As many of you will recall, from time to time my friends and I engage in a Commander deckbuilding challenge. The rules are simple: We all agree to a theme, be it movies, history, or pro wrestling like the last challenge, and we build a Commander deck centered around that theme. You have to be able to justify every nonland card you include, and it has to be relatively viable in an actual game. It’s always entertaining to see what kinds of decks we can create since it forces us to use cards that would almost never see play. However, as an additional and topical challenge, we each had to include at least two cards from Dragons of Tarkir while remaining on-theme.
For this month’s challenge, we each had to select an anime and build around it. My first selection was Bosh, Iron Golem as Gurren Lagann, my all-time favourite show, but I was sure that if I were to write about another Red artifact deck, my editor would fire me on the spot, so I looked to my second favourite anime, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. Jojo is, in short, the story of the Joestar family through the generations as they battle supernatural foes with the powers they each possess. It’s split up over eight unique parts, with each one focusing on a different Joestar, and each one with dozens of references to classic and prog rock throughout. However, in order to cover everything about all eight parts I would have to create about a dozen different decks, so I decided to focus on one of my favourite villains from the series: Dio Brando.
Dio appears as the villain for both the first and third parts of the story, and of all the villains he is easily the most recognizable. First appearing in part 1 (Phantom Blood) as the adopted brother to Jonathan Joestar, Dio attempts to usurp Jonathan’s position in the family and steal the Joestar family fortune for himself. When this fails, he uses the power of the stone mask, a relic in Jonathan’s possession, to become a vampire. As a vampire, not only is he immortal save for the destruction of his brain, he can also raise the dead, control minds, and even freeze his enemies solid. After being defeated by Jonathan, his still-living severed head managed to exact revenge on his rival, killing him and attaching himself to the body in order to revive himself. Going by DIO, he emerges 100 years later with an evil spirit called a “Stand”. His Stand, The World, gives him the ability to stop time for a few seconds at a time, giving the appearance to teleportation. This, coupled with his enhanced physical capabilities, allows him to kill his opponents before they can even realize what’s going on.
Did you get all that? It’s pretty damn crazy, right? With all those different abilities and that storied background, I was sure I would be able to come up with something. Right off the bat, my mind gravitated toward two core ideas: vampires and time effects. This would require me to be in Blue and Black, so after a quick Gatherer search, I found a couple potential Vampire Commanders. Between Garza Zol, Plague Queen, Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge, Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker, and Szadek, Lord of Secrets, I figured that of all these options, Szadek encompassed the feel of Dio better than the rest. Every time he deals combat damage, he not only eats away at the opponent’s deck, he becomes more powerful for doing so. Every attack he comes back bigger and stronger than ever, which combined with some powerful time spells can quickly decimate an opponent’s deck.
In addition to manipulating time and raising an army of vampires, I wanted to include some of the other elements of Dio’s character. One of his most common battle tactics is to demoralize his opponents by convincing them of the futility of fighting him, often through his battle cry of “Muda muda” (translation: Useless, useless). In my mind, that signified countermagic and Control Magic effects. Nothing really hammers home how useless it is to play against us than making sure the opponent never resolves a threat, and the ones they do resolve get stolen from them.
While most famous for his appearance in part 3, I also wanted to cover some of the better aspects of Dio from part 1, such as his Vaporizing Freeze techniques and his ability to regenerate by drinking people’s blood. The latter was especially important, as it stems from one of my all-time favorite moments in the series. When asked how many lives he had taken to restore his body, Dio calmly retorted “Do you remember how many breads you have eaten in your life?” It really hammered home that he was this badass, remorseless killing machine that only cared about his own ambitions. For this I wanted to run several Drain Life effects to weaken my opponents while bolstering my life total. Fortunately, Black has no shortage of these effects, so all I would have to do is pick the most thematically appropriate ones. The Vaporizing Freeze would be far easier to come up with, as all I would need to do is include cards that would freeze or lock down creatures. While I wouldn’t say there’s an abundance of such cards, the ones that do exist are strong enough to merit a spot in the deck. With these guidelines in place, I concocted the following list: