Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Dark Eldrazi

Sheoldred, Whispering OneUlamog, the Infinite Gyre

Everyone looks better in black. Even Ulamog. It's slimming and creates a pleasing silhouette.

I've been working on a Dark Eldrazi deck for quite a while.It is brutal and simple. Don't mistake what's going on here. It's an aggro deck. You swing with big monsters and annihilate your opponents. Your best (and often only) solution for dealing with problem planeswalkers or enchantments is to push your dudes into the red zone at the players who control them.

In other words, it loses to combo. Oh, and it loses to Insurrection - big time.


One way to build this deck is to get a list of all of the black and colorless promo cards, add some swamps, and shuffle your way to glory. I didn't use this approach, but after reviewing what I put together, I might as well have. It's not too surprising. Those promo cards get printed for a reason. They tend to be good at what they do. And it makes for a pretty deck.

Card Choices

Drawing. Even before talking about Eldrazi or Blightsteel Colossus, the deck needs to draw cards. Too often, I see black decks stuck in top-deck mode after turn 5. That's no fun.

Bloodgift Demon
Harvester of Souls
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
Temporal Aperture
Ambition's Cost
Ancient Craving
Promise of Power
Decree of Pain

Harvester of SoulsPromise of Power

Phyrexian Arena is a powerful card, no doubt. It's also missing from this list. I prioritized creatures to push up the threat density. Otherwise, I added cards that draw me a lot of cards (right now). Temporal Aperture is my pet card and rocks in this deck. Sure, 40% of the time it flips a land (ramp!). But every once in a while it flips Ulamog. Which is awesome. Promise of Power is often a 9/9 or bigger demon plus a handful of cards. If it seems weird to put Kozilek in the "card drawing" section, just wait until you see the rest of the deck. Hard-casting Kozilek happens all the time.

Face Smashers. The annihilator trigger is the best way to deal with most of the problems you'll face at the table. It also brings hate down on you. I win a moral victory every time I swing into the combo player. This is usually enough to get the rest of the table to leave you alone while you "deal with the problem" for them.

Blightsteel Colossus
Darksteel Colossus

Artisan of Kozilek
It That Betrays
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
Pathrazer of Ulamog
Ulamog, the Inifinite Gyre

Pestilence Demon
Reiver Demon
Rune-Scarred Demon

Massacre Wurm
Wurmcoil Engine

Blightsteel ColossusIt That Betrays

This is the 6+ power crew. You know you are in for a beating when the "weakest" creature up there is Wurmcoil Engine. You may notice that every one of these creatures do "something else" too. You'll see them pop up in other sections since they are pulling double-duty. Strike fear with a hasted or unblockable Blightsteel! Stack annihilator triggers with your Eldrazi swarm!

Sweepers and Spot Removal. The deck takes a different approach in this area. This is not a control deck. An awesome sweeper like Damnation doesn't even make the list. You want your own creatures to stick around. And you want a high threat density. You want to keep casting things that say, "Deal with this, or die trying."

Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief
Massacre Wurm
Pestilence Demon
Reiver Demon
Steel Hellkite

Decree of Pain
All is Dust

Spine of Ish Sah

Massacre WurmReiver Demon

With enough mana, Drana can pour on the hurt. Not only can you mow down utility creatures with her bloodsucking powers, but she can get rid of indestructable dudes too. Plus, she flies over and smashes face after she's done her thing. A well-timed Massacre Wurm can spell the end to the token-generating player. Pestilence Demon isn't too shabby in this area either. Reiver Demon isn't a perfect solution, but is often a one-sided death machine. All is Dust can really break things open. If you are going the maximum promo route, Overwhelming Forces could make an appearance here.

Ramp. The deck wants mana. Lots and lots of mana. In addition to running 38 mana-producing lands, the deck has artifact ramp and ways to make sure that you make your land drops. I see people go light on lands. Don't be that guy.

31 Swamps
Eldrazi Temple
Temple of the False God
Thawing Glaciers

Nirkana Revenant
Pilgrim's Eye
Solemn Simulacrum

Liliana of the Dark Realms

Wayfarer's Bauble
Armillary Sphere
Caged Sun
Mind Stone
Sol Ring
Thran Dynamo

Nirkana RevenantCaged Sun

I like casting the cool spells in my deck, several of which cost more than 10 mana. This deck gets there. Nirkana Revenant and Caged Sun both make big mana. Plus, Nirkana Revenant coupled with the right equipment is scary beats.

