By: Carlos Piélago

We started a series of articles dedicated to the Monoblack archetype that, we`ll see, is more varied than it seems. In today’s article we`ll review the most played cards or those that hold the archetype … Let’s start!

I still remember my first «competitive» deck, or one of the first ones (the first ones I rode had more than 90 cards … they looked like Commander XD.) My «star card» was a Hydra rock that was the first rare card that I had in an Starter deck of Revised, next to Badlands, to which I did not even pay attention XD). But the first deck that I took a local store tournament was a Monoblack, with 4 Hypnotic Specters, 4 Dark Rituals and 4 Hymns to Tourach.
It can be said that the initial play «Swamp – Dark Ritual – Hypnotic – Go», is at the height of the mythical «Taiga – Monkey (Kird ape) – Go».

The Monoblack have been since the beginning of the game (I was going to write «from the beginning of time» but it was going to sound too epic :P), they´ve always given war and good results, now, to this day, they continue to do so. The archetype lends itself to innovate and try new combinations of cards. From the most «budget», to the «full power», but all or almost all the versions agree on something: the disruption of the hand and the destruction of land is fundamental, annul the game of the other to cast a creature (a «clock») that wins in a few turns.

These are the key cards, in my opinion, in all Monoblack decks (they aren`t placed in any special order):

Powerful spell of Fallen Empires that makes any magician of control tremble (they say that to any magician). You can cast it in turn 1 with Mox Jet or with Dark ritual, but this last move isn´t optimal, because you lose a mana (with the consequent point of damage if you play with mana burn and you don´t take advantage of it) and a card along the way, and the 2×1 that you make to the opponent is lost, although, if you know what you’re playing against (maybe another deck with discard, or a very aggressive deck like Workshop aggro) it might be a good move to try to route the match.


The combination with Hymn To Tourach plus Strip Mine in the first turns can be decisive and be able to cancel the opponent’s game. It´s usually played 4 copies of this cards, but if you want to leave a slot for a card some players cut some pieces here, but, in my opinion, they should always go 4.


Perhaps the key card that makes the archetype so competitive, especially if you go unpowered, because by a single black mana you accelerate in the first turns to play Hypnotic Specter, Juzam, Sengir, or a Nevinyrral`s Disk, or a Mind Twist of biblical proportions, in addition, if you play Drain Life, that excess of mana won`t be ruined in advanced game. Very important also not to get stuck by needing double swamp, a very common problem in black magicians, the Ritual will always help you unclog.


We´ve to take into account if we play with Swedish rules, or EC rules, as I speak as a player of the LMOS, where EC rules are played because I tell it from that perspective.
As I said before, combined with Sinkhole and Hymn to Tourach can be devastating. The problem comes when you need the double black to play your knights, Juzam, Hymn to Tourach, Hypnotic, etc., and you really need them, and the opponent knows, and almost certainly will play with 4 Strip mines, and will go to death for your swamps in the first turns, so you´ve to know this when building your Monoblack deck, the Strip mines don´t count as a source of mana (although they give mana if necessary) but as a more resource, and as almost certainly you`ll play 4 Mishra’s Factory are already 8 colorless lands, which is recommended to play about 16 swamps.
In addition, the Strip Mine will delay a turn in the evolution of your game, so keep this in mind so you don`t get stuck, which can be one of the problems of the deck.



Maybe it’s one of the most played cards of all OS, because almost everyone has 4. Is a cheap creature, hard to kill (why they`ve to kill with instant or Strip Mine), and immune to Wrath of God, The Abyss, Disks, Earthquakes, etc. Blocks well because it gets +1 +1 itself becoming a 3/3 and if it´is accompanied with his “sisters” it’s becomes a win condition in some decks as they help each other and become a serious threat.
In Monoblack goes very well combined with the discs, and in the same turn you clean the battlefield you can attack your opponent and scratch a few points of life. and if not then it gives colorless manna that is also not bad, so it is a card that you have to put 4 copies.


The black color has a serious problem: it`s not able to remove certain threats once they are in play. Against creatures isn`t bad, because it has Paralyze, Drain Life, Terror, Royal Assassin … but against enchantments and artifacts there is hardly anything, and the disk comes to solve this problem, in just one blow.
Not all Monoblacks include it, some include it as a sideboard option, and some even don´t play it, but I think it`s necessary in this archetype. Also, it`s so good (it`s the card itself) in this deck because, if everything went as expected, you`ll have disrupted the opponent’s hand, and you`ll have destroyed the necessary land and, perhaps, when you download the disk, the opponent doesn`t have the disenchant or Shatter to save him from the approaching debacle, once untapped his effect will be done yes or yes. After activating it you will be able to play your finisher, either a Juzam, or Sengir, or Knight of the Ebon Hand, or even a Hypnotic that will have controlled the opponent until his life is reduced to 0. He will have that to draw to the top deck the lightning or the saving swords to be able to hold.
I only see her as a sideboard in the cases in which your deck is designed with strategies based on Bad Moon, Underworld Dreams, The Abyss, or The Rack, in these cases you play many permanents at the battlefield and it could be that one disc harms you more than Help you unless you play against control.


The first tutor of the game, and still one of the best today, that will allow you to find the necessary card in each moment of the game, a demolishing Mind twist, a saving disk, or a Drain Life that gives you victory, or that strip mine that doesn`t arrive, necessary to destroy the Library of Alexandria of the opponent. It’s a Swiss Army knife that you have to play forever.


