Welcome to my set review, a ritual I revisit every time a new set is released. I go through the entire set, rating each card on the following guidelines:

Constructed

5.0: Multi-format All-Star (and undoubtedly worth too much money). [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]. [card]Tarmogoyf[/card].

4.0: Format staple. [card]Mana Leak[/card][card]Cavern of Souls[/card]. [card]Moorland Haunt[/card].

3.5: Good in multiple archetypes, but not a format staple. [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card]. [card]Primeval Titan[/card] [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card].

3.0: Archetype staple. [card]Gut Shot[/card]. [card]Tempered Steel[/card].

2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. [card]Think Twice[/card]. [card]Curse of Death's Hold[/card].

2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. [card]Celestial Purge[/card]. (Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although explanation of why is obviously important)

1.0 It has seen play once. [card]One with Nothing[/card]. (I believe it was tech vs Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)

Limited

5.0: I will always play this card. Period.

4.5: I will almost always play this card, regardless of what else I get.

4.0: I will strongly consider playing this as the only card of its color.

3.5: I feel a strong pull into this card's color.

3.0: This card makes me want to play this color. (Given that I'm playing that color, I will play this card 100% of the time.)

2.5: Several cards of this power level start to pull me into this color. If playing that color, I essentially always play these. (Given that I'm playing that color, I will play this card 90% of the time.)

2.0: If I'm playing this color, I usually play these. (70%)

1.5: This card will make the cut into the main deck about half the times I play this color. (50%)

1.0: I feel bad when this card is in my main deck. (30%)

0.5: There are situations where I might sideboard this into my deck, but I'll never start it. (10%)

0.0: I will never put this card into my deck (main deck or after sideboarding). (0%).

As usual, I caution you to both look at the rating and read the comments, since even cards rated the same might have very different evaluations. Enjoy!

[draft]Appetite for Brains[/draft]

Constructed: 2.0

Brainssss, BRAINSSSS!!!

As much as I want to like this card, it's just about the worst version of [card]Duress[/card] we've seen in a long time. It costs one, but you don't really need to cast it early, and it misses way too often for my comfort. It's somehow a Duress that isn't good in the early game or the late game, which gives it a short window where it actually does something. That being said, it's still a Duress, and those see fringe play just about every time.

Limited: 0.5

I wouldn't maindeck this, but it seems like a mediocre sideboard if they are really loaded up on huge things.

[draft]Barter in Blood[/draft]

Constructed: 2.5

It's hard to imagine that this won't make a big impact on Constructed. Trading four mana for their two best guys is suspiciously close to Wrath, and even though it competes with [card]Black Sun's Zenith[/card], it's still definitely a nice option for controlling black decks. Plus, now that there is another hexproof guy to deal with, and a 5/5 at that, BSZ sometimes just isn't gonna cut it.

Limited: 2.5

A card this powerful isn't something I'd usually advise leaving in the board. Even in aggressive decks, you sometimes just have a slow draw, and this can be a huge blowout. Don't be too suspicious, since there is nothing easier to read than the exaggerated Barter slowroll. Likewise, don't be afraid to just leave one guy in play if it's turn four and the opponent hasn't played anything (especially if you know they have Barter in their deck).

[draft]Blood Artist[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

There will be blood...in Limited. In Constructed, this just isn't [card]Disciple of the Vault[/card], for which I am thankful.

Limited: 3.0

While this is emphatically not [card]Falkenrath Noble[/card], it's a beating nonetheless. The value is high enough that I would likely run it in any deck with a reasonable number of creatures and/or removal. Some control decks won't want this, but I'd be shocked if just about every normal deck doesn't. With this in play, you win any long game/board stall by default.

[draft]Bloodflow Connoisseur[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of value, and this provides none. I'm also proud that spelled “connoisseur” correctly in my first try, probably thanks to Shards block and its trusty [card]Corpse Connoisseur[/card].

Limited: 2.5

Black is getting a good haul of solid commons, though much like [card]Blood Artist[/card], you need a reasonable number of creatures to make this good. I love having this in play, since it makes all their removal spells that much worse, and eventually it becomes a huge threat in its own right.

[draft]Bone Splinters[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

If removal in Constructed come to this, we're boned.

Limited: 2.0

I love cards like this in Limited. Bone Splinters is good in the right decks, great even, but at the same time isn't the easiest to use. Some decks just should absolutely not play it, and even in decks that should play it, using it requires some tough decisions. I would look for synergies and sacrifice fodder before adding this, or sideboard it in against creatures you can't otherwise beat. Worst comes to worst, in a really removal-light deck, you can run it without any combos, as sad as that makes me.

