Champions of Kamigawa in Limited – Black
So last week I said I would have to eat my words about the flip cards once we reached black, and sure enough, both the Graverobber and Shortfang are highly playable cards on their own right that can be easily flipped, and are amazing when they do flip. But the real question is, how does the rest of black match up? Does it have the removal we so desire and the creature base to back it up?
The answer to both of these questions is a healthy yes, making black one of the stars of this format. Let’s dive in and start taking a look card for card.
Ashen Skin Zubera
I continue to feel all wishy washy about the Zubera. They seem good, and I often use them so they do “make the cut” but I’m never actually happy when I draw one, and this is no exception. The discard is your opponents choice, so they can easily decide what will have the least impact, or just ignore it and take one a turn or not attack until they have a card they want to discard. Perhaps if the Zubera were 2/1 I would like them better.
Hello, removal spells! Two cards in and already we get this bad boy that can toast almost 80% of the creatures in the format, and stops regeneration. Unfortunately the sorcery speed of the card makes it not very surprising, and the double black cost makes it a card that needs dedication to black, but black is good in this format, and I strongly suggest this pick.
I find myself picking this card just for a solid four drop for black with three power. Black is kind of lacking in the quality four-drop department, and he seems to fit the slot nicely, even if you don’t have any Demons. If you do have a demon, then he’s walking card advantage and tutoring, and even better to take. In short, I recommend him.
I must admit that I have never gotten to use his ability. I do play him in sealed, however, as, if my opponent is not playing Zubera, he’s a face smashing and a half on the early turns. People tend to play Yoshi’s Storm right now though, so beware. In draft, he’s a mid-level pick for me. I normally can find something I like better than him.
It’s a chase rare, and we all know how you draft those. Seriously, I normally would not take this card unless I had just passed a dragon I had no way to handle, and in that case I’m already in trouble.
Black is full of great two drops, and this guy starts them off. A 2/1 for one mana, he’s a good little beater, although also susceptible to Yoshi’s Storm. More importantly, he can be a great bluff blocker for their big ground pounders, and a walking Terror of sorts is always a handy card to have. A high pick.
If you can go heavy black, then the new and improved Frozen Shade may be for you. In general though, he’s a pretty lackluster card with too heavy of a mana requirement to make him worthwhile.
Dance of Shadows
Hindsight is 20/20. I should have started off this series with a designator for what I would call “pick one’s.” The Champions set is full of stalemate killers that can be used to win the game when the combat stalls out, and this is one of those cards. But you probably only ever want one, maybe two, of these cards in your deck, so if you take one of the “pick one’s,” you should pass on any others. This is the first of the P1’s for black.
I just cannot bring myself to pay six mana for a 3/3 unless he reads “T: draw three cards” or something better than that. This guy does not read that, and dies to any number of two or three mana bushido creatures. Pass this guy.
If you read the Grand Prix coverage for this past weekend, you saw that this card was hailed as the great finisher for this format. I am not sure I agree. To me, Devouring Greed is just another “pick one,” no better or worse than the others.
Two black mana is steep for that kind of discard in limited, I would pass on this card.
2/2 fliers for four mana does seem to be the limited norm, and this Kami is no exception. A nice solid mid level pick, his soulshift ability can be handy getting you back a Cruel Deceiver lost early on. Definitely a card worth taking, unless you are in white or blue as well, in which case you can get much better priced fliers.
Whether you control an Ogre or not, 5/4 tramplers for five mana is a bargain for black. If you empty your hand, then you don’t have a card to discard, and there are no adverse affect either. But honestly, if I had to discard a card every turn while smashing my opponent for five, I’m ok with that.
He Who Hungers
While four mana for a 2/2 flier seems fine in limited, five mana for a 3/2 flier does not sit well with me for some reason. Still with a soulshift ability and the ability to fly over for five, and block and kill that damn bushido 2/2/, he is worth a pick.
This card can be amazing, and is a high to first pick. A huge amount of this format is full of 2/2, 1/2, and 2/1 creatures, and this card kills them all. It’s the Wrath of God for the format virtually, and with splice, it can possibly be used multiple times. Make sure to set up your game to take advantage of this card, and the fact that it is instant speed, making it a huge trick.
Honden of the Night’s Reach
At four mana, this card is likely to make your opponent discard three or so cards if it comes down on turn four, which is not a bad plan. The problem is making sure you always get it and draw it on turn four, which is much more difficult. I’d pass on this card, and if I needed discard, play any of about six other cards available in black for discard.
Horobi, Death’s Wail
Well, on the bright side, he is a 4/4 flier for four mana. On the down side, he dies to anything targeting him, and gives all your other creatures the same affliction. On the bright side, he gives all of your opponent’s creatures that affliction as well. I rate this card high, because his ability can be used to your advantage, and because his ability throws your opponent off of his game, and that’s always a good thing.
Iname, Death Aspect
Unless by some miracle you have drafted soulshift.dec, this... thing is just an expensive 4/4. If your deck needs that, then pick it.
Kami of Lunacy
Speaking of expensive four power creatures, at least this one flies, but its one toughness makes it die to every flier and direct damage spell out there. If you can have a couple of other fliers for bait, and pay him late game, he can be a game winner, but often he’s a six mana one toughness dead guy.
Kami of the Waning Moon
I do not pay three mana for 1/1 fliers. I pay three mana for 1/2 fliers with great abilities, but not for 1/1 fliers.
Kiku, Night’s Flower
<Imitation of Donkey in Shrek> PICK ME! PICK ME ! PICK ME PICK ME! OH OH PICK ME! It’s reusable creature kill, it’s a first pick.
Kokusho, the Evening Star
See earlier articles regarding big fat dragons that smash opponent’s faces.
