Mono Black Knights at MagicFest Online Weekly Championship 1

Raphael Levy

Raphael Levy

Introduction

It all started after the painful realization that I wasn’t winning a single match with any of Tier 1 decks anymore. Jeskai Fires, Rakdos Sacrifice, Mono Red… Nothing seemed to work for me. Add to that the fact that I overdosed on Standard (I’ve been playing it non-stop since the beginning of February) and you can have an idea of how unmotivated I was with the first MagicFest Online Weekly Championship played on MTG Arena on the weekend of the 28th of March.

With the confinement in vigor for the last two weeks, it’s also been hard to find time for activities outside of streaming or taking care of things at home. Testing Standard was also very low in my list of priorities.

Trying to Find Something New: Mono Black Aggro

Aether Gust

If I had to play, might as well play something new or something different. I had built a few decks, none of them very competitive: Adventures with 《Fires of Invention》, Mono White Aggro, Mono Black Aggro. What I liked about the latter two was that with the amount of main deck 《Aether Gust》 decks were playing nowadays, they could be in a good spot in the current metagame. Mono Black had the extra advantage to have a strong sideboard against pretty much everything.

This is the deck I played at the Weekly Championship:

Decklist

Before we go further into details:

The above list was submitted without much testing, in a rush (I had one minute to spare before getting a penalty for late submission) and I realized what the deck was missing as I was playing the rounds of the tournament.

Raphael Levy_Mono Black

(Click to Enlarge)

Why I Thought the Deck Had Potential

Knight of the Ebon Legion

The problem was, it was hard to find a home for all these cards to be together. 《Knight of the Ebon Legion》 is excellent when you can play it on turn one, curve other creatures and pump it on turn three. That means you can’t really play it in a two color deck where you’ll have to find an untapped source of black on turn one, and be able to play your cards without worrying about your mana.

Spawn of Mayhem

《Spawn of Mayhem》 meets the exact same requirement. It needs aggressive creatures to connect before turn three so you can use its Spectacle cost. The demon hits hard, doesn’t die to 《Deafening Clarion》, can’t be stolen by 《Claim the Firstborn》.

Leyline of the Void

《Leyline of the Void》 alongside an aggressive deck can completely shut down some of this format’s strategies as long as you can close games quickly while your opponent is trying to find an answer.

Duress

I talked about how miserable discard spells felt in Rakdos Sacrifice in my previous article. You don’t want to waste your turn looking at your opponent’s hand just to find out that they’ll have a replacement card for whatever you discard. That statement is widely different when you already have pressure on the board. Play 《Gutterbones》, 《Knight of the Ebon Legion》 on the first two turns, and 《Duress》 your opponent’s sweeper on turn three. That’s a winning strategy. The other upside of 《Duress》 in Mono Black is that you can cast it on turn one to plan out your next turns. Something you’re not able to do when you have to play your Temples or 《Fabled Passage》s on the first turns to fix your mana.

The Core

The deck is basically:

Main Deck

Gutterbones

4

Knight of the Ebon Legion

4


Spawn of Mayhem

4

Rankle, Master of Pranks

3

Sideboard

Duress

4

Leyline of the Void

4

Noxious Grasp

3

Everything else is part of the support cast.

Other Support Cards

Foulmire KnightBlacklance ParagonMidnight Reaper

For this first version, I decided to have a Knight subtheme and used 《Foulmire Knight》, 《Blacklance Paragon》, 《Order of Midnight》, 《Midnight Reaper》 and 《Murderous Rider》 in addition to a few cute Legends in 《Tymaret, Chosen from Death》 and 《Ayara, First of Locthwain》.

Epic Downfall

The biggest mistake I made was to cut 《Epic Downfall》 at the last minute (remember I submitted the list with a minute to spare). I should have had 4 in the 75 instead of zero. My plan to beat Rakdos with only 《Murderous Rider》 to deal with 《Mayhem Devil》 and 《Midnight Reaper》 was completely flawed and I regret it. The Mono Red matchup could actually be fine with 《Epic Downfall》, but with none, it’s close to unwinnable.

