Diabolic Intent - Horcruxes
(Lich's Mastery | Art by Mike "Daarken" Lim)
Not Human Enough To Die
Welcome back to Diabolic Intent, where we build decks around iconic villains and their diabolical schemes! Our goal last time was to kill half the universe. Taking a hard 180, our featured guest this week has been quoted as saying, "There is nothing worse than death," but that, of course, doesn't stop him from casually doling out death like Timeshare pamphlets. Some refer to him only as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named or You-Know-Who, but we know him as Tom Riddle, The Dark Lord, the Heir of Slytherin,
His Royal Noselessness Baldy McSnakeypants Lord Voldemort! (I realize Tom Riddle/Heir of Slytherin is technically a spoiler but I refuse to give a spoiler warning for a cultural staple released in 1998, go read a book, you heathen.)
The Dark Lord is very famous for doing a lot of Dark Magic, but the Darkest was arguably his creation of seven "horcruxes," magical artifacts that prevented him from dying as long as they existed. In my search for cards that could keep us from dying/losing the game, I realized that there were, in fact, exactly seven cards in all of Magic that protect us from all forms of game loss. These are distinct from damage-prevention effects such as Worship and Ali From Cairo, or even cards like Lich that prevent us from losing the game by having zero or less life. No sir, come hell or high Phage the Untouchable, these are the seven cards that will take us "further than anybody along the path that leads to immortality." Here they are, sorted by their respective qualities:
These are textbook horcruxes; we're sticking around as long as these do. They also have the bonus effect of preventing our opponents from winning. Suck on that, Simic Ascendancy.
These won't keep us alive under zero health like the first two, but they do give us a substantial health cushion to find our feet. Lich's Mirror is a bit of a bummer in that it essentially restarts the game for us (sans half our health and the opportunity to mulligan), but unlike Exquisite Archangel, we can find it and play it again! Immortality can be ours, for the low low price of literally everything.
While these do require us to leave mana open, they won't paint a giant target on our head in the same way that our permanent-based options do. I would almost say that Angel's Grace is the unequivocally better card due to the mana cost, uncounterability, lasting until end of turn rather than being a replacement effect, and the ability to recur it, but I have a deep love of Stunning Reversal for the pure *teleports behind you* "nothing personal, kid" energy of "instead draw seven cards."
How can anyone not love this absolute mess of a card? Lich's grown-up cousin has the potential to draw us enormous sums of cards, but it also has the potential to not only draw a target on our head, but clean, gift-wrap, and hand-deliver the loaded gun. Fortunately for us, we've got six other ways (see above) of surviving the bullet in the event that we run out of things to exile, plus a few other tricks as outlined below.
One particularly notable feature of horcruxes was how hard it was to get rid of the darn things. With the above cards, along with Aegis Angel, Darksteel Forge, and Leonin Abunas, we can set our Flavor Cannons to max and limit our opponents' viable methods of horcrux disposal to Basilisk Venom (exile) or Fiendfyre (wipes).
That's all well and good, you might say, but what good is eternal life without the power to crush our enemies? Well that's where Voldy's signature spell comes in! The notable thing about the Killing Curse is that it is precisely what it says on the box. It doesn't give people a heart attack, it doesn't asphyxiate them, it just straight up kills them to death. For our purposes, that means taking an opponent's life total, wherever it is, and setting it to zero. Here's a handy step-by-step:
While this is hardly an original idea (66% of decks with False Cure include Beacon of Immortality), it's definitely the most on-flavor option for an anytime anyhealth instant kill. Also, I promise we have a good reason for adding red to the deck, and it's not just that I'm trying to be original with Fork shenanigans.
Dark Mark Minutemen
Fun fact: Lord Voldemort was also known among his closest followers as "The Prince of Parties" due to his ability to touch one of his bro's Sick Wrist Tats and instantly summon the rest of his buddies for a Rockin' Fiesta.
These can serve as an alternate win con if we find ourselves with an Abra and no Cadabra, plus they can give us some wiggle room with Lich's Mastery.
If the prospect of giving your opponents their own parties with Plague of Vermin or Tempt with Vengeance is too stressful, consider following up the next turn with a Martial Coup for a Total Party Kill.
