Casual Play: Getting A Deck On The Black Market

It’s tough to use up twenty-five mana with just a Diabolic Edict in hand, so I mana burned quite brightly. But other times it worked quite well.

First things first: Wizards is not going to get rid of basic lands. It was a joke, folks.*

Magic is amazing. My wife and I play multiplayer games with friends every other weekend or so, and we all build new decks for each session. Despite having done this for a couple years now, and making a serious effort not to repeat the same deck concepts, I can still find new ideas nearly every time. What’s even better – most of these ideas work.

For last weekend, I decided to build a deck around Black Market – mainly because I got a fourth one recently as a prize in a store tourney.** Black Market is an interesting card. Here it is:

Black Market
Whenever a creature is put into a graveyard from play, put a charge counter on Black Market. At the beginning of your precombat main phase, add B to you mana pool for each counter on Black Market.

With Black Market in play, you are likely to get a lot of mana. Any time any creature hits the graveyard, Black Market gets a counter. You are going to get that mana whether you want it or not. This means you need ways to use the mana, or you burn. In black, the two best mana sinks are X spells, like Drain Life and Soul Burn, and regenerators (since you can set any number of regeneration shields on a creature, this can burn up any spare mana). This can be important: I have had two Back Markets in play with 23 counters on one and a dozen or so on the other. My opponents had killed my other creatures, and only the fact that I topdecked a Spawning Pool kept me from taking fatal mana burn.

The first step in building the deck is to make sure that I have mana sinks. Lands that animate are good, since they can be activated multiple times per turn. (Nothing else happens if you activate a Spawning Pool a second or third time, other than using up the mana.) So far, the deck has four Spawning Pools and four Mishra’s Factories.

The kill cards are Drain Life and Soul Burn. These cards can also double as creature removal, which, in turn, puts yet another counter on the Black Market. This can be very nice synergy.

The deck also needs to draw enough cards to be able to cast something. Having a pile of counters on Black Market and drawing nothing but lands can be not only frustrating, it can be fatal. In this deck, I ran Howling Mines. It took a little willpower on my part – the tournament player part of me rebels against giving the other players extra cards without controlling their ability to use them – but in multiplayer, my first reaction to anyone with a Howling Mine is, "I like you. I’ll kill you last." That means the Mines are okay, and probably even good, since my opponents may feel the same way. Besides, the only other types or black card drawing involve paying life (a bad idea with mana burn being a real possibility, and one that only works if you are playing serious combo decks) or sacrificing permanents, which is only marginally useful here. However, I did include Demonic Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, and Diabolic Intent. In practice, I used these to find a Howling Mine much more often than I did to find a Black Market or other answers to problems.

The deck is powered by having creatures hit the graveyard. This means that I get some benefit out of losing creatures, so I can afford chump blockers, creatures that require sacrificing other creatures, and using cards like Phyrexian Tower and High Market. It also means that I will have lots of creature cards in the graveyard, so cards like Volrath’s Stronghold and Haunted Crossroads will be useful. Creatures with return to play abilities, like Nether Shadow, Krovikan Horror, Ashen Ghoul and Necrosavant also look good.

The deck did not pack Gravepact, because we were playing partners and I didn’t want to shaft anyone on my side. If you are playing a multiplayer free-for-all, add it. Gravepact forces everyone to kill one of their own creatures whenever you lose one of yours. Combinations like Ashnod’s Altar/Lab Rats (put a 1/1 rat token into play, with buyback) / Gravepact or even silliness like Breeding Pit/Life Chisel/Gravepact can really clear the board.

Creature removal is also important in any deck. I used a combination of Diabolic Edict (to remove untargetables), Terror clones in various flavors, and Grave Servitude, because it can kill small regenerators or pump my creatures as either an enchantment or an instant. It didn’t prove very useful in practice, since none of my opponents were playing v/1 creatures, but I did hang them on Cathy’s big, trampling Wurms on occasion.

Okay, let’s discuss creatures. I played a mix, partially because I don’t want the deck to get stale and partially because I wanted to be able to function without Black Market in play. Sure, you can build this deck as a straight combo deck, but it is both risky (since people can Disenchant the Market and shut you down) and boring. No one wants to play, or play against, a tuned combo deck for eight hours. Even in a multi-round PTQ, you get breaks between rounds, so you aren’t playing continuously.

