Spite Beats Tier One Decks in Arena
Mono-Black Control in Standard
So, I am a fairly casual player. I like building decks on Arena and trying out new ideas without regard for actual win statistics (usually). On occasion, I find an idea that (sort of) works. Lately, I have been testing out some new concepts in creatureless design due to a preponderance of very efficient creatures in Standard. The main problem with creatureless decks is how to beat your opponent. You must have a win condition of some kind, right?
The idea was (and is) to build a spiteful, mean deck that doesn’t win all the time but can maintain a decent win percentage most often spoiling the "tier" decks. For this, the goal is to take advantage of the metagame and absolutely hate on the major archetypes. To this end, I present Spite: A Mono-Black Control Vessel.
x2 Go Blank
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As you can see, this list is designed to straightup remove stuff. Being mono-black, it has a slight weakness against artifacts and enchantments, but the sideboard has a few answers for the latter. There are few worrisome artifacts out there except Cosmos Elixir and a few equipment cards.
Due to the card advantage provided by each of the Tier one decks, the sideboard needs to address them. The main deck must reflect the importance of breaking cycles and not being countered at inappropriate times. Varying discard strategies should counteract a good deal of these effects as there are few counterspells used in standard (excepting Dimir Mill). The obvious choice is Duress , which is utterly useless against Winota. I usually opt for Specter’s Shriek which is painful to use against most decks including Winota, so, most likely Duress . will be my sideboard option perhaps in place of Cling to Dust.
Winota suffers greatly from the removal in this deck but despite that it still only about a 50%-win rate in the first game, follow-on games lean more towards 60%. Not great, but the best I can do, Winota's a fast deck with great removal and control factors.
Gruul aggro has big hasty creatures and can cause a good deal of early damage. Esika’s Chariot is an annoying artifact that usually poops out an extra token and thus at best is a 1-for-3…unless it is removed via discard/hand expulsion!
Mono-green doesn’t like all the removal either, but some cards are harder to remove than others. Gemrazer eats my artifacts and enchantments (not a big deal as when it dies, I usually get a 2-for-2). Questing Beast’s haste makes it annoying, and the Henge is also hard to remove if it manages to get out. Again, the best answer for Henge is discard.
As far as Temur, I have only seen this deck a couple of times, but the key cards to beat are Koma, which is very hard to remove once it’s out and (again) Esika’s Chariot, a problem identified in Gruul aggro. The best solutions are discard, but Flunk has worked pretty well too.
Dimir mill: This is a tough cookie. The creatures are usually easy to control, but the flash nature of most of them is a bit harder to overcome. Targets for my discard are Into the Story and Drown in the Loch as these have the most impact on card advantage (Story by drawing four cards for four mana and Drown which usually counters a board wipe).
Sultai Ultimatum is a beast. There are so many card-advantage cards here it is hard to maintain proper board state. The idea is to control which creatures hit the board. Kiora Bests the Sea God, Vorinclex, and Alrund’s Epiphany are all hard to deal with especially if Ultimatum hits them, but I have survived three Ultimatums in a game due to spot removal and on one occasion, a timely Extinction Event top deck. Once the third Ultimatum went off and the guy fetched a Blood on the Snow (which netted nothing thanks to graveyard removal), letting me know that there were no more threats in the deck, at which point he conceded.
A couple of things to remember - First thing: Duress and Check for Traps can’t stop a late-game top-deck, but Necromentia can! Second: The goal is to maintain board state until control is established, so it’s okay to hold that Tergrid’s Lantern in your hand for a few turns!
While this deck has not been super-consistent, especially with regards to land draws - I have had far too many games with three lands until turn five or six! – It has been consistently holding on for at least six turns before turning south and I have won a number of games at one or two life (against mono-red no less and once against Winota!).
There are few creatures available, so blocking is usually not an option, most opposing removal are dead cards, Doomskars, Extinction Events, Bloodchief’s Thirst, etc. are very dead cards! Brazen Borrower does not work against the man-lands at all and thus barely registers as a threat.
I have been on-and-off playtesting some incarnation of this deck for about five months and the success seems to be pretty consistent. In addition to the tier decks, I’ve run into a couple of one-off decks such as creatureless enchantment-based decks, an Abzan spellcraft deck, and a lot of variants of the ‘free’ decks (the decks that come with Arena), I will jump into this season with relish and see how MBC fares in best-of-three. Once Innistrad: Midnight Hunt is released, I will revamp it and try again.
Upcoming Set Rotation - Innistrad: Midnight Hunt
Replacing some of the cards in the old deck are going to be challenging to say the least. Extinction Event is a tough one, though Sphere of Annihilation (and now The Meathook Massacre) is a decent choice. In one way it is better, for instance, turn three can remove the goblin swarm, but getting rid of Vorinclex for four was nice…
The biggest problem here is that the new metagame hasn't evolved yet, but there are some decks that have had some time to gel in the Standard 2022 mini format. When IMH drops, we'll get to see the potential for this style and I may have to adjust to get max impact.
Card draw: Castle Locthwain and Mazemind Tome are difficult replacements too. I can add Eye of Vecna for both card draw and interaction with The Book of Vile Darkness. The best add for the deck will be Infernal Grasp from the upcoming Innistrad set, both for removal and the ability to generate a token dude.
Discard: With the upcoming rotation, there is a reprint of Duress which doesn't really affect the deck at all as this was sideboard. In fact, there are a few other options that might be of interest in a control shell. Cards such as No Way Out and Ghoulish Procession makes for an interesting zombie token aspect.
The life gain loss that Mazemind Tome, Shadowspear, and Sanctum of Stone Fangs had is gonna hurt. That was what carried the deck occasionally. The replacement choices are few and far between: Curse of Leeches...uh that's about it.
I want to try out Lithoform Blight in the sideboard as an additional foil for man-lands. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Adding a Second Color
I am thinking to water the deck down with a little bit of blue. As there is no direct replacement for Necromentia (which is a bomb), Test of Talents may be my next best choice. This would also allow for Narfi and The Trickster-God’s Heist to be tested (great with the decayed mechanic!), Snow-covered Islands are pretty strong, but I’d prefer a new black option so I can try a couple of Faceless Havens instead of blue mana. Another wild choice is green, because I like Skeletal Swarming, that with Binding the Old Gods and Mortality Spear as well as mana ramp are all pretty good arguments for splashing it. There also might be some merit via life gain and card draw there as well. Another possibility in green is the Learn mechanic.
Here is the proposed post-rotation Mono-Black decklist:
3x Eye of Vecna
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We'll see how this fares after the launch. I will probably tinker with it a bit before I start trying to bash the new field. At worst it should beat up the aggro decks that will abound until control once again sets in. Bloodline Culling ought to blend in nicely...