Compost My Eye (A Statement, Not A Request)

Why don’t I lose to Compost with my mono-black deck, whose official listing is,”Compost, 1G, Enchantment. Whenever a black card goes to an opponent’s graveyard, ride that player until he or she squeals like a piggy. Squeal, piggy, squeal”? Well, the answer’s all about what Compost does NOT affect in black’s game.

When you think of the color black, you can’t help but think "sexy.” Seriously.

(Here comes the point in case stuff.)

A black dress: Sexy.

A sleek black car: Sexy.

A sharp black suit: Sexy.

Braids, Cabal Minion: Sexy.


No, not what you’re thinking.

(For goodness sake, look at the picture.)

(She looks like a real needy psycho chick!)

I mean Braids is sexy in a nasty”all-Abyss, all the time” kind of way. And it doesn’t stop there. Duress is super sexy in a”one-mana, up their nose” kinda way. Mutilate is sexy because it’s a Wrath of God, but in a remotely useable color. Nantuko Shade is the big ol'”sexy in a little guy” type way.

See? It is as it is, black is sexy.

(It is smooth.)

Unfortunately, it appears black no longer has a place in the current standard metagame. Hands up – who can tell me why? Yes, little Jimmy?


No, little Jimmy – C.O.P. Black doesn’t kill it dead, and neither does Aegis of Honor. Yes, Esmeralda?


No Esme, Upheaval doesn’t offer up mono black’s unmentionables on a plate… But it sure does "up" its permanents. Chuckle, chuckle. Guffaw, guffaw. Yes, Rumplestiltskin?


No, Rumpie, contrary to popular belief, Compost isn’t the big issue the newspaper headlines suggest.






Well I got a good one for ya.


Yes, yes. This may take some explanation, hence this here article thingy. After all, what is an article without some strategic discussion, or some tidbit of tech that might notch you up a DCI point or 3?.

(Well, it would probably be some kind of comedy submission.)

(But I would never stoop to such depths for a good laugh, oh no.)

(You can laugh plenty at the quality of my serious articles.)

(And at such bad puns as that one there.)

Right, let’s tackle these issues one at a time. I’ll save takings on three issues at once for a different day – a day the Ferrett will rue, a day of terror, horror, fear, disgust, anguish, small plastic toys, and iddy biddy chocolate things will marshmallow inside, mmmmm… I mean, BwahahaAHAHAHAHAHA!!


Circle of Protection: Black, and in some cases, Aegis of Honor, have been used to try and prevent a monoblack deck from winning a sideboarded game. This makes sense of course – because if they can’t deal damage to you, you can’t die. And in some cases, they can’t gain life and therefore will die under their own Phyrexian Arena.

Any mono black deck that ventures headlong into a tournament knowing full well that they will die to a C.O.P. or an Aegis is either downright foolish, or has stones you could crush a 1972 Ford Mustang with. A discerning monoblack deck will, of course, come packing some kind of alternate victory condition that will circumvent the traditional defences that have in the past included Worship, Harsh Justice, and the Holy Bible.

Typical examples of these win conditions are Caustic Tar, Aladdin’s Ring, and Millstone. Some evil, baby-killing black mages have even gone as far as eliminating these said defences with the Crystal Quarry/Legacy Weapon combo that can be found on the menu at McDonald’s, next to the”Organ Grinder Mac Meal” combo, and the”other things you can do with quite a bit of mana” super-combo.

A good answer to these alternate win conditions would be some kind of Disenchant-type thing. Still, even the best cheater can’t keep one in their hand once they’ve been Mind Sludged for eight. Perhaps Ray of Distortion could be useful there, but nobody seems that clever these days, it’s all Aura Blast up in there and so on. So for now, those kill cards are gonna stick like a piece of wood.

Now what was the next issue? Oh yes: Upheaval. On the surface, here’s what happens to a monoblack creatureless control deck when Upheaval resolves: Everything runs away, and then there’s this big guy and his small, sacrificial-lamb type sidekick.

Some bad.

However, to set this up, the Upheaval player has to play out quite a bit of mana. That’s no biggie; the deck, regardless of whether it’s Psychatog-based or Green-based, is equipped to do such a task. The usual suspects are often acceleration creatures, such as Nightscape Familiar, Werebear, and Birds of Paradise to name a but a few.

Some good.

Because an evil, monoblack, creatureless control deck is all Edicts, all the time, any acceleration creatures tend to get lost somewhere amongst the squashings. This means that an Upheaval deck now has to take longer to set up its game-winning play – either because its acceleration creatures are dead, or they are being held back for fear of the Edict engine. This is good for the evil, monoblack, creatureless,”all Edicts, all the time” control deck, because it gives it time to set up its own game winning plays.

Some bad.

(For the Upheaval deck.)

So now an Upheaval must be cast earlier than previously scheduled – maybe with just the fat guy following, or maybe just as a reset. Of course, Upheaval-Fat guy appears to be quite a good play – but versus evil, granny-bashing, monoblack, creatureless,”all Edicts, all the time” control deck, it’s not quite as effective – thanks to the aforementioned Edicts.

