I really enjoyed writing about Avacyn Restored’s top ten commons in draft. It seemed like people got a lot out of them, and the main criticism was that I wrote them after the set’s release, so they weren’t relevant. I’m going to try my hand at M13 while people still care, but fair warning: since I am writing these about 10 drafts deep, some of my evaluations might be a little off. If you see me rate a card you know is really powerful lower than it should be, you can either tell me in the comment section and create an intelligent debate, or you can just keep modo battling and hope people don’t realize that it’s undervalued. Let’s start with black.
Murder is at the top of the heap to the surprise of no one, since Murder is the best common in the whole set. It shines brightest in a blue-black deck where you can use Archaeomancer to get multiple uses out of the powerful instant. It is kind of a bummer that it costs double-black—but I have grown to like black, so first picking a Murder and forcing myself into heavy black isn’t really a dealbreaker for me. Instant-speed is highly relevant when you consider how many colors have exalted themes. It’s an intuitive card with bare-bones design—it’s text has three words on it, and it does exactly what you expect it to do: kill stuff.
This one might be a little controversial, but I have Bloodhunter Bat ranked 2nd overall. This card brings back fond memories of Blind Hunter, which was one of the sickest cards in RGD. I can confidently say that this Bat is as good in this format too. It’s hard to place a value on versatility, like how Bloodhunter Bat deals damage AND gains life, so when you look at it your brain says, “this deals 2 damage,” and, “this gains 2 life,” when in reality it’s turning you a profit of 4 life. People would pick this card much, much higher if it dealt 4 damage or gained 4 life when it came into play—only slightly better abilities than Bloodhunter’s hybrid. It’s possible that [card bloodhunter bat]Blindhunter Bat[/card] should be ranked third, but my gut says that the Bat is slightly better.
Essence Drain is next up, and as I just mentioned it was really tight. I love me an Essence Drain, and the 3 life this card gains is not to be underestimated. It allows you more space to use your life as a resource to leverage board position or get ahead in a race. A turn 5 Essence Drain turns a seemingly good position into a nightmare for the aggressive player. It’s extra hurtful against a green deck with cards like Spiked Baloth and Centaur Courser. Once again, this card is awesome with Archaeomancer. The life you gain easily gives you enough time to return it from the graveyard and kill something else that’s attacking you. You can take this card over Bloodhunter Bat if you are desperate for removal or have some number of Archaeomancers.
Giant Scorpion may be a little overrated here, but I love this card. Looking back at all the good things did for me back in Zendikar, I just get that fuzzy feeling inside. Once again, we have a card that is very simple in design and does exactly what you expect it to. This card is awesome against green and red because they have a good mix of smaller creatures that can’t push past it, and fatties that have to trade down with it. It is poor against blue as they have many fliers, and it’s fine against white, though it is bad against evasive creatures and exalted—and gets flat embarrassed by Angelic Benediction.
Mark of the Vampire is not my style of card at all, as it’s high variance and leads to blowout situations in one way or another. I usually prefer to play a more conservative game and either make my opponent draw better than me or hope the game goes long and give them more opportunity to make mistakes. But this card’s reward seems to be worth the risk. Little Armadillo Cloak usually goes uncontended, since the only cards that truly own it are Murder and Unsummon. I like this card a lot if you happen to be gung-ho on the exalted theme since when it does work it is a powerhouse. I especially love it in a black-green deck. Besides the obvious notion that putting this on a beefy green creature will make it more powerful, it works pretty perfect on the Primal Huntbeast, allowing you to have your cake and eat it too. I find it strange that I like this card, but it is really powerful and can win any race. You can feel free to sideboard it out against a good blue deck but during the drafting portion I would look to pick it high and always play it.
Servant of Nefarox is next up, and this card is pretty sweet. As a rule of thumb I always say to myself exalted = +1/+1 or better. So if you look at this as a 4/2 for 2B, then you can already see that it’s pretty powerful, and now factor in that the turn you cast it (as long as you have a creature to attack with) it will either do one damage on an empty board or potentially two or three damage if you can now attack with a Walking Corpse past something like a Watercourser. Like all the cards on the list ranked 4-9, it can go way up if you are on the exalted plan or way down if other cards are better. Servant is pretty excellent in a black-white deck, but can be pretty weak in blue-black unless you need him to block some Primal Huntbeasts. Overall I like this card and you need a really good reason to cut it from a black deck.
Liliana’s Shade has impressed me so far, so I’m a bit surprised I ranked it this low when I had to get down to it and actually put a number on some of these cards. My advice would be to not be fooled by where this card is on the list and pick it based on its usefulness in your deck. If I am mono-black, I absolutely take this over Giant Scorpion and I have a tough decision when compared to the top three—likely decided by my number of win conditions. I like the Shade more in a control deck. Obviously a four-mana 1/1 isn’t super hot at defending, but it will ensure you make your land drops, and it’s a win condition that is hard to kill—often putting games away by itself.
I like to play Sign in Blood although it really isn’t ever broken. This one suffers from looking much better than it actually is, as the life payment is very real and it’s so hard to cast, I might even argue it’s as hard to cast as a Divination. Don’t get me wrong though—this card is much better than Divination, since when you cast it on turn five or six you have more options. I advise always playing this card, but don’t get too excited when you see it in a pack, since it rarely impresses me.
All of this on top of the fact that if you are on the draw you have to make a decision between casting it on turn 2 and discarding or holding it until turn seven, which is pretty lame. It’s cool that you can use it to deal them 2 damage, but that is marginal value at best.
I’ve grown to like Duty-Bound Dead quite a bit. When you use my rule of thumb and just call it a 1/3 for B that regenerates, you can see that it’s already playable though not great. It’s best used when allowing another creature to run past opposition, or letting Walking Corpse trade with 3/3s. There is just something about this card that appeals to my inner aggro-player that makes me think I will consistently start out with it on turn one with a Knight of Infamy to follow. I had him at the prerelease with a Rancor and it got my juices flowing. It’s a little hard for me to describe exactly why I like this card so much, even though I acknowledge it is a little low in power level. As long as I’m not controlling, then I will want to play it.
Lastly, I have Crippling Blight with an asterisk. I think the first Crippling Blight is much better than your first Walking Corpse, but every copy after the first I would rather have Walking Corpse. This card is pretty impressive at killing stuff like Arbor Elf, Welkin Tern, and Aven Squire. I also love it as an answer to Scroll Thief and Fog Bank, in these situations it’s as good as a Murder.
The fact that this card makes it so the enchanted creature can’t block has been pretty useful for me on occasion. It allows you to alpha strike in a green deck or send through an exalted creature in other archetypes.
Honorable mention goes out to Walking Corpse, love ya bro.
That wraps up my review on black, maybe when I have finished a breakdown on each color I can do a revised list, since that will be 5 weeks from now and I’m sure I will have different card evaluations on each of these. If that is something you might be interested be sure to let me know in the comments.
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