Attacking Pioneer with Mono-Black

Last weekend I took part in PT Brussels, which was a Pioneer / Draft premier event.

I knew coming to testing Pioneer that I wanted to play an Aggro deck with Thoughtseize, and to help me with it, I got my favorite testing partner, Zen Takahashi, who helped me a lot during the deckbuilding decisions.I started with Zombies but then pivoted towards MonoB Aggro, which felt better versus Niv Mizzet and combo decks, though Niv Mizzet still felt like a negative matchup. Because of that, I decided to load my deck with edict effects: Liliana’s Triumph and Self-Inflicted Wound.

Liliana's TriumphDrag to the Underworld

The decision to play 2 Liliana’s Triumph in my main deck was not only because of Sylvan Caryatid, but also because of Ensoul Artifact and Dream Trawler, as well as being super efficient versus Soulflayer and Bogles.

In the tournament I got paired versus 2 UR Ensoul and 1 Niv Mizzet, and my choice paid off big time in those three matches, though I also lost a match against the mirror where my removal spell was not able to kill my opponent’s Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet.
I believe Liliana’s Triumph is still a good choice, despite Niv Mizzet being less played than a week ago, but I wouldn’t play two anymore.
With Theros Beyond Death, MonoB received a possible playable removal spell in Drag to the Underworld, as it’s able to kill anything from Inverter of Truth to Niv-Mizzet Reborn for just two mana. Still, all it took was me drawing Drag to the Underworld with just two Scrapheap Scroungers in play to make me bin this card forever, as you just can’t afford your removal to be that expensive in a deck with four Murderous Riders.
This was the list I went 8-2 with at PT Brussels, and today I’ll make a few adjustments that I would do if I had to play this deck again at PT Phoenix.
MonoB Aggro – Andrea Mengucci
4 Bloodsoaked Champion
4 Dread Wanderer
1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
4 Knight of the Ebon Legion
4 Murderous Rider/Swift End
4 Rankle, Master of Pranks
4 Scrapheap Scrounger
4 Fatal Push
2 Grasp of Darkness
1 Liliana's Triumph
4 Thoughtseize
4 Castle Locthwain
1 Ifnir Deadlands
4 Mutavault
14 Swamp (339)
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

2 Aethersphere Harvester
3 Agonizing Remorse
1 Infinite Obliteration
1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
3 Leyline of the Void
4 Self-Inflicted Wound
1 Legion’s End
Let’s go over a bunch of deckbuilding choices that you might encounter in the various MonoB builds.

Dread WandererGutterbones

I chose to play 4 Dread Wanderer and 0 Gutterbones because Dread Wanderer is better against Supreme Verdict, as you’re able to reanimate it immediately without needing a combat step.

Both Gutterbones and Dread Wanderer require you to attack, so it’s good to have the other recurring creature have a different requirement. On top of that, Dread Wanderer is a Zombie for Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, and sacrificing a Zombie to Kalitas comes up and it’s a nice bonus to have.

Kalitas, Traitor of GhetSpawn of Mayhem

After trying Spawn of Mayhem I was not impressed by it at all, and only liked it against red decks (where it was too big for them to burn easily).

On the other hand, we were very impressed by Kalitas in many post board games, so we decided to save a sideboard slot and move it to the main deck, especially after the printing of Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath.
If you were ever in doubt, play 4 Rankle and never look back – it’s the reason why the deck is good.

Ifnir DeadlandsUrborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

We felt in love with Ifnir Deadlands while practicing Zombies – we were even playing four there! However, this deck has a weaker late game than Zombies so the four Castle Locthwains are needed. We still felt like adding one Deadlands as it was nice to deal with some of the annoying cards people were toying around: mainly Apostle of Purifying Light and Blood Baron of Vizkopa, as well as being to kill any small creature in a combat race. 

The second Urborg was a land we immediately cut, as drawing two was just too bad to justify, and helping your opponent not taking damage off of Mana Confluence was also a pretty big downside.

DuressAgonizing RemorseDrill Bit

Before Theros we were playing up to four Duress, because I did not like Drill Bit against UW Control. I wanted to be able to discard Seal Away, Settle the Wreckage or Azorious Charm before combat, and your discard spell costing three mana was too big a risk.

However, not being able to discard creatures off of Duress made it quickly obsolete, as more and more creature control decks were rising, notably Niv Mizzet and UB Inverter. That’s when we decided Agonizing Remorse was just a superior choice, and despite the extra mana it was still worthy. Also, Remorse not being a dead draw in the lategame and being able to exile Escape cards from the graveyard was quite relevant too.

Leyline of the VoidLost LegacyInfinite Obliteration

Early in the Pioneer format there were a plethora of Graveyard decks, between Soulflayer, Dredge and Izzet Phoenix. By the PT these decks disappeared and the only graveyard deck was UR Lotus Breach.

