Eldritch Moon Limited Set Review: Black

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Eldritch Moon is here, and it’s time for me to review each and every card, starting with Limited. A few quick notes before I get to the reviews:

The grade on each card is much less important than the analysis. It’s a good shorthand, but what I write about each card gives a lot more context to the grades, and goes deeper on cards that defy a simple grade (such as situational cards).

Some set specific mechanics (emerge, escalate, and meld) are hard to understand until you get to see them in action. It’s also not completely clear how Eldritch Moon will change Shadows over Innistrad’s existing mechanics (delirium, madness, tribal synergies, etc.). I’ll provide my best estimate as to how good the cards that relate to these abilities are, and I like to assume that all of a set’s themes are well-supported.

LSV’s are some big shoes to fill, but I’ll do my absolute best. He’s a genius when it comes to evaluating new cards on the fly, but I think I can do well enough to give you a solid starting point with Eldritch Moon. He’s also a great, entertaining writer when he’s not making us all cringe. Sorry (but not sorry) if I can’t continue his proud tradition of a pun in every single card review.

Ratings Scale

Retired and inducted into the Limited Hall of Fame: Pack Rat. Umezawa’s Jitte.
5.0: The best of the best. (Archangel Avacyn. Sorin, Grim Nemesis.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (The Gitrog Monster. Descend Upon the Sinful. Jace, Unraveller of Secrets. Avacyn’s Judgment.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Burn from Within. Devil’s Playground. Elusive Tormentor.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Declaration in Stone. Breakneck Rider. Fiery Temper.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Graf Mole. Dauntless Cathar. Niblis of Dusk.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Nephalia Moondrakes. Stormrider Spirit. Reduce to Ashes.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Expose Evil. Inspiring Captain. Lamplighter of Selhoff.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Fork in the Road. Convicted Killer. Militant Inquisitor.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Moldgraf Scavenger. Vampire Noble. Seagraf Skaab.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Invasive Surgery. Ethereal Guidance. Open the Armory.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Harness the Storm. Vessel of Volatility.)

Now that I’ve gotten the boring stuff (white and blue) out of the way, I get to move on to my favorite colors! When I agreed to take on this set review, some people teased me that I would rate the cards in the Jund colors higher than everything else.

Kai Budde: “Puns aren’t in Reid’s range. Overvaluing cards of a certain shard, though…”

I’ll certainly try my best not to fulfill that prophecy. But I have to say that the red and black removal looks strong, and that Vampires and Zombies look like powerful tribes in Eldritch Moon.

Plus, at the end of the day, you can’t deny that home is where the heart is…

Boon of Emrakul

Limited Rating: 2.5

Boon of Emrakul is a solid removal spell. It’s sorcery speed and can’t kill giant monsters, but it will do a nice job taking out most creatures that cost less than 5 mana. This is the type of card you really want a copy or 2 of to keep your opponent from punking you out with an evasion creature, or dominating the board with a Sigardian Priest.

Naturally, you’d rather have all Murders and Dead Weights, but the world we live in is one in which we typically have to make due with non-premium removal. As far as non-premium removal goes, Boon of Emrakul is reliable and affordable, and should earn moderately high draft picks.

The combo with Ironclad Slayer might prove to be a driving force in BW.

Borrowed Malevolence

Limited Rating: 1.5

When things break right, you can spend 1 or 3 mana on Borrowed Malevolence to help your creature win a fight in combat. But by far the most practical use of this card is picking off 1-toughness creatures. You should either be sideboarding Borrowed Malevolence against decks with weenie creatures, or maindecking it then sideboarding it out against decks that don’t have weenie creatures.

Cemetery Recruitment

Limited Rating: 1.5

Raise Dead is never really bad in Limited. In a vanilla deck, you can either start 1 copy of this card or skip it as you see fit. If you have Zombies, bomb rare creatures, or self-mill, then it becomes an effect you want access to.

Certain Death

Limited Rating: 2.5

This is certainly better than Sip of Hemlock, which was already pretty good. I loved drafting black in Theros block, and while Sip of Hemlock wasn’t one of the absolute best commons, it would virtually always make my deck, even in multiples. Compared to Sip, Certain Death gains you 2 life, and is marginally easier to cast (even splashable in a Sealed deck or some bizarre Draft decks).

