Return to Ravnica (RTR) Set Review: Black and Golgari with Grant Hislop

UB Mystical Teachings – A Pauper Video Article by Grant Hislop

Return to Ravnica (RTR) Set Review: Black and Golgari with Grant Hislop


Man, I got like half way through this review, and then my electricity cut out, and I lost everything. Clearly I haven’t been saving my work enough, as losing like 2000 words feels like getting punched in the genitals. Fortunately, those 2000 words were all rubbish anyway, so I get a chance to write new, better, sexier words for you. What a treat!


Anyway, today, we’re looking at Black and Golgari cards, which should be quite exciting. Most people are expecting BG Zombies to be the initial ‘best deck’ post rotation, and while I’m on board with that to an extent, I don’t think that a deck like that can work too well with a big target on its chest, given that it’s basically the equivalent of Red Deck Wins, even if it’s not playing any Red spells, per se. Decks like this work best when noone’s expecting them, and can’t really maintain their position as a top deck for too long.

Anyway, to the cards!

Black and Golgari

Assassin’s Strike

Sometimes, creatures just have to die. It’s really expensive, and I’d have preferred it to be a shade cheaper, ala Death’s Caress, but we make do with what we have. At the point where you’re willing to pay six mana to kill a creature, it’s unlikely that your opponent has much in the way of gas left in their hand, so it’s not outside the realms of possibility that you kill their best creature on board and make them discard their follow up fatty too. A little more expensive than I’d like, but it’ll be playable.

Catacomb Slug

Expensively unimpressive. Nils Hamm usually gets better cards than this to illustrate.


This is a reprint, and one that’s seen a reasonable amount of play before. There are other, more absolute options available though, for constructed, but in limited, worst case scenario, it cycles. Not particularly exciting, but it’s a decent option to bring in vs a Golgari deck.

Daggerdrome Imp

How many Bonesplitters would you need to make this good in limited? It’s just a curve filler for Rakdos decks, and not a particularly good one at that.

Dark Revenant

It’s an interesting card, in that the mechanic is somewhat unique. Sure, Avenging Angel happened, and we’ve had cards like Oust that put creatures into a specific place in the library, but it’s a relatively unexplored mechanic. I don’t think the Revenant is particularly good, because in and of himself, a 2/2 flier for four really isn’t impressive, but I’d like to see Wizards experiment with this mechanic more, as it’s something that’s reasonably easy to do, but for whatever reason hasn’t really been explored before.

Dead Reveler

A ¾ for three certainly seems like it would be good enough for limited. It’s obviously not exciting, but it fills a valuable point in the aggressive curve, and is resilient enough that it’s almost certain to match favourably with other creatures at that point in the game. Excellent on curve, and not awful if it comes slightly after either. Good stuff. Pretty good flavour text too.

Desecration Demon

This seems to me like one of those Browbeat style cards, where I’ll never really get what I want out of it. I like giving my opponents choices, for sure, but this type of choice seems like I’ll always be drawing the short straw. Some people who’re a lot more experienced than me seem to think that it’ll be good though, and I’ll grant you, it takes over an empty board like noone’s business, but, to be honest, if we’ve got to turn four, and there’s an empty board, there are higher impact cards that I’d rather be playing, like Jace, Architect of Truth.

I’m at least willing to experiment with it, as the Demon looks like it’ll be a lot of fun, but I’m not expecting my results to be particularly encouraging.

Destroy the Evidence

Too expensive, and too low impact. Typical constructed decks are somewhere around 38-40% land, with limited decks being around 42% so you’re generally going to be milling just over one additional card with this. There aren’t really any lands in Standard that I’m THAT desperate to kill that I’m willing to pay five to do so.

It’s a shame, because the card name is excellent, and it’d be nice if it were on a card that was actually likely to see play in any format ever.

Deviant Glee

Unholy Strength with an upside isn’t going to be making Constructed waves any time soon, but this type of effect is often useful in limited. Sure, it’s going to be at its best in Rakdos decks, but any Black Aggro deck will want to have access to this, as a way to sneak extra damage through. The usual rules still apply with auras though, typically, it’s best to put it on the worst creature that you effectively can enchant, as then you won’t be quite as crippled by a single removal spell.

Oh, the insight I’m offering you ladies and gentlemen…

Drainpipe Vermin

Ravenous Rats exist in Standard currently, and doesn’t see much play. This is worse than Ravenous Rats.

The body is small enough to be ignorable, and giving the opponent the ability to effectively regulate if and when they discard is far from ideal. Fourteenth pick ahoy!

