Brewing Baldur's Gate - A Shadowheart, Dark Justiciar Commander Deck

Eliana C • October 26, 2023

God's Favorite Princess

Yes, I'm a hater and a gatekeeper. I'm also God's favourite princess and the most interesting girl in the world. So goes the hilarious meme attributed to Baldur's Gate 3 companion Shadowheart, which gained enough traction that her voice actress, Jennifer English, saw fit to record the line in her character's voice.

Unfortunately, while this remains true in-game, the actual card featuring God's favourite princess falls far short of being the most interesting girl in the world. In fact, the card is downright boring in my opinion. But, like many, after Larian Studio's amazing game released and I spent untold hours ensconced in it, I decided to revisit last year's Battle for Baldur's Gate Commander set.

Now, armed with the knowledge of who the Sharran cleric actually was, and having judged her as my absolute fav, I had new conviction to build a deck around her. I decided to redouble my efforts despite my misgivings about the card. My final product is not the strongest thing I've ever brewed, but it is a lot of fun to play.

First off, let's take a look at Shadowheart herself and why I found such a hard time making the deck interesting. On first glance, this card isn't terrible. Over-costed, sure, but also anything that gives you card advantage in the command zone and a way to kill your own guys in black can't be that bad right? When you consider that for the same mana value you could just be playing Yawgmoth, Thran Physician in the command zone, she looks a lot worse. Shadow isn't going to win the value game against a ton of other black commanders already out there. The card lacks identity, which is almost fitting if you've played through Shadowheart's whole story and squint really hard. No spoilers!

Thankfully for us, there is another line of text on this card that, to me, was the most interesting thing about the commander offerings in Battle for Baldur's Gate.

Burden of Nobility

Backgrounds is a riff on the partner mechanic, but more fair. Plus, the flavor of building a D&D character complete with their backstory is big chef's kiss energy. The question is: which Background did I want to pair with Shadowheart's lackluster textbox to improve that shine? I tried several before arriving at my final choice, which was one I'd never considered building with before, and one that likely wouldn't be the first choice of most when building this deck.

While according to online statistics, Haunted One, Master Chef, Cloakwood Hermit, and Folk Hero are far more popular to build with for our dear Cleric, I think each of those lends itself to a suboptimal build with her that doesn't necessarily do anything better or in a more fun way than other commanders would. Noble Heritage, however, is a card that introduces the Human (or half-elf) element in the game, which is one of the things that is unique to Commander itself. This is such a versatile card that allows your strategy to pivot in several directions.

Trickle Down Economics

You have the option of putting the counters on any of your other creatures, making them threats and potential huge targets for Shadowheart's natural ability to draw you cards. You can put counters on Shadow herself in order to pivot aggro and try and kill your opponent with commander damage. And of course, the core of this card is that it forces your opponents to make a choice, then allows you to try and talk your way into them making the one that benefits you in the long run. To this end, much of this deck takes advantage of this and the counters you're going to be throwing around. Let's get into some of the key cards in the deck!

First off, as alluded to, this deck wants to maximize the use of the +1/+1 counters that Noble Heritage grants, so we're of course rocking cards like Mikaeus, the Lunarch and The Ozolith in order to move those around as we see fit. Additionally, we're running payoffs for said counters, like Esper Sentinel and Hopeful Initiate. With the number of counters you'll hopefully be throwing around, Hopeful Initiate turns into a source of repeatable removal. And asking "do you pay the 3" sounds infinitely sweeter on Sentinel than "do you pay the 1". The low end of our curve is filled with cards that are either going to slow our opponent down, or scale well as we add more counters to them.

Additionally, cards like Scholar of New Horizons and Orcish Bowmasters come with their own counters in one form or another, and they can continually benefit from additional counters or generate more!

Hating and Gatekeeping

However, seeing as how our opponents can take the option of receiving +1/+1 counters as well, we need ways to counteract that once we no longer have our temporary protection from them. Aside from the suite of effects like Windborn Muse, No Mercy, and Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts (who also makes additional bodies for us to sac later), we additionally have a few more unique cards that play into our overall strategy.

While we're also running powerful political tools that work with counters, like Orzhov Advokist and Breena, the Demagogue, Nils, Discipline Enforcer is an absolute king in this deck. If your opponent has already succumb to your honeyed words once or twice or you've been able to get any other engine online, this guy can grind the potential threat posed by your own Noble Heritage to a halt, and in combination with our other pillow fort pieces and a suite of goad and pseudo-goad effects (not super easy the achieve in Orzhov, but we certainly have options) highly incentivize your opponents to attack each other.

We Did This to Ourselves

Of course, Nils and our other tricks aren't always enough to deal with the problems we create ourselves, so sometimes you just need to burn it all down. Invasion of Fiora is a selective board wipe that can flip into a aggressive, evasive attacker that can remove all counters from a target permanent in the form of Queen Marchesa (long may she reign). I currently also have a package for looping Ao, the Dawn Sky with Nim Deathmantle, (one of my favorite things to do in Orzhov) in conjunction with cards like Teysa Karlov and Ashnod's Altar to vomit your whole deck onto the table. While this is obviously good, this deck also really loves getting the +1/+1 counters from Ao's less-used death trigger.

The Power of God and Anime

This deck is very good at generating a lot of evasive bodies that could theoretically just end the game with cards like Felisa, Fang of Silverquill and Shadrix Silverquill. Those cards also provide payoffs to our multitude of counters, and, in the case of Shadrix, allow us to place them on opponents' creatures as well in order to support Nils and the like. We also have the option of doing standard aristocrats stuff via the Ao engine, or just going tall with counters, but sometimes you just need to end a game, and in these colors I can't think of another duo that both benefit this deck individually more than the infamous Heliod and Ballista.

Individually, these two cards support the themes of the deck by playing with +1/+1 counters on their own. Ballista becomes a potent removal piece and threat (even without Heliod) with Shadowheart in play. And obviously, together, the two become a potent wincon that the deck can fall back on, but doesn't try to race to or tutor for, making it a bit more suitable for your average casual table.

The Most Interesting Girl in the World

At the end of the day, Shadowheart, Dark Justiciar will never be the strongest deck at the table. There are far more optimal things you could be doing with similar effects. But my goal with this deck wasn't to do that, it was to make a Shadowheart deck that was fun to play and could win. Striking that balance can often be extremely difficult in Commander, but sometimes taking the time to try and really figure it out is worth it. I'm sure I'll keep tweaking this deck, as I've only just finished it, so maybe this is an article I revisit in a few months time.

Shadowheart Full Commander Decklist

Eliana's Shadowheart - Yes I'm A Hater and A Gatekeeper

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Commander (2)
Sorceries (5)
Lands (33)
Enchantments (11)
Creatures (29)
Artifacts (8)
Instants (11)
Battles (1)

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Despite playing since the late 90s off and on, Eliana's true love for Magic sparked when she started playing EDH and later cEDH. Now well known on social media for her Commander content and Magic centric charity work, she also dabbles in 60 card competitive formats as well, and is particularly fond of Legacy. El is also a former pro-wrestler, heavy music aficionado, and plays way too much D&D. You can find more of her content and get in touch with her on Twitter and most other social media @defiantcathar