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Black Lotus: An In-Depth Look

Dec. 27, 2005
By Codgodthegreat
Magic Lampoon correspondent
      Back in the early days of Magic, when no one knew
what was good, many cards were printed which should
never have seen the light of day. Some of these cards are
now considered mistakes because they are too powerful,
like the dual lands, others because they are so weak as to
be unplayable, like Burrowing. There can be little doubt as
to which category Black Lotus fits into.
      At least Burrowing might help you get some damage
      The most obvious problem with the card is it's name.
Black Lotus is not black. It's an artifact. Since artifacts
are supposed to be artificial, this also casts doubt on it
being a lotus, which is an entirely natural flower -- and as
such belongs in a green card, or possibly blue since it's a
kind of water lily.
      Colour issues aside, take a look at the cost on this
thing. Zero. Zero mana. For that much, you could be
getting an Ornithopter, a Zuran Orb, or one of the
Kobolds. These cards, unlike the Lotus, will help you to
stay alive, by blocking, or, in the case of the orb, by
giving you life. Follow any of the creatures with
something to pump them up, and you have a legitimate
threat. But instead, you've spent that zero mana on a
Black Lotus. All it does is sit there until you're so sick of
looking at it, you sacrifice it. Then you take three mana
      Which brings us to the next thing we'll examine: the
Lotus's effect. It requires you to tap AND sacrifice the
Lotus, and in return you get three mana. Once upon a
time, this was seen as a decent trade, but nowdays we
know better. We understand the concept of the mana
curve: that your spells should be as cheap as possible,
preferably having several spells which only cost one
mana. It is this concept with makes Grizzly Bears better
than Gray Ogre. So, with this in mind, you have built a
deck of cheap, efficient threats. Now compare the
following two situations:
      1 - Mountain, Shock.
      2 - Black Lotus, sac for red, Shock, take two mana
burn. I know which I prefer.
      This is, of course, an oversimplification. There are
situations where you could use three mana, where three
mana might just tip the game in your favour. Surely then
the Lotus will shine? Or are the better ways to get that
mana? To get an accurate idea of just how useless this
card is, we'll compare it to another card, and see how it
shapes up.
      The obvious comparison is with Lion's Eye
Diamond, a card designed to be a fixed Lotus which
people might actually want to use. They cost the same,
produce the same amount of mana, and they're both
artifacts. Beyond that, however, the differences become
      Black Lotus doesn't help you get threshold.
      Black Lotus doesn't have synergy with madness
      Black Lotus doesn't help your reanimation deck get
its fatties into the 'yard.
      Black Lotus doesn't pump up your Lhurgoyf.
      The Lotus clearly fails miserably on all fronts.
There's certainly a reason this thing hasn't been printed
for years. But the Lotus serves an important purpose: it
provides a great example of how not to design playable
cards. By using this, and the rest of the "Under-Powered
Nine" as measuring sticks, Wizards will be able to ensure
they never make cards this bad again (They did come
close with the Jitte, though).