Home Strategy Obedient Dead deck guide by MANTO: Deathly domination

About the author: MANTO

I have been playing Magic since 1996 and have been involved in some of the pro-tours in that state of Virginia. I’ve placed as high as second in the state in 1997. But took a long lay-off when I grew tired of the investment paper magic was costing me and decided to pursue my other passion which is chess.  The advent of the Planeswalker series rekindled my passion for Magic once again the past year and now I am back into full swing. I have a passion for the Liliana deck and play it regularly with much success.


With grave power…

It would be nice to have a discard theme like in the past, but this is Duels 2013. There seems to be a little of everything offered in Liliana’s deck, so we can’t aim for a strong aggro variant or a discard variant: not enough cards to support either theme. But there are some of the most brutally efficient cards in the game, many of which are undercosted.  So what is needed is a balanced approach:

  • Have enough early game resistance to handle aggro decks
  • Remove legitimate creature threats
  • Drop the mid-late game winning bombs

The Obedient Dead decklist presented below is very effective at achieving these aims.


Obedient Dead card-by-card analysis

Mire’s Toll: 4.5
Black has trouble removing  artifacts and enchantments to say the least. This is one great way to eliminate them… only that they need to be in your opponent’s hand first.

Crippling Blight: rating 2.5
This card is merely situational. It does not fully disable a creature, just makes it scared to block. The -1/-1 doesn’t do much later on.

Fume Spitter: 3.5
This miniature monster has plenty of utility. It can provide resistance to aggro decks and buy time later by sacrificing itself after blocking, canceling the blocked creatures damage no matter how large it is.

Innocent blood: 3.5
Can be both strong and weak depending on how flooded the board is with weenies. Best if used as a followup with a sweeper to kill the remaining fattie. It’s also great for early removal when you have nothing out.

Blister Beetle: 3.0
Acts as an early Nekrataal, generating card advantage. But its value decreases as the game proceeds.

Exanguinate: 2.0
Its greatest power seems to be when there are more players involved in the game. The problem with this card is that you can only target players, taking away flexibility.

Jet Medallion 3.0
This black ramp card can be very valuable when dropped turn 2. It can mean you get to have your demon army out sooner, rather than later. However, it is a dead draw mid to late game.

Nantuko Shade: 4.5
2/1 body that can inflate. At such a low casting cost and such high potential, this insect can grow to epic proportions as the game drags on.

Sign in Blood: 5.0
By drawing two cards for two life you gain card advantage. Also, it helps deal with land issues that may crop up on starting hands. Now hands with two lands to five lands are more playable.  No build should be without both copies of this.

Dread Warlock: 2.0
Not the most ideal card, even with its evasion ability. This card seems to be counterproductive if you’re including both of the essential sweepers in the deck.

Murder: 4.5
Efficient creature removal at three mana makes this an essential part of any black deck. The instant ability can generate card advantage or give you a extra turn if used right.

Warpath Goul: 1.5
Nothing to write home about. Merely a body to chump block with in order to buy time for your heavier drops.

Vampire Nighthawk: 5.0
Three mana for a 2/3 with flying, deathtouch, and lifelink? Are you kidding me? A card that’s easily effective anytime it hits the board. I’ll take four! Oh wait, all you get is one.

Last Kiss: 4.0
Can really slow down aggro decks with the instant aspect. Imagine the typical goblin attack with a chieftain played and two 3-power goblins coming at you . Then you kiss the chief, gain two life and take only two damage rather than eight.

Liliana’s Spectre: 4.5
Its ability alone is worth one card. With a 2/1 flying body you simply gain card advantage. It’s one of the cards that often times goes unnoticed as a reason for out attritioning your opponent.

Infest: 4.0
Will provide much needed relief against aggro. Especially against the Goblin and Peacekeeper decks when turn three is a pivotal time.

Underworld Dreams: 3.5
I feel that if black had more ways of making you opponent draw like Jace does, then this card will be invaluable and maybe even unfair. But it does add restriction on many drawing and bouncing strategies that are used for card advantage. It makes it just that much more uncomfortable to execute.

Phyrexian Obliterator: 5.0
Arguably the most feared creature to hit the board. For four black mana u get a 5/5 with a game ending ability. This card alone can shut down green and red decks, because in order to kill it, five damage needs to be dealt to it. And losing five permanents is much of the time too costly.

Mutilation: 4.5
When infest insn’t enough, this strong sweeper clears the way for when it’s time to start showing off how great the black high cost drops are.  It’s an essential card to say the least.

Befoul: 3.0
The ability to destroy a creature or land can come in handy but its higher casting cost (of four mana at a sorcery) makes one think about including multiple copies in the deck. Since its only targeting nonblack creatures, this is a dead draw when playing mirror matches.

