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By: JustSin, Dave
Jul 19 2012 7:22am
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Getting in Touch With My Darkside

I am one of those players who subscribes to the idea that everyone relates better to one color or another within the Magic color wheel.  The image above (as seen on the MTGSalvation Wiki) is a great representation of what most experienced Magic players know to be the essence of the colors.  Myself?  I am a black mage.  It runs in my blood.  I, like a majority of Magic's newer players, initially sat down and put together a bunch of big green creatures to make a deck, understanding only that in order to win I needed to attack and bring my opponent's life to zero.  After this initial deck and once I had a chance to learn the game (including the fact that 90% of the rules I understood to be true were in fact incorrect) the first deck I built was a MonoBlack deck.

Still to this day my blood runs hot when I sit down behind a black deck filled with Black Knights, Hymn to Tourachs, Expunges, and most importantly Dark Rituals.  Back when I still played Paper Magic I would collect all the versions of Dark Ritual and couldn't get enough of some of the dark art on the cards.  As time passed Wizards continued to print other great things for Black mages including Phyrexian Rager, Abyssal Persecutor, and most recently Bloodgift Demon.  Sometimes... it's just good to be bad.  While my heart will always lie with you casual Classic decks, I find myself courting a new mistress these days.... and her name... is Pauper.

Pauper has a lot to offer the Black mage.  Anyone who has followed competitive Pauper for any period of time will be familiar with the strength of MonoBlack control.  While this deck is no longer has a scary hold over the Pauper meta, it is still a force to be reckoned with.  Let's take a look at what the classic MonoBlack Control deck looks like...

Classic MBC
Example Decklist
4 Chittering Rats
4 Liliana's Specter
2 Okiba-Gang Shinobi
4 Phyrexian Rager
4 Ravenous Rats
18 cards

Other Spells
3 Corrupt
2 Disfigure
2 Doom Blade
2 Echoing Decay
4 Geth's Verdict
4 Sign in Blood
3 Tendrils of Corruption
20 cards
2 Barren Moor
20 Swamp
22 cards

Chittering Rats

MonoBlack Control is a deck that has been around for a long time in Pauper and those who have been playing in the format for years will understand the frustration that used to come with Chittering Rats.  The deck did have its days as a top competitor and has caused much frustration to a number of individuals, but as time passed stronger cards were released and the deck moved down the tiers.  While some cards have come and gone the basics of the deck have pretty much remained the same.

The most recognizable thing about MonoBlack Control was the heavy package of creature control options.  The deck doesn't always run a lot of creatures, instead using the space for creature kill so that whatever creatures you did finally get on the field would do enough damage to win the game.  However, the control option doesn't stop there.  The deck could also bring in a decent amount of hand control through discard thanks to things like Ravenous Rats, which allowed the discard spells to be part of a creature as well.  When it comes to creatures you come to a point where one is better than another based on the simple fact that it has an ability as well as having an efficient power to cost ratio.

For the longest time the finisher for MonoBlack Control was Corrupt.  Much like IzzetPost, the game plan focused on stalling for time by killing off creatures and making your opponent discarding spells he needed in order to win.  At the same time you're able to use things like Sign in Blood and Phyrexian Rager in order to keep digging through your deck until you find the Corrupt that allows you to not only do a large amount of damage to an opponent while at the same time bringing your life back from the brink of collapse.  Games would take big swings from one person leading into another based on a single Corrupt and it can be quite frustrating to play against.  While Corrupt is still the force that it used to be, several versions of MonoBlack Control have even dropped the card all together, which is truly depressing.

I won't go into specifics about all the different card choices for the creature kill package since there are so many.  Black, of course, has all of the best ways to handle creatures, from targeted kill to edict effects, and most importantly a bit of crazy power/life off of Tendrils of Corruption.  There are also a number of great ways to handle discard from things like Augur of Skulls to non-creature options like Wrench Mind.  There is one big slight to Pauper players when MBC goes to MTGO and that would be Hymn to TourachHymn to Tourach, which is a stupid powerful card, is listed at uncommon online and therefore not legal online for Pauper, though it is probably better that way.

This version of MonoBlack Control is considered to be the modern version of MBC in Pauper.  As you can see things like Augur of Skulls have been brought in for their power within being not just a spell on a stick, but the fact that it has regeneration as well.  This gives it more power against certain scenarios against aggro even though the cost is a bit janky.  Usually you'll see the use of Augur of Skulls alongside things like Undying Evil or Unearth in order to get the most of these cards and bring in heavy discard off of the Augur alone.  There is always a lot of power to be gleaned from a creature where you can decide when it dies in order to trigger the undying ability.  Other recent additions include Fume Spitters, which also work well with Undying Evil and provide an excellent maindeck option for the Infect match.

MonoBlack Control is a real thing.  But is that all there is to black in Pauper?  Nope.  No way are we stopping there.  Check out this great MonoBlack Post deck I built for my Building Posts series on YouTube...

