Posts Tagged ‘Black’

Black Control in Standard 1: The Cards

October 24, 2009

Now that I’ve covered the principles of control in black, let’s go over the tools available to us in standard, and see what is available.  My lists will by no means be exhaustive, just the cards that have been on my mind, and with them I’ll give you some deck archetypes to fiddle with next post..

First: Cards that give card advantage: Sign in Blood, Mind Rot and Mind Sludge (so long as they have cards in hand), Infest (against certain decks), Soul Stair Expediti0n, and Gatekeeper of Malakir, and the 3 spectres in standard

Sign in blood is an excellent card, and belongs in any monoblack control deck.  While many will disagree with me, I think Mind Rot is highly playable, but perhaps not a four maindeck.  Mind Sludge is the nuts against other control decks, and could be main deck in anti-control preboard builds, and solid sideboard material.  I really don’t like how long SSE can take to go active if drawn late game, but I’ve got my eye on it.  I’ll discuss gatekeeper in answers later below, and I’m skeptical about the reliability of spectres for card advantage.

Second: Answers: To answer planeswalkers, you can’t do much better than Vampire Hexmage, which is fortunate, as planeswalkers aren’t control decks best friend.  (Yes, I know. Hexmage also answers the issue of an ancient evil buried in 30 mana worth of ice, but that’s a different topic.)

Black is the go-to colour to answer those pesky creatures.  Doom Blade is always solid, although perhaps not a good fit even sideboard until the meta has shifted some, and the same can be said of Hideous End.  Tendrils of Corruption does double duty in monoblack, hitting even black creatures, and giving life to boot.  Wretched banquet and Infest also answer creatures, but only do so (and do so well) in a deck built for them.  They also suffer from Putrid Leech being a strong contender in the format.  Gatekeeper of Malakir, and to a lesser extent Fleshbag Marauder, are great at dodging protection from black, and Gatekeeper of Malakir grants card advantage to boot.  Consume Spirit is good in that it serves dual purpose, but it’s usually mana inefficient.  Finally, Vampire Nighthawk is a great way to answer attacking creatures, especially in control.

As for non-creatures… um… there’s Duress… and….

Moving on!

Finishers: Here’s where I’m not so sure.  Losing Demigod of Revenge is something I’m still sore about.  No one really can fill his place in my heart.  But here are the other people I’m considering to fill his shoes.  Ob Nixolis has some serious potential.  He has issues with dying to lightning bolt, but I’d definitely give at least two of him a spin in a black control deck.  Malakir Bloodwitch is no demigod, but she keeps baneslayer off your back, and beats just fine.  I ran Vampire Nocturnus in my MBC Deck last standard, simply for the efficient size/cost ratio (6o percent of the time) and now he has some friends to play with.  Salvage Titan can do some neat things, but not with all that much that you’d play in a black based control deck, and is otherwise a craw wurm, alas.  Less obvious is that 5/5 Zombie Giant token you keep getting in packs can do some serious damage, and make your opponent think twice about wrathing your bloodwitch if you’ve got the quest in your log.

Finally, there’s Guul Draz Spectre and Nyxathid.  In a deck with dedicated hand disruption, these two make having dead discard in your hand not so bad a situation to be in.

As for tempo control.  black’s life gain is a nightmare for traditional aggro decks like boros bushwhacker, and is never unwelcome.  Vampire nighthawk and Tendrils of Corruption are the best for this, but Child of Night might find a good home in the two-drop slot.

Next time: Possible deck archetypes.

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Black in Control Decks

October 10, 2009

Black is a frequent player in control decks, usually paired along with blue or occasionally white.  As standard turns further and further away from blue, and black keeps getting more and more appealing control cards, black is poised to usurp blue in the current standard as the control color of choice*.

To see black’s strengths and weakness, let’s explore its ability to play upon the principles of control.

1: Card advantage: This is typically black’s stumbling point.  While black has a long tradition of (usually good) card draw in exchange for loss of life, there are rarely more than 2 such cards in standard, and a similarly small number in extended.  Black also has access to discard, which is an excellent and often overlooked means of card advantage.  The downside of this is that, if an opponent is out of cards (such as aggro decks often hope to do), discards become dead cards in one’s hand, and thus card disadvantage.  However, discard is a vicious tactic against control decks and many combo decks, meaning it’s a good fit for the right meta, or as a sideboard option.  Recurring cards from your graveyard can often be a source of card advantage, and  Black has a tradition of sweepers of various quality.  Infest is currently black’s best sweeper, and is only good against certain decks, but can generate massive card advantage if played right.    Finally, black has big, efficient creatures in exchange for drawbacks.  Being able to block and destroy your opponents creatures, or simply make them irrelevant on the battlefield, is an often overlooked source of card advantage.

