5.0: Multi-format All-Star (and undoubtedly worth too much money). [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card]. [card]Tarmogoyf[/card].
4.0: Format staple. [card]Sphinx's Revelation[/card]. [card]Thragtusk[/card].
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes, but not a format staple. [card]Avacyn's Pilgrim[/card]. [card]Restoration Angel[/card]. [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card].
3.0: Archetype staple. [card]Farseek[/card]. [card]Gravecrawler[/card].
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. [card]Think Twice[/card]. [card]Curse of Death's Hold[/card].
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. [card]Naturalize[/card]. (Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.)
1.0: It has seen play once. [card]One with Nothing[/card]. (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%)
Bane Alley Blackguard
[draft]Bane Alley Blackguard[/draft]
Since I assume you are already on guard against a Bane pun, I suppose you have my permission to ignore this and keep reading.
As much as I like 2-drops, this is more of a sideboard card against faster decks than something I’d usually want main deck.
Besides excellent flavor text, [card]Blood Scrivener[/card] offers a card-drawing engine for decks that routinely expect to become hellbent. Becoming hellbent hasn’t historically been the easiest of tasks, but tacking this ability onto a 2/1 Zombie gives this card potential. Aggressive decks do tend to empty their hand, and there might be some good ways to take advantage of this. There is a recent trend in Standard of having a big high-end ([card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card], [card]Falkenrath Aristocrat[/card], etc), which does not combo very well with this, so keep that in mind while deckbuilding.
I don’t know how aggressive Dragon’s Maze will end up (and hopefully the answer is “not very”), but a 2/1 for 2 is usually not too bad, and sometimes quite good. Given that, adding a powerful late game ability makes this a good card in almost any format.
There are a ton of good graveyard hate options right now, but most of them don’t routinely gain you 15+ life. Getting all their creatures at once is a reasonable effect, though it sadly doesn’t touch the unused [card]Unburial Rites[/card]. This could be a reasonable hedge, playing the role of a [card]Gnaw to the Bone[/card] in aggro matchups and graveyard hate against reanimator, but you are probably better off just picking one matchup or the other and playing a more dedicated card.
I’m not even sure what circumstances would prompt you to sideboard this in, but I’m sure they exist. Part of the problem is that matchups where the life gain would be good are often fast enough that this won’t really gain that much, though the upper limit is high enough that it might be worth trying. Casting this to gain 12 and stabilize could certainly work in some games.
Costing four is this card’s fatal flaw.
I had the pleasure of playing with two of these at the prerelease, and it was as exciting as it looks, which is to say “not very.” Unless combat is involved, this is basically a four-mana [card]Shock[/card], and as a combat trick it’s definitely on the expensive end. Far be it from me to turn down removal, but I think I’ll end up doing just that if my curve is too high (which it usually is, but that’s a separate issue).
A+ flavor, F+ power level.
If you are in the market for a 2/3 defender, hiring this guy could work out. Actually torturing the opponent won’t occur very often, but if you have spare mana and no government oversight, go for it.
Six-mana 4/5s without good abilities are the touch of death in Constructed.
There isn’t a ton of room at the top of the curve, but you could do worse. A deathtouch creature of this size is very hard to fight in combat, and granting random other creatures deathtouch is the cherry on top of this disgusting sundae.
Pontiff of Blight
[draft]pontiff of blight[/draft]
You’ve heard me pontificate enough about expensive cards in Constructed, so I’ll cut this short. Extort is a good ability, but not good enough to salvage this.
This blocks everything, dies to almost no removal, and drains the opponent out after only a few spells. If that’s not a bomb, I don’t know what is.
Let’s just keep this one on its leash, shall we?
The Drake is a worse blocker than most of the 3-cost unleash guys, but because of evasion, is much less likely to get stalled into a position where it needs to block. I doubt I’ll ever cut this from a base black deck, though I suppose it’s possible.
I don’t know what would possess you to think this is playable, but just in case: it isn’t.
