Commander's Brew Episode 298 - Willowdusk, Essence Seer
Willowdusk, Essence Seer is the face of the 2021 Witherbloom Commander Precon deck and quite frankly looked underwhelming to me when I first saw the card. I thought, "Another lifegain commander? Big deal." and sure, there is a version of this deck where all you do is gain life, and it's a very viable strategy. But why only do half of what this Commander does? Life loss is key to our brew today and it's incredibly powerful if we do it right.
When I started brewing this deck I immediately thought of Greven, Predator Captain, and how I was stoked to brew that Commander but found the deck to be a little all-in on an aggressive strategy and often hated out of games. Both Willowdusk and Greven use a bunch of the same Black cards (Unspeakable Symbol, for one) if you care about life loss but one looks way less threatening and plays at a more relaxed pace - which honestly suits my own playstyle a little better.
But don't think just because Willowdusk isn't the all-out aggro card that Greven is that it's a pushover. Willowdusk can make our evasive creatures HUGE with a combo of cards like Search for Blex and Vampire Nighthawk where you lose the life, place the counters, attack and gain it all back and then some. Not to mention if you have an untapper like Magewright's Stone to untap Willowdusk and then place even more counters on your Nighthawk or another creature altogether.
The deck as it stands is all about that cycle of losing life, placing counters (hopefully on a lifelinker), getting the hit in, and then doing it all again. One way we can interact if we get caught with our life low by an errant removal spell is with some instant speed fighting. Mutant's Prey and Ram Through are a fight and punch spell respectively that can be deadly, especially in the case of Ram Through where a hit with a big creature can mean it becomes a two mana Fireball for a LOT of damage to our opponent's face.
Willowdusk is a fun deck if we just do what it says on the face. There's also even more room to go into other brews like a reanimator/sacrifice style with Phyrexian Delver or Reanimate. Perhaps something more like the actual precon, that gives you a bunch of the new pest cards from Strixhaven proper. Either way, you're getting a great deck I truly think your opponents will underrate at their own peril. Have fun with this one!
Willowdusk, Essence Seer