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walkerdog's picture
By: walkerdog, Tyler Walker
Nov 18 2007 11:52am
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Mono Black in Classic
(Classic is the online Eternal format, where all cards except for Gleemox are allowed, and only Flash and Vampiric Tutor are restricted to one per deck.)


The whole point of Classic is to play the most broken cards, be it oversized, cheap, hard-to-deal-with creatures  such as Kird Ape, Tarmogoyf, Arcbound Ravager and Nimble Mongoose, hard to break locks, like Sensei's Divining Top and Counterbalance or just win the game with one 2 casting cost spell, like Flash.  You probably all know this, but I want to put black's power into perspective.

Dark Confidant

If you don't have him, just get a set.  He's so good.

Hymn to Tourach
Mono-black has a few cards that are in the class of those mentioned above.  Dark Confidant feeds you an extra card per turn and beats down, Dark Ritual lets you play faster, and Duress, Thoughtseize and Hymn to Tourach even the playing field, and Hymn breaks rules by having the opponent discard cards equal to CC past one AND making the discard random.  These are the basic cards (aside maybe from Thoughtseize) that you'll see in almost every Mono-black deck, from the Casual room to PEs.
Next you have the cards budget decks and bad builds will run.  Mindlash Sliver, Cry of Contrition, and Phyrexian Totem headline these one-time-STD-allstars. You’ll laugh as your opponent drops a Mindlash Sliver, Cry of Contritions you, Haunting his sliver, then sacs it, and all of a sudden your board is 2 lands and 1 card in hand, and then your opponent drops The Rack. You frown and then you’re taking 3 damage a turn because he keeps hitting your hand, and then you feel sick, and you finally stabilize and your opponent pitches a Soul Spike and you throw up.
The Rack
Hypnotic Specter
Usually though, you’ll roll right through the bad decks, but the good builds are another matter. Good decks will run cards take advantage of Dark Ritual, like Hypnotic Specter (Turn one Hippie anyone?), or Nantuko Shade to turn a top-decked Ritual into a Giant Growth, will play to Dark Confidant’s strength (burying them under a pile of cheap card advantage). Other strong cards are (Chainer’s Edict) and/or Cruel Edict for non-targeting, cheap removal, Smother, an instant speed answer to almost every creature in the format (including the man-lands!) and Ghastly Demise for more cheap removal, and then some filler to round it out.

The filler cards are almost as important as the good cards. They need to be synergous. For example, Smallpox is a decent card, but improves when you can set up equal or better trades, like casting it when they have a creature and you don’t. Black Knight is just a 2/2 with First Strike but if you play to take out their non-white creatures is a house. Again, you probably know all of this, but it is important to keep in mind as we look at what does and doesn’t work in our deck.  Choking Sands, the original Molten Rain, is solid disruption, and can wreck some decks with fragile mana-bases.  The last thing to mention is that of the cards that this deck gains from Lorwyn, (Oona’s Prowler) fits into this archetype the best.  Offline testing showed them to be a house. It doesn’t deal pain to you like Thoughtseize does, and beats evasively.  It doesn’t require BB in the casting cost, which isn’t a problem usually, but it also is a 3-beater for 2 with evasion. In a word, awesome.  I didn’t include them into this list because they do cost a good bit at the moment, and will probably drop, but they are great if you have them.

Choking Sands

Now, we’ll get to a tested list.


4 x Duress

4 x Dark Confidant

4 x Hymn to Tourach

4 x Order of the Ebon Hand

4 x Smother

4 x Cruel Edict 

4 x Smallpox

4 x Hand of Cruelty

2 x Yixlid Jailer

1 x (Umezawa’s Jitte)

4 x Mesmeric Fiend


16 x Swamp

4 x (Mishra’s Factory)

