Rivals of Ixalan Limited Set Review: Black

Ixalan Set Reviews


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


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


Previous Rivals of Ixalan Set Reviews


White | Blue

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

Retired and inducted into the Limited Hall of Fame: Pack Rat. Umezawa’s Jitte. The Scarab God.
5.0: The best of the best. (Glorybringer. The Scorpion God. The Locust God.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Archfiend of Ifnir. Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh. God-Pharaoh’s Gift.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Sunset Pyramid. Angler Drake. Sand Strangler.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Open Fire. Ambuscade. Gravedigger.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Desert of the Mindful. Oasis Ritualist. Oketra’s Avenger.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Unsummon. Puncturing Blow. Naga Vitalist.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Tah-Crop Skirmisher. Harrier Naga. Counterveiling Winds.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Moaning Wall. Khenra Eternal. Without Weakness.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Defiant Khenra. Disposal Mummy. Djeru’s Renunciation.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Forsake the Worldly. Chandra’s Defeat.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Solemnity. Luxa River Shrine. One with Nothing.)

Arterial Flow

Limited: 2.5

This becomes really juicy once you have a Vampire in play, as it’s a little thin without one. The format doesn’t suggest that discard will be great, so draining for 2 goes a long way. You are affecting the board (essentially) by gaining 2, and that extra life gives you time to take advantage of the 2-for-1 you just got, while also triggering your life gain cards.

Canal Monitor

Limited: 1.0

A 5-mana 5/3 is not a good deal—it has too low a toughness, and costs too much. I guess all the good monitor jobs go to the ones guarding the spires, and the canals are left to the bottom of the barrel.

Champion of Dusk

Limited: 4.0

This counts itself, so already you’ve got a great deal. It might actually draw too many cards, which is not a complaint I often make. As long as your life total is in reasonable shape, a 4/4 that draws 2-4 cards should win you the game, making this a worthy champion indeed.

Dark Inquiry

Limited: 0.5

Inquiring minds want to know: Is this card playable? I wouldn’t maindeck it, though it’s a viable sideboard card against decks with expensive finishers. Paying 3 mana and not affecting the board is a tough sell.

Dead Man’s Chest

Limited: 1.0

This card is neat, but here’s where I get to be a downer, and say that it’s not as good as it looks. It’s exciting to think about “drawing” 2-4 cards, but you’ve gotta land this on a decently-sized creature, then kill it, and then you can cast spells off it (and nearly half the cards you hit will be lands). Unless your deck has a ton of good removal, this seems like nearly a dead card.

Dinosaur Hunter

Limited: 2.5

Bears still seem pretty good in this format, especially in aggressive Pirate decks. Some percentage of the time, this is going to spike some Dinos, which is a nice upside on a playable card. It’s also a good sideboard card if your deck doesn’t want it in the main deck, though I wouldn’t expect to see it come around late all that often.

Dire Fleet Poisoner

Limited: 4.0

Dire Fleet Poisoner is a beating on both sides of the court. If you use it to win a combat in the early turns, you end up very far ahead, and even in the late game, it can flash in and block a 6/6. I’m rarely going to pass this, even in non-Pirate decks.

Dusk Charger

Limited: 1.5

Neither side of this is exciting. It’s a Hill Giant early and a 5/5 by the late game, at which point it’s unlikely to be the card with the most horsepower. In decks with a lot of token-making, maybe this gets there, but I’m not overly impressed.

Dusk Legion Zealot

Limited: 3.0

I can’t ever imagine cutting this from a black deck, regardless of the theme. In Vampires, this is great, and even in Pirates it replaces itself and puts something on the board.

Fathom Fleet Boarder

Limited: 3.0

This is a strong card all around, as a 3/3 for 3 plays well on defense or offense. You’d rather be Pirates, and not lose 2 life, but this is big enough and cheap enough that it’s worth playing in any black deck.

Forerunner of the Coalition

Limited: 3.0

All of the Forerunners seem solid, and all of them get better once you have good tutor targets. This will fill out your curve nicely, and even ping the opponent a few times over the course of the game. That’s more than good enough for me.

Golden Demise

Limited: 3.0

Golden Demise is going to have a wide range of effectiveness. Against some decks, it’s going to be an easy 2- or 3-for-1, and against other decks you’ll struggle to kill even one creature. I really liked Fiery Cannonade in triple-Ixalan, and while this is a little trickier to get to use, at least it won’t ever miss the opponent’s creatures. The city’s blessing doesn’t matter a ton, but every now and then it’ll be a reasonable bonus.

Grasping Scoundrel

Limited: 2.0

A lot of decks will want a 2/1 on offense, though this not being able to block as such will sometimes leave you grasping at straws. Pirates is more interested in Grasping Scoundrel than other decks, as you’d expect, but it’s more the aggression level of your deck that will determine its place.

