The Colors of Magic – Black

One of the first things you should ask yourself before constructing a deck is what color(s) to play. With so many different color combinations and possible strategies, it’s hard to know where to start. This article is one of a five-part series that’ll take a closer look at the strengths and weaknesses of each color; today, we’ll be focusing on Black. If you’re looking for more about the philosophy of each color, you can look here, but this article will cover the basics.

Let’s get into what Black brings to the table.

Creatures: The best Black creatures usually fall into one of two categories: they’re either utility creatures that sometimes implement effects similar to Black instants and sorceries (like Dark Confidant, Griselbrand, and Phyrexian Rager), or they’re equal to/stronger than other creatures of their casting cost (but likely have some setbacks, such as Carnophage, Phyrexian Negator, and Death’s Shadow).

Tribes: Although Vampires are gaining more and more support as time passes, if you’re looking for a Tribal strategy, your best bet is with Zombies. Zombie Tribal typically focuses on playing many small, hard-to-kill creatures like Gravecrawler and Relentless Dead. Zombies also have a lot of token generators that fill out your legion, including Diregraf Colossus, Skirk Ridge Exhumer, and Zombie Infestation. Powerful lords (such as Undead Warchief, Lord of the Undead, Death Baron, and Cemetery Reaper) additionally serve to make an undead horde ever more terrifying. Other powerful Zombie Tribal cards include Call to the Grave, Zombie Apocalypse, Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and Endless Ranks of the Dead.

Creature removal: Black has some of the best creature removal in the game. They are able to remove most threats regardless of size with cards like: Doom Blade, Go for the Throat and Victim of Night. Black is also capable of giving creatures reduced power and toughness, sometimes killing them outright with cards like: Dismember, Tragic Slip, and Battle at the Bridge.

Card advantage: Black is one of the better colors at card advantage, and while its card draw isn’t as good as Blue’s, it’s much better than some of the other colors due to its access to cards like Sign in Blood, Skeletal Scrying, Dark Confidant, and Necropotence. It also has access to the best tutors in the game, with cards such as Demonic Tutor, Imperial Seal, and Vampiric Tutor.

Disruption: Although Red and Blue have some of these types of cards, Black is by far the best at making your opponent discard cards from their hand. This lets you stop your opponent from playing combos or threats, and some cards even allow you to scout out your opponent’s hand. Some of the best discard cards are Liliana of the Veil, Cabal Therapy, Pox, and Duress.

Board clears: Black is second only to White when it comes to board clears. It has multiple ways to do this, be it via damage, debuffing power, and toughness, or by just destroying things with cards like Damnation, Bane of the Living, Toxic Deluge, Languish, Crypt Rats, and Pestilence.

Reanimation: One of Black’s most powerful assets is the ability to bring creatures back from the grave. This can lead to explosive plays that can even result in cheating out a creature that shouldn’t be able to be played until much later in the game. Reanimate, Animate Dead, Stitch Together, or Goryo’s Vengeance are a few examples of good reanimation spells in this color. There are also cards capable of resurrecting creatures en masse and instantly creating an army of undead (i.e. Liliana Vess, Living Death, Living End, and Balthor the Defiled).

Ramp: Although Black doesn’t get much mana advantage, like Green does, it can still gain enough mana to combo off or play a threat that’s way more powerful than what they should normally be playing on curve. They do this through cards such as Dark Ritual, Cabal Coffers, Bubbling Muck, and Cabal Ritual.

Black’s weaknesses include:

Life Taxing: Many Black cards have the drawback of costing you life. While this isn’t much of a problem in moderation, it can easily add up and end with your defeat if you’re not careful. This becomes even more of a problem when you’re against aggro or Burn decks, since you’re essentially doing their jobs for them.

Hard to kill some creatures: Many of the best Black removal spells have a limit to what they can kill. Cards like Doom Blade are unable to kill Black creatures while Go for the Throat can’t kill Artifact creatures. This can lead to you either needing to play slightly worse removal spells, or finding another way to deal with them.

Lack of Artifact and enchantment removal: There are very few Black cards that are able to get rid of Artifact or enchantments, and the ones that do exist come with either a high cost or some kind of drawback.

Susceptible to graveyard hate: There are many cards that can easily disrupt your graveyard and ruin reanimator or similar strategies if you aren’t prepared.

So what do you think? Do you think the risks of Black are worth its rewards? Do you think another color could fit well with it to strengthen its weaknesses? If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please feel free to say something in the comments section below.



Sylvan Studies Team

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