While the above cards are designed for Maximum Flavor®, we should throw in some similar cards for consistency (and maybe more than one way to kill our opponents).
You can't make a "you don't lose" deck without Lich, unless you don't have One Hundred Dollars laying around... which is a reasonable excuse, I guess. This card gets some bonus flavor points in that it makes us sacrifice "a piece of our soul", i.e. our entire life total.
Resolute Archangel doesn't directly prevent us from losing, but it's basically a more proactive version of its sister, Exquisite Archangel.
As long as we're able to survive at sub-zero life totals, why not share the fun? Not the 'surviving' part, of course, just the life total. It's like a gift exchange with our opponents, except we get a life total and they get a death.
These cards can also nab us an instant kill with Tainted Remedy/False Cure. If we target two players, and the first player's life total is closer to 0 than to the second player's life total, the first player "gains" (read: loses) that difference and dies!
And if you're looking for something that hits more than one opponent (wow, picky much?), why not try Repay in Kind?
Shawty Got Low
If we've got all these ways to win by being mostly dead, we need consistent ways to get there. Below are some fun ways to recklessly throw away your life. Step 1, spend all your time writing articles about Magic and movie villains. Step 2:
These cards come highly recommended on the EDHREC pages for a bunch of our horcrux cards. Along with the aforementioned Plague of Vermin, these can all instantly drop us to 0 life to set up for life-switching shenanigans (provided we have a horcrux and enough cards in our library). As a bonus, Necropotence and Ad Nauseam can probably find us all of our combo pieces in the process, with Ad Nauseam in particular letting us just pick up our deck, add up the CMCs, and set our life total to -160, or whatever.
Doom Whisperer works the same way, as long as we're at an even life total. If we use it with Lich's Mastery, we can keep exiling cards from our graveyard until we find our last combo piece! Bolas's Citadel and Vilis, Broker of Blood probably can't drop us in one turn, but they'll certainly help us get there.
Okay *deep breath* maybe this would be a good time to pause and pick a commander?
Commander - Queen Marchesa
I debated using Kaalia of the Vast or Kaalia, Zenith Seeker since we've got a decent density of Angels and Demons, but at this point we've got a deck that's mostly very good at drawing hate and killing us, so we're going full damage control. Queen Marchesa will always draw us at least one card, which is nice, and after that, she's a solid deathtouch blocker who makes more deathtouch blockers. Hold the fort while we dig!
Another thing we'll need, though, is additional damage control.
It's highly possible we throw our entire life total in the garbage and have nothing to show for it. These lifegain cards are notably all recommended on the page for Lich's Mastery, because duh.
This deck has a majority of black, which means our boy Gary will usually be worth a lot. On that "black is great" note, Pontiff of Blight can bring his son Crypt Ghast, who's happy to help pay for Debt to the Deathless and Exsanguinate.
To function at peak capacity, this deck requires stupid quantities of mana (probably double digits) to pull off explosive one-turn wins, but fortunately the color black and its buddy Doubling Cube are on the case.
The Reason for Red
Here's an idea: what if we threw in every viable card that says "you lose the game" on it, and told them all to shove it? As long as we have a horcrux in play, there's no downside! That includes all four versions of Final Fortune (don't forget Warrior's Oath and Last Chance). We would also theoretically want any legal card that says "Pact" on it, but all of them kind of suck, apart from Slaughter Pact and Demonic Pact.
Glorious End is stupendous. It can be a counterspell, a turn skip, or even just a put-off-death-from-one-of-those-extra-turn-cards-while-we-pray-for-a-horcrux-topdeck.
While we're looking at wacky instants and sorceries, let's toss in some ways to recur them (or Angel's Grace!)
Final note: Snakes. This is a Voldermort deck, which necessitates that we include at least one Snake card. There are no good Snake cards in the right colors, except Ophiomancer, so you better believe this deck is running Ophiomancer.
And that's it! Here's the deck:
Tom Mafle RudiView on Archidekt
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What do you think? Are all of these the cards who lived or have any of them come to die? Have I dwelt on too many dreams and forgotten to live? And whose fiendish machinations should I reconstruct in the next installment of Diabolic Intent?