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The Wolf of Prakhata


It was a dark and stormy night when they walked into my office. The aether clouds swirled in the sky outside my window as the thunder boomed and rain splattered against the panes of glass. I could see a small brood of gremlins taking shelter under an abandoned Cultivator’s Caravan, their blue-tipped snouts just barely sticking out from underneath to sniff out any stray aether from the storm. I heard a firm knock on my door just before it opened. I didn’t even get a chance to say, “Come in.” They wore a hooded cloak and their face was obscured by a intricate lattice of metal in the shape of a mask. That wasn’t unusual for my line of work, but there was something that struck me about this person. Two glowing blue eyes pierced through the darkness of their hooded face. Those two slits of brilliant blue were haunting, boring deep into me as they swept into the room and regarded me with what seemed like contempt. But, there was an air of desperation in those eyes, like this was the last place they expected to end up. I’d seen those eyes in the faces of the countless Kaladeshi who’d walked through my door, but these eyes belonged to someone I never expected to see. Gonti, Lord of Luxury.

Gonti, Lord of Luxury

I’d had run ins with Gonti before, seen them from across the crowd in their Prakhata night club. I knew their type, and I used to want nothing to do with folks like them. I wasn’t much for the self-indulgence, flagrant disregard for consequences, or the single-mindedness with which they pursued their goals. But that was in the past, and Gonti had something new to show me, something that would turn my world upside down.

Gonti approached my desk and reached into a pocket deep within their cloak.

I went to stop them, to save them some time and heartache. “You know I can’t help you, Gonti. I’ve meddled with Mono-Black before and nothing good ever came of it.”

Gonti stopped for a moment, then let out a deep, raspy chuckle. “You’ve never met anyone like me, then.” They found what they were looking for in their cloak pocket and placed an object in each of their ashy, gray hands before stretching them out before me. In each hand sat a single Magic card: Blade of Selves in the left, and Panharmonicon in the right. “What if I told you I can play your opponents’ spells?”

Blade of Selves

I stared at the cards in Gonti’s hands, deeply regarding the mysteries of the multiverse and seeing the possibilities unraveling before me. I saw glimpses of a world with strange hedron-shaped rocks floating through the sky, another with picturesque streams and forests teeming with all sorts of fairytale creatures, and yet another with two beautiful men in armor, sculpted as if from marble, standing on a vista and gazing upon the construction of two statues in their likeness that looked as if they were made of actual marble. The room rematerialized and I saw Gonti standing before me once more.

I reached out and grabbed the cards from both of Gonti’s hands. “So what do you want me to do?”

I’ve played around with building a Mono-Black deck in Commander before, but I’ve never really found a commander that resonated with me. That is, until I learned a neat little rules interaction with Gonti, Lord of Luxury. Gonti’s enter the battlefield trigger chooses an opponent and lets you exile a card from the among the top four cards of their library. You may then cast that card for as long as it remains exiled and use mana as though it were mana of any type to cast it. That’s right, Gonti the crime lord steals a card and lets you cast it a la Praetor's Grasp. Let me tell you, nothing feels better than taking your opponents spells and using them to further your own game-plan. The kicker, however, is the ability is worded in such a way that Gonti doesn’t have to be in play for you to be able to cast the exiled card. Once the card is exiled, you can cast it.

Learning this changed everything for me.

I immediately started thinking of the ways I could take advantage of this amazing interaction and ended up with the following list:

The Wolf of Prakharta ? Commander | Robert Burrows

So where do we begin? How about Blade of Selves? This wonderful piece of equipment promises to do amazing things with Gonti and any of the other ETB effects we’ve packed into the deck. Making new copies of Gonti for each opponent just increases the pile of exiled cards we get to cast for the rest of the game, even if we have to sacrifice the copies of our general when they enter play. People often refer to the graveyard as a second hand of cards, so that means Gonti is giving us access to a third hand of cards. And they aren’t even our cards!

The whole list started with Gonti and Blade of Selves, and I just extrapolated from there. Panharmonicon and Strionic Resonator give us extra ETB effects for all of our creatures for that little bit of added value. Conjurer's Closet lets us flicker Gonti or another creature every turn to add to our exiled hand. Finally, Cloudstone Curio, Skull Collector, and Erratic Portal let us pick up and recast our creatures with ETB triggers and keep the value rolling. And this is just the beginning. There’s more than one way to re-buy and enters the battlefield trigger.

Sheoldred, Whispering One
That’s right! Reanimation! I’m opting for more recursive sources of reanimation than the strong one-offs like Reanimate, Animate Dead, and Exhume. Sheoldred, Whispering One seems like a Mono-Black mainstay, no matter who your Commander is, and she does an excellent job of bringing ETB triggers back from the dead. Then we have relative new comer and energetic demon, Demon of Dark Schemes. The deck has no other ways to produce energy, but there are enough ways to kill creatures that you should have no shortage of fuel for your reanimation needs. Mikaeus, the Unhallowed gives almost all of our creatures undying so they can come back for another round of ETB fun. Whip of Erebos gives us a nice stream of life to pad our life totals as well as giving our creatures one last hoorah on the way to exile. Black needs that extra life every once and while due to small life payments it makes along the way for the sake of value. Mimic Vat is underutilized in Commander, criminally so in my opinion, and it does so much for such a small investment. You can shove your own dead creatures in the vat, or take your opponents and generate value off of whatever creature they happen to lose in a tragic war of Attrition. I mean, we’re already casting their spells, might as well exploit their creatures too. Finally, we have another piece of equipment that works really well with Gonti and our other ETB creatures, Nim Deathmantle.

