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By: Leviathan, Mike Morales
Jun 20 2014 12:00pm
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Ok so in case you haven't noticed, I've been writing and producing content far less consistently recently.  It's not just your general malaise that you get when you become bored with a certain subject, listless as there's nothing new to excite you.  For me, on top of the burn out, I've also found that in order to get me interested, I need something to build toward.  It could be a theme, like the Lorthos deck with the Cthulhu theme I built for Worship Week, or it could be to just build around the Commander itself.  I'm not always the best when it comes to themes but Commanders I can get behind.

Unfortunately, over the course of writing these articles I have created over 100 different decks.  I have done enough decks, in fact, that I do not really look forward to building around the newest and most exciting legends that come out from the latest set.  Everyone knows how to build around Kruphix or whoever, and while I can add my own personal flair to a deck, most of the time I would rather not waste the energy.  Instead I would rather build around something that is not usually seen.  Does that make me a hipster?  Man, I hope not.

This is kind of a long way of getting to the point, which is showing you guys how I determined which legend would be at the head of my next Commander deck.  Most of the multi-colored legends (except for the crappy ones from Legends itself) are fairly often seen, mainly because they provide access to multiple colors and have goofy or interesting interactions.  However, there are double the amount of mono-colored legends, as that is what was primarily printed during the first 10 years of Magic.  Sifting through this older stuff, you can easily get a sense of the reason why no one plays with them:  Most of them suck donkey balls.  With the power creep for modern creatures, the majority of them are just completely outclassed.  Still, it's possible to find a diamond in the rough.  I will tell you, though, that the creature I found is not at all a diamond, as it is more like a lump of coal you will find in your Christmas stocking.

So digging through all the mono-Black Commanders, I found one that interested me not only because it was old and outclassed, but also because it came with a debilitating drawback that would scare away any legitimate deck builder:

That's right, good old Morinfen.  Along with his brother Gallowbraid, these were the kind of creatures you would get for 5 mana back in the day.  Outside of a few random outliers, flying and trampling were not things that Black was good at back then.  So obviously they had to have horrendous drawbacks using the fairly new Cumulative Upkeep mechanic.  Nowadays, of course, these creatures could both be printed without any sort of drawback at all, or in fact, could be beneficial.  Just look at Bloodgift Demon, which has the same stats as Morinfen but is better in that he draws you cards for the life you are paying. But back during Tempest, nothing was that easy.

So I decided to look at these closer, and figured out how to use them: Suicide Black!  I could use a bunch of stuff that costs me life, like Hatred and Necropotence.  And then I could use the life switching cards!

soul conduit mirror universe magus of the mirror repay in kind

This seemed like the start of a deck!  Of course, even with Black's tutors, I would not always be able to get to these cards when I wanted.  As such, I would have to have at least a little bit of life gain to make sure that I can live long enough to actually survive.  Because no one wants to have their creature destroyed after using Hatred for 20 life, then get crushed on the next turn.  This was a concession I had to make even though I appeared to be playing a "Suicide Black" deck.

But first thing's first: Who would actually lead this team?  Gallowbraid has trample and a bigger butt, while Morinfen flies.  The choice was not that difficult, as there are a ton of land based creatures that can get really huge, while there are a much smaller amount of fliers.  Plus, Morinfen has the way cooler art, so he gets the choice!

So some suicide and life gain are in the deck.  But how to make Morinfen useful?  The easiest way is to get a Sword or 2 on him.  Voltron it is!  After messing around with various card combinations, this is where I ended up:

A Commander Deck
1 Baleful Force
1 Bloodgift Demon
1 Crypt Ghast
1 Disciple of Bolas
1 Erebos, God of the Dead
1 Gallowbraid
1 Graveborn Muse
1 Hex Parasite
1 Magus of the Coffers
1 Magus of the Mirror
1 Mirri the Cursed
1 Nirkana Revenant
1 Platinum Angel
1 Rune-Scarred Demon
1 Vampire Hexmage
1 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Withered Wretch
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed
19 cards