Cheaty-face Stuff. Now we're getting to the goods. These are the cards that give the deck depth.

Quicksilver Amulet
Belbe's Portal
Omen Machine
Temporal Aperture

Omen MachineTemporal Aperture

Every one of these cards has the ability to give you free Eldrazi or any of the other crazy creatures. Quicksilver Amulet and Belbe's Portal can be used at instant speed to "flash" a big creature into play. I will often hold back until I am attacked or until the end of the turn just before I'm up to use these. There's nothing quite like dropping Ulamog at the end of your opponent's turn only to be followed by Kozilek on your own. With haste boots, it goes from a whole lot of nothing to a annihilator 8 in no time.

Temporal Aperture is just cool.

Omen Machine gets special mention because it is usually good for you and not so great for most other decks. Omen Machine-->Ancient Craving is bad. Omen Machine-->Decree of Pain is not great. But that's not all it is doing for us. What it is really doing is stopping players from drawing cards. It is the bane of many combo players who run heavy on card draw and counters, and light on everything else.

Face Smasher Support. If you want any chance of winning with combat damage, you have to connect with your target. There are lot of different ways to do that in here. The hope is that at least one of them sticks and pushes damage through.

Rogue's Passage
Eldrazi Conscription
Akroma's Memorial
Lightning Greaves
Swiftfoot Boots
Grafted Exoskeleton

Rogue's PassageGrafted Exoskeleton

Annihilator is strong. Haste+Annihilator? Forgetaboutit. Lots of these guys have trample or can be made unblockable. Throw in Grafted Exoskeleton and start one-shotting unsuspecting combo players. Eldrazi Conscription is overkill, but for 8 mana it can make one of the "smaller" creatures smash face too. Toss it on Ulamog for Super Eldrazi beats.

Recursion. If it worked good once, doing it again is even better, right? In the Commander format, getting extra mileage out of your cards is a recipe for success. Creatures are the big focus here, so cards that let us use our creatures again push the theme and make the deck more difficult to deal with.

Sheoldred, Whispering One
Artisan of Kozilek

Buried Ruin
Volrath's Stronghold

Beacon of Unrest
Oversold Cemetery

Artisan of KozilekOversold Cemetery

This is also the area for Profane Command, Rise of the Dark Realms, or any of your other favorite cards that get your creatures back for an extra shift at the factory. If you need a way to skew things in your favor and can stick Sheoldred, you'll be in good shape by the time your turn comes around. Otherwise, returning and replaying utility creatures like Solemn Simulacrum is also sweet.

Other Fun Cards. These are the other cards that play a supporting role and round out the deck. Some of them are powerful by themselves. Others make the cards you already play even better.

Mimic Vat
Grave Betrayal
Spreading Plague
Wound Reflection
Strionic Resonator
Demonic Tutor

Spreading PlagueStrionic Resonator

Mimic Vat: steal good creatures for fun and profit. Lots of options here and it only gets better when your opponent(s) have juicy targets for the taking. Grave Betrayal is a massive card. If it doesn't get removed, you can use your one-sided sweepers like wrecking balls. Not your thing? You could run Rise of the Dark Realms here, Plague Wind, Curse of the Cabal, something big.

Spreading Plague is hilarious. Most of the creatures in this deck are colorless and side-step the destroy effect. For most other decks, that's not true. This card ruins most token and swarm strategies. It also makes it so that other players in the right colors can cast creatures to make openings for you. Sweet, sweet politics.

Wound Reflection is a beating. Smart players often block in such a way to minimize the loss of permanents on the field in trade for a lower life total. In other words, a smart player will let damage through if it means that they can keep a creature around without taking lethal damage from the attack. This card punishes that smart player. Just hold it until after combat and cast it in your second main phase. Cruel.

Strionic Resonator. I love dropping this early into an empty field. The "what is he up to" looks I get are priceless. You know what's a triggered effect? Annihilator. Yup. Attack with Kozilek. Copy annihilator 4 on the stack. It's over the top, but oh so sweet.

With a deck like this, it's all about maintaining a delicate balance between ramp and creatures. If that balance is off, you'll be casting a whole lotta nuthin. It's also about being okay with getting wrecked by lots of different decks before you even get off the ground. But with strong enough creatures and a few tricks, it makes a big splash and gives you a good excuse to run all your promos.