Last updated on November 29, 2023
Professor Onyx | Illustration by Kieran Yanner.jpg
Planeswalkers are one of the ”newest” card types in MTG, and they’re definitely cards that are most sought after in a given collection. They’re usually the faces of their collection, central points in the storytelling, powerful cards for Constructed and Limited formats, or chase mythic cards.
Black had its share of powerful and format-defining planeswalker cards since the debut of Liliana Vess in 2007. There are a few mono-black planeswalker characters, like Liliana and Ob Nixilis that you probably know.
I’m about to go over all these black mana users and put them in the arena to see who comes out on top. Let’s find out!
What are Black Planeswalkers?
Lolth, Spider Queen | Illustration by Tyler Jacobson
In this list I'm going over cards with the “planeswalker” subtype with black as their only color (i.e., mono-black planeswalkers). Some planeswalker characters are always mono-black, like Liliana, while others sometimes dip into mono-black but other printings are 2- or even 3-colors.
With that in mind, let’s go straight to the rankings!
#16. Liliana Vess
The first incarnation of Liliana Vess has almost all of this character’s typical effects right off the bat. A 5-mana walker with a good chunk of loyalty then its +1 makes your opponent discard, and the -2 is a tutor a la Vampiric Tutor.
Let’s compare the design to the next iteration of Liliana, which makes a 2/2 Zombie while milling and “resurrects” a threat for the same mana value to see how planeswalker power grew a lot in a short period of time.
#15. Liliana, Death's Majesty
Making a 2/2 Zombie while milling is almost always good, except when you have three cards or less. It also feeds Liliana, Death's Majesty’s next ability, which is a Zombify effect. And you’ve got a versatile black planeswalker.
#14. Davriel, Soul Broker
Davriel, Soul Broker was made for Jumpstart in MTG Arena, and I have to be honest with you, I never played with or against this card. I saw a combo online where you perpetually put -3/-3 on Vesperlark. Talk about infinite comes-back-from-the-graveyard-to-the-battlefield.
A 4-mana cost is good for walkers and Davriel’s +1 ability kinda protects it. The -2 is the more intriguing ability. First you accept an offer (a very good effect), but then you have to accept the condition (a very bad effect).
A planeswalker designed for a digital environment is cool, I must admit. And Soul Broker can do powerful stuff, but the playability is restricted to formats like Historic (probably too weak) or Brawl.
#13. Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage
As the first incarnation of Davriel in War of the Spark, Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage is an interesting design that somewhat mirrors Jace Beleren. The goal is to play it in a matchup where your opponents aren’t pressuring you with creatures, especially if you’re on the play. A Davriel that can make your opponent discard two or three is very interesting.
#12. Ob Nixilis Reignited
Back in 2014 to 2015 there was a meme that every 5-mana planeswalker has card advantage on the plus, removal on the minus, and some game winning ultimate. Ob Nixilis Reignited is anything but this, but it is well executed and a nice threat to have in midrange and control decks. And maybe more coming from the sideboard (in 2015, of course).
#11. Vraska, Betrayal's Sting
Vraska, Betrayal's Sting is the newest interaction of the snake-themed planeswalker who has unfortunately been completed by the Phyrexians. It enters the battlefield with six loyalty counters, but that number is reduced to 4 if you elect to pay part of the mana cost with life.
This Vraska offers up two abilities on the turn it enters the battlefield. It can either draw a card and proliferate for the close of one life, or turn a creature into a treasure token with its -2. This is exactly what you want to see on a planeswalker: a way to defend itself in the event it comes down on a contested board or generate card and board advantage if you're already ahead.
Its ultimate is also quite strong. At nine loyalty, it forces a target player to immediately jump up to nine poison counters regardless of their existing poison counters. It's powerful, it's thematic, and it doesn't cost to too terribly much.
Liliana, Heretical Healer as a 2/3 lifelink creature is somewhat playable by itself, blocking and stabilizing the board. But then you get is a typical Liliana planeswalker with Liliana, Defiant Necromancer, with discard on the plus ability and reanimation on the minus, after any creature you control dies.
The non-legendary rider is just fear of Griselbrand, but there are lots of non-legendary targets worth reanimating.
