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The Longest 'Yard


I'm sure you've noticed that lately I've been on a kick where I try to jam Helm of Possession into everything. I think it is the most 75% sac outlet ever devised and can be used a ton of different ways. You can hold it up as a type of "rattlesnake" card where you threaten to steal something from an opponent who kills a creature of yours and therefore gives you an excuse to sac it in response. You could just use it as intended and steal creatures early and often and you can untap helm to release the creature from its bondage if a better creature comes along. You could even just use it as a sacrifice outlet with a lot of upside. The more sac outlets you have in a deck, the better, since you can just sac the Helmed creature before your turn starts so you can untap the Helm and snag something else. Wanting a lot of sac outlets got me thinking about what kind of deck would want a lot of them and that's how I was inspired to brew with a Theros Beyond Death commander I hadn't previously considered.

Erebos, Bleak-Hearted

We want to trigger a lot of deaths, which means we need a lot of creatures to sac, we need a lot of ways to sac them and ideally, we want to kill their creatures a lot. Grave Pact effects make sure everyone else's yard will be full just like ours, and a Rise of the Dark Realms, the Black Insurrection, can end the game for us either by giving us an army to stomp with or just giving us enough creatures to sac to kill everyone with Blood Artist triggers. We'll have Altars and Skullclamp and maybe even some new cards we don't get to play with much like Genesis Chamber or Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder. If you have a sac outlet, Endrek Sahr is a powerhouse and I've known about his power as long as I've played Commander and yet I never get a chance to use him.

The idea for the deck came together so quickly, I had to verify that I wasn't just building a stock Erebos list. A quick trip to EDHREC revealed that a lot of other people were in the same wavelength, even down to including Endrek Sahr, something I was proud of having thought up. It wouldn't be much of an article if I just told you to build something you could find on EDHREC - we don't call it the 75% ethos because your build only varies from what other people are doing by 25%, after all. We're trying to do something a bit novel to make sure our deck is appropriate for all tables. Now if we were a Blue deck, we'd try to scale the power level of our creatures to theirs by just stealing all of them. As a Black deck, we have fewer ways to do that, lacking Control Magic and Vedalken Shackles, but if the card that inspired this deck, Helm of Possession, tells us anything, it tells us that we don't have to be the primary color for a strategy to excel at it. We're going to steal our opponent's creatures and then come at them like a Golgari Death Swarm. It's time to build Mono-Black Memnarch - the deck!

Saccing our own creatures is fine but if we can sac our opponent's creatures, even better. They have a creature, then we have it and they don't, then we strap it to an Altar and render it into Soylent Mana and then nobody has that creature and we have a Grave Pact and our opponent doesn't have that first creature anymore or a second creature, either. The more of their creatures we can steal, the more we can use their blood to lubricate our war machine without having to contribute bodies of our own to the war effort. Remember, a bushel of my enemy's grain is worth ten of mine, so one of their creatures must be worth at least two of ours. Other than Helm, though, how are we going to steal their stuff in a Mono-Black deck?

Ritual of the Machine

There are a few more ways to do it than people might think because nobody really bothers to steal creatures quite as often as I do. Ritual of the Machine is a one-shot Helm of Possession which isn't quite as good as having the effect on an Artifact but it's good to have redundancy built in. However, Ritual of the Machine is a bit of a fluke rather than the start of a trend for Black and not too many more cards like this were printed. With a lack of spells like this and the concept of stealing their creatures with Animate Dead and the like being something I cover every week (it feels like), I was starting to run out of ideas. That was, until, I realized there is a type of Black card that is very good at stealing creatures.

Captivating Vampire

Keifer Sutherland over here is captivating enough to convince your opponent's creatures to join your side faster than you can say "the fingerless glove is a little too '80s for me." Captivating Vampire has a pretty high cost to activate his ability, however - 5 Vampires aren't going to be easy to come by unless every creature in your deck is a Vampire. This, of course, got me thinking "Why NOT have every creature in the deck be a Vampire?"

When you look at the things the deck wants to do, steal creatures, sac them, make the opponents sac creatures when we do and kill them with life loss triggers, there is a vampire for all of that.

You want to steal creatures? There's a Vamp for that.

New Blood

You want to sac creatures? Vamp!

Yahenni, Undying Partisan

You want to make them sac creatures? I thought you'd never ask.

Butcher of Malakir

How about life loss triggers? Well, as you all know, the original Blood Artist is none other than Blood Artist.

Blood Artist

It seems like Vampires help us accomplish every goal we have for our Erebos deck while also having a lot of synergy. We have ways to make tokens, way to sac tokens, ways to grow our creatures and ways to kill their creatures and all of them are already in Vampire decks. By coupling our Erebos strategy to an existing one and adding the 75% cards we need, we're going to make a dealy chimera of the two strategies. But, a good chimera, not the kind we're used to.

Brass-Talon Chimera

How will the Erebos and Vampire strategies mix? Surprisingly well, actually. The deck doesn't look half bad. I may have done the deck-building equivalent of writing an article about how two things as disparate as chocolate and peanut butter couldn't possibly combine to make anything worthwhile, but that doesn't mean I get to skip the part where I show you the decklist.

This looks like a lot of fun. Most of the cards, or at least the classes of cards (Butcher of Malakir rather than Grave Pact) of cards from a majority of the Erebos lists I found are here but you have the additional power of synergistic Vampire effects. Not only do the Vampires synergize with each other, they synergize with our commander, giving us life to pay to draw cards, tokens to sac and ways to steal their creatures.

We have quite a few ways to steal their creatures but if you want more, there are always cards like Dance of the Dead, Reanimate, Necromancy, etc. You can add more if you find you lack ways to do that, but since that's not a primary aim of the deck, I wouldn't. I think this is a good deck to showcase the power of Helm of Possession and going too deep on Reanimation effects forces us to cut good Vampires or Vampire support cards, something I'm hesitant to do.

The Vampire deck is pretty straightforward and a lot of the pieces from either deck appear in both decks so the two lists were fairly easy to reconcile. If you find you want more token generation, you may have to look outside of Vampire creatures to do it, although we have a few excellent ones like Pawn of Ulamog and Bloodline Keeper. Saccing some of our healthy, non-token Vampires should be fine with Rise of the Dark Realms and Patriarch's Bidding waiting to dump them back out, and don't forget we can always just pay a few life to draw some cards and find a new Vampire to play. There are a lot of powerful token creators but they cost a lot of mana and I'm trying to keep the average CMC down. It's been tough since I cut a lot of the cheaper Vampires because their effects are too weak or mana-intensive for Commander and I want to make sure we have plays early.

This deck is a lot of fun and it shows that although Black used to have terrible creatures like Infernal Denizen back in the day, we've come a long way to make Black secondary for stealing creatures in ways that Red players can only dream about. Hit them with Vampires, hit them with their own creatures, hit them with Blood Artist triggers and call it a night.

That does it for me, everyone. Thanks for reading and thanks for not calling me on trying to build a new Helm of Possession deck with no artifact tutors every week. Until next time!

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