Necropotence History by JP Meyer June 8, 2000

Beyond Dominia: Type One Primers: Necropotence History by JP Meyer

When Necropotence was originally released in Ice Age in 1994, most people wrote it off as a "trash rare" and it was relegated to bargain bins. Necrodecks did not pick up until the inaugural Pro Tour in February 1996. Leon Lindb├Ąck took this Necrodeck to the Top Eight:

4 Necropotence
4 Order of the Ebon Hand
4 Hymn to Tourach
4 Hypnotic Specter
4 Dark Ritual
4 Drain Life
3 Knight of Stromgald
2 Serrated Arrows
2 Nevinyrral's Disk
1 Soul Burn
1 Jalum Tome
1 Dark Banishing
1 Dance of the Dead
Zuran Orb
Ivory Tower
17 Swamp
4 Strip Mine
2 Ebon Stronghold

When one looks at this deck, remember to keep in mind that this deck was built under the "Homedicapped" restrictions, which required that between the deck and sideboard, there would be 5 cards from each of the legal sets.

At this time, some important aspects of deck construction were not considered as important as they are nowadays. This deck is not nearly as redundant as the current Necrodecks. This is due to the early belief that they will lead to wasted draws. Demonic Consultation is also not used, as people were afraid they would Consult away their many restricted cards. The early Necrodecks also thought of themselves less as "Necro" decks but as "Disk" decks. They would use Nevinyrral's Disk to clear the board (playing typically only 1 or 2 creatures at a time to minimize card disadvantage from the Disk) and only use The Skull to overpower their opponent during a stalemate.

Necro quickly became the dominant deck in Type II. This was caused in part to the restriction of Land Tax and Black Vise that heavily hurt aggressive and controlling decks enough to allow Necro to dominate. During the so-called "Black Summer" of 1996, it was not farfetched for Necro decks to make up half of tournaments. Necrodecks also dominated Worlds and Nationals that year. Mark Justice took this B/R Necrodeck featuring the then little-used Demonic Consultation (in the sideboard.) He also made the infamous Consult in the finals against Tom Chanpheng where in an attempt to get a Dark Ritual, he lost every Swamp in his deck, and conceding shortly after.

4 Necropotence
4 Dark Ritual
4 Hymn to Tourach
4 Hypnotic Specter
3 Nevinyrral's Disk
3 Black Knight
3 Contagion
3 Drain Life
2 Ihsan's Shade
2 Order of the Ebon Hand
2 Serrated Arrows
1 Zuran Orb
1 Ivory Tower
1 Fireball
10 Swamps
4 Sulfurous Springs
4 Strip Mine
3 Mishra's Factory
1 Lava Tubes
1 City of Brass

The DCI decided to weaken Necrodecks by restricting both Strip Mine and Hymn to Tourach. In addition, Prison decks that hurt Necro's mana base became prevalent as well. Neither was enough to stop Brian Hacker and Paul McCabe at PT Dallas. Hacker piloted this Necrodeck to first place after the Swiss. His Necrodeck was based around a 2 casting-cost "flash point" loaded with weenie creatures, using Necro only for a more secondary role:

4 Bad Moon
4 Black Knight
4 Choking Sands
4 Hypnotic Specter
4 Knight of Stromgald
4 Order of the Ebon Hand
3 Dark Ritual
3 Erg Raiders
2 Contagion
2 Terror
2 Necropotence
1 Drain Life
1 Hymn to Tourach
1 Nevinyrral's Disk
16 Swamp
4 Mishra's Factory
1 Strip Mine

But McCabe won it all, defeating Jason Zila, who was playing a Prison deck, in the finals. McCabe's deck instead run few creatures (4 Specters, 2 Vampires, 1 Shade,) opting to focus more on the Lake/Drain combo and creature removal:

4 Necropotence
4 Hypnotic Specter
4 Dark Ritual
4 Drain Life
4 Nevinyrral's Disk
3 Contagion
3 Stupor
2 Mind Warp
2 Sengir Vampire
1 Ihsan's Shade
1 Serrated Arrows
Ivory Tower
Zuran Orb
Hymn to Tourach
18 Swamp
2 Lake of the Dead
2 Mishra's Factory
Strip Mine

Necro was effectively killed in Type II following the rotation of Ice Age, Fallen Empires, and Fourth Edition from Standard on January 1, 1997. However, Necrodecks flourished in the newly established Extended scene. Randy Buehler piloted this Necrodeck to a first place finish at Pro Tour Chicago in 1997, making Necro the first (and only, if you consider Oath of Druids and Millstone two separate decks instead of the generic idea of B/W Control) deck to win two Pro Tours:

4 Necropotence
4 Hymn to Tourach
4 Knight of Stromgald
4 Order of the Ebon Hand
4 Demonic Consultation
4 Drain Life
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Disenchant
2 Incinerate
2 Firestorm
1 Ihsan's Shade
8 Swamps
4 Badlands
4 Scrubland
3 Gemstone Mine
3 Lake of the Dead
2 Bad River

This was the first of the "modern" Necrodecks. It uses inexpensive spells to be able to maximize the card-drawing power of Necropotence. It also shows the emergence of Demonic Consultation. The deck, according to its creator, Erik Lauer, is as much of a Consultdeck as it is a Necrodeck. The deck's second feature is the lack of Dark Ritual. With the banning of Hypnotic Specter in Extended, the explosiveness of Ritual-Specter was gone. The deck instead focuses on consistency, evident through the deck's lack of spells costing more than 2 mana.

However, with the release of Tempest in the fall of 1997, the Necrodeck was sent into hiding again. It could no longer afford so many non-basic lands with the emergence of Wasteland. Its Knights were easily killed by the new Mogg Fanatic and Cursed Scroll.

Combo decks dominated Pro Tour Rome. When asked how he would fix the mess Magic had become, Chris Pikula replied "ban everything until Necro is good, then ban Necro." Necro reemerged amidst a miasma of combo decks at Pro Tour Rome in 1998, powered by powerful new cards from Urza's Saga. Cards such as Duress and Yawgmoth's Will soon became ubiquitous in future Necrodecks. Andre Konstanczer took this Necrodeck to the Top 8:

4 Necropotence
4 Dark Ritual
4 Knight of Stronghold
4 Hymn of Tourach
4 Duress
4 Drain Life
3 Demonic Consultation
3 Contagion
2 Yawgmoth's Will
2 Firestorm
2 Sedge Troll
1 Sengir Vampire
9 Swamp
4 Wasteland
4 Badland
2 Bad River
2 Sulfurous Spring
2 Lake of the Death

Adrian Sullivan, rogue deckbuilder extrordinaire also had a Necrodeck in Rome. But Sullivan's Necrodeck was like no other Necrodeck before. His was the first combo Necrodeck, this one using the Pandemonium/Phyrexian Dreadnaught combo (note, this deck does not work after Phyrexian Dreadnaught was errataed around Worlds '99:)

4 Necropotence
4 Demonic Consultation
4 Pandemonium
4 Phyrexian Dreadnought
4 Reanimate
4 Mana Vault
4 Dark Ritual
4 Lotus Petal
3 Final Fortune
3 Duress
2 Vampiric Tutor
5 Swamp
4 Badland
4 Sulfurous Springs
4 Gemstone Mine
3 City of Brass

Type 2 was also engulfed in the "combo winter" during early 1999. Between Academy, Spiral, Free Willy, and Enchantress, there were few potential deck types available at this time. Despite this, Brian Hacker managed to take this Necrodeck to a 3-0 record at the 1999 Duelist Invitational:

4 Necropotence
4 Dark Ritual
4 Diabolic Edict
4 Duress
4 Drain Life
4 Yawgmoth's Will
4 Urza's Bauble
4 Nevinyrral's Disk
3 Skittering Skirge
2 Corrupt
1 Persecute
22 Swamp

This type of Necrodeck became immensely popular at the US Regionals that year, causing a "black spring." Fortunately (or unfortunately,) Necropotence was not reprinted in 6th Edition that summer. Brian Weissman of "The Deck" fame won the Northern California Regionals that year with this Necrodeck:

4 Necropotence
4 Dark Ritual
4 Diabolic Edict
4 Drain Life
4 Duress
4 Nevinyrral's Disk
4 Urza's Bauble
4 Yawgmoth's Will
3 Skittering Skirge
3 Corrupt
2 Stalking Stones
20 Swamp

After the huge changes to the Extended environment in the fall of 1999, Necro emerged yet again for PT Chicago. Pat Chapin played a Necrodeck designed by Eric Taylor based around "free spells" to quickly empty its hand to allow for more effective Necroing, even under mana denial strategy such as Winter Orb. Chapin took this version of Necro, lauded by many as the best deck in the tournament, to an 11th place finish:

4 Necropotence
4 Contagion
4 Corrupt
4 Dark Ritual
4 Demonic Consultation
4 Duress
4 Spinning Darkness
4 Unmask
3 Drain Life
3 Masticore
1 Nevinyrral's Disk
21 Swamp

While Chapin's Necrodeck was extremely powerful, another Necrodeck became the talk of PT Chicago. A contingent of British players led by Tony Dobson brought a new kind of Necrodeck to Chicago: Cocoa Pebbles. They had been searching for a way to make the Fruity Pebbles (Enduring Renewal, Shield Sphere, Goblin Bombardment) combo deck more resilient against blue decks after sideboarding. Necropotence was suggested, and afterwards, the Britons decided the deck ran better as a whole. The deck was enormously successful, with players playing it finishing 6th, 9th, and 24th.

