It’s not that I’m lazy.  I swear. 
I was just really hoping to be able to sub out one under-performing mono-black general (Kuon, Ogre Ascendant) for one that worked even marginally better.  After all, the conception plan for this deck originally was incredibly basic as well:
-After breaking down larger collection, re-build small handful of core decks to continue playing with.
-Realize that none of the core decks contain black.
-Grab pile of black cards identified as “must-play.”
-Toss in pile.  Add 40-odd lands.
That was really it.  There wasn’t much thought that went into the Kuon list; I just knew that I wanted to still play with all of my cool black cards.  How could I not have a deck that contained Demonic Tutor or Phyrexian Arena?  No Decree of Pain or Damnation?  I needed to represent the color, so a slight nod to reanimation and life-drain was all that I added to the mix.
And as I’ve stated before, it kind of sucked.
The deck wasn’t all that bad; it just didn’t have any synergy to speak of.  That’s a pretty serious offense for me; one of my cardinal rules in EDH deck-building is that the deck needs to be bigger than a sum of its parts in order to handle multiple players in a given game and still remain standing.  You can one-for-one yourself with staples and good cards all day long, but it is the synergistic interactions that create value.
Actually, I like that quite a bit:
DJ’s Golden Rule Of Deckbuilding
Synergistic interactions create value.
.   .   .   .   .
Back to Kuon.  I had a big pile of good cards.  The few games I played with the deck were fairly unremarkable; I wasn’t the first person to get killed off, but I sure wasn’t the last person standing.  Some very minor engines kept things viable for me, such as Kagemaro, First to Suffer and Phyrexian Reclamation.  
But that wasn’t exactly winning anything.
I discovered that my win condition was essentially “Hope to last long enough to find Exsanguinate and a bunch of mana, or “Get down to a one-one-one situation and hope to find Drain Life and a bunch of mana.”  
I also discovered that Kuon was doing nothing at all.  I know this is a bit of a recap, but when your deck is light on creatures and you’re not pumping out tokens, having a general that is essentially an “improved” version of The Abyss is probably going to hurt you more than anyone else.
And it did.  But at least it was foil and not often seen, right?
So I had two major issues at hand.  Of course, I did the logical thing, ignored the problem with the win-cons and the deck synergy, and just tossed in a freshly-devalued judge foil copy of Xiahou Dun.  That should fix things, right?
One game with the deck proved me really wrong.
THE GAME! (in a nutshell)
-There were four players; myself, another shop regular, his lady-friend, and another girl who seemed to be a newer player. 
-The decks were Shop Regular with his Riku deck, Lady-Friend playing Kaalia, and Other Girl playing…something?  (Kinda resembled a pile of Innistrad-block draft leftovers.)
-There were at least three players at the table that were very interested in constantly discussing SouthPark in-jokes with each-other and others in the shop nearby.  I was not one of them.
-There was a cute soft collusion between Shop Regular and Lady-Friend.  It was very nice and soft and caring and wonderful and explosion of kittens and flowers.
Ahh, to be young and in love.  (“I attack you!”  …”I guess I have to take it!  Ouch!  ) 
-Meanwhile, Other Girl was very bad about remembering to do things.  Here’s a list:
*Take her turn when Shop Regular passed to her.
*Take her turn when three other people were directly telling her to.
*Draw cards.
*Attack with Wandering Wolf, or whatever that thing was.
*Pass the turn when finished.
*Acknowledge that she was finished with her turn when three other people were directly asking her if she was done.
It goes on from there.
I couldn’t take it.  I snapped, and comboed the table out.
Cabal Coffers, Caged Sun, Drain Life on Shop Regular for exact lethal damage.  Vampiric Tutor for Exsanguinate.  Untap, Exsanguinate for 38.  Game, set, match. 
Yeah…something about desperate times calling for desperate actions.  There’s only so many blank stares and Chef imitations I can handle in one sitting.
So really, I learned absolutely nothing.  The deck felt the same as it did before Xiahou Dun, and it played the same way as it did before Xiahou Dun.  I was very frustrated, and mentioned it in an email to Imshan. (guest contributor here and CommanderCast editor/writer extraordinaire)
In a nutshell, he pointed out to me that I was going about it all wrong.  Where was my synergy?  Why were all of these staples in the pile?  What the hell was this thing actually supposed to do?  
All good questions, and ones that I think I knew were hanging over my head. 
He made it no secret that he didn’t think Xiahou Dun was all that interesting as a general, but he challenged me to look at what the card was capable of, and try to build out from there.
You know…basically follow my own Golden Rule.
He’s a pretty wise individual.
The deck is un-sleeved.  I have piles of  black cards and Swamps on my desk.  While I usually build my decks in Excel, I’m going to start fresh and try to go through the entire process here on GDC from start to finish.  This way, you lucky readers can help keep me in line.
When I make really awful choices, you can call me out on it immediately.  
When I miss really basic things, you can point them out.  (What do you mean, Xiahou Dun triggers Grave Pact?) 
I’m going to start at the beginning, looking first at the strengths, weaknesses, and abilities of the general, and deciding on a path to take from there.  The two immediate directions that jump out are the Regrowth effect and associated synergies, and the Horsemanship angle.  (Which effectively makes him un-blockable, realistically)
From there, I’ll work on creating a deck around the chosen path that focuses heavily on my Golden Rule.  I want to dive into the depths of value with this build, and eschew standard includes in order to make this thing run like a finely-tuned machine.  I’ll be honest; black isn’t my go-to color in Magic.  I want this thing to change that and become a flagship deck.
Stay tuned for the next installment, which will be the baseline examination of Xiahou Dun.  And by all means, hit the “Comments” section with thoughts/idea/warnings/insults/etc…
Thanks for reading-