Black looks like one of the slower colors in Khans, with just one creature cheaper than four mana that has more than a single power. It has a few larger creatures that can support the top of an aggro deck’s curve though, and its suite of removal spells, although somewhat expensive, will be appreciated in any deck. The best common is Debilitating Injury, although Throttle is pretty good too. At uncommon you also get Murderous Cut, which is just great.
If you haven’t seen it, you can read the reviews of white, blue, red and green here, then check out the ratings for black.
The Saddlebrute is a serious hoss. A 4/5 for four is just enormous, especially for black. Obviously this works incredibly well on offense, with very few creatures able to halt his assault. He’s a little awkward on D, as he’ll sometimes need to Flame Rift you before agreeing to play defense – but even then, he’s still above average. A super strong uncommon.
This is fairly slow as card draw goes, but the effect is quite powerful. It reminds me of Read the Bones, and if it cost three mana, it’d probably be much better than the scry spell. Bitter Revelation provides a lot of card selection, and sets you up nicely for a turn five delve monster to help you offset some of the tempo loss of tapping out for this and paying two life.
This is a very impressive aggro beater that will tend to get in a lot of damage. Being almost impossible to kill is a huge advantage, ensuring you’ll always have raid active and generally putting your opponents into bad spots. Being unable to block is a significant drawback, but this is a foundational piece for any aggressive black deck.
A one-sided Barter in Blood is a humongously powerful effect, but ten mana is a humongously expensive cost. Delve can allow you to actually cast this, but unlike some delve cards, you actually need about four cards in your graveyard to even have a chance of getting this puppy onto the stack. I’m a much bigger fan of a card like Hooting Mandrills, which is good even if you have zero or one card in your ‘yard. I’d be very hesitant to put Dead Drop in my deck unless I have some really great graveyard enablers and/or very few delve cards.
Great, cheap removal. There are plenty of cards in the set this whiffs on, but being able to injure any morph, most of the evasive creatures in the set, and all the early plays from aggressive decks is just awesome. A solid pull to black.
I actually think Despise will be fairly playable in Khans. Spending a mana to prevent your opponent’s best creature from coming online is decent, and given the slowish speed and tempo-oriented nature I expect out of the format, I don’t anticipate this being a dead topdeck all that often. It’s also just nice to have a spell that deals with opposing mythic rares, and even the bonus information you get from Peeking at your opponent’s hand is slightly more relevant in a morph format.
Lagonna-Band Trailblazer this is not, but Disowned Ancestor is at least playable, and perhaps even good. I like that you can enable raid in an aggro deck, and gum up the ground in a defensive deck. Ancestor isn’t particularly imposing in either capacity, but being a jack of all spades means you’ll play this a fair amount of the time in Sealed.
There are definitely a lot of ways to fill up your graveyard in this format due to the presence of delve, so Dutiful Return should give you lots of options if you are in the market for necromantic fruit platters. This is a pretty slow card that can’t get active until much later in the game, and it competes with delve for the limited number of graveyard-dependent spells your deck can afford to run, but it’s definitely an option for attrition-minded Sealed decks.
Empty the Pits
My intuition is that this is just too expensive to ever run in Sealed. It’s designed for Standard, where the abundance of fetch lands and cheap removal spells will keep the graveyards of control mages constantly stocked. If you want to get four tokens out of this, you need something like six mana and six cards in your graveyard, both of which are fairly difficult to pull off (and the reward isn’t even that great). It also has very difficult color requirements for a three-color set.
This card is quite sawcy. As just a Barony Vampire, this already passes the vanilla test. But the ability is sick. When you attack with 2/1s – or leave them back to block – your opponent is faced with a really tough decision. They basically can’t trade with you, as giving you 2-for-1’s is just horrible. They will even be hard-pressed to attack into your chump blocks and double blocks with their bigger creatures. The kicker is that your opponent won’t actually get to make these decisions at all – because of the surprise value of morph, you can choose how to engineer a brutal combat that will draw you a handful of cards.
