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Merchant of Death (Modern Mono-Black)

Modern Deathtouch Devotion Lifelink Mono-Black



This was always my favorite deck to play, but after recently getting some good advice, I feel like I've really put it in a place to get competitive with it.

Early Game:

Mid Game:

  • Your mid-game is primarily about winning the aggro battle with a combination of Dauthi Voidwalker, Nighthawk Scavenger and Phyrexian Obliterator. Your early Knight of the Ebon Legion has two different ways to self-buff, so they add some value here as well. You also continue your theme of disruption with the Voidwalker's fantastic ability and my favorite two-fer in Murderous Rider who can take out troublesome Planeswalkers as well.

  • Very often your aggro game can win out for you if you've sufficiently disrupted your opponent's early game, aided by Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose (your main deck already has 11 creatures with Lifelink plus the three Gary's) and the very efficient Unearth. To help out a little with your draw, you've got Erebos, God of the Dead and a pair of Castle Lochthwain.

  • One point does need to be made about the anti-synergy of two important cards in this deck, Dauthi Voidwalker and Nighthawk Scavenger. The two seem to work at cross purposes, with the Voidwalker occasionally limiting the Scavenger's potential power. This is true, but in testing thus far it works out more like an imperfection than an outright flaw. I considered moving the Voidwalkers to the sideboard (replacing them with 3x Relentless Dead) and bringing them out as graveyard hate, but the truth is there is just no other 2-drop in mono-black that is anywhere near as effective. For 2 mana, the card deals a not inconsiderable amount of (almost) unblockable damage, wrecks many graveyard strategies, forces your opponent to use removal they'd probably prefer to hold for something else, can potentially slow down their early game, builds quality Devotion and occasionally let's you use some of your Discard spells to really whack your foe with their own tricks (so INCREDIBLY satisfying). There really is no point in pulling out the Scavengers either unless you'd rather have the guarantee of Vampire Nighthawk with a much lower ceiling.

Late Game:

  • Your usual finisher is a traditional big Gray Merchant of Asphodel. You don't want to rely on it as your opponent can usually see it coming a mile away - the truth is that the real value it often brings is the mere threat of it. You can take advantage of your opponent keeping resources handy for dealing with its inevitability to get in under the wire with your aggro game. If you do manage to get it off, you'll win 9 times out of 10.

Notes about Land:

  • The deck currently runs Castle Locthwain, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth for obvious reasons. I've also included a set of Marsh Flats and either 1 or 2 Blood Crypt. Most of the time, the Flats serve the twin purpose of thinning the deck out a little bit and maximizing the effectiveness of my Fatal Push but they also let me go and get the Blood Crypt which is useful once the sideboard comes into play (see below). If you are trying to build this deck on a little bit of a budget, you can probably do without all but the Castle Locthwain and be fine.

  • Ghost Quarter is obviously a great card and land destruction could help this deck, but with so much black mana in your casting cost, it's unfortunately impractical and inefficient in this set-up. I thought about putting some in the sideboard (Surgical Extraction can target non-basic lands, wrecking Tron strategies, among others), but Blood Moon is just too strong. Some other budget options there might be Ruination or Crumble to Dust, though both have a CMC of 4.


  • So first off, there's a bit of a trick lurking in the sideboard. On advice from wallisface, I've got some backdoor Blood Moons hiding out which is the reason for the aforementioned Blood Crypt in the main deck and the Marsh Flats to go and get it (using B/W fetch lands as a sort of a misdirect). My other favorite deck is a take on R/G Ponza, so from experience I can tell you that Blood Moon can absolutely hose a wide swath of deck strategies.

  • Combo decks can be a bad match-up for mono-black, with any number of artifacts and enchantments proving frustrating and difficult to deal with. To shut that crap down, we lean more heavily into our hand disruption with a fourth Thoughtseize, a fourth Inquisition of Kozilek and a full set of Surgical Extraction (or Extirpate if you are on a budget). That is an absolutely brutal gauntlet for any combo deck to run. On more than one occasion I've sideboarded these cards in and been on the play - I watched my opponent mulligan down to the ideal hand then opened with a Swamp, a Thoughtseize or Inquisition of Kozilek and burned two life to cast Surgical Extraction, clearing their deck of whatever crucial piece they had mulliganned for... only to have them turn around and scoop without playing a single card. That's a first turn, opening-turn win, my friend.

  • Additionally I've included 3x Cry of the Carnarium to help deal with spirits, elves, humans, zombies, etc. (almost everything in your deck has a Toughness of 3 or more), Tymaret, Chosen from Death for a little more life gain and graveyard hate (while providing a good blocker and helping out with Devotion) and a fourth Murderous Rider in case I need a little more removal, especially against Planeswalkers.

  • Tourach, Dread Cantor and Ashiok, Dream Render are situational 1-of adds that just let you tweak your deck a little without making a huge impact on play style.

Random Thoughts:

  • For a long time I ran this deck with the oft-maligned Sign in Blood, taking advantage of its card draw and every now and then using it as a finisher against a foe who was down to 1 or 2 life. I felt like it did a good job smoothing things out for me in the mid-game, but Unearth was too good a card to pass on, so Sign in Blood was out. Still worth considering though, imo, as is Village Rites which works a little differently, but can be very effective.

  • Some more budget options to consider would be replacing Duress for Thoughtseize and skipping the whole Blood Moon subplot, replacing 1x Blood Crypt, 4x Marsh Flats and the Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth with just basic Swamps. If you do that then you're going to want to find some Ghost Quarters because this deck is very weak on the land-destruction front. Vampire Nighthawk is a little cheaper than Nighthawk Scavenger and you don't have to worry about your lack of synergy with the Voidwalkers. There's no getting away from the Obliterators, I'm afraid, but as mentioned Extirpate is a solid swap for Surgical Extraction. Maybe I'll build the budget version of this deck and link it later, for those who want to give it a go.

  • There are a number of other cards that have made brief appearances in this deck and may again for various reasons. Withered Wretch is good graveyard hate, provides a body and builds Devotion, Ayara, First of Locthwain and Tourach, Dread Cantor are both fantastic legendaries just begging for a 1-of to be dropped into the deck. Consume Spirit and Collective Brutality can be good options and Defile can be potent mid-game removal on the cheap. I've kicked around the idea of including a Bad Moon - it gets almost all of your creatures out of bolt-able range and nudges your Obliterators out of the reach of Dismember, so that's something. Opposition Agent is a card I haven't played with yet, but I see it as an intriguing sideboard option in some metas. I don't see any of the Liliana's as being an ideal fit for this deck, but honestly, how often does any mono-black deck actually get worse with the addition of Liliana?

Anyway, that's the deck as it is now. I'll check back in later if I make any changes to it and to let you know how it does.

(Thanks to sergiodelrio and GeminiSpartanX as well as wallisface for offering their insights.)


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25% Casual

75% Competitive

Top Ranked
  • Achieved #2 position overall 1 year ago
  • Achieved #1 position in Modern 1 year ago
Date added 1 year
Last updated 4 weeks

This deck is Modern legal.

Rarity (main - side)

4 - 1 Mythic Rares

30 - 9 Rares

15 - 5 Uncommons

2 - 0 Commons

Cards 60
Avg. CMC 2.26
Tokens Zombie 2/2 B
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