Mono Black Devotion

mono black devotion

by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos

The new standard format has been around for almost 2 months now and Devotion decks are pretty much where it’s at. We all pretty much know about Mono Blue Devotion since the Pro Tour, but there’s another devotion deck that made a smaller splash on that Pro Tour. It’s gained quite a bit of popularity and it’s not that expensive to assemble. I would pretty much recommend it to anyone looking to build a Standard deck since it will probably be a good archetype for pretty much most of Standard without necessarily needing any new cards (aside from a mass removal spell) to be released in the rest of Theros block.

Mono Black Devotion

Standard Format


Creatures: 15

Desecration Demon
Erebos, God of the Dead
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Nightveil Specter
Pack Rat

Instants: 10

4 Devour Flesh
2 Doom Blade
4 Hero’s Downfall

Sorceries: 4

4 Thoughtseize

Enchantments: 6

4 x Underworld Connections
2 x Whip of Erebos

 





Lands: 25


4 Mutavault
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
16 Swamp
4 Temple of Deceit


Sideboard


1 Dark Betrayal
2 Duress
1 Illness in the Ranks
3 Lifebane Zombie
2 Notion Thief
2 Pharika’s Cure
1 Pithing Needle
2 Ratchet Bomb
1 Ultimate Price

The first thing you will notice is the amount of removal this deck packs. It actually seems pretty excessive, does it not? Well there are a few reasons for it.

Hero’s Downfall

hero's downfallIf 300 had minotaurs …

This spell is definitely as good as advertised. It destroys pretty much any creature as well as chipping in against pesky planeswalkers. If you are aware that your opponent is playing some powerful planeswalkers, you’ll probably want to save this removal spell for them and endure the pain of whatever creature is making you miserable. I too often see players burning through their removal spells like they had a gazillion of them in their decks. It’s hard to inform them that this is a bad thing – especially if they end up winning their game. If all that’s attacking you is a lowly Elvish Mystic you probably won’t mind taking one in order to destroy a Polukranos that your opponent is likely to cast shortly after. It’s all about the read you get on your opponent and how you can anticipate plays. This is obviously something that is acquired over some time with much experience and knowledge of the format you are playing.

For those of you that are not 100% percent familiar with how planeswalker abilites work, you will probably only get the destroy a planeswalker after it has activated one of its abilites first.

Here’s an example:

hero's downfall bigImagine that hoof a little lower … Ouch!

You are holding a Hero’s Downfall with appropriate untapped mana and your opponent just cast Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. He declares that he will be activating Elspeth’s +1 ability in order to make 3 1/1 Soldier tokens. You choose to respond with a Hero’s Downfall. You will be destroying the much hated planeswalker but its ability will still be lingering on the stack waiting to resolve.

I know that newer players actually have an easier time understanding this than older ones, but once you remove the source of an activated or triggered ability – the ability will still resolve afterwards. I say this because I play pretty much everywhere around my area (Montreal, Canada) and see constant arguments about this. It’s usually an older grizzled veteran arguing with someone younger. I sometimes get asked for my thoughts/rulings which I provide much to the chagrin of the player who is wrong.

The above example can also be used when deciding your next course of action if it were another planeswalker. Meet Jace, Architect of Thought. He’s single, smart and knows his way around Ravnica …. uh, I mean he’s very annoying to deal with when he’s on your opponent’s end of the battlefield.

jace architectHe sure does get around

Your opponent just cast a Jace, Architect of Thought and you have a Nightveil Specter in play plus a bunch of lands and one card in hand (Hero’s Downfall). He activates the -2 ability on Jace revealing 2 lands and an Aetherling. You make two piles and he chooses the Aetherling pile. Knowing that he can only realistically cast Aetherling on turn 7 and this being his Turn 5, what is your course of action? Do you just burn the Hero’s Downfall now or simply finish Jace off with Nightveil Specter, thus forgoing the ability of Nightveil Specter (since it actually needs to damage a player)?

To many of you the answer is simple: just attack Jace with Nightveil Specter and ignore whatever possible 1 mana (Azorius-colored) solution your opponent may or may not have. In the medium to long run you probably made the right call, but newer players are more impulsive and will probably not want to take any chance on Jace staying in play. They’ll just use Hero’s Downfall because they think they have ‘no choice’. I know the example is a little oversimplified but you get the point, I hope. A big part of the game is all about choices whether game-changing or not. What land to play first, when to cast Thoughtseize,etc all involve you making an educated guess or strong technical play. On turn 1 versus an Azorius control deck you probably want to play a Mutavault to start things off, knowing that you can start attacking him as of turn 2. You probably don’t want to play a Swamp into a Thoughtseize since he won’t really be casting much up until turn 3 anyways. The opposite is probably true versus a Red/Green Devotion deck. You can’t just blindly play the same way regardless of the matchup. Of course if it’s Game 1 and you have no idea what your opponent is playing then by all means consider the turn 1 Thoughtseize play as it will give some much much needed information as well as getting rid of their best/most threatening card in hand.

Thoughtseize

thoughtseize1Looks like something just blew up in Socrates’ face 

While technically not a removal spell, you can still view it as one and sometime even more like a counterspell since it more or less prevents your opponent’s card from resolving. It’s sort of like a proactive counterspell. On the surface, Thoughtseize is pretty basic: you cast it as soon as you can and get rid of your opponent’s best card or whatever card you would allow him to deal with your threats. Sometimes it’s a card-drawing spell, planeswalker, big creature or another Thoughtseize. It’s really always varied and the card is trickier to cast than you think.

thoughtseize2Most people prefer the original artwork

The thing with discard spells is that they lose their effectiveness later in the game where players tend to have less cards in hand. It’s also probably a really bad top deck past a certain turn as well. This is the cast most of the time, but it’s not set in stone. As I said before, you would want to hold onto it versus a control deck so as to hit a more relevant card later on. If you are afraid of a Sphinx’s Revelation then wait to cast it on turn 4 or 5 since the chances of your opponent having it in hand is slightly increased. They would have drawn 3-5 extra cards at that point. If your opponent is playing an Esper deck, which also runs Thoughtseize, it becomes a little more difficult to figure out when you have to cast it. Do you want to prevent them from casting their Thoughtseize or do you have enough gas in hand to not care if they do. Do you think they’ll just Thoughtseize your Thoughtseize ?

