Historic Mono Black Aggro Deck Guide: Interaction and Beatdown is OP

Spawn of Mayhem Art by Victor Adame Minguez
Spawn of Mayhem Art by Victor Adame Minguez

Hello everyone! Today we’re revisiting a classic and underappreciated archetype in Historic: Monoblack Aggro. I always had a soft spot for Monoblack Aggro since, as the title states, having meaningful pressure and interaction is super powerful. That’s an adage I heard over and over again as I was learning the game, so seeing a deck that does it so cleanly is always really appealing to me. Before I continue, let’s take a look at the list I’ll be referencing for this article.

(H) Monoblack Aggro 

Creatures (26)
Dread Wanderer
Knight of the Ebon Legion
Skyclave Shade
Murderous Rider
Rankle, Master of Pranks
Spawn of Mayhem
Spells (10)
Inquisition of Kozilek
Heartless Act
Lands (24)
Castle Locthwain
Faceless Haven
Snow-Covered Swamp
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
Fatal Push
Doom Blade
Go Blank
Rotting Regisaur

Beyond pressure and interaction, why is this deck so good? It’s as easy to tell as looking at the curve. The more high impact cheap plays you have in a deck, the better it generally is. In this list, there are NINETEEN 1 mana plays. That’s an obscene amount of 1 mana spells and the majority of them are excellent as well. We have the classic combination of Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize to rip apart the opponent’s hand. Whether it’s to disrupt their game plan or to stop them from disrupting yours, having a large amount of hand disruption is always great in an aggro deck since you can heavily capitalize on putting holes in your opponent’s curve. There’s also twelve 1 drop creatures, with Dread Wanderer and Gutterbones being a bit underwhelming, but great in grindy games and Knight of the Ebon Legion which is just terrifying to face down for most opponents.

The crux of the cards are at the 1 drop slot, so the curve thins out a lot in all the other spots. For 2 drops, we have Skyclave Shade which is a high powered, recursive, mana sink of a creature. Scrapheap Scrounger was generally the 2 drop of choice, but Skyclave doesn’t require anymore resources beyond a land drop which makes it appealing in a deck where many of your creatures can resurrect themselves. Furthermore, there’s 3 Heartless Act which is still Historic’s most versatile 2 mana removal spell.

Moving up the curve, the only 3 drop the deck technically has is Murderous Rider. Although the body leaves a lot to be desired, the ability to kill anything then to come into play as an ok threat is definitely not to be underestimated. Although this isn’t a 3 drop but feels like one, Spawn of Mayhem is one of the largest draws to this archetype. Assuming you can connect with your opponent, playing a 4/4 Flying Trampler that deals additional damage on your upkeeps is a ridiculous pile of keyword soup that makes it easy to win. Obviously Spawn is amazing at putting on the pressure, but it also has the extremely important 4th point of toughness to play around a lot of common Red removal like Scorching Dragonfire or Anger of the Gods.

Lastly, we have Rankle, Master of Pranks at the very top of the curve. I don’t love Rankle as it’s quite vulnerable to a lot of different popular removal spells in Historic, but when it can connect, the card’s bananas. Considering that you can frequently use all 3 modes to great effect, playing this on curve after your opponent is already struggling to deal with your other threats is a huge boon.

Monoblack has a great line up in terms of spells, but the most underappreciated aspect of it is the manabase. I’d venture to say that Monoblack has the best manabase in all of Historic since it gets to utilize both Castle Locthwain and Faceless Haven. Faceless Haven is no Mutavault, but it’s the closest we’re allowed in Historic and can still put in a lot of work. Furthermore, Castle Locthwain, along with many of our creatures like Skyclave Shade, Gutterbones, and Dread Wanderer gives you a lot to do with excess mana in the late game. Considering Monoblack is good early, good in the midgame, and still has plenty to do late, it’s a recipe for a very strong deck.


Rotting Regisaur Art by Randy Vargas
Rotting Regisaur Art by Randy Vargas


+3 Doom Blade-4 Rankle, Master of Pranks
+2 Go Blank-3 Thoughtseize
+4 Rotting Regisaur-2 Heartless Act

This boarding is a bit difficult as it’s certainly the case of having way more cards we want to cut than cards we want to put in. That being said, we still have a very strong curve that Phoenix would have to have answers for or they risk getting run over. Both Go Blank and Rotting Regisaur are fantastic against Phoenix, but for different reasons. Go Blank taxes their resources and exiles all their Phoenixes which is obviously great. Rotting Regisaur is a humongous threat that Phoenix functionally can’t kill at the 6th toughness outscales their Lightning Axe. Furthermore, they only play good creatures so they’re really not looking to chump block with anything either. Keep hands with a really aggressive curve as Phoenix doesn’t play ways to punish a go wide strategy.


