The Best Cards for Extra Upkeeps - Grixis

Mike Carrozza • April 28, 2024

Well, Well, Well...

Grixis upkeeps are all the rage thanks to a legend hanging out in the rootin' tootin' set Outlaws of Thunder Junction. Obeka, Splitter of Seconds is a four-mana 2/5 with menace in Grixis, and her second ability has caught the attention of Commander brewers who've been looking a new itch to scratch:

"Whenever Obeka, Splitter of Seconds deals combat damage to a player, you get that many additional upkeep steps after this phase."

Additional upkeeps?! In this economy?! I just gotta try it!

Except... I already have!

Since October, I've been running this Doctor Who pairing as my Grixis upkeeps deck. How could I be so prescient?! While I'm far from the only person to come up with this pairing and theme, I've made it something of a pet deck and fancy myself a bit of an expert in this field, so when Obeka, Splitter of Seconds was previewed and the community collectively went bananas, I knew that there would be people out there making some of the same mistakes I made.

In the spirit of saving you some time, here's my very first article featuring a deck tech for Commander's Herald. It'll be a bit of a break from my usual Am I The Bolas? column (and podcast). Hopefully, I won't be stepping on any toes of other fantastic columns on here and EDHREC, but it's difficult not to when I'm directly comparing two similar decks, so shout out to all the This vs. That columns that I studied before writing my own. 

Same, Same

Of course, the upside of having multiple upkeeps is reaping the value of cards that are only meant to trigger once during each of your turns. In a fun turn of events, it seems like Grixis upkeeps is a lot more of an enchantment deck than I expected, so here are some all-stars that work great in both Obeka and The Ninth Doctor.

The Courts from Commander Legends and Wilds of Eldraine are incredible in any upkeep-focused deck. If you're the monarch, their effect is so much better than when you're not, but when you're getting so many triggers even when you're not the monarch, it's worth it. The floor on these in a deck triggering multiple upkeeps is still very high, especially when you're playing one, become the monarch, and then get your combat damage trigger from Obeka.

I've divided the available courts into two camps:

Court of Ambition, Court of Ire, and Court of Embereth are straight-up game-enders when you can amass enough upkeeps. Each one of these are controlling and damaging in ways that signal to your opponent that they need to remove them as soon as they can.

Meanwhile, Court of Vantress and Court of Locthwain serve more utility roles and are likely to get cut from the suite if you're looking for places to make room. I think of Vantress as like a second Extravagant Replication for artifacts and enchantments, allowing you to get more Court of Ambition triggers if you can make enough. Locthwain is really cool when you're playing against more interactive decks so you can strip them of their removal and sometimes point it right back at them.

Here are another few cards that find a home in both decks: As Foretold effectively gives you a single free spell per turn after a turn or two. Descent into Avernus does the same while taking the table down a peg and putting them in striking distance of your Twilight Prophet trigger. A word of warning: Descent into Avernus is never a safe card, so be wise with it. Make sure you've got Twilight Prophet, Creeping Bloodsucker, or Exquisite Blood out to offset the damage you're taking. 

I'd say we've scratched the surface on what makes the deck interesting and some key pieces that you'll want in either deck, but let's take a look at what makes them more unique. 

But Different

When Obeka was spoiled, people who know about my 9Doc deck were messaging me about how I've got a new commander for that deck. I got excited! I read her over and... hmm. She doesn't do the thing I enjoy about my deck. How do both decks play?

The Ninth Doctor requires the untap step to trigger. How do we get so many upkeeps then? Clones! Sakashima of a Thousand Faces, Spark Double, and Irenicus's Vile Duplication are all necessary. Don't get me started on Machine God's Effigy copying a Spark Double while having Court of Vantress or Extravagant Replication out. The upkeep triggers stack on your turn, at the beginning of your turn, and then you move forward. It's a big burst of energy and it's a little slower than you'd expect.

How do we tap The Ninth Doctor? Attacking, Relic of Legends, Honor-Worn Shaku, Holdout Settlement, Survivors' Encampment, Opposition, and TARDIS. There aren't too many, but they're high priority for the deck. You can also take your pick of Vehicles, but they're pretty much useless in Obeka, Splitter of Seconds, though. This opens up the slots for the Obeka list to make room for things that get her in for damage or to pump her up. Overall, this Doctor isn't best-suited for an aggressive game. This isn't the deck for Auton Soldier like Obeka could use. This is Machine God's Effigy territory: time to hang back and let Duskmantle Seer and Keen Duelist dwindle life totals while you keep Exquisite Blood from being blown up. 

Obeka, on the other hand, is more like a cannonball. She has a combat damage trigger that gets better when her power is high. Obeka is a Mavado Fatality you can see from a mile away; you need to set up your payoffs and protect them, then get Obeka down to slam for you to get ten upkeeps without much effort. It's a patient game, and players will be tempted to get her down before being able to protect her, but in a pod where opponents are packing hella removal, you'll be paying your (commander) taxes a bunch.

If you watch the latest Game Knights, you'll see that Josh Lee Kwai runs out Obeka early and then she's out of reach. He did get hated out pretty quickly, but if she's what makes the engine hum, it gets tough when you're paying eight or ten mana for your commander again. This is where I feel like The Ninth Doctor has an edge: folks don't get too scared of him! Obeka, Splitter of Seconds has the distinction of being the breakout hit of the OTJ, so people are a little wary. 