If you wait too long, maybe you’re going to cast it only to see that your opponent was holding a handful of lands or even worse:

loxodon smiterSucks to be you

A lot of times, especially against Red decks, you will probably side out some amount of Thoughtseizes. You don’t want to be damaging yourself since it will just cut down the amount of damage your opponent has to deal you to win. It’s not entirely bad against them, but you probably don’t want to draw more than 1 early on. You can still make them discard something like a Boros Reckoner or a Fanatic of Mogis.

Enough about disruption for now, let’s see how the deck eventually wins:

Creatures

Gray Merchant of Asphodel

gray merchantWhat a cute little zombie !

This little cute is not from the Walking DeadHe usually has a big impact on most games and usually drains for about 8-10 life which is extremely significant. Of course your opponent can actually destroy him in response thus lowering the life drain by 2. The great thing is that he also allows you to stabilize by giving you a half decent blocker as well. Say you were getting beaten down by some Lotleth Trolls or Ash Zealots or even Fleecemane Lions (with your opponent stuck at 4 mana). Gray Merchant of Asphodel can come down on turn 5 and recoup some lost life and stem the bleeding. Sure, often times he will just chump block something but that’s fine because he can also gain us more life via Whip of Erebos (both by lifelinking and being reanimated). I have had situations where I needed to Hero’s Downfall my own Gray Merchant only to reanimate it with Whip of Erebos causing a massive game-winning life swing.

This playful zombie is also the main reason we want to maximize on our black permanents. Underworld Connections or Nightveil Specter is most likely than not going to be cast on turns 3-4. Both of these cards are somewhat hard to remove permanents and they stick around long enough to make our opponent miserable. Nightveil Specter is fairly immune to a lot of commonly played removal spells (Doom Blade, Ultimate Price, etc.) Of course he gets hit by Detention Sphere, Hero’s Downfall, Supreme Verdict, Lightning Strike but that pretty much gets anything out of the way. It’s a shame that it’s loss of life and not ‘deals damage’ because that would have really been wrong with the Whip of Erebos.

Nightveil Specter

nigthveil specterAt one point you couldn’t even give these away

As seen in the Mono Blue Devotion deck, this little flyer is extremely good. It’s not for nothing that his selling price skyrocketed from 50 cents to almost 10 dollars. I like to think that my original assessment of it was more or less decent. I never dismissed it as a junk rare or said it was unplayable. I would love to say that I traded heavily for it and have infinite copies of this stocked up in a closet somewhere but that is not the case.

Nightveil Specter is just really good right now. It can exile opposing lands thus helping you hit your land drops each turn to the point where you can start casting pretty much anything from under it. I enjoy it against control decks when you start taking their counterspells from them (since you also have a smallish blue splash thanks to Temple of Deceit). It’s worded differently than Daxos, since it says ‘play’ and not ‘cast’. I mention this because the Daxos thing came up a lot in all the Theros pre-releases I played in/judged. Originally the Mono Black deck ran 4 main deck Lifebane Zombies but Nightveil Specter is clearly better at the moment. The zombies have been relegated to the sideboard. To be honest though, I have to say that sometimes you really hate having 4 Mutavaults in the deck because you will draw them early on and have problems casting early Nightveil Specters. It’s a small price to pay to run 2 of the best cards in Standard though.

Desecration Demon

desecration demonIt’s a win/win situation

This is another Nightveil Specter type of card. It was definitely not a bulk rare though, but it was like 2-3 dollars. Some fringe Golgari control decks emerged towards the end of Inninstrad/Return to Ravnica Standard which brought its value up quite a bit. I’m not sure many people would have guessed it would one day be worth 10-15$. I surely did not. Most viewed it as a borderline playable card with no home. I remember thinking Abyssal Persecutor was pretty good back in Zendikar block, but Desecration Demon is probably the best Juzam Djinn ‘reprint’.

The original list ran 4 Desecration Demons , but with cards like Elspeth, Sun’s Champion it becomes slightly less good. This is why it’s fine to just run 3 at the moment. It, like Nightveil Specter is somewhat harder to get rid of than your average creature. It gets hit by Ultimate Price but not Abrupt Decay (which hits Nightveil Specter). Desecration Demon is also way out of range of pretty much all played burn spells. If your opponent is willing to trade two Lightning Strikes to kill it then that’s fine by us. That’s six less damage we have to worry about from an aggro deck. He also contributes 2 black mana to our all-important ‘devotion to black’ count.

Pack Rat

pack ratLooks just like the Pack Rat token !

Wait! this isn’t Return to Ravnica limited, is it? Nope, it’s just that Pack Rat has now become constructed playable. One of the main reasons being that the tokens it creates are actual copies. This means that they have a mana cost and everything, which contributes to our devotion count. Also, since we usually draw an extra card each turn with Underworld Connections the Rat is just that much better. It’s great to pitch extra lands to it but there’s even more. You can discard a Gray Merchant of Asphodel to Pack Rat if you fear something like a Syncopate counter (since it would exile the Pack Rat). If you happen to have a Whip of Erebos in play then you can discard it at the end of your opponent’s turn and return it to the battlefield with the Whip on your turn. This basically makes for an ‘uncounterable’ Gray Merchant. You even get to haste attack with it in order to really rub it into your opponent’s face.

Against decks like Selesnya Aggro and company, the Pack Rat is at its finest. Their removal suite is almost non-existent. You don’t even care if your Pack Rat gets within Selesnya Charm range because you will probably have 4 other Pack Rats in play. That’s a good thing. Another small detail is what happens when we have this card in play:

mutavaultIs there anything it can’t do?

Mutavault is just an awesome inclusion in M14. It messes up our opponen’ts combat math when paired with Pack Rat (yes, it counts as a rat too). It basically reads as:

1: +1/+1 to all Pack Rats in play.

Of course if you have to cast Pack Rat and are worried about removal you can always wait until turn 5 so that you can activate it and get another copy of itself. In that same vein, you can always bring it back with Whip of Erebos if it got destroyed by something like a Supreme Verdict or whatnot. Eventhough the original card will be exiled at end of turn you will get an opportunity to discard a card to make a Pack Rat token and keep the party going. Detention Sphere might sometimes ruin your day though, but if you think it’s worth it … you can always destroy your Pack Rat in response if there is another copy in play (and most importantly, if it’s worth it to do so). The target of Detention Sphere won’t be there when its ability to exile resolves and your other Pack Rats will be safe.

