Chainer's Torment: A Guide to Chainer Dementia Master in EDH

Here is the link to my Chainer, Dementia Master deck on Moxfield: https://www.moxfield.com/decks/WTCiXtINTE68gI2L3I78Tw


Why Play Chainer, Dementia Master?


Chainer, Dementia Master is a powerful mono black commander that has a lot to offer a variety of different players and playstyles. Do you like to cheat out big creatures? Do you enjoy playing a land and passing, leaving your mana open for reactive plays? Do you want to play a deck that can scale up and down in both power level and budget? Chainer can do it all. I'm going to run through the card selection, some budget and alternative options, and a the main win conditions so you can put together your own Chainer deck that will be effective and fun


What does Chainer actually do? Chainer is a 5 mana 3/3 Human Minion, he gives all Nightmares +1,+1, has an activated ability for BBB and 3 life where you put target creature card in any graveyward into play under your control, that creature is black and a nightmare in addition to its other types. When Chainer leaves the battlefield, exile all nightmares


Now his body is not very impressive and the anthem is nice but not really very exciting, but if you are building Chainer it's for that third ability. BBB and 3 life to reanimate any creature at instant speed is a great rate and it allows you to cheat out costs and flash in creatures to combo out over the top of your opponent's interaction. Because Chainer's ability is so strong he comes with a big but not overwhelming drawback, when he leaves the battlefield you exile all Nightmares. To work around this you need to be careful with your reanimation targets to not walk into some well aimed targeted removal, and also compels you to run some sacrifice outlets to remove your own creatures to make sure you don't lose your important creatures for the next time you cast Chainer


Let's run through some categories of cards and I'll talk about why I run them and some alternatives


Reanimation Targets


This is a reanimator on a stick so let's start with some of my favorite reanimation targets


Archon of Cruelty - Powerful enter the battlefield effect that regains you the life that you paid to reanimate it with Chainer


Grave Titan/Wurmcoil Engine - Two token generators that are powerful in their own right and can be used in a few game ending infinite combos that I will go into in a later section


Gray Merchant of Asphodel and Kokusho, The Evening Star - Creatures that drain life from your opponents that easily top off your life total on etb/death to keep you paying life and reanimating to you heart's content


Sheoldred the Whispering One - very strong creature that if she sticks does double duty keeping your opponent's boards clear and gives you one free reanimate per turn that is not effected by Chainer's downside


Villis, Broker of Blood - You are going to be paying a lot of life in this deck anyway, why not get some extra value out of it?


Alternatives


Gonti, Lord of Luxury - Allows you to play with your opponent's cards which is always fun and is a very good budget option


Xiahou Dun, The One-Eyed - Not budget in any way but he is a cool card from P3K and is one of the few ways mono black can recur non-creature spells, I'm hoping to get my hands on this judge foil some day


Sacrifice Outlets


Because of Chainer's downside you need to have some sac outlets, and with the right ones we can get some extra value out of them


Altar of Dementia - Two mana sac outlets that allows you to mill yourself to search for some more reanimation targets if you're not happy with what you've got


Phyrexian Altar - Saccing a creature for a black that you can then use to re-activate chainer is always nice and this card has a few infinite lines if you are so inclined


Phyrexian Tower - Sac outlet on a utility land that can also ramp you if you have an extra creature laying around


Viscera Seer - For only a single mana you get a sac outlet that can also be reanimated so you can flash it in to save the rest of your board from Chainer's downside


Yawgmoth, Thran Physician - Same as Viscera Seer but for 4x the mana you are absolutely getting 4x the value due to all of his other abilities


Alternatives


Ashnod's Altar - Still not super budget but much cheaper than Phyrexian Altar and does actually ramp you more if you are more interested in casting a big X spell over activating Chainer another time


Disciple of Grislebrand - I don't really want my sac outlets in this deck to cost mana but this one does gain you life which in mono black is a very important resource, it is also a very cheap card for the budget conscious among us


Reanimation Spells


You can't always rely on Chainer for everything, and he does cost 8 mana to activate the first time. Here are some much cheaper spells to get you cheating out huge threats early

Reanimate - A classic, only one mana and can be used on any creature in any graveyard

Animate Dead- Two mana and the creature gets -1/-0 but you don't have to pay any life. Your creature is also a smidge more vulnerable to enchantment removal so keep that in mind

Necromancy - Three mana animate dead but this one can be cast at instant speed if you just need the etb or death effect and don't mind sacrificing the creature at the end step

Incarnation Technique - For five mana you get to potentiall mill 10 and return two creatures from the graveyard to the battlefield, the demonstrate can also be used as a political tool to give an opponent back an important answer like a Reclamation Sage to deal with a pesky artifact that you don't have removal for

