Guilds of Ravnica Limited Set Review: Black

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White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Gold, Artifacts, and Lands


Before I introduce the grading scale, I offer the usual caveat—the grades don’t tell the whole story, and what I write about each card provides context.

Ratings Scale

Retired and inducted into the Limited Hall of Fame: Pack Rat. Umezawa’s Jitte. The Scarab God.
5.0: The best of the best. (Bolas’s Clutches. Icy Manipulator. Lyra Dawnbringer.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Josu Vess, Lich Knight. Tatyova, Benthic Druid. Slimefoot the Stowaway.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Cast Down. Time of Ice. Adeliz, the Cinder Wind.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Vicious Offering. Blessed Light. Shivan Fire.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Cloudreader Sphinx. Caligo Skin-Witch. Grow from the Ashes.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Fungal Infection. Academy Journeymage. Mammoth Spider.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Krosan Druid. Soul Salvage. Ghitu Journeymage.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Relic Runner. Ancient Animus. Deep Freeze.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Divest. Homarid Explorer. Arbor Armament.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Rescue. Cabal Evangel. Drudge Sentinel.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Kamahl’s Druidic Vow. One with Nothing.)

Barrier of Bones

Limited: 1.0

The barrier for entry is high when it comes to purely defensive plays, and surveil 1 doesn’t make up for how small this is. I also don’t like 0-power defenders much against mentor, which is making me rethink my rating on Wall of Mist.

Bartizan Bats

Limited: 2.0

The last time we saw a 3/1 flyer for 4, it had minor Vampire synergies propping it up. Here, you just have undergrowth, which isn’t nothing. This is still pretty fragile, so there’s no shame in leaving it out of your deck.

Blood Operative

Limited: 3.5

Things are certainly going to get bloody when this thing hits the board, as a 3/1 lifesteal can’t be ignored. Your opponent will likely be forced to trade if they want any chance to race, and there are so many surveil cards (28, to be exact) that it won’t be hard to bring this back a few times per game. With multiple common Auras that lock this down, don’t be afraid to use one of your removal spells on your own Blood Operative if you have ways to get it back.

Burglar Rat

Limited: 3.0

Ravenous Rats was a staple in every Limited format it appeared in, and I have no reason to believe this one will be different. It always trades for at least a card, and can often get you a few life in a chump block or keep an x/1 at bay. That’s a great deal for 2 mana, and is especially nice in decks with undergrowth cards.

Child of Night

Limited: 1.5

Looking at a lot of the creatures in this set, Child of Night looks a bit lackluster compared to its previous incarnations. It’s certainly a playable still, as it will often trade for a card and gain you 2-4 life, but Dimir Informant is its mortal enemy, and there are a lot of cards like that (see: the card directly above this one).

Creeping Chill

Limited: 1.0

Most surveil decks aren’t in the market for Lava Spike, even a free one that comes with 3 life attached. If your deck is both aggressive and surveil-heavy, maybe this creeps in, but for the most part this should be riding the bench. I suspect that this will be one of the most popular bad cards in the set, as people love the idea of getting something for nothing.

Dead Weight

Limited: 3.5

If this rating seems high, it’s only because you haven’t had the pleasure of playing with Dead Weight before. This has a lot more flexibility than Shock, as you can weaken creatures that are too big to outright kill. That more than makes up for the sorcery speed part, and makes this one of the premier black commons. If the format ends up revolving around large creatures, maybe this is a clear second behind Deadly Visit, but the efficiency here is hard to beat.

Deadly Visit

Limited: 3.5

Killing anything and getting to surveil 2 is about as close to Annihilate as we are going to get at common. This is excellent removal, and I think I’d take the first one of these over Dead Weight, though I’d likely alternate after that.

Doom Whisperer

Limited: 4.5

This shouts more than whispers, as it will end most games where it comes out early (and still seems awesome even late). It’s an enormous flyer for cheap, and can find you whatever you need at the low cost of a few life.

Douser of Lights

Limited: 2.0

Black doesn’t usually get creatures as beefy as this, and I’m always in for a Thornhide Wolves. I like the first one of these a lot, though at 5 mana it does conflict with the vastly superior Deadly Visit.

Gruesome Menagerie

Limited: 1.5 // 3.0

If you end up with a couple of good 1-drops, this goes from mediocre playable to quite exciting, so keep an eye out. It’s hard to set this up, but the reward is there, and getting a card and mana advantage is well worth spending 5 mana on. It also combos nicely with surveil, as you won’t need to have ever cast creatures before playing this.

Hired Poisoner

Limited: 2.5

As far as defensive plays go, you could do worse with your money. A 1/1 deathtouch keeps the ground clear, and does it cheaply. This plays nicely with undergrowth and helps keep surveil control decks alive, making it a good fit for most black decks.

Kraul Swarm

Limited: 3.0

The biggest drawback of a 4/1 flyer is that it dies too easily, and the ability here does quite a bit to mitigate that. It is still clunky to get this back and replay it, but you don’t need a 4/1 flyer to live for very long before you win the game. There is also the nice surveil synergy, as you can dump this in your bin early and get it back when you have time to use it.

