Conditions Allow - Asmodeus the Archfiend EDH

Ben Doolittle • August 10, 2021

Asmodeus the Archfiend | Art by Aleksi Briclot

A Devil for the Details

Hello, and welcome back to Conditions Allow, the article series where I take a legendary creature with a drawback and turn it into a strength. Today I continue my adventures through the Forgotten Realms and delve into the Nine Hells, ruled over by Asmodeus the Archfiend for some Asmodeus EDH.

Asmodeus the Archfiend is obviously a powerful card. His ability to trade life for cards was immediately compared to Griselbrand and Necropotence. In practice, though, Asmodeus isn't nearly as potent in the command zone as you might expect. Griselbrand is powerful because he draws cards with zero additional mana investment. Even if you pay the full eight mana to cast him (don't try, he's banned), you can still draw seven cards right away. That's not true with Asmodeus the Archfiend. On top of paying six mana to cast, he requires four additional mana to put seven cards into your hand.

And while you could only pay three extra mana to leave those cards in exile, if Asmodeus is destroyed you'll lose access to those cards forever. Unlike with Necropotence there is no delayed trigger to put those cards into your hand. Additionally, Asmodeus the Archfiend's binding contract applies to every single card you draw. Necropotence may block your draw step, but Asmodeus is much more comprehensive. If you want to put cards in your hand, you'll have to pay the price.

Unless, of course, Asmodeus the Archfiend isn't in play. Sacrifice him with the draw seven ability on the stack and his replacement effect will no longer apply, leaving you free to draw seven more cards. So what do you do with all those cards? Well, if you're already throwing one big creature into the graveyard, it makes sense to try and bring it back. From there you can start controlling the board and discarding Massacre Wurms and Archon of Crueltys to reanimate alongside the Devil God himself.

Touring the Nine Hells

The first, and most important, step in this plan is to get Asmodeus the Archfiend into his hellish kingdom, the graveyard.  Ideally, you'll want to activate and sacrifice Asmodeus during your upkeep the turn after casting him. This ensures no cards are left in exile, and you get the engine rolling as quickly as possible. To maintain the element of surprise, I'm going to lean on instants to sacrifice Asmodeus. Viscera Seer is a well known combo enabler, and telegraphs your plans to your opponents. Village Rites is much harder to see coming, and virtually impossible to interact with. Because you sacrifice a creature as an additional cost to cast the spell you'll get to sacrifice Asmodeus the Archfiend even if it gets countered. Vicious Offering is probably my favorite of these spells though. It starts that controlling game plan right away, while ensuring you get to refill your hand unhindered.

You don't have to rely on just instants, though. There aren't enough of them to reliably see one in your top ten or so cards. And this is a reanimator deck, Altar of Dementia has to have a spot. I also really like Phyrexian Arena and High Market. They're relatively innocuous, most players don't include land destruction, and they have relevant effects. Asmodeus the Archfiend will make you the target of a lot of incidental damage, so the occasional point of healing from High Market is invaluable. Meanwhile, the burst of mana from Phyrexian Arena and Culling the Weak lets you cast any instants you draw right away.

Command Obedience

Of course, drawing seven cards is going to get the attention of your opponents. In order to ensure you live long enough to use them, you'll need to establish control of the battlefield. If there aren't a ton of creatures on the field, Reanimateing Asmodeus the Archfiend might be enough. In case it isn't though, lets include enough removal to keep those creatures at bay. Damnation is a classic, but I'm growing fond of Force of Despair as well. It's a free way to control an explosive turn from any token deck, and keeps hasty creatures from Sneak Attacking you out of nowhere.

The two best board wipes in the deck, however, are Decree of Pain and Necromantic Selection. Each one mimics your most powerful play patterns, either destroying all creatures while drawing a bunch of cards, or destroying all creatures and bringing the best one back.

Service After Death

If the goal is to wipe the board and then reanimate something big, you're gonna need a few big creatures. Many creatures are capable of taking the game over on their own, but perhaps the best is Sheoldred, Whispering One. In case Sheoldred is out of your budget, though, consider Archon of Cruelty. The archon won't reanimate creatures for you, but the sacrifice, discard, and incidental life gain are great for staying in control of the game. The fact that it attacks for a total of nine damage is wonderful as well. You don't want to give your opponents time to recover. In case they do, Massacre Wurm and Massacre Girl can easily have you back in control.

You can also reanimate a creature to quickly establish your own army. Grave Titan and Sepulchral Primordial represent up to four bodies from a single creature. Reanimating your opponent's creatures is especially potent right after a board wipe. Rakshasa Debaser is another option to do that, potentially more than once. Most of the time, though, you'll want to use its Encore ability, to get three creatures right away.

I also want to highlight two other creatures that show up less often in other reanimator decks. Psychosis Crawler is obviously powerful with the draw potential from Asmodeus the Archfiend, but Necrotic Ooze turns that up to eleven. The ooze will inherit all of Asmodeus's activated abilities, but not the replacement effect that stops you from drawing cards. You'll be free to sink all of your mana into his ability. This could be the outlet to an infinite mana combo with Pili-Pala and Magus of the Coffers, but I'm going to leave them out of this particular list.

Never Ending Torment

I've gone over all the creatures you'll want to revive, so let's quickly go over how to revive them. Some reanimator decks aim to cheat big creatures into play early, taking advantage of cheap spells like Animate Dead and Stitch Together. And this deck plays those, but it really wants to take advantage of bigger spells that bring back multiple creatures. Sepulchral Primordial is powerful on its own, but why not revive it alongside Grave Titan with Ever After? Or offset the life loss of Command the Dreadhorde with Noxious Gearhulk and Archon of Cruelty?

One spell I'm not so sure of is Living End. It is the cheapest way to bring all your creatures back, but your opponents will get all their creatures you destroyed back too. I'd much rather have those creatures under my control instead. Luckily, that's just what Thrilling Encore does. Cast it right after a Damnation and you'll get every single creature you just destroyed back in play under your control.

One final thing to note about Asmodeus the Archfiend is that he immediately puts a target on your playmat. Everyone will think you're trying to spend your life total as a resource, and try to stop you. Expect to be attacked more often than usual with Asmodeus the Archfiend in the command zone. And even though you won't pay life into Asmodeus's ability, it's still important to offset some of that aggression with a little life gain. Noxious Gearhulk is useful for this, but Ivory Tower is much more powerful. Thanks to the card advantage from Asmodeus, Ivory Tower can easily gain you seven or more life during your upkeep. It hasn't shown up on his EDHREC page yet, but it definitely should.

With the core of the deck formed, lets add lands and plenty of mana rocks for the full decklist.

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This deck was a lot of fun to put together. The raw card advantage Asmodeus provides is incredible, ensuring you see your board wipes, creatures, and reanimator spells consistently. And while this particular list tries to get around Asmodeus the Archfiend's passive ability, if you included more tutors to find Ivory Tower, I think you could easily offset the life loss and build a more straightforward deck with Asmodeus at the helm.

But what do you think? Is Asmodeus the Archfiend as good as everyone feared? And is it worth it to build around him as a commander, or is it better to include him as part of a reanimator deck instead? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.

Ben was introduced to Magic during Seventh Edition and has played on and off ever since. A Simic mage at heart, he loves being given a problem to solve. When not shuffling cards, Ben can be found lost in a book or skiing in the mountains of Vermont.