If you missed the Limited Reviews::
And don’t forget Constructed:
Here’s the rating system I’ll be using, though you won’t see any “1s” today.
5.0: Multi-format All-Star ([card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card]. [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]. [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]. [card]Judge’s Familar[/card])
4.0: Format staple. ([card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card]. [card]Supreme Verdict[/card]. [card]Thoughtseize[/card]. [card]Pack Rat[/card])
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. ([card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card]. [card]Nightveil Specter[/card]).
3.0: Archetype staple. ([card]Underworld Connections[/card]. [card]Thassa, God of the Sea[/card])
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. ([card]Rapid Hybridization[/card]. [card]Divination[/card]).
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. [card]Naturalize[/card]. (Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.)
1.0: It has seen play once. [card]One with Nothing[/card]. (I believe it was tech vs. Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)
[ccProd]Bile Blight[/ccProd][draft]Bile Blight[/draft]
Besides [ccProd]Brimaz[/ccProd], this is likely the most impactful card for Standard. Not only does it kill all the creatures that sorely need killing these days, it deals with up to three [card]Pack Rats[/card]. It is funny that the deck that plays four Pack Rats gets the cheapest and best Pack Rat answer, but that at least will lead to some interesting lines of play in the mirror. Plus, it isn’t a hard and fast rule that Mono-Black is the only deck that can play Bile Blight, even if a BB casting cost leans towards that direction. There’s even a shot this sees play outside of Standard, as there are other formats with tokens and important creatures that die to Blight.
[ccProd]Drown in Sorrow[/ccProd][draft]Drown in Sorrow[/draft]
Besides completely blanking [card]Infest[/card] for every deck that doesn’t want five or more, Drown in Sorrow shores up one of the few weaknesses Mono-Black had in Standard. No longer is it vulnerable to a curve of multiple one-drops out of mono-red or White Weenie, making it even more well-rounded of a deck (when it really didn’t need much help).
Between [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card] and [card]Bile Blight[/card], it’s possible that a UB control deck could have enough good removal to justify leaving [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] on the bench. The loss of Revelation is still tough, but [card]Opportunity[/card] is a reasonably strong card in its own right.
[ccProd]Eye Gouge[/ccProd][draft]Eye Gouge[/draft]
Killing [card]Mutavault[/card] for one mana is a real thing, especially if there are a lot of other good 1-toughness targets (or Cyclopseses, somehow). BenS still hasn’t ruled on whether two Eye Gouges kill a 2-eyed creature, and if the answer is affirmative, this gets quite a bit better.
[ccProd]Fate Unraveler[/ccProd][draft]Fate Unraveler[/draft]
While the most likely fate for this card is Limited-only play, it’s a reasonably-sized body with a good ability. It’s not so punishing that it will actually stop card draw in its tracks, but playing this and getting in some decent extra damage sounds plausible to me.
[ccProd]Fated Return[/ccProd][draft]Fated Return[/draft]
Seven mana is enough to make this a niche card, though I do like how powerful the effect is. Siding this in against a control deck that can’t kill indestructible creatures could be a good plan, since bringing back an unkillable [card]Desecration Demon[/card] or something could seal your opponent’s fate. It’s pricey enough that it doesn’t cheat anything into play, which nullifies many of the uses most reanimation spells have.
The reverse [card]Path to Exile[/card] has some utility in ramp decks. It kills anything, including Gods, and bumps your mana by one as a bonus. This costing four does mean it isn’t as good as gold, but sometimes even silver sees Constructed play (see: [card]Judge’s Familiar[/card], my “multiformat All-Star”).
[ccProd]Herald of Torment[/ccProd][draft]Herald of Torment[/draft]
I like the idea of an aggressive black deck, and the printing of this might herald such a thing. It’s strong to play on three mana, and very strong to bestow on five. Bestow is a really powerful ability, and the few cards with it that are cheap enough to see Constructed play should be real considerations. They fight against Wrath very effectively, and provide a good chunk of hasted (and in this case, evasive) damage. You do need to be attacking to want this, both because of the creature density and because of the life loss, so I’m not advocating throwing this into Mono-Black as it currently stands.
[ccProd]Pain Seer[/ccProd][draft]Pain Seer[/draft]
Black really has been hurting for two-drops, especially if you are a deck that wants more than just [card]Pack Rat[/card] (i.e., any sort of aggro deck). I don’t want to jump through hoops just to get a painful extra card, so if this naturally fits into a beatdown deck that seems vastly preferable. There’s a (very) small chance that some sort of [card]Springleaf Drum[/card] brew is viable, but I think I’d want more free inspired abilities before that’s the case.
