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M14 Set Review: Black
Feature Article from Conley Woods
Conley Woods
7/15/2013 10:02:00 AM
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Welcome back to another set review here on TCGplayer.com! All week long I will be walking you through the confines of Magic 2014 and evaluating each card within. For each, we will be discussing both the limited and constructed strength of the card as well as giving it a rating to allow comparisons between cards. Each day we will be going over a new color and at the end of the week, we will be going over the top 8 cards for constructed out of all of Magic 2014.

Today, we will be starting with black and seeing just what it has to offer. As I mentioned, we will be rating each card for both constructed and limited so to help us with that, we will be using the aid of the following two scales:


Constructed

5: These cards are all-stars and their greatness spans multiple formats usually. Generally the chase cards of a set such as Tarmogoyf or Jace, the Mind Sculptor. 5s should not be given out lightly as the really have to have a big impact across formats.

4: These cards are going to be seen in decks of their color more often than not but may be less universal than 5s. These will usually be dominant in certain formats but not so much in others much like Bloodbraid Elf or Baneslayer Angel. 4s tend to see both Modern and Standard play, but have not made the jump to Eternal formats.

3: These are the backbone of Standard and usually serve some utility but are more restrictive in archetype, like a Makeshift Mannequin or Mind Spring.

2: These cards are generally much more restrictive in use and application. Occasional sideboard appearances or cameos in some combo deck are the most frequent uses here such as Splinter Twin or Acidic Slime

1: These are basically unplayable and only see use in the most rare of occasions such as bad card poster boy One with Nothing


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%)


And with that, let's move on to the cards!

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 Accursed Spirit
$0.64
$0.14
$0.01
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Gamer Apocalypse 9 $0.03

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Accursed Spirit

Constructed: 1

While a black Bladetusk Boar does sound infinitely better than a red Bladetusk Boar... wait a second... it doesn't sound better at all! Next!

Limited: 2.5-3.0

If this were flying, it would get this rating and with very few artifact guys in the set, intimidate is basically flying, so he seems about right. A relatively high pick for black.

High
Mid
Low
 Altar's Reap
$0.60
$0.12
$0.02
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Altar's Reap

Constructed: 1.5

This is fringe playable in Constructed just as it always has been. There is almost never a deck that desires this effect enough to consider it, but I think there is a small chance that changes this go around.

Limited: 1.5-2.0

“Countering” removal with this is pretty satisfying in and of itself, but there are also some neat combos and synergies to take advantage if you are lucky enough to get there.

High
Mid
Low
 Artificer's Hex
$0.90
$0.18
$0.01
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Gamer Apocalypse 6 $0.04
Gamer Apocalypse 14 $0.04
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Black Mage Games 3 $0.06

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Artificer's Hex

Constructed: 1

While the concept of this is neat, coming on a turn delay from when you want the effect and then giving the owner of the equipment the choice of trading a creature for an equip are both big no-nos in the list of competitive to-dos.

Limited: 0.5

While this is not a good card and playing it in my main would make me very sad, it does serve a role out of the sideboard. It is still worse than a Shatter effect if you have access to that, but a monoblack or blue/black deck won't.

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 Blightcaster
$0.90
$0.18
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Blightcaster

Constructed: 1

First of all, how has this name not been used by now? Enchantress decks hardly want a four mana 2/3 that only kills small things clogging up their deck and hand.

Limited: 2.5

In limited however, this is close to a build-around. -2/-2 may not kill everything, but in combination with other effects or combat damage, it can be extremely frustrating to play against. Even just a couple of enchantments get this guy into my deck and if I have enough of them, stuff like Artificer's Hex might actually look playable.

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Mid
Low
 Blood Bairn
$0.63
$0.13
$0.01
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Highlander Gaming 4 $0.02
Gamer Apocalypse 6 $0.02
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Black Mage Games 4 $0.03
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Blood Bairn

Constructed: 1.5

Nantuko Husk is always borderline playable, even if those conditions are rarely met. This being a vampire makeover of the Husk might help him out in terms of viability.

