Magic 2013 Casual & Commander Review: Black

The color wheel of Magic is constantly rotating and as it does, colors trade abilities (though blue seems to be sticky and keeping a lot of stuff…), but it always excites me when Black gets to return to its past and offer new spells and creatures.

Magic 2013 Casual & Commander Review
White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Other

Blood Reckoning

Hissing Miasma is oddly outdated now thanks to Planeswalkers existing, so Blood Reckoning updates the wording and tweaks the mana cost. Putting up a barrier to surround yourself is rarely a black ability, but new disincentives are always a plus. Though at four mana, this is going to be expensive and will probably result in people just crushing you with giant creatures instead of a lot of smaller ones.

Bloodhunter Bat

A 2/2 flier combined with a miniature Drain Life? That could be a lot worse for 4 mana. While not the most exciting card, the evasion and ETB trigger allow this to be abused in creative ways.

Cower in Fear

Now this card can be fun! Targeting all of your opponents can drastically change a battle, especially when battle it out during a game of Star or other multiple opponents variation. While -1/-1 isn’t a lot, the instant speed means this can be used to clean up a bloody combat or eradicate a horde of tokens.

Crippling Blight

I guess this counts as anti-defender tech?

Diabolic Revelation

What do you get when you combine Demonic Tutor and an absurd amount of mana? Probably every single combo piece your deck needs! While 6 mana is way too much for a single tutor, this card becomes drastically better late game when it can easily grab a half dozen parts in your Commander deck. Yes, it is horribly expensive and casting it will almost definitely put a giant target on your head. But if you can cast this for 10 mana, I expect you to win.

Disciple of Bolas

Whoa a black card that both gains you life and draws you cards? Something feels out of place there, but I like it. While 4 mana for a 2/1 is a horrible deal, the ability is certainly interesting. Card draw and life gain are a dangerous combo in Black, but the fact that Disciple of Bolas reads “another” is disappointing. This is a great one-of in Commander and can be very dangerous as it refills your hand and life total.

Duskmantle Prowler

While I think this card is weird from a flavor standpoint (how is a prowler so fast?) and the exalted part flummoxes me (does he throw knives mid fight?), the combination of haste and exalted is interesting. For Vampire players, this allows a quick way to throw off combat math – especially when a 3/3 hasty Hill Giant comes out of nowhere.

Duty-Bound Dead

This card reminds me of Will-O-The-Wisp in a weird way. While the regeneration cost is alarming high, a 0/2 that turns into a 1/3 when attack isn’t awful – that’s like a Black Brass Man (is that racist?)! Plus later in the game, he pumps your other attackers while holding back the ground. While not a ground breaking card, I see this being a core piece of Black-White Exalted.

Harbor Bandit

Unblockable creatures can drastically speed up the game, especially when they only set you back 3 mana. While only useful in Black-Blue, Harbor Bandit can allow you to get those last few hits in. I wish he was a pirate though.

Knight of Infamy

Much like Knight of Glory, this guy is fantastic! Protection from white and exalted on a 2/1 body for only 1B – that’s a steal! What I really love about these knights is that they can hold down the ground late game while pumping your offensive attacks. While not a ground breaking card, it is nice to get a new alternative to the pump knights.

Liliana of the Dark Realms

Now this is an interesting card. Honestly, I feel like this could easily be color-shifted into Green with relative ease too (which furthers my belief that black and green are actually the closest aligned colors). Liliana’s +1 is unique and something not often seen in Black. The ability to grab a swamp – and any swamp, means she’s excellent for mana fixing and may finally allow non-green centric domain decks to gain power.

Her -3 is a bit off since if you use it right off the bat, it kills her. Still, the first half effectively turns the creature into a shade or kills something which isn’t bad. Then there is the emblem which is absurd – adding BBBB to your mana pool is delightfully reminiscent of Black’s past evoking images of Witch Engine, Lake of the Dead and Cull the Weak! And all that mana pairs up so well with Diabolic Revelation…

Liliana’s Shade

The budget option of Liliana is an interesting piece. Shades aren’t nearly as good in constructed as most cards due to being to mana intensive, but the fact that this tutors for a swamp makes it worthwhile. Seeing this outside of green is so weird, but I like it.

Mark of the Vampire

Armadillo Cloak is now black? And lost trample?! But why?


Well, it has finally happened. A Magic card has been printed that just says “Destroy target creature.” This just feels weird, but probably because I’ve been use to Black having situational removal for years (with a few exceptions), but now Black has finally defeated itself. Murder is a great card. Unconditional removal is excellent but there isn’t much to really say about this other than it is time for Dark Banishing to pack up for good.

Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis

A giant flying demon with no drawback and makes your opponents sacrifice instead? Oh poor Lord of the Pit. Nefarox is a great legendary commander who is just begging to be built around – it’s just a shame there is so little exalted for Black. But in casual 60 White-Black Exalted, I can see him becoming a finisher with ease and he flies around demanding sacrifices. Plus he’s a Demon, so Kaalia is going to love him.

Then again, Kaalia seems to love almost every Demon, Dragon and Angel.

Public Execution

I don’t know why I would ever want to target my own creature with this, but I don’t like the fact that I can’t. Removing a creature and then giving -2/-0 at instant speed can quickly turn a battle into a slaughter – especially if you aren’t on either side of it. Though I do supposed the fact that this can’t be Misdirected at you helps.

Servant of Nefarox

She looks really pale. As a small exalted creature, she should probably be staying back but a 4/2 attacker for 3 in Black isn’t awful by any stretch.

Veilborn Ghoul

As a creature, this guy sucks. As a recursive engine piece, I love him. Spellshapers will love this Black Squee as he keeps returning to your hand over and over again. Plus he will be best friends with Undead Gladiator! I don’t ever plan on casting this guy, but I do plan on abusing him.

Vile Rebirth

Targeted removal for graveyards is interesting, but this card feels like it only works against a very specific kind of deck: reanimator. The fact that it can only grab creatures is disappointing.

Wit’s End

Finally, I can force my opponent’s to experience to joy of One With Nothing! In Commander against certain people, I see this being very useful. Against most people though, it’s going to be overcosted discard.

Xathrid Gorgon

I love the flavor of this card! First, it’s near impossible to kill thanks to the fact that it is massive as a 3/6, then you’ve got the fact that it’s petrification ability is permanent – even if she leaves! Once the creature turns into an artifact (which sadly Black can’t really deal with), it’s stuck like that for a while. Though it is odd that Voldemort is being stroked in the art.

For reprints, Black does get a few favorites. Mutilate is a fantastic sweeper for mono-Black decks that pairs alarmingly well with the new Liliana cards. Phylactery Lich returns to make more horcruxes while never actually working. Shimian Specter is a delightfully twisted way to shut down annoying decks in casual 60 (while being utterly useless in Commander) and is the bane of Relentless Rats everywhere. Vampire Nighthawk and Nocturnus mean another round of Vampire decks will be the norm again.

Top 5 Magic 2013 Black Cards for Casual & Commander

5. Veilborn Ghoul
4. Diabolic Revelation
3. Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis
2. Liliana of the Dark Realms
1. Murder

I really like how combo-tastic Black has gotten thanks to M13. The inclusion of multiple strategies like tutoring, discard engines, mana fixing and absurd ramping makes me very excited to see what people can build. What are your favorite Black cards in M13?

Magic 2013 Casual & Commander Review
White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Other