Booster Tutor | Illustration by Heather Hudson
One of the most impactful and recognizable of these, though, are tutors. Tutors are cards that find other cards, whether they’re specific or generalized, and act as a way to add some much-needed consistency to combo or control decks. Today, I’ll be going over some of the best tutors in black, which is where the name comes from!
Let’s jump in!
What Is a Tutor in Magic?
Diabolic Tutor | Illustration by Mark Winters
A tutor is a spell, typically an instant or sorcery, which allows you to search through your library for a card—or specific card type—and place it either directly into your hand or on top of your library. It’s a way for decks to consistently find certain cards, most often combo decks, which means that the cheaper and more efficiently a card can perform these actions, the stronger it is as a tutor.
Tutors have been around for some time. They get their naming scheme from the namesake card Demonic Tutor, printed in Alpha. The card, for just two mana, searched your library for any one card at sorcery speed and placed it directly into your hand. To this day, Demonic is one of the best tutors in the game and a deserving namesake for the mechanic overall.
#30. Secret Salvage
First up is Secret Salvage, a five-mana sorcery that exiles a card from your graveyard, and puts any cards with the same name from your library into your hand. Absolutely unplayable in every format it’s legal in, and a great way to start the rankings.
Not off to too strong of a start, but Brainspoil is stronger than it looks. Yeah, it’s a five-mana removal spell that’s nearly unplayable, but the three-mana transmute ability comes in clutch. It allows for you to tutor up five-mana spells for just three mana, which could be an incredible added level of consistency depending on what your combo pieces are.
#28. Shadowborn Apostle
#27. Life’s Finale
Life’s Finale is a six-mana board wipe (yes, a board wipe) that has a final effect allowing you to bin three creature cards from an opponent’s library and put them into their graveyard. It’s one of the weirdest and most niche-tutors out there but can allow you to set up some incredible blowout graveyard wipes against the right decks.
#26. Mausoleum Secrets
Next up is Mausoleum Secrets, a two-mana instant that allows you to search up a black card with a mana value equal to or greater than the number of creatures in your graveyard. It’s kind of niche, I’ll admit it, but if you’re going for something in the 1-to-3 mana value category, this is very doable.
#25. Diabolic Revelation
Diabolic Revelation is a five-mana tutor with a twist, which is that you pay in addition to the and you tutor up cards. This gets incredibly good the more cards you find, but I don’t know how many cards you could realistically wish for in a given situation. Even if you have three or four, you’re still paying over two mana per card, which isn’t too crazy at sorcery speed.
#24. Demonic Collusion
While the art may be one of the more terrifying and gruesome ones, Demonic Collusion isn’t the best tutor out there. It’s the classic five-mana for a generic tutor, a decent deal, with a small upside being a buyback for two cards.
I’m not sure how I feel about a three-for-one that doesn’t even account for me paying five-mana, but a generic five-mana tutor isn’t anything to be upset about, either.
#23. Burning-Rune Demon
The little brother to Razaketh, the Foulblooded (mechanically, not by lore), Burning-Rune Demon comes in at 22nd on today’s rankings. It’s a 6/6 for six, and it lets you find two other cards from your deck—not named Burning-Rune Demon—and put one, which and opponent chooses, into your hand and the other in your graveyard.
Since we need this card to work in every circumstance, it’s basically reserved for decks with high levels of redundancy, which is French for reanimation decks.
#22. Razaketh, the Foulblooded
On its own, Razaketh, the Foulblooded is an overweight battlecruiser. It can be awkward to cast, requires three black pips, and is dead to any counterspell. If you manage to reanimate it, or possibly bring it into play through a Birthing Pod line, however, you’re going to win almost every time.
Its tutor is instant speed and no mana, which means in a format like Commander, there’s basically no stopping you from finding your cards, assuming you can pay the life. There are cards like Sudden Edict, but as long as you activate the ability after it enters the battlefield, you’ll get at least one tutor out without passing priority and giving your opponents a chance to edict you.
#21. Praetor’s Grasp
Next up is Praetor’s Grasp, a three-mana sorcery which actually searches an opponent’s library as opposed to yours, exiling the card face down. Then, you may cast it for as long as it is exiled.
While not totally useful, as it has a heavy degree of variance, this card is still pretty sick. It’s a fun, yet powerful, card that would make a great inclusion in some black Commander decks, and I can totally see some crazy opportunities and events occurring through stealing an opponent’s combo piece or high-power card.
#20. Buried Alive
Buried Alive is Entomb on steroids (and sorcery speed). For three mana, it dumps three creatures into your graveyard. There isn’t too much reason to opt for this over a cheaper version, though. Putting multiples in your graveyard lets you get blown out by total graveyard hate, like on Tormod’s Crypt, so it’s not too worth it. If you’re in game one, though, and can set yourself up to use the multiple Reanimate spells in your hand through their two Counterspells, then go for it.
