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Budget Magic: Mono-Black Rankle (Standard, Magic Arena)

སྐུ་གཟུགས་བཟང་པོ།, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! This week, we get to kick off our exploration of Throne of Eldraine Standard with a deck featuring a card I have pegged as one of the best from the set: Rankle, Master of Pranks! The deck is basically Mono-Black Aggro / Stompy, built around the biggest threats black has to offer from one to three mana, with Rankle, Master of Pranks coming down on Turn 4 to (hopefully) close out the game with a bunch of hasty damage. Oh yeah, this week's episode comes with a bit of a twist: it was recorded during the early-access day on Tuesday (thanks to Wizards for the invite and the stocked account to play with), which means we're playing best-of-one matches since it was the only option available (although the deck wasn't designed to be a best-of-one deck, it does seem well suited for the format). How good is Rankle, Master of Pranks (and Mono-Black Aggro) in Throne of Eldraine Standard? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we can talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Mono-Black Rankle (Standard, Magic Arena)

The Deck

Mono-Black Rankle is actually pretty simple: we're playing the most efficient black creatures we can find, backing them up with a bit of removal and discard, and hopefully killing our opponent quickly, before they get a chance to recover. Rankle, Master of Pranks is the flagship threat of the deck, and we've actually got some sweet synergies to facilitate its symmetrical combat damage ability. To understand the deck, let's start with Rankle itself and then work our way up the curve.

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Rankle, Master of Pranks was the reason I built the deck. The four-drop is an incredibly powerful curve-topper in an aggro shell, essentially hitting for four hasty damage in the air thanks to the combination of its three power and the loss of life from its card-draw ability. Assuming we can get in some early-game damage with our efficient beaters, this means there's a reasonable chance that once Rankle comes down on Turn 4, it can close out the game in just one or two attacks.

While we aren't built heavily around breaking the symmetry of Rankle, Master of Pranks (it's good enough without the extra work), we do have a couple of sweet synergies. Gutterbones works especially well with Rankle since it gives us a card that we can discard or sacrifice repeatedly by getting it back to our hand (or battlefield) every turn, while Order of Midnight gives us another way to recur creatures that we discard or sacrifice. The other way we can break the symmetry of Rankle is by going hellbent, with the help of Rankle, Master of Pranks and Rotting Regisaur—we can't discard cards if we don't have any in hand! Then, we can use Castle Locthwain as a low-cost card-advantage engine to refuel.

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In the one-drop slot, we have two options: Gutterbones for its synergy with Rankle, Master of Pranks and Knight of the Ebon Legion because it's a very strong card in an absolute sense, growing throughout the game as we deal damage and often being unblockable if we attack with mana up due to the threat of its pumping ability. Together, these cards help to facilitate our game plan of getting off to fast starts and forcing through early damage. Our deck is at its best when we curve out, attack our opponent every turn, and then use Rankle, Master of Pranks to force through the last few points of damage and close out the game.

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The two-drop slot is likely the weakest spot in our curve, although Yarok's Fenlurker and Order of Midnight are both fine cards. Yarok's Fenlurker offers two-for-one potential by snagging a card from our opponent's hand and then potentially trading with a creature on the battlefield as well. Meanwhile, Order of Midnight was surprisingly impressive. While it might not sound like much, in a very aggressive deck, a 2/2 flier (even one that can't block) is a decent threat, offering a way to chip in for evasive damage in the early game, and being able to Raise Dead a creature that we discard to Rankle, Master of Pranks or Rotting Regisaur offers some added value in the mid- to late game.

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While our one-drops are good and our two-drops are fine, the three-drop slot is where Mono-Black Rankle really shines. First up, we have Rotting Regisaur, which is simply massive as a 7/6. Thanks to rotating, there's less cheap, unconditional removal running around, which makes Rotting Regisaur surprisingly hard for some decks to kill. And once it's on the battlefield, it's almost always the biggest creature. While discarding a card each upkeep is a drawback, we can minimize our pain with the help of Gutterbones or, as I mentioned before, by planning on emptying our hand as quickly as possible and playing hellbent, which completely eliminates Rotting Regisaur's drawback.

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Rounding out our creature base are the full four copies of Spawn of Mayhem and three Ayara, First of Locthwain. Together, these cards give us a surprising amount of of reach in the late game, with Spawn of Mayhem pinging for a damage each turn and Ayara, First of Locthwain draining for one whenever a creature enters the battlefield. This means that if we can get our opponent close to dead by attacking, we can often finish the game with direct damage once the board gets gummed up with blockers. 

