Deck Tech: Mono-Black Belcher with Jon Johnson
Jon Johnson and his Mono-Black Belcher deck
Jon, perhaps better known as @jjflipped online, was excited for battle in the Legacy Open on Sunday. If you’re a fan of Jon’s work, you may have already seen his first iteration of this deck in Force+of+Will in a blue mage’s hand just over half the time, assuming that they ran four. Given that most Belcher players will die to a Force+of+Will in the first game but beat just about anything else, doing the math on the format told Jon that Belcher tended to be over 70% to win the first game against the field—not bad at all.
With a game 1 advantage in most matchups but a severe vulnerability to counterspells, what’s a Belcher player to do? Jon’s answer was to add disruption of his own, a tried-and-true strategy for defeating blue mages with lots of counterspells. That meant he had to move the deck into black giving up on Empty+the+Warrens and the excellent red Rituals.
That suited Jon just fine.
“Empty the Warrens is just so inconsistent!” he said. That’s true—a lot of cards can accidentally beat an Empty+the+Warrens despite being aimed at other decks in the format, with the most embarrassing losses coming from decks filled with creatures that just happen to block you enough to stabilize!
Thus, Jon turned to black for some better rituals and disruption, with the plan being a kill almost exclusively based on Charbelcher. While Dark Ritual and Cabal+Ritual are obviously powerful, and Lion’s Eye Diamond, Chrome+Mox, and Lotus+Petal can be played in any deck, the remaining rituals were... stranger. A host of zero-mana artifacts can play blocker early on while fueling Culling+the+Weak and Cabal+Therapy with their lives, and any two of these spells will also enable Mox+Opal! Diabolic+Intent is an additional Demonic+Tutor for the deck, after a sort, but running too many of it seems risky.
He’s free-rolling the storm engine in this deck as well, however—Ad+Nauseam is an incredible draw spell in these ritual-based decks, and Infernal+Tutor has a habit of ending games in a hurry when combined with Lion’s Eye Diamond. While this version of Belcher might be a turn slower than most, the consistency of these spells ensures you find what you need against most opponents.
Plus, Tendrils out of the sideboard is a reasonable backup plan!
So which disruption spells are best? Cabal+Therapy can double-up thanks to his zero-mana creatures, and it’s usually not hard to figure out what to name—Force+of+Will is a good start, though other options are fine. Because Belcher is often going off immediately, the opponent can’t hide their counterspells with a Brainstorm in order to protect against disruption—an important note!
Beyond that, this deck is unique take on one archetype’s refusal to play Magic in Legacy. If you love activating Charbelcher—and hate seeing permanents on your opponent’s side of the board—give this list a try!