Death. Decay. Destruction. Doom. Those are all catchwords that have been missing in my two previous stories. The Gargoyles only used the tiniest bit of black, and didn’t use red at all. The United Nations were hypocritical in their white-and-blueness. You all most certainly think I’m a sissy for only writing about those happy happy joy joy decks. But mind you, this tale will be about a deck that’s black – as black as my soul.
Allow me to tell you a little story about how this deck came to my mind.
It was a warm and sunny day*, and I was in my nice and cozy room building a deck for the next major and important tournament at my store and local playhouse. It was actually taking me a long time, for it wasn’t your usual tournament – it wasn’t even sanctioned. It was a 150-card highlander tournament. And yes, I still stand by the "major and important" I called the event, because almost all the regular players would attend.
But because the sun was shining (and the weather was sweet) I didn’t want to be at my room constructing decks. So I planned to just toss together ninety different spells from my "cards I own four times" binder.** Afterwards I would include sixty different mana sources and my deck would be finished.
And so let it be written, so let it be done: I chose the colors of my deck by randomly selecting an Elder Dragon Legend (it became Vaevictis Asmadi). I pulled a lot of cards out of my binders and, vide! A deck was born. I then went out quickly for a swim.
But then the day of the big tournament arrived and I had to pay for my laziness. Heavily-tuned decks with perfect mana curves were flooding the room and I even thought I saw an attempt at a combo deck. It included ALL available tutors and cantrips. Quite nervous, I sat down for my first round, but when we started our game it happened. I drew an opening hand containing Corpse Dance and Mindless Automaton. I soon drew a Goblin Bombardment and I already had an Uktabi Orangutan in play. My opponent’s artifacts fell like autumn leaves. I instantly fell in love with this beautiful Leichentanz of mine and decided to honor it by building it a deck – with, of course, Mindless Automaton. Included four times. They won me the game, and a nice finish with prize money involved to booth. I lived happily ever after.
But now what you’ve all been waiting for. I give you he who animates: The Corpse Dance! For 2B, the top creature card of your graveyard will be put into play, as an instant, and gains haste. It will be removed from game at the end of the turn. And for total card advantage, Corpse Dance can (and will) be bought back for two colorless mana. Tempest is such a cool set…. Buyback…. Shadow…. Dismiss….
Now what kind of crazy stuff can we pull off with this great instant? Of course, we can bring back our Mindless Automaton. For this 0/0 for four mana comes into play with two +1/+1 counters on it. Additional counters may be added at the cost of one and a card from your hand. But most important: Counters may be sucked off, two at a time, to draw cards. This generates lots and lots of card advantage. Whenever you find yourself facing an attacker, just pay 4B and the automaton will be up and active to block the assailant. As soon as damage goes on the stack, you can sacrifice it to draw a card, being good. So how does this look for a deck?
It seems something is amiss or out of place. Of course, you’ll never miss a land drop, but there are more important things in magic than land drops. So let’s go look for something else to add to the deck, we don’t want to look all Dan Bock-ish.
In those days I had heard word about a deck that dances with Gnomes. Bottle Gnomes. And since good early blockers (for a blocker in multiplayer, turn three isn’t so bad) often come in quite handy and life gaining in multiplayer is highly underestimated, I decided to go with the Flaschengnomen. I won’t use four, though; in the end, I simply didn’t have any room for them in the deck.
So what else will help us on our quest to win? Fog will, but that card is only a one-time shot. Spore Cloud is much better, or Respite, or Constant Mists. But that doesn’t have anything to do with Corpse Dance, does it? So how does a fogging creature sound? At first I used Spike Weaver, but then Prophecy brought me the bounty of Spore Frog. At first Spore Frog seems inferior to the famous Weaver, but combined with the Dance it is actually better. For Spore Frog fogs with no mana costs involved, and sends itself to the graveyard to prevent it from being removed from game. To save your Weaver from eternal absence you will have to activate it thrice, and we could use our mana better than that. Namely to cast extra Corpse Dances.
Now I know one could also spend a mana to fog with the weaver, and then transfer the remaining two counters to a Mindless Automaton spending four mana. This results in the death of the Weaver, a fog effect, and the ability to draw a card by decreasing your Automaton’s strength… But one also loses five mana instead of none. And with five mana, a Corpse Dance can also be cast, resurrecting an Automaton and thus netting the caster a card. And I, for one, just prefer Spore Frog because I own a foiled one and I don’t have a foiled Weaver (duh).
