Ignoring Dark Tutelage


Dark Tutelage ∙ Phyrexian Arena ∙ Dark Confidant
being overrated ∙ killing yourself ∙ … and Dark Tutelage

A lot of people have asked me why I haven’t added Dark Tutelage to any Top 10 (and by “Top 10” I clearly mean Top 11) Lists, and deck lists, any laundry lists, &c.

I had to go look the card up after the first incoming email.

Was this the same card I thought it was?


Why the hell is everyone asking me this question?

As far as I can tell, Dark Tutelage stinks.

Dark Tutelage

Superficial comparisons:

Superficial Comparison #1 – Phyrexian Arena
I’ve played Phyrexian Arena a couple of times (I even came within one game of winning a PTQ once), but I never really liked it. Phyrexian Arena — back in the Beach House days — was mostly important so that you didn’t fall behind another Beach House deck should it have come to an attrition mirror; a lot like Jace, the Mind Sculptor in a lot of decks… It wasn’t really proximate to winning, but could be necessary to avoid being blown out. Because when one person has one and the other one doesn’t, he is going to get ahead due to the opponent’s [probable] softness in the threats department.

Anyway, Phyrexian Arena was never really that great; it was just whatever with a small up-front investment; but each incremental card (after maybe the first) was relatively discounted. A card is worth about two damage, so paying only one life for an incremental card (with no parallel mana commitment) would put you ahead and further ahead over time (theoretically); like I said, I have never really liked Phyrexian Arena very much.

Dark Tutelage is like awful by comparison.

Remember: The bar isn’t very high.

Same effect as Phyrexian Arena, same CMC (three versus three), but generally much higher investment in life.

If you are flipping lands 100% of the time (or even cheap cards like Duress or, I dunno, Scute Mob, it’s basically the same (or maybe better). However you’re probably going to be wanting to draw real cards. At the point that you are flipping twos, you are actually handing Shocks to your opponent… Shocks he doesn’t have to pay for. If you are flipping more expensive cards, you’re just falling the eff behind. It can be a disaster!

Caveat: There are two things that can be plus signs, even given this framework. First of all, you can conceivably side this in against [another] mid-range control deck; you can edge them in the same way that Phyrexian Arena was pivotal in the Beach House mirror.

Remember: Dark Tutelage is easier to cast than Phyrexian Arena, being 2B rather than 1BB… Not that that probably matters given the awesome mana bases we get to play with.

Superficial Comparison #2 – Dark Confidant
As you probably know, I feel like Dark Confidant is the most overrated card of all time. That isn’t to say it’s bad, just not the best creature of all time or whatever. Dark Confidant is basically Kobe Bryant. Not only does it have Fortier’s PT win under its belt and the Billy-Sadin connection (you know, like TCGPlayer.com) with The Best Deck of All Time, but Bob Maher’s smiling face. Good! Yes! It’s good! Just not the best of all time.

That said, Dark Confidant is a disaster about half the time.

Most of the reason that it looks so damn good is that people don’t know how to play against Dark Confidant. I have stood in the Feature Match of a Pro Tour and watched a player coming off a Top 8 that season burn three consecutive Dark Confidants in a game where he had six burn spells in his hand. I mean that is just terrible. His opponent obviously won as he had exhausted all of his resources instead of easily killing him like he was supposed to. Of course Dark Confidant looks good if you are going to donkey punch yourself.

Anyway, Dark Confidant is often a disaster. I think lifetime I have won half my games against Dark Confidant proximately because my opponent killed himself. My overall win percentage in games where my opponent plays Dark Confidant is something ludicrous like 80%-plus; BDM says that’s because I play weirdo decks, but half the time I just have something like a Jitte or an Exalted Angel and my opponent has problems racing two different ways. Whatever; it’s a disaster a lot of the time.

I would even go so far as to say that I have had no way to win but my opponent played a Dark Confidant. I remember one PTQ I was playing for X-2 v. a name player (you would know this player). I lost the first due to being a donkey. Game Two we are at a standoff. I have Jitte; opponent has Sword. Nobody wants to brawl. We just accumulate more and more animals on both sides of the table. Call of the Herd tokens; I have Baloths; opp with Troll Ascetic. But there aren’t really any attacks. If I move forward I will start accumulating Jitte counters but I will lose a guy to gang blocking, and Sword is going to keep me from any mid-combat shenanigans. Opp can’t swing, even with Troll; I will accumulate Jitte counters for free because my defense is big enough.

Then Dark Confidant comes down — ostensibly to bust the game wide open with card advantage — and it does; by giving me a way to win!

That is how most of my games v. Dark Confidant have gone, lifetime.

And Dark Confidant still pees all over Dark Tutelage.

First of all (and ironically in the “mathematics” case), 2 > 3.

That’s right, two is bigger and bolder and better than three. Dark Confidant is cheaper and gets his first card first.

