Mono Black has been a staple in standard since the release of Theros last year. The decklist has remained essentially unchanged since the first Pro Tour where you could play Thoughtseize and Pack Rat together in standard. I’ve been looking at the Top 8 decks from Magic Online, and Star City Games tournaments, and I’ve noticed one glaring omission in mono black devotion.
Why in the world would mono black want to play 5 colors? That’s easy.
One major problem I found when playing mono blue and mono black in the past is that I’d draw a killer spell off the top of your opponent’s library with Nightveil Specter and be unable cast it because I hadn’t stolen their land yet.
Most mono black lists right now play some array of temples to scry, and these are changed out to fit the current meta. Temple of Deceit will be put in when blue is popular, for example. Mana Confluence takes the guess work out of Nightveil Specter, and basically ensures that you are able to play the spell you exile with Specter.
There are some downsides to this. The life loss is a factor, but this is balanced out by Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Not scrying is a factor, but you can offset this by still playing a number of scrylands and replacing only swamps with Mana Confluence.
Here is an example of what I would play at my next Grand Prix:
5 Color Black
Let me pore over some of the card choices I’ve made:
The prevalence of Boros burn and Esper control make this a very attractive card right now. It demands that your opponent sink a resource into killing it to get their resource back. This does exactly what you want it to do: stall your opponent out until you get your draw engine online. By the time this creature dies, you’re generally swimming in card advantage. Thoughtseize into Brain Maggot will ruin the early game for your opponent, putting them firmly into mid-range wheelhouse.Pack Rat has fallen out of favor in some mono black decks recently in part due to Bile Blight and in part due to Esper control. This is still one of the scariest things you can do with black mana in standard. Remember not to over commit to making rats if you think your opponent has an answer. This card will steal you games.
Notable Omissions:Bile Blight is not a card I like mainboard in mono black. I prefer cards that at least function against every single deck in standard, and there are some match-ups where Bile Blight just doesn’t do anything. Devour Flesh is still included in the mainboard as a concession to the strength of Blood Baron of Vizkopa, as well as emergency life gain against Boros Burn. Lifebane Zombie is an extremely strong card and a very aggressive one as well. It’s not in the mainboard at the time of writing this article because at present, the top decks are Devotion to Black, Devotion to Blue, Boros Aggro (without white creatures), Esper Control (using AEtherling as a win condition), and UW Control. There are simply no targets for zombie to hit, and Intimidate is very poor when nearly 30% of the field is the mirror match. I feel very good about having a full play-set of zombies in the sideboard for against green and white decks, and against Bw midrange with Blood Barons.
Getting cute with your sideboard:
Having 4 sources of mana that produce any color allows you to get innovative with your sideboarding options. You’ll want your sideboard cards to be splashable, meaning that you should have only 1 mana symbol off-color. Sorry friend, but Stormbreath Dragon is off the table. Here are some examples of viable sideboard cards because of Confluence:
I’m going to be playtesting heavily the theory that Mana Confluence is the right card for mono black. I invite you to do the same. Let me know if it gives you more flexibility against off-color opponents, or with your side-boarding options.