During the prerelease I noticed someone putting this card in his deck, and asked how he plans to pay the upkeep. Their response was that it didn’t matter if they paid the upkeep. They just let it hit and wipe out their opponent’s side of the board. If they got to pay upkeep and crush dreams with it as well, all the better. I have to admit; I do not see a flaw in this logic. At first I thought no one would ever get to nine mana, but this format is slow enough for it, and sure enough, someone got top two of my PTQ with this guy in his top eight deck.
You are not going to draft “the rat deck.” The rats are too good that every other black player will be scooping them up as well. Give it up, pass this lord.
While the casting cost of this card is very reasonable, it takes a heavy commitment to black to make it worthwhile, and even then, more often than not, your opponent will just kill the creature in response and you will lose two cards to one. I’d say pass this card.
Myojin of the Night’s Reach
By the time you reach the eight mana to cast this guy, your opponent is likely to have no cards in hand, so in reality you are paying eight mana for a 5/2 invincible creature. I personally don’t think he is worth playing.
Thus begins our entry into “Rats in Drafts,” which is either a musical or a possible future article title. The easy way to say this is, if it begins with Nezumi, take it, but I know you want more than that, so let’ talk about the Bone-Reader. While he is not the powerhouse two-power rat his friends are, this new Surgeon of the brain has a discard ability that makes him pretty good. He’s not a first pick, but he is a pick.
This guy is a walking beater of beats. The cheapest evasion two power creature in the format, and immune to some removal by virtue of being black, this rat can often come down on turn two and just win the game ten turns later. A very high pick.
First, lets clear something up: you must successfully activate his ability at least once to flip him. If your opponent has no cards in their graveyard, you cannot just play him on turn two and flip him over. By the way, the flipped power and toughness of this guy makes me frown. I keep wanting to attack with his four power beefiness, but the best thing to do with him really is to just hang back and use his ability as a recurring machine, and don’t get him involved in combat where he may die. The Graverobber is a great pick.
This guy shows you what the Bloodthirsty Ogre should be. Of course, the format is full of two power creatures, and there’s still Yoshi’s Flame to deal with, but at least this can block and kill a four-toughness creature.
Reusable discard is a rarity in limited, and this guy’s ability to become a walking Rack after he flips makes him incredibly strong. Pick him up.
While I am all in favor of tutoring, this is one of those cards that reads “when you are winning the game, win the game more,” which is nothing like what you really need in these games.
Night of Soul’s Betrayal
I’ve heard some players swear by this card, but I disagree. Engineered Plague barely saw play, and that was a card you could a) play multiples of and b) set not to affect your creatures. I say to pass on this card.
This card is what Wizard’s likely calls a “skill tester” and what I call a “complete piece of junk.”
Often a late game card winner, this card can fall under the “pick one” category, but has a bit more open ended ability that that, being able to be used mid-game to pump up a creature you need bigger, and in some rare cases to turn an opponent’s creature into a spirit for Rend Spirit.
My review here is very close to my one about the first Oni, even with his disadvantage, he is well worth playing. Take him as a high pick.
While this card is quite costly, it is instant speed and gets rid of many thing that otherwise are a problem for you like demons, dragons, and Moss Kami. Ironically, Rend Spirit can also kill all of these cards, but Pull Under has the benefit of killing those annoying non-spirits as well. A high pick.
While he’s perfectly fine as a one drop, this format does not really need one drops. Pass on this guy.
While it is a very cool trick, it’s incredibly situational, and often becomes a card that says, “win this turn instead of next turn,” which can be useful, but not often.
Cards that kill many things are good. I highly suggest them.
Cards that kill even more things than the previous card are better. I highly suggest them.
Well, it has four power, and soulshift, and a handy ability, although how often do you want to sac a 4/2 to get rid of a 1/1? Yes, I know he basically can kill a 5/5 on his own, but this guy just does not excite me. A mid-level pick.
Seizan, Perverter of Truth
Something about a 6/5 for five mana appeals to me. Something about giving my opponent two extra cards a turn does not appeal to me. Something about giving me two cards as well does appeal to me. My question is this. How often will I cast this guy, watch my opponent draw two extra cards, thank me, and kill this guy. If I think the answer is “often,” then I pass him. But since I’m in black likely I will be scooping up most of the cards that kill him, so it’s a tough call. A mid to high-level pick.
Raise Dead is sometimes good, and sometimes better with splice, but that does not make it playable. Draft only if you have nothing else, but have a dragon you’d like to cast more than once a game.
Struggle for Sanity
Four mana for a half of a Mind Twist does not seem exciting to me in limited. Pass.
Woot! This card a first pick for me. A Drain Life that is not Black mana intensive makes me excited in places I don’t want to mention on a family website. While it can only hit creatures, that’s what I would want it for anyways. If you see me grinning like a maniac during the first few picks, someone passed this to me.
Thief of Hope
This guys if good filler in the three creature slot, and his ability can actually be useful, not to mention he is yet another creature that can get back that yummy Cruel Deceiver for you. A mid-level pick.
Black three picks are just all solid little aggressive creatures and mid-level picks. This guy can’t block, but with three power I doubt you want him to. He’s a rather low pick, but easy to scoop up late pack.
This is one of the few discard spells I play in limited. Three mana for two of my opponent’s cards seems pretty nice to me.
Note the following 1) Play his ability only AFTER damage has resolved. And 2) Play it many times after damage has resolved. This guy is your own person Nantuko Shade, although he doesn’t get beefier, he can do the same damage, and at a two cost spirit, almost any soulshift card can pick him out of the graveyard. A top pick.
That’s about it for black! Tune in next week for red, or as I like to call it, the color of Yoshi’s Flame, some samurai, and boring stuff.
E-mail me at rayp-at-primenet.com.
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