[draft]Butcher Ghoul[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

Unsurprisingly, a butchered version of [card]Strangleroot Geist[/card] is nowhere near playable.

Limited: 1.5

I liked [card]Young Wolf[/card] well enough, but I wouldn't argue that it was good, and doubling the mana cost certainly doesn't make it more attractive.

[draft]Corpse Traders[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

Can I trade this for a [card]Sadistic Hypnotist[/card]?

Limited: 3.0

A Hill Giant with an upside isn't something I'm looking to cut, and the ability is better than it would normally be if people are looking to cast giant Angels and whatnot.

[draft]Crypt Creeper[/draft]

Constructed: 2.0

Is Zombies hard up enough for a 2-drop that it would play this? Probably not, but if Frites or something similar gets big enough, this might edge out [card]Walking Corpse[/card] and/or [card]Highborn Ghoul[/card].

Limited: 2.5

A 2-drop is a 2-drop, even if the ability isn't really all that relevant.

[draft]Dark Impostor[/draft]

Constructed: 2.0

I kind of like this card. It isn't horrendously overcosted, and once in play, it threatens to control the board in the lategame. If there is a deck that wants both the actual body and the ability, this is worth trying, but a control deck won't play it just for the ability. Plus, it's a Vampire Assassin, which easily ranks among the best possible creature types.

Limited: 4.0

It's practically a rule that Assassins are awesome in Limited, and this is no exception.

[draft]Death Wind[/draft]

Constructed: 2.0

I'm not in love with this, but desperate times require desperate measures, and this is an instant-speed removal spell. Wind isn't broken, just potentially playable.

Limited: 3.5

Not quite [card]Doom Blade[/card], still an easy first pick. Especially in a set with so little removal, this has to be one of the best commons (and the picture is awesome).

[draft]Demonic Rising[/draft]

Constructed: 2.5

I like the power level, and wish there were a few less hoops to jump through. Well, I guess there is only one hoop (controlling exactly one creature), but it's a big hoop. This doesn't help unless you have a board presence, narrowing its usefulness. I still like it, since it potentially is an unkillable 5/5, and there are definitely matchups where it could be awesome.

Limited: 4.0

It seems very difficult to lose the game if this is in your opening hand. Setting it up so you have just one guy in play on turn five shouldn't be too hard, though the difficulty keeps rising the longer the game goes on. You can even go really deep with sacrifice effects, not that you need to. Despite how awkward this can be as a topdeck on a cluttered (or empty) board, it's so good when it works that it still deserves a high rating.

[draft]Demonic Taskmaster[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

This is another [card]Steel Golem[/card], much like [card]Fettergeist[/card], but 4/3 seems quite a bit better than 3/4. The drawback, on the other hand, is worse, even if you build your deck with it in mind. Multiples of this don't work out so well, making Fettergeist the better (though still bad) option of the two.

Limited: 3.0

There are two modes to this card, and even though neither is insane, having access to both makes this a fine card. The first mode is just taking them on solo, playing this turn three and smashing until they remove it or get removed. If the Taskmaster is in your opener, this seems like a reasonable plan, especially if you have a few spells to cast in the meantime. The second mode is when you just use it like a mobile Fling, sacrificing pawns to try and checkmate the opponent. Again, not too unreasonable. The biggest drawback to this is when you have an otherwise normal draw, but not extremely aggressive or creature heavy, and the Taskmaster is just a blank in your hand. That will happen, but the two good scenarios for the card make me optimistic that it's a solid one. A 4/3 flier is just too big to leave on the wayside.

[draft]Demonlord of Ashmouth[/draft]

Constructed: 2.0

How good this is very clearly depends on the removal you are likely to face. If there are too many [card]Vapor Snag[/card]s and exile effects, the card isn't good in the slightest, but if all the removal gets stopped by Undying, sacrificing a guy is worth it. Zombies in particular can provide plenty of sacrificial lambs, with the current downside being that [card]Celestial Purge[/card] is a card people already bring in against you. The most likely use for this is in Block, especially because [card]Phyrexian Obliterator[/card] already does the job better.

Limited: 3.5

As risky as this may be, many decks are going to fold to it. Don't be afraid to side it out against decks full of removal that really kills it, even if it is one of your better card. Likewise, while I would take this early, if your creature count ends up low, feel free to leave it in the sideboard.

