From Right Field: Smell the Glove

Whenever I contemplate a mono-Black deck, This is Spinal Tap comes to mind…. Which leads me to this week’s deck, none “None More Black.” Every spell is Black. No artifacts here. All but two of the lands produce Black mana, and even those two lands do something very Black. So how does it do after a twenty-game spin in the casual room?

{From Right Field is a column for Magic players on a budget or players who don’t want to play netdecks. The decks are designed to let the budget-conscious player be competitive in local, Saturday tournaments. They are not decks that will qualify a player for The Pro Tour. As such, the decks written about in this column are, almost by necessity, rogue decks. They contain, at most, eight to twelve rares. When they do contain rares, those cards will either be cheap rares or staples of which new players should be trying to collect a set of four, such as Wildfire, Llanowar Wastes, or Birds of Paradise. The decks are also tested by the author, who isn’t very good at playing Magic. His playtest partners, however, are excellent. He will never claim that a deck has an 85% winning percentage against the entire field. He will also let you know when the decks are just plain lousy. Readers should never consider these decks "set in stone" or "done." If you think you can change some cards to make them better, well, you probably can, and the author encourages you to do so.}

Whenever I contemplate a mono-Black deck, This is Spinal Tap comes to mind. I mean, every single time, Nigel Tufnel comes to mind. You know the scene: The original album cover for Smell the Glove was deemed too misogynistic to release, so, the label rep comes up with an all-black album cover. Nigel, trying to make the best of the situation, says:

It’s like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is, “None. None more black.”

I think it’s a testament to this movie’s brilliance, as well as Guest, McKean, Shearer, and Reiner, that the movie still reverberates in today’s music environment. In fact, the readers of Mojo magazine recently voted it the best rock movie of all time. It’s not even about a real band – and yet it feels more authentic than a lot of movies about “real” bands. (It’s also mondo cool that the word “rockumentary,” coined by Reiner for and in Spinal Tap, is considered a real word now.)

Which leads me to this week’s deck. It is “none more Black.” Every spell is Black. No artifacts here. All but two of the lands produce Black mana, and even those two lands do something very Black. Here’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout:

None More Black, V.1.1
21 Swamp
1 Tomb of Urami
2 Quicksand
3 Genju of the Fens
4 Darkblast
4 Kiku’s Shadow
4 Cruel Edict
3 Rend Flesh
4 Phyrexian Arena
4 Hideous Laughter
4 Night of Souls’ Betrayal
2 Nightmare Void
4 Consume Spirit

Originally, I had four Genju of the Fens and four Nightmare Voids… And then I asked my ol’ pal Karl Allen to look at it. He suggested dropping the Genjus to three.

“Do you really want one in your opening hand?”

“Of course, I do. Um, don’t I?”

“Not really. If you cast it on turn 1, it just sits there with a big bull’s-eye on it. You need some more creature kill. And I don’t like Rend Flesh. Add some discard.”

I made the suggested changes, and the result is what you see for version one-point-one.

I have always been intrigued by creatureless decks. One of the things I love about a deck like this is how all of the anti-creature spells in other decks become dead cards. Granted, those spells can be used on one of the Genju-animated Swamps, but not if Nightmare Void has stripped them from their hand first. Think about it: Why even animate a Genju if you know that they have Putrefy in hand and the mana to use it? You wouldn’t. I wouldn’t.

In previous CMBC decks, I’d have suggested Persecute. Don’t misinterpret me here; it’s still incredible against most decks, but it just doesn’t work as well in this one. What if they draw Rend Spirit or Disembowel the turn after you Persecuted their hand away? Sure, you lose a Swamp, but what you really lose is a turn, which translates to tempo loss. Or maybe you just win a turn later than you wanted to.

What if you really, really, really had to go to the potty, though? That turn could be critical.

