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Zendikar Rising - Limited Set Review - Black

Welcome back to our next chapter of the Zendikar Rising Limited Set Review! In today's article I will be making my predictions for how strong each of the set's Black cards will be in Limited, and more specifically Draft. As always, my 5-point scale is as follows:

1.0 = Unplayable

2.0 = Not often desired

3.0 = Decent filler to round out most decks

4.0 = High priority, finishers

5.0 = Top Pick, must have

And as always, all opinions and card ratings in this article are my own. Let's jump in!

Acquisitions Expert

Interesting concept, but any time the opponent doesn't reveal their entire hand from the effect they will be able to keep the card(s) that is(are) most important. I expect to hold off on playing this card until the effect really matters.

Rating: 2.0

Blood Beckoning

Inexpensive for the effect, but when cast with Kicker it becomes par for the course. It is still a great effect and I expect to play this as a one-of when I don't have enough creatures in my deck.

Rating: 2.0

Blood Price

Picking two of the top four cards in the library for 4 mana and 2 life is pretty fair, and on par with similar cards in recent Standard sets. I'd be happy to play one in my deck, but probably no more than that.

Rating: 2.5

Bloodchief's Thirst

Great removal for early threats as well as late game must-kill targets. The scaling cost that relates to the targeted creature is very fair, and the only thing missing is instant speed.

Rating: 4.0

Coveted Prize

Normally cards like this that let the player search their library for a card aren't worth the slot unless there is also a game winning spell that needs to be drawn as soon as possible. With this spell, the upside of getting to cast any spell from hand if a full Party is in play is very enticing. If getting enough creatures for a full party is easy enough, this card is pure value.

Rating: 4.0

Deadly Alliance

Fair removal spell without any creatures in play, and the possible discount makes this card even more desirable. Without a doubt one of the go-to removal spells in Limited.

Rating: 4.0

Demon's Disciple

Requires some playing around so as not to accidentally sacrifice itself or leave the opponent with their best creatures, but a great effect otherwise.

Rating: 3.0

Drana, the Last Bloodchief

Great stats, and the ability being triggered by Drana attacking instead of dealing damage to a player makes this card scary. I would play this with spells to get it back from the graveyard for when the opponent inevitably commits all their resources to keeping Drana off the battlefield.

Rating: 5.0

Drana's Silencer

Pretty expensive, and requires a lot of setup to kill a creature of moderate toughness. At common the power level makes sense, but whether it is worth playing will have to be seen.

Rating: 2.0


A great persistent attacker when the lands are flowing and likely most vulnerable during the opponent's turn. I predict it to be a capable common finisher.

Rating: 3.0

Expedition Skulker

Occasional Deathtouch is fine, and this creature will be fine for Rogue heavy decks or just for filling the lower end of the deck's mana curve.

Rating: 2.5

Feed the Swarm

One of many subjects for debate in the MTG community at the moment, black finally has access to enchantment removal. Capable of killing just about everything the opponent controls that matters, but be cautious about when/what to kill as the life lost to kill one creature could be substantial.

Rating: 3.5

Ghastly Gloomhunter

There aren't too many creatures with Flying in the set, and I feel like this creature will probably steal a fraction of the opponent's life before it is dealt with. Quite expensive at 6 mana, but making the creature bigger might be difficult for the opponent to deal with. I expect to prioritize Party members over this, but I would be happy to play this card if I needed inexpensive creatures.

Rating: 2.5

Guul Draz Mucklord

Average common creature with added bonus on death. Not super exciting, but still expected to be a nice addition in decks that care about +1/+1 counters.

Rating: 2.5

Hagra Constrictor

Zendikar Rising may have a main theme focused on +1/+1 counters, but there seem to be enough cards that care about counters in the set to make this card desirable in draft. Almost certainly more of a late draft payoff rather than an early pick or first pick, but still playable in any black deck as it also gives itself menace.

Rating: 3.0

Highborn Vampire

The equivalent of an energy vampire who snuck into the Party, playable but boring.

Rating: 2.0

Inscription of Ruin

Three good effects on one card that are versatile enough to play at almost any point in the game. Having limits on what it can destroy and reanimate, this card may not be a one-and-done game ender when kicked.

Rating: 4.0

Lithoform Blight

This card was likely designed with the Constructed crowd in mind, but in Limited it still replaces itself and can provide some color fixing which is unusual to see on a black spell, but welcome.

Rating: 2.5

Malakir Blood-Priest

A nice way to get some life back or deal the last few points of damage to the opponent's remaining life total, but only able to cause a real swing with a more complete Party.

Rating: 2.5

Marauding Blight-Priest

Clerics are many and do well at gaining life in this set. This card will help speed up the opponent's loss of life slightly, but probably not by any more than 1 additional damage per turn. If already playing a deck where Clerics matter, this card will surely be an auto-include.

Rating: 3.0

Mind Carver

Cheap to play although more expensive to equip a second time, but probably still strong since Mill isn't necessary to get eight cards in the opponent's graveyard, although mill can't hurt. I would prioritize this for Mill decks as a means of improving weaker Mill creatures into creatures that can also threaten the opponent's life total in game the Mill plan falls short.

Rating: 3.0

Mind Drain

Another card that does it all. If getting cards into the opponent's graveyard is the goal, then this card is the perfect common for doing so.

Rating: 3.0

Nighthawk Scavenger

A much needed upgrade to the original Nighthawk. It would be effective to play this creature in conjunction with Mill to increase the power of this creature as there isn't likely a better way of getting lands and cards of other types into the opponent's graveyard.

