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Scars of Mirrodin Set Review – Black

Black has a little value, but there is only one card I am really interested in. It is also fairly shallow for Limited, so an overall disappointing showing. Before you ask, no, Vampires still isn’t good.

As usual, the ratings scales are as follows:

Constructed

5.0: Multi-format All-Star. Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf.

4.0: Format staple. Vengevine. Mana Leak.

3.5: Good in multiple archetypes, but not a format staple. Raging Ravine. Lotus Cobra.

3.0: Archetype staple. Cultivate. Goblin Guide.

2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. Rampant Growth. Khalni Heart Expedition.

2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. Celestial Purge. (Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although explanation of why is obviously important)

1.0 It has seen play once. One with Nothing. (I believe it was tech vs Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)

Limited

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%)

Blackcleave Goblin
Blackcleave Goblin

Constructed: 1.0

I’d just as well leave him on the sidelines; costing 4 and being a 2/1 is a black mark against any card.

Limited: 1.0-2.5

Much like I addressed metalcraft, now I get to talk about infect. Infect creatures don’t mesh incredibly well with non-infect creatures, but they still have merits in non-infect decks. Clearly you don’t want to be attacking them on multiple fronts, which seems pretty obvious to everyone. Infect guys do block pretty well, so they are reasonable to play for a mostly defensive role, Blight Mamba especially. Unfortunately for Blackcleave Goblin, a 2/1 haste isn’t particularly suited for defense, which is why it is unplayable outside of a pure infect deck. Even in the infect deck (which is clearly what the high end of the rating assumes), the Goblin is one of the weaker options, since it still just trades for a Myr. It can ambush them out of nowhere, but it isn’t a card I would take particularly high.

Bleak Coven Vampires
Bleak Coven Vampires

Constructed: 1.0

The future looks pretty bleak for these guys. A 4/3 for 5 isn’t impressive, and needing three artifacts for a solid ability doesn’t do enough to overcome that. I don’t see enough support among black cards to go for a metalcraft theme, Phylactery Lich notwithstanding.

Limited: 1.0-2.0

Even in the metalcraft deck, Bleak Coven Vampires aren’t particularly ridiculous. Add that to the fact that black still doesn’t support metalcraft very well, and you see why I rated this fairly low. Most of the heavy black decks focus on infect, which the Vampires clearly don’t interact well with, and five mana is not cheap in this format. This is a textbook case of the payoff not being worth the effort.

Blistergrub
Blistergrub

Constructed: 1.0

I really wish this was good enough for Constructed…then I could say that it would be the closest Ray Walkinshaw would get to playing in a top 8 instead of covering it =).

Limited: 1.0

Not strictly a sideboard card, but one I would definitely prefer to start on the bench. It getting them for two on the way out is a significant upgrade to Bog Raiders, since it effectively shortens the clock by a turn when they are trying to kill it instead of race it. Non-artifact cards have a tougher time making it in, but a non-metalcraft deck could start this without too much embarrassment.

Carnifex Demon
Carnifex Demon

Constructed: 1.0

I’m just not seeing the potential here. Paying six for a 4/4 flier and then hoping to untap with it in order to grow it a little and shrink their team is just not Constructed viable. Every contagion might have a host, but every host certainly doesn’t have a deck.

Limited: 4.0

This would probably merit a 3.0 if it was a vanilla 4/4 flier for six, and it does waaaay more than that. There seem to be a lot of Wrath-type effects in the set, even if there is no actual Wrath. Six mana is a tad high in this set, but the payoff here is definitely worth it. If you have proliferate shenanigans this is even more absurd, not that it is really necessary.

Contagious Nim
Contagious Nim

Constructed: 1.0

The secret of the Nim is that they are all terrible, and Contagious Nim is no exception.

Limited: 1.5-3.0

Even in infect, Contagious Nim isn’t the most exciting, though it is a three drop, which infect decks often lack. As a wither defender, it is still somewhat playable, especially with something like Accorder’s Shield (one of the more underrated cards in the set).

Corrupted Harvester
Corrupted Harvester

Constructed: 1.0

This won’t be harvesting any wins in Constructed, now or ever.

Limited: 1.0

Paying six mana for a three-toughness guy that needs additional black mana and creatures in order to be safe is not my idea of a good time. Six-drops need to have immediate impact and stand on their own, and this does neither.

Dross Hopper
Dross Hopper

Constructed: 1.0

Dross is a good description of this, and in fact says everything that needs to be said.

Limited: 1.0

For this to be playable, a few things need to be true. The first is that your deck is completely un-themed, since Dross Hopper doesn’t help with infect or metalcraft whatsoever. The second is that you must have a bunch of awesome equipment or a complete lack of low drops. Lastly, you need to be ready to do some losing, since an un-themed deck with no low drops isn’t exactly a recipe for success. If I ever activate this guy, which hopefully I won’t, I am definitely going to tell him to “hop to it” while I bash for two.