So, Karl convinced me that I didn’t need four Genju of the Fens and four Rend Fleshes. Heck, he didn’t like Rend Flesh at all. I pointed out that most of the creatures that Rend Flesh can’t hit but that you’d really be worried about killing (like Kokusho and Kodama of the North Tree) can’t be hit by most other Black removal anyway. As I said above, he suggested that I put in some sort of discard instead. Blackmail and Persecute both briefly passed through my mind. Then, I remembered a draft I had done in which I took two Nightmare Voids and how strong they’d been. In that draft, I had been able to go mono-Black with Stinkweed Imp, Disembowel (twice), Darkblast, Brainspoil, and Undercity Shade, among others.

The MVP had been the Void. Once my first opponent realized that I was willing to Dredge it back, he didn’t keep a card in hand, and that was huge for me. Nothing in hand means no surprises.

Look at him, honey. He’s as cute as a monkey with a puppy.
– Angela, Bones

The second thing (besides dead opposing cards) that just tickles me to no end on this is the mana curve and what it comprises. There are seven first-turn plays, eight second-turn plays, seven third-turn plays, ten fourth-turn plays, and set of four X spells. This is tight.

I know that this deck can be built for less than thirty tickets because I did it:

4 Phyrexian Arenas = 8 Tickets
4 Night of Soul’s Betrayals = 8 Tickets
4 Kiku’s Shadow = 1 Ticket
4 Genju of the Fens = 1 Ticket
4 Cruel Edict = 2 Tickets
4 Hideous Laughter and 4 Consume Spirit = 2 Tickets
1 Tomb of Urami = 2 Tickets
2 Quicksand, 3 Rend Flesh, and 3 Nightmare Void = 2 Tickets
4 Darkblast = Free ‘Cause I’d Already Bought Two Golgari Pre-Con Decks

Building a “Creatureless” Mono-Black Control Deck = Well, Not Priceless, but Less Than Thirty Tix

You know what I did next, right? Yup. Into the breach, a.k.a. the Casual Decks room of Magic Online.

Game 1:
Can you stack a deck online? ‘Cause if you can, he shoulda called a judge on me. With him going first, he dropped an Overgrown Tomb and cast Birds of Paradise. On my turn, Darkblast knocked out the Birds. His second-turn Golgari Guildmage was met by Kiku’s Shadow. My turn 3 plays were Shambling Shell and Phyrexian Arena.

On his fourth turn, he swung and cast Sakura-Tribe Elder. I curved out with a Night of Soul’s Betrayal. He saved his Elder, but he was not to have another X/1 the rest of the game. He did get a Kodama of the North Tree out, but it was met with Cruel Edict – which is quite effective when there aren’t any other creatures on the board. After that, it was simply a matter of a few swings with a very pumped up Genju-Swamp.


Game 2:
Okay, here was a great argument for Dark Banishing over Rend Flesh: Keiga, the Tide Star. It took him seventeen turns to kill me, but kill me he did. Getting stuck on two lands until turn 5 didn’t help, but it’s not what killed me. His Cranial Extractions didn’t help, either.


Game 3:
What the hell?!? Cranial Extraction again? Again, not that it hurt very badly taking my Darkblasts after they’d done their jobs. It was just that it had been three weeks or so since I’d seen Cranial Extraction in the Casual Decks room, and now I’d seen them two games in a row.

This game was about me relearning the lesson about dropping two Arenas into play before having any life gain in my hand. Stupid move.


Game 4:
Ah, a classic matchup: Mono-Blue Control versus Mono-Black Control. It’s like Yankees versus Red Sox. Duke versus UNC. Paris versus Nicole. Thanks to Nightmare Void, he never really had what he needed in hand. Once his side of the board was clear – thanks to Hideous Laughter and two Cruel Edicts – a large Genju-Swamp ended the game in two turns. (2-2)

Game 5:
Another G/B deck and another win. Wow. This deck is working quite well against G/B. Must be the Darkblasts that can take out Birds and the Night of Souls’ Betrayals that prevent other weenies from hitting the board.


Game 6:
I am intrigued by the notion of U/R control decks, which is what this opponent played. I’m going to have to look into those at some point. What I saw this time was that None More Black was too much for the U/R deck. When he tapped out on his third turn to cast Counsel of the Sortami, I got a Phyrexian Arena in with no problems. Those extra cards were huge, especially when one of the turned out to be Consume Spirit.


Game 7: Mono-Red.
Ugh. Actually, I had the game quite in hand except for the fact that I couldn’t find a Consume Spirit to gain life. Darkblast took out his Akki Avalanchers. He then dropped a Goblin Cohort and a Ronin Houndmaster. Since I didn’t miss a land drop, when he dropped a second Houndmaster, Hideous Laughter took out his entire team. Phyrexian Arena did the job that his deck couldn’t, though. After the game, I kept drawing cards and found all four Consume Spirits in the bottom half of the deck. (4-3)

Game 8:
If you never play in the Casual Decks room, you miss a lot of creativity. This guy was playing a deck that relied on creature enchantments. Risky, I know. Trust me. As someone playing a mono-Black deck, I know.

He made it work quite well, though. He had Dowsing Shaman, Drake Familiar, and Thran Golem. Had Night of Soul’s Betrayal not come down right on turn 4, I don’t know what would have happened. An enchanted Thran Golem is bad enough, but when Flight of Fancy and Fists of Ironwood can keep coming back over and over, it’s even worse. NSB took care of the weenies (although he did figure out that he could cast the Familiar and bounce an Aura even though the Familiar wouldn’t stay in play) while the Arena finally got me to a Consume Spirit before things got out of hand.


Game 9:
With Ravnica being so new, I keep forgetting that there are still a bunch of great cards in Kamigawa Block. This opponent had a R/W Samurai deck with Day of Destiny. It was very hard to play around. Given the boost that Day of Destiny gave most of his creatures, it was hard for Hideous Laughter and Darkblast to get rid of his guys. I had to double up most of them.

Thankfully, Night of Soul’s Betrayal came to my rescue again. Once his side of the board was wiped out and he had no cards in hand, Genju-Swamp only took three turns to kill him.


Game 10:
Plague Boiler is an awesome card. Thinking this doesn’t make me unique, so I just wanted to preface my next statement: Against None More Black, it’s not so good. When he dropped his third-turn Plague Boiler, I followed with a fourth-turn Night of Souls’ Betrayal. With no other non-land permanents for his Boiler to blow up, what it actually did was stunt his side of the board. He kept using mana to take a counter off so that the Boiler didn’t just take down one of my permanents. Because of this, it took him a while to get a creature out. When he finally did, I had creature kill in hand. So he let his Boiler go off, allowing him to play another creature, which also soon died. The game went on so long that two consecutive Consume Spirits ended it.


Okay, so Karl was right. He often is. Turns out the Rend Fleshes weren’t all that great. Sure, they killed a couple of d00ds, but they sat in my hand mocking me against Keiga. Meanwhile, Nightmare Void was as good as I remembered it to be. This is an easy change. Out go the Rend Fleshes, in come two Disembowels and a third N-Void. Reusable discard is good, mmmm-kay?

I’m also dropping the Tomb. Adding the Tomb was one of Karl’s suggestions, too, and his reasoning was that often a 5/5 flier can just end the game. Tru dat. However, it did more harm with its Pain-for-Mana thing than any good it did. I never was in a situation where I felt comfortable activating it. The only time you would ever want to do that is when (a) their hand is empty, (b) they can’t block a flier, and (c) the token will end the game. It never happened.

This brings us to:

None More Black, V.2.0
22 Swamp
2 Quicksand

3 Genju of the Fens
4 Darkblast
4 Kiku’s Shadow
4 Cruel Edict
4 Phyrexian Arena
4 Hideous Laughter
4 Night of Soul’s Betrayal
3 Nightmare Void
2 Disembowel
4 Consume Spirit

Let’s see how this revised, “better” version does.

Game 11:
He was playing a U/R control deck that had a only few creatures. Since he had Blaze and countermagic while I only had Consume Spirit, this came down to who outdrew the other. My Arena showed up much later than his two Counsel of the Soratami and his Compulsive Research. I cast one final Consume Spirit leaving three mana up just in case he had Mana Leak. He did – two of them. Thanks to my Arena, he was able to Blaze me out for exactly enough by tapping out.


