MTG Arena Zone Premium
MTG Arena Zone Premium
Drag to the Bottom Art by Nino Is - Dominaria United

Dominaria United Limited Set Review: Black

Our complete review of all the Dominaria United cards, for limited (sealed and draft).

Hey everyone! We’re back for my favorite time of year. That’s right it’s pumpkin spice season! Oh, I guess you are here for Magic stuff. Let’s try that again… It’s new card preview season! I’m really excited to be heading back into Dominaria to throw down with the Phyrexians for the fate of the multiverse. So, let’s get down to the business of how these cards are going to be playing out in Dominaria United Limited.

Here’s the usual grading scale:

Aggressive Sabotage

Rating: 1.5/5

The Mind Rot variant is always the should we or shouldn’t we card of every set. Sometimes things line up just right and you get to ball bat them in the middle of nowhere, sometimes you draw it and are like, ”Woah, this is worthless”. So that brings us to what else you get with it, in this case it’s three damage to the dome. Lighting Bolting the face is only good in limited if it gets them within range of no longer being with us.

It’s certainly no Blightning which was a mana cheaper and could also hit a planewalker. Just leave this in the sideboard unless you are aggressively trying to sabotage yourself.

Balduvian Atrocity

Rating: 2.5/5

Decent body with menace that can temporarily bring a critter back. While you always get to smack in with the creature you brought back, you really want it to have an enters the battlefield effect so that you get some value that sticks around. There are other ways to leverage it like Gibbering Barricade, but you are seven mana in at that point. Solid body find creatures 3 or less with ETB.

Creatures that cost 3 or less with an ETB are:

For all you real Magic boomers out there, the real Balduvian Atrocity was people paying $25 for Balduvian Horde back in the day.

Battle-Rage Blessing

Rating: 1.5/5

Step right up! Let me tell you about the wonders of this blessing! Win any combat! That’s right any combat, no matter how big or how small the opposition, your creature will be victorious! (Disclaimer: Exceptions may apply.)

All you have to do is have the block setup the way you want and for them to have no way to respond to this. Oh, I guess that might be a bit harder to pull off than what that carnival barker was trying to sell me. It also doesn’t do much to get you across the finish line. Probably still fine as a one off.

Battlefly Swarm

Rating: 2.0/5

This will slap in for a few points in the early game before switching to defense and attempting to trade for their best creature. The main problem is that they see it coming every time. You have to hold this back and a mana open while it’s right in front of their face so unless they forget to read the card, it’s more of a deterrent with an upkeep of one black.

Blight Pile

Rating: 2.5/5

This actually isn’t a huge pile of… Blight… I was definitely going to say blight. We’ve all played some decks with a 3/3 for two that can situationally get in there. This can “ping” on end steps when you have the extra mana and break a board stall wide open by providing a very real clock if you have a couple of defenders.

If it’s your only defender, drop it down half a grade and if you’re a heavily aggressive deck, don’t play this at all.

Bone Splinters

Rating: 2.0/5

I would have much preferred that they put in Bone Shards instead. This is best with anything that produces additional creatures like Captain's Call or Argivian Cavalier. It’s also dropped down a bit because there are no pacifism effects around to give you easy sacrifice fodder.

Braids, Arisen Nightmare

Rating: 2.5/5

The original Braids, Cabal Minion took advantage of them having to sacrifice first and basically ended the game on the spot if they missed a land drop. Them having the option to just give you a card if it’s relevant makes this much worse. In general, it’s always a giant step down to let your opponent make the choice.

It’s still a decent card, but a far cry from the glory days of its predecessor.

Braids’s Frightful Return

Rating: 2.5/5

You can use the first step to sacrifice an ETB creature so you have something worth bringing back on step two to get some value. Most of the time though you’re going to read ahead to step two.

The third step will often end up just being a card draw since they typically have to sacrifice something relevant due to the non-token, non-land clause.

Choking Miasma

Rating: 2.5/5

This is going to choke out any weenie rush deck by just decimating their board. The kicker is really sweet too in setting it up because it makes it far less suspicious since you played your own 2/2.

According to my good buddy Sierkovitz (who you should all be following even if he refers to himself as the Daddy of Data), this kills 41.2% of creatures including 54.7% of commons. That means this will almost always be able to hit something, well worth main boarding.

The Cruelty of Gix

Rating: 4.0/5

I don’t know how cruel Gix is really is because if this is torture, chain me to the wall. Yeah, somehow that joke was appropriate for a kid’s movie back in the day.

I loved The Eldest Reborn from Dominaria draft and I’m sure I’ll love wind mill slamming this one when I open it too. This is a fabulous example of where read ahead really shines because If they are empty handed you can just skip ahead to Grim Tutor. If you don’t have three life, you can even just skip ahead to a reanimate spell instead of being stuck with a dead card.

