Bloodghast has a storied history in Legacy. When it first hit the scene, people wanted to put it in traditional Dredge as Ichorids 5-7. To supplement this
angle with reliable landfill triggers, people turned to Undiscovered Paradise and Dakmor Salvage. It was a very straightforward use of Bloodghast.
One of the ways that Dredge beats blue decks is with the “DDD” strategy – draw, discard, and dredge. By eschewing casting spells entirely, this approach is
significantly slower than normal, but it also entirely shuts out counterspell-based interaction. It leans on free creatures and Bridge from Below zombies
to do all of the work, and the key assumption is that the ponderous blue decks won’t be able to race the slow yet overwhelming horde of Zombies.
During the Mental Misstep era, people discovered that it was possible to turn this strategic approach into an entire deck. The lands disappeared, replaced
by more free creatures and more dredgers. Without any lands to bring it back, Bloodghast hit the bricks.
Sam Black brought it to its greatest level of Legacy prominence in mid-2012, making the Top 8 of Grand Prix Atlanta with four Bloodghasts featuring
prominently in a cast of synergistic and altruistic black Zombies. The power of Cabal Therapy and Bloodghast helped Sam tear through a field packed with
Legacy newcomer Griselbrand. Since the printing of Deathrite Shaman, however, things have tapered off for Bloodghast. It’s hard out here for a
graveyard-reliant Vampire Spirit.
Still, there are a lot of great ways to use Bloodghast that haven’t been explored all that much. Sure, Carrion Feeder can get bigger and sure, flashing
back Cabal Therapy is at the top of our to-do lists, but there’s a wide world out there for creatures that don’t mind dying.
If we’re interested in building a deck around sacrificing Bloodghast for fun and profit, we’re going to end up playing a number of cards that are only
really good when we have a Bloodghast. As a result, I’m very interested in playing more cards that provide a Bloodghast-type effect. Fortunately, there
exists such a card – not as good as Bloodghast, but definitely good at its job:
Nether Traitor is a fairly explicit Time Spiral homage to Nether Shadow. The big difference between Traitor and Shadow is that Traitor comes back when other creatures die. Shadow comes back after other creatures die. The incidental synergy of having Bloodghast, a fetchland, and a
Nether Traitor is adorable as well: Bloodghast can Flashback Cabal Therapy (or similar), triggering Nether Traitor. With Traitor’s trigger on the stack,
the fetchland can bring it back, using the fetched Swamp to pay for Nether Traitor’s return.
So we have a clear core: we’re going to play fetchlands and a Mono-Black deck (or close to it), a ton of ways to gain value from sacrificing creatures, and
something with which to finish people off.
Since we’re pretty soft to Deathrite Shaman and Stoneforge Mystic into Batterskull, we have a pretty clear choice for a removal spell. Innocent Blood is a
fine sideboard card, but Disfigure is where the real action is for game one situations – I don’t want to kill an Elves player’s Dryad Arbor, I want to kill
their Wirewood Symbiote, you know? It’s possible that the deck wants both spells, but Disfigure is at the top of my list.
Cabal Therapy is an obvious inclusion in a deck with so many free rebuys (freebuys?). It’s great against combo, it’s a crucial card to have against
Stoneforge Mystic, and it can buy time against midrange decks by naming the right card and throwing them off-curve (or just sniping their only threat).
There are very few matchups where I don’t want Cabal Therapy early, and there are many where I want multiples. If you saw my videos against Burn with
Recurring Nightmare, you’ll see just how powerful two Cabal Therapies can be.
Where does that put this deck so far?
[possibly] 2-4 Innocent Blood
10+ black fetchlands
I’m not interested in Veteran Explorer just yet, although we may end up there. I want to start the fun part. Let’s get paid for playing these eight
goofballs. What can we use to sacrifice creatures? What do we need from our payoff cards?
