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Spoiler Highlight - MH3: Necrodominance in Legacy

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Very few cards in Magic: The Gathering are as iconic as Necropotence - the Skull! Banned in Legacy since this format was created, Modern Horizons 3 now brings an upgraded version of this enchantment, which marked its name down in history. Let's analyze Necrodominance's potential!

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被某某人翻译 Joey Sticks

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审核人 Tabata Marques

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Hello, Legacy fans! Today, we'll discuss a card that inflamed online forums with the last few spoilers from Modern Horizons 3link outside website: Necrodominance! This card is the "at-home" version of one of the most iconic cards in Magic: The Gathering, Necropotence.

As this Ice Age enchantment has never been legal in Legacy, we can't compare it with the new card to know if the new version will wreak havoc through this format. But let's take a look at what it can offer us and the decks we have.


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The Story of the Skull

We can't talk about Necrodominance without discussing its inspiration. So, let's discuss Necropotence. Released in "Ice Age", in 1995, this enchantment came out at a time when the internet was young and most of what we knew about MTG was spread through magazines (paper magazines!). Among these, maybe the most influential at the time was the long-gone "Inquest", and, one of its greatest misses was reviewing this new enchantment with 1 out of 5 stars. It was a bit weird at the time, I confess, considering it forces you to skip your draw step just to add cards to your hand at the end of your turn in exchange for some life points.

They were more than just proven wrong: when players understood how powerful it was to exchange an abundant resource (life) for a scarce resource (cards), Necro Summer was born. This was a period dominated by Necropotence decks, which forced Standard (called Type 2 at the time) to change and also led to a series of restrictions and bans, until eventually rotating out. But this wasn't the end of its history of domination.

A few years later, one of the formats that most stood out was the now-extinct Extended. In one of its iterations, this format was full of broken combos, which in turn led the iconic player Chris Pikula (whose image was immortalized on Meddling Mage) to say: "to resolve the problems in this format, just ban everything until Necropotence is the best card in the format. Then, ban Necropotence". Well, it was sort or less what happened, but not before it wreaked havoc in Extended. When Legacy was released, in 2004, this card was automatically included in the ban list. Practically all interactions with this card since then were in its restricted form in Vintage, where it is used in combo decks to prepare a great turn after it fills your hand.

The greatest legacy this card left was tying, forever, Black's color identity to exchanging life for cards, and many times after its release Wizards of the Coast tried to create "fixed" versions of this card. Some were unsuccessful, some were maybe too successful. Necrodominance is the most recent attempt at making it work, and it is the most similar to the original version.

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Necro at Home

Ok, we've established Necropotence is one of the most powerful cards ever printed in the game, so let's take a look at how Necrodominance compares to it.

First, the similarities: both are enchantments that cost 3 black mana, skip your draw step, and let you exchange 1 life for 1 card at the end of your turn. But here are the differences*: the original "Necro" lets you pay life through an activated ability, point per point. As for Necrodominance, it creates a triggered ability at the beginning of your end step, and you'll pay all life points at once. This means that, if a card like Stifle counters this ability, it will counter all card draw (but also counters the life you'd lose, as you won't get to actually pay). On the other side, Necrodominance won't be stopped by cards like Pithing Needle or Disruptor Flute.


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Speaking of filling your hands with cards, that's another difference: the original card Exiles and then adds the cards to your hand, whereas the new one draws you cards. This is incredibly relevant when one of the main creatures in this format precisely punishes card draw: Orcish Bowmasters.

Additionally, Necropotence has a triggered ability that Exiles all the cards you discard, and Necrodominance creates a "replacement" static ability that exiles not only the cards you discard but also the ones that are put in your graveyard from anywhere (and tokens as well). This means abilities that would trigger in these situations don't happen, and it also breaks sequences like Evoke and playing a Reanimate on a Grief.

Finally, Necrodominance adds a limit to your hand size. This is incredibly important because a common play with the old Necro was to pay much more life than you needed to fill your hand with 7 cards. Then, you'd build a winning hand on the following turn and discard the rest. However, it is much easier to build a hand with 7 cards than 5, and this should be the most significant difference between these two. It should be what will tell us if we'll have a new tyrant in the format, or if all this hype will be for nothing.

Oh, and before I forget: for some reason, Necrodominance is a Legendary card. In practical terms, this difference is almost irrelevant and shouldn't make a difference in 99% of the matches.

An Eye for an Eye, Cards for Life

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As Necropotence never saw the light of day in Legacy, it is tough to tell where is Necrodominance's place in this format.

If we take Vintage into account, this card sees play in Storm decks there. There was also a period in Magic Online when the older sets weren't available yet, and, therefore, we had neither Legacy nor Vintage. It was a format called Classic that, for a time, let us use 4 Necropotence in it before it was also restricted.

A successful deck at the time used this enchantment and also several spells whose alternative cost was exiling another card to take advantage of the fact your hand had many cards before you had to discard them. The more useful, in particular, were Soul Spike and Spinning Darkness. This might give us ideas for a deck besides the one we'll add here.

Let's see what we can start building for Legacy.

Possible Decks with Necrodominance in Legacy

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I believe that, if we take inspiration from Vintage, the first players to try to make Necrodominance work will be Storm players.

In these decks, I consider this enchantment similar to Galvanic Relay: it sets you up for the combo on the following turn. However, Necrodominance doesn't force you to invest your resources on a single Storm count.

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A rising deck in this format is Mono Black Scam. Unlike its blue versions, this deck doesn't have a way to get back the investment you put on a reanimated Atraxa, Grand Unifier. It can't even let you go through the deck with cantrips like Brainstorm and Ponder - better yet, it couldn't do so before. Bringing back memories from the old Necro-Weenies of the past, Black Scam has the tools to use the cards Necrodominance offers you really well.


Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, in particular, goes really well with this enchantment. Another important addition from MH3 is the spell/land Fell the Profane, which plays several roles: it is a land that enters play face up, it is useful as fuel for Grief, and can be a removal in a pinch. It also does something new that Necrodominance does too; you can exile it with Chrome Mox, a card that doesn't usually show up in this deck because of how hard it is to get your initial investment back.

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Another inspiration from Vintage which used the original Necro is the Doomsday deck, both as a way to find your main cards and to refill your hand after you discard it. Legacy is dominated by Grief, a situation that made this archetype disappear. A way to refill your hand might be what this deck needs to stand out in this format.

Final Words

When Necrodominance was officially announced, the Legacy community held its breath because the original skull haunts everyone that plays this format.

Immediately, everyone started taking sides: "it will break Legacy", "it isn't that great", "Orcish Bowmasters will stop it from seeing play". I think the one I liked the most was: "the original is better" - of course, pal, that's why it is even banned! The truth is that this card's power level is one of the highest we've seen in this set yet, and it is difficult to imagine it not doing anything to Legacy when it is legal.

Thank you for reading, and see you next time!