Bloodhunter Bat: 1.5
Not the best card you can play at the 4 mana slot even with its ability. I’m sure there are those instances when the opponent has two life left and this card can be a miracle draw, but that just doesn’t happen that often.

Liliana’s Shade:  4.0
Provides needed land and deck thinning all into a potentially large creature, assuming your mana supply is sufficient.

Icy Manipulator: 3.5
Since it’s an artifact, it can neutralize protection from black creatures. This is a staple that can be considered for a slot in any competitive build.  The ability to tap and turn off some artifacts makes it even more versatile.

Nekrataal: 4.5
Another way to get card advantage against 90% of the decks out there.  If there were anther copy, Befoul will be almost pointless.

Diabolical Tutor: 4.0
Of course we would rather have a two cost Demonic Tutor, but then Obedient Dead would have too many overpowered cards. At four mana we just need to be patient enough to get the needed card.

Tendrils of Corruption: 4.0
Essential removal which gains life. It a great card when you played sign in blood multiple times and took some damage. It can both eliminate a creature and bring your life out of the red zone.

Rise from the Grave: 4.5
Liliana has enough removal to basically make this card a legitimate winning advantage. Although we would rather have control magic rather than spending two cards to gain control of the fatty that your opponent just played. But there is no enchantment to destroy, look on the bright side.

Halo Hunter: 3.0
Merely situational.  Roughly 30% of the decks actually play angels, so you are looking at an Intimidating 6/3 creature most of the time.

Incremental Blight: 2.5
The opponent needs three creature out for this to be effective, otherwise you’re hurting yourself as well.

Nightwing Shade: 1.5
Would be worth of consideration if it didn’t cost 2 to pump it +1/+1.  Even though it has flying, I still prefer the more efficient Nantuko and Liliana shades.

Velborn Goul: 3.5
Its great against decks heavy in removal. It can easily wear down your opponent, cause it will just keep coming back many times after it dies. It does cost five mana though, but if it’s later in the game that may be negligible.

Nightmare Incursion: 4.0
This card can either win you a long game or lose you a short one: it eliminates the cards you fear most. Remember you cannot deal with enchantments/artifacts easily: this card is one way! On the other hand, it’s not as effective against Peacekeepers and Goblins, since they can win the game before this card is available. I feel though that it is worthy of consideration if you don’t mind sacrificing one of your six mana creature slots for a little less firepower and better chances throughout the game.  Oh yeah, and it also increases your opponent’s chances of drawing lands the rest of the game.

Grave Titan: 4.5
An intimidating creature to hit the board at 6/6. Not sure if the deathtouch is going to be very valuable on a creature of this size (as opposed to Trample), but it’s also a zombie factory allowing it to attack every turn leaving 2/2 chumps behind.

Dread: 4.5
Two cards in one. You get a 6/6 body with that can’t be blocked most of the time and a built in No Mercy. Pretty much a self contained win condition.  This is a great card because it provides outs against protection from black creatures as well as the annoying hexproof ones.

Nightmare: 4.0
Great flyer that gets more nightmarish as the game proceeds.

Public Execution: 2.5
It’s basically very expensive removal that will save you from a weenie rush and buy you another turn. Not the greatest deal. Liliana has much more efficient removal  at the lower cost slots.

Xathrid Gorgon: 4.5
Can single-handedly shut down creature heavy decks. Imagine making a stone statue army out of your opponent’s creatures.  Apparently you can also create flying statues, which doesn’t make sense, but this is Magic not the real world.

Massacre Wurm: 5.0
Both a fatty and a sweeper with the added plus of damaging your opponent for each creature killed.  With the creature heavy game format this powerhouse is a win condition in and of itself. I can’t believe the number of times this card won me the game singlehandedly against aggro variants after suffering a lot of damage.

Hell-Carver Demon: 2.5 – 5.0 (depending on you’re the top 6 cards of your deck)
You like to gamble? Why not play this flying casino, it will not disappoint! This card can be both strong and weak depending on what cards hit the board. Your first obstacle is actually getting it through.  Remember you are going to lose your entire land supply and hand. So if hell-carver demon gets removed…it may be game over for you.

Phage the Untouchable: 4.0
Practically guaranteed to draw removal cards. Because if it doesn’t, your opponent can’t afford to leave one creature untapped (you may have removal just keep at least one card in your hand as a bluff). Seems tailor made against Celestial Light. To say the least, when it hits the board it will receive immediate respect.

Rune Scarred Demon: 5.0
A large flyer with demonic tutor attached. You get a large flyer and just the card you need with it.

