I was recently challenged by Bob to build a monocolored Commander deck. It was through that challenge that I created a new favorite deck helmed by Yeva, Nature’s Herald (nicknamed “Green Meanies”). The discovery that mono-colored Commander decks could be quite fun made me want to take a stab at Vilis, Broker of Blood.
The more I read over Vilis, the more ridiculous he seems. Black has a knack for making you lose life to do all kinds of random things, including drawing cards, making mana, and killing things, among others. And if you’re short on any of those, for just one black mana you can draw two cards and give a creature (including Vilis) -1/-1. You thought it couldn’t get any better than Greed (well, excluding Necropotence)? The goal of the deck, then, is to do what Black normally wants to do and benefit even more. Just make sure you don’t kill yourself.
Let’s start with the most obvious part of this deck. Phyrexian Arena, Read the Bones, Night’s Whisper, Sign in Blood, and a seemingly never-ending list of cards like them are most likely what immediately came to mind. I’ve already mentioned the likes of Greed and Necropotence as well, and I have to mention how hilarious Cruel Bargain is if Vilis is on the battlefield. Underworld Connections is another good standout card deserving a mention.
Most of those cards are already pretty heavily played in all sorts of decks that aren’t mono-black, so being able to amplify their effects (typically doubling the card draw when compared to the life loss) is pretty great. Early game they will help you draw into the right cards in order to pay for your 8 mana Commander. After that, they will just draw your deck for you.
Being in mono-black actually helps out our mana ramping situation quite nicely. Usually you need a combination of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Cabal Coffers in multi-color decks that include black. Since we don’t have that problem, Urborg is optional. We also can just run basic swamps and Cabal Stronghold if we don’t want to go through the trouble of finding utility lands. Crypt Ghast and Nirkana Revenant add an additional black onto every swamp we tap and should not go unmentioned. And having Magus of the Coffers allows us to have yet another “Cabal” effect.
On top of that we have the option to do Dark Ritual-like ramping, but unless you’re building this for a competitive meta, I would advise against it. I will always side with the permanent mana ramp team instead of the temporary unless it is needed. You’ll want to run Jet Medallion, Sol Ring, Fellwar Stone, Hedron Archive, Charcoal Diamond, and any other mana rocks you’d like.
We’re drawing cards and making a fair amount of mana. How do we disrupt our opponents while we setup? Well, there is the usual host of black cards I’d recommend: Damnation, Torment of Hailfire, Dictate of Erebos and/or Grave Pact, and Black Sun’s Zenith. These cards do a good job of killing off what our opponents are trying to build up. Toxic Deluge and Killing Wave have the added benefit of making us lose life, which can allow us to draw cards if Vilis is on the battlefield. Odds are we won’t kill him with either card as well. Ob Nixilis Reignited serves as both more card draw and removal and Noxious Gearhulk actually gives us life. Lastly, Pestilence and/or Pestilence Demon double up as board wipe and card draw if Vilis is on the battlefield. I think it’s safe to assume our opponent’s creatures are going to struggle to survive on our board.
Spot removal is also a good option since you might not want to wipe the board if you’ve built something up. Black has so many spot removal cards that I’d just suggest running your favorites. Whether it is Doom Blade or Hero’s Downfall, I’m sure you can’t go wrong here.
Since most of the cards I’ve mentioned have something along the lines of “lose life: do stuff”, we will probably want to try and regain some of that life. The easiest way to do this is through Blood Artist, Zulaport Cutthroat, Falkenrath Noble, and friends. We’re going to kill plenty of things, so gaining some life off those deaths helps mitigate the pinging our spells do to us. You could throw in Exquisite Blood to up the effect even more. If you’re going to do that then it’s hard not to suggest Sanguine Bond for the immediate kill.
Bitterblossom can create us a 1/1 flier each turn and draw us a card with Vilis out. While not the most ridiculous combo ever thought of, having a guaranteed body each turn with the eventual benefit of drawing cards seems nice. Sacrifice outlets like Carrion Feeder and Viscera Seer give us a nice aristocrats package that shouldn’t be underestimated.
How exactly are we winning in this deck? The first obvious choice to me is Aetherflux Reservoir. We’re drawing quite the hefty lot of cards, and we should be making a good amount of mana to cast most of them. I easily foresee us casting 4-5 cards in a single turn, and I’d say that is a conservative estimate. Throw in Yawgmoth’s Will or Magus of the Will to basically run Black storm and the Reservoir starts offsetting that life loss. We eventually will get to a point where 50 life isn’t a problem.
If that fails, the amount of mana we should be generating means X cost spells works wonders. I’ve already mentioned Torment of Hailfire. Make X big enough and your opponents will have to start losing life from it. Walking Ballista is always a fun card with boatloads of mana to spare. And who can forget the classic Exsanguinate?
Eat Your Heart Out
Vilis seems like an extremely dangerous Commander. While I am not a black mage at heart, I think it could be a fun deck to pilot a few times. Somewhere out there I know there is a black mage who’s loving reading through this article. I hope it got your creative gears turning, so as always I’d like to wish you happy brewing!