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I got tired of waiting around for PC to tell me what goes in the Mono-Black Control deck, so I decided to try and find it myself. I should mention up front that I started on this path a while ago, and got about halfway through when Frank Lepore's articles came out on TCGPlayer. You should probably read those as well, if you want to make a MBC deck for standard.
I wanted to give the newest and mono-Blackiest cards a chance to shine, so I began with a deck like this:
Lashwrithe, Phyrexian Obliterator, this is your chance! I tested this against UW CawBlade, RUG-Twin, and Elves. It's not really a reasonable field, but it's a variety of deck styles, and decks that I know are good (at least for now).
This first deck was okay against RUG-Twin; better if you get lucky and bad if you don't. (My RUG-Twin list is almost the same as the one from SCG Open: Orlando, except that I use a mix of Frost Titans and Inferno Titans.)
It was awful against CawBlade (again, SCG Open: Orlando winning list) if they get a Sword of Feast and Famine. It actually wins when they don't, but that isn't that often. The Into the Roils are a huge beating for this list.
It was okay against Elves. If your opening had has Go for the Throat and Inquisition of Kozilek or Despise, you win. Phyrexian Obliterator can stall them for a turn, but Ezuri, Renegade Leader will soon have 30-40 damage for you, and they win the game with a silly "Sac 12 permanents" on the stack.
Lashwrithe didn't really do anything most games. If you can keep an Obliterator around you're already winning, and Lashwrithe is win-more. Occasionally relevant, but mostly not. It's nearly useless alone because they other decks can too easily ignore it, especially CawBlade, that can chump with Hawks or bounce it 6 ways from Sunday.
So I decided to try out Phyrexian Revoker and a more 2-for-1 sort of build.
This was much better. The continuous hand-pressure of turn 1 discard spell plus Specter plus Entomber Exarch (you can take land with that guy!) really puts a dent in CawBlade's plans. Phyrexian Revoker was okay against Sword of Feast and Famine, or Jace, but often seemed to make the game take longer without really changing the results. Liliana was okay in the first version, and really excellent here. I say all that, but it's still the underdog in the match-up.
Phyrexian Revoker was pretty funny agaisnt RUG-Twin, because you can name Deciever Exarch to deactivate the combo (Splinter Twin grafts an activated ability, you see.) This matchup was much better, though it still felt luck-based.
Dismember was awful. I felt I almost always wanted Go for the Throat instead, except that one game when I only had one mana to spare. It doesn't kill Titans, and there are a lot of those in the RUG deck, and I was losing more to Titans than to the combo. I don't think Dismember will be very useful in Standard until the fall rotation.
This list has potential, but needs more work. You really want to cast BBB and BBBB spells, but the lack of Tectonic Edge and Creature-lands of your own really hurts. If you never see a Sign in Blood, you can end up bricking on 3 Swamps in a row and losing a game it looked like you had locked up.
Next I did a "crazy" thing. I tried to add Stoneforge Mystic to this deck. Equipment + Obliterator is pretty sweet, and 2-for-1s are nice too.
This... also worked sometimes. The biggest thing I learned is that Batterskull on a Phyrexian Obliterator is quite hilarious. It can lead to a lot of math in both the Elves and CawBlade matchups. Usually, you win the Elves calculation, but the math against CawBlade was even or slightly unfavorable. Unfortunately, it seems most of the elves games end in your trampled corpse before they get to that point.
Hex Parasite makes an appearance here (useless against elves, of course) because I wanted to compare it to the Revoker. It's pretty great at keeping Jace at bay, but only seems to work temporarily. A lot of games felt like they were going well before the CawBlade deck started to take over. Both Batterskull and Sword of Feast and Famine are just huge problems for a deck that can't kill artifacts. With the White splash, Divine Offering is possible, but the mana is also a bit sketchy.
Back to mono-black, but with a more controlling, creature-killing plan. I wanted to try Ratchet Bomb as an anti-sword card.