Exsanguinate
Exsanguinate

Constructed: 1.0

This shares its casting cost with Profane Command; a useful thing if you are playing mental Magic, but as irrelevant as this card when talking about real Constructed.

Limited: 1.5

If you are playing an aggressive black deck that isn’t infect, Exsanguinate is excellent. Combining [card]Lava Axe[/card] with lifegain is nice, since the lifegain buys you time in a race, and makes up for the fact that you just spend six or seven mana and didn’t affect the board. Lifegain is worse in this set than in any set in history due to infect, but infect is usually going to be two decks at the table max. Note that this really bleeds them dry in Two-Headed Giant, not that I intend to ever play that format again.

Flesh Allergy
Flesh Allergy

Constructed: 1.0

I wouldn’t suggest playing this unless you are somehow allergic to winning. I could flesh out this comment more, but I don’t think that’s necessary.

Limited: 2.0

Tom Raney got me real good with this by sacrificing a Blistergrub, and even if you don’t have delicious grubs to throw at them, it is still a great card in a race. In the infect deck it loses a fair bit of luster, but removal is removal, and trading a Myr for their best creature is still desirable. I wouldn’t always play the Allergy but it’ll make the cut more often than not, especially if you plan on winning via damage.

Fume Spitter
Fume Spitter

Constructed: 1.0

Plagued Rusalka saw a fair bit of play, but damage doesn’t stack and you no longer have various haunt tricks to work with. In a world where Hornet Sting is a viable sideboard card, I guess I can’t be too sure, but I think black decks will do just fine without trying to run on fumes.

Limited: 2.0

This might not look incredibly attractive, at least until you realize how much of the format is based on Myrs. Myrs are like the baseline of any draft deck, and “how many Myrs” is going to be a commonly-asked question. So, if you are playing against people who know what’s up, Fume Spitter is an effective card, and if you aren’t, well, you get to play against people who don’t know how to draft. Congrats!

Geth, Lord of the Vault
Geth, Lord of the Vault

Constructed: 1.0

Another six-drop that requires untapping in order to get business done, eh? If there is to be a From the Vault: Unplayables, Geth is definitely the lord.

Limited: 4.0

I find it a little sad that Geth probably just kills them before his ability becomes too relevant, though I suppose that’s a kind of dumb complaint. Bashing for five and possessing an almost unbeatable ability is kinda what you want when you pay six mana for something.

Grasp of Darkness
Grasp of Darkness

Constructed: 2.0

I may be grasping at straws, but this could supplement or supplant Doom Blade, depending on what the rest of the metagame looks like. It is doubtful, since Doom Blade is…the blade, but you gotta kill Malakir Bloodwitch or Vampire Nighthawk somehow.

Limited: 4.0

Instant speed removal for two mana that kills nearly everything? It will be a dark day indeed when that doesn’t rate at least a 4 in Limited.

Hand of the Praetors
Hand of the Praetors

Constructed: 1.0

Well, here you have it. If I’m giving this a “1” in Constructed, it seems unlikely that poison is going to return to the realm of 60-card decks (discounting odd Berserk-fueled Legacy nonsense). Four mana is at least one too many for this to approach playability, and unless the second set gives poison a hand (at least a better hand, that is), I have trouble seeing it be viable.

Limited: 3.5

If you want a reason to draft infect, here it is. If this stays on the board for any length of time, your opponent is probably dead, and if they aren’t, they at least lose all their creatures. The combination of boosting your guys by 1 and putting an additional three power poison guy into play increases the pressure significantly, and even if the board stalls, you threaten to ping them to death just by playing guys. Recurring Hounds anyone?

Ichor Rats
Ichor Rats

Constructed: 1.0

In order to make Limited good, all the poison guys cost one mana too much for Constructed, which I am definitely thankful for. I will gladly trade a marginal Constructed archetype for a good Limited experience, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. Of course, the preceding sentences probably clued you in to the fact that the Rats aren’t playable, and if you figured it out, then all I can say is:

Limited: 3.0

Ichor Rats is one of the better poisoners out there, both because he is cheaper than four mana and because pinging them for a poison counter is one of the few ways to poison them outside of combat. With only a few proliferate cards in the set, it is difficult to do much non-combat poisoning, so Rats can easily throw off your opponent’s calculations. Corpse Cur also rewards you for having infect guys with EtB abilities, since you can just chump with Rats and recur them in a tight race. Ichor Rats are an important part of most successful infect decks, and should be picked highly as a consequence.