Limited: 1.5-2.5

In a normal deck, this guy is fine and will cause an opponent to make some strange if not beneficial blocks for you. However, on top of all of that he also has his own niche archetype. The Threaten/Act of Treason synergy is so strong and found at common that people always look for this deck and it is often not too bad.

High
Mid
Low
 Bogbrew Witch
$1.98
$0.67
$0.20
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Bogbrew Witch

Constructed: 1

While this is a very fun card, I don't think it's actually good enough for constructed. Its stats are pretty mediocre and he isn't too cheap to cast either. Maybe the card advantage will be enough of an allure but only time will tell.

Limited: 3.5

This is a strong early pick up which you can then draft around, grabbing all of the Newts and Cauldrons you can. Having your own personal Rebel chain is pretty nice and quite powerful in 40 card decks

High
Mid
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 Child of Night
$0.63
$0.13
$0.02
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Child of Night

Constructed: 1

While I always think this guy has a small chance of making it to the big show, he has been printed three or four times now and has never really been a consideration so I am willing to move on and leave this one behind.

Limited: 2.0

One of the stronger bears in the format for sure. Some decks will want this even more than the 2.0 that I gave it, but that is about its true power level.

High
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 Corpse Hauler
$0.62
$0.13
$0.02
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Corpse Hauler

Constructed: 1

This is a pretty neat card with a fun story, but its activation is a little too steep to be a real consideration for anything.

Limited: 2.0-2.5

I say that Child of Night is the nuts and then this guy pops up. Early game, he is a solid 2 power creature that might get in some damage but then late game, a guy who can block and get a Raise Dead for your troubles. A pretty strong card at common.

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 Corrupt
$0.90
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$0.03
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Corrupt

Constructed: 2

This can only really go into a single deck but it is powerful enough to be an actual consideration in Monoblack and obviously I think that archetype is still a viable one. This might see some legitimate constructed play before it rotates.

Limited: 3.5

A very strong card but one that really asks you to commit to it. In a two color deck this is fine and will deal three or four damage and gain you the same, but in a monoblack deck, this is a bomb that will win you many games.

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 Dark Favor
$0.63
$0.13
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Tabletop Adventures 14 $0.03

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Dark Favor

Constructed: 1

While I will admit to having considered this in the past, it really is not the type of quality that you want in your constructed deck.

Limited: 1.5-?

As a solitary card, this is fine. I have paired it with things like Scroll Thief in the past for some good effect and you never mind it on a flier. In this set, its value can be even higher due to the amount of things that care about enchantments. This should be a late pick up that quite a few decks look at as a possibility.

High
Mid
Low
 Dark Prophecy
$2.30
$0.46
$0.15
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Dark Prophecy

Constructed: 2

While this might just look like another one of the BBB enchantments that don't actually do anything, I think it has a real shot at being a sideboard card or potentially even a broken combo piece given the right environment. I wouldn't expect this to be a staple of the format, but it will show up some.

Limited: 2.5-3.0

This is difficult to cast and uncontrollable, but it still seems good in black heavy aggressive or midrange decks. Turning every trade into a favorable two for one is a nice effect although it does get scary as your life total ticks down so I can't rate this too much higher.

High
Mid
Low
 Deathgaze Cockatrice
$0.63
$0.13
$0.02
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Highlander Gaming 6 $0.02
Gamer Apocalypse 12 $0.02
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SinCityMTG 3 $0.03
Icatian Store 3 $0.03
GameTimeCC 59 $0.03
MJs Magic House 15 $0.03

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Deathgaze Cockatrice

Constructed: 1

This is not Vampire Nighthawk, that's for sure. Spending an additional mana to lose lifelink and a toughness does not bode well for this guy's constructed future.

