Artful Dodge (6.0 out of 10.0)
When I first saw this Blue common, I completely discounted it as a trash blue spell. It almost beat me in a game but that was more because I was so far behind. (FYI, Faith’s Shield naming me as protection from blue trumped it and won me the game.) However, I now can imagine some applications, like if you have Elbrus, which I did, or multiple Soul Seizer, which I did not. And in those instance, Faith’s Shield is probably just as good. I don’t think this will do anything in Constructed, ever, or Commander, ever, or even see much play in Casual, ever. Its most utility will come from writing proxies on the back of it.
Beguiler of Wills (5.0 out of 10.0)
Another fail at mythic. Exactly what did they think was mythic about this card? It is nice you keep control of the creature but it would be completely unplayable if it didn’t. You will play this in your B Limited decks because it can take over a game, but do not plan on being allowed to use it much. It is like they made a powerful Blue card and then hosed it before anyone got a chance to have fun with it. A Casual deck should tons of fun with it, a Commander wizard deck may use it well, but it will not see play in Constructed at that 5cc. And on top of all that, it is devoid of flavor.
Bone to Ash (5.0 out of 10.0)
I have thought about it quite a bit and I do not like this card. I sided it in one match to try to deal with an absurd double captain plus a thousand spirit deck. It is too hard for timing at 4cc. You have to get really lucky to have it work out right. Maybe in a durdling control deck it would work. As bad as counter spells have become, even in Standard there are tons of better options. You could play this in Commander but I wouldn’t. You could play it in a casual deck but I wouldn’t. And the flavor doesn’t make any sense at all, requiring way too much editorial explanation. I felt like giving it a lower rating but I know it will make the cut sometimes.
Call to the Kindred (7.5 out of 10.0)
This rare is not amazing but this is what makes me happy as a Magic player. It is a really fun, potentially powerful affect, that seems stolen from Green but probably won’t work out. For competitive play, I think its best application is in a creature heavy U/B Limited deck with a lot of Undying and a lot of Zombies. That way the potential two for one is mitigated by the graveyard resilience. As much as I would love to have it be the bomb in Constructed like Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms, it is just too cute to work out. However, it would be super sweet in either Commander or other Casual play. As for flavor, are there Blue cards with flavor in this set?
Chant of the Skifsang (7.5 out of 10.0)
This little Blue common is almost as good as Claustrophobia and with a more manageable mana requirement. Blue should have no problem owning the skies and this card is master of clogging up the ground. You should probably be playing this card in Limited. My favorite part of this block is that every color has access to solid removal and Blue has a strong amount. However, I do not see it hitting play in any other format unless as Casual player needs something to deal with a troublesome big dumb monster.
Chill of Foreboding (5.0 out of 10.0)
Well, its not a rare or my disappointment with this card may be greater. In Limited, it is too dangerous to play this card since you might be leveling up your opponents graveyard. It maybe, kind of, could be a singleton in the Spidery self mil deck. It completely misses in every other form of play as well. I guess it has a tad flavor. Pretty meh.
Counterlash (7.0 out of 10.0)
As a very expensive counter spell, Counterlash tries so hard to be unique and fit in at the same time. Such a confused little card, but it could be so awesome. I don’t know how you build around it because it is pretty random what you will be countering. I guess in Constructed you could craft a deck that encouraged your opponent to play a big affect instant or sorcery and then come over the top with a bigger version. Just seems too random. This rare will regulated to the mystic Commander box and used to do something degenerate. Still looking for some Innistrad flavor in Blue.
Curse of Echoes (6.0 out of 10.0)
This rare is only fun if you want to be completely random in a Commander game. You shouldn’t play it in Limited or Constructed and it will probably just piss your friends off in a Casual game. I could see myself playing it in a completely chaos based Izzet Commander deck.
Divination (5.0 out of 6.0)
There is nothing wrong with Divination but this card is about as bland as reprints get. I am sure you will play it in Limited every once in a while but I pray that Standard never gets so bad that this is considered a good option again.
Dungeon Geists (8.5 out of 10.0)
This is the suped up Fiend Hunter. In most cases, it deals with the creature just as effectively and if their only option is board wipe, Geists leaves their creature around to die as well. There just aren’t that many situations where you want Fiend Hunter over Dungeon Geists. And being a 3/3 flyer for 4cc, I do not know how I would want a different card more for a Blue Limited deck. I would be willing to give Geists an even higher grade if I had a better read of what it would do in Constructed. It is definitely a powerful card but there are so many options I just don’t know if it can pass the test at four manas. I will definitely keep in mind when batting around deck ideas. I think it is probably a Casual miss outside of a boss card for a Spirit deck but there are already tons of blinking shenanigan decks in Commander to abuse Geists ETB ability.
