Core Set 2021 Limited Set Review – Black

Limited_Black

Black once again brings its eternal entourage of nightmares along for the ride but, rather than just tearing you apart with their claws, they’ll be draining the life right out of you this set!

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Drifter

I’ve been enthralled by Limited ever since I began in New Phyrexia. With a particular fondness for flashback and cube drafts, I’ve drafted more sets than I can count on every platform through wildly different eras. On Arena I draft infinitely, having profited 30k or so gems from it at this point, and have made top 100 mythic frequently. Self-reflection and critical analysis are paramount to Limited improvement, and that theme features in many of my articles, and in each session of the Limited coaching service I provide.

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Compulsion

I’ve played Magic off and on for the last 20 years. I just checked to confirm that and it blew my mind a little bit. I started with 6th edition and began playing ‘competitively’ with Odyssey. My handle is actually a really good Limited card from the Odyssey block. Anyway, Magic Arena got me back into the game, and I have been drafting infinitely since closed beta and have finished top 1000 Mythic nearly every ranked season.

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Legend

Alchemist’s Gift

Alchemist's Gift

Drifter: D+

The base case here is versatile, but both modes are pretty bad… +1/+1 is just not enough of a stats boost to enable many trades and 2 for 1ing yourself to kill a creature is really bad; this will most often enable you to trade rather than eat creatures. This can be reasonable in dedicated Orzhov lifegain decks, because if you’re getting a token off Griffin Aerie or returning Silversmote Ghoul, you’re actually doing pretty well, and it’s good with Skeleton Archer, but I would need 3-4 Archers or lifegain payoffs before I’d be happy to put this card in my deck.

Compulsion: D+

Options are nice, but temporary Lifelink is very unlikely to be worth a card, while Deathtouch basically just gives away 2 cards to take down 1 creature unless you are up against a stack block.

Archfiend’s Vessel

Archfiend's Vessel

Drifter: D-

A 1 mana 1/1 Lifelink isn’t generally worth a card by itself, so you really need to get value off casting it from the graveyard for this to be good, and there are only two ways to do so at common or uncommon in Rise Again (which is pretty mediocre if you don’t have this, and it’s sort of like making a 5/5 flier for 1 and a half cards even if you do) and Obsessive Stitcher (which is a busted card and whatever you do with it will be great anyway). I suspect this card is just not worth it the vast majority of the time, but I’ve left it at D- because a few decks may want the Lifelink body enough i.e. if you can stack counters on it in Orzhov – but do remember that it’s usually just better to stack counters on good cards so you need really a lot of counter generation.

Compulsion: C-

While this does turn Rise Again into a 5/5 Flying Demon, I am not seeing many ways to capitalize on this card. I am surprised Abnormal Endurance didn’t get a reprint in M21 instead of Infernal Scarring.

Bad Deal

Bad Deal

Drifter: C+

This card is a worse Opportunity, but Opportunity is a busted card, and this does a good enough impression. On turn 6 before you’re in topdeck mode, this may in fact be better than drawing four. Losing two life probably hurts you more than them, since generally tapping out for this kind of card will result in you losing life anyway, but I think this card has an absurd enough ceiling that you’ll take the risk. It’s bad against aggro, but the vast majority of decks in Draft tend to be some flavour of midrange, and recent sets have been pretty slow. If they have no hand and you’re drawing two cards, you’re probably doing fine anyway.

In Sealed, this is even better – it’s like a solid B.

Compulsion: C+

This would be a much better deal if you leeched 2 life instead of losing it. Investing 6 mana into a Draw/Discard spell puts you in a position where you need to defend the card advantage, and giving up life makes that slightly more precarious. Still, this may end up being great if the format is slower.

Blood Glutton

Blood Glutton

Drifter: C

Blood Glutton isn’t a terrible rate even without Lifegain payoffs – I am fine to include it in many decks, because a sizeable lifegain body has the potential to warp combat so much. Imagine getting an 8-point life swing every time you use a removal spell or more if you have a trick… even if you trade with it immediately, you gain 4 life and that is worth a sizeable amount, but it also means they can’t go wide as easily. Flier decks especially will have to have some way to deal with it, since they won’t have big creatures to stop it, though it is a bit weak to Roaming Ghostlight specifically. Scorching Dragonfire is at common this set, and is a pretty brutal answer to this. If you have Lifegain payoffs, this card gets pretty strong, but it does need support and is expensive so I like taking it at high C.

