Demonoid Phenomenon

Posted in Serious Fun on August 30, 2011

Welcome to Innistrad. Today's weather is cloudy, with a chance of death. I mean, have you seen some of the locals?

Yeah. That guy there is who we're meeting today. As Doug Beyer explained in last week's Savor the Flavor, the archangel Avacyn seems to be MIA, leaving Demons (and other agents of darkness) to step up into the spotlight. And this guy isn't going to be subtle about asking you to change allegiance.

He's big. He's bold. He's got a morbid fascination with mortality. Are you ready to taste the abyss?

Demons cut creatures wide open, and this not-to-subtle throwback to The Abyss does a very good job at just that. So what does he do, exactly?

Morbid is an ability word that gives a name to a common event: a creature has died. It's not a trigger when the creature dies, it just lets you know that this is an ability that cares that a creature died already sometime during the turn. In this case, it cares enough to give us an "at the beginning of the end step" trigger: something else gets to die.

Demons love death, no bones about that.

    A Cautionary Tale of Demons

Demons are almost always a double-edged sword. Many require sacrificing creatures, paying life every upkeep, and generally taking everything they can take from you. When faced with a Demon like this, just remember the three D's:

  • Dead (As in that's what creatures will end up if you mess with Demons.)
  • Dying (As in that's what even critters you care about will be if you don't bring out Demons.)
  • Don't (let Demons freaking touch you!)

The keys to maximizing our demonic indulgence are right there. Look a little closer at this conditional trigger:

  • It triggers at the beginning of every end step, working somewhat like an end-of-turn reverse Verdant Force.
  • It triggers if any creature died (the whole 'morbid' shtick), not just yours or your opponent's.
  • It requires a target, and can only target something that isn't a Demon.

Making creatures die is a pretty straightforward affair. There are many things that get the job done.

Doom Blade, Terror, Go for the Throat, Dark Banishing, Hideous EndClassic "destroy target creature" spells.
Disfigure, Grasp of Darkness, Profane Command, Scent of NightshadeClassic "target creature get -X/-X" spells.
Attrition, Royal Assassin, Visara the Dreadful, Stronghold AssassinClassic "destroy target creature" permanents.
Grave Pact, Butcher of Malakir, Martyr's Bond, Abyssal GatekeeperEveryone else has to lose a creature when you do.

Having one of our own creatures die anytime is pretty easy too.

Acidic Sliver, Fume Spitter, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Yavimaya ElderSacrifice a creature for a modest effect.
Kjeldoran Dead, Phyrexian JuggernautSacrifice creatures to get better ones.
Altar of Dementia, Phyrexian Altar, Viscera SeerSacrifice creatures to get something else.

And since handling Demons is dangerous for our own non-Demon creatures, we could use some that can withstand the pressure.

Bloodghast, Nether Traitor, Reassembling SkeletonYou can't keep a good minion down.
Calcite Snapper; Neurok Commando; Thrun, the Last TrollYou can't kill with Demon triggers what you can't target.
Ob Nixilis, the Fallen; Razorjaw Oni; Grinning Demon; Woebringer DemonYan can't target a Demon with the Demon's trigger.
Cairn Wanderer, Ghostly Changeling, Moonglove ChangelingYou can't target a Demon with the Demon's trigger (Part 2: Changeling Boogaloo).

So what do we get when we put it all together? I think it would look something like this.

Deck from the Abyss

Download Arena Decklist

This is what horror awaits those who tread with the Demons of Innistrad. It's actually a not a horror for you, though. As part of this contracted "Deal of Devotion" (see the similarly contractual "COVENANT"), our Reaper from the Abyss really doesn't hurt us.

Volrath's Stronghold, Reassembling Skeleton, Bloodghast, and Nether Traitor all offer ways around the situation where something non-Demon has to die but your opponent has no creatures. They also fuel our outlets for sacrificing creatures, like Phyrexian Altar, Kjeldoran Dead, and Viscera Seer. Attrition and Grave Pact are particularly rough for an opponent to keep creatures through, and adding Reaper from the Abyss to that duo is a brutal three-creature loss each time.

Nim Deathmantle and Lashwrithe provide some power boosts to our smaller fries, with the Deathmantle letting us buy back a creature on its way out and Lashwrithe giving us a sacrificial lamb through living weapon. Diabolic Intent is a tutor with a steep cost, but it fits our theme and function better than its Demonic Tutor cousin. A handful of fellow Demons (Woebringer Demon, Grinning Demon, and Ob Nixilis, the Fallen) round out the Swamp side of the deck.

