The Top 25 Black Cards Of All-Time: #25-21

The excellent historical series from Patrick Chapin celebrating 25 years of powerful Magic cards is back! Which black spell will come out on top at the end of the week?

We’ve been counting down the top 25 cards of each color, all this month.
, and
in the books, we’ve finally reached the big boys.

While outside the scope of this list, let me just go ahead and assure you
that Contract from Below is a clear first place in the entire game, if you
happen to be playing for ante. It’s not just a Wheel of Fortune for one
mana instead three (or five). It’s also just one-sided.

Honorable mention to Darkpact, though. I mean, how many cards let you
literally steal from people?

When I was a kid, there was a brief period in my play group, where half of
the kids didn’t want to play tournament legal decks. “The rule book says 40
cards and doesn’t mention anything about playing more than four copies of a

Patrick Chapin
Test deck on 05-01-1993

Lands (33)

Spells (7)

Magic Card Back

You see…

#25: Dismember

While Dismember is technically black, it has frequently functioned as a
colorless card, giving any deck, any colors, spot removal the likes of
which they’d normally be unable to get without very intense color
requirements. Dismember isn’t just the best “blue” spot removal in the game
and the best “green” spot removal in the game, it’s obviously the best
colorless option…

Okay, fine, other than Chaos Orb, but I mean, come on.

You really shouldn’t be able to get this good of removal if you
can’t be bothered to actually play colored mana.

Tough, but fair.

Speaking of paying life, I was hoping Hatred appeared on the list, but it
just didn’t crack the top 25. Nevertheless, I wanted to take a moment to
put a spotlight on one of the more messed up Magic designs.

It’s Channel and Fireball at the same time!

Hatred’s hyper-efficient conversion of your life for your opponents put
incredible pressure on the format, and the vast majority of the time the
card was played, the game was effectively over one way or the other.

Turn 1 Swamp, Carnophage or Sarcomancy.

Turn 2 City of Traitors, Dark Ritual, Hatred

#24: Grave Titan

To say that the Titan cycle was pretty intense would be an understatement.

Four out of five of the cycle cracking their respective color’s top 25
lists, the Titans revolutionized how powerful fatties you actually just
cast could be. They immediately warped Standard around them and have
enjoyed a fair bit of powered format success, despite ostensibly being

While Grave Titan doesn’t have the same synergistic components that some of
the others have, its raw power is rivaled only by Primeval Titan. It’s
10/10 worth of stats, spread across three bodies, plus even if it’s somehow
blocked by enough creatures to kill it, you’ve still got 8/8 across four
bodies to show for it (to say nothing of the two or three creatures it took
to take it down).

Grave Titan was a one-card plan. It was your offense, your defense, your
card advantage, your solution to anything unusual.

While we’re on the topic of creatures, I wanted to take a minute and
shoutout Gurmag Angler and Tasigur, the Golden Fang.

There’s not going to be all that many creatures on black’s top 25 list, at
least compared to green, red, and white. There’s just been too many busted
ways to pay life. Still, as far as creatures go, Gurmag Angler and Tasigur,
the Golden Fang are pretty mana efficient (and it’s not like Tombstalker is
a slouch, either).

And, unlike most other one and two-drop threats you might play, the delve
creatures all dodge Fatal Push

#23: Fatal Push

Black is supposed to be the creature kill color, but for the longest time,
the top of the lists were exclusively reserved for white and red cards.

Dismember being black’s offering kind of defeated the point, but when Fatal
Push was printed, black finally had a one-cost removal spell worthy of the
tippity-top tier one status of those other iconic spells. What’s more, the
gameplay of Fatal Push is absolutely fantastic, and the incentives the card
promotes are absolutely brilliant. In the grand scheme of things, I
wouldn’t be surprised if Fatal Push is one of the ten best designed cards
of all-time (from a final design/development standpoint).

Fatal Push scales so perfectly with the format its being played in,
providing much needed tempo early while having the ability to be used more
generally later.

Just as the above list feature Grasp of Darkness and Dark Salvation, so to
do many decks with Fatal Push often have a mix of other removal spells as
well, without necessarily maxing on Pushes. Obviously, the card has
diminishing returns, but it’s also, at times, been a victim of its own
success, pushing players to play more threes than they otherwise would for

While all one-cost cards tend to scale better in powered formats, thanks to
the change in value of mana as the format gets stronger, Fatal Push is
especially benefited. Everyone else’s cards being cheaper means more
targets for Pushing, and juicier ones at that.

#22: Demonic Consultation

Many folks pick for “worst card in the game” when it came out, Demonic
Consultation was ruthlessly effective… for those brave enough to cast it.

