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Gonti, Lord of Luxury - Illustration by Daarken

Gonti, Lord of Luxury | Illustration by Daarken

The Aetherborn Gonti, Lord of Luxury lives a life of hedonism funded by its infamous black market. It deserves a deck that emulates this indulgent lifestyle.

Mono-black decks don’t excel at bouncing creatures with ETB abilities, so Gonti can be intimidating to build around. And casting your commander over and over again isn’t sustainable, either.

How’s a mono-black deck to solve this deck building problem? Let’s take a look!

The Deck

Persist - Illustration by Milivoj Ceran

Persist | Illustration by Milivoj Ceran

This deck wants to bounce Gonti, Lord of Luxury into the battlefield over and over again, creating a large pool of your opponents’ spells to draw from. Then you use rituals and mana doublers to generate a huge amount of black mana and cast those illicitly-acquired spells. You use your foes’ best spells against them to win the game!

Mono-black decks don’t do flicker effects especially well so you have to find another way to trigger Gonti’s ability multiple times. The solution here is to sacrificing them for value with cards like Altar’s Reap and then reanimate them with your Zombifys effects. This is one of the rare times it’s beneficial to let your commander go to the graveyard when it dies because you want to avoid paying that commander tax as long as possible.

The Commander

Gonti, Lord of Luxury

Gonti, Lord of Luxury is no stranger to Commander. It often makes appearances in the 99 for other blink EDH decks with easier access to Cloudshift-like effects. Building around Gonti creates an extra challenge to find a way to blink it effectively without sinking all your mana each turn into casting it.

One of Gonti’s major advantages is that the card it exiled stays playable when it leaves the battlefield. This is essential to your strategy and makes Gonti stand out among others that steal your opponents’ cards.

“Bouncing” in Black

Skull Collector

What does bouncing Gonti look like, exactly? Your easiest method is Skull Collector. Putting your commander right back into your hand ensures you can cast it for four mana that turn, skipping all that complicated sacrificing and reanimating you use otherwise.

Killing Gonti…

Sometimes you need to kill Gonti yourself. You need to do it for value, so cards like Deadly Dispute, Altar’s Reap, and Village Rites make for excellent acceleration.

Other valuable creatures include Fell Stinger and Fleshbag Marauder, and their effects synergize well with Panharmonicon. You’re also running the quintessential Viscera Seer.

Sidisi, Undead Vizier lets you dig a reanimation spell right out of your library, and Soldevi Adnate, Ashnod’s Altar, and Culling the Weak can create the mana you need to reanimate Gonti right away.

And don’t forget that Gonti, Lord of Luxury has deathtouch! It can easily trade up against bigger creatures and you won’t have to worry about losing access to it once it dies.

… and Bringing It Back

Once your commander is good and dead (or on the way there) you need a plan to return it to the field. Black has a lot of instant-speed reanimation spells, but you only want to run the ones that let Gonti die and re-enter the battlefield. You also need to keep these spells cheap so that you have the mana to cast your opponents’ cards if the need arises.

Feign Death, Undying Evil, and Undying Malice all return a creature with an extra +1/+1 counter, making your commander a little more threatening.

Supernatural Stamina is best used in combat, but the +2/0 won’t matter much when cast on deathtouch Gonti. Return to Action is a little more valuable. But, again, you’re most concerned with returning Gonti to the field. Malakir Rebirth rounds out your 1-mana revival spells.

You’re running the pair of dark wizards Apprentice Necromancer and Doomed Necromancer alongside Phyrexian Delver for some creature-based reanimation.

At sorcery speed you’re running Persist, Blood for Bones, Dread Return, and Victimize. The latter three can also be used as sacrifice outlets to return one of your Apprentices or Grave Titan to the field in exchange for Gonti’s death.

Zombify

Zombify is about as basic as it gets for reanimation, but it increases the consistency of hitting a reanimation spell.

For more permanent reanimation you’ve got Animate Dead, Kaya’s Ghostform, Minion’s Return, and Palace Siege for a consistent Unearth effect each turn.

Whip of Erebos also goes here, but exiling Gonti means you have to get it out of the command zone with Netherborn Altar.

Phyrexian Reclamation

You’re also running the ubiquitous Phyrexian Reclamation. The simplest way to recast Gonti over and over for a very cheap cost.

Stealing Spells…

You need every “blink” on Gonti to count, but without blue or white you have to turn to artifacts to capitalize on their ETB.

Panharmonicon and Strionic Resonator are well-known staples for this strategy. Blade of Selves might seem like an odd choice for a legendary creature, but you let those token copies of Gonti die after their extra ETBs have resolved.

Conjurer's Closet

Conjurer’s Closet gets you yet another ETB trigger.

… and Casting Them

Once you’ve milled a nice pool of cards from your opponents’ libraries, dive right in with some rituals. Dark Ritual and Cabal Ritual are the poster boys for black rituals and we already covered Culling the Weak. Your secret extra ritual is Overeager Apprentice, a card that doesn’t see enough play for being an extra Dark Ritual.

