Rivals of Ixalan Review – Black Cards

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Hi everyone. Welcome to the third article in my series of reviews of the cards in the upcoming Rivals of Ixalan expansion. Today we’ll be taking a look at all of the Black cards. In this article, I will discuss these cards as they relate to Standard play. My system uses number ratings ranging from 0 – 5 to gauge how well I think the cards will perform Standard play. I will offer some pros and cons for these cards and give my thoughts and rating on the card for Standard play. Please keep in mind that these ratings are based on my opinion only and may differ from your opinion. (If you have a different opinion, please sound off in the Comments section below and let me know your thoughts.)

How My Rating System Works

5.0: Format All-Star. This card is a total Bomb card. For those that aren’t familiar with this term, it basically means this card will win you the game if left unchecked for a turn or two. These cards tend to be hard to defend against and can turn a game around in a hurry. Some cards that are bombs in limited may only be a mediocre card in constructed play. This card will see a lot of play in top tier tournament decks or will be the lynchpin of a top tier deck.

4.0: Above Average Card. This card is great. It can be played in multiple decks and will have an impact on the game every time. These cards can change a game quickly, get you back in the game, or shift the tempo of the game. These cards are usually vulnerable to some type of removal (or are a removal spell themselves), but they make up the majority of cards found in major tournament decks. This card will be a good support card in a top tier tournament deck.

3.0: Average Card. These are generally good cards, and many of them will be the majority of cards found in a tribal deck. Cards in this category are usually similar to other (higher-ranked) cards but cost 1 mana more or have a drawback in some manner. In Limited play, these are the majority of your deck. This card will likely be in a fair number of top tier tournament decks and will generally be interchangeable with other similarly-rated cards.

2.0: Niche Card. These cards serve are very narrow function and are usually meant for your sideboard. They could be removal spells that only remove 1 type of card, or cards with mediocre stats that have an ability that helps against opponents playing a certain color or strategy. In Limited play, these cards are put in your deck if you have no other options and need the card to reach your 40-card minimum deck size. For Constructed play, you will rarely play this card unless it’s from your sideboard or you want to be “cute”. This card will only be seen in select decks that are usually trying to play around with a specific ability or in tribal decks.

1.0: Will Rarely See Play. The worst of the worst. These cards are rarely played (if they’re played at all). These cards generally have bad stats, cost too much mana, or have basically no impact on the game when they’re played. Overall stay away from this card if possible. This card will likely not see any tournament play.

And now, on to the cards…

 

Arterial Flow

Arterial Flow

Rating:  2.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  I don’t expect this to see play outside of a Vampire tribal deck, but in that deck it will be a nice card to play.  This will also help trigger those cards that trigger when you gain life in the turn.

 

Canal Monitor

Canal Monitor

Rating:  1.0 ()

Overall Thoughts: While it’s not a great creature for Standard play, it does have some terrific flavor text.

 

Champion of Dusk

Champion of Dusk

Rating:  3.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  This is a nice top-end card for Vampire tribal decks.  Be careful that you don’t die when it comes into play, as the card draw effect isn’t optional.

 

Dark Inquiry

Dark Inquiry

Rating:  1.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  While it’s nice that this can force your opponent to discard anything that’s not a land, what’s not nice is it’s mana cost.  I don’t think this will see play over the other cheaper, more narrow options we currently have in Standard.

 

Dead Man’s Chest

Dead Man’s Chest

Rating:  3.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  There’s no doubt that this is a fun card, but it’s also a card that comes with difficult decisions.  Do you put this on a small creature that you can easily block, which will limit the amount of your opponent’s cards you can play?  Or do you put it on a large creature that you can use a piece of removal on?  And if you choose the latter, what happens if your opponent plays a bigger threat that your removal would have been better spent on?

 

Dinosaur Hunter

Dinosaur Hunter

Rating:  2.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  What’s this, Wizards of the Coast?  An answer to a possible problem for Standard in the same block?!?  It’s nice to see this card here as a safety valve in case the threat of Dinosaurs becomes too large.  While I don’t see this getting much love in main decks, since it’s a Pirate it could easily be part of the main 60 of a Pirate tribal deck.

