With the prerelease of Dragon’s Maze just behind us and the release date coming up in a couple of days, the hot topic of the moment in the Magic community is the Limited and Constructed potential of the cards in the new set. So far, they’ve only seen use in Sealed tournaments – the prereleases – and aren’t legal for competitive Constructed yet, but predictions are rampant and varied about just about every card. I’m going to be continuing with my analysis of the entire set, color by color and card by card. Following up from the blue cards, here’s my take on the monoblack cards of Dragon’s Maze.
Bane Alley Blackguard – Mark Rosewater has said that we should expect more black creatures with higher toughness than power in the future to differentiate them from the kind of creatures that red gets. More power to R&D, I say – especially if they’re amusing and feel-good vanillas like this one, which is a damn good short-term roadblock versus weenie aggro decks. Basically, Orzhov extort control is going to want these to pad out its mana curve.
Blood Scrivener – This points towards quite the opposite archetype that Bane Alley Blackguard does; namely, it begs to be run in a suicide-black aggro deck that is willing to empty its hand and doesn’t much care about its own life total. The fragility of being a 1-toughness creature might turn some off, but there are ways to protect it, and hey – it’s a 2/1 for two mana, you can always beat face with it if the chips are down. This is great, by the way, in multiples.
Crypt Incursion – Lifegain is usually not very good on its own, but holy hell that is potentially a lot of lifegain. It’s also a big middle finger to scavenge in Limited and Standard, and to reanimator decks anywhere. Gaining 3 life per exiled card is enough to turn games around completely – if you’re at the brink of death this can even bring you to a life total advantage. And imagine this late game in EDH!
Fatal Fumes – As removal this isn’t superb; it’ll only take out creatures with 2 or less toughness unaided, and it costs a whopping four mana. But late game it can definitely soften the blows of fatties that swing unblocked, and the toughness reduction comes in plenty handy if you’ve dealt enough damage to almost kill your opponent’s big endgame threat.
Hired Torturer – Hey, another defensive Human Rogue! This time, he explicitly has defender! Also, that is legitimately one of the creepiest pieces of art on any Magic card in a long time. *shudder* The activated ability might be a tiny bit expensive, and the random-card-reveal is gimmicky, but it’s flavorful to the max and at least occasionally useful. Mainly the fact that this can both block and cause 2 unopposable life loss every combat makes it attractive in slow-rolling control decks, like, surprise-surprise, Orzhov extort.
Maze Abomination – Deathtouch on this thing is not super relevant, since it has relatively high power and would kill most creatures in combat anyway, but there are definitely corner cases versus fatties and stompy/ramp decks where you’ll be glad to have it. Mainly, you want to run this because it grants deathtouch to every multicolor creature you have, comboing quite well with Blood Cultist and making it really and truly hilarious with Goblin Test Pilot.
Pontiff of Blight – There’s not a whole lot to be said about this that isn’t obvious. The Orzhov are kind of the most extravagant guild, so who would expect their finishers to be subtle? Mass extort kind of turns this card into an ironic commentary about the Orzhov’s complex relationship with the “virtue of humility” – it works best with low-converted-mana-cost spells that you can just dump a ton of excess mana into and cause massive life loss for your opponents and life gain for you.
Rakdos Drake – The unleash flyer was an obvious design to make, and for the life of me I thought it would have been a red card; red has a history of getting small creatures with flying that can’t block or at least have difficulty blocking and/or that must attack each turn if able., such as Goblin Glider. Anyway, non-unleashed this is super underwhelming for three mana but if you’re facing a lot of flying creatures that you’d rather not be getting through unblocked every turn there’s at least reason to allow it to block as a 1/2. A 2/3 flyer that can’t block, meanwhile, is a much better deal for three mana.
Sinister Possession – This reminds me of Nettling Curse, from the last set to be the final set of a block on Ravnica. And while Nettling Curse felt more fun from a gameplay standpoint, this is still a perfectly solid design, and not a bad deterrent for one mana. Contaminated Bond was never very good anyway.
Ubul Sar Gatekeepers – Some of the other members of this cycle may, by and large, have effects that feel “bigger” – token generation, temporary creature stealing, and huge lifegain. But -2/-2 is enough to take out a weenie, which is in turn enough to give you an advantage in creatures, which means having an advantage in combat, and an advantage in life total… the want of a nail, and all of that.