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Budget Magic: $54 (22 tix) Modern Suicide Black


Olá, Budget Magic lovers! It's that time again. While the countdown to Eldritch Moon on Magic Online continues (two weeks to go!), this week we're heading to Modern to play a deck I'm super excited about: Suicide Black. I've been trying to make a Mono-Black Devotion deck in Modern for a while, but always got stuck on the fact that Phyrexian Obliterator—likely the best card in the entire deck—is just too expensive for a budget deck. Finally, I realized that maybe the devotion aspect wasn't all that important (although we still have a few copies of Gray Merchant of Asphodel), and once I stopped counting black mana symbols, things came together quickly and we ended up with a deck that plays some powerful standalone threats, while also boasting a ton of synergy and some of the best (and most underplayed) removal in all of Modern!

Let's get to the videos; then, we'll break down Suicide Black. A quick reminder: if you enjoy the Budget Magic series and the other video content on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube Channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.

Suicide Black: Deck Tech

Suicide Black vs. Merfolk

Suicide Black vs. Soul Sisters

Suicide Black vs. GR Tron

Suicide Black vs. Death's Shadow Zoo

Suicide Black vs. 8 Rack

The Deck

Most of the cards in Suicide Black fall into one of four groups: finishers, discard outlets (which overlap with the finishers, to some extent), card draw (or, as I like to call them, our "bad Bobs," after Dark Confidant), and removal.  As a result, probably the easiest way to break down the deck is go through each group one at a time and talk about what each one does for the deck.

The Finishers

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When it comes to closing out the game, our two biggest threats are Abyssal Persecutor and Gray Merchant of Asphodel. I'm always surprised that Abyssal Persecutor doesn't see play in the format. It's huge, evasive, and costs four mana, which  means it dodges essentially all of the removal in the format (Dismember, Lightning Bolt, Abrupt Decay, etc.) except for Path to Exile. While it technically has a downside—keeping us from winning the game (and our opponent from losing) while it's on the battlefield—it's not the type of downside that requires major restrictions in deck building (like, for example, Inverter of Truth). Instead, all we really need to do is play a bunch of removal spells, which is something a mono-black deck wants to be doing anyway. Then, we simply play our Abyssal Persecutor, get our opponent to a negative life total in a couple of attacks, and kill our own Abyssal Persecutor, which wins us the game on the spot. 

As I mentioned in the intro, this isn't really a true Mono-Black Devotion list, which means Gray Merchant of Asphodel isn't quite as good as it could be. That said, we still have a lot of black mana symbols floating around, so it's not uncommon that we drain for at least five when Gary enters the battlefield. While not insane, draining for five is still reasonable and enough to close out a lot of games. Probably the biggest benefit of Gray Merchant of Asphodel is that it can also help us stabilize against aggressive decks by gaining us some life, like a bad black Thragtusk. As such, even though we don't really maximize Gray Merchant of Asphodel's power, the fact that it's good both when we are ahead (because it finishes the game) and when we are behind (because it gains us some life to stabilize) means that, even at 75% power, Gray Merchant of Asphodel is still a very good card in our deck. 

Discard Outlets

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After last week's Against the Odds, where Pack Rat was a surprise all star, it struck me that we'd never played Pack Rat on Budget Magic, which seems odd, since it feels like a perfect Budget Magic card. It's a two-drop that can win the game on its own; if it survives just one turn (or if we wait until Turn 5 to play it), it's almost impossible to kill and it gets out of control quickly. Even better, it also synergizes with our deck. Because the tokens it makes are a "copy" of Pack Rat, they actually have black mana symbols, so each copy of Pack Rat that we make is powering up our Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Plus, Suicide Black actually wants to get empty-handed, but more on this in a minute. 

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Avatar of Discord is one of the highest risk cards in the deck. As a five-powered flier for only three mana, it seems great; as a three-toughness (i.e., dies to Lightning Bolt) flier that makes us discard two cards when it enters the battlefield, it seems horrible. The truth is probably somewhere in between. The good news is that Avatar of Discord does have some sweet synergy with our deck as a discard outlet, and it adds three black devotion for Gray Merchant of Asphodel. On the other hand, there are times whenwe choose not to cast Avatar of Discord even though we have the mana available, just because the blowout potential is extremely high. As such, it often ends up being a five-drop, as we wait for our opponent to run out of removal or until we either really want to be empty-handed or have cards in hand that we don't mind discarding before we cast it to avoid the potential three-for-one. Would something like Master of the Feast or Geralf's Messenger be better in this slot? Maybe, but Avatar of Discord makes the cut because it's not only a threat but a discard outlet, and our deck places high value on being able to get itself empty-handed. 

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One way to make Pack Rat even better (and to make Avatar of Discord less painful) is Call to the Netherworld. If we have a Call to the Netherworld in hand, any of our "discard a card" abilities suddenly do the opposite—instead of making us discard a card, they allow us to return a creature of our choice from our graveyard to our hand. I spent a while browsing though the various madness cards legal in Modern while building the deck, and while Call to the Netherworld may not be the most powerful, the fact that we can cast it for free makes it the best option for Suicide Black. Since both of our discard outlets require three mana, it's unlikely we'll have much mana left over to pay for madness costs (at least in the early game), and having madness doesn't really do anything unless we have the mana available to use it. Call to the Netherworld eliminates the problem completely by having a madness cost of zero, which means we can almost always get some amount of value from it, no matter when we discard it. 

