Kaladesh Limited Set Review: Black

Previous Set Reviews

Artifacts | White | Blue | Red | Green | Golds and Lands


White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Artifacts, Gold, and Lands

There’s a lot going on in this set, and how all the pieces interlock makes it somewhat complicated to review. Vehicles, Energy, and more all rely on other cards in order to get full value, but I’ll try and factor that in as much as possible during the reviews.

I also want to mention, as usual, that the description of the card’s value is more important than the grade. The grade is a guideline, but the explanation will give you context, so use both when reading the review.

Let’s get to it!

Here’s the grading scale we will be using:

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. (Duskwatch Recruiter. 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.)

Aetherborn Marauder

Limited: 3.5

Marauder is an interesting card. By itself, it’s a 2/2 flying lifelink for 4, which is certainly acceptable. Move one counter onto it and it becomes a huge threat, two or more and your opponent will need to kill it or lose the game. That sounds like the kind of card I’m in for—high floor, high ceiling. There are a lot of +1/+1 counter cards in this set, and when you have Aetherborn Marauder, you can lean toward getting counters rather than Servos off fabricate.

Ambitious Aetherborn

Limited: 3.0

I’m happy with either side of this, though I expect to get a Servo more often than not. The name doesn’t quite fit, as this card is way more solid than it is ambitious, and it’s a card I’m going to play every time (assuming I have room for 5s, of course).

Demon of Dark Schemes

Limited: 5.0

It doesn’t get much better than this. A 5/5 flier that massacres the board and gives you a bunch of energy would be awesome if that’s all it did, but somehow this also has a powerful activated ability that takes over the game. I don’t know why the game would last much longer, but if it does, you’ve got a scheme at the ready.

Dhund Operative

Limited: 2.5

A 3/2 deathtouch for 2 with the fail case of being a 2/2 is a fine deal. You aren’t going to want this in decks without artifacts unless your curve is in bad shape, but the fact that it’s a curve-filler makes it a reasonable card to grab even if you don’t know where you’ll end up.

Diabolic Tutor

Limited: 0.5

The times you should play this are few and far between. It’s way too expensive to play in a normal deck, as adding 4 to the cost of your best card isn’t something you can just do in a game of Limited. However, if you end up in a control deck with a card like Demon of Dark Schemes or Fumigate, maybe you can play a Diabolic Tutor, but I’m still skeptical.

Die Young

Limited: 3.5

I’d basically always play -2/-2 for 2 mana, and this does a few more good things. First of all, it combines with other energy cards to give larger minuses, as you can spend your hard-earned energy to bolster the effect. Second, if you kill a 1-toughness creature you end up with an extra energy, and you even have the option of not spending any energy at all if you have something else to do with it. That power level plus flexibility makes this a solid card.

Dukhara Scavenger

Limited: 2.0

There are worse ways to spend 6 mana. Dukhara Scavenger provides a reasonable finisher to decks lacking in them, and even if it isn’t a 2-for-1, replacing the top card of your deck with the best creature or artifact in your graveyard is a quality increase. I wouldn’t want multiples of these, and it’s not a big deal if you don’t get one, but having a single copy can be useful.

Eliminate the Competition

Limited: 3.0

This is kind of an odd card. It certainly doesn’t slot into just every deck, but the rating reflects that it’s good when it does fit. If you have a lot of ways to make tokens (fabricate springs to mind), you can eliminate all the competition, but in a normal deck it’s not going to be great. This will fluctuate between being a borderline playable and one of the best cards in your deck, depending on how well you enable it. It’s also worth noting that sorcery-speed removal misses Vehicles, which is a big drawback in this set, and one that makes this card less appealing than it would be otherwise.

Embraal Bruiser

Limited: 2.0

There’s a good amount of support for an artifact-heavy black aggro deck. I don’t know how good that deck is going to end up being (has a lot of moving pieces), but I would certainly look to play Bruiser in it. Not being able to crew Vehicles or block the turn he comes in is a real drawback, though the payoff of a 3-power menace creature for 2 is worth going after.

Essence Extraction

Limited: 3.5

Clean, efficient, and powerful. This is a great removal spell, and will never be a bad pick.

Fortuitous Find

Limited: 1.5

I like me a draw-2, and find room for them in just about every deck. The only problem with this one is that you do need to have an artifact to get that second card, and not every deck is going to be able to swing that. This set is artifact-heavy enough that it still gets a solid rating, but be aware that you won’t always be able to play this.