Compulsion: C+

I think Blood Glutton is going to end up being better than it looks. I would want some Lifegain payoffs in my deck to feel great about running it, but would not mind having this toward the top of my curve if those were in place.

Caged Zombie

Caged Zombie

Drifter: C+

I quite like this card – it isn’t that hard to make creatures die, it benefits from sacrifice synergies, and it doesn’t have too bad a statline to begin with. Aggressive Rakdos decks will be happy to have it, since it gives them a solid source of reach (the ability to win the game on a board where your opponent has already stabilised, a very important concept for aggro decks). I consider this a low C+.

Compulsion: C

Caged Zombie doesn’t seem great but I do think it is a fine playable. 2/3’s help play defense in a less aggressive color, and having a late game mana sink that does fairly significant damage to your opponent gives this some legs.

Carrion Grub

Carrion Grub

Drifter: C+

You want a good number of creatures with this, but I don’t think you need to worry too much about how big they are as long as they have at least 2 power – a 2/5 that mills four for 4 isn’t too bad a rate, and it’s all upside from there. This is a solid way to set up your graveyard matters cards, of which Black has a couple in Rise Again and Sanguine Indulgence, and there’s also stuff like Frantic Inventory, Kinetic Augur, Fungal Rebirth, and Obsessive Stitcher elsewhere.

Compulsion: C+

I would want to have at least six creatures that have 4 or more power before running this, but the value here is quite good. This card would seem to lend itself well to pairing with Green, but Blue and Red also have some high-power creatures, Waker of Waves being a particularly good option as it comes with a discard ability.

Crypt Lurker

Crypt Lurker

Drifter: C+

This is a reasonable rate and then the ability is solid and flexible upside on it; you can have creatures lying around that are good to sacrifice or just discard your 1-2 drops on turn 6. This is great with Deathbloom Thallid specifically, since you can trade off the body and then sacrifice the token.

Compulsion: C+

Crypt Lurker is a pretty exciting common, allowing you to exchange your worst creature (in play or hand) for a fresh card. This looks like a staple creature for most Black decks.

Deathbloom Thallid

Deathbloom Thallid

Drifter: C+

This card represents solid free value – you can trade off the first body and then have one available for your sacrifice synergies, or just to trade with another x/1. I suspect it’ll be a bit worse than in Dominaria, where Saprolings was a main theme, but good nonetheless.

Compulsion: C+

Deathbloom Thallid is another great common creature that allows you to trade it and generate a (small) advantage. But, with cards like Crypt Lurker it is possible to generate some nice value out of that Saproling.

Demonic Embrace

Demonic Embrace

Drifter: A

This card is pretty mediocre when you’re behind, but you at least get to trade up stuff. If you’re at parity or ahead, it will absolutely take over the game and they won’t last very long; this is one of the most busted cards for any even vaguely aggressive deck in the entire set. It’s a great reason to take self-mill effects like Carrion Grub higher – those cards will maximise the chances of you having access to this.

Compulsion: A-

I think this looks pretty insane! Turning your two drop into about a 5 power Flying Demon is quite a threat. Due to its replayability your opponent will need to have at least two removal spells to race this, a gamble I would be willing to take.

Duress

Duress

Drifter: F

You should never play this maindeck – there are just too many creatures and missing is absolutely terrible. Honestly it’s a bit overrated as a Sideboard card too, because it’s such a bad topdeck – Duress is only like a C or C+ at best against spell-heavy decks even, which means that you might upgrade one of your medium cards for it, but should never be too excited.

Compulsion: D-

This is not a good Limited card, and is particularly bad in creature-heavy Core Sets.

Eliminate

Eliminate

Drifter: B-

Eliminate can’t hit anything you especially want to kill, but it is a solid and efficient answer to anything small. Remember that this is converted mana cost, not power, and power is generally better in Limited environments, since some 4-5 drops do have 3 power.

