Welcome back everyone to another set and therefore another set review here at TCGplayer.com. We have been drafting and battling with Khans of Tarkir for a few months now and it feels like a good time to spice things up with the release of Fate Reforged. The dragons are making a comeback and they seem kind of angry in doing so. Over the rest of this week, we will be covering every card of every color and discussing its merits for Constructed, Sealed, and Draft! And at the end of the week, I will be going over my Top 8 cards for Constructed!
Today we will begin by checking out the dark things hiding around the world of Tarkir as we discuss black, as well as the only Planeswalker in the set. To do this, we will be looking at every card and giving it a rating to rank its performance in a given format. Below are some scales to explain what each ranking means, but just looking at the relative rankings will do quite a bit on its own.Constructed
5: Fives are ever-present cards that heavily warp a format or see heavy play across multiple formats. Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Deathrite Shaman, and Tarmogoyf are good examples of fives.
4: These cards tend to have support roles across multiple formats or be tier one cards in at least one format. Spell Pierce is an example of the former while Thragtusk is an example of the latter. I expect to rate a lot of things as fours that are actually fives and vice versa while I feel out this new system but in both cases, these are going to be highly desired cards.
3: These are the bread and butter cards of a set, usually doing all of the essential things needed for a format, but doing them at a good rate. Cards like Oblivion Ring, Izzet Charm, or Diregraf Ghoul would be found here.
2: These cards are generally much more restrictive in use and application than a three, but they serve a similar purpose. You will see more sideboard or niche cards, like Skullcrack, Heartless Summoning, or Gladecover Scout.
1: These are not going to see much play, but they have an outside chance. These tend to be weak or narrow sideboard options or extremely narrow main deck cards. Most ones will not ever make it into a winning list, but they have potential to do so.
0: These are unplayable in Constructed regardless of context. These tend to be the cards designed to balance Limited, like Grizzly Bear or Siege Mastodon or are narrow with a poor output, like Artificer's Hex.
*Any card that gets an X.5 rating just means I can see it falling to either side of the equation given the right metagame or environment.Limited
The Limited scale used language such as "I draft this over..." but it applies to Sealed in a very similar manner. Essentially, for Sealed you would read it as "I play this over..." instead. So for a five in Sealed, you would play that card in your deck 100% of the time.
5: I will take and play this card over everything. Always. Examples: Umezawa's Jitte, Library of Alexandria.
4.: I will take and play this over everything in its same colors and will heavily consider splashing it or switching colors as a result of drafting this or having it in my pool. Incredibly powerful cards that are more difficult to cast will generally get a four or four and a half. Examples: Fireball, Gideon Jura.
3: I will first pick this and take it over most commons/uncommons in its color. These are generally the baseline best commons in a set for each color, like removal, looters, and efficient creatures. Examples: Lightning Strike. Merfolk Looter
2: I will draft and play these but do not value them highly. These are the typical fifth through eight picks that generally are the backbone of decks but do not do anything fancy. Inefficient removal and combat tricks tend to hover in the two and a half area as well. Examples: Hill Giant, Divine Verdict.
1: I generally do not want to pick these highly or play them in my maindeck. These cards are either bad or very niche and only go in specific strategies. In either case, there is a good chance these cards wheel when seen anywhere near the front end of a pack and very little value should be placed on these cards early. Reasonable sideboard cards can be found here, so you should not discount these entirely Examples: Demolish, Merfolk Spy
0: These are cards that have no value and should not be played in 99.9% of situations. If you take one of these, you had better know what you are getting yourself into. Examples: Progenitus, Sway of the Stars.
With that, on to the cards!
Hill Giants, even with a way to cheat into play, are still meant for the hills and not Constructed.
Draft: 2Sealed: 2
I don't mind this guy because he comes in nicely at the four mana slot where your morphs are not costed or unmorphing. The dash is upside that will get used on occasion, but turn three is hopefully not going to be that occasion too often. Note that this is a warrior.
Too clunky, slow, and mana intensive to be worth the output.
