Monday, February 3, 2014

Born of the Gods Limited Set Review - Black

For me, one of the best ways to make a profit and still enjoy playing Magic is to win events. In Limited events that means knowing what is good in a format and being able to able to accurately assess the value of cards. Everyone puts their own value on certain types of cards. Some favor removal over any creatures, others take any decent creature over removal. Some like expensive or late game cards and others prefer value for early tempo. While I can't adjust for your play style I can tell you what I happen to think of certain cards.

The other color set reviews can be found at the following links:
Multicolored and Colorless

Limited Rating System

Everyone who evaluates cards uses a different system. Mine is 1-10 because I feel like it creates the easiest and most recognizable system. Using grades tends to provide some false associations; B- is a pretty lame grade in school but a pretty good card in magic. I also don't like using the 1-5 system because I'd rather say something is a five than a two point five.

10 - First pick and must play even if you have to splash it.

9 - Game winning card every time it hits the table.

8 - Bombs, top tier removal, and otherwise game defining creatures.

7 - Powerful creatures or amazingly efficient creatures, conditional removal.

6 - Solid creatures, expensive or highly restrictive removal, big play enchantments and artifacts.

5 - Core cards in your deck, on curve creatures, decent cards.

4 - Fallback cards that you'd rather not have in your deck but can fill in if needed. Cards that are too situational to main deck.

3 - Bad cards, cards that have too much risk and little reward.

2 - Really bad cards that barely do anything at all and aren't likely to impact the game in a meaningful way.

1 - A card with zero meaningful impact on Limited games of Magic.

Add-on Ratings

S - Sideboard cards. These will often be brought out of your board and are worth picking up over other things of their level because of their impact against certain match-ups.

+ - Better than the average card in this category but still not worth the step up to the next level.

Black Common/Uncommon

Archetype of Finality – 6
Deathtouch is a very powerful ability and giving it to your entire board can be pretty powerful. Doing so at six mana with a 2/3 makes me a little nervous but I still think that this is a good card. Suddenly your 1/1 tokens are killing machines. It makes you way more likely to get in with one or two little guys for damage on a stalled board while still keeping back your more powerful defenders. Without other creatures you’re getting a weak and expensive Basilisk but at least it makes a significant board presence on its own.

Ashiok’s Adept – 4
While a 1/3 for two mana will frequently find a home, a 1/3 for three is much worse. I have trouble finding ways to make this Heroic activation worth it. I suppose pumping your guy for extra damage and making an opponent discard a card is pretty good. Getting a free discard off a bestow is also fine. But I generally don’t want to be throwing my bestow cards on a 1/3 anyway.  Maybe I’m wrong and discard will be a thing, but I’d much rather have a Disciple of Phenax and I didn’t always play them.

Asphyxiate – 5+
This is a very weird card. While Assassinate makes a certain amount of sense, everything about Asphyxiate feels unintuitive. I feel like there will be a number of times where this is cast on a creature, that simply taps itself in response. It is also basically countered by a Springleaf Drum. This makes it very conditional removal with some creatures it just can’t kill. Also that thing that is beating your face in every turn, it’ll never kill that because it’s always tapped when your turn comes around. I think I’d rather sit on the additional three mana and play Sip of Hemlock.

Bile Blight – 7
Instant -3/-3 for two black is pretty good. The chance to nail a second creature as well makes this fantastic. While doubles aren’t as common in limited as constructed, getting a two for one out of this card will occasionally be doable with tokens running around. Even at just one creature it is still better than Phareka’s Cure.

Black Oak of Odunos – 4+
When it comes to ways to activate Inspired I think this is one of my favorite. If you can pull in a bunch of good Inspired cards you can tap any number of them at the end of your turn to get activation off, one mana each. Suddenly a card like Icy Manipulator is looking really good but in the right deck you may still a lot of value off of this card. Other decks aren’t too likely to want it since a wall without power is just a brick dummy.

Claim of Erebos – 4
This is still a bad cycle of enchantments. Ping for two isn’t terrible when it comes on a creature but when it is its own card I’m worried. This would probably be better if it was just an enchantment that did two damage per turn like Mogis.

