Browse > Home / Strategy / Articles / Witherbloom Witchcraft $50 Precon Upgrade | Lifegain | Combo | Willowdusk | C21

Witherbloom Witchcraft $50 Precon Upgrade | Lifegain | Combo | Willowdusk | C21

Commander 2021 preconstructed decks have been revealed which means it's time for another round of my precon upgrades! I'll go over how each preconstructed deck plays, why you should buy it, analyze its strengths and weaknesses, then use that information to recommend an optimal and impactful $50 upgrade.

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Today we're covering the precon Withebloom Witchcraft, a Black/Green Lifegain deck. The precon can be divided into cards that either gain life, either through lifelink with cards like Loxodon Warhammer, sacrificing pests created by Blight Mound, or other lifegain sources like Gyome, Master Chef. The rest of the deck is fueled by this lifegain, recurring creatures from the graveyard with Veinwitch Coven, summoning massive Demons with Tivash, Gloom Summoner, and draining opponents with Sanguine Bond. It's all about gaining life and using that lifegain in various ways to win the game.

Our Commander

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The face commander of the deck, Willowdusk, Essence Seer, does a great job representing what the precon is all about: using lifegain to fuel powerful abilities. Willowdusk can load up any other creature with tons of +1/+1 counters based on the most life you've either lost or gained this turn. The precon can gain or lose a ton of life in a single turn, gaining tons off cards like Healing Technique, especially when amplified by Alhammarret's Archive, and paying tons of life with cards like Greed. The unaltered precon is able to activate Willowdusk to put 10 or more +1/+1 counters on a creature in a single turn without too much issue, making Willowdusk an insanely efficient payoff to the deck, essentially turning every single creature into a huge, potentially game-winning threat.

This gives Willowdusk a lot of potential as a commander, so we're keeping it in the command zone for the upgraded version.

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Alright, let's check out the decklist and see how well it accomplishes its goals:

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Right out of the box, Witherbloom Witchcraft is incredibly focused on Lifegain: I count 30 cards that gain life and 29 cards that deal with lifegain, either directly by caring when you gain life or indirectly by requiring you to pay life to use them. There's actually very few cards here that don't adhere to the deck's main theme, making it one of the most focused precons ever printed. The only glaring issue I see with the deck at a glance is its mana curve: it's too top-heavy. We'll definitely want to bring down the mana curve a little in the upgrades section.

Now that we've glanced at the list as a whole, let's take a look at the deck's ratios.

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Analyzing the Precon

As I often explain in my Budget Commander articles, every time I build a rough draft of a deck, I make sure I have a certain ratio of mana, interaction, card advantage, etc. This gives me a reference point to compare to the deck and see which areas may need improvement. My general ratio is:

  • 50 mana; lands and ramp, usually a 37–13 split
  • 10 card draw; cards that net you 2+ cards in hand
  • 8 targeted removal; split between creature / artifact / enchantment removal and countermagic
  • 3 board wipes; creature-light decks might want one more, creature-heavy decks might want one less
  • 2 graveyard recursion
  • 2 flexible tutors; higher budgets I recommend more tutors
  • 1 graveyard hate; since you need to keep Graveyard decks honest 
  • 1 finisher; something that can win games the turn you cast it without too much setup

That's always my starting point, which is then tweaked to suit the individual deck's strategy and further tweaked with playtesting. I always find it immensely useful to figure out some quick ways to improve the deck in question.

Let's see what the rough ratios are for Lorehold Legacies and how it compares. I count:

The ratios look pretty good at a glance. I'm happy to see a single piece of graveyard hate, even if the card itself isn't great. I think we could go down a board wipe and increase the amount of card draw and targeted removal by a little, but otherwise I really like what I see here.

Now that we have the ratios in mind, let's take a look at the individual cards, highlighting the strongest and weakest in each category.

40 Lands. This is a high amount of lands, but makes sense given the deck's very high mana curve: you want to be hitting your land drops consistently all the way up to turn 7 or so. This still isn't ideal, however, as a higher land count runs the risk of flooding out, especially without some cycling lands. 

The lands themselves are very good, however. We have three lands that mana-fix while entering untapped, and I'm delighted to see Tainted Wood reprinted here. There's also some nice lifegain inclusions to fuel the deck like Sapseep Forest and Radiant Fountain.

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13 Ramp. The ramp is a mix of good staples like Sol Ring and some thematic lifegain ramp like Ezzaroot Channeler. A lot of the ramp options are overcosted though, like Gift of Paradise, even factoring lifegain synergies. This category could benefit a lot from replacing the jankier thematic options with more efficient ones.

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8 Card Draw. There's some thematic bangers here, most notably Bloodtracker, who works stunningly well with Willowdusk, Essence Seer to draw absurd amounts of cards. The only two subpar picks are Sapling of Colfenor, which has a low success rate with only 22 other creatures in the deck and no way to manipulate the top card of your library, and Moldervine Reclamation, which isn't a bad card itself but this deck doesn't sacrifice creatures often enough for it to shine.

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6 Targeted Removal. Mortality Spear is a ridiculously efficient new staple in Golgari Lifegain. The other options are decent, we just need more of it.

