Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate Limited Set Card Review: Black
Table of Contents
- Altar of Bhaal
- Ambition’s Cost
- Ancient Brass Dragon
- Armor of Shadows
- Baleful Beholder
- Black Dragon
- Black Market Connections
- Blood Money
- Bonecaller Cleric
- Cast Down
- Chain Devil
- Deadly Dispute
- Demogorgon’s Clutches
- Eldritch Pact
- Eyes of the Beholder
- Ghost Lantern
- Grave Choice
- Gray Slaad
- Grim Bounty
- Grim Hireling
- Grim Wanderer
- Guildsworn Prowler
- Hoard Robber
- Hook Horror
- Intellect Devourer
- Mind Spike
- Nefarious Imp
- Pact Weapon
- Sarevok, the Usurper
- Shambling Ghast
- Sepulcher Ghoul
- Sewer Plague
- Sigil of Myrkul
- Shadowheart, Sharran Cleric
- Skullport Merchant
- Summon Undead
- Stroke of Luck
- The Hourglass Coven
- Thieves’ Tools
- Vampire Spawn
- Viconia, Nightsinger’s Disciple
- Wand of Orcus
- Wrap Up
It’s everyone’s favorite time again! Yeah, that’s right, it’s time for a new draft set, but this time it’s MTG Arena exclusive (fancy, I know). Once I finally escaped from all the trouble I got into in Streets of New Capenna, I started doing some scouting around Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate and I’m here to give you the inside secrets about the crazy adventures that await you there.
First thing to get out of the way, this is an alchemy set so some of these cards were designed for constructed. What’s that mean for us drafters? In the words of Emperor Palpatine, UNLIMITED POWER! I hope you’re prepared to slang some serious card action.
Here’s the usual grading scale:
- 5.0: Disgustingly powerful and basically unbeatable. Either answer it the turn it comes down or just pack up your cards. (Tovolar's Huntmaster, The Meathook Massacre, Starnheim Unleashed)
- 4.5: Incredible bomb that still gives your opponent a slim chance. (Adeline, Resplendent Cathar, Alrund's Epiphany, Grand Master of Flowers)
- 4.0: Great rare or the absolute best uncommons and removal. (Froghemoth, Morbid Opportunist, Skullport Merchant)
- 3.5: Great role filler or removal that you never cut. (Magic Missile, Cathartic Pyre, Battle Cry Goblin)
- 3.0: Good playable that I’m basically never cutting. (Usher of the Fallen, Search Party Captain, Dragon Turtle)
- 2.5: Decent playable and the bar I hope nearly every card in my deck to reach. (Mourning Patrol, Steadfast Paladin, Goblin Morningstar)
- 2.0: Mediocre filler that normally is your 20-23rd card(s). (Contact Other Plane, Mindleech Ghoul, Timberland Guide)
- 1.5: Replaceable, overall bad filler. Could also be decent sideboard cards. (Secrets of the Key, Spiked Pit Trap, Village Rites)
- 1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Secret Door, Mystic Skull, Funeral Longboat)
- 0.5: Very unhappy to main deck this, but maybe it has fringe sideboard applications. (You See a Guard Approach, Bramble Armor, Compelled Duel)
- 0.0: Unplayable in every possible situation. (Mimic, Change of Fortune, Curse of Shaken Faith)
Altar of Bhaal
This is a great example of a card that would be a junk rare if it didn’t have adventure. Having the option to get a random 4/1 menace to either put some early pressure on or possibly even trade up on mana on defense gives you time to setup for this and replaces the card you’re going down by playing the second half of it.
There is a sub theme of mill and reanimation going on in black so this lets you keep exiling your schwag creatures to return a much spicier thing from the graveyard. The returned creatures don’t get exiled when they die so you can keep bringing back the same thing over and over.
If you get ambitious and try to play this on turn four, you’ll be asking yourself, “What did it cost?” Everything.
This is actually pretty good in any non-aggressive matchup since you’ll have time to get it off and the three life doesn’t hurt as much. I would board it out against any tempo deck because you can’t really come back from tapping out to bolt yourself.
Ancient Brass Dragon
Another entry into the “would probably end the game on its own, but let’s just make sure” category. A 7/6 Flyer is a massive threat and if they let it through once, suddenly you bring a pile of creatures back from the yard.
