A Card-By-Card Breakdown Of Black In Kaladesh

The big Kaladesh party starts at #SCGINDY tomorrow! Pro Tour Hall of Famer Patrick Chapin has been all over the set, giving the most extensive commentary and the most decklists! Today is no different! It’s black’s turn to get The Innovator’s attention and it’s all right here!

#SCGINDY October 1-2!

It’s kind of messed up how strong Kaladesh seems, but maybe I’m just traumatized from too many months of Collected Company. Either way, today we’re doing what we can do and brewing black decks all the way through.

Previous articles focusing on single colors:



Okay, let’s black it up.

Flying with lifelink is sweet, but if we’re not taking advantage of the +1/+1 counter ability, Aetherborn Marauder compares pretty poorly to Aerial Responder. As for actually moving +1/+1 counters, we’d need to move at least two just to catch up to Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, but then we don’t have those counters on those creatures.

Maybe they’ll make some creature that has +1/+1 counters on it as a drawback, like -2/-2 for every +1/+1 counter on it, or it can’t attack while it has a +1/+1 counter on it, that normally would need you to pay a bunch of mana to move those counters. Until then, I’m off it.

Ambitious, to be sure.

This card seems great. Don’t let all that business about artifacts scare you off. Like, wouldn’t a 1/4 lifelinker for two at least be interesting? I’ve played a 1/4 vanilla for three…

Sure, we could play something with lots of artifacts, maybe some Glint-Nest Crane deck or something.

If we play fourteen to eighteen artifacts, plus four Cranes, we’re gonna get a lot of scry triggers for extra value. I’m not saying we need that many artifacts to make the Kingpin worth it. I’m just saying, if we actually have that many, the Kingpin is going to be awesome.

For instance:

I’ve heard a lot of people talking about Glint-Nest Crane as though you can’t play the card without at least sixteen or seventeen artifacts in your deck. Why?

The above list has fifteen artifacts, for a 70.2% chance of hitting one with the Crane (not counting any Contraband Kingpin scrys to help set it up). Adding a sixteenth would take us up to 72.9%. That 2.7% is enough to make us not play the card? If that were really the case, I guess we could just play three Cranes and add another artifact, but it’s really not.

We’re not just drawing over 70% of card. We’re getting selection. It’s not just our choice of artifacts (and we’ll have a choice of two or more 26.5% of the time). We’re also getting nonland cards to help keep the business coming. In fact, they’re always artifacts, so we can keep the scry triggers coming from the Kingpin if we have one.

Besides, remember, we’re still getting a 1/3 flier when we miss. A 1/3 flier is not that far off for two mana. Omenspeaker saw plenty of play. The point is, Glint-Nest Crane is awesome. You’ll see.

We’re even extra in the market for a one-power creature because of Smuggler’s Copter! Of course, Contraband Kingpin can Crew the Copter, too.

In part we’d just like some more artifacts for the Crane, but in part we’re kind of getting some sweet value when we loot away Scroungers and then draw them back into our hand. I’m not sure I’m ready to go all the way to Ovalchase Daredevil, though. That said, if we had four more Looters, like Key to the City or something, maybe…

Once we’re playing this many artifact creatures, I wonder if we’re supposed to play the best one?

Yeah, I’m talking about splashing Verdurous Gearhulk. That card is absurd. Get used to it.

You know who appreciates some +1/+1 counters? That’s right, lifelinkers like Contraband Kingpin.

I think this card is somewhat misunderstood at the moment. Phyrexian Totem was heavily played, and it only tapped for one color, not to mention being very risky if it were to take damage. Yeah, it cost mana instead of requiring tapping creatures, but they are at least similar it cost.

Anyway, Contraband Kingpin is obviously sweet when you’re that long on artifacts. I am, however, also interested in the Kingpin even in artifact-light decks, such as:

You know what works great with Radiant Flames? A 1/4 lifelinker.

Better in an aggressive deck with artifacts, to be sure, but it might be better than Murder even in a deck with zero artifacts (let alone Torrential Gearhulk).

I’m into this card. It’s efficient and one of the few cards that’s actually good against Toolcraft Exemplar and Emrakul, the Promised End. Discard usually has the drawback of being dead late, but the scry becomes especially valuable in spots like that.

While we’re kicking it all Grixis-like…

I love Essence Extraction, particularly in a deck with Painful Truths and Ob Nixilis Reignited.

Grixis doesn’t normally get access to such decent lifegain. Between this, Contraband Kingpin, and Noxious Gearhulk, we might actually end up a little spoiled.

Wait a minute.

Torrential Gearhulk is better than Noxious Gearhulk by a fair bit, but once we’re not playing any permission, why are we splashing blue for Torrential Gearhulk? To Flashback Essence Extraction?

We may not get to play Gimmer of Genius, but Live Fast isn’t that bad.

We’re not really taking much advantage of the Energy, but Live Fast requires only a single black mana (compared to Succumb to Temptation’s double black). Besides, we wouldn’t really be taking much advantage of the instant speed of Temptation, either.