#19. Rhystic Tutor
Rhystic Tutor—no, not Rhystic Study—is a three-mana generic tutor at sorcery speed. Seems great, right? Well, you would be right if it didn’t have a free counter to itself built in, which is any player paying mana. What sucks here is that this is clearly a Commander-only card, in that it’s dead in the water in any other format but is significantly worse. If you can time it right, with all players either being forced to use their mana on something else or being tapped out, it’s pretty good!
#18. The Cruelty of Gix
Still hot of the press being released in Dominaria United, The Cruelty of Gix has yet to reach its full potential but represents a lot of power for a single card. It’s one of the first sagas with read ahead—a new mechanic that allows the caster to choose what chapter it enters the battlefield on—meaning it can act as a hand disruption spell, a generic tutor, and a reanimation spell all on turn one. Its options and versatility like that which make good cards great, and I think it’s worth keeping an eye on.
#17. Unmarked Grave
Unmarked Grave is a two-mana version of Entomb with a major downside: it can’t tutor for legendary cards, period. That knocks out Griselbrand—the most common reanimation target—as well as some other combo pieces. This is a significant downside, hence the lower ranking, but it still tutors for the most effective creatures you’d want to reanimate, like Archon of Cruelty.
#16. Illicit Shipment
Illicit Shipment is a five-mana tutor, like many others we have and will look at today, but with a catch. Printed in Streets of New Capenna, this one has casualty 3. That means, assuming you have a creature with power three or greater to sacrifice, you can pay five mana to tutor up two cards as opposed to one. That comes out to 2.5 mana per card, without accounting for the mana you spent on the sacrificed creature, which is pretty decent in the grand scheme of things.
#15. Sidisi, Undead Vizier
While it isn’t the most efficient way to tutor up cards in black, Sidisi, Undead Vizier is one of the additional ways mono-black decks can find consistency for combos. It’s a flat-out generic tutor for five mana, and a lot of its value comes from the fact that it can be reanimated for additional value later on. Those same mono-black decks which desire such consistency will already have reanimation options built in, which makes this especially potent in those decks. Outside of those, it’s just a generic five-mana tutor, nothing too special.
#14. Opposition Agent
Believe me, there’s no better feeling in the world than stealing a tutor with Opposition Agent. Three mana instant speed tutor is pretty great, and the added tempo of canceling an opponent’s search (and maybe the fetch land they lost) is a tremendous upside.
#13. Coveted Prize
Coveted Prize is a five-mana sorcery that tutors up a card from your library in addition to letting you cast a spell with mana value of four or less if you have a full party. Interestingly, this spell costs less for each creature in your party, which gives it a high top-end potential if you’re a hardline party deck. I think this is interesting design-wise and is probably one of the best cards in an Orzhov () party/venture deck. Outside of that, though, it’s pretty mediocre.
#12. Razaketh’s Rite
Next up, in 12th place is Razaketh’s Rite. This is your standard five-mana tutor, with a slight upside in being able to cycle for . That cycling is pretty valuable, as this card is totally dead in many situations, especially at five mana in the sorcery-speed category. Cycling can be done at instant speed, and it’s nearly as cheap as possible to do so.
Entomb, while not exactly a tutor, is still one of the greatest tutor-esque cards thanks to the graveyard synergies black has access to. In reanimation decks, for example, this is a one-mana spell to set yourself up perfectly with any reanimation spell in your hand. It’s incredibly efficient, cheap, easy to cast, and leaves nothing to be desired.
#10. Dark Petition
Dark Petition is a five-mana Demonic Tutor, which doesn’t sound good, but has a unique upside to try and balance it out. If you have more than two instants or sorceries in your graveyard when this resolves, you get added to your mana pool, making this essentially a Demonic Tutor.
Sure, the five-mana cost and reward make this exceptionally clunky and awkward to cast or benefit from in a multicolored deck, but it’s still decent in mono-black decks going into the endgame and is worth going over.
#9. Wishclaw Talisman
Wishclaw Talisman is one of the more interesting permanent tutors out there. It allows you to tutor up at the cost of and a wish counter, of which there are three, but your opponent gains control of it next. In a 1v1 game, you’ll get two uses out of this compared to your opponent’s one, but you’re still paying the to cast it.
If you can manage to win or destroy the Talisman after using it the first time, it’s a decent sorcery-speed tutor. Outside of that, I don’t particularly like it. You have to gamble with what your opponent can come up with for their one-mana Demonic Tutor, and that’s just a little too frightening for me.
