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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/Torment of Hailfire. 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.

I'm currently trying out Deserted Temple, and I'm liking it - it can give me an extra Cabal Coffers activation, or geier reach sanitarum activation, or even just untap a basic swamp after Liliana of the Dark Realms has ult'd, plus I can play politics to untap other people's lands if necessary.

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. The only two I'm presently running are Chainer, Dementia Master and Demon of Dark Schemes, since either can represent a lot of extra creatures in a very short amount of time. In the past, I've also run Sepulchral Primordial and Liliana, Heretical Healer  Flip, and both were fine additions for a time. If you run Liliana, be sure you have enough creatures to reliably flip her. In this list, she more often than not, just ended up being a 2/3 lifelink for three.

For non-creature resurrection, I'm running a very limited list. 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, Beacon of Unrest, Rise from the Grave, and many more. Look for cards that can reanimate creatures from any graveyard, not just your own!

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 Winnowers 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. That said, it's more important to be able to kill things than it is to revive them, so let's get on to the meat of the deck...

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.
Hour of Glory, 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, Vraska's Contempt, 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, Asceticisms, 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. Karn Liberated is a reasonable option as well, but I tend not to run him because the goal is to make attacking me NOT a good idea.

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 than 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.

Two overlooked options that I like are Moonlight Bargain - yes please, I'll look at the top five an fill them into my hand and graveyard as I see fit - and Scarab Feast - it draws a card when you don't need it, and it ruins that pesky G/B player's day when you do.

I have five paths I consider win conditions. While any creature CAN win the game, these are the cards I'm looking for to kill quickly. They are, in order of Plan A to Plan E:
Torment of Hailfire. "Clear your board and hand or die. Wait how much is X? Clear your board and hand AND die."
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/Kokusho, the Evening Star. The less-reliable Exsanguinates. May take more than one application to be lethal. Best when they can be repeatedly killed and reanimated via Chainer, Dementia Master.
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?
No Mercy. The best defense is a promise of swift and terrible death.

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. Voltron commanders are easy pickings, but make sure you find your anti-hexproof/shroud pieces, or have a couple of edicts ready to get around those Lightning Greaves.

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 him/herself.

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, Vraska's Contempt 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 +X/+X effects of enchantments or equipment, even though it DOES remove hexproof/indestructible/lifelink etc that comes from enchantments/equipment.). However, a well-placed Sudden Spoiling can remove sigarda's abilities, allowing you to force a sacrifice or target a kill spell.

Updated: 9/25/17
Cards to be tested:
Boseiju, Who Shelters All


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Date added 1 year
Last updated 2 months

This deck is not Commander / EDH legal.

Highlight illegal cards
Illegal cards Vona's Hunger
Cards 100
Avg. CMC 3.45
Tokens 2/2 Zombie, Treasure, 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 19
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Revision 20 See all

2 months ago)

+1 Kokusho, the Evening Star main
-1 Noxious Gearhulk main
-31 Swamp main
+1 Rune-Scarred Demon main
-1 Rise of the Dark Realms main
+31 Swamp main
+1 Vona's Hunger main
-1 Killing Wave main
+1 Liliana, Heretical Healer  Flip maybe
-1 Liliana, Heretical Healer  Flip maybe