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Serial Killer [Primer Included]

Commander / EDH



Mono-black spellslinger. This is a deck that performs far better than I expected it to when I first built it. Originally, I was just looking for fun, but I've won most of the games I've played with Toshiro Umezawa . He's an easy commander to underestimate, and he absolutely destroys creature based decks. If you enjoy controlling the board, and flashy, come-from-behind, clutch finishes, this deck is for you.


So here's the plan. Let everyone think you aren't a threat. Play politics if you have to, and kill creatures whenever it becomes necessary, but don't waste resources. Kill creatures that swing at you, or in response to Lightning Greaves equipping, but don't just hit every creature that hits the board, or you'll run out of gas. Convince everyone that you're not worth the investment to attack - they'll lose creatures, and really, what are you doing to them anyway?

Meanwhile, don't miss land drops. Build up as much mana as you can, because in the late game, you'll need it to chain kill spells together, and you'll need it for Exsanguinate. Be on the lookout for creatures that you can resurrect to fight for you, and don't be afraid to pay life to get more cards in hand.

Well, we're mono black. Turns out we've got a lot of swamps. I'm really liking Geier Reach Sanitarium for its ability to dig, and fill my graveyard with extra kill spells. If it's in your budget, Cabal Coffers is obviously a must. I'm also running Magus of the Coffers for an extra punch, and he works as a budget version of the coffers if needed. Arcane Lighthouse is also amazing here, since hexproof and shroud can be a real problem for us. I'm a huge fan of Liliana of the Dark Realms - worst case scenario, she kills a creature for us. Best case, she grabs us a bunch of lands, then ults to make them all tap for four. I'm running Crypt Ghast for extra mana - if one were so inclined, one could also run Nirkana Revenant, which has the added bonus of doubling as a win condition. Solemn Simulacrum is, of course, just a commander staple in general.

Gauntlet of Power is fantastic, and one could opt for Caged Sun and/or Extraplanar Lens instead of or in addition to it. I'm rarely tempted to tap out for these extra mana producers, however, typically preferring to play then either while the coast is clear (no creatures that threaten me), or with some mana open to continue threatening kill spells.

I've seen lists that run lands like Shizo, Death's Storehouse and Rogue's Passage and Reliquary Tower. None of these really appeal to me here - in most cases, I don't care about discarding, since I can reuse my instants, and the two unblockable lands are really only good if Plan A is to kill people with solitary, large creatures. I've been trying out Shizo lately, and I'm not impressed - most of the time, it's just a swamp that doesn't benefit from my extra-mana effects. If you do choose to run these lands, you should also run things like Runechanter's Pike for loads of extra damage (going in a more voltron direction, typically), and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to keep your Cabal Coffers functioning well.

Resurrection is a key part of this strategy. I include two kinds of necromancy - creature based, and non-creature based.

The resurrection creatures are designed to help us steal the creatures we kill, or to reanimate the creatures we lose. These include Sepulchral Primordial, Chainer, Dementia Master, Demon of Dark Schemes, and to a lesser extent, Liliana, Heretical Healer. Each of these can be devastating to your opponents, particularly the first three for their ability to call multiple creatures out. That said, I've recently cut Sepulchral Primordial, in favor of Erebos, God of the Dead, since consistent card draw is more important for this deck than one-off reanimators.

For non-creature resurrection, I'm running a very limited list. Beacon of Unrest is fantastic ( Rise from the Grave is a decent replacement if you don't have Beacon) for its ability to snag artifacts as well as creatures, and it reshuffles for multiple uses. Grim Return is nice because although it limits us by only being able to get things that died that turn, it's also an instant, allowing us to use if for maximum effect with Toshiro. Animate Dead is fantastic, and belongs in every Toshiro list. Rise of the Dark Realms is an alternate way to end the game. Spilling entire graveyards back onto the battlefield makes for a truly terrifying spell, and in the late game, it can give you a board that's simple unsurmountable. Other options that I'm not running include Reanimate or Necromancy, Phyrexian Delver, Phyrexian Reclamation , etc.

