Ebony Vs Ivory: Ebony Part 2

Ebony vs Ivory: Ebony Part 2 By James Stewart                       25/5/11

In my last article I discussed what I want Sheoldred to be all about and some of the problems I want her be able to solve. This week I will explore powerful interactions, instagib (definition) cards and how to achieve both in your deck without clunking.



It’s all the same in my book, just with different spelling. When looking for one of the above to include in a Commander Deck one should always take a few things in to account.

1.       How beneficial is it?

2.       How superfluous are the cards outside the combo?

3.       How resilient is the combo?

4.       How long will it take to set up?

These model questions are also constrained by the “Rules of Magic the Gathering: Commander” i.e. color restrictions, card numbers, banned cards etc.

For example:

A combo I have chosen to use is: Bitterblossom + Contamination

                                                                                         Well at least your mother will still love after you play this...

How beneficial is it? Well if they don’t play black or artifacts then they won’t have a lot of luck playing any spells until this combo is removed.

How superfluous are the cards outside the combo? I can always use tokens to sacrifice to my other sacrifice outlets (Phyrexian Tower, Phyrexian Plaguelord, Phyrexian Altar - I try to stay on theme) and Contamination can usually stick around long enough, without a perpetual creature engine to feed it, for me to gain the upper hand.

How resilient is the combo? If I can land the contamination first it will stop anyone who wants to break it unable to do so. On top of that we have access to Yawgmoth’s Will and Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed to piece it together from broken parts.

How long does it take to set up? Unlike white we don’t get the benefit of “Enchantment tutors”, however in place of them we get the more powerful tutors in Demonic, Vampiric and Diabolic Tutor. We also have the added benefit of some of the better, repeatable draw cards: Phyrexian Arena and Graveborn Muse.

I feel that this combo, although very powerful, is not completely busted. I would also like to take a moment to point out the flavor of Contamination in a Phyrexian Praetor deck.

Another, little known, interaction that will be included in the deck is between Rings of Brighthearth and fetch lands.


This is not a game winning combo but it does have next-to-no redundancy in it. The rings can be used with a variety of other powerful cards: Sorin Markov, Liliana Vess, Avatar of Woe, Helldozer, Visara, the Dreadful, Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed, Nighteyes the Desecrator, Chainer, Dementia Master, Dimir House Guard and many more. Meanwhile, fetch lands provide shuffling away from unwanted cards and land thinning for some irrelevant life.


 Instagib (or One Shot Kills or “The Man/Woman with the Golden Gun”)

James Bond: One bullet against my six? 
Francisco Scaramanga: I only need one, Mr. Bond.

Instagibs are a necessary part of any game no matter what people say. Having the ability to instagib is a great power and we all know what comes with great power!


Hatred becomes even more vicious when you plant it on your general having to pay an even smaller amount of life to get through.

Deck Consistency

Card drawing is a powerful tool that all Commander Decks will need to use if they hope to stand a chance in a large game. I prefer cards like Phyrexian Arena and Graveborn Muse over more powerful cards like Necropotence for two reasons:

1.       They fly under the radar and are therefore more likely to give you some long-term benefit.

2.       For Necropotence to give you more benefit than the other two cards you have to be spending at least 3 life per turn and even then you can’t cast those cards until your next turn.

Necropotence is still a card I will keep close at hand when designing any mono black commander deck for its real power.

Cards like Sensei’s Divining Top, Scroll Rack and (to a lesser extent) Crystal Ball are also great because they make each draw in your deck count. This means giving you what you want, when you want it.

Other cards to consider: Ancient Craving, Ambition's Cost, Night’s Whisper, Phyrexian Gargantua, Promise of Power, Seizan, Perverter of Truth, Sign in Blood and Skeletal Scrying.


Unlike my green counterparts I don’t get access to “free” ramp cards: Oracle of Mul Daya, Mana Reflection and Primeval Titan. This means I must use Mana-facts  to ramp up to seven as quickly as possible.

Cards like: Sol Ring, Mana Vault, Caged Sun, Gauntlet of Power, Extraplanar Lens, Mana Crypt, and Grim Monolith all get the nod. Cards like Magus of the Coffers, Cabal Coffers and Nirkana Revenant also get in by providing crazy amounts of mana from turn 5 onwards onwards. Also can’t forget Jens (Solemn Simulacrum) from the list.


In my last article I will go over the card choices not mentioned in these lists and you can see the final deck in all its glory!


Until next time, make sure you check out Alan’s Elesh Norn article available here.




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