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What’s The High End On The Haunt Of Hightower?

This new Ravnica Allegiance promo reminds Bennie Smith of some old school creature Magic! So what’s he doing with this unusual foil mythic? Plenty, as it turns out!

‘Twas the week before Christmas, and Wizards has given us some sneak peeks
at Ravnica Allegiance! Like most of you, I was certainly chomping
at the bit to see a hint of what new goodies are in store for us. One of
the first cards previewed was this six-mana Vampire:

Okay, that’s a lot of mana for a 3/3 with a few abilities. It brought to
mind another underwhelming Ravnican Vampire, from the Guildpact
expansion.

While it was a Limited bomb, it certainly made no splash in Standard, and
I’ve never seen this actually played in a Commander deck–not even in
Vampire tribal. If we ever got a legendary Skeleton and enough good
Skeletons to make a tribal deck, maybe Skeletal Vampire would see some
play, but until then the card is pretty much slumbering its undead sleep in
the recesses of a card box.

So is this new iteration any better? We’re losing power and toughness
spread across three flying bodies, with the potential of making more Bats,
and cashing in Bats to regenerate Skeletal Vampire. We’re gaining lifelink,
the ability to make an opponent discard when attacking, and the potential
to grow larger. Perhaps quite a bit larger if things go right.

Oh, and we’re also dropping Skeleton from the creature type line and
gaining legendary.

Legendary? This is supposed to be legendary?

*Squints*

*Strokes beard, contemplating*

*Squints again*

Okay, let’s just set aside the fact that this doesn’t feel very legendary
for just a moment and analyze this from a practical standpoint. Remember
when I said it could grow quite a bit larger if things go right? Well, with
The Haunt of Hightower as our commander we can build our deck in such a way
that things can hopefully go right enough to make that six mana investment
worth it.

Other Threats

The major complaint I’ve seen on The Haunt is that you’re spending an awful
lot of mana for a 3/3 creature that doesn’t do anything the turn you cast
it. The implication is that it’ll die to just about any removal spell
around before you get to untap and do anything with it. That’s been a
critique of countless creatures that cost more than a few mana since time
began, and the solution to that problem is almost always to have lots of
creatures in your deck that your opponents will want to kill. That way,
you’ll be taxing their removal spells. And to be honest, it’s pretty easy
to convince your opponents that The Haunt is the least of their worries. If
your opponents save their removal spell for The Haunt after you’ve cast
Crypt Ghast, they have some serious threat assessment issues. Same thing
with creatures like Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Ghoulcaller Gisa.

I’m also including recurring threats like Bloodsoaked Champion and Nether
Traitor, which aren’t threatening by themselves, but they can provide
fodder for other effects and often demand a pinpoint exile removal spell to
deal with permanently.

Body Boost – Enhancement

Another key to this deck are cards that can enhance the size of certain
creatures, particularly equipment like Sword of Feast and Famine and
Lashwrithe. These serve two roles-earlier in the game, you can enhance
threatening creatures even more and force out removal spells before you
cast The Haunt. Later on, you can boost The Haunt, turning into a commander
damage threat and also making the lifegain into a huge swing. Lashwrithe
and Nightmare Lash are particularly nice here since you can equip The Haunt
immediately after casting it even if you don’t have extra mana, and
lifelink can easily make up the life loss.

Body Boost – Milling/Discard

There are quite a few ways a deck built around The Haunt of Hightower can
put cards into opponents’ graveyards. The challenge for me in approaching
this is to restrain myself from two ways black can do this easily. For
instance, the card itself pushes you to include other ways to make
opponents discard cards from hand, but including a lot of these effects
will lead towards opponents living off the tops of their decks which can
lead to some very boring and frustrating game states. Also, creature
sacrifice engines built around token creatures and Grave Pact could
obviously lead to lots of +1/+1 counters for The Haunt, but I’ve made clear
my stance that this sort of thing is bad for Commander (see
Golgari Sacrifice: The Fun Way
).

