Big Mana spells rule Prismatic. There’s no point trying to dodge that fact because even the aggro decks that don’t adhere to it try to attack it. Going one-drop two-drop three-drop burn when your opponent is wishing they had life enough to tap out for a Wake so they could seize control of the game is a fine way of throttling back the otherwise unrestrained, drunken debauch that is a normal Prismatic Manabase.
In my little jaunt of looking for mono-colored decks that thrive in Prismatic, the lure of the Almost All-Basic Manabase was powerful. I mean, really. But there’s also the lure of some nonbasics. As soon as I hit upon the lure of going with All-Basic… I found the siren call of the Coffers.
Coffers are the bane of roughly every MTGO multiplayer table everywhere because they, despite being uncommon, really underline the Haves and the Have-Nots. And I don’t mean Haves and Have-Nots as far as players go. I mean as far as colors go.
There’s something utterly wretched about seeing a sequence of events that runs something along the lines of kill your man, make you discard your hand, then draw a grip of seven, all by turn six, and all by cards in one color.
Coffers lets you do totally ridiculous things. So the lure for going mono-Black is very strong. Cutting Black… is a lot more difficult.
Black’s cycling is fortunately dense — you can run, with commons only, Disciple of Malice, Swat, and Unburden and already fill twelve of your slots, with any combination of Rakdos, Dimir, Orzhov, or Golgari Guildmagi filling in the extra slots.
Of course, the Golgari Guildmage is just awful.
Now, there’s another sneaky customer who can slip under the radar and skunk your color requirements in Black, but he’s a little more risky, and only for the aggressive types. Zombie Cutthroat, of the Infamous Cuts Tell. Now, in a deck that wanted to cut Black, to, say, emphasise Red, the Zombie is a fine man, if your plan is hell-for-leather aggression. But three for a 3/4 who costs you five life is quite mediocre by other standards, so avoid the Cutthroat if you can. Guildmagi are generally better.
As for mono-Black… well, you get a lot of power out of it. For a start, Black has always had, as part of its flavor, the ability to do most anything, providing it pays enough for it, and this flavor has shown up in a lot of annoying ways. Furthermore, because of Black’s flavor pie also having “play more Black” in it, there are a lot of cards that reward you for playing mono-Black.
Consume Spirit, Corrupt, Nightmare, Garza’s Assassin, Promise of Power, Reiver Demon, Phthisis, Spirit of the Night, and Sickening Shoal are all obviously potent and all at their finest in the hand of the Black Mage. Then there’s some of the real sleeper hits — Gravestorm, Withered Wretch, Avatar of Discord, and Greater Harvester — that thrive in the land of the Swamp.
If you cut all your Black, though, your aggro potential is blunted. Going without Red for aggro is a bad idea because it cuts you out of burn; but going sans Black in an aggressive deck is just as bad, because that means your main option for stopping Blue is, well, Blue. Better to opt for Black’s strong threat base and disruption, if you want to go pure aggro.
For some deck archetypes, cutting Black is a necessity rather than a desire; if you want to trim your deck down to two or one colors, Black has to go simply as a matter of course. In these instances, it’s a painful thing to do. If you own any duals, a few Twisted Abominations can serve to fill in the Black slot and give you something to do with them later. While this strategy’s bad for Red, the Chartooth Cougar as a spell stacks up as generally mediocre compared to the house-like Twisted Abomination.
Black, like Blue, serves a unique role in Prismatic, in that it and it alone brings any kind of discard that’s worth a damn. You can try with Disrupting Scepter or Muse Vessel, but neither packs the same grotesque power as Turn 1 Duress Your Farseek. With Black’s heavy graveyard hate, it also is (almost) alone in being able to abuse an opponent’s yard. Given how heavily Prismatic decks lean on their graveyards, with the flashback spells, recursion spells, reanimation spells, and incarnations — basically the revenge of Odyssey block — it stands to reason that the odd graveyard hoser, like Withered Wretch or Gravestorm, would be quite handy to have around.
With the printing of Tormod’s Crypt, that might change — after all, Blue has ways to go and get the Crypt, and White has a number of ways to reuse it. But barring for those who can afford such things and the decks that run fine without them, you’re better of keeping Black. Just like Red, it’s a color that loves to be a focus, and what it gives you for that is a lot of raw power.
Tomorrow, it’s on to the Elephant in the Room.