Riever Demon: 3.5
7/7 flyer with a doomsday ability. It’s good, but it’s just that you need to survive long enough to get it out.

Pestilence Demon: 3.5
If you have more life than your opponent, this becomes a win condition. Otherwise it can clear the board of the minor nuisances.

Griselbrand: 4.0
A strong eight mana drop that will give you a game-winning seven card advantage. Let’s just hope that doesn’t bring your life total in the red zone though.

Avatar of Woe: 4.0
It’s a great card when there are plenty of creature in the graveyard since you can cast this powerhouse for two mana. However, if hard-cast at eight mana, your opponent may have plenty of ways to deal with it.


Obedient Dead deck list

Note: The last five cards can be customized however you like. You can put all demons in those last slots and the deck will still be effective, but you may just have to wait longer for a win condition. What I provided is a balanced endgame I feel you can’t really go wrong with, as it provides a good mix of removal and mid-late game support.

37 replies to this post
  1. There is no card Kiss of Death, I guess you mixed that one up with Last Kiss. In most parts I agree with your analysis, but I was never able to actually pull Mire’s Toll to any good use.

    • Yep, just a typo. As for Mire’s Toll, it’s best to play on turn 4, since most players will have 4 or fewer cards in hand then, and at least 1 is likely to be a nasty surprise.

  2. Like Pantropic Mirror, Well of Lost Dreams, Day of Judgement, stuff black may not have an answer for when played. That’s why the Disks were so useful with the Necro decks back in the day.

  3. I’ll start this by saying I’m green to the Magic scene, so pardon me if there’s something I’m blatantly missing, but…

    May I ask why no diabolic tutor? It allows you to draw a win condition. Despite the mana cost any win condition you’ll pull with it will most likely have a higher cost than the 4.

  4. Akitu yes somehow the card wasn’t included in the deck design (in my original design it was) I’m going to be working on an updated list very soon, also with some other improvements.

  5. Xathrid Gorgon rated higher than Griselbrand? For the sake of politeness, I’ll simply just say “Really?” in my best Paulo Vitor voice, and then ask Wing if I can write some Magic articles for him.

    • While I would agree with you in a constructed format, I think the Gorgon is highly underrated in Duels. It shuts down many, many decks, and Grisel is limited in scope, especially if your life is already low.

      On a different note, if you’re interested in doing a guest piece, email me!

      • I agree with Mobius – The thing about Gorgon is you aren’t short of removal, but it won’t change the tempo of a game you are losing, not least because it takes two turns just to nullify one threat, and is worthless against mechanic-type creatures like royal assassin or goblin chieftan.

        Grisel on the other hand can just refill your hand for the win, can replace its own cost after an attack or block. But most importantly, it also allows for amazing gambits because of its instant speed:

        I love getting my opponent into a close position, then gambling on drawing the removal or reach I need to seal the game. Also, netting seven fresh cards is the way to settle a game vs Celestial Light.

        Play it, and instantly grab seven cards. Or wait till he tries to remove it and then activate. More likely, play it, wait till your opponent’s end step, then refill your hand with your mana free and do something horrible to him (like drawing into the corrupt or tendrils needed to counter the life gain, or wipe the board so he can’t punish your red zone life).

      • The funny thing is, Gorgon is better in M13 Limited than Griselbrand was in Avacyn Restored Limited, just because of the casting cost, and the fact that removal is at a premium in draft/sealed formats.

        Which brings me back to Duels. Obedient Dead has more than enough removal where I feel things like Gorgon (which again, doesn’t even kill the creature, so mechanic-type creatures can still get you), Dread, and Reiver Demon are a bit of overkill.

        My removal suite consists of the 4x Murder, 1x Infest, 1x Mutilate, 1x Nekrataal, 1x Tendrils of Corruption, 2x Innocent Blood, 1x Corrupt, and if you really want to call it “removal”, 1x Icy Manipulator.

        I don’t ever feel I’m “lacking” removal, so again, the Gorgon just feels very unnecessary. I’m fine with my bombs being Grave Titan, Rune-Scarred Demon into whatever, Massacre Wurm, and Griselbrand, with the Wurm being the weakest of the 4 (but obviously there as a concession to the aggro decks, not to mention the huge amounts of damage he can potentially inflict…and his ability bypasses things like Worship)

        And I’ll shoot you an email soon Wing. Good job in the tourneys so far, by the way.

  6. Manto forgot to rate Massacre Wurm. Which is a shame because that card deserves all the praise it can get. It’s a one-sided pyroclasm that deals two damage for every creature it kills and it has a 6/5 body attached all for 6 mana.

