I want to do something a little this week. I want to look at a rogue deck that stands to gain from the release of Zendikar Rising. Mono Black Burn has been a fringe Pauper deck ever since Tyrant’s Choice made its way to Magic Online. The deck seeks to sidestep Prismatic Strands and other damage prevention effects by using spells that cause loss of life, rather than dealing damage. Black Burn has remained a fringe option due to the fact that the rate on these cards tends to be far worse than their red counterparts, coupled with the fact that sometimes Lightning Bolt can kill a creature that would otherwise kill you. Sovereign’s Bite, not so much.
Pauper Mono Black Burn Deck List - aarong 5-0 Pauper League
In a format composed entirely of commons, Black Burn stands out as an attractive budget option. The deck can be bought for under $20 in tabletop and on Magic Online can be acquired for under $2. That’s a bargain. The deck is rather straightforward. It wants to pressure the opponent’s life total with its burn spells. It runs twelve one drop creatures which all have something in common – they are Rogues. This allows them to turn on the Prowl on Morsel Theft which cuts the cost in half and turns the spell into a cantrip. Considering the relative power level of the deck, every extra card counts.
I am not going to spend a ton of time diving into matchups. The sideboard gives Black Burn the option to shift into a slightly more controlling role, using cards like Trespasser’s Curse to try and hold Ghostly Flicker shenanigans in check and Crypt Rats to hold swarms at bay. Fungal Infection has proved to be a sideboard all-star, often acting as a true 2-for-1 against other low to the ground builds. Black Burn provides a fringe option for people just starting to dip their toe into Pauper. I also think it has a solid foundation moving into the next release thanks to the inclusion of Changeling Outcast. Why? Because we want to get the party started.
Gray Merchant of Asphodel was a game changer when it was released. It launched Mono Black Control back into relevance as it gave the deck a real way to close out games that were otherwise stalled. Malakir Blood-Priest can do something similar. While its drain is always capped at four, it begs for a more aggressive shell and can serve as reach – something mono Black beatdown decks have been lacking in Pauper. Malakir Blood-Priest does have some downsides that Gray Merchant lacks. The second Blood-Priest does not stack with first. Being able to chain copies of Gray Merchant together can be backbreaking as the devotion continues to grow. Party has a hard cap of four and while that’s a good chunk of damage, it isn’t as powerful as Gray Merchant. Second, Blood-Priest and its likely friends are vulnerable to Electrickery. While this is not enough of a reason to completely ignore this new card, it is something to keep in the back of your mind. There are advantages to Blood-Priest as well. It is a two drop and can easily serve that role by attacking. Black also has a ton of good creatures with the correct typing (beyond Changeling Outcast) to help fill the invite list.
The options push towards an aggressive strategy that plays more to the board than Black Burn. Leading on Vampire Lacerator or Changeling Outcast sets you up to start swinging. Mardu Skullhunter provides a little bit of disruption which could potentially be supplemented with Augur of Skulls. Night Market Lookout provides an interesting option if one were to look at using Vehicles like Sky Skiff to attack from a different angle. Death Cultist leads us down another path. Bone Picker was recently downshifted and giving black aggro a way to turn on its own Insectile Aberration could be good enough. Running a small sacrifice engine also gives the deck outs to run Undying Evil and Unearth. These two give you access to additional copies of the Malakir Blood-Priest effect. Carrion Feeder is the go-to sacrifice outlet but both Viscera Seer and Vampire Aristocrat have the proper creature types. If a deck emerges that can run Malakir Blood-Priest, it should also make use of Snuff Out. Snuff Out is a fantastic removal spell that is perfect for this style of deck since it already wants to play from ahead. Being able to tap out for two creatures and leave up interaction is far from bad and, outside of Burn, few decks are going to be gunning for your head that early. Party is a fantastic mechanic that gives deckbuilders a fun puzzle. The payoff has to be big enough to warrant contorting deck construction. I think that Malakir Blood-Priest passes that threshold, even if it’s just by a hair. Even if you aren’t able to get the full four, being able to attack your adversary and then Lightning Helix them leaves you in a good spot and them facing down a party set on their demise.