Splashing blue here helps us cover our shortage of cards with "draw a card" on them. Neurok Commando dodges any errant triggers from our Reaper thanks to shroud while making the most of an empty board to attack into. Vivisection lets us cash one creature in for three cards, a pretty good deal with it was a Bloodghast or Nether Traitor that we sent packing.

And in case we had forgotten, Reaper from the Abyss is a 6/6 with flying, too. So far, this whole dealing with Demons deal is pretty swank. What collusion and soul-selling do you have planned for Reaper from the Abyss? I, for one, look forward to getting my hands on this YAACTICWTCIC (Yet Another Awesome Card That I Can't Wait To Cast In Commander)!

    Demons Are in the Details

Last week I ran down some of the most fun cards in Magic. While the math that makes millions of Golems appear through Precursor Golem and a kicked Rite of Replication caused some of our heads to melt, I wanted to answer the other questions I had posed around Doubling Season—each one assuming you had that enchantment parked in play.

How can you spend three mana to get a 10/10 that eventually results in 10 more total power and toughness?

The answer is Vigean Hydropon. It normally comes into play with five +1/+1 counters on it. With Doubling Season in play, Hydropon comes into play with ten counters – a three mana 10/10. Thanks to graft, whenever we bring another creature into play we can move one of these counters off of the Hydropon, getting two counters on the recipient creature. After ten creatures, we end up with a total of twenty +1/+1 counters spread around!

If you cast Cenn's Enlistment, then double your tokens through Rhys the Redeemed, how many tokens will you have after drawing land for five turns straight?

The answer to this can be solved via a cleverly created equation. Since not everyone is familiar with the math I'd need to describe it, I'll instead walk us through a "brute force" calculation, turn by turn.

TurnCast Cenn's EnlistmentDouble with Rhys the Redeemed
14 (2 tokens, doubled)12 (add 4 tokens, doubled)

That's part of why I took Doubling Season out of my Rhys the Redeemed Commander deck – I just didn't need to make that many tokens that fast! If I need to speed the process up, Rings of Brighthearth works fairly well too!

What's the minimum value X to push through a Primordial Hydra to have a 10/10 on your next turn?

I meant to use "at least" instead of "a" before the 10/10, but you all understood what I was asking anyway. (Nice job!)

The minimum X value is 2; you need to pay for Primordial Hydra. Doing so will net you a Hydra with four +1/+1 counters (two counters, doubled through Doubling Season), which will then result in eight more +1/+1 counters being added on your next upkeep (four counters, doubled). Four mana to get a 12/12 with trample you can attack with on your next turn is very saucy!

You have a Mirror-Sigil Sergeant and you enchant it with Followed Footsteps. How many tokens will you have three turns later?

Similar to the Cenn's Enlistment question above, you can solve this through mathematical judo. We'll just brute-force it again for simplicity's sake.

TurnSergeant AddsFootsteps AddsTotal TokensTotal Sergeants

The answer is fifty-two token copies of Mirror-Sigil Sergeant. I can think of a few things to do with fifty-two copies of a creature!

I received many great stories around using Doubling Season for even more mind-bending puzzle-like interactions. Opalescence then Followed Footsteps on Doubling Season was a popular one, and there were several variations on that too: Opalescence and Doubling Season, followed by Clone-type creatures and a Venser, the Sojourner, or a Clone-type creature in a Mimic Vat, or Spitting Image and Life from the Loam.

It's stories like those that make me smile, and not just because of the numbers game involved in figuring out what's going on. Thanks for the tales and trials; I look forward to more!

    The Demon Within

With all the hubbub about Innistrad in full swing, I'll let our weekly poll be a fun one.

If you thought you were going to run into Reaper from the Abyss, which would your first thought be?Violator!Desecrator!Turn around and meet the hater!

Thanks to the awesome events at PAX this past weekend there is a treasure trove of Innistrad cards now parked in the Card Image Gallery. If you missed the excitement while it happened, check out the gallery now to catch up on the juicy new details!

And don't forget: there is the rest of this week as well as two more full weeks of Innistrad goodies to look forward to! We'll see you then!

Latest Serious Fun Articles


January 5, 2016

Hedron Alignment by, Bruce Richard

When I first looked at my preview card, I couldn't really wrap my brain around it. The card does so much that I wasn't really understanding its value. Kind of a "forest for the trees" thi...

Learn More


December 29, 2015

Eternal Pilgrim by, Bruce Richard

When religious belief turns into religious fervor, things get problematic—particularly on Zendikar. When the Eldrazi were originally imprisoned, stories were told to ensure no one would t...

Learn More



Serious Fun Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All