The trigger may not be able to get land, but getting our choice of their top four cards is worth more, if you ask me. That makes this better than a cantrip, and it’s attached to a 2/3 with deathtouch, which is a pretty respectable body. Besides, we’ve got to have something to get back with Liliana, the Last Hope!

Demon of Dark Schemes is sweet! There’s kind of a lot of competition at six, and that’s to say nothing of five. Nevertheless, Demon of Dark Schemes does have an immediate impact on the battlefield. It’s also, amusingly enough, good against both Toolcraft Exemplar and Emrakul, the Promised End (taking the Emrakul out of their graveyard).

What about just reanimating our own Emrakuls?

Now we’re starting to talk my language! It’s kind of sweet that Demon of Dark Schemes is such a good hit off of Aetherworks Marvel (often being able to reanimate Emrakul on the spot) while also being very castable.

I don’t actually think we’re going to want to play Diabolic Tutor, at least not here. It’s just so expensive. I just wanted to try it, since it finding Aetherworks Marvel is worth so much, and when we untap with an Aetherworks Marvel, sometimes finding a Diabolic Tutor is a “hit.”

This is a messed-up Magic card. I know this is the card that looks so transparently unfair, it can’t actually turn out to be good.

That was true of Tolarian Academy too, though.

Kind of a decrease in power, huh?

Okay, well, if we’re gonna try to use Dhund Operative, I guess it’s in some kind of black aggro deck with Smuggler’s Copter and Scrapheap Scrounger. The thing, I just can’t imagine the list where Dhund Operative isn’t just the fifth-best two-drop at best. For instance:

● Smuggler’s Copter plus Voldaren Pariah or Asylum Visitor

Scrapheap Scrounger plus discard outlets or sacrifice outlets

There’s just no way we’re gonna want Dhund Operative, though, right? Same with Embraal Bruiser.

They’re not embarrassing; it’s just they are clearly outclassed.

Syndicate Trafficker isn’t an automatic inclusion, but we can actually put this Aetherborn to good use if we try.

The indestructible ability is actually pretty solid on its own, and then we get the +1/+1 counter for icing on the cake. If we want to go hard, we can combine it with Animation Module so that we can pay mana for +1/+1 counters at will, not to mention permanent indestructibility.

Such a deck doesn’t have to be that crazy. For instance:

Indulgent Aristocrat is a mondo combo with Animation Module. Sacrifice something to get started, and then you can buy a 1/1 for one mana for every Vampire you had. Now you’ve got more food than you started with, and your team is growing.

We’ve also got Drana, Liberator of Malakir and Fretwork Colony for extra Animation Module combos!

I’m guessing Fretwork Colony won’t pan out, as it’s just a little slow to get going. However, it is pretty sweet with Animation Module, giving us some blockers to help make up for it not being able to block.

While both of these lists have featured Indulgent Aristocrat and Cryptbreaker at the one, Kaladesh does have a black one-drop worth considering:

Night Market Lookout’s primary function is to Crew Vehicles like Smuggler’s Copter. The most obvious pairing is R/B for maximum damage:

This is kind of an awkward use of Underhanded Designs, but I could imagine a deck appreciating that Underhanded Designs adds “enchantment” to the graveyard for delirium. It’s also only one mana more than Murder in a deck with lots of artifacts (and you get to split it up). That you get to actually drain people is at least a little sweet, too. It’s kind of slow and medium, but it’s at least worth considering in a Blind Obedience kind of way.

That list was pretty extreme, but we could just Night Market Lookout somewhere a little less ambitious, like:

I also think Night Market Lookout could potentially be paired with other colors, like white, for Toolcraft Exemplar:

This card is just so absurd. Why do they do this? I hope the format finds a happy balance, because right now, it sure looks like you can just play 3/2s for one with multiple good creature types and conditional first strike.

Seems great, anyway. Scrapheap Scrounger is a great Crew, Night Market Lookout likes to help, and Cultivator’s Caravan helps cast it early.

I want to want this card, but the rate is just so bad. Dead Weight doesn’t exactly define the format, and this is a Dead Weight that costs literally twice as much. Yeah, it potentially combos with extra Energy you want to spend. However, it doesn’t add “enchantment” to your graveyard, and it costs twice as much.

Have you seen Grasp of Darkness?

We’d have to be really into setting the top of our library to be willing to stoop this low. If we were trying to set up some Sorin, Grim Nemesis or Aetherworks Marvel combo, we’ve got better options, like Mortuary Mire or Conduit of Ruin.

On the other hand, if we’re just using Dukhara Scavenger for “value,” we can do so much better. We could just play Restoration Gearsmith, like we talked about on Monday.

Paging Sam Black…

Eliminate the Competition lets you build a Plague Wind if you have tokens or sacrifice-worthy creatures, like Filigree Familiar and Pilgrim’s Eye.

Ishkanah, Grafwidow is a lot of bodies, and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar makes tokens galore. The thing is, we’re still just playing Eliminate the Competition at five instead of more Verdurous Gearhulks. How is that a real card?

