Be'lakor, the Dark Master - Illustration by Daarken

Be’lakor, the Dark Master | Illustration by Daarken

Kaalia of the Vast and Rakdos, the Showstopper had a strong foothold on commanding demon-themed decks prior to the release of Warhammer 40k. Then Be’lakor, the Dark Master came along and revolutionized the archetype. It’s not a radically new deck, but Be’lakor moved demon tribal in a new direction.

This is a deck that’s played by a friend of mine, with a few tweaks to reflect my personal playstyle. He has a decent amount of experience piloting the deck, and I’ve had chances to play against it and learn how it works (spoiler: it plays demons).

Ready to dive in? Let’s get to it!

The Deck

Command Tower - Illustration by Games Workshop

Command Tower | Illustration by Games Workshop

Commander (1)

Be’lakor, the Dark Master

Planeswalker (2)

Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath
Ob Nixilis, the Adversary

Creature (28)

Aspiring Champion
Bloodgift Demon
Bloodthirster
Burning-Rune Demon
Chaos Defiler
Demon of Wailing Agonies
Demonlord Belzenlok
Dream Devourer
Exalted Flamer of Tzeentch
Great Unclean One
Herald of Slaanesh
Kardur, Doomscourge
Lord of Change
Lord Xander, the Collector
Master of Cruelties
Orcus, Prince of Undeath
Plague Drone
Rakdos, Lord of Riots
Rakdos, the Showstopper
Raphael, Fiendish Savior
Razaketh, the Foulblooded
Reaper from the Abyss
Rune-Scarred Demon
Sakashima of a Thousand Faces
Sakashima the Impostor
Thassa, Deep-Dwelling
Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire
Vilis, Broker of Blood

Instant (11)

Bedevil
Blood for the Blood God!
Bolt Bend
Counterspell
Dark Ritual
Deadly Rollick
Disallow
Malakir Rebirth
Soul Shatter
Stubborn Denial
Terminate

Sorcery (6)

Blasphemous Act
Damnation
Kindred Dominance
Feed the Swarm
Haunting Voyage
Patriarch’s Bidding

Enchantment (4)

Phyrexian Arena
Warstorm Surge
Liliana’s Contract
Heartless Summoning

Artifact (13)

Arcane Signet
Belbe’s Portal
Blade of Selves
Coalition Relic
Elbrus, the Binding Blade
Fellwar Stone
Herald’s Horn
Panharmonicon
Sol Ring
Talisman of Creativity
Talisman of Dominance
Talisman of Indulgence
Whip of Erebos

Land (35)

Temple of the False God
Myriad Landscape
Xander’s Lounge
Crumbling Necropolis
Command Tower
Path of Ancestry
Blood Crypt
Steam Vents
Watery Grave
Morphic Pool
Luxury Suite
Training Center
Shipwreck Marsh
Stormcarved Coast
Haunted Ridge
Ash Barrens
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Unclaimed Territory
Secluded Courtyard
Swamp x6
Mountain x5
Island x5

The Commander

Be'lakor, the Dark Master

Be’lakor, the Dark Master costs a hefty six mana, but it provides card advantage on ETB and repeated removal if it sticks around.

The more demons you have on board when Be’lakor enters, the more cards you’ll draw at the cost of some life loss. From then on it serves as a demon-specific Warstorm Surge. Demons tend to be large creatures, so you can expect to throw large chunks of damage around as they hit the battlefield.

Be’lakor’s greatest contribution to demon tribal is having blue in its color identity. This gives you access to cheap counterspells and interactions, but it also gives a few blue demons a home in Commander. Admittedly most of those blue demons released alongside Be’lakor in the same 40k deck, but it’s still cool to see a well-established tribal archetype branch off into a new color.

The Demons

Let’s break down some of the key demons in this deck.

Herald of SlaaneshRakdos, Lord of Riots

Herald of Slaanesh and Rakdos, Lord of Riots help to get your expensive demons down at a discount, with Herald even giving them haste to bash right away. You’re looking for any opportunity you can to shave some mana off your high mana value creatures.

