Return to Ravnica Set Review – Black

Assassin’s Strike

[draft]Assassin’s Strike[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

Despite the cool name, this doesn’t strike me as particularly playable.

Limited: 3.5

Assassins know how to get things done. This is unconditional removal, and even card advantage much like its now-ancient predecessor, [card]Plague Spores[/card]. Making them discard is probably harsher than blowing up a land, since by the time you cast this, they won’t have very many cards to choose from. Also like Plague Spores, you can’t just jam four 6-drops in your deck and expect it to work, so keep that in mind while drafting.

Catacomb Slug

[draft]Catacomb Slug[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

Being off to a sluggish start is already bad enough, no need to make it literal.

Limited: 1.5

2/6 is generally worse than 3/5, but I suspect that won’t stop Shuhei. You don’t win Limited Grands Prix by NOT playing the [card]Thraben Purebloods[/card] from every set, and Slug is definitely Ravnica’s Purebloods.



Constructed: 2.5

I love having cards like Cremate around. It isn’t toppling any giants, but it provides a small amount of value, another card, and just makes games go smoothly. Cremating [card]Geralf’s Messenger[/card] or [card]Gravecrawler[/card] seems sweet, and providing fuel for [card snapcaster mage]Snapcaster[/card] is always nice.

Limited: 2.0

If you have an extra spot, playing this isn’t the worst. There aren’t that many decks that this is going to be good against, so don’t make it a high priority, but take it if there’s nothing else. It’s a fine enough sideboard card at the very worst.

Daggerdrome Imp

[draft]Daggerdrome Imp[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

I guess [card]Mourning Thrull[/card] was too good. It’s important to note that a strictly worse version of an already-bad card is not likely to do much.

Limited: 1.5

Here, scavenge is what makes or breaks this card. It’s not really that exciting without it, but it becomes monstrous if you can make it a [card drudge beetle]3/3 or better[/card]. As the last card in a fast deck, you could do worse, and I do like siding this sort of thing in when I’m playing control. There’s nothing more satisfying than blocking a 2/1 with the likes of this.

Dark Revenant

[draft]Dark Revenant[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

Not only do you get a horrible card, if it dies, you are forced to draw another one!

Limited: 2.0

This is a very swingy ability. Some games, it makes Dark Revenant into an unstoppable force. If you are winning the race, this can be a legitimate threat that is very hard to remove. On the other hand, if you aren’t ahead, this can easily be a 2/2 that you have to protect at all costs, because skipping your draw step to hit another 2/2 is fatal. It seems more likely that you will want this rather than not, but rarely will you be overjoyed to see it.

Dead Reveler

[draft]Dead Reveler[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

The best thing about this card is the flavor text; past that, it’s pretty much dead.

Limited: 3.0

Much like the other unleash cards, the more aggressive you are, the more awesome they are. This is still fine to cast as a [card]Hurloon Minotaur[/card] if need be, and a three-mana 3/4 is fairly exciting.

Desecration Demon

[draft]Desecration Demon[/draft]

Constructed: 2.5

[card]Abyssal Persecutor[/card]’s lot in life is to be second to Jace, as both Worldwake and Return to Ravnica have shown us. Much like the original Persecutor, this is an interesting card, and there certainly are Constructed implications. A huge flier for four mana is clearly a good deal, and if the opponent chooses to bribe it with sacrificial fodder, the Demon at least grows in the meantime. How good this will be really depends on a couple of factors:

Which removal spells are commonly played is a big one, and could potentially make or break the Demon. If everyone is running [card]Abrupt Decay[/card]s and red burn spells, Desecration may occur. If the removal of choice is [card]Detention Sphere[/card], [card]Ultimate Price[/card], and [card]Supreme Verdict[/card], the outlook may not be as positive.

The second factor is more controllable. If decks that create a ton of tokens/small creatures are popular, the drawback on the Demon is much larger, but also easier to work around. You get to add cards like [card]Mutilate[/card], [card bonfire of the damned]Bonfire[/card], or [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card] to your deck, all of which sweep the board and let your Demons run rampant.

The numbers here are just too appealing to pass up, and even though the drawback is very real, there is enough power here.

Limited: 4.0

While this is still a windmill slam in Draft, be aware that there are situations where it completely betrays you. If the game is close to being over, it’s certainly possible for them to feed it until you die, though as soon as they stop, it’s usually they who end up dying.

Destroy the Evidence

[draft]Destroy the Evidence[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

If you want to get destroyed, put this in your deck. If you aren’t convinced, playing it even once will provide all the evidence you need.

Limited: 1.0

The only scenarios where this makes sense to me are if you are hardcore mill or if they have multiple [card grove of the guardian]Groves of the Guardian[/card]. Otherwise, this mills them and makes them draw a land, neither of which is remotely close to being worth five mana.

Deviant Glee

[draft]Deviant Glee[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

“Glee” is exactly what I would experience if my opponent played this card in Constructed. While I understand trying to deviate from the norm, this is not the way to do it.

Limited: 1.0

Only the most aggressive decks will want this, since it’s a much worse version of Spectral Flight (which is apparently better in Constructed than Limited). If you’re beating down really hard, gleefully stealing wins will happen with this.

Drainpipe Vermin

[draft]Drainpipe Vermin[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

I get a 1/1 for one and I might be able to make them discard at some point in the future? This is an example of rats, foiled again.

Limited: 1.0

Once again, being forced to wait to get the discard really weakens this. You save a lone mana on the casting, but then have to keep mana up at various points during game, not knowing whether or not it’s going to fire. If your deck really needs sacrifice fuel, this does do the job, but poorly enough that only the most dedicated decks will want it.

Grave Betrayal

[draft]Grave Betrayal[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

Having this in play does put your opponent in grave danger, but your 7-drop doing nothing by itself is not something you can usually get away with. You start getting value once you untap, or possibly earlier if you can incite some creature combat, but it’s just too clunky to really get to work. It is a very sweet card, and I’d be happy if it made the sideboard for some really grindy matchup.

Limited: 3.0

The power level here is undeniable, but even in Limited you pay a price when your 7-drop needs help to get going. This effect is sick, and if you have the removal to back it up, this card starts becoming insane. You need to draft such that you survive and make use of this effectively, which isn’t the easiest.

Grim Roustabout

[draft]Grim Roustabout[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

This guy’s chances are looking grim—even if he could block, he would be pretty far away from Constructed-worthy.

Limited: 3.0


I interrupt your normally scheduled programming to talk about the unleash mechanic in more general terms than just those pertaining to Grim Roustabout. First, why is there no dog or hound with unleash? I get that a kraken might have been pushing it, but all I’m asking for is a simple hellhound or something, just because of the fun level of, “Smithers, unlease the [card lava hounds]hounds[/card]”. Big flavor fail, in my opinion.

Second, and more strategically relevant, how do you decide whether or not to unleash the kraken?

Usually, it isn’t going to be that difficult. If you are beating down fiercely, unleash; and if you are behind, don’t. Still, even if you are behind, if a 2/3 has no good blocks you might be better off just unleashing and having it do something. Similarly, if you don’t anticipate getting in there with a 3/4, and are attacking via evasion or bigger guys, you might want to just play the defensive version.

It’s also quite possible that you just don’t cast your unleash guy when the pace of the game isn’t obvious. If you don’t plan on doing much with the creature, just holding it until you have more information can be a legitimate line. You also have to consider what potential removal is in either deck, what creatures could be the next to get played, and all that good stuff.

Much like everything in Magic, there is no hard and fast rule, but by taking into account the immediate impact on the board, which player is the aggressor, and the most likely sequence of plays, you can better decide whether the hounds are getting unleashed.

Let’s go back to Grim Roustabout. It may be the most defensive unleash card in the set, with both versions doing good work. It’s also one with the highest penalty for getting the choice wrong, since when you actually want a 1/1 regenerating blocker, you really want it. Even in control, this is sweet, and don’t expect to pick these up late.

Launch Party

[draft]Launch Party[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

It wouldn’t surprise me if this name came about just for the, “Hey, are you going to the Return to Ravnica Launch Party?” joke. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good joke, but it is a little silly. Coincidentally, you could also describe this card’s prospects in Constructed in a similar fashion.

Limited: 2.0

There are decks where this is [card]Agonizing Demise[/card], and decks where this is straight-up terrible. The deciding factor is the quality and casting cost of your creatures, where the less you have of one and more of the other determines neatly how effective this is.

Still, if you’ve gotta kill a guy, you’ve gotta kill a guy, and the amount of removal you have access to presents a very relevant third variable. Most decks won’t mind the first Launch Party, even at reasonable cost, but it’s rare that this is going to be tier 1 removal.

Mind Rot

[draft]Mind Rot[/draft]

Constructed: 2.0

I could talk about how we played this in our Jund sideboard, but the less I talk about or remember those times, the better. Suffice it to say that if you need a mildly-disruptive 2-for-1, Mind Rot is an option.

Limited: 2.0

I’m generally a fan of Mind Rot, but rarely hesitate to side it out when necessary. Discard also always carries the inherent risk of being dead late game—something to consider when looking at the second or third Mind Rots. This format also appears to be shaping up as reasonably fast, making Mind Rot a little less appealing (despite the obvious sexiness of the name).

Necropolis Regent

[draft]Necropolis Regent[/draft]

Constructed: 2.0

It’s a Doubling Cube for your entire army! As awesome as that sounds, just be aware that combat triggers that only work when you are beating the crap out of them are a little bit win-more. Then again, the only thing better than winning is winning more, so Necro away.

Limited: 4.5

As Dragons go, this is a sick one. If you can catch them off-guard in any way, your other guys get a huge bonus even if they kill the Regent as soon as they untap. If you can’t catch ‘em, your consolation prize is a 6/5 flier that doubles every turn. That’s unfortunate.

Ogre Jailbreaker

[draft]Ogre Jailbreaker[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

He’s not called Ogre Formatbreaker for a reason. The reason is because that is a horrible name.

Limited: 2.5

Not everyone is as huge a fan of blocking as I am, so I understand that some people will cut this in aggressive decks. That’s ok, I accept it, even though I’m planning on not being aggressive and playing a ton of Gates in my five-color decks. Those two things combine to make Ogre Jailbreaker pretty sweet in the average deck I draft.

Pack Rat

[draft]Pack Rat[/draft]

Constructed: 2.0

PV (@PVDDR_Quotes on Twitter) compared this to [card]Bitterblossom[/card]. Even though he was joking, given enough time, the opponent will be plagued with Rats in short order. If they don’t pack enough removal, you get more and more value with each activation, and the copies retain the activated ability in case of the original dying.

The power level here is interesting, and if there are enough attrition-based matchups, this could certainly be a thing.

Limited: 4.0

Pack Rat may be a little slow to get started, but given time, it breeds a near-unstoppable army. The clones having the activated ability is insane, so waiting until you have five mana makes this a really hard card to stop. It’s unlikely that anything you could do is as profitable as churning out Rats once you get started, especially since you get rewarded so heavily for going all-in.

Perilous Shadow

[draft]Perilous Shadow[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

The new [card]Nantuko Shade[/card] is just a shadow of his former self, and extremely perilous to play.

Limited: 2.5

This gets around one of the common drawbacks of Shades, which is that they don’t usually do anything whenever you tap out. Blocking with this isn’t very perilous, and once you finally do get the mana to go on the warpath, it can do some serious damage.

Sewer Shambler

[draft]Sewer Shambler[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

Sewerly you don’t believe this is playable, right?

Limited: 3.0

Scavenge still seems like a great mechanic to me, and even against non-Swamp decks, this is just one more mana than it should be (for a mediocre guy, admittedly), and getting a free +2/+2 aura is close enough to another card that I’d always run this. If you are very short on creatures, scavenge does drop off in power, but I’m assuming that you aren’t.

Shrieking Affliction

[draft]Shrieking Affliction[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

I was racking my brain, trying to think of a reason to play this, but I can’t. My advise is to pass on it.

Limited: 0.0

If they have one or zero cards in hand, you’ve practically won already. Hooray!

Slum Reaper

[draft]Slum Reaper[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

Looks like Brain Gorgers is slumming it, and no longer even pretends to give them a choice about sacrificing something. It’s still bad, and I doubt anyone is going to fear the reaper in Constructed.