Foundry Screecher

Limited: 2.5

If you can reliably make this a 3/1, it’s the perfect card for your aggro deck. The fail-case of a 2/1 for three isn’t too bad, and overall this is a reasonable playable, even in artifact-light decks.

Fretwork Colony

Limited: 1.0/3.0

It may bug you that I put an aggro card in the build-around category, but this is such an all-or-nothing card that I think it belongs. It’s an awesome 2-drop in a very focused beatdown deck, as it can run away with the game easily if you play it on turn 2. In midrange or control, it’s pretty close to unplayable, making it a card I’m not looking to take early. I also fear it being locked down with Malfunction or Revoke Privileges, as that’s pretty hard to come back from.

When this works, it will feel like Pack Rat. When it doesn’t, it’s closer to a lone Lab Rats.

Gonti, Lord of Luxury

Limited: 3.5

I’d be somewhat interested in a 2/3 deathtouch for 4 to begin with, so adding a powerful card draw ability takes this from Draft staple to Draft luxury. Bear in mind that Gonti doesn’t have to survive in order for you to play the card, so feel free to trade him off if that’s what the game demands.

Harsh Scrutiny

Limited: 1.5

Adding a scry to this makes me so much happier to play it. One of the risks of discard is that you get punished harshly when you draw it later in the game (or when you miss because their hand doesn’t meet the conditions), and getting to scry mitigates that. I’m still not automatically playing this, but am now willing to consider it, and it could be a great sideboard card against a creature-heavy deck with a high curve.

Lawless Broker

Limited: 2.5

While this isn’t broken, it’s not a card I’m looking to cut very often. It’ll trade for a card of comparable cost and leave you with a +1/+1 counter. That’s a fine deal.

Live Fast

Limited: 3.0

I really wish this cost 2 and Die Young cost 3, so the proper curve could happen, but I guess the effects of the cards really dictated they have these names. Still, Divination gets me energized, and now it will do the same for anyone who wants to cast it. In a deck with zero cards that care about energy, this isn’t the best, but I imagine almost every deck will find some kind of use for it. The speed of the format will also determine if this moves down half a grade or so, as beatdown decks will make paying 2 life a lot less feasible.

Lost Legacy

Limited: 0.0


I hate these kinds of cards, and this even gives your opponent the cards back if you snag any from their hand. Do not play this.

Make Obsolete

Limited: 3.5

There seem to be a lot of small creatures running around this set, and I’m happy to pay 3 mana to wipe them all out. This being an instant also makes it a very good mid-combat play, as you can set up a situation where your 4/4 beats theirs and you kill a random 2/1. There are matchups where you’d board this out, but I’d take it early and always maindeck it.

Marionette Master

Limited: 4.0

Much like Angel of Invention, this has reasons to pick either side of the fabricate, which is cool. If you already have a full board, making this a 4/6 that hits your opponent for 4 every time you lose an artifact seems sick, but in general the safe play will be to make a 1/3 and three 1/1s. Either way, you are getting a great deal, and Marionette Master is one of the better cards in the set.

Maulfist Squad

Limited: 3.0

Both sides of this are great, and menace pays you off for choosing the +1/+1 counter version. This also fits perfectly in the black artifact aggro deck, while being a solid choice outside of that deck. You can do worse with squad goals, I’ll say that.

Midnight Oil

Limited: ??? (2.0)

What even is going on here? I had to read this card three times to get a sense, and now that I understand the mechanics, I still don’t really know if it’s playable. Let’s try and break it down.

• You draw an extra card every turn. This part is good, and I like it.
• Your max hand size goes from 7 to 5 to 3 to 1 to 0. That means that you very quickly will be in “play it or lose it” mode. If you play this later in the game, that’s not a huge problem, but means that it’s a questionable play before turn 6 or 7.
• If you discard, you take damage. That punishes you for not playing cards, and is another reason not to play this early.

So this is a high-powered card draw machine that is risky to play early and very good late. It also rewards a low curve heavily, further restricting where it can show up. Still, if you meet that condition and have room for a late-game card, this does look like it can do some work. This is one of those low-confidence ratings, and a few games (or one game) with the card will probably clear up any misconceptions. I can see this being awesome, as a deck full of cheap cards can really go off, but it also looks like you can’t play it early and it can go wrong quickly.

