Ixalan Constructed Set Review: Black

Hour of Devastation Set Reviews


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Let’s take a look at the grading scale, with the usual caveat that what I write about the card is more relevant, as there are many factors that aren’t reflected in a card’s grade.

Ratings Scale

5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind SculptorTarmogoyfSnapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s ProdigyCollected CompanyRemand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace BelerenRadiant FlamesShambling Vent.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of ThoughtZulaport CutthroatExplosive Vegetation.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory AdeptAnticipateTransgress the Mind.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living GuildpactNaturalizeDuress.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.
1.0: It has seen play once. (One with Nothing). (I believe it was tech vs. Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)

Bloodcrazed Paladin

Constructed: 2.0

If this can reliably be a 3/3 or 4/4, it might not be crazy to run it in a Vampire aggro deck. Legion’s Landing and Sanctum Seeker are both big payoffs, and this could be a solid backup to them.

Boneyard Parley

Constructed: 2.0

I really want this card to be fact, rather than fiction, but 7 mana is asking a lot. If there’s a black control deck with some decent creatures (maybe U/B with The Scarab God and Torrential Gearhulk) plus a ton of removal, this could be a sweet 1-of finisher.

Deadeye Tracker

Constructed: 2.0

I guess being tireless is way more powerful than having a good eye as far as trackers go, but I can still see this being a threatening card draw engine. Sneaking this out in an attrition matchup is a very reasonable long-game plan, which makes it feel more like a sideboard card to me.

Dire Fleet Ravager

Constructed: 2.0

5-drops have to clear a high bar, but doming the opponent for 7 and giving you a huge hard-to-block threat might just get there. Ideally you deal 4 or so damage with this because you got some beats in, because this looks like the top end of an aggro deck more than anything else (and because it hits you in the process).


Constructed: 3.5

I love Duress being legal. It’s a great tool for every black deck, and is one of the best sideboard cards of all time. It goes after control and combo decks effectively, and is cheap enough that you can always board it in.

Fathom Fleet Captain

Constructed: 2.5

Paying 2 mana a turn is a high cost in Constructed, but getting an army of 2/2 menace creatures is a real payoff. I like this in an aggressive Pirate deck, especially since a 2/1 menace for 2 is not embarrassing.

Grim Captain’s Call

Constructed: 2.0

Prospects for this do look grim, but I like the idea as a sideboard card in a midrange deck that has a good mix of creatures. I know this is a bit optimistic, but I can’t help myself.

Heartless Pillage

Constructed: 2.5

Mind Rot isn’t as far from Constructed as you might think, and I’ve actually even played straight up Mind Rot in the sideboard before (Jund at Worlds 2009, for those curious). If you’re reliably getting a Treasure out of the deal, this becomes worth siding in for slow matchups, and I like the idea as a sideboard option for Pirates or some other aggro deck.

Kitesail Freebooter

Constructed: 3.0

An evasive attacker that disrupts the opponent is a nice deal for 2 mana, and this is one of the cards that makes me think Pirates has a shot. It’s also pretty sweet for control decks to side in for the mirror, especially once the opponent has taken out a lot of removal.

Revel in Riches

Constructed: 1.0

Value: 5.0

This isn’t actually going to make a splash, but it’s too sweet not to mention. If you can Spell Swindle someone and go big, by all means, do so.

Ruin Raider

Constructed: 3.0

Dropping this on turn 3 and immediately drawing is a big game, and it’s pretty hard to get ruined if your deck has an aggressive curve. I think this is high impact enough to make it, though if the format is fast enough it would be as a sideboard card rather than a main deck one.

Sanctum Seeker

Constructed: 3.0

If Vampires is going to be a deck, this is going to be a big part of it. It doesn’t have haste like Hellrider did, but it drains instead of pings, which is powerful in aggro mirrors, and a 3/4 can brawl quite well. If you can get two triggers right away, this is great, and it threatens to deal a ton of damage the following turn if it lives. Tribal decks don’t need many incentives to be worth it, and this could be exactly what Vampires is seeking.

Seekers’ Squire

Constructed: 2.0

Wait, the Seekers’ Squire isn’t a Vampire? I’m probably missing something, but these two cards right in a row do confuse me a bit. In any case, this is barely fit to carry Sanctum Seeker’s bags, though explore is interesting enough to mention it. A 1/2 that draws a card or a 2/3 that gives you card selection is worth mentioning, though being off-tribe doesn’t help.

Sword-Point Diplomacy

Constructed: 2.0

I know I panned this card in Limited, and I know that a lot of people disagreed. For the record, I’ve seen this cast three times now, and it’s been beyond atrocious. In any case, at least in Constructed you can make your deck much more aggressive, and maybe that’s enough to actually punish your opponent with Sword-Point Diplomacy. Playing this out of a beatdown deck against a midrange or control deck can potentially be worth 3 mana, though don’t take this as blanket approval to just jam it. It’s probably still worse than Read the Bones, and aggro decks didn’t tend to play that either.

Vicious Conquistador

Constructed: 2.5

This hits hard and at a cheap cost, making it a perfect fit for a deck looking to curve into Sanctum Seeker. It gets bricked somewhat hard by 2/2 blockers, so make sure you have removal or pump spells to back it up.

Vraska’s Contempt

Constructed: 3.5

Exiling any creature or planeswalker and gaining 2 life is a solid deal for 4 mana these days, and combining well with Torrential Gearhulk is a nice bonus. Vraska’s Contempt is a little too expensive to just be the stones, but it’s certainly good enough to provide a good tool for midrange or control decks.

Walk the Plank

Constructed: 2.5

This needed to be an instant to be great. It’s still a viable option at 2 mana, but you really wanted to be able to roll Vehicles right off that plank, and this doesn’t give you that option.

Wanted Scoundrels

Constructed: 2.0

This hits hard enough to be worth considering, though I’m a little skeptical in a land of Lightning Strikes and Abrades. If they kill this on turn 2 and slam a 5-drop on turn 3, you’re going to be the one getting robbed.

Top 3 Black Cards

3. Sanctum Seeker
2. Vraska’s Contempt
1. Duress

Duress is great, and I welcome it back with open arms (and of my own free will, even). Vraska’s Contempt is a good option for all sorts of black decks, and nothing I’d turn my nose up at. Sanctum Seeker is the most ambitious addition here since it will live or die based on how good the Vampire deck is, but the power level is there. All told, not a bad day for black mages.

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