Anything But – A Mono-Black Flashback

I of course want to start off by apologizing for the fact that this has been pushed back a week. It seems to me that recently things have been below the usual standards I set for myself with several articles being pushed back and time restraints leading to missing information. This week was going to be the one where I was going to get back on track, but unfortunately real life happened and it happened hard. Despite this I had hopes of getting this done in time, but had to ultimately be real about things and ask that I get an extra week to get my head together. It wasn’t all bad, though, because I was able to use this as inspiration to step back and take a look at my own roots in Pauper and see where Mono-Black Control, the deck I played heavily at my first introduction to the format, is today. As always we’re going to start with a look at the Competitive Corner, and as I promised, it is back in all its glory…

Again, as I attempt to get things back together you may have noticed that recent Competitive Corners were lacking from what the format was supposed to be. This time we’re back and I’ve got all the right pieces! Now, because this was pushed back a week, there is an additional week added into our competitive table to compensate for this and keep the information as up-to-date as possible.

Daily Event Results 3/14 – 4/3

Now due to the fact that this week’s Competitive Corner is the culmination of three weeks time, I’m not going to put up a showings table the way I usually do. There are size restraints on images so I tried to compress the data as well as I could, but it was at the point of becoming unreadable. Instead I’m going to simply provide you guys a link this week to a copy of the table including rogues. Next time when things are back to their normal size, we’ll be able to add it back in.

Showings Table 3/14 – 4/3

It is sometimes hard to judge how things balanced out when you’re looking at a different period of time. For instance you might think that seeing over 100 showings for DelverBlue would seem to be incredible, but you have to take into consideration this is adding an extra week to the total. That being said, DelverBlue does manage to show at a point where it is almost 20 wins ahead of the number two deck, Affinity. This is a bit of a step up for DelverBlue, but I think it was something that should have been expected. I’ve been of a mind that DelverBlue is the best deck in the current meta because it has pretty good matches against a lot of the other big decks at the top of the list. We’ve also seen an incredible jump in popularity for FissurePost, which had limped into last week’s top 5. Things have really stepped up for the deck, which has now even spun off into a third variation in UW. Over the past three weeks the biggest showing was on the 30th, where nine players who ended “in the money” were running a variation of FissurePost. It is that time where players need to realize that if they don’t know how to beat DelverBlue and FissurePost, then they shouldn’t be throwing their hat into the ring. If you were to combine the numbers for both types of Temporal Fissure Storm, then it would have tied with DelverBlue on the week.

I always find the drop off point to be a thing of note. If we take a look at these decks, we see that after the top six, things drop off hard. Something like IzzetPost has even dropped off a bit because it can’t survive very well against things like FissurePost, and with the drop off between that and Goblins at #7, you’re looking at a 20-plus-showings difference. The biggest jump has been for Burn. This particular deck has taken a sharp turn from what it used to be to today’s popular version, going from four or fewer creatures to a 12-creature brew. This is a direct result of FissurePost. The most important thing you need to know about playing against FissurePost is that you need to be able to win on 1-2 lands only. When they get their combo lockdown going, this is how your game will be, and if you can’t operate on that land count, you won’t survive. This is how Stompy survives, and more importantly this is why Burn has become so successful. The deck is able to get its opponent down to low health and often forces itself into hoping to topdeck a single-cost burn spell to win anyway. The deck used to struggle based on the idea that Glimmerpost provides life gain, but FissurePost runs slowly anyway, so this doesn’t really hurt. Even the return of things such as Keldon Marauders isn’t that detrimental since it is temporary, and by replaying it you’ve gained an extra 1 damage (every little bit counts).

Now, if you took the time to click that link above you’d notice that I left all the decks there, including those, which I separate off as “rogue”. Despite this, I’m going to display our list of rogues any ways!

1. DimirTrinket – 5
2. DimirPost – 4
3. WeeFiend – 4
4. SimicPost – 3
5. MUC – 2
6. Infect – 2
7. EnchantAggro – 1
8. UB Control – 1
9. Stinkweed Zombies – 1
10. Tortured Reanimator – 1
11. MBA – 1
12. GW Tokens – 1
13. Slivers – 1

There are a lot of familiar names on this list this time around. It’s worth noting that the SimicPost showings were mostly by newplan, who has put together a really cool non-Fissure list. I’m a huge fan of SimicPost after having built one myself, so it’s good to see a different take on the idea working out. The best part of this deck? That would have to be the 3 copies of Temporal Spring. We can see the large drop off from Infect, now down to two showings, even though the deck was only maimed by the banning and not totally broken. One odd showing from the list was a single win by the GW Tokens deck. This odd deck uses a number of different spells to create a swarm of 1/1 tokens alongside heavy life gain from the soul sisters. The biggest drawback from the deck was the time it took to operate. I guess I can see some benefit from the deck against Fissure since there should be too many targets to bounce, but the deck is slow and is fairly reliant on its manabase.

