One of the best (and worst) parts of writing a set review is asking yourself “what next?” I have so many ideas flying around after writing that enormous article, and not one of them has been able to out-muscle the rest of them and stick in the front of my mind. Many hours have been lost to pontificating, and at this point, I have to pick something.
Well, good news: I picked something cool that’s almost entirely webcam-friendly, and it’s Drana, the Last Bloodchief.
As I mentioned in the aforementioned set review, Drana gives your opponents choices. Specifically, they get to choose which of your creatures to bring back from the graveyard as a slightly larger Vampire whenever Drana attacks. Okay, so that means this deck is all about Drana attacking, and we just dump cards into our graveyard indiscriminately, right? Okay, break out the Mesmeric Orb and – wait, that’s actually not what we’re doing, is it? Because we’re giving our opponents choices, we have to be careful about what we fill our graveyard with, and how much we fill it at any given time.
We also have to be ready to refill that graveyard little by little as the pool of available cards shrinks, either naturally due to Drana or thanks to an opposing Bojuka Bog. Ways to curate the creatures in our graveyard without taking options away from us permanently are an important part of the puzzle too – I’m staying away from Delve and other effects that rip up our own graveyard in irreparable ways.
Let’s start with the creatures. I wanted to focus on creatures with enters the battlefield effects, because I think that’s one of the best ways to profit from repeatable reanimation, though I considered some other avenues during the building process. At one point, we were cycling Void Beckoner. Maybe there’s a cycling build for Drana, but this isn’t it. So what do the creatures we want look like?
I love creatures that make tokens – ever since the days of Deranged Hermit, any “army in a can” card has been an instant hit with me. Archfiend’s Vessel isn’t quite that, as it mostly replaces itself with a big bad demon, but the rest are about wide token generation. This is the first time I’ve put Chittering Witch in a deck and been really excited about it, so I can’t wait to try it out. It’s a sacrifice engine, which this deck also needs!
I talked about filling the graveyard bit by bit, and that’s what these creatures do. From two to four cards at a time, we can toss cards into the graveyard and see what we get. I feel like these types of effects lean into the randomness of Commander, and while we betray that a little bit with Gravebreaker Lamia and Corpse Connoisseur, there’s plenty of room to not pick the same card all the time in a deck like this.
What do we want out of our Commander’s repeatable card advantage trigger? More card advantage, of course! Card draw (and a little ramp) can help us keep our engine going. Champion of Dusk is particularly hilarious because Drana brings creatures back as Vampires, and while I wouldn’t say we have a Vampire subtheme, we have a few incidental Vampires in the deck that can help that draw engine keep moving. Sandstone Oracle is a card I talked about recently on Twitter that I still love, and I’m glad I found room for it here.
This is more card advantage, but almost more importantly, these cards winnow the pool of creatures in the graveyard, which means we can force opponents to choose from the cards we’d rather reanimate via Drana. Graveshifter’s a Vampire – who doesn’t love that tiny bit of upside?
I can’t resist some big stupid reanimation, and Sepulchral Primordial means we get to pull cards from other players’ graveyards. I said this deck was “mostly” webcam friendly, and this is one of the two cards that forced me to say “mostly” – break out your reusable tokens, because Sepulchral Primordial is strong and interesting enough to justify the annoyance.
It should be no surprise that there are about a million creatures with enters the battlefield effects that let you destroy things in black. I’ve picked out some of my favorites, and I’ve included Agent of Erebos as a repeatable way to eat up other players’ graveyards, because it’s fun to mess up other peoples’ plans too.
It’s Gary. How could I not? This deck is all about enters the battlefield triggers!
While thinking about how to protect a Commander who wants to attack in mono-Black, my brain took me to Supernatural Stamina, and I quickly searched up two cards that mirror that effect, including the new and exciting Malakir Rebirth – half land, half Limited combat trick, all card you don’t expect to see in Commander. My goal with these was initially to protect Drana and make it easier to keep her on the battlefield longer, but I soon realized that since the deck is full of creatures with enters the battlefield triggers, I should lean in to this type of effect.
