Previous Set Reviews
5.0: The best of the best. (Pack Rat. Umezawa’s Jitte. Wingmate Roc.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Butcher of the Horde. Savage Knuckleblade. Crater’s Claws.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Triplicate Spirits. End Hostilities. Necropolis Fiend.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Lightning Strike. Suspension Field.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Debilitating Injury. Mardu Hordechief. Flesh to Dust.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Glacial Stalker. Bitter Revelation. Hunt the Weak.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Dragonscale Boon. Defiant Strike. Cancel.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Scout the Borders. Aeronaut Tinkerer. Ranger’s Guile.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Tusked Colossodon. Bronze Sable. Oppressive Rays.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Naturalize. Feed the Clan. Congregate.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Search the City. Pyxis of Pandemonium.)
You are only overpaying for this by 1 mana, so if you can get one trigger out of it, that’s usually enough. Combine that with good enchantments like Suppression Bonds, Claustrophobia, Stratus Walk, and the ultimate combo of Infectious Bloodlust, and you have the makings of a deck. I don’t mind taking this somewhat early in pack one, as it looks like it will work out a reasonable amount of the time.
A strict downgrade to Rotting Mastodon is not exactly what I’m looking for, though sometimes you just need another slugger in a creature-light deck.
Consecrated by Blood
Even though Auras get a deservedly bad rap, this one looks like it gives you enough of a payoff to be worth the risk of a 2-for-1. Putting this on a 3/3 is a very fast clock, and it even gives you the option of regenerating. The regeneration is very costly, but it’s a price you will be willing to pay sometimes, and having the option is powerful. If you are a beatdown deck, this is a legitimate finisher, and it might even be fine in midrange as a way to close out the game.
Five common Zombies and two uncommon Zombies make this a 2-for-1 enough of the time, and paying 5 mana at instant speed to kill (almost) anything is already a playable. This was excellent in Onslaught and remains excellent here.
Despite the ridiculous name, this is a decent card. It’s not super exciting, but the possibility of a 2-for-1 or better is appealing. Like Hydrolash, this has a chance of being a huge effect at fairly low cost, though I do think this will be awesome less of the time (hence the lower rating). If you aren’t reliably getting spell mastery, this does get a little worse, though most of the time you don’t need multiple regenerations to make this playable.
Most Limited decks won’t have a card good enough to be worth paying 5 mana to get it, so you need to reliably have spell mastery and have a couple of cards rated 3.5+ before this becomes interesting. Effects like this tend to be overrated because of their Constructed applications, so keep that in mind.
There’s nothing like a solid 2-for-1, and this is about as clean as it gets. Sure, sometimes your opponent will empty their hand before this dies, but the vast majority of the time this will get two cards from them. It does enough damage that they can’t just ignore it, and it has a low enough toughness that it’s likely to die any time it gets in a fight.
Limited: 1.0 per Disperse in your deck.
This is another card that’s basically impossible to grade. It’s unplayable if you don’t have ways to cheat the demon out of its deal, and it’s incredible if you do. I don’t think the plan of “end the game in three turns” is very compelling, especially because making them discard two is pretty worthless if that’s your plan. If you can fit 3+ ways to bounce or kill this, it sounds strong. If you draw the combo, you get a big advantage, and if you don’t you still at least have the option to play this and either end the game or hope to draw into your combo piece (though that’s more of a last resort than the main game plan).
Despoiler of Souls
It is very clear which decks will want this (9+ Swamps and aggression being the main characteristics), and in those decks this is quite the soldier. If you are pressuring the opponent enough, they can’t just ignore this, and you will likely be able to get it back at least once. This is also playable in more midrangey decks, but gets a little weaker without other creatures attacking. I wouldn’t go out of my way to try and build around this, especially since it does just fine as long as you have enough creatures in general.
