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Top Ten Black Card Draw Spells of All Time


Hello awesome MTG card draw fans! Wow, do I have the card draw options for you! This is a sequel to my Top Ten Red Card Flow of all time article a few weeks ago you can find here. Check it out if you like card draw! Today we are looking at Black card draw. It debuted back in a card in the first set that was better than Ancestral Recall called Contract from Below that ante'd a card and was a one mana draw 7 for just you! So, it had a disadvantage attached to the cheap cost. Then a few sets later in Legends Greed debuted and you can trade two life and a mana to draw a card and that was the first time life was traded for cards which would be ground into the dirt with Necropotence. Then sacrificing dorks for cards became a thing and now Black usually either sacrifices dorks or pays life for card draw. This is a deep journey since most players think Black is just one behind blue for best card draw and you could do weeks on this thing! Ready? I got cha!

In order to make today's cut, you need to be just Black and then draw. Mere cantrips like Recover won't be here, but actual card draw. Ditto dorks that replace themselves like Phyrexian Rager.

Ready? Today's list will be things legal for Vintage and/or Commander so no to things like Contract from Below! Although if you play Five Color where it's legal it's the best card draw spell of all time.

Honorable Mention #1. (#14. Overall) - Village Rites and company

Village Rites

Village Rites at one mana debuted the instant sacrifice a dork at instant speed to draw two. Technically this is not card draw, since you are spending the dork and the card for two unless what you sacked was a token permanent. Then you'd be up. This created this subgenre and all other instant sacrifice a dork for two card effects are here but we'll see a better version of this later. Since it's a mana cheap instant, you can do this in response to targeted or sweeping removal to get cards, as a sacrifice or it can send something to your graveyard about to get exiled by Swords to Plowshares, or to get value out of a chump blocker about to die anyway. This stuff is so good! Other examples here include Altar's Reap and Corrupted Conviction.

Honorable Mention #2. (#13. Overall) - Ob Nixilis Reignited with a Shoutout to Vraska, Betrayal's Sting

Ob Nixilis Reignited
Vraska, Betrayal's Sting

Everyone's favorite Commander Classic planeswalkers! This five-drop on curve five loyalty 'walker has a +1 to draw and lose a life, so that's ongoing + card flow over time. Nasty! He's also backup removal with his -3 to Murder something. And if you can get him to ultimate he turns into a win-con! That's so good here, and he is beloved in Commander and other multiplayer formats because of his flexibility. He's been reprinted so much in Commander decks that he's a very cheap guy now, and I run him in loads of brews!

And a shoutout to Vraska. Her -2 will turn a dork into a Treasure to answer things, so that's just like Nixilis's -3. But they are here in my Honorable Mentions since as planeswalkers, they're the most answerable permanent by attacking, removal or burn. They are my second highest scoring planeswalker, and I run them all over the block and back again!

Honorable Mention #3. (#12. Overall) - Deadly Dispute, Fanatical Offering and More

Deadly Dispute
Fanatical Offering

I am looking for sacrificial things of artifacts too or ones that leave you things behind. The Dispute costs one more than Village Rites, you can sac a dork or artifact including tokens like Treasures or artifacts like Ichor Wellspring and you'll get a free Treasure for ramping and this really just leaves you down a mana. Then the recently printed Offering costs two too, also sacrifices both, and this time leaves you a Map token to either draw the top land of your library for a three for one, or give a dork a +1/+1 counter. I love this pair loads and named the Offering the best card in that set for kitchen table play. Sacrifice that Spine of Ish-Sah to it!

Honorable Mention #4. (#11. Overall) - Vampiric Rites AND Ayara, First of Locthwain

Vampiric Rites
Ayara, First of Locthwain

Our final Honorable Mention before the Top Ten proper! This is the pair that sacrifices things for tapping or mana. The enchantment costs one, activates for two, and then you sacrifice anything, including tokens, draw a card, and then, you'll also gain that life too, don't sleep on that since many read that as losing life instead. Nasty! Then the dork costs a rough three, arrives with a 2/3 body, and can tap for no mana to sacrifice another Black dork for a card. When another Black dork ETBs, you drain a life from each foe, so she's a win-con tied to a legendary dork for Command Zone purposes! Both gain life, so can run them together normally or in life gain decks too.

#10. Sign in Blood and friends

Sign in Blood

Ever since Night's Whisper and Sign in Blood we've had sorceries that are cheap and draw you two cards for two life. They are heavily played and beloved in formats from 20 life Standard to 40 life Commander! Since they are cheap, you can often cast what you drew too! Then there are three or four cost ones like Read the Bones that add an effect like digging four (Bitter Revelation) or scrying two (Read the Bones). They are all pretty strong! But they aren't my favorite in the sorcery equal cards drawn for life genre! That hits next...

#9. Ambition's Cost AND Ancient Craving

Ambition's Cost
Ancient Craving

Get ready for your Super Secret Tech! These two were printed in Portal sets and then brought over to regular sets or Commander decks. I love this pair so much, and they are cheap on the secondary market as well, too, by the by. Your four mana nets three cards! These are my favorite sorcery/instant draw cards lose life where that is a set number. Four mana equals three cards making these the Harmonize or Concentrate of card draw! I love this pair loads and run them all the time in my Black card draw section.