Rating: 4.0

Nimana Skitter-Sneak

A 4/4 with Menace for 4 mana if the opponent has at least eight cards in the graveyard, otherwise average for the mana cost. Unlikely to play multiples.

Rating: 2.0

Nimana Skydancer

A great flying attacker or instant-speed blocker, and the Mill is just a bonus. A great addition to any black deck.

Rating: 3.5, tiny dancer, big value

Nullpriest of Oblivion

A decent creature at face value, but huge value when cast with Kicker. Just be sure that there is a creature in the graveyard worth reanimating before paying the Kicker cost.

Rating: 4.0

Oblivion's Hunger

Looks to be a nice combat trick and extra card in black or black/green decks where +1/+1 counters seem to be most prevalent.

Rating: 3.0

Scion of the Swarm

Very cohesive with the Cleric theme and lifegain, and with flying this could be the finisher that Cleric decks need.

Rating: 3.5

Scourge of the Skyclaves

It may cost 2 mana, but it will probably never be cast on turn two in Limited. Casting with Kicker may not be necessary as the creature's power can fluctuate over the course of the game, but it might be one of the best ways to finish off a stubborn opponent stuck at one life.

Rating: 4.5

Shadow Stinger

Further proof that Rogues and Mill go together like PB&J. There are a lot of Rogues that stand out in the set, but this one being able to Mill out the opponent quickly if they don't trade a bigger creature or cash in a removal spell is worth taking notice of.

Rating: 4.0

Shadow's Verdict

The set seems pretty aggressive and I expect inexpensive creatures to take up most real estate on the battlefield. This card seems great if the opponent is playing a go-wide strategy, but gets worse the more your own creatures fill the board.

Rating: 2.5

Skyclave Shade

A resilient threat if there ever was one, being able to repeatedly cast this creature from your graveyard, and eventually with a bonus, it will be hard for the opponent to get the upper hand when they have to keep killing the same creature.

Rating: 4.0

Skyclave Shadowcat

The abilities seem fine at first glance, but unless playing this in a deck with all creatures that have +1/+1 counters the card draw upside seems irrelevant. Yes it itself can get bigger, but I wouldn't expect to draw many cards from it.

Rating: 2.0

Soul Shatter

Unconditional removal is always nice, and at instant speed it's no joke. Unless playing against Rogues, there shouldn't be too many creatures with Flash to mess up the timing of casting this spell, so unless the opponent has all creatures/planeswalkers with the same mana cost you should be able to use good timing to remove whichever creature you want.

Rating: 4.5

Subtle Strike

A 2 point power/toughness swing with a potential lasting benefit for 2 mana looks great. At common I think this is a great combat trick to pick up towards the end of a pack.

Rating: 3.0

Taborax, Hope's Demise

Great stats and evasiveness for the mana cost, but similar to the shadowcat previously the added benefits are very narrow and can only be fully realized in one specific deck, Clerics in this case. Because this creature starts out small and gets bigger with the loss of each nontoken creature it certainly becomes the primary target, making protection necessary.

Rating: 4.0

Thwart the Grave

The possible targets might be narrow but given that this kind of effect usually costs 5 mana having only two Party members makes it undercosted. Being narrowly focused when it comes to targets makes this card almost unplayable in decks with few Party members.

Rating: 3.0

Vanquish the Weak

A great reprint that was previously a high pick and will surely continue to perform well in this set, although probably pales in comparison to the other black common removal spells of the set.

Rating: 3.0

Modal Double-Faced Cards (MDFC's)

Agadeem's Awakening / Agadeem, the Undercrypt

A land or a spell that reads 'Pay 4 mana to reanimate a 1-drop from your graveyard, Pay 5 mana to reanimate a 1-drop and a 2-drop', and so on. The spell is good value but will likely cost 6 mana or more to be worthwhile.

Rating: 4.5

Blackbloom Rogue / Blackbloom Bog

With the Rogue and Mill co-theme I expect it to be easy to make this creature a 5/3. While not the best payoff for Milling the opponent fast and early a 5/3 with Menace for 3 mana is still a nice bonus.

Rating: 3.0

Hagra Mauling / Hagra Broodpit

Don't expect to cast this spell for 3 mana in Limited. Basically a slightly more expensive removal spell than normal to balance out the variety of being a land or spell when you need it which is still pretty good.

Rating: 3.5

Malakir Rebirth / Malakir Mire

More land/spell variety, but a very relevant spell that can protect important creatures in a color that lacks protection spells in this set. While not ideal protection, it still does the job of ruining an opponent's removal spell or combat.

Rating: 3.0

Pelakka Predation / Pelakka Caverns

Hand disruption that is somewhat on-curve, being cast on turn three or later and removing a spell that costs 3 mana or more. I think I like it better for the land option, otherwise it would be doomed to the sideboard.

Rating: 2.0

Zof Consumption / Zof Bloodbog

An expensive life drain spell that can also be a land. Not the best way to end a game, but since it takes almost a quarter of the opponent's starting life total I won't be surprised if it sees fringe play.

Rating: 1.5

That concludes my set review for the mono black colored cards in Zendikar Rising! I'm most drawn to black in Limited so hopefully I can do my predictions some justice. Thank you for reading, and please check back for the next installment: Zendikar Rising - Limited Set Review - Red! Thank you to The Lotus Council for the opportunity to create MTG content! Stay tuned for more Deck Techs and be sure to follow The Lotus Council as well as my Twitter and Twitch accounts for future content!

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