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By: jcf, Jose Freitas
Jan 13 2020 1:00pm


A while ago I wrote an article about a strategy that belongs to the evil side of Pauper. Dark Monarch: a monoblack deck trying to kill everything that moves, with tons of removal, a pinch of life gain and Crypt Rats as the main kill condition.

The sideboard had twelve land destruction spells, so I could switch the plan against Urza or other decks if I felt heavy creature removal wasn't the answer against that deck.

Today we are going even further with our villainy, this time we are blowing lands as our main plan.

The first time I saw this deck was on this nice Pauperganda's video. I really liked the performance when the pieces of the strategy came together and felt like testing it.

The Deck:

There a few tweaks I did before running the list:

First, I increased the land count a bit, if you think about it, Peat Bog counts more like a sort of Dark Ritual than a land. I seen some lists running a total of 21 lands or even 20 lands, that is like running a deck with 16 or 17 actual lands and 8 rituals. That is to low for my taste. 22 lands might be enough but I decided to try with 23 for now.

I removed Barren Moor, I believe it is important for this deck to play untapped lands early game. Blowing the first land on the second versus third turn can mean a huge difference some games. I don't think we can afford to run lands that come in play tapped.

So, if we are not running Barren Moor anymore, what are we doing against flooding ? Well, we are running lands that come into play untapped but have some utility late game.

There are a couple options available: Desert, Quicksand, Cradle of the Accursed and Haunted Fengraf. I decided to try Haunted Fengraf, because we are running some powerful creatures in this list and it feels nice to be able to recur some of them later.

Also, I think it is essential for any land destruction deck to run mass removal if possible. We are dedicating a big share of our slots to blow lands as quick as possible, meaning there aren't that many slots left to deal with creatures. We must kill them all at once if we can.

Additionally: since we are attacking the mana base, opponents running creature based decks will tend to put out their hands into play early if possible. This can make mass removal quite effective sometimes.

Finally, there is the life gain engine. I find necessary for our deck to have a bit of life gain in the current metagame. The most interesting fit I could find for that purpose was Gift of Orzhova. It combines very well with both Crypt Rats and Gurmag Angler.

With Rats, you can ping for one damage every turn, gaining billions of life points depending on the board state. And with Gurmag, suddenly you have a 6/6 flyer with lifelink, can't complain about that.

League Report:

Match 1: Monoblack Land Destruction against Urza Tron.

Game 1: I keep a slow hand with no mana acceleration, two lands, Night's Whisper, one LD spell and a couple Chittering Rats. Opponent starts with Urza's Power Plant and pass. 

By turn three, they don't have Urza lands assembled and we manage to blow Urza's Tower leaving them with two Power Plants. Next turn I cast Thorn of The Black Rose while they have no creatures on their side but eventually they reach five mana and start to cast Mulldrifters. 

I try to keep the pressure but the combination of Pulse of Murasa plus Mnemonic Wall helps them to recoup their mana base. Eventually one Mulldrifter meets no removal from our side and manages to steal monarchy for them. After that, I never manage to recoup monarchy and they take over the game locking me out of combat while developing their side.

Game 2: I sideboard in a couple more removal and Duress, removing Gift of Orzhova and Chittering Rats. I start with a slow hand again with no mana acceleration and not even any LD spell. Turn one I cast Duress removing Expedition Map but they assemble Urza lands turn three anyway. They cast Prophetic Prism and then cast Mulldrifter with evoke, but they have no more colored mana to cast Ephemerate so Mulldrifter simply dies. This small mistake ends up making a lot of difference this particular game.

On my turn four, I cast Thorn of the Black Rose while holding two Chainer's Edict in hand, so I am confident they won't steal monarchy so easily. Game goes on for a while, I keep drawing two cards per turn, blowing lands and killing their creatures but they always manage to assemble Urza lands again.

By turn nine they find the Dinrova Horror plus Mnemonic Wall combo but at that point they are at eleven life. I try to blow a Crypt Rats for their life total and they just concede.

Turn one Duress: taking
Expedition Map.

Game 3: I keep a nice hand with two LD spells and Dark Ritual. They mulligan to five and start with Cave of Temptation that meets our Choking Sands on the next turn. Turn three I blow one of their two Urza's Towers. Turn five they can't find more land and end up conceding. 

Match 2: Monoblack Land Destruction against Affinity.

Game 1: We start with a slow hand: Night's Whisper, Gurmag Angler, Choking Sands and four lands. So our turn one is just Swamp pass. Opponent casts Preordain and Navigator's Compass, so far nothing that affects the board very much. Turn three we blow Seat of the Synod. They cast Carapace Forger and we blow a second Seat of the Synod. They cast one more Carapace and I cast Gurmag Angler for defense. The decide to attack with both, dealing four damage and losing one Carapace Forger. Then they cast Atog.

