MonoBlack(AB4k)

04.01.2022

In this post I’m going to take a deep dive into my favorite AB4k deck, MonoBlack. First I’ll talk a bit about what cards I’ve chosen and why, before I go into some strategy against the most common decks in the format and finishing off with some starting hands.

There’s no big secret that black is my favorite color in Magic. It always has been since I opened a Lord of the Pit in my first purchase, a Fourth Edition Gift Box. I still have the box and the little pouch containing glass counters that came along with it:


In regular OS, monoblack is a tier 3 deck at best, which gets much of it’s power from the likes of Underworld Dreams, Juzam Djinn and the Mishra’s Factories. So if you take away those cards, the deck seems pretty bad right? Well, AB4k plays out pretty different. MonoBlack may not be the best deck in the format, but in the right hands, I think it’s easily top 10. If you look at the nostalgia and aesthetics, it’s at the top for me. The reason the deck is better here is that the format is slower, more creature based, there are fewer broken enchantments and artifacts that black can’t deal with etc. Virtually unplayable cards in OS like Royal Assassin and Nightmare can really shine in this format, and how cool isn’t that? For a black mage like myself, these cards were at the top of the wishlist when I started playing Magic. They were evil, powerful and looked badass. Well, enough smalltalk, on to my thoughts about how to build this deck.

MonoBlack can go a couple of different ways in AB4k. You can play very aggressive with smaller creatures, Bad Moons and cheap removal, or you can go more controllish with Royal Assassin, Icy Manipulator, Sinkholes and Jayemdae Tomes. I like the latter most and that’s what I’ll going to talk about in this deck-tech. My choice of creatures first.
Black Knight, Hypnotic Specter and Sengir Vampire are obviously staples even in the control version, since they also are good enough to see play in regular OS. I even think playing a full playset of the Vampire is correct, since it’s so hard to deal with. The other two are easy playsets. Royal Assassin is great and a must-deal-with in such a creature based format, and I’ve included a couple of Icy Manipulators to help them assassinate creatures that stay back in defence. Icy can be a bit clunky at times, so I think 2 is the correct number, 1 more can maybe go in the sideboard. I think atleast 3 is the right number of Royals, in a very creatureheavy meta, even 4 can be worth it. At the top end there’s 2 Nightmares, a powerful finisher with evasion, almost immune to hard removal except Swords to Plowshares, and with iconic art. The final creature is Demonic Hordes, also an iconic piece, great when ahead to lock out opponents, and a big body to finish them off. 
There’s not much extra removal in this deck since the Royals are so good, but I found room for a couple of Paralyze to slow down early beats, and have 3 Drain Life which can also serve as a wincon. Chaos Orb is obviously here as a catch-all. 
The control elements are Icy’s, Sinkholes, Jayemdae Tomes and Mind Twist. Sinkhole might seem like an odd choice in a format with no Factories, Mazes, Workshops or Library of Alexandrias, but it’s very important to get ahead on lands and start dropping fatties before the opponent. Icy serve the same purpose, to slow down anything the opponent does. The Tomes were pretty much overlooked when I started playing Magic, who wants to pay 4 just to draw a card? But man, they are so good in this deck. If you get ahead on mana and can contain the opponents forces, dropping a book mostly means game over. I hardly recall losing a game with this deck when I had a few book activations.

The sideboard can be tweeked in many ways, I really would like a Nevinyrral’s Disk or two there to deal with pesky enchantments like CoP:Black and Karma, but don’t own any yet. Dropping multiple Glooms will help somewhat vs CoP:Black, as will the Juggernauts.

Terror should always be in the 75 since they are needed to deal with the mighty Sedge Troll. They will also come in against other big, non-black creatures. Terror could also be worthy of a maindeck spot, but if the meta is filled with black cards you’re better off having them in the sideboard.

Bog Wraiths are great in the mirrormatch, and pretty good when facing other decks with swamps that doesn’t play Lightning Bolt. 

