Our editor is a big fan of old-timey monoblack.
This is why the "deck mechanic" clip-art he uses
has a picture of Juzam Djinn superimposed on the
car. Had you noticed?
Nightmare used to be all you needed to win. Play
black, kill the other guy's creatures, drop
Nightmare as a big flyer, swing and win. Plan B
was Corrupt, I imagine. If you can believe it,
Nightmare was pretty scary even in two-color
decks at one point. Figure it this way-- by the
time you have six mana in a two color, you'll
have on average three Swamps, right? Maybe more.
If you end up with less, then you just don't
cast Nightmare until you draw a few more.
Usually topdecking lands in the lategame is bad,
but when you've got this guy, it's good! He
keeps getting bigger! These days, though, six
mana needs to get you so much more than that.
I'd still consider it in monoblack, since most
of the big black flyers are Demons and maybe I
don't want a drawback. And it still gets
reprinted in Core Sets sometimes, where it's a
solid bomb in Limited. But as my finisher in a
monoblack control deck? I feel like I can do
In Dungeons and Dragons, the nightmare
(which, just for interest, looked almost exactly
like Magic's Nightmare) was a powerful outsider
originating from the lower plane Hades. In
addition to its own abilities, it could often be
found in the company of night hags, liches, and
other such dangerous beings.
In Magic, though, the Nightmare is tied more
strongly to actual physical swamps; the
intention behind it seems to have been to act as
a sort of lord of corrupted lands, though it
lacks the sort of spell-like abilities that we
have seen on a lot of expensive creatures
recently. Nonetheless, I think it fills the
intended role quite well. Its potential power
and toughness are limited only by the number of
lands in your deck - even after twenty-one
years, there are not too many creatures that can
say that, and there are still not that many
things that can kill it efficiently. While there
is much more choice at this mana cost now than
there was in 1993, Nightmare is still
spectacular, still evocative (try it as the
centerpiece of a "Swamp matters" deck with
Tendrils of Corruption), and can still beat
dreams into despair with shocking efficiency.
Today's card of the day is Nightmare which is a
six mana Black creature with Flying and power
and toughness equal to the number of Swamps you
control. This has always been a powerful card
for Black and even played early with a Dark
Ritual was still a serious threat as a 4/4 with
evasion. Other cards may take the top end
creature position in mono-Black, but Nightmare
is still a solid option in some formats.
In Limited this is far stronger in
mono-Black, but even in a two color deck with
half the lands as Swamps this is a 3/3 or higher
with evasion that can get stronger with an
otherwise dead land draw. Technically splashable
with just one Black mana symbol, this works well
enough in Sealed and is a solid first pick in
The raw power of Nightmare is a fearsome
thing to behold. When you're playing mono-black,
this thing makes an excellent finisher. At it's
worst, it's a 6/6 with flying for 6 mana. The
longer the game goes on, and the more Swamps you
play, the more Nightmare is able to feed off
your opponent's terror and grow even stronger.
"But Michael," I hear you say, "what if I
don't play mono-black? Is Nightmare still the
right finisher card for me?" Absolutely,
anonymous Internet reader with shockingly good
spelling. Why? Because of one card.
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth.
There, now you're sort of playing mono-black
One of the best things about Nightmare is
that it has no built-in downside. Usually with
some powerful black cards, demons and such
usually, they have a cost or penalty built in to
make up for their great power. Losing life when
you attack, having to pay mana each turn,
sacrificing creatures, or in the case of Abyssal
Persecutor literally making you unable to win
the game until you get rid of it.
The only downside to Nightmare is that it
costs 6 mana. And that's not a small amount, but
the beatstick you get in return is generally
worth the cost. And that's what Nightmare is in
the end. A beatstick. It is a bit slow, so more
suited for a finisher in a control deck than an
aggro deck. Aggro decks don't care for running
things that cost 6 mana, they want to win or
practically have won the game by the time
someone gets to that amount. This is a card that
will make the bad day your giving your opponent
It's straightforward, it's powerful, and it's
iconic. Nightmare has been in the game since
Alpha, and was in every core set all the way
from Alpha to Magic 2010, before it took a short
break (probably exhausted from being so awesome)
until it returned in Magic 2014.
I know I haven't reviewed an MTG card in ages.
But we needed a 5th favorite card for the week
and I figured I'd chime in with my favorite.
I consider myself a real old-school collectible
card game player, as I was actually playing
collectible card games in the late 1970's.
The main game I played was
Strat-O-Matic Baseball. I was in a
draft league with about 20 other players. We
would draft cards every Spring, and form teams with them, and
play Strato every Monday night all summer long.
We even had an 81-game schedule (1/2 of a real
baseball season), and played 6 simulated games
each night. Starting pitchers even needed
4 day's rest. Players could get injured
and go on the D.L. It was a great league. Every Spring, I couldn't wait for
a new season of cards to come out, along with a
Garfield said Strato was a strong influence for
creating MTG if you are not aware of this). I
played in Strato leagues for many years. I
still have all the teams I've drafted rubber
banded in my drawer of my desk. Jim Rice FTW! (Here's a
fun article in Forbes about Strato if you
want to get side-tracked a bit). I think
Strato declined in popularity due to Fantasy
Baseball, MTG, and video games. But they
still do make it today.
Anyway, Fast Forward to the mid 90's, and I see teenagers in my neighborhood playing MTG on
their driveways during a dog walk. I was
like WTF is this? I watched. I sat in for
a game. I was mesmerized.
I ran and bought some boosters from a hobby shop
and joined a Saturday league there. But I
was getting spanked. There was so much to
learn. (Necropotence ... Exile a card?
.. WTF does that mean?! ... It meant I was
going to lose again). The
internet didn't have a whole lot of MTG strategy
at the time, but there were dozens of
books on MTG strategy, and I started reading all of
them. I had read so many MTG Books, I
decided to put up reviews of them online ...
this was a bit before Pojo, but I posted them
here for historical purposes.
To change my losing fortunes,
I finally decided I would focus on one strategy and learn
to do it well. I decided to play mono-color decks and eliminate mana-screw. I toyed with red, but
settled on black. For me, focusing on one
color and making simple tweaks made it easy to
play, and easy to sideboard.
I eventually become internet friends with
Wakefield, and we would share ideas on
Fat Black decks in the late 90's. I
remember he was toying with cards like Necrosavant, Commander Greven il-Vec, and others
as finishers. Not sure why, but I just
loved having at least one Nightmare
in the deck. Jamie wasn't a huge fan of it
(and he might have been right), but it helped me
finish off a lot of opponents.
Nightmare became a card I really grew to love
then. I love the original Nightmare's card art.
The artist, Melissa Benson, also did the artwork
for the original Shivan Dragon. They're
both Alpha/Beta icons in my book.
Nightmare is still my favorite card to collect.
I have Nightmare Beta's in a variety of
languages. And I even have an old MTG
Nightmare Denim Jacket. ;-)
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