Welcome back to day two of our Oath of the Gatewatch set review here on TCGplayer.com! Yesterday we kicked things off by taking a look at the blue cards from Magic's latest set and today we will continue by moving on to the black and artifact cards from it. This entails doing a card by card breakdown where we talk about the Constructed applications of the card but then also rate the card for both Constructed and Limited play.

Unlike last time, this does mean two different scales will be used, but it seemed like Limited ratings were something that a lot of people enjoyed, so I wanted to bring them back. Still expect random deck ideas and decklists scattered throughout the review! Like always, ratings only go so far, so be sure to read about your favorite cards! Here are the two scales we will be referring to:


Constructed

5 - These are true Constructed all-stars and will define one or more archetypes in loud ways or will simply be everywhere as their power is nearly unmatched in a format. Current examples of this include Siege Rhino, Thoughtseize, and Hangarback Walker.

4 - These are less defining than fives but are very close in power level. These tend to be the bread and butter of most Tier 1 Constructed decks. Examples include things like Sylvan Caryatid, Languish, and Stoke the Flames.

3 - These are powerful cards that tend to be more niche than the higher ranks, or are more utility-based. In general, when you go to start a Constructed decklist, you naturally begin with fives and fours as they grab our attention, but threes come in to fill in the cracks afterward. Examples include Anafenza, the Foremost, Soulfire Grand Master, and Satyr Wayfinder.

2 - These tend to require very specific environments or decks in order to have success, but they can still be very strong. Additionally, sideboard staples tend to fall in this category. I generally rate wacky cards that I am not exactly sure of in this space too. Current examples include Minister of Pain, Lightning Berserker, and Revoke Existence.

1 - This includes everything else. That is to say most cards that won't see any Constructed play fall here or the ones that pop up very infrequently for very minor jobs (usually out of the sideboard).


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!


Black

Bearer of Silence

Well we are off to a good start, aren't we? Gatekeeper of Malakir was one of my favorite cards to play with during the last Zendikar visit and this one is not only easier to cast, but also flies, which makes it better in all likelihood. Black aggro decks need access to colorless mana to kick this, but I feel like that isn't too difficult.

4 Sludge Crawler
4 Forerunner of Slaughter
4 Bearer of Silence
4 Dominator Drone
4 Wasteland Strangler
4 Dust Stalker

4 Transgress the Mind
2 Complete Disregard

We will almost certainly find more black aggressive devoid stuff to add to this list as we go along today.

Constructed: 3.5-4
Limited: 3

Corpse Churn

I think this is less attractive than Grave Strength as it is the same enabler but the upside of Raise Dead is less flashy than killing your opponent. Certainly not unplayable as milling yourself can always be a needed quality of the card, but should be very niche.

Constructed: 1.5
Limited: 2

Drana's Chosen

Bloodline Keeper? Well, it doesn't fly and neither do its tokens. It needs another ally to get active. It's a smaller body. And it has no ability to turn into a giant game ending vampire lord. All of those things are pretty big downsides to a card that saw very little Constructed play as is. I am sure this will take over its fair share of Limited games, but too much needs to be going right before running this in Constructed. If you do feel like trying to make this work, obviously an ally shell is where you should begin.

Constructed: 1
Limited: 3.5-4

Dread Defiler

This is a pretty interesting effect and a giant body that happens to be touting it. Usually loss of life effects tend to make sense in aggro, but you won't want to include this in your aggro deck. If you play this, it is probably in some combo shell where you are throwing Ulamog or Kozilek at your opponent for 10, and eventually 20, damage. Played "fairly" this won't be much of a concern as it has no evasion and no obvious home, but the unfair dream of this excites me.

Constructed: 2
Limited: 3.5

Essence Depleter

This card is pretty cute, but the numbers are not all that attractive for Constructed. A 2/3 for three mana is under rate and spending two mana per two-point life swing is asking a lot unless you have infinite mana to spend.

Constructed: 1
Limited: 2.5-3

Flaying Tendrils

Infest is a very playable card and this takes it to the next level by exiling the victims of the sickness. Keep in mind that this exiles the creatures if they die at any point during the turn after this is cast, so you can still rumble in combat and finish things off. I expect this to be a control card, of course, but it might be a great enabler for the processors from Battle for Zendikar.

