Looking at a Random Card: Grixis Slavedriver
(What am I doing here? Read here!)
Pegasus Token from Unglued: Moderately beautiful. Seldom useful, especially in limited environments. I don’t think you really need customized tokens to play Magic anyways. Next.
Grixis Slavedriver: Other colors than Blue and Black just do not seem to randomly come up for me. Actually, that’s now the 4th black card out of 6 (not counting the token)! Also, the 5th creature. Randomness is random…
I like this design! Unearth is a WAY better implementation of a graveyard-based mechanic than dredge. This is a very nice high-end card with unearth, giving you acceptable value (although barely) for 6 mana even without coming back from your graveyard, and putting you clearly ahead in cards once it does. An expensive unearth card has a subtle weakness, though, which many players don’t realize: Unearth actually is only really strong if you’re on the offense, since unearthing a creature will most of the time just mean direct damage to your opponent (but giving him options to avoid it, if he prefers). When you’re on the defense, you’ll neither have much use for this direct damage, nor are likely to spend your mana on it. Yes, a big creature like Etehrium Abomination can really put the pressure on an already backpedaling opponent, but playing too many rather clumsy creatures might prevent you from being on the offense at all!
Having to find that balance between an aggressive approach and utilizing bigger unearth creature means that these cards reward good deckbuilders, but punish poor ones, which is a good thing. Grixis Slavedriver, however, doesn’t exactly fit that category, since due to its token-producing it is also useful (albeit a litle slow) for halting an opponent’s defense, and even unearthing it can play a part here. Due to mana curve considerations, one could even argue that the Slavedriver belongs more in controllish builds! That is remarkable, since the Slavedriver is probably the only unearth card where this is true. In my book, that is a plus, because it helps to diversify the tactical applications of that mechanic, once more slightly rewarding drafters who have a clear understanding of the needs of their decks.
Considering its power level, I believe the Slavedriver is just in the right spot, possibly undervalued by some players – a solid early pick providing a lot of value for any not too fast deck. Just like the Magpie, it offers an incremental advantage instead of a clear, immediate danger forcing the opponent to get rid of it right away or die. While big, impressive threats like Shivan Dragon have their place in limited environments, it is these less spectacular cards which do the main work of creating interesting deckbuilding and gameplay. One more thing to note: This creature works well with any graveyard-themed environment, or even as the only card using such a mechanic – it’s generically useful and thus a flexible tool for cube-builders.
About constructed: Grixis Slavedriver is just not powerful enough to be a contender, but that is okay, since due to the very nature of constructed, there is very little overlap between acceptable 6-drops there and not entirely overpowered 6-drops in limited. Still, a card has to shine in constructed as well to get an A, so that highest honor is out of reach.
As usually, I don’t have much to say about this card’s flavor either way, but I want to stress that the Slavedriver has an eminently useful creature type (and so do the tokens it produces), allowing for great cross-synergy with the zombie tribal theme. (Being a giant, however, is unlikely to get this card anywhere.)
One minor point of criticism in the end: Costing 5B instead of 4BB makes it just a little too splashable for my taste. A double-color mana cost would not have prevented it from being used in multicolor decks, but at least required these decks to run black as a main color. Being able to splash this creature into – for example – a U/W deck certainly doesn’t break anything, but this effect feels just too deeply black to me to get splashed that easily, unlike basic utility like creature removal.
Overall, I give it a solid B.