Ebony vs Ivory Part 1

Ebony Vs Ivory – A Commander Deck-building Challenge By James Stewart

Ebony part 1

This is part one of my twin article with Alan. The General (or should I say Praetor) that I chose was Sheoldred, Whispering One.

First we should examine her stats lines and abilities:

Converted Mana Cost (CMC): 7

P/T: 6/6

Abilities: Swampwalk

At the beginning of your upkeep, return target creature card from your graveyard to the battlefield.

At the beginning of each opponent's upkeep, that player sacrifices a creature.


We can gather from this a couple of things:

1.       We won’t be playing our general early

2.       She is a big threat and has very little protection.

3.       She likes to control the board.


She feels to me like a very controlling general and it will be to our advantage to play to that element. She works amazingly well with cards like Contamination that not only stop my opponent from doing anything, but let me create an engine with a creature that has a “Enters (or leaves) the battlefield trigger”. We also need to bear in mind that Sheoldred is an evil Phyrexian Praetor. Therefore we must think like her! What would a crazy, spider-legged monster with aspirations for perpetuating the Phyrexian race and conquering the Multiverse do?

The answer? Kill everything with that is not hers and use her minions to maximum efficiency like a well-oiled machine of destruction!

Every good machine needs tutors to oil it up so I will start with the more “on theme” tutors. Diabolic Intent is a nice cheap tutor with minimal drawback that lets us get whatever we need. Corpse Connoisseur   is a tutor attached to a creature which means we can recur it with our general and can fill up our bin fast with nice fat creatures to re-animate. Now we can add the “Must-Have tutors” just to finish it off: Demonic Tutor and Vampiric Tutor. We will keep Buried Alive, Entomb, Beseech the Queen, Diabolic Tutor, Lilliana Vess and Demonic Collusion in mind for later.

I want this deck to be all about controlling what the opponent can and can’t do. This means attacking from several angles while protecting ourselves. Black has lots of ways of killing creatures, Planeswalkers, graveyards, hands, decks and lands, but no efficient way of hitting Artifacts and Enchantments.


Problem 1: Creatures

We have a lot of options for killing creatures. Luckily, since our general is also very good at it, we need to make sure we don’t overdo the amount of creature removal we

have.  Cards like Abyssal Gatekeeper and Fleshbag Marauder are excellent cards for the job because we can recur them with our General and search for them with Corpse Connoisseur. When it comes to doing anything as a general rule I prefer to use the creature that can do it because, not only are they easier to recur, they can also go on offense where a mass removal spell cannot. Other decent creature killers: Attrition, Boneshredder, Butcher of Malakir, Garza’s Assassin, Grave pact, Massacre Wurm, Phyrexian Plaguelord and Shriekmaw. Of course we will also need some mass removal in case we get overrun by creatures: Damnation, Decree of Pain, Havoc Demon and Oblivion Stone.

 Problem 2: Graveyards

Graveyards are the easiest thing to deal with when you play black, you just need to choose your poison. In this instance Nihil Spellbomb should be enough to stop crazy shenanigans from any deck. We also have a bunch of tutors to get this with necessary. If we do decide we need more Withered Wretch will be next on the list.

 Problem 3: Hands and decks

Another problem we can deal with without too much difficulty. Mindslicer and Sadistic Hypnotist are fantastic answers that we can recur to problems involving hands. I love the new card Praetors Grasp as an answer to deck-born problems. Not only can you exile pesky Ionas and other anti-black spells if they are not playing them you can hit their Sol ring and bring it to your team!

Problem 4: Lands

We already have Contamination in the bag so we may as well add Infernal Darkness just to double our chances of drawing it. Cards like Demonic hordes, Minion of Leshrac, Herald of Leshrac and Helldozer all seem to be Phyrexian-esk and all except the herald work well with Rings of Brighthearth which I intend to put in.

Problem 5: Artifacts and Enchantments

I have grouped our most difficult problems together because many of the answers work on both card types. Karn Liberated, Oblivion stone and Nevinyrral’s Disk all seem powerful enough answers to be included. Unfortunately we have very few great answers but Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre may also have a home with Sheoldred.

Misc Answers

I have left this last part of my first article for cards that can hit multiple problems at once over time or do something other than deal with problems as well. So first up is Death Cloud which can hit almost everything I need it to and is often more one-sided than it appears. Braids, Cabal Minion is the OP version of Sheoldred and can force a quick concession when combined with a token spitting Bitterblossom. Smokestack is similar to Braids but much more devastating and one-sided. Liliana Vess can hit an opponent’s hand pretty hard when given a couple of turns and follow it up by stealing all of your opponent’s creatures that she put there. When she isn’t doing that she will probably be searching for answer to a different problem.

My Auto-includes for any Mono-Black Commander deck

1.       Sol Ring

2.       Solemn Simulacrum

3.       Sensei’s Divining Top

4.       Cabal Coffers

5.       Magus of the Coffers

6.       Nirkana  Revenant

7.       Caged Sun

8.       Gauntlet of Power

9.       Phyrexian Arena/Graveborn Muse


That’s it for this article!

Come back for the next article where I deal with “Win Conditions” and “Card Selection” among other things,