Whip It

Pro Tour Philadelphia Top 4 competitor Sam Black explores a variety of different strategies with Whip of Erebos. Try one this weekend at SCG Standard Open: Cleveland!

As I begin looking at Standard, Whip of Erebos is one of the cards I’m most drawn to. Today I want to explore a variety of different strategies that take advantage of this powerful legendary enchantment artifact.

Lifelink is a great ability to help games go long, where the return a creature from the graveyard ability can take over. The biggest obstacle is that there aren’t that many great black creatures in Standard, and inconveniently most of the best ones cost four, like the Whip. The best ways to take advantage of the Whip are to use it with abilities that trigger when a creature enters the battlefield or return expensive creatures that you haven’t had to cast first.

First, the deck I would most like to be good:

This deck is primarily trying to drain the opponent to death with Bubbling Cauldron + Festering Newt and Gray Merchant of Asphodel, though winning with Angels generated from Angelic Accord isn’t bad either.

I haven’t liked Tenacious Dead before because it feels hard to use, but without Innistrad’s token makers, it’s the easiest way to power Bubbling Cauldron and Dark Prophecy. It’s also a very good one-mana creature to return with Orzhov Charm since it’s much better in the late game when you have extra mana.

Whip of Erebos and Orzhov Charm can both return Festering Newt, though it’s worth noting that Festering Newt won’t give a creature -1/-1 or -4/-4 when it dies if you return it with Whip of Erebos because it won’t go to the graveyard, but you’ll still get to drain the opponent for four with Bubbling Cauldron, so it’s not a big problem.

This deck is likely a little slow and clunky—it has to play some weak cards to support its shell, and I’m not sure how much the strong interactions can save you.

A similar shell can be built mono-black push devotion and play Corrupt instead of splashing for Angelic Accord and other cards. This makes things smoother and potentially a little more focused. That would look like:

Never taking damage from lands or having them come into play tapped and always being able to cast your spells puts you in an unusually good position in a Standard format where the mana is particularly challenging, and the Gray Merchant in this version should be a lot more deadly. Disciple of Phenax is more reliable than Sin Collector, if more expensive, but it also works better with Gray Merchant of Asphodel because of giving more devotion and Whip of Erebos because it’s much more likely to hit the second time than Sin Collector.



I’m not sure if Xathrid Necromancer is better or worse than Nightveil Specter. Nightveil Specter powers devotion better and is a more threatening body, and there are only sixteen Humans for Xathrid Necromancer. Xathrid Necromancer works particularly well with Corpse Hauler, Bubbling Cauldron, and Dark Prophecy, but it works badly with Whip of Erebos, as nothing returned by the Whip will trigger it. If I cut Xathrid Necromancer for Nightveil Specter, I’d probably cut Corpse Hauler for Thrill-Kill Assassin.

Another option is to take advantage of the synergy with Obzedat, Ghost Council. The best way to fight Obzedat, Ghost Council with Whip of Erebos is with instant-speed removal, so I’d want discard to make sure I can keep Obzedat alive.

Whip of Erebos works best with other creatures, so I’d want some early pressure to support it, but I’m looking to play a long game, so I’d like creatures that aren’t terrible draws later.

Soldier of the Pantheon, Precinct Captain, and Fiendslayer Paladin are all capable of putting pressure on an opponent while being reasonable defensive creatures. Bestowing Nighthowler on Fiendslayer Paladin against a deck with a lot of creatures is a particularly exciting option, especially if you can trade Soldier of the Pantheon with another creature early in the game, but late game it should be consistently huge. Scavenging Ooze obviously fights it, but for the most part, the decks you’ll want to sideboard it in against aren’t the decks with Scavenging Ooze.

B/W Midrange is far from the only way to take advantage of Whip of Erebos. We don’t have Unburial Rites anymore, but Junk Reanimator may still be a viable deck.