Do not underestimate these kinds of effects. When your job is to put things in graveyards, the ability to turn opponent's lost resources into fuel for your cause is invaluable. I've killed people with their own Void Winnower s and Gisela, Blade of Goldnights and Sun Titans and even one Sphinx of the Final Word because these cards just win games, plain and simple.

Well, resurrection's not much use if we aren't killing things, is it? The options here are really almost endless, so feel free to play around with the list. Some key options I'd definitely not go without are:
Malicious Affliction . One shot, two kills.
Bile Blight . Goodbye token decks.
Final Reward, Dismember, Silence the Believers . All three get around indestructible, and are fantastic. Grasp of Darkness and Death Wind are alright for the same reasons, although they're much less powerful.
Hero's Demise . Did you know that almost every deck you face is going to have at least one legendary creature? Some of those legends might even be important.
Doom Blade, Ultimate Price, Go for the Throat. The quintessential kill spells.
Slaughter. Did you know, you can pay the buyback when you cast it from your graveyard? Toshiro does NOT give actual flashback- he just says IF the card you cast goes to graveyard, exile it instead.
Killing Wave . Good as a board wipe in a pinch, but more frequently, it just starts a chain of kill spells. Our opponents will frequently pay life for some creatures, allow others to die, and then be shocked when we use those deaths to kill the creatures they paid to keep.

I HIGHLY recommend Hero's Downfall , To the Slaughter , and Ruinous Path for dealing with planeswalkers. There are a number of fantastic options for edicts, including Geth's Verdict and Diabolic Edict , but the versatility in To the Slaughter should not be underestimated.

I'm separating these last two, because I cannot overstate how absolutely necessary they are for EVERY deck helmed by Toshiro Umezawa . When Iona, Shield of Emeria or Akroma, Angel of Wrath hit the field, these are your answers. When the artifact deck drops Mycosynth Lattice and Darksteel Forge, one of these is your way out. For planeswalkers, Doubling Seasons, Asceticism s, and Omnisciences, these are your saviors.

You MUST run Scour from Existence.
You MUST run Spine of Ish Sah.

Oblivion Strike and Grip of Desolation are also fantastic options for the same reasons, although not as effective.

Ok, look. We're in mono black. Card advantage is kind of our thing. As with kill spells, there are a lot of options to choose from. Before I get into the options though, I want to talk about the importance of this section. This deck spends a lot of time trading one-for-one with our opponents. Usually, that's not a good thing, because if we run out of answers before they run out of threats, we lose. Toshiro's recycling certainly helps, but we need to be able to refill our hand reliably. I run 10 cards whose sole or primary purpose is drawing more cards, plus gier reach sanitarium for a bit of looting. Don't run fewer that 7.

Personally, I like both Ob Nixilis Reignited and Wretched Confluence because they double as kills in a pinch.

Succumb to Temptation, Skeletal Scrying, and Moonlight Bargain are all instant speed for extra value.

And who could forget Harvester of Souls. So many cards. So... many... cards...

In general, don't be afraid to pay life to get cards. After all, who's going to attack YOU? Things like Erebos, God of the Dead, Phyrexian Arena, Read the Bones , Sign in Blood , Ancient Craving, and Ambition's Cost are all wonderful options.

I have four cards I consider win conditions - that is, the reason they are in the deck is to finish the game. Those are, in order of Plan A to Plan D:
Exsanguinate. Get lots of mana, drain the life from your foes.
Empty the Pits . End of an opponent's turn, dump a bunch of zombies into play, then untap and hit people.
Rise of the Dark Realms. Take all the things.
Gray Merchant of Asphodel. The less-reliable Exsanguinate. May take more than one application to be lethal. Most effective when part of a Rise of the Dark Realms.
A few non-kill spells to consider.