Constructed: 3
Limited: 3.5

Grasp of Darkness

If you played back when this card was first printed in Ravnica block, you might remember it actually being a real part of the Standard metagame. It was quite efficient for just two mana and dealt with annoying stuff like regenerate. The mana cost does restrict where this can see play, but it does a good job of taking down Savage Knuckleblade, Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, Jace, Dragonlord Ojutai, Anafenza, Warden of the First Tree, etc., etc. This means that it has enough varied targets that I expect this to be commonly played as a two- or three-of in any heavy black lists.

Constructed: 3
Limited: 3.5

Havoc Sower

This isn't as far away from a Constructed card as you might think. If the activation cost on this were only one colorless mana and not a colorless-plus-generic, we would probably have a sweet addition to our black/red devoid aggro deck from above. As is, I imagine there are too many things that need to go right for this to be good enough.

Constructed: 1.5
Limited: 3

Inverter of Truth

So, for those of you that know my body of work, you probably can guess that I love this card. Abyssal Persecutor is one of my favorite cards ever and we saw with Desecration Demon just how strong the big flying body with a drawback could be. The thing about Inverter of Truth is that its "downside" doesn't have to be one. If you set your graveyard up, you can Recycle whatever cards you want or maybe even set up some combo ala Doomsday.

A 6/6 flier on turn four is going to kill you pretty fast so you don't need a giant library to buy you turns. I will be doing a ton of brewing with this card so expect some articles dedicated to breaking this bad boy.

Constructed: 3.5-4
Limited: 3.5

Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

Wow, Kalitas put on his Constructed pants for this go-around. The last Kalitis was rather expensive and clunky and had no real shot at Constructed play, but this one is much leaner and comes with a great rate. A 3/4 lifelink for four mana is already something but the fact that this rewards when your other creatures trade in combat or when you use removal spells - you know, that stuff you already planned on doing - is crazy good. The last bit of text makes this sort of a tribal card, but realistically, any black deck can make use of this.

Aggro can use this as a sort of finisher that absolutely crushes aggressive mirrors. Midrange can use this as an engine that takes over games against any creature deck. Control can use this as an anti-creature measure out of the sideboard, even utilizing the lifelink to stabilize against red decks. It might take some time for this to catch on, but I would not be surprised if this proved to be one of the better cards from the set.

Just for fun, here are some vampires and zombies to pair with this for extra splashy results:

Carrier Thrall
Drana, Liberator of Malakir
Risen Executioner
Shambling Goblin
Sultai Emissary
Undead Servant

Constructed: 4
Limited: 4.5

Kozilek's Shrieker

This card is going to fight for deck space with Dominator Drone as both cards are on the edge of playable and I don't think you will want to include both very often. They both bring different strengths to the table though so the choice is a good debate. Drone brings immediate damage to the table and ingest, but this is more likely to fight past blockers and be a constant source of damage. I think the choice is largely metagame dependent, but you can easily slot this into the Devoid Aggro list from above which we will take another look at soon.

Constructed: 2
Limited: 2.5

Kozilek's Translator

This card does some great mana smoothing for Limited, but spending five mana on something that only gives you one of that mana back each turn is quite clunky for Constructed, especially considering there are just all sorts of ways to access colorless mana in your 75-card decks.

Constructed: 1
Limited: 2

Malakir Soothsayer

This is one of the better cohort outputs as drawing cards tends to be. The issue here is that you are resolving a five mana 4/4 and another ally before that gets online. The 4/4 body is nice in that it can get into combat when not drawing cards, but five mana may be too big a burden. In general, the cohort mechanic feels like a Limited mechanic and not all too exciting in Constructed, so the output needs to be really strong to sway that.

Constructed: 1.5
Limited: 3

Null Caller

Nothing really to see here. While the ability to create multiple tokens is exciting, spending so much mana to do so while walking around on legs is not great. Corpseweft and other options exist if you are looking for a more playable form of this. Great in Limited, however.

Constructed: 1
Limited: 3.5

Oblivion Strike

Four mana sorcery-speed creature removal doesn't seem like it would normally catch any attention, but there are some very powerful cards that need exiled stuff to work and this does enable them. Complete Disregard caught me by surprise with the amount of play it has seen and I am anticipating something similar here. Certainly not the premier black removal spell, but playable.

Constructed: 2
Limited: 3.5

Reaver Drone

Now this is what I was looking for in the Devoid Aggro deck. Having a 2/1 for one mana with a minor drawback at worst is something the deck really needs to get out to fast starts against some opponents. Playing fair on turns one and two only to try to do unfair things later works against some decks, but against others you need that immediate threat to pressure them.

