Last updated on May 23, 2023
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth | Illustration by John Avon
Every black deck needs to produce black mana to cast its spells. These are the facts. The easiest way to generate black mana is tapping the basic Swamp to add one to your mana pool. But that doesn’t have to be your only black land!
There are over 50 lands that produce black mana, but not all were created equal. Let’s take a closer look at the best black lands in Magic.
What Are Black Lands in MTG?
Cabal Coffers | Illustration by Don Hazeltine
For our purposes, a black land is any land that’s color identity is black, and only black. This means I’m excluding any 2-color lands (no Dragonskull Summit or fetches today, sorry!). I’m also only including lands that can actually tap for black mana, so Hostile Hostel and Unholy Grotto, despite being great cards, are out. Finally, I’m excluding the dual-faced lands from Zendikar Rising because their monocolored taplands that most often see their spell side played.
The best black lands generate more than one mana or include a valuable ability that synergizes well with black spells, so they see play in multiple formats.
Hahahahahaha! Everglades sucks so hard. The cycle of Karoo lands from Visions are universally reviled for being the worst nonbasics. You’re telling me I have to return an untapped Swamp to my hand just to get access to an extra colorless mana? And not even on the turn it hits the field? No thanks! Just run another Swamp! Don’t bother!
#39. Cabal Pit
Cabal Pit dares to ask the question, “What if Swamp were somehow worse?” Pinging yourself for one damage whenever you need a black mana just won’t be worth it in most cases. Its only upside is the option to sacrifice it for a Disfigure effect, but only after you’ve reached threshold. Another whiff by today’s land standards.
#38. Ebon Stronghold
Fallen Empires experimented with lands that tapped and sac’d to add two mana of their respective color to your mana pool, with Ebon Stronghold as the black instance of this effect. This could be a lot stronger if it entered untapped, giving you a real leg up on your opponent if dropped on turn one, but otherwise it’s just a tad too slow and too punishing to lose a land for an extra on one turn.
#37. Bog Wreckage
Odyssey included a cycle of mana-fixing lands that tapped for one color or sacrificed themselves to add a mana of any color. Bog Wreckage is the black version of these nonbasics, and it’s… not very good. Anytime you’re sacrificing a land to fix your mana is a bad time, since you start falling behind on total mana available from that point on even if you can suddenly cast that multicolor spell.
#36. Bottomless Vault
It took R&D a couple tries to get storage counters right, and Bottomless Vault wasn’t among their early successes. This first cycle of storage lands from Fallen Empires features a wordy ability that’s subsequently cleaned up on Mercadian Masques’s Subterranean Hangar, and then again with Time Spiral’s 2-color storage lands. Kneecapping yourself with a land that doesn’t untap is a pretty hard sell, especially considering how slow the build-up is on this card. Unless you have a specific plan to untap it early, this one’s best left out.
#35. Peat Bog
Mercadian Masques experimented with both storage counters and depletion counters to play with the amount of mana a single land could generate. Peat Bog’s storage counters let it create two black mana at once, but only as long as it has counters remaining. While this doesn’t appear so advantageous at first glance, it’ll pay off in any deck with a slew of proliferation effects.
#34. Tomb of Urami
I bet you had no idea there was an ogre tribal land. I didn’t either! Tomb of Urami has a lot of rules that just make it bad. Its ability wants you not only to pay four, but sacrifice all lands you control? For what? A 5/5 flier? Why not run any other demon token generator!
Urborg is one of the first legendary lands ever printed, and it shows. It can remove first strike or swampwalk from a creature for free, but that’s hardly relevant in today’s Magic. Useful if you want to flex on your pod with some weird old cards, but it’ll have the same value as a basic Swamp in most games.
#32. Desert of the Glorified
Desert of the Glorified is the only mono-black desert card and probably has the least utility of the five-card cycle. It costs more than Barren Moor to cycle, and it’s the wrong colors for a Hazezon, Shaper of Sand Commander deck.
#31. Ifnir Deadlands
I love a land with built-in removal, and Ifnir Deadlands isn’t too bad at that. Tapping it and sac’ing a Desert (or itself) plus tapping four more mana is quite a lot for just two -1/-1 counters, but it does enter untapped and tap for either colorless or black mana. A great uncommon in a Limited format, but not very strong anywhere else.
