Hello, fellow planeswalkers!  Welcome to standard weekly!

With summer in full swing and the Wilds of Eldraine still nearly a month and a half away, it’s time to look at how Black is doing after the banning of some of its key cards.  For anyone unaware, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Invoke Despair, and Reckoner Bankbuster were banned this past spring because they had taken over standard.  Normally, all three cards would have rotated out of standard when the Wilds of Eldraine is released this fall, but to revitalize standard Wizards of the Coast announced that there will not be a rotation this fall.  Sets will remain in standard going forward for up to three years.  With this change, Wizards acted to correct standard with the ban announcement.

The question is did the ban work?  The answer is yes and no.  Overall, the diversity of viable strategies has increased.  Yet black still has a large share of the overall metagame.  What black had as a color were replacements for the cards that were lost that are not as good as those banned, but close enough to make Mono-Black Midrange, Dimir Midrange, and Esper Control good decks in standard.

In July’s large events, black decks have dominated by winning several events and taking most of the Top 8 spots in those events.  Of the six events, Mono-Black had twelve decks placed in the Top 8, Dimir had ten decks placed in the Top 8, and Esper Control had six Top 8 finishes.  Here’s a look at the decks.

MONO-BLACK CONTROL, Gul_Dukat, MTGO Challenge 32, 7/9/2023


  • 4 Evolved Sleeper

  • 4 Graveyard Trespasser

  • 4 Phyrexian Fleshgorger

  • 4 Sheoldred, the Apocalypse

  • 3 Tenacious Underdog


  • 4 Liliana of the Veil


  • 4 Cut Down

  • 4 Go for the Throat


  • 3 Gix’s Command

LANDS: (22)

  • 3 Mishra’s Foundry

  • 22 Swamp

  • 1 Takenuma, Abandoned Mire


  • 4 Duress

  • 2 Path of Peril

  • 2 Phyrexian Arena

  • 2 Razorlash Transmogrant

  • 1 Sorin the Mirthless

  • 2 Sheoldred

  • 2 Sheoldred’s Edict

Mono-Black turns to Liliana of the Veil, Gix’s Command, and Phyrexian Fleshgorger as replacements for the banned cards.  Liliana has returned to a prominent role in the deck.  Her ability to force an opponent to sacrifice a creature or discard a card makes her a relevant spell no matter the board state.  Gix’s Command allows you to choose two of its four options.  Typically, destroy all creatures with 2 power or less and the creature with the highest power among creatures your opponent controls.  It’s not as powerful as Invoke Despair, but it does the job against most opponents.  Finally, Phyrexian Fleshgorger is a difficult creature to remove.  Either as a 3/3 for its prototype costs or a 7/5 for seven mana, Phyrexian Fleshgorger provides the deck with evasion with its menace ability, has lifelink to keep you alive, and ward for the cost of its power in life loss when a spell target’s it.  Together they provide solid replacements for the banned cards.

DIMIR MIDRANGE, Thanakarn Sawatsritawan, GHR Grand Tournament @ Bangkok (Thailand), 7/2/2023

By: Scott Trepanier

Scott began playing Magic the Gathering in 1994.  His preferred format is standard.  Typically, you will see him playing aggro decks focused on quickly defeating his opponent but will pivot to midrange or control when standard is unfavorable for aggro decks.  He began creating Magic content in 2019.


  • 2 Ertai Resurrected

  • 4 Evolved Sleeper

  • 4 Graveyard Trespasser

  • 3 Misery’s Shadow

  • 3 Sheoldred, the Apocalypse

  • 3 Tenacious Underdog


  • 1 Kaito Shizuki

  • 2 Liliana of the Veil

  • 1 Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim


  • 3 Cut Down

  • 3 Go for the Throat

  • 4 Make Disappear

  • 2 Sheoldred’s Edict

LANDS: (25)

  • 4 Darkslick Shores

  • 1 Island

  • 1 Mirrex

  • 1 Otawara, Soaring City

  • 4 Shipwreck Marsh

  • 9 Swamp

  • 1 Takenuma, Abandoned Mire

  • 4 Underground River


  • 3 Disdainful Stroke

  • 3 Duress

  • 2 Gix’s Command

  • 1 Kaito Shizuki

  • 2 Negate

  • 2 Razorlash Transmogrant

  • 2 Sorin the Mirthless

Dimir Midrange has performed well with its replacements.  Ertai, Resurrected along with the planeswalkers Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim, Liliana of the Veil, and Kaito Shizuki take up the mantle for Dimir.  Ertai serves as both a counterspell and spot removal.  When Ertai enters play, you can counter a spell or remove a creature or planeswalker.  This flexibility makes Ertai valuable regardless of when you cast him.  The planeswalkers provide the deck with threats that must be addressed, or they can take over a game.  An unanswered Teferi will create an army of spirits that grow with each card drawn.  Also, the ability to counter spells with Make Disappear and other counters in the sideboard allows the deck to prevent your opponent from playing his/her best cards.

Dimir Midrange can play as an aggro, midrange, or even a control deck.  This does make the deck challenging to play because of the variety of in-game decisions that must be made.  Determining the strategy to play is key to the success of the deck.

In my play with the deck, I have surpassed a 60% win rate on the Arena ladder in the best-of-three queue.  Black decks dominate the best of three queues, showing the deck’s power in paper and digital.

ESPER CONTROL, Lenny, MTGO Challenge 32, 7/15/2023


  • 4 The Wandering Emperor


  • 3 Cut Down

  • 1 Disdainful Stroke

  • 2 Dissipate

  • 2 Go for the Throat

  • 3 Make Disappear

  • 4 Memory Deluge

  • 1 Silver Scrutiny

  • 1 Siphon Insight

  • 2 Void Rend

  • 2 Sheoldred’s Edict

  • 1 Negate


  • 2 Farewell

  • 1 Sunset Revelry

  • 3 Sunfall


  • 1 The Celestus 

LANDS: (27)

  • 2 Adarkar Wastes

  • 4 Darkslick Shores

  • 4 Deserted Beach

  • 1 Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire

  • 1 Island

  • 2 Mirrex

  • 1 Otawara, Soaring City

  • 1 Plains

  • 4 Raffine’s Tower

  • 2 Shattered Sanctum

  • 2 Shipwreck Marsh

  • 2 Underground River

  • 1 Swamp


  • 3 Chrome Host Seedshark

  • 1 Disdainful Stroke

  • 2 Duress

  • 1 Negate

  • 2 Sheoldred, the Apocalypse

  • 2 Siphon Insight

  • 2 Sunset Revelry

  • 2 Temporary Lockdown

Esper goes into full control mode.  It uses board wipes, Sunfall and Farewell, to gain an advantage in the game while countering or removing other threats along the way.  The deck has seven counters in the main deck and two more in the sideboard.  It showcases nine removal spells and powerful card draw in the form of Memory Deluge and Silver Scrutiny.  Its win condition comes through the tokens generated by Sunfall, Mirrex, and The Wandering Emperor.

The sideboard for the deck provides creatures when needed in Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, and Chrome Host Seedshark.  Both advance the deck’s game plan while providing additional value.  Chrome Host Seedshark may over time become part of the main deck because of its ability to create incubate tokens.

Each of the three decks can compete at the top end of standard.  For players that like aggro Mono-Black is a good fit.  For players who like midrange strategies, Dimir Midrange is a solid deck that can compete with any deck in standard.  Finally, fans of control have a solid choice in Esper Control.

That’s it for this week.  I’ll see you next time!