Black Staples

January 3, 2015

By Dodo Bird Commander writer Ryan Zeitz

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Hey there Commander players, Rhyno here charging at you with my top 3 black staple cards. By staples I’m talkin’ about those cards that you should shuffle up in every black deck regardless of what type of deck it is. But I won’t swamp you with any more frontmatter, let’s get evil!

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#3 – Demonic Tutor

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If we’re talking tutors, this sinister searcher-upper is king of the neighborhood. Scratch that, let’s be real, Demonic Tutor’s power is more akin to Al Capone’s dominion over an entire city of neighborhoods. Looking at the entire pool of tutor cards, black or not, this card is, to quote Tina Turner, “simply the best”.

In all aspects, it is the king of the mountain. It is the cheapest mana cost available for the effect; it is completely unrestrictive as to the type of card you can search for unlike other tutors like Three Dreams, Time of Need, Merchant Scroll, or Sylvan Scrying; and it has no added cost/drawback like Diabolic Intent, Gamble, and Reshape. To boot, Demonic Tutor only has a single black mana symbol in its cost, making it easy to cast in a variety of decks.

Some might argue that certain green tutors like Green Sun’s Zenith, Pattern of Rebirth (in a deck with sacrifice outlets), and Tooth and Nail might trump demonic tutor for top digger around since they put the tutored card(s) directly onto the battlefield. They might also argue that these cards’ steeper mana investments aren’t as much an issue in battlecruiser Magic. Demonic Tutor, however, quickly turns what little water this argument holds to hot steam by reminding everyone of it’s dirt cheap mana cost and its complete freedom to pick any card in the deck rather than just a creature.

 

#2 – Phyrexian Arena

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Doesn’t Arena just feel like the age-old black card advantage card? Phyrexian Arena, classy as ever and steady as a rock, will slowly stack up goodness for you, easily earning as many cards as a big Stroke of Genius or Sphinx’s Revelation over the course of a long multiplayer Commander game. And if in the late game your fuel supplies are low, Phyrexian Arena can shift you into turbo top deck mode, gassing you up with the critical spells you need to stay in the hunt. This card definitely feels like it should cost more like 5 mana.

Oh, you’re worried about Gerrard spilling a little of Urza’s blood every turn in the form of 1 point of life loss? Did you forget we’re playing Commander here, where we start at double the life? And did you forget that black is the second-best color for gaining life back? Certainly, as is the case with black mages, you should be willing to trade A drop of humanity for a sea of power (9th Edition Phyrexian Arena Flavor Text).

 

#1 – Damnation

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Alongside grave recursion and discard, creature destruction is black’s cream of the crop. So as the number 1 black staple card, I’ve got what I think is the best mass creature destruction spell black mana can buy, another classic: Damnation. Cheaper than dream crushers like Decree of Pain, In Garruk’s Wake, and Life’s Finale, Damnation is just pure efficiency, no frills.

If you play multiplayer Commander, you know how important it is to have board wipes like Damnation in your toolbox for those turns where one player has amassed an army on the brink of overrun, or put together a powerful combination of creatures that needs to be broken up to save your hide. And because of the sheer scale of multiplayer Commander, Damnation trumps point removal like Murder or Doom Blade on clean up duty.

While Damnation’s effect is one worth it’s mettle in any Commander deck whatsoever, it grooves especially well with black’s common sit-back play style, often relying on the graveyard, which Damnation may fill, and long-term enchantments like Yawgmoth’s Bargain and Grave Pact, which stick around after Damnation. And Thrun, Asceticism, Ezuri, and Yavimaya Hollow? Sorry to burst your bubble, but we’re going to put you guys out of business.

Those are my picks for the top 3 black staple cards. What do you think? Am I off my rocker? Which black staple cards do you never leave home without?

 

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