This deck, in all of its awesomeness, brings in a lot of classic options for MonoBlack along with classic choices for 8post, and thus a demon frankenbaby was born.  The original idea behind this deck was the use of  the recently printed Essence Harvest with Ulamog's Crusher in order to deal big damage like you would normally get with Corrupt in a deck that isn't focused on putting as many Swamps in play as possible.  Now there are some definite short comings with this deck, but there are some great opportunities as well.  As a black mage we're very familiar with the concept that if we want to draw cards then we need to pay life.  This has never been a problem for players because of things like Tendrils of Corruption and Corrupt, but the use of Glimmerpost and Spinning Darkness also add to the potential life gain.

I'm of course going to recommend that you check out the videos I put up for the deck here...

Building the Deck

Testing it Out

Final Thoughts

The one thing I will say, whether or not you considered my attempt at BlackPost to be successful, I am dying to see someone make it work.  We've seen single colored post decks be successful on the competitive level of all colors with the only exception being black.  There are so many great options, but at the same time one has to keep in mind the fact that so many of black's power cards don't need excessive amounts of mana or if they do, it must only be black.  Perhaps if you brought in stuff like Chromatic Star and Chromatic Sphere alongside the Prophetic Prisms then you might find enough ways to filter the colors into black so you can use a Consume Spirit (only printed at common in Mirrodin) or Drain Life as a finisher.  Overly complicated?  Definitely.

But control isn't the only thing that MonoBlack has to offer us; we also get some great options for aggro as well.  In recent sets (mostly thanks to Zendikar) the MonoBlack players have had an influx of cheap vampires such as Vampire Lacerator and Guul Draz Vampire.  Many a casual deck has taken advantage of these cheap beaters in order to reduce their mana curve and land count.  Unfortunately, what these vampires lose from being commons is access to the synergy of the vampire related non-creature spells.  Nasty things such as Urge to Feed are found at the uncommon level and we're reduced to using only Vampire's Bite which, while a decent spell, is often held back from the relatively high kicker cost.

The addition of these vampires in Zendikar wasn't the first time that we've seen a strong black weenie theme.  Fast black weenie decks have been around for ages and in Pauper we've even see one end in the money during a Daily Event...

There is so much to love about this deck.  There are many classic flashbacks right down to the use of the Dark Rituals in order to help power out those early creatures.  This deck completely foregoes any type of non-creature control in an attempt to get the most out of its weenie army.  There are some great additions to this particular deck from recent sets.  The most interesting choice was Predator's Gambit, which gives creatures the added power of an Unholy Strength with an added bonus of giving intimidate if the enchanted creature finds himself alone on the battlefield.  Mutagenic Growth is also a great card for this deck because of the fact that it can be played for life as opposed to mana.  There are few decks that have not attempted to bring this card in and for good reason.  I've seen this card run in WeeFiend decks as well as Delver decks and with good reason.

There are many great ways for this deck to create some big creatures through the sacrifice abilities of creatures like Bloodthrone Vampire, Carrion Feeder, as well as Nantuko Husk, Phyrexian Ghoul, and Vampire Aristocrat (which are actually all the same creature).  The speed of this deck can rival that of any of the aggro decks out there and can even use Essence Harvest to gain life and finish an opponent.  The only advantage that something like Stompy would have over a deck like this is things like shroud that can be gained by Vines of Vastwood.

If you look beyond discard, black is still known for one other thing, reanimation.  There have been several uses of crazy reanimation in Pauper thanks to Tortured Existence.  This card has been the focus of combo-ish decks as featured with the additions of White, Green, and most recently Red, but are these really necessary?

MonoBlack Tortured
Example Decklist
4 Black Cat
4 Carrion Feeder
3 Grave Scrabbler
4 Perilous Myr
3 Stinkweed Imp
4 Fume Spitter
4 Vampire Hounds
26 cards

Other Spells
2 Raven's Crime
4 Tortured Existence
3 Unearth
3 Dark Withering
12 cards
4 Evolving Wilds
18 Swamp
22 cards
Tortured Existence

Well this list doesn't think so.  While the MonoBlack version of the Tortured deck doesn't hold the combo power that we've come to know and love with the addition of these other colors, it still can have some fun with some of Tortured's most infamous elements.  Thankfully things like Grave Scrabbler and Stinkweed Imp are color appropriate, but you can also bring in some other fun things thanks to Carrion Feeder.  Thanks to the feeder's kill engine you can bring in things like Black Cat and Perilous Myr in order to cause your opponent much angst.  This list is of course a much more casual version, but can still be a lot of fun nonetheless.

So that's a quick look at some of the options that we currently have available to us who are fans of black and Pauper, but where do we go from here?  We're currently looking at the upcoming release for M13, which is already seeing play in Paper.  As Magic Online players we're going to still have to wait a few weeks before these cards really come into play, but there are a lot of good things in the set.  I'm sure there are others out there doing full reviews of the full M13 collection of cards for Pauper so I'm not going to go down that path.  However, I would feel remised if I didn't even talk about what it offered black players (simple answer is just not as much as it does for white!).