Now, if you remember my last article, I talked about how I would be bringing back all parts of the new competitive corner as well as an addition. When I transitioned things with my Competitive Corner, I had decided that some of the old graphs would be dropped, but after some thought I’m bringing back my 4-0 table. As a refresher, this is the graph that shows which decks on average showed the most and then sorted by the number of undefeated showings.

This chart will be limited to the same limitation that I use on the generic meta picture, which means anything with an average of five or fewer showings will remain off with this subject to revision later if it gets to be too many decks. For the first few weeks, things will look a bit off because it’s starting with a set of data taken from a period of three weeks instead of the usual two. The one benefit we can have is going to be the fact that this particular showing is a pretty good look at how things went this week. For example we can see that this week, while DelverBlue managed to have almost 20 more total showings than FissurePost, they managed both to come in at approximately 28% of their showings being undefeated. It’s also worth mentioning that some of this week’s rogue decks that only had one or two showings managed to have that be an undefeated showing, such as UB Control and Infect. We’ll continue to keep an eye on this from here out and see what we can come up with as far as what decks have the best chance of going undefeated.

Here’s this week’s Daily Event breakdown…

Fast Stats!
Daily Event: 5230742
Number of Players: 58
Deck Types Represented: 20
Packs Won: 117

There were 58 players who showed up for this event, which took place on April 2nd. Of those players, there were 20 different deck types represented with the most prevalent being a tie between DelverBlue and Affinity. Here’s the full breakdown…

Affinity – 10
DelverBlue – 10
FissurePost – 8
Stompy – 4
Goblins – 4
Burn – 3
DimirTrinket – 2
Hexproof – 2
IzzetPost – 2
Slivers – 1
FamiliarStorm – 1
JunkPost – 1
UB Control – 1
Teachings Control – 1
SimicPost – 1
ODW – 1
MBC – 1
5c Teachings – 1
Infect – 1
DimirPost – 1

By the end of the second round, there had already been fifteen players eliminated including (oddly enough) three players who dropped out after first round losses. Another thirteen players would be forced to drop from the tournament by the end of the third round with no hopes of ending in the money. This week’s condolences go out to newplan, sigaisen, and ticki, who all started off strong at 2-0, but would go on to lose their next two rounds, which would keep them from the 3-1 minimum. Here’s how the decks matched up this week…

Eliminating outliers, this week’s top performer was Affinity, which won just under 60% of its matches. At the other end of the scale we have the DimirTrinket players who only won 20% of their games and Hexproof that only won 25%. These are a bit stretched as well because both DimirTrinket and Hexproof had only two players behind them. Other big contenders include Stompy at 57%, Goblins at 53%, and FissurePost/DelverBlue sitting at around 52%. What I left off was Slivers and FamiliarStorm that come in at 75%, but each only had one player behind it. On the other side, there were low numbers for Infect, 5c Teachings, ODW, and Teachings Control, all of which did not win a single game.

There were a small number of undefeated showings this week, but a decent number overall. Only three players managed to walk away at 4-0 with two of those being Affinity and the third being Stompy. Beyond them there were an additional fourteen players who ended up with a 3-1 record for a total of 117 packs won in this event. We’re going to finish things up here with a look at how that one Stompy player managed to overcome FissurePost in order to achieve that undefeated showing…


12-Creature Burn

Usually in the deck spotlight section I like to focus on a less-played deck, but I do like to make an exception every now and then. I talked briefly about the “new” version of the typical burn deck, and now I just want to take a chance to showcase it. I’m not going to go into heavy detail over card choice and game plan since I feel I covered the appeal a bit already, but here’s an example of what the list looks like…

This is a pretty typical version of the new 12-Creature Burn variant. As you can see it takes advantage of the Keldon Marauders and Kiln Fiends that used to be regular members in Burn and simply adds the Goblin Fireslinger, which can be played cheaply and provides continued damage. The rest of the deck is easily filled up with the numerous cheap damage spells that red has come to know and love. If you want more information on Burn decks, then you can check out this article I wrote not that long ago on the topic. As I said before, the deck is starting to become a better option as the number of Fissure variants continues to increase. If you’re looking for a deck that has a good chance in that matchup, then you can definitely give this deck a try, but it is worth cautioning that while this has a pretty good match against Fissure variants, it can struggle against some of the other big names in the meta.

