Casual Players Alliance Latest Article Replies:
   The Comboist Manifesto Volume ... - by Spiderman (Sep 18, 2:29 PM)
   Whatsthepoint-Fireball: Huh? - by Spiderman (Apr 21, 7:41 PM)
   The Counter-Column: Making it ... - by Turgy22 (Apr 1, 12:06 AM)
   The Counter-Column: Making it ... - by Stephen Bahl (Mar 31, 6:23 PM)
[more]
Submit An Article!

Navigation
 Home
 Community Forums
 Chat
 Members
 Mission Statement
 Join
 Voting Booth
 Articles
     Weekly Articles
     Decks
     Issues & Rants
     Other
     Variants
     Fiction
 Links

Email
  Username:
  Password:
Get free email @cpa-mail.net!


Ferret's Retro Corner #1: Alpha/Beta/Unl Black
By David McKenzie
Long before the days when people would throw around terms like ‘metagame’ or ‘secret tech’ or ‘net.deck’ (there really wasn’t much of a ‘net’ at that point) Magic was a simple game. The world of Magic was chaotic. The colours didn’t have the strict definition as they do in today’s world. Abilities found in one colour could easily be found in another colour. It was meant to be played by only two players and every game was played for ante. It was fun, fast, and furious. Cards were printed without any thought of the impact they would have on the game. Life was good because we didn’t know any better.

In the next few articles I’ll be focusing on the first three printings, Limited (better known as Alpha, and Beta) and Unlimited. Each article will focus on one colour from these sets in alphabetical order with a sixth article dealing with artifacts and lands. Please note that since I am not a tournament player, these analyses will be done from a Casual standpoint.

If my ABC’s are correct, Black should be first. Black was about fast mana and cards that generally made people’s lives a pain. They had a good mix of weenies, beefy creatures, and a few cards that made you scratch your head for a few minutes before throwing them in your binder never to see the inside of your decks:

Card Title: Animate Dead
Color: Black
Card Type: Enchant Dead Creature
Cost: 1B
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Any creature in either player's graveyard comes into play
on your side with -1 to its original power. If this
enchantment is removed, or at end of game, target creature
is returned to its owner's graveyard. Target creature may be
killed as normal.

One of the first Black cards to allow you to move a creature from the graveyard to play. It was pretty efficient and since it was the only one card of its kind at the time you really couldn’t build a deck around it. Of course, the best use for it was to grab a creature from your opponent’s graveyard that you recently destroyed with Terror…

Card Title: Bad Moon
Color: Black
Card Type: Enchantment
Cost: 1B
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: All black creatures in play gain +1/+1.

A staple for the monoblack player. Build up your army of black weenies and give them a nice boost. Usually was a target of Disenchants in my playgroup.

Card Title: Black Knight
Color: Black
Card Type: Summon Knight
Cost: BB
Pow/Tgh: 2/2
Card Text: Protection from white, first strike

Speaking of black weenies. This card was the perfect second turn card. 2/2 and first strike for only two mana? What a bargain! The pro-White ability was just icing on the cake.

Card Title: Bog Wraith
Color: Black
Card Type: Summon Wraith
Cost: 3B
Pow/Tgh: 3/3
Card Text: Swampwalk

One of the first cards w/ a landwalk ability. It had a pretty balanced casting cost for the results it gave and it was only problematic if your opponent controlled swamps. Since, there weren’t that many swampwalking cards around at the time, so you couldn’t really build a deck around it.

Card Title: Contract from Below
Color: Black
Card Type: Card Type: Sorcery
Cost: B
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Discard your current hand and draw eight new cards,
adding the first drawn to your ante. Remove this card from
your deck before playing if you are not playing for ante.

If you were playing for ante, this card was a must in any black deck. Do you want to talk card advantage? Look no further. Seven cards for only one mana and an extra ante card. It still is considered the best card drawing card of all time.

Card Title: Cursed Land
Color: Black
Card Type: Enchant Land
Cost: 2BB
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Cursed Land does 1 damage to target land's controller
during each upkeep.