I was still holding four Leyline of the Void, but then ended up cutting one for a Cranial effect that would be good versus Niv Mizzet and UB Inverter: Infinite Obliteration.
I’ve always hated effects like Unmoored Ego and Lost Legacy, which will never be able to grant you a one for one thanks to the card draw, but Infinite Obliteration lets you name the creature in your opponent’s hand and get rid of it forever. Also, with all the other discard, you can often see their hand and name something they have.
The rest of the deck building decision is pretty straight forward and I feel there’s not much need for explanation, so I’d rather dive into sideboarding.
Vs MonoBlack / MonoRed Aggro
I decided to group together MonoRed and the mirror as you sideboard in the same way.
Thoughtseize is very bad here – I tried to keep some on the play but it was just wrong and you hardly want to trade a mana and two damage for a card. Blocking is very hard, and there’s a lot of stuff to do, meaning that the card you’re taking away will rarely matter. I won a game where my opponent was on the play and Thoughtseized me twice, while I was just casting my creatures and attacking with them turn after turn. Remember that Dread Wanderer can block and that a Murderous Rider is a good creature on board as it block all the 2/1s and races very well.
Vs UB Inverter
Unfortunately I don’t have much practice in this matchup, though I believe it to be quite balanced as we have a lot of disruption and good pressure. I think Fatal Push is a good card because it kills Thassa’s Oracle which can brick wall our 2/1s, as well as being able to kill Pack Rat and Inverter of Truth after a chump attack.  I saw Joel Larsson bringing in Leyline of the Void against Kanister in the finals, but I’m not sure if I want to do it. It is nice to stop your opponent from casting Dig Through Time and force them to go off in one turn, but we have enough disruption without it.
Vs Niv Mizzet
This matchup is hard if they get to cast their high cost spells reliably. You have two ways of succeeding: disrupting their mana base with Self-Inflicted Wound or discarding their Sylvan Caryatid / Paradise Druid, or leaving them with all the mana in the world and taking their expensive threats, hoping they flood out. Either way, if they get to go Caryatid into a Niv there’s not much you can do.
Vs UW Control 
Our sideboard isn’t very well tuned for this match-up, but I believe this deck to be quite strong against UW Control, and I believe UW Control to not be a good choice in Pioneer, so I wouldn’t worry too much. Just play for a grindy game and keep your Mutavaults safe from Seal Away, as they are the most important threat and one of the many reasons you’re ahead here.
Vs UR Ensoul Artifact
This match-up is close and very fun. Duress is much better than Agonizing Remorse, as two mana and one life are too high of a price. Kalitas is too expensive and dies to their Shrapnel Blast and Lava Coil, whereas Aether Harvester could be tricky to play around Shrapnel Blast and helps you at racing. At the PT I managed to beat two UR Ensoul decks, but both my opponents had weak draws and plenty of mulligans. I think this MU is closer than what it showed for me and that the more Liliana’s Triumph you play the better it is.
Vs Lotus Breach
Sideboarding here highly depends on the list your opponent is running, and at the Pro Tour you’ll know how to sideboard properly thanks to public decklists. At the PT I faced a UR Breach whose only win condition was Thassa’s Oracle, meaning that I boarded in Infinite Obliteration for that. He also had 0 Thing in the Ice or Baral, Chief of Compliance, which meant I boarded out all my cheap removals. Against him I also boarded in Kalitas and Aethersphere Harvester to play around Anger of the Gods. I believe that is correct since you need some of your threats to survive their wrath. I won the match thanks to an hardcast Leyline of the Void on turn four, and I would have lost had I not have the Graveyard hate there. I believe this matchup to be favorable due to our loads of disruption paired with a fast clock – I won game one by goldfishing with all 1-drops.
Vs MonoWhite Heliod Combo
On the Play
On the Draw
Sideboarding in this matchup is very play/draw dependant, and I like Simon Nielsens plan: on the play you can tempo them with a fast clock and Self-Inflicted Wound, dealing with Heliod by killing everything around it.
Whereas on the draw this plan doesn’t work as well. You instead become more controlling, and try to deal with Heliod with discard spells. Infinite Obliteration isn’t good because the tempo loss could be critical for the race. I managed to beat it at the PT, mainly thanks to Aethersphere Harvester and Rankle flying over while chumpblocking with my ground creatures in pure fliers vs ground creatures race.
Vs Bant Spirits
+3 Self Inflicted Wound +2 Aethersphere Harvester
-4 Rankle, Master of Pranks -1 Kalitas, Traitor of Geth
I’ve practiced plenty against Azorious Spirits and I’ve never lost online or at the PT, although Bant Spirits is now going to be way more popular as it won PT Nagoya in the hands of Kenta Harane and both Mattia Rizzi and Valerio Luminati made Top8 with it at PT Brussels. I wouldn’t really sideboard differently here. Rankle is not as good because your opponent will have plenty of Fliers to counter it, and I don’t like Kalitas either as 4 mana sorcery speed threat look bad in this match-up. Overall I’m happy to play vs Spirits, just be mindful of Settle the Wreckage or Collected Company when attacking into open mana. Knight of the Ebon Legion will be your best friend, as it’s unbeatable in combat.
Vs Swedish Sultai
This deck won  PT Brussels so I figured it was important to include in my sideboard guide, altough I have never played against it. I think Leyline is good, but not great, so I wouldn’t put all of them in as the risk of drawing multiples is real in such a grindy match-up.
That’s enough for me today – I had fun playing MonoB Aggro in Brussels and the deck performed very well for me, so I recommend playing it in Phoenix this weekend!


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