Limited: 3.0

Diabolic Edicts tend to lose value fairly quickly in Limited, as the opponent’s options grow larger. This costing four does hurt it, but a reasonable amount of ground is made up by the fact that you can sacrifice something else, letting you upgrade whatever your worst creature is. It also works quite well with scavenge, if that wasn’t immediately apparent.

Stab Wound

[draft]Stab Wound[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

I’m going to take a stab at reviewing this and say that neither half of this split card is something to be interested in.

Limited: 3.0

This card plays surprisingly well. It looks like mediocre removal with a small upside, and actually is more like [card]Pillory of the Sleepless[/card]. It’s clearly not that good, but it does mostly neutralize a threat and provide a recurring source of unblockable damage. Its value goes way up in aggressive decks, where you will often stab something non-lethally. In control, it isn’t the best, but you are still always going to happily play it.

Tavern Swindler

[draft]Tavern Swindler[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

As fun as flipping coins is, don’t let this guy swindle you out of all your life.

Limited: 2.0

It’s a 2/2 for 2, so there is a floor as to how bad it can be. All I know is that I plan on flipping whenever I can, as often as I can. You could gain SIX life every time!

Terrus Wurm

[draft]Terrus Wurm[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

I believe this is bad, and I bet most people would agree with me, but watch, someone is going to build a broken Wurm deck and terrus a new one.

Limited: 3.0

Both halves of this card are very impactful. A 5/5 for seven is obviously not that exciting, but they do have to deal with it. On the other hand, pants’ing up a guy for 5 is huge, and unless your opponent has a good removal spell, you are likely to win in short order. As with any expensive card, returns diminish rapidly.

Thrill-Kill Assassin

[draft]Thrill-Kill Assassin[/draft]

Constructed: 2.0

A 2/3 deathtouch for two mana is not bad, and if you really need to block, a 1/2 will often do just as good a job. So far, this is the most thrilling unleash card, with both options having legitimate uses.

Limited: 3.5

I can’t imagine a deck where this isn’t good. It either trades for any attacker or pressures them effectively, all for the low cost of two mana.

Ultimate Price

[draft]Ultimate Price[/draft]

Constructed: 2.5

As you may know, I previewed this card just a few short weeks ago. My position hasn’t changed much, and I still see it as a reasonable choice for removal in Standard. The preview article can be found here.

Limited: 3.5

Even if this misses half their team, it’s still a 2-mana kill spell, and against most decks, the miss rate will be lower. It will be unfortunate when you play against multi-color bombs instead of mono-color ones, but them’s the breaks.

Underworld Connections

[draft]Underworld Connections[/draft]

Constructed: 3.0

Is sacrificing a land worth getting to turn off [card]Phyrexian Arena[/card] at will? No, not exactly, but that doesn’t make this card bad. It still draws you extra cards every turn, and if you have to tap the land for mana every now and then, it’s not that devastating. Permanent sources of card advantage are valuable, and I expect to see this played in a number of decks.

Limited: 3.5

In Limited, this is much closer to the power level of Arena, since turning it off is going to be a much more common occurrence. This card seems good in both aggro or control alike, though card draw in Limited is reliant on having actual good cards to draw into. I’m not sure if I would take this over a good piece of removal or a good threat, and look forward to playing with it and finding out.

Zanikev Locust

[draft]Zanikev Locust[/draft]

Constructed: 1.0

Fears of a plague of locusts descending on Standard appear to be completely unfounded.

Limited: 3.5

It’s definitely worth paying an extra mana on this guy for the random [card]Moldervine Cloak[/card] ability. You can’t overload on too many scavenge guys or you run the risk of not having the time to utilize them, but this is one of the better ones.

Top 5 Black Commons

5. [card]Terrus Wurm[/card]
4. [card]Ogre Jailbreaker[/card]
3. [card]Grim Roustabout[/card]
2. [card]Dead Reveler[/card]
1. [card]Stab Wound[/card]

With only two mono-black removal spells at common, we have a remarkably diverse set of commons here. Black isn’t usually known for its creatures, yet unleash and scavenge have powered up black’s offerings nicely. The unleash guys play a little more defensively than I expected, being reasonable no matter what you choose, and scavenge certainly doesn’t lock you into aggro or control. Black appears to be more flexible than normal, and I like how it looks like it’s going to play.

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