At this point they have Atog and Carapace Forger in play. I am at eight life, have eight available mana and I have one Gurmag Angler in play that I want to leave as a blocker. But I also feel I need to start gaining life somehow to put me out of range against direct damage. So I decide to play Crypt Rats from my hand and enchant it with Gift of Orzhova. That means I can ping for one damage each turn and gain five life, considering the current board state. 

Next turn they attack with Atog and I block with Gurmag Angler, they sacrifice one land and Chromatic Star killing our fish zombie. One damage from Crypt Rats EOT makes them sacrifice yet one more land to save Atog. Our next turn we manage to blow the last land left while gaining a total of six life on our turn and four life on their turn with our flying lifelink rat. Opponent draws no land and concedes.

 Crypt Rats, gaining five life each turn.

Game 2: I keep a slow hand with four Swamps, one Chittering Rats and two LD spells. Opponent has a fast start with Carapace Forger, Myr Enforcer and Atog. By the time I start to blow lands, they have a developed board and I have no way to build a defense. I concede turn four.

Game 3: We start with a good hand: Peat Bog, Icequake two Swamps and Crypt Rats. They start with Seat of the Synod plus Witching Well. We blow Seat and they cast Darksteel Citadel.

Turn four they manage to cast Myr Enforcer but we have Chainer's Edict. By turn six we cast Gurmag Angler while they have three lands but not in the right colors for their spells. They end up conceding.

Match 3: Monoblack Land Destruction against Urza Tron.

Game 1: I keep another low hand with Peat Bog but only Befoul as our first LD spell. Opponent starts with Tranquil Cove, Urza's Tower and Prophetic Prism. By turn three we blow the Tower. Turn four I cast Thorn, next turn they assemble Urza and cast Mulldrifter. The second Mulldrifter they cast survives since they Condescend our Crypt Rats. Next turn they steal monarchy and we never recoup. They end up taking the game eventually. While I am pretty sure there isn't much of a chance to win, I try to hold on most I can because time is a real factor when playing against Urza. When they finally kill us, their clock is at 11:35.

Game 2: I sideboard in Duress, Faerie Macabre and Thorn of the Black Rose moving out Chittering Rats and Gift of Orzhova. We have a very nice starting hand with Peat Bog and two LD spells. They start with Urza's Power Plant plus Expedition Map. We blow their lands turns two and three. By turn five they can't find more lands and end up conceding.

Game 3: We have a slow starting hand, but at least we have three LD spells so if they start slow they will be in trouble. They start with Urza's Mine, Urza's Tower and Simic Signet. We keep blowing their lands but a timely Crop Rotation helps them reach five mana and cast Mulldrifter. They assemble Urza lands but we keep drawing more and more LD spells, they try to bring Pulse of Murasa from graveyard with Mnemonic Wall but Faerie Macabre exiles it. Turn nine we blow one Urza land and blow Crypt Rats for four damage, clearing the board while leaving Gurmag Angler on our side. Turn ten, they are at six life and cast a second Mnemonic Wall. We draw a second Rancid Earth, I attack and they don't block, going to one life. Then I cast Rancid dealing the last point of damage to take over the game.

Crypt Rats dealing four damage to all. Rancid Earth is about to blows Urza's Tower

Match 4: Monoblack Land Destruction against Azorius Urza. (Again).

Game 1: We start with a resonable hand considering we are on the play. Four lands, Night's Whisper, Icequake and Chainer's Edict. Opponent plays two Urza lands plus Prophetic Prism, we blow our first land turn three. After that we cast Thorn and try to blow one more land but they cleverly use Ghostly Flicker to save it while drawing one card.

Turn seven we cast Gurmag Angler, turn eight they manage to assemble tron and cast Mnemonic Wall recouping Flicker. We Chainer's Edict the wall and attack leaving them at four life, but that is not enough. Turn after turn, they coordenate a sequence of Pulse of Murasa and Mnemonic Wall recurring each other, Ghostly Flicker protecting their lands and denying my combat with Moment's Peace and Stonehorn Dignitary. I kept drawing two cards per turn and trying to put pressure but they had counter measures for everything I was doing.

This was a very long game and at some point I just knew I was losing. But - again - I kept going for as long as I could because clock is a real factor against Urza decks. It is a bit frustrating to keep playing a game you know you are going to lose eventually, but often it pays off game three when they are pressured by time.

This particular game did take a lot of opponent's clock, they had only 9 minutes left when they finally managed to finish us by turn 19.

This means, as long as we have a decent hand game two, we might be able force them to concede early or get dangerously low on their clock.

