Players have been clamoring for the return of Mono-Black Control since Torment. Thanks to solid removal, Nantuko Shade, and cards like Mutilate and Cabal Coffers to reward you for playing a bunch of Swamps, Mono-Black was viable and strong. Every new set, you see members of the community predicting a comeback for MBC thanks to some new card entering the format, but it doesn’t pan out very often. But now, mono-black decks have been putting up 5-0 results every day on MTGO as the decks continue to get more and more tuned.
One of the most interesting deck building decisions when it comes to Mono-Black Control is in the mana base. While Cabal Stronghold is a powerful card that can provide a nice boost in your mana, it only occurs when you have lots of lands in play already. Having to restrict your mana base to all Swamps (you can include some Field of Ruins if you want) in order to maximize your Stronghold comes at a cost, as there are some powerful lands in Standard right now. The need to have a little extra mana when you’ve already got a bunch in play isn’t always relevant, so this list instead utilizes the power of Memorial to Folly to get back your creatures, Ifnir Deadlands to kill theirs, and Scavenger Grounds to disrupt a number of strategies.
This lack of all Swamps and Cabal Stronghold has also reduced the number of Dread Shades from the stock lists. A 3/3 for 3 that pumps for 1 mana is still solid, but you don’t need it as much with all of the value creatures you are playing to combo with Memorial to Folly.
The Memorials allow you to get extra value out of are already value-packed creatures. Gonti, Lord of Luxury‘s deathtouch lets it act as a removal spell for creatures on the ground while providing some card advantage by taking a card out of your opponent’s library. Noxious Gearhulk, on the other hand, is clearly a removal spell. It’s big, tough to block, and gains you some life to win the races.
Gifted Aetherborn is a great addition as a decent creature against control and a great threat against aggro. Trading for a bigger creature while gaining some life, Aetherborn is also just hard to block against controlling strategies. The extra life buffer gives you the time and resources to utilize your late-game spells.
Walking Ballista would really love that extra mana from Cabal Stronghold, still, the ability to rebuy a removal spell in the late game with Memorial is quite nice. An early play that’s good late is what makes Walking Ballista one of the best and most played cards in Standard.
Black’s removal suite is ridiculous and has a great ability to scale. Fatal Push is a great tempo play to keep early pressure off your back. You don’t have many ways to trigger revolt, but Ballista, Deserts, and Memorial can help. Cast Down gives you access to the new Doom Blade, and at 3, you have Never // Return as a way to remove any problematic creature or planeswalker threat. Vraska’s Contempt also gives you an instant-speed, exiling removal spell with some life on the side.
Doomfall is going to be strong in slow down formats as a way to exile a big threat or attack the opponent’s hand. With so much other cheap removal, you also can kill all the small creatures and still hit what you really want with Doomfall.
Your late game depends on spells that are tough to interact with. Liliana, Death’s Majesty can provide an army all by herself or start returning some of the powerful creatures you’re playing. Getting Noxious Gearhulk after Noxious Gearhulk is a reality here, and a sequence that many other decks can’t deal with. Arguel’s Blood Fast gives you a nice stream of card advantage in exchange for some life points. You have a handful of ways to gain life to offset this, but it’s really going to shine in slower matchups. You can also flip the Blood Fast and sacrifice creatures, gain some life, and then bring them back for more value with Memorials and Liliana.
Mono-Black Control is definitely back, the only question is how you want to go about utilizing these powerful creatures and removal?