October 19, 2015

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Introduction to EDH Part 2: Mono-Black

Last week, I discussed the baseline for how the EDH format works, as well as some of the diverse options in deckbuilding direction. Beginning this week, I’m going to give a breakdown of how the colour pie affects the format, providing a list of staples and sample decklists for each colour. I’m going to start with my personal favourite; Black.

Self-sacrifice, Pain for Everybody, and Life Beyond Death

These points almost entirely sum up what Black does as a colour in magic, and most Black EDH decks are built with this in mind. Black’s strongest attributes are card draw (albeit usually in exchange for life), loss of life, destroying creatures, and reanimating them from the graveyard. These strong points of the colour are abused in Legacy and Modern regularly, and EDH is no exception.

A Small Bit of Weakness

Unlike other colours, Black’s weaknesses tend to be a little more crippling. Black has zero cards that interact with enchantments, and only two cards that interact with artifacts, Gate to Phyrexia and Phyrexian Gremlins . Notably both of these cards were created before the establishment of the Colour Pie. Although these weaknesses can be worked around with colourless cards like Scour from Existence, it is important to keep them in mind.

Black Staples

Like any colour, Black has a few cards that should pretty much always be in any EDH deck.

1. Demonic Tutor
Probably the entry in this list that requires the least explanation, Demonic Tutor sees play in every Black EDH deck possible. The only excuse for not running it is typically because you don’t own one. For such a low mana cost, being able to get what you need, when you need it is always worth the card slot.

2. Yawgmoth’s Will
Hotly debated on many forums to be one of the most powerful Sorceries in all of Magic, it’s not a surprise that such a game-warping card is helpful in this format. On a good day, Yawgmoth’s Will lets you recast almost everything in your Graveyard for an immediate win.

3. Phyrexian Arena
Necropotence was a good runner up for this spot, but unlike Phyrexian Arena it is more difficult to cast in decks that aren’t solely dedicated to Black mana. Both cards perform the same function though, ensuring you always have a relatively stocked hand so that you can dish out as much pain as possible.

What Does a Good Black Deck Look Like?

A good example of just what Black wants to be doing in the format can actually be found in the 2014 Commander Deck. Although the sample list I am going to provide has varied a great deal from the original deck, it was still built out of it and contains many of the original cards. This deck is what I’ve currently put together and is not a finished product, but more intended to be used as a baseline to show what direction I took.

She Whispers of Death

For my deck, I’ve chosen to use Sheoldred, Whispering One as the Commander. Every turn she performs a useful task, and has massive synergy with many of the cards that Black players love already. This deck focuses on your graveyard, using various means to stockpile it with high mana Creatures, and using Sheoldred to bring them to life.

Basic Game Plan

The deck runs a package of low mana and high mana Creatures that all have synergy with Sheoldred, your opening hand should consist of cards like Fleshbag Marauder, Solemn Simulacrum or Crypt Ghast to help either put you ahead or put your opponents behind. The main goal is to cast your Commander as soon as possible, and potentially use Buried Alive to get access to your best targets for Sheoldred’s ability. Cards like Kothophed, Soul Hoarder and Harvester of Souls will help you press the advantage from Sheoldred’s sacrifice ability.

Robert’s Sample EDH Black Deck

Commander: (1)
Sheoldred, Whispering One

Creatures: (26)
Agent of Erebos
Archfiend of Depravity
Bloodgift Demon
Butcher of Malakir
Crypt Ghast
Disciple of Bolas
Fleshbag Marauder
Grave Titan
Graveborn Muse
Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Harvester of Souls
It That Betrays
Kothophed, Soul Hoarder
Liliana’s Reaver
Merciless Executioner
Ob Nixilis, the Fallen
Ob Nixilis, Unshackled
Overseer of the Damned
Reaper from the Abyss
Sidisi, Undead Vizier
Solemn Simulacrum
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

Spells : (27)
Animate Dead
Black Sun’s Zenith
Buried Alive
Chainer’s Edict
Dark Petition
Dark Ritual
Decree of Pain
Demonic Tutor
Dread Return
Hero’s Downfall
Increasing Ambition
Living Death
Malicious Affliction
Necromantic Selection
Palace Siege
Phyrexian Arena
Profane Command
Read the Bones
Rhystic Tutor
Scour from Existence
Sign in Blood
Sudden Death
Sudden Spoiling
Tragic Slip

Artifacts: (7)
Jet Medallion
Mind Stone
Nevinyrral’s Disk
Sol Ring
Swiftfoot Boots
Whip of Erebos
Unstable Obelisk

Planeswalkers: (2)
Liliana of the Dark Realms
Ob Nixilis Reignited

Lands: (37)
Arcane Lighthouse
Barren Moor
Bojuka Bog
Buried Ruin
Crypt of Agadeem
Ghost Quarter
Myriad Landscape
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
29 Swamp

Notable Absentees

As I said, this is a sample decklist, with lots of potential for improvement based on your own tastes and interests. If given the opportunity (also if I had the cards) the first things I’d be adding to this deck are Yawgmoth’s Will, Entomband Cabal Coffers. Yawgmoth’s Will is just absurdly powerful to begin with. Entomb allows Sheoldred better access to her friends as well as having a few other interesting interactions with cards like Buried Ruin or the aforementioned Yawgmoth’s Will. Cabal Coffers is one of the most important lands in any Mono-Black EDH deck, since almost every land you run is a basic Swamp anyway, the odds that Coffers is going to ramp are very high.

See Where the Mires Take You

Black is one of the most diverse single colours in the game, so the amount of things you can do with it in Commander are endless, if Graveyard shenanigans aren’t your cup of tea, perhaps try zombie-tribal, or Stax. There are all sorts of fun ways to play around with the skulls. Until next week, thanks for reading.