This entry is part 4 of 11 in the series The Power of the Dark Side

By Phil, AKA BeltFed Weapon


This week I’ll continue my examination of Black’s strengths and how capitalize on them.. Let’s get to it.


IV) Recursion – Mostly Reanimation of Creatures


Black is also only second to Green when it comes to the color’s ability to utilize the graveyard – primarily reanimating cards from the graveyard directly back into play.  Black reanimates creatures better than Green, but Green has more versatility overall, not just the creature recursion heavily featured in Black.  Notably, there are a few Black cards that break the mold and can recur non-creature cards and those are featured at the top of the list due to that flexibility.



While this is a pricey piece of tech, the card is solid gold.  Most Black decks should have a strong ramp package and have copious amounts of mana by mid to late game, and this is where this card shines.  All your creatures have died?  Get them back.  Need that critical spell in the graveyard?  Use it again.  An overloaded Vandalblast took out your mana rocks?  HAVE NO FEAR – Yawgmoth through sheer will lets you get all this back and also allows you to replay your destroyed Cabal Coffers as your land for turn all for the low cost of 2B!


I can’t stress how many times I have tutored for this card and used it to find an answer, dig out of a hole, or put a game away because crucial pieces were in my graveyard.  Yes, you have to spend the mana, but oftentimes that mana boost is in the graveyard and you can get any card you want, it is not limited to number or type (unless it is a land of course), however, I have seen lands and this card put to good use against me in a The Gitrog Monster landfall deck that dropped eight lands from the graveyard against the table that turn with multiple landfall cards on the field to include Avenger of Zendikar – which is how I died.



Honorable Mentions: Dread Return Magus of the Will, Shrouded Lore, Animate Dead, Urborg Uprising*, Grim Discovery, Profane Command

V)  Graveyard Hate


Black is also the best color at hating on graveyards.  Green is a close second, but for the investment, Black has a greater number of potent spells, creatures, and even Bojuka Bog as a land that allow it to very cheaply work against opponents’ graveyard strategies all while only taking a land slot.  There is almost no downside to include it as a land in you deck.


While it comes into play tapped, it makes Black mana and can fit into any Black deck; so why not  play it?  The opportunity cost is so low and the ability is so needed all while just taking a land slot.  My favorite is to feed it to a Dust Bowl and then bring it back with Crucible of Worlds.  You will likely never do this explicitly by tutoring for the combo, but I have made the play more than once because the other cards were already on the table and a graveyard came up that HAD to go.



Honorable Mention:  Carrion Beetles

VI)  Library Hate


Unique among the colors, and aside from niche artifacts like Jester’s Cap, Black can also hate on an opponent’s library itself.  This is absolutely back breaking against combo decks and worth tutoring up when you know that your continued existence in the game depends upon you getting rid of some key combo piece that works degenerately with an opponent’s commander.  Sadistic Sacrament as the card in the #1 slot is by far the best and most satisfying. If you want this effect, one generally only needs to dedicate one slot as mono-Black should optimally have a healthy tutor suite.  Using cards like this depend upon how many combo decks are running around and I find it is most effective in competitive metas as your opponents run more broken stuff.  This is one of the ways that Mono-black fights against combo and counterspells by just getting rid of the offending cards.  As a matter of principle, I also almost always get rid of Riftsweeper when the opportunity allows for it.  I won’t make a suboptimal play, but there are scenarios that are very bad for you when people have Riftsweeper in Bant bounce decks.  Some cards are specifically designed to be exiled for a reason….



You fire it off early for an efficient BBB when you have to deal with scary combo cards in an opponent’s library.  In mono-Black, you can easily ramp to add the kicker cost mid-game to absolutely gut an opponent’s library.  The best part isn’t exiling the 15 cards, it is the fact that you are swallowing their crushed hopes and dreams and washing them down with their tears. Truly, when you kick this card for 7BBB, you can cut some great political deals and barring that, you can watch some panicked opponents hope that you don’t target them.  They act like eye contact is the kiss of death.



VII) Mindslaver effects


This effect was first printed on Mindslaver and became solely associated with Black once it was printed on a couple of cards


  • Mindslaver is the original and best, even if it is an artifact.  While this costs a total of 10 to cast and activate, you can recur the ‘slaver through a variety of means – I like Trading Post and Buried Ruin.  You can also double the effect with Rings of Brighthearth.  Blue can better abuse this card, but it is not a blue effect persay.


  • Worst Fears is what makes this effect Black as it is really Mindslaver on a Black spell that now exiles itself for 2 mana less.  I contend that the exile clause got added because R&D didn’t realize that Mindslaver  could be heavily abused.  If I can find the space, I try to run this card in Golgari decks that have Riftsweeper in them as casting this a second time in the same game is a dream of mine.


  • Emrakul, the Promised End is certainly powerful, but she has a steep drop-off when the player can take an extra turn to try and repair some of the damage.  When I run this card, I also run Ugin’s Nexus in the deck to mitigate the downside and then get an extra turn.  I have never cast Emrakul without the Nexus out as either card is worth tutoring for once naturally draw the other.  


  • Sorin Markov.  Let’s be real – you use this card to dome an opponent down to 10  the vast majority of the time, but if you can keep Sorin around and get the ultimate off after that, especially in an Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice deck that also has Doubling Season, then you are getting some real work down with Sorin, even if this isn’t mono-Black.


  • Cruel Entertainment is very interesting, but also very dangerous.  I place it here for sake of completeness, but with a cautionary tale.  I have used this card all of once as I wanted to see what happened.  I had two opponents switch turns and they both kamikazed into my board position – hurting me worse than the controlled opponent’s board state.  You can politic for more influence or be one of the people that switch’s turns, but this card generally doesn’t make the cut as you can’t control the outcome.  Unless you are looking to sow chaos or have this as theme in your deck, there are 4 better cards above that have this same effect in some way that you should run before this card.  Worst Fears is 75 cents and costs one more mana for what you really want if you are looking for this effect and don’t want to spend the money on the more pricey stuff.


VIII) Everything Else – Color Pie Violations


There are also a number of cards that do crazy things that Black doesn’t regularly get to do.  Some of them play into strengths already mentioned, while others are just unique in effect and good cards in general.



  • Temporal Extortion is the card in Black if you want an extra turn.  People almost always pay, but later in the game when Kokusho is your general, people cannot afford to pay their life so they will let you have the turn.  Also, this plus Wound Reflection in your hand is a great way to schwack the guy who thinks he can take one for the team…oh he will…and he will then never take one for the team again the next time you still have six open mana after casting Temporal Extortion.   He’ll actually do you a favor and tell everyone, so in that fashion, you can also bluff your way into an extra turn.


  • Darkness – Black’s functional reprint of fog?!?


  • Sudden Spoiling – Similar in effect to Darkness but with the extra benefit of being able break up combos that revolve around creatures.  The Split Second mechanic is one I’d like to see more, both on new cards and in Commander in general.


Next time, I’ll explore Black’s weaknesses and how you shore them up.

Series Navigation<< The Power of the Dark Side – Part IIIThe Power of the Dark Side – Part V >>