Staples of Modern 2018: Top 5 Black Spells

We are moving right along through color week and today for our midpoint we are taking a look at black. Removal and targeted discard abound in today’s countdown. Before you read through though make sure to participate in this week’s giveaway.

The following cards have been ranked by dominance rating using data from This is calculated by multiplying the percent of decks they appear in by the average number of copies that appear in said decks. For frame of reference, a card that appears in 25% of decks as a two of will have a 0.5 dominance rating. For a hypothetical, 100-player tourney this means that there would be 0.5 copies of said card per player in the room. These cards have had their mainboard and sideboard dominance ratings summed when applicable. Cards with a mixed color identity have been excluded from the results.

Honorable Mention: Street Wraith
As many of you know by now I generally avoid honorable mentions in my lists but Street Wraith deserves it. Granted it is has a dominance rating of 0.38 so it does not make the cut. However, Dismember pushes Wraith out and is much more popular in non-black decks; more on this below. Street Wraith is rarely used as a creature, it is not very efficient, but the ability to cycle for just two life keeps it relevant. It is a role player in Shadow decks as life payment, Hollow One decks for discard, and Delirium decks for an easy card type so it remains quite popular.

#5 Dismember: 0.43
A somewhat controversial choice but here at GGG we put facts above feelings and Dismember has the dominance rating to earn it. Some of our readers will be unhappy about this one because this card really is only black in color identity. In decks with black mana it sees little play because they have access to better options. It is popular though because it grants removal to decks without black mana, such as Humans and Eldrazi. Thanks to Dismember any deck has access to instant speed, one mana removal.

#4 Collective Brutality: 0.48
This was one of the top sideboard spells of the format and we see the dominance rating improve even further when we factor in mainboard play. Collective Brutality is extremely versatile and there are few matchups where it is truly dead. It has a mode for creatures, a mode for instants and sorceries, and a mode that provides a four life advantage in a race. Furthermore, escalate allows the user to use more than one effect at the same mana cost by discarding cards; which many black decks actually want to do.

#3 Inquisition of Kozilek: 0.51
As you can see from previous lists, the Modern format is built on cheap spells. A top mainboard card that answers the majority of spells in the format, Inquisition deserves our respect. It is notable that Inquisition sees virtually no sideboard play so it has been surpassed by the list items below when we factor in entire 75 card decks. It dominates mainboards though because every deck in the format has targets for it and there is no drawback to it. Inquisition is a powerful card and will very rarely miss when played on the first turn.

#2 Fatal Push: 0.55
This was of the most hyped printings of the Modern era and for a time people referred to Modern as a “Push format”. In reality, it has always been a Bolt format but I digress. Push is extremely effective and gave Black the removal spell it had needed for years. It has not surpassed Path but it has certainly improved black’s reputation as the color designed to have the best removal. Revolt is quite easy to activate in Modern, particularly with fetchlands, so it is common for this to answer creatures up to a mana cost of four for just one mana. There are a notable few creatures that dodge it but they are the minority.

#1 Thoughtseize: 0.69
When we examined purely mainboard dominance it was somewhat surprising to see the placement for Thoughtseize. It appeared that Inquisition beat it out by having a greater average number of copies played. Now that we have factored in the sideboard, Thoughtseize has soared to the most played black spell in the format. Targeted discard is central to GBx Midrange strategies in the Modern format but Thoughtseize shows up in a wider variety of decks via the sideboard. It is common for decks like Hollow One and Dredge to utilize to answer opposing sideboard hate before it comes into play or to proactively disrupt faster combo decks. It is a legitimate catch-all and that has earned it the spot as the most dominant black spell in the Modern format for 2018.

This was a fun one to write and research due to the shifting ratings caused by full seventy-five card deck data in the calculations. It was a solid year for black decks and I am interested to see how the midrange decks perform in 2019. We will be back tomorrow to take a look at the red spells and I hope to see you there. For now though, make sure to participate in our giveaway this week.

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