Game 12:
Uh-oh. Mulligan to five. Fortunately, I got a two-Swamp hand with Darkblast, Cruel Edict, and Consume Spirit… But it didn’t matter. I guess you’re just destined to lose some games.

I drew a Nightmare Void and saw three Wear Aways as well as a couple of nasty Kirins in his hand. I took a Wear Away, since I could deal with the Kirins. Also, I had a Phyrexian Arena in my hand, and I wanted to draw some cards. It took a long time, but I wiped out all of the Wear Aways. I was at nine life, and he had two Promised Kannushis on board. Not a problem, other than that Soulshift thing. I dropped the Arena. He cast Haru-Onna. Which drew him a Haru-Onna. Which drew him his fourth Wear Away.

After that, I drew Night of Soul’s Betrayal. Sure, it wiped out his side, but those two 1/1s Soulshifted back a couple of big dudes. Since I couldn’t draw two creature kill spells in the next turn (or just one Consume Spirit), I was cooked.


Game 13:
This was another mostly-Kamigawa-Block Spirit deck. Night of Souls’ Betrayal kept the weenies away while Cruel Edict and Kiku’s Shadow handled the Kirins and Maro crew. A final big Consume Spirit ended it all, set up by a Nightmare Void to ensure there was no countermagic left in his hand.


Game 14:
Sheesh. What is this? Four months ago? Another Spirit deck, but this one packed Myojins. And me without any of my Cruel Edicts!

An absolutely huge Myojin of Life’s Web kicked up with Inner Calm, Outer Strength dropped me from sixteen to one. My Arena finished me off. (1-3)

Game 15:
I lost, but I loved doing it. This opponent had a R/W control deck based around the Red and White Hondens and Searing Meditation. Once the Honden of Stupid Phat Lifegain hit, I had no chance. Which begs the question: what is this deck going to do about Global (i.e. non-Aura) enchantments?


Game 16:
I was completely thrown off with this one. He was playing G/B. His first-turn Llanowar Elves was met by a Darkblast, but he still got a third-turn Phyrexian Arena, a card I never saw.

I figured I was done for when he cast Chord of Calling for six. Now, what does a G/B deck with a Chord for six? Nope. Not Kokusho. Coalhauler Swine. Yes, really. A couple of turns later, a big Consume Spirit took him out.


Game 17:
Man, I am getting my clock cleaned. It’s not like I don’t have the answers; I’m just not getting them. An Arena would have been nice, but it never came up – which is bad against a neo-Miracle Gro deck. He even had Thieving Magpies. I was able to hold him off for a while with Night of Souls’ Betrayal. (0/2 Magpies never deal combat damage and, thus never draw him a card.) He killed the Night after about six turns, added a second, and that was all she wrote. He was drawing three cards per turn while I was drawing one.


Game 18:
This is how this deck is supposed to work. He was running a U/B aggro-control deck. I was able to cast Nightmare Void until I knew there wasn’t anything that could stop my Arena from hitting. Hideous Laughter took out his weenies while Cruel Edict took out Keiga. After that, I just kept pumping up a Genju-Swamp.


Game 19:
A Battle of Wits deck? Yes, I lost. But he gave me an idea: Diabolic Tutor.


Game 20:
I was able to get a Phyrexian Arena, and I still couldn’t find a fourth land. Worse, he was playing G/B complete with Grave-Shell Scarabs and all of the usual suspects.


What a horrible streak. Three and seven is awful. I can’t believe that the changes I made actually hurt the deck. I didn’t feel that bad about those ten games, though. A couple were just games where I got no breaks. (I couldn’t even get to four lands in game twenty.) A couple were ones that this deck is just not going to win before sideboarding. (Hondens with Searing Meditation? Yeah, right.)

In almost every game, my deck had the answer; it just didn’t show up. Thus, my next change is to add Diabolic Tutor. I’m going to drop a Nightmare Void and one Night of Soul’s Betrayal (since it’s Legendary) and add in two Tutors. That should allow me to get the card that I need when I need it. These changes give us:

It has to be better now. Doesn’t it? We’ll find out next week. Until then, remember: there’s a fine line between clever and stupid.

Chris Romeo