This was much better. The Ratchet Bombs could kill swords and pesky elves, or birds, or exarchs. Consume the Meek was great for surprising Cawblade when they thought I had nothing left to stop their sworded-up birds plus Celestial Colonnade mega-swing. Consuming Vapors is similarly great at killing pro-black guys, so long as you're killing everything else on the way.
This is about the time I saw Frank Lepore's MBC deck on the mothership's Daily Deck list thing. I read his two articles at this point, very interesting. I can't believe I didn't realize I could use Tezzeret's Gambit! It costs 1 more mana, but gives you proliferate in exchange, which works well with the Chalices and the Ratchet Bombs. I also wanted to try out Karn, so I made an update:
This was the best so far. Lets go through the cards so I can tell you how they were working out or not for me.
Inquisition of Kozilek really remains the best black discard spell. Despise is cute, but I would rather have Duress if I'm going past the 4 Inquistions. (I note that Frank had the same opinion.)
Gatekeeper of Malakir pulls its weight, even if all it kills is a 1/4 card of Squadron Hawk. (Frank doesn't like it, but it can trade for 3 Hawks, technically, and is really great against "one big threat" style decks.)
Everflowing Chalice makes your top end easier to cast, and helps more than you might think after you use Tezzeret's Gambit or Sign in Blood to draw more cards. The Gambit was quite fun a lot of the time, and you can certainly put some UB lands in if you want. I'd hate to have much that enters tapped, however, and vulnerability to Tectonic Edge isn't very fun. Comparing Sign in Blood and Gambit, you really need a good excuse to use the card that costs more. I think it's worth it, but I bet it will be much better in an infect deck (which I'm not going to cover today, sorry).
Ratchet Bomb did all that I could ask of it, and I felt it was critical to the success of this deck in several games. It's awesome to Gambit up a Bomb and kill off a Jace when they didn't think you could. I don't know why there aren't a lot more of these showing up in maindecks. It's a lot like Engineered Explosives, which I hear was pretty good.
I tried Phyrexian Rager in addition to Liliana's Specter, but I liked the Specter better. Flying is a good skill for a creature to have.
Sheoldred, Whispering One was pretty good for this deck, as it already has a lot of edict effects and she can put on the final pressure to prevent them from having anything alive for more than a turn. There are also enough reanimation targets, so you don't lack for benefit on your own upkeeps. Still, I'm not sure if a second Grave Titan isn't simply better.
Speaking of which, Grave Titan is excellent. Oh, you knew that already? I guess so... yeah. Same story for Wurmcoil Engine. Having a colorless threat is a good idea these days.
Which brings me to Chimeric Mass. I think this card might be more interesting for constructed that you would expect. It avoids wraths and sorcery speed removal really easily, can be enormous (I cast it for 18 once in a really drawn out game with lots of Chalices) and it plays well with proliferate.
Finally, Karn Liberated. I only drew it once. I was already ahead that game, and it was simply icing on the cake. I could see it being very hard to deal with, though. If your deck gets to 7 mana in at least half of its games you should probably try it out.
Unfortunately I ran out of time, so I have to leave you with an uncertain future for MBC. The best deck I found is not as strong as the current best decks, but they've had a lot more refinement by more players. While there is still hope for decks like these, I think you have to include a healthy supply of colorless cards in addition to black cards if you want to succeed.
Speaking of colorless... that's my next project! See you then!
4 thoughts on “Mono Black Control?”
A comment on your use of Lashwrithe: You didn't really have the support for it. Yes, Lashwrithe on an Obliterator is kind of overkill, but Lashwrithe on a Nighthawk or Inkmoth Nexus is a huge, huge deal. On the Nighthawk it can pull you back insanely quickly from an early few hits, and on the Nexus, it can win games out of nowhere. Keep in mind that the equip cost can be essentially free, making it a much easier option to equip on cards that aren't always creatures, like Nexus, Mass, and Glint Hawk Idol (were you ever crazy enough to include it.)