[draft]Descent into Madness[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

This is worse than [card]Smokestack[/card] because:

a) It costs more
b) It no longer gives you control over how high it ramps
c) It makes you sacrifice just as many permanents (Smokestack always made them sacrifice first)
d) It lets them pitch cards in their hand and kill you with what's on the board
e) All of the above

Despite the potentially powerful effect, playing this is madness.

Limited: 0.0

I can't construct a scenario where this is the card you want. If you can convince me otherwise, I'll have Channelfireball ship you a signed playset of these admitting I was wrong.

[draft]Dread Slaver[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

You would have to [card]Mindslaver[/card] me before I played [card]Thraben Purebloods[/card] in Constructed, because that is essentially what this is.

Limited: 3.0

This definitely gets the Shuhei stamp of approval, seeing as how he routinely had multiple Purebloods in all of his draft decks. For those who need a little more convincing, rest assured that this is a reasonable card; the size isn't fantastic, but it's so dangerous to brawl with that it will be unblockable/be a Moat most games.

[draft]Driver of the Dead[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

This is basically just the black [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card]. Yeah, that's it.

Limited: 3.0

A worse [card]Gravedigger[/card] is still (kind of) a Gravedigger, and the additional point of power goes a long way. Driver obviously changes how you prioritize 2-drops, and if it's late in the draft and you are low on them, feel free to pass on this guy.

[draft]Essence Harvest[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

It's like the barest essence of a Fling, lacking instant speed, the ability to kill a creature, and any hope of seeing play.

Limited: 1.0

The problem with this kind of [card]Lava Axe[/card] is that you need Lava Axe when all hope is lost, when you just have one turn to peel an answer, when they finally stabilize. You do not need a Lava Axe when you already have a big creature out, regardless of how much life it may gain. It isn't unplayable, but by no means is it good.

[draft]Evernight Shade[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

Will we ever see the day that a Shade is playable? Even Nantuko Shade is way too far behind the power curve these days, and this is compared to [card]Nantuko Shade[/card] is like night and day.

Limited: 3.0

Undying goes a long way on a Shade, particularly because of how many resources it takes to kill Shades in the first place. Granted, you still want 10+ Swamps in your deck, but Undying makes this a cut above your average Shade.

[draft]Exquisite Blood[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

While this may be exquisite for those of a more casual bent (check the price on [card]Sanguine Bond[/card] if you don't believe me), tournaments are in my blood, and this won't be in tournaments.

Limited: 2.0

While this isn't the nuts, it isn't unplayable either. Giving your entire team bad lifelink is still a powerful ability, and the first turn you drop this can be quite profitable. It seems best in a heavy evasion deck, giving you an additional method of racing against normal decks.

[draft]Ghoulflesh[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

It's tragic that this won't see play, but Wizards let slip some better options just recently.

Limited: 3.0

As the rating says, I'd never cut this from a deck. That certainly doesn't apply to the second copy; effects like this tend to get worse in multiples. This set is just too removal-light to justify cutting a reasonable removal spell, even if it can only target small things. Plus, the Zombie clause has to matter sometimes, right?

[draft]Gloom Surgeon[/draft]

Constructed: 2.0

Would it really kill this guy to be a Zombie? I mean, besides the fact that he's already dead and a Spirit, of course. Zombies really needs a 2-drop, and one unkillable by combat damage would be a good start. It even mills you, which with Gravecrawler around is an advantage. Sadly, he isn't a Zombie, and still dies to damaging spells, so the outlook is grim. An effect this potentially powerful can't be completely disregarded, but I'd be surprised if he saw much play.

Limited: 3.0

Against decks other than the mill deck, this essentially reads as a guy who has 15 lifetime combat toughness, which isn't bad. It's pretty nice to be able to get in without fear with your 2-drop, and he does a fantastic job as a blocker when times are tough. I'd be happy to take him early.

[draft]Grave Exchange[/draft]

Constructed: 4.0

This is the real deal. Not only does the this stabilize the board as soon as it hits, it puts them in a huge hole if it ever gets to attack. Turboland played [card]Rampaging Baloths[/card] specifically for the Jund matchup, and this is like a Baloths that comes out a turn sooner (since you rarely played Baloths at six mana) and requires no additional cards to work. There are few decks that can ignore this, though [card]Eldrazi Conscription[/card] does go over the top. I always thought [card broodmate dragon]Broodmate[/card] would be better in a true control deck, and now we have one that is way less awkward on the colors. I predict that this is both going to show up in established decks and spawn new ones.

Limited: 3.0

Edict effects at six mana aren't generally great, and the only reason I like this is because it's got a two for one built in. As with any six-drop, you don't want a ton of these, even if the first one is pretty sweet.

