Thus begins one of many new monthly MTGO Academy fixtures!!! First and foremost, a most gracious thank you to those of you who took the time to contribute deck lists/ideas. For those of you new to the site, the purpose of this contribution is to assist players in fine-tuning 100 Card Singleton decks. So for future reference feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I just need a text doc. of your deck and a short explanation of what, exactly, you’re tying to accomplish.
BACK TO BLACK
Mono-black has long been a favorite of mine. In fact, Suicide Black (Rath Cycle Block) was the deck that gave me my first inklings of competitive awareness. So this was a most welcome suggestion for my first Deck Doctor contribution.
Let’s take a look at the initial design (thanks to Zimbardo for the submission).
Before we delve into this I want to say a couple things:
With ME3 just around the corner, I’ve decided to include a few cards that aren’t available here in the now in my edit. My reason? Each is a more than significant addition that will give the deck a huge leg up.
Secondly, I am of the opinion that there are two ways to approach building Mono-black. You have the aforementioned Suicide and/or creature-heavy build. And you have the Control version, wrought with drains, board sweep, and only the bombiest of bodies under your blackened thumb. I will be focusing on the latter.
Upon first glance you may notice two things:
1.) The submitted build sort of straddles the line between the two above archetypes. This is something I want to clarify in my edit, omitting a good deal of these creatures for some more optimal spells.
2.) The included small touch of blue spells that may strike you as odd.
Let me start by saying I entirely agree with a very minor blue splash. In fact, I think it’s necessary in the control build, given that Imperial Seal and both Demonic and Vampiric Tutor are currently banned. Deck manipulation and draw power are crucial to MBC (Mono-black Control), as it is typically a very draw dependent, veritable toolbox of situational answers. The second color also allows for more sideboarding options.
However, I would be very stringent when including cards of this second color. It’s easy to go overboard and wind up playing a totally different style of deck.
Here are the blue cards I would include and why:
Mystical Tutor and Teachings: MBC is often a deck that can start off on the backfoot, but can make up for lost ground with a single spell: Damnation, Barter in Blood, Drain Life-style cards, etc. The Mysticals, if you will, grant you access to these cards.
Fact or Fiction: An old standby that requires no explanation at all.
Recoil: So you might be thinking, “Why, in God’s Glorious 216-digit name, is this in your list?!?” Simple. Beyond Oblivion Stone and Disk, MBC has no way to deal with artifacts and enchantments once they hit the table. It fits nicely in the curve, is accessible with the Mysticals, and the discard is in-style for the build.
One of this deck’s greatest strengths and weaknesses is its mana. And whereas a straight black build would be less susceptible to non-basic land hate, the amount of “blue” lands you need to accommodate the blue splash is marginal. Drowned Catacomb, Sunken Ruins, Tolaria West, Underground Sea, and Watery Grave are more than enough. Backed by a compliment of fetch lands (most of which you would play anyway) and won’t be for want of a blue mana practically ever.
With that said, I would not encourage playing any number of basic Islands – Thawing Glaciers or not. There are simply too many cards with two or more black mana symbols. Better to play with the variance rather than against it with this one.
That means that the Terramorphic Expanse would be better as a plain old boring basic Swamp. You don’t want to thin out the lands in MBC. Remember: land is your very best of friends. And what’s the point when you’re already playing vastly superior fetch lands.
Next, I would most definitely keep the number of non-color producing lands to an absolute minimum. As far as I’m concerned, Urza’s Factory, Volrath’s Stronghold, and Wasteland are the only ones worth consideration, all of which require no explanation.
The last land I want to spotlight is Tolaria West. It’s particularly useful considering some of the more pivotal cards in the deck are actually lands: Cabal Coffers, Thawing Glaciers, Urborg, and Vesuva (to copy your Coffers). Although it can be admittedly difficult to Transmute, the access it grants to the above cards (and let’s not forget Slaughter Pact) makes it a more-than-valuable asset for the deck.
