I originally started this deck as a response to the fatigue I felt seeing and playing the same cards in every EDH deck. I wanted to make a deck completely my own, incorporating all my personal favorite elements of the game.

I've always been enamored with the old borders and style of Magic ever since I was a kid and inherited a box of random Revised-era cards from my uncle. Years later, when I actually learned how to play the game, I also developed a love for jank and embracing sub-optimal cards for weird art, unique effects, and flavor.

With this in mind, these became my deck restrictions:

  1. use old-school cards only printed between Alpha-Scourge

  2. prioritize cards that feature creepy, disturbing, and unique art

  3. use as little 'staples' as possible to leave room for maximum jank!

Balthor the Defiled is actually a deceptively powerful commander! His ability is quite potent and can consistently get us an instant board. As long as you have open, he is also quite difficult for opponents to interact with since he exiles himself as a cost.

The deck has quite a lot of moving pieces for it to work. Discard outlets to dump expensive creatures, sac outlets to reuse ETB LTB abilities, alternative recursion spells, graveyard interaction, and a handful of mill pieces to sustain our graveyard all have to be balanced and work in tandem with each other to get off the ground. My favorite part comes from using sub-optimal cards within these categories - it adds many more layers to the puzzle and makes it that much more rewarding when everything miraculously clicks together!

With this, we obviously also have to balance internal mechanics with necessities like ramp, card draw, and removal. To help keep the deck focused on Balthor's ability, many of these necessary effects are found on creatures. In fact, the deck only has 20 non-creature spells! This helps us rebuild boards very quickly, as long as our graveyard is intact.

This deck is very weak to tuck, bounce, and especially exile effects. In a weird way, Balthor provides us with a strange way to 'protect' our board from these threats. As long as we have a way to sacrifice our entire board in response to these effects, the graveyard acts like a temporary safe haven. Balthor can then bring them back out for more jank fun! This is also the part where we pray no one has graveyard hate...

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With the right setup, we can surprise an opponent with a huge, potentially player-killing swing. Cackling Witch (paired with any other beater) and Dungeon Shade can eat a Bubbling Muck or Songs of the Damned to generate a massive attack! We can also generate huge amounts of burst mana through Soldevi Adnate, so long as we have a high mana value target to sac. This move is much more telegraphed though and usually requires more setup.

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With Soldevi Adnate and Havoc Demon out on the field, we can sac Havoc Demon to Adnate's ability, killing a large chunk of the field and getting us 7 mana to recast and crack Balthor. The end result is essentially a one-sided board wipe (barring any opponents' red or black creatures you happen to reanimate in the process of course). For boards with huge creatures, you can easily do this same process multiple times a turn to rack up several -5-5 modifiers.

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We have a number of creatures that destroy a creature on their ETB. Having two of these along with a Hell's Caretaker gives us a way to remove a creature every upkeep. We can take this a step further if we have a Gloomdrifter with threshold online to continually clear the board of any small creatures our opponents may have. This same process can work with only one ETB creature but, because the weird restrictions around Caretaker, you would only remove a creature every other turn.

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This project has been very therapeutic for me. I have OCD and before I started this deck, I was having a pretty significant relapse in disruptive obsessions and compulsions. I've built a lot of decks over the years but for some reason, my mind completely latched onto this deck in particular in a way I've never had before. This subsequently diverted a lot of that obsessive mental energy away from problematic and disruptive compulsions and focused it instead in a relatively harmless way around these cards. As a result, I have spent an ungodly amount of broken mental processing power over this pile of cardboard which would otherwise be spent cascading into other, more damaging ventures.

Because of this unique situation, it's hard to put into words just how important this deck has become to me.

This deck is slow, has very limited responses to threats, is easily defeated by any mass grave-hate, and generally doesn't win. And that's okay! This deck is for me. Each and every crusty piece of it has been obsessed over, and over, and over again. When I get the chance to play with it, no matter how badly I'm doing or how hard I get stomped, it truly gives me tremendous joy in a way no other deck or hobby has. I hope you enjoy it too :)


Updates Add

Hello! For those interested, here's another deep-dive into the newest updates to my favorite deck. :)

In order for this deck to run, it needs a very large creature mass. Non-creature's can gum-up the already clunky jank engine that this deck seeks to build. I think it is time to try to nudge the number of creatures up once again. In this deck, even a simple vanilla creature can oftentimes provide more long-term utility to the deck than many non-creature cards. Old-School black's power demands sacrifice – those small bodies lubricate the deck's game-plan in many different ways, whether it's by adding bursts of mana, temporarily boosting the power of other creatures, or simply staving off the insatiable hunger of some of the deck's biggest and most terrifying horrors. I have cut 2 such non-creatures in order to make room for this expansion in creatures:

Life Chisel is such a cool card! I've been trying to work with it for years now. Unfortunately, its timing restriction simply makes this card very difficult to use. Over all those years, I have never been able to use its effects in any meaningful way. I know there are scenarios that this could absolutely swing otherwise impossible situations, which makes slotting this out really difficult. While with the Chisel gone, I no longer have a way to gain life in the deck, I simply wasn't gaining life with it around either.

