Setting Standards

Back in Black

When midrange decks like Temur and Sultai energy start running the show,  standard only gives you a few options. The first, of course, is to sleeve up your Longtusk Cub and Attune with Aether and join the energy team but let’s assume that’s not the option you’re after. Energy decks are the best midrange options currently available in standard which is probably what is keeping dinosaur decks from getting a stable foothold in the meta.

Without a better midrange option I think the best strategy right now is to go under the energy decks with something faster and leaner. This approach will also give you a good match up with Ramanap Red which is definitely the fastest gun in the west right now.

Welcome back to another issue of Setting Standards, today I want to focus on a strategy that never goes out of style, mono black aggro. This one comes from my old friend Peter who has been tweaking this one for a while.


Mono Black Aggro

4 Bone Picker

4 Dread Wanderer

4 Gifted Aetherborn

4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner

4 Night Market Lookout

4 Scrapheap Scrounger


3 Walk the Plank

3 Fatal Push

2 Supernatural Stamina

4 Aethersphere Harverster

3 Heart of Kiran




3 Ifnir Deadlands

1 Scavenger Grounds

17 Swamp



2 Bontu the Glorified

3 Bontu’s Last Reckoning

3 Duress

3 Harsh Scrutiny

1 Vraska’s Contempt

1 Walk the Plank

2 Yahenni, Undying Partisan


Cheap recursive threats are the best way to make an aggro deck hum and this thing has it in spades. Dread Wanderer and Scrapheap Scrounger are the best hard to kill threats in the game.  Scrapheap is just the best aggressive creature around: he’s colorless so you can always cast him, he keeps coming back so there’s no risk letting him die, he hits hard, and he can crew most vehicles. The scrounger can even come back at instant speed so he threatens to crew a vehicle even when he’s in the graveyard.

I wanted to focus on a couple of cards in this deck that have been overlooked for a while but seem to be getting more play, the first of which is Supernatural Stamina. I was really surprised that this card didn’t become a staple as soon as it was printed as it has a million and one uses. Calling it the black Blossoming Defense is not exactly true but for all intents and purposes I don’t think its too far off. This card works much like Blossoming Defense in that it can work both as a protection spell (sort of) or a pump spell for just one mana. The potential for total combat blowouts with this thing are pretty high, being able to save Gifted Aetherborn is a big deal as these guys are one of the best creatures for dealing with Bristling Hydra and Carnage Tyrant and just one of the most annoying creatures in standard right now. On top of that Supernatural Stamina allows you to crew bigger vehicles with smaller creatures which keeps opponents guessing when declaring attacks. And while its doesn’t provide hexproof that’s not always a bad thing, sometimes its better when your creatures die, just ask Bone Picker.

What lets this deck really get by most midrange deck and prevents it from being bogged down by chump blockers is the amount of fliers it uses. Aethersphere Harvester is just crazy. Being able to crew this thing for 1 seems like cheating. It hits so hard, blocks so well, and gains life so easily, Im not sure what else would make it better. The elusiveness of vehicles keeps them out of range of Glorybringer and any sorcery speed removal while still allowing them to be powerful blockers. Add to that the inclusion of Heart of Kiran and my personal favourite flying scavenger, Bone Picker and you’ve got an air force to be reckoned with. Outside of Glorybringer and Angel of Invention, standard does not have a lot of  powerful fliers and this deck makes use of a few of the best ones.

The other card that felt a bit odd to me but that I’ve come around on is Night Market Lookout. At first glance it seems like Vicious Conquistador might be a better fit here but it’s the abundance of vehicles that make this gal tick. Using her to crew the harvester is the best combo out there as, unlike the Conquistador, the Night Market Lookout doesn’t need to attack to trigger her drain ability and this added reach can sometimes be the difference.

Sideboard plan for this deck is pretty straight forward except for a couple of twists. Copies of Duress and Harsh Scrutiny let you get those Hazoret the Fervent and The Scarab God before they become a problem, extra removal when you need it with Vraska’s Contempt and another Walk the Plank to round it out.

This is all pretty stock but it’s the combo of Bontu’s Last Reckoning, Bontu the Glorified and Yahenni, Undying Partisan that can tear through midrange decks. The low casting cost of your creatures makes it only a minor set back when you can’t untap your lands but being able to sweep the board as early as turn three can be devastating since most of your creatures can either come back from the graveyard or simply don’t die to sweepers. This innovation leaves energy decks scrambling to rebuild and can often give you the leverage to pull ahead.

This deck does what most aggressive decks want to, it attacks hard and fast and uses cheap removal to kill blockers and try and win quickly. What it does differently is what makes it better than other aggro decks. Being able to hide your creatures (vehicles) from sorcery speed removal or being able to bring them back from the graveyard means your threats just keep coming. The life gain from Aethersphere Harverster, Night Market Lookout, and Gifted Aetherborn can help weather the storm against other aggressive decks or help you come back from bad starts. The vehicle package alongside Bone Picker lets you fly over and deliver a beat down which gives you a versatility that most other aggro decks don’t have. To top it all off its mono colored so you’ll never struggle for colors and never have lands come out tapped. This deck does it all and I expect to see more of it as energy decks tighten their strangle hold on standard as I really think this is the kind of deck that can beat midrange strategies but still have legs against the other decks out there.


Dan MacKinnon

Dan MacKinnon

A freelance artist and illustrator by trade, magic geek by choice. I've been playing on an off since the 90's and have recently gotten much more serious about magic and game design. Sometimes I think I like building decks more than I actually like playing them. Drop me a line or check out some of my work at

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