This was one of many cards printed that made life annoying during your upkeep phase. For four mana you could enchant someone’s favourite land (such as a Dual) and get one damage every turn. It adds up after a while.

Card Title: Dark Ritual
Color: Black
Card Type: Interrupt
Cost: B
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Add 3 black mana to your mana pool.

Another staple for monoblack. Want a first turn Hypnotic Specter? No problem. Want to throw out that Black Knight w/ an Unholy Strength on him? Done. This card alone made Black the fastest colour in the game.

Card Title: Darkpact
Color: Black
Card Type: Sorcery
Cost: BBB
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Without looking at it first, swap top card of your library with
either card of ante; this swap is permanent. You must have
a card in your library to cast this spell. Remove this card from
your deck before playing if you are not playing for ante.

Another interesting Ante card. In these days there was only one card that could allow you to know the top card of opponent’s library (Library of Leng – and that was pushing it), so it didn’t have that much use. In later sets this card had potential to be pretty nasty – unfortunately, by then no one played for ante anymore.

Card Title: Deathgrip
Color: Black
Card Type: Enchantment
Cost: BB
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: BB: Destroy a green spell as it is being cast.
This action may be played as an interrupt, and does not
affect green cards already in play.

Black’s ultimate anti-Green card (or anti-any colour, if you had a Sleight of Mind). All you had to do was keep a couple Swamps untapped and a Green player had to be careful what he was going to cast. Fortunately for Green they had a card like this for themselves (Lifeforce).

Card Title: Deathlace
Color: Black
Card Type: Interrupt
Cost: B
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Changes the color of one card either being played or already
in play to black. Cost to cast, tap, maintain, or use a special
ability of target card remains entirely unchanged.

One of the five most useless rares ever printed. Aside from using w/ other cards that affected Black cards (CoP Black, Lifeforce, White Knight, Bad Moon) it was about useless.

Card Title: Demonic Attorney
Color: Black
Card Type: Card Type: Sorcery
Cost: 1BB
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: If opponent doesn't concede the game immediately, each
player must ante an additional card from the top of his or
her library. Remove this card from your deck before playing
if you are not playing for ante.

Aside from causing a game to end quickly, or if you really liked ante this card should have never been printed.

Card Title: Demonic Hordes
Color: Black
Card Type: Summon Demons
Cost: 3BBB
Pow/Tgh: 5/5
Card Text: Tap to destroy 1 land. Pay BBB during upkeep or the Hordes
become tapped and you lose a land of opponent's choice.

Now here’s a card for people that like to build land destruction decks. Unfortunately, black had only one land destruction card at the time (Sinkhole), you would have to splash in Red (for Stone Rain), and Green (for Ice Storm) and that could make getting the BBB needed for its casting cost (and upkeep) difficult to acquire.

Card Title: Demonic Tutor
Color: Black
Card Type: Card Type: Sorcery
Cost: 1B
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: You may search your library for one card and take it into
your hand. Reshuffle your library afterwards.

So much power for so little mana. This card could help you grab your ‘kill’ card for only two mana. They couldn’t restrict this one fast enough.

Card Title: Drain Life
Color: Black
Card Type: Sorcery
Cost: 1B
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Drain Life does 1 damage to a single target for each B spent
in addition to the casting cost. Caster gains 1 life for each
damage inflicted. If you drain life from a creature, you
cannot gain more life than the creature's toughness.

Another Black staple. If you had the swamps (or Dark Rituals), you could remove an annoying creature or cause a nice swing in life totals.

Card Title: Drudge Skeletons
Color: Black
Card Type: Summon Skeletons
Cost: 1B
Pow/Tgh: 1/1
Card Text: B: Regenerates

A nice basic creature for the set. Not much on its own, but quite deadly when combined with a few of Black’s creature enhancers (Bad Moon, Unholy Strength), plus it made a nifty blocker if you had the mana to regenerate it.

Card Title: Evil Presence
Color: Black
Card Type: Enchant Land
Cost: B
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Target land is now a swamp.

