Welcome back to our five-part series breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of the five colors of Magic: The Gathering. Previously we covered the wide removal suite of white and the card advantage of blue. Now we will cover the middle-of-the-road black color cards.
Black is in the center of the color pie and its mechanics reflect that. It doesn’t have the most or least creatures, or noncreature cards. It doesn’t have any special connection to a card type like the other colors, and its creatures are neither the largest nor smallest. Black’s strengths and weaknesses are just as split down the middle.
Black is intended to be the single best color at creature and Planeswalker removal. Unlike white, it can deal with creatures efficiently and with no downsides. It is also the only color that can specifically destroy Planeswalkers. However, currently black cannot remove artifacts or enchantments.
Black removing enchantments was an idea long thought about by the player base, and it was even said that if enchantment removal were to be expanded to a color, it would be black. As of 2019, Wizards has said black versions of enchantments removal are something they are experimenting with.
This shows how the color pie shifts and changes but without reflecting core weaknesses. Even with the ability to sometimes remove an enchantment, black’s removal suite wouldn’t be as extreme as white’s, the largest in the game. Wizards has felt that black’s card draw being less than that of blue and removal being less than that of white made it safe enough to slightly stretch black’s removal further.
While this flavorfully shows that black can kill living things but not inanimate objects, mechanically it fits its “in-between status.” Black can draw cards like blue can, but only if it pays life, takes damage, or sacrifices something. Black is worse at broad removal than white, and worse at hard card draw than blue, but in being in the middle it gets access to both these effects in decent amounts.
Black’s creatures often reflect this method. Black’s creatures are less efficient than green and white’s, but on average more efficient than red and blue.
Black has the best creature-killing cards. If black creatures were as efficient as green’s, there would be little incentive to play green’s mana acceleration cards instead of black’s kill cards. Gameplay-wise, it makes more sense to remove enemy threats while slowly playing enough lands to cast a big creature than it does to play many cards that get you extra mana with no other purpose. This was explained by Wizards designer Ken Nagle when he was receiving submissions in the second Great Designer Search.
This means that black often has creatures with uneven power and toughness. It has top-heavy aggressive creatures like red but also defensive large toughness creatures like white and blue.
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