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Necropotence Primer
By Oscar Tan aka Rakso
Type I Necropotence FAQ by Oscar Tan
Type I Maintainer, www.bdominia.com
Necropotence history by JP Meyer

Rakso’s casual play Necropotence deck
The “combo” (Necropotence + life gain) (12)
4 Necropotence
2 Ivory Tower
1 Zuran orb
2 Drain Life
1 Mirror Universe

Disruption (9)
4 Hymn to Tourach
4 Sinkhole
1 Nether Void

Creatures (4)
4 Hypnotic Specter

Creature kill (4)
4 Lightning Bolt

Utility (5)
1 Yawgmoth’s Will
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Balance
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor

Mana (26)
4 Dark Ritual
1 Library of Alexandria
3 Wasteland
1 Strip Mine
1 Volrath’s Stronghold
4 Scrubland
4 Badlands
4 Underground Sea
2 Undiscovered Paradise
2 Lake of the Dead

Introduction
The above deck is roughly what I play just to have fun with Necropotence. It is hardly something anyone would take to a Type I tournament. However, it—a deck that looks like it was slapped together from leftovers of other decks—is presented here to illustrate the concepts behind the Necropotence strategy.

Despite its seemingly confused construction, it can be lethal while being fun, and actually functions as if it were three different decks. Once, I had the following casual game against a blue player:

Me: Scrubland, Dark Ritual, Necropotence
Him: Remote Isle
Me: Badlands, Hymn to Tourach
Him: Island, Fog Bank
Me: Wasteland (Waste Remote Isle), Sinkhole Island
Him: Island
Me: Sinkhole Island, Lightning Bolt Fog Bank

Eventually, I play a Hypnotic Specter and he sits there without any permanents or cards in hand.

First rule of Necro: Your first 19 life points are expendable (just don’t lose #20)
Most beginning Magic players revel in life gain. I remember buying my second starter box and reacted that Ivory Tower was a god card while Swords to Plowshares (which gave the opponent life) was completely useless.

Later on, after some games after his belt and some mathematical insight, the player realizes that life is simply a resource.

Magic is a game of interacting resources. The more cards one has in hand, the better his chances of winning. The more permanents one has in play, the better his chances of winning. And so on.

The two resources that do not follow this common sense are the library and the life total, and understanding this is almost like a rite of passage for a Magic player. Take the Millstone, for example. Beginners’ eyes light up at the thought of depleting the opponent’s library, but unless one can Mill the last cards away, those cards may well have just been at the bottom of the library, irrelevant to the game.

Thus, as long as the opponent can draw a card the following turn, the number of cards in the library does not affect the game. (Of course, removing certain cards from the library such as one part of a combo can have a great impact on the game later on, making Jester’s Cap lethal for some decks, but that was a general statement.)

The life total follows. Being at 1 life or at 100 does not prevent you from casting spells, attacking, or in the end, winning.

Thus, you need just 1 life to play the game. 19 extra life do not affect the game, while 19 more land or 19 more cards in hand or 19 more attackers would make a big impact.

Necropotence allows you to trade 1 life for 1 card in hand and you have 19 life to spare at the beginning of the game. With a little imagination, you can see why the Skull is the most lethal unrestricted card in Type I.

Regardless of the format, Necropotence decks have thus existed in every format where the Skull is legal, from Type I to Ice Age Block Constructed. Regardless of whatever cards are available, one can take cheap but effective black cards to come up with a deck that casts cards quickly and replenishes its hand quickly with Necropotence.

(Incidentally, one of the first decks built to combat the dominant Necropotence deck was Turbo-Stasis, which uses Stasis to cut off the Necrodeck’s mana supply and neutralize the extra cards, and other anti-Necro decks used cards such as Winter Orb to accomplish the same thing.)

Second rule of Necro: Pro-active cards
A Counterspell neutralizes a card being played, making it and its cousins the first card one thinks of when one hears the term “control deck”. The player has to understand, however, that even though the first Necrodecks won by swarming an opponent with knights, the Necrodeck is a control deck.

The cards that make up the bulk of a Necrodeck can be called pro-active control cards. Instead of reacting to spells as they are being played, they neutralize the opponent’s cards before they can be brought into play. This is because despite the awesome card-drawing power of the skull, you can only hold seven cards in hand each turn, and you need to maximize these slots by cycling through them quickly instead of holding back spells (which is why the reactive counterspells are generally not used in Necrodecks).

These cards can be divided into three different categories: 1) discard, 2) land destruction, and 3) creature destruction

Discard
In the present Type I environment with powerful combo and control decks, discard is the most disruptive option available to the Necrodeck. A discard spell function similar to a counterspell in that it neutralizes a card even before the opponent has cast it. The opponent often has no choice in what he loses, disrupting his ability to plan his next plays (lethal when playing against a combo deck).

The rule for discard is simple: In most cases, cast discard spells before anything else, to deplete your opponent’s hand before it is emptied by the normal play of cards.

The most commonly used Type I discard spells are Hymn to Tourach and Duress, and then Unmask.

Duress and Unmask allow you to see the opponent’s hand and remove the most dangerous card, which is powerful whether you are removing the Swords to Plowshares that would have killed your Abyssal Specter in an all-Ice Age game, or whether you are removing the Timetwister the opponent could have used to negate your earlier discard spells. Note, by the way, that Unmask can be used to remove creature and land threats while Duress cannot touch these.

Hymn to Tourach removes two spells from your opponent’s hand at the cost of one of your own, further deepening the Necrodeck’s card advantage (though the discard spells that strip just one card at the cost of one card still leave you with an advantage due to your superior ability to replace them, especially since you pick which of your opponent’s cards to remove).

Other choices have included Painful and Agonizing Memories from the Mirage block which cause an opponent to lose future draw phases much like Fallow Earth and Plow Under in green decks (and I recommend Volrath’s Dungeon as a superb stall card in decks that can inflict a lot of damage during the attack phase) and Mind Warp from Ice Age fueled by Lake of the Dead. Abandon Hope, by the way, is generally not worth it.

Unlike the casual deck at the beginning of this FAQ, most Necrodecks will focus on one form of disruption, and with the cheap but brutal discard in Type I and the existence of Moxen, discard is the favorite choice.

(The Magic Invitational 2000 deck of Mike Long at the end of this FAQ illustrates this nicely, sporting 4 each of Duress, Hymn and Unmask against the Trix-style Necropotence decks in common use.)

Land Destruction
These cards (primarily just the cheap Sinkhole, Strip Mine and Wasteland) were most useful when Tolarian Academy combo-mania was at its height. With the October ’99 restrictions, however, land d has become the weakest form of disruption. It is played like discard: Play it before anything else and then address what has been cast.

One must note, however, that the objective of land d is not to destroy the opponent’s mana. It is simply to disrupt his mana production long enough for your other cards to win the game before he can recover.

Before Wasteland, the first Necrodecks played 4 Strip Mines. Due to Strip Mine’s restriction, however, Necrodecks that already have 4 Sinkholes have to turn to Choking Sands, Icequake and Rain of Tears, with Choking Sands’ “nonswamp” drawback negated by the damage it deals and by the fact that more inflexible black decks should be easier for the Necrodeck to beat.

Nether Void is a fun addition to a Necrodeck sporting enough land d card to take advantage of it. One can simply cast a creature and then drop Nether Void, especially since you can recover faster by Necroing for more land to bring your cheaper spells back into casting range.

Two factors, however, have made the second favorite Enchant World a weaker choice: 1) Against 6-land Tolarian Academy decks, the Void was powerful because it prevented the deck’s artifact mana from entering play, but these decks are no longer played due to the October ’99 restrictions; and 2) Under Fifth Edition rules, Dark Ritual was not countered under Nether Void before it gave a player 3 mana as it was a mana source, but this changed when it became an ordinary instant in Sixth Edition.

Creature destruction
This third category has never been the dominant disruption category (unlike in old 5-color black decks that had 4 Shadow Guildmages, 4 Man O’Wars, 4 Nekrataals and 4 Contagions) but is indispensable in any deck.

The cards of choice are mainly Contagion and Diabolic Edict, and the choice depends on the environment (the former is better against weenies while the latter is better against fatties, especially Morphling).

Spinning Darkness is another popular choice (useful if one is not using Yawgmoth’s Will), and saw the most use in decks with Steel Golem (Spinning Darkness could be cast on the Golem just to gain 3 life). Terror is also useful as a sideboard card against fatties, though one sees more Phyrexian Negators and Morphlings than Erhnam Djinns these days. Splashed colors allow access to more potent creature destruction spells such as Lightning Bolt and cousins and Swords to Plowshares.

In more creature-heavy casual environments, mass creature destruction can be integrated, and the best choices include Balance, Massacre and Firestorm. Firestorm has excellent synergy with Necropotence in such an environment because one can simply Necro for more cards than his maximum hand size and discard the weaker cards to Firestorm.

Finally, classic Necro decks in the Ice Age era used Serrated Arrows to combat popular knights, especially white creatures with protection from black (the 1-toughness pumpknights became less common with the printing of Mogg Fanatic in Tempest, but the same set also gave Necrodecks Fevered Convulsions, an enchantment similar to a mana hungry Serrated Arrows).

