Magic Memories: Dark Ritual


The Tentacled One
Oh. I don't have that one. I don't even know how to get those Invocation/Masterpiece cards.
They're obnoxiously rare in booster packs of the sets that have them (Battle for Zendikar, Oath of the Gatewatch, Kaladesh, Aether Revolt, Amonkhet, Hour of Devastation). I heard the ratio was supposedly around one masterpiece per booster box. So it's either get super lucky or buy from someone else who did. Stores sell that ugly version of Dark Ritual for over $40 apiece. :eek:


They're obnoxiously rare in booster packs of the sets that have them (Battle for Zendikar, Oath of the Gatewatch, Kaladesh, Aether Revolt, Amonkhet, Hour of Devastation). I heard the ratio was supposedly around one masterpiece per booster box. So it's either get super lucky or buy from someone else who did. Stores sell that ugly version of Dark Ritual for over $40 apiece. :eek:
Puh, I bought a box of Hour of Devastation and more boosters, and got none! Screw those near-unattainable cards.


The Tentacled One
If I remember correctly, I opened over 80 packs of Aether Revolt without ever seeing a single masterpiece. Doesn't hurt my feelings too much because I'm not into foil cards anyway. But yeah, they're stupidly rare. Some people have taken to calling them "lottery cards."


The Tentacled One
Do I file this under Dark Ritual or under Necropotence? I have no strong opinions on it, so I'm sticking it here arbitrarily...

So I've been reading Stephen Menendian's Gush book, the item that gets joked about in Magic communities because of how silly the prospect of a 400-page tome about a single card in a single format seems. And yes, I agree it seems kinda silly. But it's also pretty cool. I'm a little disappointed there isn't more about my favorite card, Dark Ritual. I realize that most competitive Gush decks in history didn't also run Dark Ritual, but it seems like Menendian gives a bit of extra attention to some other, more obscure, strategies and tactics, because he is trying to be comprehensive. It's not just that I'm a Dark Ritual fan: the card does some interesting things in Gush-based decks, and I'd argue that it deserves more attention than some of the other cards that have been expounded on. Lately I've been drawn with some interest to decks with both Dark Ritual and Gush because they strike me as historical Vintage decks with the greatest capacity to squeeze value out of Yawgmoth's Will. And considering the power of Yawgmoth's Will, that's saying something. Although he has written a lot about Yawgmoth's Will, he seems to have glossed over this. That's so far, anyway. And of course, it's just, like, my opinion, man. Anyway, I came across this interesting scenario.

The premise is that you had an opening hand of Underground Sea, Polluted Delta, Misty Rainforest, Dark Ritual, Necropotence, Force of Will, Preordain. You then successfully executed a first turn like so...

-Play Underground Sea.
-Tap Underground Sea for Dark Ritual.
-Cast Necropotence.
-Activate Necropotence 6 times.

There's some analysis of how many times Necropotence should be activated in this scenario. It's an extremely tricky question and one of the reasons I love Necropotence. He settles on 6 for this scenario. So, after the cards are added into your hand, you end up with a hand of Misty Rainforest, Polluted Delta, Force of Will, Preordain, Dark Ritual, Tropical Island, Gush, Duress, Steel Sabotage, Mox Jet. That's a ten-card hand...

Then, you will have to exile three cards to get your hand back down to seven before passing the turn. Dark Ritual, although useful for supporting your strategic objectives, will probably be pitched along with at least one of the three lands in hand, as you shift back into a control role for a turn as you develop your mana and resources. On your second turn, you will use Necropotence more aggressively, with the goal of tryingto win the game on turn three. Once again, this is a game in which you transition between gears, moving from high to low to high gear within the space of three turns.
I should probably note that I concur with his analysis of this scenario. I don't have much experience with Gush decks, but the first- turn Necropotence play seems to be almost certainly correct. Activating Necropotence 6 times seems intuitively right to me, and even though we aren't told the exact decklist, I can't realistically imagine that less than 5 or greater than 8 could possibly be right in this scenario. So I'd settle on 6. I'd be sorely tempted to go with 7, but I think my temptation would be wrong in this case. Then it comes to which cards get discarded/exiled. And I also agree that Dark Ritual should be pitched in this case.

