(Mostly) Mono-black Control

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I would like some advice on a deck I put together recently. All my friends tend to prefer creature-heavy decks, so I wanted to build a control deck to disrupt them. I decided on a mostly mono-black theme, with a sprinkle of red and blue to allow me to play Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker. Help me make the deck as competitive as it can be in the current standard while still retaining the (mostly) mono-black theme as much as possible.

Also, I don't have a sideboard, so if you could recommend some cards that are good against another control deck then that would be great. Here's the list:

I really would like to get Liliana of the Dark Realms in here too, because that ultimate completely breaks Rakdos's Return. Thanks for the advice.
I've been thinking this over since I posted it, and would make the following changes:

+3 Liliana of the Dark Realms
+1 Rakdos's Return

-2 Mind Rot
-1 Inspiration
-1 Dimir Keyrune
-4 inspiration

Think twice instead. All day, every day.  the extra mana is worth it for the flexability.

 

-2 sign in blood

the point of playing blue is you don't need to play with draw that hurts you.  Play forbidden alchemy instead here.


-3 ultimate price

just one is fine. Replace the other 3 with victim of night, or tragic slip



-2 sphinx of uthuun

7 mana. Doesn't win the game immediatly. I think you can do better. Either replace with a 5 mana planeswalker or olivia voldaren



-2 mind rot

no effect on the field, and with the meta gearing up for aggro, it's just not a good maindeck choice. Replace with a couple liliana of the dark realms



-4 psychic strike

you don't get value from the milling, so this should be replaced with dissipate. Maybe 3 dissipate and a dimir charm, I dunno.



 


also, find room for snapcasters.  
To your points, Pandaman:
 
Think Twice is indeed the superior option, good call.

I agree about Sign in Blood, because I tried the deck at four copies and it was terrible; I can barely afford to pay for my Shocklands in this deck. I don't think four copies of Think Twice is enough, however, so what else can I fit in here? EDIT: Forbidden Alchemy fits the role well.

I don't know Forbidden Alchemy, I am auto-carding it so that I can see it. EDIT: This is great, it definitely has a home in this deck.

Victim of Night is much less restrictive than Ultimate Price in this deck! Wow!

The Sphinx of Uthuun lets me dig for Nicol Bolas, so that's why he's here; I do have Keyrunes for ramp, so he's not as restrictive as he seems. He's actually performed well for me so far, but I am open to other suggestions.  Olivia Voldaren does look good, but I only have 9 red sources (including Keyrunes) so I'm not sure I'd be able to cast her on-curve reliably.

I agree on Mind Rot, I put it in because I don't have a third Rakdos's Return yet.

I can't run any counters that require because of my manabase; Psychic Strike is in the deck solely because of its cost, which is much more reliable for me.

I know Snapcaster is awesome, but I think the deck can function without him; I really want the deck to feel black, rather than blue.
have you considered adding Demonic Rising to the deck? i've seen some funny shinanigans with him and any of the keyrunes, just activate a keyrune on your turn and get a free 5/5 to effectively beat your opponents face in then use kill spells to control the game; in that same regard homicidal seclusion fun as well, make your rakdos keyrune into a 6/2 first striker with lifelink.

dimir charm is a control decks wet dream, its removal for weak creatures (aggro match ups), counter magic for control match ups and you can use it as a ponder that throw guys into your graveyard if your really really need it (good for flashback or reanimating things).

forbidden alchemy isn't good if he doesn't have snapcaster mage, an ability to reanimate or cards with flashback, I would go with underworld connections for a mono black control deck, it gives you consistant card draw, that or bloodgift demon, demon can be a beat and card draw, but he is more vulnerable to removal which makes him less reliable in the CA department.

this deck is mostly creatureless so I would add barter in blood to the deck, when you have no creatures on the field you don't have to worry about sacrificing creatures yourself.

I would also put 4 vampire nighthawks on the sideboard for aggro match ups, they are a must at holding off aggresive decks, lifelink + 2/3 body can hold off most aggresive enemies while gaining you life at the same time.
I wouldn't play Psychic Strike; I prefer Negate. The mill is unimportant and being in Black, you should be set on dealing with creatures. Cavern of Souls is very popular right now as well. Maybe try to squeeze in Duress and a Blasphemous Act.
Don't feel set on playing Mono Black, especially since this is already a Grixis list.
I would also put 4 vampire nighthawks on the sideboard for aggro match ups, they are a must at holding off aggresive decks, lifelink + 2/3 body can hold off most aggresive enemies while gaining you life at the same time.



With the amount of aggro in the meta game right now, nighgthawk should be in the main deck.  Plus he really rocks the house with the -3 on liliana of the dark realms.  