Drown in Sorrow – 5+
Bigger Mutilate with scry allows you to play some bigger black creatures with ways to deal with all the one, two and several three drops. As a turn three board sweeper this is pretty strong. The scry as an additional bonus makes this a pretty solid card. Of course, it will kill your own creatures if you’re not careful but you’ll probably be able to get a two for one if not better.

Eye Gouge - 4
-1/-1 is frequently enough to do the last shot on a creature making this card a usable combat trick. But I didn’t always want Weakness in my deck and this seems far worse than that. If you happen up against a couple of cyclops (cyclopi?) maybe you  side it in for the extra possible value. It’s not totally unplayable but I’m sure there’s something better you can put in your deck.

Felhide Brawler – 4+
It’s a bear with an upsi… no wait. It’s a bear with a downside. At least it can still bash in for two. That’s a good thing. I feel like with this downside it should be a single black, or something. Not really the two drop I want but a two drop none the less.

Forlorn Pseudamma – 5+
It’s a 2/1 for four that’s lame. But it’s got intimidate which makes it less lame. Add on it makes guys when it untaps and it’s actually pretty good. I’m in favor of any inspired guys with evasion or a way to tap themselves. Intimidate is pretty good evasion. You’ll probably have to side him out against another black deck but he is a creature your opponent can’t really afford to just ignore on the board even in black matchups.

Forsaken Drifters – 4+
It’s a mill card. No, it’s a self mill card. This really isn’t Armored Skaab in a graveyard centered set like Innistrad. So it just screws you when it leaves. Why isn’t this Vampire Warlord? That card had some practical uses for the same power and toughness at one more casting cost. After seeing Boon Satyr as a 4/2 flash for three it’s hard to be excited about paying four for one that mills you when it dies even at common.

Grisly Transformation – 5+
Intimidate cantrip enchantment, interesting. Considering this set has heroic and inspired this seems pretty solid. If you drop it on either creature you’re getting your card back plus making your creature unblockable. Aqueous Form saw a lot of play even though it carried all the risk of this card. I think Grisly Transformation will be a decent play in most decks.

Marshmist Titan – 5+
I have a difficult time placing this card exactly. The body is good and assuming you can have as little as two devotion on the board you’re still paying for something that is on curve. If you don’t have many other black permanents than you’ll want to leave this titan at home but if you’re already playing black you’ll probably be able to drum up at least a couple devotion. I’d love to see the game where this guy can come down on turn four and start beating.

Necrobite – 6
This is removal, plain and simple. All you need is a blocker, any blocker with power. It does run the risk of losing a two for one if someone hits your blocker with removal, but there isn’t that much great instant speed removal in this set that I’d be super worried about it. This card will deal with problems you otherwise can’t.

Nyxborn Eidolon – 4
It’s Unholy Strength only much much worse. 2/1 for two is understandable but having to pay five to bestow in order to get two power feels pretty lame. Remember what we got for five in Theros? +1/+1 and deathtouch plus a deathtouch guy when that creature died. This just doesn’t compare.

Odunos River Trawler – 5+
How come black’s Auramancer is better than Auramancer? While Auramancer is playable in this set with the enchantment creatures and such, the chance of getting two auras back for one creature is pretty amazing. It’s also just one white so if you pick up a couple of trawlers you can just throw in a plains for possible additional value. At worst you get an Auramancer, at best you basically get two.

Sanguimancy – 4
Considering the difficulty of getting your devotion to black very high in a non mono black deck, this is clearly a much worse card than Gray Merchant. It also doesn’t add any devotion itself meaning you may find times you draw it late in the game where X may be zero. If this was 2B I’d be all over it but at a higher cost of five mana, I’m less enthused. If you’re heavy into black I’d probably look at it again but for one more mana we had Opportunity which guaranteed four cards and was at instant speed.

Servant of Tymaret – 4+
Again, the 1/3 for three isn’t very good. Making it a 1/3 with a lifelink ping on untap and regeneration makes this guy a pretty good target for a tap aura. He can insure his own survival. Losing a Regeneration shield also taps him making him an acceptable chump blocker. Overall I’m still not sure I actually want this guy in my deck but I could see him ending up in there.