Interlude about language interaction between Dutch and English: Invasion brought us the ability called kicker. This is pronounced as kikker – at least here in the Netherlands. And what do you know? Kikker is Dutch for frog. That is an additional reason for me to use the Frog over the Spike Weaver. I am now able to say I’m casting every spell I cast with a kicker because I control a frog. Or instead of announcing we intend to pay the kicker cost, we often just pay the mana and say ribbit, ribbit. Those jokes are childish, you say? You want more spicy stuff? Well, what do you think Lull means in Dutch? Let me tell you – it is a word our mothers don’t want us to say… Let’s just say it’s a youth lingo for "phallus," which can also be used to name someone who is a complete jerk. ‘Nuff said.
But back to the deck now, this is a magic site for goodness’ sake, not a forum about bilingual homonyms.
So what have we got now? Some card drawing, some life gaining and some disguised life gaining in frog form. I don’t think that will kill up to six opponents. So we need something else, and that something needs to be a serious beatstick or needs to deal serious lots of damage. And the latter is easy to achieve when you’re packing four Bloodshot Cyclops. Let me introduce you to Chuck: He is a 4/4 red giant for 5R, and can tap to throw a creature you control at any target. The creature thrown dies, and the target thrown at receives damage equal to the thrown creature’s power. And yes, it is possible to order Chuck to throw himself. Isn’t that nice, folks? We will now be able to deal four damage for 4B – provided Chuckie here is the top creature card in our graveyard. Kind of makes Searing Touch gape with awe. But most of the time, we just want to cast one so it remains on the board. That’s because he can save other creatures from eternal damnation by chucking them.
Chuck also kills creatures off pretty well. But we’ve got a wide variety of creatures being able to waste other creatures at our disposal, so let’s add some that do their jobs even better than the Cyclops does his.
Doesn’t the Nekrataal look like an absolute party animal? No, he doesn’t. But he dances quite well, killing a creature in the process. He is also reasonably costed, so he is easily cast. And whenever he’s not cast but brought back with Corpse Dance, you can always sacrifice him to Chuck at end of turn to make the ‘Taal stay in the game and dealing an additional two damage in the process.
But sometimes an opponent plays with artifact creatures. Or he controls a lot of fliers, which naturally enough you’d like to block. In that case, you’d just love to have a Dark Hatchling in your hand instead of a Nekrataal, wouldn’t you? Therefore we are going to include only three Nekrataals, complemented by a Dark Hatchling. ("I love your hat, Nekkie!" – No, wait, that’s "complImented by a Dark Hatchling… – The Ferrett) Or, while we’re at it, we’re only going to play two Nekrataals, a Hatchling, and an Abyssal Gatekeeper. This last creature is an obscure little thing from Weatherlight. Allow me to introduce you to him too: He’s a 1/1 Gatekeeper for 1B, and whenever he leaves play, each and every player is obligated to sacrifice a creature. There are times when his ability is more useful than Nekrataal’s or Boneshredder’s. And besides, one can evade the drawback of having to sacrifice a creature yourself by just sacrificing some Dancing being.
But only four cards to stop creatures won’t do the trick. There are a lot of creatures out there, and nailing them all with a Nekrataal doesn’t only kill a lot of creatures, it also kills a lot of time. The gatekeeper won’t help save you from the likes of Deranged Hermit either. So what saves us from hordes of tokens or other small pests like rebels? Some of you’ve probably guessed it right: The bird with the earthquake on its back. Shard Phoenix is a bird that costs 4R and is able to serve for two. It can also crash itself into the ground, causing a Quake of two to each creature without flying. This is such a useful bird. It can block and kill each groundpounder with toughness of four or less. When cast, it can even Quake for four during your next turn if you have a Corpse Dance. Just sac it and make the Bird perform the dance of death afterwards. But maybe the best part is that it comes back from those dead… IF you pay RRR during your upkeep. Because of that, the bird is easy to throw away for extra counters on the Mindless one to boot.
Now we have, counting the Chuks, eleven cards that kill creatures. Just three more and we have a quarter of our deck filled with death! But what cards are we going to use? We sure want it to be able to dance, so it has to be a creature.
Tell me, when is the last time you ever played with Infernal Denizen?