Cabal Coffers
But some of these methods of reanimation can be really expensive, especially Rise of the Dark Realms, so I needed a way to produce huge amounts of mana. Luckily, Black has no shortage of ways to do just that. Cabal Coffers/Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is a classic combination for Black decks in Commander. Substitute Magus of the Coffers for a duplicate affect and we’re off to a good start. Add in some Black mana doublers like Crypt Ghast and Nirkana Revenant and we have a good base going. Throw in Caged Sun, a Mono-color staple by all acounts, and Extraplanar Lens and we’ll have more mana than we could possibly ever want. You know what, let’s toss in Liliana of the Dark Realms for good measure. She sits around providing a steady stream of Swamps so you never miss a land drop. If you manage to get her ultimate, that’s just icing on the cake (gross, swampy icing). I considered throwing Exsanguinate in the deck just to have good outlet for that mana, but I realized I don’t like winning by playing Exsanguinate and would much rather use that mana to cast all of the cards I exiled with Gonti. We top off our acceleration with Sol Ring, Charcoal Diamond, Worn Powerstone, Ashnod's Altar, Mind Stone, Jet Medallion, and Burnished Hart. Quite the collection of mana rocks.

Grave Titan
With acceleration covered, it’s time to talk about the meat and potatoes of the deck: the other creatures. If you decide to adapt this decklist, this is the section that’s really up to personal taste. That being said, let’s get into it. Grave Titan. There, I said it. We’re playing Grave Titan. Good ole’ Gravy Train. It’s consistently one of the best Black creatures in commander and getting multiple triggers off of the bevy of flicker and trigger duplication in the deck just makes an already absurd Magic card that much better. Of course, no Mono-Black deck would be complete without Gary, the Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Gregarious win condition and all around good guy, Gary’s devotion to your victory remains true in the face of adversity. Massacre Wurm is next, serving as a pseudo-wrath effect and a method of carving out large chunks of life from any opponent inclined to play small creatures or tokens. Though, if you manage to get 2 or 3 triggers off of the wurm, big creatures won’t fare much better. Oblivion Sower might be a bit overkill, since we already have so much ramp, but I like the idea of stealing peoples lands in addition to their spells. Then we have Rune-Scarred Demon. This card and Liliana Vess are the only tutors I’m running in the deck, because I partially ascribe to Jason Alt’s 75% Theory: More power is fine as long as you decrease consistency. Granted, Rune-Scarred Demon will probably be grabbing more than its fair share of cards from your library when it enters play, but you have to find it first.

Noxious Gearhulk
Those are the big creatures, really. We have a bunch of smaller ETB creatures like Shriekmaw, Fleshbag Marauder, and Solemn Simulacrum (it almost goes without saying). Noxious Gearhulk and Puppeteer Clique are worth mentioning as further ETB utility, but the role they play is more value than victory. Which brings us to card advantage. Yes, Phyrexian Arena is in the deck. Check that off the list. Bloodgift Demon is also on the list. Two Phyrexian Arenas. Check. Ob Nixilis Reignited is in, as is Greed, Erebos, God of the Dead, Volrath's Stronghold, and Phyrexian Reclamation. The deck generates so much value off of Gonti that so much additional card advantage almost seems extravagant, but Gonti would want it that way. Plus, if our opponents decide Gonti doesn’t get to exile their spells, having a safety net is definitely a good idea.

Toss in some wrath effects (I have a good handful, but feel free to adjust as you see fit), some removal (I like having stuff like Hero's Downfall to interact with the must-kill creatures), and some lands to call this a deck. Command Beacon is great for if Gonti gets taken out of the picture one too many times. They can only kill Gonti so much before running out of ammo. Bojuka Bog is almost a necessity given how many graveyard strategies are out there in the wilds of Commander. Sac outlets as lands are a nice bit of utility for when people try and steal or exile your creatures, so I included High Market and Phyrexian Tower. Maze of Ith is a great utility land and Thespian's Stage pulls double duty as a copy of any good land on the battlefield.

Scour from Existence
With all that out of the way, I want to talk about one of the pitfalls of Mono-Black as a strategy. Black has a shortage of ways to kill artifacts and enchantments. When it comes to creatures and Planeswalkers, Black has you covered, but non-creature permanents are generally troublesome for a Mono-Black deck to deal with. I included Scour from Existence to have an expensive way to handle something that must be dealt with, but you will generally be at the mercy of any enchantments or artifacts that manage to hit the battlefield. That is unless Gonti manages to pick up the slack by exiling some enchantment or artifact removal. That’s honestly one of the reasons why Gonti finally got me to build a Mono-Black deck. I like to have answers, and Gonti makes it so we can take our opponents’ answers without them knowing. That small advantage makes up for the fact I don’t get to play Return to Dust or Into the Core. Instead, we get to play our opponents’ Return to Dusts and Into the Cores, and that just makes it that much sweeter.

So there we have it. A Gonti, Lord of Luxury deck that seeks to take full advantage of what your opponents bring to the table while having a solid plan of its own as a back-up. If you have any suggestions or want to talk Commander or Magic in general, you can find me on Twitter @Ironmanphoenix or leave a comment below. I hope you enjoy!

— Robert Burrows

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