That leaves regular creature removal spells, cards that make everyone draw
more cards (encouraging the casting of more spells that might hit the
graveyard or end up getting discarded to hand size), and some light library
milling. Geier Reach Sanitarium and Anvil of Bogardan lets everyone loot,
drawing an extra card but then discarding, which grows The Haunt in a much
more friendly way than pure discard. The mack daddy of this is Memory Jar,
which should grow The Haunt by seven +1/+1 counters for each opponent at
the end of the turn you crack the Jar. Howling Golem, Temple Bell, Horn of
Greed, and Font of Mythos provide straight up card drawing to everyone to
keep their grips full and encourage the casting of cards that might end up
in their owners’ graveyard.

Mindcrank likely doesn’t qualify as “friendly” milling, and can end up
dissuading opponents from attacking each other for political reasons, but
it seems way too good for The Haunt to ignore. Taxing opponents’ artifact
removal on this card means that some of your equipment may end up sticking
around longer.

Vampire Stuff

The Haunt is creature type Vampire, so it could be worth it to include some
cards that care about that. Blade of the Bloodchief and Bloodline Keeper
are quality tribal cards worth adding to the mix, and I’ve looked to add
other Vampire creatures to the lineup to take advantage of these cards if
The Haunt isn’t sticking around. Oathsworn Vampire in particular plays nice
with The Haunt’s and other Vampires’ lifelink ability.

Lifegain/Life Payments

The potential exists for some pretty large increases in your life total.
Black is really good at turning life into other resources, so I’ve included
some here, such as Arguel’s Blood Fast and Doom Whisperer. Chainer,
Dementia Master is so good at this, it also qualifies as a must-kill threat
to draw fire away from The Haunt.

A little extra lifegain wouldn’t hurt too, so I’m including Elixir of
Immortality and Exsanguinate too.

Mana Acceleration

Yes, The Haunt is pretty expensive as far as commanders go, but lucky for
us mono-black has plenty of ways to generate huge amounts of mana, and I’ve
included most of the best ones here. Scuttlemutt is particularly good in a
black deck since some of your removal spells don’t work on black creatures
and Scuttlemutt’s other ability helps with that.

Card Draw

I’ve already included cards that help everyone draw, but I wanted to
include some more that mostly just help yourself. Liliana’s Contract leads
me to realize I’m playing enough Demons to maybe make a go at the alternate
win condition, especially since I’d want to play Demonlord Belzenlok and
Krav, the Unredeemed anyway.

Removal

Last but not least, let’s not skimp on the removal spells! I like Ob
Nixilis, Reignited here since you can activate it to destroy a creature
after you’ve cast The Haunt so you can get a +1/+1 counter right away.

Good Stuff

I’ll round things out with some usual black deck suspects. Swiftfoot Boots
lets you get moving with The Haunt right away if you have enough mana. I’ve
got Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre here mostly as a free way to shuffle my
graveyard back into my library so I don’t risk getting decked by all the
extra card drawing I’ve got. Rune-Scarred Demon seems like a good way to
help put together the Liliana’s Contract combo.

Last but certainly not least, Torment of Hailfire is just a brutal
Commander card that is particularly golden here-so many cards will get put
into graveyards and grow The Haunt to epic levels quickly.

Sweet deck! But wait, there are too many cards. I’ll start by looking at
our mana curve:

1 mana: 10

2 mana: 16

3 mana: 14

4 mana: 12

5 mana: 10

6 mana: 4+commander

7+ mana/X-spells: 4

71 total cards plus 39 lands equal 10 cards too many, which isn’t too bad!
Let’s see what we can trim.

Liliana’s Contract offers an incredibly nice package for a mono-black deck
with plenty of lifegain, but I think I would like it better if my commander
was an actual Demon. If we cut it, there are some other Demons that I don’t
think are necessary and right there I’m 40% done with the hard cuts I need
to make to get down to 100 cards.

These cards are fine, but I’ve got a lot of other cards that serve this
purpose, so I feel trimming a few of these higher up the mana curve is
okay.

These cards are fine but a bit lower on the power scale than some other
cards that do similar things, so I think they’re safe cuts.

