Mono-Black on a Budget

Posted in Reconstructed on October 26, 2015

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

Welcome to a week of looking at budget Standard!

Last week we built up a pretty cool budget Modern deck. And now that you're all set on Modern, it lines up perfectly with looking at budget Standard! In the wake of the Pro Tour, what kind of deck should you choose to play with if you're on a budget?

Well, today we have a pretty nice look at one for you that's an archetype I've seen be plenty successful—and it's even monocolored, so you don't need any kind of crazy fetch land/dual land mana base to make it work!

Ready to check it out? Let's start with what ReConstructed reader Max sent in for this week:

Max's Mono-Black Sac

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Budget Rules

Before the sacrifices begin, let's recap my rules for building a budget decklist! If you've never read through one of my budget articles before, what you can expect is:

  • I will not add any new rares or mythic rares to the decklist. I'd rather make the deck extra budget-y and let you season to taste with delicious rares than cook it so rare you won't eat it at all.
  • The one exception to the above is mana fixing. You'll get a lot of mileage out of acquiring a mana base: Lands can go in many decks and are one of their most crucial elements. Your cards probably aren't going to help you if you can't cast them! Fortunately, since this deck is mono-black, that shouldn't be too much of an issue.
  • I try not to make substitutions. Budget doesn't need to mean making a worse version of a current deck—it just means building toward an archetype that has easier-to-obtain cards. Cards like Thopter Spy Network and Jeskai Ascendancy simply can't be replaced in decks that need them.
  • Budget doesn't mean bad. I'm not setting out to make a deck we know will be suboptimal through this process. There have been plenty of highly successful low-rarity decks throughout Magic's history, and there are certainly ways to follow in their footsteps.

If you want more explanation on any of those points, check out the beginning of my first budget article.

All right. Now, let's hop into the details on how this deck operates!

The Battle Plan

At its core, this is an aggressive deck, seeking to kill off the opponent while also disrupting them in some way. However, rather that focus on cheap, efficient creatures that cost one and two mana like many beatdown decks (though you still have Bloodsoaked Champion), this deck strategy is a little different.

To make up for their size, your cards provide you with some kind of advantage. For example, Carrier Thrall and Sultai Emissary both die into additional creatures. Bloodsoaked Champion keeps coming back for more. And when you layer this alongside cards that don't mind having things die, such as Smothering Abomination and Grim Haruspex, and then partner them with Nantuko Husk, things start to get explosive.

Take Bloodsoaked Champion, for example. This is a marvelous engine card here: For 1B you can bring it back to sacrifice to your Nantuko Husk as many times as you'd like, provided you have attacked that turn. And if you have a Haruspex or Abomination on the battlefield, that turns it into "1B: Nantuko Husk gets +2/+2. Draw a card."

Yeah. I'll play that.

Of course, the deck has plenty of other synergies. You can pump creatures into Husk to kill out of nowhere with Carrier Thrall and Sultai Emissary, while draining the opponent with Zulaport Cutthroat. Merciless Executioner fits right in with both of those as well, letting you go down (essentially) zero creatures to remove one of theirs. And hey: You can always just attack them to death with Smothering Abomination to boot!

This deck is a pretty tight package, and because of all the synergies, you don't want to start unraveling it too far from the core. However, there are a few modifications to its base, and especially its spell suite, that could hit the disruption note a little harder and make the rest of its cards really shine.

What exactly do I mean? Well, let's move on to the decklist!

Deck Breakdown

Which cards can stay and which should be sacrificed away? Let's go through this decklist card by card and find out!

In a budget deck, I always want to make sure any rares I include are really pulling their weight—and the Champion certainly is! As a one-mana 2/1, he quickly gets the ball rolling on your opponent's demise. But what pushes him far beyond a simple Elite Vanguard is his ability to come back!

You can attack recklessly with the Champion early, knowing anything he trades with will be pretty good value for you: It just means you will bring him back later on!

And later in the game is exactly when Champion really shines.

All of your sacrifice outlets and dies triggers really hum with the addition of Champion, making it a trivial payment for you. And, as previously mentioned, it helps Nantuko Husk turn into a super-threatening kill machine.

All of this makes me feel certain that four is the number I want.

While these two-mana creatures look fairly innocuous, they carry quite a bit of power on their shambling shoulders. Any kind of creature that spawns another creature upon death makes it not only a potential two-for-one, but also a great combination in this particular deck. The Thrall and Emissary are cards always teetering on the edge of Constructed playability, and alongside cards such as Nantuko Husk and Smothering Abomination they do fantastic work—which makes them quite strong.

These both serve similar roles, and I'd like all eight copies.

Welcome to Zulaport!

While it may look like a piddly two-mana 1/1, make no mistake: This is one of the scariest creatures in the deck! With every death, you drain them for 1 life. And in a deck that's all about sacrificing over and over again, this can really rack up the damage!

For example, with Nantuko Husk, it suddenly lets you deal an additional 1 every time you sacrifice something. And on a stalled board, you can combine it with something such as Bloodsoaked Champion to quickly put your opponent on a clock. This deck is all about churning out value as creatures die—and Zulaport Cutthroat makes that happen. All four, please!

I've mentioned Nantuko Husk several times so far, and for good reason: Nantuko Husk is one of the backbones of this strategy! It's a great way to kill your opponent from a high life total—or just ensure that you have a sacrifice outlet on the battlefield. And check out those Rogue's Passages! That's a way to finish the game.

Husk is so strong here that I want to up the number to four. While they can be a bit redundant in multiples, you do usually want to draw one and drawing multiples isn't bad at all. Four it is!

