Bad Deckbuilder’s Corner: Suicide Black in Standard

Is this incarnation of Suicide Black a Tier 1 deck? Maybe not. Is it one that people are expecting? Definitely not.

For once, I resisted the urge to use the tired”Back in Black” for an article title involving a mono-black deck. I’m either getting more original or mature in my old age. I mean, I turn thirty-three this month. Thirty-three! Jeez, after Tom Swan, I’m rapidly becoming the”grand old man” of Magic.

Or”grand old scrub.” I prefer the former; big surprise.

Enough chatter — on to the introductory paragraph. For some reason, I’ve always been attracted to”suicide black” decks, built around weenie black critters, removal, and speed, speed, speed. Since my tastes in decks tend to be more control or aggro-control, I’ve always considered it a little weird. But variety is the spice of life (and Magic players).

I had pretty good Suicide Black decks built when it was Tempest/Mirage in Standard (remember”Black Ice,” with Winter Orbs?). And Tempest/Urza’s Saga. Even Urza’s Saga/Mercadian block. So I guess it was inevitable that I’d get something built in Mercadian/Invasion blocks (that, and the influx of Suicide Black deck articles on other sites that finally got me motivated).

“No One Gets Out of Here Alive”

4 Dark Ritual

4 Duress

4 Ravenous Rats

4 Foul Imp

4 Plague Spitter

4 Phyrexian Scuta

4 Tangle Wire

4 Unholy Strength

3 Snuff Out

3 Dark Suspicions

4 Rishadan Port

2 Dust Bowl

16 Swamp


4 Slay

4 Distorting Lens

3 Cremate

4 Engineered Plague

Breaking it down card by card, because, hey, I can:

Dark Ritual: What would a Suicide Black deck be without the fast mana from Dark Ritual? Nothing beats a 4/3 flyer on the first turn.

Duress: First turn Duress; is there anything better to play on the first turn besides this? Besides the aforementioned 4/3 flyer? Best discard spell in Standard right now, hands down.

Ravenous Rats: Yeah, it obviously doesn’t synergize well with Plague Spitters. However, can you think of a better creature to put in this slot? Hate Weaver? The discard effect is usually worth it. I suppose you could slip the Phyrexian Battleflies in this slot if you wanted.

Foul Imp: Two life? Big deal. A 2/2 flier for two mana is perfect for Suicide Black. The Imp is quite often the kill card, especially after an Unholy Strength (or two).

Plague Spitter: Probably the deck MVP, in my not so humble opinion. Ritualed out on the first turn, he kills all those annoying 1/1s, like Sergeants and Elves. Late game, he will provide those last few points of damage you need to kill an opponent.

Phyrexian Scuta: He’s big, he’s bad, and you can play him on turn two. Unless your opponent is playing bounce, he can go the distance if you play him early, and he’ll turn a marathon into a 100-meter dash.

No trample like his predecessor the Phyrexian Negator… But you don’t have to worry about a Shock wiping out your half of the board either.

Tangle Wire: Suicide Black is all about tempo. Defense? We don’t need no stinkin’ defense! Tangle Wire, therefore, is that perfect tempo control card, locking down an opponent for one or two turns — and this deck can deal a lot of damage in one or two turns.

Unholy Strength: Originally, I had a mix of Strengths both Unholy and Sinister in the deck. Unfortunately, you know what really sucks? Having five Strengths in your hand and no creature to cast them on. I’d love to include a Sinister Strength or two, but couldn’t find the room for them.

Not like Unholy Strength is bad or anything like that.

Remember, only play with”old school” Unholy Strengths (the ones with the pentagram), just to freak out the old people.

Snuff Out: The deck, I discovered, needs some kind of removal beyond a Plague Spitter. Fortunately, black is just sick with removal spells. Vicious Hunger is good, but can’t take out fatties. Vendetta is quite nice, but sometimes hurts a little too much. Ergo, Snuff Out is the winner. You’ll use the alternative casting cost more often than not, but sometimes it’s better to pay the four mana and save the four life — an option not available with Vendetta.

Dark Suspicions: Back in the day when Tempest was legal and you had wonderful beatdown creatures like Carnophage and Dauthi Horror, you had a marvelous finisher in Cursed Scroll. It got past pro-black stuff, killed opposing creatures and since your hand was generally around zero cards after turn three or so, getting it to hit wasn’t difficult.

There’s really nothing resembling it in Standard at present. The closest thing I could find was Dark Suspicions. Why Dark Suspicions? Well, for one, it gets around both Ivory Mask and Story Circle, as its effect is non-targeted and it’s loss of life, not damage. Secondly, since your hand is more likely to be empty faster than your opponents, you should be able to get at least a few points of damage in. With a Tangle Wire or two in play, the lockdown element makes this card that much more devastating.

Simply put, it’s the finisher if the creature beatdown fails.

Dust Bowl and Rishadan Port: I played two and four in my Standard Suicide Black deck when it was Urza’s Saga and Mercadian block, and it feels like the right number. Much like Tangle Wire, the Ports give you that turn or two of tempo control and Dust Bowl can accomplish the same thing on a more permanent basis, Tsabo’s Webs be damned!

The sideboard is a work in progress, but it’s pretty straightforward:

Slay: Ordinarily, Perish would go here. We no longer have Perish, but Slay is an acceptable substitute. Die, fatty, die! And oooh, I get a card!

Cremate: Because no one plays with Nether Spirits, right? I mean, Pyre Zombie, what an ass card!

Distorting Lens: Tired of Story Circles ruining your day? Try Distorting Lens! What, you say? Your black removal is worthless against other black decks? Try Distorting Lens? Changes color guaranteed or your money back! Order within the next thirty minutes and we’ll throw in the Pocket Fisherman, free of charge!

Engineered Plague: Your defense against Rebels, and anything else remotely themed, such as an Elf or Merfolk deck.

So there you have it: a pretty darn good Suicide Black deck. Control decks hate it (at least, those that don’t maindeck Story Circle). Nether-Go is none-too-fond of the beastie. And Fires — Fires doesn’t certainly hates it after sideboarding.

Is this incarnation of Suicide Black a Tier 1 deck? Maybe, maybe not. Is it one that people are expecting? Definitely not. Sometimes, though, the value of surprise is worth it.

Dave Meddish

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