Korlash, Heir to Blackblade | Illustration by Daarken
Mono-black Commander decks can be incredibly powerful. There are lots of ways to set up powerful moves, and one mono-black commander (Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose) can even form a two-card game-winning combo. While this makes mono-black a very good choice for a Commander build, it can also have the downside of making many of these decks feel the same.
To avoid proliferating this issue, I wanted to avoid using the same tired combos or relying too heavily on tutors to set up plays when I set out to create a mono-black deck. With that goal in mind, I decided to build a deck around Korlash, Heir to Blackblade. Instead of building in a combo of some sort, this deck’s win condition is either just normal damage or commander damage.
This is by no means the most competitive Commander deck, but it’s the kind of deck that’s lots of fun when it’s doing what it’s meant to. It can be very satisfying to win a game just by equipping your commander with the right tools and swinging for lots of damage.
If you’re looking for a different type of mono-black deck, I recommend giving this build a try!
Squelching Leeches | Illustration by Svetlin Velinov
Magus of the Coffers
Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon
Herald of Leshrac
Go for the Throat
Mandate of Abaddon
Dead of Winter
In Garruk's Wake
Feed the Swarm
Torment of Hailfire
Sword of the Animist
Mask of Griselbrand
Sword of Truth and Justice
Sword of Forge and Frontier
Sword of Feast and Famine
Sword of Hearth and Home
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Snow-Covered Swamp x34
The point of this deck is getting Korlash as big as possible, so I’ve included a lot of equipment that can help with that. Blackblade Reforged was an obvious choice, and it’s nice to see a big flavor win like that when it comes to pairing lore and mechanics together.
I also included cards that can help you find more Swamps. There aren’t as many options as there might be in a multicolor deck, I think there’s still enough options for it to work. Sword of the Animist works especially well with your combat heavy strategy. Since you want lots of Swamps on the field, I also made sure to include a few more lands than I usually might.
I also wanted to include other cards that benefit from the number of Swamps you have. Cards like Nightmare and Squelching Leeches have the same effect as Korlash, so while they won’t dish out commander damage, they can be good substitutes if your commander is getting expensive to recast.
Korlash, Heir to Blackblade is a nice choice for a commander when dealing commander damage is your strategy. It naturally gets stronger as the game continues. Even though you’ll have to pay commander tax if it’s destroyed, you’ll likely be getting a stronger creature when you recast your commander.
In addition to getting stronger with each Swamp you play, Korlash also has a built-in way to keep itself safe. If you can pay for its activated ability, you can prevent it from being destroyed. This is especially helpful because you can regenerate Korlash in response to a surprise blocker or combat trick. This makes it safer to attack with it and feel safe that you won’t lose your commander.
Equipment And Auras
While Korlash gets stronger with each land you play, you should want other ways to make it stronger. Equipment is a great way to do this.
Both Blackblade Reforged and Lashwrithe essentially double Korlash’s power and toughness, making them very effective.
While they won’t affect its power and toughness, Inquisitor's Flail and Fireshrieker both allow you to double the output of damage that Korlash delivers. Though Inquisitor's Flail can be risky, Korlash’s regenerate ability cuts down on that risk.
The Mirran swords like Sword of Hearth and Home and Sword of Truth and Justice serve multiple purposes. Not only do they all have strong combat damage triggers, they also offer Korlash protection from two colors. This can make it easier to attack your opponents without being blocked and deal out commander damage.
While commander damage is one way to win the game, you can also find other ways to do so. Vorpal Sword allows you to eliminate a player if you can afford to activate it, and it can make any creature as deadly as your commander.
Grafted Exoskeleton can also make creatures more deadly by giving them infect.
Aside from buffing your creatures, equipment can also help you evade blockers and avoid having the equipped creature be destroyed. Whispersilk Cloak does both, making it one of your better pieces of equipment.
Mask of Griselbrand gives you evasion and helps you gain some life, while Lightning Greaves and Champion's Helm can keep your creatures from being targeted by harmful spells.
Auras won’t stick around as long as equipment, but they can also be easier to attach quickly and make an explosive play when you’re shorter on mana. Phyresis and Glistening Oil can be a nasty surprise for your opponents.