That leaves just one final cut…

One Swamp. I almost never end up cutting a land from my initial decklist-39
seems like a good safe number in a deck with such a high mana cost
commander. I can’t see ever being sad about playing a land every single
turn of the game. But looking over the remaining cards in my deck, I feel
that each one plays a crucial role. In the end, I realized that with all
the extra card drawing I’ve included, my flow of lands should be plenty
with just 38 mana producing lands, so cutting a Swamp seems safe.

Here’s how the deck ended up:


So, what do you think? What sort of choices do you disagree with? Are there
any cards that I overlooked?

Do me a solid and

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Deck Database

Below I’ve got links to decks I’ve written about going back to January
2017. If you want to read the associated article, just put “Bennie Smith”
and the commander name into the Google and it should pop right up. I’ve
written a lot about Commander – and Magic in
general – so if you want to explore further the

StarCityGames.com® article archives

have my articles all the way back to January 2000!

SCGCON Winter 2018 (stay tuned for decklists!)


Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow

, Grothama, All-Devouring; Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis; Feldon of the Third
Path; Ramos, Dragon Engine; Inalla, Archmage Ritualist; Prossh, Skyraider
of Kher; Brago, King Eternal; Partners Tribal (Sultai)

Ultimate Masters


Garna, the Bloodflame

Guilds of Ravnica

Niv Mizzet, Parun
,

Emmara, Soul of the Accord

,

Lazav, the Multifarious (decklist in the comments)

,

Tajic, Legion’s Edge

,

Etrata, the Silencer

,

Izoni, Thousand-Eyed

Commander 2018


Aminatou, the Fateshifter

,

Xantcha, Sleeper Agent

, Lord Windgrace,
Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer

Core Set 2019


Sai, Master Thopterist

,

Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma

,

Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire

,

Chromium, the Mutable

Battlebond


Grothama, All-Devouring

Dominaria


Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle

, Grand Warlord Radha
, Arvad the Cursed,

Muldrotha, the Grave Tide

,

Slimefoot, the Stowaway

,

Yargle, Glutton of Urborg

, Squee, the Immortal
,

Firesong and Sunspeaker

,

Jodah, Archmage Eternal

,
Tiana, Ship’s Caretaker

Masters 25


Hannah, Ship’s Navigator

Rivals of Ixalan


Azor, the Lawbringer

, Etali, Primal Storm
,

Nezahal, Primal Tide

,

Zacama, Primal Calamity

,

Tetzimoc, Primal Death

,

Zetalpa, Primal Dawn

,

Ghalta, Primal Hunger

Unstable


Grusilda, Monster Masher

,

Dr. Julius Jumblemorph

Ixalan


Vona, Butcher of Magan

,

Tishana, Voice of Thunder

,

Admiral Beckett Brass

,

Gishath, Sun’s Avatar

Commander 2017


Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith

,

Inalla, Archmage Ritualist

,

Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist

,

O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami

,

Mairsil, the Pretender

,

Taigam, Ojutai Master

Hour of Devastation


Razaketh, the Foulblooded

, Zur, the Enchanter
(Mummy’s Curse),

Djeru, With Eyes Open

, The Locust God, Karona, False God
(All the Deserts),Nicol Bolas, Neheb, the Eternal

Amonkhet

Oketra the True
,

Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun

, Atogatog
(Cartouches & Trials),

Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons

,

Samut, Voice of Dissent

,

Rhonas the Indomitable

, Hazoret the Fervent

Kaladesh Block


Yahenni, Undying Partisan

, Nicol Bolas, Child of Alara (5
Color Energy),

Rishkar, Peema Renegade

,

Kari Zev, Skyship Raider

,

Sram, Senior Edificer

Commander 2016


Breya, Etherium Shaper

,

Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice

,

Tymna the Weaver // Ravos, Soultender

Other Commander Decks


Anafenza, the Foremost

(shutting down shenanigans),

Momir Vig, Simic Visionary

(no green creatures),

Kytheon, Hero of Akros

(Tribal Gideon),

Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Commander Strategy

Let’s Talk About Lands

Who Should I Attack?

Targeted Removal in Commander