You Can't Sleep When You're Dead

Posted in Reconstructed on October 28, 2014

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

Commander is a wonderful place to be.

Unlike our four usual, Standard-legal sets a year—you know, the Khans of Tarkirs of the world—things like Commander products allow R&D designers to play around in some spaces you don't see quite as often.

One hurdle for a typical set, for example, is complexity. Any card that goes into a normal booster release needs to be weighed against the complexity of the entire set, and lines of text such as "[This Planeswalker] can be your commander" don't tend to make the cut there.

Another big hurdle is that any card we put into a Standard-legal booster release is, well...Standard-legal. If a card fits really well for Commander but messes up Standard, well, it's not going to go in the place that touches Standard when we have yearly Commander decks it can fit into.

Finally, Commander is a great place to make some really Johnny cards. What better place to set up for some crazy combos than a format full of wacky Rube Goldberg machines you can build?

What does any of this have to do with my preview card for today?

Well, let's take a look at today's preview card. It doesn't have a ton of text—but that doesn't mean you won't be cocking your head to the side wondering what you can do with it.


So...what can be done with this?

First, let's go over a very important point: regardless of whether an opponent controls any creatures (let alone if he or she attacks with any), your creatures enter combat. You can always just cast this card during the beginning of combat step on any opponent's turn.

With that said, let's hone in on the ability.

This card pretty clearly begins to break some power bounds. Very few cards allow you to reanimate multiple creatures—let alone bring a ton of them back at instant speed! The catch, of course, is that they die at the end of the turn.

Now, the obvious intent behind this card is that you cast it during combat, bring a bunch of blockers back, slaughter your opponent's attackers, and then call it good. And that's all fine and dandy, and it will be used that way often enough. But you don't need me here to tell you how to effectively use the card like that.

Instead, I'm much more interested in figuring out how to break an effect like this that gets so many creatures back from the dead at once. There are certainly a few things you can do.

The most direct of them? Enters-the-battlefield triggers and dies triggers.

Although the creatures may go away at the end of the turn, that doesn't stop you from picking up any enters-the-battlefield effects they may have. The whole suite of evoke creatures make for excellent options here, since you can evoke them and then let them sit in your graveyard, just waiting to come back. But there are plenty of other cards that fit this bill.

Additionally, unlike a whole cadre of other cards that exile the creatures, in this case they go right back to being dead. So something like Ashen Rider gives you both sides of the equation: blows something up when it comes back, and then at end of turn, when your planar readout says "life support: failing" it dies and blows up something else on the way out. Now that's value!

Speaking of this card working a little differently than some other reanimation effects, something a little more subtle you might not have noticed is that, unlike, say, Whip of Erebos, these creatures are free to go anywhere.

For example, imagine this. You tap eight mana and bring back six creatures. And one of them just so happens to be this fella:

All of those other creatures you brought back go straight into your hand. Now, I know that may just sound like a difficult-to-set-up Death Denied at first—but consider that it happens after triggering all of the enter-the-battlefield effects those creatures have. To continue the examples, if you bring back a bunch of evoke creatures, you get all of their effects and bouncing them lets you use them yet again.

Oh, and as for the Kederekt Leviathan? When it flatlines at the end of your turn, it will head right back into your graveyard, ready to be unearthed!

There are definitely a few places worth looking at for this card. There's plenty of 60-card casual applications, and I could even see a world where you tried it out in Legacy to reanimate two cards at once—it's not often you can bring back Kiki-Jiki and Pestermite with one card. (And then at end of turn, before the creatures are sacrificed, make infinite Pestermites that last until your next turn; perhaps consider setting it up with a Gifts Ungiven for only two cards.)

However, considering this is Commander preview week, where better to show off this card being used than in the format it debuts in: Commander!

Waking Up with Sidisi

Wake the Dead fits right into Commander. Commander is a format where crazy things can happen, games go long, and you don't need to be as concerned about being hyper-efficient with all of your cards like in a one-on-one competitive 60-card Constructed format. You have time to set up shenanigans, and then let them roll.