Draft: 2Sealed: 2
I played two copies of these at the prerelease and they were pretty solid. There are certainly times where you need to use this for less than full value just to get a +1/+1 synergy or something, but that is still fine. The cost is the toughest thing, so keep that in mind.
Archfiend of Depravity
Two creatures is plenty of creatures to win the game with.
Draft: 3.5Sealed: 4
You are mostly playing this because it is a 5/4 flier for five mana, which is incredible. Its ability is a huge benefit some of the time but also just will not matter some of the time and you should generally not be looking to get value from it. Don't sandbag this for extra turns because you want it to kill a few things. The 5/4 flier is enough payoff as is.
Battle Brawler? Really? That is what it's come to? This has a small chance at seeing play in warrior tribal as a three power first striker for two mana is not too shabby.
Draft: 2.5Sealed: 2
When this is turned out, it is a great beater throughout most of the early and mid-game. You will definitely want this to set up for any black/white aggressive strategy that Khans will cement for you.
I think this is generally worse than Hellrider was, although Hellrider was so good that there is still plenty of room for this in Standard. This is a nice top end for the token decks or black aggro decks, but they did already have some of that in cards like Sorin. The activated ability will come up but is mostly an afterthought as if you are untapping with this and any number of creatures, things are already so good for you.
Draft: 4Sealed: 4
I also had the pleasure of packing this in my Sealed deck and I can tell you it is a complete beating. The triggered ability is very good and will help swing races but that activated ability just wins the game about every single time. You can have each opposing creature block your smallest guy to use it as a Falter, or you can clear away a bunch of bad guys through chump blocks!
Crux of Fate
This should see a good bit of play in Standard as people have come around and are coping with Wrath at five mana. This has about the same level of upside that End Hostilities does if you are willing to work for it, but most importantly, black having a sweeper means big things for decks like UB Control.
Draft: 4Sealed: 4
Wrath effects are generally strong and in a format where people are playing more creatures than usual, that is extra true. If you can pull off the old "Keep my dragon alive" play, by all means, but just killing everything is likely good enough.
This feels like it might do some interesting work one day, even if I cannot say that day is today. This is a sick combo with Notion Thief, for example. And getting down to zero cards does make this one-sided other than the fact that you are the one casting Dark Deal.
You would need an awful lot of delve cards to consider running this and even then, there are better options, so your Draft also had to go pretty poor.
Diplomacy of the Wastes
This thing can take lands, which makes it interesting on the play when you steal an opposing third land drop away. The warrior clause is also a nice touch, but not really too big of an incentive.
Draft: 1.5Sealed: 1.5
Taking someone's bomb or depriving them of a crucial third color are real possibilities with this, which is not usually the case with Mind Rot and the like. The warrior clause is fine, but this really shouldn't be valued much higher for a warrior deck than any other.
Douse in Gloom
There was a time when this type of removal was fine in Constructed, but with charms running around at three mana and Drown in Sorrow etc, I really don't see the desire for this being high outside of Block.
Draft: 2.5Sealed: 2.5
Anything that can deal two damage at instant speed has plenty of targets and therefore value in this format. There are plenty of things this cannot kill, so don't hold it forever, but both manifest and morph make this solid.
A five mana Zombify with a weak upside is not very exciting. Currently, we have some powerful reanimation spells already in the format not seeing play that I think would all be ahead in line of this thing
This is pretty slow and expensive, so using it fairly will generally end in fair results. A deck with three or so dragons has this looking a lot more appealing to me, as a 6/6 flier is a big upgrade. Sultai might use this with their self-mill, but even then, you need a great target to be messing around with this.
This is a powerful card to think about, although ultimately, it will probably just be another expensive threat that gets taken out by a sweeper. You can use this on your own deck, or your opponent's, which might matter, but again, there are just better option.
Draft: 3Sealed: 3.5
This card is best in long, drawn out games where a bunch of creature-trading has already occurred. From there, you profit and win the game. Draft is naturally going to have a faster pace to it, making this less good there, but still great in something like five color control.
This is like a two mana Nighthowler with a little extra mill on the side. Granted, we are talking about a noncreature spell here, but this has just as much promise as Strength of the Fallen.
