The Comprehensive Guide to Black Tutors [Primer]

  • #1
    Black Tutors: Which are the Best and Why?
    This is a question that is regularly asked but never receives the attention it deserves.
    Black has long been known for its tutoring capabilities; it can search a players library for any card with little or no restriction. No other color in Magic comes even close to providing the tutoring utility that B offers.

    The following is a list of all (hopefully) black tutors, they will be organized by card type and in approximate order of usefulness (usefulness varies by deck) To clarify this further, the rating system used will judge cost, splash-ability and if the card goes to hand or on top of library [OTL] NOTE: Only tutors that search for any card are listed (IE no Mercenary tutors)

    Legend for Price Values:
    $ - $0-$5
    $$ - $5-$25
    $$$ - $25+

    Sorcery:

    Demonic Tutor - the original and undisputed best tutor in MTG. 1B allows a player to search for any card in their 100 and put it in their hand. Very versatile tutor as it can be used early to ramp mana, grab combo pieces mid game, or used to find the final win-con late game.
    Drawback - None
    Splashable - Yes
    Price - $$



    Grim Tutor - a rare tutor that allows players to search for any one card and put it to their hand for only 1BB and a minor drawback.
    Drawback - 3 Life
    Splashable - Yes, BB may be difficult for 5 color decks.
    Price - $$$



    Imperial Seal - this very rare and sought after tutor is great in any deck with swamps. Allows a player to search for any card in their deck with minimal drawback. Great for same turn combos in which the player can draw a card (Sensei's Divining Top, etc.) then win the game all for B.
    Drawback - 2 Life & OTL
    Splashable - Yes
    Price - $$$



    Cruel Tutor - semi-rare tutor similar to Grim Tutor with a smaller drawback. 2B to search for any card and put OTL.
    Drawback - 2 Life & OTL
    Splashable - Yes
    Price - $$



    Diabolic Intent - this tutors position on the list depends greatly on the deck. Decks that can generate tokens or have cheap ETB effects (IE Bitterblossom and Eternal Witness respectively) this tutor is essentially Demonic Tutor but for mid-range, attrition and control style decks the drawback is much more severe. 1B allows a player to search their library for any card and put it into their hand.
    Drawback - Sacrifice a Creature
    Splashable - Yes
    Price - $



    Diabolic Tutor - an Uncommon tutor that can handle all of a players tutoring needs for 2BB. Besides the more limited use Diabolic Intent, this is the first tutor that is less than 5$.
    Drawback - Higher mana cost
    Splashable - Yes, BB may be difficult for 5 color decks.
    Price - $



    Beseech the Queen - this is another tutor that is tough to position on the list due to it's drawback. BBB, 6, or any combination of the two allows a player to search for any card in their library and put it into their hand except the drawback only allows for the player to tutor for a card equal to or less than the lands they control! The position of this tutor on the list is entirely determined by the drawback which is huge. In decks that generate mana outside of lands (or lands that tap for 2) this tutor becomes worse than all of the previously listed tutors. In the late game when lands are no longer an issue this tutor becomes much better.
    Drawback - must reveal the card & may only tutor for a card equal to or less than the number of lands the player controls.
    Splashable - Yes
    Price - $



    Demonic Collusion - another unique tutor in which it allows a player to search for any card for 3BB but with the option of buying the tutor back. Again, this tutor is very deck dependent. Decks utilizing graveyard strategies may like this tutor due to the buyback cost: discard 2 cards. This allows for repeated abuse. For example, cast Demonic Collusion, search for Living Death, discard 2 creature that share creature types, and then proceed to tutor again OR save it for a future use.
    Drawback - Higher mana cost
    Splashable - Yes, BB may be difficult for 5 color decks.
    Price - $



    Doomsday - a very unique tutor that must be somewhat built around to work. For BBB this tutor allows a player to search for 5 cards from their library and/or graveyard and put them OTL but the player then must remove their library from the game and lose half of their life. If built around this tutor can do some very degenerate things and win on the turn it is cast.
    Drawback - Remove Library from the game & lose half life
    Splashable - Yes, BB may be difficult for 3+ color decks.
    Price - $