But an important note is that Theros was a format with heroic, where games could be won and lost by the ability to answer a single, monstrous threat. Eldritch Moon plus Shadows over Innistrad Limited isn’t like that, and you’ll sometimes wind up having to swallow your pride and point Certain Death at a 3-drop.

All things considered, I’m starting Certain Death with a high rating. It’s never a big mistake to prioritize removal in the early days of a new Limited format, and this is an effect that controlling black decks really want somewhere in their 40 cards. But the value of Certain Death drops off in multiples, and I can see its rating settling at closer to a 2.0.

Collective Brutality

Limited Rating: 2.5

A lot of the escalate cards have one mode that you’ll usually turn to in Limited. For Collective Brutality, it’s killing a 2-toughness creature. Stripping an instant or sorcery from the opponent’s hand is also a good effect, but once in a while it will be complicated by the fact that you’ll want to wait until there’s a good creature to target before firing off your Collective Brutality.

Draining your opponent for 2 life will rarely be worth the extra card (unless he or she is at 2). But keep an eye out for using Collective Brutality alongside madness cards.


Limited Rating: 3.5

Cryptbreaker can take a while to get going, but it only costs 1 mana and can take over a game all on its own. Note that you don’t need to make 3 tokens before using the second ability—you can tap your other Zombies, and Cryptbreaker is a Zombie itself. It’s not farfetched to think that by turn 3, Cryptbreaker might have already allowed you to cash in your worst card for a 2/2 Zombie, and drawn you an extra card. All it takes is having another Zombie in your hand that costs 3 or less mana.

And let’s not forget that it’s a repeatable instant-speed madness enabler.

Dark Salvation

Limited Rating: 4.0

Dark Salvation is a powerful rare that offers the potential for solid card advantage. 5 mana for 2 Zombies is a slightly below average rate, but the flexibility to spend 3, 5, 7, or 9 mana makes the first line of text on Dark Salvation a card you’d be happy to play with. Tack on the ability to kill an opposing creature and you have a premium card that can really swing games. Remember that it counts your preexisting Zombies as well, so it’s really not far-fetched to kill a 4/4 or 5/5 creature with this.

Dusk Feaster

Limited Rating: 2.5

At 7 mana, Dusk Feaster could be an occasional role player, but would be a bit too expensive for widespread appeal. 5 mana for a 4/5 flyer, however, is a rate you can usually only get in Limited on a premium rare. This is a pretty big payoff for drafting delirium. Even in an average deck, you’ll sometimes achieve delirium before hitting your seventh land, making it more realistic that Dusk Feaster makes it to the party in time.

Don’t be afraid to leave this on the bench in your aggressive, non-delirium decks. It’s a powerful card that many black decks will want to pay close attention to.

Gavony Unhallowed

Limited Rating: 2.5

Gavony Unhallowed starts with average stats, but then begins to get a bit unruly. This is a nice ability to have on a creature that starts with high toughness since it’s not fragile, and has a better chance of surviving those big, messy combat steps. Being a Zombie also helps, and I think this is a card that will make the cut in most black decks.

Sacrificing creatures isn’t a huge theme in Eldritch Moon or Shadows over Innistrad, but there are a handful of cards that help you do it, and they’ll all pair well with Gavony Unhallowed.

Graf Harvest

Limited Rating: 1.5

Graf Harvest is both slow and mana-intensive. The power level is pretty high, and in other Limited formats, this might be a borderline bomb. But Eldritch Moon/Shadows over Innistrad Limited will be relatively fast, and there are plenty of other activated abilities (especially Clues) that you can spend your extra mana on.

Graf Harvest still seems like a card that your slower draft decks (and probably the majority of Sealed decks) will want 1 copy of. The fact that you’ll never want multiples, and that aggressive decks won’t want it, means that you won’t have to put a special premium on Graf Harvest during the draft.