+3 Duress-1 Gutterbones
+2 Go Blank-4 Skyclave Shade
+4 Rotting Regisaur-4 Rankle, Master of Pranks

Temur seems like it would be a really good matchup, but turns out to be more around 50/50 (although I think Monoblack is still ahead). Their main way to kill you is going to be cheating in a Koma, Cosmos Serpent so stopping that is paramount. To that end, we have an obscene amount of hand interaction and a few removal spells to make that more than tenable.

After that, the main consideration is to not get blown out by their removal suite which is generally Scorching Dragonfire, Lava Coil, and Anger of the Gods. Rotting Regisaur does great in this position as Temur really struggles against larger creatures and don’t have too many ways to chump Regisaur which can make it a lethal threat very quickly.

Keep the pressure on, but try to avoid getting blown out by Anger as that can give them a huge amount of time to assemble their combo, furthermore, some lists will have Nezahal, Primal Tide instead of Koma so don’t assume you can always kill what comes out from the Creativity.


+3 Duress-2 Gutterbones
+2 Go Blank-3 Heartless Act

This boarding I’m still not positive on, but it’s the best plan I’ve had so far. Disrupting their hand is the most important facet of this matchup as all their spells get significantly more value than yours. It’s awkward since we can’t really deal with a Torrential Gearhulk or a large Shark Typhoon, but we also can’t justify keeping in Heartless Act as it’s only going to be useful when we’re already behind.

Rotting Regisaur could be good, but Jeskai is adopting cards like Brazen Borrower and Justice Strike to help against Temur Koma which are great answers against Regisaur as well. My best advice, keep really aggressive hands and don’t play around wraths for the most part as they only play a few. You’re rarely going to win the long game, especially if they’re playing Gearhulks, so I would try to avoid making the game go on for that long.


+3 Fatal Push-4 Gutterbones
+3 Doom Blade-2 Rankle, Master of Pranks

Selesnya is pretty 50/50 of a matchup which seems not ideal, but is actually great considering how good it generally is against creature decks. They’re extremely good at setting up hard to beat through board states, but we have a huge swath of interaction to keep them off balance and a bunch of aggression to keep the pressure on. Do your best to not let them resolve The Great Henge as this deck can’t beat that card.


+3 Fatal Push-3 Thoughtseize

Simple boarding, simple matchup. You want to run your opponent over before they run you over, and most of that is going to come down to how each player draws. Save your removal for high impact threats and hope you outdraw them.


+3 Fatal Push-4 Gutterbones
+3 Doom Blade-2 Skyclave Shade

One of the advantages of playing Monoblack is that you have one of the better Auras matchups in Historic. With a reasonable clock and a boatload of interaction, you’re going to put the squeeze on the Auras player starting from turn 1. That being said, you really need to keep interaction heavy hands as just trying to be fast is not going to be a winning strategy. The best mix is to have pressure and interaction, but keeping heavy interaction hands is leagues better than pressure heavy hands.


Knight of the Ebon Legion Art by Alex Konstad
Knight of the Ebon Legion Art by Alex Konstad
  • You have a lot of 1 mana plays so it can be hard to know which to lead off with. My rule of thumb is to lead with creatures over Thoughtseize effects (unless you know they’re Auras and you need to nab a Kor Spiritdancer or they’re Arcanist and you need to take one of their broken 2 drops) and lead with a 2 power creature that I don’t mind trading with. Both Gutterbones and Dread Wanderer are expendable which makes them unappealing to trade with which lets Knight of the Ebon Legion and Spawn of Mayhem be a lot better.
  • Knight of the Ebon Legion only triggers on your end step, but it’s if any player lost 4 life that turn. There will be times you can curve Knight into double Thoughtseize to trigger it turn two!
  • Recurring your creatures (excluding Skyclave Shade) should always be the last thing you do over casting spells in your hand or activating Faceless Haven. It can be better than using Castle Locthwain though.
  • If you’re choosing between making a big Skyclave Shade or casting multiple spells, 99% of the time you should cast multiple spells. Making one big Shade is really only good if you’re playing around board wipes or having 5 power is particularly relevant.
  • I use Rankle, Master of Pranks modes quite aggressively and I don’t think you really need to be conservative with them as you discard cards and sacrifice creatures better than functionally every other deck. The main contention is whether to draw or not and it generally is dictated by how likely the opponent can blow you out from what they draw versus the 1 point you get to deal.
  • Spawn of Mayhem makes combat really tricky so always keep in mind the unilateral 1 point it deals and the potential buff when considering attacks and blocks.
  • It’s likely common knowledge, but Faceless Haven has vigilance so you can generally use it during or post combat for an extra mana.