    Rhystic Tutor - 2B allows a player to search their library for any card and put it in their hand with the drawback of allowing their opponents to counter the effect for 2. This is not an ideal tutor in Multiplayer EDH but it could definitely be used in 1v1 EDH.
    Drawback - Can be countered by opponents for 2
    Splashable - Yes
    Price - $



    Infernal Tutor - a very situational tutor that has limited uses in EDH. This tutor can be used early as a black Sylvan Scrying if you have an additional basic in your hand. Mid to Late game the card really has to be built around to shine. Decks utilizing cards such as Malfegor and Insidious Dreams can use this card at full potential.
    Drawback - Can only find a card already in your hand or any card but only if your Hellbent.
    Splashable - Yes
    Price - $-$$



    Instant:

    Vampiric Tutor - an instant speed tutor for any card in a players library for B. Although the card goes OTL, this allows for end of opponent's turn tutors. This tutor produces the fastest 'clock' as it can get a card from a players deck to their hand at the beginning of turn two with mana open to use on that turn. Similar to Imperial Seal but at Instant speed and for far less $.
    Drawback - 2 life & OTL
    Splashable - Yes
    Price - $$



    Insidious Dreams - this situational tutor allows a player to discard X cards to search their library for X cards and place them OTL in any order for 3B. Due to the unique effect, this tutor can be used to do some very degenerate things when built around (IE Necropotence + a wincon or similar to Demonic Collusion using the graveyard). This card can also be used in response to hand disruption; allowing the player to discard X card and search up the required answers for the following turns instead of discarding X cards to the disruption. The biggest problem with this card is that if countered it can be detrimental. Be careful using this card in metas containing large quantities of Blue
    Drawback - The additional cost & higher mana cost (almost negligible for the effect being received)
    Splashable - Yes
    Price - $



    Tainted Pact - this is part tutor part draw spell depending on the deck. Unlike most other tutors, this tutor excels in multicolored decks where repeating cards are less frequent thus turning what would be a draw spell in mono black into a tutor for any card in multicolor for 1B plus the exiled cards.
    Drawback - deck exile & only works as a tutor in deck that have very few basic lands.
    Splashable - Yes
    Price - $



    Spoils of the Vault - a unique Instant speed tutor which allows a player to name a card and then reveal cards from the top of their library until the named card is revealed losing 1 life and exiling each non-named card. This tutor is a gamble, especially in EDH, where searching for the wincon could result in a win or a loss. Could be used as ramp in situations where a land drop is vital.
    [not familair with any other interactions of this card, if there are combos please let me know and I will add an example]
    Drawback - life loss and deck exile
    Splashable - Yes
    Price - $



    Demonic Consultation - similar to Spoils of the Vault this Instant speed tutor allows a player to name a card and then exile the top 6 cards from the top of their library upon exiling the 6 card the player then reveals cards from the top of their deck until the named card is revealed exiling each non-named card. Like Spoils of the Vault this tutor is a gamble, if the named card is exiled within the first 6, you lose. Could be used as ramp in situations where a land drop is vital.
    [not familair with any other interactions of this card, if there are combos please let me know and I will add an example]
    Drawback - deck exile
    Splashable - Yes
    Price - $



    Enchantment:

    Night Dealings - as the only self recur-able tutor outside of Demonic Collusion, Liliana Vess and Bringer of the Black Dawn , Night Dealings allows a player to search their library for any card after a bit of setup. 2BB initial investment allows a player to lay down the card with no effect, in order to get the search engine online it requires that the player deal damage to opponents to gain counters. To activate the search the player must pay 2BB and remove X counters to search their library for a card with CMC X or less and put it into their hand. Since the enchantment requires damage to in order to search this tutor lends itself to more aggressive strategies. Be careful using this card in metas containing large quantities of Blue as getting it bounced could mean several turns of gaining counters wasted.
    Drawback - Heavy mana commitment, must reveal the card & easily disrupted.
    Splashable - Yes, BB may be difficult for 5 color decks.
    Price - $



    Creature:

    Rune-Scarred Demon - Demonic Tutor on a 6/6 Flying Demon for 5BB is unprecedented. At first glance it seems quite overpriced for a tutor effect but upon further inspection it is more like a 6/6 flyer for 5 + 2 for the tutor effect. Another bonus effect of Rune-Scarred Demon is that it can be abused with bounce and/or blink tactics along with creature tutor effects such as Tooth and Nail. While this creature may not find a home in all EDH decks, it is the only creature with a tutor any card effect that is splashable.
    Drawback - Higher mana cost (almost negligible for the creature/effect being received)
    Splashable - Yes, BB may be difficult for 5 color decks.
    Price - $



    Maralen of the Mornsong - stops all players from drawing cards and instead at the beginning of each player's draw step, that player loses 3 life, searches his or her library for a card, puts it into his or her hand. The effect provided is typically not desired, as it allows opponents to seek out answers/wincons each turn. This is especially dangerous versus colors that do not typically have tutors for certain cards (red (other than gamble and goblin tutors), blue for non artifact creatures/enchantments/planeswalker, white creatures/instant/sorceries/planeswalker, green instant/sorceries/enchantments/planeswalker). When combined in combo with other card though, Maralen of the Mornsong can be used to a powerful effect (IE Stranglehold, Leonin Arbiter, Aven Mindcensor, etc.)
    Drawback - allows all players to search their libraries
    Splashable - Yes
    Price - $



    Fleshwrither - is the only MTG card in existence with the Transfigure mechanic. This mechanic allows a player to play Fleshwrither and then pay 1BB to sacrifice it and search their library for a creature with the same cmc of 4 and put it into play. Limited uses, but in decks where an important 4 drop is key, this should be considered.
    Drawback - vulnerable to removal if not used immediately & only tutors for creatures of cmc 4
    Splashable - Yes, BB may be difficult for 5 color decks.
    Price - $



    Divining Witch - similar to Demonic Consultation except that Divining Witch is a 1/1 creature, costs 1B, has summoning sickness, requires the player to discard a card and pay 1B to activate.
    Drawback - vulnerable to removal prior to use, higher mana cost, requires discard and deck exile.
    Splashable - Yes
    Price - $



    Bringer of the Black Dawn - recurring Vampiric Tutor for 7BB or WUBRG on a 5/5 trample body. Due to the EDH rules, this card may only be used in 5 color decks.
    Drawback - 5 color only
    Splashable - No
    Price - $



    Planeswalker:

    Liliana Vess - high utility card that allows repeated OTL tutoring if not dealt with quickly. Not only is Liliana Vess a tutor, but as a Planeswalker, the card possesses two additional abilities (+1 target hand disruption, -8 all creature in all graveyard are returned to play under you control) that allow for a more than the 1 for 1 card advantage that most tutors. Due to the powerful utility built into the card it will receive opponent hate quickly in most cases.
    Drawback - OTL & easily/readily hated out
    Splashable - Yes, BB may be difficult for 5 color decks.
    Price - $-$$



    Top Black Tutors (based on the previously stated values):
    Demonic Tutor
    Vampiric Tutor
    Grim Tutor
    Imperial Seal
    Rune-Scarred Demon
    Liliana Vess

    Top Black Tutors (based on the price):
    Demonic Tutor
    Diabolic Tutor
    Rune-Scarred Demon
    Liliana Vess
    Diabolic Intent

    Transmute Tutors:
    Transmute was an mechanic introduced in the Ravinca block which allows players to pay 1BB (for black cards) to discard the card and search their library for a card with the same converted mana cost, reveal it and put it into their hand. This mechanic is advantageous in EDH for several reasons, first, it is essentially uncounterable (IE Stifle, Trickbind), second, some of the cards are not terrible on their own and can add utility to the deck and third its an additional tutor in the players 100 card list (typically added to search for key cards).
    Drawback - some of the cards are not great on their own.
    Splashable - Yes, BB may be difficult for 5 color decks.
    Price - $

    The following is the list of all Black cards with transmute:

    Shred Memory


    Dimir Machinations


    Dimir House Guard


    Brainspoil


    Netherborn Phalanx


    Graveyard Tutors:
    Tutors which allow a player to search their library for a card/cards and place them into the graveyard. These type of tutors are typically used for decks utilizing graveyard shenanigans.
    Drawback - requires reanimation/graveyard themed decks
    Splashable - Yes
    Price - $-$$$