Dauthi Embrace and Demonic Embrace both grant forms of evasion to the enchanted creature, which can be very good when targeting a strong Korlash or one of your infect creatures.
Playing a single Swamp a turn might be a little too slow when it comes to making Korlash strong enough to take out a player. That’s why you have cards like Solemn Simulacrum or Liliana's Shade that can get you an extra one.
Canoptek Wraith is a great card in this deck because you can either sacrifice it early for extra Swamps or attach some strong equipment to it and benefit from its inability to be blocked.
Sword of the Animist works really well because if you attach it to Korlash he will buff himself each time he attacks. This is also one of the more consistent ways to ramp in this deck, since you can potentially get an extra land each turn from it.
Walking Atlas can’t find you any extra Swamps, but it’ll allow you to play extra ones from your hand each turn. This card pairs well with Liliana of the Dark Realms because it makes it more likely that you’ll have extra Swamps on hand.
Korlash’s regenerate ability help to keep your commander on the battlefield, but it’ll still probably be destroyed at some point. You may need another big attacker to attach your equipment to.
While they won’t deal commander damage, both Nightmare and Squelching Leeches get just as powerful and can still do a lot of damage.
Infect creatures like Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon and Plague Myr can also be good targets for your equipment because making them stronger and more evasive can just as easily eliminate players as Korlash can.
If you have lots of equipment on the field, Armory Automaton can get pretty strong by immediately equipping it all to itself. This can also save you a lot of mana having to pay to reattach them.
Between having mana on hand to protect Korlash and having to equip your creatures, you’ll want some extra mana.
Cards like Extraplanar Lens, Crypt Ghast, and Nirkana Revenant give you a big boost in mana each turn they’re on the field.
Magus of the Coffers is also able to tap for quite a bit of extra mana once you have a lot of Swamps on the field.
Herald of Leshrac is another great way to get some extra mana, though your opponents won’t be very happy about it. This will likely be a temporary source of extra mana because this creature is a lightning rod for removal.
Keeping the field clear makes it a lot easier for you to get damage through if you don’t have any of your evasion equipment.
Targeted removal like Go for the Throat and Defile are good for taking out a blocker you don’t think you can destroy with combat damage.
Hero's Downfall is nice because it can also remove a planeswalker if you need to.
Soul Shatter is a good way to take out multiple big threats at the same time. This also gives you more options of who to attack.
I also included several board wipes like In Garruk's Wake that help to clear the field for Korlash.
Dead of Winter and Mutilate keep Korlash alive if it has any buffs to its toughness, leaving you an open field to attack once you have enough lands.
Mandate of Abaddon is another good option once Korlash has gotten pretty strong.
With enough mana, Torment of Hailfire likely forces your opponents to sacrifice at least a few of their creatures. It can also drain lots of life from your opponents if you’ve managed to produce enough mana.
The Mana Base
It’s probably apparent based on the way this deck is built, but a big part of your mana base is Swamps. I chose Snow-Covered Swamps to go along with Dead of Winter, and I also included Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to turn the few utility lands in this deck into Swamps. Urborg is also useful if you manage to give Korlash swampwalk.
I also included Myriad Landscape and Terrain Generator to give you a few ways to get additional Swamps into play more quickly. Having all those Swamps also makes Cabal Coffers especially effective, allowing for some explosive turns.
The last two utility lands, Rogue's Passage and Witch's Clinic are here to give Korlash some meaningful buffs. Making your commander unblockable can help you finish off a player that’s otherwise hard to hit, whereas giving it lifelink can keep you in the game longer.
I chose to go more land heavy than including a lot of mana rocks because it synergizes better with Korlash. That said, Sol Ring is hard to pass up given how good it is at accelerating your game.
I also included an Extraplanar Lens, a good way to get extra mana when you’re mostly running lands of the same name.
When it comes to mana dorks, you have Magus of the Coffers essentially giving you a second chance to have a Cabal Coffers and cashing in on all your Swamps.
You also have a Crypt Ghast to help you generate a lot of extra mana even though it doesn’t make any mana itself.
