As I mentioned last week, there’s one M14 card left for me to brew with:
Just looking at the card makes my
spidey deckbuilder’s sense tingle—I can feel that this has to be breakable. As ridiculous as the effect looks, though, it is clearly hard to take full advantage of it, and there are a million shells it could possibly work in but none in which it definitely will. Possibly insane yet really hard to use? That’s exactly the kind of card I want to see when going over a spoiler.
There is some theoretical groundwork to be laid, and there are quite a few directions this card could go in, so without further ado let the brewing begin.
How To Prophecy
When exploring a new open-ended card without an obvious home, the first thing we need to do is figure out what general type of deck we want to build. Is this the right engine for a new combo deck? Does it help win the long game or establish control? Is it a tool to supercharge an aggressive deck? Essentially we’re asking "what is this card’s role?"
One easy way to learn about cards we haven’t played with yet is to look at equivalents and similar cards and try to learn from their success or failure. Luckily for us, there’s an easy comparison to make. On first sight Dark Prophecy looks a lot like Fecundity version 2.0, a card that hasn’t really done anything of note in a long time. There is one huge difference, though, which I believe turns this new version into a much superior card: Dark Prophecy only works for you.
Why is that important? Well, as evidenced by the fact that Fecundity hasn’t seen play in ages, this kind of card is unlikely to support a full-blown combo deck. You need to put far too many random cards in there to make something along those lines worth playing over an established engine.
You need access to a ton of creatures, a way to kill them, a way to generate mana to keep dropping creatures and Dark Prophecy itself. That at least three cards right there, and we’re only looping at this point. Nothing actually threatens to kill our opponent, and we’re likely to run out of life. Much too clunky a combo to compete with something like Storm or Show and Tell.
That’s the basic reason why you don’t see any Fecunditys for added consistency today. I started thinking about a few lists, realized that there’s a snowflake’s chance in hell they’d work, and instead decided to figure out where and how Dark Prophecy could actually do something meaningful.
So if we aren’t going combo, what could want an enchantment that turns your dying guys into new cards? Here are a few roles I could see Dark Prophecy playing:
A) A deck full of efficient token producers—Lingering Souls, Young Pyromancer, and Mogg War Marshal come to mind—that basically just goes into overkill mode when Dark Prophecy hits and makes sure that every dead token means another card drawn to make more tokens.
B) An aggressive creature deck—possibly a tribal deck—with creatures that either cantrip, recur, or create multiple bodies could use Dark Prophecy either as a grinding tool along the lines of Goblin Ringleader or as a final touch combo engine that allows the deck to go off in some fashion.
D) A complicated on-board engine midrange/aggro deck along the lines of Standard Aristocrats that uses Dark Prophecy to totally go over the top in the long game. Sam Black Zombie deck—the most obvious place in Legacy to try out Dark Prophecy—is an example of this type of deck.
Those are the four directions I’ve mainly been looking at. If you think I’ve missed an application, let me know in the comments. Now with a goal in mind, it’s time to figure out what kinds of cards our decks need and scour magiccards.info for possible options.
Making It Come True
Due to how Dark Prophecy functions, there are certain types of cards our deck will want. I’ll go over those categories and mention the main tools I’ve thought of or run into while searching for each category.
The first thing we’ll obviously need for Dark Prophecy to do some work is an easy to establish and maintain creature supply. Recurring creatures, token producers, undying, and any other way for one card to represent more than one dying creature are obviously what we’re looking for here. A little collection:
Recurring Creatures: Bloodghast, Gravecrawler, and Nether Traitor (go ahead, look it up, you know you want to—it doubles up every sacrifice!) seem like the premium options in this category. Nether Spirit might do the job if everything else in the deck is a token-producing spell, and Nether Shadow deserves mention in case we want to use something like Buried Alive. It can block, too, which could prove useful.
