Rite of Belzenlok
April 27, 2018
Commander [EDH]: 3.17
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale.
1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
Rite of Belzenlok is a callback to two iconic black cards from Magic’s first couple of years, Lord of the Pit and Breeding Pit. For many players of that era, that was also their first two-card combo. I suppose that now, the Rite is attempting to make it into basically a one-card combo, which probably fits with Belzenlok’s storyline attempts to take credit for everything that ever happened in Dominaria’s history.
Since the original Lord of the Pit-Breeding Pit combo is no longer considered constructed-class, it’s easy to imagine that the one-card version won’t be either. Still, it has a couple of things going for it. One is that there’s no ongoing mana investment like with Breeding Pit; you’ll get at least two tokens if the Rite resolves, and if it gets disenchanted later you might have something else to do with them (Costly Plunder springs to mind). That same lack of additional costs means you are freer to use the time before you get the demon token to set up the rest of the game state, like attacking your opponent’s hand or creatures. Just as Breeding Pit was often combined with Bad Moon in the 1990s, any Glorious Anthem effects you can find will help make the Cleric tokens a threat even if the bigger token becomes a target, as it probably will. It’s just too bad from the point of view of Standard interactions there isn’t a Bad Moon variant in Dominaria.
Overall, I don’t think this is overall the most efficient way to get a big flying demon token, but it will almost certainly find some niche in casual play.
Just just take a second to appreciate the art on this card. Seb McKinnon continues to knock it out of the park. It should be noted that the demon portrayed looks nothing like Belzenlok but rather Lord of the Pit. This is likely due to Belzenlok taking credit for every misfortune on Dominaria.
Onto the card itself. I’m getting deja vu to the Demonic duel deck. Rite of Belzenlok reminds me a bit of the Suspend mechanic, specifically Benalish Commander. In a perfect world you are going to get a 6/6 on turn six. Pretty ideal. I can imagine this card playing well in GB Thalid decks in Limited.
Of course Belzenlok has willing cultists to sacrifice themselves in his name. What self-respecting demon wouldn’t? While this doesn’t summon Belzenlok, it does call out one of his flunkies…on-curve, this is a perfect spot of timing, as you’ll get your demon on turn 6 to start killing things on turn 7. And while the cultists it makes are meant for sacrifices to the demon, they can help you live long enough to get to the demon.
Of course, demons demand sacrifice, so act quickly, or the sacrifice will be your blood. You get four bodies to throw to it, and the demon does a good job of closing out games (even if bounce spells do make it sad). Rite of Belzenlok will probably show up a fair amount, as a decent finisher that can help you stall out before the demon descends.
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