Secondly, Dark Confidant helps you race the face. Both cards are going to hurt you, but Bob at least smashes the face back. You are less likely to kill yourself with stupid Dark [whatever] damage if you’ve killed the opponent to death.

Most importantly, Dark Confidant — besides bashing for two like a good little Bear — is a 2/1 creature. A 2/1 has one toughness… Basically the smallest possible toughness! You can kill your own Dark Confidant if it seems like you are going to die to it! There are lots of different ways but my favorite one is this:

“I once had to Hit my own Dark Confidant after I had flipped Hit // Run with it. Embarrassing. But not as embarrassing as it was for my opponent. I won that game.”
-Patrick Sullivan

Dark Tutelage on the other hand is an enchantment; Black is basically awful at killing enchantments. That’s part of what makes it cute. Har har, you can’t kill your own Necropotence! This time around, you’re probably going to flip over like a Grave Titan.

You deserved it for playing Dark Tutelage in your Grave Titan deck.


Most embarrassing Dark Confidant story:

At that PT that LSV won with Elves, Andre Coimbra went x-1 v. Zoo (most popular deck), largely because his Flores Blue* deck had all Islands and didn’t take damage from its own lands. Anyway, he’s full on ahead in a Game Three situation v. some Zoo deck. He has it all… Jitte on board even! Opponent has nil, topdecks a Dark Confidant. Andre steals its face with like a Vedalken Shackles or perhaps a Threads of Disloyalty.

Can’t lose, right?

Great shades of World Champion to come, right?

Nope; flips over Spire Golem.

That’s roughly 600 damage.

X-1 is pretty good though.

* Yeah, I said it.

facebook comments:


#1 dyee418 on 07.16.10 at 7:15 pm

To me Dark Confidant is really spectacular in a lot of vintage/legacy decks because of having mostly 1-2 casting cost spells which makes it more relevant or to try and dig a bit deeper rather than standard or somewhat former extended. I haven’t personally played with or against the card but it seems alright and could be worth it in the right situations. But yes Dark tutelage is interesting but that doesn’t mean it’s good because of the higher suicide risk. If Mono Black Control ever became a bigger more effective archetype (though I don’t think it will) it would need too much set up to make this decent.

#2 climberking2000 on 07.16.10 at 7:26 pm

I like the card just because I know one day I’ll play a guy, and he’ll have this and Emrakul (or really any Cthulu) in a deck, and I will get to see the kind of day nightmares are made of. Wouldn’t play it myself though

#3 Alfrebaut on 07.16.10 at 9:27 pm

Well, unlike you, I happen to like Dark Confidant. But then again, I am a mostly red player. I’ve won some basically unwinnable games thanks to my opponents’ Dark Confidants basically drawing me cards. Dark Tutelage is so much better. They can’t even kill it themselves! If RDW didn’t feel so nerfed right now with the printing of such hits as Mana Leak, Obstinate Baloth and the white Leyline, I’d be dancing with joy right now. Because, for sure, someone out there is going to play Dark Tutelage.

On a side note, how bonkers is white Leyline? It’s not just red decks it hurts, either. Discard’s taking a beating(so MBC might be dead on board again), it slows down combo decks significantly, and it makes red decks very sad to boot. I’m not sure if I’m just being particularly down on it or if it’s as nuts as I think, but it does definitely hurt. Maybe the next evolution of red will be RW again?

#4 wobblesthegoose on 07.16.10 at 10:09 pm


I definately agree with the article. This isn’t the card drawing engine for anything except extremely aggressive decks, not for mid-range or MBC or whatever. One drops, and lots of them. I mean, consider that in R/B at least 12 one drops that attack for 2 on the second turn exist with little drawback. And 1cc burn spells like flameslash, bolt, and forked. And the two drops are also completely insane. Most of the efficient and expensive (read 3cc) red cards are rotating out of standard in two months, and red’s going to want a late game plan once that first wrath hits. It’s not like this thing really effects how much of a clock BSA is anyway. Also, Death’s Shadow. Just saying. Verdict: Roleplayer-low


I don’t see the white leyline being particularly effective. At least not any more effective than the other leylines.Sure, it’s great in an opening grip, but consider that most of the red decks best burn spells aren’t spells right now, they’re 4/4 flying unearthing monstrosities. The only thing that has to target players is searing blaze, and I’m pretty sure that’s getting sided out against white even before leyline. As for discard, it’s only great if your opponent wasn’t planning on doing anything but blightning you. And even then, it only stops the blightning if you won the leylinelottery. Otherwise it’s still going to hit you turn 3. You probably don’t bother to take it with duress. Also, it dies to AiD, both yours and your opponents, so I just don’t see it’s place.

#5 MTGBattlefield on 07.17.10 at 5:17 am

Ignoring Dark Tutelage…

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