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Return of the Night-Clad

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Vela the Night-Clad
Magic is about building decks. Without decks, you can’t play. And without playing, Magic isn’t much of a game.

So it’s nice for me to get off the coach and start building some real life decks. One of my Real Life Commander projects is a deck that I initially made online in theory, but I really liked it.

Welcome to Vela the Night-Clad!

Now the goal and concept of this deck is simple. It’s not built around Vela. Instead it is built around the interaction of three different mechanics in Black and Blue (Dimir). The first is shadow. Creatures with shadow can only be blocked by other creatures with shadow, and since very few creatures out there are getting running, it basically means they are unblockable in most multiplayer situations. However, they can only block shadowers as well, so they suck on defense. Then I added in ninjutsu for scary Ninjas. Given that your shadow attackers are already slipping past defenses, it seems like a good combination to trigger ninjutsu. And the final mechanic is cipher. Cast a cipher spell, and get it resolved. Then encipher a creature about to attack and slip through, likely a shadow guy and get the spell cast again. Do that a few times for many iterations of the same spell.

And we have in some cool combos, like Dauthi Embrace to make a creature swinging your way shadow so you can block it, make a shadowy creature for Bill to attack either Dan or Dan’s Planeswalker successfully, tap a Dauthi Cutthroat to kill it and a whole lot more.

But once I added in Vela the Night-Clad, who gives intimidate to the whole team, it seemed like a good place to add a serious amount of flavor to the deck. After all, Ninjas and Shadow creatures led by the Night-Clad seems like an obvious bit of flavor. So I want all of the cards to fit the flavor of the deck, as well as mechanically as well.

Shadowmage Infiltrator
So where did I draw the line for support for the deck? Obviously, I felt that I needed mechanical support that didn’t always match the flavor of Vela perfectly. Sometimes I did! Take Shadowmage Infiltrator, as a good example. Mechanically it fits. It’s an evasive early drop that draws you a card when it hits. It has what you want from the deck, both mechanically, and flavorfully as well, as you can see by the name itself.

When a card gave needed mechanical support, but had no flavor value one way or the other, I tossed it in. Larceny is a good example. When you smash face, you will force your foe to discard. Suddenly hitting someone with a few small shadow creatures looks pretty serious! So you really want it here. But the name Larceny is totally generic, so you can play it in the deck without having flavor issues. On the other hand, take Sun Quan, Lord of Wu. He is a huge mechanical asset. But the Lord of Wu is all sorts of wrong for the flavor of the Night-Clad. So there’s no way Sun Quan can be in my deck. For a similar reason, I am not running Bident of Thassa. Neither Thassa, God of the Sea herself, nor Kiora who stole it, would really seem like the sort to have their Bident helping out in this role. It’s a mechanical hit, but a flavor no-no. So what about Coastal Piracy? Is it sufficiently generic then?

Victim of Night
And when a support card is not a mechanical help, but just a general support card, like removal, then I need it to match flavor. Take creature removal, as a good example. You want a few cards that kill creatures when you run Black. Murder is certainly a great card, it’s an instant, it kills any creature without any restrictions and the flavor is generic. So Murder certainly qualifies right? Nope! It’s just creature removal, and it doesn’t support the key identity of this deck. So I’m running Victim of Night. It’s not as good. But Victim of Night is clearly on theme as a removal spell for the . . . Night-Clad.

Similarly, I can’t run Insidious Will or Dismiss as good counters. Now I don’t want a lot of counter magic running around, but a few cards here and there interest me. No to Undermine, but I can run something like Dream Fracture I think. Or Lost in the Mist as a poor Abe’s version of Cryptic Command. But if I am only running two counters, at that point, is there any value in running any at all?

Now here is the interesting question — what about mana? Can I run Sol Ring? Darksteel Ingot? Cultivator's Caravan? Dimir Signet? And if I can’t run Dimir Signet, can I run Dimir Aqueduct? Can I run lands that help, but like Murder aren’t essential? Like Thespian's Stage? Or Strip Mine? And if I allow Dust Bowl, Strip Mine or Volrath's Stronghold, then why am I avoiding Bident of Thassa and Sun Quan, Lord of Wu? Or at least Murder and Insidious Will?

