Black doesn't always get card powerful draw spells. It can often gain repeatable effects, like Arguel's Blood Fast or Erebos, God of the Dead, that allow it to turn excess life and mana into cards at an inefficient rate. Sometimes it gets painful Howling Mine-style effects, like Phyrexian Arena or Underworld Connections. But typically it has access to effects like Sign in Blood or Read the Bones, where it gets a Divination with some life loss and a small upside. But rarely does Black get the ability to efficiently draw three or more cards.
A long time ago, on a plane far, far away, there was a card called Painful Truths. Three mana for three cards is nearly unheard of in Standard, and the card saw a heavy amount of play in the four-color decks that ran rampant through Battle for Zendikar Standard. It saw play over cards like Dig Through Time (or, sometimes with it) and Treasure Cruise, because the mana allowed it to be a reasonable impression of three cards for 3 life and three mana. Since then Black card draw has, again, been about incremental effects, and not a burst of cards efficiently.
Until Treacherous Blessing.
Treacherous Blessing has a lot of upsides over a card like Painful Truths. Unlike Painful Truths, it doesn't require any heavy commitment to Black or multicolor to draw cards. Mono-black can use this as effectively as two, three and four-color decks. It doesn't require any initial investment of life to play, and lets you pay it back in increments at the cost of potentially having to pay more life in some circumstances.
There's a general rule in Magic that, when it comes to advantages, "now" is usually better than "later." The Magic Mirror might draw you a lot more cards than anything else in Standard, but it takes so long to get there that anything that kills it (or you) means that it never pulls its weight. When it comes to costs, the inverse is true: any time you can pay later for an effect now, it is better to do so. The cycle of Pacts are perhaps the best and most extreme example of this concept, where something like Summoner's Pact or Pact of Negation become free spells if the game never goes to their next upkeep step.
Treacherous Blessing is nothing as game-ending as winning with a Primeval Titan that turn or resolving a key combo piece and countering the opponent's interaction, but it is easy to mitigate the downsides of Treacherous Blessing by gaining life or removing the card from play.
Perhaps the most obvious way to ignore this life loss is a card like Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Treacherous Blessing conveniently even grants the extra pip of black mana to pay for the life lost by casting it. Mono-Black Devotion will almost certainly be a deck going forward in some fashion, and one thing it was missing was a consistent way to get ahead on cards—both Midnight Reaper and Erebos, Bleak-Hearted are a bit conditional, unlike the previous iterations Underworld Connections.
My initial pass on this deck plans to sacrifice other creatures with Priest of Forgotten Gods and Ayara, First of Locthwain, and then utilize them to make Command the Dreadhorde the ultimate burn spell with Gray Merchant of Asphodel, returning multiple black creatures with high devotion and a Gray Merchant (or multiple). It's possible this trick works better with Bolas's Citadel, draining them down below 10 and using the flavor text on Citadel to take away the rest of their life.
Pretty much any deck with the Witch's Oven and Cauldron Familiar combo will be able to negate most of the downside to Treacherous Blessing, because it's hard to consistently play two or more spells in a turn. Further, each additional Witch's Oven after the first negates another spell's worth of life loss from Treacherous Blessing, or if we're only casting one spell per turn, lets us play another Treacherous Blessing and ignore the now 2 life lost per spell.
Because of all this, the second obvious home for Treacherous Blessing is in Food decks with Cat/Oven and Trail of Crumbs. Despite having so much to do with its mana, the deck doesn't actually cast that many spells each turn until the late game, at which point it's likely won anyway, even if it loses a few points of life in the process. The deck is also so good at gaining life with Food Tokens that a few extra points might not matter.
The Sacrifice decks with green and black are also pretty easy to slide Vraska, Golgari Queen into. Vraska is a perfect way to simply remove the enchantment rather than mitigate its downside, and the deck has often played Vraska before for its other synergies. Even Jund Sacrifice would love a burst of cards sometimes, for when it needs to find an engine piece or rebuild.
Jund Sacrifice isn't the direction I want to explore, though. I'd rather build with Doom Foretold.
The core of the deck that has me so interested is Treacherous Blessing, Doom Foretold and Cavalier of Dawn. Doom Foretold decks have never had a problem controlling the board, as that's literally all the card does. The problem is once the board is clear, it tends to leave both players in top-deck mode. Without a reliable way to get ahead on cards, it was possible for other decks to just draw out of the situation and reassemble with a couple cards. Treacherous Blessing gives the Doom Foretold deck the card draw it was missing and another permanent to sacrifice to Doom Foretold.