The Weaknesses are for the weeniedecks that come so fast out of the blocks that the Royals are to slow. They are also good in the mirror, especially if they play multiple Royals, or if they play the 4 Ritual MonoBlack(turn 1 Hypnotic is a real pain in the a**). Paralyze could also be an option here, but I think the 2 main will do just fine.

Strategy:

Talking strategy in a format that’s pretty "new", and where people usually don’t have access to every card, might seem a bit strange and unnecessary, but I personally think that games are more interesting when both players are pretty skilled and know what to do. So, here’s a few things that should give you a fighting chance to beat the most commonly played decks in the format.

vs WRx goodstuff
The WR based decks, which splashes for every restricted card, is probably one of the best in the format. They can be beaten though, you just have to draw the right cards. If you can drop a early Black Knight, don’t waste your removal on the Savannah Lions. Save Paralyze for the Trolls or Granite Gargoyles, and hope you can find a Sengir or Royal fast. Drain Life should be used for Serra or Shivan even, but be vary of the Fork. The blue power isn’t something you can stop, but you can even the cardadvantage a bit with Hypnotic or a Jayemdae Tome. Nightmare is the card you probably have to win with here, but if they struggle to find removal, the Sengirs can do the trick. Your best hope in game 1 is to slow them down, and get your army on the board first. After board you get Terror, which is really great and Gloom against the Swords and Disenchants.

Sideboarding:
- 4 Sinkhole
- 1 Paralyze
- 1 Demonic Hordes

+ 3 Terror
+ 3 Gloom 

vs UR Control
The red burnspells combined with blue countermagic and power, sprinkled with huge flyers on both sides, makes for another great AB4k deck. You don’t have access to the best weapon against it, CoP:Red, and have to find other ways to win. Hypnotic Specter can do some damage here, but only if they can’t find Bolt or another burnspell early. Paralyze and Royal Assassin is mostly useless, as are the Black Knights. Slow them down with Sinkholes and Icy Manipulator, and try to find a Mind Twist or Jayemdae Tome when they can’t counter them. The big creatures are key here, especially Nightmare. A couple of well timed Drain Life can also seal the deal, but watch out for Fork.

Sideboard:
- 3 Royal Assassin
- 2 Paralyze

+ 3 Terror
+ 2 Juggernaut  

vs Deadguy Ale
The classic Black&White deck is obviously really good as the great black creatures and white removal goes hand in hand. You have an edge in stability though, Black Knight is decent and you have Gloom in the sideboard. Nightmare is once again great if they don’t play Royals, and Sinkhole can slow them down enough to overrun them with creatures since you normally play more of them. Look out for Wrath of God, though not all Deadguys play it, and you probably get the feel of it if they do.

Sideboarding:
Sideboarding can be a bit tricky here, since there’s so many versions of Deadguy, but Gloom and Juggernaut should go in. If they play multiple Serra’s, you should try to make room for a number of Terror’s as well.

vs UWx Control(the Deck)
One might think that «the Deck» should easily be the best deck in AB4k since it’s so good in regular OS, but losing cards like Mishra’s Factory, The Abyss and Moat, hurts quite a bit. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very good, but I don’t think it’s as broken in this format. Black Knight and Hypnotic Specter is good here, just don’t overcommit the board and get blown away by a Wrath of God. Try to slow them down with Sinkholes and chip away with your 2/2s, or land a fatty to finish them off quickly.

Sideboard:
- 3 Royal Assassin
- 2 Paralyze
-  1 Sengir Vampire

+ 3 Gloom
+ 3 Juggernaut

You can also side in Terror here, it depends on how many Serra’s they play.

vs BR Troll
I’ve put the two BR Troll decks into the same category here since just about the only difference is if they play Nevinyrral’s Disk or Jayemdae Tome for cardadvantage. If they play Disk, you need to keep some creatures in hand so you can reload when they blow up the world. If they play Tome just do your regular thing by slowing them down until you get a boardstate that they can deal with. Nightmare is great again, yes it’s really good in AB4k, and Royal + Icy should deal with their creatures. Try not to play more than 1 Royal at a time because they might have Earthquake to take your ground creatures out.