Shrike Harpy – 6
This will be a 4/4 flier for five unless your opponent has some mana dork to give up. Maybe your opponent has some creature that has passed usefulness that is worth pitching but either way, it’s a really solid card. Big air born creatures are always solid and this does well as a weak Sengir Vampire, which is always a decent card. Paying five for an Diabolic Edict and a 2/2 flier in one card is fine.

Spiteful Returned – 5+
I think this is a win more card. On its own you’ve got a 1/1 for two that hits like a 3/1. On another creature that’s going to get in for damage you’ve got a 3/1 bestow which is pretty okay but not fantastic. It also doesn’t allow you to suddenly trade up your creature to handle a big threat. I think this is fine but as far as bestow abilities it is not amazing.

Warchanter of Mogis – 5
A little expensive for a 3/3 it cost is fine for a 3/3 intimidate which it can certainly become after surviving one round of combat.  This makes it a solid but overall not highly impressive card. Being able to give intimidate to another creature is a nice little trick, but not one that really gives much power. Plus, unlike most intimidate creatures, you still need to get it in without dying the first round and if you have to hold it back you’re stuck without intimidate for until you can get back in for an attack.

Weight of the Underworld – 5
I guess this is okay. It’s a long term Weakness or a kill spell on a two toughness guy. My only dislike here is the cost. At four mana I’d expect something bigger. I suppose it’s nice that it’ll stick around on a big creature, but this clearly isn’t Dead Weight.

Black Rares

Champion of Stray Souls - 8
This feels like the ETB engine that just won’t stop. Cycling your Gray Merchant for another one, or two for two is just plain mean. Also his return from the graveyard effect is going to make this 4/4 a real problem to deal with. I think he qualifies as a total bomb in limited since he will never go away and he lets you swap all your out of date creatures for the best creatures you’ve already lost.

Eater of Hope – 7
Big demons are rarely disappointing unless they make you sac your own guys. This one doesn’t make you, it lets you. Still, sacrificing two insignificant creatures to destroy any creature is an amazing bonus. The 6/4 flier isn’t bad either. This looks like a tough card to answer all the way around. Seven is a bit expensive but being able to off other creatures makes it feel worth it.

Fate Unraveler – 6
When I read the text on this card I assume that I’m not really going to like it. But paying four mana for a 3/4 is pretty decent. Black doesn’t normally get creatures this efficient without a drawback. And it’s not a drawback, it’s a significant upside. On a lesser creature I’d be significantly less impressed but on top of being a meaningful body on the field you’re going to be automatically pinging for at least one every turn. Plus it’ll punish people that like draw heavy decks.

Fated Return – 5
Wow, the effects of this card are awesome but seven mana is just plain brutal. Getting the best creature that’s died so far on your side with indestructible is really cool, assuming you have a way to get a good creature into the graveyard. Even by the time I hit seven mana I’m not guaranteed to have anything bigger than 3/3 in the yard. This feels like a really risky play that will occasionally pay off. It’s not terrible to have at the top of your curve but it doesn’t really solve any of your problems if the biggest threat in the game is still on the battlefield.

Gild – 8
Unconditional creature removal that exiles, not destroys is fantastic. It’s not Swords to Plowshares but it’s probably the closest black is ever going to get. I’m not sure what’s up with the extra mana token but if it lets me cast my six drop instead of a five drop I’m on board. I’m not even that broken up about the sorcery speed. This is a big black answer to any problem sitting pretty at four mana. I’m a big big fan.

Herald of Torment - 7+
Nimbus Naiad saw tons of play and this is much better. A 3/3 flier in black for three is already way ahead of curve. Having the bestow for five that gives +3/+3 and flying is fantastic. The downside is small enough that if you play it on a creature you’ll win so fast it just won’t matter. Getting another creature off the ground will guarantee you enough damage that you’ll always be happy to play this.

Pain Seer – 5+
Mini Bob, the lesser Dark Confidant is not really a limited card. Considering the danger of paying CMC for cards in limited I don’t feel like this card will be a massive advantage to a deck. I’m pretty sure I’d play him anyway. But I feel like he often times will be a bear with a dangerous upside.  I’m also not sure how often you’ll be able to tap your 2/2.

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