Limited: 2.5

In limited, this is not going to be as dominant as Nighthawk, but it does serve much of the same purpose. It flies, so it offers some amount of offensive potential but its ability to take down any creature on defense is pretty nice as well.

High
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 Diabolic Tutor
$1.00
$0.24
$0.05
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Auggie's Games 6 $0.09
Frogtown Hobbies 2 $0.10
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Diabolic Tutor

Constructed: 2

While four mana is a lot to spend on a tutor, when there are no other tutors in a format, this still has a decent chance of seeing fringe play.

Limited: 2.0

Clearly you need to have good cards to work with this, preferably more than just one, but once you do, this is just a second copy of that card. Bomb rare in your deck? How about two of ‘em instead?

High
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Low
 Doom Blade
$1.37
$0.29
$0.01
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cardaddict 2 $0.01
Incoming Card Shop 1 $0.05
Gamer Apocalypse 12 $0.07
SACTown 7 $0.09
Geeks MTG 1 $0.13
Ulrich and Helvas 3 $0.15
Icatian Store 2 $0.15
That one Card 1 $0.15
Brian's Comics 1 $0.17

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Doom Blade

Constructed: 2.5

Back but uncommon, I think most people have missed this card in Standard. Murder is fine, but three mana and an extra black at that is really a lot tougher to pull off than ole Doom Blade here. Expect this to see a decent amount of play going forward.

Limited: 3.5

Sure, its just a one-for-one and it has some restrictions, but for the most part, this is going to answer problem cards from the other side of the table at a cheap and efficient rate. While this may not be a common anymore, it will still easily be a first pick.

High
Mid
Low
 Duress
$0.64
$0.15
$0.03
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Gamer Apocalypse 8 $0.03
Icatian Store 5 $0.03
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Mox Monkeys 2 $0.05
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Duress

Constructed: 3

Always a staple and a go-to card across basically every format. There are usually competitors with this, but it does what it does so cleanly that it usually sees some play when it's around.

Limited: 1.5

Not my favorite main deck card, but I will certainly run one of it from time to time. Some decks will want access to this a lot more than others but regardless, it is always a solid sideboard option to have around.

High
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Low
 Festering Newt
$0.64
$0.15
$0.02
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Gamer Apocalypse 12 $0.02
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Tricorp Games 1 $0.03
The End Zone 8 $0.04
GameTimeCC 50 $0.04

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Festering Newt

Constructed: 1

While this is basically jut strictly better than Festering Goblin aside from the creature type, Festering Goblin is not exactly tearing it up in constructed. Perhaps the cute combo with this will make it viable, but I doubt it.

Limited: 1.5

This obviously gets more powerful with the more pieces of the trinity that you have. That said, Festering Goblin is fine in limited and I suspect this guy will be too.

High
Mid
Low
 Gnawing Zombie
$0.95
$0.19
$0.03
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Gamer Apocalypse 6 $0.04
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Gnawing Zombie

Constructed: 1

Yet another two-drop black creature with some extra utility value built in. I fear this guy just costs too much to activate to be a true consideration. Two mana and a creature for just a drain for one is not very exciting.

Limited: 1.5-2.0

So this guy comes down on turn two and holds the fort nicely against the aggressive decks. In the mid to late game, he taxes all of your opponent's removal with a Drain Life for one, which is not absurd, but it is some amount of value out of your two-drop which is always worth it.

High
Mid
Low
 Grim Return
$2.45
$0.49
$0.19
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Grim Return

Constructed: 2

I actually don't really know what to make of this card. On the one hand, it has some tough restrictions and hoops to jump through but on the other hand, it is an instant speed, three mana Zombify that can actually hit either player's graveyard. That is interesting enough that I will not be surprised if this sees some play even if I do not know of the exact spot for it right now.

Limited: 3.0

Zombify is usually strong and while this is a lot more conditional and requires you keep some mana open a lot of the time, it has a lot of versatility and utility, stealing opposing creatures or just getting you a 187 ability again.