Card Advantage

Let’s go with the simple definition for this: drawing more cards than our opponent. +1’ing ourselves. One particular card in this deck does it (well, two actually).

underworld connectionsSomewhat of a Phyrexian Arena

I recall suggesting that many people jump on this card before Theros was released and I for one am glad I did. From a monetary standpoint it didn’t really jump much in value but they are super easy to trade. My reasoning for its value jump was not exactly what it ended up being. I thought it would be bolstered by some Theros ‘enchantment matters’ sub-theme but that was not the case. Nope, it’s just because of good old Mono Black. For once the people that ‘foretold’ of the resurgence of mono black decks were correct (after about oh, fifteen or so times of being wrong?)

“Mono Black is back in Standard!” – Some Guy at the release of some recent set

You are basically drawing an extra card a turn at the cost of 1 life and one mana. Technically it doesn’t cost mana but in reality it does, since you have to tap your enchanted land to activate Underworld Connections. Casting this on turn 3 will not immediately net us one card and thus make it worthless if our opponent manages to Detention Sphere, Golgari Charm or Abrupt Decay it on their following turn. It’s sort of important that if we are going to waste a card like this early on we at least get to cycle it in case it gets dealt with. On turn 3 you probably want to be casting a Nightveil Specter instead anyhow. Of course there are times when that is not feasible as we discussed above due to the triple black mana requirement. Most of the time you should be fine though.

Dropping one of these early on against another control deck will grant us a ridiculous advantage. If you draw multiple Hero’s Downfalls at this point – feel free to burn them on whatever you see fit (just kidding!). A lot of the time we will just be making extra Pack Rats or using Underworld Connections to draw our Gray Merchants in order to end the game. This card is almost always sided out against the mono red decks though, since we basically waste a turn doing not much against them AND we lose life. That is not a good combination of things to be doing against that particular archetype.

Erebos, God of the Dead

erebos god of the deadI prefer Erebos, God of the Greedy

Contrary to Thassa, God of the Sea we don’t want to be drawing this guy all the time. He’s either really good or just terrible. The great thing about him is that his static ability half-nullifies Sphinx’s Revelation and the drawback of Devour Flesh. He’s obviously really good in the mirror match. The older deck list even ran one copy of Erebos in their sideboard because of that. He randomly has a really high toughness thus making him the ‘toughest’ of the five gods. This is sometimes really good since it minimizes trample damage, though there is not much trample to be had these days.

The life payment on the card draw ability is the same as Greed but with an extra colorless mana tacked onto it. It’s sometimes necessary to use when you’re really digging for that hard to find Gray Merchant to finish your opponent off. When you’re attacking with him you’re probably winning or you might just be doing it to gain enough life to survive (with Erebos’s Whip out). Just like all the other gods, he is very vulnerable to Selesnya Charm (though you probably won’t encounter much of those).

On a side note, I have seen many people play this guy as their Commander and he seems to be pretty insane since creature removal won’t work on him early on. Since you start games at 40 life, his card-drawing ability is rather great. I actually run one in my totally random Teysa Commander deck as well as a Heliod, God of the Sun just for laughs. I try to get devotion with some black and white enchantments but the overall deck is very underpowered. Most of the time making them into creatures is worse.

Side In, Side Out

Finally we have what seems to be a very strange sideboard. I must admit that the Notion Thieves are my touch, so you might just want to add an extra Duress and Doom Blade or Pharika’s Cure instead of those. I wanted to make the opponent second guess the blue mana from Temple of Deceit. Most people will just assume it might as well be a Temple of Silence and that it’s purely for Scrying purposes. That’s pretty much correct, but I like the ‘spiciness’ of having Notion Thief in the sideboard versus Blue/White and Esper decks. Sometimes you get to that point where no matter how many Duress or Thoughtseizes you resolve against them they get that one topdecked Sphinx’s Revelation that just puts them back in the game. Notion Thief somewhat takes care of that. With four Temple of Deceit and some card draw, you get to eventually be able to cast a Notion Thief. It’s fine if it’s late game because their game-breaking Sphinx’s Revelation will also be late game.

notion thiefJust try it

Give Notion Thief a try, you might end up liking it. It’ also not too bad in the mirror match since it nullifies their Underworld Connections (though it dies to their Dark Betrayal and Hero’s Downfall). I would pretty much obviously take out a couple of Doom Blades for it.

Lifebane Zombie is there for the odd Boros Reckoner, Loxodon Smiter, Polukranos and such. I used to prefer running it over Nightveil Specter maindeck since it was easier on the mana and could Intimidate its way past would-be blockers to kill planeswalkers like Elspeth (since it also doesn’t die to the -3 ability on Elspeth). It can even 2 for 1 Green or White decks if it trades with one of their in play creatures as well. I usually take out a couple of Nightveils to fit in the Lifebanes.

Pharika’s Cure is mostly for mono red decks which usually demolish mono black. I would run four if your local metagame is infested with Red aggro decks. It deals with early threats like Ash Zealot, Rakdos Cackler and the like. You can also use it on one of your own creatures in desperate times to gain some life if your opponent has no creatures to speak of. A lot of mono black decks just don’t run this card at all and ignore the mono red matchup since it’s already so bad for this deck.

Illness in the Ranks is there to shore up our weakness against tokens, namely 1/1 soldier tokens created by Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. It also contributes to the ‘Mono Black Devotion Fund’ which can make a small difference (every black mana counts). Other tokens might come from Voice of Resurgence, Hammer of Purphoros, Assemble the Legion, Heliod, Master of Waves, Precinct Captain or even opposing Pack Rats. That’s the more likely sources but there are quite a few more (Trading Post, Vraska, Xenagos). It’s not terrible but we don’t want to waste our sideboard slots on more than one.

Duress is obviously there against the Blue/X control decks since it basically one for one’s their best noncreature card in hand (of which there are usually many). You might be kicking yourself if you used up a Thoughtseize earlier on and Duress them with an Aetherling in their hand.

Finally, the Ratchet Bombs are somewhat of a catch all solution to things like tokens, Detention Spheres and other bothersome permanents. This deck has a lot of trouble killing stuff when there are too many opposing permanents on the battlefield at once. It would of course greatly benefit from a Damnation or Mutilate kind of spell in the future, but for now other options include:

A) Splashing White for Merciless Eviction. Costs too much but can get rid of other permanents that mono black has problems dealing with (artifacts and enchantments).

B) Splashing Green for Vraska, Putrefy, Abrupt Decay and Golgari Charm. The problem is figuring out which and aside from Golgari Charm, the rest don’t do the mass removal thing.