Alternatives

Dance of the Dead - Not a budget option but a solid extra copy of Animate Dead(ish) if Chainer is constantly being removed in your games and you do'nt want to have to rely on him too much

Dread Return - Four mana is a little steep for a socery speed reanimation spell but it does have the upside of flashback for the cost of sacrificing three creatures so you can get some value even if you mill it


Win Conditions


Mono Black has no trouble closing out the game and you can pick and choose which ones you enjoy and which ones fit your budget

Exsanguinate/Torment of Hailfire - Whether you are doubling your mana with a Crypt Ghast or Nirkana Revenant, activating your Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx or Cabal Coffers for massive amounts of black mana, or the game has just gone long enough for your lands to be plentiful and your opponent's life totals to be low, these spells end games. Period

Necropotence, Bolas's Citadel, and Aetherflux Reservoir - This is one of my favorite and most flashy win conditions. For this you need to have all three cards on the field and enough life to get the chain started. The way it works is that you simply cast spells off the top of your library with Bolas's Citadel and use Necropotence to exile the lands and high mana value spells out of the way. Aetherflux Reservoir gains you life as you cast spells and once you hit a storm count of 8 then you will be guaranteed to gain life off of each spell cast, then you can nuke your opponent's down with your massive life total. Necropotence is not necessarily required for this combo but it is the only way to guarantee that it will end the game

Blood Artist/Zulaport Cutthroat, Grave Titan/Wurmcoil Engine, and Phyrexian Altar - This loop requires Chainer to be on the battlefield. You cast or reanimate Grave Titan or Wurmcoil Engine and use the Phyrexian Altar to sacrifice the creature and the two tokens they generate. This gains you three life and generates BBB which is enough to then do it again and again until all of your opponents are dead. While this does take a lot of pieces, all of them are good on their own right and once you get started it is really hard to interact with. It also can nearly all be done at instant speed so if you have Chainer and Phyrexian Altar on the field you can combo out on your oppoent's turn and can even go over the top of their own attempted win

Gray Merchant of Asphodel/Kokusho the Evening Star, K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth, and any sacrifice outlet - This loop requires Chainer to be on the battlefield. With Chainer and K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth on the battlefield his ability now costs nine life and no mana so you can now activate his ability, reanimate Gary or Kokusho, and then sacrifice them and do it over and over again


Removal


Now that we've talked about how you're going to win the game let's talk about how we're gonna stop the opponent from doing the same

Single Target


Snuff Out - four mana doom blade might seems weak but the ability to play it for free is really powerful, very easy to blow someone out when they don't expect it

Defile - This card scales very well from beginning to end game and can even remove indestructible targets granted you have enough swamps (or Urborg) in play

Feed The Swarm - Not really my favorite spell but it is one of the very few pieces of black targeted enchantment removal so it will have to do

Plaguecrafter/Fleshbag Marauder - Two edict effects that are repeatable due to all the reanimation effects in the deck. Looping these with Chainer can be a very rude thing to do but sometimes it's necessary. Pairs extremely well with Grave Pact effects

Noxious Gearhulk - Single target removal, life gain effect, and an evasive big body an top. the gearhulk has been a major over-performer for me

Alternatives

There are so many black single target removal spells but here are just a few of my favorite budget options Doom Blade - Nearly everything dies to Doom Blade

Meteor Golem - Destroys any permanent which is always useful

Scour From Existence - Overpriced at 7 but a reasonable meta call if you find yourself needing to deal with a lot of artifacts or enchantments


Board Wipes


Damnation - The black Wrath of God, has just been reprinted in 2X2 so now is a great time to pick up a copy

Mutilate - While not necessarily always a board wipe it can also deal with indestructible creatures and typically mostly clears the board. Also the Torment printing has a quote from Chainer on it which is a great flavor win

Living Death - A board wipe that can backfire massively so use at your own risk but the upside is just as great. Have had many games end by casting Living Death, holding priority, and then sacrificing my entire board to end up in a commanding position

Massacre Wurm - Not technically a board wipe but the -2,-2 effect can typically kill a few key creatures and do a sizeable amount of damage. Pairs very well with a sacrifice outlet and a lot of mana to make sure the board is cleared and stays clear

Decree of Pain - Very expensive to cast but the value is undeniable, also can be cycled to decimate the tokens or elves players at the table

In Garruk's Wake - Also very expensive to cast but there is no greater way to break a deadlocked board and swing through for lethal


