Last updated on July 31, 2023
Cabal Coffers | Illustration by Don Hazeltine
Ramping is one of the strongest things you can do in Magic. Playing ahead of the mana curve gives you a massive lead over your opponents and can snowball a game in your favor. Effectively playing on turn 5 while your opponents are stuck on turn 3 lets you deploy better threats and answers while they struggle to keep up.
Ramp spells have historically been within the domain of green spells and artifacts. It makes sense that the color of life, growth, and verdancy would be a core color that utilizes ramp. Artifacts are also a sensible card type for ramp as gems and trinkets that store energy for later use.
But black has its share of ramp, even if most of it is less sustained than green’s steady growth. So let’s look at the best black ramp spells in Magic!
What Is Black Ramp in MTG?
Blightsoil Druid | Illustration by Nils Hamm
Black ramp are spells that produce extra mana so you can play ahead of curve. The important thing is that these cards produce mana when you cast them or activate their abilities. Mana filtering effects like “: add a mana of any color” aren’t ramp, so cards like Blood Celebrant don’t make the cut.
We also care about cheap ramp spells. Ramp is at its best when it allows you to accelerate in the early turns of the game, giving you a dominating board state before your opponents have found their footing. More expensive ramp spells are thus weaker.
Much of black’s ramp is Ritual-based, or cards that produce a burst of mana for a single turn. This fits black’s desire for power, sacrificing cards in hand or creatures in play for a chance to grasp something powerful and profane.
#30. Witch Engine
Witch Engine is an… interesting card. It produces a lot of mana, but you probably don’t need more ramp by the time you’re already at six mana. Giving your opponent a burst of free mana in exchange is also pretty bad unless you’re winning the turn you activate this card.
Unexciting unless the horror type is relevant.
#29. Vesper Ghoul
That said, it’s a little weak. Three mana for a 1/1 isn’t where you want your ramp to be, but there’s some value in fixing for any color of mana.
#28. Blood Vassal
This is almost a great card. The main thing holding Blood Vassal back is being mana negative on the turn you play it because it costs three mana but only produces two.
That said, you can activate it right away without worrying about summoning sickness, and it’s a free sacrifice trigger.
#27. Basal Sliver
The only issue is that it’s pretty weak outside of that.
#26. Blightsoil Druid
#25. Basal Thrull
This card looks similar to the sliver from a few moments ago. The main benefit here is that Basal Thrull only costs two mana to produce two mana. You won’t get to use it until the turn after you play it, but going from turn 2 to turn 5 is a huge power spike.
#24. Liliana of the Dark Realms
Liliana can’t effectively protect itself the turn it comes into play, and drawing Swamps for three turns is underwhelming.
#23. Lord of the Forsaken
Lord of the Forsaken is a super expensive ramp piece, but it does come stapled to a 6/6 trample for six. Only producing colorless mana for cards cast from a specific zone does make this incredibly narrow and only useful for hyper-specific decks.
#22. Carnival of Souls
Carnival of Souls hits a lot of the notes you want from a ramp piece. It comes down early and it’s repeatable, but it does have a few weaknesses.
You can lose a lot of life on an opponent’s turn when you might not be able to use the mana, and it’s limited by the number of creatures you can play.
#21. Skirge Familiar
This is another card that’s a little expensive but has a bunch of potential. Skirge Familiar won’t get you ahead in the early game, but it’s a solid midgame ramp option. Pitching cards for mana could lead to explosive turns, even though it’s capped by, well, the number of cards you have in hand.
#20. Spoils of Evil
Spoils of Evil has great potential hidden behind some intense weaknesses. Three mana is a lot for this card to overcome to become mana positive. It also relies on someone at the table having a significant mill theme to really pop off.
#19. Life of Toshiro Umezawa / Memory of Toshiro
Life of Toshiro Umezawa is a bit awkward as a ramp piece. It takes a few turns to get to the ramp side of the card, which only produces mana that can cast instants and sorceries. But it also has utility outside of just producing mana, making it a solid card.
#18. Overeager Apprentice
Overeager Apprentice gets a lot right as a ramp piece. It’s not hindered by summoning sickness and it produces a solid chunk of mana. That said, it’s only mana neutral the turn you play it, and needing to sacrifice the Apprentice and discard an extra card is a bit steep.
#17. Priest of Forgotten Gods
Priest of Forgotten Gods does a lot more than just ramp your mana with its ability. She’s a powerful piece in an artistocrats deck. The main thing holding it back is that it takes a fair amount of work to make this happen, especially if you want to activate this every turn.