High
Mid
Low
 Lifebane Zombie
$9.99
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Lifebane Zombie

Constructed: 3

This is one of my favorite and one of the best cards in M14 in my opinion. He should have some decent reach back into Modern and possibly Legacy, but will be huge in Standard. Think about a deck like Junk Rites and how badly they want to run this in addition to how badly it beats them and you can see why this might be pretty good.

Limited: 3.0

A 3/1 with intimidate for just three mana is already good enough to run and you will be happy to do so. If the ability ever hits, you are probably going to be extremely far ahead, but it is just upside and not essential at all.

High
Mid
Low
 Liliana of the Dark Realms
$11.99
$5.50
$3.95
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Liliana of the Dark Realms

Constructed: 1.5

I almost used a copy of this in my Monoblack deck in Montreal. The ability to grab shocklands was enticing, but ultimately, she just doesn't do enough to be a real consideration. She starts at a low enough loyalty that her removal ability is tough to use effectively. Her land grabbing ability is nice but not backbreaking. And then her ultimate is either a do-nothing or a win-more far too often. She is a ‘walker and might see a little play, but nothing extensive.

Limited: 3.5

As a removal spell plus a Lay of Land this is already pretty good. If you get her down in a situation where the board is stalled and you can manage to use her middle ability more than once, she will likely win you the game.

High
Mid
Low
 Liliana's Reaver
$1.74
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$0.38
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Liliana's Reaver

Constructed: 2

She gets a friggin' Reaver? This card actually seems like a fine sideboard card for control mirrors and things of that nature. A 4/3 body with deathtouch for four mana is already not the worst deal. The ability is pretty strong on top of that though, so I imagine we will be seeing this somewhere.

Limited: 3.5-4.0

If you manage to play this on turn four and it survives, the game is basically over, but the tricky part comes in the three toughness this guy is rockin'. If you can protect him, he is a certified bomb so keep that in mind when you pick him up.

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 Liturgy of Blood
$0.62
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Liturgy of Blood

Constructed: 1

Five mana is too much to spend at sorcery speed even if you are getting three of it back. Doom Blade and other similar cards are just so much more efficient.

Limited: 3.5

While this is not as speedy or quick as Doom Blade, it can kill everything, which is certainly a bonus and it will occasionally lead to some sick turn fives that just win you the game. Casting this and a Quag Sickness on turn five will often be unexpected and completely backbreaking. Don't even get me started if you happen to have Grim Return in your deck...

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 Mark of the Vampire
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Mark of the Vampire

Constructed: 1

This one has had a while to make its mark and I just don't think it has the thirst to stand up to the competition.

Limited: 2.5

This card is strange in that it will not make plenty of decks because they don't have evasion or enough good targets to make it worth it. However, in the decks where it is good, it often feels like a legitimate bomb, which is why it gets a higher score.

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 Mind Rot
$0.62
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Mind Rot

Constructed: 1.5

Always fringe playable but rarely played. The story of the fair card.

Limited: 1.5

Basically the same story here. I will play this main on occasion, but I prefer it to be a potent sideboard card, depending on the speed of the format though, it could be better main than it usually is.

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 Minotaur Abomination
$0.62
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Minotaur Abomination

Constructed: 1

So I will definitely give some props in regards to this design being a blend of two Undead Minotaurs but it still has absolutely no place in Constructed.

Limited: 1.5

This is expensive so you won't always want one in your deck but when you are looking for a fatty, this will often do the trick, being a reverse Craw Wurm which is fine in black.

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 Nightmare
$1.40
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$0.13
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Nightmare

Constructed: 1

Sweet new art but this will never be good in Standard because it can't live through casting your own Mutilate (kidding, but it still won't be good).

Limited: 3.5

Giant flying monster that does ask a little out of your mana base to hit maximum potential. it doesn't have some sweet enters the battlefield effect of anything, so it is mostly just an Air Elemental, but Air Elemental is pretty dang good!