Mind Rot

Limited: 1.0

I’m happy playing this in Sealed or siding it in during Draft, but I’d rather not start it otherwise. I don’t mind if I have to, I just don’t like paying 3 to not affect the board, and discard falls off late game whereas card draw does not.

Morbid Curiosity

Limited: 1.0

I wanted to find out what would happen when I cast this with Wretched Gryff during spellslinging at PAX, and much like the proverbial cat, I got killed. Most of the time you are going to give up too much board position to really make this enticing, though it can break a stalled game wide open. To really make use of this, you need a defensive deck, and one that has cards you don’t mind sacrificing. That won’t be most decks, but it will be some (and few other drafters are likely to take this from you).

Night Market Lookout

Limited: 0.5

Look, I get the joke—you tap this to crew a Vehicle. As cool as that combo is, unless your deck is the most aggressive mono-black deck I’ve ever seen, this isn’t a card I’d be in the market for. A 1/1 is just too small.

Noxious Gearhulk

Limited: 5.0

I’ve relaxed my standards for what gets a 5.0 in the last few reviews, though I think Noxious Gearhulk would have qualified no matter when I saw it. It’s a huge, menacing creature that gives you a 2-for-1, gains a bunch of life, and likely puts you substantially ahead on mana. There’s literally nothing more you can ask for.

Ovalchase Daredevil

Limited: 3.5

This blocks well enough that it can be annoying, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this ended up as one of the chase uncommons of the set. If you drop this turn 4, your opponent really can’t attack into it with confidence, and when you attack them, they are almost assuredly not blocking. That’s a pretty good deal for a creature that’s only a touch smaller than it should be for its cost. Your opponent also has no way of knowing how many artifacts you have in your hand, so you can easily bluff in some damage or hold off attackers by keeping extra lands in the grip.

Prakhata Club Security

Limited: 2.0

Solid stats for a reasonable cost. Join the club of filler, my friend.

Rush of Vitality

Limited: 2.5

Not ever deck wants combat tricks, but those that do will be very happy with this one. It’s going to be easy to trade 1-for-1 and gain a significant amount of life, and the indestructible clause makes this a good way to save your creatures from removal. That power plus flexibility is vital, and Rush is a card I’m happy to include as long as I have enough creatures.

Subtle Strike

Limited: 3.0

There’s nothing subtle about this—it’s just great. Even if you are just using it to get a 1-for-1 and leave a counter behind, you got an advantage, and in some scenarios you will get the full blowout. Subtle Strike is solid, sweet, and will be sought after.

Syndicate Trafficker

Limited: 3.5

The rating here is predicated on having some amount of artifacts, but it really doesn’t take many before this is a real threat. Eating Servos and growing larger, all while surviving combat or removal, sounds like a great deal to me.

Thriving Rats

Limited: 3.0

These Rats do enough different things, all of them good, that I’m a fan of including them in any Limited deck.They attack as a 2/3, they generate energy for other cards, and can even consume any excess energy you have. The one downside they have is that they block as a 1/2 for the first turn, and sometimes aren’t able to find a window to attack and get their counter, but that’s minor at best.

Tidy Conclusion

Limited: 3.5

I’m loathe to give expensive removal such a high grade, but this being an instant makes me think it will pull its weight. Unconditional kill spells don’t grow on trees, and this can take down Vehicles and large creatures alike, sometimes gaining you a few life in the process. 5-drops do get worse in multiples, so don’t go too nuts.

Underhanded Designs

Limited: 1.0/3.5

This is the kind of build-around I can get behind. It drains the opponent a few times before killing their best creature, which is a great payoff. It won’t go into every deck, clearly, but is a card you can take early and fabricate a deck around.

Weaponcraft Enthusiast

Limited: 3.0

A 2/3 for 3 doesn’t sound like much, but I am enthusiastic about a 0/1 that comes with two 1/1s. That’s a good amount of stats, artifacts, and creatures all in one card. It also plays very nicely with bounce and flicker effects, or Raise Deads, making this a solid enabler for a bunch of different decks (while being fine in any deck).

Top 5 Black Commons

5. Maulfist Squad
4. Thriving Rats
3. Subtle Strike
2. Die Young
1. Tidy Conclusion

Black has some nice commons. Three great removal spells (all three of which hit different kinds of creatures) and some solid beaters. There’s not much more you can ask for, and it even got a sweet Divination. I don’t know how good the black artifact aggro deck is, but even if that doesn’t pan out, black is going to be good in Limited.

Scroll to Top