The classic mass destruction spell is, of course, Nevinyrral’s Disk. In the first Necrodecks, this served not only as a reset button to clear the board (when your opponent had more permanents than you) but to destroy Necropotence, then regain advantage quickly due to cards drawn through Necro, and regain one’s regular draw as well.

The classic Disk, however, is expensive and enters play tapped, and Powder Keg has proven to be a popular alternative. Aside from small creatures, Powder Keg is useful in Type I for destroying Moxes (and man-lands). The Keg’s speed is often a good trade-off for the inability to destroy enchantments.

One casual combo, by the way, is to use a Nekrataal recycled by Volrath’s Stronghold. Of course, this is inefficient for competitive play.

Third rule of Necro: one life = one card
Demonic Consultation is more frequently used than Vampiric Tutor in Necrodecks. Why? Demonic Consultation (disregarding the drawback) uses up one card (the Consult) to place a card of choice into your hand (net loss: zero cards). Vampiric Tutor uses up one card to replace your next draw with a card of your choice with the additional cost of two life, which could have been used with Necropotence to draw two more cards (net loss: three cards).

Such computations must become second nature to the Necro player. They can be used more subtly, however. Imagine that an opposing Jackal Pup is attacking you. If it deals damage, you will not be losing two life, but two future cards in hand. Thus, if you expend a spell to destroy the Pup, you actually gain one card from the exchange. Early on, then, if you have to sacrifice a small knight or Specter to block a larger creature, it is generally worth it.

Of course, one must not lose sight of the end goal: to win. Using the above rule, the Masticore’s forced discard and the Juzam Djinn’s damage are equivalent drawbacks in a Necrodeck. However, regardless of whatever drawbacks, they can kill an opponent very quickly!

A final note on this rule is the art of over-Necroing, or paying more life to draw more cards than your maximum hand size. Not quite a waste of life, this aggressive use of Necropotence allows you to select the best cards among those Necroed; you can just discard extra swamps. Note that slots in your hand must be cycled quickly in a Necrodeck, and there is little need to hold on to cards you will not need if you can use the slot for another new card.

It takes practice to know when to do this. I generally do it when I see unwanted extra copies of Necropotence in hand or are digging for more of a specific type of spell which will save me or win the game. This technique is key to succeeding with combo decks that use Necropotence to speed up the lock, as further discussed in the Trix FAQ of this Mill.

The other components: Creatures
The rest of the Necrodeck consists of creatures and miscellaneous utility cards.

Creatures are mainly there to win by damaging the opponent. The classic Necro creature was the Hypnotic Specter (a 2/2 flyer with an incredibly disruptive ability, for just 3 mana) backed by small knights (Black Knight, Order of the Ebon Hand, Knight of Stromgald). A first-turn Specter against a slower deck (with Dark Ritual) is sometimes an automatic win while the knights are excellent early blockers and the increase in power makes them useful later on. As an aside, Order of the Ebon hand is superior to the otherwise identical Knight of Stromgald because of the existence of Knight of the Mists, a blue knight that destroys a knight when it enters play (Order of the Ebon Hand is a cleric).

More recent weenie creatures used in Type II included Skittering Skirge (for fast, flying damage), Steel Golem (3/4 for 3 mana) and Bottle Gnomes (the life gain was amplified when used with Corpse Dance).

Larger creatures are used for faster kills once the Necro player gains the momentum, and Necrodecks have included Sengir Vampires, Necrosavants and even Snake Baskets. Four creatures stand out in Type I, however:

 Ihsan’s Shade, which is unaffected by the common creaturekill spells (Swords to Plowshares, Lightning Bolt and Terror and the variants of these)
 Juzam Djinn, which is 5/5 for 4 mana
 Phyrexian Negator, which is 5/5 for 3 mana, with a drawback that cannot be taken advantage of by control and combo decks.
 Masticore, which can single-handedly make up for its drawback by acting as a permanent source of damage against opposing weenies

As a note, the Negator’s cheap cost has earned it the slots formerly occupied by Juzams or Knights in Necrodecks. When drawn against burn decks or other opponents it should not be played against, it can still be used to cast Unmask or Contagion. When low on life, one can also use the Negator to destroy Necropotence, regaining one’s regular draw.

Splashed creatures are not uncommon, and some of the first Extended Necrodecks tried creatures such as Erhnam Djinn and Wildfire Emissary. My personal favorite, however, is the Sedge Troll, which is an excellent blocker.