Geralf’s Mindcrusher (8.0 out of 10.0)
I like the design of this rare a lot. You can take him early in draft and build around him. Even if you don’t get a chance to build around him, he is an Undying beater. This guy is good in Limited. For him to work out in Constructed, he is going to need a lot of janky stuff to go with him. Maybe some kind of Milling Pod deck running Phantasmal Images and Phyrexian Metamorphs. Yeah, that sounds kind of fun. I don’t know about good but it sounds fun. Zombies are always popular in one form or another so I am sure the Mindcrusher will make his way into more than one Casual and Commander deck. For flavor, I actually like this guy more than most cards. His ETB ability really conveys the process of Zombies infesting Innistrad.
Griptide (7.5 out of 10.0)
Joining the ranks of Innistrad’s Blue tempo spells, Griptide fills out the missing pack of bounce nicely. It gives up Flashback but gets instant speed when compared to Grasp of Phantasms. Take this spell and enjoy the damage you push through. Griptide won’t see Constructed play but it was not made for that. The lack of versatility pushes it out of a lot of Commander play and it just is too bland to make many Casual decks. And continuing the pervasive Blue trend, they neglected to include any flavor.
Havengul Runebinder (7.0 out of 10.0)
This Human Wizard is a very good rare for Limited but not a bomb. You don’t take it and build around it, but if you see it mid pack it can definitely level up a deck that is already turning out U/B. I could definitely first pick it in a weak pack but I do not know if there are many shallow Draft packs in Dark Ascension. His only other use will really be in Casual Zombie decks. He just doesn’t have enough punch for Constructed or Commander.
Headless Skaab (7.0 out of 10.0)
This guy is a really big boy for 3cc. He should definitely own the ground for many turns. In addition, he fits into an aggressive Zombie strategy or a durdling control deck. He has the one drawback that he cannot block the first turn he comes down and can be a pretty bad top deck when you are behind. Unfortunately, the giant body Zombie doesn’t have the power or appeal to do much else outside of Limited except maybe a very narrow Casual deck. I guess Blue’s Skaab mechanic is what passes for flavor. That, and he is missing a head.
Increasing Confusion (7.5 out of 10.0)
You can build around this card but I see it more likely coming late and fitting into a deck that already has some mil elements. Think of this as a finisher in the aforementioned durdling control deck. I actually give it the extra half a point because of Constructed applications. I definitely see this being a possible combo finisher at some point. That being said, that very thing makes it playable in Commander and Casual as well.
Mystic Retrieval (6.0 out of 10.0)
This card can be very good but its variance is completely dependent on the rest of your spells. Its biggest problem is that it would fit best in a Burning Vengeance deck or Self Mil deck but you really do not know if you are getting those pieces until pack 2 or pack 3. Just expect to get it late and luck into a sick Burning Vengeance deck in the last two packs. It gives you some redundancy in Commander and if we had a Gifts like card in Constructed it wouldn’t be a bad card to fetch in that. Besides that, it is going to need a lot of work to be good in 60 card decks.
Nephalia Seakite (7.5 out of 10.0)
The Flash on this card gives you all kinds of interactions to abuse. This card is a very good flier and will be a staple of most of your Blue aggressive decks. Take removal over it and enjoy flying over your opponents ground forces. However, almost its entire rating comes from how good it will be in Limited because it just won’t make a big splash in Constructed, Commander or Casual.
Niblis of the Breath (8.0 out of 10.0)
This is the Niblis that both of the White Niblis want to be. A 2/1 flier is a nice beater at 3cc, it can blank premium cards like Claustrophobia on anything but itself, and it can be a better defensive spell than Avacynian Priest. This is a pretty sweet uncommon. That sweetness will not translate to Constructed or Commander, but this Spirit should make plenty of Casual players aggravated at the kitchen table.
Relentless Skaabs (8.0 out of 10.0)
The only plural Skaab is going to turn out to be one of the better all around Skaabs. Undying is a very powerful Limited ability and it has the bonus of avoiding the Skaab exile cost when coming back into play. You will will plenty of games with this card. You will lose plenty of games to this card. And of course, it is another Blue card that just won’t be very good in Constructed and Commander but will fit right in in Casual. However, I do enjoy the flavor of these Skaabs being plural and meshing with the Undying ability.
Saving Grasp (8.5 out of 10.0)
This efficient little instant may be the sleeper common of the set and I could see it being played across a lot of formats. You can use it to blank premium cards like Claustrophobia, run degenerate combos with Fiend Hunter, reset Undying creature, or just recast something with a sweet ETB. It can be an expensive blink spell but believe me; it will definitely have its uses.
