Time for the next installment of this series. I’m sorry that this edition is a bit late. I had a nasty hamstring pull that prevented me from sitting at the computer. This time we’ll talk about Red and Black. Starting with Black, I’ll go card by card in pick order and talk about them, and how my evaluations of these cards has changed over time.
Black is the color that works best with itself. It is heavy in its color commitments and its cards tend to reward you for playing other Black cards. It also is very synergistic with artifacts furthering the tendency toward mono-Black.
Betrayal of Flesh
I know that Jeff Cunningham thinks that Terror is better and Nicolai Herzog took Electrostatic Bolt over it, but I have to say I have never seen this spell cast and not have it decide the game. Not once. Never. It has won the game each and every time I have seen it.
Quick efficient kill. I miss the early days of MMM when people thought this card was useless. Artifact set indeed. All the best creatures are colored. This card is awesome.
Barter in Blood
This closes out the big three of Black. Barter, as often as not, will get you card advantage and will almost always yield board advantage. With only one pack of Myr, the concern about running a Myr into this card is much less relevant.
Modular made this card a lot better. This card can swing games like none other and with the cheaper Modular creatures it can do is at a minimal cost to you.
The best of his race. This is the top creature Black has to offer. This card was so good it allowed players to explore other Nims and realize the hidden power when combined with removal. The Shrieker fits in nicely to an Affinity deck, but you can play him in any Black deck.
This card may not look like much, but it acts like a Neurok Spy with Haste. Enchantments are not the easiest cards to deal with in this format. I have first picked this card before and been very happy about it.
Talisman of Dominance/Indulgence
These cards are strictly better than double off color ones, but you’ll want the opposite one of your second color. These cards are quite good and may even be better than Relic Bane in certain decks.
Your Black decks aren’t the ones you should be trying to go crazy with Sunburst or splashing. Myr are great in Black, and on-color ones are better.
This Slith is a tricky one. On the play, this guy is really powerful. They can’t simply trade with their Myr like they can with other Sliths. He can get out of hand really fast. If you don’t get him on turn 2, however, he is little more than a glorified wall. He gets a lot better in a deck with Equipment that can pump his power.
Promise of Power
I guess this is where this card goes, but I am not the biggest fan. I certainly play it if I can withstand the devotion to Black, however, I use it almost exclusively to make the flier. This format is way too fast to spend life to draw cards you likely won’t cast. With the desire to get off-colored mana in your deck for Sunburst, I wouldn’t jump at this card if there are other quality cards available. That being said, this makes a huge flier or draws you a lot of cards. It is hard not to see the quality.
This one is a bit tricky. The problem is you can’t pick this early because you can’t be assured you are Mono-Black, and you can’t pick it late because you probably won’t see it. If you have picked all Black cards and you are successfully cutting it off and it is your 5th-7th pick, go ahead and grab this. It will serve you well.
This guy is pretty unimpressive in the mid game, but if you are ahead, there is no stopping this guy. There are games you just can’t lose because this guy is on the table.
It’s true this card has actually moved above Consume Spirit. Fifth Dawn has encouraged the use of Artifact lands of all colors (Darksteel Citadel, not so much). Cards that modify toughness are the universal killers. They can kill Black creatures, artifact creatures, regenerators, and even Indestructible creatures. If you don’t have enough artifacts to support this, something probably went wrong in your draft.
Vault of Whispers
This may be the one color that the on-color Artifact land is better than the off color ones. Black tends to be far more demanding of its colored mana.
One time you don’t want this guy, is when your opponent Mindslavers you. Most times this guy is at least pretty good. Late in the game they generally have to start trading their creatures for your worst creatures. Most people can only handle a few turns of that.
Disciple of the Vault
I am a little worried that I am rating this guy too low. He dropped in value when Darksteel came out since there were less packs with Spellbombs. Fifth Dawn, between the cogs and the stations, offers a lot of opportunity to exploit this guy. One-mana 1/1s are better in this draft format than any before it, and Disciple has a relevant ability to boot.
There was a time that I thought this card was the best Black common. I have since learned, as I do almost every single block, that this format is too fast for cards like this. That being said, when this guy hits the table he is a force to be reckoned with. Don’t pick him too early, but don’t be ashamed to play him.
Wail of the Nim
I like this card a lot. I am not sure why it doesn’t get the respect it deserves. I have never seen this card cast and not swing the game. Sometimes they are small swings, sometimes they are large swings, but this card is very good. I am hesitant to put it higher just because I am not sure how often it has just sat in a player’s hand with no good opportunity to cast it.