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 Nightwing Shade
$0.61
$0.14
$0.02
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Nightwing Shade

Constructed: 1

Uh, he's not good. That's all I got...

Limited: 1.5

I underestimated this guy a little bit the first time he came around in a core set. I think you end up playing one copy of him a little over half of the time but multiple copies is basically never desired.

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 Quag Sickness
$0.60
$0.13
$0.02
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Quag Sickness

Constructed: 1.5

This has a small chance at seeing some play in Monoblack control but it is highly unlikely with Mutilate and instant speed spot removal actually being options right now.

Limited: 3.0

This is certainly weaker than things like Doom Blade as they require a little more out of your deck building. That said, they have additional utility, such as hitting black creatures or maybe shrinking something that you don't necessarily want killed. A strong card overall.

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 Rise of the Dark Realms
$6.00
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$2.17
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Rise of the Dark Realms

Constructed: 2

If this sees play, it will be in a disgusting, game ending combo deck which makes its validity somewhat real. Outside of that though, I am not sure how many decks will want to play this fairly. Nine mana is doable in some metagames, but I would mostly expect comboish decks.

Limited: 2.5

So, this card is not for every deck. It takes a special kind of deck that can get to nine mana either through ramp or stalling the game out. That said, this is the type of card that is worthy of that strategy. If you open this early and can build around it, I like it a lot as it is essentially nine mana to win the game, but it can't just be jammed into every black deck.

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 Sanguine Bond
$5.14
$1.40
$0.32
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Sanguine Bond

Constructed: 2

Much like Rise previous to this, this will see some fringe play in high synergy based or combo decks looking to kill you with it. Will they be good? History would say likely not, but all it takes is one Martyr of Sands to change everything right?

Limited: 1.0

You have to build around this or have a very high density of life gain cards to consider it. The deck is a lot of fun, but very uncommon to fall into.

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Mid
Low
 Sengir Vampire
$0.85
$0.17
$0.02
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Sengir Vampire

Constructed: 1

It's been quite a while since this guy has seen any competitive play and I don't think now is going to be the turn around.

Limited: 4.0

An Air Elemental with upside in a color that doesn't always get that sort of thing. I think this will usually be better than Nightmare outside of the peak Nightmare monoblack decks.

High
Mid
Low
 Shadowborn Apostle
$2.00
$0.83
$0.30
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Shadowborn Apostle

Constructed: ?

I honestly have no idea where these guys will end up. They occupy such a unique space and in a much more powerful form than Relentless Rats, so we should at least be discussing these guys. Hopefully they bring many Griselbrands into play in the near future.

Limited: 0.5

Even if you are on the plan of drafting as many of these as possible, you A) need a good Demon, and B) need to draw six of them and have them survive. That means you likely need to draft eight or nine of these to be viable. That task is unlikely just purely based off the number of any one common that is opened during the draft, but it is technically viable. In general, I would steer clear here but as a gimmick, it could be fun.

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 Shadowborn Demon
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Shadowborn Demon

Constructed: 2.5

This guy seems pretty exciting to me. He comes down as a Shriekmaw only instead of 3 damage a turn, he deals 5 and oh, he isn't dying to Shock either. The six creature clause is not that bad even when you need to sacrifice but in decks like Junk Rites, six creatures is pretty easy to come by. In sideboard situations he might be risky, but worst-case scenario, he one-for-ones and then is around for a turn to block.

Limited: 4.5

Removal on a giant flying body with a drawback that won't even exist half of the time? Sign me up! Obvious mythic for power level reasons as this will be one of the most desired rares in the set for limited.

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 Shrivel
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Shrivel

Constructed: 1.5

Shrivel is always a potential sideboard option for black decks against weenies or tokens, so there is that possibility here. That said, there are a lot of better options out there so I don't expect to see much of this.

