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Budget Magic: 13-Rare Mono-Black Persist Combo (Historic)

Hey there, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, for the first time in a while, we're heading to the Historic format (which has been growing on me again lately) to see if some new additions from The Brothers' War can offer a sweet, competitive Mono-Black Persist Combo deck that costs just 13 rares (and, in all honesty, can cost just nine, but I'm a sucker for running a playset of Castle Locthwain in mono-black decks)! You might remember we played a Mono-White Persist deck in Modern a while ago that used Solemnity to go infinite with a persist creature and Altar of Dementia. Our game plan today is similar, although, outside of Altar of Dementia as our game-ending sacrifice outlet, none of the cards are the same! Which cards make an infinite persist combo possible on Magic Arena? Is Putrid Goblin sneakily an all-star in Historic? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Mono-Black Persist Combo

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The Deck

As its name suggests, Mono-Black Persist Combo is a combo deck. The goal is to sacrifice a persist creature infinitely to Altar of Dementia to mill our opponent's entire deck, causing our opponent to lose when they draw a card on their draw step!

The Combo

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To win the game, we need to get three specific cards on the battlefield: Putrid Goblin, Thran Vigil, and Altar of Dementia. Together, these cards form an infinite combo that allows us to mill our opponent's entire deck immediately. The way it works is that we sacrifice Putrid Goblin to Altar of Dementia to mill our opponent for two. When Putrid Goblin goes to the graveyard, it will come back into play with a –1/–1 counter thanks to persist. Putrid Goblin leaving the graveyard will trigger Thran Vigil to put a +1/+1 counter on a creature, which we put on Putrid Goblin. According to the rules of Magic, if a creature has both a –1/–1 and a +1/+1 counter, they cancel each other out, so the end result of this loop will be that we have a normal Putrid Goblin, which we can sacrifice again to Altar of Dementia to mill two more cards and start the process over again. 

The biggest challenge for the deck is that we need three combo pieces to win, and none of them have redundant backup versions. Sadly, Putrid Goblin is the only persist creature on Magic Arena, so there's no real way to add extra copies to the deck. Solemnity can fill in for Thran Vigil, although this makes the deck much more expensive, both because Solemnity is a rare and adding white to the deck means playing a bunch of rare dual lands to make the mana work. As for Altar of Dementia, several backups are available on Magic Arena, like Sling-Gang Lieutenant, although they cost enough mana that we'd have to lose Lurrus of the Dream-Den as our companion, which probably isn't worth it. All of this is to say, we need to find three specific cards in our deck for our combo to work. So, how can we make this happen consistently?

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Our main plan for finding out combo pieces consistently—other than just mulliganing or drawing into them—starts with our one-drops. We have a pile of one-mana creatures that like being sacrificed in Shambling Ghast, Cursebound Witch, and Eyetwitch, all of which either draw us a card or make a Treasure when they die. By themselves, these cards don't do much of anything, but they are super synergistic in our deck, which is built to turn these creatures into the combo pieces we need, with the help of some other cards.

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Outside of our combo pieces themselves, the most important card in our deck is another new The Brothers' War addition in Diabolic Intent. Assuming we are willing to sacrifice a creature, which we usually are thanks to our one-drops, Diabolic Intent gives us a Demonic Tutor to snag whatever combo piece we are missing. Backing up Diabolic Intent are Deadly Dispute and Village Rites to keep us churning through our deck to find our combo pieces.

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Another reason we are fine with sacrificing our creatures aggressively for value is that we have Lurrus of the Dream-Den as our companion, which lets us recast all of our Eyetwitchs, Shambling Ghasts, Cursebound Witches, and Putrid Goblins later in the game from our graveyard. Apart from just generating value, Lurrus also helps make sure we can actually resolve our combo. The easiest way for our opponent to stop our combo is by keeping our combo pieces off the battlefield (or shutting down our graveyard). If our opponent counters, Thoughtseizes, or destroys combo pieces like Altar of Dementia or Thran Vigil, we can always use Lurrus of the Dream-Den to play them from our graveyard.

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Rounding out the non-land cards in our main deck are a couple of removal spells in Fatal Push and Eaten Alive, both of which are solid in general but especially good in our deck thanks to our sacrifice theme, which triggers revolt for Fatal Push and gives us plenty of fodder to cast Eaten Alive for just one mana.

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The mana of Mono-Black Persist is simple and solid, but I wanted to mention it for one reason: you don't really need to play Castle Locthwain. In general, when it comes to Magic Arena budget decks, I try to keep the total number of rares and mythics to under 15, which, for Mono-Black Persist, meant we had room under the budget to play Castle Locthwain and still come in at just 13 total rares and mythics. While Castle Locthwain is good in the deck—it's basically a free-roll since it should always come into play untapped, and having a land that can draw a card is powerful, especially against control and slower midrange decks—it's also not essential by any means. As such, if you have Castle Locthwain in your collection, you should play it, but if you don't, I'd make this the lowest-priority card in the deck to spend your wildcards on (although it is worth adding to your collection if you are interested in Explorer or Historic because a lot of decks play it).

Playing the Deck

A few quick notes on playing Mono-Black Persist Combo. First, don't get too caught up in trying to deal damage with creatures. It's pretty unlikely that we'll win with damage, which means it's often better to leave creatures back on defense to chump block. In general, our goal is to stall out long enough to find our combo pieces, and chump-blocking with our random one-drops is a great way to do that.

