Conditions Allow - Demonic Pact in EDH

Ben Doolittle • January 11, 2022

(Demonic Pact | Art by Aleksi Briclot)

In The Footsteps of Faust

Hello, and welcome back to Conditions Allow, where I take a card with a drawback and build a Commander deck to turn it into a strength. Last week I wrote about Bridge from Below, and I'm sticking with that aesthetic. That's right, this week features another black enchantment that used to see play in 60-card formats: Demonic Pact.

Demonic Pact has four effects which you can choose from at the beginning of your upkeep. Each turn you must choose an effect you haven’t already, until finally the enchantment kills you. Demonic Pact embodies black’s slice of the color pie perfectly. A powerful immediate reward despite the risk of disaster later on. Of course, the plan was never to be around when that disaster finally strikes. If Demonic Pact leaves play and then returns, the game will consider it a new object and let you keep running from the consequences of your actions. Ultimately, though, you’ll want to let those consequences fall on someone else’s shoulders.

Skipping Town

There are several ways to donate cards to other players. Blim, Comedic Genius will let you give away any permanent. Having access to this effect in the command zone lets you reliably dodge responsibility for your Demonic Pact, but Rakdos doesn’t give you all of the tools you need. When you donate Demonic Pact and your opponents are forced to lose the game for you, it will immediately revert to your control with no more modes to choose from. Even if you use Blim’s effect to give it away again, your pact is already complete.

Dipping into white gives you access to Felidar Guardian and Yorion, Sky Nomad, two of the few effects that can blink any nonland permanent. Being in Esper colors means you get to play Aminatou, the Fateshifter for an exile effect in the command zone. Demonic Pact is even the perfect enchantment to pair with planeswalkers. Passive advantage through card draw, and a removal effect that will hit the most popular creatures in commander. Just make sure you're not around when the final clause is read.

When it comes to trading permanents, you’ll do no better than Puca’s Mischief. Spells like Shifting Loyalties require your target to have an enchantment already, while Puca’s Mischief only asks that you not trade for a permanent with greater mana value. Even without the Demonic Pact, you can use Mischief to trade away Arcanist's Owl or Oath of Teferi for something more useful, then use Aminatou, the Fateshifter's minus ability to steal your card right back. The plan is to survive long enough to use Puca's Mischief to give away Demonic Pact with only the "lose the game" option left, eventually eliminating each opponent.

The Catch

Eventually, though, there's a lot of heavy lifting in that plan. You’ll need to wait three turns between killing each of your opponents with Demonic Pact. Or, at least, three upkeeps. The easiest way to get extra upkeeps is to take extra turns, but if I wanted to win efficiently I wouldn’t be doing it with Demonic Pact. Sphinx of the Second Sun and Paradox Haze both give you an extra upkeep on each of your turns. Having both cards in play means you can speed run through the three useful modes of Demonic Pact every turn, pass it off to an opponent, and win in just three turns.

Before searching for Demonic Pact, however, you’ll want to ensure you can reliably delay losing the game. Both Yorion, Sky Nomad and Felidar Guardian exile a nonland permanent. If that permanent happens to be an enchantment, then Skybind will re-exile your creature so it can re-enter play and continue the cycle. This forms the core of your draw engine, with Arcanist's Owl and Demonic Pact itself. Just always remember that Skybind triggers when it enters the battlefield as well, so you can exile it instead of Demonic Pact to ensure you get your upkeep trigger.

Biding Your Time

In a world of combos and massive combat steps, three turns is still a long time. And you still have to line up four cards to get to your fastest win. To make sure the game doesn't end without you, the rest of the deck is packed with interaction. Wrath of God and Supreme Verdict are staples of the control archetype, but each may be supplanted by Out of Time. In combination with Aminatou, the Fateshifter, you can seal away enemy creatures almost indefinitely, should the need arise. For more pinpoint solutions, Ravenous Chupacabra and Cloudchaser Kestrel are cheap and unassuming enough to be traded with Puca's Mischief.

To make sure you find these cards as reliably as often, I’m including as many ways to draw cards as possible. I've been experimenting with Thassa's Intervention in more controlling decks, and I've really enjoying it. Tacking a counterspell onto Dig Through Time has almost always been worth the extra mana. Most of the draw comes on permanents that you can blink, though. Baleful Strix and Wall of Omens are classics, and Omen of the Sea and Oath of Jace ensure you'll always have enchantments to trigger Skybind.

Sometimes, though, drawing cards just isn't enough. Moon-Blessed Cleric is an all-star from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms that puts whatever enchantment you’re in need of right on top of your library. Skybind will usually be your first target so you can blink the Cleric and go searching for your next enchantment. Wishclaw Talisman is even better, searching for any card while winning some brownie points from whichever other player you pass it along to. Then, once it runs out of counters, Aminatou, the Fateshifter can blink it back full of charges. Skybind can do the same, as it never specifies you must target a card you control.

With the pieces assembled, here's the full decklist.

Buy this decklist from Card Kingdom
Buy this decklist from TCGplayer

This deck was a lot of fun to put together. Demonic Pact has seen some play in 60-card formats, but porting that strategy to Commander was trickier than I expected. Even with a solid plan to reset the modes and swap control, just having two extra opponents to deal with makes the card inherently unwieldy. You need a lot of time to really close the game. One thing I thought of to alleviate that was to combo Demonic Pact with Fractured Identity to give each opponent a copy at the same time. Then you can spend your counterspells protecting those tokens until you win. This deck can't win as quickly as that, but it's probably a little more reliable.

So how would you approach Demonic Pact in EDH? Did I miss any neat interactions? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.

Ben was introduced to Magic during Seventh Edition and has played on and off ever since. A Simic mage at heart, he loves being given a problem to solve. When not shuffling cards, Ben can be found lost in a book or skiing in the mountains of Vermont.