February 21, 2017

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1 Drop Creatures for Commander: Black

Welcome back all you true Commander-heads out there, to the final instalment of the 5-part series on one mana creatures for EDH. This last of not least version features Black as the main colour but we will also take a peek at any colourless 1-CMC creatures as well. The other four can be viewed here.

So what did we get this week? Does black hold up to green and White as far as power level or is it more in the camp with Blue having a fairly undersized yet still effective roster? Well as it turns out Black is sort of in the middle of the pack with some great options for specific strategies and tribal decks while still managing to offer a few ubiquitous options at the 1 mana slot.

First up we have to look at the cards that are good in any deck they can go in. Black is a colour that tends to be a bit more parasitic from a gameplay standpoint than the other colours in Magic. This means that the keywords and abilities in black work very well with other black cards and may not as easily jive with all the other colours. Obviously Black does work with all the other colours in its own way but Black is a very selfish colour and wants you to play more black all the time. A perfect example of this is perhaps the best Black one drop: Viscera Seer. Sac outlets in Commander are good for any strategy but we see here the best option is a very black ability in that it deals with death and the graveyard and literally making sacrifices to get ahead. Carrion Feeder rides on Viscera Seer's coattails a bit here as a slightly less effective version but in specific decks (Marchesa, anyone?) the feeder can actually be a full on engine and the best sac outlet in your deck. Either way throw in a Tenacious Dead with those two and you've got a sac outlet and fodder to feed your evil black death machine for days.

A classic way of slowing down aggressive decks in Magic has been the 1/1 deathtouch creature stalking the battlefield and instilling fear of attacks in it's much larger opponents hearts. Pharika's Chosen, Typhoid Rats and Ruthless Ripper are great ways to stem the attacks of opponents and can even be a source of machine-gun killing when paired with the right equipment.

Perhaps the only other universally wanted black one-drop is actually a Golgari card. Deathrite Shaman is of course a powerful card, so much so that it is banned in the Modern format. While it tends to be underrated in EDH, it is undoubtedly worth of going in any Green Black deck that is looking to ramp up with the added benefits of controlling other players' (or your own) graveyards.

Already we see that black's one-drops very much skew towards specific strategies even when used widely, so it should be no surprise that when we talk about the other one-drop creatures it has do much of the same in a very effective way.

Speaking earlier of Golgari, if it's big creatures you want in your graveyard but want a low CMC, say for a Varolz, the Scar-Striped deck the now modern-played (and expensive as a result) Death's Shadow is key. A Nekusar, the Mindrazer deck is always looking for ways to deal damage to opponents who draw cards and in this case, a red permanent and a Kederekt Parasite will do that trick nicely.

While its uses may seem narrow, Thrull Parasite is an interesting and neat addition to lifegain/drain decks that can add a bit of extra value if you ever come up against a rogue Planeswalker or some manner of charge counter deck, even if it just robs the usefulness of an Everflowing Chalice it can very much be worth the tapping and 2 life you paid to do it.

If breaking the rules of Commander is something that interests you, look no further than Shadowborn Apostle. While these pricey commons can be tough to find, they can be the base of a great demon-filled recursion-based deck that has no mercy on its opponents.

When it comes to tribal strategies, black's one-drops represent some great tribes that EDH players absolutely love to play. Facevaulter and Knucklebone Witch are two Goblin auto-includes that work amazingly well together in a Wort, Boggart Auntie deck whereas Guul Draz Assassin and Indulgent Aristocrat don't interact in any specifically meaningful way, they are both great cards for any vampire deck you can think of. How can we mention black tribal decks without talking about THE black tribe: Zombies. Grimgrin's best little buddy Gravecrawler is a great option that never truly leaves your opponents alone and Cryptbreaker is an entire engine in itself for a zombie deck.

Other specific and tribal-based one-drops in black include Deathgreeter, Bloodsoaked Champion, and Gnarlroot Trapper. All welcome additions to decks that want them.

Finally as we finish up with Black – there being no legendary black creatures for our command zones (sad face) – we'd be leaving out an important group of 1-CMC creatures for Commander if we didn't mention our less colourful options – Colourless.

Merchant's Dockhand will need Blue and Hex Parasite will need Black but both are welcome additions to artifact strategies in either colour. I mentioned Varolz earlier when talking about Death's Shadow, well a colourless Death's Shadow is probably just as good right? Well grab your Phyrexian Dreadnoughts if you're looking for another really cheap way to Scavenge a lot of counters.

Finally what kind of Commander article would this be if I didn't mention at least one legendary creature? So while I'm not exactly sure what type of deck you'd build around it, Hope of Ghirapur is here and willing to sacrifice itself for the greater good.

You've got a lot of options for one drops in Commander. Any colour has its obvious choices but look a little deeper and you'll find some gems that will not only help the power level of your decks but also help smooth out your curve and therefore help you actually play a game of Magic.

I hope you liked this series! It's back to regular articles from me in two weeks, so please let me know what you thought in the comments below!