    This card wins you the game whenever the number of enemy weenies is equal or greater than half of his remaining health. He hast four unbuffed squadron hawks on the board and 8 health? He’s dead.

  7. Yes! An obvious error I’ve submitted that correction. The Wurm is indeed an invaluable 6cc. Opponents are afraid to overextend b/c of that card alone.

  8. This deck build is awesome! That well placed icy manipulator saved me from the protection from black knight that exalted darkness uses. Also I was able to make one of my own creatures colorless with the gorgon and block prot black creatures. There’s a lot of outs in general with this deck. I struggle with it however against a good Tarland deck. I feel as though once the Pantropic Mirror hits the board; you are at the mercy of your opponent’s hand.

    • All my decks are 61 cards and function quite well. If we could alter the number of lands it will be another story.

  9. Yes I feel the deck benefits from threat density of a 36 card / 25 land ratio since there are so many high powered cards. The percentage of drawing a land vs non land is a very small change, but it does make a tiny difference statistically.

    • Disagree with that, it’s one deck where land is never a dead draw, it’s always so damn mana hungry I keep it to a strict 60 (unlike, say, goblins), and let the Liliana’s guys thin me out.

      That said, thankyou very, very much for opening my eyes to the power of Massacre Wurm…I don’t know why I didn’t have him in.

  10. I think this is a very good build. About Gorgon vs. Grislebrand; There is no doubt that the latter is a much more powerful card but it may not much play in this build.

    The medallions are cards I think are really bad because they do not contribute to the board at all. They only offer acceleration and can ease the pain of mana screw (yes happens a lot in this game).

    However they cost you a card and in this format with the lack of card draw it is crucial that each card you play can trade with theirs.

    Another drawback of the medallions is that are usually a dead draw late but Obedient Dead’s high cc win conditions allow this deck to be effected as much from this draw back.

    Grislebrand is just too expensive and even more expensive without Jet Medallions. If you get to 8 mana with OD you will most likely be winning already also how often are you able to risk paying 7 life that late in the game?

    Gorgon does have some utility and only cost 6 mana. She still is a creature than can attack. Yes it is only 3 damage but once you stabilize damage does not really matter. Death touch and her big butt are a nice bonus.

    No matter which card is chosen that one card won’t ruin the deck. Some people like huge powerful, risky cards and others like conservative, less risky cards. Both have their advantages and disadvantage.

    My deck is very much like this one. I do not run Grislebrand and Rune Scare Demon due to the fact the cost is high and Bribery. I chose to run Nightmare instead. I am also not running medallions.

    I am running both Icy and befoul x2 in place of Last Kiss, Blister Beetle and something else. I like being able to disrupt the mana of my opponent in control match ups and they are still versatile enough to be used in aggro match-ups as well.

    • Right, for the most part OD is winning at the 8 mana mark, but those pesky blue control decks can put a damper on you well past the 8 mana mark, they were designed to do that. I still feel no matter how refined the OD deck is, it still needs a solid way to deal with doomsday devices like pantropic mirror and well of lost dreams (among others) other than discard them out of the opponents hand cause Icy Manipulator doesn’t stop its effect. Therefore, it may very well just come down to luck and hoping that you brought enough firepower on the table and removed enough obstacles in the way before your opponent sets up his/her win condition. Yes, if he/she drew a less than optimal hand, that would also help as well.

      This is probably why we put a second color in when playing competitively; in order to compensate for what one color is weak in.

  11. @davgro
    Well said. I like rune scare just because he is so damn good but I’ve also lost matches because of him. I also feel like by the time I get him out I’m just gonna win with him, I don’t even need the extra big creature he can get me or a murder or whatever.

    It was tough for me to take out the befouls because screwing with peoples mana can be a crucial move. the card isn’t even worthless in the merrior because you can target mana. I’ll think about putting it back in and maybe even making room for the other icy, seems like a very versitle powerfull card.

    You should try taking out one of your befoul’s for Blister Beetle, just try it. He seems terrible but with all the 1 toughness creatures out there, he can 2 for 1 people and I feel this deck does lack some early creatures. I know he seems terrible but try him out.

    Last kiss is nice somtimes too but I wont push for you to try that :)

    I’m gonna think about droping rune scar for a fatty like nightmare or somthing. It’s gonna be hard to let him go because he is so damn good, but when your opponant uses right of rep on in kicked you just gave them the game. this has happened to me more than once!!!!