Anyhoo, because Obeka rewards you for dealing combat damage to players, you'll need to make sure you get through. She's already got menace, so packing a Silent Arbiter is basically making your commander unblockable while also blunting the crackback. A Shadowspear helps keep your life total high when you're swinging while also offering trample to the time ogre. Obeka seems to be more about setting up the big turn, getting value along the way, the big turn being a big swing with Obeka. The Ninth Doctor is planting land mines, Obeka, Splitter of Seconds is a big ol' shotgun blast. 

Custody Battle

So which cards do better in which decks? Here's a bit of a rapid fire for you.

Beginning with a surprise, a card that performs better in Doc's deck over Obeka's is Sphinx of the Second Sun. Sphinx in Doc's deck lets you untap your The Ninth Doctor and his clone buddies in your bonus beginning phase, gaining you multiple upkeeps in the back end of your turn. In Obeka, the Sphinx is a body and triggers your upkeep effects one more time before the end of turn and untaps your board. It's still a great card, obviously, but it isn't as effective in Obeka as it is in the Doctor deck. WINNER: DOCTOR

Obeka doesn't just care that you dealt combat damage, she cares how much combat damage you've dealt. This is a deck for Embercleave, Savage Beating, and something like Inside Out or Twisted Image. Dan Sheehan pointed out online that the Ring of Valkas cycle can be pretty useful to snowball when you're using Aggravated Assault. I find AggAss a little boring, but wouldn't turn my nose up at Karlach, Fury of Avernus in its slot. WINNER: OBEKA

Controlling the board becomes a little more important when you're hoping to get back to your untap step with everything. Playing some stax effects can make some eyes roll, but at least you're going to be going full speed and you'll be able to end the game when you pop Rumbling Crescendo or run your Rising Waters. Don't forget, Lilting Refrain can be a deterrent as much as it can be a Mana Leak that the whole table can see. The threat of popping a Time Bomb or The Moment means that some players won't commit to the board until they can deal with them... but by then it might be too late. WINNER: DOCTOR

While I've already explained why Silent Arbiter is a champ in this deck, what happens when you don't have it? Luckily, you've got three fantastic Universes Beyond cards to include in Shaun and Auton Soldier. They make nonlegendary copies of your commander, and since you don't care if they stick around, losing them to myriad's exile clause or Shaun getting removed won't bother you much. Similarly, Nanogene Conversion allows you to turn whatever creatures you've got onboard into copies of Obeka. Note that all creatures become Obeka, which means that you're slamming 2/5s into other 2/5s, but you've got menace on your side. WINNER: OBEKA

While it's fine in both decks, Dominus of Fealty really shines in a deck that can take things at the beginning of the turn. Grab a bunch of creatures to swing with? That's just an option for The Ninth Doctor unless you're running AggAss (do you think this will catch on?). Luckily, you can steal any kind of permanents, and that's really great. I prefer to have it at the beginning of your turn rather than only in your second main. WINNER: DOCTOR

The drawback on Psychic Vortex is fine to ignore if you're just filling up your hand at the next upkeep anyway, but it does feel bad to have it removed after discarding your hand and sacrificing a land before you get any cards from it. In Obeka, playing this precombat with open attacks means that you can swing in for damage and probably draw somewhere between three and, like, 44 if you get her up to 10 power. You might be thinking "Mike, your math is wrong, wouldn't it be 54 if she hit for 10 power?" Don't forget that one of those upkeeps needs to be used to sacrifice the Vortex, otherwise you've done all this for nothing! WINNER: OBEKA

Another spicy card that's great in both decks, Jhoira of the Ghitu is just much better in a deck that can hang back and be mysterious. Let me tell ya, a lot of my games with The Ninth Doctor have seen me tap him down with Relic of Legends or Honor-Worn Shaku at the end step before my turn. Having Jhoira out with Doc and one of those rocks means that you can at least pay to suspend one card in hand right before you go to untap. Obeka might want to spend that mana making sure she gets through, pumping up her damage, and using spells at particularly sensitive times. Does Obeka help cheat out a few things with Jhoira if she's got four power? Absolutely, but I've found the play pattern more attractive in Doc than in Obeka. WINNER: DOCTOR

I could sense some folks reading this wondering: "Why haven't you mentioned Court of Cunning yet?" I haven't found it very effective in The Ninth Doctor, and it tends to fuel graveyard decks. However, if you've got an Obeka, Splitter of Seconds getting you the crown back with ten power, Court of Cunning can lock up the GGs. WINNER: OBEKA

An Obeka Deck - An Odecka

There are a lot of goodies I didn't get to in the article, so here's a list I whipped up for Obeka, Splitter of Seconds.

Obeka, Splitter of Seconds CH

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Commander (1)
Artifacts (15)
Enchantments (19)
Lands (36)
Creatures (22)
Sorceries (3)
Instants (4)

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I hope you enjoyed this, and if you have any questions, I'm really easy to reach! Thanks for reading!

Mike Carrozza is a stand-up comedian from Montreal who’s done a lot of cool things like put out an album called Cherubic and worked with Tig Notaro, Kyle Kinane, and more people to brag about. He’s also been an avid EDH player who loves making silly stuff happen. @mikecarrozza on platforms