The Best Mono Black Control

Welcome back, everyone. Last weekend, I traveled to Baltimore to compete in the SCG team event. I ended up playing Standard and played Bant Superfriends. I really enjoyed the deck and the tournament itself, and it’s always fun hanging out with friends at MTG events. That’s one of the biggest reasons why I love Magic; Traveling and playing together with friends is great. It’s fun to win together and, even if you lose, you still get to hang out together for the weekend. We ended up going 6-3 on Day One, narrowly missing Day Two at the cut off, 6-2-1. That meant I got to play in the SCG Standard Classic. Now, I don’t get to travel as much these days being a father and all, so while I did enjoy the Bant deck, I wanted to try another deck that I had been tinkering with, Mono-Black Control. A deck that revolved around Cabal Stronghold, trying to get to the mid- to late game where the land would really shine. It’s a fun and powerful deck, one I was itching to play. Sadly, I lost my win and in to Zan Syed who ended up taking the whole event down with his {B}{W} Aggro deck. Our match was insanely close, but he ended up drawing a bit better at the end. Congrats to him on his first-place finish!

I think Mono-Black is the real deal, and this is the Mono-Black deck I would play in Standard.


I was originally running 26 lands, but I ran into the issue of just missing land drops and I don’t want to miss land drops with a Cabal Stronghold deck. So, I’ve upped the count to 27 to ensure we are making land drops. The deck just tries to stay alive and produce card advantage as it gets to the mid-late game where you can start generating tons of mana and take over the game. While Torment of Hailfire is a fun and powerful card, I’ve moved it to the sideboard as the meta shifts toward more aggressive decks. Don’t worry. You still have plenty of cards to sink your mana into. Dread Shade, Walking Ballista, Arguel’s Blood Fast, and even Battle at the Bridge are all excellent cards to pump your Cabal Stronghold mana into. I like having one Mastermind’s Acquisition main deck to get Torment of Hailfire if I want it out of the sideboard or to just get something more useful if I’m nowhere near casting Torment of Hailfire for lethal.

Josu Vess and Torment of Hailfire

Josu Vess, Lich Knight
Torment of Hailfire

People are torn between these two cards. They aren’t sure which is better as the X spell for when you are generating a massive amount of mana with Cabal Stronghold. My reasoning for playing Torment of Hailfire over Josu Vess, Lich Knight is because it just kills them whereas Josu Vess doesn’t. Josu let’s them untap and see another card to see if they can deal with him and his army of knights. Josu can be Settle the Wreckaged and, heaven forbid, Fumigated. Torment of Hailfire can’t be. Essence Scatter is also more commonly played than Negate, especially after sideboarding. Most of the time, you are killing your opponent Game 1 with massive Walking Ballistas and Dread Shades. Then games two and three you can get around Essence Scatter by just Torment of Hailfiring them.

Standard is Luxurious

Gonti, Lord of Luxury

And Gonti loves it! Every deck has powerhouse cards like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Lyra Dawnbringer, Karn, Scion of Urza, History of Benalia, Walking Ballista, The Scarab God, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Search for Azcanta, Jadelight Ranger, and more. Gonti is always finding you a powerful card. Even against Mono-Red decks he will most likely find you a cheap removal spell like a Shock, Magma Spray, Abrade, or Lightning Strike. Not only will the Red decks have to maneuver around him, but they’ll also have to deal with whatever removal spell you found. I was originally just running two Gontis main deck and one in the sideboard, but I found I was just bringing him in every matchup. Now I just run three Gontis main deck.

Karn is Back

Karn, Scion of Urza

And he’s better than ever. Karn is such a value machine. He does everything! Both of Karn’s abilities net card advantage and his minus gives you a sizeable artifact creature as the game goes on. He even has a large starting loyalty. Karn’s construct token plays well with other construct tokens obviously but they are also become huge when you flip Treasure Map into Treasure Cove and get yourself some treasure tokens. Keep in mind, if your opponent is playing Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, you should probably make a construct token so, if your opponent untaps and plays Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and tucks your card into your deck, you’ll be able to at least kill Teferi with the Construct token. Karn is an extremely powerful tool. All his abilities generate advantage, so learn how to use them correctly in each matchup.