Well, we definitely need defense – Bloodghast can’t block and Nether Traitor has Shadow, so it’s a kind of Hulking Goblin/Phantom Warrior mashup. Whatever
we play better interact with situations where we’re behind on board. I want to play a Grave Pact or something similar – we don’t need a ton of this effect,
but I can definitely imagine situations where we have our engine humming but end up losing to a True-Name Nemesis or a Tarmogoyf or something similar. I
would turn to Attrition or something like that, but Deathrite Shaman and Batterskull’s Germ token and Griselbrand are all really important cards to be able
to knock off, and none of them can be killed by Attrition. Unfortunate, but that’s just how it is. We can start one Grave Pact, but we’re also on the
lookout for cheaper options.
Liliana of the Veil isn’t a bad way to get ahead – it kills annoying creatures, its +1 ability is very well-suited to Bloodghast and Nether Traitor and
even Cabal Therapy, and it fits in a good spot on the curve. Being able to run Cabal Therapy into Liliana of the Veil isn’t the best plan in the world
against combo, but it’s a strong start.
From there, I want to venture off the beaten path for a bit. Since this deck doesn’t close games out quickly, it’s going to be vulnerable to the classic
attrition deck vulnerability – the top of an opponent’s deck. After all, even if we can get both players to four lands but we get to be “up” two
Bloodghasts, all it takes is one Entreat the Angels or one Terminus or one Sneak Attack and our opponent has undone all of our hard work. To make sure that
that doesn’t happen, we want either a win condition that can close fast or a way to lock our opponent out of the game. Fortunately, we have an
ideally-constructed deck for the latter:
Contamination is the black Blood Moon. Unlike Blood Moon and sibling hate card Back to Basics, however, Contamination doesn’t care about how many basic
lands they have. Playing High Tide? Doesn’t matter, they’re dead. If they don’t have a way to remove Contamination from play, they better hope that we run
out of creatures. When the deck has four Nether Traitors and four Bloodghasts, though, running out of food for Contamination is fairly unlikely.
One interesting aspect of Contamination is that although it shuts off all nonblack mana production, it doesn’t shut off nonbasic lands and land
dependencies. Rishadan Port still works, Wasteland still works, Daze still works, Karakas still works, Maze of Ith and The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
still work, and Thespian’s Stage and Dark Depths still make a 20/20. Since Wasteland is still a very real thing and this deck is likely fairly mana-hungry,
we’re going to be interested in playing lots of basic Swamps.
Now that we know that we’re playing Contamination, Bitterblossom becomes far more attractive. The two cards fit together ideally, although it becomes
incumbent upon us to find a way to gain life or race our own Bitterblossom’s life loss. If we have Bitterblossom, we probably want Umezawa’s Jitte as well
– fliers and equipment are obvious, but the real purpose of Jitte is to handle a lot of smaller threats that our deck isn’t so ideally equipped to handle.
Another reasonable card that could function better than Innocent Blood is Smallpox – it gets Bloodghast into the graveyard for free, it wreaks havoc on a
lot of midrange decks, and it sits at a point on our curve where we’d really like to do more to interact with a combo deck than “play a 2/1 that can’t
block, go.” We’re not terribly worried about discarding cards since so many of our cards are just fine in the graveyard regardless, so Smallpox seems
worthy of consideration.
I’m not really excited about any of the older three-mana repeatable creature-sacrifice enchantments. I stared at them for about fifteen minutes, trying to
think of situations where they would change the outcome of a game rather than situations where they would either be useless, get countered, or beat an
already dead opponent. After failing to come up with game states where Mind Slash or Nezumi Bone-Reader or Mind Swords would be great, I moved on. We have
enough hyper-situational cards as-is. We don’t need to become a Bloodghast + Mind Slash combo deck. If we wanted to draw two-into-three as a way of winning
games, we’d play Painter’s Servant and Grindstone. We’re an attrition deck. All of the cards should be fine on their own or advantageous when combined with
nearly anything else. Those sorts of cards are just too narrow, even in a deck with eight Bloodghasts.
Fun fact: it turns out that black does have ways to destroy artifacts. It’s been said that one of black’s big weaknesses is to artifacts and enchantments
because red decks get Shatter, green and white get Naturalize and Disenchant, and blue gets bounce and countermagic. Well, black gets this fine
gem of a Magic card:
The setup is pretty simple, really: you kill Stoneforge Mystic, and then use Gate to Phyrexia as a way to keep Batterskull off the table. It also happens
to clean up any spare Jittes and Swords. I have no clue whether it’s worth even a single slot, but having a black Shatter (albeit super conditional and on
a time delay) is an effect I want to play with at least once.