Grave Betrayal

Well, it’s really expensive, and doesn’t do anything by itself. It’s obviously one for commander players, so I’d expect normal copies to end up retailing for £1, with foils at £15 or something equally stupid. Pick foils up if you get a chance come pre-release time.

It’s probably not awful in limited, where games are more likely to degenerate into board stalls. I can’t imagine ever beating this, assuming a relatively equal board position exists at the time of casting.

Launch Party

Bone Splinters is already in standard, at a quarter of the cost. The additional versatility of being an instant isn’t worth it.

In limited, it’ll be useful to sacrifice creatures who’re chump blocking, or are the target of removal spells to negatively affect your opponent. This is better than it looks at first glance, and I expect it to be a very high pick as the format matures.

Grim Roustabout

Another curve filler for limited, though this one actually has some defensive applications as well, serving as almost Drudge Skeletons. For the most part, you’ll be Unleashing the Roustabout in your aggressive decks though, and I’m pretty sure that’s where he’s best utilised.

He can survive through a Supreme Verdict in constructed, so Zombies might make fringe use of him, though I’m inclined to believe he’s a bit low impact for them.

Mind Rot

Nothing new to see here. It wasn’t in the Core Set, but we couldn’t possibly have a Standard environment without Mind Rot. I was really expecting to see Blightning reprinted, given that this was a gold set, but alas, Mind Rot is what we have to work with.

It’s better in limited than people give it credit for, and I have no reason to doubt it will be good in this environment as well.

Necropolis Regent

Constructed decks would love his ability, but not his cost. Rakish Heir’s the better bet, if you’re in the market for that type of effect. It’s a generic, stupid mythic creature for limited, and will ruin everyone’s day that’s facing down the wrong end of this, but we should be used to that by now.


Ogre Jailbreaker

A 4/4 for four is no slouch, even if he’s asking you to build around him. I like this in Golgari decks with access to at least a couple of gates and a Gatekeeper Vine or two as well. You’ll be wanting to play the majority of gates you have access to to enable splashes etc, so you’re unlikely to be warping your deck around him too much, and as I said, the stats are decent enough to hold the ground until such time as you find one. Quite impressive.

Pack Rat

This looks quite fun as a mana sink for a control deck in limited, as a way to turn excess lands into additional bodies. It’s tough to imagine beating this, as it makes combat maths basically impossible.

This might actually be good enough for constructed, but I don’t know quite where it fits. Possibly a control deck with a lot of flashback spells? Time will tell.

Perilous Shadow

Shades are always decent in limited, but seldom good enough for constructed. This one won’t be any different. It’s a solid mana sink, and not awful on defence the turn it comes down. Solid, but unspectacular.

Sewer Shambler

This is our first Scavenge card. I’m quite happy with the mechanics this time round, as most of the guild mechanics seem to be focused on value rather than being ‘build your decks around’, like the last time we visited Ravnica. Scavenge is an excellent, grindy mechanic, which fits thematically with what the majority of BG decks usually play like.

This is fine as a 2/1 for three. It’s not setting the world on fire, but the additional value the mechanic produces means that you’ll be presenting your opponents with a series of difficult questions that they’ll likely be ill-prepared to answer, in addition to just being a 2/1 unblockable against a fair number of decks.

Shrieking Affliction

Does nothing itself, and isn’t worth jumping through the hoops it demands you to in deck design. Unplayable in limited, for the most part.

Slum Reaper

I’ve always enjoyed Fleshbag Marauder, but this is just a little too expensive for my tastes. There are better impressions of Flametongue Kavu available.

It’s fine in limited, though eating the worst creature an opponent has isn’t the best ability in the world, but it’s not the worst. Cruel Edict was playable, and this is basically a more expensive version of that, worst case scenario.

Stab Wound

This will, for the most part, just be used to kill a creature, so the second part of the text is irrelevant. I suppose it grants an element of reach into a Golgari deck, if you’re in the position where that’s important. It’s a solid removal spell, and definitely one of the top commons in the set.

Tavern Swindler

Well, I suppose it’s a Grizzly Bear… I hate coin flip mechanics, especially ones that are as low impact as this.

Terrus Wurm

As before, this is slightly overcosted for the body, but the Scavenge is probably worth the extra mana, as you’re effectively getting it twice. Casting this, blocking something bigger, and Scavenging it onto an evasive creature of some sort is quite realistic, and it’s possible that Daggerdrome Imp might be better than I think, given its surroundings.

Anyway, this is a pretty decent card, but it’s tough to imagine a deck that wants more than one of them, if that, due to its prohibitive cost.

