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Fix My Deck! The Black Plague

 
Author: Published:

mtg Pestilence

As players, we occasionally find ourselves devoted to an idea that we think will dominate the table and it ends up getting crushed in every game. Sometimes, we realize it will never work (say 20 elder dragons, 40 lands and nothing else) and walk away, but other times it may just need small tweak and a second set of eyes to become the powerhouse we wanted.

That said, I’m fascinated with Pestilence and have been trying for years to put together a deck that takes advantage of this card to the fullest. Pestilence is one of my favorite cards by far. It can be a boon against token generators, clearing an opponent’s stock of creatures with just two or three mana. It’s remarkably flavorful, killing everything and everyone indiscriminately, like a real plague! Lastly, it’s just so much fun. Damaging yourself is usually a foolish option that should be avoided whenever possible, with Pestilence there’s a brilliant possibility that you and your opponent could both end up at zero life, bringing the game to a rare draw (for something more paradoxical than a draw, rule 104.3f states “If a player would both win and lose the game simultaneously, he or she loses the game”). Why would you ever want to bring the game to a bizarre draw/double loss like this? Magic: The Gathering can be far more entertaining if you’re not trying to win.

So here's what my Pestilence deck has become as of late…

The Black Plague Card List (71 Cards +4 Card Sideboard)

2x Bottomless Vault
2x Cabal Coffers
21x Swamp

25 Lands
1x Cemetery Gate
1x Dread
1x Hand of Emrakul
1x Herald of Leshrac
4x Stuffy Doll

8 Creatures
1x Absorb Vis
2x Burnt Offering
3x Circle of Affliction
2x Consume Spirit
4x Corrupt
4x Cruel Edict
3x Dark Ritual
1x Darksteel Brute
1x Dash Hopes
1x Diabolic Tutor
1x Disentomb
1x Doom Blade
1x Go for the Throat
1x Gorgon Flail
1x Inquisition of Kozilek
1x Mana Vault
1x Needlebite Trap
1x Onyx Goblet
4x Pestilence
1x Sanguine Bond
1x Talon of Pain
2x Treacherous Link

38 Other Spells
1x Deathgrip
1x Gloom
1x Talara's Bane
1x Tourach's Chant

Sideboard (4)

First, I’ll dig in to what works. Pestilence and Stuffy Doll are an insane duo. The damage from Pestilence is effectively doubled against any opponent you’ve chosen and the indestructible creature is tricky to remove from the battlefield, which allows the enchantment to remain there too. Circle of Affliction negates the damage from Pestilence and coupled with Sanguine Bond, saps your opponent as you gain life. Treacherous Link is perfect for vanilla creatures that can’t get around the Stuffy Dolls, turning them into hurt-generators. Once the proper pieces are in place, the damage becomes exponential. Cruel Edict forces your opponent to sacrifice a creature, a huge difference from destroying a target. Because the creature itself is not a target, that pesky Akroma, Angel of Wrath that just won’t die will finally vanish. Still, there’s a few of those quick-kill cards for close encounters. Cabal Coffers, Dark Ritual, and Burnt Offering give the option to really blast the Pestilence in a pinch. The sideboard comes in handy against green and white decks, crippling either color with Gloom or Deathgrip.

Despite the damage that this deck can inflict, there are some very evident problems. First and foremost is the mana curve. The Cemetery Gate isn’t too shabby for a blocker, but it’s the cheapest creature at three mana. Everything else requires a third-turn Dark Ritual or some welltimed Cabal Coffers to get moving. This usually means you have nothing on the battlefield save lands for your first three to five turns, making this deck incredibly slow to defend itself. While you’re able to dish out huge helpings of hurt in the endgame, it’s often the early swings from 2/2 creatures that leave you in a rough spot later. Against an aggressive red deck, you’ve often taken too much damage to risk activating Pestilence more than once or twice and by then, you’re a Lightning Bolt away from a loss. Creatures with flying and toughness above five survive Pestilence and go right over the Stuffy Dolls; Herald of Leshrac often arrives too late to do anything about it.

Help me make some much-needed changes to this deck and share any other ideas that you conjure up along the way. Keeping the deck mono-black helps with the Pestilence (Plains are not really helpful trying to pay for black mana) but does limit things in other ways, so feel free to pull in something else if you find a particularly deadly combo. Maybe I’m going about this whole thing the wrong way.

Also, feel free to discuss your favorite cards and share a deck in need of improvement! I’d like to see what everyone else is up to with their favorites.


