Welcome back to my Magic 2014 set review! As before, I’ll take a look at each black card and analyze it for both Constructed and Limited, and for good measure, I’ll occasionally throw in an extremely clever joke.
If you missed any of the previous Magic 2014 reviews, check them out!
Here are my previous Magic 2014 reviews, for reference:
Here’s the ratings system I’ll be using:
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. Naturalize. (Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.)
1.0: It has seen play once. One with Nothing. (I believe it was tech vs. Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)
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%)
I fear that this is not good enough for Constructed.
Bashing for 3 a turn is not insignificant, and in the event your opponent is playing Swamps, this is still a slightly under-rate Hill Giant (which you are free to sideboard out).
You reap what you sow, and in this case, putting this in your deck seems like sowing the fields with salt. The cost is just too high, and there are better ways to either draw cards or sacrifice creatures (or both). For two mana and a creature I’d hope for a more game altering effect than this.
[...]If you don’t have any good combos with it and most of your creatures are good, don’t bother, but most of the time this will make the cut.
Granted, black isn’t hexcellent at dealing with artifacts, but with fixing there are better ways to blow up equipment (if that’s even a necessary thing).
I’d hesitate to side this in, but I suppose it could be done.
I’m not enchanted with the idea of playing a 4-mana 2/3 with a marginal ability.
Paying four for a 2/3 isn’t so horrendous that it’s unplayable, so as long as you have a couple of enchantments, this seems fine. Every now and then you pick up a free creature, and if you manage to draft the full-on enchantment deck, Blightcaster becomes very strong.
Even if Nantuko Husk got a ton creepier, it didn’t get a whole lot more playable. Bloodthrone Vampire is already legal, and sees little play, so a more expensive version doesn’t seem great. Did I mention that it’s creepy?
In a deck with a good curve, you will almost always play this. The clunky control decks I tend to draft aren’t really interested, especially given how few other creatures I end up with. I do like that it, along with Tenacious Dead, breathes life into the Act of Treason archetype, so keep that in mind while drafting.
In a recent Quick Questions I said that Bogbrew Witch was the card I liked most of the early spoilers. While I don't think it's a promising Constructed card, I’ve always liked the flavor of cards that search up other specific cards and tell a story while doing so (Spirit of the Night and Urborg Panther are definitely part of the reason I got sucked into Magic). Besides the delicious Newt flavor, Bogbrew Witch does technically provide a card advantage mechanism, and Festering Goblin has seen play before. If the Witch were a tad cheaper I’d be more optimistic, but it’s not completely out of the question to tutor up a bunch of Newts against an aggressive deck.
Early in the draft, this seems like a solid pick. If you pick up just two Newts, you are in good shape, with the Cauldron being a much lower priority. I’ve always liked spicy brews, and I don’t see how it can be spicier than a cauldron full of Newts.
Child of Night
Sweet child of mine, where do you go now? Not in any deck, that’s for sure[...]
Lifelink is a big game—it turned a borderline playable (Goblin Piker) into a card I actively want in all of my decks. Child of Night just gives you the extra edge in any race, and can stockpile a ton of life if it gets to hit unopposed[...]
Hauler if you need some help finding a home for this, and of corpse I’ll do my best to help.
Any time you can get a 2/1 for 2 with a relevant late game ability, go for it. This trades off early and gets back a better card late, which far exceeds the value of the average 2-drop (which are a necessary evil to begin with).
Corrupt is kind of funny, since it ranges from Fireball to borderline playable, which is a much wider range than most cards. I don’t know how draftable mono-black actually is, but incentives like this make it more appealing.
Auras aren’t my favorite, and it would be dark times indeed before I were to try and play ones as horrible as this.
You need a specific reason before jamming this in your deck, since the toughness boost just isn’t enough to make your guy survive combat. Unblockable guys [are] good reasons to turn to the dark side, but just planning to put this on a 2/2 isn’t.
I like the idea here, the idea being some strange mishmash of Skullclamp and Phyrexian Arena, though clearly worse than either. There are two main ways to approach Dark Prophecy, with the first being the easiest: use it as a value card. Playing it in a normal black aggressive deck seems reasonable, as it protects against removal and rewards you for bashing your guys into theirs. Simple enough, but not as rewarding as trying to use it as an engine card. In the sacrifice/tokens decks, you can go pretty deep with this. Lingering Souls plus a sac outlet becomes a regular Necropotence (OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration), and even something like a Doomed Traveler becomes a 1-mana Night’s Whisper that gets to chump block.