MagicFest Online Weekly Championship 1 Report

So I played the tournament with a suboptimal version. I streamed the event on Twitch and you can watch all the games on my Twitch channnel here.

Day 1

Round Opponent Result
Round 1 Simic Flash 2-1 (W)
Round 2 Mono Red 0-2 (L)
Round 3 Rakdos Sacrifice 2-0 (W)
Round 4 Jeskai Fires 1-2 (L)
Round 5 Rakdos Sacrifice 1-2 (L)
Round 6 Temur Reclamation 2-1 (W)
Round 7 Temur Reclamation 2-1 (W)
Round 8 Bant Ramp 2-0 (W)

Total Score: 5-3

Day 2

Round Opponent Result
Round 9 Temur Reclamation 0-2 (L)
Round 10 Rakdos Sacrifice 1-2 (L)
Round 11 Bant Ramp 2-1 (W)
Round 12 Rakdos Sacrifice 0-2 (L)

Total Score: 6-6 Drop

A day 2 finish and a 6-6 record isn’t exactly a tournament to be proud about. However, the deck performed OK considering the list was far from optimal and that I lost a big majority of the die rolls. I would have won most of the games if I was on the play, but that’s also something to keep in mind for the future, this deck has a huge advantage on the play.

How Do We Move on from There?

As I was playing the rounds I could see how this deck could be improved (something you usually do in test matches, but hey, didn’t have time for those). First of all, the Knight package was not good enough. I was happy with 《Blacklance Paragon》 as it’s a three-power creature and 《Murderous Rider》 because it’s just a good card. 《Midnight Reaper》 didn’t do as much as I expected, but I guess it’s normal since we don’t sacrifice our own creatures. The Adventure Knights were just underwhelming.

Here’s what I should have played:

Updated List

Important Changes

Fires of InventionDuressEmbercleave

《Duress》 is so important to battle Jeskai Fires and Temur Reclamation in game one. There are actually very few decks 《Duress》 isn’t good against. It’s even efficient against Mono Red that holds 《Embercleave》 for a while before they play it. The deck now looks like a black from the past, a good old Mono Black midrange from the early 2000’s.

Knight of the Ebon LegionBlacklance Paragon

The real problem this deck has is with its fillers. 《Blacklance Paragon》 is the only three-power creature for two mana. The other cheap black drops are just not impactful enough. 《Knight of the Ebon Legion》 is the only card that can “snowball” if left unchecked. Black needs another creature like the Knight or some kind of 《Robber of the Rich》es to truly be scary.

Stonecoil Serpent

In the meantime, the best alternative doesn’t come from black but from an artifact: 《Stonecoil Serpent》. We need a cheap creature to make sure we can cast 《Spawn of Mayhem》 on turn three, but also something that will have a bigger impact on the board on turn four to seven. 《Foulmire Knight》 just didn’t do enough.

Deafening ClarionTeferi, Time RavelerUro, Titan of Nature's WrathDream Trawler

《Stonecoil Serpent》 turns out to be really good against 《Deafening Clarion》 and 《Teferi, Time Raveler》. Bant decks will only have 《Shatter the Sky》 to get rid of it. They won’t even be able to block it with 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》 or 《Dream Trawler》. It has some nice synergy with 《Midnight Reaper》 as well as you can decide to cycle it on turn three (play it for 0) if you’re looking for a fourth land to follow up with Rankle.

Conclusion

This deck is definitely not a Tier 1 deck, but it has a lot of potential. With the release of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths around the corner, keep an eye out for cheap black creatures that would turn this fringe deck into a Tier 1 deck!

Raph (Twitter / Twitch)

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Raphael Levy

Raphael Levy Raphael Levy is a veteran player from France. His Pro Tour debut was 1997 and he is unstoppable since then. He played 91 Pro Tours continuously and became the very first player who reaches plying 100 Pro Tours at 2019 Mythic Championship I. During the long career he also achieved so many great results like 3 PT Top 8, 23 GP Top 8 with 6 wins, and won World Magic Cup 2013 as a French captain. He was elected Pro Tour Hall of Fame at 2006 and earned over 750 Pro Points. Read more articles by Raphael Levy