How They Brew It - Belzencombo

Michael Celani • January 25, 2022

Demonlord Belzenlok by Tyler Jacobson

Having problems with feelings of anger, hunger, or avarice? Do you suffer from blackouts followed by terrible headaches that just won't go away? Have you ever found yourself contorting in strange positions as you speak a forbidden language long thought extinct? If any of this sounds like you, it may be a problem with your inner demons. Like gut bacteria, most people have a symbiotic relationship with the darkness within, but sometimes, it can get out of control. That's when you need Purgatorin®.  It soothes your inner darkness for up to four hours and is clinically proven to treat symptoms faster than Transubstantulin®, Praydicodar, or Pepcid AC. Purgatorin®®: Your savior from imp to Ifrit.

Contract from Below

That's right, it's me, Michael Celani, and I'm on the hunt for the eighth deadly sin. To that end, I work for Big Pharma now, but as that term has taken on a negative connotation, I've taken to calling it "Deep P." It's a stressful and thankless job; I feel like I've ate, drank, and bled nothing but P for months, but it's all worth it when I use the letter of the law to make a killing--financially speaking.

Speaking of the law, my inner Demonlord Belzenlok is here to show you that "legally binding" isn't just for the bedroom. When he's put into play, you'll exile from the top of your library until you reveal a nonland card, which you get to keep.  If that card's mana cost is four or higher, you get to draw again!* I'm sold. Let's build an entire deck out of 4+-mana-value cards!

*Don't worry, I'll read the rest of the contract later.

High Deductible Hell Plan

Because I work on Purgatorin®®®, I'm well in tune with my sense of right and wrong. It's telling me that people will pay exorbitant prices for brand names. But we in the business know that the generic version of Purgatorin®®®®, also known as asbestos, is much, much cheaper. Here's some spells that say four mana and thus meet our Demonlord Belzenlok criteria, but can be cast for far less if you go through the proper channels.

  • Nobody wants to trade their premium attackers for a not-so-mighty morphed Bane of the Living. When it's no longer able to discourage people from interacting with your face, turn it right-side-up and clear the board so you can continue amassing resources.
  • Though you can play Shriekmaw for full price, Evoke it for a sorcery-speed Terror and take out an early threat.
  • As long as any opponent controls a Plains, Massacre is free and takes out swathes of tokens and utility creatures, like Mentor of the Meek.
  • Need a more targeted solution? Try Snuff Out. You're guaranteed to have a Swamp, and that's all you need to swap mana for life on this card.
  • Want to make a friend? Baleful Mastery's cheaper option lets you choose which opponent gets to draw a card. Help out a guy missing land drops in exchange for a few turns of peace.
  • Almost any permanent on the field reduces Drag to the Underworld's cost to just two mana.
  • You might not be able to consistently get a discount out of Hagra Mauling, but it's great against the greedy five-color decks and doubles as a land in a pinch.
  • Curtains' Call takes out two creatures for three mana for the majority of the game, and it's even cheaper if your pod is as large as the national debt.
  • Finally, once you've got a lot of extra cards in hand, pitch them to Soul Spike for a turbo-charged Lightning Helix.

Reading the Fine Print

Bad news, guys. It turns out that a major side-effect of Purgatorin®®®®® is being shot in the face by Demonlord Belzenlok wielding a Kimber Custom Royal II .45 ACP calibur semi-automatic pistol, featuring a stylish blue finish and attractive rosewood grip. If we don't have a way to prevent that damage or have enough life to tank the hit, we won't be able to play with the entire deck we've drawn, and that's sad. Luckily, there are a few ways around this problem:

  • Crypt Ghast's Extort ability will let you slowly siphon some extra life from your opponents and get just enough of a buffer to survive Belzenlok's wrath.
  • If you've got a particularly full board state, Gray Merchant of Asphodel pushes you over that 60-life threshold quickly and leaves you with a comfortable cushion.
  • Make sure to wear your Bone Mask when traveling to public places. Belzenlok deals his damage all at once, after you've put all the cards in your hand. There will be nothing left to exile by the time Bone Mask's trigger comes into play, but the damage will still be prevented!
  • Pitch a card to Mourner's Shield and get a cheaper Pentagram of the Ages for your trouble.
    • Note that this isn't just the next time damage is dealt. If someone tries to combo out with Pestilence, you only need to activate it once to foil their plans.
  • Glacial Chasm is easy to play the turn you cast Belzenlok, and it will nullify all the damage you take that turn for free. It's also perfect for stalling enemy attacks against you.
  • Finally, Whip of Erebos and Witch's Clinic both grant Belzenlok lifelink, rendering any damage he would do to you pointless because you'll be healed for the same amount.

Deck the Halls

You've successfully stopped your opponents from bludgeoning you over the head using your array of spot removal and board wipes. Belzenlok has erupted onto the battlefield. Your opponents cower in fear at the size of your hand. President George Washington Carter personally calls to congratulate you on stopping the French Revolution, and all is well with the world.

Except you're probably low on mana.

Unless the game has gone on for way too long or you've been blessed enough to come across one of the deck's mana-doublers, you're not doing much after casting a six-drop. Don't worry: we're not planning to use those cards you drew in any meaningful way.

Discarding your hand will trigger Feast of Sanity, Syr Konrad, the Grim, and Bone Miser tons of times. If your opponents have a full grip themselves, manually flood the board with Zombies by casting Awaken the Erstwhile. Or, throw everything away to Skirge Familiar to make a ton of mana which can power a lifelinking Thrashing Wumpus. But what if you're completely out of gas, or your opponents have been countering everything you play in a desperate attempt to stop you?

Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre isn't meant to be cast; he's only meant to be discarded, and once he is, your whole graveyard shuffles back into your library. This not only stops you from losing, it also sets up your deck for the final knockout: Goblin Charbelcher. Demonlord Belzenlok's ability draws your entire deck... except your lands, which are left in exile. There won't be a land for Charbelcher to reveal!

Call To Arms

I leave you all with something new: On my YouTube channel, I'm currently playing a modded version of the 1990s Magic: the Gathering game for the PC, also known as Shandalar. I've learned how to modify the game to include custom decks, meaning I need you to build me enough novel lists for me to create the very first randomized Shandalar game. You can find details about this process over at my Discord. Thank you for your help!

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Newly appointed member of the FDIC and insured up to $150,000 per account, Michael Celani is the member of your playgroup that makes you go "oh no, it's that guy again." He's made a Twitter account @GamesfreakSA as well as other mistakes, and his decks have been featured on places like MTGMuddstah. You can join his Discord at and vote on which decks you want to see next. In addition to writing, he has a job, other hobbies, and friends.