Withering Boon . Because no one likes Avacyn, Angel of Hope.
Sudden Spoiling. Good both as a last line of defense, and as a way to strip opposing creatures of pesky abilities like hexproof, protection, and indestructible.
Darkness . Like Sudden Spoiling, darkness buys us one turn. Toshiro makes it two.
Dash Hopes. Doesn't seem very good, does it? Sure, it won't stop someone from casting their game winning Genesis Wave . But it will cost them ten crucial life to resolve a spell that they probably want, but don't necessarily need to win immediately. The trick is learning when your opponent is right on the line about whether or not they'll pay. Or, waiting till they're under 10 life before using it. Be careful though - ANY player may pay the five life, not just the player casting the spell. More reasons to not make yourself into a target.
Glaring Spotlight. I like being able to target things. Do you like being able to target things?
Skeleton Key. Hilarious with Toshiro. Everyone forgets about the Bushido. With this equipment, Toshiro survives every attack (well, as long as there's no deathtouch).
Sangromancer is fantastic - it pays for the life we spend on card advantage, and keeps us alive through tough attacks.Silent Arbiter is a way to keep too many creatures from coming at us at once. Crawlspace is also an option.
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is a bit of a nonbo, since he does prevent us from being able to use Toshiro's ability. That said, the raw number of bodies he can provide, plus the permanent removal of our opponent's threats can be a huge benefit, even if I'm only casting each kill spell once. He usually does a huge amount of damage, or my opponents remove him so I can use my graveyard again - either way, I win.
Ogre Slumlord. Further disincentive for our opponents to attack. He provides a cheap line of expendable deathtouch blockers, and even if our opponent sends more creatures at us than we have kill spells, the extra deathtouch blockers tip the attack even further in our favor. Also, worth noting that each rat that has to block will usually kill the creature it's blocking... making another rat.
Torpor Orb. ETB effects can be really difficult to deal with, since this deck doesn't have many options for stopping a threat before it hits the field. Usually most useful against Ephara, God of the Polis, Roon of the Hidden Realm, or Brago, King Eternal make sure it's necessary before deploying, since it does shut down some of your creatures too.
Brain in a Jar. It's both a discount on spells, and a way to scry in desperation. What's not to like?

Anything that runs on Plan A - Play Creatures and Attack With Them. Generals like Kaalia of the Vast, Saskia the Unyielding , Mayael the Anima , and Derevi, Empyrial Tactician will struggle greatly against this deck, as they typically cannot keep up with the steady stream of removal we can provide.

For the most part, we play well against combo decks as well. Most (not all!) combo decks require a creature or two for the combo to go off - whether that's Melira, Sylvok Outcast or Mikaeus, the Unhallowed, playing against these decks just requires recognizing the threatening piece, and keeping it off the board.

Some matchups are good for us, but require a slight alteration to the gameplan. Because of Mayael the Anima 's ability to drop Avacyn, Angel of Hope or worse Iona, Shield of Emeria, we typically want to kill her as soon as possible, rather than waiting for her to try to do something to us. The same goes for Kaalia of the Vast. This has the added benefit of really hampering these decks development, since they usually rely on their generals to play overcosted creatures for a discount.

Similarly, while Animar, Soul of Elements and Akroma, Angel of Wrath play nicely into our hands with every creature they cast, the protection from black makes these two a bit tougher - running several edicts ( To the Slaughter , Diabolic Edict , Geth's Verdict, Tribute to Hunger ), and the devoid removal (Grip of Desolation, Oblivion Strike, Scour from Existence, Spine of Ish Sah, maybe Complete Disregard ) is a good way to handle the commander himself.

Reanimators and Flickerers can be a challenge, but can be overcome. These decks rely on creatures, but are either efficient at dodging our removal, or reusing the same creatures. These are decks like Karador, Ghost Chieftain, Meren of Clan Nel Toth (or her golgari friends Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest, and Savra, Queen of the Golgari), or Ephara, God of the Polis, Brago, King Eternal, and Roon of the Hidden Realm.

To deal with flicker decks, Torpor Orb should be priority #1. The ETB effects are by far the most challenging aspect of this matchup. Next, don't be afraid to spend resources against the flicker deck. Even if several of our kill spells fizzle because of flickering, we will outlast them. There are far more kill spells than flicker spells available. Kill things like Deadeye Navigator in response to the soulbond trigger, or Mistmeadow Witch before the actually threatening creatures they intend to flicker. Keep Roon of the Hidden Realm off the battlefield for as much time as you can. If possible, NEVER let the Roon player untap with Roon in play. Often, against flicker decks, the game comes down to a pivotal moment in which we stack kills spells three to five deep on one or more of their crucial creatures, while they respond to each one with an attempt to flicker - whoever wins that fight usually wins the game. Pick your moment to fight carefully.

