Historic Deck Guide: Mono Black Devotion to Vampires

Gifted Aetherborn

Introduction

Like every brewer when Gray Merchant of Asphodel was spoiled in Theros: Beyond Death, I was super excited for the return of Mono Black Devotion. After several failed attempts and a conversation with a friend, we concluded the deck just wouldn’t work without Thoughtseize. It was just too important to the strategy and it was unlikely Wizards would print it in any upcoming set.

Then Amonkhet Remastered…

akr-127-thoughtseize

Ask and ye shall receive… We have Thoughtseize in Historic now.

Testing

I tried several builds to minimal success. First, I tried a card for card swap with the closest available substitution of cards we have in Historic: Phyrexian Obliterator for Desecration Demon, Underwold Dreams for Phyrexian Arena, etc. It flopped hard. Pack Rat was just too slow. Casting Phyrexian Arena was suicide versus anything but Azorius Control decks, as I was casting a card that didn’t immediately impact the board and most decks are setting up to win the game around turns 3 and 4. The competition was much better equipped to handle my strategy than in the standard of old.

I tried another build using the Cauldron Familiar, Witch’s Oven, Ayara, First of Locthwain, and Bastion of Remembrance. This fared better, but it was clear that it was just a bad version of the Jund build.

I also discovered that Phyrexian Obliterator was just weak in so many matchups. Control doesn’t care about it at all since they have quality removal and counterspells. Goblins can just make enough tokens to sacrifice to it that it might as well not even be there and they often can race it anyway, and the same with Underworld Breach.

The breakthrough!

A quick google search showed me a Mono Black Devotion Vampire list that 5-0ed an event in Pioneer back in January. Most of the deck was historic legal so I put it together and began testing a Historic version and IT WORKED!!!

The Differences from the Pioneer Build

The only difference in the main deck of my list and the Pioneer list is that Mutavault isn’t legal, which this deck would just love since it’s an additional, Vampire, and we don’t have Fatal Push for more quality removal. I think the deck can live without these cards, but upon their introduction to Arena they should be in the deck instantly.

I originally played a split of 1 Eliminate, 1 Grasp of Darkness, 1 Heartless Act and 1 Drag to the Underworld as removal. But I quickly found out that Drag to the Underworld was inconsistent, so it got cut. Then, while Eliminate is super good and versatile, it just wasn’t good enough for killing some of the bigger threats that are still commonly seen in Historic like Questing Beast, Golos, Tireless Pilgrim, and Glorybringer, which is becoming more common. So, I made my split 2 Heartless Act and 2 Grasp of Darkness. Normally I would just go Heartless Act and go, but Gruul is still a deck, and the Tier 2 or 2.5 of the meta is crawling with creatures with +1/+1 counters on them like the Venerated Loxodon Artifact deck.

How the deck plays

The deck clearly plays a lot like the Vampire list you’ve probably already seen in Historic. The Sorin plus Champion of Dusk play has been tried and proven incredibly effective, and it really makes up for the lack of Phyrexian Arena. A huge body that gives 2 devotion and draws cards, with a planeswalker that can make Champion bigger and gain us some life back, is a pretty potent turn 3.

Even if you don’t have a Champion to sneak in off Sorin he still makes your creatures potent threats or can be a nice removal spell for small creatures by sacrificing a Dusk Legion Zealot, which is effectively a 0-for-1 that gains you 3 life since it already drew you a card.

Cheating Champion into play the same turn you plan to cast your Gray Merchant or drawing Merchant off Champion are both just fantastic, and a huge tempo swing on most board states if you have another creature or 2. It is basically what I live for when I play this deck and the feeling is fantastic.

Sideboard Guide

  • Agonizing Remorse is quality discard that can also remove cards from the graveyard which gives it a lot of versatility and makes it good against Uro decks, Aristocrats, and Underworld Breach.
  • Legion’s End and Eliminate are great removal spells that help us out against small creature decks while Witch’s Vengeance is a quality sweeper versus Goblins and Elves.
  • Phyrexian Obliterator isn’t the beat stick it used to be, but there are some matchups like Gruul or other big creature decks where he is the best card so I think 2 in the board is nice.
  • Phyrexian Arena is slow, but I bring it in versus decks like UW because if it goes unanswered, we just take over the game.
  • I choose Grafdigger’s Cage over Leyline of the Void or any other option because it is fast. It comes in and does its job. It is also really good against the Company decks.