I also played some big creatures, because I could. Black Market mana means never having to hold fatties while waiting to draw land. I played Sengir Autocrats because the serfs chump, can be fed to the Phyrexian Tower and High Market, and Sengir Autocrat provides four creatures for a four-mana card. Krovikan Horror, Ashen Ghoul, and Nether Shadow all return from the graveyard. Necrosavant is a 5/5 that can return to play at the cost of a serf token. Spined Fluke and Sanguine Guard regenerate (think mana sinks), and the Fluke helps put counters on the Black Market. Nekrataal kills stuff, and Eater of the Dead (remove a creature card from ANY graveyard: untap Eater of the Dead) combines well with Living Death and messes with any opponent playing recursion. The one offs were big fatties that could be helpful and were a blast to play. In this deck, in a dozen games, I never drew Devouring Strossus or Volrath the Fallen without having enough mana to cast him (it?) that turn.

The rest of the cards were tricks that either worked well with Black Market (like Infernal Tribute {2, sacrifice a card in play, draw a card} and No Mercy) or worked with cards already in the deck (Infernal Genesis).

Here’s the decklist:

3x Black Market
3x Howling Mine

4x Drain Life
3x Soul Burn
Rx Demonic Tutor
Rx Vampiric Tutor
2x Diabolic Edict
2x Annihilate
3x Grave Servitude
1x Sever Soul
1x Seal of Doom

1x Living Death
1x No Mercy
1x Haunted Crossroads
2x Infernal Tribute
1x Infernal Genesis

2x Blood Pet
2x Sengir Autocrat
2x Nekrataal
2x Spined Fluke
2x Sanguine Guard
2x Necrosavant
2x Ashen Ghoul
2x Nether Shadow
2x Krovikan Horror
2x Eater of the Dead
1x Ihsan’s Shade
1x Morinfen
1x Nightmare
1x Volrath the Fallen
1x Ascendant Evincar
1x Devouring Strossus

Rx Sol Ring
3x Charcoal Diamond
4x Spawning Pool
4x Mishra’s Factory
4x Polluted Mire
1x Phyrexian Tower
2x High Market
2x Volrath’s Stronghold
16x Swamps


Some quick notes:

The fourth Black Market was in the sideboard. I didn’t want Black Market in play every game because I wanted to show that the deck could win without it. I was also worried that, if it appeared all the time, opponents would start sideboarding in Disenchants. As it turned out, none of my opponents had significant amounts of enchantment kill – especially since Ingrid left her sideboard Hull Breaches sitting on the table at home.

The deck I played ran 93 cards. That worked fine for our games, and I never got beaten while waiting to draw useful cards. However, my group likes to set up slowly. If you need a highly-tuned, fast-kill deck, pull the tricks and half the fat creatures, plus the Tower, High Markets, and probably the Volrath’s Strongholds. Add Gravepact, and hope people don’t play Disenchant. Stripped down, the deck is a one-trick pony and the trick requires keeping the Market in play for several turns to build up counters. That’s the definition of fragile. Of course, the first Disenchants will target the Grave Pact, so the Market may survive for a while.

I won’t try to give a play by play of the entire eight- to ten-hour session, but I will mention a few highlights. I was paired with Cathy, who was running a R/G Wurms theme deck. That left John and Ingrid as partners, with both of them playing variations on Stratadon.dec. Ingrid had a ton of dual lands, and a smattering of the Invasion domain spells. (She wrote an article on the deck for ccgprime.com, so you can get her take and her decklist here http://www.ccgprime.com/mtg/
.) John was playing more basic lands, plus some mana acceleration and some really big artifact creatures, plus a handful of enchantments to hang on Thran Golems.

I got each of the tricks out at least once. Sometimes they worked. Sometimes they didn’t.

One that worked: I had drawn Infernal Genesis in my opening hand, but had nothing to break it with. I could have just cast it and relied on drawing well, but with John and Ingrid playing Stratodons and Draco, that seemed a little risky. I then topdecked Devouring Strossus and Haunted Crossroads back to back. That’s a combo: each upkeep I could put Infernal Genesis’ effect (put the top card from your library into your graveyard, then put a number of 1/1 minion tokens into play equal the cards casting cost) on the stack, then respond by putting Strossus onto my library with the Crossroads and get nine minions without milling better cards. That would have worked turn after turn, except both my opponents had either conceded or been run down within two or three turns.

