Kaladesh: 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 be using a new format this time around. After a lot of feedback, I’ve decided to abandon my 3 tier scoring system of Low-Medium-High and I will instead be moving onto a 5 star ranking system. The system is as follows:

  • 1 star = a card that is barely playable, even as filler for your deck
  • 2 stars = this card could be a strong sideboard card, but is highly conditional and not always effective
  • 3 stars = a 3 star card is a solid role-player. These cards could be less than amazing removal effects, or a creature that is a glass cannon (high power, low defense). They could be good except for a few flaws.
  • 4 stars = Here’s where we get into the powerhouses. 4 Stars could be good finishers, or cards that can end a game if left unchecked. They also have multiple effects, and are all around good value for you. The only thing holding them back is restrictive costs or some small drawback.
  • 5 stars = you won’t see a lot of these at common and uncommon. These will usually be your rares and mythics because they are incredibly bonkers. Planeswalkers, massive creatures, etc., these are the cards you could build a deck around.


Black feels like the odd color out this time around. The selection of cards for limited seem great but there really isn’t a theme of its own. Whichever card you end up using in your deck will be an asset to whatever theme you’re playing, but you’ll be hard pressed to build a synergistic deck around black. Perhaps it’s possible to build a BU or BW Energy/ETB deck or a UB/BR Artifact deck, but at the moment it’s hard to say what strategy will work the best. Let’s take a look at the black cards we have to work with and then make our decisions.



I’m going to start my black picks with some cards you can use in your ETB based decks. Aetherborn Marauder gives you the option of making a massive, flying finisher if you have the counters, or a decent flyer if you don’t. There will be situations where you play a card early and get a counter or two on them but after a few turns the creature becomes irrelevant. Maybe it’s due to a removal spell like Malfunction or maybe your opponents cards are just stronger. In that situation, I would load Aetherborn Marauder up with the counters and swing away. Even stealing away 2 counters to make it a 4/4 would make it a scary threat that your opponent would have trouble handling. I think it would play best in a BW or similar fabrication deck.

RATING: 3 Stars



In a BR or UB artifact based deck Ovalchase Daredevil is amazing. This card will keep coming back from the dead as long as you can put an artifact into play, and with a card like Whirlermaker that becomes incredibly easy. It trades with a lot of blockers, but it’s also a constant beater. I wouldn’t be surprised to get this back in my hand from the graveyard around 3 times in an average game due to the number of playable artifacts. Not a first pick in draft, but I would take it high. Limited all star. 

RATING: 3.5 Stars



Dukhara Scavenger works well alongside the Daredevil, refurbishing a broken artifact to use again so that you can get the Daredevil back an extra time. It’s also a good beater that will be tough to kill but can still hit for a decent chunk of damage each time it swings. If you’re playing a few good artifact creatures or vehicles like Skysovereign I think you’ll want to have at least 2 of these in your deck, but no more as it would screw up your curve too much. I also think it’s worth splashing in if your manabase can handle it. It’s much better to have a 4/6 creature with a Raise Dead effect than a just a 2 or 3 mana sorcery that only puts a creature back in your hand.

RATING: 3 Stars



You probably don’t need to give this a counter when it comes into play, so in reality we’re looking at a 4/3 creature for 5 mana that brings another 1/1 creature with it. Very good value, especially in a BW deck with a good mix of ETB effects.

RATING: 3 Stars



I think Maulfist Squad will be good no matter how you play it. Getting a 4/2 menace creature or a 3/1 Menace creature alongside a 1/1 artifact creature are both valuable. Realistically costed and should fit into a number of black/X decks.

RATING: 3 Stars



A 2/3 for 3 mana is nothing special, but getting 3 creatures from one card is pretty good. I think 90% of the time you’ll be playing this card to get those extra creatures, then sacrificing Weaponcraft Enthusiast to a card like Morbid Curiosity to get extra value out of it.

RATING: 2.5 Stars



The next batch of cards focus more on your decks synergy, but provide you with a good trade off. If you’re playing an artifact heavy UB or BR deck, Dhund Operative becomes a 3/2 Deathtouch for 2 mana. This shouldn’t be too hard to accomplish, so I don’t think she’ll be a “bear” for too long. If you’re playing a lot of artifacts she’d be pretty good in multiples, but otherwise don’t shy away from throwing in your sealed deck that’s playing 3-4 artifacts.

RATING: 2.5 Stars



It sucks that he comes into play tapped, but the Bruiser is another playable 2 drop that hits hard and dares your opponent to block. Good card to play if you’re sporting a few combat tricks in your deck like first strike or burn. Easy to get 2 for 1’s with. Good card for lowering your curve if you want to be a little more aggressive with your deck.