2 x Ghost Quarter


4 x Leyline of the Void

3 x Mutilate or Damnation

4 x Darkblast

4 x Cabal Therapy

The main deck is fast and hard-hitting. The side contains plenty of answers to aggro, which on average has a slight advantage (something like 45-55) before board.  I thought the Affinity matchup would be awful, but I won all the matchs against it I played in the Tournament Practice room.  Even though you don't have the artifact removal, you're actually slightly faster unless they get the two Ornithopter three Frogmite on turn one start.  No, actually, you can even beat that.  It's kinda crazy.  Overall, you tend to handle control, due to having four main deck one casting cost discard spells to set up all your two casting cost threats, and four more one castin cost discard cards in the side. I’ll go ahead and give a sample game that demonstrates the decks strengths, then another that shows where it can be attacked. These are pre-board, which helps show what holes the sideboard can fill, and what things it just can’t answer.
The four (Thoughtsieze) are expensive (But the price has dropped a bit), and if you want to do without them, it’s feasible in the short-term, although you will want a set eventually.  For testing purposes, I didn’t have them online because they will drop after the first set of sealed events ends, but I did run some offline games, and they fit in well.  I’m sure you all know that, but I just wanted to make sure.  In Classic they may not be right for EVERY deck with black because they do hurt you, but if you’re B/x, your mana-base probably won’t make it too expensive, and hitting creatures early is crazy-good in the aggro match-ups.  A 3/3 split with Duress might be “right”.

I also decided to start without Dark Rituals in the deck, because while everyone loves to get the broken Turn One Hippie play, Dark Rituals are  typically card dis-advantage, and I didn’t like Hippies in general in the aggro meta that is common right now, so I was going without them for the moment.  The same was true of the Nantuko Shade.  Right now, the Black Knight variants just seem stronger than the Shade and the Specter.  These are slightly specific cases, but Hand of Cruelty will trade with a Nimble Mongoose with Threshold, and pumping and first-striking beats a lot of the aggro creatures going right now.

Enough boring theory, onto how it turned out in practice.

Match 1:  Against Javasci, who plays a lot of Classic, and a lot of decks, but prefers combo.  Game one we keep a hand with no one cost discard, on the draw.  He lays a City of Brass (combo alert!), and passes the turn.  We lay Swamp, he casts Mystical Tutor for Flash.  On his turn, he casts Flash, playing a Protean Hulk, letting it die, and fetching out a bunch of zero casting cost artifact creatures and all four Disciple of the Vault.  The artifacts all die, and we do too.  

Game Two: Java plays turn zero Gemstone Caverns.   I play first, dropping a swamp and passing the turn.  He drops a City of Brass and passes it back.  On my second turn, I play Mesmeric Fiend, and he lets it resolve.  He reveals Virulent Sliver Gemstone Mine, (Lim-Dûl's Vault) times two and Protean Hulk.  I take the Hulk for a bit, and pass it back.  At my end of turn, he casts Vault, and pays five times, finding what he wants, and takes his turn.  He plays his Gemstone Mine, and passes back.  I attack, and then drop my second Fiend, and he shows Flash, Vault, and Virulent Sliver.  You can see where this is going... I take the Flash.  He Vaults, and find the Echoing Truth to bounce both of my Fiends on my next EOT, and wins with the Flash-Hulk 

Flash is still beastly, and this illustrates that while we do have the weapons to fight it, sometimes it "Just wins".

Next up, we'll take a look at a set with Affinity.

Game One, we're on the draw.  He opens with Seat of the Synod,  two Ornithopter , and three Frogmite.  My reaction? 

6:56pm:  walkerdog:   wow...