C) Not Splashing, not caring and just play good old Mono Black Devotion.

I’m pretty sure you’ve figured out that I just like option C for the moment since the other ones are just plain inefficient or awkward.

Olivia’s Coven

olivias coven

by John Tuvida

Let me just say this once and get it out of my system: I LOVE vampires!

twilight thingyUh….maybe not these ones

They were always an interest I had, both drawing my attention and terrifying me as I grew up. So when I picked up Magic: the Gathering  a little over a year ago and learned of all the formats available in the game, I steadily became interested in building a Commander deck around one of my favourite vamps: Olivia Voldaren. But rather than build a deck with my best black and red cards in it, I opted to build a Commander deck that was vampire themed, a Vampire Tribal deck if you will. A deck that adhered to the lore of the vampires, where they stripped their opponents of resolve and resources and then bled them dry. Building this deck took several months of research online and was also slow going due to not having a huge budget. But as time passed, the deck became stronger … so much to the point that amongst my friends I’m usually the first one they move to take out of the game. While I believe this deck can still become much stronger with some tweaks and dropping more cash into it, the deck is already fun to play and plays to the vampire theme pretty faithfully. … did I mention I LOVE vampires?

 

true blood*Sigh*

The Commander

Olivia Voldaren

olivia voldarenNow that’s what I’m talking about!

Choosing Olivia as your commander does mean she’s going to be the target of removal or counterspells (unless someone else is playing a lower-costing and/or more annoying commander… Zur comes to mind). For me, it was a no-brainer with the theme I was developing. Afterall, best way to kill off a coven is to slay the leader right? Her first ability can be abused to the point where if she goes uncontested, your opponents will have to deal with a flying commander who could be swinging for a ton of commander damage (I’ve actually gotten her up to 25 power once). Biting opponents’ creatures also leaves them open to Olivia’s second ability where she beckons them to cross over to the dark side… or in this case, your side of the field. Of course, these two abilities don’t normally warrant concern from most commander players, but an Olivia wearing a Basilisk Collar or swinging a Quietus Spike is definitely cringe-worthy. Granting the vampire queen deathtouch turns her first ability from a simple ping to a shotgun blast to the face! Of course, that’s IF your opponents let Olivia live long enough to go bat s*it crazy. Luckily for her, she’s bringing some backup to the battle.

Olivia’s Coven

There are 25 creatures in this deck, and all but one are vampires. Let’s see what each creature brings to the party:

Beatsticks
Baron Sengir
Chancellor of the Dross
Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief
Falkenrath Aristocrat
Falkenrath Mauraders
Malakir Bloodwitch
Mirri the Cursed
Necropolis Regent
Sengir Vampire
Vampire Nighthawk

Olivia’s Elite Guard

The big guns of the coven. Basically, the guys that will beat faces in. Amongst these vampires, those who do not grow in strength carry other nasty abilities.

Baron Sengir
Sengir Vampire

Mirri the Cursed

mirri the cursedCould have been the Commander if the deck was mono-black

 

They all grow larger when they kill (Baron Sengir and Sengir Vampire) or deal damage to opposing creatures (Mirri the Cursed). This makes them effective blockers that grow bigger and bigger until they start flying in for big damage. Necropolis Regent adds to this growth by placing +1/+1 counters onto creatures that deal damage to players. Falkenrath Marauders grows on its own, but also has haste, so it can fly in immediately. Chancellor of the Dross is a HUGE Flying Lifelink creature at 6/6, but having him in your opening hand will immediately strip 3 life from each opponent and give it to you at the start of the game (probably painting a target on your forehead from the get go). Rounding out the lineup are big vampires with additional abilities. Falkenrath Aristocrat, another one of my favourite vampires, is a 4/1 flying haste creature that can be difficult to kill when she has friends around. Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief has the ability to grow bigger while simultaneously shrinking (and potentially killing) another creature. Malakir Bloodwitch, while being pro-white, can steal life from other players. With a big enough of a party of vampires and enough opponents, the Bloodwitch can net you a ton of life points. And finally, Vampire Nighthawk‘s versatility as an attacker or blocker comes from his built-in Deathtouch ability.

 

vampire nighthawkGood enough for the old Standard means good enough for Commander

 

Utility and Removal

Sangromancer
Stromkirk Captain
Vampire Hexmage
Captivating Vampire
Bloodhusk Ritualist
Blood Seeker
Pawn of Ulamog
Bloodlord of Vaasgoth
Rakish Heir
Butcher of Malakir
Grul Draz Assassin
Gatekeeper of Malakir
Bloodline Keeper
Anowon, The Ruin Sage

 

anowonAlso a potential mono-black Commander

After the Elite Guard comes the Acolytes, and while smaller than their bigger and more powerful brethren, these vampires provide the Elites with nasty bonuses versus their enemies. Bloodline Keeper in its flipped state, Lord of Lineage, continues to pump other vampires while being able to drop more vampires every turn with a simple tap. Then there’s Rakish Heir, who applies Falkenrath Maurauder’s ability to ALL vampires you control. Bloodlord of Vaasgoth pumps himself via his Bloodthirst 3, but also bestows Bloodthirst 3 to other vampires coming into play. And to round out pumpers, Stromkirk Captain and Captivating Vampire both give other vampires +1/+1, while the Stromkirk Captain has the added bonus of granting First Strike to other vamps. Captivating Vampire along with four other bloodsuckers can steal an opponent’s creature.

 

captivating vampireOne of the cooler Tribal lord abilities

 

Butcher of Malakir, Guul Draz Assassin, Gatekeeper of Malakir and Anowon the Ruin Sage all provide varying levels of creature removal. Sangromancer and Blood Seeker both drain life from opponents when they try to play cards or lose cards. Rounding out the Acolytes is Pawn of Ulamog, who turns creatures you control into mana-producing Eldrazi tokens when they die(ensuring their demise was not in vain). Vampire Hexmage can sacrifice itself to remove all counters from a target permanent, perfect for dealing with cards that need quest counters and planeswalkers. And finally, Bloodhusk Ritualist‘s kicker can strip an opponent of their hand if you have mana to burn.