Are your Swampwalkers feeling bummed because they’re still being blocked? No problem. Want that white player to feel some of the pain you feel from his Karma? Enchant one of his plains. Otherwise, it really wasn’t that great a card.

Card Title: Fear
Color: Black
Card Type: Enchant Creature
Cost: BB
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Target creature cannot be blocked by any creatures other than
artifact creatures and black creatures.

Long before the term ‘Fear’ was added to creature abilites, there was just this enchantment that could cause severe annoyance to your opponent.

Card Title: Frozen Shade
Color: Black
Card Type: Summon Shade
Cost: 2B
Pow/Tgh: 0/1
Card Text: B: +1/+1

Three mana for a 0/1 creature? Are you crazy? Not the best creature to put out in the early game, but later on when you’re just sitting around w/ a bunch of swamps not doing anything it could be quite nasty.

Card Title: Gloom
Color: Black
Card Type: Enchantment
Cost: 2B
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: White spells cost 3 more mana to cast. Circles of Protection
cost 3 more mana to use.

Do you like to play Black, but really hate it when White starts throwing out Swords to Plowshares on your best attackers? Are those CoP’s really getting annoying when your Lord of the Pit attacks? Well, look no further. This little enchantment can solve your problems – and it will cost the white player five mana to disenchant it!

Card Title: Howl from Beyond
Color: Black
Card Type: Instant
Cost: XB
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Target creature gains +X/+0 until end of turn.

Got some extra black mana and an unblocked creature? Show him your new definition of ‘mana-burn’.

Card Title: Hypnotic Specter
Color: Black
Card Type: Summon Specter
Cost: 1BB
Pow/Tgh: 2/2
Card Text: Flying
An opponent damaged by Specter must discard a card at
random from his or her hand. Ignore this effect if opponent
has no cards left in hand.

This card used to cause all kinds of issues in my playgroup. Thanks to Dark Ritual, it would hit the table on turn one at least once or twice a night – the nickname we gave this card was ‘Bullseye’ because any kind of cheap removal would hit this card by at the latest turn three.

Card Title: Lich
Color: Black
Card Type: Enchantment
Cost: BBBB
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: You lose all life. If you gain life later in the game, instead
draw one card from your library for each life. For each
point of damage you suffer, you must destroy one of your
cards in play. Creatures destroyed in this way cannot be
regenerated. You lose if this enchantment is destroyed or if
you suffer a point of damage without sending a card to the
graveyard.

Seriously, did anyone actually use this card? It’s kind of a neat idea, but unless you have a ton of cards in play and you’re stuck at 2 life looking death in the face, it’s about useless.

Card Title: Lord of the Pit
Color: Black
Card Type: Summon Demon
Cost: 4BBB
Pow/Tgh: 7/7
Card Text: Flying, trample
You must sacrifice one of your own creatures during upkeep
or Lord of the Pit does 7 damage to you. You may still attack
with Lord of the Pit even if you failed to sacrifice a creature.

Black’s beef card (every colour got one!). Seven mana got you a 7/7 Flying Trampler w/ an appetite for other creatures. Don’t have another creature? No problem. You’ll still get hit, but at least you’ll be able to attack with him and keep everything even.

Card Title: Mind Twist
Color: Black
Card Type: Sorcery
Cost: XB
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Opponent must discard X cards at random from hand. If
opponent doesn't have enough cards in hand, entire hand
is discarded.

Now this card was just plain mean.

Card Title: Nether Shadow
Color: Black
Card Type: Summon Shadow
Cost: BB
Pow/Tgh: 1/1
Card Text: If Shadow is in graveyard with any combination of cards
above it that includes at least three creatures, it can be
returned to play during upkeep for its normal casting cost.
Shadow can attack on same turn summoned or returned
to play.

If you could understand the text of this card you could do some interesting things with it. If you had three in the grave and one on the table, you could always have at least one lurking on the table every turn. Super nifty in creature heavy black decks.