Without getting too remorseful or deep about things, I think it is safe to say that there are many points in life when we find ourselves forced to take a look back: a look back at where we came from and what has made us what we are today. After having to deal with a lot of my own such thoughts, I figured this was a great idea for an article. Some of my long-time readers will be familiar with my writing past as I journeyed not only across formats, but across sites as well. What I wanted to focus on today was more along the lines of where I came from as a player. I won’t kill you with details over when I started or where, but I can tell you that when I started getting more competitive about things, it didn’t take much digging to know where my heart lay. One of the first decks I had purchased was one of those special edition, preconstructed decks that we’d been granted after Worlds. This deck was at its most basic form a Mono-Black Weenie deck. I’d spent my time learning the game and some of the lore around it, enough to be familiar with the concept of “weenie” decks. At the time the more popular foci would be, of course, Goblins and Elves, but more creatively Pegasi. I wanted to cast all of that aside.

I was hooked on black from that very first Terror I had opened, the very first time I glimpsed at the art on Plague Carrier, and of course the first time I threw down my very own Black Knight. This would carry on to every format I ever played and grew stronger as I came to learn of such overpowered options as Hymn to Tourach and Cabal Coffers. I learned from an early Magic age that it was just the way things worked that I would be trading cards or life in exchange for power, and I was hooked on that power.

In my early days in the game, I was far from focused on Pauper and even scoffed at times at the concept of playing an all-common format, mistakenly thinking that you could not find powerful cards for anything less than uncommon rarity. Despite this I found myself still pulled towards the format as it was the only format that had a Mono-Black deck that was not only showing up on a regular basis, but performing strongly as well. If you take the time and talk to some of the more veteran Pauper players you’ll know the curses behind Chittering Rats, which were oddly enough the Temporal Fissure of their day. Since then things have obviously balanced out as new things were printed, but whenever I would play Pauper, this is what I went for. Later when I found myself required to play Pauper based upon my own financial issues, this was the first thing I put together. For the most part you won’t find my name showing up in Daily Events because I often prefer something a little less serious, but whenever I would venture out into a Pauper Daily, it was always Mono-Black Control that I would sleeve up.

Continued inspiration behind this article came about as I was doing my usual checking of Daily Events in order to learn the current meta and saw a slightly new take on some of the classic aspects of Mono-Black Control. I decided that I should take a look at what Mono-Black Control has become and talk just briefly about where it came from.

In some of the earlier days of Mono-Black Control in Pauper I can remember a time when the focus of the deck was the Corrupts. In a similar way to IzzetPost, Mono-Black Control often looked to sit back gaining life and stalling the game until a point that it finally would draw into its finisher. This usually came about through Tendrils of Corruption as not only creature control, but the Glimmerpost-equivalent. It would also use discard options such as Ravenous Rats in order to continue that stall process. Then with a significant number of Swamps on the field, you’d be able not only to recover what little health you had left, but basically finish off an opponent with a spell that would hit big even if it did cost you 6 mana. These were the deck’s staples, but the game continued to change.

Even before the most recent changes to Pauper with the storm bannings, Mono-Black Control had long since fallen away from its golden age. Your typical list had started to move away from a full set of Tendrils of Corruption and Corrupt, had dropped all of its noncreature discard options, and instead ran a package that was much more focused on kill spell after kill spell. The typical list usually looked something like this…

Some things of note for the time include the requirement to include anti-Empty the Warrens spells such as Echoing Decay and Crypt Rats. You’ll also notice that decks were starting to stack up to six land destruction spells because IzzetPost was strong and hard for Mono-Black Control to beat.

Times have continued to change. We’re now in a meta that can be a bit slower than its previous iteration. The rise of the 8-post decks is upon us, but there are still some faster options that have continued to thrive such as DelverBlue. As fast as those may seem, you still have to concede that these are slower than the typical Turn 2 wins of a Storm or Infect option. This has opened up a little bit of room for some of the classic control decks to engage, but there would still be struggles against the reigning powerhouse that is Temporal Fissure storm in all its variants. Most control decks really want to have a significant number of lands available so that they have enough options to cast multiple control spells and demand the tempo of the game stay in line with its own desires. The list that I came across as I was browsing through the daily results looked like this…

Now there are some obvious omissions here when it comes back to the idea of putting together that “classic” MonoBlack list. The days of Corrupt as the backbone for Mono-Black Control are long since gone. I remember months ago when I first noticed Mono-Black Control decks that were winning games without Corrupt and thinking what a sin I thought that was. Change can be a scary thing. Even Tendrils of Corruption was starting to fall from favor as it was deemed too slow at 4 mana despite the significant amount of life it could gain. There were so many new and better options provided to us, things that were starting to eat up card slots left and right. What this current version of MonoBlack does is cater to the meta pretty well. For those who would rather watch/listen instead of read, here’s my discussion on the deck…

I don’t want to discuss a lot of the details on the deck because a lot of the cards are relatively traditional for Mono-Black Control and we’re aware of their purpose. I instead want to discuss some of the benefits of the switches. As we talked about the way staples like Corrupt were already starting to drop out of favor, we also see the former staple, Ravenous Rats, gone as well. It was something that was bound to happen soon as it was already being switched out in a lot of previous Mono-Black Control decks in favor of Augur of Skulls, which had a lot more behind it. With Ravenous Rats you were simply getting a 1/1 body that forced one discard. With Augur of Skulls you still got the 1/1, but it forced two discards, could regenerate, and combined well with Undying Evil to provide even more discard. Needless to say I still had similar feelings to seeing a list without these staple 2-mana drops that I had seeing Mono-Black Control dropping Corrupt.

