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By: SpikeBoyM, Alex Ullman
Dec 07 2008 8:12am
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As I am writing this, the Pauper filter has gone live. This is the first step towards the first sanctioned Pauper event (EDIT: the 4 man queues are up!). It's like rounding the final turn in a marathon- so freaking close. Let's hope we don't trip on the concrete and shatter our face.

I am going to be examining some decks and looking at what makes them tick. I will then be doing a Strength-Weakness-Opportunity-Threat, or SWOT analysis. Mike Flores used this process at one point and I thought it was an interesting way to examine decks...so I'm going to lift the method.

First up is Mono-Black Control, or MBC. This deck has been around PDC (I should really start calling it Pauper, so weird) as least as long as I have. The deck has had four fundamental parts. First, of course, is the mana. Namely you want quite a few Swamps, then some number of Barren Moors, fetch lands, and potentially bounce lands. The number of the non-Swamp lands wholly depends on how you plan on sculpting your game. Depending on your build, Twisted Abomination may also fit into this category since it an help get you hit those all important land drops. These take anywhere from 25 to 27 slots in a deck, counting Abominations.

Second is the bread and butter of any Black deck: removal. One of the reasons to play Black in PDC Pauper is because of the sheer quality and variety of removal. Black gets the most low condition removal in the game, and often at amazingly cheap prices. Cards like (Innocent Blood), Ghastly Demise, and Tendrils of Corruption provide strong effects for a highly payable cost. The quality and volume of removal is the second most important aspect of a Black control deck. These spells can take up anywhere from 10 to 16 slots in a deck, with certain other cards doubling up as finishers.

Third comes disruption. This is usually discard but can also be found in cards like Chittering Rats. Pinpoint spells like Duress and Distress have their place, but most decks opt for volume based spells like Wrench Mind. Raven's Crime is new to the party, but is counterintuitive to the traditional big mana end games that many MBC decks feature. That does not mean Crime is not worth a slot, just that MBC needs to adapt to maximize the value of such a powerful card. Creatures also fit here in the form of Ravenous Rats, Augur of Skulls, Okiba-Gang Shinobi, and Mournwhelk. Decks tend to run between six and 12 cards that fit into this category.

Finally, there is the inevitability section. The dominating late game is a big lure to this style of deck. Cards like Corrupt or Consume Spirit have the tendency to end the game when cast in a back to back fashion. Grim Harvest and Gravedigger effects help to recycle the disruption creatures late, and the aforementioned Twisted Abomination does a pretty good job of holding down the red zone. Who cares if they kill it- you have a way to regrow the card later.

So, looking at each section, we have a bank of potential cards:

Mana: Swamp, Barren Moor, Terramorphic Expanse, Twisted Abomination, Panoramas, Bounce lands

Removal: Innocent Blood, Ghastly Demise, Terror, Last Gasp, Echoing Decay, Rend Flesh, Unmake, Tendrils of Corruption, Faceless Butcher, Crypt Rats

Discard/Disruption: Duress, Distress, Wrench Mind, Raven's Crime, Ravenous Rats, Augur of Skulls, Chittering Rats, Mournwhelk, Okiba-Gang Shinobi

End Game: Grim Harvest, Gravedigger, Recover, Warren Pilferers, Corrupt, Consume Spirit, Drain Life, Crypt Rats, Twisted Abomination

This is by no means an exhaustive list of cards, but rather a strong cross section of what you can expect. The largest exception to this is the removal section which is likely to vary widely based upon preference and expected metagame.

Time for the analysis!

Strengths: As mentioned, MBC has a fantastic late game plan- if it can survive past turn six it has a great chance of winning if it can resolve end game spells. To this end, it has fantastic early game defenses allowing it to speed bump the aggro player. The numerous life gain spells also help here and Tendrils shines. Tendrils allows you to take a few hits early but then undo all the damage in one fell swoop. Red decks, in most cases, really hate being paired against MBC. MBC can handle just about any threat on the board in a game of Pauper.