But what I find intriguing here is that it's not intuitively obvious, across a variety of decks, when Dark Ritual should be discarded. Necropotence players need to make crucial decisions when it comes to discarding down to 7 cards, and although it is more common to keep Dark Ritual than to discard it, that quandary can be a bit of a mess. In Stephen Menendian's scenario in the book, it's a somewhat cut-and-dried case: you are extremely unlikely to get value out of Dark Ritual on your second turn, and the marginal utility of saving it for the third turn is not worth the cost of taking up a slot in your hand for your second turn. This could potentially be outweighed if you know you're going for a Yawgmoth's Will kill, because Dark Ritual is so valuable in your graveyard on a Yawgmoth's Will turn, but you cannot know that and it would be incorrect to hedge so much. However, many other scenarios aren't as clear. In all my years of using Dark Ritual and Necropotence together, I don't know that I have a good handle on this other than through intuition or a kind of brute-force analysis. With the right application of Magic theory, there probably are rules of thumb for when to discard Dark Ritual, but I'd be at a loss attempting to devise them.


The Tentacled One
Well, it's been a couple of years since I touched this thread. I felt like doing some kind of "Magic Memories" writing or something akin to it, but I recently said all that I feel like saying about Spike Weaver. I don't think I mentioned it before, but I've always tried to make it so that nothing I post as Magic Memories feels forced. If I'm already expounding on a particular card, I'll dig into the nooks and crannies, try to find interesting information even if it's pretty obscure. But I don't start a thread just for the sake of starting a thread. Every one of these "Memories" threads has had some spark of interest on my part, some impetus involving me going, "That card is cool and I want to talk about it." That's true for all 40+ threads in this series. That's my formula. Something about a card really draws me to talk about it. I go over what interested me in the first place and then either digress on some theme that this reminds me of, get into a dialogue with some CPA member who chimes in, or just find that I've said my piece and move on. While the discussion with others is my favorite, I'm not really invested in one outcome or another. If I make a few posts and find that I've exhausted my statements of interest regarding the topic, I try not to draw a thread out. I might ramble on and on for several long posts in a row. Or perhaps not. So it goes.

But I don't start a new Memories thread without that spark of interest. And having concluded the Spike Weaver commentary for now, I'm not currently motivated to start a new thread on another card. Not yet. That will probably change soon. For now, I decided to go back and review the various Memories threads. And now I'm back to talking about Dark Ritual. I already revisited this thread once before. this time, it's for something a little different.

A YouTube video I watched last week had me thinking about Dark Ritual in EDH in the context of when to use it and when not to. I don't have hard and fast rules for this, but I tend to trust myself both to keep my favorite cards in mind so that I run them when it makes sense and to cut them or eschew them if it'd be bad deckbuilding. Not that I'm perfect in this regard, but I think I can usually figure these things out. But there is nuance involved and it might be worth some analysis. Before I get into that, I want to preserve the context that got me here.

Here's the video, if you're curious. To summarize, the concept is "Upping the Average." These videos take the "average" deck on EDHrec for a particular commander and make budget-minded and strategic swaps to turn the "average" deck into a better deck. I generally find them interesting. But when I watched that video, I was taken aback at the complete lack of any mention of Dark Ritual. Here's the list:

1 Arcane Denial
1 Arcane Signet
1 Blasphemous Act
1 Blood Crypt
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Chaos Warp
1 Chromatic Lantern
1 Clever Impersonator
1 Command Tower
1 Commit//Memory
1 Counterspell
1 Crumbling Necropolis
1 Cyclonic Rift
1 Dark Deal
1 Deadly Tempest
1 Diminishing Returns
1 Dimir Aqueduct
1 Dimir Signet
1 Dragonskull Summit
1 Drowned Catacomb
1 Echo of Eons
1 Evacuation
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Fate Unraveler
1 Fell Specter
1 Fevered Visions
1 Forced Fruition
1 Geier Reach Sanitarium
1 Gilded Lotus
1 Grixis Panorama
1 Hive Mind
1 Incendiary Command
6 Island
1 Izzet Boilerworks
1 Izzet Signet
1 Jace's Archivist
1 Kederekt Parasite
1 Khorvath's Fury
1 Library of Leng
1 Liliana's Caress
1 Magus of the Jar
1 Magus of the Wheel
1 Megrim
1 Molten Psyche
4 Mountain
1 Nekusar, the Mindrazer
1 Nightscape Familiar
1 Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
1 Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted
1 Peer into the Abyss
1 Phyresis
1 Phyrexian Tyranny
1 Propaganda
1 Psychosis Crawler
1 Raiders' Wake
1 Rakdos Carnarium
1 Rakdos Signet
1 Reforge the Soul
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Runehorn Hellkite
1 Shivan Reef
1 Sol Ring
1 Spiteful Visions
1 Steam Vents
1 Sulfur Falls
5 Swamp
1 Talisman of Creativity
1 Teferi's Ageless Insight
1 Teferi's Puzzle Box
1 Temple of Deceit
1 Temple of the False God
1 Terminate
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 The Locust God
1 Thought Vessel
1 Thran Dynamo
1 Time Reversal
1 Underworld Breach
1 Underworld Dreams
1 Waste Not
1 Watery Grave
1 Wayfarer's Bauble
1 Wheel and Deal
1 Wheel of Fate
1 Whirlpool Warrior
1 Whispering Madness
1 Windfall
1 Winds of Change

It's bad enough that the "average" Nekusar deck drawn from the stats on EDHred doesn't run Dark Ritual. But this improved version had the stated goal of going faster, according to the presentation in the video. Dark Ritual would be the first card I'd swap in, given that premise. So this was the comment I left.

So you've got a Nekusar deck aiming explicitly for explosive turns. Chaining "wheel" effects into each other on the same turn is Plan A. It's what you prefer to be doing. You're also running two triple-black pip cards. You're so invested in big mana for your explosive turns that you are running Thran Dynamo. And you're hoping to go fast enough that you can cast Nekusar on the same turn you unleash your engine, because you anticipate that your opponents won't let Nekusar survive a full turn cycle.

Well, given all that stuff, maybe there's a measly little card that could just help speed stuff up. It could be a cheap card. A common. A card worth less than $0.50. It'd be even nicer if it was some classic staple spell, going all the way back to the beginning of the game. Just a really well-known, really efficient workhorse of a card, perhaps so prolific that it would get printed back-to-back in core sets and expansion sets. Let's just go crazy and have it reprinted over 20 times, because it's been that much of a fixture in the game. The only card to get printed with three different card types, because they kept changing the rules. I'm only talking about the coolest card of all time.

Friends don't let friends drive drunk. And friends don't let friends run a substantially black "wheel" deck in EDH without Dark Ritual.
It didn't draw any responses on YouTube, but it did pick up some "likes." Anyway, it got me thinking, "When do I run Dark Ritual in an EDH deck and when to do I skip it?"


The Tentacled One
Taking advantage of the fact that I've recorded my EDH decks from last year and this year on spreadsheets, let's see how much I used Dark Ritual in my decks. I already know from the statistical breakdown "article" I did for 2019 that Dark Ritual was tied for my fifth most-played black card, so I didn't run it in every possible deck with a black color identity. Going through those black decks, let's see...