One that didn’t: I had just gotten Volrath the Fallen in play and a sideboard Funeral Charm to give Volrath swampwalking in hand, when Ingrid dropped Maze of Ith. He was big. He was evil. He was staying home, whether he liked it or not. He never attacked at all, and after a half dozen turns, Ingrid killed him with an Exotic Curse.

Sometimes I snatched victory from the top of the deck. Here’s the situation: John and Ingrid both had close to twenty life. John had a Thran Golem enchanted with Zephid’s Embrace (that means he had a 7/7 flying, untargetable trampler), and a couple of Stratodons. Ingrid had some weenies, and had just cast Draco and stuck a Rancor on him. I had a Black Market with nine counters, plus Krovikan Horror, Eater of the Dead, and a few random creatures in play that had been holding off the Stratodons. I had four life left, then I topdeck the one card that can save me. You’ve seen my decklist – know what it is? Living Death. I used the Krovikan Horror to throw all my creatures at my opponents, then cast Living Death to clear away the giant fliers and had all my creatures back. I felt a little bad about killing Ingrid’s Draco, since that was the first (and, as it turned out, only) time she cast him all day, but I felt better about surviving.

Sometimes I couldn’t draw a winning card. One game went on quite a while, and I had two Black Markets with about twenty-five counters. I had a Spawning Pool, 3 Howling Mines and some life left, but no other creatures. Ingrid sent a 2/2 Shivan Zombie, or some such. I decide to block with the Spawning Pool, since Ingrid had both Power Armor and Gaea’s Might (a scary combo, since she had all five land types in play.) Since Spawning Pool regenerates, that’s normally okay. However, Ingrid responded with Diabolic Edict, forcing me to sacrifice my Spawning Pool. On my turn, I drew Swamp, Diabolic Edict, Swamp. It’s tough to use up twenty-five mana with a Diabolic Edict, so I mana burned quite brightly.

And sometimes I just got lucky. One game, Ingrid had a pair of Questing Pheldagrifs in play (these are bad problems if you have nothing but black kill cards) and some random creatures. However, John was dead and Cathy was beating Ingrid down with a pair of Rancored Wurms. Ingrid topdecked a solution: She dropped Yavimaya Barbarians, then tapped out to cast Coalition Victory. However, I had Krovikan Horror in play. In response to the Victory being cast, I activated Mishra’s Factory, then sacrificed the Factory and the Krovikan in response to kill the Barbarians – her only red creature. Victory fizzles. Then I topdecked Funeral Charm to give Cathy’s Wurm swampwalk, and we were on to the next game.

In general, the deck worked as designed. I was only mana-screwed once, and that was solely because I kept a one-land opening hand (we play old-style mulligan rules, with no Paris mulligans). Ingrid had a few more problems – which is to be expected in a five-color deck. John had the worst luck – he would go about fifteen turns without drawing enough land one game, and then draw land for ten turns straight next game, no matter how much he shuffled. The proof he was having no luck at all came one game when I had both a Howling Mine and Infernal Genesis in play. For his last several turns, whenever he turned over the Infernal Genesis card, it was a land. When he drew cards he could actually put in his hand, they were non-land. John was clearly taking mana screw to a new heights – or maybe depths.

It was a fun multiplayer deck. Our team won slightly over half the games, which is about right. The only thing I regret is that we never saw the most massive collision in Magic – a Draco flying head on into a Devouring Strossus. Of course, since Ingrid had Power Armor, Strength of Unity, and Gaea’s Might in her deck and I had nothing but Grave Servitude, that’s probably just as well. Draco could easily have been a 24/24 trampler, the Strossus a 12/9 grease stain, and I could have been very, very dead.

Comments always welcome: [email protected] or [email protected]

Next time: Combo decks in multiplayer games.


* – Yup – some people really did think I was serious last time when I said Wizards would no longer be printing basic lands. Big mistake, everyone. Nothing I write is serious.

** – It was a small tourney and a small prize. I got a couple random packs – including a choice of Masques or Homelands. Maybe I should have taken Homelands.