Cabal Coffers | Illustration by Don Hazeltine
When we think of ramp and mana acceleration, we usually think about green Commander decks full of elves and Cultivates. Green is certainly the “ramp color,” but it doesn’t have a monopoly on extra mana. Through the power of rituals, black can sometimes leave green’s mana production in the dust.
Today I’m counting down the best black rituals in Magic. Let’s jump in!
What Are Black Rituals in MTG?
Basal Sliver (Time Spiral) | Illustration by Drew Tucker
A ritual is any card that’s capable of producing more mana than it costs. They give you a temporary burst of mana that usually goes away after the turn. Rituals get their name from Alpha’s Dark Ritual, and they’re most common in black and red.
There are three characteristics I’m using to determine what counts as a ritual. The cards need to give you mana immediately, produce more mana than they cost, and have a mono-black color identity. They also can’t be banned cards (sorry Mox Jet).
I’m leaving off cards that generate mana on a delay like Blood Money and Black Market. Basically, I want my mana and I want it now. You also won’t see cards like Witch Engine or Dark Petition because they produce less mana than they cost. This list also excludes purely colorless cards like Ashnod’s Altar and cards with different color identities like Burnt Offering.
#22. Carnival of Souls
You need to follow up with at least three creatures before this hits ritual territory so it’s more of a setup piece than a full-fledged ritual.
#21. Basal Sliver
#20. Skirge Familiar
Skirge Familiar enables a bunch of silly combos. It combos with Feast of Sanity and Veinwitch Coven and can combo-kill the entire table. It’s weird to think of this as a ritual, but it meets the criteria.
Burnt Offering is a better version that doesn’t make this list because of its red color identity.
#17. Cabal Ritual
Cabal Ritual is a traditional ritual effect. Without threshold it gives you an extra mana to play with for the turn which is clearly worse than Dark Ritual. It also get a significant upgrade to the effect if you have seven or more cards in your graveyard.
#16. Culling the Weak
Culling the Weak can’t net you as much mana as Sacrifice, but it also works with any creature. This outperforms a Dark Ritual if you have tokens or expendable creatures to sacrifice, but it doesn’t reliably work on turn 1.
#15. Songs of the Damned
Songs of the Damned belongs in decks that can quickly mill themselves. Songs can easily produce 10+ mana for just a single mana upfront if you can churn through your graveyard and you’re in need of extra mana.
#14. Nirkana Revenant
Nirkana Revenant is one of two mono-black creatures that allow your Swamps to tap for double mana. Revenant’s the worse of the two, but you’re set on mana if it sticks around.
#13. Rain of Filth
Rain of Filth is your swan song ritual. You better be sure you’re going to win if you’re sacrificing your lands for extra mana, or at least have a backup plan with something like Splendid Reclamation.
#12. Bubbling Muck
Bubbling Muck is the black High Tide, and unlike Rain of Filth it’ll net you extra mana without having to sacrifice lands. It’s symmetrical for your opponents and only affects Swamps, but it can still be responsible for a huge boost in mana.
#11. Waste Not
Waste Not is great for “discard tribal” decks, but the mana isn’t always guaranteed.
#10. Bone Miser
Bone Miser is the reverse Waste Not. Instead of triggering off your opponents’ discards, it cares what you’re pitching. It’s easier to control than Waste Not and can easily pay for itself and then some.
#9. Lord of the Forsaken
Turning life into mana is incredibly powerful in general, let alone in a format where you start with 40 life. Thankfully Lord of the Forsaken can only do this with spells in the graveyard. If that’s what you plan to do, Lord definitely generates more than the six mana initially spent to cast it.
#8. Lake of the Dead
The only thing holding Lake of the Dead back is a Swamp to sacrifice and a nearly $100 price tag in paper. This land technically sets you back on mana until you start tapping it for quadruple black mana.
#7. Ruthless Technomancer
You need to sacrifice a creature with mana value five or greater before Ruthless Technomancer nets mana. It’s worth mentioning that mana from Treasure tokens is usually better than adding temporary mana that goes away during the next phase.
#6. Dark Ritual
We finally made it to the OG ritual itself. I usually warn players against running Dark Ritual in their Commander decks without a reason, but this can get things started in a hurry given the right setup and opening hands.
Sometimes you turbo out a turn 1 Braids, Arisen Nightmare or Necropotence. Other times you draw this on turn 10 when you already have enough mana. It’s a risky trade-off of being one of your best cards early and one of your worst in the late-game.
#5. Grim Hireling
It’s possible to play Hireling, hit all three opponents that same turn, and produce six mana on the spot, which recoups more than the cost of the Hireling itself.
#4. Phyrexian Tower
Phyrexian Tower is well-documented as one of the best sacrifice outlets in Magic, but it takes a high spot on this list as well. You can turn creatures into extra mana on a whim while hiding that ability on a land that’s unlikely to be tampered with.
#3. Cabal Stronghold
You need at least five Swamps on the battlefield before Cabal Stronghold starts producing extra mana, and it just increases from there. It only works with basic Swamps, so you need to build your deck with that in mind.
#2. Crypt Ghast
Crypt Ghast’s mana production spirals out of control if it lands earlier in the game. It’s the same effect as Nirkana Revenant, comes down at an earlier point in the game, and even has a better mana sink with extort.
#1. Cabal Coffers
You only need four Swamps before this puts you up on mana. It counts non-basics, meaning you can combine it with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to go completely wild.
Best Black Ritual Payoffs
X spells and abilities make for some of the best mana sinks. They’re a great way to make sure none of your excess ritual mana goes to waste, so you can squeeze every last point of life loss out of your Debt to the Deathless.
Storm is a mechanic that demands you cast a lot of spells in a single turn, and you’ll need a bunch of mana to cast that many spells. Rituals and storm cards go hand-in-hand and usually form the backbone of storm decks in cube.
Grim Hireling | Illustration by Tomas Duchek
That should cover all of the black ritual effects in Magic, or at least the cards that fit the definition I’ve used here. Some players consider cards like Dark Petition and Priest of Gix to be rituals as well, but I tend to think you need to come out ahead on mana for a real ritual effect.
Let me know what you think. What counts as a ritual to you, and what are your favorite ones? Let me know in the comments below or over on the Draftsim Twitter.
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