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How The Devil Plays MTG: The Mono-Black Primer

Modern Budget Competitive Control Midrange Mono-Black Primer



Hello! Welcome to my Primer for Mono Black Aggro/Midrange/Control. This is my first primer in a series of primers I'm do for the Modern format. I've done what I can to condense many of the primers that have been made online with my own personal experiences playing Mono-black decks. Within the primer I've made as many listings as I can for what I have seen or played, as many primers skip over viable options or possibilities for certain metas. The decklist that I currently have is one that I play personally.

Mono-black Aggro/midrange/control has been a competitive deck for quite some time, as the deck is very meta adaptable and budget friendly due to the manabase that it plays, since the majority of Modern decks have most of their price in their mana base. We also have access to cheap and efficient removal that deals with many decks in the format.

The other main reason why Mono-black is so viable in the modern format is because it has access to almost everything you need to survive, which is, threats, removal, and card draw. This is the reason why many people have chosen to play this deck.

This primer is a tool that I've made for people to try out this deck. When looking to build this deck, you should try to figure out the types of matchups you will be facing in your local meta, and figure out a way to make your deck have good matchups against the majority of decks in that meta. Obviously, you will likely have a few bad matchups, but that is the nature of Modern, as it is a rock, paper, scissors format, and there is an answer to every deck.

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When building your deck, one thing you need to be aware of is the curve of your deck, as there are plenty of decks in the format like Elves and Affinity that like to have their entire hand on the board by around turn 3-4, decks like Death's Shadow Aggro, Infect, and Ad Nausseum would like to kill you around turn 3-4 and you have to be prepared for that. This is why the Midrange and control variants are the most popular in mono black, as the aggro meta often forces people to play a more reactive deck.

Finding the right mix of cards to achieve deck adaptability can be difficult, which is why I've put in cards that are extremely popular in mono-black, as well as the cards that see fringe play, as metas and decks are constantly changing.

The primary way that mono-black pilots it's way to victory is not by pressuring your opponent with high power creatures, but rather by removing their hand, and their board, and then moving in with your own spells once the field is in your favor.

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Tormod's Crypt: Crypt is one of the cheapest ways to exile an opponent's graveyard, it also doesn't cost any mana to use or play, definitely the most budget friendly graveyard hate around.

Slaughter Pact: It is not uncommon to see this card as a one-of in the main or sideboard of a Mono-black deck, as the ability to fake not having removal mana up can be relevant against certain decks.

Tectonic Edge/Ghost Quarter: Gives you the ability to destroy manlands and other troublesome cards.

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth: This land gives you color fixing as you don't want to get stuck with colorless sources.

Inkmoth Nexus: Only relevant in mono-black infect builds.

Mutavault: Only really sees play in 8-rack.

Fetchlands: Fetchlands should only be used if you are running Fatal Push or Bloodghast, and even then they still make you weaker to burn.

Arena: Usually ran as a one-of with Phyrexian Obliterator as a way to force your opponent's hand.

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx: A staple in all devotion builds, running this card allows you to make huge plays in the lategame with cards like Phyrexian Arena.

Dakmor Salvage: This card is often played in builds that abuse Smallpox as well as some 8-rack builds.

Swamp: Not all builds need the other lands mentioned here, 22-24 lands is a must.

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Thoughtseize/Inquisition of Kozilek: These two cards are modern staples for a good reason, as they enable you to tear apart your opponent's hand before their cards become relevant. It is not uncommon to see a many copies of both of these cards in some decks.

Blackmail: A budget alternative to thoughtseize, one nice feature about this card is that it can hit lands, but it's limitations make it pretty unfavorable.

Bloodsoaked Champion: The 'Bad Bloodghast', Champion sees some play in Mono-black aggro, and has seen some play in fringe Mono-black midrange builds.

Surgical Extraction/Extirpate: These cards are a great way to tear apart a combo deck that you are facing, as Surgical can be a free spell, and Extirpate can't be stopped, not uncommon to see them in the sideboard of mono-black decks.

Hex Parasite: Another way to deal with planeswalkers and counters in general.

Disfigure: Cheap removal against decks like Elves and Infect, not uncommon to see in the 75.

Fatal Push: This new card really requires fetchlands to be used to have any actual use.

Pithing Needle: Mono-black sometimes needs answers to certain abilties, pithing needle works for everything from planeswalkers to Thopter Foundry

Funeral Charm: Discard at instant speed, can also be a sneaky hit with a creature if you play Urborg, usually sees play in 8-rack lists.

Elixir of Immortality: A card that's great against decks like mill and burn.

Tragic Slip: This card has seen play in some builds that rely on creatures dying and returning.