These are all interesting questions when I build a deck that seeks to embrace both mechanics and flavor.

Night's Whisper
In my early deck, I have listed my cards by play cost (with the Ninjas at lower costs since that is where they will usually be played). I have 2 1-drops, 18 2-drops, 10 3-drops, 9 4-drops, 7 5-drops, 5 6-drops (including Vela), and one each for 8 and 9 costs. That’s very low. Much lower than I normally run. So I don’t necessarily need a bunch of mana rocks to accelerate my deck. Consider Dimir Signet. Wouldn’t I rather play anyone of my 8 creatures or 3 pieces of equipment? Phyrexian Splicer? Night's Whisper? You get the idea. And even if I dropped a Signet on the 2nd turn, wouldn’t I still want one of my 10 permanents including a Planeswalker, and equipment at 3 mana? I would think so, right? So I’m not sure what the value of an early mana rock is all about in this deck. Getting Vela on turn five instead of 6? Meh. I don’t see it. Given the high percentage of cards in my deck that are 2 drops and I’d want to play over the Signet, and 3 drops on the 3rd turn, I just don’t feel it. I’d rather go Thalakos Seer and Shadowmage Infiltrator. The creatures in this deck are going to quickly be outclassed by everyone. I need to take advantage of the early game/ to get that momentum. It’s like that Edric, Spymaster of Trest deck I have. I need those early Scryb Sprites and similar creatures. Then on turn three, when I drop Edric, I can swing for three creatures and three card draws, to keep up the momentum, drop some tempo, have some countermagic backup and more as I continue to swing, hard, having gained control. This is not that deck, but it’s not bad at hitting those triggers from combat damage. So I need to hit hard and smash quick to get past defenses and get my stuff time to start getting in those damage triggers.

Therefore, I can only run turn one accelerants. There’s just no value in anything else. So Sol Ring has to be in. Now I could run something like Mox Diamond (don’t have any spares) or Mana Crypt (ditto) or Mana Vault or something. But I don’t see anything else making the cut. Do I have enough artifacts for Mox Opal? Just 9 right now with the Sol Ring added. I mean I could add in some artifact lands and such but that’s not enough for a Mox Opal to have enough partners to matter. So it’s just Sol Ring today.

Whispersilk Cloak
Another card I am considering pulling is Intimidation. It made the cut in my first go around, but now I am having some second thoughts. I was intending to use it as a backup Vela for when she was prevented from hitting the table with a high Commander tax after she dies a few times. But many of my creatures have built-in evasion of some sort already. I have 10 creatures with shadow, plus Dauthi Embrace to give it to others. Additionally I have 6 flyers, 1 unblockable, the occasional fear-ish body like Shadowmage Infiltrators, and equipment like Whispersilk Cloak along with Rogue's Passage. In this deck, is Intimidation overly redundant? I think so, and I am pulling Intimidation.

I am going to admit it right now. I purchased another copy of Sword of Light and Shadow for this deck. You’ll never regret the financial investment in a high quality card like that, and it was so on theme I just couldn’t resist myself. I know, the series is supposed to be about real life decks built from my pre-existing card stock, but how could I not do that? I mean come on, it’s Sword of Light and Shadow in a Shadow themed deck. Vela approves!

I also run Whispersilk Cloak, Skeleton Key, Mask of Memory, Mask of Riddles, and Blade of Selves. All of those are obvious fits. The mechanics of the first four are all on point. The Cloak and Key fit the themes perfectly. And the Masks both add mechanical flavor to our deck that wants to hit people for triggers. The Blade of Selves is arguably the best piece of equipment for this deck. Toss it on something simple, like a Shadowmage Infiltrator and swing. Make a bunch of copies, hitting other folks. You’ll slip past many defenses with that built-in fear, and you will get multiple cards from the Blade. Post-combat, those token creatures die. And they will trigger Vela’s death clause, and hit people for a few life each and bump your own life total as well. No, this deck does not abuse Vela’s drain ability, but it’s there, and it’s nice to remember.