Wake the Dead | Art by Christopher Moeller

If you put Wake the Dead into just any deck, it'll probably be perfectly okay—not too crazy, but it could mess with combat. But in a dedicated Commander deck, it can be downright absurd.

It's pretty clear that Wake the Dead fits into a Commander deck that has plenty of cards headed to the graveyard. As you begin to put the pieces together, an excellent commander for this deck turns out to be the fairly new Sidisi, Brood Tyrant! She mills you quite often, works well with any other self-mill cards you might play, and gives you access to three colors a deck with Wake the Dead is happy to use.

If you walk down the graveyard-laden path, you might end up with something like this:

Gavin Verhey's Sidisi's Wake-up Call

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
99 Cards

This deck is just a reasonable graveyard Commander strategy at its core. You're doing things you would expect with Sidisi at your disposal: dredge; Buried Alive; Mesmeric Orb; and, of course, reanimating.

Play Sidisi whenever possible and mill cards away. You gain a huge advantage from doing so, not only generating creatures but sending cards with flashback, unearth, or other graveyard effects into your trash bin. There are a ton of synergies in this deck you can set up.

On top of it all, though, you can cast Wake the Dead for some serious punch.

Bringing back plenty of the creatures featured in this concoction will generate abilities for you. You can draw tons of cards with Mulldrifter and Sphinx of Uthuun, kill creatures with the likes of Shriekmaw (or even more devastating—set up a gigantic Butcher of Malakir!), and even dole out a bunch of life loss with Vela the Night-Clad. To make things even more crazy, if you choose something like Archaeomancer or Scrivener to return, you'll be able to use Wake the Dead turn after turn after turn! Now that's brutal—and can lead right to your opponents' demises.

This is a card in Commander you'll certainly want to watch out for. It's a card that will generate stories—and I can't wait to hear what you all do with it!

Waking Up in Budget Standard

I hope you enjoyed today's look at a Commander preview! In two weeks, we're going to be taking a budget look at one of your decks! Interested in having your deck featured in the column? Well, go ahead and send it in!

Format: Standard
Restrictions: Your deck is on a budget. For a loose definition, consider budget to contain few rares and very few, if any, mythic rares.
Deadline: Monday, November 3, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time.
Submit all decklists by emailing me at

Decklists should be submitted with YOURNAME's DECKNAME at the top. Underneath should be one card per line, with just a leading number. For example:

12 Mountain
4 Satyr Firedrinker
3 Ash Zealot
4 Lightning Bolt

...and so on. Please don't use anything but a space to separate the card numbers and names—don't write "4x Lightning Bolt," for example. Well-formatted decklists have a much better chance of being read and making it into the column. Poorly formatted decklists are more likely to be ignored. (If I can't read your decklist, I certainly can't talk about it!)

Also, take note that, for this week, please send your decks to There is currently a bug that is causing difficulty with me seeing your decklists sent to my Wizards address.

In the meantime, if you have any thoughts on this article or preview card, or just anything in general, I always love hearing from my readers! You can always send me a tweet or ask me a question on Tumblr and I am guaranteed to see it. So if you have a thought, go ahead—send it my way.

I'll be back next week with a look at Jeskai in Standard for Jeskai Week. Until then, have fun learning about the many exciting new cards in this year's Commander—and use Wake the Dead to the best of its abilities.

Have fun!


Latest Reconstructed Articles


January 4, 2016

Kozilek's Return by, Gavin Verhey

Kozilek had quite an explosive reappearance. Everything on Zendikar was starting to go all right. And then, in one earth-rumbling swoop, the beast below awoke: Kozilek surged up and reap...

Learn More


December 28, 2015

Jumping for Jori by, Gavin Verhey

Welcome to Oath of the Gatewatch previews! This set has a lot of awesome elements going for it. Support. Surge. And—oh yeah—that colorless mana symbol, just to name a few. I was on the d...

Learn More



Reconstructed Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All