stack is getting a bit busy (such as if someone is playing a Storm deck, or if there has been a lot of interaction), as it counters every spell and ability, and then exiles every spell cast.

Ashiok is a Dimir Planeswalker whose core mechanic is exiling cards, so it makes sense to use a few different cards of theirs in the deck. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver is a good one as it can exile three cards with its +1 Loyalty ability, before exiling all your opponents' hands and graveyards as its ultimate, but the real winner here is Ashiok, Nightmare Muse.

Ashiok, Nightmare Muse's +1 ability makes a 2/3 Nightmare token (triggering Umbris' ability), which then exiles the top two cards of an opponent's library whenever it attacks. Its ultimate is a -7 which lets you play three cards from your opponent's exile without paying their mana costs. This is ridiculously good on its own, but with a whole deck also exiling cards, you could quite easily be stealing your opponents' win conditions and using them yourself. Like Leyline of the Void, do everything you can to protect Nightmare Muse, and try and use its ultimate more than once.

Time To Win

There are a few different ways Umbris can win.

First, go all-in on the milling strategy. Bruvac is going to be essential with this, as he can easily exile the entire table in a single turn with the right board state. This is going to be slightly tricker than normal mill decks, though, as it isn't the only strategy Umbris is using. This isn't a super-optimised mill deck, and even they often struggle in Commander.

The second option is to use Syr Konrad the Grim. Syr Konrad the Grim deals one damage to each opponent whenever a creature is put into a graveyard from anywhere other than the battlefield, which adds a bit of extra spice to the mill strategy. This winning method is a bit easier than a straight mill, as there should be enough creatures in each player's deck to deal enough damage.

The third option is to use Umbris itself. When it's big enough from all those exiled cards, use something like Rogue's Passage or Whispersilk Cloak to make it unblockable and take out a player from Commander damage. Whispersilk Cloak also gives Umbris an added layer of protection by giving it shroud, allowing you to take out multiple players on consecutive turns.

Finally, as mentioned, steal your opponent's win conditions. While Ashiok, Nightmare Muse, will be the key engine in this strategy, there's also Mind Flayer, the Shadow and Nightveil Specter, who exile cards and let you play them yourself.

Powering The Deck Down

This is an evil deck that you'll want to discuss with your playgroup before playing, but it's surprisingly light in combos. You're not going to get many sudden, unexpected wins with Umbris, and your opponents will have time to respond to you if they need to. That being said, there are a few ways you can slow the deck down for a lower-power table.

As always, the first thing to do is to take out your tutors. We have Vampiric Tutor and Demonic Tutor in here, as they're great ways of finding Leyline of the Void quickly. Without them we'll have to rely on drawing it ourselves, adding a significant element of luck to the deck.

Next, we're going to simplify our mana base by swapping out some of those expensive lands with cheaper alternatives. Replace Underground Sea with something like an Ice Tunnel, which also has the land types that make Underground Sea so good, but enters taps to temper things a bit. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Cabal Coffers are two other lands you might consider swapping out.

Opposition Agent and Notion Thief are both controversial cards in Commander, so taking them out might be a good move for lower-power play. They can effectively lock your opponents out of doing what their decks want to do, by preventing extra draw and tutoring.

One thing not worth taking out are our star cards, Leyline of the Void and Ashiok, Nightmare Muse. As nasty as it can be, it's unreasonable to ask that the exile Commander doesn't ever exile cards. If your playgroup has a problem with exiling cards, you should consider playing a different deck entirely instead.

For the full deck list, check out this deck's Moxfield page.

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