Token Producers: Lingering Souls is the obvious card here given its power level, though Mogg War Mashal’s three bodies for two mana is quite impressive. Given the particular capabilities our deck is going to have, Promise of Bunrei might turn out to be a bizarre yet serviceable tool. If we can make WWW and BBB work out, Spectral Possession could be another strong option. So could Bitterblossom if we can keep the life loss from both enchantments under control, and Young Pyromancer might work well in a token- heavy list. If we end up playing enough real creatures or have an artifact theme, Genesis Chamber will keep us nicely fueled too.
Bridge from Below may be something worth borrowing from Dredge because it could both multiply regular sacrificial lambs and serve as something that profits from the dying creature engine at the same time. We’ll need some easy way to get it into the graveyard though. Another card with some weird synergy is Devastating Summons. Sacrificing zero lands to get two 0/0 tokens that instantly die and draw cards at the same time is a reasonable way to finish up an aggressive curve out.
Finally, one card that obviously has to be mentioned is Saproling Cluster, the original tool used to combo with Fecundity. That engine in and off itself obviously isn’t worth fully building around, but if we end up with enough graveyard-enabled cards that we actually want a few discard outlets, Saproling Cluster could take over its traditional role without trouble.
X-For-One Creatures: With power creep being what it is, we have access to a large number of creatures that already come with two lives, clearly ideal sacrificial lambs. Doomed Traveler is a simple tool of Standard fame, but maybe the lost little lamb could do work in Legacy. If we want more than a playset of these, Tukatongue Thallid can even work as a weaker version. Speaking of Saprolings, Sprouting Thrinax sends his regards too.
In addition to creatures that leave tokens behind when they die, persist and undying offer similar rewards, with Young Wolf doing the same Doomed Traveler impression he does in Junk Aristocrats (Standard) while Geralf’s Messenger and Kitchen Finks are already no slouches as far as card quality is concerned even if you aren’t planning to sacrifice them.
Alright, now that we have a bunch of creatures to fuel Dark Prophecy, we need some ways to make sure those creatures will actually get on the highway to hell. Should our opponent prove uncooperative—and I fear they will whenever we most need our guys dead—some sacrifice outletsare in order. Surprisingly enough, there aren’t all that many strong ways to chuck your own creatures into the graveyard, at least at reasonable mana costs.
Goblin Bombardment is clearly the cream of the crop, but Cartel Aristocrat and Viscera Seer have proven tournament worthy as well. Varolz, the Scar-Striped could also do the trick. If we want something colorless, Spawning Pit has nice synergy with Dark Prophecy because it keeps on making more creatures.
As for somewhat more unusual outlets, Attrition is a rarely seen card but could prove the perfect tool to dominate creature-based matchups, while Mind Slash will have a similar effect against almost any combo deck.
Finally, there’s Arcbound Ravager. Just by existing he gives us incentive to look for an Affinity-style build that could also include Thopter Foundry, another very synergistic card for what we have in mind.
If we want to keep the motor running, we also need some way to replenish our life total. As Dark Prophecy feeds off of its owner’s health, it can easily happen that we die before we reap the benefits of all those sweet new cards, especially if a Tarmogoyf has been hitting us from the start. As such, some life gain would be very much appreciated.
Blood Artist is the perfect way to make sure we don’t run out because it brings our opponent down at the same time. Deathgreeter will take care of the life gain half in the same way the Soul Sisters duo—Soul Warden and Soul’s Attendant—will buffer our life preemptively.
Vampires in general seem like they really work hard towards bringing the darkness as Kalastria Highborn is another great Blood Artist type effect. The evil Clerics of the Cabal also have their own prophet in Cabal Archon, though I still haven’t found enough good Clerics to really make that kind of deck work.
One final word before we hit some actual decklists: pretty much every list I’ve built has four Cabal Therapys in it. In Legacy, we want to run disruption, and as our deck is already base black and full of disposable creatures, Cabal Therapy fits in much too perfectly to be ignored.
