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Top 10 Black Control Cards in Magic: The Gathering

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K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth

K'rrik, Son of Yawgmoth

Black's Role in Control

While blue is the traditional control card via card draw and counterspells, black is a close second, offering draws, tutors, lifedrain, and tons of creature killing. Many of its effects require you spend life as cost, but considering commander format doubles your starting total to 40, and that black creatures sometimes utilize lifelink, you'll rarely run out.

But with thousands of spells to pick from, which ones should control builds absolutely use? Whether you're going at it mono-black or mixing in other colors, here are ten staple black control cards in Magic: The Gathering!

Malakir Rebirth

Malakir Rebirth

Malakir Mire

Malakir Mire

10. Malakir Rebirth/Malakir Mire

This seemingly-innocuous uncommon is surprisingly potent thanks to sheer versatility. You either play the land side (Mire) for a tapped black land, or the instant half (Rebirth) to return a creature to the field tapped if it would die that turn (and you lose two life).

So you can either easily save a crucial creature, like your commander, for just one mana, or ensure you meet your land drop for the turn.

Liliana of the Veil

Liliana of the Veil

9. Liliana of the Veil

Arguably the game's best black planeswalker, Liliana is one of the cheapest mana-wise at just three. Her +1 has each player discard, great for quickly stockpiling your graveyard for black's revival tricks and also useful if your hand is empty since you won't have to discard.

-2 simply forces a player to sacrifice a creature of their choice, which can hold off early aggro, and her deadly -6 separates all an opponent's permanents (including lands) into two piles, then lets them sacrifice a pile of their choice.

Crypt Ghast

Crypt Ghast

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

8. Crypt Ghast/Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Crypt Ghast lets your swamps (both basic and non-basic) tap for an extra black mana, so if drawn late into the game, he can immediately pay for himself after arrival. He also offers extort, letting you pay black or white when you cast a spell to drain one life from each opponent. However, this hybrid black/white symbol means you need white in your commander identity to include Ghast in your deck despite the ability to spend only black mana for his costs.

Still, his swamp-doubling goes from useful to amazing when combined with staple land Tomb of Yawgmoth, which makes all lands swamps, ensuring Ghast will double the production of all your cards.

Cabal Coffers

Cabal Coffers

Cabal Stronghold

Cabal Stronghold

7. Cabal Coffers/Cabal Stronghold

Speaking of Tomb of Yawgmoth, you'll also want to combine it with Cabal Coffers, one of the game's best mana ramps, as it taps and spends two of any color to add one black for each swamp you control.

Mono-black decks will also want Cabal Stronghold, which can't be gimmicked with Tomb since it spends three to add a black only per basic swamp you control. However, unlike Coffers, it can also simply tap for one black, making it better in the early game.

6. Reanimate/Animate Dead

While these cards aren't technically ramps, they're offer incredible cheap ways to play creatures from graveyards. For one mana, Reanimate simply summons a creature at the expense of life equal to that creature's mana cost.

Similarly, Animate Dead revives a creature with the small downside of -1 power. But these are neglible drawbacks considering such low mana costs and that you can pull the cards from any graveyard.

With black's self-milling, you'll soon have plenty of great targets to pick from; one of the best black units being Sheoldred Whispering One, who makes opponents sacrifice a creature at their upkeep and revives one for you at yours.

Deadly Rollick

Deadly Rollick

Snuff Out

Snuff Out

5. Deadly Rollick/Snuff Out

Black has always been great at low-cost instant creature removal, and you'll find no cheaper options than these. Both can be hard-cast for four mana but offer different casting methods; you can play Rollick for free if you control a commander, exiling any one creature, and if you control a swamp, you can play Snuff Out freely by spending four life to destroy a non-black creature.

Both are incredibly easy conditions to meet in commander (especially with Tomb of Yawgmoth) and get around various defenses (Rollick exiles while Snuff Out prevents regeneration).

Damnation

Damnation

4. Damnation

The color-shifted counterpart to white's Wrath of God, Damnation simply destroys all creatures and prevents regeneration. This offers arguably black's best board wipe, though other interesting alternatives (like Extinction Event and Languish) also deserve mention.

Bolas's Citadel

Bolas's Citadel

3. Bolas's Citadel

Citadel costs six mana, three of which has to be black, but offers amazing powers you can potentially immediately use, as it lets you cast spells and play lands from the top of your deck, and any spells played this way are spent with life instead of mana!

You can still only do one land per turn, but with some luck (or forced shuffling via cards like fetch lands), Citadel can immediately start swarming your field. It can also tap and sacrifice ten non-land permanents to make opponents lose ten life, a great finishing blow.

Phyrexian Arena

Phyrexian Arena

Black Market Connections

Black Market Connections

2. Phyrexian Arena/Black Market Connection

Arena has been a commander staple for years, giving you an extra draw at your upkeep at the expense of one life. More recently, Black Market Connection offers similar effects with the option of which to activate each upkeep. You can spend one life for a treasure token (sac for one mana), two life for a draw, and/or three life for a 3/2 changeling.

Honestly, I find Black Market the better card, as it's more versatile and only needs one black mana, but both are staples for a reason. Many players underestimate Connection's changeling effect—keep in mind changelings have all subtypes, great for tribal builds.

Demonic Tutor

Demonic Tutor

1. Demonic Tutor

Arguably the best tutor in the game, Demonic Tutor simply finds a card and adds it to hand, no downsides or restrictions. This was so powerful that similar effects in the future often cost at least double the mana (Mastermind's Acquisition and Diabolic Tutor), as two mana is insane for whatever combo piece you're missing to go infinite or when you really need to wipe the board.

Multicolor Black Control Cards

Today we focused on mono-black aces to fit in any black commander deck, but of course you'll find more great spells by pairing with other colors. Mixing with blue gives you the draw-restricting power of Notion Thief, while red yields planeswalker Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter.

For now, share your favorite black color pairings and favorite commander staples but until then I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!

© 2022 Jeremy Gill