Card Draw and Tutors


One of black's greatest strengths in commander are its efficient draw spells and its powerful tutors

Card Draw


Sign in Blood/Night's Whisper - Two mana to lose two and draw two. Both are great for digging just a little deeper and Sign in Blood can even be used on an opponent for a political play or to kill someone at two life which is on my commander bucket list

Read the Bones - In 3+ color decks I typicially prefer Painful Truth but in a low color deck the card selection is hard to argue with

Necropotence - One of the most powerful cards ever printed, can help you combo out or dig for that much needed answer. Play carefully because dropping Necropotence on the battlefield will put a sizable target on your back. Important to note that while you have to exile cards you discard with Necropotence out, they hit the graveyard and THEN get exiled so you can pitch something and then reanimate it with Chainer with the exile trigger on the stack if you want to get cheeky

Phyrexian Arena - This card may be outclassed a bit these days but I still enjoy the value that it provides and the two devotion that it adds is minor but not nothing

Castle Locthwain/War Room - One of the greatest strengths of mono-colored decks in commander is that you can run a bunch of utility lands and these are two of my favorites to make use of the large amount of mana you are often going to be holding up during your opponent's turns

Dread Presence - Every time a swamp enter the battlefield you may draw a card and lose a life, my version of this deck runs 25 swamps (35 1/2 with Urborg) and so that will be triggering nearly every turn. Combined with the life drain mode this is a solid value creature

Alternatives

Stinging Study - Five mana instant that draws you five cards and loses you five life. Just great value all around and I appreciate being rewarded for running a higher mana value commander

Syphon Mind - Hand disruption for your opponents and card draw for you, a great combination


Tutors


Black's greatest strength is its access to powerful tutor effects and luckily this is also your greatest opportunity to raise or lower the power level of your deck by adding or removing them

Vampiric Tutor/Demonic Tutor - Two of the most iconic black spells ever printed and definitely the two most powerful tutors

Entomb/Buried Alive - Great ways to get exacltly the creature you need in your graveyard. Depending on the state of the game Buried Alive in usually enough to put together a win on the spot

Razaketh, The Foulblooded - Eight mana flampling demon with a tutoring activated ability, typically kill on sight but if he sticks for a turn cycle it's almost always game over

Sidisi, Undead Vizier - Combos extremely well with Mikaeus, The Unhallowed and Malakir Rebirth to get multiple tutor effects at once

Liliana of the Dark Realms - Not really a tutor and not really ramp but she finds you swamps and I couldn't think of any other section to put her in. Also Ulting her is one of the greatest feelings I've ever had in a game and that alone makes her worth a spot

Alternatives


There really are so many black tutor effects but here are some solid budget options

Diabolic Tutor - Twice the mana value but a fraction of the cost of Demonic Tutor, worth running for budget reasons or for a higher tutor density

Dark Petition - Five mana but if you have spell mastery refunds BBB of that so it can act as another copy of Demonic Tutor if needed

Final Parting - Puts one card in your hand and one in your graveyard

Vile Entomber - Entomb on a deathtouching body. Four mana is a bit expensive for this effect but the upside is that it is recurrable

Expedition Map - Can only tutor for lands but is a really strong addition if you are running any strong utility lands such as Cabal Coffers or Phyrexian Tower


Ramp, Rituals, and Mana Accelerators


Now we've got all these great spells that we want to cast, let's talk about how we're going to go about doing that

Ramp


I recommend running mostly running rocks that tap for B so that they are useful for Chainer's ability but I'm going to talk about the colorless rocks I run and recommend here

Sol Ring - It's Sol Ring, I recommend one with the original Mark Tedin art because it looks very cool

Mana Vault - I am running this because I happen to own it but it is by no means necessary. I do like the fact that it adds 3 which is exactly the amount of generic mana that Chainer costs. Can be swapped for any rock for budget reasons

Jet Medallion - Doesn't actually tap for mana but reducing all of your black spells by 1 can really add up to a lot of value

Alternatives Charcoal Diamond/Coldsteel Heart/Star Compass - All basically the same card in this deck. All worth considering and all fairly cheap pickups. Of the three I like Coldsteel Heart because it's been reprinted in the new snow frame which looks neat

Gilded Lotus - Five mana is a bit steep but it can tap for so it is at least worth a consideration

Solemn Simulacrum/Burnished Hart - Both are a bit slow for my taste but are good budget options and can help you get way ahead on mana. I typically try to steal these from my opponent's graveyards instead of running copies in my own deck


Rituals


Dark Ritual - Adds enough B to activate Chainer, a great way to catch your opponent's off guard when they think you are tapped out enough to not activate him