Illness in the Ranks: An excellent sideboard against token builds, Illness can shut down decks like Thopter Foundry, as they'll usually need enchantment removal to win the game.

Bump in the Night: Mono-black's Lava Spike.

Duress: Great budget discard, usually in the sideboard for control/combo matchups.

Diregraf Ghoul & Gnarled Scarhide: Played primarily in mono-black aggro builds.

The Rack & Shrieking Affliction: The key pieces to the established 8-rack deck.

Deathmark: Meta dependent removal, usually a sideboard card if used.

Gravecrawler: Played in decks with a high zombie concentration.

Nihil Spellbomb/Relic of Progenitus: Spellbomb is a cantrip for graveyard hate and relic is superb against dredge as you can be annoying and being able to blow it up for a cantrip at any time.

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Bloodghast: A resilient 2/1 that can keep on coming back from the dead, works very well with Lashwrithe. However against a very aggressive meta it might be better to pick a creature that can actually block.

Vampire Hexmage: Effective for removing opposing planeswalkers. Hexmage is almost always a sideboard card.

Despoiler of Souls: Another "Bad bloodghast" but very budget friendly.

Bitterblossom: Seen as a 1-of in some builds, Bitterblossom gives you a bunch of tokens that are great for cards like Lashwrithe.

Dragon's Claw: It's alright against burn, but not the best.

Hand of Cruelty/Black Knight/Stromgald Crusader: These two drops are strong enough to hold off a few of the fast creatures in the format, crusader can be more effective in the late game. Black Knight with Lashwrithe can be extremely annoying. Hand of Cruelty is the strognest tempo card as it is basically a 3/3 when attacking or blocking.

Gifted Aetherborn: A Vampire Nighthawk that had it's mana cost cut by 1 in return for clipping it's wings, Gifted has an impact on how many players choose to attack, as deathtouch is always a relevant ability.

Dark Confidant: Dark Confidant sees play in midrange builds with a lower cmc concentration to allow feverous card draw on a 2/1 body.

Asylum Visitor/Blood Scrivener/Other bad bobs: These cards are usually favorable on a budget, and in some builds they function like Phyrexian Arena.

Wrench Mind: The modern version of Hymn to Tourach, sees play in discard heavy lists.

Distress: Thoughtseize played on turn 2, often seen in budget lists.

Relentless Dead: A 2 drop that can recur, Relentless Dead can also bring back other zombies if you have untapped mana.

Nantuko Shade: Given the opportunity this mana sink can get in huge hits.

Waste Not: Also sees play in discard heavy lists.

Dash Hopes: While I feel that this card should not be played in mono black, it does see play in some lists. But my reasoning against it is simple, since it's a 2 mana spell, you didn't play ANY of the 2 drops in this list, and if you think this'll beat combo reliably, you'd be wrong, because unless they are at 5 life or below, they'll pay for it, because usually they can just win anyways. In my opinion discard is far better at achieving what this card is trying to do, and is far better in the maindeck.

Hunted Horror: A secret weapon to be used against decks that use Leyline of Sanctity, since they can;t be the target of spells or abilities, you can't give them their precious centaurs they deserve. How Sad :)

Ratchet Bomb: One of the few ways mono-black can deal with non-creature heavy decks, it is rather slow but it can be effective.

Yixlid Jailer: A mono-black aggro deck could use this in it's sideboard for graveyard strategies.

Go for the Throat, Victim of Night, Doom Blade: go for the throat is bad against affinity and tron, but works against most other decks. Victim of Night is the least conditional removal spell in the format for mono-black, as besides Kalitas and Gurmag Angler, they are no other real vampires/zombies/werewolves in the format. Doom Blade is a classic removal spell that has shrunk in play becuase plenty of decks run black these days.

Bile Blight: An outstanding card against decks that play Lingering Souls, also works against decks like burn and whatnot as a way to deal with decks that play lots of the same creature.

Geth's Verdict: Good against decks like Bogles and Infect, decks that run a small amount of creatures.

Sign in Blood, Night's Whisper: Decent card draw, seen in some control builds.

Collective Brutality: This card is exceptionally good, as it supplies all kinds of advantages while only costing you 2 mana, well worth running at least a few.

Pack Rat: This card can take over the game very quickly, as besides a wrath, not many cards have an answer besides tons of removal spells if it lives for one turn.

Hangarback Walker: While it may not contribute to devotion, hangarback gets better as the game goes on, and it drops thopters when it dies.

Smother: Kills a large amount of creatures in the format.

Augur of Skulls: Played in some variants of 8-rack, and fringe play in other mono-black decks.

Treacherous Pit-Dweller: Played in aggressive mono-black decks, Pit-Dweller is very fast pressure.

Smallpox: Gives the deck a "Pox" feel, Smallpox is probably one of the best cards you can use turn 2 on the play.