2. Answers.  If you want to answer your enemy’s creature, black is the color to do it.  Black is even decent at killing cards with protection from black, via edict-styled effects.  After this, however, black starts to have issues.   Black doesn’t have any answers to artifacts OR enchantments once they hit the board, and the same is true for instants or sorceries.  Cards like Duress can answer these cards, and nonspecific discard can occasionally force these cards into an opponents graveyard where they belong.  Control decks as a rule have trouble with planeswalkers, and while blue can counter a planeswalker, and white can oblivion ring them, black has only the very specific Vampre Hexmage to lean on.

3. Finishers.  Black has plenty of big creatures, often with evasion and some sort of protection.  Malakir bloodwitch, Ob Nixilis, or even Vein Drinker are all great monoblack finishers.  And one can’t overlooks a large consume spirit.

4.  Tempo obstruction.  Typically, the process of answering your opponents threats is enough to slow down their clock long enough for you to bash them with a finisher, but not always.  Luckily, black typically has the most relevant life gain: that which also kills your opponent’s stuff.  A good tendril’s of corruption or consume spirit can buy you lots of time against an aggressive deck.

So, black has the tools it needs to fill out control docket all on its own, but there are lots of “buts”.  One needs to find a good suite of removal spells that manage to cover all of your bases, as black kill spells tend to have conditions.  Inability to deal with artifacts/enchantments can often push monoblack out of a format, or force it to splash a different color.  Sometimes infest is simply not enough.  Also, when faeries where rampant in standard, black’s shortage of instant speed removal was damning.

Monoblack also is in the odd bind of having the creature removal to beat aggro decks but do poorly against many control and combo decks, and the hand disruption to really mess up many control decks, but can be dead against aggro.

Smart sideboarding can help you alleviate this, having an anti-control build and an anti-aggro build, post board, with your maindeck being a hybrid of the two.

Stay tuned for next time, when I meddle with the monoblack control tools of standard.  You know, unless I change my mind

Wretched Banquet is Awesome

September 6, 2009

Ok, so let’s talk about a card people don’t already know is awesome: Wretched Banquet.  It’s considered a tenth pick in a draft, and I agree with the assessment.  I’m probably the only person to consider running it in a deck and hope for it to be PTQ worthy.  But to see where I’m coming from, let’s use the card evaluation method from two posts ago.

Step 1, best case scenario: When your opponent has a single creature, it’s removal for one, with no restrictions.  When you have no creatures, it’s removal for one, with the only restriction that it gets one of the weakest creatures.  At one mana, this is entirely acceptable.  When your deck doesn’t run any creatures with power less than 4, it’s removal for one that almost always hits your opponent’s creatures.

Save for a fatty-dependant meta, we can see that in the right deck, Wretched Banquet is actually a high quality removal spell.  Your opponent has a bunch of spirit tokens.  That’s what infest is for.

Step 2, worst case scenario: Your opponent has a putrid leech and a boggart ram gang on the table.  That’s what doom blade or deathmark are for.  Your opponent has an army of naya fatties armed with behemoth sledges and only a pair of heroic pestilent katharis are keeping you from utter desolation; you’re playing for a nice shiny promo lightning greaves that you want SO BAD, and you draw wretched banquet.  Three turns in a row.

So, when playing limited, or in a deck not built for it, wretched banquet can seriously disappoint you.  I wanted those lightning greaves…

Step 3: See step two.  Your deck needs to be built with wretched banquet in mind, or it’s highly underwhelming.  Whelming at best.

This card is not for every deck, but in the right control deck, it’s astoundingly good.  For example, in a deck where your creature base is Ashenmoor Gougers, Vampire Nocturnuses, and Demigods of Revenge.

To illustrate my point, here is a list of interesting things I’ve killed with wretched banquet:

-Broodmate Dragon

-Dragon Token

-Figure of Destiny

-Baneslayer Angel

-Sower of Temptation

-Merrow Reejerey

-Demigod of Revenge (mine… lousy mind control)

My favorite is getting my opponents 30 buck Baneslayer.  He let out a sound that implied he was both very impressed and very unimpressed.