    The following is the list of all Black graveyard tutors:

    Entomb


    Buried Alive


    Corpse Connoisseur


    Land Cycling:
    Cards with the Land Cycling and Swampcycling mechanics allows players to discard the card with the mechanic to search their library for either a Basic Land or Swamp for the cost of 2 or 1B
    Drawback - some of the cards are not great on their own.
    Splashable - Yes
    Price - $

    The following is the list of all Black cards with land cycling:

    Twisted Abomination


    Absorb Vis


    Please feel free to comment on the explanations or ordering.
    Last edited by drips: 10/16/2011 9:53:07 PM
  • #3
    I would like to see Demonic Consultation and Spoils From the Vault on this list. Also, Transmute cards deserve a place somewhere.

    Good list and good idea!
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  • #4
    Updated, thanks.
    I read the oracle text on all of them (i thought). I guess I had a moment and decided not to read that one.

    Both Spoils of the Vault and Demonic Consultation will be added shortly.
  • #5
    Reasonably useful, but if you are going to make a black guide to tutors, you need to put transmute in. Seriously, there is only 3 cards that can counter them.

    Where's there place in gy tutors?!?!
    Adun, the slow grind.

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  • #6
    I think Grim Tutor is better than vampiric, because it basically says the same but for 1B more it also says "draw a card". I don't like vampiric tutor or imperial seal too much because of the card advantage they put you at. But that may be just me.
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  • #7
    Great list! I currently have vampiric tutor in my Olivia Vampire deck (go figure) and was looking for a second tutor. This is gonna be a great help.
  • #8
    A drawback for Beseech the Queen, you have to reveal the card you searched for.

    You need to add Liliana Vess to the list as well
  • #9
    Quote from Ted Elderhi
    Reasonably useful, but if you are going to make a black guide to tutors, you need to put transmute in. Seriously, there is only 3 cards that can counter them.

    Where's there place in gy tutors?!?!


    Transmutes are on the agenda now since the demand for them is high, may take a couple days, GY tutors I can add as well since there are not many.
    Thanks for the feedback, keep it up!

    Will check all the tutors oracle and add the "reveal" clause to any that have it.
    Liliana was supposed to be in there...sigh, will add her in for sure.
  • #10
    Liliana vess is the BEST tutor of all time.
    Decks:
    blue mana red mana Delver blue mana red mana

    EDH:
    white mana Kemba white mana
    :symr::symu::symg:Maelstrom Wanderer:symu::symr::symg:
    :symg::symw::symu:Rafiq:symg::symu::symw:
  • #11
    I would not consider Doomsday splashable. However, what exactly do you mean by splashable? It's not exactly possible to splash in EDH in the conventional sense.

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  • #12
    Quote from Sto0kerz
    Liliana vess is the BEST tutor of all time.


    5 mana sorcery speed tutor that might get a second use on a card type that is difficult to interact with? I'm not quite seeing that. I'll still take Demonic as the best of all time, I think. She's definitely worth including on the list, though.
  • #13
    I'm surprised that you didn't mention which tutors compel you to reveal the chosen card. In some decks, I categorically exclude cards that require me to reveal my choice. Tutor for Warp World, then watch as every blue player at the table floats mana on my turn for the rest of the game, and every other player sends all available attacks my way. No thx. Definitely a very relevant thing to consider, more relevant than splashability in EDH imo.
  • #14
    You might want to add as a disadvantage to Cruel Tutor and Imperial Seal the difficulty in finding those cards. Imperial Seal carries a $500+ pricetag, and Cruel is over $125.

    Personally, the best five tutors that are reasonably obtainable are: Demonic, Vampiric, Beseech the Queen, Rune-Scarred Demon, Diabolic Intent. Intent is actually pretty solid, as most black strategies rely on using cheap sac-fodder creatures like Bitterblossom, Nether Traitor, Bloodghast, and Reassembling Skeleton to fuel their early-game shenanigans.
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  • #15
    To clarify splashable (I will add to the primer) I mean that it can be used in multi-colored decks without much issue.
    Doomsday can be used on 3 color decks but may be difficult, 2 color and mono should be no problem.
  • #16
    Divining Witch is Demonic Consultation on a stick.

