Too-Specific Top 10 - Mono-Black Burn
Who Wouldn't Want to Draw Cards?
Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know thatis the only card that can have a target player draw cards, mill cards, and lose life?)
Burn has always been one of my favorite archetypes, and it's one that's hard to pull off in a multiplayer format like Commander. It's hard enough to point fours at an opponent and then finish them off with a couple s in two-player, but when you'd need another 18 burn spells to do it even if there wasn't a pesky lifegain deck in the pod, it's a whole other story.
So why not be the pesky lifegain deck and the burn deck in the pod, all at once?
It didn't take long from the new's printing for her to get popular and then loathed. It actually felt like it happened in just a weekend, if I'm honest. So I figured, why not kick the hornet's nest a little bit and build a unique take on a commander people were tired of before they even saw it? What could go wrong?
Top 10 Mono-Black
Draw Burn Spells
The first thing that leapt into most player's minds when they sawwas . Then, after that one player insta-kill, most folks stopped looking at the spell options in favor of your more usual wheel & Group Hug shenanigans.
All these passionate players out there so sure that they're on the right side of theversus conversation, and they're all just immediately jumping on the permanent-based draw solutions. Why not stick to your guns, and commit to all of the super-efficient spell options that can draw you or your opponents cards?
So let's have theversus conversation, only lets do it with in play. You play down a , and pass turn. Your opponent draws their card for turn, losing two life, and then passes back to you. You draw two cards, lose one life, and then gain four off of Sheoldred's ability. The second card you drew was a , and you smile for a moment as you do the math and realize that your opponent that is magically down to eight in this Christmas-land scenario is already dead, they just don't know it yet.
Am I skewing the scales? Absolutely. But that's kind of the whole idea of the Praetors, isn't it?
So, now that I've established beyond a reasonable doubt that spells are better than permanents when it comes to buildingBurn, let's find out the best arrows in our quiver!
Criteria: Instants or sorceries that can have target player, each player, each opponent, or each player draw cards and lose life. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.
(1,841 Inclusions, 1% of 364,359 Decks)
I've been in onsince it was first spoiled, even beyond . Why? Because unlike , the top end of isn't set in stone, meaning it's a lot more likely to be a finisher in the late game.
Of course, that argument kind of goes out the window when you're playing, as she just instantly kills with , and might not with . Still, given that pretty much every big mana version of the deck is going to play both, I maintain that my argument is rock solid!
(1,959 Inclusions, 0% of 884,961 Decks)
A card I'm less excited about through the lens of, however, is . Having an opponent lose nine life is an okay deal for five mana, but you don't really care about the Poison counters. Wouldn't it be just the way life goes for them to matter against a Proliferate or Poison deck when you used this on yourself, though?
(3,354 Inclusions, 0% of 884,961 Decks)
I have no such squabbles about. It might be the worst of the "draw two cards, lose two life" cards, but given that it can still target another player and there aren't very many of these effects in Magic, you're happy to see it in your deck, as the worst case scenario is it drawing you into some of the better options that do the same thing.
(4,412 Inclusions, 0% of 884,961 Decks)
If you are going to pay five mana to draw three cards, then you're probably better off doing it withthan . Having options to do that to your opponent for the same nine mana without the Poison counters isn't bad either, but the main reason you love this is that that's not where the flexibility ends.
(5,269 Inclusions, 1% of 884,961 Decks)
Making a food token might seem like a small upside compared to the also-sorcery-speed, but it's enough that food decks are playing this card over it, and it's also more than enough to want to see this card more in . Combine the fact that it's just free value with the fact that if you're going to be burning people out with you're probably already playing some version of , and actually starts to look like one of the best possible options for you in , whether you're trying to be a "Burn" deck or not.
(8,538 Inclusions, 1% of 719,465 Decks)
Only, what's the last amazing burn spell you can name that you could only cast at sorcery speed?? ? ? We're really starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel with those options, and certainly none of them are what you'd describe as "efficient". At instant speed, though, you can probably name quite a few just off the top of your head: , , , , , the list just goes on and on.
Black "burn" spells will never have the flexibility of being able to target anything that red burn spells do, but they can at least come with the instant speed option that all of the best burn spells do.