The other components: Life gain
In the present Type I, the popularity of control and combo decks negates the usefulness of life gain as these often do not deal damage until they are about to win. The classic sources of life gain are the formerly restricted Ivory Tower and Zuran Orb, though these are easy targets for the increasingly popular Powder Kegs. In environments with more burn and creature decks, however, these can be very important, especially with the unrestriction of the Tower.

The Zuran Orb should not be underestimated because it, unlike the Tower, can give life at instant speed, and even decks that pass over the Towers often include one Orb. The only other useful permanent that allows this instant-speed life gain is a splashed Peace of Mind, but its effectiveness is hampered by the amount of white mana available.

Other means of life gain can be integrated into Necrodecks, however, such as Bottle Gnomes and Spinning Darkness.

The most potent alternate source of life gain is still the classic Drain Life (with its clone, Corrupt). In the early Necrodecks, this was nicknamed the Draingeyser for its similarity to Braingeyser when played with Necropotence.

Drain Life is preferred by more aggressive players over Ivory Tower because it damages the opponent and gains life as a bonus. Fueled by Lake of the Dead when Alliances was legal, Drain Life was and still is a powerful finisher. Of course, it is easily used against an opponent’s larger creatures.

Finally, a former favorite in Type I was Mirror Universe because one could kill by using Necropotence to reduce oneself to zero life in response to the Mirror, killing the opponent when the effects resolved. This is no longer legal after Sixth Edition, but the Mirror is still a powerful and fun card, if too expensive (in terms of mana) for competitive play.

The other components: Tutoring
Demonic Tutor is, of course, a no-brainer in any black deck. The next two choices, Vampiric Tutor and Demonic Consultation, require a little more thought.

Vampiric Tutor’s net loss of three cards has been explained in a preceding section, and this card is useful mainly in a deck with restricted cards capable of swinging the game (such as Balance and Yawgmoth’s Will). Just remember to cast this before your end phase if Necropotence is in play.

Demonic Consultation, on the other hand, is often laughed at by less knowledgeable players. The drawback of removing several cards (sometimes half to almost all) from one’s library can be misleading, however. Remember the earlier statement that the number of cards in one’s library does not affect the game?

In a very fast and aggressive Necrodeck, the flexibility provided by Consult can make for a faster win (for example, first-turn Consult for a Hymn to Tourach or Necropotence). In this case, the cards removed do not affect the game, and the Extended Trix decks (which used the Donate-Illusions of Grandeur combo in a Necrodeck to win very quickly) exploited this very well. Obviously, unless in desperate circumstances, one uses Consult to fetch a card that still has three or four copies in the deck.

One should be careful when using Demonic Consultation in a deck with key restricted cards (or even a specific key card; in some games, Trix decks lost all copies of Donate or Illusions of Grandeur to unlucky Consults), or decks with very few victory conditions (say, 4 Specters and 4 Drain Life) lost most of these.

The other components: The power cards
Cards that do not fit in any of the above categories are often the most powerful cards a Necrodeck can choose to use. It makes sense, in fact, to splash blue and white mana sources just for Balance, Ancestral Recall and Time Walk, and the only drawback is increased vulnerability to cards that attack non-basic land.

Balance has been questioned by some, but when one realizes that 1 life = 1 card, the trade-off of discarding one’s cards in hand and using Balance to clear the opponent’s weenie swarm becomes obvious.

The most potent black restricted card is Yawgmoth’s Will, especially combined with Dark Ritual. Why? In the sample game in the introduction, before the game ended, I cast Yawgmoth’s Will with a Dark Ritual and with two more in my graveyard. I ended up re-casting the Hymns, Sinkholes and even a Lightning Bolt from my graveyard, and replayed a dual land sacrificed to Lake of the Dead. When Yawgmoth’s Will and Necropotence were both legal in Type II, players even used Urza’s Bauble to gain free draws each time Yawgmoth’s Will was played.

Finally, Timetwister is the most potent ANTI-Necropotence card (casting Mystical Tutor for Timetwister allows an opponent to recover from discard). It is NOT splashed in a Necrodeck.

The other components: Land
In constructing his winning Extended Necrodeck, Randy Buehler reasoned that without Hypnotic Specter, there was no reason to play Dark Ritual and he got more consistent draws for it. In Type I, however, it is more than worth it to play Swamp-Ritual-Necropotence and then refill one’s hand, and Yawgmoth’s Will only makes the Ritual more effective.

The rest of the land mix is almost self-explanatory. It must be noted, however, that City of Brass is a painful choice for this deck—even more painful than Ice Age painlands that can be tapped for colorless mana—and that when needed, Mirage fetchlands, Gemstone Mines and Undiscovered Paradise provide better alternatives (Reflecting Pool is useless unless one uses Peace of Mind as splashed spells do not require a second point of mana in the splashed color).