Making sure this deck doesn't have too much sitting at three mana is going to be important. With that said, Haruspex is a card I wouldn't want to remove. Haruspex is essentially a must-kill: Every sacrificed creature turns into another card that threatens to overwhelm the opponent. With Nantuko Husk rolling alongside cards such as Sultai Emissary, it's easy to start racking up the cards! I'd like to keep these three.

If your opponent is banking on keeping one creature on the battlefield, curving an Emissary or Thrall into an Executioner is absolutely brutal. It lets you knock out their creature while losing very little on your own board!

Of course, the Executioner (or Fleshbag Marauder—take your pick) isn't without its downsides. It is weaker against token-based strategies, and it also sits at three mana and sorcery speed, which is starting to gum up the curve a little bit. With Hangarback Walker everywhere, it's definitely a little less appealing. I don't necessarily want a hand full of these in all matchups. So, what I'd like to do is move down to two copies and switch up the removal suite to have some cheaper removal spells. More can fit at the ready in the sideboard if necessary, but I'm happy with two main deck.

Although it does sit all the way up at four mana, the Abomination is great. While in many decks, going down a creature every turn is a risk you might not want to deal with, here it's a fairly trivial cost that actually carries tremendous upside. Not only are you bashing your opponent's skull in for 4 every turn, but you're going so far up on cards. And then, of course, if you get a Nantuko Husk at the ready you can start drawing cards on a whim. I definitely want to keep all of these.

I appreciate cards that fit into the one-mana slot, trying to come down early and make good use of your resources. And the High Priest does just that. In a longer game, it helps convert your resources and ensures you have a steady stream of creatures, plus helps find cards you need.

However, it doesn't do quite enough for my tastes. It requires constant mana investment to work, and there are other cards in this strategy that hit this note and provide better upgrade on your creatures. While it definitely can be strong in some situations, it doesn't quite do enough to fit in here. Goodbye, High Priest!

When it comes to removal spells, this is one of the most efficient ones out there. This deck doesn't play fetch lands, so it's a little harder to play a ton of these to cast over and over—but with all of the sacrificing, you can still cast one per game with ease. Two is the perfect number of this flexible removal spell.

Among all of black's many removal spells, Complete Disregard has one huge advantage: It takes out Hangarback Walker without causing any triggers. In the process, it also helps deal with cards such as Deathmist Raptor, which has a nasty habit of returning.

At three mana, it's a bit inefficient and not my favorite of the removal offerings on the table. However, while it may look a bit odd, the number I want to keep is exactly one. It's going to be all right to draw one of these most of the time, but I don't want it to be my primary removal option. One it is.

Good ol' Bone Splinters. Going an eye for an eye is something this deck can definitely take advantage of. However, there are just enough good normal removal spells that don't require a sacrifice that this isn't really necessary. While it's strong when your game plan is working and firing away, removal is often very important when you're behind as well—and Bone Splinters is not the kind of card I want to have when I'm behind.

Instead, I'd like to play two copies of Ultimate Price. Although the current abundance of strong three-color cards and devoid means there are plenty of things it can't kill, playing two means it isn't going to be stranded in our hand terribly often and can be used on a reasonable target. Two is great here.

This is the kind of card that can look really attractive, letting you scry away and then have an end-of-game mana sink to win off of. However, once again, you have to be careful: It tends to only be good when you're winning. It doesn't impact the board or do nearly as much as many creatures would. And while if I could just snap my fingers and put one on the battlefield I would, every card included in the deck comes at the expense of another card—and I'd rather draw something else in many situations. This card can go.

Finally, I'd like to add some more discard spells. This deck has a powerful game plan overall, but it could stand to be more disruptive. Removal is one way to do that—but stripping away your opponent's cards will ensure your synergies really get a chance to shine. And using one-mana spells to do so is especially perfect, since the impact on your curve is so minimal.

The split is simple: two Duress, two Despise. I'd rather draw one-and-one than two of either, and this gives you information about what's coming while helping you control the flow of the game. These can go a long way toward helping craft the game in your favor.

So, bringing it all together, that puts us at:

Gavin Verhey's Night Terrors

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If you're looking for something you can build on a budget that is laden with synergy and packs a punch, this would be a great place to start! Most notably, you don't need any fetch or dual lands for it, allowing you to avoid the crazy mana bases of Standard.

If I were to look at more rares for this strategy, I'd definitely consider Ruinous Path as one option in black. Liliana, Heretical Healer is another strong card to play in a deck this focused on sacrifice.

Expanding out to other colors, I could see green as a strong choice, especially when using Collected Company as an engine piece. It fetches most of your creatures and can help set up your most dangerous board states.

Have fun with this one. Sacrifice to your advantage!

McArtor's Mentions

In McArtor's Mentions, we take a look at some other fantastic decks that were sent in this week. Check them out:

Steve Tuckett's Four-Color Blighted Wealth

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Zie Aun Tan's Hit and Run

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Alyssa Gleipnir's Dreams of the Drowned

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Jonah Comstock's Drive Through the Pile

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Sean Skinner's White-Black Gains

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Adam Jackson's Rotten Eggs

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Takuro Ikeda's White-Black Non-Ingest Processor

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Anthony Pichery's Budget Simic Assault Formation

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Tanzanite's Deathtouch Arrows

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Kari Malsom's White-Blue Prowess

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Itou Kazunari's Toughness Is Justice

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Matthew Sentilles's Eldrushy Disruption

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Tibalt Adson's Devoid Formation

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Frogue's Recycling Allies

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Max's Impact Tremors

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Asada Masayuki's Jund Tokens

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Matsui Hiroshi's Black-Green Evolutionary Leap

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