Promos: Black Market

This article is written by -Stef-, winner of the 2012 Championships, and originally posted on the forum

Black Market

Promos: Black Market

This is my favorite card. I love the variety it brings to the game. It is a tricky card to play well, and at least as difficult to write a good article about.

Some dominating cards like Rebuild or Cultist make all the games look the same so you can give pretty specific rules for those games. For Black Market I can’t go much beyond general advice and some examples.

Yes or No?
Only play Black Market in an engine. Fortunately an engine is almost always viable with Black Market on the board.

In general, you should play engines unless a) the engine is too weak or b) something else is too strong. That may sound like lame advice but what I’m trying to say is that Black market on the board simply makes a) impossible. Your Black Market-engine will eventually always be powerful enough.

So the only reason not to play Black Market is if you lose the game before the long run ever happens. Look for…

  • Strong junking in the regular kingdom + no or weak trashing (think Cultist, Mountebank)
  • Strong slog / BM option in the kingdom (perhaps Trader – Feodum, or Horse Traders – Duke) and nothing to kill it
  • no villages (and no hunting party, minion or other non-terminal engine)

The most important thing to take away from this is: the decision whether to play with Black market does not depend on the content of the Black Market deck. It depends almost entirely on the regular kingdom and whether that allows you to build an engine. The Black Market will always provide you with payload for your engine, and it will always contain some useful cards and some mediocre ones.

A tricky thing to get right with Black Market is the balance. The card itself is terminal, and so are many of the cards you buy with it. All those shiny prizes can easily lead you astray from your main early goal: somehow get to the point where you can play your entire deck every turn. Get the engine running. This is important in almost any engine, but especially so in engines that allow you to gain mid-turn, and Black Market is the very star in that category. Far too many players focus on gaining certain cards from the Black Market in their analysis of the board or gameplan.

0, 1 or 2
Black Market is a terminal payload card that gets you even more payload cards. With those kind of cards it’s much better to play your only copy more frequently than it is to get multiple copies. Your initial plan should be to play with 1 Black Market. Exceptions arise when you can’t significantly get the frequency up (no trashing, no village+draw) or when the Black Market contains some cheap bombs. I estimate 10% for 0, 60% for 1 and 30% for 2 early copies. 2 copies is more likely in a mirror then when you play against some form of BigMoney or slog.

Sometimes the Black Market contains some exceptionally strong cards in the given kingdom. I don’t like writing this section because almost everybody overestimates the importance of this already, but hey – it does exist.

Tournament is likely to be the one; it could be Ambassador, any trasher, Possession, Goons, Tactician or King’s Court. It’s really rare that the bomb is a junker like Witch. If you’re in a game with a bomb in the Black Market, make sure to have a plan. This plan could be a) I’m just going to get the bomb and win because of it or b) I’m going to build a deck that has a chance even when my opponent gets the bomb. If b) is an option I always go for it, but sometimes it just isn’t and you should probably buy a second Black Market.

slow it down
If your opponent doesn’t mirror, look for ways to slow the game down. You will always win the long run. How are they going to end the game before you have more? If it involves a 3-pile, can you prevent buying from those piles?



  • Watchtower, Library, Menagerie all allow you to draw more cards after you put your money into play
  • Throne Room is fantastic for both providing enough +actions and doubling up everything you have only one of
  • Quarry is good mostly because of the +buy, and sometimes you can upgrade curses into menageries after you put Quarry into play
  • Horn of Plenty can gain you a card mid-turn that you can often use immediately
  • Fairgrounds obviously becomes worth a lot with all those uniques

Example games
Beggar, Cellar, Moat, Black Market, Great Hall, Ironworks, Scavenger, Treasure Map, Walled Village, Hoard

You and your opponent both open Ironworks/Black Market. On your turn 3 you have 3 coppers and both your action cards.

What do you gain with Ironworks, and do you buy something out of Workers Village, Smithy, Spice Merchant? How does this affect your gameplan?

You gain a Walled Village. Your deck will require lots of villages.

You buy the Spice Merchant. That’s really a great early card to remove coppers and increase cycling.

As a result, you might skip a second Black Market, that you would otherwise certainly have bought on turn 4


Herbalist, Black Market, Great Hall, Sage, Scheme, Workshop, Ironmonger, Scavenger, Throne Room, Library, Altar (with shelters)

You open Black Market/Workshop and your opponent prefers Black Market/Ironmonger.

On your turn 3 you draw all the shelters, a copper and the workshop. What do you gain?

I think I’d already get a Throne Room now, but Ironmonger is also reasonable

On turn 4 you get Black Market with 4 coppers and you get served Council Room, Wharf, Squire. What do you buy?

You return them all and buy an Altar. Wharf is a great card but not what you need in this kingdom. Draw is provided by Library and reliability comes from scheme.


Black Market, Fishing Village, Caravan, Conspirator, Ironworks, Bazaar, Merchant Guild, Wharf, Goons, Hoard

You open 4/3 but get a coin token from Baker in the Black Market. What do you buy?

Fishing Village/Wharf. First mission is to get the draw up and make the engine running; add Ironworks on your next $5 miss and mostly hunt for Wharfs.

Maybe you’ll pick up a Black Market late, maybe not, but it’s not likely to have too much impact on the game.


Vineyard, Black Market, Fortune Teller, Mining Village, Moneylender, Quarry, Hunting Party, Inn, Journeyman, Hunting Grounds

You open Black Market/Quarry against a Journeyman/- opening. On turn 3 you have $4 for a Moneylender and turn 4 is $3 for another Black Market.

On turn 5 all of these cards clash and you gain Vagrant+Inn. Turn 6 is nets in a Mining Village and on turn 7 you finally get a good turn. You have $6 to spend when Black Market presents you with Herald, Mountebank and Tactician. In the meanwhile your opponent bought a Gold, 2 Silvers and 2 Journeyman. What to get now?

As Black Market Player you can completely ignore the provinces if you have to, and without +buy your opponent can’t 3-pile either.

That means that despite your horrible start you’re still easily win this game unless a miracle happens. Investing in reliability (Tactician) feels like the right play to me here,
even though Mountebank is a great card.


Transmute, Moat, Pearl Diver, Stonemason, Black Market, Caravan, Marauder, Trader, Young Witch, Inn, Rogue

You open Black Market/Marauder versus Silver/Marauder. Your opponent continues with Trader, signalling BigMoney. What is your gameplan now?

Black Market is simply the wrong call here; I don’t think any engine is going to win. Two junkers in the kingdom, no trashing and barely any draw. You need to get a lot of the caravans, ruins will run all by themselves and stonemason does the rest. Maybe if you pull 3+ smithy variants AND a superb trasher like urchin or remake you still stand a chance, but here they weren’t even available and I was just fooling around / losing


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4 Responses to Promos: Black Market

  1. What about Treasure Map in the Black Market deck? Should I buy that?

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