    Dont forget about Entomb, Buried Alive, Shred Memory, Brainspoil, Maralen of the Mornsong.
    Tantarus: It didn't make the gaka greifer level, so it should be fine


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  • #17
    Quote from Wildfire393
    You might want to add as a disadvantage to Cruel Tutor and Imperial Seal the difficulty in finding those cards. Imperial Seal carries a $500+ pricetag, and Cruel is over $125.

    Personally, the best five tutors that are reasonably obtainable are: Demonic, Vampiric, Beseech the Queen, Rune-Scarred Demon, Diabolic Intent. Intent is actually pretty solid, as most black strategies rely on using cheap sac-fodder creatures like Bitterblossom, Nether Traitor, Bloodghast, and Reassembling Skeleton to fuel their early-game shenanigans.


    I lol at Imperial Seal being $500. I get the supply/demand is pretty skewed by such as small printing as that set, but how can a card that is strictly inferior to a card with idential legality and lower price, Vampiric Tutor, be so expensive? Is it the sheer possibility for redundancy that's driving that price? I want to see a deck.

    Odd thing too is that Diabolic Intent is about comparable in price to Demonic. That one I understand though. Playable in 4x in Legacy? Yes plz. I just wish that one of these hawt tutors were available on MODO for less than 5 tix.
  • #18
    Quote from Justice1337
    I lol at Imperial Seal being $500. I get the supply/demand is pretty skewed by such as small printing as that set, but how can a card that is strictly inferior to a card with idential legality and lower price, Vampiric Tutor, be so expensive? Is it the sheer possibility for redundancy that's driving that price? I want to see a deck.

    Odd thing too is that Diabolic Intent is about comparable in price to Demonic. That one I understand though. Playable in 4x in Legacy? Yes plz. I just wish that one of these hawt tutors were available on MODO for less than 5 tix.


    Vampiric Tutor is a very good card. It is comparable with Demonic Tutor, being just slightly worse. People run Vampiric because it's almost as good as Demonic, and the optimal decklist will run both. Likewise, Seal is almost as good as Vampiric, so the optimal decklist will run all three.

    It's kind of like Mana Crypt. Yes, it's basically Sol Ring, but marginally better the turn you play it and marginally worse on all other turns of the game. Because having Sol Ring is great, having two Sol Rings is even better. So Mana Crypt, which is in a much shorter supply, goes for something like 10 times the price ($70 instead of $7).

    Intent being comparable to Demonic in price really doesn't surprise me. Wasteland is about 20x as expensive as Strip Mine, despite being "strictly worse".
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  • #19
    Thanks Gaka, I originally intentionally left out all of the Transmute & GY tutors but have since decided to add them and will be adding them slowly over the next few days.

    Thanks for the heads up on Maralen and Divining Witch, forgot them both.
  • #20
  • #21
    Primer format updated, graveyard tutors added, transmute tutors added, various missing tutors added.
    Last edited by drips: 10/10/2011 10:38:34 PM
  • #22
    How about Tainted Pact? Pretty good for combo decks, I think. Will limit you to 2 basics of the same type though.
  • #23
    If you're including Transmute, you should also include Transfigure (on only one card: Fleshwrither), which is basically Transmute from the field rather than from your hand. (Of course, that means you've got to cast the spell first, which means it can be countered easily, unlike Transmute.) Bonus points: the creature you tutor for goes onto the field.

    And can also be repeated with Necrotic Ooze, Body Double, The Mimeoplasm, etc. shenanigans.
  • #24
    Would there be interest in a big guide to all things searchy? Just wondering :p
    Adun, the slow grind.

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  • #25
    I think expedition map should get honorable mention because alonstvevery mono-black deck runs it to find cabal coffers or other utility lands. Yes it's not black but it's useful information to someone building a black deck.

    And I honestly don't see transmute being hard to counter being that big of a deal. If they're dying to counter something they'll just wait and counter what you transmuted for.
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  • #26
    Quote from nutterbutter
    And I honestly don't see transmute being hard to counter being that big of a deal. If they're dying to counter something they'll just wait and counter what you transmuted for.

    You rarely want to counter the tutor itself, unless you expect they're going for an uncounterable card.
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