Cult Conscript

Rating: 2.0/5

Savanah Lions sure aren’t what they used to be. While entering tapped isn’t very relevant on turn one, it is a pretty big downside when you need a recurring blocker later.

Cut Down

Rating: 3.0/5

Another Sierkovitz tidbit here. This kills 59.3% of creatures and 73.6% of commons in Dominaria United. Of course, there are many other factors that go into it like pumping, counters, -X/-X, etc, but that is far beyond the scope of a snippet in a set review. One mana instant speed removal that hits that much stuff doesn’t come along that often.

Defiler of Flesh

Rating: 4.0/5

I’m down to defile some flesh (preferably by devouring a good ribeye) with this as a 4/4 menace for four is solid on its own. Then it just starts passing pumps and menace around like it’s going out of style making your opponents life miserable when it comes to figuring out blocks.

Only costing four means that you are much more likely to actually get to use the Phyrexian ability for a double spell on turn five. It also might be relevant later in the game if you Urborg Repossession back a couple creatures and want to play them the same turn.

Drag to the Bottom

Rating: 4.0/5

In the domain deck, this is just straight up Wrath of God. In most other decks it’s probably going to be functionally the same, but if you are only two colors I wouldn’t shame you for wanting to add an off color dual just to make sure that it gets the job done.

Eerie Soultender

Rating: 2.0/5

Eight mana for a 3/1 and a raise dead isn’t great. Its technically value, but the type of value where you get 20% off at a restaurant that’s 100% overpriced. I also hate that they didn’t make the self-mill an option. We just spent a lot of time talking about how much better the design was on those and we go right back to the stone age.

Evolved Sleeper

Rating: 3.5/5

This seems like it will grow out of control, but it is really mana intensive and there are plenty of cheap ways to deal with it. If you get it to the point that it gets huge and draws a bunch of cards, you are probably winning. Just don’t sacrifice developing your board to go all in on this.

Extinguish the Light

Rating: 3.5/5

A rough day for Jaya here as Ajani did her dirty. Four-man instant speed kill anything with upside is really appealing. It’s even kind enough to toss in three life when you have to trade down on mana with it. Going to be in the debate for best common.

Gibbering Barricade

Rating: 2.0/5

This is sort of a knock off Skullport Merchant that you bought from someone in a trench coat who also ensures you that Gucci they’re selling is real too. The lack of a treasure and extra mana to sacrifice is a huge difference and the life gain doesn’t remotely come close to making up for it.

It is another solid piece for the defender deck since 2/4 is actually a good body for three mana.  I’d also run this in any deck that wants to get to the late game.

Knight of Dusk’s Shadow

Rating: 3.0/5

RAWR! Two mana menace pump knight sounds like a sexy way to start the game. It even prevents your opponents from gaining life so some games it pseudo does a bunch of extra damage too.

Liliana of the Veil

Rating: 3.0/5

Woah there, I’m not trying to disrespect Liliana here, but this isn’t that amazing in a normal limited game. Sacrifice a creature might just hit a random token, then they swing back for one and Poof she’s gone.

It’s also much harder to leverage the each player discards a card when your deck doesn’t have the opportunity to be designed around it. Solid card, not the bomb people think it is.

Monstrous War-Leech

Rating: 1.5/5

Unless you have some actual payoffs for the self-mill, then this is a four or five mana creature maybe topping out at 5/5 or lower depending on your deck. You really can’t even play it on curve. Very situational and not what I want to be doing.

Phyrexian Rager

Rating: 3.0/5

At least we known what happens to Floridamun after he gets compleated. I’m sure you were expecting a much worse joke here, but I got through Phyrexian Missionary and I can get through this.

This used to be a limited all-star and it’s still really good. There are just plenty of other cards that have value built in so it doesn’t stand out as much as it used to.

Phyrexian Vivisector

Rating: 2.0/5

The old “scry is worth half a card” is a lie. It’s highly dependent on the situation for if it’s worth anything. Sometimes it’s worth a full card, sometimes it’s worth nothing so people just say it’s worth half a card on average. Still a bear is a bear and this has some upside to it so it’s fine as a card 20-23.

Phyrexian Warhorse

Rating: 2.0/5

This certainly gets some flavor bonus points for it kicking its rider off to give you the soldier. Plus, it is a Phyrexian Horse. What’s next, My Little Phyrexian? I do expect royalties if Wizards makes that a secret lair.

While a Hill Giant hasn’t been good in a minute, at least Sea Biscuit has threat of activation to either let the damage through or force them into a bad block.


Rating: 1.5/5

No matter how adorable Tinybones, Trinket Thief is, this is still primarily a sideboard card. I would consider playing this in the main if I was lacking two drops or two mana interactive spells like Essence Scatter.

