Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Mono-Black Decks in Magic
Black decks are some of Magic's most popular. Not only do they command armies of undead zombies, fearsome vampires, and menacing demons, but they can also do a little bit of everything, stealing the powers of other colors.
While you often have to pay life for black effects, they're rarely an issue in commander format since you start with 40 health, and you can always use lifelink to recover the difference. But with thousands of dark spells available, how can you fully utilize your swamp-infested army? These are the 30 best cards for mono-black commander decks in Magic: The Gathering!
30. Liliana of the Dark Realms
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 4
Liliana's worst trait is her meager starting loyalty of three. But she works great for pure black themes since all of her effects revolve around swamps—the only basic land you'll need. +1 adds a swamp from your deck to your hand, ensuring you've always got a land drop, and -3 gives a creature +X/+X or -X/-X for the turn, where X is the number of swamps you control. This scales well as the game progresses and offers a great way to defeat indestructible foes
Finally, -6 gives you an emblem that lets your swamps tap for four mana each, an odd but appreciated mana ramping tool that makes casting spells a breeze.
29. Sudden Spoiling
Sudden Spoiling is a brutal instant that makes all creatures a player controls become puny 0/2s and lose their abilities until the end of the turn. Wait until an opponent swings during their combat phase, cast Spoiling, then block the weakened creatures for easy kills.
Plus, thanks to the split second trait, opponents can't respond except with mana abilities, meaning you won't have to worry about counterspells.
28. Bojuka Bog
Almost any theme relies on the graveyard to some extent, and you can easily thwart access with Bog. Like a basic swamp, it taps for a black mana, but since it enters tapped, you'll have to wait for Bog's mana. However, upon entry, it exiles all cards from a player's graveyard, adeptly shielding against flashback, aftermath, and other graveyard-dependent abilities.
27. Grave Titan
Despite not being a zombie himself, Grave Titan works especially well in their decks since he automatically creates two tapped 2/2 zombie tokens whenever he attacks or enters the field! That's simply an excellent swarming mechanic on top of a sturdy 6/6 with deathtouch, giving you the tools to quickly overwhelm foes in battle.
The last of our six-cost creatures, Helldozer carries the useful zombie subtype and has dependable 6/5 stats. More than that, by tapping and spending three black mana, he can destroy a land, and if it wasn't basic, Helldozer will automatically untap himself.
A few doses of this can really decimate an opponent's mana production, which should stall them long enough for you to seize the win.
25. No Mercy
This aptly-named enchantment simply destroys any creature who deals you damage. A pretty self-explanatory spell, you'll be well-shielded against anything that's not indestructible, giving you plenty of time to prepare your win.
24. Phage the Untouchable
For a seven-cost creature, Phage only carries 4/4 stats, and she causes you to lose if she wasn't cast from your hand, so don't try to gimmick her with a graveyard revival. However, she has what I call "super-deathtouch", destroying any creature she deals combat damage to and preventing it from regenerating.
Normally, deathtouch discourages blockers, but not with Phage; if she scores a direct attack, the defending player loses the game. All it takes is one unblocked attack (consider using blue auras to guarantee a direct hit) and you've won, at least in 1v1.
23. Liliana of the Veil
Liliana of the Veil simply has it all: a low cost (for a planeswalker), three good abilities, and a nice starting loyalty of three. +1 has both players discard a card, and if you're running zombies, you won't mind stocking your graveyard anyway.
Meanwhile, -2 forces an opponent to sacrifice a creature and ultimate -6 lets you separate all an opponent's permanents into two piles, then have them sacrifice a pile of their choice.
For a single mana, Reanimate revives a creature from any graveyard, an awesome way to cheat high-cost monsters into play. The only downside is you lose life equal to its CMC, but in commander, you should have the health to spare.
21. Animate Dead
What this wordy aura basically does is revive a creature from any graveyard, attach to it, and give it -1/-0. For a bit more mana than Reanimate, you're still nabbing a creature (albeit with one less power), and now you don't have to worry about losing life. You'll have to sacrifice the creature if Animate Dead leaves play, but forcing a removal on a two-cost spell is a win in itself.
20. Snuff Out
Snuff Out destroys a non-black creature and prevents it from regenerating. You can cast it normally, but you'll usually opt for its alternative cost, where you may pay four life instead of mana if you control a swamp. That's a small price for a free and instant-speed removal, letting you eliminate threats even when you're all tapped-out.
19. Korlash, Heir to Blackblade
Not only does Korlash have the zombie subtype, his power and toughness become the number of swamps you control, a prime benefit in devoted black decks. He can also spend two mana to regenerate, staving off death.
Even though his grandeur effect is basically wasted in commander (since you can't have duplicates in your deck), Korlash is an excellent mono-black addition and respectable commander choice. "Squelching Leeches" makes a decent substitute for budget players.
18. Underworld Dreams
Dreams specifically needs three black mana, but this shouldn't be an issue for single-color decks and it's great for empowering black devotion. Dreams simply deals one damage to opponents whenever they draw a card, making it only a matter of time until they lose
This provides a great check against draw-heavy blue decks (popular in commander), and you can even play Dreams on your first turn by using "Dark Ritual", which we'll see later.
Two mana scores you a solid 2/1 with both vampire and spirit synergies. Bloodghast can't block, but has haste if an opponent has 10 or less life. Additionally, his excellent landfall returns him from your graveyard to the field whenever a land enters under your control, offering one of the game's best sacrificial fodder.