Also, if you are married to the idea of mostly black, you can hard cast griselbrand, which works great either on it's own, or with... pack rats!
Next thing you will tell me Browbeat is bad.
To your points, Decktesting:

Demonic Rising is cool, but I'm not in the beatdown business. Homicidal Seclusion, however, could be very effective in the deck because of the lifelink. The P/T boost is just gravy.

Dimir Charm fits better in a deck where you have access to your own graveyard, as you mentioned. Definite sideboard material against control to counter their Sorceries or make them draw more land.

I think Forbidden Alchemy is fine, because I can filter through land to find useful spells; this one needs testing. Underworld Connections looks good, but paying life can be a hassle in a creatureless deck. Bloodgift Demon is much better than Sphinx of Uthuun in this deck, but the life loss could potentially prove problematic, as with Underworld Connections. The 5/4 flying body is nice, though, I must admit. Seriously worthy of consideration.

Barter in Blood looks great, but I have lots of removal. Should I cut a few of the lower cost removal spells to make room for this?

Nighthawk in the sideboard is fantastic, I like it. This card is almost mainboard material...
I wouldn't play Psychic Strike; I prefer Negate. The mill is unimportant and being in Black, you should be set on dealing with creatures. Cavern of Souls is very popular right now as well. Maybe try to squeeze in Duress and a Blasphemous Act.
Don't feel set on playing Mono Black, especially since this is already a Grixis list.



Excellent advice, Negate should be in the main deck; I can deal with creatures after they resolve.

And the mono-black is just the main theme, with red and blue being minor splashes. The main point is that my other mana sources are very limited and so I can't really rely on too many cards in the other colors without sacrificing some consistency.
I would also put 4 vampire nighthawks on the sideboard for aggro match ups, they are a must at holding off aggresive decks, lifelink + 2/3 body can hold off most aggresive enemies while gaining you life at the same time.



With the amount of aggro in the meta game right now, nighgthawk should be in the main deck.  Plus he really rocks the house with the -3 on liliana of the dark realms.  

Also, if you are married to the idea of mostly black, you can hard cast griselbrand, which works great either on it's own, or with... pack rats!



I agree, Nighthawk is seriously worthy of the main deck. Decisions, decisions!
To the comments on aggro, Aggro is still around but the meta is mid shift to Midrange being the archetype. Just an FYI.
How about this decklist?

Is running four Negate too many for the maindeck? What do you think of two copies of Murder, rather than Ultimate Price? Is six Keyrunes too many, could I cut a Dimir Keyrune
4 Negates is too many. Cards that can often be dead in hand are rarely 4 ofs.
Murder doesn't have restrictions but 3 cost is too much for removal.
If I had to drop a Keyrune it would be Rakdos Keyrune. I have a softspot for Creeping Tarpit the Planeswalker killer. 
Another attempt:

I am really liking the look of this build now. I changed up the manabase because I feel that I will either draw a Blood Crypt or a Liliana of the Dark Realms to let me fetch one. I took out the Dragonskull Summits for more swamps to make my Mutilate more effective. Thoughts on the manabase?

And are there any sideboard suggestions? 
I think 6 red sources would be better. Trade 2 Swamps for 2 Dragonskulls. SB will come down to you play testing and finding what match ups your deck doesnt do well against and creating it from there.
Yeah, I originally had two Dragonskull Summits, perhaps I should go back to that. I only need red in the deck to cast Rakdos's Return and Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker; the reason I went with six red sources originally was to be able to reliably make Rakdos Keyrune become a creature. Is that important enough to stay at six red sources? I really don't want to nerf my Mutilate too much and I need all the blue sources I can get.

Other than that, how do you feel about the decklist? Does this have a chance to be competitive in today's Standard?

As a side note, I am really liking how Mutilate laughs in the face of Boros Charm's best mode!
I'm not good enough at deck building to tell if a list is good just by looking at it. It takes a lot of play testing. I suggest you take the deck to your local shop and play casually against players to get a feel for the deck. Develop a personal opinion from practice. If you like what you play, try it in FNM. FNM will give you a good idea on the decks performance. You will likely have to tweak things based on your meta alone, something none of can predict.
Does anyone else care to take a look and offer suggestions on this deck?
Having 20 swamps for Mutilate is more than enough. I would definitely add in at least two Dragonskull Summits to help you make the keyrune a creature as well as getting 1 for Nicol Bolas and Rakdos's Return. As far as sideboard goes, Rolling Temblor is a MUST against all of the red and naya aggro decks running around. Definitely put at least 3 in the sideboard. This is another reason for needing more red mana. I have a couple Duress in my sideboard for control matches with Sphinx's Revelation and other key control cards (Supreme Verdict). Against these control matches I like to have 3 Knight of Infamys to put on the pressure as well. You're running a ton of spot removal that will be wasted on creatures that you can just hit with Mutilate two turns from then. Plus, a lot of those cards will be dead against control decks that don't hardly play any creatures. How does 13 maindeck cards that are dead in game 1 against control decks sound to you? Relegate some of these to the sideboard, such as the Ultimate Prices and a couple Devour Fleshs.
Does anyone else care to take a look and offer suggestions on this deck?