Compulsion: B+

Eliminate is a badass card and a premium removal spell in M21. Although it can’t hit higher curve stuff, this is going to lead to some blowouts when played during combat.

Fetid Imp

Fetid Imp

Drifter: C+

Fetid Imp will probably deal 3-4 damage and then trade with whatever you want, and that’s a pretty good rate for 2 mana. If you can stack counters on top of it in Orzhov, even better!

Compulsion: C

This goes best in a deck that cares about Flying, but being able to trade it for anything makes it playable in all Black decks.

Finishing Blow

Finishing Blow

Drifter: B

5 mana destroy anything is about how much you pay these days, as long as the format’s not too fast – and no format recently has been that fast.

Compulsion: B+

Finishing Blow is expensive, but the Instant speed and single Black mana cost give it more utility than something like Impale. Having Murder at common in Core Set 2020 was nuts, so the normalization of that card slot shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.

Gloom Sower

Gloom Sower

Drifter: D

6 toughness is mediocre on a 7 drop, and this ability is pretty mediocre; it can be annoying for them if they have to double block it but you don’t really get paid off for having a card that rots in your hand for most of the game. If you’re looking for good high end, just check out the multitude that Blue has, or click this link to see every other 6-7 drop creature at common; all of them are significantly better than this, and you don’t want very many so pick those up and stay away from this!

Compulsion: C

I am not sure how realistic these 7 mana creatures are going to be to cast, but this one seems decent. Unless your opponent can trade it 1-for-1, the ability makes it very frustrating to chump or stack block.

Goremand

Goremand

Drifter: A-

6 mana 5/5 flying trample is an amazing rate and each player sacrificing a creature is solid upside since you have control over when that effect happens, and you’re the one with the huge threat that they now have to deal with so you’re probably ahead. Getting counterspelled is pretty bad (you still sacrifice the creature so you get 2 for 1ed), so don’t run this out into too much open Blue mana unless you’re in topdeck mode. Ideally, you have some good sacrifice fodder in your deck, but it doesn’t matter that much; random 2 drops will do.

Compulsion: B+

It will hurt if you need to sacrifice something valuable to play this, but at least it hits your opponent too. I am kind of surprised we are getting away from the 6/6 Flying Trample Demon trope, but Goremand is uncommon after all.

Grasp of Darkness

Grasp of Darkness

Drifter: B+

-4/-4 is going to kill most things, and enable you to eat most of what it doesn’t kill, and it’s just 2 mana. It’s a bit hard to cast, but the payoff is great at any point in the game.

Compulsion: B+

The mana cost could prove tough for some decks, but this kills most things in the set at Instant speed and should be a very early pick.

Grim Tutor

Grim Tutor

Drifter: D-

3 life is a lot to lose, and 3 mana is a lot to spend – there’s a huge difference between 2 and 3 mana, the former making a Tutor very powerful. If you have some kind of A to S tier bomb that’s especially good at stabilising i.e. along the lines of Baneslayer Angel then this card might be decent, but I wouldn’t recommend it in the vast majority of decks.

Compulsion: D-

Tutors are generally bad in Limited and this is no exception.

Hooded Blightfang

Hooded Blightfang

Drifter: B+

3 mana 1/4 deathtouch is an incredible rate, and this is a great second line of text.

Compulsion: B+

Hooded Blightfang is a fantastic creature that works well on attack or defense. I would look to draft a couple Fetid Imps if I found Blightfang early.

Infernal Scarring

Infernal Scarring

Drifter: D

The problem with this card is it opens you up to a lot of 2 for 1s – the creature can be exiled, bounced or Capture Sphered, and that is always terrible for you. Additionally the creature gains no toughness, so your opponents will usually be able to trade with it anyway.

Compulsion: C-

I think most of the time you are going to want a combat trick instead of this, but I could see this having a place in some low-curve decks.

Kaervek, the Spiteful

Kaervek, the Spiteful

Drifter: B-

Kaervek invalidates x/1s, makes fliers much worse, and is especially great in Control and mill decks, but you play him in every slow deck – even a Golgari midrange deck just won’t care that much about their creatures being smaller when it’s probably devastating your opponent’s board and/or killing their x/1s. The less reliant on creatures you are, the more incredible this effect is, but really just having control of when you play this card is such a massive deal – you can choose not to play it when you’re pressuring them, or when you have x/1s and they don’t.

