Embracing Demonic Embrace in Standard
- Marin Magda
What's the first color that comes to your mind when someone uses the term "aggro deck"? Surely it would be either red or green; doubt it would be black. If so, Demonic Embrace is here to blow your mind, as it has had some amazing results in the last month. Time to embrace your inner demon!
Black has been doing decently well in this year's Standard, but until recently it mostly did so in conjunction with other colors. While it may be the star of the ever-relevant Rakdos Sacrifice archetype, it always required the assistance of red to perform.
By the end of the third Red Bull Untapped 2020 Online Qualifier, black managed to do well again. But this time, it worked on its own and success didn't come at the hands of the Cat-Oven combo. There's another black deck on the block now, and that is Monoblack Aggro. Because of a positive win rate against Temur Reclamation, it is a good time to take a closer look, as it's still relatively new to the scene.
Nearly each set currently legal in Standard has brought us at least a few good black cards. Consequently, we've ended up with loads of high-quality options for a solid mana curve: Gutterbones and Knight of the Ebon Legion, Blacklance Paragon, Rotting Regisaur, Spawn of Mayhem … They look like they could form a list all by themselves, and they did, but it's almost as if there was something missing …
That "something" was just a slight push, which Core Set 2021's Demonic Embrace has successfully added to the mix. All of this makes for an aggro deck that's lowkey capable of achieving amazing results. It all started when Teruya Kakumae put together a deck and fought all the way to #1 on Arena in a single day! Embracing — ba dum tss — a simple but deadly monoblack strategy proved to be the perfect choice for the first day of July 2020.
|Teruya Kakumae's Monoblack Aggro, #1 Mythic|
The design may not look very flashy at first sight, but there is no denying that its curve is great. The real stars of the deck, however, are Demonic Embrace and Rotting Regisaur. If you manage to turn your Zombie Dino into a demon, which you're looking to do often, it's a two-turn clock all by itself that's hard to block and hard to kill for most damage-based removal.
This already explains most of the deck's game plan. The goal is to curve out and kill your opponents before they stabilize. You may be discarding some cards along the way, but with a playset of Castle Locthwain and lots of basics, curving is second nature for this deck. And Embrace was the perfect addition. Besides flying, which is excellent in an environment that's not full of Yorion, it gives a creature much more power than toughness. The 1 toughness it does give, however, can be crucial to make a Knight of the Ebon Legion Shock-resistant, or Stomp-proof. Finally, it turns even the smallest creature into a legitimate threat that clears the benchmark of power 4.
If your opponent is all tapped out, it works even better with high-powered creatures. Don't forget that a demonic Gutterbones can kill your opponent in just four turns. Speaking of it, part of what makes this deck so powerful has to be the recursive aspect of threats. It relies on the graveyard just little enough not to justify hate, and because of that, the Embrace can end grindier games in a heartbeat. Its mechanic is often better than escape, which is telling quite a bit about the card.
Thanks to all the (potential) fliers, you can go over the Monored player's head, and you have enough ways to kill Stonecoil Serpents. A playset of Eliminate and a single Grasp of Darkness represent Teruya's package. Not everyone runs these five, but I think they shouldn't be changed much. Eliminate is just too versatile to pass, being able to destroy planeswalkers, and you don't want to be running too many reactive spells in here anyway. You are looking to finish the game quickly, after all. Nissa may be quite a nuisance, but you can hopefully take her down with big fliers.With careful timing, Rankle can act as a removal tool for even bigger creatures.
Another Way of Staying Monoblack
Because Demonic Embrace is one hell — get it? — of an Aura, I've thought about it in an enchantment theme. But I find such decks just too weak at the moment. Demonic Embrace is more of an aggressive card, so I'd rather stay either monoblack or go Golgari, which I'll talk about in a few. There is, however, a way to fit Auras into a monoblack shell, thanks to Hateful Eidolon.
It's arguably better than Serrated Scorpion because of lifelink, but in order to further profit from it, Dead Weight and Mire's Grasp become necessary. When they're not useful against the opponent, you can always discard them to Demonic Embrace or Rotting Regisaur. Alternatively, because the Eidolon becomes a draw engine with enchantments, you can also target your own Gutterbones in hopes of drawing something more useful, such as a game ending Embrace.
The following list also does a great job of bridging the gap between one- and three-drops with Kitesail Freebooter. Just like the deck itself, I think that this card is sweet specifically for best of one. Even though it can look like a bad draw against decks such as Monored Aggro, and against Bonecrusher Giant in particular, it really doesn't have to be. Taking an Embercleave moments before an opponent's big combat phase is huge, let alone taking Shatter the Sky from control opponents.
|CovertGoBlue's Monoblack Aggro|
If you find you're not getting good enough results with monoblack, have issues with planeswalkers, or just miss the old Golgari Adventures deck, why not give the new one a try? The updated build can play an occasional Monoblack Aggro game, but can also go longer. There is a lot of synergy here, for example between Questing Beast and Knight of the Ebon Legion or either one of those and Garruk, Unleashed. Demonic Embrace adds further synergy on all fronts: it's another way to build a huge monster to get a discount on The Great Henge; and it's another way to benefit from the presence an already huge monster, because now it can fly straight into the opponent's face.
|Andrea Del Moro's Golgari Adventures, #63 Mythic|
The early game isn't too shabby either, as usual carried by Edgewall Innkeeper, Lovestruck Beast, and Foulmire Knight. Murderous Rider also happens to be a great, recently often overlooked removal spell. The Adventure package is as strong as ever, although it doesn't generate relevant damage output quite as quickly.
Besides Monoblack and Golgari decks, Demonic Embrace doesn't currently see play anywhere else, and I don't think it should. Neither one is at the very top of the Standard metagame, but Arena results prove that you can reach a high Mythic rank with them. If you're looking for an aggressive strategy for the rest of the summer, you could definitely do much worse than to embrace your inner demon.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.