RATING: 2.5 Stars



Lots of people played those delirium enhancing crows from SOI, and I expect those playing Kaladesh limited to do the same. It’s fairly costed as a 2/1 flyer already, so the artifact power boost is icing on the cake. Not bad to have in multiples, especially if you’re playing a lot of Fabricate effects and have no shortage of artifacts.

RATING: 3 Stars



Not a great attacker, but great to have 1-2 if you’re playing a decent amount of vehicles in your deck since whenever you crew them you’ll be draining your opponents life. If you’re not playing many vehicles though, it could also work if you have some good combat tricks in an aggressive deck. Otherwise, I think it might be an okay card as filler if you need a 23rd card in your limited deck, but I wouldn’t play it.

RATING: 2.5 stars



Fits on your curve well, trades well in combat, and gives you a bonus effect after dying. Solid card that you should have 1-2 of in your 3 drop spot.

RATING: 3 Stars



Kind of dangerous to play with since it could kill you in certain situations (like if your opponent uses Revoke Privileges or Malfunction on it), but also quite the pay off if your opponent can’t keep it on the battlefield while removing it from combat. It becomes a 2/2 during your next upkeep and gives a clock to finish your opponent. If you can’t kill your opponent by the time it becomes a 10/10 I feel sorry for you (and your life total). If you have some way to give it evasion like flying it could easily win the game for you. I don’t think you’ll want more than one in a limited deck though. Powerful but risky double edged sword.

RATING: 3 Stars



Moving on to our non-creature type cards, Underhanded Designs is great in limited, especially if you’re playing with a lot of Fabricate effects. This card gets stronger later on in the game, and besides draining your opponent for a nice chunk of life, you can also use it as a removal spell later in the game. Perfect reason to play a 3 color Fabricate deck, but also works well in BR and UB artifacts. I’d take it high in draft I think.

RATING: 3.5 Stars



It’s 5 mana to cast but instant speed and kills anything. You could make this 6 mana and players would still draft it highly. The extra life gain effect is nice but not necessary. I expect the card to see a lot of play in black decks. If you want to maximize it’s effect, play it in a BW Fabricate deck.

RATING: 3.5 Stars



Removal isn’t that good in black this time around, so you’ll have to focus more on combat tricks. SOI/EMN limited was pretty much the same way, putting just as much emphasis on using combat tricks well as it was using removal spells. Subtle Strike isn’t great but it’s a nice tempo card and lets you target 2 different creatures which means you can possibly kill two attackers/blockers with one card. Not bad.

RATING: 2.5 Stars



This card will absolutely destroy Fabricate based decks by getting rid of all of their Servo tokens, and against other match ups it will create a huge tempo swing both on offense and defense. I expect this card to be drafted highly, and I might even consider splashing for it if the mana was there.

RATING: 3.5 Stars



One of the better combat tricks in black. Your creature is assured to survive, you’ll gain some life, and you’ll be able to kill a creature. Not absolutely necessary if you have good removal, but if you’re focusing more on attacking or need to get creative with your removal strategy it’s worth considering.

RATING: 2.5 Stars



It seems like black isn’t getting anything like Murder in this set, so we’ll have to settle for life drain instead. Three damage takes care of just about anything with a casting cost of 4 or less, and it’s at instant speed which helps. Not great if you’re looking to get rid of a Metalwork Colossus or Skysovereign though.

RATING: 3 Stars



There aren’t too many good energy cards in black, but Die Young seems like it wouldn’t be too hard to splash into a UW or WG energy deck. If you’re able to harvest energy consistently this can be a pretty powerful card, but don’t expect that to ability to come in black. Worst cast scenario it will only give a creature -2/-2 and that’s not bad.

RATING: 2.5 Stars


Other Cards That Might See Play

  • Fortuitous End – One card to get back both a creature and artifact (creature)? Sign me up. Can be pretty good in certain decks.
  • Live Fast – good card advantage and gives you energy, but I’d rather play blue if I want to draw cards.
  • Morbid Curiosity – I actually like this card more than Live Fast since it helps you to get rid of weak creatures after you fabricate Servo tokens.
  • Prakhata Club Security – vanilla card that isn’t bad if you need more cards to cast for 4 mana.
  • Thriving Rats – if it didn’t cost 2 energy to level up, I would play this but I’m not sure it’s worth playing, even in energy based decks.


Coming Up Next


As I thought, black has a lot of cards to offer the other strategies, but not a lot to make it’s own. If I had to build a deck around black, it would probably be a UB or BR artifact theme since more of the cards in black seem to be related in one way or another to artifacts. Other than that, I think BW Fabricate is the best deck to make with black cards.

This wraps up black, but I’ll back before the pre-release with my red selections so be sure to check back later today to see what’s in store other than Chandra and her mom, Pia. Thanks for reading and leave any feedback or suggestions down below.