Head Games is a really neat card in the way it can provide politics in a game with 3 other players. Unfortunately, I just haven't been able to pull it into situations that highlight its power. I find myself often holding on to it throughout most of the game, trying to wait for the right change to use it. Those beats are very hard to find though and as such the game usually passes by those moments before I can use it.

Along with these 2 above, I also found I needed to rotate a couple creatures as well for other cards I want to try:

Withered Wretch while actually quite a powerful card in terms of its fairly restriction-free ability to remove problematic cards from out opponent's graveyards, I just find the design of the card kind of boring. While perhaps a petty aspect, I'm also just not a fan of the artwork for this particular deck. I've actually been looking for a replacement for this card for awhile – Eater of the Dead will fill a similar role in the deck and I think fits into the theme much better.

Banshee I love this card so much but my gods is it bad! I love that it can deal direct damage to help strike creatures, players, and even plansewalkers immediately; the problem is that this effect is incredibly costly! Not only is it a mana-intensive effect, it also comes at great cost to my life. Now with literally no way to gain life, this cost is even more relevant, especially because life can be used for so many other abilities in the deck.

Witch Engine is another one of those cards I really adore. That effect is so fascinating! Unfortunately, at least in my play group, its ability is almost never incentive enough for me to really curry any political bargains. It simply comes out way too late in the game for people to be interested in its value.

There are two different types of creatures that we will be filling in these new deck slot. The first are creatures that provide specific utility:

Krovikan Horror for this deck, Krovikan Horror is almost a complete upgrade from our old friend Banshee. It's incredibly useful as a direct damage engine that again allows us to target direct problem creatures, become a potential player-killer (given enough mana and bodies on board), and even as a mitigation tool against Planeswalkers (which is quite rare in old-school black). In addition, Horror provides a very useful sac outlet and even has a way to recur itself!

Eater of the Dead is such a unique creature! Is it the best graveyard control ever? Nope, not even a little bit. It does seem like quite a fun mechanic to try out though and can be very useful in specific situations. That art simply fits so well too! This was a card I had been wanting to add for quite a while but the cost was always a deterrent. With the recent dip in reserve list cards though, this little guy finally came down to a price I felt comfortable acquiring it at.

Ebon Praetor is just one of those amazingly weird cards that I have been looking at for a long, long time. I am so excited I finally found room for it in an actual deck. Let's be honest, its usability as a beater is restricted to just trample and will likely have a difficult time really packing in damage at all times through the game. Luckily it also serves as a potential sac outlet, though that utility is also quite restricted in its timing and usability. This is one of those cards that is absolutely out-classed by many other potential includes - a combination of its passable abilities and enigmatic artwork give it a pass, at least for now!

The second category of creature I am adding are evasive threats. Through many games with this deck, I find myself increasingly relying more and more on evasive creatures to actually carry damage to our opponents - here are 3 new flying baddies to help achieve some of the increased damage!

Hypnox is by far the biggest of all the new includes! Its mana value actually surpasses all other cards in my deck so far, its stat line is smaller only to my rotten soldier, Devouring Strossus. While most games will probably see Hypnox simply as an evasive beatstick, this deck definitely has the tools to hard-cast it for devastating value.

Catacomb Dragon is a bit of a wild card. This is another creature I want to try simply because of its very strange ability. At its most basic, a 4/4 flier is enough for it to serve some much needed evasive support!

Stalking Bloodsucker bolsters its evasion with a pretty functional discard outlet. While almost a strictly worse Skyshroud Vampire in this deck, the fact that Bloodsucker can provide extra utility by discarding cards on a pumpable, flying body is reason enough to give it a shot in the deck.

Awhile ago, I was discussing with my play group how cool Yawgmoth's Bargain is. One of the members actually suggested we try playing it in my deck as a way to help it keep up with their much stronger builds. If there was a deck out there that could use Bargain's ability in a fair way, it would be this little guy! We found that, while it is certainly strong, it does not come close to breaking anything. Since then, I sometimes slot it into the deck as a way to help give it a chance against vastly more powerful decks.

Because I already have this Rule-Zero sideboard, I decided to see if I could run another card I've always wanted to play with. I have been wishing that Balthor's ability could bring back Teeka's Dragon since the start of building this deck. Recently, my play group agreed that the card would certainly be fine to include – the Rule-Zero patch simply allows the Dragon to come back with all the other black creatures from the graveyard. I have yet to actually play with the card so its place in the deck at all may change, depending on if the effects it brings are worth the hassle.

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Revision 15 See all

(4 months ago)

+1 Shauku, Endbringer maybe
Top Ranked
Date added 2 years
Last updated 4 months

This deck is Commander / EDH legal.

Rarity (main - side)

36 - 0 Rares

13 - 0 Uncommons

16 - 0 Commons

Cards 100
Avg. CMC 4.22
Tokens Zombie 2/2 B w/ Haste
Folders i like dat, EDH, Cheap, Uncategorized, Old-School EDH, Commander, Black, sweet, Decks I'm Interested In, EDH, See all 38
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