Your commander already has card draw covered, but it’s good to have some secondary options when Be’lakor starts to get too expensive to cast. Among your card draw demons are Bloodgift Demon, Demonlord Belzenlok, Lord of Change, and Vilis, Broker of Blood.

In the same vein this deck runs Burning-Rune Demon, Rune-Scarred Demon, Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire, and Razaketh, the Foulblooded as tutor demons. This much card selection ensures you always have access to pivotal effects to swing the game in your favor.

Your commander has functional removal attached to it, but this deck also runs demons with creature removal abilities. Chaos Defiler randomly destroys permanents on ETB and death, and Demon of Wailing Agonies has a lieutenant ability that removes creatures while you control your commander. Reaper from the Abyss looks unassuming but punishes creatures for dying by destroying more creatures.

The Interaction

While a lot of your creatures already have built-in interactive abilities, you still play a few traditional sweepers and removal spells. Blasphemous Act and Damnation keep the board clear while Rakdos, the Showstopper and Kindred Dominance leave your demon army unscathed.

The removal suite includes single-target removal spells like Bedevil, Terminate, and Deadly Rollick.

You have access to blue mana (unlike most demon decks), so you get to play a few counterspells. A few cheap counters like Disallow and Counterspell can usually do the trick. Stubborn Denial is a great Negate variant for decks with giant creatures like this one.

Bolt Bend

Bolt Bend is a card that often falls under the radar, but it works wonders in decks with a 4+ power commander. For a single mana you can take a targeted removal spell and redirect it toward your opponent, assuming you have one of your bigger demons on board.

The Enablers

Demons tend to be mana intensive creatures, so there are a few built-in ways to get your expensive creatures on board quickly.

Heartless Summoning

Heartless Summoning is a personal favorite of mine for big creature decks. The difference between casting 6/6 flying demons and 5/5 flying demons isn’t that significant, but it’s huge when you can shave two mana off the cost of each one.

Dream Devourer

Similarly, Dream Devourer lets you spend chunks of two mana at a time early in the game to foretell your demons, which opens the opportunity for explosive turns down the line. Investing mana in the early game lets you unleash a flurry of huge creatures in the late-game.

Belbe’s Portal charges a lot upfront, but it lets you sneak demons into play for cheap later on. You also have Patriarch’s Bidding and Haunting Voyage as mass reanimation effects to rebuild if your opponents deal with your demonic army.

The Mana Base

The mana base is largely just good Grixis () mana. Crumbling Necropolis and Xander’s Lounge are your go-to tri-lands, with plenty of dual lands to back them up. You also have all the usual multicolor suspects like Command Tower and Path of Ancestry.

Unclaimed TerritorySecluded Courtyard

And you’ll make good use of Unclaimed Territory and Secluded Courtyard since you’re leaning heavily into one creature type, with the option to upgrade to a Cavern of Souls if you wish.

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

The only other stand-out land is Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, which helps with this deck’s heavy commitment to black spells.

Temple of the False God

I’m also a believer in Temple of the False God. I’m aware that it’s a controversial card in some Commander circles but I find it regularly performs well, especially in decks with such a high mana commitment.

There’s plenty of room to upgrade the mana base with fetch lands and original duals if you already own them, but this specific deck is casual enough that you don’t really need them.

The Strategy

There’s not much depth to the strategy of this deck other than ramp into big demons and smash your opponents. Be’lakor, the Dark Master is a pivotal piece of your deck, but this is an example of a Commander deck that works just fine without the general. You have the simple back-up plan of playing other huge demons and attacking if Be’lakor keeps dying on sight.

There aren’t too many cheap plays in this deck. You want to spend the early stages of the game deploying mana rocks, ramping towards your demons, and using your sweepers and single-target removal spells to keep problematic cards in check.

