Maximizing Your Deck on a Budget - Mono Black
Updated: Apr 15
Hello everyone! How are you feeling about all the Ikoria spoilers? Personally, I’m so hyped for the set, and I’ve loved everything spoiled so far. We’ll dive into those spoilers more in the next blog but, today we’re continuing our color pie discussion with mono black!
Black, in my opinion, is the strongest color in commander for a few reasons. The first reason is all the ways you have to search your deck for any card. These cards are called “Tutors” and in black you need look no further than Demonic Tutor. Unfortunately, this card is still around $25 despite being reprinted in Mystery Boosters, so the first three cards on our list are going to be budget alternatives. Let’s get into the list!
Diabolic Tutor ($0.60) - At double the mana cost of Demonic Tutor, you get the same effect but on a widely accessible uncommon. Being able to pull any card out of your deck is so unbelievably powerful in commander where your odds of drawing the card you want are much lower. Diabolic Tutor can get you a combo piece like Bolas’ Citadel or one of the spot removal spells we’re going to talk about a bit later. You should be running this card in all mono black builds along with the next two cards.
Scheming Symmetry ($1.63) - One of the best parts of Commander is making friends or enemies with people as the game unfolds. Scheming Symmetry is an opportunity to make a powerful alliance for the benefit (or hindrance) of others. For one black mana you choose two target players and they each search their deck for a card and put it on top of their library. Assuming you’re picking yourself as one of those players, let’s talk about some possibilities. Black has a tough time dealing with artifacts and enchantments. Scheming Symmetry allows you to tutor your board wipe, and ask the green or white player to search their deck for a way to deal with a troublesome artifact or enchantment. Everyone wins! Except, of course, the players who end up losing their permanents. But don’t let the details get in the way running this card. It’s one of my favorites.
Dark Petition ($2.83) - For three colorless and two black mana, you get to find any card in your deck and put it into your hand - but wait! There’s more! If you have spell mastery (two or more instants and sorceries in your graveyard) you also add three black mana to your mana pool, allowing you to potentially cast the card you tutored for. Spell mastery isn’t that difficult to attain in commander, especially with all the removal effects in black. More often than not, you’re going to get that three black mana making this card a great value at five mana. Dark Petition is a great way to round out your package of tutors.
Murderous Rider ($1.48) - Let’s talk about removal, shall we? Murderous Rider is my new favorite black card. For two black mana and one colorless, you can cast Murderous Rider’s adventure side (Swift End) to destroy target creature or planeswalker at instant speed! It’ll just cost you two life, which is no big deal in commander. After you’ve ruined some creature or planeswalker’s day, you can then pay an additional one colorless and two black mana to take the Rider off it’s adventure and get a 2/3 body with lifelink. Adventure cards can hang out in exile for however long you want which is a great way to protect yourself from board wipes. Cast it at the perfect time! When Murderous Rider dies, it goes on the bottom of your library, allowing you to tutor it up again later when needed! This is such an improvement on the card I previously ran in this slot - Hero’s Downfall, and with that card hovering around $5, Murderous Rider is a better budget alternative as well. If you’ve got the cash though, I’d consider running both.
Price of Fame ($0.20) - For three colorless and one black, you can destroy any creature on the battlefield at instant speed. Seems good, right? Well, it gets better. Price of Fame’s casting cost is reduced by two colorless mana if it targets a legendary creature. Cool. Two mana, destroy target player’s commander is really what this card says. And in Commander, there are a lot of powerful legendary creatures that are played even outside of people's commanders. In a budget build, this card is a great starting point. While I’m not usually a big proponent of targeted removal in Commander, this one is worth running alongside Murderous Rider and Hero’s Downfall. Another great value at uncommon and it’s readily available!