Instill Infection
Instill Infection

Constructed: 1.0

Let’s go ahead and assume that the best case scenario occurs: you take down a four-drop with Instill Infection, achieving mana equity and card advantage in one fell swoop! Alright, so what costs four and has one toughness? Hmm, pretty much drawing a blank. Three? Cunning Sparkmage, uh, and that’s it. At two we get a few bites, but once we hit two mana we are losing out pretty badly on the exchange. Perhaps this was a waste of time, though I wanted to instill confidence that I am taking every card seriously, despite most of them being clearly unfit for Constructed.

Limited: 3.0

According to Tom Raney, this is “Terminate + draw a card,” to which is absurd. Why would you call it Terminate + draw a card when you could call it Annihilate?

In all seriousness, I have been happy with Instill Infection every time I’ve played it, and I don’t think I would ever cut it, though I might sideboard it out. Killing a Myr or an evasion guy isn’t difficult, and it can even get proliferate started. I wish more cards said “draw a card” on them, since that one little phrase does wonders for playability.

Memoricide
Memoricide

Constructed: 2.0

I really want to just give this a “1” and be done with it. My hatred for cards of this ilk is well-documented, and Memoricide is just another copy of the same thing (Cranial Extraction, Extirpate, Pithing Needle, Thought Hemorrhage). If everyone just assumed these sort of things were unplayable it would probably be safest, since more harm is done by people playing these than good. The reason I hate such cards is that they are just fundamentally flawed in most of the situations people use them. You are siding in cards that are built-in card disadvantage, and only in the most narrow cases is that good. Yes, if you play against a deck with literally one win condition, you can win some games by Cranialing them, but most people seem to think that naming a “good” card is some kind of value. Siding in Thought Hemorrhage against UW in Standard was a common example, and exactly what I am railing against. You are just trying to name one of their many good cards, and unless they have one in hand, you just spent four mana and a card to weaken their draw steps slightly.

All that being said, I can’t give this an unplayable rating, since if there is a narrow combo deck, Memoricide is one way to fight it. I swear though, if you side this in to try and “get” their Vengevines, I’m going to do you a favor and personally confiscate your Memoricides so you can’t use them anymore.

Limited: 0.0

Must I repeat myself? I’ll admit, I sided in Cranial Extraction against Umezawa’s Jitte once, but Jitte was a special case, and is my vote for the ABSOLUTE BEST CARD IN LIMITED EVER (and I’ll be glad to debate the point in the comments if people are interested), and there is nothing approaching Jitte in this set. You will win more games by just hoping they don’t draw Contagion Engine than by siding in Memoricide to get it, and I was still probably wrong to side in Extraction against Jitte.

Moriok Reaver

Moriok Reaver 

Constructed: 1.0

One day, there is going to be a critical mass of [card]Warpath Ghoul[/card]s and someone is going to…0-2 drop a tournament with it.

Limited: 1.5

If this were an artifact, it would easily be a 2.5, but it isn’t, and therefore suffers the fate of all non-artifact durdle creatures in the set. Not helping with infect or metalcraft is a serious disadvantage, and it isn’t like a 3/2 for three was ever something to write home about.

Necrogen Scudder
Necrogen Scudder

Constructed: 1.0

If you are in the market for three-mana black fliers, why don’t I show you our nice selection of Vampire Nighthawks? A little harder to cast, but he makes up for it by gaining you life instead of losing it, and is capable of taking down just about anything. Plus, being a Vampire never hurts, and makes you eligible for all sorts of discounts and special offers!

Limited: 2.5

A 3/3 flier is a 3/3 flier, and the drawback is even negated when you are playing against the infect deck. I found this out firsthand, when I got bashed by t3 Scudder t4 Scudder while staring at a bunch of Corpse Curs and whatnot. Clearly the infect deck isn’t going to play a defender that costs it three life, but the non-infect decks will rarely cut this.

Necrotic Ooze
Necrotic Ooze

Constructed: 2.5

The combo possibilities are endless, and this just oozes with potential! From copying Mogg Fanatic and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker in Legacy to the convoluted mess that is Mul-Daya Channelers (with a land on top) and Soliton in Standard, Necrotic Ooze is bound to be tried in a multitude of decks. Whether that will end up being good enough is soon to be seen.

Limited: 3.0

There are a ton of interesting activated abilities in this set, and in most games you will have at least a few options to choose from. Add that to the reasonable stats presented in the first place and you have a winner!

Painful Quandary
Painful Quandary

Constructed: 1.0

What’s really painful is having to review cards like this, but if I skip them I can’t call it a full set review, which is quite the quandary.

Limited: 0.0

This format is way too fast for this to be relevant, and giving them the option between two somewhat mediocre punishments has never been the hallmark of a good card.