It took me an embarrassingly long time to remember the incantations necessary to search up the card Grim Return, as I could only remember the Seb McKinnon art and had the mistaken notion that the name either started with “False” or ended with “Rebirth.” Despite my best efforts to conjure up a new Kingdom Hearts game via my browser tabs, I eventually found Grim Return and its friends Thrilling Encore and Wake the Dead, the latter of which reminds me so much of Rally the Ancestors that I’ve fallen in love with it all over again. That reminds me, I still need to build my Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord / Rally the Ancestors Oathbreaker deck. Regardless, this kind of conditional/temporary reanimation is very powerful when you’re looking for splashy effects more than stats.
Protecting Drana was the initial goal for Supernatural Stamina and friends, but boots are better at that job.
Drana won’t always be around, so a little reanimation will help this deck keep humming. Obviously just playing creatures and letting them do their cool stuff is an okay backup plan, but that’s probably not powerful enough to keep this deck ahead of others at the table. Additionally, Agadeem’s Awakening is just so cool that I have to play it. What a fun new card!
Panharmonicon helps us double up on all the fun enters the battlefield triggers in this deck, and while it’s one of those cards that ends up in every ETB deck, I can’t deny that it’s both powerful and fun. It has avoided Avenger of Zendikar’s “too ubiquitous and now boring to me” status… for now.
We already had two graveyard tutors in our creatures, so why not keep that rolling with some spell versions? This deck has enough different creatures with varied effects that I think these will be fun.
I thought of these cards late in the deckbuilding process as a way to keep our graveyard nice and clean and maximize the value of Drana triggers while not throwing away cards we might need into exile. Is this a good strategy? I honestly cannot tell you because I haven’t had a chance to play this deck myself yet, but I’m excited to give these a shot.
We had a few ways to sacrifice creatures in our creature base already, but I’m throwing some more options in so that we can reuse ETB creatures more easily. Ritual of the Machine is the oddball of the bunch, and you’re probably surprised to see it because you probably don’t know about it, but a mono-black control effect is pretty interesting, and I’m excited to cast it and surprise my friends.
Discard outlets are also useful – when you’re light on mana, or want a different effect, discard a creature and then reanimate it with Drana instead! Tortured Existence is an awesome card that lets us exchange a creature we’d rather reanimate for one we’re excited to cast, and it’s one of my favorites as a result.
We already have some card draw and other bits of card advantage, but these two are great options for this mono-Black deck.
Some run of the mill mana rocks. Unstable Obelisk makes the cut primarily as a way to handle troublesome artifacts and enchantments that might shut down our graveyard.
The number of sacrifice outlets in the rest of the deck was a little low, so I threw in some extras in the manabase – in a mono-Black deck, I think it’s easy to absorb the cost of the colorless lands.
Cycling lands smooth out draws. I know no one has ever said that before, and I know we also have two of the new double-faced cards that have land on the other side, but that doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of cycling lands.
I try to make room in most decks from some nonbasic hate and graveyard hate, and Bojuka Bog makes that so much easier. Ghost Quarter and Tectonic Edge are my budget-friendly nonbasic hate cards that also don’t make other people angry when they see them – Strip Mine tends to lower my in-game reputation score when I play it, while Wasteland just makes people confused.
Some more utility lands, but this time, they have positive effects. Volrath’s Stronghold was what inspired me to slot in Footbottom Feast and Forever Young, so I guess you can blame Volrath for my bad ideas.
Throw in 23 Swamps and you’ve got a Drana list worthy of trying out as we explore the new world of Commander with Zendikar Rising! It’s exciting to start building these decks already, and I’m having trouble with the whole patience concept. Send your Commander lists with new cards at the helm or in the 99 to @RagingLevine so I can get hyped about even more fun ideas. See you next time! Oh, and here’s the decklist in full so you can just click all the cards you need and order them now. Makes it easier, doesn’t it?