(16,997 Inclusions, 2% of 884,961 Decks)
With that said, if you're going to go theroute, then does a decent impression. Coming by huge amounts of mana in black isn't as easy as green, but it does have about as many as red does, along with a ton of effects that double your swamp mana. In other words, if you draw this in the late game, it may just end the game for someone. In the midgame, however, it will still draw you five cards and gain you ten life, which is nothing to scoff at!
(19,269 Inclusions, 2% of 842,848 Decks)
Most non-tribal decks would scoff a bit at playing a tribal card like, but there's a lot to be said about how much damage this can do to an Elf player across the table. In most decks, this will only be an offensive weapon, but even if it's worst mode is paying three mana to draw a single card and gain two life, you could do worse!
(33,396 Inclusions, 4% of 884,961 Decks)
Obviously, this is going in pretty much everydeck out there, and for good reason. Whether it be pointed at you or your opponent, it's going to have a huge effect on any game that is more than worth the seven-mana investment.
(92,444 Inclusions, 10% of 884,961 Decks)
Theversus conversation is becoming a close one in data as well as in theory as of late, with creeping right up on 's 110,113 inclusions. I'll stand by my argument of both being fine additions, with Arena getting a slight edge in lower-powered metas where you're more likely to have it stick around for more value, and being clearly superior in higher-powered metas where you can get immediate value for less mana.
Indecks specifically, however, there's little doubt that a two-mana card that can either get you that value with a little lifegain on the side or kill an opponent at a low life total is strictly superior.
It hasn't escaped me that I've been creating a ton of Stormy decks lately, and all I can say is, I can stop whenever I want!
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At first I thought my only payoffs for casting so many rituals and draw spells would be, before realizing that with out, there were a ton of lifegain triggers to take advantage of. Combine that with a few effects, and this deck can really aggressively drain out a table with nothing but a ton of spells that make mana and draw cards. What's not to like?
As for what we didn't cover in our top ten this week, there aren't a whole lot of leftovers. Astute readers will note that I did sneak in some of the more efficient options for drawing cards that don't target other players, just to keep my spell count up, so let's start there.
The "Scry 2" portion ofreally lets you dig down for one of your big, impactful spells or engines, which is more than enough to have it included in the deck. may not be quite as great as in mono-black, but this is also clearly a case of "why not both?". The real diamond in the rough of black card draw that can only affect you, however, is clearly . Even in a deck that doesn't care much about self-mill, you're ecstatic to pay three mana to draw two and then create a blood token that will let you rummage for another later on, especially when all of that just means more lifegain triggers for you to abuse.
While the whole idea this week was to play around with the idea of a mono-black burn deck, there are some more "permanent" options that are just too powerful to ignore with:
It didn't take long for people to think ofwhen first got spoiled, and it's not hard to see why: Having each opponent lose 10-14 life every turn (or more, if you have them draw more cards in the interim) while you gain the same is going to win you most games, to put it lightly. isn't quite that good, but there's something to be said for tacking on another damage to 's draw trigger, not to mention forcing two more draws and six more life while taking out a problem creature. has been making a lot of Aristocrats decks happy over the last year, but I don't think I could have told you that it could target any player until I saw it show up in my Scryfall search.
Finally, there's a bunch of you that have been biting your tongues as best as possible about just how bad things could go giving your opponents all this card advantage, which is why for you there's one last category we just have to go over: Loot effects.
and are the only wheel effects available in mono-black, and they're both absolutely amazing with . and are in a similar (if slower) vein, and are absolutely worth a look in most builds, even if they're spell-centric. Lastly, you'd be wise to grab a spot for (and maybe ) in your landbase, even if you are trying to keep your Swamp count high!
Nuts and Bolts
There always seems to be a bit of interest in how these lists are made (this seems like a good time to stress once again that they are based on EDHREC score, NOT my personal opinion), and people are often surprised that I’m not using any special data or .json from EDHREC, but rather just muddling my way through with some Scryfall knowledge! For your enjoyment/research, here is this week’s Scryfall search.
What Do You Think?
The Phyrexian Praetors have a bit of a reputation about them, and are all over the top of the salt list. I personally think, however, that is the least oppressive of the lot, besides maybe . With that in mind...
Finally, what is your favorite black "burn" spell? Where do you come down on Phyrexian Arena versus Sign in Blood? Do you think you could make an interesting brew of Sheoldred, or are all of her decks destined to more or less look about the same?
Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the tilted table where all the cards slowly slide down to one end.