For limited, the commons and uncommons of a set drive the pace and archetypes of a format so I’ll be focusing my set reviews only on those cards. The rares and mythics are splashy and exciting complements to the format, but they don’t come up often enough to drive the direction of the format. The rares may be dessert, but the commons and uncommons are the meat and potatoes of any limited format.
The Grading Scale
I’ll be following a convention similar to popular limited set reviews from the Limited Resources podcast, Channel Fireball and other set review articles.
A – A limited bomb. You won’t see an A in every draft, but it’s an easy first pick if you do. If you get passed one you’ll take it as a sign that the color is almost certainly open. You may even warp your deck building to try to play it. Very few of these are ever available in the common/uncommon slots.
B – A high pick and above replacement-level card. Seeing this is an incentive to be in a certain color or archetype. Get passed a card in this category is a signal that a color may be open, but the signal will need to be confirmed by future packs.
C – A playable card but mostly filler. Most of your deck will be comprised of cards in this category. They aren’t signals to move into a particular color or archetype, but they are decent playables to fill out the rest of your deck.
D – Below average cards. These are cards that I would expect not to play in most decks but I might have to resort to if I can’t find enough playables. Some of these are very situational cards that may be playable in some deck builds but aren’t powerful enough in general.
F – The best way to get value out of these is to pass them in favor of a basic land and hope that your opponent puts them in their deck.
Blightcaster – B-
This is a good build around uncommon. When picked early, you can sculpt your draft around it to get maximum value. If you can trigger this once to kill an opponent’s flyer it’s already been a good investment. However, it’s only as good as the enchantments available in the set – it’s not worth playing bad enchantments just to maximize this card.
Catacomb Slug – D
The slug has quite the big butt but it’s expensive for a mediocre body. It has a role has a blocker in a control deck against big green decks. It’s a borderline playable that depending on the depth of your draft pool could make the cut and be boarded out a lot or start in the sideboard and come in against slow ground-pounder decks.
Consecrated by Blood – C+
Giving +2/+2 and flying is a pretty good bonus. The regenerate claus will be relevant to protect a key threat, but I don’t expect enough expendable creatures to be available for this to be activated regularly. Auras are always risky and I don’t like investing 4 mana into a potential 2-for-1, but this aura does enough to win games.
Cruel Revival – B
Five mana removal is still removal and it’s the price we generally pay these days. Sometimes you’ll get hosed by the drawback and sometimes you’ll get a bonus from the upside, but either 5 mana for a removal spell is fine. At least you have control over trying to maximize the upside, but that’s not needed to make the card a good pick.
Dark Dabbling – D
This provides decent protection against removal spells but as a combat trick it’s hard to make a case for a spell that doesn’t pump power or toughness. If you are lacking in win conditions and need a way to protect your best threats this isn’t a bad option, but I don’t think it will make the cut in most decks.
With 3 power this elf is fragile but will trade up a decent amount of the time as a blocker and the ability means that this will usually be a 2-for-1. The opponent sees it coming though so the discard trigger is more of an annoyance to the opponent than a true 2-for-1. Still, value is value. This is filler though and I would be quick to sideboard this out if my opponent can make use of the discard trigger to their benefit though.
Eyeblight Assassin – C+
This is the kind of effect that makes x/1s like Deadbridge Shaman much worse in a format. As a hill giant with upside this is a decent card. It can kill an x/1 outright, weaken a blocker to enable an attack, or be played post-combat to finish a creature off. The effect has enough utility that this is a decent pickup for any black deck.
In a draft you are unlikely to get enough Elves for this effect to truly be one-sided, but you can certainly bias it in your favor. If there’s enough tribal elf support in the set then this could be quite good for you. If you are drafting the elf deck, you are likely to be the only person in the draft that wants this card, so you have a high chance of picking one up if it is opened. Ignoring the Elf clause, -2/-2 to all creatures will be a very effective side-board card against certain aggressive strategies.
Fetid Imp – C+
It effectively causes 3 mana to kill something with this creature when you include the cost of the activation. It’s not quite as good as a Typhoid Rats, but it does get to block flyers which means it can handle just about any threat. And with Eyeblight Assassin running around the 2 toughness is relevant. A flying death touch creature can solve a lot of hard to deal with problems.
Edict effects vary quite a bit from format to format and from opponent to opponent. If our opponent has any amount of token makers this could easily be side boarded out. This also changes the valuation of enchantment based removal like Claustrophobia or the white Arrest effect.
If you’ve already picked up a number of elves then this is a good addition to you deck. In an elf heavy deck it turns all of your creatures into threatening attackers. The mana ability provides not only acceleration but mana fixing in a GB elf deck. In a non-elf deck, this card is unplayable which makes this a very risky early pick.
This is a good bonus to put on a flyer. It will make most creatures into a decent threat, turning an otherwise low value creature like a 2/3 into a formidable body. It will also replace itself if the creature dies, but opens you up to getting destroyed by a Pacifism effect.
