I’m a sucker for aggressive black decks. One of the first decks I seriously played in constructed was Hatred Black, using Dark Ritual and Dauthi Slayer to win from nowhere. Needless to say, when I see black creatures turn sideways, my interest is piqued.
The December 9th Pauper League results had a low-to-the-ground mono black aggro deck from Benkill that leaned on Village Rites as a way to turn on all sorts of synergies. I took it for a spin and was impressed with its ability to close games. Serrated Scorpion could put a lot of pressure on your opponent’s life total when paired with Unearth or Kaya’s Ghostform. In playing the deck I felt that this was one of the key elements and wanted to lean into this element. I shied away from the Bone Picker plan as I didn’t want to do all that work to crash into a Kor Skyfisher.
Before we go any further I want to give some full disclosure: if you’re just getting into Pauper and want to win, I would not play this deck. It’s far from the top tier even if it does have game against many of those decks. Rather, it’s a fun diversion that forces you to think about combat math and sequencing while also giving you a break from Fall from Favor mirrors. Without further adieu, here’s my final deck list.
Pauper Black Cat by Alex Ullman
The Game Plan
Mono Black Cat is an aggressive deck that has the potential to grind in the middle stages of a game. While not a true Aristocrats deck, it does live in this realm. It doesn’t have a Blood Artist; the deck leans on Cauldron Familiar and Lampad of Death’s Vigil for chip damage instead. Combined with Carrion Feeder and Mortician Beetle to apply early pressure, these single points can often be enough to seal the deal.
This deck wants to be playing out as many threats as possible early. This is aided by the incredibly low curve of the deck. In the first stages of the game you’ll want to trade spells for damage, often clearing a path with Defile. If you’re fairly certain you’re up against a deck with Fall from Favor, you want to have access to a sacrifice outlet and failing that, a way to remove your own creature if necessary. You do not have access to as reliable a refuel mechanism so being able to shut down theirs can be huge in certain matchups.
I had been theorizing about black decks that could combat Fall from Favor. Black has access to Aristocrat-style cards like Viscera Seer, but I find Carrion Feeder to be the choice for decks that want to apply pressure. While Village Rites and its ilk are good for protecting your own creatures from the monarch Aura, Snuff Out is a free way to ruin your opponent’s coronation plans.
The question then became how to merge these two concepts. Adding Carrion Feeder came at the expense of Viscera Seer. I wasn’t keen on Footlight Fiend or Perilous Myr either but I needed other cheap Serrated Scorpion effects. That brought me to the bane of Standard and Historic – Cauldron Familiar. The cat has been kept on the sidelines in Pauper due to the lack of a reliable way to make Food, but there are a few ways in Pauper, including Gingerbrute, which also has the nice upside of being able to steal the crown with some ease. Golden Egg might not be able to block like Dusk Legion Zealot but it does a great job of making sure the cat comes back.
If there is one thing Black Cat is good against, it’s Fall from Favor. If at all possible you want to have a Cauldron Familiar in your graveyard if you have a Gingerbrute on the battlefield, making it impossible for Fall from Favor to resolve. Similarly, you want to leave one mana up for Village Rites as much as possible. Even if they counter your spell, the creature you sacrifice is still dead and gone.
In the middle part of the game Black Cat wants to be looking at trying to eke out every last point of damage. Sequencing here is incredibly important and often involves playing out creatures before you attack in order to provide enough fuel for Carrion Feeder. Other times you will want to play Gingerbrute after attacking in order to bring back a Cauldron Familiar. Unearth is fantastic for so-called “combo turns” as it lets you cycle through multiple Scorpions to deal the final few points. Here you may want to burn copies of Village Rites in order to refill your hand. You can cycle copies of Unearth if the board is stalled and you need new options as well.
Damage math with Black Cat leaves little margin for error since every point counts, you have to ensure you’re dealing as much damage as possible. Gingerbrute is one of your best early plays as it starts the race immediately. You always want to be on the lookout for ways to sacrifice Cauldron Familiar multiple times each turn in order to get the most bang for your buck.
Due to its low curve, Black Cat mulligans exceptionally well. If an opening hand has two lands and some creatures, it’s almost always a keep. Sometimes in post-board games if you’re assuming a controlling role you can keep threat light hands, but that’s a rare occurrence.
I’m still testing this deck out but have found it matches up well against traditional aggressive strategies and the various Fall from Favor blue decks. Unlike other aggressive black decks I have piloted, the abundance of main deck life gain makes short work of Burn. Serrated Scorpion is a fine blocker against decks like Stompy and can help make combat math a nightmare.
Blue tempo decks have moved to rely more on Fall from Favor as a key element, meaning Black Cat can excel in the matchup, negating one of their best plays. Since the deck can easily go wide, it can also turn off the line of enchanting their own creature. Gingerbrute can also sneak through their defenses and steal the monarchy if needed.
Black Cat however struggles against the linear decks in the format. The latest iteration of Wonder Walls – a combo deck that uses Axebane Guardian and Overgrown Battlement to generate gobs of mana – is a nightmare as it can spit out Annoyed Altisaur as early as turn four. Speaking of the fourth turn, while I haven’t played against Tron a ton with this deck, I can imagine it’s not exactly a good matchup. While you can win outside the combat phase, beating a Weather the Storm seems like a fairly big ask.
Here’s the part of the deck guide where I’d normally list out matchups and how to sideboard. That being said, I’m still figuring out sideboarding with this deck. I do know in games I expect to go long I bring in the Witch’s Cottage and the second copy of Foreboding Fruit as a general rule of thumb.