Don’t ask, I’ll tell you what that does right away: you don’t know it because it is from Ice Age and it is Rare. It costs 7B and is 5/7. During your upkeep, sacrifice two swamps or the Denizen becomes tapped and target opponent may gain control of a creature you control. Quite random, N’est-ce pas? But it also has a bright side; it can be tapped to steal a creature yourself. Creatures are returned to their owners when Infernal Denizen leaves play. Now, what could be a suckier eight-drop? I don’t think any good deck ever used eight-drops at all, actually. (Wanna try my Avatar of Woe deck some day, chief? – The Ferrett)
I’ll write a manual here on how to use the Denizen, you might want to mark this page with a bookmark***: Discard Denizen to Mindless Automaton, or cast it and immediately sacrifice it to something. Whatever you do, NEVER pay its upkeep. Now make it dance to the music with your black instant. Then steal a creature. You now have card advantage while using a black ice age rare. To successfully conclude utilization of your Denizen, sacrifice the stolen creature for one benefit or another, and then get rid of the Infernal thief in the same way. Or the other. Only include one in your deck or you might draw it.
And for the last two creature-killing creatures: They are also big, black and bad… But this one is made for dancing. That is, she wears the clothes of a belly dancer. Should her face have been pretty and her claws have been, well, hands, opponents might actually have liked to see her dance. But now they will shiver in fear whenever Shauku, Endbringer, performs her ecstatic dance. She kind of looks like a transformed Catherine Zeta-Jones in "From Dusk ‘Til Dawn." Here’s her profile:
Name : Shauku
Profession : Endbringer, Vampiric Tutor (read the flavor text)
Creature type: Legend
Good abilities: Flying; tap to remove a creature from the game and gain a +1/+1 counter; nice pic.
Bad abilities: Lose three life during your upkeep, cannot attack if there are other creatures in play, casting cost of 5BB
Turn-ons: Watching the sunset pyres alight, dusk and her embrace, torch-lit shadowed dungeons soiled with the echoed cries of lives she stole, carving her seal in living flesh. Oh, and silk sheets.
Shauku is Some Good in this deck, and that’s why we include not one, but two of her! When you find yourself in times of need, just let her do a dance macabre ‘neath the tilt of the zodiac, and brighter stars will reflect on your fate. Then, when you’ve used her, act like a real man and dump her – preferably with Bloodshot Cyclops, for that will deal a whopping six damage.
And, au contraire d’Infernal Denizen, Shauku isn’t necessarily a bad creature to cast. I often cast her in casual one-on-one games, or when I found myself to be one of the last two standing in multiplayer. She is an absolute killing machine, and her upkeep cost is easily paid for if you’re holding a Corpse Dance and there just so happens to be a Bottle Gnome on top of your graveyard. It once even occurred one of my opponents controlled an Intruder Alarm. That party was an absolute must for Shauku to lighten up… Especially when I drew my Corpse Dance a few turns later, being able to bring creatures into play for 4B, untapping Shauku yet again. And remember, she is one large blocker. Go and trade for some in the near future – you won’t regret it, since she’ll probably be a cheap bargain.
4x Corpse Dance
4x Mindless Automaton
2x Bottle Gnomes
1x Spore Frog
4x Bloodshot Cyclops
1x Dark Hatchling
1x Abyssal Gatekeeper
4x Shard Phoenix
1x Infernal Denizen
2x Shauku Endbringer
That’s the score so far. It really starts to look like a real deck, huh? Not that diplomatic crap like that United Nations deck I talked about the other day. Not that kind of deck that is more complicated than a fugue from Bach’s Wohltemperierte Klavier, like the Gargoyles deck I started my stories with. Just plain and straight creatures, but with that extra little kick of Corpse Dance. Delightful and relaxing.
It is now time to choose some utility creatures for the deck. At first, we would like to be able to disenchant stuff – for the Pros tell us that’s good. There are several creatures capable of this, but the best are without doubt the Cloudchaser Eagle (Or, in my deck, the Wolkenjagdadler; I own so many German cards) and the Uktabi monkey. They can be cast to destroy, and then dance to destroy again – with diligence.
And speaking of destroying, when Darwin Kastle lands on a land riding on a sledge, it will most probably be destroyed. And destroying lands might be good when said lands are Kjeldoran Outpost or Gaea’s Cradle. Ergo, include an Avalanche Rider.
The only resource our opponents have that we can’t attack now is the cards in his hand, and that’s where our Dem?nio Gargalhante, our Cackling Fiend, kicks in. He eats cards from opponents’ hands, but unlike Mickey Mouse he doesn’t eat just one card from one adversary, but one from each. This might or might not be better, since it will attract some negative attention. But what the heck, if the board looks dangerous just don’t cast it.