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4 Board Wipes. Essence Pulse is a cool new card, like a budget version of Toxic Deluge for Lifegain. I'd cut Deadly Tempest though.

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4 Graveyard Recursion. The recursion is real good here. My favorite is Healing Technique, though even the weakest option, Pulse of Murasa, is decent lifegain.

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0 Flexible Tutors. Tutors are super helpful for any Commander deck to help you find the right card for any situation, but I'm fine with them not showing up in precons. These are decks that are meant to pick up and play without being intimately aware of the deck's contents so tutors would only serve to confuse new pilots.

1 Graveyard Hate. Suffer the Past isn't a good card, but at least it's something. Is it so hard to add Bojuka Bog to every Black precon, WOTC?

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3 Finishers. This precon has a bajillion ways to kill people through combat damage, especially with Willowdusk, Essence Seer turning anything into a game-winning threat. The best of these though is Blossoming Bogbeast as an overrun, and two non-combat finishers, Defiant Bloodlord and Sanguine Bond.

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The Verdict. The precon is super focused, which is great. There's a lot of really powerful cards here, and even the weakest options are decent enough thanks to synergies. The mana curve is still too high though, and we could use a bit more targeted removal and card draw. 

Upgrade Goals

I have some specific goals when upgrading the deck:

  • Lower the deck's mana curve
  • Add more lifegain
  • Add more card draw
  • Add more targeted removal
  • Cut a board wipe
  • Cut some lands
  • Upgrade the weakest cards

The deck is already real good, so we're not going for a massive overhaul, just some easy swaps.

$50 Upgrade

Disclaimer: Card prices are volatile, especially during preview season. The prices listed here may be different at the time you read this article.

Here's how I'd swap in $50 worth of upgrades. If you want to upgrade on a smaller budget then just makes less swaps:

Out In Reason
Venser's Journal Rushed Rebirth Great flexible tutor.
Sun Droplet Jarad's Orders

Great flexible tutor.

Druidic Satchel Final Parting

Great flexible tutor.

Elixir of Immortality Diabolic Tutor

Solid flexible tutor.

Honor Troll Staff of Domination

Untap ability combos to make infinite mana + infinite activations.

Leyline Prowler Marwyn, the Nurturer

Combos with Willowdusk + Staff to go infinite at 5+ lifegain.

Nissa's Renewal Viridian Joiner Combos with Willowdusk + Staff to go infinite at 5+ lifegain.
Bloodthirsty Aerialist Ancestral Statue

Combos with Ezzaroot Channeler for infinite bounce / cast.


Essence Warden

Infinite lifegain w/ Statue combo.

Defiant Bloodlord

Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose

Cheaper, win condition, infinite payoff.
Tivash, Gloom Summoner Unspeakable Symbol

Pay tons of life, pump with Willowdusk, 1-shot.

Trudge Garden Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord

Sac outlet and finisher that can recur itself.

Ancient Craving Bolas's Citadel

Absurd card draw that fuels Willowdusk.

Sapling of Colfenor Skullclamp

The best card draw in a Sacrifice deck.

Ob Nixilis Reignited Triskelion

Removal and win con.

Taste of Death Plaguecrafter

Removal on a stick.

Deadly Tempest Shriekmaw Removal on a stick.
Pest Infestation Reclamation Sage Removal on a stick.
Feed the Swarm Nature's Claim

Staple removal.

Suffer the Past

Valentin, Dean of the Vein

Superior GY hate and finisher.
Verdant Sun's Avatar Disciple of Bolas

Card draw + lifegain + sac outlet.

Gluttonous Troll Disciple of Griselbrand

Efficient sac outlet + lifegain.

Ageless Entity Nether Traitor

Sac fodder, haste + evasion makes it a great finisher w/ Willowdusk

Vampire Nighthawk Reassembling Skeleton

Recurring sac fodder.

Loxodon Warhammer Midnight Reaper

Lots of lifegain, damage fuels Willowdusk.

Epicure of Blood Zulaport Cutthroat

Tons of lifedrain, infinite finisher.

Cultivate Devoted Druid

Tons of ramp with Willowdusk.

Pulse of Murasa Fertilid

Tons of ramp with Willowdusk.

Talisman of Resilience Accomplished Alchemist

Tons of ramp with lifegain.

Pristine Talisman Elvish Mystic

Cheap, efficient ramp that can be later sacrificed for value.

Paradise Plume Llanowar Elves Cheap, efficient ramp that can be later sacrificed for value.
Gift of Paradise Sakura-Tribe Elder

Cheap, efficient ramp that sacrifices itself.

Temple of the False God Gray Merchant of Asphodel

Tons of lifedrain.

Study Hall Sign in Blood

Efficient card draw that fuels Willowdusk.

Golgari Rot Farm Malakir Rebirth

Efficient flexible protection.

Forest Khalni Ambush

Flexible efficient removal.

Here's how the cuts look in lists.


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And here's the deck with the upgrades installed:

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Four Down, One To Go!

I'll be back soon with the rest of the precon upgrades!

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