This article was originally written for the "Type Fun" blog operated by CPA members Oversoul
and Al0ysiusHWWW. All such articles archived here were written by one or both of those individuals.
Necropotence is quite possibly the most infamous enchantment in the history of Magic. I used to use it all the time and my decks evolved over the years. It's a versatile card...
Life is, at least in the right circumstances, an expendable commodity. Card advantage is valuable. Necropotence doesn't actually draw cards, but it does put them into your hand, so ultimately it has the same effect as any card-drawing engine, except that it can draw massive amounts of cards, either all at once or over several turns, and do so cheaply: Dark Ritual lets Necropotence easily hit the board on the first turn. Necropotence was ultimately banned or restricted in every format where it was available largely because people were using it to power out combos. But for years before that, it was the centerpiece of formidable control decks.
If I were to build such a control deck today, it would look different from the versions I used in the past. Mostly, this is because I would build a better deck now. But I've also forgotten what my old Necro decks looked like. Well, I recently discovered a piece of paper I'd used as Magic notes way back in the summer of 2000. In addition to some records from games that now make no sense to me and some notes about proxies I was using, there are some decklists. And they're all pretty bad. Here's a Necropotence deck I was using in 2000:
4x Dark Ritual
4x Drain Life
4x Frozen Shade
4x Ivory Tower
4x Nevinyrral's Disk
2x Zuran Orb
2x Lake of the Dead
Fairly simple. It looks pretty vulnerable to beatdown, which I probably wasn't facing much back then. Drain Life and Corrupt could take care of some creatures and serve as kill cards as well as damaging the opponent and restoring my life total, which would be plummeting thanks to Necropotence. Persecute as the only discard spell seems like an odd choice in retrospect. But I didn't have Mind Twist back then and was probably to dumb to use Hymn to Tourach and/or Hypnotic Specter, which are more typical inclusions in decks like this. I dislike Persecute now because it is too unreliable. While it would be great against a monored burn deck, it would be bad against a five-color deck. Frozen Shade is strictly inferior to Looming Shade (and Nantuko Shade would have been even better in this deck, but it didn't exist at the time) and not particularly good as the only creature choice. But it certainly can hit hard, especially in the late game. Ivory Tower was there strictly to offset Necropotence. While I'm not sure about it taking up slots, I do recall that it did a very good job. With multiples out, I'd be gaining so much life that Necropotence's life payment seemed trivial. Nevinyrral's Disk is a great board-sweeper. It does kill Necropotence, but sometimes that was just what I needed to do (so that I could start drawing cards normally again). Zuran Orb was mainly there to keep me alive. Sacrificing lands was bad for the deck's strategy though, because it made Corrupt and Drain Life smaller. Lake of the Dead was awesome, but I traded mine away at some point, possibly also in 2000, and wasn't using it in later builds. Cabal Coffers didn't exist, but would also have worked nicely.
I don't recommend this decklist. It's short on good removal spells, relying too much on Disk. It's an amazing card, but it can't do everything. I might post a better decklist later, either a later incarnation of my Necropotence deck or a new one that I'll make up. Until then, don't use my old decklist. Make your own or something. This one's too weak.