Author: Chris Curtis
 

 

Comments on "Fix My Deck! The Black Plague"

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Author: Turc

Date: June 07, 2013

Comment:

Your problem here is you have too many pestilence. Two should be more than enough to do what you want. You need to put in some lower necromancers in the deck. You'll be able to get some of the necromancers out within two moves. You also run into the tricky problem of swampwalk. All my decks have it, and honestly I would own you every game because of it. it's way too common. You either need more quick spells for damage or just build pestilence as two instead of four. That helps free up space for necromancers if you want to stay all black.

Author: Gadsden's Snake

Date: June 07, 2013

Comment:

First things first - get the deck down to 60 cards. You optimize your chances of getting any 1 card you need by tigthening your deck by putting in playsets of cards that work with each other and they style of the deck you want to play. Unless you want to spring for the $$ for cheaper casting cost tutors (Demonic, Vampiric, Beseech), I wouldn't use expensive casting cost tutors. Here's what I'd build for what you want from your deck to do with a pestilence-centric theme.

The list below is relatively on the cheap. You could go get Liliannas of the Veil and whatnot if you really wanted, but I think its unnecessary for what appears to be a kitchen table deck. The basic idea is to stay in the game with indestructible blockers and or the deathtouch vampire until you get your pestilence effects. The vampire serves as life gain, offense, and flying defense. Obviously the darksteel plate plus innately indestructibe creatures enables you to clear the board with big helpings of pestilence activations while your indestructible creatures live to fight another day and keep pestilence on board. The pestilence demon is pestilence numbers 5 and 6 and is attached to a flying fattie. Your other finisher is the grave titan, which can take a lot of pestilence damage himself and still live. Lastly, you need something to do on your first turns for your curve. Cheap disruption is the answer! You can snag problematic cards (artifacts, enchantments, and planeswalkers) with duress, and hymn to tourach is the best, cheapest ($$ and casting cost), card-advantaged option to 2 for 1 your opponent and RANDOMLY get rid of critical cards like their 3rd turn land or the next turn's critical play. Hymn to Tourach is awesome.

Creatures
x4 Darksteel Myr
x4 Vampire Nighthawk
x4 Stuffy Doll
x2 Grave Titan
x2 Pestilence Demon

Enchantments
x4 Pesitilence

Instants
x4 Dark Ritual
x2 Doom Blade
x2 Go For The Throat

Sorcery
x2 Duress
x4 Hymn to Tourach

Artifacts
x2 Darksteel Plate

Lands

x4 Cabal Coffers
x20 Swamp

Author: Gadsden's Snake

Date: June 07, 2013

Comment:

Also, you want 24 land so that statistically, you are supposed to get your 4th turn land drop. That enables coffers to give you mana on turn 4 and cast pestilence ASAP. I resisted a 24 count of land for years, but when you want to get a 4 drop spell out turn 4 and you want big mana effects and high casting cost creatures, you need more than 22 land. Trust me on this - you can't play if you're mana screwed.

Author: Chris Curtis

Date: June 07, 2013

Comment:

These suggestions are awesome. The Darksteel Myr and Vampire Nighthawk
are incredibly useful, if not entirely flavorful. I'd almost say the
same of Grave Titan, but that artwork and the zombies seem to go hand in
hand with the plague idea. The mana curve has been a long-standing
problem for this deck, but your suggestion of getting it down to 60
cards would be a huge benefit. Also, using cheap disruption as a way of
dealing with trouble early on is brilliant!

Thank you for the feedback and the second set of eyes... They will make this deck so much more lethal.

Author: Chris Curtis

Date: June 07, 2013

Comment:

Swampwalk is a definite worry in any black deck, but using quick kill cards and just crushing them with pestilence seems like an easy solution to swampwalkers. Sol'kanar the Swamp King, Sheoldred, and Cateran Slaver are some of the toughest creatures with swampwalk in the game. Most everything else is buried for three mana. Putting them down would be a priority since their other abilities are just as bad (if not much worse, as in Sheoldred's case) as being unblockable.

Author: Temuchin Tillman

Date: June 11, 2013

Comment:

You have one land cycling card and it doesn't do anything else cost effective, so 24 lands to 22 lands should hit the spot if you are worried about that fourth turn land drop, also note, try for 61 cards, prime numbers seem to shuffle better, which equals a few more games before a complete mana shuffle is required. One thing is required, a huge mana engine of some sort. Otherwise, the deck is too mana intensive to get a kill in a one on one game. And in chaos, it should hit a nice sweet spot for mana cost to win the game. I'll be back with a black only mana engine (blood thrulls, more dark rits) later, that isn't banned or restricted?! You have too many creature kill cards, & as you noted doesn't bode well against 'red your dead' decks. I've a copy of the deck list and will post an answer later.

Author: Chris Curtis

Date: June 11, 2013

Comment:

I'm looking forward to your ideas... Interesting thing about the prime numbers too; I'll have to check into that one.