Conditions Allow – Drana, the Last Bloodchief

(Drana, the Last Bloodchief | Art by Tyler Jacobson)

Pick a Card, Any Card

Welcome back to Conditions Allow, the article series where I take a legendary creature with a drawback and try to turn it into a strength. It’s October, the perfect month to build a deck or two around your favorite monsters. Vampires are some of my favorite creatures in Magic, and I was really excited to see the new Drana, the Last Bloodchief in Zendikar Rising. Not only is her art amazing, she has a great effect with some interesting restrictions. Is it possible to make her stand out from a field of mono-black Reanimator commanders? Let’s find out.

A lot of reanimation decks win by recurring the same creature over and over again, whether that be as part of a combo, like with Gray Merchant of Asphodel, or by attacking with an army of Demons a couple of times. Drana won’t let us do this, since our opponents get to choose the creature that she revives from the graveyard. If you have multiple creatures in the bin, you’ll almost always get the worst one back. Drana, the Last Bloodchief is a brand new card, too, with only 10 decks for the site to pull data from. Among those decks, there seems to be a strong tribal theme, with Sanctum Seeker and Anowon, the Ruin Sage showing up high on the page.

Building around a tribe makes a lot of sense. Tribal decks often rely more on synergy than individual card strength, so no matter what our opponents give us from our graveyard, Bloodline Keeper and Vampire Nocturnus will buff their power, and Champion of Dusk will draw more cards. Drana, the Last Bloodchief even turns the creature she brings back into a Vampire, so we don’t have to worry about utility creatures like Solemn Simulacrum not benefiting from our tribal synergies.

I’m also intrigued by Overseer of the Damned and Noxious Gearhulk showing up on Drana’s page. There are a lot of creatures that destroy something when they enter the battlefield, in fact. Maybe we can play this deck a little like Tasigur, the Golden Fang, offering to target whatever a player wants if they bring back the right creature. Need to destroy an Omnath, Locus of Creation? Just bring back my Patron of the Vein. Does the table need a board wipe to deal with Scute Swarm? I have a Disciple of Bolas in my graveyard to dig for Damnation.


Something Wicked This Way Comes

I like this idea. It plays into the hypnotic powers that Vampires often are depicted as having, and this type of deck really only works in a multiplayer format like Commander. Let’s start by taking a look at what tools we have to work with.

Unsurprisingly, black excels at destroying creatures. Ravenous Chupacabra and Shriekmaw are the least threatening creatures, while Meteor Golem (though not mono-black) has the most versatility. If you are a little better at bargaining, Noxious Gearhulk is a great way to destroy a big threat and gain a little life back. If your opponent is in a real pinch, Overseer of the Damned will do a lot of work for us by creating Zombie tokens every time an opponent’s creature dies. The rest of the table might be a little hesitant to choose it for you, but if you can get it to stick for a turn or two you can accrue a fair bit of advantage.

Playing a more controlling role means that card advantage is going to be very important. Disciple of Bolas is a perfect fit, letting us send Shriekmaw back to the graveyard and draw cards all at once. Similarly, Harvester of Souls rewards us for looping creatures in and out of the graveyard, while Solemn Simulacrum is a solid value creature in any reanimator deck. For slightly more sneaky value, Underworld Sentinel can do a lot of work with Drana, the Last Bloodchief. The Sentinel can slowly exile the smaller creatures from your graveyard, meaning that your opponents will have fewer targets to choose from when Drana attacks. And when everyone decides that you are the big threat, Underworld Sentinel will help you bounce back from a board wipe or discourage removal, and we can always sacrifice it to raise an army at a moment’s notice.

Speaking of sacrifice, let’s throw in some sacrifice outlets, too. We don’t want to get stuck with our useful creatures in play and be unable to save another player’s life, after all. To that end, Attrition will let us be even more helpful by sacrificing Noxious Gearhulk to destroy a nonblack creature and bring back the Gearhulk in the same turn. Relic Vial is another new card from Zendikar Rising that draws us cards and deals a little bit of chip damage as long as Drana, the Last Bloodchief is in play. Yawgmoth, Thran Physician is another potent draw engine who can snipe down smaller creatures and help us Proliferate the +1/+1 counters granted by our commander. Finally, Yahenni, Undying Partisan is a resilient threat that will grow larger as the game progresses.


Waking the Dead

I’ve mentioned a couple of legendary creatures so far, which don’t work very well with Drana, the Last Bloodchief‘s triggered ability. I don’t think that should make us shy away from them, though, especially since they tend to be the most powerful creatures available to us. Also, while our commander can’t bring them back, that doesn’t stop us from using an Animate Dead instead. Whip of Erebos is also a worthwhile reanimation effect with Drana. Normally, the exile clause isn’t advantageous, but it lets us keep only the absolutely necessary creatures in our graveyard so that our opponents don’t have any safe options. In addition, Chainer, Dementia Master can bring back multiple creatures at instant speed, if you see an opportunity to win with a big attack. Agadeem’s Awakening and Rise of the Dark Realms can do the same.

Just like we shouldn’t rely on our only our commander to bring creatures back, we’ll need more than just creatures to keep the board under control. Feed the Swarm is a flexible piece of removal that lets us deal with enchantments, a card type that mono-black otherwise has a hard time with. My favorite noncreature kill spell for Drana, the Last Bloodchief is probably Murderous Cut, since it can be one mana at instant speed while exiling creatures we don’t want from our graveyard. The best way to guarantee that Drana gets us Overseer of the Damned from the graveyard is to have only Overseer of the Damned in our graveyard. Erebos’s Intervention fills the same role, while Skeletal Scrying can draw a ton of cards in the late game while clearing out our graveyard.


Final Mentions

The last two cards I want to mention specifically are Demonic Embrace and Rotting Regisaur. There are a lot of effects in this deck that make us pay life, so having access to a source of lifelink that is hard to get rid of is really good. It can also give our utility creatures, like Grave Titan, flying to start ending the game. Rotting Regisaur, on the other hand, is best in the early game when you have cards in hand that are much better in the graveyard. A three-mana 7/6 lets us get to an aggressive start, which is valuable since our only win condition is combat damage, and start to fill our graveyard with precision. The Regisaur isn’t a horrible card later on, either, thanks to its raw power and toughness, and it sticks around with no downside if we happen to have no cards in hand. That isn’t an ideal situation, but the deck is tuned to play from the graveyard, so it should be survivable.

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This deck is fairly straightforward on paper, but relies on politics to really function. If there isn’t another threatening creature on the field, Drana, the Last Bloodchief may not do exactly what you want, but that can be part of the fun.

I want to know what you think, though. Is this Drana better as a tribal commander? What spells or creatures are you most excited to play alongside her? Let me know in the comments below, and thanks for reading.

Ben was introduced to Magic during Seventh Edition and has played on and off ever since. A Simic mage at heart, he loves being given a problem to solve. When not shuffling cards, Ben can be found lost in a book or skiing in the mountains of Vermont.