Tuesday Night Takeover

Karlov Lifegain Combo Brewed EDH

I am afraid of this ghost!

Art:Karlov of the Ghost Council by Volkan Baga

Welcome to another installment of Brewed EDH:

Karlov of the Ghost Council is a very fun Orzhov commander deck that combines lifegain strategy with an efficient way to exile opponents creatures very easily. Since we are building around Karlov it is very easy for us to gain a ton of life and use his ability basically whenever we want. Wreaking havoc on our opponents commanders or really any creatures that are pesky and in our way!

The Deck:

Karlov Ghost Council Combo LIfe!

Commander (1)
Karlov of the Ghost Council

Creatures (36)
Walking Ballista
Esper Sentinel
Giver of Runes
Mother of Runes
Serra Ascendant
Skrelv, Defector Mite
Soul Warden
Soul’s Attendant
Archivist of Oghma
Auriok Champion
Blood Artist
Creeping Bloodsucker
Dark Confidant
Daxos, Blessed by the Sun
Deep Gnome Terramancer
Distinguished Conjurer
Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim
Suture Priest
Heliod, Sun-Crowned
Indulging Patrician
Kambal, Consul of Allocation
Opposition Agent
Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose
Cliffhaven Vampire
Crypt Ghast
Elenda, the Dusk Rose
Gideon’s Company
Rhox Faithmender
Sheoldred, the Apocalypse
Twilight Prophet
Archangel of Thune
Celestine, the Living Saint
Crested Sunmare
Liesa, Shroud of Dusk
Sunscorch Regent
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed

Planeswalkers (1)
Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord

Spells (15)
Enlightened Tutor
Path to Exile
Swords to Plowshares
Vampiric Tutor
Demonic Tutor
Diabolic Intent
Heliod’s Intervention
Anguished Unmaking
Teferi’s Protection
Toxic Deluge
Beacon of Immortality
Approach of the Second Sun

Artifacts (9)
Sol Ring
Arcane Signet
Thought Vessel
Bontu’s Monument
Pristine Talisman
Aetherflux Reservoir
Well of Lost Dreams
Alhammarret’s Archive

Enchantments (3)
Phyrexian Arena
Exquisite Blood
Sanguine Bond
Lands (35)
Brightclimb Pathway
Caves of Koilos
Command Tower
Exotic Orchard
Fetid Heath
Godless Shrine
Isolated Chapel
13 Plains
Shineshadow Snarl
Silent Clearing
Tainted Field
Takenuma, Abandoned Mire
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Vault of Champions

Why Karlov of the Ghost Council?

There are a ton of great options for Black/White lifegain in commander including cards like Liesa, Shroud of Dusk and Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim What separates Karlov from them is his ability to deal with problematic threats and creatures efficiently and often. Not only are we able to survive large combat swings with our deck we can also remove this biggest threat. One of the best parts of Karlov is just leaving mana open and him with a bunch of counters. Doing this we can start politicking and making deals with our opponents, deals that are inevitably in our favor. We are in Black/White so we already have a pretty easy time removing creatures / problematic permanents combine this with Karlov and we have a bunch of ways to stay alive and control the creatures that can exist on the battlefield. Karlov is also great on creatures that are involved with infinite combos being able to stop that at instant speed is a great ability to have. Overall Karlov’s ability to control the permanents on the battlefield and protect us by giving us payoff for gaining life makes him a great choice for a lifegain strategy!

Deck Overview:

Since we are a lifegain deck all we really want to do is gain life and get the benefits our cards give us from that. Karlov is naturally one of our strongest lifegain payoff cards since we can exile any problematic creature who gets in our way. We also have some other great payoff cards like Archangel of Thune and Crested Sunmare. We can use our payoff cards to gain an edge on the opponent and continue to get the benefits of gaining life. Since we are in Black/White we are packing some strong offensive and defensive spells, for offensive we have Beacon of Immortality and Approach of the Second Sun. For our defensive spells we have Teferi's Protection and Anguished Unmaking. Combine our defensive spells with Karlov being able to be used nearly every turn and we can control the game and gain enough life that we cant be killed. Overall we have pretty low curve for CMC with Approach being the top of our curve, since we have small and efficient creatures its very easy to keep a 1 or 2 land hand in this deck and still find success. Some of our best lifegain creatures are Rhox Faithmender,Kambal, Consul of Allocation and Twilight Prophet. Nearly every card in our deck’s has the purpose of either gaining us life or making our lifegain effects better cards like Cliffhaven Vampire are a great example for this. The payoff for our deck is to draw / search into our combos and end games all of the lifegain and Karlov shenanigans are just to hold out and live until we can hit one of our many combos. Since we are Black / White we of course have the classic Exquisite Blood + Sanguine Bond and most of our combos do interact with exquisite blood but the benefit of that is that with only exquisite blood in hand we can tutor into one of our combos very easily and if some creature try’s to stop that you better believe Karlov will have something to say about that! At our core we are a combo deck with preventative measures to protect us until we can assemble what we need to win. We really only need two tutors to grab the various combo pieces and begin to set up. This is very much a slow combo deck since most players will not let an Exquisite Blood just sit on the battlefield so we typically want to do play it all and win the game in one turn!

Strengths of the Deck:

  • Control what creatures can be on the battlefield
  • Multiple ways to combo off and end games
  • Lifegain protects us against aggressive strategies

Weaknesses of the Deck:

  • No real reanimation most cards that die stay dead
  • Weak to Removal in general
  • Very weak to “cant gain life” effects or anything that even temporarily stops us from gaining life

Deck Stats:

Sample Hands:

Main win conditions:

We are in every way a combo deck so of course we are packing some classic Black / White combos!

Exquisite Blood + Sanguine Bond

Result: Infinite lifegain. Infinite lifegain triggers. Infinite lifeloss.

Exquisite Blood + Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose

Result: Infinite lifegain. Infinite lifegain triggers. Infinite lifeloss.

Exquisite Blood + Aetherflux Reservoir

Result: Infinite damage. Infinite lifegain triggers.

Walking Ballista + Mikaeus, the Unhallowed

Result: Infinite ETB. Infinite LTB. Infinite death triggers.

In addition to our suite of combos we also have Approach of the Second Sun as a backup if our primary combo pieces get messed with!


In conclusion Karlov is a very fun deck in the right meta, while you wont be competing with crazy fast combo decks this deck is great in a interactive format where wins come past turn 5 and are not Tier CEDH style combos but more drawn out multiple card combos you wont be turn 2’ing people with this one. Utilizing our lifegain to stick around for a long time in games and negate attacks against us by just gaining a ton. Karlov’s ability to exile any problematic creature or just attacking when he is big can help swing the game into your favor! Being able to toolbox with Exquisite Blood makes our combo quite easy with multiple backup stragies in case the game does not go in our favor! Overall Karlov is a very fun deck with a ton of cool effects / spells that is great for the Black/White Mage in your playgroup.

Thanks for reading to the end!