 

vampire hexmageShe is saddened to learn that there is no Dark Depths in this deck

 

Non-Vampire Creatures

Dread

 

dreadThat’s right! any damage

The last creature to discuss is that one sole creature who is not a vampire: Dread. Think of this elemental incarnation as a strange pet of Olivia‘s that hangs out in Voldaren Manor. With Fear built in and 6/6 stats, it’s already a threat on the board. But when it ALSO says “whenever a creature deals damage to you, destroy it” and “if its destroyed, shuffle it back into its owner’s library”, its quite clear that Olivia‘s idea of a pet is NOT a fluffy little chihuahua named Bubbles. Dread makes your opponents think a little more before sending attacks your way, whether or not Dread is tapped. Definitely something you’d want to have around when other creatures start swinging.

Sorceries/Instants

Removal 

Disaster Radius
Sever the Bloodline
Mutilate
Black Sun’s Zenith
Life’s Finale
Wrecking Ball
Bonfire of the Damned
Terminate
Blasphemous Act

 

sever the bloodlineVampire-flavored Removal

 

Utility

Shattering Pulse
Curse of the Cabal
Mana Geyser
Syphon Mind
Exsanguinate
Blood Tribute
Diabolic Tutor
Beeseech the Queen
Torrent of Souls
Stitch Together

The removal package probably doesn’t need any explaination, so I’ll skip over describing any of them as their purpose is simply to blow stuff up. The same applies to the mana ramp spells, card draw spells, revival and tutors. Let’s look at some of the utility spells and what they add to the deck’s flavor.

Shattering Pulse can destroy artifacts for one red and one colorless, but you can buyback it for and additional three mana. Pretty useful with the amount of artifacts that show up in a common game of Commander. Curse of the Cabal will put your opponents into a bit of a bind, forcing one of them to sacrifice their permanents in one of two ways. The first is playing it for its suspend cost and each opponent has the option during their upkeep to sacrifice a permanent to place two more suspend counters onto it. Of course, some players may opt to just let it resovle, which leads to its actual ability of forcing a player to sacrifice half their permanents! This can also be done by hardcasting it, which would be more of a late game play but the option to suspend its effect adds the ticking time bomb feel to it. That is definitely pretty cool.What vampire themed deck wouldn’t be complete without life-draining spells? Firing off a huge Exsanguinate will definitely save you and annoy your opponents to no end. The second of these life-draining spells is Blood Tribute, which can slice an opponent’s life in half with the option of kicking it by tapping a vampire you control. Doing so adds the life your opponent lost to YOUR life total! Why is this relevant? Well, that’s what the enchantments in this deck are for… and where the real fun begins.

 

blood tributeWorth every penny!

Enchantments

Exquisite Blood
Sanguine Bond
Bloodchief Ascension
Greed
Painful Quandry

 

Of the five enchantments, four of these cards are part of some combo that will cause massive chaos in any game you play. These four cards are the reason I become a target amongst my circle of friends when we sit down for a game of Commander. Let’s focus on Exquisite Blood and Sanguine Bond. Each card does the same thing, but each in a different order. This makes certain attacks and plays much more deadly. For example, remember when I mentioned Blood Tribute? Having Sanguine Bond out while kicking it won’t just slice an opponent’s life in half, it will outright kill them! Sanguine Bond in this deck is absolutely brutal as many of the creatures already have lifelink or have abilities that gain you life. But if both Sanguine Bond and Exquisite Blood are ever on the table at the same time and nothing could be done about either enchantment, the game is over. The same effect but different order of those drain and gain abilities means when either one fires off, the other one will as soon as the first enchanment resolves, triggering an infinite loop as they go back and forth. And as is the case in this deck, sometimes you don’t have to do anything to fire off the combo, as some effects that trigger life gain for you or losing life for an opponent are static… they WILL happen regardless of what they do. Bloodchief Ascension can trigger this loop when its active, but it can also cause havoc just by being out. With all the removal and discards this deck is packing between its spells and creatures, your opponents are often bled out and wondering what went wrong. And if Painful Quandry is active on the board, opponents must then choose between losing life or discarding everytime they play anything. There are so many ways to play these enchantments out, and the ones mentioned are my favourite scenarios. They definitely have the vampire’s theme of sucking the life out others while sustaining your own, and are a key reason I enjoy playing this deck so much.

Artifacts

blade of the bloodchiefIf Darth Maul was a vampire he’d be swinging this

Champion’s Helm
Blade of the Bloodchief
Gorgon Flail
Quietus Spike
Basilisk Collar
Heartstone
Vesner’s Journal
Swiftfoot Boots
Sword of Feast and Famine
Caged Sun
Coldsteel Heart
Extraplanar Lens
Rakdos Signet
Sol Ring

 

sol ringOne ring to rule them all?

In the artifacts department, the coven has plenty of bright and shiny things to play with. This deck only runs 35 lands which means sometimes you need a little ramp and that’s where Caged Sun and Extraplanar Lens come in. All equipments in this deck can make any one vampire a powerhouse, but even more so when Olivia is wearing them. The trio of Gorgon Flail, Quietus Spike and Basilisk Collar in particular need mention here. All three of these grant Deathtouch to an equipped creature and, as I mentioned before, Deathtouch on Olivia is a pretty scary thing. Things get even more dicey when Olivia has Heartstone out as it reduces the cost of activated abilities by one. This means that to see how many times Olivia can bite comes down simply count how red mana sources you have. Lastly, the inclusion of Venser’s Journal is yet another way of gaining life, potentially triggering Sanguine Bond.

Lands

12 x Swamps
7 x Mountains
ShadowBlood Ridge
Strip Mine
Vivid Crag
Lavaclaw Reaches
Rakdos Guildgate
Dragonskull Summit
Rakdos Carnarium
Graven Cairns
Command Tower
Akoum Refuge
Rogue’s Passage
Blackcleave Cliffs
Bojuka Bog
Kher Keep
Auntie’s Hovel
Evolving Wilds

 

command towerWhat would a Commander deck be without it?

As I mentioned before, there are only 35 lands in the deck. Many lands tap for both red and black mana, but most of them come into play tapped. While most of the deck is black, having many red sources means Olivia should never have trouble biting creatures, which is one way of justifying all of these ‘enter the battlefield tapped’ lands. The lands that bear mentioning here, however, are Kher Keep and Rogue’s Passage. Kher Keep will be a source of tokens that you could use for blockers, tributes or even sacrifice fodder. Falkenrath Aristocrat will have a source to keep herself alive, while Olivia herself will always have something to ping and keep growing. Rogue’s Passage is here to take any big creature and send it in unopposed. Sure the deck has mostly flying attackers, but sometimes you want to make sure the hit gets through (Eespecially if you managed to make a giant Olivia Voldaren). So what’s next for Olivia and her coven of vampires? Probably some changes and additions now that Theros has been released. I also would like to add Sorin Markov to this deck, as he is THE vampire planeswalker and haven’t gotten my hands on him yet. As I have said before: I love vampire lore, and this deck is truly a guilty pleasure to play when I have Commander games with my friends. If you enjoy tribal decks with a theme then give this deck a spin. It may lack a lot of the force behind other great Commander decks, but its definitely a fun way to play. Having fun with the game is pretty much why I picked up Magic a year ago in the first place.

