(Author’s Note – In honor of the release of Commander 2013 today, because I’m testing the new cards out for next week’s Three Cards Deep episode, and in the spirit of remembering to mix it up as you shepherd new players into the format via the Commander products, please check out the first look in a series GDC is adopting – Other People’s Decks.


This is Ryan’s Mono Black “Group Slug” deck, which used to be headed by Seizan, Perverter of Truth and now rides behind Erebos. I really like it because he doesn’t eschew staples just for the sake of being different, but also doesn’t waste any spots on good-stuff inclusions that don’t serve his mechanical theme. And it’s a blast to play against.

[Deck title=Ryan’s “Demonic Hug” Ereobos Deck]
Erebos, God of the Dead[/General]
1 Blood Speaker
1 Bloodgift Demon
1 Crypt Ghast
1 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
1 Harvester of Souls
1 Kagemaro, First to Suffer
1 Kuro, Pitlord
1 Lord of the Void
1 Magus of the Coffers
1 Ob Nixilis, the Fallen
1 Pestilence Demon
1 Psychosis Crawler
1 Reaper from the Abyss
1 Reiver Demon
1 Rune-Scarred Demon
1 Seizan, Perverter of Truth
1 Baneful Omen
1 Dark Tutelage
1 Exquisite Blood
1 Heartless Summoning
1 Necropotence
1 No Mercy
1 Painful Quandary
1 Phyrexian Arena
1 Polluted Bonds
1 Underworld Dreams
1 Wound Reflection
[Other Permanents]
1 Basalt Monolith
1 Caged Sun
1 Crystal Chimes
1 Elbrus, the Binding Blade
1 Elixir of Immortality
1 Extraplanar Lens
1 Isolation Cell
1 Liliana of the Dark Realms
1 Mana Vault
1 Nevinyrral’s Disk
1 Pentagram of the Ages
1 Sensei’s Divining Top
1 Skull of Orm
1 Sol Ring
1 Spine of Ish Sah
1 Torpor Orb
1 Ward of Bones
[/Other Permanents]
[Instants and Sorceries]
1 Ad Nauseam
1 Ashes to Ashes
1 Dash Hopes
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Diabolic Revelation
1 Increasing Ambition
1 Killing Wave
1 Life’s Finale
1 Moonlight Bargain
1 Mutilate
1 Pain’s Reward
1 Phthisis
1 Promise of Power
1 Repay in Kind
1 Sever the Bloodline
1 Slaughter
1 Slaughter Pact
1 Temporal Extortion
1 Withering Boon
[/Instants and Sorceries]
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Maze of Ith
1 Reliquary Tower
30 Swamp
1 Temple of the False God
1 Thespian’s Stage

Ryan knows it best so I’m going to let excerpts of his responses explain the deck:

“I also found the ‘group hug’ deck archetype interesting. At their core, those decks are almost always nefarious, doling out resources until they win by some combo or unapparent win condition. What I don’t enjoy about them is how they destroy the normal pace of the game. The opposite side of that coin is the ‘stax’ deck, which I also don’t enjoy.

So I sought to find a middle ground…, looking for ways to punish players for normal game interactions without preventing them from playing their decks. It was important that the deck was punishing but not TOO punishing. The damage had to be effective but low enough to stay below radar…I wanted this deck to be a death by a thousand small cuts.”

This is spot on good deck designing. Don’t change the nature of the game by speeding it up or slowing it down, but still execute your plan.

I personally really liked Seizan, Perverter of Truth, but Ryan had other ideas:

“The main issue with Seizan is keeping him on the board until my turn. His lack of evasion is a huge downside which is particularly tough given that so many other cards in the deck are also expensive to cast or use. I didn’t want to use slots in the deck for equipment like Lightning Greaves to protect him.

Erebos is an exciting option for a couple reason. Foremost is the ability that prevents opponents from gaining life which is so beneficial to the core of how the deck operates. Being hard to kill is a huge boon as is the on demand card draw. I’ve found playing around the devotion trigger to be a lot of fun in terms of tactics, especially with cards like Ward of Bones.”

One of the coolest things about playing against the deck is watching Ryan use his life total. Many of his enchantments help him eke a bit of life out of common things like drawing, so he routinely dances above and below 10 life. He turns life points into cards and counterspells and removal, and somehow stays in the game.

The last aspect of the deck I want to talk about is the enchantment package. Enchantment-based strategies can be especially resilient because people don’t run more than one or two answers (although this might change with Fracturing Gust on a stick). Ryan has built a strong game around this, with some cool recursion using Crystal Chimes, Skull of Orm, and Elixir of Immortality.


I also really love the combination of Ward of Bones, Torpor Orb, Isolation Cell, No Mercy, and Painful Quandary to really put the hurt on some of the most conventional value-monsters strategies.

I asked Ryan about a favorite moment, and he highlighted how the deck often functions:

“Most of the time the deck just barely wins and that’s one of my favorite things about it. I’ve cast Ad Nauseam into cards like Kuro, Pitlord, wiped the board with its ability, and won via a desperate last swing.”

This is the kind of approach and final product I achieve in my EDH dreams.

My thanks to Ry sharing his deck with the team. You can also see some of Ryan’s comments on the evolution of his Demonic Hug deck on TappedOut.net.

Keep it fresh.