3/10/19: Merieke Ri Berit "The Notorious M.R.B."
This deck did not run Dark Ritual. X
Here I was playing a slow, controlling deck. Blue was the primary color with white and black as secondaries. A one-time speed boost didn't seem valuable for this very grindy control deck.

3/24/19: Merieke Ri Berit "The Notorious M.R.B."
This deck did not run Dark Ritual. X
Uniquely, I played the same exact decklist I'd already played, with no changes whatsoever. The League was still new and I was still figuring things out. I wouldn't play the exact same list more than once from this point forward.

4/14/19: Savra, Queen of the Golgari "If You Wanna Fight That’s Fine With Me"
This deck ran Dark Ritual. ✔
I played a heavily black deck here with various proactive control measures and land-ramping shenanigans. Dark Ritual was meant to be slung aggressively here, at the first opportunity to improve my board position. The exception would be if I were holding it for a planned board wipe, such as Black Sun's Zenith.

4/21/19: Olivia Voldaran "Haters Gonna Hate"

This deck ran Dark Ritual. ✔
I think all of my Rakdos color identity decks included Dark Ritual. But I guess we'll check. Plenty of payloads for Dark Ritual here.

4/28/19: Ramses Overdark "Is It Dark In Here Or Is It Just Me?"

This deck ran Dark Ritual. ✔
Even though this was a slow, controlling deck, it had lots of black mana symbols in casting costs.

5/26/19: Nicol Bolas, the Ravager "Hastily Constructed Bolas WCCL Deck"

This deck ran Dark Ritual. ✔
Although I'd have probably used Dark Ritual to rush something out and improve my position, it was mostly there to help with specific cards, such as Hatred.

6/2/19: Merieke Ri Berit "The Notorious M.R.B."

This deck did not run Dark Ritual. X
Although I changed up a bunch of cards, the reason for not running Dark Ritual did not change.

6/9/19: Thrasios, Triton Hero & Vial Smasher the Fierce “Bonus Spite”

This deck ran Dark Ritual. ✔
This was a combo deck. Dark Ritual was a no-brainer.

6/16: Boris Devilboon “Little Friends”
This deck ran Dark Ritual. ✔
Rakdos color identity. Dark Ritual confirmed.

7/14: Reyhan, Last of the Abzan & Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix “Bearadise Lost”
This deck ran Dark Ritual. ✔
This was kind of a combo deck. The main plan for Dark Ritual was to help rush out multiple spells in one turn.

7/28: The Mimeoplasm “Splice World”
This deck ran Dark Ritual. ✔
This dumb, gimmicky deck was based around casting tons of instants. Dark Ritual is one.

8/4: Ur-Drago “Not to be confused with The Ur-Dragon”
This deck did not run Dark Ritual. X
Although I ran enough black cards to justify Dark Ritual, this deck was grindy and seemed hard-pressed for card-drawing. Because Dark Ritual is a lousy topdeck in slow games, I didn't run it here.

8/11: Progenitus “Uncle Stephen’s Tub-’o-Lard”
This deck did not run Dark Ritual. X
As should be apparent from the commander, this deck wanted to go highly polychromatic. Dark Ritual was a liability for that.

9/1: Gwendlyn Di Corci “Waste Not and Gwenny D Had to Regulate”

This deck ran Dark Ritual. ✔
Are you kidding me? Of course this deck ran Dark Ritual. So good.

9/15: Volrath, the Shapestealer “Volrath’s Too Many Themes”
This deck did not run Dark Ritual. X
It was Sultai color identity, but so were two of these already. The distinction here is that I was trying to jam too many themes into the deck for West Coast Commander League points (hence the deck name). Dark Ritual would have been good in most of the focused versions of this, but my deck was unfocused.

10/6: Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale “Knights’ Charge with Good Cards (also bad cards)”

This deck did not run Dark Ritual. X
I don't know if eschewing Dark Ritual here was right. It might have been. I didn't run a ton of black mana symbols.