Screeching Skaab (7.0 out of 10.0)
This little undead guy will be the featured Zombie common in an aggressive Blue strategy. He helps turn on all your other Skaabs and is a nice aggressive body. Pasy that thought, it won’t have much of a place anywhere else. Look for it in a dedicated Zombie Casual deck but that is about it.
Secrets of the Dead (6.0 out of 10.0)
It says draw a card and gives you even extra value on Flashback. I could see looking at these if you have three or four Flashback cards after middle of the pack. And then after that consider cutting whatever you can to get into position for the Burning Vengeance deck. In other formats, you won’t play it unless you are doing a lot of janky things.
Shriekgeist (6.5 out of 7.0)
This Spirit can be effective in a Mil strategy but is way too fragile to be really good. Remember, to mil your opponents in this Limited format, you need to be aggressive with it because you don’t want to stumble into helping your opponent’s Self Mil deck beat you. And this is pretty much the same as most Blue cards in Dark Ascension as it won’t see much play outside of Limited.
Soul Seizer/Ghastly Haunting (8.0 out of 10.0)
I would rate this card much higher if it were not a creature and didn’t have to connect to take your opponents creature. Against a non-flying deck, it will always be able to take their best creature. If you have one of these, then you should be taking a second look at Artful Dodge and Faith’s Shield. Outside of Limited and Casual, this control magic will not be powerful enough to make the cut.
Stormbound Geist (7.5 out of 10.0)
This efficient flier is a perfect example of how powerful Undying can be in Dark Ascension. From my experience, I would just try to out race this if you can. A lot of times, it isn’t worth your removal or block to give them a faster flying clock. Ctrl+V (Blue card isn’t good enough to play outside of Limited).
Thought Scour (6.0 out of 10.0)
Like many of the Blue cards, they are either enablers or auto plays. This card is an enabler if you want to mil yourself or in the very rare circumstance you will mil your opponent if you can be that aggressive with the strategy. Of course, it would be completely reasonable to play four in a Casual Mil deck.
Tower Geist (7.0 out of 10.0)
As per Dark Ascension, this is another good Blue flier. It may be difficult for me to stay out of Blue in this format. A couple of times, you will get kicked in the junk by his graveyard ability but most of the time you will just get value. Also, another good addition for a Casual Spirit deck.
Black Cat (6.0 out of 10.0)
This hexing cat is playable if you have a strong Zombie theme in your Draft deck but is a pretty good guy to include as your 24th card in a Sealed pool. His discard ability can be very relevant and affects the way your opponent will play their game. He is way too neutered to make its way into Constructed but should be really cool in Casual. The couple of cats in Dark Ascension add a lot of neat flavor to the set.
Chosen of Markov/Markov’s Servant (6.5 out of 10.0)
Chosen is a very slow card; much slower that the 3cc would indicate. You would have to cast Vampire Interloper and then Chosen and then tap them both on turn 4 to transform it. That seems like a lot of potential damage invested in your Grey Ogre. Of course, it is playable, just not a great card and that will keep it out of other formats. However, Black cards have a nice trend of being full of flavor and this is no change.
Curse of Misfortunes (4.5 out of 10.0)
This curse fetching card really isn’t very good in any format, but it at least has had people talking about building jank around it. It is possible to build a fun deck with it, but unfortunately that means it will be regulated to very Casual builds. Now, if it allowed more than one curse of the same name to be fetched then it just may have seen some Limited brewing around it.
Curse of Thirst (4.0 out of 10.0)
So, this does about the same thing as the cheaper Red curse in Innistrad at one damage a turn by itself. Now, if you somehow got a Draft where you could build around Curse of Misfortunes, it would have to include making your opponent thirsty. However, it will only get played in fun casual builds.
Deadly Allure (5.5 out of 10.0)
This card is really bad. It would be so much better if it were an instant. It would be actual removal then. As it is, its usefulness depends completely on prefect timing and this would only be in emergency situations where the creature you want dead is the only creature your opponent has untapped. AND it has to be a utility creature that doesn’t attack past the first turn the offending creature is in play, otherwise it will be turned sideways in your face. I guess it is good against a deck that has a single big vigilance attacker. Yeah…and all that makes it even worse in other formats.
Death’s Caress (9.0 out of 10.0)
I love these standard 5cc Black removal spells. Almost every block has one and I always want to have one as an answer to anything my opponent plays. In my opinion, cards like this are a big reason to be in Black. But unlike with Spread the Sickness, you cannot splash Caress and you will be heavy in black to play this premium removal spell. Hey, and you get a bonus if you kill a pesky Human. In Causal, this card should be just as awesome. In the the other Constructed and Commander formats, not so much.