[draft]Griselbrand[/draft]

Constructed: 2.5

Good branding will take you far, and Griselbrand is dominating the “sick reanimation target” market in Standard. Even in older formats, he probably wins, since drawing 7 cards tends to be good in most matchups. Not all, because aggro does still exist everywhere, but against control/midrange/combo decks, Griselbrand is your go-to Demon. Past reanimation, there is also the possibility of just casting this beast, even if that is somewhat less likely. I could see ramp decks or control decks maybe using this as a finisher, since you do have room for a sick 1-of in most decks. Either way, Griselbrand is a big game.

Limited: 2.0

If I gave Avacyn a 2, it's only fair that I extend the same courtesy to Griselbrand, since all the same casting cost weaknesses apply. He is actually a 2.5, mainly because of lifelink, just don't tell Avacyn!

[draft]Harvester of Souls[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

You reap what you sow, and in this case, the harvest just takes too much work. You have to either untap with a six-drop and then start killing their team, in which case you can win with most anything, or you have to play this and hope they kill your team, which is fairly awkward.

Limited: 4.0

Not triggering off tokens is a shame, but I guess tokens don't have souls. Still, this guy is both a huge deathtouch dude and a card drawing machine, so pass him at your own risk.

[draft]Homicidal Seclusion[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

I'd kill for something to say about this, but I've got nothing. It's also terrible.

Limited: 3.5

This card seems awesome. Sure, like Demonic Rising, you might draw it on a board where it never becomes good, but it's insane when you can plan around it. Running out one guy at a time will grind them out without much trouble, with the lifegain making up for a lack of blockers and the +3/+1 letting you trade up in quality. You do need a good amount of creatures to make this work, with a higher priority placed on ones that are hard to kill.

[draft]Human Frailty[/draft]

Constructed: 2.0

I'm going to be disappointed if this isn't a sweet sideboard card in Block. In Standard, you can just jam Doom Blades and Deathmarks, so it won't really do much. The picture is just too awesome to not see play, so I really hope it does.

Limited: 3.0

The amount of Humans present in this set leads me to believe that this is a maindeckable card, with the frequent plan of sideboarding it out. Most decks will have targets, and when they do, removal doesn't get much better than this.

[draft]Hunted Ghoul[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

I guess it's ghoul that Zombies has more options for 1-drops, but it should probably keep hunting.

Limited: 0.5

I've sided in [card]Sanctuary Cat[/card] enough times that I won't completely rule this out.

[draft]Killing Wave[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

This card has so many contradictions that kill its chances completely, the main one being that when you need a Wrath, Lava Axeing them is the the last thing you want. It also works at cross purposes in that decks that want damage often have their own creatures, so you are paying a bunch of mana, a bunch of life, and at the end of the day, they make all the decisions. Punisher cards are always worse than they look, and this doesn't even look good. It is a cool card, just not a good one.

Limited: 0.0

You can Voltron this up with Exquisite Blood, but you probably shouldn't. This has my vote for the card most likely to be played when it shouldn't, which is basically ever. I also expect heated defense of it, because it certainly looks powerful.

[draft]Maalfeld Twins[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

I guess I could run back my [card]Grave Titan[/card] review, but I'll spare you. Suffice to say, six-drops need to be quite a bit better than this.

Limited: 3.5

When you hit with this, is it a [card]Twinstrike[/card]? Important questions like that aside, this is a good card, chock full of value.

[draft]Marrow Bats[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

This marrowly missed being playable in Constructed; I'd say all it needs is a 3-point reduction on mana cost.

Limited: 3.0

4-power fliers are a big game, and ones that protect themselves, however painfully, are better still.

[draft]Mental Agony[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

This adequately describes reading my set reviews if you hate puns.

Limited: 3.0

I like me a [card]Mind Rot[/card], and the 2 life is probably worth the extra mana. Mind Rot isn't at its best on turn three anyway, so you might as well pay a little more to get some value.

[draft]Necrobite[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

I guess when you necro [card]Gaze of the Gorgon[/card], it gets a bite cheaper.

Limited: 3.0

As far as combat tricks go, I like this one. It costs more than I prefer, but you get a lot for your mana. You should win any fight, and even if they have something you probably break even. It also protects your guys from removal, making it both versatile and powerful.

[draft]Polluted Dead[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

This is a dead ringer for Acidic Slime, and is sure to pollute all the decks Conley builds for this Pro Tour.

Limited: 2.5

[card]Pitchburn Devils[/card] this isn't. If you need a 3/3, it does the trick, and killing a land isn't irrelevant, just don't go nuts and draft too many of these.