Graf Rats // Chittering Host

Limited Rating: 2.0

Goblin Piker is a bit below par for Eldritch Moon/Shadows over Innistrad Limited, but you’ll still play Graf Rats once in a while to fill your mana curve. The ability to meld with another common creature (and a good one at that) into the powerful Chittering Host increases Graf Rats’ value a noticeable amount.

Haunted Dead

Limited Rating: 2.5

Single cards that give you two relevant creatures tend to be strong in Limited, and the fact that your 1/1 bonus token has flying means that both bodies are relevant. Discarding 2 cards to return Haunted Dead isn’t a stellar rate, but it will come up a lot in the late game and allows you to trigger madness at instant speed. Overall, this is a strong card.

Liliana, the Last Hope

Limited Rating: 4.0

Planeswalkers are virtually always powerful in Limited. Liliana, being only 1 color and only 3 mana, is very easy to cast and has the potential to give you a colossal advantage right off the bat.

Liliana’s +1 ability can pick off small creatures or protect herself against bigger attackers. Beyond that, you can use your judgment as to cashing her in for a Raise Dead or two, or ticking up toward her -7 ultimate, which ought to comfortably win the game.

Her cheap mana cost is a bigger deal in Constructed than Limited. In Limited you’d prefer to have one of the super-powerful 5- or 6-drop planeswalkers. Liliana, the Last Hope’s abilities are a bit more subtle, and she won’t always turn a horrible situation in your favor when you topdeck her on turn 10.

Liliana’s Elite

Limited Rating: 1.5

The good news for Liliana’s Elite is that black has a lot of ways to get creatures into its graveyard. The bad news for Liliana’s Elite is that they often don’t stay there for long. Cemetery Recruitment and Macabre Waltz are strong cards that graveyard-centric Limited decks will be playing with anyway, and there’s also Graf Harvest and creatures like Haunted Dead or Sanitarium Skeleton—just to name a few ways for things to be jumping out of their graves.

Still, if you can cast Liliana’s Elite as a 2/2 with the potential to grow over the course of the game, then it’s a strong filler card. I just don’t see this as being one of the major payoffs to drafting a black, graveyard-centric deck.

Markov Crusader

Limited Rating: 2.5

When covering white, I described Faithbearer Paladin as, “basically my definition of a filler card.” A 4/3 is marginally better than a 3/4, and tacking haste onto a creature like this is easily worth a full point of rating.

Markov Crusader will make your Vampire deck a colossal favorite to win any kind of damage race, and pairing this with Stensia Masquerade is going to be gross.

It’s also worth noting that when there are plenty of playable Raise Dead effects in a format, a powerful creature like Markov Crusader, which trades off easily and provides you with a big life total buffer in the process, gets a bit better.

Midnight Scavengers // Chittering Host

Limited Rating: 2.5

If you’re a fiend for value, then you’re a lot happier topping your curve with Midnight Scavengers than with vanilla cards like Thornhide Wolves or Hound of the Farbogs. Midnight Scavengers is a pretty strong card, and earns a 2.0 or 2.5 on its own merits. The fact that it melds with Graf Rats—a card that you’ll probably be able to pick up relatively late—might make Mignight Scavengers one of the higher picks among black commons.


Limited Rating: 3.5

Great. Instant-speed, unconditional removal. Great.

Noosegraf Mob

Limited Rating: 4.0

Casting Noosegraf Mob isn’t quite the same as putting five 2/2 Zombies directly into play, but it’s pretty close. It’s very hard for the opponent to answer the Mob without giving you a lot of value. For example, against the beatdown player who wants to remove your blocker and finish you off, their would-be-lethal spell now generate you an extra blocker.

The Mob pairs exceptionally well with cards like Cemetery Recruitment and Macabre Waltz.

Oath of Liliana

Limited Rating: 1.0

Diabolic Edict effects aren’t great in Limited in general, and are especially mediocre in this block because of token makers and disposable bodies like Sanitarium Skeleton. Oath of Liliana has a tiny bit of extra value in being an enchantment that might somehow end up in the graveyard to help with delirium, and maybe getting you a 2/2 Zombie once in a blue moon alongside a planeswalker. But, all told, this is an unexciting Limited card.

