Last week I showed you my Kamigawa Block version of Mono Black Control. This week I'll be going over the history of the archetype and a bunch of different versions from various formats.
My favorite place to start these types of articles is by looking into the past at the decks that inspired the deck in question and plot the history of the deck. After all it is very rare for anything truly new to pop up and most decks owe their strategies to decks of the past.
Mono Black Control is no different.
The first obvious predecessor to MBC is the original Necro deck. This deck popped up at the very first Pro Tour in 1996 played by Leon Lindback.
The deck looks a bit random with all the single copies of cards but there was a reason for that. In this Pro Tour you were required to use 5 cards minimum from each available set (4th Edition, Chronicles, Ice Age, Homelands, and Fallen Empires at the time) (often called the Homdecapped rule because Homelands sucks). There was also a restricted list in type 2 at the time (which included Ivory Tower and Zuran Orb I believe). The primary win condition was generally the little dudes. At the time the removal spell of choice was Swords to Plowshares. This made the small pro white guys hard to kill. Drain Life was there mostly just for the extra life gain to better abuse Necropotence with. Hitting someone with a Drain Life with a Necropotence in play was often called Drain-Geysering your opponent as it was much like casting a big Braingeyser that also dealt damage.
Once the weird Homedecapped rule was done away with. The deck was tuned into what eventually became known as Classic Necro.
This deck is much cleaner and more consistent. It also features Demonic Consultation which now becomes a staple of the deck type. This was an absolutely frightening deck during this time period. It wasn't just play Necro or play to beat it. The environment was play Necro or lose to it (Oddly it still was less prominent than Affinity at its peak). The summer of 1996 became known as Black Summer.
The next change in Necro decks happened later in 1996 after Hymn to Tourach and Strip Mine were restricted. People started splashing red for burn spells like Lightning Bolt and Fireball. A good example of this would be Chris Pikula's Pro Tour Dallas 1996 deck.
The archetype disappeared for a while once Necropotence rotated out of standard but it was eventually reprinted in 5th Edition. The type 2 versions were not much different from past decks except with Coercion and Stupor instead of Hymn to Tourach. At this time the type 1.x format was created (now known as Extended). At the time this was basically Type 1 without as many broken cards. With it came a new generation of Necro decks. The most notable of which is Randy Buehler and Erik Lauer's "Lauer-Potence" deck.
There were a few small changes made to Necro decks over the years like new discard coming out (like Unmask and Funeral Charm) and old ones leaving (like Hymn to Tourach), new creatures being used (Steel Golem) and also new removal (Spinning Darkness and Diabolic Edict). Overall though the deck was basically the same. Disrupt the opponent as much as possible then drop Necropotence and win with insane card advantage.
Now we come to a completely different type of black control deck that for once doesn't feature Necropotence. This one is based around a different card.
Pox is a neat little card with the potential to be very powerful. The key was to minimize the damage it did to you and maximize the damage to opponents. This was done by trying to keep your lands in multiples of three. This was done using lands like Wasteland and Quicksand.
The next decks of this type were the Yawgmoth's Bargain decks. These decks would drop Bargain draw a bunch of cards and kill with Soul Feast. Skirge Familiar, Dark Ritual, and Grim Monolith would provide the mana to do so. The deck ran all sorts of broken cards like Yawgmoth's Will and Academy Rector. It was more of a combo deck than the Necro decks of the past but not like Trix was. A good example would be the deck Jon Finkel used in the Standard portion of the 2000 Invitational.
The next time a black-based control deck of this type popped up was in Block Constructed after Torment was released. Torment contained many overpowered black cards such as Cabal Coffers, Mutilate, and Nantuko Shade. Four of the top 8 decks a Pro Tour Osaka 2002 were MBC decks and the finals was a MBC mirror match. The winning deck was played by Robert Dougherty but I'm a bigger fan of Oliver Ruel's 5th place deck.
When a deck dominates a block format like this it is almost guaranteed to be ported to Standard. The earliest example I could find was Hiroki Okamoto's top 8 deck from 2002 Japan Nationals.
The Standard versions gained access to Drain Life variants Corrupt and Soul Burn and could thus go completely creatureless. While most of the past decks could go aggro on occasion this was 100% control. It runs a massive amount of creature removal. So much that you couldn't conceivably lose to an aggro deck. The discard was also good against the control decks of the time (AKA Psychatog). It had some serious problems with Compost however and would usually lose game 2-3 against U/G Madness and any other deck that had access to green. Because of this it never dominated the environment like the Block version did.
Mono Black Control is kinda a tier 2-3 deck in the current standard. Take a look at this 5th place deck from French Regionals.
The new versions are centered around Death Cloud which while a difficult card to set up can be very powerful. There are many powerful black cards out right now and this deck uses many of them.
That concludes the history portion of the article. I'm sure I missed at least a few black control decks over the years but I think this should be enough anyway. Next I'll go over my build and discuss it.
For my build I wanted to build a 2002 Torment style deck using the old broken cards from the original Necro decks. This of course meant the Hymn to Tourach + Nevinyrral's Disk disruption engine and the Necropotence draw engine. I tweaked the numbers in the deck for months and eventually wound up with this version.
At the time both Dusting and I ignored the restrictions on Necropotence because it was a "fun" card. This ended up not being a good idea. Both of us had a similar MBC deck build at the time. Basically nothing else would survive. With this much removal these decks just plain cannot lose to aggro decks. I don't think I ever died to a creature playing this deck. Not only was the aggro matchup an auto win but what kind of control deck likes to go against that much discard? Duress and Hymn to Tourach are amazing against control decks and if you resolve a big Mind Sludge or Mind Twist you pretty much just won right there. A very fast combo deck could probably win fast enough to beat this but we have never had a fast combo deck in our environment. Eventually both Dustin and I just plain stopped playing other decks which is why this deck is tweaked for the mirror match. This was by far the least healthy our environment has ever been. I eventually retired and took apart the deck simply because no one was having any fun. Unless I just randomly feel like showing people who weren't around back then just how scary these decks are it probably wont be put back together in this configuration. We have also started following the restriction on Necropotence. As fun as it is to use it is not fun to be on the other side of and is way too broken to ignore. The days of us swearing Necropotence was balanced and it was the rest of the deck that was broken are long gone.
Making this deck type 1 legal would actually be quite easy. Just pull one Necropotence for one Yawgmoth's Bargain. Job done. Although I'd probably give Night's Whisper a test as well and 3 Cabal Coffers would be better (I only own 2).