Conditions Allow - Sauron, the Necromancer EDH

Ben Doolittle • November 13, 2023

(Sauron, the Necromancer | Art by Anato Finnstark)

No Mere Sorcerer

Hello, and welcome back to Conditions Allow! In this article series I take a legendary creature with a drawback and build a deck to turn it into a strength. This week I'm going back to Middle-earth to investigate reports of a necromancer who's taken up residence in Mirkwood forest. Surely it won't turn out to be a much larger problem than anyone imagined.

Whenever Sauron, the Necromancer attacks, you must exile target creature from you graveyard and create a token copy that is a 3/3 Wraith with menace. Then, at the beginning of the next end step, you exile that token unless Sauron, the Necromancer is your Ring-bearer. This is reminiscent of Drana, the Last Bloodchief with some additional drawbacks. The creatures are exiled directly from your graveyard, so there's no chance of re-using them multiple times. Additionally, if Sauron, the Necromancer is destroyed before your end step, or the Ring doesn't tempt you, those tokens will be exiled. Having their power reduced to three isn't as relevant, but is also something we'll have to take into account. 

The Nine

Luckily, we can solve all those problems with a single card. Or nine copies of a single card. Whenever a Nazgûl enters the battlefield, the Ring tempts you, letting you make Sauron, the Necromancer your Ring-bearer. Also, whenever the Ring tempts you, each Nazgûl you control puts a +1/+1 counter on all of your Wraiths. Even just one or two Nazgûl will quickly boost your resurrected creatures above their base power while ensuring they stick around. We have access to a few other ways to be tempted by the Ring, but other than Call of the Ring, the Nazgûl are the best.

It's also important to set up early with the Nazgûl because they are our primary method of getting creatures into the graveyard to reanimate. After the second time the Ring tempts you, your Ring-bearer loots whenever it attacks, letting you send a steady stream of big creatures into your graveyard. To help get to that second stage of temptation, I'm including Haakon, Stromgald Scourge as a method to re-cast the Nazgûl from the graveyard. Blade of Selves is also very, very good in this deck. Giving a Nazgûl myriad creates two tempt triggers with at least three Wraiths in play, putting at least six +1/+1 counters on all your Wraiths right away. Don't forget, that also includes any creatures reanimated by Sauron, the Necromancer. Finally, let's include a couple of ways to bring all our Nazgûl back at once. In the right situation, Living Death can wipe your opponents' boards and set you up to attack with a team of huge creatures before they recover.

So long as we're building around Nazgûl, it makes sense to include a few additional payoffs for +1/+1 counters. Nikara, Lair Scavenger draws a card every time a Nazgûl leaves play, while The Ozolith saves all those +1/+1 counters for later. That's especially valuable for making sure Sauron, the Necromancer survives combat. If we need more value than raw power, Fain, the Broker can sacrifice our Nazgûl or take counters off of them to make a little extra mana. In a pinch he can even turn a spare Treasure token into a flying blocker. 

Monsters From Beyond the Grave

But this isn't just a Nazgûl deck. It's a reanimator deck, which means we need lots creatures to reanimate. For most of these creatures, I'm focusing on powerful enters-the-battlefield effects to make the most of the one time we get to reanimate them. Overseer of the Damned, Massacre Wurm, and Voracious Fell Beast add a little removal, while Grave Titan gums up the board with tokens. All the tokens created by Sauron, the Necromancer retain their mana values as well, so Gray Merchant of Asphodel can deal a significant amount of damage later in the game.

Let's not overlook powerful static abilities either. Sheoldred, Whispering One and Razaketh, the Foulblooded can take over a game on their own. Syr Konrad, the Grim needs you to have a little bit going on, but he wins the game very quickly if you do. We've also got plenty of utility creatures, like Nikara, Lair Scavenger and Carrion Feeder, that actually grow into 3/3s when revived by Sauron, the Necromancer.

Leaving So Soon?

Speaking of Syr Konrad, the Grim, there's a couple other ways to take advantage of creatures leaving our graveyard. Desecrated Tomb in particular is a great way to add extra value to Sauron, the Necromancer exiling creatures from your graveyard. The token copies enter tapped, so having untapped fliers to block with is vital for protecting our life total. Tormod, the Desecrator helps as well, even if his Zombies don't fly.

We can make all these tokens even more dangerous with Gothmog, Morgul Lieutenant. Menace and deathtouch isn't a super common combination of keywords, but it makes blocking your creatures extremely awkward. We can also turn those tokens into direct damage with Zulaport Cutthroat. Of course, this isn't really an aristocrats deck, but it can still develop a wide board. Zulaport Cutthroat makes board wipes more risky, and helps push through incidental damage. 

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With powerhouses like Meren of Clan Nel Toth in the format, I always underestimate temporary reanimation effects but there are plenty of powerful creatures you don't need to reanimate more than once to win the game. The Nazgûl are also surprisingly dangerous in Commander, especially if you can bring them back over and over. Those 3/3 Wraith tokens can get very large very quickly.

But what do you think? How would you build around Sauron, the Necromancer? Is there any sweet Nazgûl tech I missed? 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.