Commander Spices: Black is More than Just Pepper

Feature Article from Bruce Richard
Bruce Richard
6/20/2017 11:00:00 AM
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A few months ago, I looked at a few cards from Magic's past that you may not have heard of but would want to add to your Commander decks. I thought I'd try it again focusing on just the black cards this time around. There were plenty of options but I settled on these five. I hope you find something new and exciting that fits perfectly into one of your decks!

Mid
Low
 Spirit of the Night
$2.49
$0.49
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Krazy Kidz Gaming 1 $1.19
Multiverse Gaming 4 $1.49
kaisers kard house 1 $1.55
Card Monster Games 4 $1.55
GetYourGameOn 1 $1.55
Mox Mania 2 $1.56
The Game Cave 2 $1.60

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If ever there was a Vorthos creature, Spirit of the Night fits the bill. First off, it is a legendary Demon Spirit. When I first saw the card, I had no idea what it was, because back in Mirage days, it was just a Legend. And I have no idea what to make of the art. Is it a creature emerging from the dark depths of the sea? Is that a face and hands? What's up with the shell where an eye should be? One of my early play groups regularly enjoyed substances that weren't legal in all 50 states and this art could keep players enraptured for a long time.

However, it isn't just the art that the Vorthos player loved. Check out Urborg Panther.

Mid
Low
 Urborg Panther
$0.18
$0.04
Store QTY Price  
OldSchoolGaming 17 $0.05
Tabletop Game Swap 4 $0.05
OmnomaxTradersLLC 8 $0.05
Ziege Games 8 $0.06
White Lion Games 4 $0.06
The Hydra's Lair 4 $0.06
BreakPoint TCG 1 $0.06

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All you needed to do was get Urborg Panther, Feral Shadow, and Breathstealer on the battlefield at the same time, then sacrifice them. If you did that, then you could put Spirit of the Night onto the battlefield! Perform an evil ritual that involved sacrificing three creatures and you would have a demon at your service!

As a new player, I had all these cards and would regularly try to make it work. I can recall two different occasions when I managed to get Spirit of the Night into play. One of them involved an opponent casting Swords to Plowshares and laughing (after all the work I had done to make it happen, how could he do that to me, then laugh about it!). The second time was glorious and Spirit of the Night brought home the victory! All the struggles and oh so close moments were all worth it for that one moment of glory! That single moment of triumph. That single… solitary… win?

Okay, so unless you are a hardcore Vorthos, don't be suckered into playing three bad creatures just to get a chance at Spirit of the Night. In fact, nine mana is a ton to pay for this creature. Creatures are costed so much better than they were then. If you are going to play with this card, run it in a recursive deck. If you can ignore the cost, a 6/5 flying, trampling, protection from black creature with first strike when it attacks and haste is a total house. You will do damage when you attack with it and are unlikely to ever lose it due to combat damage.

The abilities on it are so plentiful they are probably redundant. Does a flying creature really need all the rest to do damage? Wouldn't a flying creature with trample or first strike be enough? The key to remember is blocking. There are times when you are not going to turn this demon spirit sideways. Suddenly, protection from black and flying doesn't seem like overkill on a 6/5 creature.

And hey, this guy makes Phyrexian Splicer amazing all on its own!

Mid
Low
 Marauding Knight
$0.48
$0.08
Store QTY Price  
Dramatic Magic 1 $0.24
Card Monster Games 1 $0.25
MTG CardsandGames 1 $0.25
Card Princess 1 $0.25
CC Game Emporium 1 $0.25
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GameStar 12 $0.25

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Marauding Knight doesn't get any respect. This doesn't have anything to do with how good the card is, but everything to do with how much better another card is. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is ubiquitous in most play groups, so Swamps are everywhere and Crusading Knight is regularly a 50/50 or bigger. Without a Plains version of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth (I think “Karakas, Land of Plenty” would be a great name for that card), Marauding Knight is seen as the lesser card.

I am not going to argue that point, but Marauding Knight is still a great card. Some would argue that the card is only good against opponents running white, I would say that is only partially correct. While Marauding Knight does need an opponent who is running white, there are few multiplayer games where that isn't happening. There are generally three opponents and at least one of them is running white in at least half the deck they are playing. This regularly means that Marauding Knight is a 7/7 that can't be blocked by half of the creatures that player controls. And that is the worst-case scenario!

Ignoring the times when this is a 20/20 or betting and running roughshod over your opponents defenses all while being impervious to Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile, Oblivion Ring, and other targeted white removal, you are looking at a 7/7 or similarly large creature that only costs four mana. There is nothing saying that you have to use Marauding Knight against the white player who is giving you this large creature! A 7/7 attacking someone else likely eliminates blockers and surprises opponents who were expecting you to waltz through the white player's defenses.

Speaking of defenses, the Marauding Knight works wonders there too. A huge creature standing watch over your life total is one of the best deterrents out there. A creature that big survives most combat situations, whether they involve white creatures or not.

I have started using Marauding Knight in my Grenzo, Dungeon Warden deck. The printed power on the card means that I can put it onto the battlefield with Grenzo's ability, no matter how many +1/+1 counters are on Grenzo.