While we’re on the topic of mana, allow me to dissuade you from including artifact because…
1.) Nevinyrral’s Disk and Oblivion Stone are necessary evils in MBC. They’re Wraths, and two thirds of your way to deal with onboard artifacts and enchantments. You will want and/or need to rely on them often and always, so you’re simply losing card advantage here by playing mana that gets blown up by your own sweepers.
2.) While artifacts can make your blue splash a little easier on your mana base, the deck thrives rather heavily on the number of Swamps in play: Beseech the Queen, Corrupt, Korlash, Tendrils of Corruption. Lands are just better.
3.) MBC is pretty much a one-spell-per-turn type of deck. At least in the developing stage of the game. This means that non-Coffers mana acceleration is actually not as impacting as you would think (making Cabal and Dark Ritual even worse!)
My aim is to play as few men as possible. This makes your opponent’s non-burn removal a dead draw, and minimizes the loss of card advantage off your sweepers and things like Barter in Blood. So here’s what I am taking out, in no particular order:
Maga, Traitor to Mortals: I’m assuming this guy was included as a drain spell, but he’s missing the “you gain X life” part, making him a little on the inefficient side.
Solemn Simulacrum: Again, this card’s a little lacking. I want my bodies to be more substantial than a speed bump, extra Swamp or not.
Shambling Swarm: This is a tough one, for sure. And while he’s down, he ain’t out. To the sideboard you go for the time being. (Love this card!)
Keiga, the Tide star: A bit slow, even for this deck. And with Path to Exile, Swords to Plowshares, and Oblivion Ring in high circulation at the moment, he’s worse yet.
Nantuko Shade: Okay, here comes a paragraph. Sorry, people, this guy just isn’t up to snuff. Not in control, at least. Scoff all you like. He’s a mana-intensive bear that dies like the rest of ‘em. I have preached this myriad times before, and almost always to no avail, but: big dorks like Woolly Thoctar aren’t good. In the Suicide build he’s an all-star, but not so much in a deck playing very few guys that wants to aggressively play out cards like The Abyss, Barter in Blood, Damnation, Innocent Blood, and Night of Soul’s Betrayal.
Hollow Specter: A decent card on the whole, but bit too mana-intensive for my liking.
Stillmoon Cavalier: Even with a lot of decks packing white cards, this guys seems a little too specific to run main deck, and a little too anemic for the board.
Kokusho, the Evening Star: Reference Keiga. Frankly, I’m less and less impressed with the Kamigawa dragons every day. (In fact, I even cut them from my Reanimator deck after this last PE.)
Nezumi Graverobber (flipped image) and Shortfang (flipped version): Let’s tackle these guys at once. Both are fragile, relatively weak attackers (even if and when they flip), they provide a marginal at a mana-intensive cost, and are most definitely better suited for the Suicide build. OUT!
Trinket Mage: Other than Sensei’s Divining Top, there’s nothing else in the build I want for this poor guy to fetch. To be completely honest, I think this is a highly overrated card that can cause you to fill your deck with a slew of unnecessary maindeck chaff to constitute its inclusion. There’s a home for this guy, but not here.
This is what is comes in/stays:
Hypnotic Specter: After much mental deliberation, this guy is too good to cut. Early or late, its evasion and ability have a consistent and significant impact on the game.
Shriekmaw: He’s an early answer to a threat. A few turns later he’s removal attached to a clock. Oh, and it’s abusive with Volrath’s Stronghold. Take a bow, fella.
Nekrataal: Comes with most of the above features.
Twisted Abomination: He’s going to get you a land 9 times out of 10, but that 1 time he doesn’t.
Tombstalker: I’d like to file this guy under ‘giant flying dork,’ but alas, he’s a little more than that. Dragon for two black is kinda sick.
Dimir House Guard: Some Transmute reach for the ton of four drops in the deck.
Korlash, Heir to Blackblade: Alas, no Grandeur here. This another deficit this archetype suffers in the format: many of its best cards thrive on multiples. Anyway, this dude’s a solid ever-growing body good at holding down the fort and bashing in heads.
Xiahou Dun, the One-eyed: One of the ME3 cards that most certainly makes the cut. A three power guy that’s going to be unblockable the majority of the time that acts as a black Regrowth. Get ‘em in there!