my suggestions, ver 2.0:

-1 rakdos return


feels weak against aggro, which it what the meta is currently  FLOODED with. Fine as a one of in the main, but others should be sided. Feel free to ignore this advice though if your local meta is heavy on control/ midrange.



-2 keyrunes

I don't care which ones. Get 'em outta here.  4 keyrunes total is excessive. 6 is insane. Too easy to get your hand flooded with lands and runes while the opponent happily kills you. Replace with a barter in blood and a forbidden alchemy



-3 bloodgift demon

As a wincon, it's weak. As a sourse of card draw, it's weak. Cut it.  Replace with a jace or tamiyo. Seriously. They both are much sronger wincons, can be used to draw cards, and don't die to sweepers or creature removal. Please. Do it.




-3 negate

Again, weak counter is weak.  You're gonna go in game 1 vs aggro or midrange, draw this, and shake your head at the SEVERAL turns you spend wishing it was literally anything else. Run discard instead, like duress or appetite for brains. Maybe a 2/2 split? 



-1 ultimate price

With you running a full set of victim of night, you barely even need this card. I like it as a one of, but no more than that. Replace a copy with tragic slip. With so many one-of removal spells, the opponent won't be able to pick up on how much of your deck is removal. It's an amusing trick, and helps round out your removal.





-2 swamp

Not kidding. 20 swamps, backed by 3 lilis searching for them is  much too much mutilate support. 2 swamps is an easy cut.




other things for you to test:

augur of bolas
snapcaster mage
Dissipate
soul ransom
dimir charm
olivia voldaren
vampire nighthawk 
cyclonic rift


that's all I can think of so far
Having 20 swamps for Mutilate is more than enough. I would definitely add in at least two Dragonskull Summits to help you make the keyrune a creature as well as getting 1 for Nicol Bolas and Rakdos's Return. As far as sideboard goes, Rolling Temblor is a MUST against all of the red and naya aggro decks running around. Definitely put at least 3 in the sideboard. This is another reason for needing more red mana. I have a couple Duress in my sideboard for control matches with Sphinx's Revelation and other key control cards (Supreme Verdict). Against these control matches I like to have 3 Knight of Infamys to put on the pressure as well. You're running a ton of spot removal that will be wasted on creatures that you can just hit with Mutilate two turns from then. Plus, a lot of those cards will be dead against control decks that don't hardly play any creatures. How does 13 maindeck cards that are dead in game 1 against control decks sound to you? Relegate some of these to the sideboard, such as the Ultimate Prices and a couple Devour Fleshs.



I agree on the overabundance of spot removal in the main deck, what do you suggest as good alternatives? Vampire Nighthawk is something I have been seriously considering for the maindeck, if only for the small bit of lifegain. Of my three spot removal options (Victim of Night, Devour Flesh, and Ultimate Price), which ones should be in the main board and how many of each should I have?

My gut is telling me to swap all three Devour Flesh for three Vampire Nighthawks.
Against these control matches I like to have 3 Knight of Infamys to put on the pressure as well.




Am I missing something? I don't get what makes knight of infamy good against control. They cant charm it or sphere it away....but that's pretty limited considering they still usually have several other viable forms of removal against it. 
@PandamanX64 (again):

I don't think two Rakdos's Return is excessive in the mainboard, and I really like the stupid combo with Liliana's ultimate. After some more testing, I'll decide whether it's a dead card more often than not.

Yeah, the Keyrunes are a bit much, I agree. I like Rakdos Keyrune to deter attacks, and I like Dimir Keyrune because I can hit opposing Planeswalkers with ease. If I were to go with four mainboard, should it be a 2/2 split?

I haven't tested Bloodgift Demon yet, so I can't comment. I like the look of him, though, and I don't feel like four copies of Think Twice gives me enough draw power. Outside of more Planeswalkers, what options do I have? I really don't like the cost on the 4-drop Jace, and it is still prohibitive on the 5-drop Jace and Tamiyo.

I agree that having counters in the mainboard is not really what this deck is trying to do. Of Duress and Appetite for Brains, which do you think is the better mainboard choice? I do like it in the side to counter Sphinx's Revelation, though.