Fetchlands can also be used to confuse an opponent, by the way, and Buehler used Bad River (which searches for a swamp or island) in his deck (that splashed white and red but not blue) because there was the chance to make an unwary opponent think that he was also using blue. When using fetch lands, use them before one’s draw to decrease the chances of drawing land.

The utility lands require little explanation as well. Strip Mine and Wasteland help disrupt an opponent’s land. Volrath’s Stronghold can run an opposing deck out of counters and creature removal spells (unless someone is using Swords to Plowshares). Library of Alexandria used during the opponent’s end of turn turns a seven-card hand from Necropotence into an eight-card hand, and does not hurt Ivory Tower. Mishra’s Factory was also a classic Necro card, serving as additional creature damage and as an early blocker. Just be wary of using too many colorless lands as most Necrodeck spells have a heavy black component, with Necropotence itself requiring three black mana.

Finally, Lake of the Dead, as mentioned, can provide great mana boosts and was important when Alliances was legal in boosting Mind Warp, Drain Life and escaping Winter Orb. However, with the printing of Wasteland, it can be a great liability to its owner, though it can be played only when the Drain Life is about to be cast.

Final note: When to play Necropotence?
One cannot discuss the variety of cards used in Necrodecks, but again, they all follow the same concepts. The last important concept, however, is how to use Necropotence.

Despite its power, Necropotence cannot be played in just any turn because the regular (free) draw each turn is important. The first Necrodecks with Nevinyrral’s Disk would play Necropotence when the game was at a standstill and both hands were depleted. The boost in cards would swing the game and then they would use Nevinyrral’s Disk to clear the board and regain the regular draws in addition to the newly-filled hand.

Today, however, the many cheap and disruptive spells that have been added since Ice Age and Alliances makes this style of using Disk and Necro to break an even position obsolete. Modern Necrodecks are designed to run with Necropotence in play, and a first-turn Dark Ritual and Necropotence has been described as one of the killer combos of Magic.

In general, one will now spend the first two turns casting discard and play Necropotence on the third. My personal rule is to consider playing Necropotence when I have no more lands to play, even if I can cast a creature, so that I can Necro into more land for the succeeding turns, which further increases the number of cards I cycle through.

Of course, common sense is always necessary. If you are playing first and have a Dark Ritual and a Necropotence, you can simply play the Necro because you will have used half your hand (and this is especially good if you are facing a blue deck with counters). Given Force of Will, of course, it might be prudent to play Duress first and play the Necropotence the following turn.

If, on the other hand, you are facing a burn deck and are at less than 10 life, the Necropotence is bound to kill you. If you have no more cards in your library, Necropotence will win you the game.

Necropotence is even more interesting when playing against it with a slower deck that deals less damage more slowly. As a general rule, prevent Necropotence from entering play (counter it, in other words). If Necropotence is in play, however, the general rule is to leave it alone. Casting Disenchant on it, for example, will only allow the Necro player to Necro in response and regain his regular draw the following turn. The better response is to do all you can to attack the player’s life total (and life gain).

Of course, if you have no way to attack the player’s life total (when playing a creatureless control deck or Draw-Go, for example), you have no choice but to remove Necropotence from the board.

Final, final note: Yawgmoth’s Bargain is not Necropotence
There is big a difference in the casting costs, and the Bargain’s (though you get the cards in hand instantly instead of at the end of turn) cost restricts it to combo decks (which is why it was restricted). You cannot play a Bargain as if it were a Necropotence. Cannot.

Sample competitive Type I Necrodeck (geared against combo and control)
4 Necropotence
4 Hymn to Tourach
4 Duress
4 Powder Keg
2 Contagion
4 Hypnotic Specter
4 Phyrexian Negator
1 Zuran Orb
2 Drain Life
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Yawgmoth’s Will
1 Balance
1 Time Walk
1 Ancestral Recall
4 Dark Ritual
1 Strip Mine
4 Wasteland
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Jet
1 Library of Alexandria
4 Scrubland
4 Underground Sea
4 Swamp
2 Rocky Tar Pit


Necropotence history by JP Meyer

When Necropotence was originally released in Ice Age in 1994, most people wrote it off as a "trash rare" and it was relegated to bargain bins. Necrodecks did not pick up until the inaugural Pro Tour in February 1996. Leon Lindbäck took this Necrodeck to the Top Eight:

4 Necropotence
4 Order of the Ebon Hand
4 Hymn to Tourach
4 Hypnotic Specter
4 Dark Ritual
4 Drain Life
3 Knight of Stromgald
2 Serrated Arrows
2 Nevinyrral's Disk
1 Soul Burn
1 Jalum Tome
1 Dark Banishing
1 Dance of the Dead
Zuran Orb
Ivory Tower
17 Swamp
4 Strip Mine
2 Ebon Stronghold

When one looks at this deck, remember to keep in mind that this deck was built under the "Homedicapped" restrictions, which required that between the deck and sideboard, there would be 5 cards from each of the legal sets.