That being said, Kaervek is really bad in decks which set up the situation where you don’t want to play him a lot of the time i.e. aggro decks. He doesn’t belong in every deck, but is amazing in many.

Compulsion: B

Obviously you can’t play this in Aggro decks, but this is a pretty awesome tool for control or high-curve deck types. -1/-1 on your opponent’s board is absolutely devastating, especially if they are in a go-wide archetype.

Kitesail Freebooter

Kitesail Freebooter

Drifter: B-

Freebooter will miss a significant proportion of the time but, unlike with Duress, you always get a 1/2 flier when you miss, and that makes it a lot more palatable. Whenever you do hit something, Freebooter will be incredibly annoying, and sometimes force them to draw another piece of removal just to unlock the removal it swindled!

Compulsion: B-

I am a big fan of this reprint. You basically have to take their removal spell, but even if they have another one to take out your Kitesail Freebooter, you’ve just forced them to use it on your 2-drop. There is even some Flying synergy in this set to get extra value from if this is allowed to remain in play.

Liliana, Waker of the Dead

Liliana, Waker of the Dead

Drifter: A

When each player is discarding cards, that favours the one with the planeswalker, and Liliana’s plus enables her minus really well, even if her minus can’t always immediately kill as big a thing as you want. Planeswalkers that protect themselves tend to be always absurd in Limited – just getting to kill something and then force your opponent to deal with it is devastating. If you’re ahead or at parity, you can just start +ing towards her ult since she starts on a huge 5 loyalty and only takes two additional turns to reach it, and that will win most games easily. I deliberated between A and A+, and could see moving Liliana up.

Compulsion: B+

Liliana is pretty underwhelming for a Mythic planeswalker in this set. The +1 hurting you in a lot of cases is kind of frustrating. The -3 is going to be hard removal in a lot of the time, so I still think this is a good card.

Liliana’s Devotee

Liliana's Devotee

Drifter: B+

There are a full three common Zombies (though one of them is a 1/2), so that first line of text is great, but it still pales in comparison to the absurd second line of text, which gives you an engine of 3/2s and makes your sacrifice outlets busted. This is a must-kill card for your opponents, if they’re not a strategy capable of racing you; it only triggers on your end of turn so they can still attack into you/fly over.

Compulsion: B+

This thing is kind of bonkers. You basically get an endless engine of 3/2’s since he doesn’t even need nontoken creatures to trigger.

Liliana’s Standard Bearer

Liliana's Standard Bearer

Drifter: B+

Compare this to Blade Juggler, an absurd and format-defining card in Ravnica Allegiance, which it has like five upsides over and one downside (you can’t hardcast it to draw a card at 5 mana). You’ll almost always be able to draw a card with this, and the ceiling is absurdly high.

Compulsion: B+

Another high-value creature for Black, Liliana’s Standard Bearer is likely to draw you at least a couple cards even if you need to force a bad combat phase to play it.

Liliana’s Steward

Liliana's Steward

Drifter: D+

This card forces your opponents to play pretty weirdly, either sandbagging a land or using their cards at inopportune times to stop this from getting them. Still, a 1/2 for 1 is really not a great rate, this won’t affect the board in a meaningful way, and is still a mediocre topdeck. This is the kind of card you can’t really consider an early game blocker – it doesn’t trade with 2s or stop them from attacking. This card does get better with Havoc Jester specifically – that is the only common or uncommon in the set which has a “whenever you sacrifice” effect.

I see this as a bit better when paired with White or in Rakdos aggro, since those decks have buffs and/or really want to curve out, and this isn’t completely dead once your opponent has stabilised either.

Compulsion: D+

I don’t see too much reason to include this in your deck unless you are very heavily leaning into a Sacrifice theme.