Lotleth Giant

Limited: 2.0

If this is doing 5+ damage, it’s a fantastic finisher. If it’s doing a lotleth, I’m not all that excited. As such, I’d want to play this in a deck focused on filling the bin, whether that’s an undergrowth deck, a surveil deck, or some combination. This isn’t quite a high enough payoff to slam early, but later in the draft will find some takers.

Mausoleum Secrets

Limited: 1.0

This being restricted to just black cards makes it too situational for my tastes—there will be many games where you can’t cast this early, and even in the midgame it might be off. Add to that the problem that your best cards may not even be black, and the problem gets worse.

Mephitic Vapors

Limited: 2.0

Mephitic Vapors will be a great sideboard card and a plausible main deck one, depending on how many of your own creatures it kills. Surveil 2 is a nice bonus, so if this kills even one creature you are likely ahead.

Midnight Reaper

Limited: 3.5

Midnight Reaper isn’t optional, just like all grim reapers, but as long as you keep your life total high this is a fantastic card. It turns all of your other creatures into 2-for-1s, and is great when you’re chumping with things like Child of Night or Burglar Rat. Against removal, this will be the first to die, but it triggers off of itself, making it a 2-for-1 at worst.

Moodmark Painter

Limited: 1.5

Undergrowth doesn’t seem that well-supported in this set, so I’m wary of the rewards that require a lot of creatures before they pay you off. At least Lotleth Giant costs 7, so you should have a well-stocked graveyard by then, whereas Moodmark Painter really wants to come down early but likely won’t grant a whole lot until later. Menace also falls off later in the game, so I’m not really sure how this fits into most decks.

Necrotic Wound

Limited: 3.0

This card is a lot more appealing. It still doesn’t do a ton early, but having a 1 mana removal spell on turn 5 or 6 is still great, and if worse comes to worst this can be used as a combat trick if it’s only giving -1/-1 or -2/-2.

Never Happened

Limited: 1.0

Sealed: 2.5

I’d sideboard this in against slow decks, or main deck it in Sealed. A one-for-one hand disruption spell that costs 3 mana is a bit slow for Draft, so you really want to make sure that the matchup is slow enough for this.

Pilfering Imp

Limited: 3.0

I like this little bugger. It gets in for a few points of damage, then you can trade it off for a card in their hand before they hit their high drops. It also enables undergrowth, making this a fine playable for multiple reasons.


Limited: 2.0

Edict (sacrifice) effects are much worse in Limited than Constructed. Your opponent will be playing more creatures, and specifically more bad ones, making this a lot less effective. It’s cute that it can make them discard a card, and eating planeswalkers will definitely have Constructed implications, but for Limited I’d consider this a marginal playable more than anything exciting.

Price of Fame

Limited: 4.0

Cutting a mana off of Deadly Visit and making it an instant is enough to get the 0.5 bump, and I expect this to a very high pick. Plus, you may even snipe a legendary creature, at which point the price is definitely right.

Ritual of Soot

Limited: 3.5

This is awkward against Selesnya, as that deck is full of overcosted creatures, but it should be effective against the other four guilds. Setting this up doesn’t seem too hard, and it isn’t that bad if you have to kill one or two of your own creatures in the process, especially if you are enabling undergrowth.

Severed Strands

Limited: 1.5 // 3.0

In a normal deck, this is not great. You get 2-for-1ed and the couple life you gain doesn’t make up for that. In a deck with a lot of good sacrifice fodder, this is premium removal, which is nice because you may pick them up quite late. As long as you have enough Burglar Rats and Muse Drakes, this will do the trick.

Spinal Centipede

Limited: 2.5

This doesn’t turn the dial up to 11, but it’s no slouch either. This is an above-average playable, and it’ll make the cut most of the time. As long as you have enough creatures that you aren’t wasting the death trigger very often, this gives you enough stats for 3 mana that it’s worth a slot.

Undercity Necrolisk

Limited: 1.5 // 3.0

Once again, how much sacrifice fodder you have determines how good this is. I do like that it’s a 3/3 for 4 base, but that alone doesn’t make it an exciting addition. Sorcery-speed sacrifice is also a lot worse than instant, as this won’t fizzle removal spells or get you value off chump blocks, so beware when comparing this to other sacrifice effects.

Veiled Shade

Limited: 1.5

I can’t imagine being excited to put this into my deck. I’m not trying to throw shade—it’s just not very efficient, and not that big to start with. If you’re really lacking mana sinks, this could get there, but I hope that you can do better.

Vicious Rumors

Limited: 0.0

Please, just trust me—this isn’t worth 1 mana, no matter how many different (minor) things it does. This is exactly the kind of card that looks super appealing, but besides the discard, all of the other effects aren’t worth anything (and in the case of milling them for one, can actually be a disadvantage).

Whispering Snitch

Limited: 2.5

There’s enough surveil in the format that this will basically always be good in Dimir, and can sometimes even be great. If you’re Golgari, it drops off some, but once you have 3-4 surveil cards and a need for early defense, this is worth including.

Top 3 Black Commons

3. Burglar Rat
2. Dead Weight
1. Deadly Visit

Both of black’s removal spells are excellent, and I’d be happy first-picking either. Which ends up being the best will depend on the speed of the format, but for now I’ll give Deadly Visit a slight edge. I also love me a Burglar Rat, and bet this starts out underrated. It’s a really sweet card, and one you will be happy playing multiples of.


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