Historic Myths and Tales Part IV: A Mono Black God Pharaoh’s Gift Guide

  • Elder?
  • What is it, Timmy?
  • What happens when I die?
  • Oh, it’s not an easy subject… It depends on whether your parents made an offering to the God Pharaoh.
  • But can I become a dinosaur after I die?
  • No, but you’ll both be the same size in the afterlife.
  • Wow, I can’t wait!

Welcome to the fourth episode of Historic Myths and Tales, with myself, sage Albert “Alan” Andrzejewski, as your guide and mentor. Check out my previous episodes here: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Today we’re delving into Mono Black God-Pharaoh’s Gift, one of Historic’s most fun and engaging decks! Let’s begin with its recent history:

The deck appeared in the meta at a point where Grafdigger’s Cage was an extremely popular sideboard card, used against a variety of cards like Muxus, Goblin Grandee, Bolas’s Citadel, Collected Company, Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, Dreadhorde Arcanist and so on… One of the biggest advantages of God-Pharaoh’s Gift and Gate to Afterlife is that they are both unaffected by the Cage. Gift doesn’t return creatures from the graveyard – it only exiles them and creates copies. Gate doesn’t cast the Gift from the library – instead puts it directly into play, which avoids the Cage’s restriction.

Soon after the deck appeared, the meta adapted and people started playing more hard graveyard hate, like Leyline of the Void, Scavenging Ooze, Soul-Guide Lantern, or even Rest in Peace. These are what hurt Gate-Gift combo badly and the success of the deck depends on how many graveyard-hate cards that exile are in the meta, since Mono Black struggles to answer artifacts and enchantments (although there’s a card in Zendikar Rising that may help with that!). We also struggle to effects like Brazen Borrower that returns Gift to our hand or Karn, the Great Creator, which prevents us from activating Gate. Fortunately, it’s not a completely combo-dependent deck and we can still win by just pressuring opponents with our creatures.

Without further ado, here’s the list:

As I mentioned before, this deck has two plans to win the game:

Plan A: Use our resources to draw cards and scry to try to hit Gate to Afterlife, self-milling all the while until we reach 6 creatures in graveyard, then activate Gate to Afterlife to search for God Pharaoh’s Gift and kill the opponent with an army of hasty zombies.

Plan B: We can alternatively act as a mix of MonoB Aggro and a Sacrifice deck and kill our opponents without the Gift combo.

Packages and Synergies

This deck is very synergistic, so I decided to group the core cards and write about them in packages rather than separately.

  • Gate and Gift package: the core of the deck. We play two Gifts in case one of them gets removed by some random effects like Robber of the Rich or milled and exiled from our graveyard. Also, remember that Gift isn’t legendary and sometimes we manage to get both of them on board.
  • The mill package: Stitcher’s Supplier and Mire Triton mill us directly, although Supplier is far more efficient, especially since there are many sac outlets in the list that help us to active its death trigger. Gate to Afterlife also helps us to put creatures into the graveyard as long as we have some in hand. Even if we can’t find the Gate as the main mill payoff, we can always use the cards in graveyard to escape Woe Strider or leave them there to pump Fiend Artisan and have a big attacker.
  • The ramp package (a subdivision of the previous one): Don’t underestimate the additional mana you can get with Tower and Priest. This is one of the decks where playing 4 Towers is totally correct – it’s not unusual to sacrifice a creature for BB, then play another Tower and sacrifice another creature for a total of 4 black mana.
  • The fodder package: We need something to sacrifice with so many outlets, and this is where Woe Strider and Lazotep Reaver come in, as they both create additional creature entering the battlefield. Also, Cryptbreaker allows us to discard excess cards to create some zombie tokens.
  • The zombie package: Cryptbreaker, Supplier, Triton, and Reaver are all zombies. A turn 1 Cryptbreaker into turn 2 Reaver gives us 3 zombies on the battlefield and allows us to draw a card instantly, which is far more important than attacking for 1 with Cryptbreaker. Don’t forget that 4/4 tokens created with GPG are also zombies.