Getting To The Brews
Now that we have our outline and a solid couple of ideas already, it’s time to get to the really fun part: making decks. But I must warn you that nothing I’ve come up with so far has really clicked and convinced me that I’ve found the correct way to utilize Dark Prophecy.
As such, instead of giving you one or two possible lists and talking about them in detail, I’ll give you some examples of a couple of different routes I’ve looked at so far and shortly describe where I was going with them. That way you can pick whichever idea you like and run with it or can just choose some ideas that seem solid and mix and match to your heart’s content.
Let’s start with one of the first decks I built. It was originally mono-black, but some green seeped in with the Entomb engine. What we have here would definitely make Buffy cry:
The game plan here obviously is to abuse Bloodghast as much as possible with profitable sacrifice and drain effects (hence the Entombs as an additional set of Bloodghasts and the Loam to make sure you hit landfall). That way you get a nearly combo-esque draw and drain game when you do have a Dark Prophecy and a reasonably synergistic tribal deck that can drain for a lot when you don’t. A single Nether Traitor in here might be worth the slot even though it doesn’t trigger Kalastria Highborn. It works fine with the sac outlets and Dark Prophecy, and you already have Entombs to find your singleton.
Speaking of tribal decks, there’s a very limited sacrifice outlet that is also one of the absolute best to keep going off with Dark Prophecy: Skirk Prospector. As such, Goblins should provide a solid home assuming the mana base sacrifice isn’t too painful.
- 4 Goblin Matron
- 4 Goblin Lackey
- 1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
- 4 Goblin Warchief
- 3 Gempalm Incinerator
- 1 Siege-Gang Commander
- 4 Goblin Ringleader
- 4 Skirk Prospector
- 4 Mogg War Marshal
- 1 Stingscourger
- 1 Lightning Crafter
Even though I suspect it isn’t worth it for Goblins to really try to make triple black work just to get more card advantage, the combo mode is quite impressive, and you can still play like a board-advantage grind deck with the Ringleaders when you aren’t semi-comboing. The finishing touch here is the Skirk Prospector; Lightning Crafter; Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker loop,* although you’ll probably get out enough Goblins to just swing for lethal most of the time.
*You have Kiki-Jiki, Skirk Prospector, and Lightning Crafter in play. Activate Kiki-Jiki to copy Lightning Crafter, champion Kiki-Jiki, shoot the opponent for three with the copied Crafter, sacrifice the copy to Skirk Prospector, get back Kiki-Jiki, and start again.
Goblins isn’t the most obvious established deck to look at though. That honor clearly belongs to Sam Black Zombie deck. The deck is already built around grinding out advantages by sacrificing your own guys over and over again, and Dark Prophecy fits straight into that plan. The reason I’m somewhat skeptical about this approach is that three mana is a lot for that deck and the loss of life is actually reasonably likely to come back to bite you given that most of your creatures can’t block.
I replaced the more usual removal with Firestorm because it is that good when it works and there are enough cards you’d be happy discarding that it feels worth a try. Other than that, make creatures, sac them to Goblin Bombardment and Carrion Feeder, and make more guys. If you ever get a Dark Prophecy down, you should easily overwhelm most opponents.
Sticking with Sam Black inspired decks, Max Galensa, another Berlin Legacy player, has been trying to port the Standard Junk Aristocrats deck to Legacy and has been having reasonably solid results against the fair decks of the format. As The Aristocrats is the first Standard deck I’d look at if I were trying to find a home for Dark Prophecy there, using a similar kind of shell might actually work out in Legacy.
Same as in Standard, Varolz, the Scar-Striped might turn out to be the correct sacrifice outlet instead of Spawning Pit, but I feel like the extra creatures, lower mana cost, and more resilient nature of the artifact is probably worth not getting to scavenge. Promise of Bunrei has the potential to be truly insane here since it works pretty much like a Lingering Souls you only need to cast for three mana. Creatures dying should be the least of your troubles.