Getting a straight up 0 is hard, but [card]Sinister Possession[/card] manages to do so admirably.
Ubul Sar Gatekeepers
[draft]ubul sar gatekeepers[/draft]
I reviewed the entire Gatekeeper cycle in the White/Azorius/Orzhov review, found here.
I like this more than most Gatekeepers in both formats. [card]Nekrataal[/card] is a nice card, after all, even if it requires multiple Gates. It’s still not good enough for Constructed, sadly.
At three mana, this would be pretty sick. At four, it just loses out too badly to [card]Hellrider[/card] or [card]Falkenrath Aristocrat[/card], both of which are way too absurd. Pinging for each blocker is sweet, and if the 4-drops in Standard were a little less insane, this might be worth investigating.
Even in a controlling deck, this is big enough and has a good enough ability that it’s worth running. In an aggro deck, it’s the stones, putting a ton of pressure on the opponent while being very hard to kill. If you suspect you will be very aggressive, this can easily move up to a 3.5, and I wouldn’t feel bad about first-picking it.
Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch
[draft]exava, rakdos blood witch[/draft]
Once the bruisers I mentioned before ([card]Falkenrath Aristocrat[/card] and [card]Hellrider[/card]) rotate out, Exava's stock is going to go up significantly. She already has a few advantages:
1) She fights other creatures better than [card]Hellrider[/card] (though worse than Aristocrat, in general).
2) She gives some of your other creatures haste ([card]Rakdos Cackler[/card], a persisted [card]Geralf's Messenger[/card], [card]Falkenrath Aristocrat[/card] with a +1/+1 counter, [card]Strangleroot Geist[/card], anything with scavenge counters, [card]Experiment One[/card], [card]Olivia Voldaren[/card], and many more).
3) She’s harder to kill with burn spells.
You also aren’t forced to unleash her, and a 3/3 first striker is a solid blocker, though that’s not generally what you want to be doing with a creature of this potential. She is likely in third, but not by so much that she will see zero play, and she’s likely to get better before she gets worse.
Just playing Exava on turn four and smashing for 4 is already great, so adding a very relevant [card]Fervor[/card] to the board is a huge bonus. She’s great in any deck, but unsurprisingly at her best in an aggressive unleash deck.
Master of Cruelties
[draft]master of cruelties[/draft]
Master is one mana more than I’d like to pay for a creature that dies to removal, so the text box better be good. Luckily, it is, beating anything and everything in a fight (though there is the possibility of getting double-blocked). It is kind of a shame that Master of Cruelties can never kill the opponent by itself, but I’m sure you can figure out a way to win once you hit the opponent to 1.
You know what combines masterfully? The ability to win creature combat and an incredibly fast clock. Throwing 4 toughness on top of that doesn’t hurt, either.
This set really is going deep on the graveyard shenanigans. I like [card]Morgue Burst[/card] a little less than [card]Breaking // Entering[/card], but I have to respect the fact that this can just kill the opponent regardless of blockers or removal. If you can figure out a good way to get an insanely large creature into the bin, this might be the best way to abuse that fact.
I like 2-for-1s, especially ones that give you this good of value. The usual warnings about six-drops and/or situational cards apply, but this is a solid way to top off your curve.
Sadly, the Constructed potential of this doesn’t live up to the exciting name. The hoops you need to jump through to get value out of this are just insurmountable.
Most of the time this is going to be a Shock that you have to play the same turn one of your creature dies. That’s fine, and the possibility of getting 4-6 damage out of this stops it from being unplayable. Feel free to sideboard it out if the opponent is removal-light, and clearly don’t play it if you aren’t running very many creatures.
Sire of Insanity
[draft]sire of insanity[/draft]
As I said in my preview article, [card]Sire of Insanity[/card] is going to be a big game. Locking the game under permanent [card]Mind Twist[/card] is huge, and a 6/4 body to accompany that is also quite large. [card]Sphinx's Revelation[/card] deservedly has a huge target painted on it, and this is one of the bigger bullets headed in its direction.