 

Dire Fleet Poisoner

Dire Fleet Poisoner

Rating:  3.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  Since Pirates have a lot of things triggered by Raid, attacking into a larger creature won’t come as unexpected to your opponent.  But when your smaller creature suddenly kills their (much) larger blocker via deathtouch, they might start letting those smaller attackers through.  This is a great addition to the Pirate tribal decks.

 

Dusk Charger

Dusk Charger

Rating:  1.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  It’s another horse for me to try to cram into my Crested Sunmare deck.  4 mana for a 3/3 with no abilities isn’t that great, but if you can achieve the City’s Blessing, you get a 5/5 for 4 mana, which is above the curve.  I don’t see this getting much play, but I’m excited for the possibility of playing this alongside Crested Sunmare.

 

Dusk Legion Zealot

Dusk Legion Zealot

Rating:  1.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  When Iconic Masters came out, I played a draft deck with 2 copies of Phyrexian Rager.  It never failed, I drew that card when I needed to get a creature onto the battlefield in order to avoid dying, but my life total would be at 1, so I couldn’t play it.  While I don’t think my experience with playing this card will be as bad (since a lot of the Vampires have lifelink), I’m not that excited for this card.

 

Fathom Fleet Boarder

Fathom Fleet Boarder

Rating:  1.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  While a 3/3 for 3 mana is right on curve, a 3/3 for 3 mana with a drawback isn’t.  Because of that drawback, I don’t expect to see this in Standard.

 

Forerunner of the Coalition

Forerunner of the Coalition

Rating:  3.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  This card will be great in a Pirate tribal deck.  It helps you find an imporatnt Pirate that you need, and then hits your opponent for 1 every time a Pirate enters the battlefield.  Look for this to be played alongside his buddy, Fathom Fleet Captain.

 

Golden Demise

Golden Demise

Rating:  2.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  This card suffers for having Ascend on it.  You really want to have the City’s Blessing before casting this card, but by the time you have the necessary 10 permanents in play, your opponent likely has creatures that are bigger that 2 toughness.  Otherwise, you’ll be killing your creatures as much as your killing your opponent’s.

 

Grasping Scoundrel

Grasping Scoundrel

Rating:  1.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  The 1-drop slot in the current mono-black aggro deck is currently occupied by Dread Wanderer.  Since that card has the possibility for recursion, I don’t see this card replacing it any time soon.

 

Gruesome Fate

Gruesome Fate

Rating:  2.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  This is a nice addition to the black-white token deck.  In a stalled game, you’re able to play this which could just deal those last few points of damage that you can’t deal by attacking (because of their blockers).

 

Impale

Impale

Rating:  1.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  I suppose this is a nice budget-friendly alternative for those of you without Vraska’s Contempt.  Otherwise, we already have a better option in Standard.

 

Mastermind’s Acquisition

Mastermind’s Acquisition

Rating:  1.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  A cross between Diabolic Tutor and Coax from the Blind Eternities, this card is interesting.  I know that people will try to brew with this, but they’ll likely fail.  It is a good way to guarantee that you will get a much needed silver bullet for whatever your opponent is doing, but it might be a tad bit too slow.

 

Mausoleum Harpy

Mausoleum Harpy

Rating:  1.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  With only mediocre stats for the 5 mana investment, I don’t expect this to break into Standard.  It’s also a little difficult to grow this card with it both requiring you to get the City’s Blessing and to have your creatures die.

 

Moment of Craving

Moment of Craving

Rating:  1.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  While it’s not outright removal, this is likely to get rid of nearly any early drop your opponent plays.  The lifegain is a bonus that might help Vampire tribal decks trigger some beneficial abilities.

 

Oathsworn Vampire

Oathsworn Vampire

Rating:  2.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  Speaking of cards that have an ability that triggers when you gain life, we have this card.  While it’s not the most aggressive Vampire out there, it’s possibly the most resilient.  I could see sideboarding this into a Vampire deck when you’re fighting a real grindy game.

 

Pitiless Plunderer

Pitiless Plunderer

Rating:  1.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  For my 4 mana investment, I’m hoping to get something more than just a blocker.  Unfortunately, that’s basically all this card is, with the possibility of a hint of ramp.  I don’t think this will see Standard play.