#8. Phyrexian Arena AND Black Market Connections

Phyrexian Arena
Black Market Connections

I know. I hear your protestations now. People are pulling out Phyrexian Arenas for Sign in Bloods and then I have someone else even better? I sure do! Welcome to my list! The Arena tings you for one in your upkeep to draw that precious card! It's great card draw over time! And I'd rather get it destroyed occasionally before drawing a card since usually you'd draw many. This is not just me, on EDHREC.com, the Arena is in 240,548 decks and Sign in Blood in 179,435, so tens of thousands less.

Have you seen the Connections? Same mana cost, triggers precombat, swaps two life for a card, one for a Token or three for a 3/2 and you can do a few here and there or all three. Love this enchantment rare duo loads, and they are all about that slow and steady card flow! Also, a shoutout to others in this ilk like Bloodgift Demon. We are now halfway done with 14 at seven counted down! Next? Let's surprise everyone with a card many may not consider "card draw" but I do!

#7. Ad Nauseam

Ad Nauseam

Yes, this is card draw. It's also one of the worst things to unleash on your friends in Commander and abuses a 40-life format. Let's look at why! This five-mana instant reveals the top card from your library, you draw it, and then lose life equal to its mana value. That's nasty, but what makes it worse is that ability to keep on going as long as you want! Many have asked for this to be banned in Commander since entire decks are built around breaking it in their decks with a storm count win like Tendrils of Agony after dropping all of those zero cost artifacts or Dark Ritual effects. I played one once and hated it. It's the card that no one wants to play against so it's broken. And its card draw! It's run in 4% of decks and then has an entire archetype named around it! It's broken and breaks things right out into the open!

#6. Stinging Study

Stinging Study

This will draw you X cards and lose X life equal to your Commander's biggest mana value you have on the battlefield or Command Zone. So, for example, suppose you have a five-cost Marrow-Gnawer! Your five mana instantly will draw you five cards. This is great mana to card draw ratio when you are around four or more, so starting there I'll typically add in this into my card draw section. Note that if you have multiple Commanders with Doctor's Companion or partner then you get the biggest effect. But it's here at the six spot since it's playable in Commander only.

#5. Peer into the Abyss

Peer into the Abyss

Welcome to the Top Five and my last sorcery. This seven-cost forces one player to draw half of their library and lose half their life. This is a win con for others to kill them or a massive card draw. You can cast it turns earlier with Coffers and Urborg. Nice! And then you can really draw a ton of cards with this epic card drawing spell early or late and get many wins from it.

#4. Harvester of Souls, Midnight Reaper and company

Harvester of Souls
Midnight Reaper

Now let's turn to card draw from dying stuff that was introduced way back with Harvester of Souls. This 5/5 on curve rare with deathtouch will draw you a card with another nontoken dies. That was very strong! Many decks in many formats of many archetypes added this thing and you'll note that it has a nontoken break on it. Also note that this works for opposing stuff as well. It's also pretty cheap here for 99 cents. Others were printed like Grim Haruspex or the Reaper that cost less but only work for your stuff. The Reaper also has a brake to force you to lose life too when you draw the card. We also have the just printed uncommon Morbid Opportunist that only works once/turn as its condition.

#3. Liliana, Dreadhorde General

Liliana, Dreadhorde General

Could anyone else make my Top Ten list? She's awesome, and she has to be here! She has four abilities, one static, for six mana and an on curve 6 loyalty. Her static draws when your dorks die. Just yours, sure, but any, even tokens, plus there's no once/turn break here! Nasty! Then you can +1 her to make a 2/2 Black Zombie token to block attacks on her or swing for wins or die to draw those cards. Then her -4, just once with her starting loyalty is a Barter in Blood for everyone, so if you have two sacrificial fodder you'll draw two. Nasty board control she plays into.

If you manage to ultimate her? Nasty mass removal that will even take out lands of everyone else, I think you might win that game! Everything left are enchantment because they are harder to answer than a walker of the planes. Love her loads, and many do too! She is the most-played Planeswalker in Black (according to EDHREC.com).

#2. Necropotence


I'm sure that you all expected Necropotence here! But you might disagree with the #2 rating here. But when you see my #1, I don't think you'll disagree. Please note that this three-drop triple Black enchantment has a few breaks on it to keep it from destroying things. First, you skip your draw step so you'll never naturally draw a card in your life again until this is ended. Then when you discard, you exile it instead, so that you cannot recur or flashback anything. Then you can pay life and draw from your library in your end step only. Only then, so you cannot play sorceries or permanents without flash that's another break. But with those trio of brakes, this card dominated formats and Standard and created an era known as "Black Summer" by fans. It was nasty bad, and that was in 20 life formats and in 40 life ones like Commander, this is nasty even with the brakes. Swapping life for cards on a one for one basis without spending mana is just so dumb good. And then there was one! (Sorta...)

#1. Yawgmoth's Bargain with a Shoutout to Griselbrand

Yawgmoth's Bargain

Remember when I said that swapping life for cards without anything extra was broken no matter how many breaks are on it? Enter the Bargain, with twice the cost, only skips your draw step, you draw them immediately to cast them or in response to something, and it's even legal as a four of in Vintage where it used to be on the B&R list. Demonic Tutor, Commander Classic, is restricted but not this. If it's legal in your format or restricted, run this all day long!

Also, a shout out to Griselbrand that costs eight for a 7/7 flyer with lifelink that can swap 7 life for 7 cards and was so broken in older formats like Legacy that reanimated him, or cast him with no additional costs that he was really a one-dork format for much of its run and answers like Liliana of the Veil rose to the top. He is banned in Commander, but legal in many formats, so where legal? Get your Gris on! Shoot he is even legal in Modern!

There we go! I hope you enjoyed my look at the best Black card draw of all time!

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