In Limited, it’s a little harder to predict who benefits most from both players getting [card]Mind Twist[/card]ed. I’m gonna guess it’s the mage with the 6/4 in play (coincidentally the player who decides when to pull the trigger). Sometimes you drop this as soon as possible, and sometimes your hand is awesome and you slowroll it for as long as you can. Either way, it’s insane.
As is typical of Rakdos, it’s got the cheapest 3-power haster around, as long as you are fine with only having 1 toughness. It’s not an unreasonable card to call a Spike either, since Spikes like winning, even if they have to play ugly cards like this to do so. Smashing for 3 on turn two is no joke, and this will potentially speed up RB decks over the next two years.
This is what [card]Gore-House Chainwalker[/card] wishes it was, bashing for more and even keeping the ability to block. Rakdos decks can never have too many of this guy.
Toil // Trouble
If you really want to draw two cards, you don’t have to go to this much trouble. Just play [card]Sign in Blood[/card], and forget about the dream of [card]Storm Seeker[/card]’ing your opponent out (on a side note, [card]Storm Seeker[/card] was considered awesome when I first started playing, so getting to reference it is kind of sweet). Just compare casting this to casting a [card]Rakdos's Return[/card] for 4. Yeah.
A bad [card]Divination[/card] is still a [card]Divination[/card], right? This actually does quite a bit more, easily able to finish off the opponent from 7 or more life once you hit six mana. It is a little unfortunate that by the time you really want to hit them with both halves they probably don’t have a ton of cards in hand, but it’s still nice that your Divination can sometimes turn into a [card]Lava Axe[/card].
I like [card]Staff of Nin[/card], so I chant dislike this. It draws a card from your graveyard each turn, which on average is a little better than a card from your deck. The 10 cards you mill are clearly the same, but it's way more likely that any other cards that make their way to your graveyard are nonlands, and I assume you don't want to draw lands at the point in the game where you have Deadbridge Chant going. Additionally, sometimes this also draws you a [card]Black Lotus[/card] or two, when you hit a creature and get to play it for free. Much like Staff, you probably don't want to play too many Deadbridge Chants, but it seems like a good card advantage engine. Plus, who doesn't like shuffling their graveyard and hoping to spike?
I think this card is good, despite the fact that I got a grand total of zero cards back at the prerelease. I cast it four times. Once my opponent conceded, and three times it was immediately destroyed. In fact, one of those times it got [card]Detention Sphere[/card]'d, after which my opponent used [card]Keening Apparition[/card] on his own Sphere and milled me out.
Cards milled: 50
Cards drawn: 0
Creatures returned to play: 0
That being said, it seems like a strong enough card advantage machine that I'd take it early and even splash for it. In Sealed it might actually be worse, just because players are more likely to have and maindeck enchantment removal.
Down // Dirty
This is another example of the new dirty cardnames for split cards, but I'm down with the plan. As for gameplay: paying one extra on [card]Regrowth[/card] and [card]Mind Rot[/card] strikes me as too much for Constructed these days, even in control matchups.
Down // Dirty doesn't impact the board much, but it's a great card advantage machine. Casting it for the full amount when they have two cards in their hand is a great feeling, and I've cast and been satisfied with either half individually. I wouldn't recommend playing this unless you can cast both halves.
Drown in Filth
[draft]drown in filth[/draft]
[card]Mulch[/card], [card]Grisly Salvage[/card], and [card]Tracker's Instinct[/card] might have a new companion. This gets pretty filthy once you've cast any of the other spells, and even by itself it can ping a 1-toughness creature with relative ease. It's not a card you can just throw into a deck, but it supports Junk Rites' plan well enough that it's an interesting potential removal spell.
I had two of these in my prerelease deck, along with a [card]Deadbridge Chant[/card], and they were decent. Casting the first one is always a little dicey, so I tried to save it for 1-toughness targets, but once one was cast the subsequent ones just became [card]Terminate[/card]s. It also has good synergy with scavenge and all the black regrowth/reanimation spells.