While Ayara, First of Locthwain isn't much of an attacker, it does offer another way to draw extra cards (along with Castle Locthwain) by sacrificing Gutterbones or a creature that's going to die to removal anyway. Meanwhile, Spawn of Mayhem is extremely powerful. Even though it technically costs four mana, thanks to our aggressive and somewhat evasive curve, we can usually spectacle it into play on Turn 3. As a 4/4 flier, it offers a ton of evasive damage and combines well with the flying from Order of Midnight and Rankle, Master of Pranks to give us a ton of solid threats that don't care about our opponent's ground defenses.

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As far as non-creature interaction, we've only got a bit. Legion's End and Murder help get blockers out of the way, allowing us to force through damage. Murderous Rider would be a perfect fit for the deck over the lesser removal, but it's simply too expensive for the budget. Meanwhile, Drill Bit is often just a painless Thoughtseize starting as early as Turn 2, allowing us to snag whatever removal or wraths our opponent might have to ruin our plan, along with offering a preemptive answer to annoying planeswalkers like Oko, Thief of Crowns and Teferi, Time Raveler.

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As for our mana, it's pretty simple: a bunch of Swamps, one Witch's Cottage (which I sort of regret playing since it comes into play tapped in the early game, throwing off our curve), and Castle Locthwain (which is amazing in our deck). Castle Locthwain is by far the most important of the bunch. Once we are empty-handed (which usually happens pretty quickly, thanks to our aggressive curve, Rotting Regisaur, and Rankle, Master of Pranks), it allows us to draw an extra card each turn for the low cost of four mana (well, three plus tapping Castle Locthwain itself) and one life. This helps make sure that we have enough action to close out the game and keep pace with the slower, more controlling decks in the format. Considering it basically always comes into play untapped, there's really very little downside in playing the full four copies.


While we didn't use a sideboard for the video since we were playing best-of-one, as I mentioned before, Mono-Black Rankle isn't really designed with best-of-one play in mind (although it seems really good in the format). If you're playing best-of-three, here is what I would use as a budget-friendly sideboard. Bag of Holding is especially sweet in slower matchups since it stores up cards that we discard to Rankle, Master of Pranks and Rotting Regisaur for later use. Otherwise, we mostly focused on removal to fight other creature / aggro decks and discard to pick apart control and combo.


All in all, we played seven (best-of-one) matches with Mono-Black Rankle and ended up winning six, losing only to a Knights deck that managed to go wide enough with tokens with Worthy Knight that they managed to chump block our triple Rotting Regisaurs long enough to kill us. In general, the deck felt very strong, even though we oddly didn't draw Rankle, Master of Pranks all that often (although Rankle was great in the games when we did draw it).

As far as changes to make to the budget build of the deck, the only card I definitely want to cut is Witch's Cottage. The upside of putting a creature back on top of our deck in the late game isn't worth the cost of it coming into play tapped in the early game and forcing us to play off-curve. That said, I think the two-drop slot, especially Yarok's Fenlurker, could be updated. It's not so much that Yarok's Fenlurker is bad—it was fine in our games—but I think that Blacklance Paragon, Orzhov Enforcer, and Lazotep Reaver also have potential and are worth testing, at the very least.

If you like getting aggressive, Mono-Black Rankle feels like a solid option for Throne of Eldraine Standard. While it would be nice to eventually play some best-of-three matches with it, it certainly showed its power in the best-of-one format, at the very least. The fast clock, the massive and often evasive creatures, and bit of reach for the late game seem like a really powerful combination for the start of Throne of Eldraine Standard!

Ultra-Budget Mono-Black Rankle

Sadly, thanks to the price spike of Rankle, Master of Pranks (pushing it up to $40 a playset), I don't think it's really possible to build an ultra-budget build of Mono-Black Rankle, at least one that includes our namesake card. If you're looking to cut costs, the easiest thing to do is turn Castle Locthwain into more Swamps. You can save even more by playing something like Foulmire Knight over Knight of the Ebon Legion, but this is a pretty huge drop in power level. Otherwise, there isn't really a whole lot to be done to save a few dollars. Rankle, Master of Pranks and Knight of the Ebon Legion make up most of the deck's cost.

Non-Budget Rankle Black

As far as a non-budget list, the only card I really wanted to play in the deck but couldn't because of its cost was Murderous Rider, which feels like the perfect removal spell for the deck, not just hitting anything but also giving us an additional threat after we adventure it. It replaces Murder, an Ayara, First of Locthwain, and two copies of Yarok's Fenlurker. Otherwise, the deck is good to go as is!


Anyway, that's all for today. Next week, we'll get back to normal with traditional best-of-three Throne of Eldraine Standard! Until then, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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