Avacyn Restored Casual & Commander Review: Black

Wizards has had a current role of not making the storyline so good versus evil which translates to white versus black. Ever since the demise of the Ineffable at the end of Apocalypse, the villains have been spread across the color pie. But with Avacyn Restored, it is pretty clear that the good guys are white and the bad guys are black, which sadly means black got the short straw.

Casual and Commander Review: Avacyn Restored
White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Gold, Artifacts & Lands

Appetite for Brains

Targeted discard of any type in multiplayer is bound to be a bad idea. Much like counterspells, the return just isn’t there so you’re left targeting a single player in hopes of making the right call. I love this card for dueling, but in multiplayer, Syphon Mind is still the gold standard.

Barter in Blood

While this is a reprint, it’s a fantastic one. Innocent Blood is amazing and doubling it just makes it even better – usually. With so many creatures persisting or undying or being indestructible, having a way to get rid of a lot of them in one fell swoop is a great play. If you aren’t playing this already, seriously think about it!

Blood Artist

A miniature Falkenrath Noble, Blood Artist is an odd card to me simply because it is a 0/1. A much better alternative to Deathgreeter, this is a card I see slowly winning you games until your opponents realize what is actually happening. Then they waste a removal spell on it.

Bloodflow Connoisseur

I was a huge fan of Phyrexian Ghoul, but the simple change of giving the creature counters makes me very interested in how this card can play out. If I hadn’t taken apart my Deathrender deck, this would easily be vying for Carrion Feeder’s spot.

Bone Splinters

I don’t want to say there is no reason to every play this because there are always exceptions in casual, like some weird morbid-Grave Pact death trigger deck. I do like that Bone Splinters can destroy any creature. But still, it’s a reprint so if you aren’t using it already, you probably won’t start.

Butcher Ghoul

Black’s version of Young Wolf, this card just doesn’t do enough for me. The two casting cost for a lowly 1/1 just isn’t enough. I’m sure some weird combo deck can make use of this two drop, but I would almost always prefer Reassembling Skeleton.

Corpse Traders

A hill giant that occasionally will allow you to make your opponent discard is a great idea in limited, but when you can pick any creature from the multiverse, it simply doesn’t measure up.

Crypt Creeper

Another reprint, this two drop is okay but not terribly exciting. Graveyard removal many staples now and Crypt Keeper feels like a relic from ages past. And can someone explain the art to me?

Dark Imposter

Good lord, this may be my favorite black card in Avacyn Restored. As a general rule of thumb, assassins are good and the fact that this only needs mana to activate makes it even better! Without needing to tap, Dark Imposter can start eating creatures immediately! With lands like Cabal Coffers or absurd ramp like Nirkana Revenant, Dark Imposter can easily devour half the battlefield in one go.

And that doesn’t even start on the second half of the card! Stealing activated abilities can be a game ender, especially since he doesn’t need to tap to eat the creature!

Death Wind

If indestructible is a big issue at your table, this is a decent way to put them in check. Not the best removal spell, but it serves a purpose.

Demonic Rising

The loner mechanic doesn’t really work in multiplayer. If you only have one creature and you attack, you’re horribly open to several counterattacks. If you don’t attack, you still only have one blocker! Demonic Rising could be interesting as part of some weird phasing-Pandemonium deck, but I don’t think so.

Demonic Taskmaster

Yes, if you have two in play, you’ll end up sacrificing one of them. I love the idea of this card, but it just doesn’t work in multiplayer.

Demonlord of Ashmouth

The newest addition to black’s absurd 4-drop pool, Demonlord of Ashmouth is interesting. A 5/ 4 on turn 4 is devastating, especially when he flies. The sacrifice clause should be easy for black to turn into a benefit, and the half-undying will sometimes work and sometimes won’t. My biggest concern is getting two-for-one exchanges that benefit everyone at the table but you.

Descent into Madness

I like cards that end games, not cards that prolong them. If you want to try and kill yourself, go ahead and play this because it will unify the rest of the table against you.

Dread Slaver

Now this is a great multiplayer card! Grimgrin is always looking for new ways to make friends (to eat later), and Dread Slaver does just that. Very similar to Soul Collector, this is definitely an effect I’m happy to have multiples of. The base stats of 3/ 5 mean Dread Slaver will be stealing any small creature that wanders your way too.

Driver of the Dead

A new twist on Gravedigger, Driver of the Dead feels like a card that can be very dangerous. The targeted reanimation can allow for some impressive exchanges, whether that is just grabbing some two-drop with excellent utility or getting your Phyrexian Dreadnought back into play. If your deck has a lot of small pieces, this can really work.

Essence Harvest

This feels like a terrible idea. Any card that needs additional cards to work just makes me think you’ll have this be either a useless card in your hand or you’ll only have a 1/ 1 on the battlefield.

Evernight Shade

Shades are interesting in multiplayer, both on defense and offense. The ability to pump one’s self is a great ability and Evernight Shade takes it another step further by gaining undying. Already being notoriously hard to kill, this just makes it that much tougher to take down permanently.

Exquisite Blood

Combine with Sanguine Bond and a single point of damage to win a game. It’s just as absurd as Mindcrank and Bloodchief Ascension and you’ll only pull it off once before getting hated off the table. Even if you don’t play this with Sanguine Bond, people will assume you are planning on it.


You will need to make the weirdest anti-zombie deck to make this work.

