Verge of Greatness: Mono-Black Aggro

Briger joins us once again to show off what MBA could be and what challenges it might face in the current Pioneer Meta.

Mono-Black Aggro 

Hello everybody! Welcome back to the series where I ramble on and tell you about alternative pioneer decks. In this week’s docket, I get to rant to your horror – or delight – all about the truly unkillable Mono-Black Aggro in Pioneer.

The Before Times 

Ah, Mono-Black Aggro, a true staple of pioneer! The supposed “Jund of the format”… always there in the background waiting for its time to shine – never truly being bad but never truly taking over the format. This is a deck that has been around since the early days of pioneer, and all things considered, has changed relatively little in the intervening years. The main thing that has really changed about the deck over the years has been the banning of Smuggler’s Copter aka “The Looter Scooter”. Before that, the deck was rather focused on getting as much value from the scooter as possible by playing cards like Night Market Lookout and more recurring creatures like Scrapheap Scrounger that could be discarded with copter and recurred for maximum value. 

Now that we have a basis for what the deck looked like let’s look at a current example that has so generously provided:

What does the deck look like now?

Well, the main things that have changed are its types of threats. They still have all the powerful recursive creatures like the ever-threatening Bloodsoaked Champion, the always-powerful Dread Wanderer, and the vicious Knight of the Ebon Legion. Furthermore, Rankle, Master of Pranks keeps them very aggressive! The deck has also started leaning into Graveyard Trespasser to help it fight against all the powerful graveyard strategies that have been so prominent in the meta as of late. You might be asking yourself – but what does the deck do to set it apart from its red counterparts? The answer is recursion and disruption. Mono-Black plays the best recursive creatures we have in the format – and they also play the best disruption in the format in the form of Fatal Push and Thoughtseize. These two cards are the starting point of any black deck in pioneer. The cards are amazing at helping to police the format from all sorts of different decks. That isn’t the only way this pioneer all-star regulates the format though… This deck attacks from a bunch of different angles! One of the major things that gives the deck staying power vs. getting hated out is its powerful mana-base. The deck employs some of the most powerful man-lands the format has to offer from Hive of the Eye-Tyrant, Faceless Haven and Mutavault. The deck has so many ways to get in for damage it is quite impressive!

Some new fearsome faces 

There’s been some talk among the pioneer community at large about whether the deck picks up the sexiest lad from the Streets of New Capenna: Tenacious Underdog – or not.  I am personally a believer in this card. It’s aggressive like the rest of them cards coming back from the yard, can have haste and draws a card for you whenever the chips are down – giving you just that last bit of reach you need to really take your opponent down for the count. Some players have said that Bloodsoaked Champion is the swap for most of these new cards since it is one of the slower options in a top-decking war. Other new additions to the deck from recent sets are Mukotai Soulripper and Blade of the Oni. These cards are great in the deck and are fun and interesting because they allow you to attack from a completely different angle from the deck’s previous iterations!

A Future as Bleak as IslandGoSAMe’s Soul 

One of the major factors holding this deck back is the resurgence of exile-based removal now in the format like March of Otherworldly Light. This has really made it much harder for the deck to recur all its threats to get a leg up. Many blame all the cards that exile cards from graveyards being printed in recent years. Cards like Graveyard Trespasser, Go Blank and now the newcomer Unlicensed Hearse do a very efficient job of keeping threats out of your yard. Another problem the deck has been facing is the many decks its racing that out-value your aggro plan. Decks like Winota make blockers for days and beat you down twice as hard. Then other decks like Rakdos Midrange grind you out more and more effectively with every set release. One of the final “nails in the coffin” for the deck is the lack of powerful top-ends. Most decks are just not scared of the top-ends that this deck plays. The top decks in the format sadly just don’t care about Rankle and Spawn of Mayhem – they just don’t do enough in the current meta to truly be better than other more powerful options. 

Final thoughts 

So where does that leave us now? While the deck is currently seeing little play in the format that doesn’t mean that it is going to stay down. The format may be a bit too hostile for it now, but when people need a fast aggro deck that’s relatively affordable, it can stand its ground against a removal heavy format. The deck is extremely resilient, it always comes back to the format when we need it the most, so I believe it will most likely always be a good option to buy and have in your back pocket.

  • Briger Smith


    Briger has been losing games of Magic since Gatecrash. On a good day, he can be found huddled up in his cave playing Elden Ring, and the rest of the time he can be found listening to and making Pioneer podcasts!

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