Plays great with the reanimation self-mill theme as both the initial target and a late game enabler. Just take the big busted mythic dragon and have a great time.
Armor of Shadows
While I have been talking up the hidden power of one mana tricks, this one doesn’t really do enough to keep me interested. Especially in this set with all the enters the battlefield triggers, I would much prefer that this was a brings it back trick like Fake Your Own Death instead of indestructible.
Extremely replaceable top end creature that fills a much better role coming out of the sideboard against decks heavy on enchantment removal. Sometimes the menace can sneak through a surprise lethal, but I don’t ever see myself wanting more than one of these.
This was great in AFR, but I think it’s a little bit worse here without as many treasures to drop it early. It still is a big dragon that kills something when it comes into play so I’ll happily be taking them. Its also another great target for Bonecaller Cleric or Summon Undead.
Black Market Connections
Next up is commander all-star Black Market Connections which suffers a bit from having to start with twenty life. The other problem is that you have someone trying to kill you so you can’t durdle around spending life like it’s going out of style. It also doesn’t do anything the turn it comes into play.
There are some good points to it though. The big thing to point out is that this is choose one or more so you have the option to pick all three every turn. As long as you can stay alive that’s going to start pulling you ahead quickly.
The solution to the life problem lies in Golgari shenanigans where there’s enough life gain floating around to keep the good times rolling.
How much do you actually need a pile of treasure tokens in limited after playing a seven-mana spell? Maybe if you have Skullport Merchant or Deadly Dispute. I guess if you held back multiple expensive creatures, you can double spell the next turn.
This is a really expensive sweeper so it’s going to be hard to walk someone into it without committing a decent amount to the board yourself. If I’m already in a deck that can use it, I’ll pick it up, but I’m not going to take it too early.
Who ya gonna call? Bonecaller! Available for all your reanimating needs. Unlike most reanimation spells, this can come down early and actually do something if you need it to. Later on, there are some pretty sweet targets floating around to bring back.
At only four mana to activate, you could curve Dragonborn Looter into Bonecaller Cleric and a loot followed by reanimating one of the ancient dragons on turn four. There are plenty of routes to shenanigans and this helps enable them.
Yes, there are going to be times you are staring at a really annoying legendary while screaming, ”Of course they have that! Why wouldn’t they?!?” Though I am pretty sure that is trademarked by my podcast partner Floridamun.
You know what’s not legendary? Dragons. You know what there are a lot of in the D&D set? Did you guess dragons, well then give yourself a gold star.
Two mana kill almost any creature is a great card. End of story.
This can be a strong sideboard card against a big creature deck, but doesn’t really feel good enough on its own. It really needs cheap creatures that can provide value either as an ETB or when they die to make it worth it. Guildsworn Prowler, Shambling Ghast, and Vampire Spawn come to mind as potential reasons to play this.
There is always the possibility that they only have one creature out and you get to pick it off with this, but that is much less likely to happen with a four drop.
It might not have Price of Loyalty to fuel it this time, but there’s no disputing that this is a good card. Being able to cash in a treasure token instead of a creature makes this so much better than the normal Village Rites variants.
It’s not even terrible to do this turn two on a Shambling Ghast to mega ramp something out early. Of course, there is also the usual in response to removal play, but I assume everyone knows about that by now.
This is awfully close to me bumping it up to a 2.0, but not quite there. I think this is going to be a slower format than AFR so the card advantage might matter and making them lose two life isn’t nothing.
Despite TaJoordan’s best efforts, this is just a bad card. It would be much better as a 3/4 since it could survive combat more effectively or use Thieves' Tools to get through. Most of the time you spent five mana and it just trades down on mana with something mediocre.
If you enjoy the minigame of making a bad card playable, then this is your Ride or Drider (I am aware how bad that was, there is no need to tell me).
This probably shouldn’t ever be used as a card draw spell (or at all). Pro Tip: Paying seven mana and taking a bunch of damage without effecting the board isn’t very conducive to winning.
The only legitimate use I see for this is using it as a finisher to bust your opponent in the face for twelve.
Eyes of the Beholder
Beauty is in the eyes of the Beholder, but this isn’t looking very good to me. It’s still removal if you’re lacking that. This does kill everything including Earthquake Dragon, but it’s just not very efficient at doing so.
