The Mirrodin Block Limited Review – Darksteel Black and Red

Here we go with what is probably the deepest color in terms of card quality in this set, plus the beginning of the end for the former powerhouse known as Red.

Can you hear the footsteps? That is the 5th Dawn part of the preview approaching. I know you must be excited about it… I sure am. I will have drafted with it a lot more by that time, as it is after Pro Tour: Seattle. I am not qualified and I am going. That means lots of drafts. Of course, I can only assume that my team will grind in via LCQ. On the flanks are Jamie Parke and Aaron Lipczynski. Wish us luck and try to follow us if we qualify. We don’t have a team name yet. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Let’s look at some cards, shall we?

Black is an interesting animal. As I mentioned in the second article in this series, the more Black you play, the better the deck will be. Its primary and secondary spells all reward you for playing a lot of Swamps.

Group 1:

Death Cloud

This powerful sweeping effect is unparalleled in this Block. When this card works, there is no card that works better. The problem, of course, is it doesn’t always work. If you are low on life, it is often too late for this card to bail you out.

Greater Harvester

Creatures in this format get no better than this guy. If I had to choose, I’d take this card over Molder Slug. He hits harder, he can’t be Terrored, and his ability is both more relevant and easier for its controller to maneuver.

Mephitic Ooze

This is the God of all the Nim. He isn’t a Nim, but he has the same game text. This is the guy all Nim aspire to be. He is very hard to kill and often hits for a lot. It is rare that a team block will work out well for the defending player.

Chittering Rats

Grey Ogres are fine cards in this format. When they come with an amazing ability, they are even better. With the help of Crystal Shard or Vedalken Mastermind, this card can lock up the game really fast.

Echoing Decay

Removal is at a premium since the release of Fifth Dawn, and this card is very versatile for two mana. Whether used as a combat trick or as straight creature kill, you want to have one of these in your arsenal.

Emissary of Despair

This card is downright unfair. There aren’t many cards in this set I take over it. He reliably comes out on turn 3 and in some games can end it a few turns later. That being said, he is fragile, so you better have a back-up plan.

Essence Drain

This was at one time, in my opinion, the best Black common in a long line of good Black commons. With the format slowing down some, the size of creatures has gotten larger and a six-point swing in a losing race doesn’t always compensate. This is still a powerful card, and you should consider it a gift to get it later than third pick.

Murderous Spoils

This is a card that is a mixed blessing when it is passed to you. Odds are when this happened, your friendly neighbor to your left took a Skullclamp. Hopefully you won’t have to face him.

Nim Abomination

With the release of Fifth Dawn, Black solidified its position as the most aggressive color in the set. This card fits most Black decks like a glove. Add to this the fact that there is one less pack of Arrests, you have yourself a truly brutal card.

Group 2:

Dross Golem

At GP: Columbus this year I was playtesting my sealed deck against Kibler. He was G/R/b and he cast a Dross Golem against me. I was said,”You are splashing Dross Golem?” He said,”Yes.” I said”Why?” He said,”Because he’s awesome.” I now agree.

Grimclaw Bats

I pulled this and Drossy out of Group 1. I am not sure I was right to, but it seemed odd to have over half the cards in Group 1. The Bats are normally a force on the table. They are hard to attack into, hard to block, and can really speed up a game. The downside is, you don’t always want some of these games sped up. Remember, when you pump them you are only doing one more damage than you are taking.

Screams from Within

Capable of being a one sided Wrath, but also capable of rotting in your hand. This card doesn’t always make the main deck, but its potential puts it in group 2.

Aether Snap

This card was a decent spoiler before Fifth Dawn, but more often than not it didn’t see play. Now, with Sunburst, this card becomes a powerhouse out of the sideboard.

Scavenging Scarab

While he is the weakest of Black’s creatures in Darksteel, he is still quite playable. The increased level of aggression out of Black makes him a solid body at a reasonable cost.

Group 3:

Pulse of the Dross

I am truly unimpressed with this Pulse. This is the worst of all of them, and yet, it isn’t terrible. With at least two common playable pieces of hand destruction, this card could see play in the right deck.

Burden of Greed

I have sided in this card in the mirror match. However I have not done so since the release of Fifth Dawn. I imagine this one got a little worse.

Group 4:

Hunger of the Nim

There is a part of me that actually wants to try this card. In an artifact heavy deck with lots of evasion I could almost see it being playable… almost.

Shriveling Rot

If you have this in your hand, with a Dross Scorpion equipped with Viridian Longbow, you are all set.


If your opponent is artifact light and nearly all of their artifacts are awesome and you have artifact destruction, then this card is playable. My personal guess is that if you are lucky, you’ll pick up a random cog.