Olivia’s Dragoon

Limited Rating: 2.5

Olivia’s Dragoon is a bread-and-butter card that you’ll really want in RB Vampires. 2-drop Vampires with good stats will always be at a premium, and the Dragoon can help you get in the last few points of damage against a weakened opponent. Most importantly, it’s a repeatable, instant-speed madness enabler.

Prying Questions

Limited Rating: 1.0

If this was a Mind Rot, you’d have to pry it from my cold, dead fingers. But Mind Rot offers card advantage, and despite the terrifying artwork on this card, its power level is questionable. You can force the opponent to skip his or her next draw step, but that effect does nothing if they’re empty-handed, and denying them a draw step is a lot worse than forcing them to discard their best 1 or 2 cards.

The lose-3-life clause makes Prying Questions a passable card, but the bottom line is that this is a noncreature, nonremoval spell that doesn’t impact the board, and doesn’t provide an effect that you ever desperately need. I don’t see much reason to ever play with this.

Rise from the Grave

Limited Rating: 2.5

Rise from the Grave has been a strong Limited card every time it’s been printed. One of the greatest appeals is that you’re not confined to your own graveyard—you can take your opponent’s best creature as well.

Rise from the Grave is a premium version of the Reanimate effect (by Limited standards). It’s a little bit more replaceable in Eldritch Moon than it has been in the past since you can always play Cemetery Recruitment or Macabre Waltz instead if you’re in a pinch. But this is still a strong card that will almost always make the cut.

Ruthless Disposal

Limited Rating: 4.0

I spent a long time staring at Ruthless Disposal before I could actually start writing. First of all, the black cards in Eldritch Moon feature some of the most compelling artwork I can remember seeing in MTG, and Ruthless Disposal is particularly gruesome (a.k.a. awesome). Second of all, the effect on this card seems too good to be true! Kill your opponent’s 2 best creatures, no questions asked?!

At a glance, the price is also pretty high, but in practice I think the costs will be fairly easy to meet, and you’ll be happy to pay them. You’ll almost always have some kind of disposable creature in play, and you can discard an extra land, or a card that has value in the graveyard—that’s not even to mention that you might happen to have a madness card.

There will be games here and there where Ruthless Disposal isn’t great, such as against a WR Weenie deck or against a swarm of Spirit tokens. But the power level is simply outrageous, and there are certain decks—like bigger green decks—that I can’t envision ever beating this card.

Ruthless Disposal is my early pick for the best nonrare in Eldritch Moon.

Skirsdag Supplicant

Limited Rating: 1.5

Skirsdag Supplicant is average filler. 3 mana for a 2/3 with a medium ability is a dead-average card. If it were a Vampire or Zombie, it might be a bit better, but black doesn’t have much way to benefit from having a Human creature. This becomes solid if you need a madness enabler, but in most decks this is just a mana curve filler.

Strange Augmentation

Limited Rating: 1.0

This is a strange one to evaluate. It can be a highly efficient rate for an aggressive Aura, but the aggressive decks that would ordinarily want an Aura like this usually won’t be the ones putting the effort in to achieve delirium early in the game.

This is a very poor card if you’re only getting +1/+1. It’s also a poor card if you can’t count on getting delirium until turn 7 or 8. It’s powerful in a dedicated delirium deck, but those decks will be hard-pressed to play a noncreature, nonremoval, non-delirium-enabling spell. Don’t work too hard trying to get Strange Augmentation to be good.

Stromkirk Condemned

Limited Rating: 3.0

Stromkirk Condemned has reasonable stats on its own, and gets powerful fast when you start adding madness and/or Vampire tribal synergies. You’ll be happy to play this in all decks with 9 or more Swamps, and picking it up early is a strong incentive to go BR.

Succumb to Temptation

Limited Rating: 1.5

Divination is a strong Limited card. Compared to Divination, Succumb to Temptation is an instant, but it forces you to lose 2 life, and it has more demanding colored mana requirements. Perhaps worst of all, it’s not in the color (blue) that really wants card-drawing spells, and wants to hold its mana up for instants.

My best advice is to err on the side of avoiding this card. But I confess that I’ll probably succumb to the temptation to play it a little more often than I’m proud to admit.