Discard can also help against certain control strategies and provides a strong defense against combo (although Storm combo has proven difficult recently). The disruption can really hinder the develop of midrange aggro decks, except those featuring Aura backup (although this might be remedied in the future with Diabolic Edict).

The mana is also a true strength of the deck- as long as it draws lands it will not be screwed. This is not the case with the decks that run multiple colors. The most common bases are 20 Swamp and 4 Moor, ensuring that every land drawn will have some use. This, combined with Abomination and the potential inclusion of Phyrexian Rager makes this a deck with some very consistent draws.

Black control is also extremely versatile. It can be adapted for nearly any metagame. Altering a few main deck cards will rarely alter the mana ratio and allow for easy switching between an anti-creature or discard heavy deck. The deck can also opt into a land destruction package with Choking Sands and Rancid Earth. Thanks to Blood and Edict, this deck can even get around the otherwise hard to kill creatures. Gaining experience with this deck means always having a strong audible, provided your build is up to date.

The deck can also get around hate with little impediment. The biggest threat to this deck currently is a Silhana Ledgewalker enchanted with an Armadillo Cloak. Guardian of the Guildpact matters less now, thanks to Unmake. Although Crypt Rats does help in this situation, the addition of Edict and presence of Blood means that Cloak will probably become a stronger match up. White protective cards like Obsidian Acolyte and Circle of Protection: Black can be sidestepped with a Dross Golem.

Weaknesses: MBC is very good at being actively reactive. That is, between discard and removal it takes steps forward while stunting the oppositions growth. When faced with a purely reactive control deck (one featuring Counterspell), MBC is not at full strength. Blue control can pick off the important spells with their answers while holding off the remaining sub-par creatures with cards like Spire Golem. Although discard is great here, MUC can often draw more cards than MBC can make a player discard. While Crime helps here, it might not be enough to get to the finish line. Duress shines here, but is really at its apex when it nabs the last remaining defense before a game ender. This is a rare occurrence.

MBC also has issues with unsolvable creatures. The previously mentioned scenario featuring Cloak is very build dependent. If MBC is prepared with non-targeted removal, Unmake, and Crypt Rats, then it has an advantage (provided Cloak is not running some of White's signature protection cards). However, if Cloak gets a plus draw, sometimes MBC will have problems racing.

Therein lies another armor kink: racing. MBC is built for the long haul and if a deck can come out blazingly fast and apply consistent pressure through multiple creatures, then MBC better draw a Crypt Rats or Tendrils quickly. Ideally, MBC stabilizes at turn five and certain non-Burn aggro decks can establish a board presence by this time (Burn has to play off the top by this time and is vulnerable to drain spells). A deck that can consistently curve out and win before turn five is bad times for MBC.

Opportunities: MBC can prey on the varied metagame one is likely to find in the early rounds of a PE or in a 4 man queue. Those with skill can easily pilot this deck to multiple event wins. While it is vulnerable, it has significant game against aggro, combo, and midrange. MBC's defensive spells do not just protect, they destroy board development (and at times hand development). Therefore, MBC is best in two drastically different situations: totally perfect information AND totally imperfect information. In the former situation, the deck can be sculpted to give the pilot the maximum chance of drawing the right card for a given situation. In the latter, MBC has enough good cards to just overwhelm the random decks that occasionally show up in a Pauper event. Corrupt is a fairy godmother here, sitting there waiting for you to get to six, and then it will fix all your mistakes. When MBC is built for being generally good and runs into the imperfect meta, it will do very well. Between these two poles, however, is where MBC runs into trouble. The general build will only take one so far in a meta that is increasingly predictable and the specialized build, if metagamed wrong is like trying to perform surgery with a bread knife.

Threats: As mentioned above, counter based control can be troublesome for MBC, as can a poorly metagamed deck. The other big threat to MBC are other attrition style decks. When other decks come in that are more focused on the late game- other decks that use the graveyard as a resource- can give fits to MBC. It is not that these matches are unwinnable, but they are grueling matches and can exhaust the clock.