Similarly, Cavalier of Dawn works as a way to remove Blessing, and then returns Blessing (if you want) when it dies. Cavalier of Dawn also works well with Doom Foretold in multiple ways to remove a permanent for a 3/3 Golem token (which cannot be sacrificed to Doom Foretold), and then to recur Doom Foretold when it later dies. All of this combines with the Trail of Crumbs package beautifully. Each piece, including the card draw, can be found with the green enchantment.
The other thing that Green adds is a card that is near and dear to my heart: Knight of Autumn. It works well as a way to remove Treacherous Blessing from play and provides sacrifice fodder for Doom Foretold. Going into a set filled to the brim with powerful enchantments, after months where enchantment and artifact destruction has already been at a premium, I appreciate any reason to maindeck the card. That Knight of Autumn is so powerful against the other sacrifice decks is a blessing of its own.
The last deck is still a work in progress, but it's definitely interesting, to say the least.
Enigmatic Incarnation is strange. In a normal Magic set, this would let us convert one card type, enchantments, into another card type… creatures. Interesting, intriguing, and maybe it lines up well, but it's probably not that good. Except of course, we're returning to Theros, home of enchantment creatures, which lets us use this as a Birthing Pod of sorts. Luckily, Treacherous Blessing is exactly the kind of card that would love to be sacrificed, pointing us in the direction of a Sultai deck.
Aphemia, the Cacophony
Arasta of the Endless Web
Dryad of the Ilysian Grove
This is the shortlist of cards that seem like playable enchantment creatures and would slot in well to a deck trying to use Enigmatic Incarnation. Obviously as I write this, the full card gallery isn't out yet, which means that more cards will, hopefully, be added. But this is what we have to work with currently.
The most interesting card on this list is first alphabetically: Aphemia, the Cacophony. This deck is already looking to put enchantments into the graveyard, making her a perfect fit as-is. On top of that, both Aphemia and Incarnation are end-step triggers, and they can be stacked in such a way that Aphemia can exile the same enchantment that Enigmatic Incarnation sacrifices, since she does not target as part of the ability resolving. To me, the synergies are strong enough that I would want to max out on this card.
Thassa, Deep-Dwelling is also an interesting card if there are enough ways to make use of her blink ability. Presumably because we're looking to take advantage of Enigmatic Incarnation, we'll be looking to use enters-the-battlefield effects anyway, so this shouldn't be too much of a stretch. This actually leads me to think that we'll also be in the market for a one-of Yarok, the Desecrated as a way to exploit enters-the-battlefield effects.
The list is rough, for sure, but it's interesting. The main cards in the deck are Aphemia, the Cacophony (which should hopefully buy time in the midgame to set everything up), Risen Reef and Dryad of the Ilysian Grove. The extra land drops with all the card draw in the deck is very powerful as a way to get up to high amounts of mana quickly, and then take over the game with… well, all the one and two-ofs in the deck.
Basically, there are a lot of ways to win in Sultai once we can do something multiple times a turn, every turn. The presence of two Golgari Findbroker means that it's pretty difficult to ever be cut off from something in this deck, short of cards getting exiled. Once Thassa, Deep-Dwelling starts recurring effects, or Yarok, the Desecrated starts doubling them, it can do pretty much anything it wants repeatedly for an absurd amount of value. At some point killing or stealing all of their relevant cards or draining enough life with Gray Merchant of Asphodel will kill them. It's just a matter of piecing together how in time.
In the middle of the curve, Renata, Called to the Hunt is in the deck as ways to bridge the gap between three and five in terms of converted mana cost. Again, hopefully there's some interesting enchantment creatures that get previewed, because neither of these are great, but they are at least solid.
If you're greedier, it's possible to try and move further in on Dryad of the Ilysian Grove and go for four or even five colors. Unfortunately, while the deck can reliably find Dryad if it wants with Enigmatic Incarnation, putting it into play in the end step doesn't do much since the deck only plays on its own turn and can't put lands into play otherwise. But as a thought exercise, sure, why not play five colors? The world is your oyster as long as you have Dryad in play, but for now I'm being
And that's the real treacherous blessing: not playing greedy enough in 2020.
Nick Prince is a competitive Magic player and member of the L.A. Gayming Society leadership team.
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