4 Necropotence
4 Academy Rector
4 Shield Sphere
4 Dark Ritual
4 Demonic Consultation
4 Duress
4 Goblin Bombardment
3 Enduring Renewal
3 Mox Diamond
2 Phyrexian Walker
1 Mana Vault
1 Aura of Silence
4 Badlands
4 City of Brass
4 Gemstone Mine
3 Peat Bog
3 Phyrexian Tower
4 Scrubland

No one had thought to play a Necrodeck like this before. This one contained NO lifegain, NO aggressive creatures, and NO way to remove yourself from a lock at 1 life. It is possibly the ultimate evolution of the Necrodeck, a Necrodeck that simply wins after casting The Skull. Or so everyone thought.

4 Necropotence
4 Illusions of Grandeur
4 Donate
4 Demonic Consultation
4 Duress
4 Force of Will
4 Dark Ritual
3 Vampiric Tutor
3 Mana Vault
2 Lim-Dul's Vault
1 Firestorm
1 Hoodwink
7 Swamp
4 Underground River
4 Underground Sea
4 Gemstone Mine
2 Badlands
1 Island

Michelle Bush of Your Move Games is the "mother" of the Trix deck. Bush based the deck on an idea on the Charm School mailing list. Even Dobson commented that this was the best deck in Extended; it contains Necropotence, Demonic Consultation, Duress, and Force of Will. While this version of a Necropotence-based combo is slightly slower than Cocoa Pebbles, it is significantly more resilient due to the lifegain of the Illusions and the all-mighty Force of Will. The draw of the initial Necro allows the deck to set up a perfect hand, typically 1 Donate, 1 Illusions of Grandeur, 1 random blue card, 1 Force of Will, 1 land, 1 mana producer (typically Mana Vault or Dark Ritual,) and 1 miscellaneous card, usually a Duress, Firestorm, or Hoodwink. The deck then Duresses the opponent (if necessary,) casts the Illusions (using Force of Will to protect it) and casts the Donate if possible. If not, the Trix player can simply use their 20 new life to draw up more mana producers and countermagic.

The DCI also made sweeping changes at the same time to the Type 1 restricted list. They restricted nearly every card involved with the degenerate Academy combo decks. The unrestriction of Ivory Tower and the printing of Phyrexian Negator, Powder Keg, and Unmask in recent sets also powered Necrodecks. Mike Long played the following Necrodeck at the 2000 Magic Invitational in Kuala Lampur:

4 Unmask
4 Hypnotic Specter
4 Negator
4 Hymn to Tourach
4 Demonic Consultation
4 Dark Ritual
4 Duress
3 Necropotence
3 Sinkhole
2 Powder Keg
Yawgmoth's Will
Demonic Tutor
15 Swamp
4 Wasteland
Mox Jet
Black Lotus
Strip Mine

The Trix decks also showed up at the Magic Invitational. These decks lost the unrestricted tutors and mana artifacts of the Extended Trix decks, but added more explosive cards such as Ancestral Recall and Black Lotus to the mix. Dave Humpherys of Your Move Games played the following Trix deck:

4 Necropotence
4 Demonic Consultation
4 Dark Ritual
4 Donate
4 Illusions of Grandeur
4 Duress
4 Force of Will
1 Lim-Dul's Vault
1 Kaervek's Torch
Black Lotus
Yawgmoth's Will
Ancestral Recall
Time Walk
Demonic Tutor
Mox Sapphire
Vampiric Tutor
Mox Jet
Sol Ring
Hoodwink
Lotus Petal
4 Gemstone Mine
4 Underground Sea
4 Underground River
4 Badlands
3 Swamp

This Trix deck has only one thing on its mind: get a turn 1 or 2 Necro into play. If that happens, barring a perfect hand by an opponent, the Trix player has basically won. It will simply draw Force of Wills and Duresses to stop any meddling by its opponent.

Finally, this last deck was played by Gary Wise at the same Invitational, and is generally deemed an example of poor deckbuilding. Relying solely on Drain Life, Corrupt and Mirror Universe, the deck did poorly and such a low number of threats is the reason for the failure of some decks.

4 Necropotence
4 Dark Ritual
4 Drain Life
1 Corrupt
2 Mirror Universe
4 Duress
4 Hymn to Tourach
3 Unmask
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Yawgmoth's Will
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Jet
3 Sinkhole
2 Powder Keg
1 Nevinyrral's Disk
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Strip Mine
1 Wasteland
16 Swamp

SIDEBOARD
3 Persecute
3 Nether Void
3 Contagion
1 Nevinyrral's Disk
2 Masticore
1 Sinkhole
2 Phyrexian Negator

Necro has been a force in tournament Magic for years. It looks like the DCI has banned everything until Necro became good, but hopefully they won't ban Necro.