As many people have noted this guy brings back memories of another undervalued Pauper creature; Blind Hunter.  For those who might not be as familiar, Blind Hunter was also a 2/2 flier for four that causes the exchange of two life; however it required the use of not only black, but white mana as well.  The added benefit that the Blind Hunter got because of this was the added ability of Haunt, which allowed you to basically use the ability twice.  While this bat doesn't have that ability it does become more of a playable option in two-color decks thanks to the requirement of only a single black mana.  This is something that could see play in casual decks, maybe alongside blinks, but most likely will not be a competitive contender.

Crippling Blight

When I first saw this I thought it was going to be the immediate replacement for Dead Weight with the added bonus in the fact that it kept the enchanted creature from being able to block.  Then I realized that Dead Weight allows for -2/-2 and it was no longer something that was impressive.  While it may be picked up by casual players there are so many better options since it says "can't block", which means it can still attack.  Oh well.

Liliana's Shade

I really don't know what to think about this creature.  It comes in at a very heavy cost for a 1/1 and it doesn't even have any type of evasion.  It does allow you to do a bit of land fetch, which works well with other familiar faces to Mono-Black like Corrupt and Tendrils of Corruption as well as its own ability to grow larger.  This can become troublesome for an aggro deck if you've managed to get enough of a land base built up, but the use of the shade's ability does give away a bit of a tell on your hand if you leave say two mana untapped with a kill in your hand.  I rarely hate to count things out so I won't say this won't see play, but if it does I don't expect decks to be running a full four copies of it.


An awesome card with an awesome name and awesome art, but it probably won't see play.  While the destroy ability on this card has no direct drawbacks it does require not just a cost of 3, but two of that is black mana as well.  It has been said many times already, but there are just too many great options for creature control in black for a cost of 2.

Vile Rebirth

This was another card I got excited over when I saw it because I misread the card.  I have said several times recently that there could be a real influx of graveyard control, especially if things like IzzetPost especially saw more play.  A bit of graveyard control is probably one of those overlooked mechanics for Pauper since there are a lot of cards that you'll find in top decks that have cards that interact with the grave.  So when I saw this I thought it was a killer answer at instant speed, but then... then I realized it had the drawback of being able to remove only creatures it became that much worse.  It could see sideboard options if we saw more Tortured decks coming around, but I don't see that happening.

Here are some of the other new cards that we've got coming to us in M13 (that also won't see competitive play)...

Mark of the Vampire - I think this is just too costly for its ability.
Servant of Nefarox - Actually on the fence with this.  Could be a great start to a Mono-Black Aggro option maybe?
Duty-Bound Dead - The regeneration cost on this guy is way too much.

And finally here are the reprints...

Bloodthrone VampireDark FavorDisentombDuressEssence DrainGiant ScorpionMind RotRavenous RatsSign in BloodTormented SoulWalking CorpseZombie Goliath

Well everyone I hope you enjoyed this quick look at Mono-Black in Pauper!  There are a lot of things going on in the world of Sin that I want to make mention of real quick.  Looking to get out another set of Building Posts videos for this month and I've started another YouTube exclusive bit where I take a look at reader's decks and make some suggestions so subscribers will see a few of those videos coming up soon as well.  Next week for Anything But we're getting another look at the competitive meta and a casual deck to go along with it.  So plenty of things coming up!


since I don't link this to FB by JustSin at Thu, 07/19/2012 - 11:18
JustSin's picture

since I don't link this to FB I'll make my reply here to the tortured lol no I have not played it, but I did lose against it, thought it was cool to see in monoB, and asked for the list.. I do see your point now that I look at it more closely that's probably a carry over from altering the DeadDog list, which could pitch it to mongrels

MBC is my nemesis at the by Psychobabble at Thu, 07/19/2012 - 21:20
Psychobabble's picture

MBC is my nemesis at the moment, if it was played more often then it'd probably singlehandedly inspire me to ditch my mono green aggro deck - it's so hard to win that mathchup! I can't count the number of times I've lost the game after getting my opponent down to like 2 life but having my board cleared and just never having a hope of doing those final points of damage.

The aggro list looks interesting, the sac creatures I guess are its equivalent of all of the green pump spells (but slower, and with no possibility of getting that surprise blowout). It doesn't have the evasion and trample that mono green lists have, but I guess essence harvest helps out there. However, given that you don't have any real pump spells, beyond muta, it doesn't have the ability to do the really quick +4/+4 enhahced beatdowns that mono green can do, so you're opponent will probably be able to stabilise on a higher life total which makes burning them out with harvest tougher. Still, I like aggro so I might give it a shot :).

trick is you're swinging with by JustSin at Fri, 07/20/2012 - 08:39
JustSin's picture

trick is you're swinging with a bunch of those little guys and if they leave the sac unblocked you eat your blocked guys to hit big and then follow with the harvest... not sure its good enough to be more than a rogue deck, but its crazy fun to play