Mid
Low
 Infernal Genesis
$0.34
$0.10
Store QTY Price  
CC Game Emporium 5 $0.16
White Lion Games 3 $0.18
Dramatic Magic 1 $0.19
The End Zone 1 $0.22
GameStar 6 $0.22
UltimateGames&Comics 2 $0.22
White Lion Games 4 $0.22

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Many older cards run balanced effects where both you and your opponents are affected by the card in the same way. The difference is that you are better able to use the effect, since you knew it was coming and your deck is built to benefit from it.

Without building around it, Infernal Genesis is a dangerous card. If an opponent hits on an expensive card, they suddenly have far more Minions than you do, and things can go downhill fast. If an opponent is abusing their graveyard, and practically everyone is lately, you may be feeding them the exact cards they need.

However, you do have a deck with high casting cost cards! And you likely have a way to manipulate the top of your deck so you are putting those cards into your graveyard and drawing all your lands. And you definitely have ways to get those cards in your graveyard onto the battlefield! That this card gives you plenty of cheap creatures you are willing to sacrifice for effects or pump up to try and go wide, Infernal Genesis does a little something for a lot of different decks.

I have added Infernal Genesis to my Grenzo, Dungeon Warden deck. It runs a lot of ways to get cards from my graveyard to the bottom of my library where Grenzo puts them into play for only two mana! If Infernal Genesis can get the creatures to the graveyard a little faster, and gives me 1/1 creatures to sacrifice or use to chump block, I'm all in!

Mid
Low
 Lim-Dul the Necromancer
$1.75
$0.65
Store QTY Price  
All Out Gaming 1 $0.65
Immortals Inc 1 $1.20
MaelstromNexus 2 $1.24
Western Ohio Gaming 1 $1.25
Graveyard Games 1 $1.29
Alpha Strike Cards 6 $1.38
Crossroad Games 1 $1.41

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Before you tell me I'm crazy to run this seven mana card, just ignore everything but the text box for a second. Opponents' creatures go to the graveyard all the time. Paying two mana to put them onto the battlefield under your control is a bargain! You are also making them a zombie that you can regenerate is pretty amazing too! This is a great way to muck up an opponent's graveyard shenanigans, taking the creature they planned to bring back. All of this is done for the nominal cost of two mana! Once you add in some targeted removal or even mass removal that avoids Lim-Dul the Necromancer, you are looking at all kinds of options!

The downside to Lim-Dul the Necromancer has always been the mana cost. If you are going to pay seven mana, you likely aren't going to have much mana available to protect him, so he is regularly stolen or destroyed or exiled before you can do anything. I tried making this guy work but paying seven mana was just too much.

A better plan is to recur him from the graveyard. The mana cost of dead creatures is far less relevant, so you can use a variety of cards in black to put Lim-Dul the Necromancer into play. I'm sure you can come up with plenty of options that still leave you with mana to mess with the creatures dying on your opponents' sides of the table!

My latest effort to run Lim-Dul the Necromancer is with Grenzo as well! I have built my Grenzo deck to be able to bring creatures from the bottom of the library that have four power or less, and Lim-Dul the Necromancer fits that bill! For two mana, at instant speed, I can get Lim-Dul the Necromancer on the battlefield. While this isn't graveyard recursion, it still avoids the heavy casting cost, and that's what I really want. I have already responded to an opponent's creature dying by activating Grenzo to pull Lim-Dul the Necromancer from the bottom of my library, then paid two more to take their creature! Oh, it was a happy day indeed! I've shown my Grenzo, Dungeon Warden deck in the past, but it has undergone some changes recently, so I thought I'd share it again:

This deck still isn't where I want it to be yet, but Lim-Dul the Necromancer and Marauding Knight have both performed well and are safe from future cuts.

Mid
Low
 Tsabo's Decree
$1.00
$0.40
Store QTY Price  
Artifex 1 $0.45
The End Zone 2 $0.57
Emery Extras 1 $0.58
Astro TCG 1 $0.60
Card Monster Games 1 $0.60
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Card-Collecting 2 $0.60

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This card completely wrecks the theme deck player. That elf, zombie, or goblin opponent who just makes your life miserable hates this card. It isn't so much that it destroys their battlefield (it does), but that it destroys their future as well. Smart players hold cards back so they have something in case their battlefield is wiped out, but Tsabo's Decree says that it doesn't matter if you held back, we're getting you anyway.

That's well and good, but what if your meta isn't loaded down with theme decks? In a game without theme decks, this card is just wasted. Not so much.

Will it be an all-star and bring your opponent to their knees? No, but it will hit their most dangerous creature, no matter what it is, and it will get you a good look at their hand, so you know what else is coming. If that isn't enough, it can act as multi-creature removal, often taking out at least two creatures who happen to share a type. You'll often catch multiple zombies in a black deck, even when the deck is not zombie-themed. The same is true of wizards, soldiers, elves, and a variety of other creature types that show up regularly in decks. On top of this, you'll still get to look at their hand and prepare for what is coming.

Tsabo's Decree also wipes out token creatures. Plants, Saprolings, myr, kobolds, or whatever. While they may not be a theme deck in your group, the odds that someone has a way to make plenty of tokens is something else Tsabo's Decree can handle.

Finally, it should be mentioned that the Commander decks will be coming out this summer! All sorts of new cards and exciting things that will likely change your metagame. Did you know that all four decks are going to be theme decks? I'm betting your meta is going to be loaded with theme decks in the not too distant future. Tsabo's Decree just got a lot more interesting didn't it?

Enjoy!

Bruce Richard
@manaburned




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