Dear MTGO fans,
Reading Magic beginner forums on a regular basis makes me aware of the fact that newbies often have a hard time with deckbuilding. Why? Because one of the most powerful features of Magic: The Gathering is also the most challenging for the beginner– the huge card pool. There are endless possibilities when it comes to building a deck, and, taking into account the various formats, your goals in deck construction, and your budget, it is very hard to offer general guidelines.
In this series we are going to take another approach; we will display a deck a beginner sent to us and then suggest improvements based on the budget of the player and his preferred format. We will also take into account if it is a casual deck or if the player is trying to battle in tournaments. Along with this approach, we are also going to offer a few tips on how to “pimp” the deck with a few more expensive choices and give general advice concerning how to play in accordance with the deck’s strategy. It is worth noting that we are not going to reinvent the wheel; if there are viable and proven cards and strategies that fit the budget and scope of the deck, we are going to use them! Note that this is not going to be a lengthy analysis of any format, nor will it be an exhaustive strategy series, but rather a short analysis of the given deck, a few ideas for card choice revisions, and some brief commentary on why we’ve made the decisions we have.
Our first submission is from NoxNoctis. He sent us a mono-black deck for the Pauper format that tries to apply early pressure with cheap creatures and removal and uses a few late-game cards such as Consume Spirit and Tendrils of Corruption for reach. There is no finished sideboard for the deck at the moment. Here is the original build:
Mono-Black for Pauper by NoxNoctis
The following was the commentary NoxNoctis submitted:
It’s pretty much supposed to be a basic suicide deck for me to build from. Trying to have a lot of powerful but cheap and expendable cards out early game with Vampire Bite (kicked), Tendrils of Corruption and Consume Spirit all helping out a bit later. I’d like it to be more versatile though, right now it completely destroys some decks but fails badly against others. I’m finding my main problems have been dealing with artifact heavy decks, and decks where my opponent is gaining a lot of life (vamp decks or white decks).
Also the occasional ramp deck is troublesome when they get lucky. Haven’t established a sideboard as of yet, I’ve been switching lots of cards in/out. At the moment I’m sticking with casual play though I’d like to get into tournaments at some point. I play pauper only. Budget is $30 tops at the moment.”
Taking this information and the restrictions into account, we will start by examining the existing deck and then slowly rebuild it to increase the power level without breaching the budget requirement.
The first thing to note is that black has a very hard time dealing with artifacts and enchantments. If you want to have more flexibility, you will have to add a second color to give you more options for the maindeck and sideboard. Secondly, it is generally preferable not to play cards such as Consume Spirit in very aggressive builds as they require a great deal of mana that your manabase will rarely be able to provide. Twenty lands is very few but can be justified with the extremely low mana cost of most of the cards your deck (ignoring the Tendrils and Consume Spirit).
My suggestion for your deck would be to make it slower but more flexible. This will involve adding another color, such as white. By adding white, which is able to handle artifacts and enchantments with ease, you will enable good maindeck and sideboard options. There are some great ideas that have been floating around that revolve around the card Nightsky Mimic. By playing with strong black-white cards, the Mimic will regularly become a 4/4 flyer, which is hard to handle in Pauper where most of the targeted red removal (Lightning Bolt) hits for 3 damage or less. To run Nightsky Mimic makes it important to include a good number of triggers. Based on this idea, my suggestion would be to play the following creature package:
4 Nightsky Mimic: This is the backbone of the deck. Each time you cast a black-white spell, this becomes a huge threat.
4 Nip Gwyllion: This triggers Nightsky Mimic and offers value against red burn decks because of lifelink.
2 Phyrexian Rager: Card draw that also provides a creature.
2 Blind Hunter: another trigger with evasion that is hard to block. Also provides reach and a safety net with its enters-the-battlefield and haunt triggers.
4 Mourning Thrull: Again, flying and lifelink while triggering the Mimic
4 Kor Skyfisher: A strong flyer for a low mana cost. Bouncing can advantageously reset a hybrid mana-cost trigger for a second use.
This creature package looks harmless but can do a lot of damage while helping you to keep your life total high. Of course, we need to support this with non-creature spells, which we will turn to now. While Tendrils and Consume Spirit are good additions to a slower mono-black build, we are looking for a something a little bit different since you intended your deck to be aggressive. Because we are playing white, we can now afford to play a powerful enchantment that not only handles creatures but can also get rid of annoying enchantments and artifacts as desired:
3 Oblivion Ring: O-ring is an amazing spell that provides a lot of flexibility and even removes Planeswalkers (not that that will be an issue in Pauper)!
4 Castigate: Not only does this show you what your opponent has available and removes the best card, but it triggers Mimic as well.
4 Sign in Blood: Card draw is important. The life loss will be gained back by the lifelink creatures we play.
4 Edge of the Divinity: Very strong aura. If you play this on the Nightsky Mimic, it becomes a 7/7 flyer until end of turn!
2 Serrated Arrows: A great anti-creature card. It works wonders against creatures with protection and can remove several small creatures in other matchups.
Finally we need to increase our land count a bit to add consistency to the deck and to include enough white sources so we can play our spells early enough. My suggestion would be:
4 Terramorphic Expanse: Fetches Swamps or Plains depending on your need.
4 Orzhov Basilica: Again, color fixing. Also, a Basilica and another land make 3 mana between the two of them.
With the maindeck fixed, we can now examine options for the sideboard. Generally you will want to play cards in the board that increase your chances against your toughest matchups. Due to our two-color combination, we have many more options to handle these matchups then before:
1 Serrated Arrows: Boarding this in against small annoying creatures that have protection from black or white.
1 Echoing Decay: If your opponent is playing with a lot of tokens that have the same name, this wipes them all.
4 Duress: Helps to fight control decks that have plenty of counterspells
1 Death Denied: Playing against a slow deck that has a lot of removal? This card can win the late game by refilling your hand.
2 Dust to Dust: Against very artifact-heavy decks.
2 Relic of Progenitus: If the opponent is making heavy use of the graveyard.
2 Prismatic Strands: Helps against all kinds of direct damage spells.
2 Dawn Charm: Flexible protection spell.
So the complete deck and sideboard now look like this:
Aggressive Black-White for NoxNoctis, modified by Plejades
The cost for the complete deck should be less then $10 since we have deliberately left out a few options that would have cost a few tickets each without sacrificing much power. One nice addition to the sideboard would have been Crypt Rats, which are around 4 Tix apiece, though.
I hope that NoxNoctis gives it a try and lets us know in the comments how the deck performed after these changes. If you, dear reader, have any additional ideas for improvement or comments on the archetype, leave a comment.
Are you a beginner and not sure why your deck is not doing well, or do you have a deck that is performing acceptably, but you are not sure what you can do to improve it? Send an email with your MTGO name to firstname.lastname@example.org and include your decklist, your budget, the format you are playing, and a few general comments about the deck, and you very well might find your deck shown in our next installment of “Beginner’s Deck Doctor”!
Until then, good luck in the queues,