The Raven Man

Rating: 2.5/5

Repeatable discard can be pretty annoying especially if your opponent is trying to play counter spells. Though the tokens not being able to block is a giant trip to frown town and about what you would expect when dealing with Bernie “The Raven Man” Madoff. It is also literally just a 2/1 in the late game so not the greatest draw at that point.

Sengir Connoisseur

Rating: 2.5/5

This would have been quite the Connoisseur of counters without the only once a turn clause. It really only needs to pick up one counter to be where you would want it to be and anything past that is just gravy.

Shadow Prophecy

Rating: 1.5/5

Unless you hit some graveyard payoff like Eerie Soultender then it’s usually just going to be look at top two or three cards and put two into your hand while paying two life. The instant speed is nice and if you are playing domain, this gets a little bump up.

Shadow-Rite Priest

Rating: 2.5/5

There are seven other clerics in the set with Phyrexian Missionary and Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim being the standouts that benefit from this. Being able to hunt up and put any black creature really depends on what you have in there, but I like to have fun so I want to use this to get Jodah, the Unifier.

Sheoldred, the Apocalypse

Rating: 4.0/5

I’ve been on those interwebs and I am far too mature to write a Dominatrix United joke here. (I’m actually not, but no chance it would get past my editor…right…right?) An overstatted death toucher that drains for two every turn cycle is an “answer me or lose” type of card. If your opponent has to dig for an answer, sorry buddy that’s going to hurt even more.

Sheoldred’s Restoration

Rating: 1.5/5

I love how the art and flavor of this card are a clear homage to Reanimate from Tempest. Such a sweet throwback.

Four mana reanimation with a drawback is much more a constructed thing since taking an extra five damage is a pretty big shock to the system. You might gain the life at seven mana, but is it really worth it then. Sweet throwback to reanimate.

Splatter Goblin

Rating: 2.0/5

This is Shambling Ghast’s not so successful cousin that their mom makes them hang out with. “Fine Mom, I can take Splatty to the draft, I can’t promise he’ll get to play though.”

Stronghold Arena

Rating: 2.0/5

Even if you gain the life off the kickers, you can take some serious hits off of this. Basically, it’s Bob )Dark Confidant), but you have to actually hit them to do anything. It also only triggers once even if you hit them with multiple creatures, though it can be separate triggers with first strike and regular damage.

Tattered Apparition

Rating: 1.5/5

Remember when Phantom Monster was good? Pepperidge Farms remembers. Remember when a 2/2 for four was good? Don’t lie, that was a trick question, no delicious cookies for you! Just awful early on, but late in the game it can provide a strong finish.

Toxic Abomination

Rating: 1.5/5

I would play a 3/2 for two vanilla creature, but I’d still stop to consider if it adds enough to my deck. Having to take two damage to play one with no upside sounds like an abomination. No thank you. Keep your toxicity over there.

Tribute to Urborg

Rating: 3.0/5

The unkicked part of this will perform the same as Choking Miasma which kills 41.2% of creatures and 54.7% of common creatures. It’s even a nice clean two mana answer to Guardian of New Benalia.

If you’re like the Beastie Boys and kick it (half my audience just had to Google this), you can probably pick off almost any creature in the late game. Another cheap, versatile instant speed removal at common. Man it’s almost like they wanted us to play a bunch of good cards.

Urborg Repossession

Rating: 2.5/5

Raise Dead in the streets, Soul Salvage in the sheets. Similar to the fixed Druidic Ritual, this can be a graveyard Divination by getting back a combination of permanents. It’s even kind enough to toss in a couple life in case you can’t play anything else that turn. As long as I can kick this, I am happy with one or two of these in my deck.

Writhing Necromass

Rating: 2.0/5

It’s so much more difficult to ensure you get multiple creatures in your graveyard early to be able to drop this below curve. While it’s nice when you get this cheap from self-mill or trading off, it’s not really a payoff worth going out of your way for. It’s just sort of there.

Wrap Up

Black is another strong color in Dominaria United mostly based off of its removal package. It really seems like they’ve done a great job balancing out the colors without having a clear winner so far. The place Black is lacking is solid creatures, outside of Phyrexian Rager, the commons are underwhelming in that department.

I’ll be back tomorrow with my Dominaria United Limited Review of Red. Now I’m going to go get that pumpkin spice latte… Yeah I have them every day… Don’t judge me…

If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below.

You can also find me at:

Enjoy our content? Wish to support our work? Join our Premium community, get access to exclusive content, remove all advertisements, and more!

MTG Arena Zone Premium

Josh is a member of the elite limited team The Draft Lab as well as the host of The Draft Lab Podcast. He was qualifying for Pro Tours, Nationals, and Worlds literally before some of you were born. After a Magic hiatus to play poker and go to medical school, he has been dominating Arena with over an 80% win percentage in Bo3 as well as making #1 rank in Mythic.

Articles: 107

Leave a Reply