At this time, some important aspects of deck construction were not considered as important as they are nowadays. This deck is not nearly as redundant as the current Necrodecks. This is due to the early belief that they will lead to wasted draws. Demonic Consultation is also not used, as people were afraid they would Consult away their many restricted cards. The early Necrodecks also thought of themselves less as "Necro" decks but as "Disk" decks. They would use Nevinyrral's Disk to clear the board (playing typically only 1 or 2 creatures at a time to minimize card disadvantage from the Disk) and only use The Skull to overpower their opponent during a stalemate.

Necro quickly became the dominant deck in Type II. This was caused in part to the restriction of Land Tax and Black Vise that heavily hurt aggressive and controlling decks enough to allow Necro to dominate. During the so-called "Black Summer" of 1996, it was not farfetched for Necro decks to make up half of tournaments. Necrodecks also dominated Worlds and Nationals that year. Mark Justice took this B/R Necrodeck featuring the then little-used Demonic Consultation (in the sideboard.) He also made the infamous Consult in the finals against Tom Chanpheng where in an attempt to get a Dark Ritual, he lost every Swamp in his deck, and conceding shortly after.

4 Necropotence
4 Dark Ritual
4 Hymn to Tourach
4 Hypnotic Specter
3 Nevinyrral’s Disk
3 Black Knight
3 Contagion
3 Drain Life
2 Ihsan's Shade
2 Order of the Ebon Hand
2 Serrated Arrows
1 Zuran Orb
1 Ivory Tower
1 Fireball
10 Swamps
4 Sulfurous Springs
4 Strip Mine
3 Mishra’s Factory
1 Lava Tubes
1 City of Brass

The DCI decided to weaken Necrodecks by restricting both Strip Mine and Hymn to Tourach. In addition, Prison decks that hurt Necro's mana base became prevalent as well. Neither was enough to stop Brian Hacker and Paul McCabe at PT Dallas. Hacker piloted this Necrodeck to first place after the Swiss. His Necrodeck was based around a 2 casting-cost "flash point" loaded with weenie creatures, using Necro only for a more secondary role:


4 Bad Moon
4 Black Knight
4 Choking Sands
4 Hypnotic Specter
4 Knight of Stromgald
4 Order of the Ebon Hand
3 Dark Ritual
3 Erg Raiders
2 Contagion
2 Terror
2 Necropotence
1 Drain Life
1 Hymn to Tourach
1 Nevinyrral's Disk
16 Swamp
4 Mishra's Factory
1 Strip Mine

But McCabe won it all, defeating Jason Zila, who was playing a Prison deck, in the finals. McCabe's deck instead run few creatures (4 Specters, 2 Vampires, 1 Shade,) opting to focus more on the Lake/Drain combo and creature removal:

4 Necropotence
4 Hypnotic Specter
4 Dark Ritual
4 Drain Life
4 Nevinyrral's Disk
3 Contagion
3 Stupor
2 Mind Warp
2 Sengir Vampire
1 Ihsan's Shade
1 Serrated Arrows
Ivory Tower
Zuran Orb
Hymn to Tourach
18 Swamp
2 Lake of the Dead
2 Mishra's Factory
Strip Mine

Necro was effectively killed in Type II following the rotation of Ice Age, Fallen Empires, and Fourth Edition from Standard on January 1, 1997. However, Necrodecks flourished in the newly established Extended scene. Randy Buehler piloted this Necrodeck to a first place finish at Pro Tour Chicago in 1997, making Necro the first (and only, if you consider Oath of Druids and Millstone two separate decks instead of the generic idea of B/W Control) deck to win two Pro Tours:

4 Necropotence
4 Hymn to Tourach
4 Knight of Stromgald
4 Order of the Ebon Hand
4 Demonic Consultation
4 Drain Life
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Disenchant
2 Incinerate
2 Firestorm
1 Ihsan's Shade
8 Swamps
4 Badlands
4 Scrubland
3 Gemstone Mine
3 Lake of the Dead
2 Bad River

This was the first of the "modern" Necrodecks. It uses inexpensive spells to be able to maximize the card-drawing power of Necropotence. It also shows the emergence of Demonic Consultation. The deck, according to its creator, Erik Lauer, is as much of a Consultdeck as it is a Necrodeck. The deck's second feature is the lack of Dark Ritual. With the banning of Hypnotic Specter in Extended, the explosiveness of Ritual-Specter was gone. The deck instead focuses on consistency, evident through the deck's lack of spells costing more than 2 mana.