Thank you for reading!


Robert "DoggertQBones" Lee is the content manager of MTGAZone and a high ranked Arena player. He has one GP Top 8 and pioneered popular archetypes like UB 8 Shark, UB Yorion, and GW Company in Historic. Beyond Magic, his passions are writing and coaching! Join our community on Twitch and Discord.

16 Responses

  1. TabEater says:

    Amazing write up. I have been playing this deck when I get a chance and it tears up mostly everything with a good hand. I think 4 Rankles is too much. Cutting 2 for Scrapheap is great. Scrapheap can eat dead Knight of Ebon Legion and Spawns, which are the most targeted pieces. Great description of its place in the meta. Many fast games but also intense top decking and resource management to pull off wins against combos and big creatures.

    • DoggertQBones says:

      Thank you! I agree that 4 Rankle could be too many, but the first copy is so good that having 4 makes sense as well.

      • TabEater says:

        I have found that most of my losses come from drawing two Rankles, drawing 7 lands, or playing into spells like Snakeskin Veil. I hope to see more of your content in the future. I think the meta for standard and historic are a blast right now.

  2. Zafarion says:

    I’m playing a historic mono red control list for half an year, getting mythic rank every month and I’m feeling alone with it, which is great. Just put plenty of the arctifact dorks, 6-4 red wraths, 8-6 ugins, 4-2 ulamogs, 4-3 karns (the dominaria one or the WAR one, you decide) and of course, 4 irencrag feat. The strategy is casting cmc8 ugin or ulamog as fast as possible. Don’t forget 4 copies of Valakut Awakening to trade your hand if you draw to many useless cards, which happens a lot with this deck. This strategy does wonders vs elves, phoenix, selesnya and solemnity combo, which are decks i’m facing a lot. Despite being red, this deck has plenty of card advantage because of karn, cmc6 ugin and the arctifact dorks that let you draw (mind stone and hedron archive)

    • Zafarion says:

      Complementing the above, I tried one copy of Crackle with Power and that card worked great. It add utility to irencrag feats later in game, so i’m going to put one more copy.

  3. Jonathan West says:

    I know you primarily play BO3, but how would you rate this deck in BO1? In your most recent BO1 metagame update (June 9th) it was down in tier 3. Do you still think it belongs there?

  4. Momir_Vig says:

    Thanks for the guide. Why did you decide not to use Phyrexian Obliterator as a sideboard option?

    • DoggertQBones says:

      Obliterator is a great card and is at it’s best when there’s a lot of decks that can’t answer it effectively, however, thats not really what the meta is right now. Furthermore, it’s hard to cast with Faceless Haven

    • David says:

      Phyrexian Obliterator is very good vs Jund Food and Gruul, but those decks are very uncommon after they did so poorly at the Strixhaven Championship. I managed to go 4-3 in the Historic portion of that event with Jund Food (a choice I immediately regretted), but I did lose to monoblack, thanks to…. his sideboarded Phyrexian Obliterator!

      But yeah, if you look at all the meta decks listed above in the sideboarding section, I don’t think I would want Phyrexian Obliterator versus any of them. So there’s your problem right there!

  5. David says:

    Since all your cards in the mirror are the same and there will be lots of trading off and probably topdecking, I’d guess that Go Blank is better than the 4th Thoughtseize in the Monoblack Mirror. At least you get to exile Scraphelp Scrounger/Dread Wanderer/Skyclave Shade that they haven’t brought back yet. Might even try putting in another Go Blank over an Inquisition (hand disruption is famously not so good in aggro or midrange mirrors, since the games go a lot longer than usual).

    • DoggertQBones says:

      That’s definitely not unfair and we’re very much in the situation where we have way more cards we want to take out then put in. I would be concerned that Go Blank isn’t really great at any point beyond turn 3 OTP as you’re not developing and in the late game its super likely you can just whiff. Thoughtseize does tag Spawn of Mayhem and Rankle which can both be problematic if not answered quickly. That being said, I don’t hate the idea either.