Happy gaming people!

 

sorin markov image

Zirilan of the Claw EDH

dragon apocalypse

by Francis Jodoin

This week i’m going to share my most infamous Commander deck. It is my oldest deck and I never got tired of playing it. The deck’s goal is to either win by beating face with dragons, Timmy-style or set up a combo win, Johnny-style.

Zirilan of the Claw

Commander Format


Creatures: 19

1 Balefire Dragon
1 Bogardan Hellkite
1 Dragon Tyrant
1 Fire Dragon
1 Flameblast Dragon
1 Hellkite Charger
1 Hellkite Tyrant
1 Hoarding Dragon
1 Hoard-Smelter Dragon
1 Moonveil Dragon
1 Rimescale Dragon
1 Ryusei, the Falling Star
1 Scourge of Kher Ridges
1 Steel Hellkite
1 Thunder Dragon
1 Thundermaw Hellkite
1 Utvara Hellkite
1 Worldgorger Dragon
1 Zirilan of the Claw

Instants: 3

1 Chaos Warp
1 Fault Line
1 Starstorm

Sorceries: 9

1 Apocalypse
1 Blasphemous Act
1 Chain Reaction
1 Jokulhaups
1 Mizzium Mortars
1 Pillage
1 Ruination
1 Shattering Spree
1 Vandalblast

 





Artifacts: 26
1 Caged Sun
1 Champion’s Helm
1 Coalition Relic
1 Conjurer’s Closet
1 Everflowing Chalice
1 Expedition Map
1 Extraplanar Lens
1 Gauntlet of Power
1 Gilded Lotus
1 Illusionist’s Bracers
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Mind Stone
1 Mycosynth Lattice
1 Quicksilver Amulet
1 Rings of Brightheart
1 Scroll Rack
1 Sensei’s Divining Top
1 Sol Ring
1 Strionic Resonator
1 Sundial of the Infinite
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Synod Sanctum
1 Tawnos’ Coffin
1 Thran Dynamo
1 Wayfarer’s Bauble
1 Worn Powerstone

Enchantments: 3

1 Crucible of Fire
1 Glacial Crevasses
1 Repercussion

Planeswalkers: 1

1 Koth of the Hammer

Lands: 38

1 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
1 Homeward Path
1 Mouth of Ronom
1 Scrying Sheets
33 Snow-Covered Mountain
1 Thawing Glaciers

 

zirilanWith updated text comes great responsibility

The first thing i want to say about this deck is that it may seem strange. You must ignore Zirilan’s actual text on the card. Wait, what… ? That’s right! Magic is a game that evolved through its history and some old way of phrasing things don’t make sense in modern MTG language. That’s why we must always look at the “Oracle” text, the official text that is enforced by DCI rulings. So when you read Zirilan’s text, you should read:

1RR Tap: Search your library for a Dragon permanent card and put that card onto the battlefield. Then shuffle your library. That Dragon gains haste until end of turn. Exile it at the beginning of the next end step.

That changes everything!

This means that you can summon a dragon during your opponent’s end step (in multiplayer, you do this at the end step of the opponent who is last to play before your turn) and have it stick around until YOUR end step because the trigger happens “at the beginning of the next end step”. This allows you to have 2 dragons on the field on your turn, the one you summoned the turn before and the one you summon on your turn. This also allows you to save the 3 mana activation cost so you can use all your mana on your chosen dragon. As you play the deck you will learn to appreciate the options this most recent wording of the card allows.

The beatstick dragons

moonveil dragonShivan Dragon your whole team

Not much to say about them as they are simply pure raw power. You’ll want to summon Utvara Hellkite at the end of your opponent’s turn so you can summon another dragon on your turn, making 2 dragon tokens. If you can search for and activate Hellkite Charger on your turn you’ll end up with quite a few tokens! And then with all these tokens you can finish the job with Moonveil Dragon. Dragon Tyrant is used for one-shoting a single player. With all the mana available to you this should be easy to do mid-late game.

The removal dragons

steel hellkiteEngineered Explosives Dragon!

Being able to tutor for removal is pretty powerful. With these dragons you can get rid of most mid-sized creatures your opponents can put on the battlefield. Fire Dragon can kill most things late game (again, ignore the text and look at the Oracle wording, the “from your hand” clause has been dismissed). If you get Scourge of Kher Ridges to stick around you’ll likely control the board. Steel Hellkite can destroy problematic permanents while Hoard-Smelter Dragon simply eats artifacts, which as we all know are super popular in Commander.

Combo dragons and combo pieces

worldgorger dragonWeird to see this without Animate Dead

This is where things get interesting… and degenerate ! The most powerful combo this deck can pull out involves Worldgorger Dragon. Just cast Apocalypse or Jokulhaups and in response sneak in Worldgorger Dragon via Zirilan. The Worldgorger Dragon will exile all of your permanents, afterwards the mass destruction will resolve killing everything including Worldgorger Dragon . The dragon will leave the battlefield, bringing back all of your permanent while your opponents will lose all of theirs ! From there it will be very difficult to lose the game since most players will just scoop up their cards at that point. Worldgorger Dragon can also be used to save your permanents from an opposing sweeper but just make sure it’s worth it as you can use each dragon only once.

mycosynth latticeInnocent an unpleasant all in one

The second combo you can use involves Mycosynth Lattice. With it on the battlefield, just simply summon Hellkite Tyrant and swing at someone you want to eliminate. You’ll gain control of all of that player’s permanents (not for long though, people usually scoop when this happens…). Lattice also comboes with Shattering Spree/Vandalblast ! The best thing is you can tutor for Mycosynth Lattice with Hoarding Dragon, just send the dragon crashing into any attacking fatty and you’ll get your artifact. Also, Hoarding Dragon can search up any of the deck’s powerful artifacts or another combo piece: Sword of Feast and Famine …

sword of feast and famine art

I love/hate this card

With Sword of Feast and Famine on the battlefield, cheat Hellkite Charger into play (ideally on your opponent’s end step). Equip the Sword to the Hellkite Charger, attack and activate the Dragon’s extra attack step ability. Your opponent will take 7 damage, you then untap all your lands, rinse and repeat… You can then proceed to kill every player on the table who hasn’t got a a non-green/black flying blocker with infinite attack steps!