When Black Vise was restricted just before the first Pro Tour, Necropotence
began to gain traction; however, it was only a few savvy Junior divisions
players that had embraced Demonic Consultation (largely, as a way to find
Necropotence, although Hymn to Tourach, Dark Ritual, Drain Life, and Swamp
were all pretty good choices too).

Casting Demonic Consultation always carried with it a chance of losing the
game immediately. After all, what if all your Necropotences were in the top
six cards of your deck?


That’s the probability that at least one of your four Necropotences is
still in your deck after exiling the top six cards from a turn one Consult.
Obviously, it’s still bad for you if it was the last card in your deck or
whatever, but the card made people fear casting it like no other.

Even when you had to gamble on something riskier like one of your two
remaining copies of Drain Life, you gotta do what you gotta do, and the
odds were usually in your favor.

As discussed
atop the green list
, Demonic Consultation for the one copy of Channel was actually a dominant
strategy in 1995!

Just as many players initially wanted to play just three Necropotence (it
gets “worse” in multiples), players were constantly running lists with
three Demonic Consultations, despite how powerfully it pulled everything

Randy Buehler, Erik Lauer, and the rest of Team CMU were not
afraid to Consult like they meant it, nor afraid to Necro harder than

In a room full of Knight of Stromgald and Order of the Ebon Hand, the
sequence of Necro-ing for eleven cards, then Firestorming the opponent’s
entire battlefield, while still ending up with seven cards was typically

Yeah, I mean, you can Disenchant your Necropotence, if you really
want to. However, the real reason Disenchant is featured here was because
of the prevalence of Winter Orb and Serrated Arrows.

#21: Cabal Therapy

Cabal Therapy is an interesting case, because based on my experience
playing the card, I’d actually have to put it much higher on the list in a
PTQ setting. It’s not just a skill-testing card, but one that rewards a
particular subset of skills to such a degree, it’s hard to really draw good

If you are just playing the card straight up, it’s kind of a “build your
own Thoughtseize.” That said, it was always particularly powerful that you
could ensure your opponent doesn’t have the card that can stop you, since
even if you missed, it meant they didn’t have that card.

Cabal Therapy’s synergy with cards that let you look at your opponent’s
hand are obvious, but now that Gitaxian Probe is banned in Legacy, it might
be a good time to remind folks to name Brainstorm with their blind Cabal

You know what I mean, right? Like, its turn one, you’ve got a Cabal
Therapy, and you have zero information about what your opponent is playing.
Name Brainstorm. Obviously, if you have information, that’s a different
story, but if all you know is that you are playing Legacy, Brainstorm is
typically the move.

Cabal Therapy enjoyed a resurgence with the printing of Young Pyromancer,
supplying a convenient source of sacrifice, as well as synergy with Cabal
Therapy counting as two spells played.

The so-called Nic Fit decks go a step further and actually take advantage
of Cabal Therapy’s ability to let you sacrifice creatures.

Cabal Therapy has also been a crucial component of graveyard combo decks
seeking to flip their deck. After all, once you discard your deck, it’s
like you get to search up all your Cabal Therapies; and once you’ve got no
cards left in your deck, it’s usually the perfect time for a Cabal Therapy
naming Force of Will or whatever.

Pushing this to an extreme, Cabal Therapy can even be used simply as a
zero-cost interaction spell, without even intending to cast it the normal
way. Hall of Famer Mike Turian used to sideboard Cabal Therapy in his G/W Odyssey block deck, planning to discard it to Wild Mongrel or
Patrol Hound, in order to defend himself against Mirari’s Wake.

In some ways, it’s kind of like Dismember, in that it’s the best discard
spell ever for most colors besides black.

Manaless Dredge is one of the most extreme strategies in all of Magic. It’s
one thing to play with two land, or one, or even zero and just plan on
using lots of artifacts and Rituals, but to actually play with zero cards
capable of generating mana at all?

This deck circumvents the possibility of a game of Magic occurring like no
other. You just choose to go second, discard to hand size, and start
dredging. Even if you get stuck “having to play first,” you just do nothing
and pass the turn.

Do not mulligan with Manaless Dredge. Every mulligan is giving
your opponent a free Time Walk, and besides, whether you start dredging
three, four, five, or six, you’ll get there. Yeah, you might need to, if
you have actual zero Dredge cards in your hand, but even Street Wraith and
Gitaxian Probe make a good case for keeping and hoping.

By the way, Dread Return definitely deserves an honorable mention.
Shockingly, another card that lets you pay life or sacrifice creatures
instead of paying its cost has been known to break formats. Who would have