The casting cost is the main drawback here, as triple-black means that this is closer to a turn-5-through-7 play than a turn 4 one. Ideally you want 11-12 Swamps, though I’d be OK running this with 10 if necessary. Once you do cast this, it’s very solid. The indestructible clause is more flavor than effect, though keep in mind that you can kill or bounce their last creature in response to a removal spell for the huge blowout. It’s also random hate against Raise Dead effects, though you will need to save the exile combos for Constructed.
I can’t fathom cutting this card from my deck. It’s efficient, it offers 2-for-1 possibilities, and it can even be used postcombat to finish off bigger creatures after you offer what looks like a favorable attack. The only criticism I can really levy is that 1-damage effects don’t tend to stack well, so you start getting diminishing returns off copies 3+.
The straight-up -2/-2 for 4 is a solid card, and this does even more than that. The opponent could have Elves, but given that you are playing black and drafted with this card in mind (right?), the odds that you have Elves is much higher. Even besides this missing your creatures the turn you cast it, the fact that it’s going to means you can keep playing out Elves, which greatly reduces the odds that your opponent gets suspicious of a sweeper. That’s a big advantage, and one that makes this quite good.
Despite traditionally unimpressive numbers, Fetid Imp is anything but. The ability to gain deathtouch is important, and turns this card from mediocre to solid. It’s almost impossible for your opponent to avoid trading something for this, especially if you just leave it on defense. Having too many isn’t ideal, as the mana costs eventually get cumbersome, but this is cheap enough that it isn’t imperative to avoid that.
Unless you are building around the ol’ Fleshbag, it doesn’t do anything exciting. It will trade for a card, mostly, but it won’t usually be a great one. Some decks are more vulnerable to it than others, and it pairs well with removal and token-making, so there are some situations where it is good (they just aren’t the common case).
The text box may be bizarre (kill target asymmetric non-Elf), but it’s very powerful. This should kill something almost every game, and a 4/3 with evasion is a menacing threat on its own. The presence of this card is funny too, because once the opponent sees it, they have a heavy incentive to only play creatures with matched stats. It’s narrow enough that they can realistically play around it, but whether they can do that turn after turn will depend on their creature base. I’d also give serious thought to siding out targets if you only have a couple.
This rating is predicated on having a moderate amount of Elves, something in the range of 4-6. At that point, you will get some mana out of this, and more important, you will be able to have reliable deathtouch targets. The second ability here is what makes this worth it, because the utility of the first expires rapidly. A sometimes mana Elf that makes your attackers kill anything is good early and good late, even if you have to do a bit of work to enable it. This isn’t quite powerful enough to really move in on early, but is a great part of a dedicated Elf deck, and can sometimes be a high pick later in the draft.
A 1/4 deathtouch for three is the blade, and that’s without even factoring in how much extra damage it deals when it attacks. This blocks extremely well, attacks for a ton, and at least forces a trade in combat. At the end of the day, it does trade for most removal spells, so it isn’t a full-on bomb, but it’s a very solid card.
If you have enough creatures that you won’t lack for targets, I like this card. You run the risk of getting hit by bounce or cards like Suppression Bonds/Claustrophobia, but most of the time you will get your card back, and do so while making one of your weaker creatures trade for a better one.
I’ve said this infinite times: do not run cards like this. All discussion of corner cases does is to trick people into thinking they should bring these in, when they should not.
Kothophed, Soul Hoarder
The ability on this is great, until it isn’t. At some point, the opponent starts to try and suicide cards to drain you out, which is definitely a risk. Still, a 6/6 flier for 6 is a giant beating, and as long as your life total is in reasonable shape, the threat of drawing extra cards is a real one.
Setting up conditional wraths can be awesome, especially ones as powerful as this. If you draft such that you have a couple 5-toughness creatures, you will often be able to wipe almost the entire board, with the “almost” part being key. Every now and then you will be unable to kill a huge threat, but the times when your own creatures survive more than makes up for that. Your opponent can’t even stop playing to the board if you keep dropping big creatures, and it just so happens that this effect is exactly what a deck full of big creatures wants to make sure it doesn’t fall behind.