The last “combo” piece is Repercussion. I’ve killed people with this and Blasphemous Act/Chain Reaction quite a few times. It also makes blocking irrelevant. All our burn spells become free damage in addition to the removal ! To top it off, it’s not really a very commonly played Commander card in general so most people won’t see it coming.

Ramp

All those combos recquire lots of mana and this is why we have so many mana rocks. We also want to be able to cast dragons that end up in stuck in our hands. Sometimes we can’t make Zirilan stick or he gets shuffled into our deck (Oblation). Some of our dragon’s abilities also benefit from having access to tons of mana. Massive amounts of mana is key in the Commander/EDH format!

The non-dragon removal

Because we don’t always have Zirilan in play, we need other ways to interact with the board. Not much else to say about the board sweepers expect that they are good in Commander. The ones in this deck are among the best options we have in a mono red deck.

The ability copying artifacts

What’s better than summoning a dragon each turn with Zirilan of the Claw? Summoning two dragons each turn! Those work so well with our Commander General, but there are also quite a few other triggered/activated abilities generated from our other dragons that are worth copying.

illusionist's bracersGo ahead: do some stupid things

The dragon preservers

What’s better than cheating a dragon into play each turn? Summoning a dragon that sticks around forever each turn! Some of the deck’s artifacts allow us to abuse the stack and make our dragon stick around much longer. I don’t think I need much explaining on how powerful that can be.

sundial of the infinite synod sanctum

                                    You mean people found a use for these?

Utility

We also pack a couple of really useful Commander cards of course. Scroll Rack and Sensei’s Divining Top are pretty crazy with a general that has a shuffling effect tacked on ! Scroll Rack can also put dragons we want to put into play via our general back into our library. Glacial Crevasses makes its worth playing snow-covered lands. This useful enchantment has saved my life countless times.

Non-basic lands

Scrying Sheets is another reason to play snow lands, as is Mouth of Ronom. The last snow card is Rimescale Dragon, probably the only dragon you want to draw and not put into play through Zirilan. Thawing Glaciers ensures we never miss a land drop, something very important in this deck. It also work well with Valakut. Homeward Path is just randomly useful at the very low cost of having one more colorless mana source in the deck and not messing with our mana too much.

thawing glaciers

Making sure you hit your land drops every turn

In the End …

This is a deck you can play if you like doing nasty things in Commander and I know we all do. Beating face with dragons is fun. Also, Wizards of the Coast seems like they are obliged to print at least one red dragon in every set. This always gives us new cards to work with!

DegaSlayers

degaslayers

by Francis Jodoin

Dega (White-Black-Red) is a pretty strange color combination. It is notably absent from the modern metagame except for some jund decks splashing white (for cards like Path to Exile and Ajani Vengeant). Maybe this is because this wedge hasn’t been fully explored yet. It has access to very consistent mana with the Zendikar fetchlands (like all wedges), some powerful burn/removal spells, some card advantage, black’s disruption (discard) and some pretty good creatures.

In this article, i’m going to share my most successful homebrew modern deck, a dega deck. I’ve been playing some version of it and tweaking it ever since modern existed.

Degaslayers – Francis Jodoin

Modern Format


Creatures: 17

4 Figure of Destiny
4 Student of Warfare
3 Grim Lavamancer
4 Dark Confidant
2 Ranger of Eos

Instants: 14

4 Lightning Bolt
4 Path to Exile
4 Lightning Helix
1 Boros Charm
1 Terminate

Sorceries: 7

2 Thoughtseize
3 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Lingering Souls

 

2




Lands: 22
2 Slayers’ Stronghold
1 Ghitu Encampment
3 Sacred Foundry
1 Godless Shrine
1 Blood Crypt
4 Marsh Flats
4 Arid Mesa
2 Scalding Tarn
2 Plains
1 Mountain
1 Swamp


Sideboard
4 Hide // Seek
4 Pillar of Flame
3 Duress
2 Rakdos Charm
2 Aven Mindcensor

The beaters

figure of destiny

One of the best White/Red mana sinks ever

One of the deck’s main philosophies is to have cards that are both good early and late game. Figure of Destiny and Student of Warfare can both be aggressive beaters on the first few turns and later you can level them up so they can match the size of your opponent’s threats. Student can be levelled up to 2 on turn 2 most of the times due to the good mana base. Left unchecked, they both can get out of control in their “ultimate” form.

student of warfarePHD in ‘The Art of War’

You generally want to have them deal as much early damage as you can before they eat a removal spell so that you can later have the opportunity to finish off the opponent with burn spells. In topdeck mode, they are simply amazing draws late mid to late game. However, because they are mana hungry you generally won’t have more than one or two of those on the battlefield at any given time.

The fact that they are one drops makes them pretty good against most commonly played counterspells. You can play them before your opponent has the required mana to counter them. Remand does almost nothing against them and Mana Leak can usually be played around pretty easily. You can use the extra mana you saved for leak to level them up as well.

lingering soulsBoo!

Lingering Souls is another worthy threat. I’ve added them only recently and they do a really good job. One of the deck’s weaknesses was flyers, namely opposing Lingering Souls. It turns out Souls are a good answer to Souls ! Also, having flying beaters kind of makes up for our other threats’ lack of evasion. I’m not sure if 2 is the right number, but it has been working out fine for me.

Ghitu Encampment is yet another recent addition. It is a lot better than it seems on paper. Firstly, there aren’t many good manlands in our colors, so I think he is our best choice. You want at least one manland in the main to compensate for unfortunate flooding. Secondly, first strike is a very good ability in this deck. The trick is to let the first strike damage resolve when your creature blocks/is blocked and then, before the regular damage phase, you burn the opposing creature to finish it off. With this strategy you can take down bigger creatures going up to 4 to 5 toughness. This also works with a levelled up Student of Warfare. Having multiple first strike blockers can also discourage opposing attacks. Also, when you are blocking, you can use Ghitu Encampment’s mana ability to cast the burn spells.

