This week we’re taking a step back from the classic mono-colored tribes, and taking a look at a tribe that might not be as obvious a grouping as some others. The cleric type has been printed on some great cards through the years, but you may not have noticed the creature type. Academy Rector, Eight-and-a-Half Tails, Ethersworn Canonist, and Mother of Runes are just a few that claim the Cleric subtype. In Standard Leonin Relic-Warder and the new sensation Geist of Saint Traft are both Clerics. The type isn’t constrained to the white piece of the color pie, however. On the other side there are black aligned Clerics, diligently serving darker forces. The Onslaught block was among the first to explore the darker side of the Cleric tribe, and as the Lorwyn block did for Merfolk, Onslaught provided Clerics with not only powerful creatures, but also non-creature spells specifically designed to support them. Let’s talk a bit about what it means to be a Cleric in Magic. Traditionally white Clerics specialize in damage prevention, sometimes for creatures, sometimes for players. Preventing two points of damage certainly isn’t flashy, but when you’re preventing five or ten points of damage at a time with stacked effects, you can see how it might become hard to deal with. White Clerics also like to gain life in a number of ways. Black Clerics, on the other hand, like to drain life from the opponent. They also have a habit of summoning big, nasty creatures to do their fighting for them. Here’s a first look at a build for B/W Clerics:
This deck has some fun interactions. First off, the combination of Soul Warden, Soul’s Attendant, Suture Priest, and Serra Ascendant is not a new one. These ladies were grouped together in Standard not long ago, and were given the nickname Soul Sisters. The idea behind Soul Sisters is simply to stack life gain triggers quickly with low cost creatures, and start beating your opponent down with one or more 6/6 Flying, Lifelink Serra Ascendants ASAP. Skirsdag High Priest‘s ability finds extra use for the smaller Clerics, allowing them to tap and summon a 5/5 Demon token, rather than enter combat on their own. Vile Deacon requires little explanation, his purpose is to be as big as possible and occupy the red zone.
Another trick this deck has access to is the Sanguine Bond/Beacon of Immortality combination. A resolved Beacon of Immortality while you are at 20 or more life means a Sanguine Bond trigger will be lethal. Profane Prayers allows you to deal with creatures, or drain life directly from an opponent while you gain that much life (doubling their life loss if you have a Sanguine Bond out). With Sanguine Bond out, even Serra Ascendant’s Lifelink is effectively Double Strike. Even if blocked, Serra Ascendant gains life, and Sanguine Bond drains that much life from your opponent. In Magic we refer to this as “not nice“.
Necrologia uses your life as a resource. In most cases, your life is an arbitrary number representing how much damage you can ignore before losing. You can’t really DO anything with it. A card like Necrologia allows you to put your life total to work for you, in this case filling your hand with spells that actually do something. Liliana Vess is there to help you search out Sanguine Bond, Beacon of Immortality, Profane Prayers, or whatever you need to seal the game up in your favor. If you’re sitting pretty on the way to victory, she can help by just tearing apart your opponents hand piece by piece. Finally there’s the Cleric land, Starlit Sanctum. You may never use it, but the Sanctum is there if you need it, possibly gaining you the life you need to “activate” your Serra Ascendant, or to drain the last two points from your opponent, or even to activate the Skirsdag High Priest’s Morbid ability in a pinch.
That first list plays mainly with Clerics’ abilities to manipulate life totals. Staying in the Halloween spirit, let’s look at some Clerics that are active in the dark art of reanimation:
Here we see a group of Clerics who are working together to usher in a Zombie Apocalypse. The idea is to find a Rotlung Reanimator and start sacrificing your Clerics for value, producing zombies with the Reanimator’s trigger. Once Academy Rector hits the table, she can be sacrificed (after attacking, of course) and removed from your graveyard to ‘tutor’ for one of the enchantments in your toolbox. Endless Ranks of the Dead builds your zombie army, Intangible Virtue gives your army +1/+1 and Vigilance. Finally Xenograft can be used either to give your Clerics the additional Zombie subtype to get more tokens from Endless Ranks, or to give your Zombies the additional Cleric subtype to sacrifice to Dark Supplicant, and/or get more Zombie Clerics from Rotlung Reanimator‘s triggers.
These are a couple of possible Cleric builds. There are many other things to explore in the tribe, as well. If you enjoy torturing your opponent, you can put together a Cleric list that will prevent all the damage they could do each turn. There are plenty more options for token decks, lifegain decks, and beatdown decks. Here’s a list of Clerics to help you with some ideas:
|Card Name||Set Name||Function 1||Function 2||Color|
|Battlefield Medic||ON||Prevent Dmg||W|
|Battletide Alchemist||MOR||Prevent Dmg||W|
|Geist of Saint Traft||ISD||Hexproof||Beats||UW|
|Kaalia the Vast||CMD||Value||Commander||BRW|
|Kemba, Kha Regent||SOM||Equipment||Tokens||W|
|Mikaeus, The Lunarch||ISD||Counters||W|
|Mother of Runes||UL||Protection||W|
|Order of the Stars||GDP||Protection||W|
|Order of Whiteclay||SHM||Graveyard||W|
|Skirsdag High Priest||ISD||Tokens||B|
|Soul Warden||Core Sets||Life||W|
|Transcendent Master||ROE||Level Up||Beats||W|