Draft: 1.5Sealed: 1.5
Another card good in those grindy matchups. Honestly, if you get +1/+1 out of this, it was worth it, and often you are looking at more. Remember, it checks for all creatures in your yard, not just those milled.
Technically can be a one mana 5/5, but I think the other delve options are just better, even going back to cards like Hooting Mandrills.
Draft: 1.5Sealed: 2
A big guy that you can get on the cheap. You still need to be cautious with the number of delve cards you are trying to support though. This is one of the less flashy delvers, so he will get cut a decent amount as a result.
A 2/3 for three mana is just about the worst thing ever for Constructed so we are looking primarily at the removal clause on this, which is tough to pull off and not worth having this in your deck over something more reliable.
Draft: 2Sealed: 2
A 2/3 that has a counter on it can be much more relevant in this Limited format as can the removal option. Taking out those pesky 0/5 and 0/6 blockers that control decks deploy early is a really nice way to stay ahead of a defending opponent.
This is effectively another two power one-drop warrior, making me think that deck is finally going to see some play. The dash ability on this is nice for the later game when sorcery speed removal is more likely to cost you card disadvantage and this gets around that.
Draft: 1.5Sealed: 1
This is pretty good in an aggressive warrior deck, but almost unplayable elsewhere. This quickly gets blanked by anything with two toughness, but played on turn one, that can still mean four or six damage and then warrior bonuses can kick in from there.
Mardu Strike Leader
A three mana 3/2 that makes additional guys, all of which are warriors, seems like a pretty excellent card. This is not quite on Brimaz level, but the comparison is at least there and this is not legendary, plus a little easier to cast!
Your goal should be to keep this guy around as long as possible as his advantage gets real pretty quickly. Two toughness is a pretty standard mark in this format though, making this pretty weak to removal. I don't suspect the dash is something you want to use very often here, but there are certainly some situations where it will be correct.
Whenever there is a lack of edict effects running around, this kind of effect, just like Fleshbag Marauder before it, can be Do or Die. Mardu has it covered with Cackling Doom, but I can see black aggressive decks using this to fight UW Heroic, for example.
Draft: 2Sealed: 2
There is generally some way you can abuse this effect to not make it symmetrical. Sacrificing a lowly 1/1 or something that pays you off when it dies is the most common way and those cards are found in plenty throughout Khans. Also a warrior, so we get a relevant creature type even.
A Smother is a reasonable effect in Constructed, but when it requires that your six mana creature dies before going off, you have to question just why you were running the six mana creature over say, a two mana instant that fires on command?
Draft: 3.5Sealed: 3.5
A big scary flier that takes something out upon his exit. Not much negative to say about this other than a rather hefty price tag. Take it relatively early and enjoy!
If this triggered off of itself, we might have a real conversation, but having to untap with your two toughness four-drop is not a situation I want to be getting myself into. Just Doomwake people instead.
Draft: 2.5-3Sealed: 2.5-3
This is quite strong in Limited where any two creatures in a turn probably results in a removal spell and even just a single creature messes up combat situations and takes out small things. Bonus points for triggering ferocious in your Abzan, Mardu and Sultai decks!
So, for five mana, I either get a Raise Dead every turn, or a two point Drain Life every turn? Those effects sound slow and grindy and not all too powerful. Being on a five mana enchantment that doesn't return on investment for a few turns is asking to lose value.
Draft: 3.5Sealed: 3.5
Raise Dead each turn is probably the mode that will win the most games as you can cast it early on when people have high life totals and still feel the advantage. That said, a four point life swing every turn adds up quite quickly and makes this a reasonable cast in either mode.
Qarsi HIgh Priest
He is definitely a High Priest if he thinks he's going to see any Constructed play.
Draft: 2Sealed: 2.5
This card does not do much on its own, but as the game drags on and removal starts becoming a factor, all of a sudden that little one-drop is doing big things. Sacrificing tokens or dash guys can also net you some profit.
Reach of Shadows
At two mana, this would be sweet. At five mana, this is pretty salty.
This is much better than your normal Throttle or other five mana removal as it is basically doing so unconditionally and at instant speed. The occasional artifact and any facedown morph are immune, but that is a very small subset of this format considering an unknown morph is not generally going to be a good target for this anyway.