Thrill-Kill Assassin

Limited curve filler. The Assassin will always trade up when playing defence. This is one of the only Unleash cards that I can picture playing nice in a control deck, as Deathtouch is such a powerful keyword.

Ultimate Price

I’d pay just about anything to have Doom Blade not leave Standard. This is the closest card to that, and while it kills Wolfir Silverheart, Geralf’s Messenger and so on, how good it is depends on how widespread Huntmaster of the Fells and his other multi-coloured brethren are. This will fluctuate in value as the format develops. I’m incline to think that it’s not TOO much worse than Doom Blade or Go for the Throat, but the additional restrictions are slightly more than I’m willing to work around.

Underworld Connections

I’ve died to my own Phyrexian Arena’s more than I’d like to admit, so having access to one with an ability to regulate its own use is very welcome. I’m not as high on this card as some, though I certainly don’t think that it’s bad. It probably only belongs in one or two decks in Standard, and is a bit low impact for older formats, so I don’t see it maintaining its current price for too long.

Solid way to give your lands additional uses in limited, and well worth including there.

Zanikev Locust

An evasive Scavenge creature, though a really, really expensive one. This is probably the worst of the bunch for limited, although if you can find a way to pitch it without having to cast it, the Scavenge cost itself is pretty reasonable.

I read this as Zangief Locust initially, which made me chuckle. Ah, to be ten again….

Abrupt Decay

This is one of the chase rares in the set, and rightly so. It will make an impact from Block Constructed all the way up to Legacy. The versatility to cost ratio on this is off the charts, and, especially in older formats, the restrictions are far less likely to be relevant.

Personally, I’m inclined to prefer Dreadbore myself, but Standard over the last few years has been a battle of Titans and Planeswalkers, so I’m probably wrong. This will be widely played, and will be done so for a reason. I’m looking forward to the first time I Snapcaster Mage targeting Abrupt Decay, and I’m sure you are as well.

Corpsejack Menace

Nuts with Scavenge, which is obvs why it’s included. This is an absolute house, assuming you’ve got five or more Scavenge cards, and it’s never bad, as a 4/4 for four is well on curve. I doubt it’s good enough for constructed. Again, this is the pre-release card for the Golgari guild, so everyone who’s in that colour combination will have access to this. Whether or not they have enough Scavenge cards to really push the mechanic is another story however. This is the only pre-release card that isn’t a legitimate stand-alone bomb, relying on the rest of the deck to really power him up.

Dreg Mangler

This and Lotleth Troll are the reason that Golgari seems to be the new default for Zombies. A 3/3 for three is nothing to sneeze at, but the fact that it starts swinging immediately, and then offers a bonus to one of your other creatures when (if?) it dies means that this is an incredibly solid card for constructed. Really exciting, and moves Zombies into a far more mid-range role than they’d traditionally occupied.

It’ll be a house in limited, and is probably the best Scavenge card we’ve currently got access to.

Golgari Charm

I really like this as a way for Zombies to live through a non-Terminus sweeper. As has been said before, none of these effects alone are worth a card, but I can imagine wanting access to all three at some point, which makes it a very versatile card to have access to, and worth inclusion in a lot of decks. One of the better cards in the cycle, and the set.

For limited, we’re looking at a mini-Infest, which isn’t the worst place to be, and worst case scenario, you can regenerate your attackers after causing your opponent to make a bunch of what they anticipated would be trades. Really, really solid, and you’ll seldom be lacking for opportunities to use this.

Grisly Salvage

Mulch or Tracker’s Instinct’s 9-12, for decks that are in the market for such an effect. We’re really absent a Bloodghast or the like to really abuse the speed that we’re able to fill up our Graveyards, but I’d imagine that the Frites decks won’t disappear entirely post rotation, though they’ll obviously be hurting for a replacement for Elesh Norn, as Gisela, Blade of Goldnight isn’t quite the same.

This is a combo enabler, rather than a value card, like the majority of Golgari cards I’ve seen so far, which is interesting. Using these to dump your Scavenge cards while effectively cycling Grisly Salvage seems like something that would be fun to do, and something that I’m interested to try out.

Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord

Presumably Jarad goes hand in hand with the two cards he’s sandwiched between in this list. Fill up the ‘yard, and do something with it. The fact that he comes with a built-in form of recursion is very nice as well, though his body is too small to warrant play outside of a dedicated Graveyard deck. I’m inclined to believe that he’s one better left to the casual crowd for Constructed, as there are more powerful creatures to drag out of the ‘yard, and ones where the reward is quite a bit higher.