Cabal Ritual - Costs twice as much as Dark Ritual but can add much more mana if you have threshold

Bog Witch - The Dark Ritual Spellshaper, the discard is meant to be a downside but with Chainer out it is nothing but a benefit

Soldevi Adnate - At worst he is a mana battery when sacrificed to his own ability, at best he can be used to re-buy some of your most powerful enter the battlefield or death effects. A card that will often fly under the radar until it's too late

Alternatives

Bubbling Muck - for B you can double all of your and your opponent's swamp's mana production. Be careful with your timing so you don't help your opponent's more than yourself


Mana Accelerators


Crypt Ghast/Nirkana Revenant - Two mana doublers, Crypt Ghast is cheaper to cast and comes with the upside of having Extort, while Nirkana Revenant comes with a bigger body and is a strong mana sink. I wouldn't leave home without both

Cabal Coffers/Cabal Stronghold/Nykthos Shrine to Nyx - All lands that can easily double your mana and then some. They work great in concert with each other, chaining the effects together for an absolutely absurd amount of B mana

Black Market - This can be a do nothing enchatment that will draw a lot of hate but it can also produce you giant amounts of mana every turn and can get so out of hand so quickly

Alternatives

Caged Sun/Gauntlet of Power/Extraplanar Lens - All not quite the same but are quite similar. I would recommend only running Extraplanar Lens if you plan to also run snow basics to avoid inadvertantly doubling your opponent's mana as well as yours


Protection


You have all these strong creatures who don't die to Doom Blade but let's talk about some other protection pieces

Lightning Greaves - Shroud is usually enough to make your creatures unkillable by anything other than a board wipe. The haste can come in handy in some situations as well

Malakir Rebirth - Blanking an opponent's removal and getting another enter the battlefield effect is always worth B and two life to me. Can also be played as a land on the backside if needed

Imp's Mischief - A one of a kind spell from Planar Chaos, can be a huge blowout if used to change the target of a kill spell from one of your creatures to an opponent's. The life loss should be negligible as well since people run such efficient removal spells these days

Alternatives

Swiftfoot Boots - Another copy of Lightning Greaves, not as worth it in a deck like this unless your build makes greater use of the haste


Odds and Ends


Not every cards fits nicely into a category but are still nice inclusions. These are some picks for my flex slots

Stitcher's Supplier - A one drop that mills a total of six cards on etb and death

Grave Pact - Adds three devotion to black, helps keep your opponent's boards clear and combos disgustingly well with Fleshbag Marauder. Can also add Dictate of Erebos for extra redundancy

Mikaeus, The Unhallowed - Gives all of your non-human creatures Undying. Unfortunately this doesn't protect Chainer but does help protect the rest of your board and combos exceptionally well with Yawgmoth, Thran Physician to both sacrifice your creatures and remove +1,+1 counters from them so they can keep coming back with Undying


Lands


To finish it out let's talk about the lands that I haven't already talked about

Swamp - I am running 25 swamps, this deck requires a lot of black mana and I don't want to have to dedicate too much of my tutoring to finding Urborg. I also love the Odyssey swamps I'm running and want to look at old border foils as often as possible. Your mileage may vary

Ancient Tomb - A land that taps for 2






at the cost of two life

Bojuka Bog - I don't often want to exile graveyards as I'm going to be using them for value but sometimes you just need to take that Muldrotha, the Gravetide player down a peg

Command Beacon - This deck doesn't rely entirely on Chainer but I'm also not very happy when he costs 11+ mana to cast

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth - Making all of your utiliy lands also swamps has a lot of positive effects and it also makes your creatures with Swampwalk unblockable which is a nice bonus

Alternatives

High Market - A great budget option for another sacrifice effect and some minor lifegain

Vesuva/Thespian's Stage - What's better than one Cabal Coffers? How about two Cabal Coffers?

Ghost Quarter - Black doesn't have a lot of great ways to deal with your opponent's powerful lands so Ghost Quarter is always a nice land to have around. It can also save one of your creatures from an Imprison in the Moon or Song of the Dryads



Thanks for Reading


Thanks so much for reading, I hope this guide has been useful for you. This deck and guide have been labors of love for me so I hope you can take some of my experience and use it to build your own Chainer, Dementia Master deck that is strong, thematic, and fun. Also Chainer has a novel, Chainer's Torment by Scott McGough, that is actually pretty good so if you enjoy the card and deck I would recommend reading it to get to know your commander a bit better


Thank you to Intothe99 for asking me to host this primer on their site, check the link at the top for any updates to the deck!


Guide by Keenan Calhoun 1.0 7/5/2022

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