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Budget Magic: $81 (51 tix) Mono-Black Panharmonicon (Standard)


Laphi, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! It's been at least a month since we've played a Panharmonicon deck, and with the clock ticking down toward the artifact's eventual rotation from Standard (this coming September), we about due to play another deck featuring my favorite card in Standard. Rivals of Ixalan gave us some sweet new toys, especially in black, which means we might just have enough powerful black creatures with enters-the-battlefield abilities to play Mono-Black Panharmonicon! The basic idea of the deck is simple: we play a ton of cards with enters-the-battlefield triggers, use Panharmonicon to double up the triggers, and hopefully overwhelm our opponent with value. Can Mono-Black Panharmonicon work in Rivals of Ixalan Standard? 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 Panharmonicon (Standard)

The Deck

We've played Panharmonicon decks before, and the basic idea of today's deck is the same: use the artifact to overwhelm the opponent with value from creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers. As such, the most exciting development is the fact that Rivals of Ixalan contained enough new Panharmonicon toys that we can build a straight mono-black version of the deck, which adds a ton of consistency over the four- or five-color builds we've played in the past.

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I'm running out of different ways to explain Panharmonicon, so let's just leave it at this: it double up the enters-the-battlefield triggers on our creatures and artifacts, which is the primary plan of our deck.

Card Draw

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Dusk Legion Zealot is one of the biggest new additions to Panharmonicon from Rivals of Ixalan, giving us a black version of Elvish Visionary as a two-drop that draws us a card when it enters the battlefield. In the early game, it cycles and gives us a chump blocker, and then in the late game, once we have a Panharmonicon or two, it turns into a two-mana Divination or Concentrate that also leaves behind a body to chump block. While losing life can be annoying, for the most part it doesn't matter, although it is worth being aware that in the late game, the "lose one life" also triggers multiple times thanks to Panharmonicon. Meanwhile, Metalspinner's Puzzleknot is a backup version of Dusk Legion Zealot, trading the upside of chump blocking for the upside of drawing us yet another card when we sacrifice it. Otherwise, the math works the same as Dusk Legion Zealot, cycling in the early game and generating tons of card advantage with Panharmonicon in the late game.

Removal

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One of the biggest reasons to play Mono-Black Panharmonicon is that it's insanely good against creature decks, since we have a ton of creatures that are two-for-ones without Panharmonicon and end up being three- or even four-for-ones once we have some copies of our namesake artifact on the battlefield. Ravenous Chupacabra is pretty self explanatory—when it enters the battlefield, it kills any creature we want while also leaving behind a 2/2 body. In the late game when we have Panharmonicon, it sometimes turns into a one-sided Damnation, sweeping away our opponent's entire board with the help of Panharmonicon

Banewhip Punisher, on the other hand, is basically a miniature version of Ravenous Chupacabra. Assuming it doesn't die with the 1/1 counter trigger on the stack, it actually plays almost the same, killing any one creature when it enters the battlefield (although it's worth pointing out that the "kill a creature" part of Banewhip Punisher doesn't actually double up with Panharmonicon). The upside of Banewhip Punisher is the ability to put a 1/1 counter on something, which does two important things. First, it gives us the ability to kill small creatures like Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, Bomat Courier, and Earthshaker Khenra without actually sacrificing Banewhip Punisher. Second, especially with help from Panharmonicon, Banewhip Punisher gives us a way to deal with indestructible creatures like Hazoret the Fervent and Adanto Vanguard

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Demon of Dark Schemes and Noxious Gearhulk are just one-ofs to round out our creature-removal-creature curve, but both offer a lot of upside in the late game. Noxious Gearhulk is basically a more expensive, bigger Ravenous Chupacabra with the upside of gaining us a bunch of life, which is important considering that we lose a reasonable amount over the course of the game to doubling and tripling up Dusk Legion Zealot and Metalspinner Puzzleknot triggers. Meanwhile, Demon of Dark Schemes is our best creature in go-wide matchups, wiping out an entire board full of tokens, while also giving us a way to kill annoying creatures like Adanto Vanguard and Hazoret the Fervent (with the help of Panharmonicon). More importantly, Demon of Dark Schemes and Noxious Gearhulk are two of our biggest creatures, allowing us to close out the game quickly with evasive attacks after killing all of our opponent's blockers. 

