“In its natural habitat, the goblin is stupid, yet devious.Â Now it’s stupid, devious, and powerful.” -Cabal Slaver
“Never underestimate the power of the dark side.” -Yoda
“Aayy!” -the Fonze
In recent weeks the Pauper Premier Events and queues have been overrun by Goblins and Storm.Â More and more games come down to hoping Goblins doesn’t have the Bushwhacker to kill you before you stabilize, or hitting F6 and watching The Onion Video while you wait for your Storm opponent to fizzle.Â (For an introduction to Pauper Aggro decks, including Goblins, check out my previous article and for a primer on Storm take a look at Ranth’s video.)
It’s time to fight back and there’s no better weapon right now than Pauper’s original boogie man, Mono Black Control.Â MBC dominated the early PEs before falling prey to an inbred metagame of increasingly ponderous Control decks.Â It can struggle against elite late game engines like Mystical Teachings and Mulldrifter, but with Goblins and Storms keeping Control players honest, MBC is primed to reemerge as a top deck.Â It has efficient removal, sweepers, and life gain to deal with Goblins, and enough disruption to punish Storm.
MBC’s single-color manabase and card draw make it an incredibly stable deck that will rarely lose to itself.Â It’s a great choice for players who want to outplay their opponents in competitive, interactive games.Â I’ve been running MBC in the queues for the past week or so and have run my rating up over 1800.Â That translates to around a 75% win rate, so I would definitely recommend giving it a shot.Â It accomplishes the task of crushing Storm and Goblins quite well. While you don’t want to see Blue-based Control, between their fragile mana base and your “Oops, I win” factor with cards like Corrupt, you have a fighting chance of stealing those matches too.
Today I’ll go over my thought process in building MBC.Â I’ll conclude with what I consider a strong list for the current metagame, and hopefully offer some more general insights into building a deck to attack known opponents.
Corrupt and Tendrils of Corruption are the cards that put the Mono in Mono Black.Â They’re especially good at dashing the hopes of aggressive decks, but Corrupt can steal games from seemingly hopeless board positions against all types of opponents.
2. The Wrath
In a nearly wrath-less format, it’s good to be the guy with the wrath.Â And with an all-Swamp mana base, we’ll be well positioned to take maximum advantage of Crypt Rats.Â They can also combine with Corrupt to allow us to play a burn gameplan and kill our opponents without ever having to enter the Red Zone.
3. Card Advantage
We start fighting the card advantage battle on Turn 2 with Sign in Blood.Â It’s not the kind of card that’s targeted at a specific matchup, it’s just a very efficient card-drawing spell that we’re almost always happy to have in our hand.Â With a pair of very powerful life-gain spells waiting in the wings, the life loss from Sign in Blood is not a huge concern.
On Turn 3 we’ll plan to drop one of two Gray Ogres: Chittering Rats or Phyrexian Rager.Â The inclusion of these cards highlights the way in which Pauper Control decks have to operate differently from Control decks in higher powered formats.Â A Black Control deck with access to Uncommons and Rares probably wouldn’t bother with piddly card advantage measures like Rats, but instead try to survive long enough to drop the hammer with something like Mind Sludge or Skeletal Scrying.Â Pauper mages don’t have access to those kinds of bombs, so we have to use every card to claw ahead bit by bit.
This is a good point to pause and take stock of what we have so far:
MBC Core List
This is essentially the core of the deck.Â It has the beginnings of a mana curve, a solid array of card advantage tools, and some very powerful late game cards.Â We may shave the numbers on some of these cards before we finish tuning, but it will work as a starting point.
We still have 12 slots left to work with and it’s at this point that we can really start customizing the deck.Â The remaining 12 cards will fall into one of three categories, each targeted at a specific kind of opponent:
Category 1. Cheap Removal
Opponent: Aggro (Goblins, White Weenie, Slivers, etc.)
Category 2. Disruption
Opponent: Combo/Control (Storm, Blue-based Control, the mirror)
Category 3. Late-game Bombs
Opponent: Control (Blue-based Control, the mirror)
We’ll need at least four cards from Category One and possibly as many as eight to insure a good matchup against Aggro.Â All the Crypt Rats and Tendrils of Corruption in the world won’t help if you can’t survive the first three turns.Â With that in mind, four Disfigure is a good place to start.Â There are actually very few creatures in Pauper with more than two toughness, so Disfigure will usually get the job done.Â Having a one-mana removal option is especially valuable in a deck with no other Turn 1 plays, because it means we’ll be able to do something useful on a turn where we would otherwise just pass.Â The other one-mana option, Innocent Blood, will put us in a lot of awkward spots when we have creatures in play, so if we want more removal we’re on to two-mana options.