The burn/removal

lightning boltModern’s staple burn spell

Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix are probably the best two burn spells we have access to and Path to Exile is probably the best removal spell in the format. Terminate isn’t that far behind either. You obviously want to save your Paths for bigger threats (those you can’t burn) or recursive creatures like Kitchen Finks/Voice of Resurgence. Also, giving your opponent a free land on turn 2 or 3 is a lot worse for your game plan than on turn 4+.

path to exileModern’s Swords to Plowshares

Lightning Helix helps recover lost life points due to our greedy (but effective) mana base. One thing I like about the burn is the flexibility. You can clear the board of blockers/early threats or you can save them for later to take down your opponent’s last remaining  life points. Also, they can take down annoying planeswalkers, thus making them even more versatile. One thing you need to know is that the deck can’t win on turn 4. With the best possible hand, you can goldfish a turn 5 win. Knowing when to play the deck in aggressor mode or defensive mode is important.

lightning helixNow with sweet new art !

A singleton Boros Charm is pretty sweet most of the time. Sometimes you’ll just finish off your opponent with the burn mode or double strike mode. I’ve won some games by giving double strike to a 4/4 Figure of Destiny after pumping it with Slayers’ Stronghold. The indestructible mode can protect your creatures from sweepers/spot removal or can turn trades into chumps in combat. I wouldn’t play more than one though, you really don’t want to draw multiple copies of it.

grim lavamancerTurning trash into fire

The last burn card is in fact a creature, and a pretty good one at that: Grim Lavamancer. With ten fetchlands and 19 non-permanent spells (excluding Lingering Souls, obviously), this little mage will be online very often. I think he’s amazing in the current metagame as there are so many targets for him to take down. He can even decimate bigger creatures when you combine his ability with burn (up to 5 toughness) without really wasting 2 cards like you otherwise would have with 2 burn spells.

The discard

thoughtseizeJ’te Thoughtseize ! (Montreal mtg speak)

The discard spells play many roles: against fair decks, you’ll want to take away removal cards if you have creatures in your opener. You’ll want to take away creature cards if you lack removal spells too. Against combo decks, discard is a way to interact with your opponent. I don’t think I need to convince you that discard is good, nearly all black decks run some amount of them. They are probably the deck’s worst topdecks, but sometimes the information they provide late game is useful when planning your next play(s).

The card advantage

dark confidantNever to be underestimated

Dark Confidant is the main reason to play black in Modern. In the deck’s early stages of development, I was playing a Boros mid-rangey version and I often found myself constantly running out of gas. Confidant partly solved that problem. He is your most precious creature and you’ll want to be careful with how you play him. I often bait my opponent into removing the one drops prior to playing Dark Confidant. They are then less likely to have much removal left for Bob (as he is usually referred to). You’ll want to play your one drops early on anyhow to start applying pressure. Sometimes, against most removal-light decks you’ll want to cast him on turn two. Every turn he sticks around is an additional card in your hand. With 24 one mana spells and 22 lands, you’ll take very little life loss due to Dark Confidant, unless you are unfortunate enough to reveal a Ranger of Eos. Speaking of which…

ranger of eos full artA Bird of Paradise and a … Wild Dog ?

Ranger of Eos sees play in Pod decks and Soul Sisters deck. His power is respected in the Modern format. In this deck, he is amazing as well. Getting two copies of either Figure of Destiny or Student of Warfare can have a huge impact on the board. By the time you cast Ranger, the two “levelers” can become really big. That’s a lot of power for only four mana ! You can even search for Grim Lavamancer since chances are you’ll have a big fat graveyard to work with by the time you cast Ranger of Eos. Oh, and Ranger of Eos is a 3/2 by himself, which is pretty decent. He helps in removal/sweeper heavy match-ups as well. He is truly a powerful card in this deck and an excellent topdeck.

And the most underrated card of the deck is…

slayers' strongholdAs seen in Naya Miracles, right?

Slayers’s Stronghold ! This is where the name of the deck comes from. Our mana is pretty good so we can afford two colorless lands. On rare occasions it will mana screw you but the upside usually greatly offsets this disadvantage. For starters, Stronghold makes our top decks even better thanks to its haste-granting ability. Any one mana creature you draw can attack for at least 3 right away, perhaps more if you can level it up first.

Giving vigilance to a Grim Lavamancer is pretty awesome as well. You can pump him, swing and then before blockers are declared, you can burn down a blocker or burn your opponent for even more damage! Vigilance is a very relevant ability when racing – being able to attack and block solves many dilemmas when you have to chose between being aggressive or defensive.

The pump is always relevant especially with our first strikers. With five mana, Ghitu Encampment can be animated and pumped to block a x/4 creature. Attacking with a 5/3 first striker Student of Warfare can be pretty powerful since not many of the format’s creatures can block and survive this attack.

Sideboard tech

Like I mentionned in my previous article, your sideboard should depend on your local metagame. I want to discuss one underused/forgotten card I like to use: Hide // Seek!

hide seekMaybe is isn’t used because nobody plays these colors…

First, it is a strict upgrade over Disenchant in the colors we run. Pseudo ‘exile’ can sometimes be relevant, especially against Wurmcoil Engine in Tron decks or any target against Affinity decks when they have Welding Jar out.

You’ll also want to side it in against toolbox strategy decks, such as Pod, Gifts and Tron. Seeking out Emrakul off of your opponent’s Tron deck and gaining 15 life seems pretty decent. Against Pod you can remove annoying one of’s such as Reveillark or just kill their Birthing Pod. Some Scapeshift decks only run only 2 Valakuts (usually the Cryptic Command/non-Prismatic Omen versions), taking one out can gain you the turn you need to kill your opponent. If you are lucky enough to draw a second Seek, congratulations! Also, you can gain some life by seeking Primeval Titan or Scapeshift in response to lethal Valakut triggers. Against the Prismatic Omen version of Valakut, you can remove Omen from play and nullify an early 6 land Scapeshift. Some Swords see play in some modern decks and they are pretty annoying. Hide takes care of those as well.

Surely a Disenchant with an upside can’t be that bad…

In Conclusion …

kaalia of the vastDega is also very fun in Commander

Dega is a pretty fun color combination : it can be aggro or controllish and disruptive. I really hope Dega starts seeing more Modern play in one form or another, it definitely has a lot of deckbuilding potential. I encourage you to try this deck at your next Modern event if you want a deck that’s both flexible, hard to hate and not Jund.