Gloom Surgeon

I want to love this card but there are too many problems with it. Since it only triggers off combat damage so you can’t donate it then blast it repeated with Shivan Meteors.  This card could have been really interesting, but a 2/1 that doesn’t die in combat just isn’t enough for me.

Grave Exchange

In a monoblack Commander deck, I could see this making the cut. The card advantage is decent but it really depends on what kind of deck you are playing. At six mana, I expect more than Cruel Edict and Raise Dead combined.


If you’re looking for a new monoblack Commander, here it is! Flying and lifelink is a great combination and being a 7/7 is amazing as well. The high mana cost can be gotten around with some creative ramp or acceleration, but what I really love is the Pay 7 life: Draw seven cards. Triggering it once or twice in a single turn means you’re going to have a full hand and be able to do whatever you want. If Griselbrand resolves across the table from you, kill him immediately.

For reanimator decks, he’s a solid choice for a target too. A great, but expensive, card all around.

Harvester of Souls

Fecundity is a great card for multiplayer since it lets everyone make better use of things dying, but Harvester of Souls goes another step further and gives you and only you that benefit. Being a 5/5 deathtouch demon doesn’t hurt him either and I love that the card draw is a may so you don’t end up decking yourself accidentally. The non-token clause is a touch frustrating, but when it comes to the kitchen table this is a fantastic six drop.

Homicidal Seclusion

I do like the idea of cards that are essentially auras, but aren’t. The lack of inherent card disadvantage is a great concept that I want to see explored further, but the loner mechanic in Avacyn Restored does not work in multiplayer games.

Human Frailty

A solid removal spell along the lines of Deathmark, Human Frailty is very dependent on your kitchen table dynamic (along with your access to Oracle). A solid piece of removal, but I don’t see it going too crazy.

Hunted Ghoul

If you really need defensive zombie one drops, sure.

Killing Wave

I’m really torn on this card. With multiple opponents, this could be huge. But it also affects you, which turns it into some weird not-quite mass removal spell. A singleton in your Commander deck will probably be fine, but the more I think about this card, the more I think it isn’t worth running because your opponent will keep their best creatures and sacrifice the rest and that sounds like a terrible idea.

Maalfeld Twins

Sadly, any card that makes two 2/2 zombies will automatically be compared to Grave Titan and this is certainly the poor man’s Grave Titan. In your Zombie Horde deck, I see this being perfect but the rest of the time it just feels too expensive.

Marrow Bats

This is another card that I’m on the fence about. The four life to regenerate is a lot, but in Commander you can easily afford it and defend your skies. In casual though, I think it is just slightly too much of a cost to really work.

Mental Agony

I love how the art mirrors Angel’s Mercy. That’s about it.


This is an amazing little combat trick! Deathtouch and regeneration make for an amazing combo and being able to do it at instant speed just makes it even better. This is certainly a unique removal spell but the political aspect really makes it shine since you can use it to really mess with someone else’s combat.

Polluted Dead

Kind of uninspired, but this is a solid card for any kind of recursion engine that wants to really piss people off by destroying all of their lands.

Predator’s Gambit

Unholy Strength has officially been outclassed! But Unholy Strength isn’t a great card and the addition of a loner gaining intimidate means you want to attack with it… and not have any blockers left behind.

Renegade Demon

A demon at common feels very, very wrong.

Searchlight Geist

I like this card because early game it can fly in for some damage and late game you can hold it back as a blocker. The ability to gain deathtouch will take some playing around, but I’ve seen far worse cards get played at my kitchen table.

Soulcage Fiend

Another common demon, but this one is great. The ticking time bomb element is fantastic as some players will want to kill it immediately while some will want to protect it. This is a great aggressive black demon that can drastically change how other players attack you.

Treacherous Pit-Dweller

I love this card. At two mana, it is absurd cheap. But the fact that someone else gains control of it when it dies just makes me happy. When combined with Homeward Path, the disadvantage becomes pure upside as you continue to crush people with a giant demon on turn three. This card screams multiplayer and I can’t wait to unleash a horde of them at my table.

Triumph of Cruelty

Bottomless Pit exists, so I don’t know why you would ever play this.

Undead Executioner

A fine zombie but rather unexciting thanks to it being a death trigger. While very similar to Farbog Boneflinger, it still doesn’t do enough to get me excited.

Unhallowed Pact

False Demise has always been a fun card to play – either as a way of keeping your creature around longer or to steal an opponent’s creature. Getting color shifted into black makes sense and the fact that I can now run two of them in my Commander decks makes me very, very happy.

Black got a handful of great cards for multiplayer Magic, but sadly the core of the color in this set just doesn’t work when you’re facing multiple opponents. If you happen to be playing something like “Attack right” then the loner mechanic gets slightly better but anything that I know will leave me unable to block in advance worries me. Still, thanks to a few new demons, Black didn’t come out completely neglected but it is clear they’re the losing side in this expansion.

Top 5 Black Avacyn Restored Cards for Commander & Casual
5. Unhallowed Pact
4. Dread Slaver
3. Treacherous Pit-Dweller
2. Harvester of Souls
1.  Dark Imposter

The fact that two of the top 5 cards in my mind are almost reprints makes me disappointed. What are you most excited about in Black from Avacyn Restored?

Casual and Commander Review: Avacyn Restored
White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Gold, Artifacts & Lands