16. Cabal Stronghold
Black enjoys arguably the best color-specific lands in Magic. Stronghold here can either tap for a single colorless, or it can spend three and tap for one black per basic swamp you control. This makes it an excellent late-game land drop, and its colorless mana can actually help afford certain colorless-needing eldrazi cards.
15. Cabal Coffers
Coffers doesn't have a fallback mana ability like Stronghold, but it wields a better effect. By spending just two mana and tapping, Coffers gives one black per swamp you control (basic or not). This lets you mana ramp on par with green decks, and you can further empower the effect using...
14. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
This legendary land makes every land (including itself) a swamp in addition to its other types. Since most of your lands are probably already swamps, why is this so useful? Well, it lets Urborg itself tap for black mana, turns Coffers into a swamp (so it'll strengthen its own effect), and lets you rig unblockable hits when using creatures with swampwalk.
13. Bridge from Below
Powerful enough to warrant a ban in modern (but not commander), Bridge creates a 2/2 zombie token whenever a non-token creature enters your graveyard from the field. But this only works as long as Bridge itself is in the graveyard—rather than casting it, use it to pay the price of a discard effect, killing two birds with one stone.
Now, you have to exile Bridge from your graveyard when an opponent's creature enters their graveyard from the field, but hopefully by then you'll have plenty of tokens. Not bad for a card that doesn't need any mana.
12. Phyrexian Arena
Maintaining your hand is essential for the longer games of commander, and Arena does just that, having you draw an extra card at your upkeep. You also lose one life, but that's a negligible price for ongoing card advantage.
Similar to Arena, Necropotence offers a three-cost enchantment that spends life to boost your hand. Once fielded, you skip your draw step, so you won't automatically obtain cards anymore. You also have to exile any cards you discard.
However, by paying one life, you exile your deck's top card and add it to your hand at the end of the turn, and you can do this multiple times each round, quickly obtaining as many spells as you need.
10. Dark Confidant
Confidant lacks vampire or zombie synergy, but oddly enough, he counts as a wizard, an interesting option for blue/black blends. But he also works well in mono-black, carrying respectable 2/1 stats and automatically adding the top card of your deck to your hand during your upkeep.
The downside is you lose life equal to its CMC, but you're basically getting an extra draw each turn. You'll also avoid the lifeloss when you luck out and reveal a land this way.
9. Hymn to Tourach
One of the best discard spells in the game, Hymn simply has a player discard two cards at random. Compare this to black's three-cost "Mind Rot", which has a player discard two cards of their choice, and you'll see just how powerful Tourach is.
A staple in my own black decks, Tourach is surprisingly cheap for such a competitive card, costing just a single dollar!
Most land-destroying spells require three or four mana, but Sinkhole only demands two. It'll remove any land with no lifeloss or other penalties, making this an easy choice for any black build.
7. Phyrexian Obliterator
Green and white specialize in big creatures, but black contains Phyrexian Obliterator, a fierce 5/5 with trample. As icing on the cake, when Obliterator takes damage, that source's controller sacrifices as many permanents, which making him dreadfully hard to block.
6. Culling the Weak
Put your swarms of zombie tokens to good use with this instant. You pay one mana to gain four, but you also have to sacrifice a creature; use throwaway tokens or self-reviving creatures like "Reassembling Skeletons" to ease the price and seize an enormous resource lead.
5. Demonic Tutor
Since commander decks are larger (100 total cards) and have singleton rules, it's harder to find specific spells, making any tutor a welcome addition. And Demonic has long been an EDH staple, offering the exact same effect of "Diabolical Tutor" for half the mana.
You simply search your deck for any card, add it to hand, then shuffle, pulling whatever you need at a very reasonable price.
Contamination's biggest price isn't its mana requirement, but it's ongoing fee, forcing you to sacrifice a creature during each of your upkeeps. To justify this price, Contamination makes all lands tap for a single black mana, preventing players from accessing other colors.
Minus the odd colorless spell, this can completely shut down opposing decks (unless they also happen to be mono-black), and if you have something that continuously generates creature tokens to maintain Contamination (like "Liliana, Death's Majesty"), you've all but won.
3. Songs of the Damned
Songs of the Damned rewards black's self-milling tactics, spending one black mana to add one per creature in your graveyard. As long as your graveyard isn't exiled, this can very well provide ten or more mana in the later stages of your match, especially if you're using spells with dredge or other graveyard-stocking effects.
2. Bubbling Muck
Muck is black's version of blue's "High Tide", though it's only a sorcery, not an instant. Still, it's an exceptionally powerful effect, letting swamps produce an extra black mana when tapped during the turn. This scales well, offers insane mana ramp, and if you have Urborg, every land you control will double its output.
Just remember opponents can benefit too, so be careful if you see untapped swamps and suspect they have an instant.
1. Dark Ritual
Black's most infamous card, Dark Ritual instantly turns one mana into three, letting you afford mid-cost spells even on your first turn. This is simply an amazing ramp tactic, providing double the gain of green's "Elvish Spirit Guide" with no drawback.
Black Commanders in Magic
We've examined several great additions to your deck, but who should actually lead your forces? Well, "Braids, Cabal Minion" is out since she's banned, but if you're going for an infect win, try "Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon".
Zombie themes might instead prefer Korlash or "Mikaeus, the Unhallowed", but for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of black aces, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill