My Dark Ascension Review for Next Level Cubes, Part 3: Black

To part 1 of this review.

To part 2 of this review.

Black Cat: Apart from the nice flavor, this is essentially a reverse Ravenous Rats, with the randomness of the discard making up for its delay/unreliability. Plays a lot differently, of course, and works well with a sacrifice theme, so thumbs up! (Shouldn’t be in an environment with too little evasion, though, since it really can discourage attacks.)

Chosen of Markov: Creatures supporting (or supported by) tribes they aren’t members of are a special breed. The most interesting ones are those which don’t require you to play large numbers of cards from that tribe, but work well even if they only spot (yup, that’s a term from the LotR TCG) one member, so you can use them in cubes featuring only minor tribal themes. Chosen of Markov is actually a great design here (with a stunningly beautiful human side), but alas, it uses DFC technology.

Curse of Misfortunes: If curses haven’t convinced me so far, a card which requires you to go “tribal” on them certainly won’t. Also, if it ever works, rather overpowered.

Curse of Thirst: Well, what I just said!

Deadly Allure: The differences in power level between these off-color flashback cards is really amazing! Still, in a graveyard-based environment, this is a card BG decks can put to good use, and I don’t want Spider Spawning, so I’ll keep it.

Death’s Caress: Putting a rider with a current mechanic on a black removal spell as an excuse to overcost it isn’t exactly my idea of inspired design, but WotC keep doing it. Well, I don’t use humans as a tribe anyway, and this is also an adverse tribal effect.

Falkenrath Torturer: Acceptable power level, but references humans.

Farbog Boneflinger: Okay, so I’m spoiled, but I’m used to much more efficient black ETB cards, and I feel Black deserves them, not exactly being the color pie’s favorite child overall (especially, since I consciously give out good removal all other every environment). Keening Banshee is just more like it. And yes, this card is splashable, but that is actually something I don’t like here. It’s okay if decks splash Black for removal, but if they want its most powerful effects, they should pay the price.

Fiend of the Shadows: Refers to Humans, and I also feel its other ability is potentially too strong.

Geralf’s Messenger: Triple-colored costs in one color are a real hurdle in limited, and if a deck can cope with those, it should be sufficiently rewarded. Geralf’s Messenger does this. It is not broken, “just” a value card – but that’s a lot of value! Great high-end card.

Gravecrawler: Fortunately, this zombie is less powerful in limited than in constructed, but it is still very good, especially in an environment with sacrifice synergies. A powerful and unusual high-end tribal card.

Gravepurge: Footbottom Feast is fine, and certainly an improvement over Reinforcements, but I prefer cleaner concepts like Recover or Death’s Duet.

Gruesome Discovery: This I don’t like. Since you cannot hold discard back forever (and 4 mana is already pricey), the morbid effect will often be on or off rather randomly, and without it, the card is weak, but with it, it is very strong. Higher-costed, but powerful discard effects are already inherently swingy (becoming useless in the lategame, and punishing bad draws), and I use them very sparingly because of that. This card certainly won’t make the cut.

Harrowing Journey: No, I don’t want Ambition’s Cost for one mana more just so that I can target my opponent with it. The Cost is fine.

Highborn Ghoul: Okay, it makes sense that this card is a bit worse than Spectral Rider – White is supposed to have more efficient small creatures. But then again, if a weenie has a double-colored cost, I expect a little extra oomph from it in exchange for the increased difficulty to curve with it in an aggro deck. Because of that, I stay with Nezumi Cutthroat and Vampire Interloper, even though Highborn Ghoul has the most useful creature type.

Increasing Ambition: Since I decided against Increasing Devotion, this is the last card from the “Increasing” cycle I consider for my card pool Because all my environments have a tempo element and avoid unstoppable bombs, 5 mana is a lot to pay for a tutor there. Of course, once you get to use the flashback, this is incredibly strong, but that’s fine for 8 mana. I see a really nice high-end flashback card in black here.

Mikaeus, the Unhallowed: Ignoring the second ability, already too strong. But then: mentioning humans, adverse tribal effect, and a random hoser… what a terrible design! Just like Zombie Apocalypse this is top-down design really gone bad, sacrificing balance for literal flavor.

Ravenous Demon: This has no downside if you lack the opportunity to transform it and is already a very solid card. Then, if transforming is is an option, it becomes overpowered. Not interested, even if it wasn’t a DFC.

Reap the Seagraf: This is a bit boring, compared to Moan of the Unhallowed. It fits an off-color flashback slot nicely, and there’s actually no alternative in this exact color combination – but do I really need a fully fledged-out 20-card cycle here? Answer: No, that’s too much, and there aren’t good candidates for all slots anyway. If I am content with just one card for each color combination (much more reasonable anyway), I have Forbidden Alchemy at my disposal, which I vastly prefer. There’s nothing wrong with this card; it is just boring.

Sightless Ghoul: At first I thought: “Nice to have a creature with undying that isn’t making me wonder if that whole mechanic isn’t too strong. And it’s certainly not too weak!”  A little later, when someone challenged this notion, I realized it does NOT have initimidate… Why did I think that? Did I memorize an incorrectly spoiled version, or did I just think it SHOULD have had that abiliy to be decent? Because, I’m afraid, it actually IS too weak now. Even with Undying, it is too easy to block, but also, for such an expensive creature, too easy NOT to block.  And it can’t block itself. It’s still possible that a deck might want it, if it has a lot of synergy with undying, or if it wants to sideboard against a deck with strong removal but few own creatures, but overall, it is not interesting enough now.

Skirsdag Flayer: Human tribal. Also, too strong in the right deck.

Spiteful Shadows: Slightly different than Binding Agony, still much too weak.

Tragic Slip: Morbid at its best! You can already read “dies to Slip” all over the net… Nothing wrong with it, though – being situational (even though that situation will come up very often) makes up for its low cost. Also, in contrast to threats, answers cannot be too strong in limited unless they’re also much too common. Great card.

Undying Evil: Nice card using undying with a lot of applications. I like.

Vengeful Vampire: Strong, but thankfully conservatively costed. A safe high-end undying card in limited.

Wakedancer: Another good, unspectacular morbid card.

Zombie Apocalypse: If you think this is good, flavorful design, think again! This is tawdry trash, an uncreative, literal translation of its concept into game terms without concern for its gameplay. If you ever run into this in limited with a human-based deck, you will see what I mean. Well, it’s out anyway, because of human reference and adverse tribal effect.

Overall, Black has a lot to offer me here, mainly because of strong morbid designs and undying, which is a great concept, but dangerous if you underestimate its power.

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9 Comments on “My Dark Ascension Review for Next Level Cubes, Part 3: Black”

  1. I think cards like Zombie Apocalype or Army of the Damned are fine if you don’t use them too often (i.e. like once or twice per set). These aren’t cards that are supposed to play beautifully in any given environment. These are flavorful cards that are supposed to make you chuckle the first time you cast them. True, casting them the second or third time isn’t nearly as much fun, but they are great outlets for the inner child in all of us. Not every card can/should be a Grizzly Bear.

    I also feel that you have a somewhat uber-conservative attitude regarding the power level of cards. Most cards that you call overpowered I feel are strong, but perfectly fine. I kinda wonder about the power level you keep your cubes at?

  2. bezalet Says:

    Did you ever play against Army of the Damned? I can tell you, this is not fun! It is ridiculous. My opponent managed to survive until he found his eighth land, casted Army of the Damned and the only thing I could do was concede. The other two games were over before my opponent could play an eighth land. It’s just as Andreas says often about such expensive cards: Most of the time it sits in your hand, doing nothing. But when you’re able to cast it, it wins the game, making each other card irrelevant.

    @Andreas: Do you really think Sightless Ghoul is not too weak? It’s very likely that the opponent has a toughness-3-creature until turn four, which means you can get a 3/3-Zombie on turn five, if your opponent blocks it. I must admit I didn’t see anyone playing that Ghoul at the Prerelease, so I cannot be shure, but it feals weak to me.

    • Well, obviously I have no experience with that card yet, but I believe it is decent. Of course, it is a card which requires you to be able to mount an offense; when you must do all you can to survive, it won’t help you, but it is certainly a card which is hard to deal with for many opponents, pairing evasion with the need to deal with it twice, and it also offers you all these nice undying synergies.

      Severed Legion is quite useful in some environments, and the additional mana for undying seems fair to me. Maybe this is not a card every type of deck which can cast it wants, but I’m quite happy that there are a few undying cards which aren’t exeptionally strong.

      • Insert “OW!” here! Just another case of THINKING I knew what this card does – turns out it does NOT have Intimidate, as I thought for some reason! Okay, that changes things a little – I’ll have to think about it for a minute.

  3. bezalet Says:

    Maybe you thought about Lingering Tormentor, to which Sightless Ghoul woul look quite similar, if it had intimidate. I already had Lingering Tormentor in a draft-environment, he was playable, but annoyingly slow. I guess Sightless Ghoul would be fine if it costed 2B or 1BB, but as it is, it is just too ineffective. Sad, because I really liked to have more playable undying cards.
    By the way, have you ever tried to use morbid cards in one of your cubes? I had Ulvenwald Bear, Festerhide Boar and Tragic Slip at the Prerelease, and found that they play really interesting.

    • I haven’t been building a new cube in a while, but I will definitely try out morbid if the opportunity arises. I mean, who wouldn’t want to build decks with Mogg Fanatic and Brimstone Valley at their disposal?

      About the Ghoul: I don’t think I’d like it even for one mana less. It should have either evasion or be able to block or be 3/2. It is just too easy to ignore or to block with a creature which doesn’t kill it.

  4. Considering that I wrote this review with my text editor on one half of my screen and the card list from Gatherer on the other, so that I was looking directly at the cards I wrote about the very moment I wrote about them, it is really astonishing and frustrating that I misread yet another card!

    I assumed Ravenous Demon had flying (and I really, REALLY should have known it hasn’t, since I read the article where its artwork had been explained). It doesn’t, and that means I was a bit too impressed by that card. Well, seems another correction is in order…

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