M15: Playing to your Weaknesses – Black
(NOTE: “Playing to your Weaknesses” is a series of articles I have been doing on my own blog since Avacyn Restored that cover all of the uncommons and commons in a new expansion and which ones I would choose to use as one of the 23 cards in a 40 card limited deck. For those of you uninitiated to limited, it simply means sealed and booster draft, where you open packs and then proceed to make a deck out of them. I’ve purposely left out the rare cards because it is much more likely that you’ll see multiples of uncommon and commons in your packs/pools.)
It seems like most people have agreed with me about blue and white so far, so lets keep this ball rolling and get on with black. To me, black is firing on all 4 cylinders and will be a definite force in M15 limited. For the pre-release, lets start off with the promo you get.
Holy shit. I thought Bloodgift Demon from Innistrad was good, but this guy is everything he should have been. A 5/3 flyer for 5 mana that lets you draw a card unless your OPPONENT pays the price. This is going to be an amazing card in limited at the pre-release, as well as if you open any extras of him in your packs. He’s a great finisher in a flyer light format (watch out for red’s dragons however), and he gives you card advantage as well. At the moment, I’m leaning towards choosing black at the pre-release because of this card. He’d be great with red or with green I think, but white might not be bad either.
This is the first guest designed card I have recommended so far, and that’s probably because most of them were rare. I really like these guest designed cards because they are fresh ideas that take MTG into a whole new direction and get people thinking differently. This card exudes the definition of an assassin. It’s silent and can’t be targeted by others, but when it strikes it hits first with deadly force. This is a great card for black, not only because of its flavor but also because of its abilities. Sure, with the one toughness you’ll have to watch out for -1/-1 spells or red burn, but for the most part I think the Slyblade will be at home in any black deck. I don’t think I’d take it first or second in draft, but I wouldn’t let it pass me up if I was using black. Maybe a top 5 choice? You won’t see it come around a second time.
I think this guy’s strength is pretty obvious. It’s rare to get a high powered creature in black that’s not a Demon, but of course the Shadowcloak Vampire’s problem is that he can’t fly unless he gets power from you. Two life is a small price to pay for 4 damage to your opponent. I highly recommend this card. Sometimes your opponent won’t be able to block him on the ground either which means his drawback won’t be so bad then. He’d be pretty good in a UR deck with plenty of burn and kill spells, but if you need to add power to your white or blue deck, he’d be alright in there too. White has a lot of life gain effects, so consider that combination if you think you’ll be paying a lot of life. As one of the best black commons in the set in limited, I’d take him early in draft. I don’t think you need to first pick him, but don’t let him pass you by because you won’t see him a second time.
This guy isn’t amazing, but he’s got a great defensive body and a decent power. I also like his enter the battlefield effect. You can attack with him without worrying about dying, he’ll keep lots of your opponents creatures from attacking, and you gain life. Solid card, but not a high draft pick. I could see him as a 9th+ pick, and I’m sure most of the time you’ll see him come around the table a second time. In sealed, I’d say this card fits in the 22nd or 23rd slot of your deck. I wouldn’t be afraid to cut him or play with him in limited. He’s just your average roleplayer in a black deck.
Pay 3 mana, turn your black creature into a removal spell. The black creatures are much better than the blue ones in M15, but the black Paragon still isn’t the best out of all of them. He’s a good card to have in your black deck though. I wouldn’t cut him if you were playing black in your limited deck because he makes alright cards into good cards, and good cards into downright scary ones. Giving your big flyers a boost, or adding toughness to fragile creatures is a good ability. I’d take him as a 7th+ pick in draft after I’ve gotten 3-4 black creatures in my pool already. For sealed, if you have 6 or more black creatures in your pool I think he’s worth having. If you’re only splashing black in your deck though, you’d be alright cutting him.
Another situational card, but by himself the Nightfire Giant is worth having. In a non-red deck you still get a 4/3 body for 5 mana, not unlike the earlier mentioned vampire, but if you DO play red, you get a 5/4 for 5 mana that pings a creature for player for 2 damage each turn. That 2 damage takes out quite a lot of creatures, including those pesky Paragons. I’d draft him highly in a BR deck, maybe a 5th pick or so. I think he’d also splash well in a red deck with a small amount of black and an Evolving Wilds (these guys love that card). I don’t think you can go wrong with this guy in any black deck you play, so don’t be afraid to play him in sealed or draft. He’ll give your black deck some more oomph while at the same time applying pressure from a different angle if you’re playing some red in your deck.
Ouch, 3 life is a lot to pay, but getting a 3/3 flyer on turn 3 in black is pretty good. This is one of the most aggressively costed non-rare flyers in the set next to Illusory Angel. The drawback of the Scudder is that if you’re playing against a fast opponent this isn’t a card you want to draw later on in the game. Against slower decks like green or blue you might be fine, but red or black might be a little dangerous. I think it’s a good pick after your 6th choice in draft, and it deserves a slot in your mainboard, but don’t be afraid to side it out for something safer if your opponent is playing a fast deck or has ways to reduce your life total quickly.
