Back to Black

There are many long-standing preconceptions within the Magic community, such as ‘Black has the most removal’ and ‘Green is all about big stompy creatures’. One of my favourites is that if you want an affordable aggro deck, then you play Red Deck Wins (RDW for short). This is due to the fact Mono Red decks have many layers of preconceptions that align it to an aggressive strategy (kind of like Inception but without the overly complicated storyline). Ask any Magic player about Mono Red and they will probably tell you that;

• Red decks have lots of low mana, aggressive creatures and spells.

• They are simple and easy to ‘pilot’.

• They are very budget friendly.

Now as a Modern and Legacy Burn player, I would have to say I agree with most of the above, although no deck is easy to pilot when you are playing at the most competitive levels. I love the way a Red deck plays, and although play and test many decks I still keep coming back to my good old RDW. So, you can image my excitement when despite the recent Banned & Restricted announcement Mono Red remained one of the best decks in Standard. But as I began to rebuild my Hazo-red brew for the new Standard session, I thought about the above three statements and realised something.

None of them are true.

Firstly, the deck often runs creatures and spells costing four or more mana, making it feel more like an aggressive mid-range brew. Secondly, the deck has lots of triggers and activated abilities making choosing the right line of play tricky at best. Finally, with cards like Hazoret the Fervent, Rekindling Phoenix and Chandra, Torch of Defiance ranging from $18-$30 for a single copy, and a whole deck costing you up $300 it can hardly be considered ‘budget’. So, what do you do if you want a cheap but effective aggro deck in Rivals Standard? The answer is easy. You play Black.

Mono Black aggro has been around in one form or another for the last couple of years now. Starting out as a tribal Zombie deck, it has gradually transitioned into a full-on aggro brew after the last rotation. Like other aggressive decks from seasons past, mono-Black aggro makes use of lots of low mana, aggressive creatures and spells. It is also very easy to pilot and is pretty affordable coming in at around $70-$100 or 20-30 tix online. However, unlike its mono-Red counterparts, it can outlast other aggressive decks in the format with Life Gain and even come back from sweepers the control players will be packing thanks to some recursive threats. The deck we will be looking at today is a brew I have been trying out on MTGO for the last couple of weeks and has shown some real promise in competitive play.

The deck sports fourteen one drop creatures in the form of Dread Wanderer, Vicious Conquistador, Grasping Scoundrels and Night Market Lookout. Each of these creatures effectively deal two damage on attack, either because of their power or thanks to drain effects. The ideal start to the deck is to have three of these out by turn two, so maximizing our one drop count is vital for success. Moving on to the two drops the deck includes a playset of Scrapheap Scrounger and Gifted Aetherborn. Alongside our Dread Wanderer, the Scrapheap Scrounger gives us some recursive threats that can help us survive an early board wipe, while the Gifted Aetherborn provides Life Gain and a deterrent to our opponent attacking back.

Moving on to the three-drop slot the deck runs four Ruin Raider to provide card draw. There is an argument to be made for putting Glint-Sleeve Siphoner in this slot, but during testing, I found the raw card advantage of the Raider to be more effective. The last creature in the deck is a playset of Bone Picker. While four mana might seem a little on the high side for an aggro deck, the fact is that you will be rarely paying retail for it. Creatures are going to die, either yours or your opponents, and you will often be very happy to throw away a one drop if it means trading up to a 3/2 flyer with Deathtouch.

For non-creature spells we run two copies of Supernatural Stamina to either work as a pump spell, or as a way to protect one of our threats from removal. Speaking of removal, we will want some of our own. A playset of Fatal Push and two Walk the Plank should be all we need in game one, and we will also give ourselves some reach with a couple of Aethersphere Harvesters if the ground gets too crowded. The mana base is very simple. Sixteen Swamps and a playset of Ifnir Deadlands for even more removal should do the trick.

The sideboard is heavily skewed towards battling control, one of our worst match ups. Duress, Kitesail Freebooter and Doomfall all attack our opponents hand, getting rid of sweepers and other problematic non-creature spells. Deadeye Tracker is a very useful answer to God-Pharaoh’s Gift and other graveyard-based decks, while Never//Return helps deal with larger creatures that Fatal push just can’t handle.

Creatures (30)
4 Dread Wanderer
4 Vicious Conquistador
2 Grasping Scoundrel
4 Night Market Lookout
4 Scrapheap Scrounger
4 Gifted Aetherborn
4 Ruin Raider
4 Bone Picker
Non-Creature Spells (10)
4 Fatal Push
2 Supernatural Stamina
2 Walk the Plank
2 Aethersphere Harvester
Lands (20)
4 Ifnir Deadlands
16 Swamp
Sideboard (15)
2 Deadeye Tracker
4 Duress
4 Kitesail Freebooter
3 Doomfall
2 Never // Return

And there you have it, Mono-Black Aggro for Standard. The deck is a lot of fun and is quite competitive to boot. But you don’t have to take my word for it, you can see for yourself. Check out the video below to see me take the deck out for a spin. We want to try and do more video content this year and showing our deck techs is something we are going to try and do from time to time, so let us know what you think. Don’t forget to like a subscribe to keep up to date on all the goings on here at Master of Magics. But until next time remember, Good Luck and Have Fun.

In response...