Dragon’s Maze Set Review – Part 3: Black, Rakdos & Golgari by Grant Hislop

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Dragon’s Maze – MTG Return to Ravnica set 3/3

Dragon’s Maze Set Review – Part 3: Black, Rakdos & Golgari by Grant Hislop

Guess who’s back?

Having previously covered White and Blue, today we’re going to be moving on to Black, and look at Rakdos and Golgari cards as well.

I’m really short on pre-amble at the moment, so without further foreplay, let’s dive straight into some new cards.

Bane Alley Blackguard

Bane Alley BackguardI have about as much to say about this card as there are relevant words in the text box. Vanilla creatures just aren’t getting it done anymore, outside of the ridiculously statted. This is not one of them.

Blood Scrivener

This guy, on the other hand, is very exciting. Obvious comparisons have been made to Dark Confidant, and while it’s not as good, it’s also not a million miles away from it. It’s interesting to note that the card has more than doubled in price since it was spoiled, and while it’s hype alone that’s maintaining the cost at this point, it seems like, in theory it has enough going on to justify the price tag.

Its obvious home would be some sort of Jund aggro deck, be it Experiment One based, or the more traditional (and cheaper) Zombie based strategy. What’s interesting about this is the dis-synergy with Rancor, which is typically one of the bigger draws to those sorts of decks. I’m interested to play with this, and see whether it’s worth the hype. For full disclosure, this is a card that I’ve pre-ordered, so take that for what it’s worth.

Crypt Incursion

Crypt IncursionThis is interesting as Junk Reanimator hate. I’m not sure if costing three mana is going to be too much, but the fact that it’s so absolute is a strong indicator that it’ll be at least worth consideration. I actually like this better against Human Reanimator than Junk, so if, for whatever reason, that deck starts ticking up again, look for this as an answer.

This is one of the better sideboard cards in the set, in my opinion, and continues the theme of obvious hate cards that we’ve seen on Notion Thief previously.

Fatal Fumes

This is your generic Limited common removal spell of choice, and while it’s expensive, it’s still pretty good. The spell is such that it’s likely that you’ll need to add some combat damage to the mix, which is unpleasant, but beggars can’t be choosers, and we have to make do with what we’ve got. It’s far from exciting, but it’ll do the job it was designed to do.

Hired Torturer

If this said ‘Discards’ instead of ‘Reveals’, it might be acceptable. As is, it’s pretty underwhelming. Information is one thing, but not in drips like this. The bleeding ability isn’t awful, and I expect this to be a card that Orzhov decks will want, but it’s not as impressive as I’d like it to be.

Maze Abomination

Maze abominationContinuing the cycle of overcosted monocoloured creatures that do something to your multi-coloured ones, we have Maze Abomination. This isn’t any better than the previously seen cards, and isn’t really likely to see much play in Limited either, as it’s just way too expensive. The body is reasonable, and if you really have nothing better to use, it’ll do in a pinch.

Pontiff of Blight

This is very interesting for Limited, where it’ll turn all your spells into an absolute nightmare for the opponent, but it’s just too expensive and low impact for Constructed decks, so I struggle to see the Pontiff printing it.

Rakdos Drake

Basically a Cloud Elemental, and not a bad one. The Rakdos decks are typically full of ground pounders, so it’s interesting to see one with some sort of evasion. I like Cloud Elemental a lot, and I like this too. Very interested to see how this plays out.

Sinister Possession

Simister PossessionUgh, this is horrible. I expect this to be one that you’ll never see after the pre-release. I hate cards that allow my opponent to make choices, but I typically play against people who aren’t going to make terrible ones, which this card would need to be good. Bleurgh.

Ubul Sar Gatekeepers

This is the best of the Gatekeeper cycle, and even then, it’s not particularly good. As before, it requires you to jump through a lot of hoops, and the rewards for doing so are pretty underwhelming. Shame.

Carnage Gladiator

This looks like a strange one. It basically functions as somewhere between The Abyss and an opponent having a Forcefield, with something akin to a Hellrider for good measure. There’s an awful lot going on here, and it’s very hard to evaluate. I think it’s not as good as either The Abyss or Hellrider, as it’s giving an opponent choices, which is seldom a good idea, and that’s somewhat unsurprising as this is only an uncommon. I’m interested to see if this sees any play though, as it wouldn’t surprise me all that much.

Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch

ExavaThis is absolutely a card I expect will see play. I expect that play will be either in Block or post standard rotation. It’s not a favourable comparison with Hellrider, or even Falkenrath Aristocrat, and while it’s actually very good, the types of deck that would want it aren’t exactly champing at the bit for more four drops. Again, in some sort of Jund aggro deck, be it Zombies or otherwise, this will be excellent, and I really like the synergy with Scavenge, especially Slitherhead, for the ‘surprise’ haste out of nowhere.

Master of Cruelties

This is a strange ability. It seems like if you get to attack with it, you should be winning. In a world of Lingering Souls and mana bugs, I’m sceptical that it will come up often enough to be worth the five mana investment. This has a touch of the bulk mythics about it, and I’d be surprised if this cost more than £5 come M14, and that price to be maintained entirely by Kaalia of the Vast EDH players.

Morgue Burst

I qualified for my first Nationals playing a Jund deck in Shards of Alara limited with Vengeful Rebirth and Defiler of Souls in it. This is very similar to a card that I have very fond memories of. Sadly, that was limited, and the majority of my thoughts on cards now pertain to their constructed applications, and this card is just too expensive.

Thoughts of living the dream, and chucking Draco’s and Death’s Shadows and the like at opponents are really just a pipe dream, and paying six mana for a Raise Dead plus a Lightning Bolt isn’t an attractive proposition, unfortunately. Poor Morgue Burst, for a card with such a cool name, it should be better.

Showstopper

ShowstopperAs a wrestling fan, I can’t hear the words ‘Showstopper’ without thinking of Mr Wrestlemania himself, Shawn Michaels. Turning all your creatures into Creatures Only Perilous Myr doesn’t sound particularly showstopping to me, in the way that some sweet chin music would. If it hit players, this could actually be good, but in this incarnation, it’s more Marty Janetty than Shawn Michaels, and the barbershop window’s just over there…

Sire of Insanity

As a control player at heart, this card is incredibly upsetting. Imagine this, through a Cavern of Souls naming Demon? It’s enough to give you palpitations. Terrifying. The only saving grace is that it’s not really a relevant creature type, and sandbagging a Cavern isn’t typically something a Rakdos deck wants to do. For my money, the existence of this card is far scarier than its impact is likely to be, as it’s just too dear.

I could imagine some sort of Grixis deck that wanted this against Esper to combat Sphinx’s Revelations etc, as those decks typically use Forbidden Alchemy and Planeswalkers to close the game, rather than Sphinx’s Revelation for a bunch of narrow counters, removal spells and wrath’s, which isn’t the worst idea, but aggro decks can’t afford many six drops, which we can all be thankful for.

Spike Jester

SPike JesterI really like this card. Gravecrawler into Jester into Geralf’s Messenger or Dreg Mangler has the opponent on the ropes every turn from two onwards. This card is tough to get excited about, but the stats are large enough that that shouldn’t matter. Solid aggro cards seldom have the most going on in the text box anyway – look at Wild Nacatl, as an example.

Toil // Trouble

Sign in Blood + Storm Seeker makes a powerful combination on a card. If both halves target an opponent, even if they’re Jazzhands, it’s four damage, which is reasonable. The fact that it scales is pretty exciting, and that you can draw cards yourself, and dome the opponent for a smaller amount is also pretty exciting.

As usual though, both halves are a little too expensive, sadly, and fusing it, while exciting, isn’t the best use of mana. I like this one, for sure, but I wonder if we can afford to be doing such ‘cute’ things when people are capable of killing us on turn three.

Rakdos Cluestone

Copying and pasting:-

Rakdos CluestoneHalf Signet, Half Mind Stone, this cycle is interesting. Obviously, the Blue ones are likely to be better than the non-Blues, due to the types of deck that would want artifact mana acceleration and card drawing typically being Blue, but it’s possible that these could see play in Rakdos and Golgari combinations, thinking entirely about decks that are already seeing play – RWB Faithless Looting, and Golgari Predator Ooze / Ulvenwald Tracker, specifically.

Not overly exciting, as they cost just a little too much. Keyrune’s didn’t really see much play, and they strike me as being better anyway.

Rakdos Guildgate

We’ve seen this before, and as it’s not a new addition to the format, I won’t insult you by repeating the obvious.

Deadbridge Chant

Deadbridge ChantIt’s nice that they’ve found a way to reference the dredge mechanic from original Ravnica block here, but it’s a shame they’ve had to put it on such a terrible card to combat how complicated and annoying it will be to accurately keep track of, and randomise something every turn. Six mana is just too much for an Enchantment that doesn’t impact the board on the turn it comes into play.

