This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series The Power of the Dark Side

By Phil, AKA BeltFed Weapon

 

 

Mono-Black is known for a lot of things: the best tutors, board wipes, trading life for other resources, sacrifice effects, graveyard hate, reanimation, and a weakness to enchantments and artifacts.  It should be known for mass discard as well.

 

It has other tricks, but mass discard is a core function of every good Mono-Black deck that is very much underplayed out of either ignorance or for social reasons.  I’m here to educate & banish the ignorance, while also making a strong case for how such a strategy still functions within the social contract.

 

After I use some mass discard effect and someone poo-poos it at the table, I begin by asking the aggrieved opponent the following two questions rather snarkily:

 

1)      “Can you name a Black card that directly kills enchantments?”

Answer (as you know):  There is not a one from here to the Blind Eternities.  Liliana of the Veil’s ultimate, Curse of the Cabal, and Torment of Hellfire are not direct.

 

2)      “Can you name the only two cards in all of Black that directly kill artifacts?”

Answer (as I’m pretty sure you know):  Gate to Phyrexia & Phyrexian Tribute – both on the Reserved List; that’s how old they are & they’re not that good.

 

I then say:  “Since Mono-Black has such a problem with these two VERY popular card types, you have to rely on colorless sources that all decks can access.  There are only a handful of good ones and they all cost you SEVEN mana or more to pull off.”

 

If they don’t relent, I go into more detail:

 

Scalpels (targeted removal):

-Karn Liberated (7)

-Meteor Golem (7)

-Spine of Ish Sah (7)

-Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger (10)

-Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre (11)

-Unstable Obelisk (10 but better than it looks)

——————-(below the line is a bridge too far for me)——————-

-Universal Solvent (8 and very much ‘meh’)

 

Broadswords (sweepers):

-All is Dust (7)

-Oblivion Stone (8)

——————— (below the line is a bridge too far for me) —————-

-Perilous Vault (9 and I don’t like and have never used it)

-Worldslayer (10 and Ugh)

 

I go on:

“Tell me if I’ve missed one, but I think I named all the good ones.  Regardless, this is a short list of expensive effects. Mass discard is perfectly justified in the Mono-Black because of the color restriction.  This is how Black best addresses threatening enchantments and artifacts – before they hit the board.

 

I contend it’s easily more socially acceptable than mass land destruction (MLD) in Mono-Red or Mono-White, which really do need all the help those colors can get.  You cannot compare mass discard strategies to MLD when lands are still out, opponents still have access to the most important card(s) in their deck – those in the command zone – and your opponents are likely still collectively drawing more cards than you.  

 

The discarded cards are not exiled either, they’re still accessible in your graveyard; not my problem if you don’t run recursion!  Don’t forget the Mono-Black player has also just really irritated everyone else.”

 

People may quibble, but they generally concede the point even if they don’t like it (especially since there are only eight cards that I generally play).  The dissenter also always concedes that it in Mono-Black it’s harder to do politics to convince people to do your dirty work for you because they’re already probably pissed about the third board wipe you’ve just laid down.  That is what Black unapologetically does.

 

Mono-Black is popular, but remember my half-measures line from my original article series?  Most people only do a half-measure and don’t play the deck archetype optimally because it’s deceptively subtle.  Many don’t embrace the life-loss-for-gain or sacrifice effects, and mass discard is certainly not an aspect of the color that most embrace despite its raw power.

 

There are only a few cards that fit the mass discard bill, but all are effective in the right deck because of Black’s strong suite of tutors.  You play the ones at the appropriate competitive level of the overall deck and you only need to dedicate one-to-three slots, depending upon your preference.  That’s a small but powerful suite of effects. I’ll list them in order of approximate power level by my estimation, but it’s a matter of preference as well.

 

Scandalmonger: My favorite, but just an honorable mention.  Good when you have Heartstone out and/or BIG mana. Many opponents don’t realize that they can use these cards and I don’t remind them.  Even if they do, I generally have him in a deck that cares about my or others’ graveyards so my hand isn’t as important.

 

Cabal Conditioning:  Good with a six CMC general as you can curve right into it in theory.  Note: if they have the spot removal for your costliest permanent it’s a bummer because they are forced to use it to keep the rest of their hand.

 

Ill-Gotten Gains.  A not well known oldie but goodie.  It is an early game combo with Leyline of the Void that is BACKBREAKING and likely an instant-win as it is so fast and you get back the tutor you used to go find it.  Mid-game when you cast them both honestly, it’s still really good when combined with prior targeted graveyard hate that you should be running anyways – Bojuka Bog, Agent of Erebos, Withered Wretch, etc..

 

Mind Twist / Mind Shatter:  Mass discard for one opponent; very mean to that one person, but it is justified in more cutthroat metas.  The bottom line here is that these cards while playable at any time, are best early game with some ramp or late game when it’s a head-to-head scenario; especially against blue.  You have also only pissed off the person who you forced to randomly discard all but one card in their hand. They’re not in a good place to take revenge.

I have essentially killed five players with this card early game because the person I targeted had a legit scary decks and they needed to be impeded.  They scooped after resolution because of a perception of being so far behind against three other decks that also came to bring the pain. Each was not expecting it and their emotions got the best of them.  Notably, I’ve hit one guy with Mind Twist three times now and it counts for three of those kills. He scooped the first time as his hand was gone. The second time, he scooped because he was pissed he got hit with my Mind Twist again just a few weeks later.  The third time, the spell didn’t even resolve as he rage quit.

That’s what you get when ALL your decks are headed by commanders like Prossh, Skyraider of Kher, Memnarch, and Zur the Enchanter.  Live by the sword, die by the sword.

 

Myojin of Night’s Reach.  I’ve seen one guy in all my years at EDH tables make this his commander, but I vastly prefer him in the 99. Just.Plain.Good.  This is the kind of effect that warrants a casting cost of 5BBB. You remove the divinity counter at the end of the draw step of your next opponent most times, but sometimes you don’t have to worry about that player at all for whatever reason and you use Myojin during the next worthy opponent’s draw phase the same way.

I’ve never been countered by Voidslime and his brethren, but I don’t take the chance either and will let the blue player have their ONE card if I have to use Myojin before they untap.  Trying to get that one card extra is greedy and not worth the risk; that is when the fates will burn you.

 

Mindslicer.  My favorite. Combos with Diabolic Intent to tutor up your Necropotence and nuke everyone else’s hand at the same time.  FANTASTIC 4/3 for 4 is a good rate on a card that basically says:

-“unblockable”

-“when you attack the mono-black player with your fattie, everyone discard your hand and be mad at you, so don’t attack him”

-“any boardwipe you successfully cast also reads, “discard your hand, welcome to archenemy”

 

Mindslicer completely warps the game, but in a subtle and fun way that you can best exploit.  It’s a statement that you’re playing for keeps. Your precious hand, Mr. Combo Johnny, is now in danger and you may see it get dumped into the graveyard again and again because Black recurs creatures!

 

Just like Mono-Blue, if you’re going to get typecast as the boogeyman, you might as well act the part. You’re going to get played against that way regardless of how much you try to dissuade people that don’t like Mono-Black.  Why leave some of the tricks at home because you know the hate is going to come your way anyways?

Series Navigation<< The Power of the Dark Side – Part VII:  Maxims, Archetypes and their Commanders