So to recap, Upheaval does not equal "game" verses monoblack control.

And now the biggie, the hurdle el-gigantor, the one that everyone thinks is the unscalable wall, the killer that can’t be stopped.

(A hushed silence descends upon the room…)


Now lets analyse the actual card text:




Whenever a black card goes to an opponent’s graveyard, ride that player until he or she squeals like a piggy. Squeal, piggy, squeal.

Now let’s analyze the actual, actual card text:




Whenever a black card is put into an opponent’s graveyard, you may draw a card.

This translates to,

"Whenever the monoblack control player tutors for a card, draw a card."

"Whenever the evil, monoblack control player Edicts a creature, draw a card."

"Whenever the evil, monoblack, ‘all Edicts, all the time’ control player Wraths you, draw a card."

"Whenever the evil, tax evading, monoblack, ‘all Edicts, all the time’ control player burns you, draw a card."

"Whenever the evil, tax-evading, wife-beating, monoblack, ‘all Edicts, all the time’ control player Duresses you or makes you discard your hand, draw a card."

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? It doesn’t stop the evil, smelly monoblack control player from doing what they were going to do anyway – but in most cases, it makes them do it quite a bit more.

So Compost kills monoblack control?

Not at all.

It causes it problems, sure. But it doesn’t stop it from killing your guys, and it doesn’t stop them from winning. After all, that’s what it does – it kills your guys, and then it wins.

In any given game, monoblack control deck will work its way up to a large amount of mana, and Corrupt/Soul Burn you to death. If you are playing counters of any kind, you may be forced to discard your hand first and so on. In order to reach a large amount of mana, they will kill anything that tries to threaten them along the way.

Sounds simple.

A green deck playing Compost in its sideboard will try to kill a monoblack deck by attacking it with creatures, sometimes supplemented by burn spells.

Also sounds simple.

When you put them together, the fact that green creatures and/or burn have been slowed down gradually over the last few years, and that black now has Cabal Coffers, means that more often than not, black will end up winning the race. Here is a summary:

G: Creature.

B: Kill it.

G: Creature.

B: Kill it.

G: Creatures.

B: Kill them.

G: Burn you.

B: Sure. Play a land.

G: Burn you.

B: (Almost dead) Burn them back for eight, gain eight life (not even remotely close to death.)

G: Erm… Burn you one last time, or maybe play out some creatures. Maybe even both.

B: Whatever. Burn them again for ten. Be at twelve-plus life and not worried because you can now do all kinds of things with heaps of black mana, including, but not limited to, tutoring for a spell every turn and playing it. (A.k.a.,”winning.”)

Now, after sideboarding the green player has Compost, so you’d think the fight would be a whole lot harder for the black player because the green play will now never run out of gas.

What most people fail to consider, is the turn missed playing a Compost on turn 2.

(If it’s played around turn 4 or later, it’s not really hindering the black player quite as much.)

If you spend your second or third turn playing a Compost, that’s one turn the black deck doesn’t have to deal with one of your creatures – and a whole turn of tempo, or straight out trying to kill him or her that’s lost.

The second thing people seem to forget is that you can draw as many cards as you like, but you can still only play so many of them in any given turn… And a hand full of gas doesn’t stop ten to the nose. So in reality, the summary of a sideboarded games looks a bit like this:

G: Compost.

B: (Yawn).

G: Creature.

B: Kill it, they draw a card.

G: Creatures.

B: Kill them they draw some cards.

G: Play more creatures.

B: Burn them for some, gain some life. Enough to negate the damage from the opposing creatures next turn, they draw a card.

G: Serve, play more creatures.

B: Burn them for some more, win the game. Congratulate the opponent on having so many creatures in play, and so many cards in hand.

At least, that’s how it’s gone for me versus Compost.

Now I’m not saying that Compost is like water off the rear half of a duck to black. In fact, Compost can when used correctly, completely ruin a monoblack control deck that’s not ready for it.

(How? How do you use it correctly then?)

The trick is hasted or instant speed creatures. The majority of black’s removal in today’s competitive environment is sorcery speed – which means if creatures are hitting the black player before they can remove them, then they haven’t got the same breathing room to develop their large amount of black mana before they start to look like a flattened, splattery thing.

Some people have sideboarded Fires of Yavimaya to good effect – but the best results so far, have come from Zombie Infestation, due to its relatively low activation cost.

Oh that’s right; it’s free.

Monoblack does some stuff, green player draws some cards… And at the end of the turn, he converts them into bears. Said green player then untaps and swings with said bears. The monoblack player then untaps, tutors for a Mutilate, and Wraths away the offending zombies. The green player shrugs and makes more, untaps and swings like it’s the 70s all over again.

That’s how Compost kills monoblack; it fuels a Zombie Infestation.