Besides being named in such a way as to make it sound like a Diablo III elite, there isn’t a lot to love about Gurmag Swiftfang. One point of damage per turn is still just a 20-turn clock, even if it starts a turn early and is hard to stop. There also aren’t very many x/1 creatures that Swiftfang is good at stopping on defense. If I’m playing against a deck with lots of tokens, maybe I’ll bring this in as a decent foil, but usually I’m not happy about running this.
In case you missed the flavor, this vampire eats your creatures, then takes their FACES OFF and WEARS THEM. In other news, this is a pretty average dude. The life drain ability is a big bonus although it won’t come up that often. The sacrifice clause is good but expensive. Still, I like it a fair amount in a token-based deck or paired with red, where you can turn your common Act of Treasons into removal spells.
I didn’t want to play with Carnivorous Plant in fourth grade, and I still don’t here in 22nd grade. The sacrifice ability isn’t useless, but its power is limited to a fairly narrow band of game states, and does little to disguise the fact that this is only a card during half of the game.
5/3 is a nice size in this format. It trades with nearly everything, and even does a decent job of outright eating things when you unmorph it in combat. Compare it to a card like Salt Road Patrol. Rarely will it be completely outclassed. That said, at five mana, it’s a fairly replaceable card, and you probably won’t notice if you don’t open one this weekend.
This is a stellar contributor for black pools. It’s great in aggro decks, where it makes for a decent first pitch on turn two or an on-theme 2-for-1 later. It’s okay in control decks too, where you can use it as a card advantage tool and a slow-but-not-unreasonable blocker. The body is quite small in the late game, sure, but I have a hard time imagining any of these would ever be in the sideboard of one of my black Sealed decks.
At four mana, this isn’t the most efficient body. But the static ability is quite good. In an Abzan deck with a few ways to distribute counters on your creatures, this can act as an Archetype of Finality, letting you trade your worst creatures for your opponents best and generally making the game a pain in the ass. I’m much less keen on this card in a Mardu or Sultai deck, although the ability to become a 3/4 deathtoucher is still tantalizing.
I’m really not keen to ever play this card. The initial cost is very cheap, and giving a flier +2/+0 can help end games fairly quickly (this makes me most excited to play it in blue or white decks). The regen ability is also a good fit with power-pumping, as it lets you swing in with your 4/2 and threaten to eat a blocker, but without having to actually commit the mana most of the time. Still, this aura is fairly high risk and fairly low-impact, and you are apt to get blown out by a bounce spell or a Debilitating Injury.
Easily one of the best cards in the set, Murderous Cut is an adroit assassin of basically any threat (or any blocker) your opponent might play. Five mana is a reasonable amount to pay for that effect, as we’ve seen with Flesh to Dust. The option to cast it for less – as few as one! – is really good too. It’s no Doom Blade, but it’s exactly what you’re hoping to see in your pool.
I don’t have a rubric for how much of a discount to assign to delve cards when estimating their true mana cost. My best guess is that it’s about 1.5. So Murderous Cut costs 3.5 mana, and Necropolis Fiend costs 7.5. That’s a lot. The reward is pretty high (a 4/5 flier is great)… but the removal ability doesn’t seem like something you’ll be able to fire off with much regularity, especially after delving deep enough to cast the Fiend in the first place. Assuming I only had room for one, I’d rather play Necropolis Fiend than either Dead Drop or Treasure Cruise, but it’s possible that it’s too expensive to really be that much better than Sultai Scavenger.
My team draft team (known as Extremely Limited Resources) gave me endless shit during M15 for my pseudo love affair with Military Intelligence. I still think that card was sweeeet. (But you should never play it… unless you are the shit at Magic). Raiders’ Spoils is a similar deal. You have to invest a card and some mana in the hopes of getting more cards down the line. On the plus side, Raiders’ Spoils also gives your dudes a power boost and can get you multiple cards right away. On the minus side, it costs twice as much mana, which to me is a deal breaker. In Draft, I think you can draft a tokens warrior deck around this card and Trumpet Blast, but in Sealed, I don’t think we’ll be touching this.