10/13: Kenrith, the Returned King “King’s Feast”
This deck did not run Dark Ritual. X
On the one hand, this was another five-color deck and probably didn't need Dark Ritual anyway. On the other hand, the deck as a whole didn't really work. Oops. I mean, it was just bad and didn't accomplish much.

11/3: Yarok, the Desecrated “Ever Eat a Pine Tree”
This deck ran Dark Ritual. ✔
Combo deck. Duh. I still have a version of this deck. It's fun.

12/15: Barktooth Warbeard “Not-So-Mysterious Santa”
This deck ran Dark Ritual. ✔
Rakdos again. Ha, I was right.

1/5/20: Sliver Queen "She's a Killer Queen"

This deck did not run Dark Ritual. X
Typical limitations of a five-color deck. I had to focus on more cosmopolitan mana production ideas.

1/12/20: The Gitrog Monster "Gitrog County Mana-Laundeering Scheme"

This deck ran Dark Ritual. ✔
As though there were ever any doubt.

1/20/20: Axelrod Gunnarson "Axelrod's Bonfire"
This deck ran Dark Ritual. ✔
Bearing in mind that I didn't get to actually play this deck because of the silly prerelease for Theros Beyond Death, it remains the case that I continued to use Dark Ritual if a deck's color identity was Rakdos.

1/26/20: Sidisi, Brood Tyrant "Mesmerizing Zombies
This deck ran Dark Ritual. ✔
Well, here I was running a control-combo deck with plenty of opportunities to get value off Dark Ritual

2/2/20: Erebos, Bleak-Hearted
This deck ran Dark Ritual. ✔
Well, this was a monoblack deck, so yeah.


insert avatar here
Interesting. I love Dark Ritual, but I'm not playing it in any of my EDH decks. Are you simply playing more competitive decks than I am, or am I just missing the point?


The Tentacled One
Interesting. I love Dark Ritual, but I'm not playing it in any of my EDH decks. Are you simply playing more competitive decks than I am, or am I just missing the point?
Well, it's also possible that I'm overusing it, although I don't think that I am. But as for whether I'm playing more competitive decks, that's tricky for me to answer. The thing about the point system in the West Coast Commander League is that it gives me an excuse not to build more competitive decks. But it's been a mixed bag. If you're curious, you can go through the threads in the "Casual Decks" board, you can find every single deck I built for the League, and you can judge for yourself. As a quick point of contrast, take a look at "Bonus Spite." The whole point of the deck is to ramp into some stupid loop of recasting Bonus Round over and over so that I can kill everyone else on Turn 6 with Kaervek's Spite. And put that up against "Not-So-Mysterious Santa." That one didn't really have an exit strategy and the idea was to survive long enough to play multiple cards that matched the various holiday themes I was earning points from, after which I'd die because my deck was bad.

I do contend that in the example that had me resurrecting this thread again, the Nekusar deck improvement concept, it's silly not to run Dark Ritual. And for the reasons I outlined.


The Tentacled One
I do find that Invocation art bland, but I also still dislike the Fifth Edition art that keeps showing up on reprints, foil or not. I've found it kind of weird. The use of the Ken Meyer Jr. art in Tempest Remastered and the Tom Fleming art in Duel Decks: Phyrexia vs. The Coalition would seem to suggest that those illustrations are available to WotC without needing to deal with artists for legal rights. And if that's true for either of those, I can't imagine why they wouldn't reuse those: they look so much nicer than the Clint Langley version.

I don't universally dislike Clint Langley's work. Hidden Horror from Weatherlight looks good. Incidentally, Hidden Horror was a reasonable Dark Ritual payload in its day. But a better creature I'm looking forward to now is the upcoming Plague Reaver...

Creature — Beast
At the beginning of your end step, sacrifice each other creature you control.

Discard two cards, Sacrifice Plague Reaver: Choose target opponent. Return Plague Reaver to the battlefield under that player's control at the beginning of their next upkeep.