Other Spells
1 Armillary Sphere
1 Caged Sun
1 Elixir of Immortality
1 Jet Medallion
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mirror Universe
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Oblivion Stone
1 Sol Ring
1 Soul Conduit
1 Basilisk Collar
1 Batterskull
1 Lashwrithe
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Loxodon Warhammer
1 Nightmare Lash
1 Swiftfoot Boots
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
1 Sword of Light and Shadow
1 Sword of War and Peace
1 Umezawa's Jitte
1 Exquisite Blood
1 Necropotence
1 Phyrexian Arena
1 Whip of Erebos
1 Go for the Throat
1 Hatred
1 Hero's Downfall
1 Silence the Believers
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Withering Boon
1 Karn Liberated
1 Liliana of the Dark Realms
1 Sorin Markov
1 Aether Snap
1 Beacon of Unrest
1 Bubbling Muck
1 Damnation
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Diabolic Intent
1 Toxic Deluge
41 cards
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Cabal Coffers
1 Dark Depths
1 Deserted Temple
1 Maze of Ith
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
1 Petrified Field
1 Phyrexian Tower
1 Shizo, Death's Storehouse
1 Strip Mine
22 Swamp
1 Thawing Glaciers
1 Thespian's Stage
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Volrath's Stronghold
1 Winding Canyons
37 cards

1 Morinfen
1 cards


Deck Tech:

Ok, just in case I wasn't clear in the video, I wasn't happy with this deck.  At all.  Essentially what ended up happening was I had to remove a lot of the "suicide" aspects, like Unspeakable Symbol, as it just wasn't working out.  In order to avoid just flat out killing myself, I had to add a whole ton of life gain to the deck.  This effectively neutered the whole "suicide" aspect of the deck, and made Mirror Universe and friends pretty much worthless.  Despite have the ability to make my life really low through cards like Necropotence, I never once came close to pulling off the life switch.

On top of that, the deck turned into a janky sort of voltron deck.  Mono-Black doesn't have the same effective tutors for equipment that White does.  While Black does have a whole ton of tutors available to you, I didn't wait to shove that many tutors into the deck.  I guess it may not make sense at first glance, since "a tutor is a tutor," but White has stuff like Stonehewer Giant that Black doesn't.  Additionally, in trying to make Morinfen more effective, I essentially made him less so since I could just put the equipment on any creature and get about the same amount of damage done.

The best thing to come out of the deck, however, was the Dark Depths possibilities.

hex parasite aether snap dark depths vampire hexmage

Using all the stuff that got rid of counters that was initially put in to remove the cumulative upkeep counters from Morinfen made it really easy to get out Marit Lage.  I actually managed to pull this off several times.  An unexpected all-star was Aether Snap, doing work keeping token strategies in check while punishing planeswalkers.  Marit Lage always leads to fun, and the interesting thing was how many different answers people had for him, so I never felt bad about busting him out.

Still, the negatives outweighed the positives in this deck.  Even though the average CMC of the deck is about 3.6, there were plenty of games where my hand was stuffed with 5 and 6 drops.  The deck won its fair share of games, but it never felt "right" if you know what I'm saying.

Still, I did manage to capture a few games with it.  Let's see how it did.

Game 1

Here we have opponents including Kruphix, who was an early drop, Ruhan and Sliver Queen.  The notable things about this game:  Morinfen ate a couple of removal spells, because people didn't know what to make of him.  The Ruhan player managed to get out Psychic Possession with Teferi's Puzzle Box, but it hurt him in the end because I had a Sword of War and Peace that hurt him good.  The Ruhan player also ran Tectonic Instability, which is cool, and Ruhan himself had a love affair with the Sliver Queen.

In this game I managed to use Aether Snap to not only get rid of a whole bunch of sliver tokens as well as getting Marit Lage out there.  Unfortunately for me, Ruhan still had his massive draw engine going and ended up using Spelltwine to get my Aether Snap from my graveyard and get rid of Marit Lage before I could do anything with him.  Still, I managed to win the game by putting all my equipment on Xiahou Dun and beating down, with an assist from Morinfen

Game 2

In this game we have my buddy Neo playing Damia, another Kruphix deck and a Pharika deck who showed up in my Lorthos vids but was mana screwed.  The Pharika deck was extremely interesting, as it was basically a different take on enchantress.  I recommend watching this video for no other reason to see the Pharika deck in action.