I hated this card before Fifth Dawn. Now I don’t ever see myself taking it. Splashing is encouraged. I have said this before. Everyone has said this before. In fact Fifth Dawn even encourages splashing when you have zero cards in your splash color. Add to this the fact Black is shallow in both Mirrodin and Fifth Dawn and passing this card is an easy call.
A little much at five mana. I want my five-mana spells to have a little something more than this guy offers. However, in a Nim deck, you could do much worse.
While it is impossible to get as many, the Nim deck can make a comeback with Fifth Dawn. There are lots of cheap artifacts and these cards aren’t valued as highly. I think that you can pass on early ones and expect them to make the lap, but that depends on how powerful this archetype gets.
I used to think this guy was useless. He is certainly underpowered, but he is by no means useless. He can act like a Lasher early in the game and later on he can create difficult combat situations for your opponent.
For all intents and purposes this is an off-color spell bomb. I have never seen its Black ability activated. That isn’t to say it never will be, but it will be rare. Value it slightly above off-color bombs that aren’t Red or Blue, but odds are you won’t be seeing them late enough to pick them if they are off color anyway.
Don’t be fooled. This guy doesn’t actually have any game text. However you could do worse than a 2/3 for four. The fact is there will be times that this guy actually retrieves something relevant, but not many.
Wall of Blood
This card is much better than he looks on paper. If you find yourself with a defensive deck in this beatdown format, you’ll want one of these guys working for you. It is a fine wall.
There are decks where this is better than Nim Lasher, but not many. I actually don’t normally consider this guy playable. Four Black is a ton. Eight mana is a ton. The effect is powerful, but sometimes it isn’t even enough.
Okay, I need to fess up. I have no idea where this card goes. I would never pick him very high, but I know there are decks where he can be ridiculous. If he had trample I’d put him higher for sure. In the Nim deck you should definitely play this guy, but don’t draft him too high.
Never, ever main deck this card. However if you face a non-Black deck with few artifact creature side him in. He is really good in those matchups. Sadly those are few and far between.
I don’t like this card. I don’t think his ability comes into play much. Fear on a two-power creature just doesn’t cut it for me. Gluttonous Zombie would be better in this format than this guy. He just isn’t the type of card you want in your five slot.
This guy seems nice on paper, but I have tried him a few times and he just doesn’t work out. Don’t look at him too long, he just isn’t good.
Little more than a Specter’s Wail in this format. This card can be sided in against a deck that combines early pressure and late game bombs, and isn’t inundated with artifacts. There aren’t many of those decks around, so go ahead and skip this one.
That’s right, not last on the list. Doesn’t mean he isn’t God-awful. Sure he is more playable than the following three, but trust me that isn’t saying much.
The situations in which you would side this card in aren’t even worth mentioning.
I had to look up what this card did. I have played this format a lot. If I don’t know a card off the top of my head, it isn’t terribly good.
Spoils of the Vault
This card is way too risky for Limited play. If you have a matchup that you are absolutely positively sure you can’t win without one card in your deck, you can side this in. I hope that isn’t happening to you too often.
Red is another color that works well with Artifacts, however it is not as heavy with color commitments as Black. The other thing to note with Red is that it got quite weak with in Fifth Dawn. There is only one first-pickable Red common in the set. That being said, Red is both the most powerful and the deepest color in Mirrodin.
Grab the Reins
Arguably the best card in the set. This card is splashable. It can get you two for one in multiple ways; it can kill your opponent in multiple ways. It is incredibly versatile. Don’t ever pass this card unless there is a Solar Tide in the pack, for that is the only card in the set on its level.
This card is larger than most of the creatures in this format, therefore this card would be a high pick with no game text at all. The fact of the matter is it does have game text and that game text is incredible. You won’t get more than two uses out of it in Limited, but then you still have your 4/5 ruling the board. Often times the threat of the ability is enough preventing double blocks by your opponent.
This may be my favorite card in Limited. I love cheap removal, but this card is so much more. The ability to do a whopping five points of damage to a player for two mana is too good to ever pass up. It comes on a run with Icy Manipulator and it comes on a run with Mask of Memory, and it is better than both.
There was a time I thought this was better than Arc-Slogger. That’s because often, if you get to untap with him, you win the game. The problem is he is little more than a really good creature if you are short on artifacts. Against Black mages, you often can’t go all in with him for fear of Terror. These are both minor considerations, you should be slamming this card into your pile.
My motto for this format is”The cheaper the better.” Electrostatic Bolt is the most efficient removal card in the set. For one mana you can take out some of the best creatures in the format, often with a tempo swing to boot. This card is simply awesome.
Not sure what I can say about Spikeshot Goblin that hasn’t been said already. This card is amazingly powerful once he is on the board. With any sort of Equipment is a game ender. This card is very, very good.
