Dark Prophecy

This week Sam shares a few brews with Dark Prophecy in Standard and one in Modern. Check them out if you’d like to play something fun and different at SCG Open Series: Baltimore!

I really didn’t like this card when I first saw it. It seemed clunky and like it would require a real cost that would be hard to overcome, and once you did all that work, you’d still have a serious life total issue to deal with. It just seemed to ask too much and offer too little. I was willing to humor people who expected me to love it, but I was not at all optimistic.

Then I tried building a deck with it, which I wrote about here, and the deck actually looked pretty sweet / fun if not amazing.

Later on I updated it. I went up to four Dark Prophecys and tried it out, and I was very impressed by Dark Prophecy. The Zombies that I was using to support it were very badly positioned, as we can see in the rest of the format—Zombie decks aren’t doing well because they’re good at grinding out certain kinds of control decks but the format is too aggressive for them.

After that I tried building a W/B deck that could get a similar amount of value out of Dark Prophecy but was better at defending itself. It was quite a bit better. The idea was to include the Human shell of Doomed Traveler and Cartel Aristocrat to offer early defense and plenty of fodder for Blood Artist and Dark Prophecy. The question was about the best way to approach the three-drops. I knew I wanted Dark Prophecy, but I could play Xathrid Necromancer, Lingering Souls, and / or some combination of Lifebane Zombie and Vampire Nighthawk.

I wanted to combine this with the Festering Newt / Bubbling Cauldron / Bogbrew Witch package that I’d played with the Zombies because Bubbling Cauldron is excellent with Dark Prophecy, I need more ways to recover lost life than just Blood Artist, and I was always surprised by just how powerful Bogbrew Witch was and how quickly it won if left alive.

I also wanted to try out Shadowborn Demon with Restoration Angel or Unburial Rites, particularly in a deck that would have a lot of creatures in the graveyard.



The Lingering Souls vs. Xathrid Necromancer question is interesting. On one hand, I don’t necessarily have all that many Humans for Xathrid Necromancer, though the number isn’t terribly low. On the other hand, I want to skew my mana towards black as much as possible because of Dark Prophecy, and Lingering Souls has some real problems in this format at the moment with Bonfire of the Damned, Thundermaw Hellkite, and Scavenging Ooze. The card is just very poorly positioned, so I went with Xathrid Necromancer.

Later I added Skirsdag High Priest as an additional way to do something powerful, which further makes me wish I had room for Tragic Slip, but I think it’s too important to keep the creature count high, so I went with Orzhov Charm instead since returning Festering Newts or Doomed Travelers can be extremely powerful if I have some combination of Bubbling Cauldron, Bogbrew Witch, Dark Prophecy, and Xathrid Necromancer in play.

My most recent take on that deck is:

I’ve been impressed with Shadowborn Demon, and I expect it to see quite a bit more play moving forward, particularly after rotation.

I hate the Orzhov Guildgates, but they’re the cost of doing business with Dark Prophecy and another color.

I suspect that Skirsdag High Priest is currently a little underplayed, as it has been one of the better ways to beat R/G decks in my experience, though it’s certainly possible to fall behind removal (especially Domri Rade) with it.

Overall, I’ve found this deck to be extremely fun but not quite good enough.

Another take I’ve been interested in is combining Dark Prophecy with Thragtusk and Primeval Bounty. Thragtusk draws multiple cards off Dark Prophecy and is always a great way to recoup life loss. Primeval Bounty is excellent when you have a source of additional cards to trigger it more times, and it provides both additional creatures and more life.

The trick that I haven’t figured out with that approach is what to do in the early game. I’d certainly like to use Farseek to cast those earlier, but what else? How important is it to have a sacrifice outlet if I’m just playing creatures my opponent needs to kill? I’d kind of like Disciple of Bolas, but I wish I had something that cost three or less that I wanted to sacrifice to it. Maybe Lifebane Zombie is enough. Scavenging Ooze is a great card, but I’m not sure if I want to have enough green mana to support it, though if I have Farseek anyway . . .

Huntmaster of the Fells is another source of life gain and additional creatures, but if I splash it, I’m moving into “can’t beat Burning Earth ever” territory.

Another option is Knight of Infamy, which plays pretty well with Disciple of Bolas, and I could play Vampire Nighthawk as my three, which is also pretty good with Knight of Infamy and more life gain is always welcome.