But mana from rituals is fleeting. Swamps are forever. Crypt Ghast and Nirkana Revenant both double the mana your Swamps produce. If that’s not good enough, Liliana of the Dark Realms is here to tutor up a Swamp each turn. Smart opponents won’t let you activate its emblem ability, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

Crypt of Agadeem

You’ve also got Crypt of Agadeem. You need four creatures in your graveyard before it starts generating value, but most of your creatures end up there eventually.

A Curated Menagerie

Gonti’s secret warehouse-clubhouse-hideout is full of all the delights money can buy, including a menagerie of constructs and creatures. For you this means good ol’ Burnished Hart, Wayfarer’s Bauble, and Traveler’s Amulet. This deck is very mana-hungry and you’ve got to keep it fed.

Gonti’s also got some, uh, horrendous undead monsters and swarms of insects? The analogy kind of falls apart when you consider Endless Cockroaches, Reassembling Skeleton, and Grave Titan, but these are staple cards in black sacrifice decks. Grave Titan is actually a staple in every black deck.

Spreading the Sacrifice

Butcher of Malakir

You’re sacrificing at least one creature per turn, sometimes more, so you’d be remiss to skip out on Butcher of Malakir.

Final Touch

You also need a way to end the game if you can’t do so with your opponents’ stolen spells. Rise of the Dark Realms is an easy way to bring any hour-long game to a close, as is Temporal Extortion. Worst Fears felt like the most appropriately flavorful card for Gonti; stealing their whole hand and mind in one final heist.

The Mana Base

It’s Swamps all the way down. Mortuary Mire and Witch’s Cottage are pseudo-Disentombs, and Barren Moor and Bojuka Bog are almost auto-includes in any deck that runs black.

I suggest you take this opportunity to browse your favorite Swamp printings and pick out 30 of your favorites from every edition. Or pick a single printing and get a matching set.

The Strategy

The plan is fairly straightforward: play Gonti, Lord of Luxury, “blink” it over and over to amass a pool of stolen spells to cast, and use your opponents’ game-enders against them. This is a “swingy” strategy because it relies heavily on lucky hits off the top of the other players’ libraries, so pay attention!

Did they “top 1” after that Temple of Enlightenment hit the field? Did someone just cast Worldly Tutor? Did they try to Ponder? These are what we call “good times to Gonti.”

Combos and Interaction

This Gonti, Lord of Luxury deck is doing its best impression of a blue or white blink deck. You typically use two or three other cards to complete the loop since you use the graveyard instead of exile as the temporary zone between ETB triggers. But there are a few cards that can blink Gonti all on their own.

Rescue from the Underworld and Infernal Offering both return your just-sacrificed Gonti to the battlefield with extra upsides. Necromantic Selection technically does this too, but at seven mana its intended purpose is mostly as a wrath.

Rule 0 Violations Check

While this deck runs some very powerful cards, I’m confident in saying there aren’t  any terribly oppressive combos. Phyrexian Reclamation is infamous for an infinite combo with Ashnod’s Altar, but it’s purely a repeatable Unearth effect without Priest of Gix.

Some players may not care to be Worst Fears’d, but that’s their problem, not yours.

Budget Options

This deck sits around $200 in its current incarnation, about average for a tuned Commander deck. Let’s take a look at some budget options!

Cheaper

It hurts to cut mana sources, especially in one as starved for mana as this one, but you can live without Liliana of the Dark Realms, Crypt Ghast, and Nirkana Revenant. Cut the Culling the Weak and Cabal Ritual and replace all that with some standard mana rocks like Worn Powerstone, Charcoal Diamond, Dreamstone Hedron, Liquimetal Torque, Arcane Signet, Gilded Lotus… you get the drill.

Temporal Extortion and Rise of the Dark Realms both drive up the price of this deck without being extremely necessary, so they can be replaced with any other big-mana, game-ending Timmy spell you like. Command the Dreadhorde can still reanimate an entire board of creatures. Consider spells like Corrupt and Exsanguinate to dump that black mana somewhere.

More Expensive

The same principles apply to upgrading this deck, but reversed. Instead of cutting your mana generators you’ll double-down on them with Caged Sun and Mana Crypt, swapping out Wayfarer’s Bauble and Overeager Apprentice.

Swap a Swamp for Cabal Coffers and you’re really cooking.

Other Builds

Other Gonti, Lord of Luxury decks run off more general aristocrats themes, focusing on sacrificing as many creatures as possible. They make use of Blood Artist and Falkenrath Noble effects and can usually benefit from token generators like Crowded Crypt, or Breeding Pit as a source of death-triggers.

Commanding Conclusion

Rise of the Dark Realms - Illustration by Michael Komarck

Rise of the Dark Realms | Illustration by Michael Komarck

Gonti, Lord of Luxury brings an interesting deckbuilding challenge to Commander. Fighting against an off-color mechanic isn’t impossible and can actually be very rewarding. Gonti has a leg up on similar Commanders (think Evelyn, the Covetous) because it digs through the top four cards of an opponent’s library, a subtle advantage over taking a random card each time.

Are there any other mono-black commanders that deserve a blink build? And what sort of upgrades would you make to this Gonti deck? Let me know in the comments or over on Draftsim’s Twitter.

Thanks for reading!

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