What about my other equipment? Can I run both Quietus Spike and Scytheclaw? Both of those equipment aren’t in the flavor genre. What about something like Fireshrieker?

Remember that in order to block, you have to meet all of the blocking restrictions, not just one. So an attacking creature with both flying and intimidate must be blocked by a creature that is the same color (or an artifact creature) as well as flying.

So here is where I am drawing the line. Things that are sufficiently generic in concept are in — Quietus Spike and Coastal Piracy, but not Bident of Thassa or Scytheclaw and it’s clear New Phyrexian construction.

But then I add in some flavor hits like Altar of Shadows and here we go:

Rise of the Night-Clad ? Commander | Abe Sargent


And there you have it!!!

This is a real life deck, right? How about some pictures, right? Right!

Here is a zoomed out image with the whole deck splayed out for you! Lands! Creatures! More Creatures! Artifacts! Fun!

And then I zoomed in. I have the Ninjas on top spread out, and shadow carriers fanned beneath them:

All is fun in love and war!

Here are my attack-y creatures! They have hit-triggers of various sorts. Draw cards! Force discards! Animate creatures! Kill stuff! Smash away! I also have a handful of support creatures that give me needed options while also fitting the theme, like Shadowborn Demon to kill something on arrival as my Nekrataal or Shriekmaw variant.

What else? Hmmm . . .  how about my cool enchantments and artifacts? You can see some cool Altar of Shadows, Larceny, and Skeleton Key tech rocking the block.

Don’t sleep on Night Dealings. That card gets a counter for each damage you deal not for each time you deal damage. If Vela slips over for four damage, your Dealings just got four counters layered on it. You can spend a Diabolic Tutor amount of mana to remove any number of counters to Tutor something with that cost and put it into your hand. You don’t even have to use it as a sorcery. You could remove two counters for a Counterspell to cast. (In this deck you are looking at different answer, but still, you get the point!)

And let’s finish with my mad cipher and spell tech. Sure, there are some obvious choices in here like Victim of Night, Ribbons of Night, Night's Whisper, and Undercity Plague!

But there are a couple of cool cards in here too. Memory Plunder is a great tech card for modern Commander. So many opponents are playing the best sorceries and instants ever printed, right? So you can cast any instant or sorcery, at instant speed, in any opposing graveyard for 4 mana. I have used it for simple stuff like card drawing spells, reanimation or removal to major stuff like Wrath of God or Insurrection. It’s a nasty spell that often doesn’t get played much in U/B decks. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Oh, and do you see Choice of Damnations? That card is always an event. Unless your opponent has played with it before, they never know how to play it. It’s pretty simple. They choose a number. Then I choose if they lose that much life, or sacrifice down to that many permanents. So, suppose they chose 10. Am I going to make them lose ten life or drop to 10 permanents? It’s a board wiping spell the lower their life gets, and a massive life hit earlier. People overvalue lands and often just run it as a Planar Collapse against just them because they chose the wrong number. (In a 40 life environment, make a big number, and just lose the life). Choice is a great follow up to the tiny whittling damage this deck can sometimes do, or a great way to open up a hole in a life total first to put them in the danger zone.

You can also see cool cards in here like Shadow of Doubt!

That’s a fun deck, right?

Do you believe that I am all out of Banshee of the Dread Choir and Broodbirth Viper? So annoying. Ditto Predatory Nightstalker. That sucks!

I got a chance to play the deck recently, and enjoyed it. I unveiled a cool combo when I recently played it. Thalakos Seer and niinjutsu. When the Seer leaves play you draw a card. That means you draw when you do something simple like bounce it, flicker it, and so forth. So attacking with the shadow body, and then bouncing it for Ninja of the Deep Hours and drawing two cards is just fun and sick. And fun.

This is a great deck and I found that Vela’s second ability to winnow opposing life as your creatures bite it is sort of the finisher after you knocked life down slow and steady early off with these little pinpricks. I also added a few bigger creatures for later, totally on theme, like Scion of Darkness and Spirit of the Night.

I think this is a pretty nifty concoction, so enjoy!


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