However, with the release of Tempest in the fall of 1997, the Necrodeck was sent into hiding again. It could no longer afford so many non-basic lands with the emergence of Wasteland. Its Knights were easily killed by the new Mogg Fanatic and Cursed Scroll.

Combo decks dominated Pro Tour Rome. When asked how he would fix the mess Magic had become, Chris Pikula replied "ban everything until Necro is good, then ban Necro." Necro reemerged amidst a miasma of combo decks at Pro Tour Rome in 1998, powered by powerful new cards from Urza's Saga. Cards such as Duress and Yawgmoth's Will soon became ubiquitous in future Necrodecks. Andre Konstanczer took this Necrodeck to the Top 8:

4 Necropotence
4 Dark Ritual
4 Knight of Stronghold
4 Hymn of Tourach
4 Duress
4 Drain Life
3 Demonic Consultation
3 Contagion
2 Yawgmoth's Will
2 Firestorm
2 Sedge Troll
1 Sengir Vampire
9 Swamp
4 Wasteland
4 Badland
2 Bad River
2 Sulfurous Spring
2 Lake of the Death

Adrian Sullivan, rogue deckbuilder extrordinaire also had a Necrodeck in Rome. But Sullivan's Necrodeck was like no other Necrodeck before. His was the first combo Necrodeck, this one using the Pandemonium/Phyrexian Dreadnaught combo (note, this deck does not work after Phyrexian Dreadnaught was errataed around Worlds '99

4 Necropotence
4 Demonic Consultation
4 Pandemonium
4 Phyrexian Dreadnought
4 Reanimate
4 Mana Vault
4 Dark Ritual
4 Lotus Petal
3 Final Fortune
3 Duress
2 Vampiric Tutor
5 Swamp
4 Badland
4 Sulfurous Springs
4 Gemstone Mine
3 City of Brass

Type 2 was also engulfed in the "combo winter" during early 1999. Between Academy, Spiral, Free Willy, and Enchantress, there were few potential deck types available at this time. Despite this, Brian Hacker managed to take this Necrodeck to a 3-0 record at the 1999 Duelist Invitational:

4 Necropotence
4 Dark Ritual
4 Diabolic Edict
4 Duress
4 Drain Life
4 Yawgmoth's Will
4 Urza's Bauble
4 Nevinyrral's Disk
3 Skittering Skirge
2 Corrupt
1 Persecute
22 Swamp

This type of Necrodeck became immensely popular at the US Regionals that year, causing a "black spring." Fortunately (or unfortunately,) Necropotence was not reprinted in 6th Edition that summer. Brian Weissman of "The Deck" fame won the Northern California Regionals that year with this Necrodeck:

4 Necropotence
4 Dark Ritual
4 Diabolic Edict
4 Drain Life
4 Duress
4 Nevinyrral's Disk
4 Urza's Bauble
4 Yawgmoth's Will
3 Skittering Skirge
3 Corrupt
2 Stalking Stones
20 Swamp

After the huge changes to the Extended environment in the fall of 1999, Necro emerged yet again for PT Chicago. Pat Chapin played a Necrodeck designed by Eric Taylor based around "free spells" to quickly empty its hand to allow for more effective Necroing, even under mana denial strategy such as Winter Orb. Chapin took this version of Necro, lauded by many as the best deck in the tournament, to an 11th place finish:

4 Necropotence
4 Contagion
4 Corrupt
4 Dark Ritual
4 Demonic Consultation
4 Duress
4 Spinning Darkness
4 Unmask
3 Drain Life
3 Masticore
1 Nevinyrral's Disk
21 Swamp

While Chapin's Necrodeck was extremely powerful, another Necrodeck became the talk of PT Chicago. A contingent of British players led by Tony Dobson brought a new kind of Necrodeck to Chicago: Cocoa Pebbles. They had been searching for a way to make the Fruity Pebbles (Enduring Renewal, Shield Sphere, Goblin Bombardment) combo deck more resilient against blue decks after sideboarding. Necropotence was suggested, and afterwards, the Britons decided the deck ran better as a whole. The deck was enormously successful, with players playing it finishing 6th, 9th, and 24th.