Up to this point, we haven’t designated a splash color at all. We could splash for any of a number of things – Deathrite Shaman is an obvious starting
point if we want to be green, but there’s also Goblin Bombardment in red. If we want to go really hard, we could play blue for Viscerid Drone.
Two-mana Visara the Dreadful ain’t bad.
Let’s bring things back down to earth for a sec. Where are we on cards?
Based on this, we really need a way to get onto the board faster, we want more interaction with combo decks, and we want a way to win games without needing
to attack. I’m sure it will come as a deep surprise to you all that Deathrite Shaman will be making another appearance in a Legacy deck of mine.
After Deathrite Shaman’s addition, we’ll have 33 cards. I’d like to play at least 23 lands – hitting land drops is super desirable, we have ways to discard
spares, and missing a land drop early is pretty devastating. That leaves us with one last playset of cards to add. I’m happy with Cabal Therapy, Smallpox,
Liliana of the Veil, and Contamination against combo. I’m happy with Disfigure, Smallpox, and Liliana of the Veil against creature decks. What we need is a
way to beat control decks – specifically, Miracles. Sure, Contamination is great, but we can’t rely solely on it resolving to win games against control
At the end of the day, we’re just weak to Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Terminus. The best card in Legacy against specifically those two cards is
Bitterblossom. Since we’re going to need a way to gain life to offset our Bitterblossom (outside of Deathrite Shaman activations), I’d like to play an
Umezawa’s Jitte. Nether Traitor is about as good a Jitte holder as it gets, but 1/1 Faerie tokens are no slouches, either. Our final maindeck, then, looks
Since this deck has absolutely no card selection, I think the way to go about building a sideboard is to focus on having relevant cards in every single
matchup. Since we’re going to be grinding people down and playing long games, we’re interested in powerful cards – ideally with repeatable effects – that
have broad applications. For instance, Gate to Phyrexia can come in against Stoneforge Mystic and MUD and Affinity and Painter. Not bad, right?
We should also have a plan to beat Rest in Peace since that card sees a real amount of play in Legacy. On one hand, we could Abrupt Decay it or Golgari
Charm it or Krosan Grip it or whatever else. On the other hand, we could sideboard eight real creatures (Dark Confidant and Master of the Feast, for
instance) and go straight for their life total. If our opponent sticks a Rest in Peace and we’re trying to kill them with Nether Traitor and Contamination,
though, we need to have a real answer or we’re going to lose.
Ultimately, I prefer to split the difference – we can beat down with a motley assortment of creatures while also sideboarding Dark Confidant and Abrupt
Decay. Against combo decks, we want a spread of discard spells, permanent-based hate, board interaction, and graveyard interaction. Given how open Legacy
is, having a variety of cards isn’t bad. Really, though, I might just be addicted to the one-of. It’s hard to tell, nowadays.
I think Extirpate is better than Surgical Extraction in our mono-black deck. Relic of Progenitus is obvious a disaster for us, so there’s no need to play
one of our own. Extirpate can beat a Reanimator deck that’s planning on countering Surgical Extraction, which is really nice.
Massacre kills everything in Death and Taxes, UWR Delver, and Deathblade. Ship it (and possibly the second copy as well).
I think the last two cards in the sideboard should be Blood Artists. I want more Umezawa’s Jitte-like cards without having more Umezawa’s Jittes. Blood
Artist makes the Contamination + Bitterblossom combo a wash, plus it pays us for all of our sacrificial shenanigans. It’s entirely possible that there are
supposed to be more of these and they’re supposed to be in the maindeck, but if that’s the case, I’m happy to learn the hard way.
Our final list, then, is:
As always, I encourage you to let me know what I missed in the forums. I can’t imagine that I’ll end up recording with this exact configuration, and I have
you to thank for that. See you later this week with some sweet Bloodghast videos!