Jank Black: Can Black be Good?
By Leonard Q Brookes on July 12th, 2005 · Filed in Legacy (Type 1.5) · Comments not available just now
Okay, so you’ve seen the title. I best explain it a bit. Long gone are the days when Black was a superpower in Legacy. Long gone are the days when “Swamp, Dark Ritual, Duress, and Hymn to Tourach” would auto-win you the game. Long gone are the days when you could Hatred yourself to victory. Long gone are the days that Phyexian Negator would win a game single-handedly. Far, far in the past are the days you could overpower with Black.
What I am getting at is Black has all the tools, but the other colours do a better job than it does. Blue does a better job of stopping things than Black does, White kills creatures better than Black does, Green just has meaner creatures than Black, and Red just gets better card advantage than Black does.
So to make Black better you have to go into the other colours. I did this at first by using a procedure that’s fairly simple. The term is “lots of good cards” but just like the old Braids/Opposition decks it looks completely random and it looks like the only way it works is because the power level of all the cards is high.
How Does it Work at a Glance
When I first looked at using Black, the most notable strength it had was the ability to control the opposing player's hand. Being the Blue-addicted player I am, I wanted to expand this to being able to control the cards being played as well, hence Blue was added for even more prevention. I then utilized Black's efficient creatures (Nantuko Shade most notably). I wanted draw, and Finkel just seemed ideal. After a few games I found that Landstill was as bad as a match could get for me so I put four Wastelands main deck followed by two Crucible of Worlds. Anyway, so let's have a look at one of my first lists.
In that deck I would say there is not a card that isn’t good, very good or broken. But I found some cards to be subpar for the role I wanted them in. The Shadowmage Infiltrators were getting killed more than I liked, and while the Call of the Herd definitely swung some games they didn’t swing the amount of games other cards could have. Legacy being a more creature-orientated meta meant the Elephant tokens did very little because they were just vanilla 3/3s. The same thing happened with Diabolic Edict. Seeing Morphling is quite rare and Edict tends to eat a Basking Rootwalla or a Birds of Paradise so a more direct medium is needed.
I started to look at other cards I had said no to at this point, most notably Night's Whisper, Dark Ritual, and Skeletal Scrying. Dark Ritual I tested for a while but just ended up not having the cards to properly abuse the mana. The card loss this causes is also a big impact on the way this deck plays. Night's Whisper just sucked compared to other draw options available. Skeletal Scrying was very good, but caused me to drop the amount of blue cards main deck, hurting the Force of Will which is a lot more important to winning the early game. Enough of my compressed testing and research and onto a finished deck and some analysis then eh?
Well, what can I say? Really I’m playing just enough Blue cards to run Force of Will and for extra counter support Mana Leak. The discard is literally for the sole purpose of removing vital cards the first one to three turns from ATS’s Survival of the Fittest to Solidarity’s Reset.
This is the section of the deck I have tested the most. I found Night's Whisper too ineffective, Accumulated Knowledge not fast enough, Shadowmage Infiltrator nice but too easy to lose, and the same with Phyrexian Arena. I would love to put Fact or Fiction in the deck but alas the mana curve literally tops out at three (Force of Will does not count!). The deck plays a lot of different styles and the lack of raw draw meant that Brainstorm did little to help me keep the aggression up. So it came to the last playable draw spell in Legacy, Standstill, and if I do say so myself it’s the perfect fit. It gives a lot of raw card power which Jank Black adores immensely, pitches to Force of Will when needed, and lets me play mind games with my opponent even more (points at the denial). Ideally you will want to be on the beats before casting a Standstill. But sometimes simply casting it on turn 2 when you have adopted a controlling role is enough to either make the aggro deck break it or give you the time needed to get the required cards to win.
I tested a lot of creatures for Jank Black but I’ll explain some of the losers first. I dropped Call of the Herd because it was simply overkill and not needed. By the time a Hypnotic Specter hit the table my fourteen denial spells had already done the job. And like I mentioned already, the Shadowmage Infiltrators were just getting killed far too often. What I wanted and needed was a way of dealing a lot of damage fast so I had multiple ways of hurting someone fast in addition to the Nantuko Shades and also wanted to be able screw my opponent over even more while at the same time flattening my mana curve. I dropped in on the Source and I got passed on the idea for Psychatog for big damage, which worked out ideally and gave me a lot more aggressive strategies as well as defensive strategies. I also added another tool against the Survival decks as well as a 2/2 body in the form of Withering Wretch. This helps against random junk decks that run cards like Hammer of Bogardan and Recurring Nightmare (though I think RecSur has potential in Legacy), Green aggro and Eternal Witness.
The old faithful Diabolic Edict just sucked. I would be facing an Arrogant Wurm, a Basking Rootwalla, and a Wild Mongrel, cast Diabolic Edict, and eat a Walla when it was the Wild Mongrel I needed to kill. So enter two cards that could replace it and to tell you the truth I am still not sure which it should be but both work depending on your meta. They are Smother and Terminate. One involves no splash and is castable 99% of the time by the deck; the other relies on you having a Badlands open. You would think it’s a pretty clear cut victory for Terminate but Smother hits almost as many creatures and isn't made useless by Protection from Red (coughAngelStampycough). So here it’s a simple choice of which you prefer. Me, I like being able to zap big creatures that hit the table so I use Terminate. This is then leveled off with the brilliantly fantastic card advantage monster that is Fire //Ice (Sorry I couldn’t help the intro). Fire // Ice has been one of the few cards that I have never even thought about cutting from the deck. It's good for killing mana producing creatures, weenies, and doing nifty stuff like tapping a creature so you can get a Tog through to win the match.