Liliana, Heretical Healer
Liliana is another example where it isn’t clear how often you want to flip, as a 2/3 lifelink is pretty good. Usually she is going to be among the bigger threats on the board, but if you do happen to lose another creature first, you get the planeswalker version. Luckily, the 2/2 Zombie you get is a nice bonus, and really gives this card the punch it needs.
Liliana, Defiant Necromancer
Liliana needs a little help before she gives you an advantage, which is not a point in her favor. She can bring back a 2-drop and be left with 1 loyalty, or just trade for a 3-drop, neither of which are particularly impressive. Alternately, she can make both players discard a card, at which point you have to protect her in order to try and get value. She isn’t good when you are behind and isn’t all that impressive when you are ahead, which doesn’t make her a high pick. Your opponent also has way more control over her spark igniting than you do, as they can kill one of your other creatures end of turn and attack Liliana before you have a chance to use any of her abilities.
I’d always play Liliana, but she is nowhere near a bomb.
I’m almost always willing to dance the first waltz, but subsequent ones become much less appealing. As long as you have good creatures, having the option to trade a land or bad spell for two good creatures is a fine way to make sure you have gas in the late game.
Given enough kill spells and high-power creatures that require blocking, Malakir Cullblade is a very solid threat. You can even play this in any random deck and have it be decent, though by doing the above things you can make it better than just decent. It is annoying that any bounce spell can reset your 5/5, but you only paid two mana for this, and it rewards you for doing something you want to do anyway (and happens naturally in every game of Magic).
All Nantuko Husk asks is that you play it in a deck with a good amount of other creatures. He’s a friendly fellow, after all. Unlike Bloodthrone Vampire, this being a 2/2 for 3 means that it’s base-level playable without any synergy, as it is of solid size before eating anything. As such, it can go in almost every deck, and will play well as a huge threat that makes combat difficult for your opponent.
The two +1/+1 counters on this card kind of sell it for me. By the time you want to cast this, there’s a good shot that you have spell mastery, and getting back the best creature that died this game with an additional +2/+2 is pretty solid.
I don’t love the idea of paying 4 mana for this effect, even if it’s cool that you get the choice between two good options. This doesn’t affect the board at all, and it seems like a card best left in the sideboard (though it’s quite good in slower matchups). If you have to maindeck it, it isn’t the end of the world, but my starting plan is to avoid that.
Priest of the Blood Rite
A 5/5 flier and a 2/2 is a great deal for 5 mana, and the drawback on the Priest is not big enough to change that. Often, your opponent will be unable to attack on the ground for fear of killing the Priest, which sets you up to win in the air quite handily. You can also pair this with bounce, and worst comes to worst, you can sacrifice or kill your Priest to get rid of it (sacrificing it is especially flavorful). It is true that sometimes your Demon will get immediately bounced and you will lose, but, good beats.
If you are beatdown, this is a 3/2 flier for 5 with a small advantage. That’s a decent deal, though beatdown decks don’t want a ton of 5s. If you are midrange or control, it’s the same deal except that it comes with a disadvantage, which obviously is a bit sucky. You will play this more often than not, but the more controlling you are, the less likely it becomes.
Read the Bones
Now here is a Divination I can get excited about! I don’t have a full read on the format yet, but this effect was great in Theros and could easily be better here. The life loss means that it doesn’t stack in multiples, but getting this combination of card advantage and card selection is very powerful. I’d be happy to play this regardless of how aggressive my deck was.
Killing 3s or less instead of 2s defeats the previous version of this card handily, and at this rate, I’m quite happy to have this in my deck. I’d even play two or three, as this will hit the vast majority of creatures you are bound to face (though you may want to side one out if you play against a deck full of giant creatures).
If you need a 2/4, you need a 2/4. I wouldn’t try any nonsense like building a graveyard deck unless you have a lot of synergies, but don’t feel bad if you have to end up playing this. It’s likely to happen at one point, and it’s not the end of the world.
