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Fiending for Value



I don't tend to build monochromatic decks that often because I find that the power you gain by doubling down very hard on what the deck does well can sometimes be offset by the inflexibility you get with not having a second color to shore up the main color's weaknesses. I've steered away from mono-color decks as a result. Leaning into how I like to build has helped me build a brand and be successful at deck-building, but am I doing my readers a disservice?

I mean, obviously no, that's ridiculous, but am I doing myself a disservice by refusing to delve into one-colored decks?

Still no, but would it be neat if I did it regardless of whom I'd be letting down if I didn't? Yeah, I mean I'm going to - the title of the article alludes to the commander I'm writing about and you can basically see a giant pic of the commander. It's a mono-colored card and it's kind of similar to a card I had the pleasure of previewing on this very site on which you can pay a price and get the cards you need. Being a mono-Black deck means you have a lot of weaknesses, and in order for the deck to be satisfying to play, you will want a deck that is so strong in other areas that the weaknesses aren't even a factor. Black's weaknesses are obvious - Black can't deal with spells on the stack or Enchantments and Artifacts. That is a lot to not be able to handle, especially in Commander where you're dealing with 3 other decks rather than one. It's tougher to dodge a bad matchup. In order to win, you'll need to really concentrate on what Black decks do best. Fortunately, we know what that is.

Asmodeus the Archfiend

Not quite Razaketh but not quite not Razaketh, Asmodeus the Archfiend is a big, brutal demon that promises a lot of risk and a lot of reward. You might draw 7 cards for bbbb or you might get your commander removed and look like an idiot. You might also just suit up your giant devil god and smack them like 2 times to kill them with commander damage with some equipment. Asmodeus promises to do his level best to keep your hand full and if you can manage to fight through removal and get a commander that costs six mana for the first summon to stick, you'll never need to worry about cards again. None of this is easy, but if you thought the cost of having a Necropotence in the command zone wasn't going to be a steep one, you're fooling yourself.

Life, however, isn't impossible to come by for a Black deck. Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Exsanguinate, Exquisite Blood, and even Crypt Ghast can help mitigate the life loss, and they'll help you when Phyrexian Arena and Erebos exact their sanguinary price.

Black being good at gaining life to replace the life it paid to draw lots of cards is nothing revolutionary. You didn't click on this article for me to tell you that Griselbrand was so good it had to be banned because it did it all in one card, and you don't need me to tell you mono-Black decks should run Gray Merchant. The thing is, while the obvious things people building Asmodeus decks now are including are good, both in general and in Asmodeus decks, they're not all that Black is good at. Without removing what makes a mono-Black deck function, I want to really lean into something Black excels at and make this deck a 75% masterpiece. If I had to sum up what I want to be doing in one card, and stop me if you've heard this one, it would be this one:

Animate Dead

You get to take one of their creatures and use it against them, or you get to bring back one of your own creatures that they struggled to deal with or you get to pay 1b for a creature you never summoned in the first place and all of those things are done by the same card. Animate Dead sums up what I want to be doing in Black 75% decks and re-centering the deck around effects like this won't be too hard or disrupt the fragile ecosystem of the deck's current "Run all the good Black cards you can think of and draw lots of cards" current stock build.

Stop me if you've heard THIS one, but my Valki deck is a lot of fun to play and it's basically not even optimized. I have a lot of cards that are pretty awkward in it, honestly, but I play them because when I do draw them the deck is even more powerful. Crypt Ghast, Cabal Coffers and Caged Sun are just bad in the deck more than half of the time. As I slowly phase those cards out, they join a growing pile on my desk, begging for a new situation. Valki is VERY mana-hungry and it's the only deck of mine where I run a Mana Crypt. I'm not knocking Crypt per se, I think it's a fine card and I don't care if people run it against me (I have started jamming Thieving Skydiver into every deck with Blue I own and you should, too) but I just don't commit a card that expensive to too many of my decks. The mana in Valki is awkward but when the Black mana infrastructure with Coffers and Urborg and Caged Sun and Crypt Ghast works out, it's great. That is never awkward in a deck like this, and having a ton of mana more easily makes the experience better.