Macabre Waltz – D+
Getting 2 creatures back for 2 mana is a pretty good value especially when you can sandbag extra lands to discard in the late game. You don’t want to overload on this effect, but in a grindy matchup this can help win a long game.
If allowed to sit in play the Cullblade can grow into a formidable threat. Unfortunately it’s very non-threatening to start with and gives your opponent a long time to find an answer or just kill you before it get big enough to be relevant.
Nantuko Husk – C+
This ability is always a strong one to have. Sometimes you can threaten lethal by attacking with enough sacrifice fodder on board. Your opponent will be forced to block and then you can sacrifice just enough to eat their blocker. With enough resources you can force your opponent into the Abyss. The same is true for threatening to eat attackers when playing defense. Look for ways to get value out of the sacrifice outlet for even more upside.
Reanimation effects are not that great. It requires that either you or your opponent has drawn and played a creature worth reanimating and that it has already died once. It may be playable if you have creatures with good enters the battle triggers to rebuy or if you can trigger spell mastery so that any creature you bring back will become a large threat.
Nightsnare – D
I don’t usually like discard effects but this has some interesting things going for it. First, it can discard creatures. Second, you get to choose what is discarded. Third, if you look at their hand and don’t see a specific threat you care about you can make them discard two cards of their own choosing for extra value – and you still get the free information of looking at their hand. It still is likely too slow for draft, but this seems like a powerful enough discard effect to be good in sealed.
Rabid Bloodsucker – C-
A 3 power flyer that is bad at blocking means you want this in an aggressive deck. The symmetrical life loss effect also means that you want to be attacking your opponent’s life total to take advantage of it.
Read the Bones – B
Excellent card selection and card advantage. A cost of 2 life is not nothing, but it will be tolerable at most points in the game. This is one of the better black commons.
Reave Soul – B-
This removal spell is effective for its cost. At 2-mana it’s going to kill most things that you care about early in the game. It’s also going to be good at killing many evasive threats and utility creatures. The fact that it won’t kill bombs prevents it from being a tier 1 removal spell.
Returned Centaur – C-
Not an exciting body, it’s a playable creature especially if you can take advantage of the self-mill component. Otherwise it’s a reasonable blocker for its cost in a black control deck.
Revenant – B-
It’s going to be hard to get this going early on unless you build around it with self-milling. Trading early and off will help this creature have the maximum impact when you get around to playing it on turn 5. Once it starts growing though it can kill very quickly and be hard to deal with.
Shadows of the Past – D-
By the time you’re interested in activating this I don’t think it will be difficult to meet the four creature requirement. The fact that this can technically be a win condition all on its own is interesting, but it’s very slow at that. Overall I don’t think the combination of effects add up to enough of a playable card.
Shambling Ghoul – C
Shambling Ghoul is an aggressive creature and the stats come at the cost of entering the battlefield tapped. It’s not enough above curve to warrant the drawback most of the time as it will still get outclassed or trade with most 3 drops. It’s good in an aggressive black deck but if you’re midrange or control entering tapped will be a big downside.
Thornbow Archer – D
For one mana the archer effectively attacks for 2, including the life loss trigger. I can see this fitting in nicely to a low cost Elf curve if it’s looking to be this low to the ground. Getting an elf on board early can help turn on some of the other elf creatures. It’s going to wheel, but one deck might play it.
Tormented Thoughts – D-
Usually if you have a creature with decent power you don’t want to sacrifice it. It’s also hard to curve a large enough creature into this fast enough for your opponent’s hand to have a lot of spells left to discard. The dream is probably going Deadbridge Shaman into Tormented Thoughts to make your opponent discard four. That does sound pretty tempting, but then are you hoping your opponent hasn’t played anything on turns 1-4 because you’ve spent 2 full turns not effecting the board.
During an alpha strike this can help your creature trade up and get pseudo-trample by having the opponent lose at least 2 life. You’re still likely to lose your creature since this doesn’t grant regeneration and that makes me caution you to stay away from playing this one.
Undead Servant – C+
This is fine as a 3/2 for four. It’s not impressive, but it’s not the worst thing you can play. The more you have of these though, the more they snowball out of control. A 3-power threat can’t be ignored so your opponent can’t just keep taking damage to avoid putting it in the graveyard. They’ll have to trade with it or kill it, which lets you start getting value if you have a bunch of these in your deck. At common, it will be possible to get a number of these in some drafts and it seems like a fun card to build around in a draft.
Unholy Hunger – B
Killing any problem creature – it’s hard to argue with good removal.
Only giving -2 to toughness is a pretty low bar. It won’t outright kill a lot of the threats you’ll want to kill, but it will cripple them permanently. One thing this card has going for it is that it’s the only enchantment based removal spell that gives you value for playing it alongside Blightspeaker or Auramancer if paired with white.
As always, black is your source for the best removal. We have two instant speed removal spells competing at common and uncommon plus additional situation removal. The creature base looks fairly varied with a mix of aggressive and defensive creatures. Black may be able to support multiple drafters in different strategies that aren’t competing for the same resources. It will be important to recognize which half of black’s cards are open to you and look to match it with a color pair that complements it.