I have a plan though, if I can just stay alive...  I drop a Swamp, and pass back.  He plays a Tree of Tales, and swings for six, then passes the turn.  The second swamp sees play, and is followed by a Hand of Cruelty.  I pass back.  He attacks for six... and I F2 past blocking... strong play.  I drop to eight.  My turn, I play swamp number three, and Hymn of Tourach him, getting Berserk and his third Ornithopter.  He attacks, and I have the presence of mind to, you know, block.  He loses one Frog, and I drop to four.I play and equip an Umezawa's Jitte to my hand, and pass the turn back.  He drops a Myr Enforcer and passes back.  I drop a Mesmeric Fiend, not getting anything (I think he had a land?).  Seemingly scared of an active Jitte, he plays an Aether Vial, then passes back.  I play a fourth swamp, and  Cruel Edict, and predictably, he loses an Ornithopter.  I drop another Fiend then pass back.  He lays Froggy number four, and passes.  At this point, I'm really puzzled by his passive play, but I shrug.  I attack into him with my Hand, and stack up counters on Jitte.  I play Dark Confidant, and equip the Jitte to him.  He plays a Seat of the Synod, and passes back.  I reveal Duress to Bob.  I equip Jitte back to the Hand, and attack.  He blocks with a Frog, and I have two more counter on Jitte, pushing to four.  I'm at three life.  I re-equip to Bob, and pass back.
At this point, he has a card in hand, and two counters on his Vial.  He attack with his team.  I block a Frog with the
Mesmeric Fiend,  and throw Bob under the train... err another Frogmite, and the other Fiend charges into his Myr.  He of course "Vials out" (as the cool kids say) an Arcbound Ravager, the biggest (well, kinda) baddest little 1/1 modular fella ever.  I give Bob +2/+2, and his blocked Frog -1/-1.  Damage stacked, he sacs them both to his Ravager.  I Smother his Ravager after one counter resolves, and he sacs the Myr Enforcer onto the Ravager, then drops the counters on the Thopter, now a formidible 2/4.
     I reveal Hand of Cruelty to Bob, dropping to one.  I equip the Jitte to the Hand and attack with Bob and the Hand.  He takes the damage, and then play
Smallpox.  He concedes. 

I side in four Leyline of the Void , and in my opener, see one.  How lucky!  He plays first again, and plays Vault of Whispers, and passes the turn.  I play a Swamp, and pass back.  He plays another Vault, and drops a Cranial Plating.  I play a Mishra's Factory and drop a Mesmeric Fiend, grabbing the Thopter, with the choices of Frogmite, Berserk, and Disciple of the Vault.

Leyline of the Void

So good in Classic, people side it even if they can't ever cast it.

He plays Skullclamp and a Frogmite and equips the Clamp.  On my turn, I drop swamp, Duress him and grab the Berserk, leaving the Disciple.  He plays Disciple, equips the Plating to Frogmite, and attacks.  I'm fine with that, and block with the Fiend.  He doesn't draw cards and I don't lose life because of the Leyline.  I play a swamp and pass back.  He drops a Frogmite, Disciple, and equips Cranial to the Frog.  I play a Mishra's Factory, two Dark Confidant and pass back.  I smother a Disciple at EOT.

He Cranials his Disciple, and attacks with both equipped creatures.  I block both, and we trade guys.  On my turn I drop another Factory, then pass back.  He drops land.  I play a Swamp, turn on both Factories and attack him down to sixteen.  He plays another Plating, and passes back.  I draw an Order of the Ebon Hand and attack with one Factory (fourteen), then play the Order, and pass back.  He lays Disciple.  I draw and equip Jitte, and he concedes.

This game wasn't a PERFECT representation of the deck's abilities, or Affinity's power by any means, but I felt like it illustrated how messy this deck can make it for the brown aggro deck.  Other wins have come off Ghost Quarter on his turn one land, and Smallpox on turn three, leaving the opponent with no land for until turn eleven, by which time he was dead.
I can't really recommend this deck at this point.  It has solid matchups against control, even with combo, and beats Affinity, but it doesn't really do well enough against Tresh or RDW or Zoo to recommend it as a mono-colored or budget deck over RDW.  I would like to point out if the meta shifts to a being dominated by Landstill and other control decks that this deck can be a force, as usually is the case with aggro-control.  Right now, Thresh is the consensus "Best deck", and RDW is the deck that has the edge on it.

Until the last PE, when RDW won, people typically dismissed RDW as much of a tournament force, but more a TP room irritation.  The build that won wasn't all that "Techy" even, just the simplest burn cards, even using Lava Spike.  Until people shift to decks that handle these decks easily, people will be boistered by TP room success and will continue to jump into tournaments with these decks.  This means that people should probably consider decks that either don't care about RDW's speed, because it is too slow and not disruptive enough, or should play decks that laugh at burn.  Flash is my current pick for the best deck for the current meta, while Boros, Zoo, and Haterade warrant consideration for decks that can beat RDW and then have cards in the side to beat blue-based decks. 

I won't be on MTGO much during November due to vacation, but I'll answer questions as able, and I'm always up for a duel, Classic or otherwise.  Please give feedback as to what you liked and dislike about this article and any others.  I do my best to reply to all feedback.  Thanks!



