Arisan Brewery: Who Wants a Hug?
Howdy all, and welcome back to the Artisan Brewery! With two colors down in our inverted color cycle, we have three to go, and next in line is mono-Black! Black is known for its ability to use its own resources to drain the life out of opponents, removing the threats that are presented to it, and bringing its own threats back over and over. In that case, what better way to invert it than to use our resources in favor of our opponents? That's right, we're building Mono-Black Group Hug! We did something similar with our Mono-Blue list last time, but we'll still see some key differences. First of all, even if we are doing our best to just help our opponents, there may still be some negative consequence for them, including our commander Seizan, Perverter of Truth. We're choosing this specific creature because as long as it's on the battlefield, it's functionally the same as giving each player two copies of Phyrexian Arena, which is one of the most commonly played Black enchantments in the EDH format, so our opponents likely won't complain too much.
Some may be surprised at the amount of (mostly) harmless group hug spells we've found, and for good reason. More often than not, when black gives its opponents a benefit or bonus of any type, there's a pretty steep backlash. Our goal here is to find as many cards without a drawback for the other players, and a great example to begin with is Master of the Feast. Normally a 5/5 flier for only three mana would be immediately seen as a problem or a threat, but since it's mostly here to act as a blocker and give our opponents extra card draw, this should be quickly recognized as a net positive by the other players at the table. We have some artifacts that fill a similar roll, such as Howling Mine, Font of Mythos, and of course our commander as well.
There are a small number of targeted or conditional draw spells and abilities we can use for our opponents instead of global ones, and this is also where we see more colorless cards instead of Black. Bloodgift Demon is a great example, letting our opponents draw a card in exchange for one life if we so choose. Another odd example is Howling Golem, which will hopefully allow us to bargain with our opponents to deal incidental damage. Horn of Greed, and Well of Knowledge rely on our opponents being willing or able to take the action required to draw their cards. Of course, we see Otherworld Atlas as another great way to curry favor with our opponents, letting them draw more and more cards, or just one to two consistently, then we have Mikokoro, Center of the Sea as a redundant way to have everyone draw cards when the game gets late and card count in hands get low.
As mentioned above, recurring its own threats is something that Black excels at, so what if we found cards that apply that skill to everyone in the game? Let's look at Patriarch's Bidding, for example. This card will let each player get a good variety of their creatures in graveyards back onto the battlefield, basically putting everyone in a good position to keep the game going. Twilight's Call is similarly powerful, but without the same restrictions as Patriarch's Bidding, which helps when players aren't playing tribal decks. Living Death and Living End are likely the most famous examples of this line of play, but they do carry the potential drawback of removing the existing creatures from the battlefield, which makes the timing of our casting these more crucial than some of the others.
A slightly less effective version of this ability is to return the creatures to their owners' hands instead of the battlefield, using something like Empty the Catacombs or Virtus's Maneuver. Another slightly less powerful version is to only return one creature per person, as in the case of Exhume, or Infernal Offering (which has the added benefit of letting the involved players use the creature they return to draw cards with its sacrifice ability). Enslaved Horror is probably the version of this ability that benefits us the least, since we don't get anything back from the graveyard, just a moderately sized creature on board. There's one card that falls into this category, but allows us to gain some additional benefit for ourselves: Tempt with Immortality. It's one of the only cards in the deck that is tailored to give us extra value over our opponents, but it's still a solid piece of recursion and completely in line with our plans for this deck. One of the stranger versions of this ability is Endless Whispers, which forces each player to give their dying creatures to another player, causing a strange cooperation among everyone at the table.
While creature recursion and card draw are the most populous version of regular hug we have access to, we have a few abilities that only have one or two pieces of representation, but they're still fun, spicy ways to stick to the plan. For example, there are some tutor spells such as Wishclaw Talisman, and Scheming Symmetry which let our opponents take more advantage than ourselves. We would be remiss if we didn't bring back Gauntlet of Power to give everyone additional Black mana. What's that? What if our opponents aren't playing Black? Well, as long as they have lands and we can get Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth onto the battlefield, they'll have access to the benefits of our Gauntlet.
We also have some spicy ways to give our opponents additional creatures. Some of them are fairly even and universal, such as Tombstone Stairwell, but there are some that are more biased or slanted, like Curse of Disturbance and Curse of Shallow Graves. Another unique way is with Infernal Genesis, and although it requires each player to mill the top card of their library each turn, it's safe to say we've seen plenty of examples of how that isn't a long term problem above. In addition, Infernal Genesis also works very well alongside a dual-purpose recursion ability in Balthor the Defiled.