For the Graveyard decks, it's a bit easier. Meren is very good, but struggles against effects like Ogre Slumlord and Archfiend of Depravity, which keep her board limited while expanding ours. Nevertheless, I tend to want to remove Meren quickly, to keep her value low. Savra and Jarad are a bit easier, since they tend towards combo-esque kills, rather than raw goodstuff. Karador can go either way. In general, they make keeping up with our one-for-one removal difficult, so things like Demon of Dark Schemes or Massacre Wurm can be good against them, and the Demon, as well as Chainer, Dementia Master and Nezumi Graverobber can attack their graveyards. If you want, a Bojuka Bog could be added, but I tend not to find it necessary.

Superfriends. Well, we just don't have too much spot removal for planeswalkers, nor do we really have enough of our own creatures to deal with them. To the Slaughter is fantastic, as are Hero's Downfall and Ruinous Path. In general, you'll need to play politics with the other players at the table - convince them to attack the planeswalkers (not usually hard to do), or, if they won't, then kill their creatures and reanimate them to do it yourself. Either way, in a 1-on-1 matchup, we tend to lose HARD.

Sigarda, Host of Herons and Narset, Enlightened Master can both be brutally difficult. Against Sigarda, you've really got no hope without landing either Arcane Lighthouse or Glaring Spotlight or both. Both of these are also effective against Narset, although with Narset you also have the option of using edicts, ( To the Slaughter , Diabolic Edict , Geth's Verdict, Tribute to Hunger ) since Narset builds typically are light on other creatures. Withering Boon , Sudden Spoiling, and Darkness can all be invaluable for the extra turns they buy you (although it's important to note that Sudden Spoiling does not remove the effects of enchantments or equipment). However, a well-placed Sudden Spoiling can remove sigarda's abilities, allowing you to force a sacrifice or target a kill spell.

The plan is simple - stall by killing everything that moves (at us, that is - don't waste resources!), until we have enough mana to Exsanguinate everyone to death. Gray Merchant of Asphodel is a nice alternate win con, and frequently Sepulchral Primordial and other resurrection spells can do a lot of work on my opponents.



chirz2792 says... #1

In a mono black deck I would highly recommend Silence the Believers.

August 21, 2016 9:22 p.m.

Oooh, good call. I've added it to the acquire list!

August 21, 2016 10:09 p.m.

kruppe says... #3

Umezawa's Jitte would help give you a little bit of an edge, and would be a flavor win. It is kind of expenseive, but it's gotten a cheaper version in FTV: Lore. I was going to suggest counterspells, but you've already got the useful ones in here. This is already a pretty good deck. Keep it up!

October 27, 2016 1:08 p.m.

Thanks much! Yeah, even if nothing else, the potential lifegain offsets a lot of my card draw mechanics, and the extra flexibility could come in handy. Also, I can't resist some good flavor.

October 27, 2016 2:07 p.m.

Profet93 says... #5

Annihilate is listed twice

November 6, 2016 10:55 p.m.

Zinx says... #6

I suggest running Unstable Obelisk for pro-black, Sphinx-Bone Wand for value, and Corrupt for a huge life swing

December 10, 2016 1:29 p.m.

hoardofnotions says... #7

Thawing Glaciers good for control decks

Deserted Temple Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx Thespian's Stage Vesuva

Death Wind seems expensive

no Sol Ring?

maybe Fatal Push?

Dash Hopes is very situational, try looking at the worst case scenerio's. your combo opponent casts the final piece and pays 5 life to win the game. I'd do that everytime

Chill to the Bone for Victim of Night?

is Archfiend of Depravity doing enough? Maybe a board wipe?

