Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Playing MonoBlack

Most people thought that with the release of Return to Ravnica, bringing with it the first Common dual-lands, that the Standard Pauper format would shift away from the mono-colored decklists that were such a pronounced part of the previous Standard format. But, as is true in Classic Pauper, there is something surprisingly effective about mono-colored decks that allows them to keep rising to the top, despite the versatility and added strength of two and three color combinations. As proof of this phenomena, Mono Black has recently made a strong reappearance in Standard Pauper, recently capturing the trophy for both Monday Pauper Deck Challenge and Standard Pauper Deck Challenge, the two Player Run Events for this format. Let's take a closer look at one of these decklists.

After studying the results from these events, I wanted to test out this archetype for myself. But as I assembled it into virtual sleeves on Magic Online, I noticed this forgotten card and immediately saw some potential:

While Gravedigger was in the format, this card saw almost no play. Some might see this as surprising, given that Driver of the Dead is a stronger card in most ways. For the same casting cost, you get an extra point of power, and even more remarkable, you get to return a creature from the Graveyard directly into play. Of course, there are two caveats. First, Driver of the Dead has to actually die, rather than simply come into play. Second, the creature card that returns to play has to be one with a converted mana cost of 2 or less. These are pretty significant drawbacks, Given that, it is little wonder that this card has been almost completely overlooked.

Until now. As it turns out, the Mono Black archetype boasts a number of solid Black creatures that fit this narrow requirement. And so, with this particular interaction in mind, I came up with this decklist:

Mono Black Driver
played by gwyned in MPDC 19.10
4 Duty-Bound Dead
4 Highborn Ghoul
4 Tormented Soul
4 Vampire Interloper
3 Bloodhunter Bat
3 Driver of the Dead
2 Servant of Nefarox
24 cards

Other Spells
3 Dead Weight
3 Murder
3 Sign in Blood
3 Victim of Night
2 Tragic Slip
15 cards
20 Swamp
2 Haunted Fengraf
22 cards

Driver of the Dead

Unfortunately, I struggled during Round 3 and 4 of this particular event, with a disappointing 2-2 finish with this decklist. Still, I believe it has potential, and will definitely keep testing this particular build.

I did manage to record one of my matches, so I have included that below.



So what do you think of the Mono Black archetype? What about the Driver of the Dead interaction? I'd love to hear what you have to say in the comments below. Thanks for reading!


  1. I argued with Adner that MBA is weak vs enchants, But I didn't want to make an enchants/hexproof deck for this and noone plays such deck at MPDC, so my theory is still only a theory.
    Adner created MBA before Christmas as an aswer to WW which dominated ToP8 back then. He was disappointed how Izzet suffers from WW, though you, Gwyned, mentioned Izzet as anti-WW in your last article at pure MTGO:D
    MBA is strong because of so many removers and 4 unblockable+4 intimidate guys. But I can win vs it with my monoGreen, so i'm happy everything is rather balanced:)


    1. First time on this blog, congratulations Gwyned, keep it up.
      Thoughts on Driver of the dead : that guy is interesting, he's a vampire, so Victim of Night-proof, he's a good beater with nice ability, but.... the 4 casting cost makes him annoying.
      I'd rather play Ghoulraisers to have a Zombie back in hand for 3 cc on turn 4 or 5, and keep saved mana open for a removal. I think Driver's best friend is Deadly Recluse in a golgari deck. Soulcage Fiend is also just better at 3cc, brings pressure on the clock mid game and is an awsome beater when exalted. The best 4cc creature slots are Bats for sure, then i 'd go for Perilous Shadow instead of Driver.
      @ My Galaxy : I think MBA is more consistent than Izzet in the WW matchup (at least Delver based ones). Reason to that? It's easier to pack loads of removals and kill WW critts before your turn than countering each and every Threat they play. Tragic slip is a really important card when facing WW, as well as card advantage.

  2. Thanks for the discussion. No doubt there is room for improvement in my build. I'm not sure there are enough Zombies in monoBlack for Ghoulraiser to be very strong, but that might be incorrect.