Card Title: Nettling Imp
Color: Black
Card Type: Summon Imp
Cost: 2B
Pow/Tgh: 1/1
Card Text: TAP: Force a particular one of opponent's non-wall
creatures to attack. If target creature cannot attack, it is killed
at end of turn. This ability can only be used during opponent's
turn, before the attack. May not be used on creatures
summoned this turn.

Another fun card that could help get rid of those annoying ‘utility’ creatures.

Card Title: Nightmare
Color: Black
Card Type: Summon Nightmare
Cost: 5B
Pow/Tgh: */*
Card Text: Flying
Nightmare's power and toughness both equal the number
of swamps its controller has in play.

This is a card that you’ll want to hard-cast every time. Quite useful if you’ve got lots of Swamps, otherwise it’s just wasting space in your deck.

Card Title: Paralyze
Color: Black
Card Type: Enchant Creature
Cost: B
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Target creature is not untapped as normal during untap
phase unless 4 mana are spent. Tap target creature when
Paralyze is cast.

In the days when first turn creatures were so nasty (thanks to Dark Ritual) this card was a nice equalizer. It was also a nice way to cause your opponent annoyance w/ larger creatures. Oddly enough, it could be used with cards like Prodigal Sorcerer (and lots of mana) to ping your opponent many times a turn.

Card Title: Pestilence
Color: Black
Card Type: Enchantment
Cost: 2BB
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: B: Do 1 damage to each creature and to both players.
Pestilence must be discarded at end of any turn in which
there are no creatures in play at end of turn.

A nice way to clear the table of those annoying weenie creatures.

Card Title: Plague Rats
Color: Black
Card Type: Summon Rats
Cost: 2B
Pow/Tgh: X/X
Card Text: The Xs below are the number of Plague Rats in play,
counting both sides. Thus if there are two Plague Rats in play,
each has power and toughness 2/2.

When I first saw this card I thought “Wow! What a neat idea! I should build a deck with nothing but these and Dark Rituals in it!” Then I found out about the rule that you couldn’t have more than four of a card in any deck… L

Card Title: Raise Dead
Color: Black
Card Type: Sorcery
Cost: B
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Return creature from your graveyard to your hand.

Cheap way to bring your friends back from the graveyard and back into your hand where they can be cast again. Rather efficient card and since it was a Sorcery it couldn’t be abused that much.

Card Title: Royal Assassin
Color: Black
Card Type: Summon Assassin
Cost: 1BB
Pow/Tgh: 1/1
Card Text: Tap to destroy any tapped creature.

Great way to deal w/ utility creatures or just make your opponent think twice about attacking you.

Card Title: Sacrifice
Color: Black
Card Type: Interrupt
Cost: B
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Sacrifice one of your creatures to add to your mana pool
a number of black mana equal to that creature's casting
cost.

Black loves to use mana and back then they seemed to have more ways of generating it than any other colours. Just think: After your Lord of the Pit has eaten your last other creature, let him attack, and use this to turn him into something useful (like a more friendly creature, or a good sized-drain life).

Card Title: Scathe Zombies
Color: Black
Card Type: Summon Zombies
Cost: 2B
Pow/Tgh: 2/2
Card Text: n/a

Vanilla creature. Moving on.

Card Title: Scavenging Ghoul
Color: Black
Card Type: Summon Ghoul
Cost: 3B
Pow/Tgh: 2/2
Card Text: At the end of each turn, put one counter on the Ghoul for
each other creature that was destroyed without regnerating
during the turn. If Ghoul dies, you may use a counter to
regenerate it; counters remain until used.

This card was a neat idea, but still overcosted for what you were getting out of it.

Card Title: Sengir Vampire
Color: Black
Card Type: Summon Vampire
Cost: 3BB
Pow/Tgh: 4/4
Card Text: Flying
Vampire gets a +1/+1 counter each time a creature dies
during a turn in which Vampire damaged it.

Oooooo! This card was fun. No one will attack you w/ a weenie while he’s untapped. If they don’t have any large flying blockers he can attack w/ impunity. This card was so efficient they had to take him out of print for a while.