This isn’t a deck to hold back with, either. You’re playing big dumb demons and your wincon is swinging with those big dumb demons. You should be attacking at any opportunity you get. If attacking isn’t possible, lean on Be’lakor’s second ability to deal damage.

You can transition to winning with Liliana’s Contract if you’re finding it hard to get a stable hold on the game. It’s not going to happen often, but it’ll be a fun achievement when it does.

Combos and Interactions

PanharmoniconThassa, Deep-Dwelling

There are a few fancy tech pieces in the deck that aren’t necessary but let you have more explosive plays. Panharmonicon and Thassa, Deep-Dwelling let you double up on ETB abilities. Whether you use that to trigger Be’lakor multiple times or “rebuy” an effect like Rune-Scarred Demon’s, these engine pieces can bury opponents quickly.

Sakashima the ImpostorSakashima of a Thousand Faces

Sakashima the Impostor and Sakashima of a Thousand Faces let you copy your commander, which means more triggers when demons enter the battlefield.

Master of Cruelties

Demons with deathtouch interact favorably with Be’lakor. Deathtouch demons automatically kill any creature they target Since each new demon is the source of the damage from Be’lakor’s ability. There aren’t many in the deck, but creatures like Master of Cruelties have some extra reach because of it.

Budget Options

The decklist provided isn’t really built with any budget in consideration, but there’s plenty of room for budget cuts and upgrades.

Cheaper

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth improves your mana base, but an extra Swamp can save you on the pricetag for Urborg. Deadly Rollick is another Commander all-star that’s easily replaced by a different removal spell for those on a budget.

Bloodthirster has also risen in price, so it might be hard to get if you didn’t buy into the sealed Warhammer 40k precons. Thankfully giant flying demons are pretty interchangeable, so any expensive demons can be subbed out for cheaper ones easily enough.

More Expensive

There are some obvious includes if you’re looking to invest more into the deck. Cavern of Souls is a fantastic tribal land, especially for high mana value creatures. You can also upgrade the mana base with any fetch or dual lands you already own.

Deflecting Swat and Fierce Guardianship are extra free-to-cast spells that help you tap out to cast Be’lakor and still have interaction open. They’re not cheap, but they’re fantastic includes. Demonic Tutor almost always makes a Commander deck more powerful and consistent, and it’s even on theme here.

Black Market Connections is another card that’s cemented itself as a Commander staple, and it’s excellent in this deck. It provides card draw and mana ramp and gives you a steady stream of demon creatures thanks to the 3/2 Changelings it makes.

Other Builds

You could take any Grixis deck and turn it into a hard control deck, but I’ll focus on alternative demon synergy builds.

The first direction that comes to mind is to build around Shadowborn Apostles. You can home in on a subset of specific demons and use your Apostles to tutor them up with somewhere between 20 to 30 Apostles in your deck. The deck would need a significant rework and you likely wouldn’t be maximizing either of Be’lakor’s abilities, but Shadowborn Apostles and demon synergy go hand in hand.

Another fun alternative would be companioning Be’lakor with Gyruda, Doom of Depths. Again, the decklist would need a significant overhaul to include only even-costed cards, but the deckbuilding challenge might appeal to some. Gyruda is both a demon and a potential means to cheating other demons into play.

Finally, feel free to consider changelings to sneak cheap and affordable demons into your deck. Who doesn’t love a good Taurean Mauler or Changeling Outcast in their deck?

Commanding Conclusion

Sakashima of a Thousand Faces - Illustration by Jason A. Engle

Sakashima of a Thousand Faces | Illustration by Jason A. Engle

This demon tribal Be’lakor, the Dark Master deck will make you an absolute threat to the rest of the table. If that’s a position you don’t mind being in (or like being in), Be’lakor and your band of demons can crush the competition. There’s plenty of room for customization and you can expect new demon creatures with almost every new release. Just watch out for those Baneslayer Angels!

What do you think of the deck? Which demons would swap in? Or would you go for one of the alternate builds? Let me know in the comments below or join the discussion over on the Draftsim Discord.

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