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Playing Pauper: Mono Black Control

Welcome back to our second episode of Playing Pauper! As I mentioned last week, we're going to be visiting most of the top decks in the format before brewing and taking in some viewer-submitted deck lists. Today, we're battling with what is possibly my favorite Tier 1 deck: Mono Black Control.

This deck has been popular for a while and for good reason. The deck is chock full of card advantage to keep ahead of control opponents and has tons of removal that make aggressive decks manageable too. The presence of Gray Merchant of Asphodel makes every permanent on our board a must-kill target, or the Gray Merchants can use its devotion to drain the opponent out of the game.

We'll go over the deck after the videos below, but first a quick reminder. If you enjoy Playing Pauper and other video content on MTGGoldfish, be sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube channel to keep up on all the latest and greatest.

Mono Black Control Intro


Mono Black Control vs BR Control


Mono Black Control vs BG Madness


Mono Black Control vs Mono Black Control


Mono Black Control vs Izzet Blitz


Mono Black Control vs Affinity

The Deck

The Creatures

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Despite being a control deck, creatures make up the majority of this deck. Most of our creatures come with spell effects attached that keep us ahead. Cuombajj Witches blocks and takes out 1 toughness creatures, Chittering Rats slows our opponent down, Phyrexian Rager keeps our hand full. Gray Merchant of Asphodel makes every single black mana symbol on our permanents intimidating. While Gurmag Angler has only one devotion and no enter-the-battlefield effect, it's too efficient to pass up.

The Removal

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Mono Black Control runs a whopping 14 removal spells main deck, and that's not even counting Cuombajj Witches or the flashback on Chainer's Edict. Almost every Pauper deck utilizes creatures in one way, and we use a tried and true method of dealing with those creatures: kill them all. This removal suite is good against aggro and midrange decks alike. Most control and combo decks in the format still need creatures to win too.

The Card Advantage

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So many of our other spells generate card advantage, but these are more dedicated to that purpose. Sign in Blood is a liability against aggressive decks, but is very good against control and can kill an opponent at 1-2 life. The two cycling cards, Unearth and Barren Moor can be discarded for fresh cards when needed or can fulfill their primary roles of reanimating Chittering Rats or generating mana, respectively.

The Sideboard

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Against control decks Duress, Wrench Mind, and Font of Return are your tools of choice. Duress is best against decks with counterspells, Wrench Mind works against any deck without artifacts that is trying to keep their hand stocked, and Font of Return is good for long, grindy matchups. Duress and Wrench Mind work double duty in that they also come in against creature-less burn since you need to have something to play over all your removal spells.

Shrivel and Pestilence are your main tools against aggressive decks, and sideboarding out your four Sign in Blood for virtually anything else is great against any deck trying to kill you with damage quickly.

Choking Sands come in versus Tron decks such as the one we played last week. You may also be tempted to bring them in against decks with a large number of bounce lands (e,g, Azorius Chancery) such as Familiar combo, but this strategy seems too risky to be worth it. When it works you may set your opponent back two turns, but if you draw Choking Sands too late it will be too slow compared to another creature or removal spell.

As I mention in the videos, I'm missing either Nihil Spellbomb or Relic of Progenitus for use against graveyard decks. It may be worth cutting a Wrench Mind and/or a Pestilence for two such spells.

The Matchups

Mono Black Control has the tools it needs to take down aggro, midrange, control, and combo decks alike and it is this resiliency that has allowed it to be a top deck for so long. 

If you're interested in a deck with a proven track record, no glaring weak spots, and an unstoppable card advantage engine, I'd highly recommend playing Mono Black Control.

Beating Mono Black Control

If you aren't interested in playing Mono Black Control, but need to know how to beat it, here are a few tips:

  • Mono Black has trouble deploying multiple creatures in a turn given that they have no 1-drop creatures and only three 2-drop creatures. Counterspells thus match up well against Mono Black. Creature-less control decks such as Mystical Teachings decks that win with Curse of the Bloody Tome are especially well positioned given that they render the 14 removal spells from Mono Black useless.
  • Due to the damage Mono Black deals to itself with Sign in Blood and Phyrexian Rager, very fast aggro decks can sometimes be problematic. If you can dodge a Turn 2 Cuombajj Witches, decks like Elves, Stompy, and Goblins all have game against Mono Black. However, Mono Black versions exist that run more than one Pestilence or that run Crypt Rats and these are harder to combat using aggro decks.


I hope you enjoyed watching these matches as much as I enjoyed playing them (except the Madness matchup, which almost drove me to madness!). Join me text week when I continue the series with an aggressive deck, as a change of pace from these first two weeks of control. I'm always reading and responding to comments in the comment section below or on the YouTube channel or on Twitter @JakeStilesMTG. Let me know what you think and what you want to see next.


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