Is Mono Black Still Worth Playing in Standard?

Delve into the current MTG Standard meta to discover if Mono-Black decks hold their ground. Get insights on card choices, matchups, and strategies.

Mono Black, an archetype that has historically been a staple in most formats, has undoubtedly taken a couple of hits in the past couple of years between bans and the ascendance of multi-color decks. A standard format with a near-perfect mana base and tons of bombs that can be easily included into most decks by splashing another color make it tough to stick to a deck that only runs one color. Having Invoke Despair and Meathook Massacre banned was a a huge hit to the easy flow and seamless play of a mono black deck in the standard format. This begs the question: How do we make a good mono black deck in standard without having access to two of the most recent bombs that have been printed? Thanks to my stubbornness, enjoyment for the color, and overall maniacal brain composition, I think I might have an answer.

Rediscovering Mono Black's Essence in Standard Format

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The first step is getting back to basics. Let's stick to the roots of black in the color pie. For those who do not know what the color pie is, it refers to the essence of each color at it's core, and what each one can provide to the game in order to achieve proper balance within formats. Without writing an entire separate article about the color theory of mono black, most players would agree that we can summarize it as a color associated with death, sacrifice, corruption, impurity, deceit, and it could also be characterized as having an infatuation with the supernatural, or even the undead. Bearing all of this in mind, it allows us to run with a few motifs that are helpful in creating any "good" mono black deck.

Strategy and Composition of the New Mono Black Deck

The first thing that we want to consider is what will be the point of our deck. For the purpose of this article, we will reference a deck that I currently am using for ranked standard play in best of three.

Aggressive Early Game Strategy

The general goal in this deck is to have a quick kill that use some aggressive one, two, and three drops that can diminish an opponent's life total, or force removal to be drawn out early so that the path is cleared for our 4 drops that can help close out the game for us.

Key Cards and Combos

Using cards such as Sheoldred, the Apocalypse , Archfiend of the Dross , and Bloodletter of Aclazotz can wreak havoc on some of the decks that don't want to interact early enough in the game. Our early pressure on the board forces them to answer our creatures by either using a board wipe before they want to, or by playing out blockers that we can take out with our plethora of removal spells.

Sideboard Tactics and Splash of White

The sideboard includes a few board wipes, some discard spells, and also adds in a bomb that has become an auto-include in most decks that run black: Breach the Multiverse. Using another popular enchantment in the sideboard, Cruelty of Gix , allows the deck to pull out an Atraxa or Etali from the opponent's graveyard possibly before they can get a chance to do so, or simply to just fight fire with fire when they resolve either of those spells.

The deck also includes the lightest splash of white mana in order to cast Path of Peril for it's cleave cost. I understand this is kind of cheating, but you often times can get away with casting the card for it's regular cost with Archfiend of the Dross on the board and clean up pretty nicely too with it's triggered ability. The main focus of this deck is to force loss of life. The early game features a good amount of aggressive creatures, but let's not forget that taking damage counts as loss of life. This is where Bloodletter of Aclazotz earns it's paycheck. Three creatures on the board can appear to be manageable, but when Bloodletter hits the board when they're all ready to strike, it can ambush the opponent, and severely punish someone who doesn't play to the board. It's imperative with this deck that we get in for damage when given the opportunity, and punish an opponent for not playing to the board.

Analyzing Gameplay and Deck Performance

It is a very competitive and aggressive deck that can catch many players off guard if they don't deal with the threats accordingly - especially when not keeping track of how many poison counters one has. Most times, the poison/toxic decks would run Selesnya, but now because we have even more dual lands printed, the deck has added blue, which gives them access to counter spells and other spells that interact with both their creatures and ours. The cheaper spells in our deck are important here, and it creates situation where we have to be very selective of when we do and do not attack with our weaker creatures, as we may need them to block the overwhelming number of toxic creatures that the opponent is able to amass.

The Importance of Archfiend of the Dross

It ends up being evident from the gameplay that Archfiend of the Dross is the most important card in the matchup. The fact that it is a phenomenal blocker, and punishes the opponent for not caring if their creatures die allows it to be our wincon on it's own. In the second game, we did not get the chance to resolve the spell, but it served as great backup in case we needed it. Game two forced us to be a little bit more aggressive and force the opponent to topdeck a spell that wins them the game. Our strong presence of cheap creatures that apply pressure to the opponent allowed us to close out the game while having nine poison counters.

The Viability of Mono Black in Standard

Having played over 100 games with this deck and modifying it a few times, it feels as if Mono Black is definitely still playable in standard. If nothing else, it is fun. It has always aligned very closely with the type of magic that I enjoy playing, and the current state of the standard format still allows for a good time in spite of the unfortunate bans that the archetype has been forced to overcome.

I am a Magic The Gathering competitive player, and streamer. I specialize in homebrew decks. My favorite formats are: Standard, Pioneer (Explorer on Arena), and EDH. I first started playing MTG in 2001, and have played on and off since then.