Guilds of Ravnica – 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, 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. For the most part, I will focus mainly on cards from 2.5 to 5 stars in my article. 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. Example: A creature that fills the curve, a spell that destroys an artifact. Probably filler to finish up your limited deck or needs synergy to be playable.
- 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. Example: A creature with a good ETB effect or decent activated ability. A spell that has a great effect but costs too much or has a big drawback. A good 2nd to 5th pick in draft.
- 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. Example: A creature that will win the game on its own if left unchecked and wins head to head battles often. A spell that has multiple effects or creates a huge swing in tempo. Usually a first pick in draft.
- 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. Example: A creature that is almost impossible to due to special abilities or recursion. A spell that wipes the board or gives you massive card advantage. “Windmill slam” first pick in limited.
Today’s article covers black. With it we get the other side of Surveil for the Dimir guild, and we are also introduced to Undergrowth for Golgari. I’ve already talked about how I think Surveil can work well with Izzet and Golgari, but just how effective will Undergrowth be in this format? Hopefully after looking through the black cards we’ll get a better idea.
I start with two pieces of removal, namely because they are the only other Surveil cards I think are worth playing. Blue had quite a few playable Surveil cards, but black ones seem to rely on the mechanics and therefore not all of them will be great in a vacuum. Deadly Visit is your standard overcosted kill spell at sorcery speed which you’ll play regardless, but it’s secondary effect will help a lot. As I said about blue, these surveil effects work well with both undergrowth and Jumpstart effects, so you can make it work in BR or UB. Price of Fame is slightly better because it’s at instant speed, but it has the potential to be great if you’re facing a bomb rare creature. Two mana to kill a legendary creature AND pseudo-scry? Sure, that works for me.
Deadly Visit – RATING: 3 Stars
Price of Fame – RATING: 3.5 Stars
While Necrotic Wound is obviously a Golgari card, Severed Strands needs a little bit more scrutiny to uncover its true power. It’s a new take on the “Bone Shards” type removal that forces you to kill one of your own creatures, but it has the benefit of gaining you life at the same time it kills another creature. It also puts another body into the graveyard to help with an Undergrowth themed deck, so Severed Strand’s abilities are 3-fold. Life, kill, and feed. It oozes Golgari charm. Great flavor and design! Going back to Necrotic Wound, a 13-17 creature deck will have no problem filling up their graveyard and using it to kill an opponent’s creature. It’s almost as good as Tragic Slip was and has the potential to be better.
Necrotic Wound – RATING: 3.5 Stars
Severed Strands – RATING: 3 Stars
Due to a mix of high toughness creatures in the non aggro colors and low toughness in the traditonally aggro colors like Boros/Selesnya, I expect Dead Weight to see some play. It’s not going to be your best form of removal, but it should be effective against those faster decks.
RATING: 2.5 Stars
The majority of playables in black in my opinion are going to be Undergrowth cards. No matter which Black/X combination you choose, you’re going to be playing a lot of creatures in limited. That makes these effects pretty much a sure thing when cast. Moodmark Painter does a great job of pumping up one of your creatures, though I’d probably hold off on casting her until midgame to get more value. It’s realistic to think you’ll get in an extra 3 points of damage with her efffect, but late game it could be massive.
Lotleth Giant is harder to cast, but again his ability is not something you want to cast early in the game. Dealing 1 damage for each creature in the graveyard upon entering the battlefield could be a game ender. It is not, however, always going to happen that way. We have some fast decks like Boros which can end a game quickly which means you might not get to 7 mana on curve. However, this card could be very good with Surveil and other mill effects to quickly fill your graveyard for lethal damage when you play him. I can easily see this ability doing 6+ damage when you play Lotleth Giant, and on top of being a 6/5 beater makes this playable to me.
Moodmark Painter – RATING: 3 Stars
Lotleth Giant – RATING: 3 Stars
Like some of the other removal, while these cards don’t have the Undergrowth keyword on them they are noticeably Golgari cards. Kraul Swarm makes sure you always have some creatures in the graveyard to fuel Golgari’s plans, Pilfering Imp sacrifices itself to disrupt a player’s hand and add to Undergrowth, and Undercity Necrolisk’s ability allows you to fill your graveyard with creatures and pump it up as well. All would synergize well in a GB deck but aren’t amazing by themselves.
Pilfering Imp – RATING: 3 Stars
Kraul Swarm – RATING: 3 Stars
Undercity Necrolisk – RATING: 3.5 Stars
Shades are always kind of good in limited. They are good late game and mid game, and can easily take over a game if your opponent doesn’t have any removal for it. Veiled Shade is a solid choice for any black deck and fits on curve well. It’s not something you want to pick first, but I also don’t expect it will come back around the table to you in draft either. Limited roleplayer.
RATING: 3.5 Stars
Other Cards that Will See Play
- Bartizan Bats (2.5) – Always good to have flyers, but that 1 toughness will probably end up being a big disadvantage.
- Child of Night (2.5) – Good filler for your curve but nothing special.
- Hired Poisoner (2.5) – Deathtouch= creatures are always good on defense, but it might as well be a 1/1 wall. Good if you need more removal type effects.
- Douser of Lights (2) – vanilla beater if you need something in that 4-5 drop slot. Not impressive though.
- Plaguecrafter (2.5) – If your opponent isn’t playing a lot of creatures it would be good, but most of the time they’ll end up getting rid of chaff they don’t need. Not impactful enough.
- Spinal Centipede (2.5) – Good filler for your curve and a nice effect when it dies. Should show up often.
Coming Up Next
I’m sure some of you will feel differently about black so share your comments or suggestions down below. I don’t think black is that weak, and it has some very serviceable removal, but I’m not blown away by it. It doesn’t need much support to function well in limited which is a good thing, but without other colors I could see it struggling to take control of games or to finish them. From a limited perspective I could definitely see Undergrowth cards being more powerful and would make a bet that GB ends up being one of the if not THE most powerful archetypes in Guilds of Ravnica limited.
I’ll be working on Red a little bit today and just might be able to get it out later today, but most likely it will come early Friday. Finally we’ll get a look at the rest of the mentor cards to see if Boros is more playable than people are giving it credit for, and we’ll also see what red brings to the table for Izzet. Be sure to check back soon!