THS: Rescue from the Underworld and Gift of Immortality in W/B control

A draft last Tuesday started with Fated Intervention, Odunos River Trawler, and Sunbond out of a weak third pack, followed by another Sunbond fourth pick over Asphyxiate because I was hoping I might be able draft around the pair of enchantments. Unfortunately, the Oreskos Sun Guides I saw were in the same packs as the Sunbonds, I took Abhorrent Overlord over an Insatiable Harpy, only saw one Scholar of Athreos, and never saw a Hopeful Eidolon or Ordeal of Heliod. My final pool had 6 potential ways to gain life, but Ephara’s Radiance and Cutthroat Maneuver were terrible in that deck unless Soulbond was already in play, and Last Breath and Setessan Battle Priest were unlikely to ever gain me life, leaving only Scholar of Athreos and Gray Merchant of Asphodel as playable sources of lifegain.

I did nevertheless end up with a strong W/B control deck with a strong defense, some incidental lifegain, a few sources of card advantage, and a couple of finishers. Here’s my decklist:

2 Baleful Eidolon
1 Setessan Battle Priest
1 Guardians of Meletis
1 Felhide Minotaur
1 Odunos River Trawler
1 Scholar of Athreos
1 Observant Alseid
1 Wingsteed Rider
2 Disciple of Phenax
1 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
1 Abhorrent Overlord
1 Traveler’s Amulet
1 Boon of Erebos
1 Eye Gouge
1 Revoke Existence
1 Last Breath
2 Asphyxiate
1 Read the Bones
1 Gift of Immortality
1 Rescue from the Underworld

10 Swamps
7 Plains

Sideboard:
1 Astral Cornucopia
1 Opaline Unicorn
2 Sunbond
1 Ephara’s Radiance
1 Loyal Pegasus
1 Cutthroat Maneuver
2 Asphodel Wanderer
1 Pharika’s Mender
1 Fated Intervention
1 Fade into Antiquity
2 Commune with the Gods
1 Agent of Horizons
1 Kiora’s Follower
1 Sphinx’s Disciple
1 Boulderfall
1 Reckless Reveler

I’ve drafted W/B control decks previously. However, I was surpised by the strength of 2 cards I’d never given much thought to previously: Rescue from the Underworld and Gift of Immortality.

I’d always thought of Rescue from the Underworld as an instant-speed Zombify that that could sometimes let you ambush an attacking creature and occasionally save one of your creatures from removal, but also cost an additional mana and couldn’t be used if you didn’t have a creature in play. However, it also has a couple of advantages over Zombify:

  • It allows you to reuse the enters-the-battlefield ability of the creature in play, possibly in addition to that of the creature being reanimated. My deck had 2 Disciple of Phenax, Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Odunos River Trawler, and Abhorrent Overlord, all with potent enters-the-battlefield triggers and, on occasion, I was even able to reuse 2 enters-the-battlefield triggers. (I considered splashing Pharika’s Mender as it also has a strong enters-the-battlefield effect, but that would have required running Opaline Unicorn. The Unicorn is often quite good in B/X control decks, which tend to have a glut at 5cc, but this deck had a sufficiently low mana curve that Opaline Unicorn would have been substantially less impressive.)
  • Similarly, it also allows you to reuse monstrosity triggers and ask an opponent to pay tribute again (if they didn’t pay it the first time; if they did, they’ll just choose to pay it again and you’ll be back where you started).
  • It can let you attack in unfavorable board states without losing your best creature, which is especially useful if you have multiple creatures with inspired or a creature like Cavalry Pegasus, Noble Quarry, Silent Sentinel, or Prognostic Sphinx that has a “Whenever X attacks” abilities.

Gift of Immortality was an even bigger surprise. I consider Indestructibility unplayable, and viewed Gift of Immortality as a slightly cheaper version that provided your opponent a brief window of opportunity to permanently kill the creature. However, Gift of Immortality has a couple of advantages over Indestructibility:

  • When it enchants a creature with a powerful enters-the-battlefield effect, it can be a strong deterrent to your opponent attacking into or blocking the enchanted creature.
  • The creature comes back even if your opponent makes you sacrifice it, say with Agent of Fates.
  • It can get absurd if you can sacrifice the creature yourself, either to get additional uses out of the sacrifice ability (e.g., Burnished Hart), to retrigger an enters-the-battlefield ability (e.g., Abhorrent Overlord), or both (e.g., Odunos River Trawler). In addition to Burnished Hart, the format also provides Priest of Iroas, Reckless Reveler (although you’re unlikely to have the need to use its ability multiple times in a single game with BNG/THS/THS draft decks), and, if you’re willing to run 3+ colors, Crackling Triton and Tymaret the Murder King. Tymaret the Murder King also provides a way to sacrifice other creatures enchanted with Gift of Immortality to retrigger their enters-the-battlefield effects, as do Abhorrent Overlord, Champion of Stray Souls, Eater of Hope, and Scourge of Skola Vale.
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