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Skysovereign, Consul Flagship is another one-of with a very specific purpose: dealing with opposing planeswalkers. One of the downsides of Mono-Black Panharmonicon is that many of our creatures are small, which makes it difficult to pressure opposing planeswalkers. Skysovereign, Consul Flagship solves this problem by coming down and Lightning Bolting planeswalkers (sometimes twice, with Panharmonicon) and then offering a fast, evasive clock in the air to attack any planeswalkers that manage to survive the enters-the-battlefield trigger. Plus, even if our opponent doesn't have any planeswalkers, Skysovereign, Consul Flagship is still solid, shooting down creatures and offering a ton of evasive damage to close out the game.

Control Creatures

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In some ways, Mono-Black Panharmonicon is a strange deck. Thanks to all of the removal creatures in the main deck, the basic theory of the deck is that we should rarely lose to any creature-based decks. On the other hand, if our opponent is playing a creature-light (or even creature-free) control deck, our Ravenous Chupacabras and Banewhip Punishers look pretty silly, which means we'll often lose to control in game one and then bring in a massive number of sideboard cards to try to win games two and three. This being said, Kitesail Freebooter and Gonti, Lord of Luxury give us a shot at beating control in game one, if we get a bit lucky.

As a Duress on a stick, Kitesail Freebooter is fine against most decks but especially good against control, where we can take sweepers and counterspells to force through our big plays and hopefully steal the game. As for Gonti, Lord of Luxury, it's a bit slow against aggro but very strong against control and midrange. Not only is stealing cards from our opponent's deck helpful, but Gonti, Lord of Luxury gives us a strange way of dealing with Approach of the Second Sun (the primary control finisher in Standard) by exiling it after our opponent puts it back into their library. 

Aggro Stuff

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Gifted Aetherborn and Aethersphere Harvester really don't do much with Panharmonicon specifically, but they are still very important for the deck, mostly as ways to stay alive against aggro and recoup some of the life we lose with Dusk Legion Zealot and Metalspinner's Puzzleknot. While killing creatures is a great plan against decks like Ramunap(less) Red, if we can't back this up with some lifegain, we risk getting burned out with Lightning Strikes and Shocks. Gifted Aetherborn gives us a great early-game blocker that also gains us life, while Aethersphere Harvester gives us a way to shoot down the offense of cards like Rekindling Phoenix and Glorybringer.

Other Stuff

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Liliana, Death's Majesty is basically a way to reuse all of our enters-the-battlefield creatures in the late game by reanimating them, which means more card draw with Dusk Legion Zealot, more removal with Ravenous Chupacabra, and more sweepings with Demon of Dark Schemes. It also gives us a way to gum up the board with Zombie chump blockers while we are waiting to get a reanimation target we like. While Liliana, Death's Majesty doesn't have any specific purpose, she's a great value card that works really well with the theme of the deck, making her more than worthy of a couple of slots in Mono-Black Panharmonicon. 

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Doomfall is in our deck for two reasons. First, it gives us another card that is good against control, working as a Thoughtseize to pick a counterspell or win condition from our opponent's hand, which helps give us a chance in some of our worse matchups (where all of our removal creatures aren't very good). Second, it gives us a main-deck answer to Hazoret the Fervent and The Scarab God that doesn't involve putting a ton of counters on them with Banewhip Punisher or having a Panharmonicon to combine with Demon of Dark Schemes. We can usually kill all of our opponent's other creatures, leaving them with just a God in play, which opens it up to the exiling edict effect of Doomfall

The Mana

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We're not going to talk about all of the lands in the deck because most are just basic Swamps and Field of Ruins, but I did want to briefly mention the Deserts, mostly because they are very important to beating certain decks. Scavenger Grounds is a card that—all by itself—can beat God-Pharaoh's Gift and stop The Scarab God cold, especially when we can keep it on the battlefield and sacrifice other Deserts. It's also worth mentioning that, while slow, Ifnir Deadlands is another way we can answer Hazoret the Fervent.

