Pyramid Theory 101 — Under the Moon
"Tidal forces of the blood moon wrench and buckle the land, drawing monoliths of stone and soil toward the flaming orb"-Flavor Text of Magus of the Moon
Greetings everyone! I'm back again to talk about the deck-building process, and the use of Pyramid Theory. This time I'm talking about mono-colored decks. The color pie is the backbone of Magic, with each color having its own distinct strengths and weaknesses. As deck builders we often look to play multi-color decks as a way to card]negate[/card] the shortcomings of individual colors. However, I want to highlight the strengths of playing mono-colored decks and illustrate how to build a robust mono-colored deck that can go toe-to-toe with the best multi-colored decks.
As always I will discuss this topic through the lens of Pyramid Theory. For a more in-depth explanation of Pyramid Theory be sure to look at my introductory article on the subject.
Steps of Pyramid Theory
- Identify Goals
- Identify Direct Commander Synergies
- Solidify Sub-themes
- Establish Win Conditions
- Filling the Gaps
- Mana Base
- Analysis & Refinement
As we begin building a mono-colored deck, our inspiration should, in part, come from the deck's color. We should begin by finding what color attracts us the most, and think about what about that color draws us. What cards in this color feel powerful? Look to these cards for inspiration. Each color in the color pie will have a distinct feel, and that feeling is exemplified by its most powerful cards.
For my own deck building I looked to the Blood Moon for guidance. Blood Moon is a symbolic card that exemplifies the power of red and how red looks to shape the world around it. While often looked at as one of the weaker colors in EDH, red can control other decks, and make them play by its rules. I will reference red's philosophy throughout this deck-building process.
Just like any other deck, a mono-colored deck has to establish some goals. Where multi-color deck may have broader goals, mono-colored decks don't have access to as many tools. As such, you may want to formulate more specific goals when building a mono-colored deck. When creating these goals keep in mind the strengths and weaknesses of your decks color.
My goal in creating a mono-red deck is to build an attrition-based deck, one that can punish opponents for everything they normally want to do. Red has access to some cruel enchantments that its equipt to handle better than other colors. I plan on using cards like Burning Earth, Blood Moon and Smoke to prevent other decks from going off. As such I have also selected a commander who is able to control the board, and deal with problematic creatures; Diaochan, Artful Beauty.
Identify Direct Commander Synergies
Identifying commander synergies isn't particularly different in a mono-colored deck than any other deck. However there are some additional tools we my want to consider as we go forward, I will address these later in the article, but for now I'll discuss the particulars of building around Diaochan.
Having Diaochan as a commander means finding cards that enhance her ability. The two abilities that are key to this strategy are shroud and protection from red. Both can protect Diaochan from her own ability which allows us to remove any creatures we want while forcing our opponents to destroy each other's threats. Diaochan also incentivizes us to only play a few key creatures; creatures that can have a commanding presence over the game.
Solidifying the sub-themes is probably the most important aspect of building a mono-colored deck. Here we delve deeper into what our color's capabilities, because in a way it is its own sub-theme. We want to find cards that can be used most effectively when in a mono-colored deck, and be fearless in our use of them. What does that mean exactly? Well each color has cards that people avoid due to the anger they can ensite. Some common examples being Humility in white, Capsize in blue, Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon in black, Blood Moon in red, and Tooth and Nail in green. I see these cards only as tools in their respective colors, that can be used in mono-colored decks as equalizers. Where multi-color decks draw power from versatility, mono-color decks are powerful because of the synergies that come with having a united philosophy. So don't be afraid to play the cards that make your color powerful.
The second aspect of the theme to address is artifacts. When building a mono-colored deck, artifacts are your friend. Outside of mono-green, every other mono-colored deck needs help with mana acceleration, and artifacts can fulfill this need. Additionally, artifacts can provide other tools not normally available to your color. For instance, Mind's Eye allows card draw in colors that normally struggle with that ability. I suggest investigating an artifact sub-theme as a way to maximize such card's benefits.
The core themes of my Diaochan deck are punishment and Diaochan control. I essentially want to use cards like Burning Earth and Smoke to slow down opponents, while using Diochan to control the board. With these two strategies in place I should be able to able to deploy late game threats.
Establish Win Conditions
This step explores establishing win conditions if they weren't previously established. Win conditions for mono-colored decks aren't particularly different from those of multi-color decks. You generally want to look at your goals, commander synergies, and what your deck has in abundance, to find your possible win conditions.
In the case of my Diaochan deck, the attrition strategy hopefully provides a sizable amount of damage while giving us the time to deploy big threats in the form of Eldrazi Titans and planeswalkers.
Filling the Gaps
This steps highlights some tools that are particularly potent in all mono-colored decks. Mana doublers are staple cards in mono-colored strategies. Caged Sun, Extraplanar Lens and Gauntlet of Power are card that double your mana, and can give mono-colored decks a distinct advantage.
It is important when filling in the gaps to not neglect removal. While most multi-colored decks have diverse options for removal, mono-colored decks are stuck with whatever options the pie provides. Each color has its brand of removal, but some colors have trouble dealing with certain threats. Be aware of this both as you build and as you play the deck.
Not much needs to be said regarding mono-colored mana bases. There can be some great utility lands that are solid inclusions, but mostly you want to be playing a ton of basic lands. There is some marginal benefit to playing snow cover lands for cards like Extraplanar Lens, but that is largely up to your discretion. Here is a nice John Avon mountain. Look at it. Learn to love it.
Analysis & Refinement
As always the deck building process is continuous. We want to be fearless in our analysis of our decks, and be willing to improve on what isn't working.
I hope you all found this instalment of Pyramid Theory 101 interesting, and useful. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.