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Budget Magic: $93 (20 tix) Mono-Black Monument (Standard)


Ola, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time again! This week, we are heading to Ixalan Standard to abuse a synergy that I've been excited about ever since Treasure tokens were spoiled in Ixalan: Marionette Master and Treasures! The basic idea is that, if we can get a bunch of Treasure tokens on the battlefield, we can play a Marionette Master, put counters on it to make it a 4/6, and immediately sacrifice enough Treasures to drain our opponent out of the game. The question is how best to support the combo. We've seen Esper Control lists try, and we've seen God-Pharaoh's Gift decks try, but today's deck is a bit different, essentially being a mono-black Aristocrats deck looking to use Bontu's Monument to ramp into our Marionette Master along with a bunch of self-sacrifice cards to make Treasure tokens. Can Mono-Black Monument work in Standard? Let's get to the videos and find out, when we'll talk more about the deck.

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Mono-Black Monument (Deck Tech)

Budget Magic: Mono-Black Monument vs. Temur Energy (Match 1)

Budget Magic: Mono-Black Monument vs. Esper Reanimator (Match 2)

Budget Magic: Mono-Black Monument vs. UW Approach (Match 3)

Budget Magic: Mono-Black Monument vs. RB Aggro (Match 4)

Budget Magic: Mono-Black Monument vs. Esper Control (Match 5)

The Deck

While Mono-Black Monument plays in a fairly straightforward way, it's actually pretty hard to pin down the deck. In some ways, it's a combo deck, with the combo being Marionette Master and Treasure tokens. In other ways, the best comparison is The Aristocrats, thanks to our self-sacrifice theme and our ability to drain the opponent out of the game without dealing combat damage. At the same time, we're also a weird black aggro deck, and we have some draws where we simply curve out, play some removal, and kill our opponent in the fairest way possible. As a result, breaking down the deck is sort of tricky because it plays differently depending on the game and matchup, but probably the easiest way to start is with the namesake Bontu's Monument

The Monument

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Bontu's Monument does a couple of important things in our deck. Most importantly, since our entire deck is black creatures, it acts like a super-powered ramp spell, giving us a one-mana discount on each creature we cast. In some cases, this helps us by allowing us to play multiple creatures in the same turn; in others, it simply means ramping into Marionette Master on Turn 5. While being legendary is a downside, it's less of a downside in our deck, since we can always legend rule ourselves to get an artifact in our graveyard to trigger Marionette Master or sacrifice it to Syndicate Trafficker

The other thing that Bontu's Monument does is drain away our opponent's life, which helps to make sure that our opponent is low enough on life that we can get the Marionette Master kill with only a few Treasure tokens while also supporting our janky aggro beatdown backup plan. The incidental lifegain also helps us stay in the game while we are looking to find a lethal Marionette Master

Marionette Master

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While Bontu's Monument give the deck its name, Marionette Master is undoubtedly the centerpiece. Our main plan is to play Marionette Master with a bunch of Treasure tokens on the battlefield, fabricate to make Marionette Master a 4/6, and sacrifice the Treasures to immediately drain our opponent out of the game. With five Treasures on the battlefield, we can kill our opponent from the full 20 life, but often three or four will get the job done thanks to Bontu's Monument and random combat damage.

While Treasure tokens are our main way of triggering Marionette Master, we occasionally get some damage from Servo tokens (or Bontu's Monument) as well. Part of the power of Marionette Master is that if we are behind and not in a position to win the game right away with the combo, we can simply play it and make a bunch of Servos to chump block to stay alive. Part of the power of Mono-Black Monument is that we are really, really good at clogging up the ground and keeping our opponent from killing us with creatures, so a lot of times, we spend the early and mid-game just trying to stall out until we eventually manipulate the game into a position where we win out of nowhere with Marionette Master.

Treasure Production

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While Treasure Map doesn't work with Bontu's Monument since it's not a creature, it is one of our best ways to make Treasure tokens. Generally, we play it on Turn 2 or 3, scry for three turns, and eventually end up with not just three Treasure for our work but also Treasure Cove, which gives us a steady source of card advantage to dig for our Marionette Master. Since we have a bunch cards that make Treasure tokens in our deck, if the game goes long, Treasure Map often ends up being our own personal Howling Mine, allowing us to draw two cards each turn and helping us find whatever we need to stay in and eventually win the game. 