Card Title: Simulacrum
Color: Black
Card Type: Instant
Cost: 1B
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: All damage done to you so far this turn is instead
retroactively applied to one of your creatures in play. If
this damage kills the creature it can be regenerated; even
if there's more than enough damage to kill the creature, you
don't suffer any of it. Further damage this turn is treated
normally.

Now here was a card that hardly anyone one in my group used (except me!) They would attack w/ their horde, tell me I’m dead, I’d cast this and say I’m sending the damage to my Drudge Skeletons. They’d grab the card, read it for a couple of minutes, say “cool!” and I’d move on w/ my turn. This card has saved my life on more than one occasion.

Card Title: Sinkhole
Color: Black
Card Type: Sorcery
Cost: BB
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Destroys any one land.

At the time, Black’s only land destruction spell (aside from Demonic Hordes, of course). Since it required two of the same mana it was almost efficient. With a Dark Ritual, you could cause annoyance to your opponent on turn one.

Card Title: Terror
Color: Black
Card Type: Instant
Cost: 1B
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Destroys target creature without possibility of regeneration.
Does not affect black creatures and artifact creatures.

Cheap removal. Too bad it didn’t work on Hypnotic Specters.

Card Title: Unholy Strength
Color: Black
Card Type: Enchant Creature
Cost: B
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Target creature gains +2/+1.

Remember the original artwork w/ this one? Flaming Pentagram in the corner? Yeah, that was cool. Aside from artwork changes this card has remained as one of the best Black creature enchantments ever printed.

Card Title: Wall of Bone
Color: Black
Card Type: Summon Wall
Cost: 2B
Pow/Tgh: 1/4
Card Text: B: Regenerates.

Nice blocker, but a little overcosted compared to some of the other walls in the set.

Card Title: Warp Artifact
Color: Black
Card Type: Enchant Artifact
Cost: BB
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Warp Artifact does 1 damage to target artifact's controller
at start of each turn.

See Cursed Land.

Card Title: Weakness
Color: Black
Card Type: Enchant Creature
Cost: B
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: Target creature loses -2/-1; if this drops the creature's
toughness below 1, it is dead.

I liked it when they printed cards like this. I got into an argument w/ one guy that lead to him never wanting to play me again when he insisted that a regenerating creature he had that I enchanted w/ this could keep regenerating w/ a zero toughness. Good weenie remover.

Card Title: Will-O'-The-Wisp
Color: Black
Card Type: Summon Will-O'-The-Wisp
Cost: B
Pow/Tgh: 0/1
Card Text: Flying; B: Regenerates

Now, this is a good blocker. It can block almost anything and regenerates. Good solid card. I’m glad it’s getting reprinted.

Card Title: Word of Command
Color: Black
Card Type: Instant
Cost: BB
Pow/Tgh: n/a
Card Text: You may look at opponent's hand and choose any card
opponent can legally play using mana from his or her mana
pool or lands. Opponent must play this card immediately;
you make all the decisions it calls for. This spell may not be
countered after you have looked at opponent's hand.

Now this is an interesting card. I imagine that if it was printed in today’s environment everyone would demand that it be Blue.

Card Title: Zombie Master
Color: Black
Card Type: Summon Lord
Cost: 1BB
Pow/Tgh: 2/3
Card Text: All zombies in play gain swampwalk and "B: Regenerates"
for as long as this card remains in play.

Well, since there was only card that said Summon Zombie at the time, this card was about useless. Now, in today’s environment…

Well, that about wraps it up for Black. Tune in next time when we talk about the sickening powerhouse that was Blue.

Read More Articles by David McKenzie!

Headlines
 - Thursday (Nov. 30, 2017)
 - Monday (Nov. 13, 2017)
 - Thursday (Oct. 19, 2017)
 - Thursday (Oct. 12, 2017
 - Thursday (Sept. 28, 2017)
 - Thursday (June 30, 2016)
 - Thursday (Mar. 3, 2016)
 - Wednesday (Feb. 17, 2016)
 - Thursday (Aug. 6. 2015)
 - Thursday (Feb. 26, 2015)

Voting Booth

Privacy Statement
Copyright © Casual Players Alliance.