Horrors are among the scariest creatures in Magic, hence their creature type. Is it possible to build a Horror deck that can be fun to play casually and can actually hold its own in a competitive tournament? Here we have a Modern-legal Horror tribal list utilizing one of the most powerful Black creatures in all of Magic.
4 Fume Spitter
4 Despoiler of Souls
4 Gatekeeper of Malakir
3 Creakwood Liege
3 Phyrexian Obliterator
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
2 Go for the Throat
4 Raven’s Crime
4 Wrench Mind
2 Hero’s Downfall
2 Phyrexian Arena
3 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Phyrexian Obliterator is a $30-35 card, but he is the heaviest hitter in the entire deck. Requiring a whopping 4 Black mana is no problem in a mono-Black deck. Not only is this a 5/5 with trample that you can play on turn 4, but every point of damage dealt to the Obliterator requires the player dealing it to sacrifice that many permanents. This includes damage from combat or a source of damage such as Lightning Bolt. Once he hits the board, only something like a Dismember, Go for the Throat, and Hero’s Downfall can deal with it. The latter two aren’t played much in Modern.
If you don’t want to shell out the money for 3 copies of Obliterator, though, there is a Horror you could consider. Canker Abomination is a 6/6 for only 4 mana, however, he gets a -1/-1 counter put on him for each creature your opponents control. The upside is that he is both green and black - although you only need black mana to cast him. With the amount of creature removal you have in this deck, it’s rare your opponent will have many creatures to power him down much.
Fume Spitter is a useful 1-drop creature that can sacrifice itself to put a -1/-1 counter on a target creature. This is useful for eliminating opponent’s creatures with one or fewer toughness. It’s also a useful way to weaken opponent’s creatures that may otherwise prove to be an issue in combat with your other creatures.
Gatekeeper of Malakir obviously isn’t a Horror, but he’s useful enough to play in this deck. He costs 2 Black mana for a 2/2 but by paying an extra Black mana when casting him, you can force your opponent to sacrifice one of their creatures. You need another early drop that gives you advantage, and this is it.
Despoiler of Souls is a 3/1 for only 2 mana who’s also a Horror. The Despoiler can also come back to the battlefield from the graveyard by removing 2 creatures from your graveyard and paying 2 Black. He can’t block, but you’re going to be on the offensive with this deck, so it doesn’t really matter.
Creakwood Liege is a 4-mana creature that can be paid for with either Green or Black mana. He also boosts your other Green and Black creatures by +1/+1. What makes him particularly good, however, is that during each of your upkeeps, he may make a 1/1 Green and Black Wurm creature token. With a Liege on the board, this token actually gets +2/+2. Also if you have more than one Liege on board, each one gets +4/+4, making them 5/5 creatures.
Gray Merchant of Asphodel is the big finisher. He makes your opponent lose life equal to the Black mana symbols in the casting costs of permanents you control. You also gain that much life. While he costs 5 mana, the swing in life points is definitely worth it with the amount of black mana symbols in the creatures you play in this deck. It’s also why Obliterator is so good - the 4 black mana symbols in his cost alone mean an 8 point life difference. The Gray Merchant also counts his own 2 Black mana symbols in his own casting cost.
In the best case scenario, you play Fume Spitter (without sacrificing it) on turn one, a Despoiler of Souls on turn two, a Gravekeeper of Malakir on turn three, a Creakwood Liege or Phyrexian Obliterator on turn four, and a Gray Merchant of Asphodel on turn 5. That’s 10 or 11 life your opponent will lose and you will gain. The game is essentially over at that point. Just having a Liege or Obliterator on board is enough to make the Gray Merchant worth playing.
If you don’t have the creatures to play, Raven’s Crime and Wrench Mind are discard spells that will limit your opponent’s options. Raven’s Crime has the distinction of being able to be played from the graveyard for a single Black mana and discarding a land. It makes drawing lands in the late game more palatable. If you have the money to replace them, Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek are much more consistent discard options. You really only need 1 or 2 copies of Raven’s Crime for the Retrace ability to be useful.
Dismember, Go for the Throat, and Hero’s Downfall give you multiple ways to deal with creatures. Hero’s Downfall can even hit planeswalkers. Phyrexian Arena costs you 1 life each turn, but also draws you an extra card. There are two copies in the deck, so there will be games in which you’ll be able to play both. Gray Merchant’s lifegain should easily make up for the life loss and the extra cards are quite helpful in making sure you can stay ahead of your opponent.
The mana base is quite simple - 3 copies of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx to allow you to take advantage of all of those black mana symbols and turn them into extra mana, and 19 Swamps. If you don’t care about the deck being Modern-legal, Cabal Coffers is a pricier and more efficient way to produce Black mana. Coffers only cares about how many Swamps you control, but there isn’t a Modern-legal printing of it, and it is considerably more expensive.
You may also consider swapping one or two swamps for Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. This makes your non-Swamps into Swamps - as well as making everyone else’s lands into Swamps, so you do want to keep this in mind.
If you do decide to go the Urborg route, you may consider swapping a couple of Raven’s Crimes and Wrench Minds for Funeral Charm. It is a one-mana Black instant that is legal in Modern due to being included as a Timeshifted card in Time Spiral. Not only does it let you force an opponent to discard a card at instant speed, it also has two other options: give a creature +2/-1 until end of turn or give a creature swampwalk. Both of those other abilities are relevant in this deck.
Is this deck good enough to fare well at a competitive Modern tournament? With Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek it could well be. Liliana of the Veil is probably better than Gatekeeper of Malakir, too, but she’s extremely pricey. You don’t see Creakwood Liege very often and Despoiler of Souls is certainly no Dark Confidant, but for a Horror tribal deck, this is as good as it gets.
Any suggestions on how you might improve this deck? Any other kind of deck you’d like us to build? Let us know in the comments!