Malefic Scythe

Malefic Scythe

Drifter: B+

This is an amazing equipment – starting off giving something +1/+1 and growing from there is nuts, and it only costs 1 to equip; the ceiling is extremely high on this card, potentially giving +3/+3 or +4/+4 without too much work. Sacrifice synergies help this, but I suspect this is good in any deck with plenty of creatures. It’s a worse topdeck, but still not a bad one.

Compulsion: B

This is one of the better pieces of Equipment I have seen in a while. It will fit best in Rakdos Sacrifice, providing a way to keep your creatures attacking. I suppose this adds some value to creatures like Liliana’s Steward as well.

Masked Blackguard

Masked Blackguard

Drifter: C

This ability is far worse on a 1 toughness unit, but it’s still good upside on a fine playable and will often allow you to attack as a 4/3 in the late game/sneak through lethals. Flash is reasonable on random 2 drops because being able to trade up with whatever you want is good upside, and it synergises with this ability to allow you to trade up more.

Compulsion: C

I am not seeing much benefit to Flash with a 2/1, and the mana sink ability is only okay. Masked Blackguard looks serviceable but not too exciting.

Massacre Wurm

Massacre Wurm

Drifter: S

How do you feel about killing all your opponent’s small creatures, getting a free attack in with everything else you have, and potentially burning them for as much as 6-10 damage, all on the same turn?

Compulsion: A+

Another very cool ten year old reprint, I think this card is going to live up to its name against most boards. Playing it in your second main after a contested combat would be a good way to generate additional value.

Mind Rot

Mind Rot

Drifter: C-

Mind Rot tends to be an okay one-of in any slower Limited deck, but it tends to be an extremely feast or famine card – the common cases are you’ll Mind Rot them when they have 2-4 cards in hand, ditch two good spells and be overjoyed, or you’ll draw it in topdeck mode and be very sad, or they might just be flooded and not care that much.

Compulsion: C-

This is one of those cards that is fine to play but I usually end up cutting. Mind Rot is very boom/bust, sometimes hitting two important cards but it can also be a dead card late or ineffectual if played too early.

Necromentia

Necromentia

Drifter: F

See below

Compulsion: F

Nope

Peer into the Abyss

Peer into the Abyss

Drifter: F

This is a cute combo with Teferi’s Tutelage, but 7 mana and half your life is just too costly. Your 7 drops should not lose you many of the games in which you cast them; you already paid the huge cost of having them rot in your hand for most of the game, since they’re more often turn 8-10 plays than right on turn 7.

Compulsion: D

Under Teferi’s Tutelage this does end the game, but 7 mana and half your life is quite a price to pay even if you get to draw all the cards.

Pestilent Haze

Pestilent Haze

Drifter: C+

Pestilent Haze is especially good in decks where you have as few of your own 2 toughness units as possible, so Control and mill decks especially, but sometimes you can just run the not playing stuff early gambit.

Compulsion: C+

Pestilent Haze looks like a pretty good sweeper to me. Basically you play nothing for three turns and hope to get a 2 or 3 for one on this. You can also commit to a losing attack and use it to finish off blockers in your second main. Sorcery speed limits you to those options, and on some boards this is a dead card, but I still think it is worth playing most of the time.

Rise Again

Rise Again

Drifter: D+

This takes too much set-up for a poor effect, and doesn’t even give you any upside on top – Unbreakable Bond this is not. If you have a bunch of ways to mill and a bomb or two, I could see wanting this, or you have a bunch of 6-7 drops and ramp alongside them, you can play this, but I’m never too happy. There is some synergy with this and Archfiend’s Vessel, but I don’t think that card is very good or that the synergy is that exciting.

I do think this card is slightly better supported this set, but it has too bad a floor and too medium a ceiling to deserve a good grade.

Compulsion: C

In most sets this is a D+, but I think Rise Again is going to be more prominent in M21. There are several cards that help fill your Graveyard and payoffs for recursion. I think Blue and Green are going to be the most likely support colors for a deck that wants this.

Sanctum of Stone Fangs

Sanctum of Stone Fangs

Drifter: B+

This card is fantastic in almost every deck, but you only want one; it’s very important with this effect that you’re not down a card, since your opponents will be doing their utmost to race you (which is hard to do against this effect, but much easier if they’re ahead on cards). If you have a bunch of looting/pitching, such as with the Red or Blue shrines, you can play two.

