I love the way these mono-black decks seem to shift day to day and week to week. We’ve seen success out of more midrange shells, decks with tons of utility lands, and pure control. Today’s list is as controlling as I’ve seen from these shells and focuses on the all Swamp mana base (plus Field of Ruins to get Swamps) to take advantage of the big mana potential of Cabal Stronghold.
The only creature in this deck is a singleton copy of Josu Vess, Lich Knight, and the plan is to almost never cast this creature without the kicker. Once kicked, the game is over versus virtually every deck. You can use discard to clear the way of counters and sweepers against decks that run it, but against most opponents you’re just going to kill them once you untap with your Zombie Knight army.
Karn, Scion of Urza is your only other way to get creatures onto the battlefield, but that’s not plan A either. Karn is a card advantage machine and works well in this deck specifically. The thing about Karn is that the opponent will almost give you a land, and it just so happens that this deck loves that. Every land is great and you would be thrilled to hit your land drop every turn of every game. Should you find a key spell, you can always tick down and keep it, and the ability to make Constructs in a pinch is a nice back-up option.
Your main win condition comes from Torment of Hailfire. In a deck capable of producing absurd amounts of mana and already wanting to hit all of its land drops, Torment is great. Even when it isn’t lethal, it should wipe their board and hand to leave them at your mercy.
Mastermind’s Acquisition is typically a way to play fewer win conditions in the main deck since you’ll always have the ability to tutor them up, but that’s not what this deck is about. There isn’t much to get from the sideboard and this will just be a Diabolic Tutor the majority of the time. Get an Arguel’s Blood Fast to take over the game, a Duress to clear the way, or a Dispossess/Lost Legacy in the right matchup—you’re likely tutoring the old-fashioned way here.
Thaumatic Compass gives you another way to keep hitting your land drops while giving you a clean answer to the opponent’s biggest creature in the mid-to-late stages of the game. You may want to get an extra land before you opt to flip your Compass as this deck has some choices when it comes to dealing with creatures.
The great thing about black is how insane and deep the removal spells are. Fatal Push gives you a way to keep up on tempo while Cast Down can take out some of the most problematic creatures like Glorybringer. Vraska’s Contempt can clean up any mess at instant speed while giving you answers to their planeswalker. Never // Return functions as a reasonably priced removal spell and gives you a way to interact with the graveyard—an important quality in Standard.
You have tons of extra removal where that came from, but these bring you some extra uses. Doomfall can exile a creature with the option to use it as a discard spell in control matchups. Matthew Foulkes’ love affair with The Eldest Reborn is no secret, but many of these Mono-Black Control decks feature three or more copies in the main. As a way to deal with creatures/planeswalkers and get some card advantage, not to mention a threat to win the game, it’s no surprise this is picking up in popularity.
Mono-Black Control is the deck so many members of the community have been hoping to see return ever since Mutilate rotated out. It’s definitely back and a real powerhouse!