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Dire Fleet Hoarder and Ruthless Knave are where our deck starts to feel a little bit like an Aristocrats, self-sacrifice-themed deck, and both cards are great at generating the Treasure tokens we need to close out the game with Marionette Master. Dire Fleet Hoarder isn't that far below the curve for a two-drop, trading with most of the cards from Ramunap Red and some from Temur Energy as well while also leaving behind a Treasure when it dies. In the worst case, we can play it, chump block for a turn, and end up with a Treasure. Meanwhile, Ruthless Knave is extremely powerful if it sits on the battlefield for a couple of turns, allowing us to chump block with some of our underpowered creatures and sacrifice them before damage to make two Treasure tokens. While it doesn't come up often, we can even us it as a really painful backup version of Treasure Cove to turn Treasures into cards if we are desperate. Dire Fleet Hoarder and Ruthless Knave also work really well together. If we can sacrifice Dire Fleet Hoarder to Ruthless Knave, we essentially trade three mana (and Dire Fleet Hoarder) for three Treasure tokens, which can not only make three mana but also set up the Marionette Master kill. As we talked about before, thanks to Bontu's Monument and combat damage, we often only need three Treasures to win the game, which means that either a flipped Treasure Map or a Ruthless Knave sacrificing a single Dire Fleet Hoarder is usually all we need.

Sacrifice Fodder

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Weaponcraft Enthusiast is one of our best cards for stalling out the game, offering three bodies for three mana. More importantly, two of the bodies are Servo tokens, which happen to be artifacts that we can sacrifice to get drain triggers from Marionette Master. While Weaponcraft Enthusiast isn't especially good at any one thing, the combination of supporting our stall-out-the-game plan and our artifact synergies makes it the perfect three-drop for our deck.

Sacrifice Outlets

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Syndicate Trafficker is surprisingly powerful in our deck for a bunch of reasons. As a 3/1, it's already an aggressive two-drop on its face, and the Aetherborn becomes even more powerful as we sacrifice artifacts to its ability. While growing with +1/+1 counters is great, the real payoff is the ability to become indestructible, which makes attacking and blocking miserable for our opponent, since we usually have a random Servo or Treasure token sitting around to sacrifice for the blowout. If you look at our match against Temur Energy, you'll see that Syndicate Trafficker, almost by itself, was able to hold back a board full of Bristling Hydras and Rogue Refiners and stall out the game long enough for us to eventually draw into a Marionette Master for the win. 

Syndicate Trafficker also offers some tricky combo potential with Marionette Master. Say we tap out to cast our Marionette Master with only two Treasure tokens on the battlefield—not enough to kill our opponent simply by cracking Treasures. In this situation, we can usually double up our damage by using the mana from our Treasures to use Syndicate Trafficker to sacrifice other artifacts like Bontu's Monument, Treasure Map, or Servo tokens to close out the game.

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Our last creatures are a couple one-of sacrifice outlets. Bontu the Glorified is pretty high variance. In some situations, the God is great, getting in a bunch of menacing damage while giving us a (slightly too expensive) sacrifice outlet that also lets us scry for our combo pieces. In other games, we have a hard time turning it into a real creature, but the upside of being a three-mana 4/6 makes it worth a slot in our deck. Meanwhile, Yahenni, Undying Partisan is one of our best sacrifice outlets since it's the cheapest, giving us a way to turn Dire Fleet Hoarder into a Treasure token or sacrifice Servos for Marionette Master drain without spending any mana. The downside is that as a 2/2 for three, Yahenni, Undying Partisan doesn't have a great body, even accounting for the upside of haste. Plus, like Bontu the Glorified, Yahenni, Undying Partisan is legendary, which means drawing multiples is pretty painful. Playing a one / one split helps us avoid this downside, while still sneaking a couple of extra sacrifice outlets into our deck.

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Arguel's Blood Fast was a late addition to the deck but a good one. Thanks to Bontu's Monument, we gain a bit of extra life over the course of the game, and Arguel's Blood Fast gives us a way to turn that life into cards. Then, after we flip it around, Temple of Aclazotz gives us another sacrifice outlet (and even more life gain). Basically, after playing some games with the deck, I realized that things went much smoother when we had a copy of Treasure Map on Turn 2, not so much because of the Treasure combo kill but because of the scrying and card draw the artifact offers. Since we can't play more than four copies of Treasure Map, Arguel's Blood Fast essentially works as copies five and six, minus the Treasure synergies. 

