Tendrils of Corruption

-Steve Bahnaman

If you’ve drafted M10 three or more times, there’s a good chance that you’ve run into at least one deck that only had Swamps and no other lands. There’s a good chance you may have lost even though you thought your deck was pretty darn good, especially if your deck was green-white.

The monoblack deck has been discussed a fair amount, probably more than any other archetype in the M10 draft universe, largely because it has a number of good cards to use in the deck without needing another color to add power. There’s something wonderful about never having to worry about getting color-screwed. Of course, there are other advantages as well, many of which are really just the advantages of “archetype drafting” as opposed to “good cards drafting.”

What’s So Great About Monoblack?

1. Value Elevation

I’ll define “value elevation” as the simple principle that many cards you might pick are better in certain kinds of decks than in others. For example, a black drafter who is also drafting much of any other color wants zero or perhaps one Looming Shades in his deck. It’s just a bad or barely adequate card if you only have one or two Swamps in play. For the monoblack drafter, however, Looming Shade is often a Nightmare without flying. You can play two or three Shades in a monoblack deck; the only reason you don’t want more is that they become much worse when you have two of them in play. Other cards also get much better in monoblack decks, including Tendrils of Corruption, Consume Spirit, Sign in Blood (because of its drawback’s negation by Tendrils’ life-gain), Dread Warlock (because the likelihood of a black opponent decreases: you’ve been taking the good cards!), and even Doom Blade. Elevating some of these cards doesn’t make them that much easier to draft: people take Doom Blade and Tendrils pretty high anyway. But adding Dread Warlock and Looming Shade into the list of cards you’d be happy to take helps you draft better decks, and gives the archetype better…

2. Depth

Black is a very deep color in M10. Look at this proposed pick order for monoblack drafting in M10. Note that these picks only include black cards and artifacts (no splashes, though you could correctly splash for something like a Fireball), and assume you already *know* you’re drafting monoblack.

1. Platinum Angel
2. Nightmare
3. Vampire Nocturnus
4. Liliana Vess
5. Cemetery Reaper
6. Consume Spirit
7. Doom Blade
8. Royal Assassin
9. Tendrils of Corruption
10. Xathrid Demon
11. Gravedigger
12. Howling Banshee
13. Hypnotic Specter
14. Magebane Armor
15. Deathmark
16. Assassinate
17. Rise from the Grave
18. Whispersilk Cloak
19. Sign in Blood
20. Black Knight
21. Gorgon Flail
22. Wall of Bone
23. Drudge Skeletons
24. Dread Warlock
25. Bog Wraith
26. Looming Shade
27. Mind Shatter
28. Weakness
29. Kelinore Bat
30. Child of Night
31. Mind Rot
32. Diabolic Tutor
33. Rod of Ruin
34. Zombie Goliath
35. Vampire Aristocrat
36. Warpath Ghoul
37. Coat of Arms
38. Pithing Needle
39. Duress
40. Disentomb
41. Acolyte of Xathrid
42. Relentless Rats

Pick orders change depending on what you have already drafted, but you should notice already that once you include mythics and rares, there are 42 different cards worthy of inclusion (at least once in a great while) in a monoblack draft deck. That’s a lot of options to choose from, and includes every black common except for Unholy Strength and Soul Bleed. Depth is very important because it gives you a run of cards to pick from pack after pack, and with so much variation between decks it’s unlikely that each monoblack deck you draft will have identical lists or even the same threats. Still, the monoblack drafter benefits from a lot of…

3. Clarity of Focus

Vampire_Nocturnus

Monoblack decks do three things well. They block well with their regenerators and creatures that like to trade such as Child of Night (Douse in Gloom was pretty amazing). They remove creatures with commons Tendrils, Weakness, and Doom Blade, as well as uncommons Consume Spirit and Deathmark. And they gain card advantage straight up with Sign in Blood and Mind Rot. Every monoblack deck you draft will contain these elements. The decks are unlikely to be balls-to-the-wall aggressive unless you get a rare like Vampire Nocturnus or Coat of Arms and a ton of zombies, which isn’t going to happen often. Trade and gain a long-term advantage in terms of cards, then beat them down with an evasion creature. Essentially every monoblack deck does this, which makes it a very comfortable deck to play.

So, monoblack in M10 has everything you want in any draft archetype:
1. Cards whose value is specifically elevated because of other cards the archetype likes.
2. Depth, including a large number of cards with similar characteristics.
3. A focused, repeatable game plan, leading to comfort and better decisionmaking the more you play the deck.

Some Notes on Drafting Monoblack

A. Acolyte of Xathrid is better than you think (but only a little). It pings players and has provided late-game problems for me; you can’t stabilize against totally unblockable damage. It’s a low pick, but an acceptable 23rd spell.

B. Whispersilk Cloak is amazing with Looming Shade. It’s a 2-3 turn clock at most, and it prevents the dreaded Sparkmage Apprentice trump when you’re tapped out.

C. Cards that really *change* in value in this archetype (and hence you end up with many copies of) include Looming Shade, Sign in Blood, Dread Warlock, and many of the filler creatures (Warpath Ghoul, Vampire Aristocrat).

D. A fifth-pick Tendrils of Corruption or a fourth pick Consume Spirit is a good signal to go monoblack. These cards aren’t splashable, and so won’t be drafted by people off-color, but also are easy for people passing them to remember they’ve shipped.

E. Cutting off the player to your left helps, but it is completely possible to draft a very good monoblack deck to the right of someone drafting a half-black deck. There are just a lot of good cards.

Deathmark

F. Deathmark is maindeckable at least in one; with you playing no white or green, the odds of any given opponent playing one of the two colors are usually above 70%.

G. Unholy Strength is very savage tech against multiple copies of Ice Cage. Don’t even think of playing it otherwise.

H. Weakness is very good against blue decks and red decks, destroying Merfolk Looters, Goblin Pikers, Viashino Spearhunters, Prodigal Pyromancers, and making Wind Drakes very irrelevant.

I. If you have to play maindeck Duress, wait until about turn 4 or 5 to play it (after casting a creature and having a mana up, for example). Though you’ll have mana open turn one, you should still wait until your opponent has drawn a few cards. What you really want to hit is a great card like Overrun, Sleep, Fireball, or Armored Ascension; give yourself the best odds possible to catch them! Duress is a good sideboard card against green and white decks, which have both combat tricks you can nerf like Giant Growth, Harm’s Way, and Safe Passage, as well as the ever-present Overrun, and the slow but solid Entangling Vines and Divine Verdict.

J. Draw cards fearlessly with Sign in Blood. You’ll find a Tendrils or a Consume soon enough.

Best of luck drafting monoblack!