#30. Polluted Mire
Polluted Mire and the rest of its cycle are just worse versions of Barren Moor and the like. Usually, you only want to pitch the cycle land if you already have access to that color, but Polluted Mire’s colorless activation cost implies you don’t have access to black mana yet. Polluted Mire will always play second fiddle in my eyes.
#29. Piranha Marsh
I mean, sure. Piranha Marsh has some play, theoretically way less than even Leechridden Swamp. In a limited format, that one extra ping might make the difference between life and death, but in most constructed formats I’ve seen this card fall short more often than not.
#28. Leechridden Swamp
Leechridden Swamp is a nonbasic land with the Swamp type, meaning it’s fetchable! It’ll still always enter the battlefield tapped, and it’s activated ability is nothing to sneeze at. It’s exponentially better in a multiplayer game, but it’s still just one life. It’s a cheap way to sneak one damage in before you cast a Light Up the Stage.
#27. Subterranean Hangar
Subterranean Hangar cleaned up the wording on Bottomless Vault, so you can hold it untapped and instead add the storage counter at instant speed to bluff that you have a spell to cast. Functionally, just a smidge better.
#26. Memorial to Folly
Memorial to Folly is a mono-colored tapland with a worse Disentomb as an activated ability. It’s fine as a repeat of that effect in a singleton format like Commander, but there are generally better options to return dead creatures to your hand that don’t involve losing a land.
#25. Spawning Pool
I’ve got a soft spot for Drudge Skeletons, so when I found a manland that imitates it for a turn at a time, I couldn’t help but love it. Looking past my own biases, Spawning Pool is a mid choice for a mono-colored tapland, requiring three mana to make a blocker at instant speed and save your land from dying. Great in your Skeleton Ship tribal deck, and maybe in the Limited environment of its day, but not so much anymore.
#24. Havengul Laboratory
The Universes Within version of the legendary land from Secret Lair x Stranger Things drop was last year’s Havengul Laboratory, a land that flips back and forth to make Clue tokens and reanimate creatures from your graveyard. It’s best used when it can transform multiple times since the one life tax on each black mana makes it a technically worse Swamp.
#23. The Dross Pits
R&D has had an obsession with slow draw lands lately. We just saw a cycle of 2-color “sac this and draw a card” lands in Streets of New Capenna, and we got a monocolor cycle in Phyrexia: All Will Be One. Two mana to draw a card is just about the going rate these days, but losing The Dross Pits after it’s already entered the battlefield tapped hurts your mana base. It’s ok, but it’ll never beat the cycle of painlands from Modern Horizons that can sac themselves for one mana and draw a card.
#22. Vivid Marsh
The cycle of Vividlands from Lorwyn have been Commander staples since their release, but I fear they’ve been outclassed by Jumpstart’s Thriving lands. Vivid Marsh is technically better in a deck with more than just two colors, but its limited number of activations means it’s on a clock, no matter what.
#21. Thriving Moor
Jumpstart’s cycle of Thriving lands introduced a series of mono-color lands that can tap for an additional color chosen when they enter the battlefield. This instantaneous mana-fixing makes Thriving Moor better than most other black 2-color taplands because it ensures you have as much information as possible before choosing what color you’ll need.
#20. Black Dragon Gate
Black Dragon Gate is Thriving Moor with the Gate subtype. It beats out the Moor by one spot by simple virtue of being tutorable with Circuitous Route and for its synergy with other Gate cards like Maze's End and Nine-Fingers Keene.
#19. Mortuary Mire
In my opinion, Mortuary Mire isn’t half bad. Mono-colored taplands are a liability on their own, but at least this card’s effect won’t cost you a land and some additional mana to play. Locking your draw on the following turn isn’t the best, but I prefer this over Memorial to Folly when looking for consistency in Disentomb effects.
#18. Howltooth Hollow
Howltooth Hollow isn’t the strongest of the original cycle of hideaway lands, but it’s not unplayable. A monocolored land entering tapped hurts already, but its biggest detriment is requiring you also have no cards in hand, which is usually a poor position in which to find yourself. However, I do see a world where I slot this into my “just for fun” hellbent deck.
#17. Arguel’s Blood Fast / Temple of Aclazotz
Arguel's Blood Fast works as a sort of pseudo-Greed and transforms into Temple of Aclazotz once you’re near death. Its temple side can help recoup you on that life lost, à la Starlit Sanctum. It’ll have to tap to activate that ability, though, so you won’t get to tap it for mana like a typical land. Great in a format without Greed, or in an aristocrats-style deck, but otherwise it’s just outclassed by its peers.
