Battle for Zendikar Sealed and Draft Review: Black by Eric Harrell
You can find all my articles in this series here.
If you are competitive, this series will provide a quick assessment for cards in the set in regards to Draft and Sealed. At the same time, this series is great for newcomers to the BFZ (Battle for Zendikar) set and the limited format. I try to explain all terms us MTG sage’s might take for granted so that a beginner can quickly grasp what is meant by a bear.
This series grades each card in BFZ for the limited format and provides several archetypes that can help orient your deck building. I try to keep my puns to a minimum as LSV reigns that dark realm, but I do have quite a bit of references and links to ensure this’ll be one entertaining read. One final thing: never be shy of your opinion – yours matters.
Note: Letter grade & Archetype legends located at bottom of post.
Altar’s Reap (C+) : God Obnixilis, I don’t even mind being sacrificed.
- Sacrifice an Eldrazi Scion (or similarly puny creature) to draw two cards.
- For black, this is card draw and sacrifice is not really a drawback in this set.
- Fits Sacrifice archetype
Bloodbond Vampire (B-) : Unique wardrobe choice for beat-down
- Trigger’s rally effects as an ally
- Double black casting cost means she’s a bit harder to splash
- Black has many ways to gain life so she can get big
- Perfect for Life-gain archetype deck
Bone Splinters (B+) : Trade a puny creature of yours for their most precious!
- Very strong removal spell that I’d harder ever cut
- Sacrifice a scion or a creature with little purpose to kill a nice big bomb of your opponents such as an Eldrazi.
Carrier Thrall (C+) : Expendable dude
- A sacrifice target.
- Loves to trade with opponent’s bears
Complete Disregard (B) : Cause guys need some tentacle lovin’ as well.
- Conditional removal; 3 power or less
- Enablers cards that require opponent’s cards in exile
- Fits BR (Black-red) devoid archetype
Culling Drone (B-) : Solid bear in black? Sign me up.
- Ingest is a great enabler for cards that require exiled cards
- Good in any deck
- BR devoid aggro (aggressive) archetype
Defiant Bloodlord (B+) : He’s out for more blood, to add to his own. Don’t question his logic!
- 4/5 flier for 7 mana is acceptable
- Effect can be a finisher for BW (Black-white) life-gain archetype
Demon’s Grasp (C+) : Ob Nixilis must have a long thumb.
- Its removal, slow and expensive.
Dominator Drone ( C+) : 3/2 for 3 mana are fine stats.
- Perfect for RB devoid aggro decks; dealing 2 damage before it attacks
- Ingest ability for cards that like exile.
Drana, Liberator of Malakir
Drana, Liberator of Malakir (A+) : Lots of interesting things going on with Drana
- Amazing Stats, 3 mana for 2/3 flying and first strike.
- She is a bomb because of her second ability.
- Puts +1/+1 counters on attacking creatures when she deals damage
- If uncontested she can win the game by herself
- Notably first strike will deal damage first, then place +1/+1 on your creatures for their non-first strike combat.
- Pumps herself after dealing damage.
- Has the ally creature type for those shenanigans.
- Demands immediate removal.
- A freedom fighter, how can you not support that?
Dutiful Return ( C ) : Its made another return, is its duty is to be available in every block?
- Gets back the two best creatures in your graveyard and discard a card you don’t want such as a land
- Better in the slower format
Greyserfield Stalker (B-) : I don’t think every deck wants this but its strong enough on its own to merit use
- Menace is great but without landfall it can die to two 1/1s
- A strong beater; a bad blocker
Grave Birthing (C+) : “Pah, why can’t we see Grandpa?”
- Neat little card; a utility card
- Cantrips, thinning your deck
- Gives you a scion to block or ramp
- Exiles a card from an opponent’s graveyard for cards that require cards in exile
Grip of Desolation
Grip of Desolation (B+) : “Your wings mean nothing”
- High pick; Premium removal for black
- Can exile two creatures if one of their lands is awakened
- Good for cards that need exiled cards
- Instant speed
Guul Draz Overseer
Guul Draz Overseer (A-) : Solid choice
- Acceptable stats with flying
- Pumps up the power of your other attacking creatures
- Great for Stalemates
Hagra Sharpshooter ( C ) : Okay stats for late game removal
- An ally
- Can remove opponent’s Scions during Stalemates
Kalastria Healer (B+) : Ally worth collecting
- Strong effect; stats don’t really matter
- An ally; good in life-gain archetype
- Amazing in multiples
- Seriously draft three or more if you can
Kalastria Nightwatch (C+) : Conditional Flier; sweet art
- Big body; sneaky ally (i.e. People won’t realize he’s an ally)
Malakir Familiar (B+) : Solid pick
- Flying creature to get in damage
- Deathtouch to kill big attackers or flying blockers
- Secondary life-gain oriented ability
- becomes a big flying beater if triggered multiple times
Mind Raker (C-) : Read that name as something else. #illithidtrauma
- Not too excited for 3/3 for 4 mana
- Prefer to use another card’s exile ability
- Poor filler
Mire’s Malice (C+) : Decent pick.
- Expensive Mind Rot
- Awaken ability increases this card’s power
- Combination of effects are strong in a slower format
Nirkana Assasin (C+) : Decent creature for curve
- Life-gain utility.
- Enables other allies
Ob Nixilis Reignited
Ob Nixilis Reignited (A) : He’s a planeswalker once again!