Bane of the Living: A substantial threat that functions as a board sweeper. Morphed, he fits nicely in the curve.
Ashling the Extinguisher: Removal with shoes. This guy is such a beast, especially if you can kill their sole blocker and send in to munch another.
Divinity of Pride: Initially I was a savage hater of this card, preferring Oona as my fat flier, but, thanks to the rules update on lifelink (and some coercing on behalf of the deck’s designer), I’m a proud believer here in the now!
MBC’s spell selection can be easily broken down into: Removal, Support, Deck Manipulation and Card Draw. So let’s do this blow-by-blow.
This stuff comes out:
Executioner’s Capsule: This card is slow, has zero surprise factor, gets moshed by artifact removal, and, without something like Trinket Mage, is less accessible than any of the plethora of Dark Banishing effects that can be fetched with Mystical Teachings or Tutor.
Ribbons of Night: There’s a minor blue splash, so why not, right? Well let me tell you why. First of all, it’s slow as all-get-out. Potential cantrip aside, five mana is a lot for such a limited effect (which is the second reason.) Were this able to target players. But it doesn’t.
Doom Blade: This is another “good in limited” card, like Ribbons, but it just doesn’t do enough outside that arena.
Soul Burn: That one additional colorless mana makes it just unattractive enough for me. It’s subpar, as far as drain spells go.
Decree of Pain: There aren’t too many scenarios I can think of that involve me drawing a ton of cards off this and not being either beyond dead or somewhere pretty dang close. Like a lot of its Decree brethren, it’s slow and questionable.
Here’s what comes in/stays:
Sudden Death: Nice uncounterable cheap spot removal that stops sac effects.
Brainspoil: Transmutes for some of the bigger and better spells in the deck. At the worst, it kills a guy.
Tendrils of Corruption: Creature kill, but a drain spell of sorts nonetheless.
Smother: Not my favorite, but decent.
Contagion, Sickening Shoal, Slaughter Pact, Soul Spike, and Spinning Darkness: This is one thing that was definitely lacking in the initial list. All of these spells are, in essence, “free,” which is helpful when you’re plodding through the beginning of the game playing one spell a turn or your hand is well-stocked from a Necro or Arena. While the submitted list did include Slaughter Pact, it was bereft of the rest, all of which I consider MBC staples.
Unmake: This was in the board of the submission, but should be in the main deck.
Terror: Another misplaced mainstay.
The Abyss: Again, the drawback here is nominal, picking up the slack on all the one-for-one removal in the deck and keeping the board clean and clear of men, monsters, and the like.
Profane Command: A drain, spot removal, and a reanimator all packed in one. I didn’t bother mentioning the other ability due to the lack of bodies. Nonetheless, multifunctional goods.
Night of Soul’s Betrayal: Eliminates a multitude of small, pesky threats, and shrinks the rest.
Distress and Scepter of Fugue: I like these cards in the sideboard, but not so much main deck. Scepter loses its luster with Disk and Stone. And Distress, if not drawn early, is like a lot of discard spells: a day late and a target short.
Wrench Mind: There’s a dual dilemma here. Against aggressive decks Wrench may hit a threat or even two, but a good player’s gonna chuck dead removal or lands, if they have anything to chuck at all. And against the current Control decks (the few that sojourn on in the form of Belcher or Grindstone Combo) they just pitch a single card. It’s just not Hymn. Sorry.
Gauntlet of Power: While seemingly in contention, I find this card underwhelming when you break it down a bit further. Once again, it’s slow. The stat bonus for your creatures is, on the whole, insignificant to almost entirely irrelevant with such a low body count.
Wayfarer’s Bauble: I’d rather play a regular old Swamp than pay three for one, despite the possible acceleration.
Liliana Vess: A wrecking ball in this deck. Discard, tutoring, and a mass one-sided Death effect.
Animate Dead, Debtor’s Knell, and Necromancy: Something else that was missing from the initial deck. When you’re playing tons of removal, what’s better than reanimating one of your opponent’s own threats and killing them with it? Knell is an obscenely powerful card that breaks stalls and/or turns games completely on their head. And don’t forget, Necromancy is a Teachings target!
