This article was originally going to be a black/red, then black/red/blue, then black/green, then mono-black Historic deck that featured Tiny Bones, in all his wonderful little glory. It was focused on forcing an opponent to discard their hand, and then leveraged Tiny Bones to deal the final blow.
Tinybones, Trinket Thief: At the beginning of each end step, if an opponent discarded a card this turn, you draw a card and you lose 1 life. 4 Colorless Mana + 2 Black Mana: Each opponent with no cards in hand loses 10 life.
When I originally built the deck in the summer, it honestly felt like Historic, as a format, was closer to kitchen table than any other format besides Commander. I came across numerous jank decks that did all sorts of hilarious things, and a discard deck that used Tiny Bones and Davriel seemed to fit that meta really well. Of course I came across high powered decks, but most of them were highly dependent on key cards, and with enough removal, Tiny Bones fared well. I had such a blast with Tiny Bones, that I may have burned myself out, because I ended up taking a break from Arena, and Historic, and I hadn’t been back since.
For this article, I spent some time playing Tiny Bones again, and upgrading his deck with a variety of cards that were released in the past few months. What I found in opponents, however, was astonishing. I fought maybe one or two jank decks, but the majority of my opponents were playing fast, tuned decks, of which many did not appear on MTGGoldfish. Some of these decks were brilliant, like the one that used Sea-Gate Stormcaller, Neoform, and Dualcaster Mage to continually flood the field with mages copying the original spell, clones, and haste-enablers on turn 3. Even if some of these decks were easily defeated with the right removal, it seemed like in order to be competitive, I would need to invest considerable money (or wildcards) into the format. I’m not about giving WOTC anymore cash right now, so that’s just not happening. The takeaway, though, is that Historic has truly become a competitive environment, including all of that nasty and rude behavior. Maybe it was always competitive, and I just got really lucky with Tiny Bones.
So instead of my dilapidated Tiny Bones deck, I thought I would showcase my kitchen table multiplayer discard deck, one which I have found to be very enjoyable to play in a more casual environment. It’s been awhile since I’ve played it, but the core pieces are all the same. That being said, I feel like Tiny Bones would make a great addition to this deck, but with a price tag soaring above $40 per copy, I don’t see that happening any time soon.
Before I begin, keep in mind that the key to a good discard deck is to force your opponents to decide whether playing a card and leaving their hands empty is worth it. This is the sweet spot, because it pressures them to make rash decisions to empty their hands, or keep their hands active which would let you benefit from them discarding. If you can keep that pressure on your opponents, so that they’re stuck at zero or one cards in hand, it rarely matters what they play. The benefit to multiplayer is that if you’re forcing everyone to discard, but you’re not outwardly threatening the board state with bombs, in order to stay relevant, your opponents might just start using removal on each other.
Let it go
There are downsides to this kind of deck, too. Multiplayer discard is much harder to play than one-on-one, because you’re immediately put into a position of playing archenemy. If all goes according to plan, you’re expecting the entire table to be focused solely on you, which means you need to be very precise with each move you make. That’s why it’s worth hitting yourself if it means hitting your opponents. If you’re taking hits too, your opponents will be less concerned about you stealing the game away. Of course, if we play this deck correctly, we’ll be less affected by letting go of our cards than they will.
Arterial Flow: Each opponent discards two cards. If you control a Vampire, each opponent loses 2 life and you gain 2 life.
Mind Rake: Target player discards two cards. Overload 1 Colorless + 1 Black (You may cast this spell for its overload cost. If you do, change its text by replacing all instances of “target” with “each.”)
Smallpox: Each player loses 1 life, discards a card, sacrifices a creature, then sacrifices a land.
Arterial Flow is pretty straight forward and very effective because it only hits your opponents. Casting Mind Rake with its overload cost is cheaper, but it hits the caster too, but paired with the right cards, that shouldn’t matter; like Asylum Visitor, who can be cast as a discarded card using Madness.
The real MVP is Smallpox. You might not think this card is really that scary, but it is terrifying to play against. There is good reason for it being almost universally hated, especially when it’s dropped on turn two or three. At this point, everyone has their opening salvo out. Usually some kind of stax creature is on board, maybe even one half of a combo, people usually have their colors with multiple dual-lands, and they’re maybe down to three-to-five cards in hand. Things are heating up. Setting the entire board back by forcing them all to discard a card, sacrifice a creature, and sacrifice a land is enormous. Doing it twice in a row can easily result in multiple people scooping.