These aren’t bad rewards, though it is definitely a risk to have this in play (note that it isn’t optional), so it will be interesting to see how well the power offered here gets harnessed.
I’m much more dubious of this in Limited. Not only is it very hard to cast, putting yourself under a permanent Hissing Iguanar seems incredibly risky. By the time this gets going, what with the casting cost and all, you may not want to trigger it more than a couple times, but that’s not exactly up to you. Some matchups might be perfect for this, and some decks might be well-suited to take advantage, but the average deck will probably not be interested.
For only one more mana than Vampire Nighthawk, you too can lose lifelink and a point of toughness! What a steal!
Clocking them for 2 or trading for their largest creature are both reasonable abilities, abilities I’m willing to pay four mana to obtain.
This is good in a good deck, and I like drafting good decks (recent evidence to the contrary aside). All you really need for this to be playable is some sort of bomb and a little cheap removal. If you have neither, your deck is either bad or very aggressive, and those decks can’t afford to play this.
I’m happy that this is back, and so is @Doom_Blade_Guy. I like having more options for removal, and Doom Blade is one of the cleanest and best options around.
It’s also still the blade in Limited, though it’s gotten a promotion to uncommon.
[...]As before, Duress is a great sideboard card to have around and one of the more well-designed cards in the game.
I almost never maindeck Duress, though sometimes you really do need a 23rd. Much like in Constructed, it’s an awesome sideboard option, but creatures are the name of the game nowadays—and whiffing on Duress happens too often for me to love maindecking it.
If Bogbrew Witch is playable, this has to be as well (though I’m certainly not saying that it’s a given that the Witch is playable). There’s not a whole lot else going on, besides as a potential speed bump against mono-red if they are leaning too heavily on 2/1s.
Festering Goblin was always a solid Limited play, and Festering Newt isn’t even forced to kill one of your other creatures like the Goblin sometimes was. This is an easy card to side out, but I like starting it in the dark. It just blocks too well, and can get in for a few points of damage. Sometimes they have a 2/1 flier or the like out, and Festering Newt is going to be a Moat.
Is this playable? Gnaw.
The stats plus ability here is easily worth two mana, and I doubt I’ll ever leave this out in any deck with 12 or more creatures. It blocks well early and has a very relevant ability, giving you a bunch of value over the course of the game. It is also another piece of the Act of Treason puzzle, which isn’t irrelevant.
In order to get a good return on your investment, you have to reliably get more than 3 mana’s worth of creature out of this. You need to also factor in the times when you draw this and it sits in your hand for a few turns, so the outlook might be grim. I do think that it’s powerful enough to consider, so playing this in a deck with cheap removal (Tragic Slip and Doom Blade come to mind) could work out. Taking a Thragtusk is a beating, and there are plenty of other good targets out there as well.
The value of this scales up dramatically as you add removal spells to the mix, but the base effect is not all that impressive. It’s a little tricky to set up, and often going to be a dead draw.
Thragtusk is not getting off easy this time around, and it’s not even the only good target. Lifebane Zombie hunts down Huntmaster, stomps on Craterhoof Behemoth, and exiles Angel of Serenity for good. It might even hit a random Elf every now and then, though that’s less likely (or exciting). The power level here is high enough to even try maindecking the Zombie, especially in an aggressive deck. I really like this level of color hoser: this cycle’s cards are all very powerful, but none are as oppressive or unbeatable as something like Paladin En-Vec.
A 3/1 intimidate for three is already a fine deal, and getting to Ostracize some 40% of your opponents is a pretty big upside. This is great if the second ability works, but still highly playable even against non-G/W decks.
Liliana of the Dark Realms
It turns out that planeswalkers are still awesome in Limited. Liliana may not be the best of the bunch (the opposite, in fact), but she is a kill spell and can provide significant value. Think of her as a 4-mana removal spell with a bonus, and she won’t disappoint.
Four mana is a competitive slot in Constructed, but a 4/3 that kills anything it fights and gives you +2 cards every time it hits competes well. This is exactly the kind of card that has the right power level and rewards going for it, so its playability will mainly hinge on what the popular removal looks like. If there are way more Doom Blades than Searing Spears, it’s got a better chance, though it does get chump-blocked effectively by tokens. The appeal of being up two cards just by hitting the opponent makes me want to try this, likely in a removal-heavy midrange deck.
There’s not much more going on here than what is obvious: great stats, powerful abilities, and some almost-guaranteed card advantage. In most cases, your opponent is either going to chump this, double-block it, or let it hit them, and all of those paths lead to you being up cards. Of course, they could have a 3/3, but that’s what removal is for. Plus, everybody knows that Reavers are the most frightening thing in the 'Verse.
Liturgy of Blood
I like the thought, but there are a liturgy of reasons why this probably won’t make the cut. The main one is that paying five, at sorcery speed, is not nearly strong enough. Getting three mana back is cool, but finding ways to use triple-black is not easy, so it will often be wasted. At the end of the day, this is Constructed, and you can just cast a removal spell for two mana, so just do that instead of trying to get fancy.
The Black Common Removal Spell is always good, and this does not disappoint. Once you pick up a couple of these (if you are that lucky), you should heavily prioritize black creatures in order to get the full value from the turn 5 Blood.
Mark of the Vampire
You can’t outrace this, and it’s hard to beat the guy in combat, so you'd better have a removal spell or else. That’s about the power-level auras need to be at to compete, what with the built-in card disadvantage present, and this certainly gets there.
I’ve never minded playing this in my sideboard, but there never seems to be quite enough room. If we got to play 17 cards, I suspect I would have played it multiple times already. As is, it seems to get cut right before the final tally[...]
The first Mind Rot is awesome, the second is OK, and the third is strictly sideboard material. The more aggressive black decks won’t even want to bother with this, though they would have to be pretty aggressive for that to be the case. This existing also means you always have to keep it in mind; don’t play excess lands if you anticipate needing to hold cards against a black deck.
It’s two undead Minotaurs stapled together. Hooray!
I don’t mind a nice 4/6 for 6, as it battles well and offers a high-end threat. I wouldn’t look to pick up too many of these, but one is good to have.
Unless you are just horsing around, you can’t seriously think this is going to set hoof in Constructed.
Nightmare is a pretty obvious build-around, but the payoff is worth it. If you can get away with even an 11-6 mana base, it’s often going to be a 4/4 or greater, and that makes it a very good threat. If you pick this up early enough, you might even be able to draft mono-black, at which point it’s a full-fledged bomb.
Sometimes you just want a flying Nantuko Shade so you can kill planeswalkers, and sometimes you decide you don't want to win any matches. Nightwing Shade can help you with both those problems at the same time!
5-drops and Shades both get worse in multiples, though Nightwing Shade is a pretty solid guy to have two of. Evasion is always sick on a guy that pumps, since by the time he gets ridiculous they usually have plenty of chumps, which won't work on Nightwing Duck here.
The thought of playing this in Constructed makes me sick.
This is no Tendrils of Corruption, but I guess Tendrils and Corrupt would have been a bit much to ask for. Quag Sickness can shrink a big guy until you draw enough Swamps, and in general is going to consistently do 2-3 damage by the midgame, which is more than fine. It is also not exactly splashable, so you will get them way later than you are going to get Doom Blades.
Rise of the Dark Realms
While I don’t expect the Dark Realms to rise in Standard, I suspect that many a creature will be raised in Commander games around the world. Nine mana is just not a realistic amount to pay, even if the effect is quite impressive.
If you can build a controlling enough ramp deck with a ton of removal, Rise of the Dark Realms is a sick finisher. It still costs nine, so it’s not the easiest thing to pull off, but I’m more than ready to try.
Bond. Sanguine Bond. This threatens to go infinite with Vizkopa Guildmage, but that's about all it has going for it.
It would take quite the deck before I would consider Bonding it up.
As much as I appreciate the classic cards, I really hate the new art. It just looks too monstrous for me, especially after the Beta art. That alone makes it deserve a 1.0 (well, and the fact that it’s not remotely Constructed-worthy).
As Air Elementals go, this pretty much just is Air Elemental, since I’ve never seen a Sengir grow in a match of Limited. Of course, Air Elemental is basically what you want, so that isn’t a big deal, but he’s certainly no Serra Angel.
As goofy as it sounds, the 500-card Shadowborn Apostle deck could be an amusing tier 2 or 3 deck. Getting Griselbrand and drawing more Shadowborn Apostles is pretty funny, and potentially explosive enough to be good, or at least fringe playable. It sounds plenty annoying to shuffle, so that alone is reason enough not to run it except online.
The number of these you’d need to have hope of activating the ability is completely unrealistic, so the best use I can think of is as a sideboard card against the deck with a million 2/1s.
Did you know that if you get this with Shadowborn Apostle, you will have six creatures in your bin, therefore stopping the Demon trigger? Synergy. The Demon is a very powerful card, and if you can reliably fill your graveyard or provide it with sacrifices (WB/x tokens comes to mind here), the reward of a 5/6 flying Flametongue Kavu is large enough to be worth going after. It could also be a good sideboard card in Modern, just in case you need to kill an opposing Griselbrand, Baneslayer Angel, or Chameleon Colossus.