Gruesome Fate

Limited: 1.0

Combining a desire for direct player damage and an ability to make lots of creatures is dicey, largely because aggro decks tend to trade off creatures. This is too conditional for my tastes, and I don’t want one in my deck, much less an encore.


Limited: 3.5

Efficient and unconditional removal is always good in my book, and this easily wins the race for best black common (even though I don’t have a stake in the outcome).

Mastermind’s Acquisition

Limited: 0.5

Paying 4 mana to draw a card, even if it’s any card from your deck or sideboard, is just not worth it. You are spending too much mana, and won’t get that mana back even if the card you get is good. The only time I make an exception is if you have an absurd bomb and the matchup is slow, which does make this a sideboard card.

Mausoleum Harpy

Limited: 1.5

A 5-mana 3/3 flyer is passable, if not exciting. Getting the city’s blessing and then needing creatures to die is a bit too much work for my tastes, so that text barely registers.

Moment of Craving

Limited: 3.0

In a fast format, you’re always hungry for cheap removal, and this even gives you 2 life as an extra cushion (and plays well with life gain matters cards). It straight-up kills tons of creatures, or works as a combat trick against slightly bigger ones. As someone who has many moments of craving, this is a good one.

Oathsworn Vampire

Limited: 3.0

Oathsworn Vampire is a classic high upside/low downside card. It’s a 2/2 for 2 in a relevant creature type and you can get it back a few times over the course of the game without much trouble. Most Vampire decks will have multiple life gain sources naturally, and it’s likely playable without any to begin with. Plus, opponents will be reticent to trade with it, letting you get some free damage in.

Pitiless Plunderer

Limited: 1.0

In a defensive deck that wants Treasure and has a lot of creatures, this is a fine inclusion. That’s a lot of conditions, making this a card that won’t see the light of play all that often.

Ravenous Chupacabra

Limited: 4.5

HAUMPH! This eats anything, with no respect for size, rarity, color, tribe, or anything. With zero work, this is a sick 2-for-1, and one that gives you tempo to boot. With a little effort, you can pick up some graveyard recursion cards and really take your opponent to town. This is in the running for best card in the set, while also being easily the best uncommon.

Reaver Ambush

Limited: 3.5

Vanquishing most things you care about is worth 3 mana, making Reaver Ambush premium removal.


Limited: 2.0

I suspect you’ll want exactly 1 Recover in most black decks, as it is a little slow. The more cheap creatures (and good ones) you have, the more room you have for another copy, but beware of getting too bogged down with situational cards like this.

Sadistic Skymarcher

Limited: 3.5

Non-Vampire decks will basically always play this, though it’s closer to a 3.0 there, and Vampire decks are very happy to have this in their arsenal. It’s hard to race lifelinking flyers, and this goes nuts once you have a few ways to pump its power.

Tetzimoc, Primal Death

Limited: 4.5

“I’ll reveal Tetzimoc and put a counter on your creature.”

This seems like one of the most demotivating statements you can hear in this format, and when you hear it once, you have the pleasure of hearing it many more times over the course of the game. There’s just not much you can do to play around Tetzimoc, as it’s not like a normal Wrath—it’s a Plague Wind. You can’t hold creatures back because there’s nothing stopping your opponent from playing their creatures and getting ahead on board, meaning you need to play enough to not get overrun. At that point, Tetzimoc goes hunting and takes out multiple creatures, which is almost impossible to come back from. This is a beating, and that’s without even factoring the 6/6 deathtouch part, which is decidedly relevant. This may be the best card in the set, which is especially rough when it’s a rare.

Tomb Robber

Limited: 3.5

Now this is what I call flood protection. Tomb Robber gives you a ton of value for your excess cards, and even generates some of those very same cards. It’ll get big soon, and find you good things to cast in the meantime. I’m a fan.

Twilight Prophet

Limited: 3.5

2/4 flyers for 4 are always good times, and this gets significantly better once you’ve hit 10 permanents. Twilight Prophet is a reason to draft a deck looking to ascend, though it’s perfectly fine without any additional work.

Vampire Revenant

Limited: 1.5

Vampire decks will play this at a slightly higher rate, though there are enough ways to take advantage of 1 toughness that I’m not overly excited by the prospect.

Vona’s Hunger

Limited: 1.5

A 3-mana edict is not exciting, so to really make this worth it, you have to hit the city’s blessing more often than not. That does seem doable in black, so I could see this gaining ground if the format is slow enough to support such a strategy.

Voracious Vampire

Limited: 3.0

A solid threat with an ability that pushes extra damage through is nice, making this a good playable in Vampire decks.

Top 3 Black Commons

3. Dusk Legion Zealot
2. Moment of Craving
1. Impale

Black has some nice commons, including good removal, good aggressive creatures, and one of the better 2-drops. It also has two insane rares, except one is actually an uncommon, making first-picking black cards pretty nice.

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