All the abovementioned cards constitute the core of the deck and are usually played in 4, sometimes 3 copies maindeck in the lists I saw. There are also some flex slots, where we can just put some good black creatures. Our goal is to fill our graveyard with creatures and then bring them back with Gift, so it’s better to have some nice effects attached to creatures than to play noncreature spells. Below are some 1-ofs, but remember that we can also search for them with Artisan, so playing single copies makes more sense here than it usually does.

1 Massacre Wurm: Some lists play even 3 maindeck, but I’m a bit skeptical – they shine in certain matchups like Goblins or Jund Sac, but are poor vs Bant or Sultai Ramp, where they don’t kill Uro or 3/3 lands from Nissa. That’s why I cut 2 and introduced two more creatures to the list – Rankle and Cavalier.

1 Rankle, Master of Pranks: This card works so well in aristocratic and monoB shells, we also have a plenty of small creatures here to sacrifice. It’s much better than Wurm in Ramp or Control matchups and also a bit less clunky, because it costs 4 mana instead of 6.

1 Cavalier of Night: I’ve played Cavalier in many variants of aristocrat decks during the last year and it fits well here. It’s like an upgraded Chupacabra with better stats, lifelink, and gives additional value when dying for just 1 more mana.

1 Ravenous Chupacabra: Ok, if we really need to kill that opponent’s creature a turn earlier or don’t have a small creature to sacrifice for the Cavalier, Chupacabra comes in handy.

1 Lurrus of the Dream-Den: A lifelinker to help against aggro that also provides a ton of value by returning our creatures from graveyard.

Strategy

Gate to the Afterlife | MTG Arena Card Library

This deck isn’t easy to pilot but has a lot of possibilities, different lines available, and finding the right play pattern will give you a ton of satisfaction. It’s capable of coming back from some tremendously disadvantageous board positions, because God-Pharaoh’s Gift can be so powerful and swingy.

Don’t be afraid to aggressively go for the Gift if you can – this deck is able to fill its graveyard rapidly, and it provides immediate massive value. An example – let’s say you have a Cryptbreaker, a Fiend Artisan, a Priest of Forgotten Gods, a Gate to Afterlife, an untapped Phyrexian Tower, 2 creatures in hand and zero creatures in graveyard. What I would do here is activate Priest, sacrifice Cryptbreaker and Artisan (so creatures in graveyard: 2), Gate allows you to draw 2 cards and discard 2 creatures from hand (4), draw 1 card from Priest’s ability, then you can sacrifice the Priest to the Tower (5), get another Gate trigger, draw a card, and considering that you’ve drawn 4 cards this turn, there should be at least 1 creature among them, so discard it (6), activate the Gate, put Gift into play, return Artisan which is now a 4/4 + 5 creatures left in the graveyard = 9/9, swing and have fun!

Watch out for the autotapper with Phyrexian Tower on board – it usually gets autotapped first, while you may want to use it later or leave it untapped to sacrifice a creature in response to removal. The ability to sacrifice something with it doesn’t hold priority on its own, so putting a stop or holding full control may be useful. Remember that sacrificing a creature with the Tower is a mana ability, so your opponent can’t respond to you adding BB, which can be useful if you want to use the mana on a sorcery-speed spell before they can react.

Remember that Fiend Artisan can search for creatures in your deck. Sometimes paying 2 mana to fetch up a Stitcher’s Supplier will be worth it with a Gate on board.

Gift says: “exile a creature card from your graveyard”, not “target creature”, so you don’t have to choose the creature before the ability resolves. This means that your opponent can’t prevent you from creating a token by exiling the single card you chose e.g. with Scavenging Ooze – they would have to exile every creature in your graveyard to stop you.

Sideboarding

Thoughtseize-Invocations-MtG-Art

This deck is based on creature synergies, so wherever it’s possible, we try to use creatures in the sideboard.