Falkenrath Torturer (7.5 out of 10.0)
The problem with this Vamp is that its two themes works counter to strategies with which it would be best. If you could play a Human tokens deck AND a deck heavy with Vampires including the lords, this guy would be nuts. Fortunately, this also means that the Torturer is very versatile. As long as you know you are Black, he should fit into your strategy nicely. He will not fit into Constructed unless he facilitates a combo-ey token generating deck in a similar way to Nantuko Husk. This Torturer will be pretty sweet in Casual but just lacks the punch required for a Commander deck. It is cool that torturing Humans gives this Vamp POWWWWWER, Unlimited POWWWWWER.
Farbog Boneflinger (8.0 out of 10.0)
In Draft, this vicious Zombie will often be a two for one if you craft your turns properly. It is probably only going to get you a smaller creature and its 2/2 body is less than impressive so it doesn’t live up to Black death dealers like Skinrender. However, with archetypes like Human Tokens and U/W Fliers it should always have a target for its ETB ability. Continuing the Black and even Blue theme, this card is not very good for any Constructed deck but pretty good in a Commander or Casual deck totally devoted to Zombies.
Fiend of the Shadows (8.5 out of 10.0)
If the Fiend connects early, it could really take over a Limited game. There are Black rares I would rather have but mixed with plenty of Human fodder and their versatility, this one could wreck havoc on an opponents board and hand. Unlike the Torturer, I think you want this a lot more in the Human deck as an outlet but it is still pretty good with Vampire lords. No Constructed play, no Commander play, and it probably won’t fit with what Casual players are doing anyway. But one quick thing on Vampire flavor in this set, it is cool that they are eating Humans a lot more mechanically to emphasize the imbalance that Sorin is trying to correct.
Geralf’s Messenger (6.0 out of 10.0)
Outside of a dedicated Zombie deck, probably with at least one of the Captains, the triple B casting cost is prohibitive for its effect. You will win games with the Lego-chested Zombie and you will lose games to it and you will get it stuck in your hand. It is a middle of the road rare and you shouldn’t take it early but it could be a very welcome sight late in a Dark Ascension pack. For Constructed, how about that Mono Black deck that doesn’t exist but everyone talks about after every set? Oh, it probably won’t happen again? I see. I guess we will just put this in Casual Zombie decks.
Gravecrawler (8.5 out of 10.0)
I feel this is one of the better designed Black cards in Dark Ascension. It is resilient and aggressive in Limited, it is a possible beater in Constructed, it fits into all the Zombie themes for Commander and Casual and its flavor is very cool. The idea that this Zombie behaves a tad differently than other Innistrad Zombies because Liliana made is awesome to me.
Gravepurge (8.5 out of 10.0)
This card is VERY good in Limited. At instant speed, it makes sure you get at least your two best creatures back immediately because the most important part of the card is that you draw a card. Draw a card is the best text in all of Magic. I loves it. Unfortunately, it won’t be good enough for Constructed but it is a nice toolbox card for Commander.
Gruesome Discovery (3.0 out of 10.0)
I hate this card. It is so bad it makes me angry. It is a perfect example of how Morbid just doesn’t work sometimes. It seems really hard to trigger and I likely have to pitch one of my own creatures to get it to trigger since that is how Morbid usually works. It just doesn’t seem worth it. All those things make it even worse in other formats since there is just much better hand disruption available. At least it is a terrible common and won’t take the slot of a good card in a pack.
Highborn Ghoul (7.0 out of 10.0)
This is a nice aggressive card if you already have a heavy Black commitment. That is all. No, it isn’t. Black Intimidate doesn’t seem as good in this set with all the Zombie making and Transforming. Now, that is all. Except for all the normal Zombie drivel about Casual themes and not being good enough for Constructed.
Increasing Ambition (7.5 out of 10.0)
This is the second best of the increasing cycle and the best thing about it is you can play both parts in any deck. I wouldn’t mind taking it very early in a pack that didn’t have removal or a top critter since it is like playing another copy of your three best cards. In Constructed it could be sweet in a combo deck like Battle of Wits. How hot would that be? And in Commander it is even a hotter tutor card. If you can make Black Mana, you may want to play this rare.