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Phyrexian Arena: You'll be using this or Confidant in a lot of builds. 3 is usually a good number.

Liliana of the Veil: Played in almost every deck, Lilli can win games by herself, she supplies hand disruption, creature removal and the destruction of annoying card on the opposing side.

Liliana, the Last Hope: She's very good given the current aggro meta, and she can dig for cards like Bloodghast. She is usually run as a 1 or 2 of alongside 2 to 3 Liliana of the Veil.

Lost Legacy: A more on-curve version of Memoricide.

Gatekeeper of Malakir: Although technically a 2-drop, Gatekeeper is almost always played as a 3 drop, as removal on a body is always good. This card is very meta dependent.

Vampire Nighthawk: More useful in aggro heavy metas. Nighthawk is kind of a roadblock against certain decks as they often don't have much of a response.

Crucible of Worlds: Combos with Ghost Quarter and Tectonic Edge to make sure your opponent is seriously screwed. Also allows you to keep playing fetches to make sure you land every land drop.

Virulent Plague: Illness in the Ranks's big brother. Good against any token strategy.

Necrogen Mists: Played in some budget brew sideboards as a budget Lilliana of the Veil.

Pitiless Horde: Played in mono-black aggro, could be played in some midrange builds for fast pressure.

Liliana's Specter/Hypnotic Specter: They are ok on a super budget, but I think there are better options.

Herald of Torment & Master of the Feast: Mostly for budget, these creatures are decently powerful, and their drawbacks aren't the worst, but they can see play.

Drown in Sorrow/Flaying Tendrils: These are the best small sweepers in mono-black. Depending on what you play, one may be better than the other, as Drown works if you have graveyard plans yourself, but Tendrils can deal with cards like Voice of Resurgence, Geist of Saint Traft, and opposing Bloodghasts.

Black Sun's Zenith: This card is only somewhat reliable in mono black control since it is so overcosted.

Killing Wave: Sees fringe play in mono-black control.

Profane Command: Sees fringe play in mono-black control

Lifebane Zombie: This card is able to get cards like Siege Rhino, it also has what is essentially Fear, and can close the game quickly if unhindered.

Sadistic Sacrament: This card is very good against combo/control decks, and if you ever got enough mana, you could pay the kicker and exile most of your opponent's deck

Delirium Skeins: Sees play in variants of 8-rack.

Hero's Downfall One of the few ways Black can kill planeswalkers already in play. Since it can kill creatures too it is worth some consideration, 3 mana is a lot in modern though.

Oblivion Stone: Destroys things Black has trouble with such as enchantments and artifacts. Can be a consideration.

Ensnaring Bridge: Played mostly in 8-rack, bridge is an excellent way to slow down aggro decks.

Fulminator Mage: Extra hate against non-basic lands. The 2/2 body is also nice when you need to block, or attack when there's no lands to destroy.

Rain of Tears: More budget friendly land destruction.

Dismember: Another solid removal option. Dismember kills virtually everything in the format and be a spell cast from turn 1 onward.

Syphon Life: This card is very meta and deck dependent, as it usually hit or miss, but the recurring draining does have it's uses.

Phyrexian Crusader: A roadblock against many decks in the format, it's not uncommon to see 2-4 in the 75.

Geralf's Messenger: This 3/2 effectively Shocks your opponent when it enters, and comes back after a wrath.

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Korlash, Heir to Blackblade/Squelching Leeches: These creatures work with your manabase to become powerful in the mid-late game, Korlash has the benefit of ramping if you draw another, as well as being regenerateable.

Liliana of the Dark Realms: This card is only really reliable in mono-black control, as the ability to fetch for swamps to power finishers can be a force to be reckoned with.

Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet: Kalitas is extremely good as it can deal with graveyard strategies, give you life, and can grow bigger with time. Not uncommon to see 1-2 in the 75.

Phyrexian Obliterator: A 5/5 for 4 beater that supplies tons of Devotion while being incredibly good against aggro.

Leyline of the Void: Very prevalent due to the graveyard based strategies in the format, a lot of the time you need this turn 0 to win certain games.

Abyssal Persecutor: As long as you run plenty of removal, this 6/6 flying Trample for 4 will close games very quickly.

Night of Souls' Betrayal/Curse of Death's Hold: These cards are great against decks like Affinity and Elves.

Desecration Demon: Not exactly the most power finisher, but it is a 6/6 that grows, this card is extremely meta dependent.

Erebos, God of the Dead: Great with devotion decks, Erebos can act as card advantage and a finsiher.

Erebos's Titan: A budget form of Phyrexian Obliterator, Titan can be very good against boardwipe heavy decks as Indestructible can very hard to get rid of.