There are less painful and easier ways to draw extra cards, but anything that can turn life into cards at a reasonable rate bears investigation. I think [card]Underworld Connections[/card] and [ccProd]Erebos[/ccProd] probably have this market covered, but there’s no harm in figuring out more ways to harm yourself for cards.
[ccProd]Fated Conflagration[/ccProd][draft]Fated Conflagration[/draft]
The biggest and most obvious problem with this card is that it doesn’t go to the face. It kills planeswalkers, and most creatures (though not Desecration Demon, which is a big miss), but decks that can assemble RRR don’t usually care about such things.
[ccProd]Felhide Spiritbinder[/ccProd][draft]Felhide Spiritbinder[/draft]
Kiki-Jiki this is not, but it’s big enough and tough enough to survive a lot of the removal in Standard. If you have a reasonable shot at having good creatures to Clone, this does enough damage to put your opponent in quite the bind.
[ccProd]Flame-Wreathed Phoenix[/ccProd][draft]Flame-Wreathed Phoenix[/draft]
Tribute is a deceptive mechanic. As with punisher, cards with this mechanic are weaker than the sum of their parts, as your opponent always gets to choose what card they’d like to deal with. Both sides of the Phoenix look solid enough that I’m optimistic about it seeing play, though the red 4-drop slot is always a hotly-contested one.
[ccProd]Oracle of Bones[/ccProd][draft]Oracle of Bones[/draft]
If you can assemble a deck that has a good mix of aggression and spells that are good to play for free, this could demand some solid tribute. A 3/1 haste that adds a couple mana to your mana pool is pretty good, and scaring the opponent into giving you a hasted [card]Juggernaut[/card] is awesome. It’s going to be hard to hit the right balance of spells to make this work, but very sweet if you pull it off (the first time you cast an off-color 7-mana spell, you are basically guaranteeing your opponent will pay tribute from then on).
[ccProd]Satyr Firedancer[/ccProd][draft]Satyr Firedancer[/draft]
As a sideboard card out of burn decks, this is pretty cute. It lets you point all your burn at the opponent’s head without worrying about their creatures, which is something burn has always wanted. Multiples aren’t even a bad draw, as they stack up nicely (assuming you draw at least some burn spells).
[ccProd]Satyr Nyx-Smith[/ccProd][draft]Satyr Nyx-Smith[/draft]
This is pretty mana-intensive, but the idea of hitting for 2 out of nowhere and then getting a bonus 3/1 is appealing. I don’t think mono-red would want too many of these, but playing one or two as a midrange threat could be cool.
[ccProd]Scouring Sands[/ccProd][draft]Scouring Sands[/draft]
Once [card]Electrickery[/card] rotates, this could be the go-to 1 damage effect, but I’d rather not be forced to pay the two mana at sorcery speed.
[ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd][draft]Searing Blood[/draft]
This is too bloody efficient to not see play, even if 2 damage misses a lot more than I’d like. [card]Searing Blaze[/card] is likely still better in Modern, but you may even want a 5th or 6th, and in Standard you aren’t often going to lack for targets.
Top 3 Black Cards
3. [ccProd]Herald of Torment[/ccProd] 2. [ccProd]Drown in Sorrow[/ccProd] 1. [ccProd]Bile Blight[/ccProd]
Mono-Black won big this set, though at least in a way that could introduce many more decision points into the mirror match. No longer is it correct to blindly spam Rats, which goes a long way in making the card palatable. Mmm, Rat. [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card] helps against aggro, and [card]Herald of Torment[/card] enables it, which could lead to some interesting new decks.
Top 3 Red Cards
3. [ccProd]Flame-Wreathed Phoenix[/ccProd] 2. [ccProd]Satyr Firedancer[/ccProd] 1. [ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd]
Red picked up some interesting tools for burn decks, which do happen to be its strength, and a couple of 4-drops. After Phoenix come [card]Oracle of Bones[/card] and [card]Fate Conflagration[/card], all of which have decent arguments for their inclusion (though Oracle takes more work than the others). Things could be worse; at least red’s best cards aren’t [card]Divination[/card]s.
I’ll be wrapping things up with green and the rest of the set (including all the gold Gods, which are interesting to talk about), after which I get to resume testing post-ban Modern for the upcoming Pro Tour.