Thraben Foulbloods

Limited Rating: 2.0

Finally, black gets a common creature that’s legitimately great when you can count on achieving delirium! Thraben Foulbloods is what Stallion of Ashmouth and Hound of the Farbogs wish they could be.

At 3 mana for a 3/2 Zombie, the Foulbloods already meet my criteria as an acceptable filler card. If you can make them attack as a 4/3 menace within a reasonable time frame, you have a very strong creature.

Tree of Perdition

Limited Rating: 3.0

Tree of Perdition is an excellent blocker that can nuke the opponent for 7 life points if you draw it early enough. The combo with Triskaidekaphobia is also good enough to be worth speculating on.

Vampire Cutthroat

Limited Rating: 1.5

Standing alone, Vampire Cutthroat is too low-impact to be a good Limited card, but it’s efficient enough that if you have Vampire tribal synergies, or good equipment and Auras that need to be carried, then this is a card you might get excited about.

Voldaren Pariah // Abolisher of Bloodlines

Limited Rating: 4.0

5 mana for a 3/3 flyer is a fairly solid, baseline rate in Limited. The madness ability adds a little, and the threat of actually transforming Voldaren Pariah adds a lot. With a little bit of build-around effort, you can make a 3-for-3 creature trade excellent for you. Oh, and don’t forget that you leave behind a 6/5 flyer that’s likely to kill the opponent in 2 or 3 turns!

Wailing Ghoul

Limited Rating: 1.5

Wailing Ghoul is certainly not exciting, but is the type of card you’ll pick up late to round out your Zombie deck or your defensive black control deck.

Weirded Vampire

Limited Rating: 2.0

Weirded Vampire is pretty much exactly equal to Twins of Maurer Estates. It’s marginally better to hardcast, but a bit worse to madness out. One subtle factor is that Eldritch Moon has a high concentration of flash creatures, so I predict that players will be a little more cagey about attacking into open mana than they might’ve been in all Shadows over Innistrad Limited.

Weirded Vampire is a solid card that you’ll be happy to play with if you have Vampire synergies, or a couple ways to enable madness. Failing that, it’s a mediocre filler card.

Whispers of Emrakul

Limited Rating: 1.5

Hymn to Tourach is one of my all-time favorite Magic cards, and this is probably as close as you’re ever going to get to a reprint. Unfortunately, a lot of the power (more accurately, the cheesiness) of Hymn was casting it on turn 2 and nailing your opponent’s lands or cheap plays. By the time most Limited decks can get delirium, the opponent will have had a fair chance to empty his or her hand.

Making the opponent discard one at random isn’t a horrible effect, and sometimes you will land the good, clean 2-for-1. But make sure this isn’t your biggest payoff for drafting a delirium deck.

Top 5 Black Commons

  1. Olivia’s Dragoon
  2. Boon of Emrakul
  3. Certain Death
  4. Gavony Unhallowed
  5. Midnight Scavengers

(Honorable mention to Thraben Foulbloods).

Black doesn’t have a single common that I’d consider to be a “premium” Limited card. Thankfully, it’s very deep in solid playables, and many of the commons become exciting once you’re interested in Vampires, Zombies, or delirium. The top 5 commons all earned 2.5 ratings, making them “solid playables that rarely get cut” (realistically, they’re each a bit better than that when they’re on-theme and a bit worse than that when they’re off-theme). There are also half a dozen more that I’d consider to be “strong filler” cards under the right circumstances.

Black seems to be largely a control/value color. You’re looking to fill your graveyard for delirium, and/or grind value from recurring Zombies. Having solid removal and high-toughness ground blockers ought to make this a decent strategy.

The one place where black deviates from that theme is in RB Vampires, which looks to be one of the faster and higher quality aggressive archetypes of the format. This strategy can range from a hyper-aggressive beatdown deck, to a slower “bleed them out” deck, all the way to a dedicated madness deck.

Overall, black looks to have a lot of appealing cards at the common and uncommon level, and I think it’s improved a fair amount with the release of Eldritch Moon.

2 thoughts on “<i>Eldritch Moon</i> Limited Set Review: Black”

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