I wouldn’t usually play Mind Rot maindeck in Sealed. While the card advantage is good, the tempo loss is sometimes too much to bear. In a Sultai deck, however, graveyard-filling effects might be at enough of a premium that you’ll run this to enable your Shambling Attendants and friends. My first impression is still that this is a sideboard card, but I’m prepared to be proven wrong. Side note: It’s really fun to say “rrrrrrackSHAsa!” in an extremely energetic, French sort of accent.
Retribution of the Ancients
Removal spells are always something to be on the lookout for, and repeatable removal engines all the more. But this type of card is something I hate in limited. If you draw it and don’t have any creatures with counters on them, it’s a dead card. Counters also come at a premium, and spending several turns outlasting in order to get enough counters to kill a 3/3 hardly seems worth the trouble. Sometimes having the counters on the creatures will actually just do the same thing as removing them to kill something. If my deck is jam-packed with cards like Armament Corps and Incremental Growth, then I’ll probably run this and expect it to be decent. Feel free not to play it if you don’t have enough action to fuel it.
Rite of the Serpent
Six mana is a bit on the expensive side for removal, but we’re still happily playing this. Even if you don’t get the bonus (which you usually won’t), having an insurance policy in your deck saying you can’t auto-lose to some brutal mythic is very good. I’d think twice about playing the second, but probably would end up doing so too.
This is a hilariously husky blocker, basically incapable of ever being killed. Having two power is also large enough to actually ward off attacks, rather than just absorbing them. Five mana isn’t chump change, and it’s not like this is a powerful card since your opponent can easily beat it in a variety of ways, but I actually don’t mind having one of these in my slower decks.
This is a sweet card. I think having a “trump morph” will be really powerful. When you get into morph-on-morph combat, you’re going to feel great if you’re the one with Icefeather Aven or Ruthless Ripper. This card is also quite aggressive, and getting in a free mini-Bump in the Night is nothing to scoff at.
A 3/5 deathoucher is extremely powerful. The problem with a 3/5 is that your opponent can double-block it and often trade 1-for-1 with it as though it were a 3/3. Giving it deathtouch makes it loads better on offense and on defense. The catch, of course, is that we have to toss it in the bucket of cards that cost a boatload of mana and compete with space for other delve cards. I wouldn’t be happy paying six for this, and often you’ll have to.
This is a nice defensive card, being quite difficult to punch through and doing a good job of stabilizing you into the late game. It is plagued by a fairly hefty mana requirement and a low amount of upside, but I like it in a more defensive deck. It actually seems to go best in an Abzan deck, where adding some +1/+1 counters can make it quite formidable.
This is one of those delve cards that is actually reasonably costed when you can’t mark down the price very much. I don’t want to pay six mana for a 3/3 flier, but if I have to, it’s not a disaster. Sometimes, you’ll be able to cast this for around four, which is quite strong. Definitely a solid common for black.
Swarm of Bloodflies
It seems like every card in this set costs five mana, which makes me a little wary of what is otherwise a nice card. If you play Swarm of Bloodflies precombat and swing in offering to trade off a couple of 2/2’s, your opponent is really in a tough spot, as they don’t want to give you an Air Elemental. If you’re on the backfoot, this gets worse, as five-mana 2/2s aren’t very good at racing or blocking. I do like this card, but recognize it has a lot of limitations.
Lash of the Whip was decent in Theros, and that was in a world where the important creatures were often big enough to survive it by turn five. I think Khans will be a little slower, and the creatures a little more susceptible to the whip, making this a very solid removal spell.
This is a very solid fighter, with a robust 3/3 Hill Giant frame that should have an easy time surviving combat. The first strike bonus probably won’t come up that often, as you’ll need both white mana and a specific combat scenario, but it’s certainly a nonzero upside.
That’s it for black! You can read the set review for white, blue, red, and green here, and be sure to check back in daily as we post the other colors.
-Bert O Phillips
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