Shadowborn Demon is awesome. In the worst case scenario, it’s a sorcery-speed removal spell that blocks for a turn, because you can just sacrifice it. In the best case, it’s a Dragon with a Terror stapled to it, which is insane. In the medium (and most likely) case, you feed it your worst creature for a few turns, after which either the opponent is dead or your graveyard is full enough that the Demon stops feeding. No matter which scenario happens, the Demon ranges from good to great, and has a high power level overall, which is why it’s a certified bomb.
This was recently printed in Rise of the Eldrazi, but I don’t recall Lingering Souls being around back then. There is definitely room for this to see play in Constructed sideboards these days, even if it’s no Pyroclasm.
I don’t really like maindecking this, but will when I’m low on playables. It’s got the potential to be awesome, and is way more likely to live up to that potential in post-board games, once you have found the right matchup for it.
Syphon Sliver is another powerful reason to be Slivers, and one that combines very well with Galerider Sliver. This seems like the best way for Slivers to beat the creature matchups, as it makes racing almost impossible, even if it doesn’t grant any evasion or stat bonuses.
I’m not above just playing 2/2 lifelink for three, so the possibility of getting even more value than that is nice. This is also a good splash for the actual Sliver deck, and likely to be picked highly just because people want to draft that deck.
Jack Black might be funny, but he’s not going to see a lot of Constructed play. Unlike Reassembling Skeleton, once the window passes, this just stays dead, and that puts too much pressure on you to have open mana.
As a piece of the sacrifice deck with Blood Bairn and Gnawing Zombie, Tenacious Dead does good work. Outside of that deck, it’s still a reasonable ground blocker, shutting down random 4/4s without too much trouble.
This just needs denimwalk and it would be a Constructed staple.
There are worse ways to spend your third turn, but there are also way better (I’m looking at you, Divination). If you need (dead) bodies to clog up the ground and fill out your curve, the Minotaur is there.
This guy sucks.
With only 2 toughness, you are going to need to feed Vampire Warlord a little too often for my tastes. In a deck with enough fodder, he’s fine, but still a bit fussy for something that’s mostly worse than just a 4-mana 4/4.
I’ve seen worse value out of graveyard removal spells, though that is what this is. A 1-drop you can’t really play on turn one isn’t really a 1-drop, so aggressive decks shouldn’t rely on this.
Saving a mana and getting a bear at instant speed is cute, but I’m not sure they outweigh the fact that this will be straight up uncastable some portion of the time. There are games where you just won’t be able to play it until turn six, at which point it’s not likely to be very relevant. It’s still a creature if you are short, but don’t get excited about it.
-3/-1 is just not as good as -2/-2, and if you can’t figure dis out, there isn’t much I can do. Removal is just too good nowadays.
I’m a pretty big fan of this card. It seems pretty easy to wring a card’s worth of value out of it, and at only one mana it is usually a good deal. Sometimes you do have to set yourself up to get 2-for-1'd, but much of the time you don’t, and did I mention it only costs 1? I love cheap spells, since they let me get back the time I wasted casting a bunch of Divinations…
I really like the look of this. Xathrid Necromancer is an engine, and even by itself gives you a pair of 2/2s. It’s resistant to removal, and lets you not only upgrade all your Doomed Travelers, but gives you value when you sacrifice them to something sweet. The whole sacrifice-industrial complex was already pretty big, so adding another powerful piece can’t help but spawn new decks and modifications to existing decks.
There are only a couple common/uncommon Humans in black, so Xathrid Necromancer gives you a very large incentive to branch into white. If you do, you can pick up a ton of value, especially with Blood Bairn. Even without too many synergies, the Necromancer is a solid bit of card advantage, and is still good as the lone Human in your deck.
Top 5 Black Commons
Even with Doom Blade moved to uncommon, black is packing a good selection of removal spells (and one of those spells is cleverly disguised as a 2/2 flier). Quag Sickness offers another small incentive to go mono-black, but is still fine in normal 2-color decks. Overall, black once again looks like a good pick in Limited.
Top 5 Constructed Cards
Black got a ton of new goodies to work with here. There are multiple engine cards (though both the Necromancer and Dark Prophecy work in similar decks), and multiple cards that are strong without any other help in Lifebane Zombie and Liliana’s Reaver. These cards are even helpful to the whole spectrum of decks, from aggro to midrange to control, giving black mages a ton of options with the set’s release.
Next up is red!