#8. Cruel Tutor
Cruel Tutor is one of the older and weaker tutors out there, but it still holds up. To be short, it’s Imperial Seal at three mana. It’s not that good, but it puts any card onto the top of your deck, and that’s what we’re after, right?
#7. Profane Tutor
Well, suspend has come to tutors, and, I’m not all that impressed with Profane Tutor. Tutors are meant to be ways to grab the right tool for the job unless you’re an obvious combo deck, and suspense kind of takes the wind out of your sails. There isn’t much sense in tutoring up a perfect removal spell if you were killed before you could take the second time counter off this card.
Maybe I’m a bit too harsh, though. This is still a small price to pay for a Demonic Tutor-effect, and in slower decks that will always be searching for one of two or three cards, I’d say it’s just okay.
#6. Diabolic Tutor
Next in line is Diabolic Tutor. This one has a relatively expensive cost at four mana, which is more than most other tutors sans Dark Petition. The effect, however, is certainly in line with what you’re paying.
It places a card directly into your hand at sorcery speed. Quite literally just Demonic Tutor’s text, except it’s uncommon. The four mana value is still a relatively important downside to take into account, though. Sorcery speed isn’t always too much of a problem, but it means that both casting this card and playing what you tutored up is going to be much more difficult and tedious. The great thing about Demonic Tutor is just how cheap it is, and it makes playing whatever you’re searching so desperately for much, much easier.
Overall, though, this offers some nice consistency in singleton formats, and it shouldn’t ever be overlooked or underestimated.
#5. Diabolic Intent
It wasn’t too long ago that Diabolic Intent was printed, and I still view this as a relatively underplayed and underrated tutor. It does everything that Demonic Tutor does, and the only additional cost/downside is that you must sacrifice a creature.
Think, for a moment, how many decks you’ve played against in Commander that consider sacrificing a creature as a legitimate downside? Quite frankly, I can’t think of many. The only real “downside” to this card is that you may not always have a creature to sacrifice or one that you’re okay losing at that particular moment.
#4. Grim Tutor
Next up, in fourth place, is Grim Tutor! This is another one of those cards which drastically dropped in price following a large reprint. This three-mana sorcery-speed tutor searches up any card and places it directly into your hand for the cost of just three life.
This version of a tutor is obviously much weaker than what’s to come, but it’s yet another way to place a chosen card directly into your hand—an already rare effect—which adds some much-desired consistency to black EDH combo decks.
#3. Imperial Seal
Imperial Seal is, in all honesty, not that great of a card, but it’s better than anything we’ve seen before. It tutors up any card and puts it on top of your library for two life, and costs just . If you’re familiar with Vampiric Tutor, you’ll realize that this is just a sorcery-speed version of Vampiric.
The whole good part about Vampiric Tutor is that it can be cast during your opponent’s turn, effectively having it put the card into your hand since you’ll draw it on your turn. This takes that out of the equation but nonetheless is still strong as a one-mana generic tutor. At one point, this card was hovering around $700 due to limited printing, whereas you can now find it for around just $100.
#2. Vampiric Tutor
In a very close second, we’ve got Vampiric Tutor. This one tutors any card from your library and puts it on top after you’ve shuffled, as opposed to putting it directly into your hand. That’s a pretty serious downside but considering this card costs only and is at instant speed, it’s certainly a strong runner-up. Instant speed allows you to possibly hold up other interactions while doing this on your opponent’s end step, effectively costing you only a single draw step to put the card into your hand.
That all said, the downside of having to use up a draw step or have an additional card as a cantrip really holds this card back. The two life isn’t anything to get upset about, though.
#1. Demonic Tutor
In first place, we have Demonic Tutor. This is as good as it comes as far as tutors go. It’s cheap, it puts the card directly into your hand, and it doesn’t force you to reveal what card you chose to your opponent since it’s a general tutor.
If you’re still struggling to understand just how powerful this card is, imagine how many times you’ve been in a situation where you’d outright win the game if you just had the one specific card? This card acts as that card, with an extra tacked onto it. See what I mean?
#0. Booster Tutor
Finally, to the obvious winner, Booster Tutor. There isn’t anything quite like opening a fresh pack of cards and grabbing a dud bulk rare to help you in your fight against your unworthy opponent. For one black and at instant speed, no less!
In all honesty, I don’t know how good this would actually be. In Limited, I could see this being extraordinarily strong since you can choose what pack to open. I don’t think you’d mind losing if you got to open an old pack of Alpha and open up $10,000 worth of cards!
Entomb | Illustration by Seb Mckinnon
That wraps up today’s quick look at what black has to offer when it comes to strong tutor spells! This is surely black’s strongest area of expertise, alongside removal, and is how the color truly shines in Magic.
What did you think of my rankings? Are there any obvious omissions or adjustments you’d make yourself? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or over in the official Draftsim Discord!
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