 

Ravenous Chupacabra

Ravenous Chupacabra

Rating:  4.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  Getting a 2/2 for 4 mana is just a bad deal.  That’s why you shouldn’t play this if your opponent has no creatures.  The fact that this can deal with practically any creature your opponent has while still leaving behind a 2/2 body for you makes this card super playable.

 

Reaver Ambush

Reaver Ambush

Rating:  1.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  Poor Oketra the True.  You used to be such a mighty God, and now you’re defeated by this lowly card.  Seriously, though, while I see some advantages to playing this card, they’re few and far between.  The mana cost for this is just a tad too high for the effect.

 

Recover

Recover

Rating:  2.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  So your opponent had a way to deal with your best creature?  Let’s see if they can do it again, and we’ll draw an extra card to boot.  Sounds like a good deal.  I don’t expect to see this widely played, but perhaps a copy or two could sneak their way into a Standard deck.

 

Sadistic Skymarcher

Sadistic Skymarcher

Rating:  2.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  While this normally isn’t as good as Aerial Responder, in a Vampire Tribal deck it could actually be a little better.  I’m not sure this is the best choice for the already crowded 3-drop slot, but I might try out a copy or two.

 

Tetzimoc, Primal Death

Tetzimoc, Primal Death

Rating:  4.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  While it might be difficult to reach the 6 mana needed to cast this card in some games, if you do manage to get there you’ll be well rewarded.  For me, the difficulty will be choosing between casting cards from my hand or placing prey counters on my opponent’s creatures.  And speaking of prey counters, placing them is a great way to make your opponent play sloppily as they’ll be potentially distracted by the thought of losing all of their creatures soon.

 

Tomb Robber

Tomb Robber

Rating:  3.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  While I’m not thrilled with getting just a 1/1 for 3 mana, the fact that this has menace and can explore multiple times (perhaps even in the same turn) makes this card worth trying out.  I’m excited to get into combat with this and then dump my hand while I explore over and over.

 

Twilight Prophet

Twilight Prophet

Rating:  2.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  While this card is nothing special if you don’t have the City’s Blessing, if you do this card becomes pretty amazing.  The fact that getting 10 permanents in play could be difficult to do means that this card won’t see as much play as I would like.

 

Vampire Revenant

Vampire Revenant

Rating:  2.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  Flying was something that was lacking in the current black-white Vampire tribal decks, but this set has more than made up for that.  I’m not sure how well this will slot into the 4-drop spot, but it certainly has a chance to see some play.

 

Vona’s Hunger

Vona’s Hunger

Rating:  2.5 ()

Overall Thoughts:  While I won’t deny that this can be a good removal spell, the fact that your opponent chooses what they want to sacrifice makes it less impactful than it could be if it were straight-up creature destruction.  But when this is played against a Merfolk tribal deck that has a bunch of hexproof creatures, this card gets a bit better.  It’s likely just a sideboard card, but I could see running a copy or two in the main deck.

 

Voracious Vampire

Voracious Vampire

Rating:  2.0 ()

Overall Thoughts:  Menace is a very underrated ability.  The fact that this creature can allow another of your Vampires to gain it for a turn is what makes this card so good.  But, it does compete with lots of other good options in an already crowded 3-drop slot, which will likely mean this doesn’t see much play in Standard.

 

Wrapping Up

Thank you for joining me today for my thoughts on the Black cards in Rivals of Ixalan.  I’d love to know your thoughts.  Let me know by leaving a comment below, or contact me on Twitter (@mikelikesmtg), or email me directly at mikelikesmtg@gmail.com.  And be sure to join me tomorrow when I’ll take a look at the Red cards.  I’ll see you then!

Mike Likes

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Mike Likes

Mike Likes

Mike started playing Magic back in 1994, but gave it up at the end of 1995. He came back to the game during the Lorwyn block and has been playing ever since. Around this time, he opened and ran his own comic & game store, while also raising his newborn daughter. After 8 years, he sold his business and moved to Wisconsin with his wife and daughter. With the debut of Kaladesh, his entire family became regular Magic players. He now has hopes of competing alongside his wife and daughter at a Grand Prix or similar event in the future. #MTGDad

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