What about, instead, we do something like this:

Okay, this deck looks great, and I bet we can tune its sideboard to deal with most anything we need to. This is definitely immediately on my short list for consideration for the upcoming Pro Tour.

While I appreciate what we’re going for here, it’s basically a Divination that asks a lot of you and in return gives you a small amount of selection. Unfortunately, drawing two after you have two good cards in the graveyard isn’t as inherently useful as just drawing two on turn 3 or when you haven’t found what you want, yet. Besides, three is basically the most hotly contested cost at the moment, particularly in black.

The “drawback” isn’t big, but we wouldn’t want a 3/1 flier for three straight up.

Getting 4/3 worth of stats upfront would already be short of what we’re looking for in Constructed for this cost. Lawless Broker makes you wait to get the last +1/+1 until an event that you strongly don’t want to happen, and even then, only if you have a creature around to receive it. On top of all that, it’s also an awkward combination of stats for three mana, since there are lots of ways to kill a two-toughness creature incidentally.

Lost Legacy is mostly just a respectable sideboard card against Emrakul, the Promised End (at least in Standard). However, we can also target ourselves and hit our Eternal Scourges, building a weird super-Call of the Herd.

Eternal Scourge makes a great Crew for Skysovereign, Consul Flagship or Cultivator’s Caravan. It’s also a great card to sacrifice to Distended Mindbender.

This is a helluva lot worse than Zealous Persecution, but that was a maindeck four-of star. It’s possible that Make Obsolete could be a niche sideboard option for metagames with a lot of tokens and 2/1s for one. Maybe its best use is as a sideboard option in U/B Control with Torrential Gearhulk looking for a sweeper it can Flashback.

I can see why people just dismiss Marionette Master. After all, it is pretty expensive and not exactly Grave Titan. That said, it does have some appeal to me. It actually seems like it could kill someone in a hurry with a zero-mana-activation sacrifice outlet. There aren’t really all that many Nantuko Husks in the format (Reaper of Flight Moonsilver is a little impractical), but if we get a little creative, we can use Voldaren Pariah.

This might not be enough sacrifice outlets, but Westvale Abbey isn’t necessarily out of the question. The thing is, once we’ve got the O-Father, how much do we need the combo kill?

It’s like a Hordeling Outburst, but one of the Goblins is defective.

An alternative way to sacrifice our artifacts for a Marionette combo kill is Metalwork Colossus.

If we’ve got a Metalwork Colossus in our graveyard, we can sacrifice two artifacts to return the Colossus to our hand, then two more in response. That’s sixteen damage right there.

This looks crazy, but I could actually imagine there being some future in a deck like this. It’s actually not that hard to get Metalwork Colossus down to a reasonable cost. Hedron Archive plus Metalspinner’s Puzzleknot and already we can cast the Colossus as a 5-mana 10/10 (sacrificing a Sanctum of Ugin to go find another one, or perhaps a Distended Mindbender).

Straight-up, this is the world’s worst Night’s Whisper. However, if you value having random artifacts, it’s actually not the worst.

Not enough rate, nor a particularly convenient allocation of the rate it does have.

Midnight Oil has kind of a fancy textbox but is really just another conditional card draw engine. It’s probably a solid sideboard card in some Outpost Siege sort of spots; but I guess we could just try too hard and push it:

Personally, I’d prefer not to.

Push it, that is.

I’d love to, believe me. It’s probably not time. If anyone ends up wanting this, it’s probably some Rakdos Goblin Dark-Dwellers deck’s sideboard. Even still, I’d guess Whispers of Emrakul is more likely to interest us if things were to go that way.

Cool with Gurmag Angler in Modern, but as for Standard, the two most obvious choices to sacrifice are Metalwork Colossus and Gearseeker Serpent (since we want cards with really high casting costs that don’t actually cost that much mana to cast).

Is this another spot for Marionette Master?

A bargain at half the cost.

But it doesn’t cost half the cost. It costs literally double that.

I love the push towards stronger tricks in black.

Probably not quite enough rate or demand for this one, but the card would be amazing at one.

Speaking of stronger tricks…

That the +1/+1 is a counter helps, but we’re probably still not quite there. If Subtle Strike were to see play, it would probably be in some kind of +1/+1 synergy deck that just so happens to want an extra two-cost removal spell.

Even after using the Energy, we still haven’t gotten our money’s worth. As such, you’d have to be pretty hard up for Energy, and almost surely you’d be willing to add another color to get it rather than stoop this low.

I’d love to be in the market for this, and at four, maybe we could justify one or two in some kind of a Torrential Gearhulk / Glint-Nest Crane deck. As it is, I’m guessing this is just too expensive for a format with Toolcraft Exemplar, Inventor’s Apprentice, and Emrakul, the Promised End.

There’s no way we’re so desperate for a black or artifact Aerial Responder that we’re willing to give up flying and vigilance and need to pay black to gain lifelink.

Instead, let’s just build another Grixis deck…

#SCGINDY October 1-2!