We'll get into a couple more unusual abilities before we move on. What makes these particular things unusual is that they require more audience participation, so to speak, than the other group based abilities. For example, Fan Favorite provides a way for one (or more) of our opponents to deal excess damage to another one if they so desire. There's also Scandalmonger if our opponents want to mess with each other's resources, but that seems less likely as it will likely be a removal target. Coveted Jewel is a good way to barter into our opponents letting each other deal small damage, as well as giving opponents mana that they may desperately need. In this category, however, the most even ability we'll play will be Aku Djinn, which gives all of our opponents the ability to grow their board presence. At that point, we'll gently fade into the background and let them slug it out with one another, leaving us in a better position for the next stage of our plan.
Breaking the Clasp
More often than not, when Black abilities give an opponent a resource, they take away from another resource--most often, their life totals. Now, in the spirit of the deck, the damage won't necessarily exempt us, as seen above with Bloodgift Demon and our commander, but we will have ways to soften the worst of it, or make up for it. We should address the global examples, such as Plague of Vermin. Not only will it swell our own creatures' ranks, it will also give every player the option to create more creatures in exchange for some of their life totals. They can't risk letting ours be the only board to benefit as strongly as this will allow, so at least one or two of them will have to be willing to go toe-to-toe with us to balance it. In the same vein as Bloodgift Demon, Rankle, Master of Pranks gives us the ability to give the entire table an extra card on each of our turns, along with an extra point of damage, and while it has two other highly useful abilities, that will likely be the most common one by a wide margin. In a slightly different direction, we have Pestilence, which is another fairly popular card in Mono-Black, and will allow us to keep whittling down at everyone's life as well as a possible board wipe when needed.
Our next card is going to be slightly strange, as it is in direct contradiction with a portion of our commander's ability. Maralen of the Mornsong directly prevents players from drawing cards, but instead allows them to tutor the card they want. The upshot is that while Seizan's ability to draw extra cards is frozen, it still deals its two damage, so we'll still be dealing a total of five damage to each player on their upkeep, which is nothing to sneeze at. While this may so far seem very even and widespread, when we add Price of Knowledge into the overall mix, we gain a significant advantage since it protects us from its damage ability, hence our cushion. Adding all of these together, we could even theoretically use Damnable Pact to deal the last damage we need to defeat one of the players at the table, and even though this deck is mostly in the spirit of cooperation, we'd still like to win the game every now and then.
Speaking of winning the game, it's not the best strategy to rely exclusively on us taking slightly less damage than everyone else, especially when most of that damage is universal, so sliding in a couple of more direct plans and synergies is something we should look into. One of the classics is easily Phage the Untouchable, and not only can we use it to actually kill an opponent through its damage ability, but we can partner it alongside Endless Whispers to instantly kill an opponent by giving them control of Phage. Honestly, that's probably the way that feels best to kill a player in this deck. A card that's not technically a win condition initially, but can easily become one, is Gray Merchant of Asphodel, another of the most popular cards in mono Black. It will easily drain our opponents for at least two damage a piece, and bring our own life total higher alongside it, thus making our main plan a bit more feasible. If we're feeling extra frisky (and let's face it, when aren't we when building decks like this?), we could even use Tainted Strike, or Glistening Oil as yet another way for our opponents to take each other out.
Now, looking at this list, we may be tempted to ask ourselves what happens if our opponents out-number us on creatures, especially as we're giving them so many resources to do it with? That's a great question, and there's an even better, very simple solution: we protect ourselves. It's really quite easy when we play cards like Dread, which is a one-bodied board wipe for any creature that deals damage to us. Partnered with other such cards as Last Laugh, and No Mercy, we have a solid shell of protection around us. It might even be a good plan to throw Akroan Horse in as well, seeing as it keeps spitting out tokens for us to defend with.
1 No Mercy
1 ExhumeApproximate Total Cost:
That just about wraps it up this time. We've done a solid job of giving our opponents all sorts of ways to get their most fun toys, and even included some ways to give ourselves a few as well. This deck is more lighthearted than our last couple, and that's probably for the best after being both sacrificially conboed, and aggressive back to back. Red is our next plan, and let's just hope we have enough control to handle it properly. The deck list is down below, and as always, feel free to leave comments, suggestions, or opinions. Until next time!