When decks that are based around Carrion Feeder also present a threat as they can present a true aggro threat that negates the quality of Tendrils. There are quite a few niche decks that make good use of the Feeder and they can upset the MBC game plan.


Let's take a look at three different builds of MBC. The first is one I used to win a Classic event three seasons ago:



This is an old school build, focusing on a balance of removal and disruption. It also displays my love of Duress and off beat removal spells like Eyeblight's Ending. This was at a lull in MUC's popularity, which led me to run Augur. Against decks packing Piracy Charm, you really want Ravenous because they impact the board immediately.

The next deck comes from the most recent season, with one win in the Tuesday event by our very own Classic maven Tyler:



This deck eschews a Harvest plan for a stronger early game. It also rids itself of discard for a control light metagame and plays much more like a midrange aggro deck. This deck also maximizes on Pilferers, expecting to get into more ground fights that it must win.

The final build is one I have been experimenting with. It gives up some of the potency against Burn for more targeted removal. It is still in the testing phase and should be treated as such:



These are three different takes on the same deck. If I were building for the current meta, I would pack my Harvests and Butchers main, alongside Tendrils and some number of game enders. I would also advocate Demise over Blood for the time being (until we get Edict), Unmake, and 2-3 Crime.

Oh, and of course, Abominations.

Keep slingin' commons-


Check out www.pdcmagic.com now with Podcasts featuring me!


by SpikeBoyM at Mon, 12/08/2008 - 17:43
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I had a long and detaile dreply to this, but then my internet died and I lost the page.  Totally lame.

The decks in question were built for metagames that do not feature COP: Black.  As of the writing, only one deck, piloted by asmall population of palyers, even features it in the sideboard.  To prepare a sideboard for a deck one very well won't face is wasting slots against matchups that need help.

That being said, I was too dismissive of the COP Black problem, but it is by no means insurrmountable.

by KingRitz(Unregistered) (not verified) at Sun, 12/07/2008 - 12:52
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"White protective cards like Obsidian Acolyte and Circle of Protection: Black can be sidestepped with a Dross Golem."


I think this is a bit too dismissive to be your only comment in the entire article on COP: Black (especially since you do a large "weaknesses" section, and COP: Black is a HUGE one. This is true because almost every deck that sides COP: Black will be able to kill Dross Golem, and most can do so in a way even recursion won't be able to negate (e.g. Oblivion Ring). It is even more true because the one solution card you mention isn't even in your proposed deck or sideboard (not that it's the only solution, but it was the only one you noted, and you're not running any other solutions either).

Standard MBC by Anonymous(Unregistered) (not verified) at Sun, 12/07/2008 - 11:33
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This is one take on a standard deck, hope it helps

Standard MBC

2 Blister Beetle

4 Gravedigger

4 Phyrexian Rager

4 Ravenous Rats

2 Rendclaw Trow
4 Viscera Dragger

2 Warren Pilferers

22 creatures

4 Unmake

1 Violet Pall

2 Executioner's Capsule

4 Nameless Inversion

2 Onyx Goblet

2 Raven's Crime

15 other spells

23 Swamp


2 Beckon Apparition

4 Bone Splinters

2 Executioner's Capsule

2 Raven's Crime

4 Terror

1 Warren Pilferers

They all Classic, Pauper decks right? by Anonymous(Unregistered) (not verified) at Sun, 12/07/2008 - 09:09
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Im a newbie and I dunno mutch.

Tho Im just wanted to ask could you make a Standard Mono Black Control deck?

Well if you do or not thanks for this :)
Helps a little xD


by SpikeBoyM at Sun, 12/07/2008 - 10:55
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The missing cards in the first list are Warren Pilferers.  Sorry about that.


It is even more true because by nenaviovicente at Tue, 06/01/2010 - 02:54
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It is even more true because the one solution card you mention isn't even in your proposed deck or sideboard (not that it's the only solution,
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