The Nighthawk is also a terrific early-game play that hinders opposing Hawks, less so through blocking, as SoFaF kills that, but more on offense, making the race a lot harder to win, and, once an Obliterator hits, forcing them back on their heels. Not to mention that a Lashwrithe hitting a Nighthawk is a good way to make Cawblade stop attacking you.
Another terrific Phy Mana card that you missed is Metamorph, which is far more insane than anyone gives it credit for. I beat a Soul Sisters deck the other day by copying their Soul's Attendant with a Shrine of Loyal Legions with 7 counters. When he went to pop the Shrine, I killed the Attendant, and rode the lifegain to the win. The amount of options you get with it, even with your own deck, is incredible, from copying Lashwrithe and Obliterator (multiples of either are backbreaking for most decks), to copying opposing swords, to even copying an Inkmoth for acceleration. Winning a game via 5 Inkmoth Nexuses is pretty funny.
I don't like Consume the Meek, save as a sideboard card, potentially, against Cawblade. Even then, BSZ is just as good, since you still kill their board for the same mana. You do get the advantage of Instant speed if they tap out hoping to untap with SoFaF, but it's up to individual metagames as to whether or not that's worthwhile. I'd also recommend a one-of Life's Finale, since quite a few decks right now rely upon a single creature as a keystone to the deck. While it's worthless against Cawblade, it's pretty brutal against Twin and Soul Sisters, and can even wreck most opposing control decks that are running few threats. I'd end up going with one-ofs of it at Consume the Meek, and swapping them around between maindeck and sideboard depending on metagame and match up.
I didn't like Grave Titan in my MBC, though I did have the hilarity of copying one twice with Metamorph. The deck needs less big fatty swarm, and more disruption, which is why Sheoldred is more of a beast. If you're not keen on Obliterator, and I can see why people might not be, then Grave Titan's as good an option as you can get, though I might still lean more toward Persecutor. But also, I don't run acceleration in my version, so your mileage likely varies there.
I hadn't given Liliana's Specter a long, hard look, and likely will now. The possibilities there seem good to me. My vision of current MBC is to ride midrange threats, since black's midrange threats are so strong, in Lashwrithe, Persecutor, and Obliterator. Having fliers to swap the Lashwrithe onto increases its power phenominally (especially with Metamorph, leading to an occasional T5 equip two Lashwrithes to Nighthawk and swing play), and Liliana's Specter seems as good, at least, as Nighthawk.
At any rate, it's a deck that requires a very strong commitment to your own metagame, and therefore, isn't really a netdeckable option. In a Cawblade flooded environment, you'll want much more spot removal, Consume the Meek, and some colorless options like Wurmcoil or even Steel Hellkite. In a combo flooded environment, you have lots of discard, Memoricide, and the normal tricks like Spellskite. In an aggro environment, you can even look toward Marsh Casualties to go along with BSZ, in addition to strong anti-aggro creatures like Gatekeeper and Nighthawk.
I can see a lot of people being frustrated with MBC when they take a list from online, and run it at their local FNM or Game Day, and find out that it just falls flat due to their metagame. You have to know what your opponents are likely to run to make MBC work well. It might not have the power level to compete with Cawblade on a pro scale, because the metagame there is much more expansive, but if you're looking to stomp your local tournaments, just tune the deck around what you want to beat. The only required cards for the deck are some number of Dismember, Go for the Throat and Inquisition. That leaves you with almost 30 cards that you can use to metagame with.
first off. the article is amazing. i've been working on an MBC control deck for a while now (especially one that includes obliterators, because i absolutely love them) but i really feel what Brian was saying at the end of his article about it being difficult to netdeck this type of deck because of variances in peoples' metagames.
where i play, i see a lot of cawblade, twin, and valakut decks. i feel pretty confident about handling cawblade and twin but i was wondering what suggestions you might have about ways to deal with valakut.
thanks a bunch.
Asking questions are truly good thing if you are not understanding anything totally, however this post provides good understanding yet.