MtG Nostalgia: Revamping “Black Summer” in 2014

Well dear readers,

you can see that the Magic: the Gathering craze is holding me in a tight grip again these days (after an episode of Yu-Gi-Oh craze) fuelled by weekly tournaments of various kinds (from sealed deck, over commander to “anything goes” casual) in the relatively near Magis Shop I discovered in Linz (a somehwat more than an hour train ride from my place), so here comes another MtG deck/strategy article.

This time we are going back to the past again, far back, to a point in time even before my own Magic career started now exaclty 15 years ago, in 1999 with the Sixth Edition.

We have summer 1996, which should become known as “black summer”, as aggressive, black decks fuelled by the immense draw powers of Necropotence…

…released in Ice Age back in 1995 were abundant and dominated, featuring classic, powerful black cards like Dark RitualHypnotic Specter and Hymn to Tourach to mention a few, always engaged in an eternal struggle with classic White Weenie decks featuring Protection from Black White Knights, Order of  Leitburs and/or Order of the White Shields as well as with so called “Turbo Stasis” control decks.

Having read all about that period prior to my start into M:tG in old issues of “The Duelist” a relative had borrowed me and I had found in a comic store for cheap, I am well familiar with the Magic decks before my time and always wondered if they could still compete after so many years had passed, at least in a modified form.

The weekly casual tournaments at the Magic Shop in Linz  (they should really consider renaming those, cause “Beginner’s Tournament” is quite misleading as usually 90% of the people showing up there are actually pros!) would be the optimal testing ground for that I assumed. Of course I could just take the deck list of a “black summer” 1996 Necro-Deck running a playset of Necropotences just like back then in the times of yore, but that would be quite lame and I think I can emulate the playing style and feel of the old deck archteype quite well running newer cards that fit the theme along the old classics, which are all allowed as there are no restricted or even banned cards in the so  called “Beginner’s Tournament”, namely the aforementioned Dark Ritual, Hymn to Tourach and Hypnotic Specter. Quite to my surprise, the latter has dropped in price to almost zero these days – oddly enough as he was always  highly sougth after and considered a top card back then, and I think he is really powerful with great potential disturbing your opponent’s  strategy by forcing random discards being a reasonably priced (mana-wise) flyer and all. But more on that later. Anyways even though I woul be free to do it, I will not run Necropotence in my “old and new crossover deck”, since I think I have found superior alternatives.You want to know what could beat good-old Necropotence? Well read on to find out!

Let me show you the “Black Summer 2014” deck which I am tempted to run in this week’s “Beginners’ Tournament” instead of the Elves for Emrakul deck I had announced earlier.

Black Summer 2014 Deck (Casual Format):


2 x Gatekeeper of Malakir BB

4 x Hypnotic Specter 1BB

4 x Vampire Nighthawk 1BB

2 x Abyssal Persecutor 2BB


4 x Dark Ritual B


4 x Thoughtseize B

4 x Cabal Therapy B

4 x Surgical Extraction B

4 x Hymn to Tourach BB

4 x Sign in Blood BB


4 x Skullclamp 1


20 x Swamp

About the Deck:

Well, this is my modernized version of the classic Necro-Deck memorably popular during “black summer” in 1996.

The deck consists mostly of cost 1 or cost 2 cards and is monocolored, so I dare play only 20 lands, all Swamps. The Dark Rituals certainly help out in case of mana problems and a turn 1 Hypnotic Specter or Vampire Nighthawk is very much possible and in fact your perfect opening play. Man the people back then in the Necropotence era would have jumped at a card like Vampire Nighthawk:

A 2/3 Flying Deathtouching Lifelinker for 3 Mana – what a package!!

In general I would call this deck an aggro-control deck with lots and lots of hand disruption, pinpoint in the form of Thoughtseize (the better Duress) and Cabal Therapy or random in the form of Hymn to Tourach and Hypnotic Specter. You basically take out anything the deck wouldn’t be able to deal with right out of your opponent’s hand.

Even without an explosive start powered through Dark Ritual, you can Thoughtseize a card on turn one, pay 2 life for the alternative casting cost (“Phyrexian Mana”) of Surgical Extraction and take out one bother some card once and for all by exiling any and all copies of it from your opponent’s hand, graveyard and deck. That is pretty awesome. You can follow that up with a turn two Hymn that will take out two more cards from your opponent’s hand at random, which can be quite devastating. On turn 3 you can then cast Hypnotic Specter, which will be a constant engine for random discards or Vampire Nighthawk who will make up for the life lost to your Thoughtseizes, your Surgical Extractions and your Sign in Bloods.

Speaking of: I found more or less ideal card draw options for this deck, without resorting to actually playing Necropotence: Those are 4 Sign in Blood and 4 Skullclamps.

Sign in Blood costs just BB and causes a player to draw 2 cards and then lose two life. This means you got cheap and efficient card draw at the ready, which you can even use as a “finisher” in some tight games where you just need to push through one or two more points of damage in order to win, simply by targeting your opponent with the Sign in Blood.

Skullclamp on the other hand…

…being my all time favorite equipment for sure, and I am sure glad to be allowed to play it in the form of a playset in the “Beginner’s Tournament, as it is so tremendously useful on so many levels. It draws you two cards when the Creature it is attached to dies. This means the Creature will be replaced twice, by two new cards. Furthermore, it gives the equipped Creature +1/-1, meaning that your Nighthawks and Specters will attack for one more damage each turn, which might matter more than one might think plus if you attach 2 Skullclamps to one of your 2 thoughness Creatures, you will draw 4 new cards at once.  That is pretty amazing. And lastly, I always like to think of the ‘Clamp as a form of “life insurance” for the equipped Creature, as opponents will be hesitant to destroy it and give you two new cards for free basically. What a deal for a 1 cost Equipment that equips at the mere cost of 1 as well. I think in conjunction, Sign in Blood and Skullclamp are worthy replacements for good old Necropotence.

And oh my, I almost forgot to mention my killer-Creature:

Abyssal Persecutor just kicks then so powerful Juzam Djinns demonic butt! His only drawback is “just” that you cannot win the game and your opponent cannot lose. That is negligible however since you can get rid of Persectuor easily through Cabal Therapy’s flashback cost of sacking a Creature or by Kicking Gatekeeper of Malakir, targetting yourself, once your opponent is exactly at or below 0 life!

Well, fellow Magic: the Gathering enthusiasts, this is my take on “black summer 2014”!

Hope you enjoyed my deck article and will also read the next one, being about my new EDH deck that I built right after I built my sisters (deckbuilding galore these days!). I will spend my evening doing just that so I will be back soon with YET another Magic: the Gathering deck article!

Until then I wish one and all always

Happy Gaming,




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