Azorius Control

InOut
+2 Phyrexian Arena-2 Heartless Act
+2 Agonizing Remorse-2 Grasp of Darkness

This matchup is easy if you know how to play it. Even if they board in something like a Baneslayer Angel, it is often too slow to do anything to us. We have so much hand disruption it is hard for them to put a coherent game plan together to stop our game plan. The only thing that makes it harder than it needs to be is when you overextend into a sweeper just because you think you can end the game off Gray Merchant by overloading 2 turns in a row early on. If you are worried about Narset stopping our card draw you can board in 2 copies of Eliminate  

Sultai and Bant

InOut
+2 Agonizing Remorse-2 Grasp of Darkness

I am still testing these matchups post Field of the Dead’s banning so I don’t have too much info on it. But I find it easier than the Field matchup for sure. I bring in Remorse to deal with Uro. Soul-Guide Lantern can also come in if you run it, but I find it unnecessary

Mono Red Aggro

InOut
+2 Eliminate-4 Thoughtseize
+2 Legion’s End-4 Dusk Legion Zealot
+2 Phyrexian Obliterator
+2 Witch’s Vengeance

This matchup can be hard if they come out swinging and we can’t find removal and some lifelinkers. Champion of Dusk is still strong since he refuels us but be careful of his trigger putting you in the danger zone. Leaving Sorin in without the Champions is fine, since he can sac a vampire and remove a creature or gain us some life back.

Goblins

InOut
+2 Eliminate-4 Thoughtseize
+2 Legion’s End-4 Dusk Legion Zealot
+2 Phyrexian Obliterator
+2 Witch’s Vengeance

This match up is all down to removal and how good their Muxus trigger is. Play as the control deck, use your removal and cross your fingers. Obliterator is dreadfully slow, and they can sac tokens or just ignore it while trying to end the game. I don’t think bringing him in is worth it on the draw. On the play Obliterator can be fast enough to clock the opponent at least. Sorin is fine for the same reason listed above.

Jund Company

InOut
+2 Eliminate-4 Thoughtseize
+2 Agonizing Remorse-1 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
+3 Grafdigger’s Cage-1 Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord
-1 Champion of Dusk

This deck can swarm you with advantage. Therefore, I board into a more controlling role. Remorse can get Woe Strider’s and other threats out of the yard and getting companies out of their hand early so I bring it in.

Underworld Breach

InOut
+2 Eliminate-4 Gifted Aetherborn
+2 Agonizing Remorse-1 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
+3 Soul-Guide Lantern-1 Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord
-1 Champion of Dusk

Your life total doesn’t matter here. They are looking to loop cards in the yard and end you. Gifted Aetherborn is hard to block, but they don’t care as along as they are alive. I leave in Dusk Legion Zealot since even though it sucks at attacking them, it draws us a card to find our much-needed hate. The Sorin and Champion combo is good once we have a lock to where they can’t instantly kill us, so I trim one of each.

Tips and Notes

  • Knight of the Ebon Legion triggers if either player takes 4 or more so, if you take 4 or more from Champion of Dusk entering the battlefield while you control or can cast a Knight, it will get the +1/+1 Counter. This also works if you double Thoughtseize or take 4 off Castle Locthwain.
  • Lifegain does not counteract Knight of the Ebon Legion.
  • Grasp of Darkness and Heartless act can also be used to make creatures smaller in combat, remember those uses.
  • Remember that you can sac vampires to Sorin to deal 3 to a target and gain some life back. This can really change the racing clock in aggressive matchups as well as ending games.

Zendikar Rising

With Zendikar Rising right around the corner I would like to think this deck will gain some new toys. I already have my eyes on a few.

znr-102-feed-the-swarm

Feed the Swarm looks to be my go-to removal spell. I think this card is just awesome and can play well with Knight of the Ebon Legion. A black card that can remove enchantments is also just insane; it is an effect that this color has wanted for so long.

Bloodchief's Thirst

As an alternative to Eliminate or maybe even a partner to it. Bloodchief’s Thirst is the closest card to Fatal Push we have, and I will definitely be testing it.

This is my “fun of” card. While clearly not the best, I can see it being devastating if unanswered. Bringing back Gray Merchant is a real play.

Conclusion

I think Mono Black Devotion needs more cards to really be effective, but I think this deck can easily be taken to Mythic in the hands of a capable pilot. For more, subscribe to my YouTube and follow me on Twitch to know when I go live! Also, my social media is linked below so feel free to follow me on those platforms as well.

Until next time, Hero out!

The MTG Hero

My name is Austin AKA The MTG Hero. I have played Magic: The Gathering for over 15 years and competitively for 13 of those. I am a consistent Mythic ranked player, often high on the leaderboard, and have had moderate success on the SCG Open and Grand Prix circuits. I tend to favor aggressive strategies with the motto of “I would rather create the problem than be forced to find the solution,” but I play every archetype. Currently I mostly focus on streaming on Twitch and Facebook; I also do a lot of content creation for YouTube and now MTG Arena Zone!

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