#16. Vault of Whispers
Vault of Whispers is the black land in the cycle of mono-colored artifact lands from Mirrodin. While it’s not indestructible like the 2-color lands in Modern Horizons 2, it enters the battlefield untapped, making it ever so slightly faster than those. Unfortunately, it’s vulnerable to Vandalblasts. Best played with caution and sacrificed to your Atog before an opponent removes it.
#15. Crypt of Agadeem
I really want Crypt of Agadeem to be better than it is. As is, it requires building around. Crypt of Agadeem is most effective in a deck that’s putting its creatures into its graveyard and leaving them there. This is often counterintuitive to a graveyard deck’s strategy because you typically want to reanimate those powerful creatures in your ‘yard. That said, the Crypt isn’t the worst choice for pseudo-Cabal Coffers effects. There are definitely decks where it’s useful, but I don’t think that justifies its perceived value.
#14. Hive of the Eye Tyrant
Adventures in the Forgotten Realms included a cycle of mono-colored “manlands” representing D&D monsters with unique lairs. Hive of the Eye Tyrant turns into a 3/3 beholder with some evasion and graveyard removal for four mana. It’s relatively tough body and menace means you won’t have to worry about losing your land in combat, and it can easily hit the field untapped. Honestly, Hive of the Eye Tyrant is my favorite from this cycle, and the second-most playable behind Den of the Bugbear.
#13. Tomb Fortress
Tomb Fortress represents a Necron world in the 41st millennium from the Warhammer 40,000 Commander Decks. It enters tapped, taps for black, and can tap itself and five mana and exile itself to mill four and return a creature from your graveyard to the battlefield. Losing a land is a hard bargain, but five mana usually only gets you an Unburial Rites without digging for more creatures.
#12. Barren Moor
Everyone knows Onslaught’s cycle of mono-color cycling lands; they’ve been reprinted to hell and back and are staple commons in most decks. The utility of Barren Moor in black decks is ubiquitous. Early game it makes a steady turn-one land drop, assuming you’ve got no 1-mana spells you need to cast. Late game, it can be pitched for cheap to draw a card. Nothing hurts like topdecking a land when you need a spell, so having the option to cycle the land for another card is one of the best solutions to this problem. Barren Moor can slot into any black deck easily.
#11. Witch’s Cottage
Witch's Cottage is the best monoblack fetchable land. It beats out Mortuary Mire strictly because of its Swamp typing. Chances are, in a mono black deck, it hits the field untapped, especially if you’re playing it late enough that your graveyard is full of choices. What’s better, it’s a common, and legal in Pauper!
#10. Shizo, Death’s Storehouse
Shizo, Death's Storehouse is one of the few ways to consistently grant fear to a creature. It stipulates the creature must be legendary, but that’s hardly a problem in Commander where it sees the most play. Fear’s position as a color-based evasion ability means it really depends what the rest of your pod looks like. In the right situations, it’s a brutally cost-effective Rogue's Passage.
#9. Takenuma, Abandoned Mire
The channel lands from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty are all fairly valuable rares considering their utility. They all enter untapped, and when evaluating them you should assume you have one to two legends on the field, reducing their activation costs. Channeling Takenuma, Abandoned Mire for any less than four makes it great value in almost any format it’s legal in.
#8. Castle Locthwain
The black Castle from the Throne of Eldraine cycle, Castle Locthwain enters untapped in most cases (note that it doesn’t specify basic Swamps), adds black, and draws you cards. Sure, you’ll lose life to the draw ability, but you usually won’t activate it until you’re hellbent anyways. Locthwain sees play in just about every format it’s legal in, and for good reason. Any land that draws you cards is valuable, even more so if it’s repeatable.
#7. Phyrexian Tower
To no one’s surprise, Phyrexian Tower is one of the best mono-black lands. I can only think of two downsides for this card: 1) It doesn’t tap for black without sacrificing a creature, and 2) I can only have one at a time without a Mirror Box. Those are my only criticisms, though. Phyrexian Tower is just plain good in any deck that wants to sacrifice creatures, which tends to be most black decks.
#6. Bojuka Bog
Chances are you already know about Bojuka Bog. It’s the go-to for graveyard removal in many formats, most notably Modern, EDH, and Pauper. It’s a free Tormod's Crypt that’ll stick around and tap for mana in later turns. It’s a simple card, but indisputably one of the best mono-black lands in Magic. If only it entered untapped, then it might even make the top of the list.