Don’t be afraid of sacrificing in order to get where you want. It’s really important that you be ready and willing to toss away good cards in order to keep the pressure on. It’s all about the long con.
Dakmor Salvage: Dakmor Salvage enters the battlefield tapped. Tap Dakmor Salvage: Add 1 Black Mana to your mana pool. Dredge 2 (If you would draw a card, you may mill two cards instead. If you do, return this card from your graveyard to your hand.)
Raven’s Crime: Target player discards a card. Retrace (You may cast this card from your graveyard by discarding a land card in addition to paying its other costs.)
Let’s talk about my favorite combination of cards in this deck. Dakmor Salvage lets you Dredge for 2 to return it to your hand, and Raven’s Crime lets you discard a land to play it from your graveyard. That means you can force at least one person to discard each turn, which is exactly the spot you want to be in late game; when your opponents are out of gas and top-decking. Remember, you can always sacrifice Dakmor Salvage to Smallpox, putting it in the graveyard for later.
Taking advantage of the situation
Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage: At the beginning of each opponent’s upkeep, if that player has one or fewer cards in hand, Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage deals 2 damage to them. -1: Target player discards a card.
Quest for the Nihil Stone: Whenever an opponent discards a card, you may put a quest counter on Quest for the Nihil Stone. At the beginning of each opponent’s upkeep, if that player has no cards in hand and Quest for the Nihil Stone has two or more quest counters on it, you may have that player lose 5 life.
Shrieking Affliction: At the beginning of each opponent’s upkeep, if that player has one or fewer cards in hand, they lose 3 life.
Megrim: Whenever an opponent discards a card, Megrim deals 2 damage to that player.
Fell Specter: Flying. When Fell Specter enters the battlefield, target opponent discards a card. Whenever an opponent discards a card, that player loses 2 life.
Now that your opponents keep discarding cards and have empty hands, how do we capitalize on this? I keep saying it, but it’s all about the pressure. Consistency is the only way to ensure that you’re bleeding everyone else out. The best way to do this is through packing your battlefield with various enchantments or creatures that punish your enemies passively.
There are two effects that we need to combine to effectively take advantage. The first is punishing your opponents for discarding in the first place. This is where Megrim and Fell Specter shine, because every time an opponent discards a card, they’ll lose 2 life. The second is punishing your opponents for casting what else remains. Davriel, Quest for the Nihil Stone, and Shrieking Affliction all punish your opponents for emptying their hands. If your opponents are foolish enough to hold onto their cards, you can force them to discard, and if they cast whatever is on hand, they’ll get hit. It’s a lose-lose situation, especially when they’re forced to cast cards at inconvenient times.
I will note that I picked up Quest for the Nihil Stone when it was less than a dollar each, but it really is less effective in this kind of deck compared to Shrieking Affliction or Davriel. Instead, if I could afford it, Waste Not would be an incredible card to add to this deck. Same with Liliana’s Caress to replace Megrim.
Looking toward the future
Cunning Lethemancer: At the beginning of your upkeep, each player discards a card.
Stronghold Rats: Shadow (This creature can block or be blocked by only creatures with shadow.) Whenever Stronghold Rats deals combat damage to a player, each player discards a card.
Syphon Mind: Each other player discards a card. You draw a card for each card discarded this way.
Fraying Omnipotence: Each player loses half their life, then discards half the cards in their hand, then sacrifices half the creatures they control. Round up each time.
These are some of the cards that I’ve been looking at, but I haven’t tested yet in this deck. I like the idea of forcing players to discard a card on each turn, like Cunning Lethemancer and Stronghold Rats might provide. If I’m going to do that, though, I need to be sure that I’m taking advantage of the situation, which would mean filling the deck with Madness enablers or cards that benefit from being put in the graveyard directly from hand. Fraying Omnipotence is similar, and a more effective (but more costly) version of Pox, but since it hits the caster as well it has to be worth it.
I am seriously considering dropping the money on Syphon Mind, because despite it costing four, late-game this could seriously tip the scales in my favor. Forcing everyone else to discard and benefiting from that in the way of card draw is simply magnificent. It would definitely draw hate though.
This deck is in the middle of being rebuilt, and I wasn’t really ready to reveal it. Given the Tiny Bones situation, however, it seemed both spooky (the art and flavor text on these cards alone is terrifying) and appropriate. Unfortunately, that means I don’t have a complete deck to share with the world. If you have any suggestions on what kind of removal or other cards you think might fit in this mono-black deck, I would be more than willing to hear what your thoughts!