The Sideboard

I know sideboarding is difficult, so I’ll help you out. When sideboarding with Mono-Black Control, these are the cards that can be cut for Sideboard cards. Everything else should remain in your main deck.

I personally wouldn’t cut Mastermind’s Acquisition against anything but a hyper aggressive deck since it’s so versatile. Gifted Aetherborn, Fatal Push, and Battle at the Bridge all come out against control decks. Vraska’s Contempt is good enough at dealing with their random creatures or planeswalkers. Against aggressive decks shave on Treasure Maps and Arguel’s Blood Fast. I like always leaving in at least one Treasure Map for card advantage and synergy with Karn, Scion of Urza. Against Aggressive decks, Karn, Treasure Map, and Arch of Orazca are enough to generate card advantage in the matchup.

So, for example, this is how I would Sideboard against a control deck with a small amount of creatures.

Against decks playing The Scarab God, I’d bring in two or even three Phyrexian Scriptures to remove Glint-Sleeve Siphoners and exile their graveyard.

Obviously, against Red you just shave the Blood Fasts and a couple of Treasure Maps for Golden Demise, Moment of Craving, and Battle at the Bridge.

Things get interesting when you play against a midrange deck with Karn or bigger threats, like Lyra. For example, let’s look at Zan Syed’s winning decklist from the SCG Classic.


During Game 1, I wasn’t sure how aggressive Zan Syed’s deck was, but by Game 3, I was able to adapt correctly and sideboard against him. In Game 1 he was aggressive with Toolcraft Exemplar, Knight of Malice, and Scrapheap Scrounger. However, when I played Gonti, I saw a Lyra and knew he could become more controlling after sideboarding if he wanted to. So, I sideboarded like this against this type of hybrid deck.

(I didn’t have Golden Demise in my Sideboard for that event. I would’ve brought them in instead of some of the Phyrexian Scriptures.)

I realized that Phyrexian Scriptures would be an excellent counter play to his History of Benalia if I played it right after he played History of Benalia. This would leave him with no knight tokens. It would also kill any random big creatures he had like the Lyra I saw or even an Angel of Sanctions. I still needed ways to produce card advantage in this matchup because he had planeswalkers of his own and most likely a Treasure Map in his deck somewhere since it plays so well with Karn, Scion of Urza.

Dread Shade is a fine card in the matchup, but it’s a liability when he has Cast Outs and Angel of Sanctions. Walking Ballista is a much safer option since it kills Toolcraft Exemplar and Knight of Malice early while just killing him and everything else he plays late game. Walking Ballista also avoids all removal since you can just shoot your opponent in the face in response to them trying to kill it.

I feel like I lost to Zan Syed in Game 3 because he was able to draw his card advantage spells like Karn, Angel of Sanctions, and Treasure Map while I drew none of my own card advantage spells/planeswalkers. Even though I didn’t draw any Maps, Blood Fasts, or Karns, the game was still insanely close until Karn enabled him to play double History of Benalia in one turn.

All that being said, Zan Syed is a great player that I’ve had the pleasure to play against him over the years. He played the matchup very well and had a deck that he tuned to what looks like perfection. He was the only opponent throughout the entire day where I felt like his deck was playing on a different level than all my other opponents. Big kudos to him and his well-deserved victory. Hopefully, he can mimic that victory in a larger event soon.

The version of Mono-Black Control I talked about today is more tuned than the one I played in the classic. The deck is the real deal and is rewarding when played correctly. It’s also blast to just tap Cabal Stronghold for a buttload of mana and empty it into your spells or creatures. I recommend getting Unglued or Unstable Swamps for Mono-Black Control deck. Win in style!

Well ladies and gentlemen, that’s the brew I’ve been working on. Next I’ll try to continue working on Bant Superfriends or revive Mastermind Ramp. I still must find a home for Tatyova, Benthic Druid, Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering, and Thran Temporal Gateway. Domanaria is truly an amazing set and a brewer’s paradise!

As always, thank you for reading and make sure to follow my twitch channel if you want to see me work on my brews live.

Until next time,

Ali Aintrazi
Follow me @AliEldrazi
Twitch Channel
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