Unfortunately, both Damia and Kruphix get out early Trygon Predators, and since my hand is artifact heavy that doesn't help me at all.  Eventually the board gets wiped, and I start playing threats.  That's when Pharika busts out Song of Serenity (check it out,, I'd never seen it before either).  

This with a bunch of old school bounce enchantments helps with Constellation and keeping big fatties in check.  Unfortunately for Pharika she loses some of her enchantments to Counterspells from Damia.  I take advantage, and hit Pharika with a huge Nirkana Revenant equipped with Loxodon Warhammer.  This knocks him low, but Damia has to come in using Walk the Aeons with buyback to finish him off.  After that, the Kruphix player concedes, and I finish off Damia with a Wurmcoil Engine equipped with Warhammer and Nightmare Lash.

Game 3

Live game!  Here I'm going up against 2 Brago decks, one of which is piloted by our very own AJ Impy.  However, the story of this game is the Riku deck that is made primarily with Vintage Masters cards.  Despite an early Toxic Deluge from me and Wrath of God from AJ, the Riku player manages to make a ton of mana and spit out a whole lot of permanents.  Although both Brago players have fun stuff (AJ is using the Enchant Player curses, which seem like they could be good), neither of the Brago players actually manages to attack with their Commanders.

Unfortunately, even while he's going off, making mana and drawing cards, Riku has no quick and easy way to end the game.  I'm pretty much a non-factor, messing up the fact that I could use Winding Canyons to my advantage.  Although Riku is slowed down a little, eventually he spills most of his deck onto the table and we don't draw any answers during our subsequent turns.

So there we go.  I never got to a place where I was really happy with the deck.  I think my dissatisfaction was really brought about by the fact that Mirror Universe and friends ended up feeling useless in the deck.  As a matter of fact, you could use Mirri as the Commander and probably do better by getting rid of all the life switching cards.  But that's not what I wanted.  And I couldn't get it how I wanted.  Which made me think of the deck as a failure.

So is Suicide Black possible in multiplayer Commander?  I don't know.  I mean, it sounds possible, but I think that you may just have to get rid of the life switching cards.  Which is supposed to be the fun part.  If you try to stick too closely to the suicide theme, you just end up with a low life total and easy pickings for the other players.  What do you guys think?

Until next time!

Leviathan, aka Tarasco on MTGO
mrmorale32 at yahoo dot com
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Seems like you need some by Thor Naadoh at Sat, 06/21/2014 - 06:50
Thor Naadoh's picture

Seems like you need some suggestions for themes...

- Ramirez DePietro (pirate creatures, plundering, finding treasures, ships, Sea's Claim, Nausea, etc.)

- Karona and the TRUE gods (all 15 Theros Gods)

- Mistform Ultimus (the Deck of Lords)

- Yosei (white has quite some number of reanimation to abuse his death triggers) or his brothers

- Masako, Tomorrow, Maga, Zo-Zu, Isao... (there are a lot of interesting Kamigawa legends)

Karona and the true gods - by Paul Leicht at Sat, 06/21/2014 - 19:55
Paul Leicht's picture

Karona and the true gods - rock band featuring covers of Led Zep, Clapton, and Jimmy Hendrix :D

Good on you for always trying by Doctor Anime at Sat, 06/21/2014 - 17:50
Doctor Anime's picture

Good on you for always trying new things even if they don't turn out the way you like. I'm in the same boat. A big draw of EDH for me is seeing and experiencing new things. I have no love for the more popular stuff because I've seen them too much that it's no longer exciting.

I doubt Suicide Black is ever a good idea. Too much drawback for too little gain in EDH, made even worse because you're putting yourself into the red zone.

The only "suicide" I could see would be something like Near-Death Experience, Angel's Grace, things that do massive damage to everyone, extra turns, counterspells to back up your flimsy combo, etc. Would need multiple colors and would be very janky.

Yeah, it would work better by Leviathan at Mon, 06/23/2014 - 12:10
Leviathan's picture

Yeah, it would work better with Selenia as she is life loss that it always accessible. I kind of messed around with this when I made Selenia years ago, but I think you're right.

Power Conduit should be in by Rerepete at Sun, 06/22/2014 - 21:26
Rerepete's picture

Power Conduit should be in this deck to exchange age counters for +1/+1 counters