But what if an opponent casts a graveyard-emptying spell, like Honor the Fallen or Eater of the Dead? Will it then be time to crack open each other’s heads and feast on the goo inside? I’d say yes, but our last creature doesn’t think about it the same way. For now, last but not least, the original counterspell on a stick, Daring Apprentice. Or, in my deck, Apprentie Audacieuse. It will be able to be Danced into play and then counter spells. That creates, like, a counterspell with buyback, being good. It is so easy to lock your last opponent with this two-card combo that it should be forbidden. But it isn’t, so abuse and enjoy I’d say.
Look, it’s all creatures and Corpse Dance as far as the eye can see:
4x Corpse Dance
4x Mindless Automaton
2x Bottle Gnomes
1x Spore Frog
4x Bloodshot Cyclops
1x Dark Hatchling
1x Abyssal Gatekeeper
4x Shard Phoenix
1x Infernal Denizen
2x Shauku Endbringer
1x Cackling Fiend
1x Avalanche Riders
1x Cloudchaser Eagle
1x Uktabi Orangutan
1x Daring Apprentice
Now, I think we can fit in five more cards. What do we need? Some means to destroy our own creatures would be nice, for else or Cyclops would have to work late. And how do we kill our own creatures? I don’t want it to cost mana. This deck wants to spend its mana on dancing, not on enforcing suicide. So what card will be our savior? In my anecdote about the roots of this deck, I mentioned my monkey combined with Goblin Bombardment to make my opponent’s artifacts snuff out like candles in the wind. So what keeps us from using the Bombardment here, too? Nothing, my friend. The Bombardment kills small critters and is free to activate. It saves our creatures from becoming removed and is cheap to cast. So I chose to include two.
Only three to go now. What to do? I know another cool thing to eat permanents – it is called Infernal Tribute. It is a black enchantment costing BBB, and hence it is broken. For two, sacrifice a permanent, you are allowed to draw a card. Now this costs mana, which I don’t like, but drawing cards is good if you haven’t got what you need already. And since I included a lot of stuff only once, this will happen.
So why do I include cards only once when they are important? Because the more different cards you have in your deck, the more different games you play with it. It also increases versatility and chances of topdecking like a God. Now we all like topdecking, so let’s make our deck in such a fashion it will enable us to do so.
And we have indeed topdecked like a God every time we draw our Fork. We all know what Fork does, copying an instant our sorcery that is on the stack. But some of you might not know it also copies buyback if it was paid for the original spell. Because of that, we can now put a Corpse Dance with buyback on the stack and then gain additional Dances for RR apiece. Just fork the Dance, let that resolve, Fork again, let resolve, repeat ad infinitum.
And the last card will help increase consistency. No, it is not Demonic Tutor; I only own four and I have five casual decks that include black. This is the one that didn’t get one. So what else can it be. Another Tutor? No. You know what’s a bummer? When you play Corpse Dance and another player kills one of your creatures in response. That sorry creature then becomes the top card in your graveyard and will be drawn towards these lands again instead of the intended creature. You know what’s a bummer also? When the creature you want to dance with is buried beneath three other creatures. This will either cost you 16BBBB to get it up to the surface, or it will cause you to make the three creatures piled upon the wanted one get removed from game. That would also suck.
But, as with forest fires, the only one who can prevent this is you. By rearranging your graveyard. Now, how is that achieved? I know of only one card that lets you shuffle it: Search for Survivors. But that card doesn’t quite help us out here. We want consistency, not randomness. So take a look at this common:
Tortured Existence, costed one black mana enchantment from Stronghold. Ability: pay B and discard a creature card to bring a creature card from your graveyard to your hand.
Now this helps a lot! It allows you to discard stupid cards like Infernal Denizen and then gets you back your Spore Frog. Now we can Dance with the Denizen… But we can also discard the Frog to retrieve the denizen. This results in the relocation of a creature in our graveyard to the top of our graveyard at the puny cost of BB. Isn’t that great, folks? Now we can dance with each creature at every time our hearth desires. And, not to be bagatellised, it synergizes quite well with Shard Phoenix. I once played a game with this deck where all my Corpse Dances decided to dance together somewhere near the bottom of my deck. But I still won because the Existence combined with the Sharded Bird granted me the command to resurrect a creature by paying RRRB. I just bought back my Phoenix and then I discarded it to regain another creature. It’s the small things that count, people.
