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You'll Seer if You Don't Blink



The 75% approach to deck-building does not require that I adhere to or avoid what others are building. Sometimes I draw inspiration from what the stock list shapes up to be, sometimes I repudiate the status quo so hard that it draws the ire of people around the internet, but either way, I try not to worry about following too closely or straying too far from the norm. I have some rules I follow to keep me on track when I build 75%, so worrying about what other people are doing is an unwelcome distraction. That's just as well this week, because I am tackling a deck that I don't see any lists for right now. Forced to forge my own path whether I want to or not, my 75% deck-building instincts take over. In a way, I'm not ignoring what others are doing because there's nothing to ignore, but in another, very real way, I AM ignoring what others are doing, because what others are doing is not building the deck I want to build. If I thought I was excited about Grolnok (it turns out I needn't have been), I'm way more excited about a commander I completely overlooked at first (which makes me 0/2 on this set so far... not a great start to this article, get it together, Alt).

Which commander I'll pretend you asked?

Henrika Domnathi // Henrika, Infernal Seer

Despite the numerous advantages to running Mono-Black, I rarely brew such decks for this article. In my experience, Mono-Black has the largest numbers of "no duh" cards, that is cards that are more than mere staples but are cards that it's tough to find a reason not to run. Once you build a stack of such sacrosanct includes, there's scant room for pet cards. And I NEED my pet cards. I invented a whole deck-building ethos so I could prove mathematically that I needed to be allowed to run pet cards. I name my selling accounts after a pet card. I'm single-handedly responsible for this image.

I would write this article and accept payment in pet cards if my kids didn't like having shoes and food so much. But hang on, if no one is forcing me to consider what other people are doing when I build a 75% deck, who is forcing me to play a bunch of Mono-Black staples? I can do whatever I want when I build - I'm not beholden to some concept of "staples" or "stock builds" - I invented 75% deck-building, I determine what goes into the deck. No one can force me to fill my Mono-Black deck with Gray Merchant or Torment of Hailfire.

That said, I'm absolutely running both of those cards and I never considered not doing it for even a second. It turns out that sometimes you can go a real roundabout way and still come to the same conclusion as everyone else because good cards are good in multiple situations. Gray Merchant is good in a deck with a lot of Black pips and also in a deck where I plan to run Conjurer's Closet and Cloudstone Curio. Why do I plan to do that? Because if Henrika never transforms, I can make everyone sac a creature every turn.

Wait, did I just invent a two card combo that's essentially Anowon, the Ruin Sage? What? Shut up, no, what? Shut up. How dare you. Also, yes, a little bit. Like a smidge. This article really got away from me, didn't it? No one is better at defeating my own arguments than I am half a paragraph later. But what was my crime? Agreeing with everyone who plays Black decks that good cards are good and building a deck that could just be Anowon, the Ruin Sage and deciding to celebrate Henrika not actually being Anowon by not running any of the Vampires it makes sense to run with her? If those are crimes, LOCK ME UP.

So why not just build Anowon, the Ruin Sage? Well, there's a good explanation for that - Henrika isn't Anowon when you need her not to be. The flexibility you get from having access to a Phyrexian Arena in the command zone, or a Vampire Nighthawk that pumps your other Vampires means that you have a better card that only does one thing, even though you have to do less work to make it do that thing. Besides, I misled you earlier. You probably read "not running any of the Vampires it makes sense to run with her" and thought I wasn't going to run Vampires, especially after last week where I fought HARD against the notion that a deck where the commander said "whenever you attack with a Frog, do the thing you want your deck to do" should contain any Frogs. I didn't say I was going to cut all of the Vampires, I said I was going to cut all of the Vampires it makes sense to run with Henrika. Readers, allow me to introduce the Vampires it does not make sense to run with Henrika until you commit to playing Henrika all wrong.

Not now, though. We'll talk about those Vampires in a second, don't worry. First, though, let's talk Thesis Enchantment. A few weeks ago, I came up with this concept for my decks and if you haven't read up on it, there's no time like the present. For this deck, despite having some very clear Thesis Permanents such as Conjurer's Closet, I want to stress that I consider this a Black Market deck.

Black Market

I want the default action for the deck to be Henrika's first ability - Edicting the table. All of the blinking and bouncing shenanigans are in service of resetting Henrika so that the "hasn't been picked yet" clause doesn't force us to transform her if we don't want to. It's a bit of work to make the card not work as designed, but that's sort of what we do here, and that "work" we're doing, by the way, is running Cloudstone Curio in a deck that contains Gray Merchant of Asphodel. If that's work, sign me up.