I think I will put Vampire Nighthawk in the main board. I don't like Augur of Bolas all that much here because I may have to put something tasty on the bottom of my library. Dissipate is too restrictive with the cost. Dimir Charm doesn't do it for me, perhaps it's more useful than I think it is. Care to elaborate?
I would run staff of nin over bloodgift demon. Paying life for cards in a control deck is just asking for trouble.


I would even cut the red out entirely, and run hallowed fountain and sphinx's revelation before running bloodgift demon.

 
Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker is red and he stays in the deck. :-p

I do have a few copies of Staff of Nin, perhaps I'll give that a try. I only recently picked up the Lilianas and have quickly realized that her -3 is stupid good with Dimir Keyrune.

I am wondering if tutoring is a possibility here, maybe running two copies of Increasing Ambition. Thoughts on this idea?
can you post a revised version of the deck, its hard to understand where the deck is with all these posts.
Right now I am testing it like this:

It's certainly not final, but that's what this thread is for.
He may be more blue than you'd like, but I would consider Lone Revenant as an alternative to Bloodgift Demon.  He's hexproof, same cc, doesn't cost you life, and you get to dig for the card.  He's been a house in my grixis control.
He looks good, but the cost is prohibitive; I only have 10 blue sources (including keyrunes). Liliana does help me dig, however, so that's something I will keep in mind.
Here are some cards that I'm still considering for the main deck:

Evernight Shade; this thing bounces back from a Mutilate, and I have lots of black mana to sink into it.
Harvester of Souls; I want to kill things, and this draws cards when I do just that.
Lone Revenant; this card looks really good, I'm just not sure I can reliably afford the mana cost.

Homicidal Seclusion; pretty crazy with any Keyrune, or even a Vampire Nighthawk.
Forbidden Alchemy; digging for cards is good mid-late game, and flashback is just gravy.
Inaction Injunction; slow them down and a cantrip to give me more time to sweep.
Dreadbore; I think this has maindeck potential because it has utility in matchups against both aggro and control.
Gem of Becoming; thin the deck and get access to all my colors. Very expensive, however.
Soul Ransom; if they activate the ability and give me some insane card-advantage, I'll just kill the creature afterwards. 
I'm really liking the idea of my keyrunes being immune to Mutilate and Homicidal Seclusion giving my lone creature a power boost with lifelink, so I may move to build around that concept. Here's a preliminary decklist:
You definitely want olivia voldaren in here.  If you untap with her she just takes over games.
Next thing you will tell me Browbeat is bad.
Sekiha, I really like that decklist; Olivia is a beast, I must admit.


After some significant testing, this is the list I will bring to FNM. Could I get some sideboard suggestions based on this list?
Sideboard Options

pithing needle  for problematic planeswalkers, creatures and lands

Sands of Delirium  for control match ups, they want to delay the game forever then just mill them to death

Rakdos Charm  graveyard hate + artifact hate + token hate

dimir charm  (probably good enough for the main deck honestly) counter spell for sorceries, killing small fries in aggro decks and the ability to psudo-ponder.

evil twin  clone effects are always good to have, especially when you can murder the original for , think of him as a 4 mana cost thragtusk  that can kill the original or perhaps an undying blocker when going against strangleroot geist, he is too versital to ignore, not to mention you can revive him with havengul lich. (possible mainboard option)

sever the bloodline  sometimes exiling is a better option than killing, not to mention it can be used twice.

zealous conscripts  an odd choice but the ability to take over ANY permanent for 5 mana and attack on the same turn is very very useful, use it on a planeswalker to use its ultimate for yourself and your going to be happy with the results; the best part is that they NEVER see it coming, its hillarious.

barter in blood  if you need more sweeper effects this could be useful especially with your keyrune theme going on

rolling temblor  another sweeper for aggro match ups that can be used twice if you need it.

Slaughter Games  take out any problematic card before it hits the field

Knight of Infamy  is a great sideboard card against any white deck, block their creatures, give one of your guys exalted or attack them unopposed.

Negate  simple hard counter for going against control decks

Gloom Surgeon  an odd choice but having an unkillable 2/1 wall can be an unexpected hinderance for most aggro decks, at the very least he will soak up a some removal for you (note can be trampled through so not good against any green aggro deck).

underworld connections  being able to consecutively draw cards every turn can be useful against control match ups, although another staff of nin  is probably just as good if not better.
So of the 15 sideboard cards, I think 4-5 should be for the aggro matches and 10-11 should be for the control matches. I'm already packing lots of removal, so I should have favorable matchups against creature-based decks. I'm thinking the SB could look like this:


Suggestions?
bump
for sideboard against aggro, rolling temblor is a must.



and against control.....no duress in the side?