- First effect is strong black draw in limited.
- Second effect is straight-up removal.
- Good loyalty for mana cost
- Never pass up a Planeswalker, what are you crazy?
Painful Truths (B-) : Will see play in limited.
- Even for dual-decks, its decent draw.
- You don’t care about losing 1-3 life, you are drawing 1-3 cards
Retreat Hagra (B) : Solid Retreat; aggressive effects
- Can be used aggressively to turn puny creatures into deadly creatures
- Can be used in life-gain archetype; or to finish opponent; 2 pt life-swing
- Turns lands into useful effects
Rising Miasma (B) : Can kill a lot of small creatures
- High pick for me personally
- Perfect for Eldrazi Control decks
- Bad for decks that utilize Eldrazi Scions
- Good against aggressive landfall decks; strong against ally decks
Ruinous Path (B+) : Strongest removal in the set for the price
- Only planeswalker specific spell in the set
- Awaken a 4/4 land while killing their creature? You got me.
- Give that Kor a break (He’s also in Sheer Drop
Silent Skimmer ( C ) : Having 0 power is its downfall
- Big blocker for flying but can’t kill them
- 2 damage that is pseudo unblockable
Skitterskin (C-) : Not the best Eldrazi
- Good for aggro Devoid archetypes
- I’d avoid in most other decks because he can’t block and his second ability is too conditional
Sludge Crawler ( C ) : Great, if you need an early ingest creature
- Flexible pump ability gives it some longevity
Smothering Abomination (B) : He don’t play well with others.
- Perfect for Sacrifice Archetype
- Great stats for its cost
- Could be 2 for 1, if you play and opponent kills your only other creature
- So watch out for circumstances of that happening
Swarm Surge ( C ) : The Eldrazi Anthem effect
- Amazing card for RB Devoid Aggro archetype
- Good with an army of Eldrazi Scions
Transgress the Mind
Transgress the Mind (B) : Open wide!
- Almost always exile a card in limited
- Take a bomb away before they play it!
- Great for removing Eldrazi
- Could be a dud against an aggressive deck; but hey! you get to see their hand
Vampire Rites (C+) : First Ob Nixilis is sacrificing dudes. What? The vampires get peer-pressured into it too?
- Cheap sacrifice engine for sacrifice Archetype; fits life-gain archetype
Voracious Null (C+) : Bloodthrone Vampire is not pleased. Why isn’t she in the set?
- Sacrifice Archetype/engine
- Sorcery speed sacrifice AND cost weaken this card’s value
Wasteland Strangler (B) : I notice the full-art so much more than other Eldrazi cards.
- Good in BR Devoid archetype
- Conditional removal if there is a card in exile (really not that hard in this set)
- Tempo card.
Zulaport Cutthroat (B-) : His ancestors would be so proud 🙂
- Strictly worse Blood artist effect
- But he’s an ally
- Perfect for Sacrifice Archetypes; potential to a lot of damage
Letter Grade Legend
A+ = Windmill slam pick! Wins you games by playing them.
A = A “bomb”; very hard to beat.
A- = Good rare or top tier uncommon
B+ = Top tier common or solid uncommon
B = Playable that always makes cut
B- = Playable that rarely gets cut
C+ = Strong Filler; cut occasionally
C = Filler; cut half the time
C- = Bad filler; cut most of time
D = Sideboard material or really obscure utility
F = Unplayable
BG (Black-green) Sacrifice archetype = Makes use creatures like Blisterpod and the 1/1 eldrazi tokens with strong sacrifice engines and spells to reap powerful effects.
Landfall Archetype = Usually an aggressive deck that is composed of permanents with the Landfall keyword. Usually incorporating green for use of green’s land tutoring and ramp spells.
Ally Archetype = Leans on aggressive side, and seeks to put more allies onto field, slowly gaining board advantage through the Rally triggered ability.
Awaken Archetype = A defensive or control type deck that plays defensive creatures until it can take over with large Awaken effect swings, often crippling enemy forces while gaining a large Elemental friend in the process.
Eldrazi Ramp/Control Archetype = Requires 4+ pieces of removal in order to eliminate early threats, ramp up mana and play big Eldrazi cards that take over the game.
Devoid Combo = Uses mostly devoid cards that synergize with each other. Think Nettle Drone or Smothering Abomination with Catacomb Sifter.
BR (Black-red) Devoid Aggro = Championed by Forerunner of Slaughter, the deck makes use of devoid creatures for strong aggressive effects like Swarm Surge
BW (Black-white) Life-gain Archetype = Either an aggressive weenie deck with life-gain to mitigate retaliatory strikes or a methodical deck that prefers to gain incremental advantage through life-gain to triggers effects or even as a win condition.
Swarm Archetype = A hyper-aggressive composed of black/devoid weenie creatures or Eldrazi Scions, typically 3+ 1-drops and mostly composed of 2-3 drops. Wins with anthem affects that form top of the mana curve (i.e. Inspired Charge is the top of your curve)
Flier Archetype = a traditional archetype that typically has solid ground blockers and aggressive flying creatures. This archetype seems strong against Eldrazi ramp/control.
Converge Archetype = This archetype is primarily green for mana fixing and has a minimum of 3 colours to get large value out of sub-par cards (4 colours is ideal & possible).
You can find all my articles in this series here.
Thanks for reading,
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