We approach the realest of the shit. Shit so real you may not even be able to handle it. Parental Advisory is in full effect, and don’t come crying to me if you suffer an overdose of sheer awesome and need to be rushed to an Ed Sheeran gig to be bored back down to normal. It’s Magic in purest form, the most ass-kickingest of colour combinations – mono-black!1
I won’t lie to you guys, Sworn to Darkness was my Christmas. I love to play Commander. I love to play black. A whole deck of sweet mono‑B reprints and even sweeter new cards to bulk out my plethora of swamp-driven decks makes me happy in my special place (It’s just possible that you may see hints of my personal bias showing through in this article). As always, we have one Walkommander — damn it, I am making this happen!2 — one reprint and one entirely new legend to share the burden of command.
Gosh dang it. Gosh dang it to heck. I really love Ob Nixilis. In his (chronologically later, as he was a ‘walker before somehow losing his spark and getting all horny3) demonic form he heads up my mono-black shitstorm of malice and death triggers, doing a fine job of making everyone cry. With such a solid – yet completely underrated – appearance under his belt I was really hoping that the p‑dub version of my favourite legend was going to be something special, but frankly he’s a bit of a letdown.
Make no mistake, his ultimate is amazing; who doesn’t want a Disciple of Bolas every turn? It’s getting him there that’s the issue. Pinging each opponent for one life a turn is some seriously weak game in Commander, and that’s before you remember that this is a format where Gary can do serious damage for the same immediate mana investiture. The trusty merchant is even included in the deck, as if to flip the bird at Ob Nixilis and his poor attempts to copycat. There’s small consolation in the fact that his +2 ability scales to the number of opponents, but rarely is it going to have any real impact, and due to his frustratingly low starting loyalty you’ll need to fire off his ability three times before Ob reaches his ultimate. In duel it’s useless, netting precisely one life per turn, and in multiplayer it’s…equally useless, netting such tiny amounts of life drain that it isn’t worth the bother unless you’re running the heinous Sanguine Bond/Exquisite Blood infinite combo, in which case you can go fuck yourself you awful, awful human being.
His ‑2 ability isn’t too bad, despite the fact it only produces a vanilla creature – at least it gives you something worth sacrificing, and in a duel matchup a flying 5/5 is actually a fairly respectable threat.4
Not so much when facing down an entire table, though. I get the feeling the demon is only here to be offered up as value for the Disciple or Gisa.
As previously discussed the ultimate is fantastic, but mostly unfeasible. If you can get Ob’s loyalty up high enough to crank it out, you’re probably winning the game anyway and don’t need more cards and life. In a Superfriends/Doubling Season deck I can see it being a powerhouse, but in the deck as-is it’s a pipe dream.
Duel: 3/10 (untested)
Multiplayer: 4/10 (untested)
This is, I think, the only legend from Commander 2014 that I haven’t gotten around to playing with or against. She just doesn’t excite me. Yeah, she can potentially do some serious damage, but unless you’re aiming for a quick victory through Commander Damage she just isn’t that useful. I can see her going gangbusters in a Voltron build or even a control deck, but here she just hangs around like a bad smell. The deck is mostly built around drawing cards and sacrificing for profit, and Drana brings nothing to the table in either of those areas. She can function as – extremely expensive – spot removal in a pinch, but the deck is already home to Nekrataal, Shriekmaw, Reaper from the Abyss and Overseer of the Damned for all your creature-based removal needs, and that’s without even mentioning the suite of sorcery/instant removal spells.
Drana is actually one of the few C14 legends that I’m not even happy running as one of my 99 in the deck. Black just has so many better ways to murder dudes and deal damage that are either cheaper or more effective that I really don’t see a home for her.
Like a motherfucking boss.
Seriously, this lady is amazing. A sac outlet, a force multiplier,5 a respectable body and two very relevant creature types all bundled up into a joyful little box and tied with a ribbon made of entrails. Lose a creature, gain a bunch of creatures. Welcome to Chump Block City, population I‑can-do-this-all-damn-day.
While Sworn to Darkness isn’t particularly optimised to turn Gisa’s weenies into a fearsome fighting force,6 it certainly excels in creating a Romero-style horde of mindless brain munchers to throw at opponents. It’s probably the most aggressive way to play the deck even if the tokens themselves are minor threats, as before too long it’s simplicity itself to have an army of the little rotting buggers. Granted the lines of play are fairly linear – play a dude, sac the dude, ZOMBIE PARTY! – but it doesn’t matter so much when the chips are down; cunning and strategy are all very well, but superior numbers will carry the day.
The interplay between cards known as synergy can be quite impressive here — Flesh Carver stands out in particular as a way to make a lot of tokens very quickly (sac weenie tokens to the Carver, sac the Carver to Gisa, sac the resulting token to Gisa also, rejoice in an abundance of zombies) while triggering Butcher of Malakir’s symmetrical sacrifice, which in turn triggers Reaper from the Abyss — and frankly Gisa feels like the most natural fit for the leadership position. Everything falls into place in ways it doesn’t for Ob or Drana, and the Mono‑B Monster can really start to show everyone why black is so very powerful.
That’s all for today children — join me next time for the artifact-based Red offering, Built From Scratch!
- Realness of shit graded in laboratory conditions by the FDA. Personal preferences may vary. Please consult your physician if you find yourself holding other colours in higher esteem than black. [↩]
- Note to self – no, you aren’t. [↩]
- I’m here all week, folks. Try the veal. [↩]
- Albeit one that’s going to draw quite a lot of hate and probably shuffle off the mortal coil before achieving too much, but that’s alright – we can always make another one! [↩]
- Sac a 2/2 zombie to Gisa, get a pair of 2/2 zombies in return. Zombie amoeba! [↩]
- A small concession is made with Bad Moon and Caged Sun, but the lack of Zombie-specific Lords is annoying. [↩]