Languish ($1.64) + Bontu's Last Reckoning ($1.17) - Languish is what I’d call a “situational wrath”. For two colorless mana and two black mana, all creatures get -4/-4. It’s not Damnation ($27.37) or Toxic Deluge ($23.90), but it’ll get the job done most times. It also gets around indestructibility. Languish’s low price is driven by the fact it’s been reprinted so many times, including in Commander 2016. I’m also going to mention Bontu’s Last Reckoning here because I think you should run both. For two black mana and one colorless, you get to destroy all creatures. The drawback is that your lands don’t untap on your next turn. If you only pay the 3 to cast the spell on your turn, it shouldn’t be too big of a deal. With both of these cards you’ve got to pick your spots wisely to get maximum value but, don’t let that stop you from including them.
Animate Dead ($2.23) - Now that we’ve destroyed all the creatures, let’s get the best one back! For one black and a colorless you get an enchantment that says “Enchant creature card in a graveyard. When Animate Dead enters the battlefield, if it's on the battlefield, it loses 'enchant creature card in a graveyard' and gains 'enchant creature put onto the battlefield with Animate Dead.' Return enchanted creature card to the battlefield under your control and attach Animate Dead to it. When Animate Dead leaves the battlefield, that creature's controller sacrifices it. Enchanted creature gets -1/-0.” To break this down, you choose ANY creature in ANY graveyard, and put it into play under your control with Animate Dead attached to it. It gets -1/-0. Think of the possibilities with this, there’s at least one infinite combo - I’ll leave it at that. There’s no excuse for not running this card.
Bojuka Bog ($1.69) - Black is really good at getting things into the graveyard, and as it turns out, is really good at exiling them forever too. Bojuka Bog is a utility land that exiles target opponent’s graveyard when it enters the battlefield (tapped). It also taps for black mana! This is an auto include for any deck running black (not just mono black) because of how good it is. There’s always one opponent relying on some graveyard strategy at the table, so a well-timed Bojuka Bog can put an end to that nonsense on the spot. This card has been reprinted a bunch of times and is still a common that’s worth more than $1. According to EDHRec.com - the go to site for Commander (outside of this blog of course), Bojuka Bog is currently being played in 34% of ALL Commander decks. Run this card.
Cabal Stronghold ($1.60) - Keeping in the utility land theme, Cabal Stronghold is a strictly worse Cabal Coffers ($48.95), but it’s still very good at 3% of the price! The Stronghold taps for colorless on it’s own but if you pay 3 colorless and tap it, you get black mana equal to the number of swamps you control. This means, it only takes having four swamps in play with the stronghold to start profiting mana. The more swamps you have, the better this card is going to get, so in a mono black build, this card can generate a whole lot of mana! Now, what are we gonna do with all that mana?
Torment of Hailfire ($5.14) - Ah, there we go. For two black mana and X, you get to repeat this process X times. Each opponent loses 3 life unless that player sacrifices a nonland permanent or discards a card. This is a finisher, plain and simple. Late game, when you’ve got all that extra mana Torment can just be the back breaker that wins you the game. The price on this has dropped to a more budget friendly number with its recent reprint in Mystery Boosters so now is a great time to grab it and start ending games!
So our list is 11 cards and came in at just over $20.00 exactly (counting the extra Bontu’s Last Reckoning). That leaves us with a lot of our budget to keep adding to our mono black foundation, so here’s a few cards that I’d recommend to pick up to supplement this list. Bolas’s Citadel ($2.23) let’s you pay life to cast things off the top of your deck. Paired with a card like Aetherflux Reservoir ($5.16) you could cast your entire deck. K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth ($5.36) allows you to pay life instead of black mana for spells and abilities. Another great way of generating lots of mana is with Black Market ($3.36) especially with all of our boardwipes and removal. Finally, what mono black deck would be complete without Gary. Grey Merchant of Asphodel makes each opponent lose X life, where X is your devotion to black. You gain life equal to the life lost this way. This can be a huge swing in a game and when you can pick up the promo version for $1.11, you pretty much have to.
That’ll do it for this list, 16 cards for $37.43. Man, we're getting good at this! Be sure to join the discussion on Discord and let me know what you feel I should have included or excluded from this list. I’m always happy to hear your suggestions!
Take it easy, and stay safe and we’ll be back on Wednesday with a look at some Ikoria spoilers!
Hip, hip HOORAY HIPPO