I would run Snow-Covered Lands for two reasons:

Extraplanar Lens
Draugr Necromancer

Our mana is going to be bonkers, which is good because if our Commander dies, we'll need eight mana to replay him, which is... all of the mana. If we have 12 mana, we can windmill slam him and if no one objects, we can draw 7 which is... all of the cards. Again, having good mana in Mono-Black isn't exactly a revolutionary idea, either, and it's not the only lesson we can learn from Valki. My Valki deck is fun to play because I run Stolen Strategy and Etali, Primal Storm and other expensive spells that make generating all of that mana worth it when it happens. Since we are going to be getting a lot of mana much more often in this deck, how do we make it worth it without all of the sweet Red spells?

Animate Dead

It's simple - we ahh, kill the Batman all of their creatures and reanimate them. We are going to devote a lot of the space in the deck to killing lots of creatures and stealing them and when we run our own creatures, we're going to bring them back if they die. This will look a little different from a traditional Asmodeus deck, but that's a good thing, right? If we are leveraging our ability to gain life to replace what we lost which makes it less necessary to play blockers, adding much more removal than normal, using their creatures and generating a ton of mana, we can cut down on the number of creatures we run, giving us lots of room for the 75% cards. We are going to be the blackest Black deck we can, Valki style.

What would such a deck look like? Are we even going to bother casting Asmodeus? Sometimes! When we need cards. Are we going to worry about how unwieldy it is to try and keep Asmodues alive and drawing us cards given how much of a blowout it is to have him removed when we try to draw the cards he set aside? Yes, we basically have to. But am I going to do as much Valki nonsense as the constraints of the deck will allow? Of course, this is me we're talking about. Let's get to the decklist, thanks for not scrolling straight to it, you're the best.

Asmodeusmarduminusborosanddrawdecards | Commander | Jason Alt

This is an excellent first place to start. I notice not too many people get on my case about including Helm of Possession in almost every deck, and I think it's possible a lot of people tried it out and see what all the fuss is about. It removes problem commanders in a way that hasn't been possible since the advent of the tuck rule, it gives a predominantly Blue ability to any color deck, it's a sac outlet and it has that sick old border and gorgeous art. What's not to love?

The deck plays out much like a typical Asmodeus deck but with a lot fewer cute cards and a lot more removal. We don't want to wipe their yards, we want access to their best stuff so we're a little weak to graveyard decks, but Draugr Necromancer can usually save the day if they're up to some shenanigans with their yard. Pick off their best targets while you can and hope they don't shenanigans out of control.

Speaking of shenanigans, there are a lot more we could be getting up to. If you like the Soul Conduit and Repay in Kind package, add a lot more ways to pay life to draw cards, which is the most satisfying way to adjust your life total. Phyrexian Reclamation, Arguel's Blood Fast - you can even add Unspeakable Symbol to the deck. It's risky to lose that much life, but that's part of the fun.

This deck has a ton of Black pips, and if you really want to double down on the Gray Merchant fun, I'd suggest a Cloudstone Curio package. Adding cards like Fleshbag Marauder can make sure they have dead creatures and you can bounce something else in the process. Dawn of the Dead is very good with Fleshbag Marauder and with there being several functionally similar cards, you can add some synergy with both Dawn of the Dead and Curio. We are creature-light (though not as light as I'd like) so making the most of our ETB triggers is a lot of fun. You can go as deep as you want down this rabbit hole - add Grave Titan, Noxious Gearhulk, Shriekmaw - the possibilities are endless. Make sure to jam a Panharmonicon and go to town.

Ultimately, I skewed toward stealing their cards, which I like, but a deck like this which can draw a lot of cards and offset the life it paid, you can do basically anything. I cut all of the tutors because if you draw enough cards and your deck has enough gas, you'll draw what you need regardless and you don't have to rehash the old tutor debate. Have fun with this deck, it's big, durdly and can't deal with Enchantments at all but it's powerful, swingy and sometimes you get to have Necropotence with feet deal someone commander damage, and isn't that what life is all about? That does it for me, readers. Join me next week for more shenanigans. Until next time!

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