#16. Priest of Yawgmoth
Priest of Yawgmoth offers a lot of repeatable value. The main weakness of this card is its dependency on sacrificing artifacts. Black isn’t generally about artifacts, making this powerful but niche.
#15. Bog Witch
Bog Witch is a bit slow but does a lot of things you want from a ramp piece. It’s able to produce an extra two mana every turn.
Discarding a card isn’t the worst in black, and getting just two activations out of this can put you really far ahead.
#14. Nirkana Revenant
A mana doubler is super powerful, but Nirkana Revenant has a drawback in costing six mana. It’s capable of giving out a hefty beating with its pump effect, but you can just get this effect for cheaper.
Sacrifice is an incredibly efficient ramp piece that can produce a large burst of mana. It also works as a way to use creatures that are about to die to an impending board wipe or removal spell. Sacrificing a creature is also on theme for what black wants to do.
#12. Burnt Offering
#11. Black Market
It takes some time for Black Market to get rolling, making it fall into the slower category. But it snowballs very quickly. Creatures always die, and this can generate large amounts of mana consistently and quickly.
#10. Soldevi Adnate
Soldevi Adnate looks an awful lot like Priest of Yawgmoth, but the flexibility added by letting you sacrifice creatures and artifacts is huge. Free sacrifice outlets are always welcome, and this one even nets you mana and can be activated turn after turn.
#9. Cabal Ritual
Cabal Ritual is a powerful card that takes a relatively small amount of work to get going. This card provides a major mana advantage for minimal investment with threshold active. It only nets you a single mana without it, which is still playable.
#8. Bubbling Muck
This is just the black High Tide. It’s a powerful one-off effect, even if it’s a little weaker in black given a lack of untap effects like Turnabout. But doubling your mana for a turn can be all it takes to warp a game.
#7. Songs of the Damned
One thing black is very good at is filling its graveyard with creatures, and Songs of the Damned makes excellent use of this. It takes some work but can produce an astounding amount of mana in a deck focused around self-mill.
#6. Black Market Connections
#5. Rain of Filth
Rain of Filth is a mana doubler that comes at a bit of a cost, but you’re in black so you’ll take power at any cost. Sacrificing your lands can put you at a disadvantage unless you can leverage that with something like The Gitrog Monster.
But it’s still a powerful effect.
#4. Crypt Ghast
Like the Revenant it also comes with a mana sink that enables you to deal damage, but it’s just better since you don’t have to worry about the Ghast connecting with the opponent.
#3. Culling the Weak
We’ve looked at a few cards that sacrifice creatures to generate mana, but Culling the Weak does it the best because it turns a creature of any size into four mana. This is incredibly explosive, especially if paired with creatures like Ornithopter or Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh.
#2. Dark Ritual
The king of explosive starts. If you’ve played Legacy then you’ve seen the power of Dark Ritual into Thoughtseize, Exhume, Reanimate targeting Griselbrand. It takes no setup for this to deliver a huge mana boost that sets you well ahead of your opponents.
#1. Cabal Coffers
Okay, maybe it’s cheating to have Cabal Coffers as the best black ramp spell, but you’re never playing this card outside of black decks and it does so much. It’s pretty much a mana doubler and produces obscene amounts of mana.
Unlike other mana doublers in this list, this card does so consistently and is far harder to interact with. It’s hard to beat the value and mana this card produces.
Best Black Ramp Payoffs
The best payoffs for these black ramp spells are cheap but powerful spells. Things like Liliana of the Veil make a huge impact when played on curve, but get even better when played a turn or two early.
Because most black ramp is bursty, producing extra mana for a single turn as opposed to putting extra lands in play, decks seeking to maximize the impact of these cards must also look to play in explosive spurts. This makes things like storm and reanimator strategies effective plans to use these spells as one turn is often all it takes for those decks to win.
Crypt Ghast | Illustration by Chris Rahn
Black is a color that’s all about obtaining power at any cost. Its ramp options reflect this, often throwing away cards in favor of surges of mana that can put you ahead of your opponents as long as you can use it quickly. Black leans into an explosive ramp style that shows off the power of ramp as a whole.
Adding these cards to your deck is a surefire way to gain an edge over your opponent, letting you play cards a few turns early while they try and set up their own strategies. It’s a great strategy to leave them on the back foot.
What do you think of these rankings? Let me know in the comments or over on the Draftsim Discord.
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