[draft]Predator's Gambit[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

Yes, playing this is definitely a gambit of sorts.

Limited: 1.5

Predator's Gambit is the kind of card that just gets there sometimes. It isn't safe by any stretch, but it is powerful, potentially making a 5+ power unblockable guy at relatively low cost. My biggest problem is how awkward this is as a finisher, since it is difficult to ensure that you have just one creature out at the point in the game where you most need it to grant intimidate.

[draft]Renegade Demon[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

There is now a critical mass of 5/3's for five, just in case they make a five-drop only Constructed format.

Limited: 2.5

[card]Mass of Ghouls[/card] made it into my maindeck more often than I'd like to admit. Hopefully it occurs a little less frequently in a non-Core Set format, but we shall see.

[draft]Searchlight Geist[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

Keep on searching.

Limited: 3.0

Basically everything I said about [card]Moonlight Geist[/card] applies here; a 2/1 flier for three is good, the ability is just a bonus, and every now and then it gets you some value. This time, instead of blocking big guys it trades for them, and likewise with regard to combat tricks.

[draft]Soulcage Fiend[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

This is like the reverse [card]Vexing Devil[/card]; you get both abilities! Sadly, its casting cost and P/T are also reversed, with mediocre numbers substituted for exciting ones. Put this ability on a two mana 2/1, especially a Zombie, and you may have had yourself a deal.

Limited: 2.5

If you are interested in beatdowns, this is actively good. If you are not, well, sometimes you need a 3-drop, even a relatively painful one.

[draft]Treacherous Pit-Dweller[/draft]

Constructed: 2.0

The name is quite apt, since this is both Treacherous and very clearly emerges from a pit when it dies. The card is also intriguing, and I can't help but think that it has applications out of the sideboard against decks that can't easily send it to the graveyard. If it doesn't work, you are really screwed, so perhaps the price for failure is just too high here.

Limited: 0.5

I would never maindeck this, and the only time you should side this in is if you are very confident that they have no direct removal and few creatures that can brawl with this. Even then, you are probably making less of a mistake overall if you never board this in than if you board it in when you think it's safe.

[draft]Triumph of Cruelty[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

We've come a long way since [card]Mind Twist[/card], or even [card]Hymn to Tourach[/card], haven't we?

Limited: 1.0

It's hard have too much confidence that you will regularly have the biggest guy in play, and even if you do, the payoff here isn't that insane. There are some matchups where it will shine, because you have more info about their creatures and because they might be a slower deck that's more hurt by discard. Try siding it in then.

[draft]Undead Executioner[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

As judge, jury, and executioner, I find this card guilty of being terrible, and sentence it to life without play.

Limited: 3.0

If you can't maneuver this into a 2 for 1, you need to try harder. Sometimes it might just trade for a 4/4, and either way you are getting a pretty solid deal.

[draft]Unhallowed Pact[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

Reports of this card's demise have been proven false, but it still won't be making any Constructed appearances.

Limited: 1.5

Seeing as how this protects your creatures and potentially steals theirs, it has some applications. Unless you have a ton of removal or are playing against a bunch of removal, I'm not a huge fan, but in both those cases you do get a pretty good card.

Top 5 Commons

5. [card]Undead Executioner[/card]
4. [card]Ghoulflesh[/card]
3. [card]Searchlight Geist[/card]
2. [card]Grave Exchange[/card]
1. [card]Death Wind[/card]

These aren't the most exciting commons in the world. Besides Death Wind, none of them are cards I'd be happy first picking, or even 3rd picking. Grave Exchange is probably the closest, with the rest really being middle of the pack in a normal set. This also clearly demonstrates how limited and/or situational the removal in this set is, and it isn't like black gets great creatures to make up for that.

Top 5 Constructed Cards

5. [card]Demonlord of Ashmouth[/card]
4. [card]Dark Imposter[/card]
3. [card]Demonic Rising[/card]
2. [card]Barter in Blood[/card]
1. [card]Griselbrand[/card]

It's debatable whether Griselbrand or Barter is first, and once [card]Black Sun's Zenith[/card] rotates out, Barter wins it, but Griselbrand is pretty cool. Past those two, the picking get a little more slim. I like the power level of Demonic Rising, and think it might be a sick card, with Dark Imposter and Demonlord falling quite a bit shorter of that mark. Black didn't do all that well here, mainly because it didn't get any good common removal spells, one of which usually ends up seeing play in Constructed.

Next up: red!

LSV