My current take is:

I think as long as I’m building my deck around playing five- and six-mana spells, I should play some Arbor Elfs since I don’t know what else to do in the early game and they’re less dead late than they might be in a deck that doesn’t have Dark Prophecy because they’ll cycle and can potentially cast Dark Prophecy. Counting Farseek but not Arbor Elf, I managed to get 23 of Black mana into this deck while still having ten Forests for Arbor Elf and fourteen green for Farseek, which I think is pretty good. Arbor Elf also helps out the Underworld Connections in the sideboard as the “fifth Dark Prophecy.” After all, once I’ve built my deck around trading life for cards and recouping the lost life, I might as well make sure I can do that against control decks.

I’m tempted to get really greedy and cut Knight of Infamy for Strangleroot Geist, but I want to try the Knight first. At the very least, it might lead to an occasional free win.

I’m also very undecided on Mutilate in the sideboard, and I could easily see wanting more or fewer of them. Oddly, I really like them against Jund, and there are plenty of creature decks against which they should be pretty good.

Liliana of the Dark Realms doesn’t get a lot of play, but I like it with Farseek and it makes sure I hit my third black. Also, It’s great with Vampire Nighthawk and Disciple of Bolas because of the +X/+X ability, and I just wanted a planeswalker that could get me ahead over time. It’s entirely possible that I’d be better off with Garruk Relentless, though that would tempt me to put a Shadowborn Demon and a Griselbrand into the deck (which might just be good anyway).

Another way to try to use Dark Prophecy is with Trading Post; Sorin, Lord of Innistrad; Garruk Relentless; or some other consistent source of tokens instead of filling a deck with creatures.

Trading Post and Sorin, Lord of Innistrad potentially offer ways to gain life back, which makes things much easier, though I wouldn’t really want to stop there.

The reason to go this direction is to try to build a more controlling deck that uses Dark Prophecy as a way to have inevitability going late. The trick is playing enough sources of creatures that Dark Prophecy isn’t dead in many games when you don’t draw them together.

Another issue is making sure that you don’t lose to planeswalkers, especially Domri Rade, if you’re trying to build a control deck. If you’re playing Trading Post, Ratchet Bomb is potentially a good place to start, but I’m not sure that it’s enough by itself. Another option that I like a lot is Corrupt if you’re mono-black, or maybe even if you’re only almost mono, since it reliably kills any planeswalker while catching you up on life.

I tried building a mono-black version and couldn’t find enough creatures that I liked to support Dark Prophecy, but maybe a B/U take could look like this:

This deck is doing a lot of weird things, and I’m not at all sure about most of them. The only life gain is Tribute to Hunger, Trading Post, and Corrupt, which isn’t an insignificant amount but isn’t a ton. I’d feel a little more comfortable with a Bubbling Cauldron, but I think it might be better not to have the low impact card in my deck.

Another questionable decision here is playing only twelve blue sources and seventeen Swamps with twenty black sources in order to support Nephalia Drownyard. I think the Drownyard is doing important work finding artifacts for Trading Post, my one Gravecrawler for Grimgrin, and Corrupts or other targets for Snapcaster Mage on top of, more obviously, Forbidden Alchemy to power my late game. Also, the Nephalia Drownyard offers potential inevitability against control as always, which is a welcome addition in a deck that would otherwise be fairly likely to deck itself without ever presenting a particularly serious threat.

I’m also seriously worried about the number of cards dedicated to pulling ahead on cards in the mid to late game relative to the number of cards devoted to staying alive. The problem is that all the card draw cards feed off each other, and I think it all falls apart if I go much lower than this. Also, I’d like one fewer Corrupt for something else to do early, but I’m too afraid of Domri Rade to cut the answer.

The one Gravecrawler might be too cute, but I think it costs very little and offers the sweet interaction with Grimgrin and Dark Prophecy and also lets me use Trading Post to rebuy an artifact without needing to take a turn to make a Goat, which is particularly crucial if I get to the point where I’m using Trading Post to rebuy Codex Shredder to regrow my graveyard (which potentially offers an endless stream of Corrupt). If you were wondering why Codex Shredder is in the deck, it’s for that in addition to the things I’m using Nephalia Drownyard for.

Thinking more about Butcher Ghoul and Gravecrawler as well as Trading Post, I think a Bubbling Cauldron is likely appropriate, but I’m still uncertain.

As a final note, I’ve also tried Dark Prophecy in Modern, which resulted in this sweet Vampire deck:

Unfortunately, this deck felt like it probably isn’t quite good enough, possibly because it didn’t always draw Bloodghast and Dark Prophecy, but it’s definitely fun to play. This is an early draft, so if you’re looking for a fun and different Modern deck with some room to grow, you should try working on this a bit.

Thanks for reading,


@samuelhblack on Twitter