As far as the combo itself, it's worth mentioning that Putrid Goblin needs to not have a –1/–1 counter on it when we start the combo, which means we often don't want to chump block with it unless we have Thran Vigil on the battlefield or if we are desperate. Speaking of Thran Vigil, if we do have Putrid Goblin, it's essentially an infinite blocker while we're waiting to find Altar of Dementia to close out the game. With Thran Vigil out, we can also sacrifice Putrid Goblin to things like Diabolic Intent and Deadly Dispute for free since it will come back into play anyway.

Another little trick for finding combo pieces is to mill ourselves with Altar of Dementia in the early game. Thanks to Lurrus of the Dream-Den, milling an Thran Vigil or Putrid Goblin is almost like drawing it since we can cast it from the graveyard. Plus, milling our opponent is pretty pointless because we can mill infinite cards if we manage to assemble the combo, so milling a few earlier doesn't really matter, and we have no other mill cards if we don't assemble the combo, so winning with mill is basically off the table.

Oh yeah, when it comes to Eyetwitch's death trigger, it's usually best just to loot, rather than grabbing a lesson from our sideboard. While we do have Necrotic Fumes and Pest Summoning, a lot of the time, digging one card deeper to find a combo piece is more valuable than grabbing one of these cards from our sideboard.

Speaking of the sideboard, one of the things we are most scared of is graveyard hate like Rest in Peace, Leyline of the Void, and Unlicensed Hearse, which shut down our combo by exiling our Putrid Goblin. Feed the Swarm is our main answer to hate, so make sure to bring it in if you are expecting a Rest in Peace or Leyline of the Void from the opponent, even if your opponent doesn't have many creatures you care about killing. Sadly, black isn't good at dealing with artifacts, which means cards like Soul-Guide Lantern or Unlicensed Hearse are much harder to beat, although this is easily solvable for non-budget builds by splashing into a second color. 


Record-wise, Mono-Black Persist was surprisingly impressive, going 5-2 across seven matches at mid-Mythic on Magic Arena. Normally, three-piece combos are a bit sketchy because it's hard to find all the combo pieces, but in this case, Diabolic Intent and all of our card draw made the deck pretty consistent. While it doesn't happen often, we even managed to win one game by beating down with our random underpowered sacrifice fodder!

As far as changes to make to the deck's budget build, I don't think I'd change anything. While some non-budget upgrades certainly are available (especially if we splash into a second color), the budget build felt great as is!

So, should you play Mono-Black Persist Combo in Historic? I think the answer is yes! The deck felt competitive in general, and doubly so considering just how cheap it is to put together. If you are a fan of the Modern version we played a while ago and like sacrifice decks and comboing off, then Mono-Black Persist is likely the perfect budget Historic deck for you!

Ultra-Budget Mono-Black Persist Combo

As we talked about before, the current build of the deck has 13 rares and mythics, although most of them are essential. Altar of Dementia is our main win condition, Diabolic Intent is incredibly important for assembling our combo, and Lurrus of the Dream-Den is just super powerful. (Plus, it's only a one-of, so cutting it wouldn't really reduce the deck's cost meaningfully anyway.) The one rare that can be cut is Castle Locthwain, which, as we discussed, is very good and, outside of costing some wildcards, is mostly a free-roll in the deck but not all that important. If you are trying to play the deck for as cheap as possible, my advice is to play as many copies of Castle Locthwain as you have in our collection, whether that be zero or all four, and you should be fine.

Non-Budget Mono-Black Persist

Upgrading Mono-Black Persist is interesting. Assuming we stay mono-black, there isn't a ton to do other than some fringe upgrades around the edges, like turning Duress into Thoughtseize and maybe souping up the mana base a bit with Mutavault, Hive of the Eye Tyrant, or the black channel land. On the other hand, the best version of Persist combo likely isn't mono-black but two colors, just because Mono-Black doesn't have a way to deal with artifact-based graveyard hate. The trick part is figuring out which color to splash into because pretty much every color offers potential.

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Orzhov Persist: While it would require dropping Lurrus, which probably isn't worthwhile, adding white to the deck would let us play Solemnity as a backup for Thran Vigil while also adding a bunch of answers to artifacts, like March of Otherworldly Light and Portable Hole.

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Dimir Persist: The main upside of blue is counterspells, which are good for protecting our combo from counters and removal, while cards like Brazen Borrower give us temporary answers to hate cards by bouncing them to give us a turn to combo off and win the game.

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Golgari Persist: Green is really good at killing artifacts, and Golgari specifically offers unconditional removal like Assassin's Trophy and Abrupt Decay.

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Rakdos Persist: Cards like Kolaghan's Command and Angrath's Rampage are great at killing artifacts, and red also offers some interesting sacrifice payoffs like Mayhem Devil. There might be a way to mash Persist Combo together with Cat Oven, giving the deck a legit backup plan for winning without the combo.

While I think all of these plans are worth trying, I'd probably start with a pretty simple upgrade: adding some white mana to the mana base and some white removal spells that can deal with artifacts to the sideboard, while otherwise keeping the deck essentially the same, which would look something like this:

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Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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