4 Thoughtseize: best discard spell in the format, used against control or those decks where early disruption is useful and loss of 2 life doesn’t hurt that much. Our best answer to opposing graveyard hate is to remove it directly from the hand.

2 Legion’s End: My removal of choice against Aura. I haven’t seen Karametra’s Blessing for a long time, so only Alseid could potentially stand in our way, but we dodge the indestructibility of Adanto Vanguard and provided by Selfless Savior. Also useful against Jund Sacrifice.

2 Tymaret, Chosen from Death: Graveyard hate that’s also a creature.

1 Massacre Girl: Board wipe with creature attached. With help of some of our little ones, it shouldn’t be a problem to also destroy larger creatures. Remember that her ability lasts for the entire turn, so you can sacrifice later on or attack with some creatures for more triggers too.

1 Plague Mare: a pocket-sized version of Massacre Wurm which comes into play faster and removes pesky creatures like Llanowar Elves, Paradise Druid, Blood Artist, Skirk Prospector, Selfless Savior or Alseid of Life’s Bounty, no matter how many they have!

1 Massacre Wurm: One more Wurm against decks with a lot of small creatures, like those mentioned above.

2 Pack Rat: An alternative wincon if we expect a lot of hard grave-hate, such as if they’re boarding in 4 copies of Leyline of the Void.

1 Ravenous Chupacabra: some more creature removal.

1 Brain Maggot: A Thoughtseize attached to a creature. I’m not a big fan of creatures that give back the cards they stole when they die, so I play only 1 copy.

Vs UW Auras

InOut
+4 Thoughtseize
+2 Legion’s End
+1 Plague Mare
+1 Massacre Girl
+1 Ravenous Chupacabra
-4 Fiend Artisan
-3 Mire Triton
-1 Woe Strider
-1 Lurrus of the Dream-Den

Vs Bant / Sultai Ramp

+4 Thoughtseize
+2 Pack Rat
+2 Tymaret, Chosen from Death
+1 Brain Maggot
-3 Mire Triton
-4 Priest of Forgotten Gods
-1 Massacre Wurm
-1 Lurrus of the Dream-Den

Vs Jund Citadel

InOut
+1 Plague Mare
+1 Massacre Girl
+1 Massacre Wurm
+1 Ravenous Chupacabra
+2 Legion’s End
-3 Mire Triton
-1 Rankle, Master of Pranks
-2 Priest of Forgotten Gods

Vs Goblins

InOut
+1 Plague Mare
+1 Massacre Girl
+1 Ravenous Chupacabra
+1 Massacre Wurm
-3 Mire Triton
-1 Rankle, Master of Pranks

Vs MonoR

InOut
+1 Massacre Girl
+1 Ravenous Chupacabra
+2 Legion’s End
+2 Tymaret, Chosen from Death
-1 Massacre Wurm
-1 Rankle, Master of Pranks
-4 Fiend Artisan

Vs RB Pyromancer Arcanist

InOut
+1 Massacre Girl
+1 Ravenous Chupacabra
+2 Legion’s End
+2 Tymaret, Chosen from Death
-4 Fiend Artisan
-2 Priest of Forgotten Gods

Zendikar Rising

The future looks ripe with Gifts and Gates, as Zendikar Rising is bringing several new tools for this style of deck soon. Not only does Feed the Swarm help with the graveyard hate problem as I mentioned before, but Agadeem’s Awakening is a ridiculously powerful card that will greatly bolster our secondary beatdown plan for practically no opportunity cost. Malakir Rebirth is also a double faced card worth considering, since we’ve got plenty of enter-the-battlefield abilities and it would allow us to benefit from them twice, while sacrificing the creature for other purposes or when our opponent casts a removal spell.

Some of the creatures may well make an appearance too, and there could be a Cleric-based build with Taborax, Hope’s Demise! Thanks for reading.

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