You also have a Plague Myr, which is only partially here for its mana ability. As an infect creature, it can also be a great target to attach your equipment spells to and make powerful enough to a player.
In short, your main strategy in this deck is to just buff up Korlash, Heir to Blackblade by playing lands and attaching equipment to it. If you’re struggling to keep Korlash on the field, you have some good alternatives like Nightmare which will get equally strong, or any creature with infect like Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon.
You also want to try and keep the board thinned out because you don’t want that many blockers on the field. Cards like Fleshbag Marauder can help, as can board wipes that leave Korlash alive like Mandate of Abaddon. Silent Arbiter is another good way to swing things in your favor because your opponents will be forced to block Korlash one on one, which is a fight you’ll likely win once you have enough Swamps and other buffs.
Protection from one of the Mirran swords or other forms of evasion like Whispersilk Cloak can be very helpful in finishing off your opponents with commander damage. You also have Vorpal Sword as an alternative way to eliminate players. With enough mana, you can also use spells like Exsanguinate or Torment of Hailfire to try and finish off your opponents.
Combos and Interactions
I tried to avoid building any infinite combos into this deck, but there are some good interactions you can look out for. For example, Dead of Winter or Mutilate would usually kill Korlash given its ability. However, if you can buff it even one toughness, it’ll survive either of these wipes. Later in the game, once you’ve played a lot of Swamps, you can usually wipe the board with one of these cards and then have Korlash alive and ready to swing at an empty field.
Herald of Leshrac is always going to be a powerful card for you, but it gets even better if you have Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth on the field. This makes every land you steal a Swamp in addition to its other types, meaning each land you steal also buffs Korlash.
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth also pairs nicely with Filth. Once Filth is in your graveyard, you’ll be able to attack any player unblocked for as long as you have Urborg on the field.
Rule 0 Violations Check
While there are no infinite combos, it may be worth asking your playgroup how they feel about the inclusion of infect cards in this deck. I think even casual groups have come to expect some of it, but I can see it being a sticking point for some players. You don’t want to make the game less fun for anyone else at the table. It may be worth having a small sideboard of cards you can use to swap out the few infect cards in this deck.
When it comes to saving money on this deck, there are a few standout cards that are expensive and can probably be cut without too much impact. A couple of the Mirran swords, specifically Sword of Feast and Famine, Sword of Truth and Justice, and Sword of Forge and Frontier, are all relatively expensive. While you’ll lose the good combat damage triggers, you can replace these with other sources of evasion and still get mostly the same effect. Trailblazer's Boots usually allows you to attack any player in a game of Commander unblocked with the popularity of nonbasic lands, and Hot Soup could be risky but isn’t as bad when Korlash can regenerate itself.
Extraplanar Lens is also somewhat expensive, so you can save some money by replacing it with a Cabal Stronghold. It isn’t as good, but it’s still a good way to make extra mana at about half the price.
I really enjoy having Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon as an alternative target for my equipment. That said, it’s a $30 card, and if you want to save some money you can make do without it. You can save a lot by replacing it with a Plague Stinger which is still an evasive infect creature, though without the other good effects.
Another way you can build a Korlash deck is to lean more into a zombie tribal theme than an equipment one. There are plenty of creatures that buff zombies, like Cemetery Reaper or Undead Warchief. This also allows you to go wider than you can with this current build.
Since you’ll be making more zombies, you can also include a Coat of Arms to potentially make Korlash much bigger than it’ll get in this deck. This also makes your zombies very powerful, especially if you’re making a lot of them with cards like Endless Ranks of the Dead.
Mutilate | Illustration by Tyler Jacobson
You have a lot of great options when it comes to mono-black commanders, but I hope I’ve inspired you to give Korlash, Heir to Blackblade a try. I’ve enjoyed playing this deck, and though I may not consistently win, it’s very satisfying when it works. I’d also be happy to hear any suggestions you might have on what else to include in this deck and what to swap for it.
How would you build a Korlash deck? What mono-black commanders are your favorite? Let me know in the comments below or on Draftsim’s Twitter.
Thanks for reading, and I look forward to seeing you in the next one!
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