This is going to lead to some weird play patterns where you equip this to one creature and attack with other ones to try to actually get some benefit off of it. It’s really not a very good equipment, but it’s really cheap and a free throw in on a Raise Dead so it doesn’t have to do much.
Letting your opponent choose what to sacrifice usually leads to some grave results. This does somewhat mitigate them sacrificing a cheap dork by giving you a copy of it, but if that actually matters, they can just sac a three drop and you get squadoosh.
As long as you are the beatdown then a 4/1 menace with deathtouch is actually pretty great. It is just really weak until you get there and this isn’t doing much in the mean time.
While it might seem like this just turns itself on, it actually requires four creatures in the graveyard and you just mill four random cards. Unless you are running the reanimate theme and need a way to get creature in the yard, it is probably best to not play this.
Guess who’s back, back again. Grim Bountys back, tell a friend. Tell them to pick this card because it is going to be in competition with Dragon's Fire for best common in the set.
Removal and a ramp, don’t mind if I do. Nuff said.
Be thankful that Grim Hireling wasn’t in AFR where treasures were more plentiful because it would have been the nuts.
You can just drop this and get a couple of treasures off of the creatures you already had out. It’s going to snowball quickly once you have a few and this starts picking everything off.
Don’t forget that if you have first strike, this actually can trigger twice in a combat step. This is pretty relevant with cards like Hobgoblin Captain running around.
They never see him coming. It’s just such an odd card to play around that an innocuous trade lets you drop a huge threat for only two mana.
One of the other tricks is to Deadly Dispute one of your other creatures and ambush them with a surprise 5/3. Plus, you get to play with a Goblin Warlock and who doesn’t love that.
This gives you a card even if you sacrifice it, your opponent plays a sweeper, they block it, etc… That’s a lot of ways to trade this and go up a card. They can’t even eat it with a big blocker because of deathtouch.
Worst case scenario you can hold it on D and trade it off for their best attacker. You might not get the card, but it’s still a two-mana removal spell then.
I think it will be undervalued early because it looks pretty innocent. I actually don’t think there is a limit of how many you would play because it’s so cheap and it replaces itself.
This is amazing if it gets through early and really bad if it doesn’t. Maybe if you are running Thieves' Tools or
Don’t get hooked by this card. It will be far more annoying than good and I just want more out of a five drop. Its best use is providing multiple pieces of sacrifice fodder on one card.
I’m really down on this card because your opponent gets to choose which card you get. Is getting a land or their worst card really worth playing a 2/4 for four? Sometimes it is, but they also have the opportunity to kill it to prevent you from casting the card.
This is one of those trap cards that only works when people forget it’s in the format. There was more than one time where I blocked and went, ”Oh crap, did I just walk into Manticore”.
There are certainly decks where you will want to play this, but they should be few and far between.
I’ve never been a big fan or Duress or Thoughtseize in draft. It is nice that it replaces itself if you whiff, but then you paid a black mana and two life to cycle a card. Leave this in the sideboard unless they have a bomb you can’t otherwise deal with.
This Imp might not be much on the stats, but adding scry 1 to every time a creature trades off can churn you right through your deck. It’s even leaves the battlefield instead of dies so you can get triggers off of bounce or blink effects. It also doesn’t specify nontoken so you get triggers off of treasures too.
I hate it. Seriously the “you don’t lose the game” effects are my least favorite thing in Magic. It’s especially bad in limited where you might not have even had the option to take a card that deals with it.
That said, this one isn’t that good. If you don’t attack, then you are already down a card from equipping and just sitting there waiting for them to deal with it. If you do attack, they can block it and then you have to pitch another card to equip it to another creature. You really need to have some evasive creatures to take advantage of this.
Sarevok, the Usurper
A Hill Giant that can put a serious hurting on your opponent if your graveyard is stacked with creatures. It can even target itself which can be really relevant if you flipped it to the Menace or Trample version. If you are in more of a attrition based game than the first strike can make your creatures almost impossible to profitably block.
If it’s good enough for constructed in multiple formats, it’s probably good in draft. The sacrifice fodder du jour that can still take out a one toughness creature or give you a treasure afterwards.
It can also completely alter an opponent’s game plan if they draw multiple one toughness creatures as they won’t want to let you kill two creatures with this. All of this for the measly cost of one mana.