Phyrexia's Core for synergy with Spine of Ish Sah

Expedition Map for finding Cabal Coffers and Thawing Glaciers

January 27, 2017 12:15 p.m.

Jreluctance says... #8

For primer advice, I recommend analyzing the bad match-ups and ways to improve those match-ups. I also highly love Snuff Out, the card can come out of nowhere and lets you tap out occasionally and still pull surprises.

January 27, 2017 3:48 p.m.

Thanks for the suggestions!

hoardofnotions: I like most of those land suggestions, particularly the copy-target-Cabal Coffers ones. Not sure Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx works here due to the low number of permanents, but it's certainly something that could work in an alternative build!

Death Wind IS expensive, but it gets around indestructible, and we usually have the mana to make it effective, so it's generally worth having.

I actually consciously didn't put Sol Ring in here. It's fantastic early game, but we don't really ramp into anything in the first few turns, and late game with a coffers out, I'd actually rather draw a swamp than a ring.

Dash hopes is more frequently a finisher than one might expect. Sure, it doesn't stop the combo player who's still got 30 life, but for anyone at/around 10, it can be lethal. Also, paying 10 life (because we usually immediately try to flash it back) to resolve one spell can be a big deal. It's certainly not a black Counterspell, but it does its work nonetheless.

Archfiend of Depravity actually tends to be better than a board wipe, since each sacrifice my opponents makes feeds Toshiro Umezawa or Ogre Slumlord or Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet or Harvester of Souls. Meanwhile, I get to keep all my creatures! Plus, the clamp it puts on reanimator decks, that a board wipe doesn't, is huge.

I do like Expedition Map and Phyrexia's Core. I'll try to find slots for them in my own build, and then report back with effectiveness later!

Jreluctance: Thanks for the input! I've added matchup sections, and I'll keep adding to them as I face more decks!

January 27, 2017 9:48 p.m.

You call it a Primer without even including Oathkeeper, Takeno's Daisho or Umezawa's Jitte?

Umezawa decks need their commander alive to actually trigger so throw in a Fated Return or a Darksteel Plate.

You can get more flexible plays out of Nim Deathmantle and Mimic Vat.

If you're already in monoblack and going for an Exanguinate you can get away with Geth, Lord of the Vault before you realistically kill anyone with only the Crypt Ghast and Cabal Coffers for big mana and no tutors. Maybe you can add Black Market with a pile of rituals in the graveyard like Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, Culling the Weak, and that might be reasonable.

This also could really use a Toxic Deluge, Mutilate a Necropotence, Grave Betrayal, Bitterblossom, Bloodchief Ascension, Hatred, Black Sun's Zenith, Overseer of the Damned, or a Rune-Scarred Demon.

Also some of the basics are missing like Sol Ring, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Reliquary Tower.

February 6, 2017 1:09 p.m.

Oh and a Skullclamp.

February 6, 2017 1:11 p.m.

Cycada says... #12

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx: Any other black permanent + your commander means that its mana neutral. Black cards tend to have heavy color weight, so it's easy to get positive mana value out of this. Even at neutral, it can still act as filtering.

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth: A customary include in any deck that has Cabal Coffers (or black at all). It's a swamp on the field.

Forbidden Orchard: Helps spellslinger matchups, or just gives already staxed players a permanent to sacrifice to your edict effects. Should be an auto include in this as much as it is in Glissa.

Tombstone Stairwell: Kind of a slower card, but it gives you repeated triggers of your commander's ability. Kind of a pet card of mine, admittedly.

Tutors: Demonic, Vampiric, or otherwise. With your commander these will generally let you shape your hand however you like.

March 9, 2017 3:01 p.m.

TrippySheep says... #13

Gonti Lord of Luxury would be a nice implement here.

April 15, 2017 6:24 p.m.

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Date added 1 year
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This deck is Commander / EDH legal.

Cards 100
Avg. CMC 3.42
Tokens 2/2 Zombie, Liliana, Nixilis
Folders Good ideas, Other People's Decks, Decks I Like, Commander, Interesting Commander Decks, primer, EDH ideas, Cool Decks, Mono Black Liliana Commander, black serial killer, See all 11
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