Plan A is to quickly power out large Nighthowlers and Nemesis of Mortals by filling your graveyard with creatures using Grisly Salvage and Commune with the Gods. If that’s not enough, Obzedat’s Aid can return those or go bigger with Ashen Rider, Angel of Serenity, and, unlike other reanimation spells, Elspeth, Sun’s Champion.

Here, I’m playing a third Whip of Erebos because lifelink is so good on those large creatures, particularly because they don’t have trample—I need to make sure that my opponent can’t just chump block them and win a race.

One of the best features of this deck is that it gets to take advantage of Deathrite Shaman, which helps with the otherwise shaky mana, and it’s just one of the most powerful cards in the format, though most other players can’t take advantage of it.

This deck isn’t using Lotleth Troll. While Lotleth Troll is potentially a great enabler for this kind of strategy, I decided that I just want to spend my second turn setting up Nemesis of Mortals or Nighthowler and ideally my third turn casting one of them. This deck only has 21 creatures, which might be on the low side for making sure that you get enough power out of your Grisly Salvages and Commune with the Gods. It’s possible that some of the spells should be trimmed to make room for Lotleth Troll to help with that.

Another awesome creature to Whip into play is Prime Speaker Zegana, so maybe BUG is the better color combination for Whip of Erebos Reanimator:

This deck, while not having the reanimator spells, actually manages to have more of a dedicated combo feel to me. Whispering Madness potentially lets Lotleth Troll and Nighthowler scale up very quickly as you discard all your creatures and then draw cards based on the cards in your opponent’s hand, and both players are discarding creatures to fill the graveyards for Nighthowler.

Bestowing Nighthowler on Lotleth Troll is outstanding because then your giant finisher has trample, and if you do that, each creature you discard is functionally giving +2/+2, which means that if you return Prime Speaker Zegana with Whip of Erebos, you’ll draw a lot of cards that you can then discard to give another +2/+2 per creature.

Out of the sideboard, you get the Whispering Madness + Notion Thief combo, which makes your opponent discard their hand and you draw twice that many cards.

Golgari Charm protects your creatures from Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere and can potentially function like an Infest against red or white aggro decks.

A completely different approach is to use Whip of Erebos as a finisher for an aggro deck, like this R/B one:

This deck has to play a lot of lands to make its colored mana work since it doesn’t get many good dual lands, but that just means that it wants to go a little higher on the curve than it might otherwise, which works fairly well because Hammer of Purphoros works well with high land counts and with the more expensive cards, particularly Fanatic of Mogis and Underworld Cerberus. Fanatic of Mogis is also one of the best things to return with Whip of Erebos, and if you have Hammer of Purphoros, then you’ll be able to replay an entire hasted army if they kill your Underworld Cerberus.

Underworld Cerberus does turn off the activated ability of your Whip, but you should be pretty happy to have an essentially unblockable 6/6 lifelink creature attacking the opponent if both of those cards are in play together.

Whip of Erebos, Hammer of Purphoros, and Underworld Cerberus also all work well together because each of them wants you to be playing a particularly high creature count rather than playing more spells, which is why I have almost no spells main and almost all of my removal in the sideboard. Chandra’s Phoenix isn’t at its best in that configuration, but I think it’s too good with Fanatic of Mogis not to play.

Those are the basic shells I have in mind for Whip of Erebos at this point, but this is certainly not exhaustive.

Desecration Demon seems to be one of the more popular black creatures early in this format, and on the surface a 6/6 seems like it be a great body to return with lifelink. But I haven’t used it much here because it costs the same as Whip of Erebos, which makes it slightly less likely to fit in the curve. More importantly, generally when Desecration Demon isn’t good enough by itself, it’s because your opponent can afford to sacrifice creatures to turn it off, and Whip of Erebos doesn’t do anything to help in that position, whereas any other creature would become a better blocker.

Are there any other creatures you’re looking forward to returning to play with Whip of Erebos that you think I’m overlooking?


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