The Sideboard

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As we talked about before, the basic theory of Mono-Black Panharmonicon is that we should almost always beat creature decks, but we'll often struggle with creature-light control decks in game one. As a result, our sideboard has 11 cards to bring in against control to improve the matchup post-sideboard over cards like Banewhip Punisher, Ravenous Chupacabra, and Noxious Gearhulk. After sideboarding, our game plan is to pick apart our opponent's hand and deck with Duress, Doomfall, and Lost Legacy, and then eventually win thanks to the card advantage we can generate with Dusk Legion Zealot and Gonti, Lord of Luxury in conjunction with Panharmonicon

Wrap-Up

All in all, we finished our matches with a 4-1 record, with our only loss coming against Grixis Energy Control (which is a tough matchup because the deck is really good, but we also got a little bit unlucky with our opponent topdecking the two perfect cards in a row to steal game one). The deck felt surprisingly strong. As predicted, we absolutely crush creature-based decks by casting a two- (or sometimes three, with the help of Panharmonicon) for-one pretty much every turn, but more impressively, we also managed to beat the completely creature-free Grixis Amulet deck. 

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Before talking about changes to the deck, I wanted to mention one card that didn't make the list: Seekers' Squire. While there are some exceptions (like Jadelight Ranger), generally speaking, I haven't been impressed with the explore mechanic in conjunction with Panharmonicon. Most often, the end result of exploring multiple times is that you get a somewhat bigger creature, which is fine but much less impressive than drawing multiple cards. While explore gets better with heavy graveyard synergies, just a couple of Liliana, Death's Majesty isn't enough. As such, I like Metalspinner's Puzzleknot better than Seekers' Squire in the two-drop slow of Mono-Black Panharmonicon.

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As for upgrades, there really isn't a ton I'd change about the budget build of Mono-Black Panharmonicon. While having a cleaner answer to Hazoret the Fervent and The Scarab God could be helpful, we can often beat those cards the hard way (with Banewhip Punisher, Demon of Dark Schemes, and Scavenger Grounds). Plus, the only good answer in black is Vraska's Contempt, which is a strong addition but a bit expensive for the budget build. Still, if you have the budget, finding room for a couple of copies in the main deck could be helpful.

All in all, Mono-Black Panharmonicon felt surprisingly competitive: great in its good matchups and good enough in bad matchups, especially with the help of a ton of sideboard cards to fight against creature-light decks. I could certainly imagine winning a lot with it at FNM or on Magic Online, and with a bit of tuning, it might have a chance to compete at higher levels as well!

To get Mono-Black Panharmonicon down into the $50 range, we have to make two big cuts and a few smaller changes. First, we drop Liliana, Death's Majesty, which is a powerful card in the deck but not 100% necessary. In place of the planeswalker, we get a third Doomfall and a copy of Hour of Glory to exile Gods. Second, we lose Aethersphere Harvester, which is very helpful against aggro in specific thanks to the lifegain, although the Vehicle's replacement Weaponcraft Enthusiast offers a lot of chump blockers to keep our life total high in the early game. Otherwise, we trim back on the mana, going down a Scavenger Grounds and the Field of Ruins, and trade the sideboard Bontu's Last Reckoning for Golden Demise. In sum, these changes do weaken the deck slightly in specific matchups, although the primary game plan of killing everything and overwhelming the opponent with Panharmonicon value remains the same.

The changes to the non-budget build of Mono-Black Panharmonicon are pretty minimal, as we just trim back on a handful of cards (Liliana, Death's Majesty, Metalspinner's Puzzleknot, and Gonti, Lord of Luxury) to make room for two copies of Fatal Push (to deal with early-game creatures while we wait to get our Ravenous Chupacabras and Banewhip Punishers online) and Vraska's Contempt (to deal with Gods). Otherwise, we'd have to move into another color to really make significant changes to the deck, which would push us toward something like the Merfolkish Sultai Panharmonicon deck we streamed a while ago. Going into blue would get us Champion of Wits and The Scarab God, while green offers Jadelight Ranger and Merfolk Branchwalker. However, splashing a second or even third color would really change the entire idea of the deck, as we'd likely end up cutting some of our endless creature removal for more general value creatures, which means it's probably better to consider Mono-Black Panharmonicon its own unique build of Panharmonicon rather than a watered-down version of a two- or three-color deck.

Conclusion

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 SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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