Welcome back to the Decks of Many things, the article series where I make MTG decks with Dungeons and Dragons themes. Last time, we looked at how Chulane was secretly the Dungeon Master, sending players on quests and adventures. Today, I want to model my deck after one of the most popular Dungeons and Dragons modules: Curse of Strahd.
With as few spoilers as possible, the module Curse of Strahd tells the tale of how the realm of Barovia is cursed and sealed off from the other planes, shrouded in inescapable mist controlled, to a degree, by the villain, Strahd. To best incapsulate that, we will be building Edgar Markhov, with an army of vampires standing in for the forces at Strahd’s command. Edgar fits very flavorfully here, because his eminence ability allows him to sit on the sidelines and manipulate his machinations from afar, in much the same way Strahd does through the early stages of Curse of Strahd. However, because Edgar Marvhov is a deck that practically builds itself, I also wanted to add my own spin by designing the deck specifically to be the archenemy, so I could use it as a boss battle for my DND cube in the future.
For that reason, I honed in on vampire themed cards that affected multiple opponents at once. Cruel Celebrant, Vindictive Vampire and Blood Seeker will indiscriminately drain life from your opponents, which won’t make you many friends at a table if you usually play politically, but will make big splashes if you embrace the true villainy of being Strahd himself. Vicious Conquistador and Pulse Tracker also do this, hitting all of your opponents every time they attack, while Tithe Drinker uses Extort to drain them in another way. One of the heaviest hitters is Sanctum Seeker, which rewards the deck for going wide by draining opponents. My personal favorite of the drain effects, however, is Arterial Flow. It may only drain two life, but having your opponents discard a total of 6 cards can be a great source of card advantage. All of these drain effects also stack remarkably well with Indulging Patrician, which will drain the table to reward us for… draining the table.
The drain effects are important not just for weakening opponents, but for keeping our position strong. After all, if we are the archenemy, we need to be wary about that crackback from the entire table. Fortunately, Strahd’s minions come in many forms, and lifelink vampires such as Gifted Aetherborn, Vampire Cutthroat, and Vampire of the Dire Moon provide cost effective early attackers, with Vampire Nighthawk and Sadistic Skymarcher giving us support in the air. Combining these with effects that produce steady streams of lifelink tokens such as Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle and Legion’s Landing can help keep our life total safe from retribution.
However, a strategy focused on playing out creatures and attacking is not without its problems. To keep the pressure on, we may need to attack into positions where opponents can block and kill some of our creatures. Viscera Seer solves this problem in a flavorful way, turning any vampires our forces might lose into card selection that can also represent the ever-present way Strahd watches over Barovia. Kalastria Highborn lets us turn every creature that would die in combat into yet another drain effect, while Indulgent Aristocrat makes all of our vampires even bigger and scarier by sacrificing the ones we will lose anyway.
Of course, the module isn’t called “Army of Strahd”, it is “Curse of Strahd,” specifically because of the story of Strahd and how the realm of Barovia have both been cursed by the events preceding the story. It seemed only appropriate to encapsulate that with a curse subtheme to the deck. When you’re playing as the archenemy, the curses serve to give you incremental advantages against your opponents while continuing to lay on the pressure, especially since so many of them are focused on the enchanted player being attacked. But, in a normal game of commander, you may be able to politically maneuver the board by incentivizing foes to go after each other. Curse of Opulence serves as a source of ramp, while Curse of Chaos lets us dig for the cards we need to gain and maintain a lead. My personal favorites here, however, are Curse of Shallow Graves and Curse of Disturbance, which add zombie tokens to the field. Strahd’s minions include the undead that wander Barovia, after all.
The curses can also solve a myriad of other problems you encounter at EDH tables. If your table has a spellslinger, then Curse of Exhaustion ought to put them in their place. Does someone at the table have big, dangerous creatures? If so, Overwhelming Splendor can make those creatures a non-issue as you come into the late game. Maybe one player is just clearly the biggest threat and you want to put on as much pressure as possible. Curse of Misfortunes will keep piling curses onto that player to hinder them more and more, and can save you some mana in the process. Trespasser’s Curse and Curse of Fool’s Wisdom add even more drain effects, and both Cruel Reality and Torment of Scarabs can serve as repeatable removal.
So until next time, tread carefully as you make your way through the mists of Barovia. Be wary, for Strahd knows all and sees all within his domain, and his forces are formidable and ever present. However, should you find a way to best the Baron, you may yet find your way back out of his cursed land.
Paul, The Rocking Bard