Wednesday, 30 April 2014
Another reason that devotion naturally slots in with mono black so well is the life gain on Grey Merchant. Black loves to spend its life on other luxuries and so having worthy cards that can replenish the life total are of much higher value that they are in other colours. I was a bit surprised by quite how effective the Grey Merchant is, initially intending it to reside in the C cube only to come out for quirky decks but it seems comfortably powerful enough for a main cube slot. A quickly dangerous and very swingy comes into play effect on a reasonably decent body complete with a great array of support cards mean that black can be a little more nimble and keep their opponents playing more cautiously. Gray Mechant, as I am sure all of you standard players are all too aware, will simply end games out of nowhere.
Inquisition of Kozilek
Liliana of the Veil
Grey Merchant of Asphodel
Ink-Eye, Servant of the Oni
Lake of the Dead
Nykthos, Shrine to Nix
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Other Considered Cards
Drana Kalistrasa, Bloodchief
The deck itself is fairly straight forwards and rarely presents those complicated turns chock full of complicated choices. The trick to being good with this kind of deck is being able to recognize the direction the game is taking as early on as possible. This will allow you to set up so that you always have something you want to be doing on the few following turns despite not having the breadth of options. The splash of green is painless and greatly increases the overall integrity of the deck, particularly with the Vampiric Tutor.
I tried this out using Boarderposts so as to increase my devotion but it really isn't worth it. The few devotion cards all work so well with the other black staples that you don't need to bother going to any extra effort to make them better. Having better consistency overall vastly outweighs powering up the devotion mechanic, this applies in black based decks more so than most other kind of deck.
The most notable thing to me in this list is the absence of Death Cloud, a card I rate as one of the most powerful in the cube and an auto include in heavy black decks. The simple answer is this deck is the first I have built in which I didn't feel forced into playing the Cloud. Black is typically limited in the ways in which it can deal with a lot of situations and is also a fairly inflexible colour. Death Cloud is not only highly versatile in what it allows you to do to a game but it also has great crippling potential. The logic being that you can't deal with certain things that might befall you should you leave your opponent sufficiently undisrupted and so you use the power of Death Cloud to pro actively sabotage what is going on.
The reusable power of Nykthos combined with powerful card draw engines means that you don't want to hobble the momentum of the game as you will be powering out much harder than your opponent. The safety of newer cards like Hero's Downfall and good old Pernicious Deed mean you can feel more secure against scary things you might otherwise want a Cloud to prevent ever being cast.
Black doesn't have that many great mana sinks which are useful in this kind of deck should you fail to get a card advantage engine running. Pack Rat is fine but needs more fuel than just mana and so I found myself in the rare situation of bringing back an old retired monster of old - the Nantuko Shade. Despite its age it is still a fine little threat and can quickly become a must block dork.
I wanted a little more meat to the deck as I had so many slots filled with piddly little critters to enable quicker devotion and the Skullclamp engine. Grave Titan is certainly a lot more power than Ink-Eyes however the utility in being able to reuse various enter the battlefield effects was too tempting. This version worked fine despite the some what anti-synergy of Pernicious Deed and small critters.
I have since done several other incarnations of this kind of deck that range from the very agro to the much slower control. The only main theme is that they all use Gray Merchant, Lake of the Dead and Nykthos combined with a selection of other heavy black costing dorks. Light splashes offer a lot and work fine but you cannot afford to have lands that don't tap for black and you want lots of swamps for your Lake of the Dead so the splashes have to stay light. Mono black also works perfectly well and can cover the full range of agro to control well. It even works pretty well just playing the most powerful spells you can without paying mind to what direction you are going in.
For the first time ever I have more black cards I want in the main cube than any other colour. Black has gained more than any other colour in recent magic sets and Theros block by far the most significant for the colour. It is the most powerful and versatile colour to go mono with and is a great support colour chock full of golden goodies. Black has so much inbuilt synergy with paying life and gaining it, discarding things and recurring them, sacrificing things in abusive ways etc. all on stand alone good cards that the hardest part is knowing which bits to let go of. In this list I was doing a bit too much but it was still a good way to learn about the new goodies and where they are most powerful, to which the answer seems to be everywhere heavy black.