Removal

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This week, a bulk of our budget is going toward our two removal spells, which is one of the upsides of being a mono-colored deck with inexpensive creatures: we can afford to splurge a bit on utility spells. Fatal Push is amazing in our deck, since our Treasure tokens offer a free source of revolt at instant speed, allowing us to kill a wide range of powerful creatures for just a single mana. Meanwhile, Vraska's Contempt is more of a luxury item, but it's really well positioned at the moment, killing Hazoret the Fervent and The Scarab God along with annoying planeswalkers and Glorybringers at instant speed. 

Just one word of warning about our removal: while it's good, we don't have a ton of it, and as we talked about before, Mono-Black Monument is really, really good at clogging up the ground, so if you run into a deck like Temur Energy, think twice about firing off a Vraska's Contempt on a Bristling Hydra or huge Longtusk Cub that we can Servo-chump for infinity, and consider holding onto the removal to deal with something like Glorybringer, since our deck can be weak to fliers. 

The Mana

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The mana for Mono-Black Monument is pretty simple: a ton of Swamps; a playset of Ifnir Deadlands, which are pretty much a free roll; and three copies of Field of Ruin. Having the ability to run several colorless lands is one of the upsides of being mono-colored, and Field of Ruin actually hits a ton of important targets in Ixalan Standard, since a lot of the flip-into-land cards (Treasure Map, Search for Azcanta, and Legion's Landing) are seeing fairly heavy play at the moment. 

Wrap-Up

So, the deck was pretty insane. Not only did we go 5-0 in our video matches, but we actually beat Temur Energy in a rematch (although we also lost a match to some really strange Makeshift Munitions deck), bringing our overall record to 6-1. Even better, we played a pretty good cross-section of the best decks in Standard. RB Aggro? Check. UW Approach? Check. Torrential Gearhulk control? Check. Temur Energy? Double check. Apparently, the plan of stalling out the game with janky black creatures and eventually winning with Marionette Master is actually pretty strong. 

Probably the most impressive part of the deck is how we are never really out of the game, thanks to Marionette Master. No matter how grim things look, we are usually just a single top-decked Marionette Master away from stealing a win. 

As far as changes I'd make to the budget build of the deck, I'm not sure there are any. While Bontu the Glorified and Yahenni, Undying Partisan are sort of flex slots and could be used for something else, I'm really happy with how the main deck functioned. We have all the best Treasure producers in our color, our curve is solid, and our synergies are strong—all around, the deck just felt good. Of course, all this optimism comes from a pretty small sample size, so maybe some problems will appear as we keep playing the deck, but for now, I'm more than happy to run the deck as is. 

There's really only one way to get Mono-Black Monument into the ultra-budget range: downgrade the removal spells. While losing Fatal Push really hurts the deck, especially against aggro, it is possible to piece together a semi-functional removal package without the one-mana instant or Vraska's Contempt. In place of Fatal Push, we get a mixture of Walk the Plank and Essence Extraction. Walk the Plank kills basically anything, but being sorcery speed is occasionally problematic, while Essence Extraction is great against Ramunap Red but a bit slow, leaving us more apt to get run over by Longtusk Cub or Earthshaker Khenras on Turn 2, especially on the draw. Meanwhile, Hour of Glory is our budget replacement for Vraska's Contempt, and it's pretty close to strictly worse. While Hour of Glory still gives us a way to deal with a Hazoret the Fervent or The Scarab God, the upside of exiling another God from our opponent hand doesn't come up very often, and we lose the lifegain and ability to kill planeswalkers. While I think you could play the deck at an FNM without Vraska's Contempt, I'd definitely recommend upgrading to Fatal Push if you are going to take Mono-Black Monument to a tournament, just so you don't lose to Longtusk Cub every round. 

The non-budget build of Mono-Black Monument reflects the fact that I'm pretty happy with the main deck, so we leave it untouched. The only real upgrades are changing the Hour of Glory in the sideboard to Vraska's Contempt along with adding a Liliana, Death's Majesty and a couple of Lost Legacy. Basically, Mono-Black Monument is one of those decks that just happens to fall into the budget-friendly range, even while fully powered. While making these upgrades are fine (and I'm sure there are other potential sideboard additions as well), apart from adding the extra Vraska's Contempts, I'd be pretty happy to play the budget build in a tournament. 

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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