    Nightmare can also help earlier in the game which I feel is much needed

  12. @ elijah

    You raise excellent points. Befoul is a good card. Its useful MOST of the time. The problem though is that there are so many useful 4 drops that it might be better to fill lower casting cost slots to gain more deck efficiency. I think Icy Manipulator is more versatile than Befoul, since the Manipulator can target creatures black spell and effects normally can’t. And you mentioned the land destruction ability of Befoul, the Icy Manipulator can also tap lands opportunistically during critical moments in the game as well. So in light of this; I feel the Icy’s will have more priority than the Befouls when competing for a 4 cc slot.

    And I like the idea of using a pair of Nightmares instead of Rune Scar / Gorgon since they are bad targets for cards like Rite of Replication, Control Magic, and Bribery. How many times has one of these cards turned the game around when using one of your higher end fatties?

  13. gorgon never fucked me over but rune scar has, I have taken him out and seen much success. I only run two Liliana’s shades. Ya it’s a great card but I always have mana so her effect is not what I need. I also feel like I have enough 4 drops. I added two iceys and don’t regret it. I feel like there are alot of really really good 6 drops+ but no good 5 drops. Rise from the graveyard sounds really good but I haven’t had much good use out of it. I took it out just to try out Nested ghoul maybe as a 5 drop. I thought maybe he would fit the deck, with all of the 2 for 1s going on with his ability he can make that happen as well. He is just terrible though, his toughness and his attack are just too low but there are no other good 5 drops!!!

  14. You may want to consider halo hunter if you are looking for a good 5 drop. You may not use its Halo hunting ability 80% of the decks you play but at least u get a nearly unblockable 6/3. And against mill, the rise from graves are great. I include 2 at all times because of their utility. You may force your opponent to discard say a Testradon and the card can win you the game after you give him three 3/3 tokens only to mutilate afterwards. And I agree that the Runescar is a double edged sword and blue can easily abuse it sometimes before u get to draw it. Otherwise it’s great against the rest of the field.

  15. One of the hardest things to do in this environment is evaluate cards. The format is neither limited or constructed and some cards are better than they seem. I actually like Nested ghoul, Halo Hunter, Veilborn Ghoul for the simple reason that they provide card advantage.

    Card advantage is huge in this format. Experienced Born of Flames user understand that they have to take some damage in order to get 2-1 opportunities from their cards, also being on the receiving end of 2-1’s is not good.

    Cards that can set up 2-1’s are automatically a bit better than they may seem. Even thought they are situational they are still a threat that must be answered.

    One problem I have seen with some people have with OB is closing out the game. This is why I like the lower cost threats especially with built in card advantage.

    Rise from the grave has been in and out of my deck. If I had more discard I would like the card but I cant deny its power. It seems to sit in my hand a lot.

    Nightmare is still a card I really like. He just a huge flyer and I think that he does not get the play he deserves because of his constructive rating and not fuels format rating. Flying is relevant in this game and 6/6+ is a huge threat.

    • The thing with Rise from the Grave is that people get greedy with it. They hold onto it all game looking for a perfect target. It is the exact same problem as players using Rite of Replication or Clone. A lot of times the best play is to take a suboptimal creature if it means you can close the game out now.

  16. Much love for the chess appreciation. I’m an avid chess player also. Fave openings would be Reti transposing to Nimzo-Larsen Attack as white or Robatsch/Sicilian/Dutch as black. Anyway…I’ll leave off too much of the nerd chess talk for now…

    • It’s bad, for the most part. 90% of the time you draw it, you will not have enough mana to cast it. And even when you do cast it (if you live that long), it is powerful but not guaranteed to win. Decks like Born of Flame and Mindstorms can just burn you to death, or the spell might get countered.

  17. I’m sorry, but this deck is one of the worst in the game. It just does 50/50 against of the other decks at best, and loses horrible to so many decks. 1-1 creature removal is okay, but some decks are so efficient at masses up creatures, there’s just not enough cards in this deck to efficiency deal with them. What this deck needs is like 4 wrath of gods.

  18. Now that I’ve unlocked all of the cards, the deck is surprisingly good. I still think it sucks against Goblins and Peacekeepers though. If you don’t draw Infest or Mutilate, it’s game over basically. I hate that. Makes me want to have at least 5 or 6 of these in the deck to side in for these match-ups.

    My original comment was mostly due to me playing against these decks to try it out. It beats all the other decks rather easily actually.

  19. Solid build, just played 2 matches to test it out and won both of course one was against someone using pack instinct, naturally he had no chance when i got 2 shades and a specter within 4 turns and had 3 removals show pretty quickly thereafter.

  20. Obedient dead is awful when you first get it but after a few unlocks and the promos, it becomes deadly. It has more of a demon flavor as you progress, with enough removal and surprises to get you to those high mana demons. Just like most swamp decks, it’s fun to play.

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