This is almost impossible to beat in limited though, where the constant stream of card advantage should eventually overcome your opponent, even if you’re generally getting back a land every other turn. Combos well with Scavenge guys, and anything that can eat cards out of the graveyard. How good would this be with Scavenging Ooze, in formats where that’s allowed?

Down // Dirty

As before, both halves are fine individually, though they cost a little too much. There’s not much synergy with both halves, and seven mana is just too much to cast in Constructed. This is the worst of the bunch, sadly, given that it has the best name of them all too.

Drown in Filth

This sounds like a Death Metal band name. This is a decent limited removal spell, although it’s probably not a million miles away from Constructed either, given decks preferences towards Mulch and Grisly Salvage at the moment. I’m a fan of this, and I’ll be interested to see if it’s able to make the jump to sixty card land too.

Flesh // Blood

I think the Blood half of the card is the one which will be used most often. I like Flesh, but it’s a little expensive. I actually wouldn’t mind running Blood on its own, which is the mark of a solid split card, and the Flesh half would just be gravy for games I was flooding out, and needed to force through some extra damage. Lovely stuff. Not my words, Michael, the words of Shakin’ Stevens.

Gaze of Granite

Gaze of GraniteI’d really have just liked to see Pernicious Deed back. It was apparently in Alara Reborn, but ended up getting changed to Maelstrom Pulse. Deed’s one of my favourite cards of all time, and having to play shades of it is unpleasant, even those, like this, that are actually quite good. At four mana, it’s basically a Wrath versus Blitz, which is nice, and that it actually hits Planeswalkers is decent versus everyone else. It’s a little expensive, for sure, but this is one of the better Deed variants in recent memory, and I’d be surprised if I didn’t use this at some point.

Korozda Gorgon

This is obviously a limited only card, but what a house! Anything that gives you extra options is fantastic, and the synergy with the primary Golgari mechanic is lovely. I am imagining a whole host of scenarios where I’m taking my unleash counters off of my creatures, and allowing them to block. Thrill Kill Assassin, get over here, etc.

Putrefy

This is a reprint, and even has a textless version that was part of the sadly discontinued MPR cycle. Finance folks should look to pick those up, as they’re likely to be in demand in coming months. This is better than Murder in Jund, which is basically the only deck that can play Murder, so it’ll be adopted there as at least a one of.

Whether it finds more acceptance outside of Jund is unclear, but it’s interesting to have access to. This and Mortify were both excellent removal spells the first time round, and it’ll be interesting to see if Putrefy can step up to the plate a second time as well.

Rot Farm Skeleton

Rot Farm SkeletonAnother card reminiscent of Dredge is welcome. The fact that it can’t block isn’t great, as cards like Veilborn Ghoul and Reassembling Skeleton didn’t and haven’t exactly been widely adopted all that often. I don’t really expect this to do too much, outside of possibly as a one or two of, as a decent enabler in reanimator decks, but given that they’re not even running the full eight Mulches and Salvages as is, my hopes aren’t particularly high.

Varolz, the Scar Striped

This one actually excites me. He’s cheap enough, so right away I’m interested. He kind of protects himself, which is a bonus, and both his abilities are synergistic, which is always pleasant. I think this is the Guild Champion with the most potential for constructed, as it just strikes me as too good not to see play.

He’ll be a house in block too, where at least a third of the field relies pretty heavily on Supreme Verdict, which Varolz just shrugs off. Very nice.

Golgari Cluestone

Copying and pasting:-

Golgari CluestoneHalf Signet, Half Mind Stone, this cycle is interesting. Obviously, the Blue ones are likely to be better than the non-Blues, due to the types of deck that would want artifact mana acceleration and card drawing typically being Blue, but it’s possible that these could see play in Rakdos and Golgari combinations, thinking entirely about decks that are already seeing play – RWB Faithless Looting, and Golgari Predator Ooze / Ulvenwald Tracker, specifically.

Not overly exciting, as they cost just a little too much. Keyrune’s didn’t really see much play, and they strike me as being better anyway.

Golgari Guildgate

We’ve seen this before, and as it’s not a new addition to the format, I won’t insult you by repeating the obvious.

Top 5 Constructed cards I’m interested in:-

1. Varolz, the Scar Striped
2. Putrefy
3. Flesh // Blood
4. Blood Scrivener
5. Spike Jester

Stay classy mtgUK,

Grant

What do you think is the best Black (inc. Rakdos & Golgari) card from Dragons Maze? and why?

Best MTG Dragons Maze Black Rakdos Golgari Card

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