Ok, maybe sometimes you can try and build a graveyard deck. Revenant is extremely powerful in the mid-to-late game, and the name of the game is to get it to 3/3 or larger, at which point you got your money’s worth. I think this works as the top-end in a 15+ creature deck, especially if you have a lot of cheap attackers. If you get two, or one and another good graveyard card, Returned Centaur seems like it could be a workhorse, but that deck will be the exception more than something to aim for.
Shadows of the Past
This card is odd enough that my intuition doesn’t help, as there aren’t easy analogues to compare it to, but I still think it is good. Played early, it should rack up a ton of scrys, at which point you will dig into whatever you are missing. Played late, the ability should be active, and having the option of paying 5 mana to drain the opponent for 2 is a very good one. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was even better than I think, and I think it is pretty good (though people do tend to overrate super slow advantage engines in general, so you have to keep that in mind as well – Echoes of the Kin Tree is a good example of this).
He may not defend you the turn you play him, but he eventually gets to the battlefield. His cost-to-stats ratio is favorable, and I can’t see cutting him from the team very often.
Even if your opponent has a fever, this is definitely not the only prescription. Do not run this card.
If your opponent plays this on turn 1, that’s either a great sign or a very bad one (but the first is way more likely). By itself, this is not a playable card. It just isn’t big enough to make a real impact, even if it gets an attack or two in. When it does become good is when you have the nut Elf deck, and that’s where the second scenario comes into play. If you have a ton of Elf synergies, this is a good way to boost your Elf count, and is even helped by the fact that other people shouldn’t want to take it.
By itself, this card is pretty bad. Where it could have applications is against a deck with multiple enchantments that lock down your creatures, as that mitigates the cost of running this significantly. It still doesn’t sound very good, but that’s somewhere it might fit (another place it might nicely fit is in your sideboard, as long as it stays there).
Touch of Moonglove
I’m not a huge fan of tricks that let you trade instead of win, as they are usually 2-for-1s in the opponent’s favor. Making the opponent lose a couple life doesn’t make up for that, and as a result I think this is just a touch underpowered (or an underpowered touch, your choice).
Of all the collectible common cycle, this is the one with the highest payoff. It’s especially nice that it works even if you mill other copies of it, and given enough Servants, these start to become very high picks. Once you have two, I’d pick the third fairly early, and the fourth and fifth almost automatically. Macabre Waltz is also a nice one to combine with this, and if you can get a couple of Servants in pack one, this might be a deck worth going for. You do need at least two before this is playable, and having graveyard shenanigans like Waltz or Centaur helps a lot.
This is barely above a 3, but instant-speed unconditional removal is a touch better than all the other solid cards. Having a nice little upside helps too, and I don’t think I’d ever be unhappy playing this card or even taking it somewhat early.
Weight of the Underworld
Weight does a decent job of killing small things, and it is nice that it gives you the option of shrinking big ones. It does have the weaknesses of the other enchantment-based removal spells, like bounce or Disenchants, but it often kills its target right away in order to avoid them.
Top 5 Black Commons
As much as I want to take Read first, Unholy Hunger is probably what you should be taking. The difference between being able to kill their bomb and not is huge, and drawing extra cards doesn’t help if you don’t have impactful cards to draw into. The better your deck is, the better Read gets, but early on I’d go with the removal spells. Past that, Reave Soul seems like the card you want, though it does get worse the more copies you have. Fetid Imp, Nantuko Husk, and Shambling Ghoul (the 6th card on the list) are all pretty interchangeable, so figure out what your deck needs when making those decisions. Ideally you aren’t taking any of those super early, so you should know at that point.
Honorable Mention: Undead Servant
This card is very interesting. I could see the payoff of getting 4+ being so high that taking the first is a good gamble, especially given the number of support cards in the set, but I don’t know if that’s the sort of thing you should plan for or the sort of thing you do when you notice that one or two may wheel. It’s likely better to take the top couple commons over the first of these, but once you are in this deck, this card becomes the only thing you are looking for.