Game 2: Sadly for our little villain deck, the decent hand doesn't happen. I am forced to mulligan to five to find our beloved Swamp. I even manage to blow their first land with Dark Ritual and Choking Sands. But after that I struggle to find the third Swamp I need to keep casting our esteemed LD spells. That means opponent doesn't have a hard time taking over and I end up conceding after just one minute and a half of their clock are gone.

After a mulligan to five we get stuck at two lands, allowing a quick victory to opponent

Match 5: Monoblack Land Destruction against Elves.

Game 1: Elves is a complicated deck to play against when we are on the land destruction plan. If they have mana dorks in play our LD spells doesn't help that much and sometimes it is better to kill their creatures before blowing lands. That said, mass removal is awesome against them.

We start with a promising hand: Dark Ritual, Thorn of the Black Rose, two Rancid Earths Chainer's Edict and two lands. Turn one I play Swamp pass, opponent plays Forest plus Fyndhorn Elves and passes.

Turn two I have an interesting choice. I an use Dark Ritual to blow a land, I can use it to cast early Thorn of the Black Rose hoping I can draw removal cards to hold monarchy or I can simply Chainer's Edict the elf. I decide to make the more bold move, casting Thorn turn two and counting on my topdeck to keep monarchy on my side.

After that they follow with Timberwatch Elf, I topdeck Crypt Rats and cast it, they cast one Birchlore Rangers and Viridian Longbow. Turn four I blow Rats for two, they save Timberwatch but I cast Chainer's Edict to kill it.

They never quite recoup, we keep blowing lands and a second Crypt Rats empty their side again leading us to victory.

Game 2: On the draw, I decide to move the LD spells out, relying on creature removal and even Duress to hit cards like Distant Melody or Lead the Stampede

Game starts and we are blessed with a hand worthy of a super villain with: Peat Bog, Dark Ritual, Crypt Rats and not one but two Chainer's Edict to deal with whatever is left on their side after the massacre. All that complemented by one Swamp and Thorn of the Black Rose giving us a good prospect of a follow up.

The massacre does happen: they have a slow start with Priest of Titania on their turn two. We follow with Dark Ritual to cast an early Thorn of the Black Rose once again. Next turn they try to protect their side casting Spidersilk Armor but that doesn't help that much against Crypt Rats.

At the end of their fifth turn, we blow Crypt Rats for three damage, killing four elves and our own Thorn of the Black Rose. We follow with Cuombajj Witches that can't really kill elves due to Spidersilk Armor but at least it can block, helping us to keep monarchy.

They never recoup from that early massacre, we keep killing elves and drawing two cards per turn for the rest of the game. They don't give up and keep fighting bravely until the end. By turn 11 we finally put their life down to zero with an attacking Gurmag Angler aided by some Crypt Rats damage.

Final Result: 4-1 

Match 1: Monoblack LD vs Azorius Urza: 2-1.

Match 2: Monoblack LD vs Affinity: 2-1.

Match 3: Monoblack LD vs Azorius Urza: 2-1.

Match 4: Monoblack LD vs Azorius Urza: 0-2.

Match 5: Monoblack LD vs Elves: 2-0.

After the league, the only card I felt was a bit underwhelming sometimes is Chittering Rats. Theoretically, it should act almost as an land destruction spell on legs, since it is denying one draw step from the opponent. In actual games, it often felt like a "win more" card.

If opponent was low on lands, often we could simply win without it. If we were losing, didn't feel it had that much impact. I think there might be something more fitting to take Chittering Rats' slot, but I am not sure what it could be at this point.

Crypt Rats did a lot of work for us in the games it mattered, not to mention the combination of Crypt Rats and Gift of Orzhova was absurdly fun to handle. Even against decks like Urza, it showed to be an useful card, sometimes dealing those final points of damage or at least clearing the board making them spend more time and resources.

We faced a lot of Urza decks this league, not the worst matches for a land destruction deck of course. But while we did win majority of games against them, I can't say matches were easy at all. That shows how consistent Urza decks can be, even against strategies that should be very good against their main source of power: their lands.

Overall, I honestly felt this deck is very powerful. Land destruction always is a high reward high variance strategy, because if you don't have a fast start it is often hard to catch up, but there are games opponents barely cast any relevant spell if you get a bit lucky.

We faced many of the top decks in the format and managed a solid 4-1 finish. I am not a very experienced land destruction player and clearly I made more than one mistake during the course of this league.

Also I think there is still room for improvement in this list. So I have to say it has a lot of potential. If you are good at riding this type of deck, it might be a good choice for the current metagame.

Besides, sometimes it is fun to be the villain!

Hope you liked this one. See you next article!