Painsmith
Painsmith

Constructed: 2.0

Turn two Painsmith, turn three Trinket Mage into Memnite certainly does bring the pain. Add in some Phylactery Liches and there is definitely the possibility of a deck. Probably not a good deck, but a deck nonetheless.

Limited: 3.0

There aren’t many reasons to mix metalcraft and infect, but Painsmith is one of them. You don’t even need very many artifacts to make him reasonable; all you need is to be aggressive, whether you are poisoning or not. From what I’ve seen, almost every deck is aggressive, so that shouldn’t really be a problem either.

Plague Stinger
Plague Stinger

Constructed: 1.0

Avoid him like the plague, unless you want to feel the cruel sting of defeat.

Limited: 1.0-3.0

Would you cut Stormfront Pegasus from your WW deck? I thought not, and the Stinger is really not much different. Throw in a Darksteel Axe and the game is going to end on turn 5 or 6 without much trouble. Stinger might be the most important infect guy of them all, since evasion really is that good.

Psychic Miasma
Psychic Miasma

Constructed: 1.0

If this returned every time no matter what, it would be a decent sideboard card in some matchups. In reality, you are going to cast this and they are going to pitch a Vengevine…and you can imagine where it goes from there.

Limited: 0.0

So, best case scenario you trade this for a real card? They can even pitch a land and make you waste time recasting it if they are beating you down. You don’t have to be psychic to realize this is terrible.

Relic Putrescence
Relic Putrescence

Constructed: 1.0

Even if there hypothetically was a poison deck, it wouldn’t play this putrid thing.

Limited: 0.5

You have to have a pretty specific reason to play this; being the poison deck isn’t enough. If they have a number of good repeatable effects (Trigons, Contagion Clasp), you might consider siding it, but past that you really should avoid it.

Skinrender
Skinrender

Constructed: 3.0

Much like Flametongue Kavu before him, this is going to render a number of otherwise playable creatures useless. I may have talked about Vampire Nighthawk before, but why would you cast one if there are a ton of Skinrenders running around? Basically, any guy that costs 3+ mana and dies to Skinrender has to provide significant value to be worth playing. Even then, Skinrender is one of the better things to spend four mana on in this format, especially in black decks.

Limited: 4.5

Speaking of Flametongues…you really shouldn’t be passing this, and even if you aren’t black, consider switching. Yes, he is that good.

Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon
Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon

Constructed: 2.5

If someone is going to be poisoned in Constructed, it will be by Skithiryx’s hands, er, claws, whatever. Killing in three turns (potentially “two” if you have the mana to haste him) and protecting himself by regenerating is a pretty big game. He needs no outside assistance, and seems like a pretty solid choice as a finisher for a control deck. His worst quality is probably his name, since I anticipate many, many, misspellings, and I will undoubtedly miss some while editing articles.

Limited: 4.5

Regardless of whether you plan on poisoning them or not, don’t pass regenerating hasty dragons, especially ones that kill them in three hits. Even a bigger flier (not that any exist without equipment) won’t stop Skittles, and only Arrest and Grasp of Darkness kill him when you have regen mana up (though Volition Reins might be ok).

Tainted Strike
Tainted Strike

Constructed: 1.0

There are enough strikes against this that I wouldn’t ever consider playing it in a Constructed deck.

Limited: 1.0

The problem with Tainted Strike is that you need to play non-infect guys in an infect deck, since you certainly aren’t playing the Strike in a non-infect deck. That can be an upside though, since if you attack with a 3/3 against someone at 20 life and 6 poison counters, they often won’t block, and you can just kill them. I think Strikes get better in multiples, since once I have two Strikes I’ll be much happier playing a couple random non-poison guys. Make sure you don’t play any more than that, since otherwise you are out.

Top 5 Black Cards for Constructed

5. Painsmith
4. Grasp of Darkness
3. Necrotic Ooze
2. Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon
1. Skinrender

The pickings are pretty slim here, and Skinrender is the only card I’m really excited about. Skittles is going to make some opponents taste the rainbow (assuming the rainbow is made of poison), but control decks rarely lack for finishers. Ooze is still pretty speculative, and I doubt Grasp or Painsmith ever make the big show. All in all, not impressive.

Top 5 Commons for Limited

5. Fume Spitter
4. Contagious Nim
3. Instill Infection
2. Plague Stinger
1. Grasp of Darkness

Wow, that’s a pretty pathetic list. Grasp of Darkness is the only common I would be happy first-picking, and if you aren’t in poison, the rest of the list is almost blank. Luckily for black, artifacts are a pretty big game, but keep in mind how shallow black is when drafting. If you aren’t drafting infect, you really have no reason to be drafting black at all.

Join me tomorrow as I tackle red in all its fiery glory!

LSV

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