4 Reaver Drone
4 Sludge Crawler
4 Forerunner of Slaughter
4 Bearer of Silence
4 Dominator Drone
4 Wasteland Strangler
4 Dust Stalker
2 Inverter of Truth

4 Transgress the Mind
2 Complete Disregard
1 Oblivion Strike

Constructed: 3
Limited: 2.5

Remorseless Punishment

I am hardly one to write off a card with as high an upside as this one though I have seen some argue the polarized sides going both directions. This certainly seems like it could be playable in black aggro and midrange decks, but the punisher mechanic comes with a big asterisk attached. You need to be ok with all modes occurring when you play this card because cornering your opponent into a desired set of outcomes is not always the most reliable. Maybe you build some kind of 8-Rack deck that kills creatures/planeswalkers and then this turns into five mana 10 damage, which is pretty outstanding.

Constructed: 2
Limited: 3

Sifter of Skulls

This card seems pretty amazing, especially when one of the best decks in Standard is one that does nothing but sacrifice a ton of creatures. This turns those into mana, or just other creatures, for whatever you might need them for. You can also just play this to deter opposing sweepers. While 1/1 scions aren't going to be as strong as the creatures that made them, you aren't paying too much of a cost as a 4/3 for four mana brought you the ability.

The most common application for this should be in sacrifice shells such as Rally or Aristocrats.

Constructed: 2.5-3
Limited: 4

Sky Scourer

Having flying makes this an interesting card, although even when fed a spell every turn it is just paying you off as a 2/2 flyer. This might see some play because there are not much better options for aggressive decks (especially mono-black devoid ones) but it is kind of designated as a filler card in said slot.

Constructed: 1.5-2
Limited: 2.5

Slaughter Drone

This seems more playable to me than the Scourer as the dream being sold to me above needs many colorless spells involved while this only needs one colorless mana to take down anything large or sneak through for some free damage. Enough tools for a mono-black aggro devoid deck are starting to emerge in case you wanted to eschew red from the deck.

4 Reaver Drone
4 Sludge Crawler
4 Slaughter Drone
4 Bearer of Silence
4 Dominator Drone
4 Wasteland Strangler
3 Inverter of Truth

4 Transgress the Mind
2 Complete Disregard
1 Oblivion Strike

Constructed: 2
Limited: 3.0

Tar Snare

I am actually very surprised to see this printed in the same set as Grasp of Darkness just because the two cards are somewhat comparable. This one is much worse and won't see play outside of Limited, but the fact surprises me nonetheless.

Constructed: 1
Limited: 2.5

Unnatural Endurance

This card proved to be pretty strong in aggressive black decks before it was devoid and I can't imagine that making it worse. Aggressive black decks, particularly those that care about devoid, will almost certainly want this in the sideboard, if not the main. Both the black/red and the mono-black lists from above would have three to four copies in the board.

Constructed: 2.5
Limited: 2

Untamed Hunger

Menace is a slightly untested mechanic when it comes to Standard as it simply has not appeared on a lot of quality cards. This is probably a mana too expensive, but sneaking through something with ingest or another trigger might be worth it. In theory, menace is strong against control decks that tend to only have one or two creatures out at most, so maybe this is playable.

Constructed: 2
Limited: 2

Vampire Envoy

Well this is quite the interesting take on Horned Turtle. Not only do we gain flying, which is huge, especially in black, but we gain life as well! That makes this a very interesting defensive option for control decks that usually need blue or white to gain this benefit. It even chips away at opposing walkers and might find a maindeck slot in something.

Constructed: 2
Limited: 2.5

Visions of Brutality

This card actually intrigues me, which is not what I expect out of this slot. Normally the random black curse aura is just some throwaway Limited card, but this is very interesting. It prevents blocking, which is all a deck like the red/black or mono-black devoid really cares about. Then, if they decide to get frisky with their now useless defender, they take damage back, increasing your clock. I am actually pretty excited to try this out.

Imagine the metagame you're against is more midrange or creature-heavy. I can see running this in the same slot that Transgress the Mind occupies in my above lists.