Of course, I know all that… But I still persist in playing monoblack control. Why? You ask. Well, let’s first examine my decklist:

4 Duress

4 Innocent Blood

4 Chainer’s Edict

4 Phyrexian Arena

1 Engineered Plague

4 Diabolic Tutor

3 Mutilate

1 Mind Sludge

1 Haunting Echoes

1 Mirari

4 Corrupt

1 Planar Portal

1 Aladdin’s Ring

2 Soul Burn

3 Cabal Coffers

22 Swamp

In my opinion, the most important part of the decklist is not actually visible. And no, I’m not talking about the sideboard…

(Sideboards should be discussed only after maindecks.)

…I’m talking about the fact that all twenty-two of my Swamps are Unglued Swamps.

(When I play Odyssey Block Constructed, I play twenty-four Unglued Swamps.)

Now, Disco-Dave will have you think that the correct Swamp to use is the ugly one from Odyssey. You know – the really ugly one. However, the fact of the matter is, one of us has a degree in visual communications, and the other one is Dave.

(I should know an ugly Swamp when I see it; I have a degree in knowing about this kind of thing, after all.)

You’ll also notice that there is only one Mind Sludge in the list, yet I seem convinced that I’ll Sludge them almost every game. This is because you want it to resolve once – and then you want to spend the rest of the game drawing non-Mind Sludge cards. The tutors should ensure you have it when you need it. I toyed with the idea of replacing the Mirari with a second Mind Sludge… But then, a counter-based control deck needs to counter that just as much as it needs to counter a Sludge, so it fulfils the same task when baiting them anyway.

The other interesting maindeck card is the Aladdin’s Ring – or the "Brick," as I like to call it. This of course, is a little confusing for my opponents, because I also call the Planar Portal and the Mirari "Brick," too. That said, The Ring does many useful things, from dealing with sneaky instant speed creatures, up to and including Beasts and Arrogant Wurms, to being a maindeck reusable source of damage for administering to a pesky opponent who thinks life gain is "fun.”

Engineered Plague? If you have to ask, go find the coverage of the Belgium, Hungary, New Zealand, Finland, Australia, and Thailand Nationals. And while you’re at it, check the Grand Prix Milwaukee Coverage.

(All of these events had a Trenches deck in the finals, most of them winning out.)

(The one that didn’t win was won by monoblack control.)

But it also lessens the impact of Zombie Infestation, especially when paired with another one after sideboarding.

Another thing people often query is the number of Corrupts over Soul Burns – and it comes down to one thing – the fact that you gain the full amount of life off the Corrupt, whereas Soul Burn is limited to the toughness of the creature. And you can cast two big Corrupts in one turn.

(Okay, so that’s two things.)

(But I’ll stop there before it becomes anything like the Monty Python Spanish Inquisition sketch.)

The sideboard is, as always, dependent on what you expect to play against. But I recommend the following cards are in there without fail.

2 Crystal Quarry

1 Legacy Weapon

I’ve also scoffed at it myself – but it does the job very well once it’s in play, and then it just keeps going, not stopping until your opponent scoops ’em up, or they have nothing to scoop.

3 Addle

1 Mind Sludge

1 Haunting Echoes

Extra tools for the control matchups.

1 Engineered Plague

In case the first one gets a flat.

(I’d like to thank Allan Barclay for that joke, and I’d like to thank him again in advance, for never saying it again…)

(Seriously, every time he plays a second copy of anything.)

(Well, except basic lands. He’s not that silly…)

1 Skeletal Scrying

This is actually great, anti-Haunting Echoes technology. Remind me some other time to regale you with the story about how I tutored for one of these in a mirror match at an OBC tournament, and proceeded to draw ten cards in response to his Echoes, and followed it up with Mind sludge, Rancid Earth, Shade, Fiend, and Braids.

(Actually, it seems that I already have…)

1 Mutilate

Obviously you can see a theme here, just add extra copies of the good spells in certain match ups, blah, blah, bleepin’ blah.

Other cards you might want to include are four Crippling Fatigue, if people still insist on playing Braids in your area, and a Hypnox, just so you can side it in once, and watch everyone else keep their creature removal in the maindeck after sideboarding for the rest of the tournament.


And now, a sideboard recap:

2 Crystal Quarry

1 Legacy Weapon

3 Addle

1 Mind Sludge

1 Haunting Echoes

1 Engineered Plague

1 Skeletal Scrying

1 Mutilate

(1 Hypnox)

(3 Crippling Fatigue)

To finish off, I’ll tell you a little about how I’ve fared with the above deck, or at least a similar version of it:

So far in Standard events, I’m 10-2 in matches, with my loses being one mirror, and one strange U/b/w eight Familiars-PsychatogUpheavalProbePlagiarizeFact or Fiction Thing that then proceeded to lose a whole bunch of matches to everything else after beating me senseless. I also went 5-0 at the OBC tournament I mentioned earlier.

So I think, without a doubt, that I can claim quite sincerely, that black is very, very…


But how does it stack up with Judgment?

(I’m not implying you should stack your deck here, not even slightly.)

We’ll see next time…

Until then,