Answering questions by walkerdog at Sat, 11/24/2007 - 12:38
walkerdog's picture

Ok guys.  Sorry about the delay.  Java, eventually I'll write a Flash article, but honestly, that's ONLY if someone else doesn't first.  I agree it's def the no. 1 deck right now (not by a ton, but feels like the best in almost every matchup).  However, I don't play it much, and I don't have the experience with it that you among others do. 

Chainer's is strictly superior.  Run them if you have them (I do, I just put Cruel as it's cheaper on the budget, and I only flashed Chainer's back 1-2 times during testing.)


Damnation is also better than Mut as IA4L mentions, but I wanna make sure I'm giving plenty of options.


I have a love/hate relationship with the editor.  I don't mean for any of it to be bolded, and I keep turning it off, and it keeps hitting me...  sorry about that.   

Sucide Black by iceage4life at Wed, 11/21/2007 - 03:37
iceage4life's picture

What is needed more than the Negators are 2/2s for B one is Exodus forget other, think Tempest.  Also what does Mutilate have to do with suicide black?  Low mana cost aggro decks tend to avoid 4 mana control cards.

As far as Edict v Edict Chainers is better will get flashbacked maybe 1 in 10 times you cast it (in Classic).  If you want the best deck get it, if you want to save a few bucks that is also cool.  Damnation > Mutilate.  There are many reasons but the biggest one is Tarmogoyf.  You can easily need 5 or 6 Swamps to hit this two mana creature which Damnation does not need. 

bold by mtgotraders at Mon, 11/19/2007 - 18:14
mtgotraders's picture

I removed the bold. For some reason some header tags were not closing.  It's probably due to some copying and pasting.  I just did </h2> in the source code right before it started so maybe that will fix the other ones too.

by urzishra14 (Unregistered) (not verified) at Mon, 11/19/2007 - 20:48
urzishra14 (Unregistered)'s picture

considering not everyone has chainer's.. the only real advantage they have is that you can occasionally play them later (when tempest comes out Diabolic Edict is much better, because its an instant)

but really it doesn't matter right now if you play chainer's or cruel .. because most likely you won't be using the flashback ability.

I attempted to build a suicide black deck, and totally forgot about mutilates.

 personally I disagree by not having Nantuko Shade in the deck.. I also like Hypnotic Spector's in the deck too,

 I don't think Suicide Black will work much at all until Destiny drops us some Negators (they just rock the socks off of Control) even Masticore will work better.. but right now there just isn't a lot out there.. the only other thing I could mention is, where is Drain Life or Consume Spirit.. it just seems like it needs a better win condition then just a bunch of 2 cost guys.. 2 cost guys that arn't Nantuko Shades.. . anyways.. good article..

but flash is the best deck and until they can find a way to effectively neuter it better.. it will still be the best deck.

by hamtastic at Sun, 11/18/2007 - 18:12
hamtastic's picture

Actually, the random boldness is from the article editor.  It's something that I struggle with every week in my column.  I'm not sure what causes it to happen so randomly but it's a pain to prevent.  I usually have to de-bold and save a few times before it takes.

Just sayin'   :)

And yes, a good article.. of course, I'm partial to Black decks anyway. :)

by JXClaytor at Mon, 11/19/2007 - 01:57
JXClaytor's picture

Yeah I tried to cut the bold out, but the program was having no part of that.  :(   

by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Sun, 11/18/2007 - 13:31
Anonymous (Unregistered)'s picture

Good article, I was just wondering why you have Cruel Edict in place of Chainer's Edict.  Isn't chainer's pretty much strictly superior?

by Javasci at Sun, 11/18/2007 - 14:42
Javasci's picture

I have two complaints:

1) Please, for the love of whatever deity you believe in, cut out the bold.

2) You only mention combo when it's thrust in your face (that is, when you play against it).  Flash is not only the best deck in the current metagame (at least in your opinion, as well as mine), it's the best deck in a vacuum in the format.  I'd think it deserves more mention than you gave it.

However, the rest was great.  Had it not been for those two, this'd have been a 5.  (As it is, it's a 3.)

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