And now to pay for all this: the lands. I perceive only four cards are not black or red – and this can be brought back to three if we swap the Monkey with a Keldon Vandals. This Vandal has the added bonus of a power of four, so it will hit others harder when thrown away. With him, we’re also sure what the tune is he’s dancing to – it is surely Break Stuff, by Limp Bizkit. Now we have an all red and black deck with a white, green and blue card included. And only the blue card has a casting cost of double off colored mana. So how does this mana base look?
Quite all right, I think. The only card we can’t cast is the Daring Apprentice, but we didn’t want to cast this anyway. We wanted it to come as a surprise when discarded to Mindless Automaton in response to Corpse Dance.
The Thawing Glaciers are truly a gift from above. They thin the deck as if they were designed to do so, and they quickly get out lots of land to drain mana from. I also included more mountains than other lands because they are needed most. They are needed to cast Fork. They are needed to make the Phoenix rise from the ashes. I know the black spells almost all have a casting cost with double black in them; one even has triple black. But when you find yourself in desperate need for black mana, just shout to your Glaciers to go and fetch you some.
Now I know this deck is injected with an overdose of rares, so I am going to suggest some alternatives while also presenting to you my final decklist.
4x Corpse Dance Not Possible. Not even Shallow Grave
4x Mindless Automaton Raven Familiar, Striped Bears
2x Bottle Gnomes Radiant’s Dragoons
1x Spore Frog Spike Weaver
4x Bloodshot Cyclops Phyrexian Broodlings, Stronghold Assassin
2x Nekrataal Bone Shredder
1x Dark Hatchling Disease Carriers
1x Abyssal Gatekeeper Plague Dogs
4x Shard Phoenix Crater Hellion (watch out with this)
1x Infernal Denizen Just a Nekrataal or Bone Shredder
2x Shauku Endbringer Avatar of Woe (but it doesn’t remove its victim)
1x Cackling Fiend Ravenous Rats, an additional Tortured Existence
1x Avalanche Riders Goblin Gardener
1x Cloudchaser Eagle Monk Realist, Reliquary Monk
1x Keldon Vandals Reliquary Monk, Uktabi Orangutan
1x Daring Apprentice Spiketail Drake
1x Fork Demonic Tutor, Mana Flare (also beneficial)
1x Infernal Tribute Goblin Bombardment, Attrition, Krovikan Horror
2x Goblin Bombardment Attrition, Phyrexian Vault, Helm of Possession
1x Tortured Existence Apprentice Necromancer
For the mana, just look at what you have replaced and adapt your mana base to those cards. Stay basic because of the Glaciers. If you don’t own these, include a lot of Dual Lands. If you don’t own those, Include Fellwar Stone or Sol Grail.
One last word of warning: Humility totally wrecks you. You will never be able to get rid of it with your Cloudchaser, so you’ll have to counter it. If you don’t believe me, ask Mr. Menery about it.
Well, there you have it. Another net deck for multiplayer. If I ever catch anybody with an exact copy of this deck, I’m not going to commit any acts of violence – but I AM going to kindly ask said person to only use my decks as a source of inspiration for the future. I write these articles to show people my way of thinking, and hopefully to aid them in their creative processes. I would like to see a stronger multiplayer metagame out there. I’m tired of always winning. That last one wasn’t serious, but I hope you catch my drift. I always spend lots of times at designing my decks. So here’s the message I’m conveying this time: If you spend more time on constructing your deck, you will be rewarded with more fun playing them, and also with more victories.
But writing also helps myself, I recently discovered. I received an email suggesting me adding Phyrexian Tower to my Gargoyle deck. I did, and it works wonders. All the compliments and kind words I received also helped. They make me feel good, and when I feel fine I like to make others feel nice. And I hope to achieve this by sharing with you my decks and experiences as a seasoned multiplayer fanatic. Have fun with this kind of deck!
Next time: we of the RVWM actually have a clan-deck. When we find ourselves at the eve of a large game (ten or more players) we often pull out this big gun featuring Blazing Effigy and Furnace of Rath. We then all three use identical decks, especially designed to work together. Stay Tuned!
Stijn van Dongen,
* – This is kind of rare here in the Netherlands.
** – Large collections are so rewarding. If I want to build a deck, I only have to put the cards I thought of together because most of the time I already own them.
*** – You can also just print this and then keep it in your wallet. Or attach it to your refrigerator with one of those fridge magnets.