Brew For Your Buck - Build a Budget Mono-Black Deck

(Dream Devourer | Art by David Rapoza)

Bramping Like A Demon

Hello, fellow brewer, and welcome back to Brew For Your Buck, where we swap out the top 10 most expensive cards in a deck with 10 budget cards that add a unique twist. Recently I've been having a lot of fun watching and playing Storm decks. There is something awesome about assembling some kind of wacky chain of spells and abilities to help you win the game. It's especially fun with K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth allowing you to circumvent a big part of the Storm equation: mana. Unfortunately for me, K'rrik is widely considered to be so powerful that my playgroups immediately consider me the archenemy or just decline to play against the deck when we're having a Rule 0 conversation. So I went on a quest to power down K'rrik, and decided maybe I should just remove him from the command zone all together. Who took his place? None other than one answer to the other part of the Storm equation:

Vilis is best friends with K'rrik, turning that mana discount into cards that can be cast (probably for free) via K'rrik to draw more cards to cast, to draw, to cast, to draw... you get the idea. So I took a look at Vilis's average list on EDHREC to determine what crossover there was between the two decks and how I could achieve the same playstyle with a slightly less threatening face. The list came in at $535.54, with a ton of black staples at the top, including the $75 Sheoldred, the Apocalypse:


            1. Sheoldred, the Apocalypse ($75.72)
            2. Demonic Tutor ($31.78)
            3. Vampiric Tutor ($30.44)
            4. Throne of Eldraine ($22.27)
            5. Torment of Hailfire ($19.47)
            6. Grim Tutor ($17.21)
            7. Exquisite Blood ($15.76)
            8. Jet Medallion ($15.70)
            9. Black Market Connections ($15.03)
            10. Reanimate ($14.04)

Total Value of Cuts: $257.42

Black actually has some of the more expensive lands for a single color deck, primarily the Urborg/Coffers combo and the always expensive Nykthos. Replacing these three with Swamps will save you an additional $86.68, for a total of $344.10.

Vilis gives us a massive card advantage engine in the command zone, and the remaining cards in our list reflect that. For example, Wall of Blood becomes the banned-in-Commander Yawgmoth's Bargain once Vilis is on the battlefield. The trick is getting him in play, then having enough mana to use all the cards we draw. I think black is second only to green in its ability to ramp, so today's budget package is going to look specifically at some cool mana acceleration options for mono-black.



Fortunately we had Crypt Ghast and Nirkana Revenant reprints recently, but it's hard to call four and five mana spells ramp. We want to increase the consistency that we can ramp early to get to that critical eight mana threshold we need to cast Vilis. To do this, we turn to Tevesh Szat's favorite creature type: Thrulls. Basal Thrull ($0.20) and Blood Pet ($0.26) both allow us to "store" black mana on the early turns, enabling a deployment of Vilis much faster. The same goes for Overeager Apprentice ($0.18) who despite what they might think is not much different from his Thrull friends.


Moving up the chain of command, Soldevi Adnate ($0.47) is clearly more advanced (read: not a Thrull) and its modern day Universes Beyond version, Illuminor Szeras ($0.51), do functionally the same thing: sacrifice a creature for potentially a huge burst of mana. It's kind of surprising that nothing similar was printed in all the years between Alliances and Warhammer 40k. Anyways, they're both good early, storing mana just like the Thrulls, but can also be vital in the later turns after we've drawn a bunch of cards with Vilis. You can even sac the big man himself if he's drawn you enough cards to assemble a win.


Rituals And Reducers

Another ramp option for mono black that doesn't get enough love is Dream Devourer ($0.39). It doesn't specifically help to cast Vilis, but it can can stand in as the Jet Medallion that we removed from the original list by putting everything else on the Foretell installment plan. Finally, to go with all these creatures that sacrifice themselves or others, Songs of the Damned ($1.22) gives us a very powerful ritual to play once we're ready to go off. I'm also going to suggest two lands for the deck if you want to spice up the mana base a bit: Peat Bog ($1.49) and Ebon Stronghold ($0.30). This brings the land count to 35, which is good because missing land drops defeats the whole purpose of our early game plan.




Our last card isn't a ramp spell, but is a critical addition for the power of the deck. Most of the time, you'll want to avoid paying the commander tax if Vilis dies, which means we'll need ways to dig him back out of the graveyard. Reanimate is probably the best reanimation spell of all time, but when it targets Vilis specifically, it goes crazy. Effects resolve in the order printed on the card, so Vilis will enter the battlefield and THEN you lose eight life, meaning you'll draw eight cards. It would be the perfect card to have in case Vilis gets killed, so we will include as close as we can to a functional reprint, which brings us to Phyrexian Delver ($0.19). As a creature it does offer a little bit of extra synergy with Gary and Defiler of Flesh, along with the rest of our budget package.


Wrap Up & Savings

Let's see what we saved:

Out  Price In  Price
Sheoldred, the Apocalypse  $ 75.72 Blood Pet  $ 0.26
Demonic Tutor  $ 31.78 Basal Thrull  $ 0.20
Vampiric Tutor  $ 30.44 Overeager Apprentice  $ 0.18
Throne of Eldraine  $ 22.27 Soldevi Adnate  $ 0.47
Torment of Hailfire  $ 19.47 Illuminor Szeras  $ 0.50
Grim Tutor  $ 17.21 Dream Devourer  $ 0.39
Exquisite Blood  $ 15.76 Songs of the Damned  $ 1.22
Jet Medallion  $ 15.70 Peat Bog  $ 0.30
Black Market Connections  $ 15.03 Ebon Stronghold  $ 1.49
Reanimate  $ 14.04 Phyrexian Delver  $ 0.19
Total  $ 257.42 Total  $ 5.20
Total (Lands)  $ 86.68
Original Deck Price  $ 535.54
    New Price  $ 196.64
    Total Savings  $ 338.90
    Savings 63%


Another good showing for savings in a mono-colored deck. There are a few cards just past the top 10 that are also pretty pricey, so you can move things around a bit if you want to get that Reanimate back in the deck. Also, honorable mention to Zhentarim Bandit ($0.06) as another way to ramp in mono-black.

So what do you think? Is black truly the second-best ramp color? How else can we storm off with Vilis? Let me know in the comments and I'll see you next time when we brew for your buck!

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Please note: card prices listed in this article are accurate at the time of writing, but prices can vary over time and between locations.

Read more:

Brew For Your Buck - A Dedication To A Friend, Aristocrats And Spellslinger

Wombo Combo - Mono-Black Edition

Brian played Magic intermittently between 2003 and 2017 when he fully embraced his love for Commander. Finding ways to maximize the value of each piece of cardboard in the deck is one of his favorite things to explore, especially if it involves putting lands in the graveyard! Outside of Magic, Brian works as a consultant in the marine industry, turning his passion for boats and ships into a career.

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