Whip of Erebos: Lifelink on everything is huge with so many beaters. You can also get recurring value out of cards like Obliterator and Gary.

Lashwrithe: Makes cards like Bloodghast far more threatening, also supplies a body when it enters play, it can worth running 1-2.

Damnation: The planar chaos Wrath of God, it can deal with a board full of elves, or force the hand of an affinity player, well worth seeing in the 75.

Mutilate/Languish: Budget options for Damnation.

Sangromancer: Excellent in discard builds, doesn't see any real play.

Cranial Extraction/Memoricide: These cards allows you to search for any problem in an opponent's deck. These card are primarily for combo, as they aren't very good against anything else.

Persecute: A very meta dependent card that can wreck hands in certain matchups.

Phyrexian Vatmother: A staple of the mono-black infect builds.

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Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon: Often seen as a one-of in mono black infect.

Batterskull: A reccurring 4/4 with Lifelink and Vigilance can be very grindy and give us games in some matchups.

Demigod of Revenge: Bloodghast isn't the only creature that can return from the grave! Demigod can pull out quick wins if you get them in your graveyard with cards like Collective Brutality and Lilliana of the Veil. This card is usually run in a playset to ensure maximum effectiveness.

Haunting Echoes: The super Extirpate, only really viable against control/combo and at that it's not even the best.

Gray Merchant of Asphodel: The 'big daddy' of mono-black, Gary makes all the cards you play give you a huge benefit, also, since it doesn't "target" you can get around card like leyline for a win.

Shriekmaw: It's decent, and can see some play.

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Grave Titan: Another possible finisher although I don't think it will be needed.

Wurmcoil Engine: Same as above.

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Gurmag Angler: While I can't say I run it over Tombstalker, this card has seen some play in some Mono-black Builds.

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Tombstalker- Very good in decks abusing smallpox, and can even be used in regular versions of the deck. This will usually be a 5/5 for only . 2-3 copies should be run, if you're using it.

Distended Mindbender: A card that can see play as a one-of in some builds, Mindbender is a great way to screw over control decks since even if they counter the cast trigger occurs. The cost for this card is usually pretty low, as you normally only pay 3-4 mana to get it out.

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GOOD MATCHUPS: Any deck that relies on creatures, such as aggro and Midrange decks.

FAIR MATCHUPS:Combo decks and Some midrange decks fall into this category, as well as some control builds.

POOR MATCHUPS: Tron, Lantern Control, Scapeshift/titanshift some of the UWx builds. Also, any graveyard build you can't interact with.

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Going Black-Green gives you access to cards like Tarmogoyf, Grim Flayer, Abrupt Decay, Maelstrom Pulse, Kitchen Finks that fixes mono black's weakness to noncreature based combo decks that it sometimes can't race like Ad Nausseum, as well as burn.

Going Black-Red gives you a more aggressive approach, allowing you to play cards like Kolaghan's Command, Terminate, Lightning Bolt.

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If you have suggestions or like this primer, PLEASE give it an upvote and/or leave a comment! I always like hearing constructive feedback on deckbuilding.

If you want to look at the other primers in this series, make sure to check out my profile @TeamSDBags for a collection of brews and builds!

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hamiam says... #1


September 12, 2016 10:04 p.m.

saturn999 says... #5

This is great! +1

February 12, 2017 1:37 a.m.

Pyromancer999 says... #6

FATAL PUSH but otherwise +1, good work my man!

February 15, 2017 10:10 p.m.

TeamSDBags says... #7


Thanks for the +1!

Fatal Push is already in the 1-drop section.

February 16, 2017 1:40 a.m.

Pyromancer999 says... #8

My bad man sorry

February 16, 2017 6:17 a.m.

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Compare to inventory
Date added 6 months
Last updated 2 days

This deck is Modern legal.

Cards 60
Avg. CMC 2.61
Tokens 2/2 Zombie
Folders possible deck creations, Favoritter, Mono Black
Top rank #10 on 2016-09-16
Based on
Views 2229

Revision 7 (1 week ago)

-2 Nihil Spellbomb side
+2 Flaying Tendrils side
-1 Gray Merchant of Asphodel maybe
-1 Nantuko Shade maybe
-1 Geralf's Messenger maybe
-1 Sangromancer maybe
-1 Liliana's Specter maybe
-1 Phyrexian Arena maybe
-1 Flaying Tendrils maybe
-1 Tormod's Crypt maybe
-1 Sign in Blood maybe
-1 Waste Not maybe
-1 Voldaren Pariah  Flip maybe
-1 Dragon's Claw maybe
-1 Despoiler of Souls maybe
-1 Bile Blight maybe
-1 Dark Confidant maybe
-1 Ratchet Bomb maybe
-1 Disfigure maybe

See all