Word on the street is that in a certain city, in a certain region, in the hour between 12:00 AM and 1:00 AM, during the so-called Witching Hour (not the occult 3:00 AM variation,) they would play Summer Madness by Kool & The Gang on the local radio station. This doesn’t have anything to do with Magic, but I thought I would share the tale and cement it into Internet history (hopefully I got it right!) Anyway…
The Witching Hour is my featured deck for this Halloween week release. Originally built sometime in 2014, this deck is a wonderful multiplayer experience that works by draining each opponent and converting that into life gain. I believe the original purchase price for this deck was under $20, and it’s remained a budget build despite being heavily modified over the past six years. Nevertheless, the core of this deck has stayed the same, and always will.
The creepy core
Festering Newt: When Festering Newt dies, target creature an opponent controls gets -1/-1 until end of turn. That creature gets -4/-4 instead if you control a creature named Bogbrew Witch.
Bogbrew Witch: 2 Colorless Mana + Tap Bogbrew Witch: Search your library for a card named Festering Newt or Bubbling Cauldron, put it onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle your library.
Bubbling Cauldron: 1 Colorless Mana + Tap Bubbling Cauldron + Sacrifice a creature: You gain 4 life. 1 Colorless Mana + Tap Bubbling Cauldron + Sacrifice a creature named Festering Newt: Each opponent loses 4 life. You gain life equal to the life lost this way.
Although each of these cards can perform on their own, together they shine. This is the core gameplay, and everything else in this deck is designed to expedite getting these pieces, keeping them in play, and capitalizing on their effects.
Bogbrew Witch allows you to tutor for either Bubbling Cauldron or Festering Newt. Usually you always choose to grab the Cauldron first, if you don’t have it, because it’s better to have that on the battlefield to prevent enemy removal from taking out your Newt. Once the Witch, Cauldron, and Newt are all on the battlefield, saccing Festering Newt (at instant speed,) lets you trigger 4 life loss on each player and that total loss is converted into life gain (so if you have three opponents, you gain 12 life.) This significantly pushes you ahead while draining your opponents. WOTC doesn’t really do that kind of effect anymore, because that kind of advantage is just too powerful. That is especially true in this deck. Plus, Festering Newt is four times as strong, as a removal spell, when it dies with the Witch present.
Effectively this means that, off of one trigger, you can hit everyone, gain a bunch of life, and can usually take out most problematic creature, even if they’re indestructible. The one downside though, is that you can’t repeat this combo without extra help. In fact, you’ll need to trigger this at least five times if everyone is still at 20 life, and there’s only four Newts in the deck. What ever will we do?
Order of Midnight: Flying. Order of Midnight can’t block. // Alter Fate: Return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand. (Then exile this card. You may cast the creature later from exile.)
Unearth: Return target creature card with converted mana cost 3 or less from your graveyard to the battlefield. Cycling 2 Colorless Mana (2 Colorless Mana + Discard this card: Draw a card.)
Immortal Servitude: Return each creature card with converted mana cost X from your graveyard to the battlefield.
Witch’s Cottage: Witch’s Cottage enters the battlefield tapped unless you control three or more other Swamps. When Witch’s Cottage enters the battlefield untapped, you may put target creature card from your graveyard on top of your library.
Okay, so we need to get that Newt back into play, and the best way to do that is to bring it back from the dead. Let’s see what we have in this deck to do just that.
Let me just take a second to say that the alternate art of Order of Midnight // Alter Fate is thematically beautiful, especially for this particular deck. Gameplay wise, though, Alter Fate allows us to return the Newt or the Witch, and Order of Midnight can act as the last bit of damage to push through if we don’t have any other options. If we’re low on life, we can always sac it to the Cauldron (or sac it because we want it in the graveyard.)
Unearth is perfect for this deck, because for one black mana, you can grab the Newt and put it directly onto the battlefield. It’s like casting it straight from the graveyard, which is exactly what we’re looking for. The cycling is an added bonus, but it would only really be useful if you didn’t have any Newts in the graveyard, or if you hadn’t set the Witch or the Cauldron up yet.
Immortal Servitude is also incredibly useful for this deck, because for four mana, you can return all of the Newts from your graveyard directly to the battlefield. Dropping this late game and saccing one Newt might be game over, but getting all four, short of a board wipe, would be really difficult for any opponent to survive.
Finally, thematically on point, Witch’s Cottage lets you grab the Newt, the Witch, or Order of Midnight, and put it on top of your library. It should be simple to hit the three swamp requirement, given that the rest of the land in this deck is made of swamps.
Now that we can establish the combo and we can keep it running, it’s time to dive into all of the utility we’ve packed to maintain our momentum.
Breathe your last breath
Tragic Slip: Target creature gets -1/-1 until end of turn. Morbid — That creature gets -13/-13 until end of turn instead if a creature died this turn.
Pharika’s Libation: Choose one — Target opponent sacrifices a creature or Target opponent sacrifices an enchantment.
Feed the Swarm: Destroy target creature or enchantment an opponent controls. You lose life equal to that permanent’s converted mana cost.
Golden Demise: Ascend (If you control ten or more permanents, you get the city’s blessing for the rest of the game.) All creatures get -2/-2 until end of turn. If you have the city’s blessing, instead only creatures your opponents control get -2/-2 until end of turn.
Never: Destroy target creature or planeswalker. // Return: Aftermath (Cast this spell only from your graveyard. Then exile it.) Exile target card from a graveyard. Create a 2/2 black Zombie creature token.
We can’t hit artifacts with this deck, but we have numerous ways to stop our opponents from maintaining any worthwhile board presence. Tragic Slip is brilliant, because we’re always sacrificing the Newt or removing an opponent’s creature, enchantment, or planeswalker, so triggering Morbid is the norm. That also means potentially up to -17/-17 for anything really big when stacking these effects. Both Pharika’s Libation and Feed the Swarm let us hit enchantments, and the potential life loss is irrelevant after saccing the Newt once. Golden Demise is our only board wipe, but it has the option to protect our Newts late game, if we even make it that far. Finally, Never // Return is a double-edged sword, letting us target planeswalkers, or hitting any card in our opponent’s graveyards with Aftermath. Something that eliminates an each opponent’s graveyard might be better, but I really like the duality of this card for this deck.
Making a deal with the devil
Sign in Blood: Target player draws two cards and loses 2 life.
Diabolic Tutor: Search your library for a card and put that card into your hand. Then shuffle your library.
The only real card draw in this deck comes from Sign in Blood, but given that it has two purposes, it seems apt for this deck. You can either draw two cards (and the 2 life loss doesn’t matter at all,) or you can target an opponent, and finish them off. I honestly haven’t really needed much card draw, since the core gameplay of this deck is low variance. To keep it that way, we’re employing a powerful budget staple, Diabolic Tutor. It’s a straight forward effect, and it will almost exclusively be used as additional Witch’s, since grabbing a recurring tutor is the most efficient way to start the drain.
Stay safe! Wear a mask!
That’s it for this deck! Isn’t the art and overall theme perfect for this time of the year? As for gameplay, it’s very simple, and the deck runs like clockwork, so it’s great for any beginner or veteran. Since my version of this deck changes quickly, I’m keeping a running deck list over at Scryfall, so click here to access that. It might have already changed by the time you read this article!
I want to take a second to stress that if we’re going to make this 2020 Halloween a safe one, everyone needs to work together, wear masks, keep alert, stay distanced, and maintain our hygiene and sanitization practices. Stay home if you can, and save a life. Have a safe, and Happy Halloween!