Compulsion: B+

I think this Shrine is straight up good. Ill-Gotten Inheritance ended up being a great card, and while this one doesn’t have the big 4 life finisher, it is cheaper and can potentially double its output if you manage to field a second Shrine.

Sanguine Indulgence

Sanguine Indulgence

Drifter: C-

The fail case of this card is quite bad at 4 mana – you often won’t get to replay anything at all the turn you cast this. Still, it does draw you two cards and it is good in Orzhov lifegain (more like a low C+ there, but not higher, because it’s still hard to have two good targets in the graveyard).

Compulsion: C

2-for-1 recursion is plenty playable, and the discount enables you to get those creatures back into play right away. This is the type of card I want exactly one of in all of my Black decks, especially if I have some ways to generate 3 life.

Silversmote Ghoul

Silversmote Ghoul

Drifter: B-

This 3/1 can trade with a lot of stuff, or just sacrifice itself if you don’t need it and, if you ever get to return it, this card is amazing. This is a strong pull into lifegain, but you really don’t need to be all that dedicated to it – you should be happy to have this even if you only have 2-3 lifegain sources, because the upside is that good.

Compulsion: B-

Silversmote Ghoul fits seamlessly into the Lifegain and Sacrifice archetypes, and would be a good reason to blend them. If only this had Lifelink of its own.

Skeleton Archer

Skeleton Archer

Drifter: B-

The 1 damage from this is surprisingly flexible – you can attack into their stuff and then ping off a weakened creature, or they can just have an x/1, or you can hold priority, put this trigger on the stack, and then use Alchemist’s Gift to destroy anything (Alchemist’s Gift is bad, so you need multiple of these or a bunch of lifegain synergies before you’re happy to play that though). If it kills anything, you’re getting an absolutely amazing rate, since a 4 mana 3/3 isn’t that far below curve anyway.

Compulsion: C+

A single damage may seem insignificant, but there are about 20 creatures in M21 that this can kill outright, and there are plenty of scenarios where Skeleton Archer can be played in your second main to remove a weakened blocker.

Tavern Swindler

Tavern Swindler

Drifter: C+

Now that gaining 3 life is so relevant, I’m pretty excited for this card – it’s like a C- in a deck without lifegain payoffs, and then it gets far better if you do have them, and you don’t need very many – it’s great with even just one Silversmote Ghoul. It enables every other lifegain card repeatedly and well, and decks with lifegain can better cope with gambling life anyway.

Compulsion: C

This is just a Grizzly Bear unless you have a few ‘gain 3 or more life’ payoffs, in which case she becomes a solid 2-drop.

Thieves’ Guild Enforcer

Thieves' Guild Enforcer

Drifter: D-

I would stay away from this one unless you are specifically a mill deck – it combines well with Teferi’s Tutelage but in most decks, it’s irrelevant for too long. 6 cards is unlikely for your opponents to reach naturally for most of the game, although if you happen to be naturally playing several of the Common rogues, then maybe you can consider this.

Compulsion: D+

This looks like too much work for too little payoff to me. There are only a handful of Rogues that aren’t rare, so it is unlikely you are Milling with this engine alone. A 3/2 deathtouch eventually is nice, but this is either a 1/1 for too long or you hold it in your hand for a surprise deathtouch block mid-game, which is probably your best best.

Village Rites

Village Rites

Drifter: C-

This card isn’t great unless you’re casting it in response to removal, but it’s fantastic when you do! As with all sacrifice effects, it’s a good answer to Capture Sphere and Faith’s Fetters effects, and you should board it in if you see a couple of those, since the creatures with those on tend to stick around anyway. Still, there isn’t enough fodder that I’m super excited about this card; it will be better in Constructed than Limited.

Compulsion: C

I like this one as an engine for the sacrifice deck. Instant speed helps create more situations to use it, such as in response to removal or prior to your creature dying in combat.

Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose

Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose

Drifter: A-

This second ability is absolutely absurd and has amazing synergy with the first ability – combined, they will win many games, and I would be happy to have Vito in any deck in the hopes of pulling that off. They have some time to kill Vito, but you’re happy with that exchange anyway. You do need a board, but honestly if you can just make your creatures that are attacking well anyway attack a bit better in the late game, and deal a bunch of free damage to your opponents, you’re happy. In dedicated lifegain decks, Vito’s abilities are even better, so I have upped him to A- on that basis; I suspect you want to take him over all but the best uncommons.

Compulsion: A-

The 1/3 body looks unassuming but Vito is going to win games very quickly in the Lifegain deck if he goes unanswered.

Walking Corpse

Walking Corpse

Drifter: D

I feel like a 2 mana 2/2 these days doesn’t even deserve a D+ – there are just too many better 2 drops. There’s only one Zombie payoff in the entire set to attempt to salvage this, and it’s at uncommon.

Compulsion: D+

Poor Black gets stuck with the worst 2-drop common.

Witch’s Cauldron

Witch's Cauldron

Drifter: C-

I think this is actually a really bad set for this card, and that’s why I’ve given it a much lower rating – in most sets, I would give this a C+ and in something like WAR, I would’ve given it B-. There are almost no token producers this set that this card works well with (none in White, the colour known for that, since the only token producer isn’t good with this) other than Deathbloom Thallid, I don’t think it’s that great in Rakdos for reasons below, you go down a card immediately when you play this and it does nothing for most of the game, and 2 mana isn’t always easy to hold up. I think it’s going to be hard to get several cards off this, and it won’t belong in most decks.

That being said, blanking all your oppponent’s removal spells is decent, and this is a source of repeated lifegain (though it won’t trigger gain 3 life abilities without help). I see this card being at its best in Rakdos with Havoc Jester, but there’s some tension there because Rakdos will often have enough sacrifice outlets not to need such a dedicated one. Additionally, if you just have a load of Deathbloom Thallids or are lucky enough to pick up Fungal Rebirths in Golgari, I would be happy to have this card.

Compulsion: C

Not every deck will want this but I could see it being a powerful engine for BR in particular. I think it is about as valuable as Bushmeat Poacher, costing less but not presenting any board presence.

Conclusions

Drifter

Black has been amazing in almost every set lately, and this one seems like no exception. Black has no shortage of powerful and synergistic cards in M21 – many of those cards are lifegain or sacrifice-oriented, but it has a fantastic baseline in its wealth of great commons from Grasp of Darkness (which isn’t even splashable, so it will force you into Black) to Finishing Blow to Deathbloom Thallid. Like the other colours, its uncommons are almost all great; I suspect this format is going to be very high power as a result.

This is a set where White is suffering on removal that supports attacking but has a lot of good creatures, and Blue has a lot more bounce and stall than real removal spells and requires those to back up its card draw in Controlling decks. I suspect Black will pair well with every other colour, since it benefits White’s aggressive/lifegain decks, and Green has never not wanted access to its removal. However, Black seems especially good with Blue – it shores up Blue’s weaknesses, gives it Control tools it desperately wants, and in exchange provides great sources of value and high end, things Black lacks in this set, at least at Common. I think Sacrifice will actually be on the weaker side; there are good payoffs for it but weak fodder, so I expect Rakdos to actually be the weakest of the Black pairs for once.

I’ll do a proper colour ranking at the end, but suffice it to say Black is a colour you should be overjoyed to draft, as long as it’s not too over-drafted early on (and it may well be).

Compulsion

Black unsurprisingly has the best removal options of all of the colors so far. There is a lot of support for Lifegain and Sacrifice themes, as well as some recursion enablers. There are some very powerful uncommon cards in this color, so I can imagine getting pulled into Black in a lot of drafts between those and the three B+ removal spells. Pairing with White or Red is looking like low-curve Lifegain and Sacrifice decks, respectively, while Blue and Green would lead to higher curve Control/Midrange decks with some graveyard interaction. What I find cool about this set at this point is that all of the archetypes seem viable. It will be interesting to see which ones come out on top when this set goes live and the metagame develops.

Drifter

Drifter

I'm MTGAZone's content manager! I'm an infinite drafter and offer draft coaching alongside my articles. Visit https://mtgazone.com/drifter/ or follow me on twitter to stay tuned!

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