“Into the Night!”
Ken Ho proved one of my initial thoughts last weekend when he took down GP Oakland with a mono-Black draft deck in Mirrodin Limited. The moment I saw the spoiler for Darksteel, I decided that this deck would finally have enough firepower to exist prominently in the draft metagame.
The color of Witches, Evil, and Darkness.
I feel like I’m writing for MagicTheGathering.com during”Swamp Week” or something.
The last time I remember mono-Black being a complete Limited powerhouse was back in Urza’s Saga with Pestilence, Befoul, Expunge, and the like. While we don’t quite have that here, I think we’re at least on par or above the mono-Black deck from back in Onslaught.
Enough of that, let’s get down to the archetype.
While I’m only listing the common pick order, I will be mentioning lots of uncommons in the discussion part here. This list is very open to fluctuation, especially depending on the rest of the cards you already have in your pile.
Before I get too far ahead of myself, let me lay the groundwork for why the archetype has really picked up a resurgence with the introduction of Darksteel into the format. Back in triple Mirrodin, while it was still very possible to compile a mono-Black draft deck based on the power of multiple Consume Spirits, the deck was really lacking in other avenues of power. Sure, you could grab a Nightmare Lash, but in general you didn’t gain enough options from excluding a second color.
With the powerful additions in Darksteel (which I’ll talk about later), we now have a very good reason to begin forcing the deck in the first pack of Mirrodin by picking Consume Spirits very high.
Since we should be planning to draft this deck once we get any inclination that the cards will be flowing in pack three, grabbing the first Consume Spirit you get passed is usually a very good idea unless there’s some bomb waiting in the pack. This is one of the main reasons the deck is as strong as it is anyway and you can never have enough Drains.
A lot of the cards in Mirrodin are very much reliant on the rest of your draft pile.
Irradiate and Nim Shrieker move up the list as your Artifact count gets higher, and Nim Lashers are even playable in situations where you have Slagwurm Armor. Disciple of the Vault also moves up as you start picking up some Spellbombs, or have a combo like Nim Shambler and Nuisance Engine to fire damage at your opponent’s dome.
Myr Enforcers and Clockwork Condors are also powerful additions to the deck, as they add something that the deck was lacking beforehand. Flying in the case of the Condor, and a fat body in the Enforcer. Not only that, but they double in effectiveness with the block’s Gravedigger, Moriok Scavenger. When you get multiple Scavengers or a Skeleton Shard, you should be frantically grabbing as many good Artifact Creatures as you can get your hands on as you’ll be able to abuse them with your graveyard effects.
Pewter Golem is also a welcome addition to the deck here, as the basic theme is power. The semi-Twisted Abomb packs plenty of power, and often wins ground battles all by himself.
The game plan for drafting the deck in the first two packs is just to get as many Consume Spirits and Terrors as possible while filling out your creature base with solid Black and Artifact bodies. Black also offers a lot of strong cards in the Uncommon slot too, with Barter in Blood, Betrayal of Flesh, and Skeleton Shard topping the list.
When you commit yourself to drafting the deck, you really need to cut it hard so that you have every possible chance to get passed the good cards later, and especially in Darksteel.
This is the same pick order I listed in my article last week concerning Darksteel commons.
This guy is like a flying Nantuko Shade in the common slot!
I remember the days of Frozen Shade and other horrible reprints, but this guy is the real deal. The one life loss for each pump is trivial in comparison to the Fireball effect he creates on your opponent’s life total.
Obviously the removal spells are very good at what they do, with Essence Drain being another powerful Drain Life effect. Chittering Rats is both tempo and card advantage and really wrecks havoc on anyone with a mediocre draw when you can consistently cast it on turn 3 since you don’t have to worry about the black mana. Dross Golem is well…cheap. And effective.
The Scarab is also a fine creature at a 3/3 for four mana, and shouldn’t be neglected if you’re short on quality guys.
The big idea behind the deck is to create powerful effects with the large number of Swamps you’re running, and also avoid color screw in the process. The heavy hitters here are certainly Consume Spirit and Grimclaw Bats, with a pack of removal backing them up.
A Pressing Issue
One of the most important issues to come out of the new set is the big question of Sword of Fire and Ice versus Skullclamp. Both of the cards are complete powerhouses, and what in the world do you do when you open a pack with both.
I realize this was a topic on the forums last week, and I did post some of my thoughts at that time, but I want to hit a little harder on it right now.
In the forums, the Sword was winning by a rather large margin in the poll that was taken, but in most cases I’d have to side with the Skullclamp.
I already spent plenty of time in my article two weeks ago putting the card up on a pedestal, so I won’t do too much of that now, but instead I’d like to offer my solution to the pick in question.
Which one you take is entirely dependent upon your deck.
While the Clamp is going to be more powerful most of the time, I can certainly see where there are situations where the Sword is still a justifiable pick. Two times I had the Clamp, and had it in play for a number of turns drawing cards, and still failed to win. Maybe this was because the rest of my deck wasn’t good enough, but that really shouldn’t matter if I’m drawing over half of it right?
All I’m saying here is, sometimes you need to have the Sword present in your deck to build a big enough attacker to do the job. It’s no good drawing your whole deck if you can’t win with the cards left in it!
The decision basically comes down to the amount of one toughness creatures you’re already playing. If you have upwards of six or seven, I’d say to always take the Clamp, especially if most of them are Myr or other insignificant creatures, since you’ll be able to start Clamping early and you won’t be wasting valuable attackers like Neurok Prodigy to draw extra cards.
If you are short on the little guys, but just happen to have lots of evasion creatures, like Neurok Spy, you’ll probably find yourself taking the Sword as a Spy alone will deal six damage and draw a card with every combat phase it carries the blade.
In general, you should be picking Skullclamp, and especially if you can put it to maximum use in the early game. It’s certainly not the worst thing in the world to take the Sword though, and it’s definitely the cooler option.
Hopefully I’ll be able to get some Darksteel walkthroughs going soon.
Have fun and enjoy Black while it’s hot.