Mikaeus, The Unhallowed (9.0 out of 10.0)
You take this card early and go into Black hard as it is one of the only ones that would cause me just to dive in. It is a multi-layered lord and a sweeper like affect and a big body. Also, it is a very interesting card. Its flavor is thick, showing one of the most devout Human’s becoming a powerful tool for the monsters. It doesn’t pass the Titan test at the moment but I would love to be able to abuse it in a Pod deck. Hey, why doesn’t he have Undying? Grrrr, that makes me a sad ninja. Oh well, he should be pretty sweet in Commander and Casual anyway.
Ravenous Demon/Archdemon of Greed (8.0 out of 10.0)
If you are already going into the B/W Human deck, then this guy is an amazing finisher as a five drop that immediately starts to end the game. However, he kills you if you aren’t heavy Humans. I would LOVE to play him in Constructed since he is very Lord of the Pit and that was the card that got me into Magic. So, if I was making a Casual deck I would definitely look at playing it; a pretty sweet card in my opinion.
Reap the Seagraf (6.0 out of 10.0)
This U Flashback card is good enough to make two Zombie Grey Ogre’s in most decks. If you can’t cast the Flashback then it really isn’t worth playing which makes it trash for Constructed and not worth a slot outside of the most dedicated Casual U/B Zombie decks. The flavor of the Sorcery is kind of sweet though; a coastal reef with a bunch of shipwrecked vessels that churn out Zombies every night.
Sightless Ghoul (4.0 out of 10.0)
I do not like this card at all. A 2/2 for four mana just isn’t aggressive enough even if it does come back as a 3/3. Now, if it had Deathtouch it would be quite playable. You should have done that, WotC. So, it is crap in Limited and terrible every where else. ‘Nuff Said.
Skirsdag Flayer (6.5 out of 10.0)
It has the awesome phrase “Destory target creature”. However, it has to tap and sacrifice another specific type of creature, a Human, and invest mana each time and it is pretty fragile. This is the type of card that you can’t count as a two drop. It is more like a card you have to cast along with another spell in later turns so it takes some hand crafting. On the bright side, it should be pretty good at flipping Werewolves back over. Unfortunately, it is just plain useless in most other decks outside of Casual.
Spiteful Shadows (5.0 out of 10.0)
I suppose this card could be useful to side in if you are completely outmatched by a Manor Gargoyle you can’t fight through but it is a really bad card. You don’t ever want to play this card, at all. And that goes across all the other formats as well. Now in the flavor category I love the ominous feeling of shadows turning on the people of Innistrad.
Tragic Slip (9.0 out of 10.0)
Any removal that has the potential to kill almost any creature for one mana is a top pick and something you always want to play. And there are so many sacrifice abilities, it might not always be your creature that triggers Morbid. As we know from DismBaember, one mana removal can easily make the transition to Constructed and since Magic is so creature centric at the moment, there will always be critters heading to the bin. All these positives stretch the card’s playability across many formats. The flavor is pretty neat too, demonstrating that the smallest hexes or turns of luck can be deadly on Innistrad.
Undying Evil (5.0 out of 10.0)
I keep going back and forth on this card. I think it could be really powerful but it is about the worst top deck possible. I think it fits best in the Skaab heavy aggressive deck or the Human deck. This way you are giving your already powerful strategies a bit of redundancy. However, I do not see it being playable at all in any other deck.
Vengeful Vampire (7.5 out of 10.0)
It is expensive but it is a flier that comes back from grave as an even bigger flier. Vampires got a tad bit slower in Dark Ascension but you don’t want to play too many 6cc cards that don’t just end the game. Pushing the limits of desirable casting cost in Limited, this angry Vamp is relegated to the Casual Vampire decks.
Wakedancer (7.0 out of 10.0)
Continuing the theme of Grey Ogre’s that might do something else in Black, Wakedancer fits nicely into an aggressive Human strategy. Four powers and toughness is a nice bargain in Limited. This probably won’t fit anywhere else though, but I like the flavor a lot. It is a glimpse of the Humans using the monsters for their advantage and maybe an indication of the balance between life, death, and undeath that was meant to be the norm in Innistrad.
Zombie Apocalypse (7.0 out of 10.0)
You cannot depend on the sweeping side of this card. You have to just think of that as gravy against a dedicated Human deck or something that will maybe kill a couple of critters in another deck. If you do pick this card up, you want to aim at getting as many Zombies as possible and want at least 10 to make for sure it isn’t fair at all when you tap the six manas. 6cc and triple B is just too much of a barrier to overcome for Constructed and it seems like a kind of pointless card in Commander. It would be sweet to side this in against one of the Standard Human strategies but I don’t think there will be a deck unless a Sorin Control is good. This is probably the single most flavorful Black card; slaying all the Humans and hordes of Zombies arising from their corpses.
Check back for Part 3 of Jake’s Super Uber DKA Review