Utter house in limited though, as he’ll end up getting incidentally huge as the game progresses, and offers a mana sink in the late game as well as an element of reach in a deck that might otherwise be lacking.

Jarad’s Orders

You’re obviously never going to be casting this if you don’t have a way to get some sort of value out of the two creatures, including the one that you’re putting in the Graveyard. It’s not unrealistic to think that Zombies might play a copy or two of this, to fetch up a Messenger and a Gravecrawler, but I’m sure we can do better than that. It’s fine to cast for value, like so, but when you’re playing an Unburial Rites deck, you can surely make use of this, if you’re not wanting to play Red for Faithless Looting and co, for whatever reason.

Really interested to mess around with this card in both constructed and draft, as it obviously plays really nicely with the Scavenge mechanic as a whole.

Korozda Guildmage

Both of his abilities are a little too expensive for constructed, but he’ll be a house in limited, where he can make appropriate use of both of them to stall the game and push through extra damage. The Guildmage cycle as a whole is so good because it gives you things to do when you’re flooded, and too many games of limited come down to who has more to do with their mana. One of the better members of the cycle.

Lotleth Troll

Plays ridiculously well with Gravecrawler and the aforementioned Dreg Mangler. Will be a staple in the Zombie archetype while that’s a thing, and given the hype pre-release date, that’s going to be a pretty popular deck. Lucky that I’ve stocked up on my Woodland Cemeteries and my Geralf’s Messengers in anticipation of this sets release.

Really solid in limited, where it’s basically impossible to kill, impossible to ignore for long, and wrecks an opponent’s combat maths. I really seem like I’m trying to convince myself not to play Golgari come the weekend, don’t I?

Rites of Reaping

We couldn’t get Consume Strength, apparently. This is a fine limited card, I suppose, if a little expensive. Were it instant speed, it might be good. I can’t see ever having a deck that wants more than one of these, as it’s just too expensive for a situational removal spell.

Sluiceway Scorpion

As previously discussed, Deathtouch is incredibly solid. I prefer it on cheaper bodies, where you can ensure that you’ll be trading up, but it’s less of an issue with the Scavenge mechanic, I suppose. Cast this, immediately block, and cash it in the following turn to make your Daggerdrome Imp better (I’m coming round to this card), which seems like a realistic sequence of events.

Good old rock. Nothing beats rock…

Treasured Find

Reclaim was cheaper, and Noxious Revival was basically free. We have a format where things want to be in the graveyard, and anything that we might want to come out either has flashback, or some form of recursion anyway, ala Gravecrawler. This isn’t going to be playable.

Raise Dead’s are better than people give them credit for in limited, though this one isn’t anything particularly exciting. It’s not worth playing, for the most part, but it’s not completely terrible.

Trestle Troll

Limited only. Holds the fort pretty well, I suppose, but I don’t see the majority of Golgari decks wanting this.

Vraska the Unseen

This is the second of two Planeswalkers in the set, and it’s dripping with flavour. It doesn’t exactly incentivise the aggro decks to attack it. If, for example, you’re casting Mutilate and following up with Vraska, you’re doing pretty well, but she’s not the brick wall for aggro the Gideon Jura was, which seems to me the Planeswalker she’s closest to in terms of abilities.

It’s not that it’s bad, at all. Actually, I think it’s very good, for a control mirror say, but I don’t think she’s all that and a bag of potato chips like some people do. Jace is, by a country mile the better planeswalker of the two, though the thought of both of them in tandem has made me come over all inappropriate.

Planeswalkers in limited are never fair, and this is no different. Open it, play it, laugh. Piece of piss.

Deathrite Shaman

Solid sideboard card for reanimator decks, or even, I suppose Snapcaster decks, or clever people who’re playing Burning Vengeance. Really solid, and demands an answer from those types of decks, as it will be impossible to just ignore.

Golgari Longlegs

Spined Wurm is often fine. I’d expect this will be a realistic curve topper in Black and/or Green decks.


Not good enough. If you could Scavenge at instant speed, maybe, but as it stands, it’s too marginal a bump to be worth a card. Sorry Slitherhead, you’re just not good enough.

Top 5 Cards I want to play with in Constructed

1. Vraska the Unseen (always love a new Planeswalker)
2. Lotleth Troll
3. Dreg Mangler
4. Pack Rat (I want this to work so bad)
5. Abrupt Decay

Top 5 Limited Commons

1. Stab Wound
2. Sluiceway Scorpion
3. Dead Reveler
4. Launch Party
5. Perilous Shadow


Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing.

Grant Hislop



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