#5. Dakmor Salvage
Dredge was a mistake. But that’s ok, many of the best Magic cards were mistakes (see Skullclamp). Dakmor Salvage has dredge 2, meaning you can mill two cards and return it to your hand instead of drawing a card. It’s an essential piece in a ton of combos.
Want to draw your entire deck? Easy! Find a discard outlet like Noose Constrictor or Putrid Imp and discard Dakmor Salvage over and over while The Gitrog Monster is on the field. You’ll replace its draw effect with the dredge ability, and if you mill at least one land, you can repeat this process indefinitely. Once you have more draw effects on the stack than cards in your library, resolve a shuffler effect like Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre and put your whole library and graveyard into your hand without drawing yourself out.
This is just scratching the surface of all the broken combos you can pull off with Dakmor Salvage. Try this combo with Surly Badgersaur and Soul of Windgrace, too!
#4. Lake of the Dead
Lake of the Dead is one of those early Magic cards that felt like the designers were just slapping rules text onto cards, resulting in some very powerful cards and some very weak ones. Lake of the Dead is in the former category. Its odd enters-the-battlefield wording basically makes you sacrifice a Swamp when it comes into play, but it enters untapped and doesn’t specify that the Swamp must be untapped (unlike Everglades…). The payoff you get is way more valuable than that single Swamp early on. Sacrificing another Swamp for four black mana is probably the best way to ramp in black in the entire game.
#3. Cabal Stronghold
Cabal Stronghold is a strictly-worse Cabal Coffers. In addition to costing an extra mana to tap, it also only checks the field for basic Swamps you control, meaning it won’t count Blood Crypt, Watery Grave, or any other nonbasic with the Swamp subtype. It does, however, enter the battlefield untapped and can tap for one colorless mana, so it won’t be a wasted land drop if you don’t have the Swamps to net extra mana. Overall, a solid budget choice over Cabal Coffers if you aren’t ready to cough up another $20.
#2. Cabal Coffers
Torment’s Cabal Coffers is probably the most famous nonbasic black land. The sinister Cabal has trapped the Mirari inside their vault and uses its magic to overproduce black mana. Cabal Coffers’s biggest downside is it doesn’t tap for mana itself.
You’ll need four swamps on the field before the Coffers really start to pay off: with three Swamps on the field, paying to tap Cabal Coffers nets you no mana, since you’ve tapped three lands for three mana. Once you hit that fourth Swamp, you’re off to the races, tapping three lands for four mana, and then five mana, and then six mana etc. Early game, this might not be worth it, but by the late game you’ll have more mana than you know what to do with (unless you’ve got an Exsanguinate).
#1. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
You knew it was coming. Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is one of The Best Magic Cards of All Time. Making each other land (including your opponent’s) Swamps instantly fixes your mana and makes your Caged Suns and Crypt Ghasts sing. Urborg can make your swampwalk creatures unblockable, or it can make your colorless utility lands tap for mana. Let’s make that Ghost Quarters tap for black to hit those extra black pips on something like Phyrexian Obliterator. Maybe you’re looking to run Korlash, Heir to Blackblade but can’t commit to all Swamps? Or do you need extra triggers on your Dread Presence? Go nuts!
Best Black Land Payoffs and Synergies
So, you’ve played your Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Cabal Coffers, now what? There’s always room for more swampy mana, so top off your mana base with Crypt Ghast, Nirkana Revenant, and Magus of the Coffers.
Now that you’ve generated all that black mana, what’re you supposed to do with it? Easy: Exsanguinate! This popular Commander finisher is a great dump for all that extra mana, and you can use Corrupt and Consume Spirit in mono-black decks just as well.
Bojuka Bog | Illustration by Howard Lyon
Black isn’t known for its land-synergies, typically. It has the least number of landfall abilities, and Swamps are notoriously difficult to fetch to the field. That said, black has access to some of the most interesting utility lands in Magic, and for a long time it was the only color with access to an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth-like effect. Don’t underestimate the land base in a mono black deck!
What do you think? Is it so contentious to rank Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth over Cabal Coffers? Should Castle Locthwain be in the top five? Let me know in the comments, or over in the official Draftsim Discord.
Thanks for reading, and stay swampy!
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