The disguised Liliana planeswalker that’s currently legal in Standard, Professor Onyx didn’t get a lot of hype when it released but suddenly found its way into decks, from midrange to control and ramp. The nice thing about this walker is that the game starts getting out of hand for your opponents if you can untap with it because it’ll net card advantage with its +1 ability, and suddenly all your Opts and other cantrips and card selection snowball into a huge Drain Life.
Liliana, Untouched by Death gets the nod because it’s a cool design for Zombie tribal, which is a commonly supported theme. The +1 ability self-mills, which Zombie decks are in the market for, the -2 is removal based on the Zombies you control, and the -3 is a powerful card advantage move given the conditions (graveyard full of cheap Zombies and some mana to spare). What else could you possibly want in a Zombie deck?
#6. Sorin the Mirthless
Lolth’s partner in crime since it’s very common to find these together. Sorin the Mirthless makes a 2/3 flying lifelink token, which is very useful in defending and stabilizing against aggro/white weenie. It also offers card advantage with the +1, but sometimes you lose a lot of life in the process. I never used the ultimate but it’s a way to close games quickly, though your opponents will usually be off the 13 life range or scoop before that.
An awesome threat in the midrange and control decks of yesteryear, this incarnation of Liliana does almost everything an expensive planeswalker should do. Liliana, Dreadhorde General makes 2/2 Zombies while plusing, has a double Edict effect, allows you to draw some cards in the process, and has a powerful ultimate if left unchecked.
Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord was very strong in a small window of time before its Standard rotation where Vampire tribal was the best thing to do in Standard, and it can be seen in tribal Vampire decks everywhere including Historic and Pioneer. Planeswalkers with two +1 abilities tend to be very strong, and Imperious Bloodlord can either turn a Vampire into a stronger threat or convert one Vampire into removal, Lightning Helix style. Its -3 allows you to cheat on mana by playing a strong 4- to 5-mana value Vampire, like Champion of Dusk.
Look, I’m evaluating Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools since it was a Standard release, or at least a Modern Horizons one. The fact that it only pluses and can draw two by sacrificing a creature for 5 mana should be enough to warrant serious playability. Tevesh Szat’s +2 creates two chump blockers that can protect you or serve as sacrifice fodder for the +1 ability.
It also has partner, which has some synergies with cheap commanders like Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh and Thrasios, Triton Hero. Partnering Tevesh Szat opens more possibilities in your color identity for your Commander deck, and chances are you probably want a partner commander that gets stronger the more it’s cast since you’re interested in sacrificing your own commander.
One of the only cards to survive Standard rotation into other formats like Modern and Pioneer, Liliana, the Last Hope has a couple things going for it. Its mana value being three helps a lot for playability.
And its abilities are pretty useful all around, with the +1 giving -2/-1 to any target, usually acting as removal for small dorks or protecting it from a threat. Liliana’s -2 can find or recur some key creature threats and fills the graveyard which usually brings value. And it threatens to ultimate which is a game winning threat all by itself if it’s left unchecked.
Yeah, good old Liliana of the Veil, a multiple format all-star spanning Standard, Legacy, and Modern. Why is this Liliana so good? There are a lot of factors that make it great, its three mana value being one of them since most planeswalkers cost 4+ mana for a reason.
Decks that run this walker also run lots of discard to attack the opponent’s hand and the window to answer both threats is small when coupled with pressure from other threats like Tarmogoyf. Liliana’s -2 is suitable for dealing with a lone threat from the opponent. And decks that play it usually synergize with its +1 ability, discarding cards that can be played from the graveyard with flashback or similar mechanics, excess lands, or even including a Life From the Loam package.
Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools | Illustration by Livia Prima
Black has some really powerful planeswalkers, which can’t be said about other colors as easily, with a long history of Constructed play across multiple formats. With more than 200 planeswalkers available in Magic, these are the 15 most powerful and impactful black planeswalkers in the game.
What are your favorite stories with black planeswalkers? Do you have a favorite deck featuring Liliana, or even Davriel or Sorin? Let me know in the comments below or find us over in the Draftsim Discord.
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