This card can efficiently deal with many problem cards. At instant speed it can occasionally gain you card advantage. Any artifact spot removal is powerful in this block. Take this card early.
While at times this card is better than Shatter, the sorcery speed combined with the nearly guaranteed increase in cost moves it down. No matter how tempting it is, do not use this card on Myr or Artifact Lands. If there is one thing I am sure of about this format, attacking their mana production is so often bad that you should just err on the side of not doing it. If you attack their lands, and they are mana flooded, they will eventually start casting artifacts and all your kill will be gone.
This card can sometimes simply dominate games. Myr, Nims, all the 1/1 beaters for one, this card wrecks them all.
This card can move above detonate and shatter if you anticipate drafting Affinity or White. However, dedicated Affinity decks aren’t what they used to be so most of the time this is where this card should be picked. Certainly the best Spellbomb.
This card is quite good. When the set first came out I thought the activation cost was going to be prohibitive, but I was proven wrong. Every deck should have one of these if it can.
Talisman of Indulgence/Impulse
I like these a lot better than the Myr. If you are playing Green or Black you’ll want the off color ones. If you aren’t, you’ll likely want a double off color one. The truth is with Talismans it is tough to be picky, you won’t see too many.
Red is probably the color that benefits from Myr the least besides White. As such the off-color Myr should be picked above the Red Myr.
This guy didn’t look like much at first glance, but he really came into his own. The fact is creature quality is low in this format. That means that even after he gets his sneaky three damage in he’ll still be relevant on the board.
The primary reason I put this over Atog is that you get more out of this guy with zero and one activation. These are the most likely number of activations in each combat, hence this card is better.
Yes, another dilemma I was wrong on. Really wrong. Sue me. At least I am helping you all out now. Besides, Turian needed the confidence boost.
Bosh, Iron Golem
I don’t really like this card at all. I balk at most seven-drops, so you can imagine how I feel about eight-drops. If you are Blue and you feel confident you can pick up some Vedalken Engineers in Darksteel, I guess this moves up a little, but not too much.
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I really like the way this card interacts with Sunburst and Modular. This card was always better than most people thought, but now I think it is downright powerful.
My biggest beef with this guy is that if he doesn’t come out turn 2, he is often just not enough. What I do like about him is that when he does come out turn 2 he is often difficult to deal with. When that doesn’t happen, he is trading with a Myr, and that’s fine with me. I don’t always play him, but if I have him he normally makes the cut. He has fallen a bit since it is best to avoid color commitment now.
I am not a big fan of this card. When I am spending six mana I want a card that is going to end the game. That is simply not on Rustmouth Ogre’s resume. But much like Pewter Golem, once this card is on the table, it is quite powerful, and that is something to consider.
Now we hit that clump of playables that are all around the same in power level. This part is as much play-style preference as anything else. I like beaters. This guy is a beater. His ability isn’t irrelevant either. He used to always hit the sideboard first, now I play him more often than not.
This card can be a bomb if you have enough things that can target and stay on the table. It was far better in MMM, since you had three packs of Chiss-Goria pieces. The last set didn’t add too much, but if you think White is fairly clear, you do get the Anchorite.
I am sad to admit there was a time I really liked this guy. Basically you can identify cards I misevaluated like this: They are the cards that are colored, but have the word Artifact written on them somewhere. I considered this guy a 3/3 unblockable, which he is, sometimes. Just not often enough.
This card is barely playable. If you are mono-Red with few lands, I suppose you can run it. Otherwise avoid it at all costs.
You know what I love about Red, the playables go very far down the list. I am not saying you should wear this card with pride, but sometimes you play him and he isn’t that bad.
As low as this card is on the list it could turn out to be a surprise hit. I am not a big fan of mana denial in Limited, but with people playing many colors and with those splashes usually coming in the form of Artifact Lands, this card could see more play.
I bet I have played this card more times than you would guess. It isn’t very good, but there are decks that benefit from it.
Trash for Treasure
This card is just slightly too situational for my liking. I am sure there are instances where the card is quite good, but it was designed for Constructed, let’s leave it there.
I used to say this was a good sideboard card in the Green/Red mirror. Then everyone stopped playing Green. If you have a matchup that grounds to a stalemate, you can side this in, but don’t do it often.
This was a nice sideboard in Angry Hermit part 2, now it is just a bad card all around.
Flip. A. Coin.
Confusion in the Ranks
Every block seems to have a Red card like this that has a lot of words but doesn’t actually do anything.
In the next volume we’ll go over Green/Artifacts/and Land Cards, making it the longest edition yet. Hope you are all enjoying this series and I look forward to your input!