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The Real Mono-Black Devotion (Modern)

Sometimes people say things like, “red is the new black,” meaning that some new thing is fashionable and cool in the same way that black is cool. But black is always black, and always great.

Johnny Cash wasn’t The Man in Green. AC/DC wasn’t Back in Chartreuse. And, if I recall correctly, it wasn’t the Men in Yellow that saved the Earth from aliens.

This is especially true when it comes to MTG. Black is the blade and everybody knows it.

I like to sift through the Other category on mtgtop8 to look for outside-the-box ideas. I’ve always thought that there was potential for some sort of mono-black strategy, but never invested much into working on it.

Until I found this:

Mono-Black Devotion

VICTOR, 3rd place at Modern Championship League 2

You can’t argue with results, and 3rd out of 72 is a strong showing that suggests a lot of promise. I wasn’t able to find the designer of the deck, but I get the sense that this particular list is unrefined, untuned, and possibly budget. The fact that it could roll a big tournament and looks like it can be improved says a lot to me.

The basic principle is straightforward enough: mono-black beatdown with a bunch of hard-to-kill creatures, great disruption, and quality removal. When you think about it, such a strategy dates all the way back to the early days of Magic.

“Old School Mono-Black.”

“New Guard Mono-Black.”

It always gets me excited to work on a deck when I can see the obvious roots that go all the way back through the history of the game. I’ve been playing since the early days, so I enjoy these touchstones.

The Rebuild

I wanted to stay with the overall theme and flavor of the deck, but maximize efficiency and power where I could. The first, obvious thing I noticed about the deck was that it didn’t play Fatal Push or fetchlands.

Mono-color fetchland mana bases are so revolting…

The small loss of life does matter in a deck like this, but the upside feels high. For starters, the deck doesn’t feature Fatal Push, which is arguably one of the best best black spells in Modern. If you are willing to play 4 Disfigure, the upgrade to Fatal Push is worth losing a few life from fetches per game.

It also makes sense that with Bloodghast in the deck, there are situations where it can be important to landfall it on an opponent’s end step to play around a board sweeper during their main phase.

I mean, wouldn’t you want to be able to kill a Tarmogoyf with your removal spell?

Second of all:

Black Hole Son of a Gun.

How in the World is a Mono-Black Devotion Gary Deck Not Playing Phyrexian Obliterator?!

The card is clearly absurd but never gets to see play because it is just too expensive. The fact that the card isn’t featured in the deck is part of what leads me to believe the deck is budget constrained.

Mono-Black Devotion

Version 2.0

My major changes were to simply up the overall power level and synergy of the deck. The fetchlands are an upgrade, but I also tried to create as many devotion synergies as possible to really push the Gary drain over the top.

Where there is a mono-black deck, Liliana can’t be far…

Liliana falls into the category of recurring removal/card advantage effect that also generates additional devotion. It makes a lot of sense to include her in a deck with graveyard synergies in the form of Relentless Dead and Bloodghast.

The fact that Liliana wasn’t in the initial list is another indicator that perhaps there were some budget constraints at play.

The Sideboard

I did not get a sense that the sideboard was particularly well tuned, although I do note that it has a plan for various matchups. More removal, graveyard hate, and some Needles for tricky stuff.

Ghostride the Whip!

Whip seems like a great card in here, but 4 feels excessive. I whittled it down to 2.

I also, love love love, the synergy between Whip of Erebos and Fulminator Mage.

The evolution of Sinkhole.

The fact that you can use Fulminator to blow up an opposing land and then Whip it back for an encore performance is pretty hot heat. I also think a deck like this probably has a rough time against Tron, which makes Fulminator Mage a great option.

Some of the new choices I made for the sideboard are:

Mono-Black seems like the perfect deck for Leyline of the Void since it not only completely wrecks graveyard-based strategies but also generates devotion.

I also wanted to try out Night of Souls’ Betrayal gainst problematic swarm decks like Affinity and Infect.

Mono-Black is not typically noted for its ability to destroy artifacts…

What about Gate to Phyrexia?

I don’t want to talk about Gate to Phyrexia. It doesn’t count.

Nonetheless, Night of Souls’ Betrayal is a good option against a lot of these swarm-type decks. I haven’t gotten to play out too many games yet to see how bad the matchups are, but Drown in Sorrow and Flaying Tendrils could also be strong options against weenie rush decks.

Are you not ENTERTAINED!?

Who doesn’t love to watch Gerard and Urza fight to the death? More importantly, who doesn’t like drawing a bunch of extra cards against grindy decks?

Arena feels like a great fit in this deck. A lot of people don’t even know the card is legal in Modern. It’s a pretty sweet one. Dark Confidant is also an option.

There’s something here, and it could evolve beyond what I’ve been able to do with it over the course of a couple of days. The overall strategy is powerful and the deck is full of A+ cards. If you’re looking to play a mono-black deck, a real mono-black deck, and not a The Rack deck, take a look at this shell.

*I am interested in continuing to tune up this brew to see where it goes, so any suggestions or tweaks you guys and gals see are appreciated in the comments!

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