Recoil: I touched upon this earlier, and concede that there is probably something more appropriate that could replace it.
Journeyer’s Kite: Great way to insure those vital lands drops hit play.
DECK MANIPULATION AND CARD DRAW
Demonic Consultation: This is my only qualm in this subgroup of cards, but it’s a rather big one. I actually discussed this briefly with the deck’s designer, as it struck me as insanely high risk. His logic was that it could find you a kill condition. While this is possible, I suppose, I think it’s very unlikely on the whole. MBC is a highly reactive deck. More often than not, Consultation would be used to find a way to not die, rather than to kill someone. Potentially removing a large portion of your deck, or possibly the entire thing, in the process is simply not worth the price of admission.
Sensei’s Divining Top: A format staple, especially in a deck like this.
Beseech the Queen, Diabolic Tutor and Grim Tutor: The only optimal black tutors for the deck. (If you are as unhappy with the current Banned/Restricted List as I am, I whole-heartedly encourage you to make your voice heard. It makes a difference. Trust.)
Necropotence: I was a little surprised to not find this in the submission, as it is one of the prime reasons that would motivate me to play MBC, or any straight black deck for that matter. Ridiculousness, especially with all the life gain in the deck and “free” spells.
Phyrexian Arena: A nice reliable draw outlet to keep your hand gassed.
Promise of Power: A functional win condition and card draw spell in one. A must-have in MBC.
Skeletal Scrying: Another classic MBC card. Reliably strong with the volume of spells in the deck to fuel it.
I will refrain from dissecting the suggested board, as the designer expressed he had merely thrown together a quick list for the purposes of testing the main deck.
The way I see it, Permission is your nightmare match up. So the working board I have included is geared toward lessening that gap. Given some time to properly and thoroughly test, I’m sure a fair amount of these cards would fall by the wayside, but, for the interim, I will explain my reasoning for their inclusion.
Tormod’s Crypt: Some graveyard hate. Any card that can be tutored (with Tolaria West) and played immediately for free is beyond good in my book.
Deathmark: Great against a myriad of aggressive decks in the current and perpetual meta.
Extract: An attempt at Combo hosing (and, perhaps, a sad one, at that.)
Funeral Charm: I wanted this main deck, as it’s a great game one card that, at the very least, provides you with some more information and limited game options. It’s expressly good against aggressive decks that run early drops: removal for a small man, or draw step denial (if their hand is spent.) At the worst, it can pump one of your guys.
Distress, Nightmare Void, and Scepter of Fugue: against Control/Combo.
Shred Memory: Graveyard hate that provides some deck access.
Engineered Plague: It appears the elf trend has reached its terminus. But just in case.
Shambling Swarm: This may be better main, depending on the meta, but for now it finds a warm spot on the bench, hopeful to see some action against aggressive/midrange decks.
Yawgmoth’s Agenda: I wanted a bullet in the board that Brainspoil could fetch. I’d love for this to be main, but the deck can only contain so many silver bullets before it reaches yield. And it’s not something you want to draw early.
Nightmare Incursion: A slow and hopeful answer to Combo.
Dread: Last, but no least, that wicked sonuva-you-know-what straight from some of your worst Lorwyn Block draft experiences of yore.
I actually played spent an afternoon behind the wheel of this beast (ME3 cards substituted, of course.) My experience was extremely fun and rewarding most of the time, and frustrating and seemingly hopeless the rest.
It’s a hard to deck build, and an even harder deck to play, but I appreciate the challenge nonetheless. I’m not entirely sure I would advocate taking this to a PE. A friend suggested I try to make a 5c or a BG version.
It’s incredible what a difference being denied Imperial Seal and Vampiric Tutor makes, but believe me, it’s enough to handicap a potentially viable archetype such as MBC.
Thanks so much for reading.
Until next time,
Travis: so many trolls
P.S. Keep playing, people! Let’s keep weekend event attendance up before they snatch away our events!!!