Punishment: The Deck They Shoulda Used At The Masters

I have played some standard on Magic Online lately, and my favorite deck right now is monoblack control. I have done quite well with it, winning something like 70% of more than a hundred matches. Is this good? I haven’t played a lot of Standard in Magic Online before, so I don’t know if you need like 75% wins in order to show that the deck is good. The opposing decks did seem okay, if we exclude the guy who used Cabal Ritual to power out a speedy Dusk Imp.


How are things? I was a bit of a mess some time ago. You see, I happened to be part of a public misunderstanding. While innocently surfing Team Academy’s pages a while ago, I noticed how my previous article was quoted in a totally wrong light. So, being a man of action, I somehow managed to put myself together and write these fine fellows. What I could come up with was the following:

Subject: This is an outrage

I read your quotes section a while ago, and noticed how you made fun of my Strategy article
Punishment: New Topics. You basically claimed that my sentence about ‘the Extended metagame being full of decks that do well in the matchups that they are good at’ to state the obvious. I strongly disagree. In all honesty, that sentence was just trying to help describe the metagame. Like the rest of the article, there was nothing funny about it.

Shame on you.

I waited for a response, but nothing came. Finally a few days ago all the stress came to an end in the form of a fine reply.

i’m sorry you don’t have a good grasp of the english language. Your not

native to it so it’s ok, but what you said is a circular statement in

english. It’s inncorrect, and therefor funny to native english speakers.

don’t worry about it


I felt great. Never before have my shortcomings been met with such understanding. With regained confidence I decided to give the art of writing a one more shot.

Seriously, though, I think it’s time I quit messing around for a while and voice actual opinions instead of mocking others. I have played some standard on Magic Online lately, and my favorite (=only) deck right now is monoblack control. I have done quite well with it, winning something like 70+ % of more than a hundred matches. Is this good? I haven’t played a lot of Standard in Magic Online before, so I don’t know if you need like 75+ % wins in order to show that the deck is good. The opposing decks did seem okay, if we exclude the guy who used Cabal Ritual to power out a speedy Dusk Imp.

Anyway, the following list is what I suggested my teammates play in the Gateway and The Masters:

4 Chainer’s Edict

3 Smother

3 Mutilate

1 Ghastly Demise

1 Innocent Blood

4 Diabolic Tutor

4 Skeletal Scrying

4 Undead Gladiator

4 Duress

1 Haunting Echoes

1 Mind Sludge

3 Corrupt

1 Mirari

4 Cabal Coffers

22 Swamp


4 Nantuko Shade

2 Mesmeric Fiend

2 Cabal Therapy

2 Ghastly Demise

1 Haunting Echoes

1 Mind Sludge

1 Mutilate

1 Visara, the Jensful

1 Engineered Plague

This is not the list I would play now, though. I posted it to make a trap for those people who just copy the decklist without reading the fine literary accomplishment.

How this list differs from most other builds: I have insane amounts of card drawing. This is due to the fact that I am very addicted to controllish strategies in all formats, and like to draw cards. I also run only three Corrupts and no Replicator. I have found the Replicator to be beyond average only in the mirror, and replaced it with a fourth Scrying, since it is better even in that matchup.

I have to admit that adding the fourth Corrupt has never even occurred to me. It is very good versus red decks, but otherwise one of the lasts cards that you want to draw. I think of the card as a necessary evil in this deck, and that with my huge assortment of draw power I should draw them late game as often as the other versions.

So, how did the guys do with it in Chicago? Mattias”the punk” Jorstedt decided to play Slide instead, Anton played Beasts and Jens lost in round one to Jin Okamoto running Sligh.

Please don’t stop reading yet.

Why was this version – or even this decktype – any good in the pre-masters environment? The short explanation is that the creature removal at its disposal is very good, and versus decks without creatures you can set up a perfect hand with Gladiator and Tutors and then go off with end of turn Scrying, Duress-Sludge-Echoes.

About the Gladiator engine… It feeds itself. When cycling Gladiator you keep up with land drops, which means that Coffers gives insane mana, which means more cycling, which is more lands and so on. You also fill the graveyard for Scrying. I am talking about exponential growth here, guys.

I could write about how Duress is to be used as discard, but instead I’ll comment on the matchups based on my experience.


This is a walk in the park while eating a piece of cake and taking a candy from some kid. My record in this matchup is more than fifteen played, none lost. I have lost individual games, but they are quite rare. This matchup is responsible for my only win ever after mulliganing and losing land drops two through four.

Why on earth is it good, then? Every other article discussing the matchup – all written by Slide players – claim the matchup to be incredibly good for them. Now clearly there is something wrong here. My reasoning here is that they will not stop you from going off with Sludge and Echoes. A full compliment of Scryings and Tutors help you set it up, and Gladiator can be used when they are tapped out or do not have a Lightning Rift out. I suppose I should lose to Astral Slide/Exalted Angel, but it seems I either take out the Slide with Duress or just go off while they hit me like three times.

I take out some sorcery removal here to bring in Echoes, Sludge, Shades, and Visara.