There are a number of cards you’re fine discarding for value—Bloodghast in particular—and never running out of sacrifice fodder gives value to extra lands late in the game. Once again Entomb enables a singleton Life from the Loam, which might actually be worth running multiples of in this version because it fuels Saproling Cluster really well.
Naturally, you could also just go for high-powered value creatures that are perfectly capable of grinding out a game without Dark Prophecy ever showing up yet become ridiculous when combined with the enchantment.
Here, you aren’t really trying to set up any particular engine with Dark Prophecy; instead, you just run a ton of awesome creatures that also happen to work well with being sacrificed while there’s a Dark Prophecy in play. I mean, a lot of the time you likely won’t ever need your enchantment or a sacrifice outlet to overwhelm people that don’t play Swords to Plowshares.
Alright, so much for the sane experiments. If you feel these decks don’t push the envelope enough, the next two decks should hopefully fill your need for the far out.
Another thing I did quite early on was try to get all the sweet new cards and synergies into the same deck:
This list is extremely rough (and has a horrible mana base) but has awesome potential. Young Pyromancer and Mogg War Marshal both provide a solid number of bodies, and having Quiet Speculation for Lingering Souls or Mind Twist with Young Pyromancer in play is an excellent way to really go off. Dark Rituals are the ideal extra mana sources here (instead of more lands) because they fix for Dark Prophecy, enable Empty the Warrens turns, and allow you to keep going when you’re already going off with Dark Prophecy but threaten to run out of mana. As is to be expected, the resulting deck is rather inconsistent but has a high power level when it works. This might actually be worth further investigation.
This isn’t the list I’m most interested in at the moment though. The following is what has been feeling the most powerful in the limited testing I’ve done with all of these:
We’re used to Affinity looking a certain way in Legacy—with Platings and such—but Dark Prophecy gives us the ability to run a list that plays out a lot closer to the old Standard Skullclamp Affinity lists. The deck should also probably have the obligatory Thoughtcasts—draw two for U is quite bonkers—but I haven’t figured out how to make room yet.
I honestly didn’t expect this approach to work when I first conceived the idea, but Affinity is actually quite good at fixing colored mana even with the artifact lands. There are eighteen sources each of blue and black in this deck, with Sunken Ruins helping even further to filter Seat of the Synod mana into black.
Thopter Foundry is an awesome additional sacrifice outlet and allows us to slowly transform our other artifacts into creatures that will trigger Dark Prophecy when they die all while gaining life to fuel the engine.
Transmute Artifact makes it easy to find sacrifice outlets, construct the full Thopter combo with Sword of the Meek—one of the deck’s strong features is that it has a number of different angles of attack—and also accelerates (and fixes) for Dark Prophecy by finding Lotus Bloom a la Modern Eggs.
This Affinity-style list is the one version I’ve found that consistently feels like a combo deck, though you’re never sure exactly which engine you’re going to construct. Sometimes you just Transmute into Thopter / Sword; sometimes you sacrifice Sword of the Meek to Ravager, play free guys to have it come back, and sacrifice those to draw cards with Dark Prophecy all the while doming your opponent with Disciple of the Vault; and sometimes you have Thopter Foundry, Arcbound Ravager, and Dark Prophecy out and repeatedly turn new artifacts into Thopter tokens into +1/+1 counters and new cards. There’s a multitude of intersecting engines at work, and most pieces have some sweet synergy with most of the others.
Wow, that was quite a few decks all built around the same card—and I haven’t even remotely covered all the ideas sparking about in my mind. These are the ones I feel are most likely to either be inspiring or actually bear fruit if followed up.
I hope you enjoyed this ride through brewing theory to a bunch of decks I’ve dreamed up for Dark Prophecy and have found inspiration. Even if Dark Prophecy isn’t the card for you, the observations as to how I’ve approached the card have hopefully made this enjoyable and helpful reading for you.
That’s it from me for today. Until next time, sacrifice for gain and profit!