Players begin to formulate a strategy the moment they see their opening hand: they visualise the order in which to play lands in and how to sequence their spells, then consider what they’re looking to draw to maximise their chances of victory.
Tinybones encourages us to disrupt the first strategy they come up with and force our opponents to make increasingly tough decisions on the fly. While that’s happening, we gain advantage and flexibility through raw card draw, which awards us twice the resource advantage – our deck is providing more options while the opponents’ are being continuously limited. This cute bag of bones comes down quick and reliably, with an activated ability that can win the game by itself.
The deck includes discard on two different axes. Divest, Duress, and Vicious Rumors come down early to trigger Tinybones, giving us an early edge through revealing our opponent’s hand and taking their curve plays, but my favorite discard tools in the deck are repeatable.
Hypnotic Specter finds its home in this deck, punishing opponents for not having early flying defenses. Meanwhile Honden of Night’s Reach, Raiders’ Wake, and Liliana, Waker of the Dead provide constant hand pressure for not too much investment. Liliana, as long as Tinybones is out, feels more like a loot effect in black than actually having to discard. She also provides an answer to creatures when hand sizes are smaller or non-existent with her -3, but often I find myself continuing to loot in the hopes of using her ultimate and gaining access to a usually game winning ability, that our opponents will find it almost impossible to disrupt with their hand left so threadbare.
Tinybones isn’t the only card that takes advantage of downsizing our opponent’s hand – Waste Not is a beast of a card! It draws, it makes zombros, it even ramps – there is nothing Waste Not can’t do in this deck.
Davriel, of course, makes an appearance here, punishing opponents for their lower hand sizes, while Fell Specter not only causes discard but pressures life totals for each one. Sangromancer feels good here too, gaining us 3 life for every pitch and helping offset the life loss from Tinybones and Phyrexian Arena.
Nyxathid finds itself in an interesting position, being worse in the early game and not something we want to drop on turn 3 usually. However by mid to late-game, after we’ve shrunk the opponent’s hand, this thing is amazing, providing us a huge body for cheap.
Mono black staples abound here. Phyrexian Obliterator is easily cast and single-handedly presents a wall many of our opponents won’t be able to break down. Ravenous Chupacabra, Murderous Rider/Swift End, and Tendrils of Corruption help round out a solid removal package.
Tyramet helps eat through opposing graveyard strategies along with Bojuka Bog as an emergency graveyard kill switch. Cabal Stronghold and Phyrexian Tower really help in ramping out our higher end or dropping multiple spells per turn. Dread Presence always presents a threat, especially with so much card advantage: such a versatile creature with no activation cost feels really good.
I also thought it was time to dust off the box topper from Ravnica, The Haunt of the Hightower, that no one used in pretty much any deck. But you know what? While being mostly an expensive Hypnotic Specter, this little vampire has proven itself in this archetype and can help push that last card out of the opponent’s hand so we can activate Tinybones’ ability and burn them for 10.
All those great cards aside, what’s the real icing on the cake of this deck for me? Underworld Dreams brings heat to opponents trying to refill their hand, and gives us a clock that they probably won’t be able to disrupt. Finally, this was a perfect excuse to run Peer into the Abyss which quickly ends the game, if not on the spot. Every time I resolved Peer, my friends actually groaned quickly followed by “really Needles? REALLY?” Yes. I denied you cards, but now you can have all of them. Waste not want not!