While I am a fan of these high toughness creatures, at five mana, the purpose of being defensive is kind of pointless. I needed my defense to come earlier to get me to this point.
Draft: 1.5Sealed: 2-2.5
Six toughness is an incredible amount in this format and two power means this will hold off all morphs that aren't willing to most likely flip and bounce off. The mill ability is nice for those delve decks, but the stats are the real reason to look at this.
Any card with delve on it at least has a chance in my opinion and this offers a nice upside of card advantage with your delve. It will likely never find a home because its power level is not quite there, but I will hold out hope!
Draft: 2.5Sealed: 2.5-3
Gravedigger is a nice card to have around in this format where creatures do so much of the work. This is going to cost your four or five mana most of the time and you need to remember to delve carefully, but it is still a strong late game card, especially with six toughness.
I have big dreams for this dude. He can do so much with just a little setup and delve makes him cheap which means he might have a chance to live up to my hopes. Gaining hexproof, lifelink, and some form of evasion makes this into quite the beast. You can sub in indestructible some amount of the time and it'll work too. Chromanticore has a new best friend!
Draft: 3Sealed: 3
An undercosted fatty that will usually pick up a keyword or two. Flying is the big win of course. I had this during my Prerelease and one annoying thing is that whenever you manifest it, you lose out on your bonuses!
While the ability on this is neat, it isn't really worth an entire card, considering the 1/1 is not adding much to the equation himself.
Draft: 1.5Sealed: 1.5-2
I played one of these in Sealed and actually found him to be decent. Manifest is a good ability and this provides fodder for sacrifice effects or a chump block. Bolster also gets this pretty big if that comes into play.
Another aura and another dud. I wish I could say something positive, but I am positive there is nothing of the sort.
Draft: 1Sealed: 1.5
I kind of hate deathtouch on this, as the idea of your guy getting bigger sort of means you don't want deathtouch. That said, it can go on walls or first strikers but beyond that, I am not a fan.
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
People have been quite hot on this card and I certainly like it for Constructed, but it has some obvious weaknesses. Being a legend is certainly a strike and the card advantage this provides is suspect at best. A 4/5 for one mana is still quite strong though and I expect this to make some reanimation and dredge lists for sure.
Draft: 3.5Sealed: 4
This not only has a large body but as it is allowed to stick around for a few turns, it will begin showering you in card advantage which isn't too bad. Delve strategically to maximize that second ability.
Even if you could get one of these cheap really quickly, as we learned with Blightning, it is always the second one that kills you. Casting a second one of these in a reasonable time frame is tough as you had to eat resources to cast the first.
Draft: 1.5Sealed: 2
This is about as good as Mind Rot would be normally. It has some upside potential, but you won't be casting this before turn three basically ever and the mana it saves you later on is not too big of a deal.
As much as I like a 1/1 deathtouch, Ruthless Ripper is just strictly better than this guy and in the same block!
Draft: 1.5-2Sealed: 2
I really love anything that can hold back a bunch of face down creatures and Typhoid Rats is great at that. With bolster now around, the rat might even get big if he sticks around long enough!
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
I think the most natural fit for this card right away is going to be in Modern Tron. For the same amount of mana as O-Stone plus breaking it is, you get the same type of sweeper effect but also get a walker that stays behind and wins you the game. In Standard, maybe Nykthos will do something with this but it has no natural home now, even if it is a clearly powerful card.
Draft: 4.5Sealed: 4.5
I honestly don't think I could ever open this and not take it, but if you Insist on doing something a little more aggressive, then maybe you pass this up. That said, this is a colorless bomb that wins basically every game in which it is cast, so I would love to open that sort of thing.Wrap Up
Black has a lot of role players in this set that will likely make a few fringe decks that have been floating around. Warriors looks like it might have enough gas now, for example and graveyard strategies continue to gain new toys. Ugin does a good job of holding down the colorless contingent as I would expect him to see a healthy amount of play.
Tomorrow we shall return with all of the green cards as well as the artifacts of Fate Reforged Until then, thanks for reading!