Limited: 1.0

It is pretty hard to set up scenarios where this can net you card advantage but it is certainly not unplayable in the main deck. Against certain decks with key problems or a lot of little guys, this becomes a strong sideboard option though, so keep that in mind!

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Mid
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 Syphon Sliver
$2.99
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$0.35
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Syphon Sliver

Constructed: 2

While it is very hard to tell what Slivers are going to be making an impact in constructed, if any at all, this effect is powerful enough at racing that it seems like a potent weapon for said decks if they ever do exist.

Limited: 3.5

You obviously need other Slivers to really boost this thing and make it worth it, but let's assume that if you are drafting this, you are Slivers. As a Grey Ogre with lifelink it is playable. But as a lifelink lord it wins games.

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 Tenacious Dead
$0.80
$0.16
$0.03
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Tenacious Dead

Constructed: 1

This is not my favorite card to consider for combos or anything of that nature. In general, I think Reassembling Skeleton was just better at the same job and it wasn't even very popular.

Limited: 1.5

This is a decent defensive option similar to Drudge Skeletons of course. Not the most exciting card to have in your deck but he can do some work for you.

High
Mid
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 Undead Minotaur
$0.61
$0.14
$0.02
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Undead Minotaur

Constructed: 1

Still unplayable but still sweet for the reason I mentioned under Minotaur Abomination.

Limited: 1.5

A late addition to most decks. This is fine but is a bare minimum for what we want to be playing in our decks so most other three-drops are going to kick this guy out of your deck. That said, if you are lacking three drops or playables in general, this will work in a pinch.

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 Vampire Warlord
$0.95
$0.19
$0.03
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Vampire Warlord

Constructed: 1

Five mana for a wonderful 4/2 body. But wait! There's more! No, not really. Moving on.

Limited: 1.5-2.0

This guy comes with a steep cost but he is an interesting five-drop in that he is going to take down most things it battles with. If you have fodder available to keep this alive, he can be a really strong defensive card.

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 Vile Rebirth
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Vile Rebirth

Constructed: 2

If Reanimator decks continue to be viable in Standard, which I suspect they will until Theros kicks Innistrad out, this seems like a potential disruptive card that also offers a cheap threat for things like aggro Zombies. It also might prove to be too untimely of a disruptive element, but it has a chance.

Limited: 1.0

Not a great card but playable as a pseudo combat trick to be used on defense. You can't really play this until turn four or later most games, but if you are short playables, by all means!

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 Wring Flesh
$0.61
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Wring Flesh

Constructed: 2

While this is not the best card, it is one mana and decent against mana elves and whatnot. Tragic Slip will keep this out of the format for a while but that will rotate soon and give this a shot.

Limited: 2.5

Not the strongest removal but this will still take care of annoying utility creatures and aggressive options. In addition, you can often use this as a combat trick to keep your guys alive.

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 Xathrid Necromancer
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Xathrid Necromancer

Constructed: 2

This card seems really sweet and has a lot of possible applications for it. One thing that worries me is that once Innistrad rotates, the human tribe takes a serious blow, so it may be the case that if this guy is going to see any success, it might have to be right out of the gates!

Limited: 3.5

Obviously this is going to scale up or down depending on your human count but worst case scenario, you get a Grey Ogre and a Diregraf Ghoul out of the package which is certainly playable. In a heavy human deck, this thing seems quite strong.


Wrap Up

Black definitely got some interesting tools this time around. Some of the cards here will be a little tricky to figure out but have a very high potential while others are a little more blatantly powerful like Shadowborn Demon. Black brings a lot of additional removal back to Standard as well as a few neat combo cards. In limited, black is just going to be killing all of your things while beating down with 2/1s for two. Seems good enough to me!

Be sure to come back here tomorrow where we will be moving on to blue. Jace has been up to a few tricks and I think blue reflects that in M14. I will see you back here tomorrow and until then, thanks for reading!

--Conley Woods--



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