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By: CottonRhetoric, Cotton Rhetoric
Jul 30 2015 11:00am
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Did you ever notice that most Magic articles' opening paragraphs are completely skippable? Either they reiterate what the title already implied, or they ramble about something irrelevant. It's like, just get to the content already! Why are you making us read this?

Deck 1 Endless Whispers

Endless Whispers

This is one of those cards I have always liked despite never being fully sure how to put it to good use. It's tough!

  • You need to pair it with good removal,  but if you have good removal, isn't this superfluous? (It's a similar issue that Grave Pact has—decent, but sometimes hard to make room for.)
  • You need to be okay with your opponent getting your creatures. Creatures like this exist, but are rarely useful if the Whispers are not out.
  • You could put it in a creatureless deck, but then why do you want your opponent's creatures? Presumably your deck functions fine without them.

These reasons explain why Endless Whispers has never (I don't think?) appeared in a Top 8. But none of them explain why it can't be in a casual deck!

My own solution was to make an aggro deck whose creatures can function fine on their own, but our opponent is unlikely to get much use out of. And black has so many of these that we don't even need to dip into a second color. For instance:

Creatures with colored activations

Guul Draz Assassin  Kiku, Night's Flower  Knight of Stromgald

Creatures using snow mana

Rimebound Dead  Chilling Shade  Phyrexian Ironfoot

Creatures using (only) your library

Dark Supplicant  Demon's Herald  Bogbrew Witch

Creatures benefitting from swamps

Korlash, Heir to Blackblade  Crypt Ghast  Nightmare

Be careful what you choose, though. A Magus of the Coffers is still a 4/4 vanilla for your opponent, which is not inconsequential.

Another principle to keep in mind is that we want our own creatures to be better than our opponents', no matter who has which ones. One way to do this is with equipment. Another way is with Curse of Death's Hold—their Grizzly Bear will be a 2/2 for me but a 1/1 for them. And as an added bonus, their X/1s will be killed outright, joining our side before even doing anything on theirs!

The next bit of business is to decide what removal to run. Black has oodles of options, but we should tend toward ones that are repeatable. (If we want to really milk the Endless Whispers, we'll want cards to be going back and forth for a while. We don't want to just turn it into a singleton Dominate!) And to maximize synergy, we should pick ones that also fill some of the above categories. For instance, Unliving Psychopath and Plaguebearer are (mostly) dead cards in the hands of most opponents. Kiku and Guul Draz Assassin were already mentioned.

"What do we do against black opponents?" you fret. Generally speaking, grin and bear it, but we're not totally defenseless. Curse of Death's Hold does kill most of our own guys when they switch sides, bringing them right back to us. And our equipment still gives us the edge when that's not out.

The last two touches are tutoring/sifting in the form of Beseech the Queen and Read the Bones. This deck works perfectly well without an Endless Whispers in play, but it's certainly better with one. 

 

 

Deck 2 Deathreap Ritual

Deathreap Ritual

What a cool card! Have you noticed about me that I like janky cards?

Ignoring practicality, the IDEAL state for this card is to have exactly one creature die every turn—then this will be a one-sided Font of Mythos. This is a bit hard to achieve though, at least without making an otherwise terrible deck, so the more practical state is just to have a lot of creatures dying often. And we can certainly do that while still keeping a workable pile.

   

Sakura-Tribe Elder
Even better as a cantrip.

One strategy is to get a lot of creatures on our own side.  Instead of Rampant Growth, you want Farhaven Elf. You also want creatures who die easily, or better yet at will, so instead of Farhaven Elf we want Sakura-Tribe Elder. Just be mindful of whose turn you're sacrificing him on, as Deathreap Ritual wants the deaths to be spread out. (You don't draw two cards from two creatures dying on the same turn—this isn't Fecundity.)

Viridian Zealot is another creature who can control the timing of his own death. So too can Nest Invader's token—which does trigger Deathreap Ritual. Speaking of tokens, Deranged Hermit can get plenty of those. And even if they can't kill themselves, he certainly can. And using them as blockers is an easy enough way to get them killed. Plus, alpha striking with all four every turn will probably cause a few to get blocked at some point.

Bone Shredder is a cool trick in this deck. With a Deathreap out, you draw two cards from him. (One from the death he causes, and another from his own death.) Consuming Vapors is another two-draw card.

And now to double up on our theme. With all these death triggers going, we might as well run some more cards that benefit from them. Bequeathal and Skirsdag High Priest perform admirably here. Grim Haruspex provides some nice redundancy, but be careful, as he (1) doesn't trigger off tokens and (2) doesn't trigger off your opponent's creatures. He does still combine well with a lot of the deck, though.

The last addition was a playset of one of my favorite recent cards, Commune with the Gods: it not only helps find our deck's centerpiece, but any of the situational creatures, of which there are many.

 

Everyone Must Die
Alesha doesn't care though
Creatures
1 Apprentice Necromancer
4 Nest Invader
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
2 Viridian Zealot 
Skirsdag High Priest 
4 Bone Shredder
4 Grim Haruspex
2 Deranged Hermit
23 cards

Other Spells
2 Unearth
4 Bequeathal
4 Commune with the Gods
1 Consuming Vapors
4 Deathreap Ritual
15 cards
Lands
4 Bayou
Jungle Hollow 
7 Forest
6 Swamp
3 Terramorphic Expanse
22 cards
 
Grim Haruspex

 

 

Deck 3 Mirror Mockery

Is this a Johnny card? Yes, yes it is.

    Thalakos Seer

You can't attack with the copy (even if it has haste). So what can you do with it?

The temptation may be to pair this with the biggest affects you can find, and indeed an article on Wizards.com suggests things like Avenger of Zendikar, but I don't recommend that. 1, it's strong enough to win on its own. 2, we want to start copying things long before we're up to 7 mana.

If we were going the competitive route, Thragtusk is probably the perfect creature to repeatedly copy, but this is a casual article, about casual decks for the casual room, so I don't believe we have a use for Thragtusk.

Where to take the deck now is fairly open-ended. My own preference is to pick creatures that not only meet the above categories, but also synergize with each other in some way. And after a few different builds, I eventually settled on an aura deck! And it's all thanks to these two characters:

 

Heliod's Pilgrim  Auramancer

The first one lets you find a variety of toolbox auras for any situation (including the Mirror Mockery itself!). The second lets you reuse auras. The result is very versatile and fun—and fragile enough to make it perfect for the casual room.

What auras are worth searching for? We'll want removal, like Dead Weight, Pacifism, Control Magic, and Curse of Death's Hold. We'll want buffs for our own creatures, like Sleeper's Robe, Infiltrator's Magemark, and Sage's Reverie. And a proper toolbox needs some situational cards, for which I chose Steal Enchantment, Steal Artifact, and Animate Dead.

We'll also want some creatures besides those two to put the Mirror Mockery on. Owl Familiar is a good early-game choice while you set up, and his evasion helps him successfully attack without dying. Skinrender is possibly the strongest EtB removal, better even than Nekrataal in my opinion. (And if your opponent runs out of creatures? In the WORST case scenario, your token will kill itself. Not a bad situation to be in.) I was about to run Gravedigger until I realized that Entomber Exarch is a more versatile version.

And one more trick, since we're already running WU: Momentary Blink does a lot of what Mirror Mockery does, adding some well-appreciated redundancy. Fun deck!

 

That brings us to a close this week!  Thanks for stopping by, and have fun!