Hello friends! It’s time again for another set of Commander deck techs styled after the best and worst of each color in Magic: The Gathering. Today, we will be looking over black, a color which may be even harder to find compliments for than blue (and hey, don’t hate me for saying so – blue is a tough sell!). We have already looked into white and blue through Amonkheti gods Oketra and Kefnet, and their eternalized counterparts, so you may have some idea of who I’m covering today.
What are the good points of black? Well, for those of you with abandonment issues, you know full well what black can do for you – mostly, it allows its users to bring back the things they’ve lost quite handily. Only green can really do this much better than black on a regular basis, but black has a real knack for using creatures which can do this all by themselves – and with a little bit of mana as payment, of course.
Black is a color of ambition, and so I pose this question: In the recent stories, which embodiment of black is a better example of ambition (and its costs) than Bontu the Glorified?
Bontu is a notable character in the Amonkhet storyline because she is the only of the Amonkheti gods who know about Nicol Bolas‘s plans to transmute the population of the Egyptian-styled plane of existence into Eternals, inorganic, blindly-obedient zombie warriors who remember nothing but their martial prowess. In fact, Bontu is in on the plan! Bolas’s plan spans 60 years and Bontu has been with Bolas throughout the entire duration. It is likely that Bontu knew that her siblings would be eternalized as well, and wanted no part of that fate.
To be honest, it’s a pretty scummy thing to sell your siblings and wards off to an interplanar dictator. But I digress! The story can be found on Wizards of the Coast’s main website for Magic.
Anyway, the main points of this deck are that we want to sacrifice things to keep Bontu active, and we want also to keep bringing these things back so as to be able to utilize them further.
Self-recursive creatures – There are plenty of creatures that replenish themselves directly and literally in this deck. Bloodghast, Gravecrawler, and Reassembling Skeleton are prime examples of this, but the relatively-new (circa Rivals of Ixalan) Oathsworn Vampire does a decent job of coming back too (especially if you have an Ashnod’s Altar and a Bog Initiate out!).
Death-mitigation effects – In addition to creatures which just plain come back, this deck has creatures that will allow you to mitigate the loss of creatures brought on by sacrifice or similar things. Sifter of Skulls and Pawn of Ulamog are fantastic especially because the creatures they make can be sacrificed later on for Bontu reasons. Cards like Pitiless Plunderer also do this, but they make Treasures instead of creatures.
Straight-up on-death abilities – Of course, what good black deck is complete without abilities that trigger off of things dying? To this end we have all of the necessary Aristocrat pieces (Blood Artist, Zulaport Cutthroat, Falkenrath Noble, and Vindictive Vampire), Kokusho, the Evening Star, and Cavalier of Night serve as decent board-wipe deterrents if not used to your nefarious ends.
Syr Konrad, the Grim – An individual mention is needed for Syr Konrad. He is an amazingly-versatile creature who can bring the hurt quite easily unto your opponents. We can speak more on his “enters or leaves the graveyard” trigger in the other deck tech today (guess who I’m covering!), but in essence, his death triggers are what cements him as a necessity in here.
Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath – This Planeswalker is probably the most helpful card of its card type for our ends. While it costs mana to activate, Ob Nixilis’s emblematic sacrifice outlet is remarkably helpful especially when staring down opponents with artifact destruction.
Carnival of Souls – Oh, Carnival of Souls. You are such a bad card, but you’re so good at the same time. And why? Simply, you can infinitely recur Gravecrawler from your graveyard with this card, a sacrifice outlet (like Carrion Feeder!), a Zombie creature (again, we really advocate it be Carrion Feeder), and an aristocrat out. This ought to take down the table if it can’t be interacted with adversely.
In the inclusionary section of this mini-tech, I’ve given you two decent winning combos. I’ve also included a lot of backstory on Bontu. In the past, let me just tell you, I’ve been given a lot of flack for using monoblack decks as “pubstomper”-level decks – decks which are too weak for competitive Commander but are too strong for casual Commander (and yet are used in casual instead of being upgraded to fit a more competitive metagame). This deck really ought to serve as a counterpoint to that argument as it’s a good fit for the casual Magic: The Gathering meta but definitely looks formidable enough to hold its own in an optimized Commander meta.
What do you think? Can this deck have staying power in tough metagames? Is it too much for casual Magic? Is selling out your siblings to an egomaniacal dragon a crummy thing to do? Let us know!