We don’t actually know if we are getting the alchemy version or the regular version in the drafts. The only difference is an extra point of toughness on the alchemy version which does matter a lot when it comes to being blocked by a three-power creature.
The obvious combo is with Incessant Provocation which is a big downgrade from Price of Loyalty both in costing an extra mana and not being able to pump the creature you steal. Those of you who suffered through AFR are sure to appreciate the change.
The plague will get that creature…eventually. More useful as a trick to help win combat than an actual direct removal spell. Not the greatest removal spell, but not what you’d find floating in a sewer either.
Sigil of Myrkul
This is one of those cards you start reading and drift off after you get past the mill yourself every turn thing. Self-mill isn’t bad when you have some reanimation floating around or other ways to gain value off of it.
It’s not going to be hard to get four creatures in your graveyard especially with this dropping a card in every turn. Then it turns into a Fight Rigging with deathtouch thrown in. Yeah, there’s some hoops to jump through, but that’s why this is a 2.0 and not a 4.0.
Shadowheart, Sharran Cleric
It’s not going to be hard to get a player down to thirteen life through just normal limited play and this girl pinging away every turn. Once she’s flipped is when the fireworks start going off as either the personal Howling Mine or the Knight maker will win you the game if they don’t have a way to deal with it.
This card is so stupid to play against. You either answer it immediately or you get buried in card advantage. Every treasure (including the free one it comes with) turns into another card. Every time you have a trick, I guess they just draw a card instead.
It even somehow finds a way to make having your creature stolen feel worse because they get a card off of it too.
This is the gas that’s powering the reanimation theme. There are plenty of big monsters floating around that you wouldn’t mind bringing back with this. Multiple self-mill cards and looting effects make it fairly easy to get some of those juicy targets in the yard.
While I usually wouldn’t recommend doing it, in a pinch you can even raw dog this out there and go fishing for the creature you really need to hit.
Stroke of Luck
Most of the time this is just going to be sorcery speed Impulse that you pay 1 life for. Sometimes you might be able to get two lands off of it and very rarely you might hit a pair of nonland cards. Is that really something you want to be doing?
Personally, I just assume someone is going to rip a three pack of Grim Bounty on me every time they cast it.
The Hourglass Coven
Ignoring all the ridiculous abilities, this is 9/9 worth of stats across three bodies for only six mana. I guess Imperial Oath wasn’t good enough. How are they going to deal with three of these?
The drafting mechanic means you could get stuck with some of the mediocre ones like giving Warlocks ward, but most of them are going to end the game in a very short manner. Milling them for five or draining them for two on your upkeep seems like a good time for everyone involved (and by everyone, I mean just you).
This card is bananas.
These aren’t the tools you need to win the game. There are times when this is good such as on Hoard Robber or Soulknife Spy, but most of the time you are just better off playing another creature.
This was a hugely underrated card during the first couple of weeks of AFR, but eventually every one came around on it. I’m not expecting it to have the same problem this time around, but hey if it does feel free to take advantage of it.
While the body isn’t spectacular, the drain for two was extremely relevant. With all of the blink effects floating around in this set, it could be even better. Just imagine Displacer Kitten going off with this.
Viconia, Nightsinger’s Disciple
A slightly overstatted creature with the Withered Wretch ability to decimate graveyards. You can’t ask for much more out of a two drop, but wait there’s more! For only two mana and a card of your choosing, you can upgrade this to a 3/4 and take whatever spicy meatball you exiled from your opponent’s yard.
The most likely choice is the Arcana version as long as there was an instant or sorcery worth stealing as well.
Wand of Orcus
If you can sneak a hit in with this, you can start to bury your opponent in zombies. It’s just expensive and clunky, but the potential payoff can be worth it. The deathtouch means slapping this on a large trampler will end up dropping a pile of zombies even if they do block it.
Black is seriously stacked with arguably the best common removal spell in Grim Bounty and a ton of other above average, synergistic commons that can make your opponents life a nightmare. It really didn’t lose much from the power days of AFR except having a worse version of a Threaten effect to abuse with its sacrifice theme.
It also has a subtheme of reanimation which can lead to some really fun games where you are splashing absurd bombs not even in your colors. I wouldn’t be surprised if this turned out to be the best color.
I’ll be back tomorrow with my limited review of Alchemy Horizons: Baldur's Gate Red.
If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below.
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