The eternal companion of the Demonic Tutor, always together, and the first candidate to look for him with the Tutor, because it`s one of the most overpower cards of the format, for only one card you clean the opponent’s hand, which in many cases will be to the top deck to comeback the game and, while, your creatures will do the dirty work. A must have in any strategy with black, which is often splashed by its enormous potential. Unbalancing


If you play Dark Ritual, the most normal thing is that you play this creature, because you take advantage of the first turn, because it`s an optimal play, and because it`s one of the best creatures available in the black color and of the whole format, whether it is on the way.
He has evasion, enters the first turns, thanks to the dark ritual, as we have said, and discard from the opponent a card … at random! If he has no way of getting rid of her, he can make life impossible.
There are some players who complain that when they play the Hypnotic in the first turn they will kill him with a lightning and they will lose that turn in addition to two cards, having played it with Dark Ritual, but it`s logical because the opponent doesn`t you can leave it at the table and hit it even once or the disadvantage will be important. Even so, it is the most optimal move you can make of the first turn with a single mana and a Dark ritual because what if you catch him off guard and the opponent has neither a lightning nor spades? Well, that means you are closer to the GG.
If you don`t include Dark Ritual, it’s a card that isn`t so good anymore, unless you go full of P9, because deep down is a creature of turn 3 that hits by 2, still the abilitys of flying and discard are very good. If you don`t play dark Ritual (badly done) you can always include 2 copies.


Not all monoblack include them. They combine them with other creatures like Juzam or Sengir Vampire. They`re fast creatures, who enter the second turn and who have two abilitys that make them very dangerous: First strike and Protection from white, which we will analyze in more detail.
The first strike in a low cost creature like this makes it possible to stop an early factory or an Argothian in the first turns, it`s not the same if you are going to attack it because you`ll find Kird ape or a Factory that can be given + 1 +1, but it`s still an ability to respect. The protection against white is what really makes this creature dangerous, because there are decks that as only removal carry Swords to Plowshares, and above is a ability that gives them evasion if they play against White weenie, and will be a real headache for the white magicians.
In addition the Ebon hand are able to take advantage of the excess of mana thanks to the ability to swell, and if you solve a disc and then cast the children of Tourach because they are very dangerous.



It`s clear that the Juzam is dominant in Old School, a 5/5 only for 4 manas that you can cast in turn 1 with Dark Ritual is a constant danger when you play against black.
But the Sengir is not far behind and we are going to make a brief comparison between the two creatures.
The Juzam doesn`t die against Psionic Blast, and drops by only 4 mana, but it dies against City in a Bottle (present in all the sideboards of OS) and it`s terrible if teh opponent cast a Paralyze, Spirit Link, Moat, Icy Manipulator, etc. . And he doesn`t have evasion.
The Sengir costs one more to play and he dies with Psionic blast, but he has evasion (flies), he skips the Moat and Island Sanctuary, he doesn`t die against City in a Bottle, and if they annul him with any of the cards described before, nothing would happen more than that: it’s nullified, but you don`t lose lives along the way, and it has an interesting ability that makes it able to defend and stop small creatures, a ability that isn`t usually activated (please, someone tell me if he has ever activated the ability of Sengir xd)
The Juzam isn`t accessible and the Sengir is; The Sengir is perfect for budget decks.



Maybe it’s the weakest staple on the list, because it only really shines when you get the opponent to draw a lot and not be able to play at ease either because you’ve stuck with mana or you’ve managed to perform a prison strategy. But you have to keep this in mind as it turns out to be a very interesting card and that manages to scratch those life points that in the end get the game to go in your favor, in addition to nullifying the control decks that draw many cards, and those who use Sylvan Library. It`s clear that there is a card called Disenchant and that they will use it against you without hesitation, but if you play it for the Underworld it will be a Disenchant less for your disks. In an aggro deck, with all the creatures we’ve talked about before, it may not be necessary, but even the sideboard can be inluded.


It is the multipurpose card of the deck, serves to finish off the opponent, as removal anti creatures, to combine it with Greed and draw more cards, not to die and hold another turn, maybe that turn that gives you the victory … seriously , put a Drain life in your life.


One of the problems that the archetype has is that it doesn`t draw enough cards, the draw engine is insufficient, and we have to play with the “pack” for the deck to draw extra cards, or Howling Mine, which are always a double-edged sword. In black few things help us draw, one of them is Greed, enchantment that paying a black manna and two lives makes us draw a card, it`s usually included in decks that use or abuse Drain Life or Ivoy Tower, because if not the cost of life that is necessary to activate it in the long run no rent and if on top you will play Juzam then we would be talking about a Suicide Black rather than a monoblack.


Lately I see it in all Monoblack, and no wonder, for a single black mana you can cancel in the first turns a Serra Angel or a Juzam Djinn, or a Shivan Dragon or an Erhamn Djinn. But it`s his combination with Hymn To Tourach, Strip Mine and Sinkhole, which makes it so good, because the advanced game the opponent can have more resources, but if we join these cards and the speed of our creatures, it may be that Paralyze slows down the opponent a lot and doesn`t have time to react.


That`s all! So far the review of the most played cards of the Monoblack, I know that I leave some cards in the inkwell … what do you think? Do you think any is missing? Tell us, we want to know your opinion, you can make me a comment through this blog, or tell me something in my account instagram @retroplayermtg

Until next time, and See you soon in the Old School Spanish National Tournament, 5 countries confirmed!

See you!



  1. Pingback: Fallen Empires: Old School Player´s Manual (Part I) – Liga Madrileña Old School MTG

  2. Ignacio

    I cannot believe you skipped to mention the most powerful card-drawing engine for monoblack players.. the mighty NECROPOTENCE.. I think it should be a 4 of in any kind of format that allows you to use it.. i think it’s the best of all black cards..

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