4 Necropotence
4 Academy Rector
4 Shield Sphere
4 Dark Ritual
4 Demonic Consultation
4 Duress
4 Goblin Bombardment
3 Enduring Renewal
3 Mox Diamond
2 Phyrexian Walker
1 Mana Vault
1 Aura of Silence
4 Badlands
4 City of Brass
4 Gemstone Mine
3 Peat Bog
3 Phyrexian Tower
4 Scrubland

No one had thought to play a Necrodeck like this before. This one contained NO lifegain, NO aggressive creatures, and NO way to remove yourself from a lock at 1 life. It is possibly the ultimate evolution of the Necrodeck, a Necrodeck that simply wins after casting The Skull. Or so everyone thought.

4 Necropotence
4 Illusions of Grandeur
4 Donate
4 Demonic Consultation
4 Duress
4 Force of Will
4 Dark Ritual
3 Vampiric Tutor
3 Mana Vault
2 Lim-Dul's Vault
1 Firestorm
1 Hoodwink
7 Swamp
4 Underground River
4 Underground Sea
4 Gemstone Mine
2 Badlands
1 Island

Michelle Bush of Your Move Games is the "mother" of the Trix deck. Bush based the deck on an idea on the Charm School mailing list. Even Dobson commented that this was the best deck in Extended; it contains Necropotence, Demonic Consultation, Duress, and Force of Will. While this version of a Necropotence-based combo is slightly slower than Cocoa Pebbles, it is significantly more resilient due to the lifegain of the Illusions and the all-mighty Force of Will. The draw of the initial Necro allows the deck to set up a perfect hand, typically 1 Donate, 1 Illusions of Grandeur, 1 random blue card, 1 Force of Will, 1 land, 1 mana producer (typically Mana Vault or Dark Ritual,) and 1 miscellaneous card, usually a Duress, Firestorm, or Hoodwink. The deck then Duresses the opponent (if necessary,) casts the Illusions (using Force of Will to protect it) and casts the Donate if possible. If not, the Trix player can simply use their 20 new life to draw up more mana producers and countermagic.

The DCI also made sweeping changes at the same time to the Type 1 restricted list. They restricted nearly every card involved with the degenerate Academy combo decks. The unrestriction of Ivory Tower and the printing of Phyrexian Negator, Powder Keg, and Unmask in recent sets also powered Necrodecks. Mike Long played the following Necrodeck at the 2000 Magic Invitational in Kuala Lampur:

4 Unmask
4 Hypnotic Specter
4 Negator
4 Hymn to Tourach
4 Demonic Consultation
4 Dark Ritual
4 Duress
3 Necropotence
3 Sinkhole
2 Powder Keg
Yawgmoth's Will
Demonic Tutor
15 Swamp
4 Wasteland
Mox Jet
Black Lotus
Strip Mine

The Trix decks also showed up at the Magic Invitational. These decks lost the unrestricted tutors and mana artifacts of the Extended Trix decks, but added more explosive cards such as Ancestral Recall and Black Lotus to the mix. Dave Humpherys of Your Move Games played the following Trix deck:

4 Necropotence
4 Demonic Consultation
4 Dark Ritual
4 Donate
4 Illusions of Grandeur
4 Duress
4 Force of Will
1 Lim-Dul's Vault
1 Kaervek's Torch
Black Lotus
Yawgmoth's Will
Ancestral Recall
Time Walk
Demonic Tutor
Mox Sapphire
Vampiric Tutor
Mox Jet
Sol Ring
Hoodwink
Lotus Petal
4 Gemstone Mine
4 Underground Sea
4 Underground River
4 Badlands
3 Swamp

This Trix deck has only one thing on its mind: get a turn 1 or 2 Necro into play. If that happens, barring a perfect hand by an opponent, the Trix player has basically won. It will simply draw Force of Wills and Duresses to stop any meddling by its opponent.

Finally, this last deck was played by Gary Wise at the same Invitational, and is generally deemed an example of poor deckbuilding. Relying solely on Drain Life, Corrupt and Mirror Universe, the deck did poorly and such a low number of threats is the reason for the failure of some decks.

4 Necropotence
4 Dark Ritual
4 Drain Life
1 Corrupt
2 Mirror Universe
4 Duress
4 Hymn to Tourach
3 Unmask
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Yawgmoth's Will
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Jet
3 Sinkhole
2 Powder Keg
1 Nevinyrral's Disk
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Strip Mine
1 Wasteland
16 Swamp

SIDEBOARD
3 Persecute
3 Nether Void
3 Contagion
1 Nevinyrral's Disk
2 Masticore
1 Sinkhole
2 Phyrexian Negator

Necro has been a force in tournament Magic for years. It looks like the DCI has banned everything until Necro became good, but hopefully they won't ban Necro.

Read More Articles by Oscar Tan aka Rakso!

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