Constructed: 2-2.5
Limited: 2

Witness the End

While Mind Rot is a difficult card to play in Constructed most of the time, there are certainly decks or environments where the reverse Divination plays really well. Moving it up to four mana and adding small trinket text has not been good for the card however. This managed to add a lot of different upsides including being devoid, losing two life, and most importantly, exiling the cards. I think that, because there is enough going on here, some deck might just decide it's worth it, so don't be totally shocked when your FNM opponent asks you to exile two.

Constructed: 2
Limited: 2-2.5

Zulaport Chainmage

Another cohort creature and another one that is too weak for Constructed. This guy asks for you to give up attacking for four damage plus whatever your cohort could do, in order to sneak in two loss of life, which is just not up to par for Constructed.

Constructed: 1
Limited: 2


Artifacts

Bone Saw

Zero mana artifacts are always playable as they are able to be used in ways beyond their text boxes. Enabling things like Ensoul Artifact or the affinity mechanic can be very powerful. Bone Saw even comes with a decent text box as a cheap equipment with a small bonus. This will likely never see play for its text box though, but could easily see play for its mana cost.

Constructed: 2
Limited: 1.0

Captain's Claws

While the stat bonus might be the same as Bone Saw, this obviously brings a lot more to the table for only two additional mana total. Because the equip cost is only one, the big investment is casting this which only costs you two mana. From there, this turns any creature into a Brimaz of sorts which allows you to build, or Rebuild, an army pretty quickly. This pairs especially well with creature lands for that very reason.

In Limited, there are very few decks I would not play this in.

Constructed: 2.5-3
Limited: 4.5

Chitinous Cloak

This card seems like it can be really annoying when included in your 40 card concoctions, as menace really wears down on your creature resources. Investing six mana into your first +2/+2 and menace in Constructed is a bit much to ask for, however.

Constructed: 1
Limited: 3.5

Hedron Crawler

This little guy is actually quite playable despite looking worse than most comparable things, such as the original Myr cycle, or Rattleclaw Mystic. Producing colorless mana is a potentially valuable thing and being an artifact creature without competition in the form of Signets or Myr means that nongreen decks might turn to this for some ramping ability.

I have been enjoying the eight-mana creatures with two power set up in my ramp decks, but this might fit its way in should I need the access to colorless mana. Here is a reasonable base to begin an Eldrazi ramp shell with:

2 Leaf Gilder
4 Rattleclaw Mystic
4 Hedron Crawler
4 Oblivion Sower
1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

4 From Beyond
4 Explosive Vegetation
2 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Constructed: 2
Limited: 3

Seer's Lantern

This card is actually kind of exciting to me in a really lame way. I love cards that provide relevant use throughout the game. Normally, your mana rocks are excellent in the early game, but as you develop more and more mana they tend to lose value. Seer's Lantern solves that problem a bit by giving you the option to scry in the late game. This, along with cards like Hedron Archive and From Beyond, really gives ramp decks the option to turn their mana into other things and I like having access to that versatility.

Also another colorless mana producer, which is nice.

Constructed: 2
Limited: 3

Stoneforge Masterwork

It has been awhile since Coat of Arms saw print but this is a nice throwback to that mechanic and is quite playable. A casting cost of one and an equip cost of two is generally worse than the other way around, but still reasonable on both ends. Playing this in your aggressive ally, warrior, or even goblin deck is something I can definitely get behind.

DECKID=1258198

Constructed: 2.5
Limited: 0.0 + 0.5 for every two creatures that share the same type

Strider Harness

I was almost willing to write this card off as a Constructed player when I saw the casting cost of three and then the fact that this grants haste. Generally, the more expensive a haste granter is, the worse the card is. In this case, the equip cost of only one mana brought me back to a better state as you can imagine investing in this and then just hasting your team for the rest of the game for a single mana (and +1/+1 to boot!). You definitely want to be playing this card with a purpose, but it has uses.

Constructed: 2
Limited: 2.5


Wrap Up

Black gets quite a few strong cards over in devoid territory that excite me. Not only do they spruce up the aggressive decks for both black and black/red, but they also bring about great Eldrazi control cards to pair with processors from Battle for Zendikar. Expect to see a lot of new black decks using these tools that simply could not exist before as there was not enough redundancy. There are a few cool artifacts as well, but in a set all about colorless stuff, we can expect many of the best stuff to be over in that area of the pie. I do like Seer's Lantern and Captain's Claws quite a bit though.

Tomorrow we will be back with a look at the red cards from Oath of the Gatewatch as well as all things multicolor. Until then, thanks for reading!

--Conley Woods--