The Bad Bobs

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Dark Confidant (also known as "Bob," since it was designed by Bob Maher as his reward for winning an Invitational) is an extremely powerful Magic card. Unfortunately, it's also a really expensive Magic card, which means we can't play it on Budget Magic. The good news is that Wizards has printed a few different "bad Bobs" over the past few years. Part of the goal of our deck is to turn these cards—Asylum Visitor and Blood Scrivener—into "good" Bobs! If we can get ourselves empty-handed (with the help of Pack Rat and Avatar of Discord), either of these cards will allow us to draw an extra card every turn, while also leaving an on-curve body on the battlefield!

Asylum Visitor is the better of the two, not only because it has an additional point of power but because it has madness, so we can occasionally cast it after discarding it to a Pack Rat or Avatar of DiscordBlood Scrivener and Asylum Visitor also work well together. If we have zero cards in our hand, then Asylum Visitor will trigger on our upkeep, which in turn triggers Blood Scrivener, so we end up drawing two cards for the cost of two life! 

Removal

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Gatekeeper of Malakir is another one of the best cards in Modern that doesn't see play (mostly because the triple black mana cost is too much for most decks). It's pretty much a guaranteed two-for-one, since it makes our opponent sacrifice a creature while also leaving behind a body to block, attack, and power up Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Importantly, Gatekeeper of Malakir says "target player" and not "target opponent," so in the late game, we can target ourselves as a way to sacrifice our Abyssal Persecutor

Victim of Night is likely the least conditional Doom Blade in Modern, since there really aren't that many Vampires, Werewolves, or Zombies running around. Much like Gatekeeper of Malakir, it's held back by its double-black mana cost, but in our deck with 20 sources of black mana, this really isn't a drawback. Otherwise, Bile Blight gives us a way to deal with a whole bunch of Lingering Souls or Young Pyromancer tokens, and Dismember is one of the most efficient removal spells in the format. 

The Sideboard

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One of the weaknesses of Mono-Black is that it has difficulty dealing with non-creature permanents, but cards like Duress, Pithing Needle, and Ratchet Bomb help. Duress is our most proactive answer; not only can it take a counterspell or removal spell to help us get our threats on the battlefield (or keep them alive), but it can also take a Nahiri, the Harbinger or Ensnaring Bridge. Meanwhile, Pithing Needle and Ratchet Bomb give us the opportunity to deal with planeswalkers, artifacts, and enchantments that make their way onto the battlefield. 

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Drown in Sorrow and Bile Blight are extremely helpful against decks that are looking to go wide with aggressive creatures like Elves and Goblins, while also helping to sweep up various tokens. Geth's Verdict gives us an additional sacrifice effect, which can not only help us get rid of our own Abyssal Persecutor, but keep Slippery Bogle and other hexproof creatures in check. Finally, Smother is just another early game removal spell, and after thinking about it for a while, I think we might be better off using this slot for a second copy of Geth's Verdict

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Last but not least, Rite of Consumption is an uncounterable way to get rid of Abyssal Persecutor (since sacrificing the creature is part of the cost of casting the spell). It also allows us to steal some wins out of nowhere by getting in some attacks with our 6/6 flying, trampling Demon and than draining our opponent for six more by sacrificing it, all for only two mana!

Ultra-Budget Suicide Black

No ultra-budget list this week, since Suicide Black is already pretty cheap. If you are looking to cut a few more dollars, maybe the easiest thing to do is to drop Ghost Quarter. While it means the Eldrazi / Tron matchup becomes completely unwinnable, we probably weren't going to beat Tron anyway, so it's not a major loss. Otherwise, Dismember could become Doom Blade or more Bile Blights, but otherwise, there isn't much to change.

Non-Budget Mono-Black Devotion

As for something to build into, maybe the best direction is Mono-Black Devotion. While we lose some of the suicide cards, we get a ton of really powerful upgrades across the board, including Liliana of the Veil, Phyrexian Arena, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, and Phyrexian Obliterator, as well as awesome black discard in Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek to deal with those problematic non-creature permanents. The big benefit of this deck is that Gray Merchant of Asphodel becomes insane, since we should usually have a ton of black mana symbols hanging around on the battlefield. 

The bad news it that building Mono-Black Devotion proper will costs you nearly $900 more than Suicide Black, but there is a silver lining. If you decide to build into Mono-Black Devotion, you don't have to wait until you have all of the pieces to play the deck. Do you have some Thoughtseizes left over from Standard? Toss them in Suicide Black! Do you have a single Phyrexian Obliterator or Liliana of the Veil in your Commander deck? Run it! Basically, you don't need to go from your $50 Suicide Black deck to a $950 Mono-Black Devotion deck all in one expensive step; instead, you can upgrade little by little, while testing out the new cards along the way!

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. All in all, we went 3-2 with the deck, and it felt pretty solid. The biggest issue is unfair decks, against which our abundant creature removal is somewhere between not very good and completely dead, depending on the specific matchup. On the other hand, against fair decks, Suicide Black does a pretty good job of killing creatures and presenting some hard-to-deal-with threats. I'd certainly play this one at an FNM-level event or in the queues on Magic Online, but I'd want to make some upgrades to help with the unfair deck problem before playing it in a more competitive environment. 

As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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