Mono Black Control is one of Pauper’s most enduring archetypes. A midrange control deck, Mono Black Control (more commonly called MBC) is a versatile option that can be configured for nearly any metagame. That strength is also one of MBC’s greatest weaknesses as bringing the wrong suite of answers can leave the deck struggling to keep up with the opponent. Today I want to look at my current list for MBC but also some guiding principles for building the deck.
Mono Black Control is similar to Jund in other formats. It wants to play a light disruption game and value creatures, eventually ending the game with attacking or, more often, Gray Merchant of Asphodel. It leans on Phyrexian Rager to keep cards flowing and Chittering Rats to stunt the opponent’s development. While not mandatory, discard spells have become more prevalent in maindecks as a way to be proactive on the first turn of the game. The deck also has access to the Monarch through Thorn of the Black Rose and while it lacks the Fogs to defend it, MBC does have access to some of the best sweepers in Pauper – Crypt Rats and Pestilence.
Pauper Mono Black Control Deck List - Alex Ullman
This build is slanted towards controlling the early game. Between Pestilence, Thorn of the Black Rose, and Bonder’s Ornament, it has the tools to take over in the midgame against many of the non-Tron decks in the field.
Defile is a fantastic removal spell that is great early and great late. It is at its worst when you are land light but the addition of Cast Down makes it easier to justify running more copies of Defile. Alternatives include Disfigure and Tragic Slip.
Divest is a card that I was slower to adopt but it is fantastic. MBC can struggle if it falls behind on turn two against Bogles and Stompy. Divest being able to take a hexproof creature or Burning-Tree Emissary can buy MBC the time it needs to establish control of the game. Divest also can take Prophetic Prism or Bonder’s Ornament, or nab an artifact land. Alternatives include Duress.
Chainer’s Edict is a hallmark of MBC but running all four can be risky against decks that like to go wide. Cast Down is the best point-and-click removal spell in black and is a huge downshift form Double Masters. While Echoing Decay is a more popular inclusion, I’ve opted for a Suffocating Fumes maindeck since it can cycle in dead matchups. Oubliette is another catchall that has the advantage of adding two pips of devotion.
Pestilence is a powerful supplement to Chainer’s Edict as you can use the enchantment to pick off smaller creatures while leaving Edict to handle their larger threats. Pestilence also has the advantage of fueling devotion and being a burn spell. When using Pestilence it is often correct to take a hit and leave their creatures in play until the beginning of the end step, after Pesitlence’s trigger will have gone on the stack. Then you can commit your own threat and keep Pestilence alive.
Sign in Blood is about as close to a must-include as you can get in MBC. It’s a strong turn two play against non-aggressive strategies and is cheap enough to be able to double spell in a later turn. Sign in Blood also has the secret mode of dealing the final few points of damage to an opponent. Alternatives include Dusk Legion Zealot and Read the Bones
Cuombajj Witches gained maindeck popularity as a way to fuel devotion. It has stayed popular for its ability to pick off small threats. A solid blocker, a resolved Witches can almost single handedly dismantle a Spellstutter Sprite deck.
Phyrexian Rager and Chittering Rats are the core creatures of MBC. Rager is needed to keep your cards flowing while Chittering Rats is used to stunt your opponent’s development. When Chittering Rats is well positioned it is correct to run some number of Unearth to get extra uses out of the disruptive threat. When running Unearth, it makes sense to also run Crypt Rats as a board control option. I do not think Chittering Rats is at its best currently so instead I am running a Font of Return as a reload option. When discard and disruption are at their best, you can also run copies of Liliana’s Specter to supplement that line of attack. Sometimes you may even want Okiba-Gang Shinobi to really pressure their resources.
Thorn of the Black Rose is a silly Magic card. A free card every turn is exceptionally good in Pauper. Why only one? Bonder’s Ornament is another way to draw cards that has the advantage of jumping you a turn in mana development and rendering opponent’s Ornaments less useful.
Let’s talk about matchups.
You want to slam Monarch and try to keep up on cards here. Pestilence is amazing here as it can keep their board clear. This is an uphill battle for sure but you can win if you chain together a draw that is heavy on copies of Gray Merchant of Asphodel.
Their entire deck is based upon small flyers and you have plenty of tools to handle them.
Sideboarding here is highly dependent on them. You absolutely want to bring in Pestilence, Echoing Decay, and Cuombajj Witches to handle their Squadron Hawks and Battle Screech Tokens. You ideally do not want Chainer’s Edict unless they have Guardian of the Guildpact. You don’t want to bring in Thorn of the Black Rose unless you know they have Palace Sentinels. If that’s the case, you want to be the last person to play the Monarch so you keep the crown. Font of Return is your most expendable card.
You really want to keep your life total high and do what you can to keep their board contained. Chainer’s Edict isn’t fantastic here but is needed to take down Silhana Ledgewalker.
All you want to do is keep pace with their cards. You have enough removal to contain most of their threats – just remember to keep your life total high enough that Gray Merchant of Asphodel matters when drawn.
I do want to take some time to talk about facing Burn in detail. This is a nightmare matchup. The best you can hope for is to slam Thorn early and deny them any resources with discard. Side out Sign in Blood here as dealing any excess damage to yourself is a surefire way to end the game. You can overload the sideboard with cards like Moment of Craving or Banehound, but I would rather give up the burn matchup to increase the chances of winning other pairings.
One last note about the sideboard: I am opting not to run any land destruction. Choking Sands often gets brought in to attack Tron. Don’t fall for this trap. Tron is a tough matchup but taking your third turn off to blow up their land just gives them a chance to bring it back and gain six life with Pulse of Murasa. You best bet is force Tron to discard key pieces and chain Chittering Rats in Gray Merchant or Pestilence.
Mono Black Control is one of my favorite decks in Pauper and the possible builds are endless. Just be sure that if you’re planning on bringing this strategy to battle that you know what decks you’re trying to beat and plan accordingly.