Erebos, God of the Dead

Once more it is Halloween and it would have been a perfect year for it; it falls on Saturday so there is no school the next day for those trick or treaters, there is a blue full moon, and here in the States daylight savings time sets the clocks back 1 hour so you can enjoy an extra hour of late night partying, but the pandemic had to ruin everything, so the reality is more like sitting at home eating that 5lb bag of candy that you bought for the kids while watching old slasher movies from the 70s and 80s or reading Poe, King, and Lovecraft. For those of us able to play Commander, we can build Halloween themed decks and play a game or two of Magic. Since I’m on this gods of Theros streak, Erebos, God of the Dead makes the most sense. Erebos, God of the Dead is a 5/7 for 4 mana. Like all of the Theros gods, he is indestructible and isn’t a creature as long as your devotion to black is less than five. For his unique abilities, your opponents can’t gain life and you can pay 2 mana and 2 life to draw a card. Clearly Erebos, God of the Dead is not as powerful on his own as some of the other gods. His abilities are on the meh side of things. Life gain decks are not common in Commander so that first ability may not even be relevant in most games. Paying 2 mana and 2 life for 1 card isn’t great especially when black’s typical rate for card draw is 1 mana and 1 life per card. Since he is a mono colored god, Erebos’ devotion is easier to turn on than the two color gods so commander damage is a possibility, but he doesn’t have any evasion and is easily chump blocked so that strategy could take forever unless you include some auras and equipment to employ a voltron strategy, but in that case you might as well run a voltron commander like Zur the Enchanter. I think Erebos God of the Dead is best suited for a strategy that drains your opponents’ life totals with some devotion synergies thrown in.

Let’s go ahead and get this one out of the way: the infinite combo of Exquisite Blood and Sanguine Bond. You can substitute Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose for Sanguine Bond and the combo still works. In fact, Vito himself is akin to both of these cards rolled into one. By paying 5 mana, creatures you control gain lifelink, so when you attack you gain a bunch of life and then your opponent loses life. Think about that in a scenario where your opponent decides not to block or cannot block any attacks. They lose life for the damage and then you gain life equal to that damage and then they lose that same amount again because you gained all that life. I should also probably mention Tainted Remedy and how it interacts with Erebos. The card reads “If an opponent would gain life,” and since Erebos negates life gain entirely it won’t work. Tainted Remedy is a replacement effect for something that can’t even happen while Erebos is in play. However that’s no reason not to include it. It’s still a very powerful ability, more powerful than Erebos’ I would argue. While Erebos’ ability shuts down life gain, Tainted Remedy is a little more proactive by turning that life gain into life drain. Finally, during each end step Wound Reflection will amplify any life loss that your opponents take.

Here are some other powerful combos and abilities that work well with Erebos, God of the Dead. Underworld Dreams in an older card, but whenever an opponent draws a card they lose 1 life. It was recently reprinted in Core Set 2021 and it combos with a new card from that set, Peer into the Abyss. Peer into the Abyss forces the target player to draw half of their library and then lose half of their life. Since commander decks are 99 cards, let’s go down to 80 since that’s a more realistic number as the game goes on, they draw 40 cards lose half their life and then lose even more life from Underworld Dreams. That adds up to 60 life (1 life per card = 40 life and then half of 40 (starting life total) is 20), which should be game over for one player. Is one of your opponents amassing a token army? Massacre Wurm gives all creatures -2/-2 and then when an opponents creature dies that player loses 2 life. This is a mono black deck so your devotion is bound to be high, high enough that Gray Merchant of Asphodel, aka Gary, can do a lot of damage especially when combined with Phyrexian Reclamation and a sacrifice outlet. This enchantment can also work well with Massacre Wurm.

These combos do require a lot of mana, but black has some great cards that can make more black mana. Black Market, Cabal Stronghold, Cabal Coffers, Magus of the Coffers, Crypt Ghast, Nyx Lotus, and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx ought to be enough. If you can protect Liliana of the Dark Realms, her ultimate ability is a huge mana ramp payoff.

With all of that mana, you can run some spells with X in their costs to dump all of that mana into for some game ending spells. Exsanguinate drains every opponent for X and you gain life equal to the life lost. If you can drain your opponents for 20 life, you will gain 60 since you have 3 opponents. Torment of Hailfire, one of my favorite cards from Hour of Devestation, forces an opponent to choose between sacrificing a nonland permanent or discarding a card or losing 3 life X amount of times. That’s not an easy decision, especially when X can be as big as 20. Profane Command can end the game for two players if used correctly. Since you get to choose two options, one of those should be “target player loses X life.” If you have enough creatures, choosing to the last option to give them all fear, meaning they can only be blocked by artifact creatures or black creatures, should also be game over.

I know I haven’t gone over that many creatures for this deck, but there are a lot of good ones out there. Since most of your mana base is basic swamps, or at least it should be, you can get some nice value out of Dread Presence. Nighthawk Scavenger looks like Vampire Nighthawk and Tarmogoyf had a baby. Knight of the Ebon Legion is a great 1 mana card that scales pretty well with its abilities. Indulgent Tormentor allows you to draw an extra card unless an opponent sacrifices a creature or pays 3 life. Sepulchral Primordial gets you four bodies into play, three of which come from your opponents graveyards.

That wraps up Erebos, God of the Dead. Since this is a mono colored deck with a commander that has no clear direction where it wants to go, there are all kinds of ways you can take this deck. Choose one that fits you. Just remember that Erebos himself won’t do that much for you so your victory needs to rely on the 99 cards in your deck and black has a lot of powerful options. Which original god of Theros do you want to see next or is there a different commander you want to see next? Let me know in the comments down below.

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