This rendition of mono-black is at heart a midrange strategy (it is capable, however, of pulling almost combo-like finishes with Gray Merchant of Asphodel), with powerful threats backed by disruption and card advantage. Consequently, it is both capable of killing an opponent quite quickly or playing into the late game, as the matchup dictates.

One of the reasons to play this list over the more traditional Modern midrange decks like Abzan and Jund is that this deck goes over the top of those lists, with threats that are more powerful and more resilient. Another reason is the almost inexhaustible supply of extra cards at a far cheaper price - when Dark Confidant is the chosen source of cards, one remains afraid of creature removal, and also of playing threats whose power level is proportional to their mana cost; by contrast, Phyrexian Arena and Ob Nixilis Reignited are far more difficult to remove, hurt much less in the long run, and do not reveal one's draws.

It may be fair to say this list has a lategame that is among the best to be found in the format. The deck also has an inevitability with Gray Merchant of Asphodel that other midrange decks do not possess. Being mono-colour also has the distinct advantage of not having to worry about pain from a lot of shocklands or Blood Moon (funnily enough, since the four Field of Ruin are so critical to the deck's capacity to fight a variety of decks in the format, in the early turns, if an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is not drawn, the deck CAN get colour screwed).

The list was inspired by the mono-black craze of Theros block Standard. Thoughtseize into Pack Rat was a format-defining game-winning play; Gray Merchant and Underworld Connections provided long-term card advantage and combat-independent inevitability. Thoughtseize into Pack Rat is not as broken in a format such as Modern which has access to better, more plentiful, and more efficient removal; early threats from aggressive strategies, such as Death's Shadow, Cranial Plating, Goblin Guide, Lord of Atlantis, Tarmogoyf, Hollow One, Thalia's Lieutenant and so forth can render the inexorable Rat train too slow, even on turn 2. Also worth noting is that a lot of decks are going wide in the early turns, or are playing sweepers; cards like Reflector Mage, Detention Sphere, Maelstrom Pulse and Cryptic Command can also make make the Rat feel really bad. Other threats that can be expected to perform more reliably and provide similar levels of board domination if unanswered have therefore been selected in its stead.

Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet provides a source of recurring lifegain to offset the pain from our own Thoughtseize and card draw; he is a source of card advantage against creatures, often singlehandedly winning games against swarms - indeed, often against some strategies, the game comes down to how quickly Kalitas is resolved and how many triggers he gets off; he deals very efficiently with graveyard recursion (Flamewake Phoenix, Bloodghast, Liliana, the Last Hope, Kolaghan's Command); and turns just about any race in his favour.

Artifact and enchantment based strategies, like Lantern, can be an issue (4 Thoughtseize only go so far in game 1, where dead removal is the name of the game). One possible solution is fetchlands with Godless Shrine to enable the splash of Stony Silence and Disenchant (the old lists, for instance, would often be entirely unable to race through a resolved Assemble the Legion). Leyline of Sanctity from combo and Ensnaring Bridge from various prison decks are the more commonly seen problems in Modern. Detection Tower is a recent addition that helps deal with the Leyline, also solving the age old issue of removal against hexproof creatures (Geist of Saint Traft, Slippery Bogle) - some consideration may be given to including more copies of this land in a meta heavy with Leyline/Witchbane Orb decks (with four Field of Ruin and some number of Mutavault - manlands, especially ones that come in untapped, are extremely powerful, not least when they synergise so well with Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet - too many is not advisable. Colourless sources in a deck with Dread Shade are suboptimal). Extirpate usually shines against such strategies, since they must assemble a specific set of cards to execute their game plan.

Liliana, the Last Hope offers an additional means of accruing card advantage while providing recurring removal against tokens and other small go-wide strategies; she ensures the deck never actually runs out of threats, and can provide inevitability with recurring Gray Merchants (Merchant, being a zombie, can be sacrificed to Kalitas). While this deck does not have a way to win through a resolved infinite life combo (except from the sideboard, Sorin Markov can reset life totals to 10) and may get decked if the opponent finds answers to every single creature and planeswalker, it has enough disruption and removal to ensure such scenarios rarely come to be.

The set of Collective Brutality is extremely important to this list. The deck works best with information about the opponent's hand, and protecting a key threat or Phyrexian Arena is often game-winning. The card is extremely versatile, providing hand disruption against midrange/control, information and removal against aggro, and lifegain against Lightning Bolt (and for Arena - in this deck, life points potentially equal cards). Not all cards are good against all opponents at all stages in the game (Gray Merchant of Asphodel in the opening hand is not ideal, for instance, and Phyrexian Arena is a liability against burn), and CoBru smooths out those awkward draws by trading in dead cards for live ones from the opponent (which also helps get ahead in tempo and mana).

Liliana of the Veil serves a similar draw-smoothing role, trading in dead cards early on for live ones from the opponent, but also double-times as removal. The ultimate is obviously powerful, but usually, the hand disruption against combo and control and the removal against midrange/aggro is where she'll truly shine. When two decks are going 1 for 1 in cards, the deck drawing two a turn is the victor. Her repeated discard is often the only way to grind down Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria decks. She is, however, notoriously bad against tokens and graveyard based decks (Young Pyromancer, Bloodghast, Lingering Souls, Kitchen Finks, Thraben Inspector, Wall of Omens), and so is often a consideration for siding out.

The deck has gone through several phases of testing to get where it currently is. As new cards are released and the meta shifts, the list will be updated to have the most powerful and versatile inclusions possible; but barring a shift so dramatic that the cards in the current format are simply made obsolete by more powerful printings, the core set of cards that power the strategy ought to remain the same. That said, some sideboard slots are certainly flexible, and even the main 60 need not be set in stone.


Updates Add

Took team to the quarterfinals with this list - I was on Modern:

I actually won my 5-8 bracket match (paired against the Lantern player in position 4, Gray Merchant for 19, then 23), but my teammates lost theirs, so we didn't make it to the semis.

Matchups were Affinity, Jund, GW Hatebears, Abzan, and Lantern (one opponent dropped). Won against Affinity and Jund; other two didn't matter, because teammates lost their games.

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Date added 1 year
Last updated 2 weeks

This deck is Modern legal.

Cards 60
Avg. CMC 2.51
Jetons Liliana, 2/2 Zombie, Nixilis
Folders Mono Black , Black, Modern inspiration, MODERN XXX, Modern, Modern inspiration, Modern, Modern Decks, Modern Reference, Future Decks, See all 26
Top rank #46 on 2017-04-04
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