Removal spells just keep getting worse and worse in core sets. I remember when people complained about Murder in M13 because it wasn’t Doom Blade (3 mana instead of 2). Now we’re lucky if we get any kind of kill spell that doesn’t cost 4 or more mana. However, removal spells are always at a premium in creature heavy limited formats, especially if they are at instant speed. I’d take this high in draft if black looked to be supported well. You should pick it up as soon as you see it because odds are you’ll have 1-2 other people going for black in your draft pod as well. Just remember, removal is always good in limited.
Just like the First Response enchantment from white that puts tokens into play, I think Feast on the Fallen is an alright card too. If you’re playing a flyer heavy deck, lets say BW or BR, you can easily activate this every turn and continuously beef up your flyers to make them impossible to kill. Blue also has “cannot be blocked” creatures so it might not be bad in that color combination either. I personally think that each color could find uses for it since they have their own types of evasion (intimidate, flying, trample, etc), so I would grab this in draft somewhere around my 7th+ choice or so. I think it’s also a good choice for your sealed deck, but take a look at how much evasion you have. The more you have, the more you’ll want to play this. If you don’t have much evasion, it’s probably not worth playing in your 23 cards.
Have you ever wanted to experience what it’s like to be a Sengir Vampire? Now, for the low low cost of 2 mana, you can become one of the immortal undead and drink your enemies’ blood to become stronger! The good thing is that your creature doesn’t even have to damage your opponent. I really like this card, especially since a lot of the good spells in black want you to pay life for them. Not only is it good for black cards, but it’s also good in just about every other color combination. Just as with Feast on the Fallen, putting it on something with evasion in blue, green, red, or white will have good results. You’ll keep gaining life, and the longer the game goes the stronger it becomes. If you’re playing with a lot of removal, this card is going to be great. It also might combo well with Wall of Limbs as well, allowing you to drain your opponent for a massive amount to finish the game. I don’t see it going highly in draft though, so you can probably choose it as your 8th+ card.
The problem with limited format is that you want to curve out well so you are playing threats each turn to put pressure on your opponent. This means you’ll be left with a lot of chump blockers and creatures that can do less and less as the game goes on. That’s where Blood Host comes in. Let your small guy block, then sacrifice him to Blood Host to make him stronger and to gain 2 life. He’s great in BW with all those token makers, but also combos well with Phytotitan (the green pre-release promo). I think you’ll find a few uses for him, so don’t be afraid to put in your sealed deck or to draft him in your 2nd or 3rd pack to complement your creatures from the first one.
The last card in black today for my article is Accursed Spirit. It’s a simple roleplayer card. He’ll put non-black opponents on a clock and finish the game in a few turns if he’s not dealt with. Sure he can be burned easily thanks to that 2 toughness, and there should be at least one other player playing black in draft, but I think for the most part he’s a good pick for both draft and sealed. Even if you are playing against another black deck, the 3 power is still pretty relevant and can be tough to deal with. If you’re getting signals that nobody is playing black (ie you’re getting a lot of black cards passed to you in draft) then you might be alright letting it go around the table once more, but if you’re fighting for good black cards, I’d take this in draft somewhat highly.
Other Cards that Might See Play
- Carrion Crow – Coming to play tapped basically makes it a turn 4 2/2 flyer which I find kind of ‘meh’. Still, it’s a decent card and it could find a place in a BW flyer deck.
- Child of Night – a ‘bear’ with lifelink. It’s a good card to start out your curve with, but nothing special. You’ll probably be able to get these cards in draft easily the second time they come around.
- Covenant of Blood – 7 mana, even with convoke seems like a bit much. It really depends on what’s in your deck. If you’re playing a lot of low casting cost creatures in an aggressive build, it might not be bad.
- Sign in Blood – card draw is good, but forcing your opponent to draw and lose life is also a nice trick. I think it will see some play, but not be drafted highly in most decks.
- Ulcerate – I really wanted to recommend this up above, but I felt like the loss of 3 life was just too scary. If you can negate the loss of life, definitely play this card.
- Wall of Limbs – Like I said up above, if you have ways to put counters on it, this could be a fun card to play with. Otherwise, it will just be a 0/3 wall. Great in BW decks, especially alongside Wall of Essence
- Stab Wound – There are a good amount of 2 toughness creatures, so I think this card will see some play in M15 limited. Also a good way to finish off an opponent late in the game.
Coming up Next
I feel a lot better about black than I did about blue. I think Black will be a solid choice for M15 sealed/draft, with the main archetypes being BR, BG, and BW followed by BU. The color has some good creatures and good effects and should complement others well. I’ll get started working on red tonight, but I don’t think I’ll have it out until sometime on Thursday. I hope you were able to think of some good combos with the tips I gave you today, and I look forward to seeing you again tomorrow when I post the next article. As always, comments and suggestions are welcome down below.