With Khans of Tarkir at the forefront of players’ minds, it’s no surprise that we’re seeing a large number of wedge-based decks in Standard. This makes for mana bases that are slow and inconsistent and that require players to take significant amounts of damage. It seems to me that a streamlined aggro deck could take advantage of this weakness, even when built on a budget. To make it happen, I decided to modify and update one of the staples of Theros Block Constructed.
Mono-Black Aggro ? Khans of Tarkir Standard | Mike Cannon
- Creatures (30)
- 3 Herald of Torment
- 4 Bloodsoaked Champion
- 4 Gnarled Scarhide
- 4 Master of the Feast
- 4 Mogis's Marauder
- 4 Pain Seer
- 4 Tormented Hero
- 3 Phyrexian Revoker
- Lands (20)
- 20 Swamp
Goblin Guide and Gravecrawler leading the charge in recent years. Although Bloodsoaked Champion isn’t quite on the level of either of these cards, it is quite similar in function to Gravecrawler. It can also return itself to the battlefield from the graveyard, although it costs 1 more mana.
Pain Seer has been a staple of mono-black aggressive decks since it was first released. Although 2 power for 2 mana isn’t spectacular, the chance to draw extra cards for free is too good to pass up. Even if you only get one attack and one card from the Seer before your opponent blocks and kills it, it’s already pretty good value for 2 mana.
The 2-drop slot in black is pretty bare right now, with nothing over 2 power and no impressive abilities beyond Pain Seer. Mardu Skullhunter was the other option I tested, but since the deck should be killing the opponent long before he runs out of cards in hand, the discard ability is almost never relevant. In the end, I turned to artifacts, with Phyrexian Revoker providing the requisite 2 power as well as a relevant ability. Being able to shut down Planeswalkers such as Elspeth, Sun's Champion and Xenagos, the Reveler is pretty sweet. To put an attacker on the board, you can often make a speculative guess on turn two based on the colors of the deck you’re playing against—since there isn’t a lot of variety in the area of activated abilities right now.
Master of the Feast may give the opponent more cards, but it also ends the game astonishingly quickly. The worst possible scenario is that your opponent waits to draw a card during your upkeep and casts an instant-speed removal spell to kill it. Outside of that, you’re getting 5 damage in for every card you give out. I’d say that’s more than a fair trade.
Herald of Torment adds another evasive threat to the deck, with a drawback that’s even less relevant than that on Master of the Feast. It also give the deck some late-game power with its bestow ability. Cast it on any creature in the deck, and you have a 5-power flyer ready to attack.
Mogis's Marauder is the big finisher, making all your creatures almost unblockable for a turn, in addition to adding another 2 power to the attack. There aren’t a ton of black creatures other than Siege Rhino going around right now, meaning most of your threats should be able to make it through unchallenged. Phyrexian Revoker also becomes nearly impossible to block since it doesn’t share a color with anything.
The Removal Spells
Hero's Downfall was a no-brainer here, allowing you to deal with nearly any creature or Planeswalker that might get in your way for just 3 mana. Although in this deck that will often require an entire turn, it’s usually worth it to take a big blocker out of the way.
Bile Blight is the other option. It can get rid of multiple small creatures for just 2 mana or help your creatures take down larger ones. You can wipe out an army of Elspeth’s Soldier tokens to clear the way for a big attack or make any of your creatures trade with a Siege Rhino, making sure subsequent attacks break through.
Despise may look like discard, and if you got ahold of a few copies of Thoughtseize to replace it, it would be, but it’s really just a preemptive Hero's Downfall. It gets rid of annoying blockers like Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix, and with any luck, your opponent won’t have another inexpensive creature to cast instead. Later in the game (which, for this deck, means around turn four or five), it can dispatch larger threats such as Elspeth and Wingmate Roc that would otherwise make multiple blockers to ruin your day.
Temur Monsters — Game 1
Bloodsoaked Champion, and my opponent fetched a Forest and cast Elvish Mystic.
I attacked with everything. My opponent blocked one creature with the Caryatid and took 4. I cast Despise, taking Polukranos, World Eater. My opponent cast Nissa, Worldwaker. He turned a land into a 4/4 and ended his turn.
I cast Phyrexian Revoker, naming Nissa, and I ended my turn. My opponent played a land and passed.
I killed Nissa with Master of the Feast and cast a second copy. My opponent used Sarkhan’s +1 and passed the turn.
I cast Mogis's Marauder, gave all my creatures intimidate, and attacked for the win.
My opponent opened with just a land, and I cast Bloodsoaked Champion.
My opponent played a land and ended his turn. I swung in for 2 again and cast Master of the Feast.
The amount of damage players can take from their own lands in this format is pretty impressive, and it certainly helps this deck out. Mogis's Marauder and Master of the Feast are just as amazing as I had hoped, and Despise overperformed to the point that I think it may be worth finding room for a fourth copy. The deck doesn’t feel quite as fast as some other aggro decks, but the sheer power Mogis's Marauder and the two flying creatures often ends the game very quickly. If you’re interested in a deck that can punish greedy mana bases despite being built on a conservative budget, give this one a try.