I suppose that every Slide player who now thinks I am insane test the matchup a bit more against a version of monoblack that has the right tools.


They either kill you with haste (Reckless Charge and Blistering Firecat) or lose. The problem is that you have one Demise versus four Cats, and three Smothers versus four Charges. Nevertheless, I have won more than 50% of game ones here, since it seems like you are able to take one hit from Charge or Cat before you start the Corrupting. This means that you don’t take much creature damage aside from that. After board it gets easier, as you get Plague and more Demises. All in all, I think that this matchup is about 60%. I have not played against Flaming Gambit, though, and that is the card that beat Jens.

R/G Beats

This is like Sligh, but game one is considerably easier due to less haste. Sideboard games are not as good due to Compost. My answer to Compost is basically to beat down with Shades and Visara. Sometimes this works very well, and sometimes it all goes to hell starting from turn 2. I suggest leaving in all Duresses to decrease their chance of resolving the enchantment.

U/B (tog or z0mbz)

Drawing a Gladiator or resolving a Tutor is highly recommended. As there is a lot of time to set up the big turn, I pretty much never give them a chance to use Force Spike. The exception here is when they go first and my draw is too bad to beat turn two Compulsion. I claim this version beats ‘Tog more than 50% game one, because you can Duress their Compulsion but they cannot do anything to the Gladiator.

After sideboard, you try to beat them with guys. They are not as good here as they are versus Wake, since U/B usually doesn’t have too much to board in. Sometimes a Shade will beat them up, but mostly I use guys to mess up their game plan a bit so that I can hopefully resolve a Scrying or a five-mana sorcery. Gladiator is a nice insurance against Blood and Edict, and also combos with Therapy.


I have never had an opponent draw a Gladiator versus me in the mirror. Hence, this has been like playing Monopoly one-on-one where I start with double money and the best street.


The game one often looks close, but you pull it out very often. They keep hitting you with some guy while you answer their stuff. Smother is approximately ten billion times better here than Blood, since hitting that Aquamoeba/Wild Mongrel on turn 2 can easily save you approximately ten life points. I have yet to lose a game where they pump Basking Rootwalla before turn 5.

I think that game one is about the same as versus R/G. Sideboard games are a lot easier, though, since you can safely put down Shade on turn 2 versus their Compost. They won’t burn it. You don’t always draw the Shade, though, and sometimes lose even with it. Hence I suggest keeping in all the Duresses here too.

Mirari’s Wake:

I seem to be beating this deck, but the matches are often quite tight. This is one of the matchups where you gain way more by sideboarding than they do. The worst-case scenario here is, like it is against U/B, when they get turn 2 Compulsion and you have no Gladiator or Tutor. You gain more with sideboarding (Guys, Therapy, Echoes, Sludge), so I have quite many LWW results in this matchup. I am not saying that game one is impossible, but more like a 40% chance to win.

So there are my experiences about the metagame that existed a month ago. I haven’t tested the new format, as learning the post-Masters, pre-Legions metagame is about as useful to me or my homies as an Australian citizenship.

I can plop out some ideas, though: A maindeck Plague looks like a good idea with Opposition winning the whole thing. Even with all the aforementioned praise about Gladiator, I could see cutting one for an extra Swamp. It still does leave you with seven tools to draw multiple cards with and four Tutors. Maindeck Visara or Shade is something that I thought about a lot, but didn’t want to cut anything. Putting in the Shade would kind of make sense, as I board in four Shades in every conceivable matchup.

If Compost is very popular in your area, which might be now that its effectiveness versus U/B has been proven, I suggest running a second Visara in the sideboard. It seems like the best answer here. Having more Plagues is helpful, too.

I never tried any copies of Braids in the sideboard. It could be good to stop U/B from getting into Upheaval range or against Wake in the early game.

One of the worst cards in the deck is Mirari, as it gives you the same kind of late-game power as Scrying or Gladiator but is”the suck” in the early game (I like Scrying for 2 on turn 3 or 4). Occasionally you need it for double-Corrupts vs. a Slide deck that recurred their Teroh’s Faithfuls a bazillion times, but even in those cases you could have often just beaten them up with Gladiators as Echoes leaves them with not much of a deck. I am not sure if something really weird will happen if it is cut, though. I suggest at least replacing it then with an active card like a guy.

I don’t know much about the Reanimator matchup, but it seems that Anger is the biggest threat. Coffin Purges in the board are recommended if this deck is truly as popular as people claim. Smother is way worse than Blood here, which makes for a difficult decision as the targeting instant is better against other decks.

Well, enough about the deck. I’ll say a few words about the 8th edition layout before I go. When I started playing Magic, it was the usual (?) story of an RPGer abandoning the storytelling and dices for something faster and more competitive. I liked the look of the cards a lot. They looked classy, old, and very RPG-like. I think that the new layout would not have looked as tempting to me. Nowadays I couldn’t care less, though. It is kind of cool and refreshing to have Wizards make such a big change. I just hope it won’t keep people who imagine that they are elves from learning Magic.

Until next time,