These traditional pieces are traded off in a way that is beneficial to handling a lot of the current meta. You can see this version brings back the focus on discard spells beyond the deck’s creature base. With the increase in FissurePost variants in our current meta, you have to take into consideration the ways needed to attack it. In my opinion this comes down to three things, as there is no one direct way to handle it. These three angles are to attack their hand, attack their grave, and attack their land. Having this extra discard in the main increases your chances of winning that crucial first game. Beyond that the deck goes not only back to its anti-post roots, but well above that limit as well. Decks used to be running six copies of land destruction, but this list goes as far as to max those and run eight.

The deck even works to handle the numerous aggro options in the current meta as well by bringing in a full set of Crypt Rats in the main. This is one of the best options Pauper has as an alternative to not having Wrath of God. The Crypt Rats can also act as a finisher as long as you’re careful about your own life at the time. The deck also works to balance this out by bringing back the Tendrils of Corruptions and adding Spinning Darkness in order to help balance the life you’re already spending on Phyrexian Rager, Sign in Blood, and Snuff Out if you decide to pay it for its alternative cost.

To see how the deck manages against some of the current big names in the format check out the videos below…

If you couldn’t tell from the videos, after much testing with it, I think that I’d probably look to add in at least one copy of Bojuka Bog and I’d even stretch it to two without a lot of hesitation. The drawbacks come in a weaker Tendrils of Corruption, but the fact that it enters the battlefield tapped shouldn’t slow you down too much in the early game because the deck really doesn’t get moving until Turn 3. The only thing gnawing at me when it comes to adding two copies is the fact that, while rare, there is a chance you can get slowed down a turn with a bad draw. Beyond that I might consider trying to sneak in a copy of Echoing Decay as yet another potentially large kill spell.

Ultimately when we reach down to our deepest character traits, we’ll find that we always gravitate back towards the deck types that most represent us. While Mono-Black Control may not be at a level of power that it used to enjoy, you cannot underestimate the deck. Despite not getting a large number of showings on a regular basis, it can sneak in one of those undefeated slots if you’re not watching closely. I mentioned the other day that the biggest thing a deck needs in our current meta is being able to perform off of only one or two lands. This is something that control decks usually struggle with since more mana means more control spells you can cast, but of all control decks out there, this is perhaps the number-two best at handling the low mana base (second only to DelverBlue, which is barely control at times).

You can’t take a look back without looking forward as well. Currently we’re looking at an influx of Fissure decks that will cause big issues. All I can leave you with is a request that you try something beyond it or at least make sure you bring something to the table that you know can beat it so we can try and shake things up once again.

My favorite saying? Adapt or die. Mono-Black has managed it; has your preferred deck done so? I hope so.

Until next time… don’t forget to check me out on Twitter @MTGOJustSin for random thoughts on the format and occasional discussion!

  1. R2G3: You could have played Crypt Rats+1 and Edict to clear is board (going to 1), instead of trying to topdeck.
    R3G2: Couldn’t you just played Distress to get rid of his second Temporal Fissure he used to get bounce the Wall @ 22:30? Then he has only one (unknown) card left.

  2. Hi, im getting back into pauper after a while, its nice to see that u are still running this format overview. I am toying around with mono b rats myself and its ok – not good, but not bad either. fissure post is really tough and im not sure if we can realistically play 8 ld spells in the sb, it takes so much space. u are completely right on corrupt, besides the fact that i think it was never good in the first place. i would cut tendrils also, they are doing nothing u really want: often u dont hit 4 lands turn 4, so u cant play it then, its to slow against gobbos, stompy and infect and even if u could play it, there are plenty of ways u dont get the life because of sacoutlets or vines. it also sucks against delver. the only matchup its ok is affinity, which is a really good MU anyway. u can lower the land count by one and run more cycle lands or bojuka bogs also. also i dont like so much discard effects md, they are gettiing bad really fast.
    just my two cents, keep up the good work

  3. hey there guys thanks for the replies!

    @ Traves: we’re getting close to another “month in review” article, which will show how things are playing out with the whole 8post/fissure influx… should be interesting if I do say so myself!

    @ DC: glad to see you coming back! while 8 ld seems heavy I’d be willing to argue that it fits easily because the other aspects are handled, without Storm/Infect sideboarding feels like its opened up a bit more and you don’t need to fragment as much (at least I feel)

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