Fate Reforged: 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.)

As for my rating system, I’ll merely state if it’s a high, medium, or low pick in draft. A HIGH pick means that you should take it as soon as you see it (if it’s in your colors of course). HIGH picks are bombs that won’t come around the table a second time. MEDIUM picks are cards that have good synergies with other cards and are great at filling your mana curve or acting as role players. These cards might come around a 2nd time if you pass on them, so if there is another card that ranks higher, take that one and wait for this to come back. LOW picks are cards that are the leftovers. Maybe you need a 23rd card for your deck to round things out – THAT’S what a LOW pick is. You can take these ratings to mean the same for sealed as well. )

 

After going through blue I’m getting more excited about this set. While we might not be getting a lot of playable constructed cards outside of some of the rares, the Limited play is going to be taken to a whole new level. If Blue was all about Prowess and building a better Jeskai deck, then black is all about Mardu and aggressive creatures. Black ups the power of its attackers in this set, and also gives you the ability to give quite a few of them haste through the Dash technique. Sultai also seems to get a boost in  black this time around, but I’m still placing my bets on Jeskai at the pre-release. The question is, are the colors more balanced now with this 3rd set? Let’s get into things.

 

Ancestral Vengeance

Ancestral Vengeance

Yeah yeah, I know. Most creatures you’re going to see in limited are going to have at least 2 toughness, especially Morph and Manifested creatures. That’s why a card like Debilitating Injury in KTK is better. You might not be able to immediately impact the board, but you will be put in an advantageous position. I see this working well in stalled game states where your power level is even, and even being played after damage is dealt to finish off their creature. What I like about it is getting that +1/+1 counter on your side. If you’re playing with a few Abzan creatures from KTK, you can activate their special ability with the counter, then force your opponent to block unfavorably. I see it as a black tempo card of sorts.

RATING: Medium-Low

 

Battle Brawler

Battle Brawler

There isn’t anything super special about Battle Brawler other than being able to play a 3/2 first striker for 2 mana with a red or white permanent in play. At worse he’d be a 2/2 bear, but I think he’d work out just fine in an aggressive mardu deck that tops out at 4 mana for a card like Raiders’ Spoils. Mardu Hateblade sees play in limited, and Mardu Woe-Reaper seems playable as well, so I wouldn’t put it past him to be a 3/2 creature on turn 2. This card makes Mardu Ascendancy a lot more playable.

RATING: Medium

 

Douse in Gloom

Douse in Gloom

It’s no Pharika’s Cure (THS), but I’ll take 2 damage + 2 life at instant speed for 3 mana. If you’re considering playing Debilitating Injury in your deck, you might want to switch it for this one instead. Should hit quite a few morphed/manifested creatures in limited.

RATING: Medium

 

Fearsome Awakening

Fearsome Awakening

It’s no Unburial Rites (ISD), but in a limited format where you can put your cards into the graveyard quickly with Sultai colors and play with huge creatures made cheaper with Delve, this is just the card you want to play. If you want to get more play out of your dragon, or perhaps cheat a Pearl Lake Ancient into play on turn 5, try it. I wouldn’t draft it too highly, but if I was playing Sultai I’d put this in the 22nd or 23 slot of my deck. You could play some very consistent and powerful creatures with the right cards.

RATING: Low-Medium

 

Gurmag Angler

Gurmag Angler

I thought that Shrieking Mandrill was fine for 6 mana as a 4/4 trample, as well as Sultai Scavenger, so why not play this guy in your Sultai deck? I’m sure you could get him out on turn 4 relatively easily. He might be vanilla in nature, but there aren’t many creatures in black with his raw power level.

RATING: Medium-Low

 

Hooded Assassin

Hooded Assassin

Unquestionably a Mardu card. Attack often and attack fast. Watch them unsuspectingly block your 1/1 creature, only to have it die in the second main phase. It will make your attacking forces a lot more effective once they see you play it once since they’ll want to play around it. Fate Reforged is going to be tricky indeed. Players that can bluff well and know when to press their advantage will do well in the pre-release/limited. Great in aggressive decks, but not something you want in a higher curved, slower Sultai/Abzan deck.

RATING: Medium-Low

 

Noxious Dragon

Noxious Dragon

More Dragons! I haven’t been let down by the uncommon dragon cycle in this set yet. Blue is still my favorite, but this guy has a built in Smother effect that can take out Morphed and Manifested cards easily (their CMC is 0 right?). I’d easily take him highly in draft, but I’d place even more importance with him in an Abzan deck that can match his power on the ground. Your opponent has an opposing dragon on the other side? Block it and take out another of his creatures as retribution for killing it.

RATING: High

 

Orc Sureshot

Orc Sureshot

I wouldn’t be surprised to start seeing this show up in Reanimator decks in standard the following week. You already have cards such as Doomwake Giant in the GB/BUG versions, but that only deals with tokens. Orc Sureshot will single-handedly kill a Stormbreath Dragon or Wingmate Roc when you reanimate something like a Hornet Queen. As for limited, I like him in combination with Ponyback Brigade, Sidisi, or any other effect that puts tokens into the battlefield. He saves you the need to put in extra removal as well. Even in a regular 17 creature deck, you should still be able to take out 1-2 creatures with his ability per match. Not a first pick, but I don’t think he’d make it around a second time in draft either.

RATING: Medium-High

 

Reach of Shadows

Reach of Shadows

I’d much rather play Murderous Cut, but this is an upgrade over cards like Throttle and Rite of the Serpent. It’s also at instant speed. High pick if you’re playing any black deck.

RATING: High-Medium

 

Sibsig Muckdraggers

Sibsig Muckdraggers

Yikes, 9 mana is a lot for a 3/6, but the Muckdraggers are good late game cards. They block your opponent’s bombs, but more importantly bring a creature back from your graveyard. You want to be careful not to go overboard with too many Delve spells in any one deck, but Sultai is giving you a lot of cards to work with this time around. If you’re dumping cards in the graveyard with Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Scout the Borders, or Rakshasa’s Secret then I would suspect you’ll sometimes accidentally get rid of one of your win conditions. These guys are a good back up plan in case that happens. Not strong, but something to consider depending on your pool and how much you can put in the graveyard.

RATING: Medium

 

Other Cards that Might See Play

 

  • Alesha’s Vanguard – A 3/3 with nothing special for 4 mana, or a 3/3 haste attacker for 3. Good card it you have lots of Raid effects, but not a game changer.
  • Typhoid Rats – 1/1 Deathtouch creatures seem to be played in a lot of sealed/draft games. You can attack without fear of being blocked, and it also serves at a message to your opponent NOT to attack.
  • Grave Strength – good way to fill your graveyard up for Delve spells while still giving you a positive effect. Also cheap to cast.
  • Dark Deal – another good card for filling up the graveyard with, but also can cripple an opponent if played early enough. I wouldn’t mind discarding 3 lands for 3 new cards!

 

Coming Up Next

 

Abzan didn’t really get that much from black this time around. I’m somewhat shocked that Temur and Abzan lost a lot of power this time around. Having already gone through both white and black, I can say Abzan isn’t looking too good in Fate Reforged limited. Sultai added a few more layers of complexity to an already rewarding playing experience, and Mardu shouldn’t miss a step either. The pre-release might be a bump in the road, but Mardu should continue to bring players onto its side for the next few weeks at least.

Red should be up either tonight or sometime on Saturday (hopefully in the morning for those of you living in the USA), but I most likely won’t be posting it until after the midnight release here in Nagoya. I’ve already made my choices for the color, but I’m not quite sure red can save Temur decks yet in KTK/FRF limited.

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