So do we want more removal? I tend to err on the side of crushing Aggro, because in the end that’s MBC’s biggest selling point.Â If I’m playing the deck at all it’s because I expect a lot of Aggro, so I don’t want to skimp on cards that are good in those matchups.Â I think adding two more cheap removal spells will allow us to feel very comfortable against Aggro while still leaving enough room to shore up other matchups.
The default two-mana removal spell in most lists is Diabolic Edict.Â It can deal with annoying creatures like Deft Duelist, Guardian of the Guildpact, and Order of Leitbur.Â On the other hand, it’s a dead card against Storm and quite bad against Goblins, which are the two most popular decks at the moment.Â I suspect players have been seduced by Diabolic Edict‘s $0.50 price tag and the sexiness of playing an old school card from Tempest.Â But in the current metagame I prefer Echoing Decay, which is fantastic against both Storm and Goblins (it won’t usually two-for-one them, but a targeted removal spell that occasionally blows them out is still very good).Â Right now, it’s better to be prepared for a swarm of Empty the Warrens tokens than for a random Guardian of the Guildpact.
That leaves us with the following list:
MBC Improved Core List
We’ll use the six remaining slots to shore up our matchups against Storm and Control with cards from Categories Two and Three.Â To have a reasonable game one matchup against Storm, we need some targeted discard.Â Duress is a powerful card in the abstract, but will whiff too often against Goblins and White Weenie, so Distress seems like the most solid option.Â A lot of decks run Okiba-Gang Shinobi, but I’ve found that it sits in my hand without a ninjitsu opportunity way too often.Â It definitely has a home in the sideboard, but I don’t like it main.Â If you do choose to run the Shinobi, you should probably switch out Distress for Ravenous Rats to improve your chances of connecting.
I’d still like to have some additional disruption against Storm game one and I really like Unburden.Â Thanks to Blightning, Standard players have realized that Mind Rot is actually a good card.Â To be more specific, it’s an amazing card when it makes your opponent discard two.Â The only thing that stops it from being a great card, period, is that sometimes they don’t have two cards.Â Mind Rot is the perfect card to have cycling, which leads us to Unburden.Â I think it’s just a great card that has never found a home in a Constructed format, but is a perfect fit here.Â An added bonus is that this deck probably wants slightly more than 24 lands and adding a few cyclers effectively increases our land count.
If you’re keeping track of the numbers, you’ve realized that two copies of Unburden bring us to 60 cards, leaving no room for cards from Category Three.Â This is partly by design — I’m slanting the deck heavily to beat Storm and Goblins, and the clunky cards that make up Category Three are terrible in both matchups.Â Having said that, the matchups in which they are good tend to go very long, so even if we only add one or two cards we’ll have a reasonable chance of drawing them, which can make a huge difference in our percentages in those matchups.
When the goal is maximum effect from a single card, Grim Harvest is the way to go.Â Many decks simply can’t beat it in a long game.Â To make room I ended up cutting a Tendrils of Corruption.Â It feels weird, because Tendrils is one of the reasons to play MBC in the first place, but since it’s not actually that great against Goblins I’m okay with going down to three.Â That leaves us with the following 60:
Updated MBC List by nate316
Game 1 is somewhat even, but post-board you have a huge advantage.Â It’s very difficult for them to kill you with Empty the Warrens, so targeted discard should usually hit Grapeshot if possible because they’ll probably need to resolve multiples to win.
Versus Goblins/White Weenie:
- 4 Distress
Neither deck has a ton of reach, so Sign in Blood stays in.Â I’ve been very happy with Serrated Arrows — there are few things more satisfying than an opponent with no better options than playing a string of Order of Leitburs or Mogg Raiders into an active Arrows.
Versus Blue-Black Rats:
You don’t have anything that can trump Mulldrifter and Mystical Teachings in the late game, so you have to become the Aggro in this matchup.Â If you manage to connect with a Shinobi you’re in good shape.
Speak up in the forums about your experiences with MBC — what matchups have you found to be good and which are more problematic?Â Do you favor splashing Red for Strangling Soot or Blue for Mulldrifter and Probe?Â What’s the best two-mana removal spell?Â Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!
See you in a few weeks,
Nate Solon (Nate316)