Making the table sac creatures will make Black Market a monster when we draw it, letting us dump our hand. We're going to need a lot of extra mana if we're going to have to bounce and re-buy Gray Merchant, cast a big Torment or just play good cards from our hands with our mana like a normal player, but like more cards than normal because we have so much mana. Mana makes the world go 'round, so let's make sure we're swimming in it. Are there downsides to this? Yes, a big one - I can't play Draugr Necromancer and I'm pretty upset about it. It may be a pet card, but I'm not such an adherent to my own pet cards that I'm going to run a nonbo with my Thesis Enchantment.

I'm burning word count equity fast and I still haven't explained my earlier remark about the Vampires I plan to include in the deck. Basically, I plan to run a bunch of Vampires with cool ETB abilities since I'm going to run bounce and blink cards. Fortunately, Champion of Dusk, Malakir Bloodwitch, Nullpriest of Oblivion, Callous Bloodmage, Bloodcrazed Paladin, Bishop of the Bloodstained, Gatekeeper of Malakir, Patron of the Vein, Vampire Spawn, Slaughter Specialist, and if you're nasty, Thief of Blood, are all very reasonable inclusions in any Vampire deck. I think they're a lot better in my wacky deck and I'm going to prove it. This is going to be the blinkiest non-Vampire Vampire deck ever conceived by someone you suspect is motivated in part by the need to be a contrarian that you've ever seen.

What would such a pile end up looking like?

This isn't perfect, but it's a good place to start.

I think the mana is going to be rough. Obviously, cards like Crypt Ghast, Nirkana Revenant, and Caged Sun will help, but only kind of. If Jet Medallion is good here, maybe some other cards like Helm of Awakening might as well. I added a card I never run, Heartless Summoning, because I think if you sit on it until you try to go off, that might mitigate how bad it is with cards like Pawn of Ulamog, but I suspect it's enough of a nonbo that it gets cut after one game, or maybe even a few goldfish hands. Since we will win far less often with a big turn looping Gray Merchant and will more often be blinking or bouncing Henrika for value, Heartless Summoning is probably just bad, but I wanted to leave it in so you could see that I committed a certain amount of deck slots to trying to be able to afford everything I want to do.

In a world where I did a decent enough job getting the mana to work and you make a few tweaks of your own to do the rest (or just draw well every time), this deck looks fun. You're nominally a Vampire tribal deck since I mostly focused on Vampires with good ETB abilities and there were so many, I didn't really have to go too far outside of the tribe to fill in the rest of the creatures. There is a lot of support for that - a seductive amount, really. I had to make a very conscious effort to not just add the obvious cards to help such a strategy which would have left me having to make 50 cuts just to get down to 99 let alone find room for pet cards. If you can find room for Captivating Vampire, for instance, that's a very 75% card, but I didn't feel like tapping 5 seven-mana creatures to gain control of one creature, so maybe look at that if you get the average CMC of this deck under 9.

If you find yourself short on ways to re-buy Henrika, going full Vampire Nighthawk can be a thing. I see Mask of Griselbrand, Sword of Sinew and Steel, and Shadowspear as inclusions that can make a large impact with a small number of deck spaces. I think Blade of the Bloodchief maybe be very clunky in here. If you're getting a lot of "their creatures died' triggers, chances are you're resetting Henrika a lot, which means you won't accrue many counters on Henrika. If you're trying to make her huge to swing with her, you're not getting that free The Abyss every turn, which makes it tougher to get counters on anything. I left it in the deck so I wasn't tempted to add something that is nothing like it like a Sorcery or something - if you find Blade of the Bloodchief to be clunky in this spot, try and swap it for an equipment that can wrap the game up. Quietus Spike might be nice because it will offset your inability to make Henrika larger with Blade.

This may be a lit you find yourself having to tune a bit as you play, but I started with the intention of being an ETB deck that let me Anowon them a lot, and if resetting Henrika forces me to bounce my Patron of the Vein or Malakir Bloodwitch, I think I'll live. Value is value, no matter how you come by it.

That does it for me, readers. Join me next week when I remember that we're not actually done with this set because we have all of the legendary creatures from the preconstructed decks to build around. Until next time!

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