Sideboard:
- 4 Black Knight 
- 1 Demonic Hordes

+ 3 Terror
+ 2 Weakness 

vs the Mirror 
The mirrormatch depends alot on what version of black they play. Most play a faster game with 4 Rituals and maybe some more removal. Try to stay alive and trade 1for1 until you can do some Royal + Icy shananigans, or try to hold them back on mana before you can drop a book or a Nightmare. If they play a similar deck, then it’s just a matter of playing solid magic and having the best draw.

Sideboard:
- 2 Dark Ritual
- 1 Demonic Hordes
 
+ 3 Bog Wraith

You can also side in Weakness here if they play Frozen Shades and Drudge Skeletons.

vs RG Aggro

RG aggro can be a really fast and brutal deck, and if they draw Channel/Fireball there’s not much you can do about it. Just try to stay alive, and be vary of your lifetotal. Use Drain Life pretty aggressively as any lifegain is good. Once you stabilize, the win should be rather easy. Look out for Giant Growth and Berserk for the surprise win, after board you have Terrors which helps a lot.

Sideboard:

- 1 Nightmare
- 1 Demonic Hordes 
- 4 Sinkhole

+ 3 Weakness
+ 3 Terror 

vs MonoBlue Fish
This is a popular deck, and one you should beat rather easily after the restriction of Control Magic. They can be pretty fast though, so try to weather the storm until your larger creatures and Royals can take over the game. Mulligan slow hands, you want Knights and removal in this matchup.

Sideboard:
- 4 Sinkhole
- 1 Demonic Hordes
- 1 Icy Manipulator
 
+ 3 Weakness
+ 3 Terror 

vs GW Midrange
GW midrange can play either Ice Storm or Armageddon, and both those cards are pretty good against you. Your creatures are superior though, so try to stay ahead or even on the board and don’t keep starting hands low on land. Your sideboard is pretty strong here, just pray they don’t play a early Karma.

Sideboard:
- 4 Sinkhole
- 1 Demonic Hordes
- 2 Drain Life
- 2 Icy Manipulator 

+ 3 Weakness
+ 3 Terror 
+ 3 Gloom 


Sample starting hands:

Keep. This is a good starting hand. 2 Sinkholes to slow the opponent down, and a Paralyze if they manage to play a cheap creature. You eventually need to draw more lands, but the Sinkholes will buy you time. 

Mulligan. This might be tempting because of the Dark Ritual, but you’ll need to draw both lands and cheap spells over the next few turns for it to be good. Close, but still a mulligan.


Keep. This is a tough one, but with the Demonic Tutor, I think I’d keep. You also have enough land to play the Specter, so just play a couple of lands and find the right Tutor target when you know what the opponent is playing.
Keep. Very nice starting hand. You can either go for Sinkhole or Black Knight turn 2, depending on what the opponent plays. Any card you draw is fine, you already have three spells you can play.
Keep. Great starting hand. You can get Icy down on turn 2, and if you draw a land you can play Sengir on turn 3 and 4. Most likely winning this game against most decks.

 

Ok! Hope you all like this deck-tech of the MonoBlack deck. I really recommend you take it to the tables for some matches, and if you’ve just started to play AB4k, this should be a solid choice without going broke. You can do good without the most expensive cards, just put in more Dark Rituals and cheap creatures. Also, there’s no wrong in playing with reprints. Speaking for myself, I’m in love with this format partly because of the chase and availabilty of cards, but there’s also fun to play with the white-bordered versions of these cards as well. Stay tuned for more deck-techs as soon as I can «complete» other decks.