Ghost Council of Orzhova
– Guild Kit: Orzhov
November 27, 2019
Commander [EDH]: 3.67
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
This card really takes me back. Ghost Council of Orzhova was one of my most frequently-played cards at FNM back in 2006, when it seemed every second deck was trying to take advantage of him. There was the straight-up good stuff deck that leaned on Umezawa’s Jitte, the spiritcraft version with Tallowisp, and the one-hit-kill deck with Nantuko Husk – plus others that didn’t quite fit into these archetypes, either because people didn’t own all the cards or because they just had a different idea. I should’ve been braver about my iteration that used Ashen-Skin Zubera. Nobody ever expects Zubera.
The Ghost Council isn’t fast and it isn’t that flashy, but it’s rather like death and taxes. Sooner or later, it’s going to catch up to you. (Since we’re dealing with the Orzhov, I guess it’s actually like death by taxes, or taxation through death. Either way.) While you need a lot of creatures for a color combination that often leans towards control, there are plenty of synergistic creatures that fit well with him. In his original Standard format, the ability to sacrifice a creature before an opposing card could damage it to charge up Umezawa’s Jitte was also a big deal.
After the Ravnica block rotated out of Standard, the Council didn’t fare quite as well in tournaments. Exalted Angel was a dominant card in Extended at the time, and the format was much more aggressive overall. But it still feels good to cast him in casual settings. There’s a lot to like when you can sacrifice any creature whenever you want and get any death trigger you want, and have a 4/4 Plan B when somebody thinks it’s clever to use Rest in Peace.
It feels like the overarching theme of this week, besides lifegain, has been “cards that were dominant in Standard at one point in time”. While Ghost Council of Orzhova wasn’t quite as dominant as some of the other cards from this week, it still had a pretty big spot in the Kamigawa/Ravnica Standard era, if nothing else.
The idea of Ghost Council of Orzhova is simple: bleed out your opponent. A 4/4 is pretty reasonable, even with a restrictive mana cost, but the true value of the council was in its resistance to removal (while doubling as a sacrifice outlet). Sacrificing another creature lets the council leave play to dodge the risk of removal, instant-speed or sorcery-speed. So long as you have the means, the Council can keep coming back turn after turn, whittling away the opposition.
A restrictive mana cost, coupled with the conditional blink effect and the need for creatures (and mana) to get that rolling, has constrained its prospects in other formats, but it still is a promising creature if you’re willing to build around its unique strengths. It’s actually pretty decent in Commander, thanks to the support available to it and the Spirit support the tribe has amassed over the years.
Another Standard Powerhouse of Yore!
Back in the Kamigawa Ravnica Standard there were a lot of spirits running around, and a seemingly innocent card called Tallowisp was a card advantage engine! You may recall the name of this deck, ‘Ghost Dad’ and it was a beauty of synergy! With Dark Confidant drawing excessive amounts of cards and Tallowisp able to fetch out stuff to pitch, and finally Ghost Council as a resilient threat that could basically dodge removal by pitching another creature in front of it, this was one of the most feared decks to play against back in the day. All while slowly draining life from your opponent!
It still serves a purpose as a fairly strong Ghostly Leader of Orzhov Decks as a Commander Option, the ability to keep on sacking creatures is perfect for an Aristocrats Based deck.
If you ever get the chance to play the old Guildpact Drafts and you open this up? He’s worth considering, the WWBB is going to direct your colors for the rest of the draft if you want to play him though.
As far as Cube goes? If you want your Aristocrats Theme to be in BW he’s a fine choice, but he’s very limited outside of that spot.
Constructed – 1/5 Originally a powerhouse but his days have long gone.
Commander – 3/5 A fine commander choice for an Aristocrats Theme
Limited – 3/5 He’s going to be difficult to cast, but he’s resilient to a removal light format.
Cube – 2/5 Again Aristocrats seems to be his bread and butter, but his non-splashable nature holds him back.
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