Demon’s Horn

You know, of all the lucky charms, this one is probably the best. Black does an awful lot of damage to itself. If you have a deck with a lot and I mean a lot of Black spells, and you are in the Black mirror… don’t play this card.

Red is a little less complex than Black and far less deep. This color got a lot weaker in Fifth Dawn, despite having the best common in that set. Red is good in this set. You need to make sure you get the utility this color has to offer in this set before venturing into 5D.

Group 1:

Barbed Lightning

This is certainly the best Red common in the set. It is the second best common in the set overall, with only Leonin Bola being better. This card kills many of the relevant creatures. Sadly it doesn’t kill the three best Golems.


I’ll be honest with you. I haven’t played with this card since the new set came out. My gut tells me that this card has improved a lot. In addition to there being more cards with counters on them, the cards in your own deck with counters are helped even more than before by having them.

Echoing Ruin

While this card used to be superior to Dismantle, I am no longer convinced of that fact. Not to say you should be upset first picking this card, quite the contrary. This card is a boon to any deck.

Furnace Dragon

Just because decks have fewer Artifacts than they used to doesn’t mean this card isn’t the bomb diggity. Getting a 5/5 flier out early is nice enough, but to kill all the Artifacts at the same time is just insane.

Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]

This Pulse is downright unfair. I have heard stories of matches that were won with all forty points of damage coming from this card. When you are losing it makes you win, when you are winning, you win quicker. There is no card in the set you take over this one.


I initially thought this card was absurd, and it is. It is nowhere near as good as initial thoughts would indicate, but it is still a first pick slam, it is still versatile, it is still over powered. You may not instantly win the game when you draw it, but it always makes a big difference.

Vulshok War Boar

Nothing bad to say about this creature. Your Green/Red decks may not be able to support it, but they aren’t the decks that need him as much. Your Red decks that combine with other colors don’t have many cards that can do what this one does. Make sure you pick him very early.

Group 2:

Savage Beating

Red gets an Overrun. This card acts a lot like Overrun. The Instant speed gives it a leg up, but you really need to Entwine it for it to end the game, which is pretty restrictive casting cost-wise.


Redirection has never been an eye-popping ability in Limited and I am not sure why. The two-for-one you get by doing it almost always outweighs the times you can’t use it. This is a great example of a card in group 2 that will often start out in the sideboard. I am not saying this card isn’t main deck material, it’s just that there are decks that don’t need it game 1.


I think I like this card more than most of the world. I am not as turned off by the triple Red in the casting cost. I find that with Vulshok Sorcerer being the best common (if you aren’t 5-color) in Fifth Dawn, you are often heavy enough on Red to support this. You can gauge this based on the amount of Red you are passed in pack 1.

Slobad, Goblin Tinker

This card is amazing in any Affinity or Affinity-like deck. Decks that have a lot of expendable artifacts and a lot of good artifacts will always benefit from this card.

Oxidda Golem

This guy is around the power level of Vulshok Berserker. That power level is pretty good in this set. There are times he is better and times he is worse. All in all it’s a pretty comparable card.

Goblin Archaeologist

At worst, he’s an Omega Myr. Okay that’s not a great selling point. He is only bad half the time. Once he is good, he will be great half the time. Once he is great he will be broken half the time… You get the idea.

Group 3:

Krark-Clan Stoker

I can’t lie. One of the major reasons I didn’t put this guy in group 2 is because I didn’t want Unforge here alone. It wouldn’t be much of a group in that instance. A colored Grey Ogre is not to be underestimated in this format. In addition his ability is relevant. This is a fine card in most Red decks.


He may shovel well, but there is more to life than shoveling. If you didn’t get this obscure reference don’t worry, I’m sure less than a quarter will. This card is very good at what it does, but what it does isn’t always relevant. I’d try to make sure you had one in the board, then leave it there.

Group 4:

Crazed Goblin

Well he is no Mons Goblin Raider, but in a beatdown deck, he isn’t as bad as you might think. His biggest drawback is his inability to block after his offensive capabilities are diminished. I am not saying you should play this guy often, but there are decks where he isn’t the worst.

Drooling Ogre

I’m not playing this in this block, my friends.


This card is one of the weakest reprints of all time. Pass it.

Tears of Rage

I so desperately wanted this card to be good. It just isn’t.

Dragon’s Claw

Blah blah blah.

Nest week we take a look at the Green, Artifact, and Land cards from Darksteel. Green is the worst color in the set so hold on to your hats! Keep on reading, we’ll have covered the whole block before you know it!


[email protected]