Flesh // Blood
The Blood side of things is pretty solid, but the other side fails to flesh out this card's utility at all. Exiling a creature and making another creature big is not worth anywhere close to five mana, especially at sorcery speed.
[card]Prey Upon[/card] for RG is already playable, and adding the potential to give a creature +5/+5 or the like makes this card quite good. It's not the most flexible of split cards, but as [card]Prey Upon[/card] with upside it does the job.
Gaze of Granite
[draft]gaze of granite[/draft]
Requiring you to pay for [card]Pernicious Deed[/card]'s casting cost in the same turn as you use it makes this much less explosive than the original. It has potential, but paying five mana for a semi-Wrath is definitely not the stones.
I'd always play this in Golgari, but was fairly underwhelmed by it in my Sealed deck. It costs six or seven mana, is a sorcery, and can't always kill the most dangerous of enemies. As far as Wraths go, it's on the low end, which still makes it playable in Limited.
If I had a counter for each of the things that makes this unplayable in Constructed, I could give something like -3/-3.
If you don't have any way of generating counters, which is rare in these colors, this is still strong. A 2/5 deathtouch creature is no joke, and the ability to assassinate creatures once you've started scavenging or evolving is very nice.
Putrefy is a nice addition to Jund's arsenal, killing both artifacts and creatures and much easier to cast. It will see plenty of play in other decks as well, and is a good card to have back in Standard. I like good removal, even if this makes [card]Witchbane Orb[/card] even more unplayable than it already has become.
High-quality instant speed removal is always awesome, and I wouldn't be mortified to take this as high as first.
Rot Farm Skeleton
[draft]rot farm skeleton[/draft]
Any card that can pull itself out of the graveyard with no outside assistance is worth looking at. As a recurring threat, this does a credible job of pressuring slow matchups, and even dumps more value into your graveyard the more times you bring it back. It's very slow, but if midrange decks want threats against control, this could do the trick.
Rot Farm Skeleton is a wonderful threat, as long as you are confident that you want a card this aggressive. Not being able to block makes it a suspect card in some decks, though I imagine that most will be happy to run this as a finisher.
Varolz, the Scar-Striped
[draft]varolz, the scar-striped[/draft]
I'd be trolling you if I didn't mention the [card]Death's Shadow[/card] combo, which could actually do some good work in Modern. Past that funny interaction, Varolz might actually just be a good value play in decks like aggro Jund. He's hard to kill, combos well with persist creatures, and gives all your fallen monsters one last blaze of glory.
Playing this when you have a well-stocked graveyard seems absurd, and regeneration makes him an annoying board presence even before he's grown.
Top Black Cards
Constructed: [card]Blood Scrivener[/card]
It isn't clear if there is going to be an aggro deck with a low enough curve to take advantage of this, but the potential is there.
Limited: [card]Ubul Sar Gatekeepers[/card]
Though the whole Gatekeeper cycle is pretty close in power level, this is likely the best, and the one I'm most likely to play off-color Gates in order to trigger. [card]Flametongue Kavu[/card]s have always been good in Limited, even ones you have to do some work for.
Top Rakdos Cards
3. [card]Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch[/card]
2. [card]Spike Jester[/card]
1. [card]Sire of Insanity[/card]
Rakdos got some insane cards, and they are unsurprisingly aggressive, though Sire does favor a midrange/ramp strategy more than the other two.
Limited: [card]Carnage Gladiator[/card]
This pressures the opponent just by being in play, and in fact brawls quite well itself.
Top Golgari Cards
3. [card]Deadbridge Chant[/card]
2. [card]Varolz, the Scar-Striped[/card]
An aggressive card, a control card, and a removal spell that goes anywhere. Perfect symmetry!
[card]Korozda Gorgon[/card] is also quite good, but it's hard to argue against [card]Putrefy[/card] as the best and most consistent Golgari card for Limited.
Tomorrow I take a look at red, along with Boros and Gruul!