With Pro Tour Amonkhet around the corner and a brand new Cat-less format, it's tough to find things to talk about without revealing too much of what you're currently working on. However, working on decks you don't have is a good exercise to understand how others work and to maybe find out new techs.

For this week's article, I picked up one of the few original decks from last weekend's SCG Open in Atlanta, played by Caleb Scherer: Mono-Black Aggro.

The idea of the deck is pretty simple: play some early creatures, make way for them with removal while taking full advantage of Bone Picker's ability to cost one mana. Also take advantage of "returning" creatures (Scrapheap Scrounger and Dread Wanderer) to make sure you always have presence on the board.

When I put the deck together, I could picture its strengths and weaknesses. Against creature decks, it could curve out in a way it's going to be hard for your opponent to come back: one-mana threat, two-mana threat, one-mana threat plus a Bone Picker on turn three. This kind of draw sounded pretty hard to beat.

Against decks with ways to stabilize early and strong mid-game / late game, it was going to be tough. Your removal won't be as efficient (if playable at all) and there's no way Dread Wanderers and Crapheap Scrounger can do the job on their own.

Basically, it felt that the deck would be fine other aggressive decks, and not great against midrange or decks that wanted to go big. You have a small but representative sample of games in the videos and can see how the deck behaves. Its draws are quite steady, with nothing particularly amazing. It has a hard time coming back from games that get out of hand due to the lack of powerful cards.

Not featured in these videos are matches I played to try the deck a bit before recording games:

Against Black-Green Delirium, I realize that I might have sideboarded wrong. Here's what happened: In game one of my match, I curved perfectly, playing a creature on turn one and two, killing his Grim Flayer and playing a Bone Picker on turn three. In game two, I failed to be aggressive enough and lost to Ishkanah. Game three was a lot about if he could get Delirium or not. And for a while, I kept him from having four different types by exiling the fourth type. Eventually, he stabilized, and started drawing more powerful spells than I did, had delirium (thanks to Liliana, Death's Majesty) until I couldn't keep up.

It felt like the key to this matchup was to keep him from having delirium (unless you could have the super aggro draw like my game one). At first, I thought Scarab Feast was just in the sideboard to beat other Zombie decks (later I realized that they could just replace useless removal against creature-light decks); I now realize that they might be there to beat Black-Green Delirium as well. Keeping them from turning their Grim Flayers into 4/4 is important to keep the pressure on them and be able to block it. They would also be likely to block your two-power creatures with the Flayers if they're 4/4. Exile three cards at instant speed, make Grim Flayer a 2/2 and trade. Ishkanah is also a lot less of a problem when it doesn't make spiders. Their power play is also to bring back the legendary spider with Lililana, Death's Majesty, so exiling in response gives a chance to not face Ishkanah and attack to kill Liliana on the following turn.

It feels that this deck is fine but not great. It really struggles with energy-themed decks: Bant Aetherworks feels unbeatable (featured in the video), and Temur Aetherworks brings Whirler Virtuoso to the table, which is a pain. Transgress the Mind just doesn't do enough. There's also the mind game Marvel players are going to play with anyone playing black as to know if they want to blank your Dispossess (by sideboarding out their Marvels and boarding in creatures, for example). Our deck didn't run any, but I could see a lot of people running them in anything that runs black sources. Even then, they can just beat us by hardcasting Ulamog (see game three of round five).

The Mardu matchup seems okay. I can see how the Scrapheap Scrounger and Dread Wanderer can tickle the planeswalkers, and that your removal is efficient against most of their threats: Fatal Push and Grasp of Darkness make Heart of Kiran quite unreliable.

Overall, it's not a deck I would take to the Pro Tour, but it could be one that people might enjoy playing and that you'll be facing in tournaments.

Cheers!
Raph