I suppose I best explain this very un-aggro like card. the deck's biggest weakness is its mana base. Lots of duals. This allows me to recur my duals and sac lands. It also allows me to apply even more pressure by attacking a opposing deck's mana base via the Wasteland+Crucible of Worlds lock.
The mana curve tops out at about three. Any more and the deck starts to slow down (FPS counts!) needing to wait for things to happen. Because of the heavy dual content and eight sac lands I have a very reliable way of getting the exact mana I need. This, though, is a double-edged sword because a hate deck playing things like Back to Basics, Wasteland, and Stifle can cause me problems. I would like to run a Mountain and an Island maindeck but the Wastelands already weaken the Shades more than I like.
Right, I know a bunch of that stuff looks weird, Toshiro Umezawa in particular, but I’ll explain it. In Legacy the majority of decks are creature decks that have tricks or random scrubs playing. There comes a point in the game after boarding (scrying and fact) that you can chain cast creature kill and clear the board using Toshiro Umezawa. It is very sweet killing a creature and then Fact or Fictioning at the end of your opponent's turn. Okay, onto the tech part of the board, The board is made as a transition board. By this I mean the board has been tailored to shift the style of play and action the deck takes. I.E. going more aggressive or controlling. For Enchantment removal Engineered Explosives is used. This has the benefit of hitting creatures and artifacts. For control decks, more draw is added removing creature removal. For beats decks, removing denial elements in favour of cards like Flametongue Kavu is the best route. For combo, the deck is already strong but the Cranial Extractions tend to add “GG” to the match.
The Key Concepts of Jank Black
Jank black is a very versatile deck. It can shift between control and aggro effortlessly. Its biggest strength is its ability to stop threats in the early turns. The entire deck is geared towards ripping control from your opponent in the first few turns and then punishing them for it. Four Duress, two Cabal Therapy, and four Force of Will should mean in most opening hands you gain a answer to threats like Survival of the Fittest. (Explained Better:one in six cards is a first turn denial threat, meaning the odds are you will be drawing a needed answer)
Your creatures are more efficient as are most your cards; every card Jank Black uses serves another purpose or lets you promote another card's purpose. Standstill leads onto more chump cards to continue attacking a person's hand or cards that hit play. Fire // Ice and Terminate remove threats so your aggressive beats can get through. Discard allows you to be proactive with your denial while being reactive at the same time.
Some match ups
I’m just going to pick three matches: combo, control, and aggro, and I'm sorry to all the haters but ATS is going to be my combo choice.
This game is about as good as matches can get; your fourteen denial spells rip the combo parts of ATS to tiny shreds. The creature control stops any other threats that actually hit play and the Withered Wretches remove any recurring abilty, forcing them to waste cards like Swords to Plowshares on the Wretch over bigger threats like the Nantuko Shade. The main reason this match is so good is that almost every card you play has a use against ATS. The only card that can even feasibly be called dead is the Psychatog and well we all know what Mr. Teeth is capable of. Simply put, the deck attacks ATS on every level, often leaving it in a complete and utter stupor. This game is massively in your favour.
From brilliant match to a horrid match. To beat landstill you have to fight like no tomorrow. While the UW Landstill and UR Landstill matches are winnable, the Urw Landstill match is a utter nightmare. You have to stockpile discard and denial spells and then force them through and play and protect a threat. This is compounded by the problem that Landstill plays up to 24 answers to your creatures (including counterspells). Next comes the problem of their running the Wasteland+Crucible of Worlds engine in addition to the Stifles, which means it can directly attack your mana base. To counter this Jank Black also has the Wasteland+Crucible of Worlds combo meaning you can keep up or even go onto the offensive if you resolve the Crucible. This match is hard and is very skill intensive and relies on a little luck. The twin colour landstill matches are about even and the better player should win. The Urw match is very skill dependant and in the favour of the Landstill player.
This game is about you stopping their equipment because that above anything else, including their Protection from Red creatures, is the big problem. If you stop that, it will then become a damage race that you should win. The Exalted Angels you should be able to remove as a threat via denial and creature control, leaving only the Silver Knights and Soltari Priests as problems. If you're running Smother then you will be fine. Otherwise you're going to be racing for damage via the Shades. The best position for you in this game is to be sitting behind a Standstill with a Nantuko Shade on the beats. The match is defiantly in your favour, even more so after boarding.
As random rogue decks go, I have thoroughly enjoyed testing and playing Jank Black. It has a good game against a lot of the field; its only downfall is Landstill which is still winnable. Not to mention that it has a very good game against anything combo related so you will beat a lot of other rogue combo decks including the masses of decks based on Survival of the Fittest. If you like a deck that is versatile and can switch with style like only a pure aggro control deck can, Jank black is for you.
Quick Note: I could have covered more decks, but a) it would get boring for me, b) you would turn off, and c) have you seen how many tier 1-2 decks there are in Legacy?!
People: Belgareth, SapphireTri, SorryGuy, Someone, Static, my play group
By Leonard Q Brookes on July 12th, 2005 · Filed in Legacy (Type 1.5) · Comments not available just now