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Rivals of Ixalan Review — Black
Black is the best color in Magic: the Gathering and I will not hear any argument or evidence otherwise. That’s why I get to do the black review because the best writer gets to do the best color. I will also ignore all evidence to the contrary on this matter as well.
Tetzimoc, Primal Death: Up first is the only new mono-black legendary creature we get from Rivals of Ixalan. By far the weirdest elder dinosaur that we have. If you were going to make him into your commander I have to imagine the deck to look a lot like Korlash, Heir To Blackblade or a weird Phage, the Untouchable smashed together into a mutant with big horns all over its body. In other words, a deck with a lot of ways to get your commander into your hand and ways to abuse that fact. Not the most powerful effect in the world for a commander, but there is some good argument for using him in the 99. Targeted mass removal is a nice effect to have, especially if you have him in your starting hand. Even better when you run this guy in Horobi, Death’s Wail where you get to Fatal Push everything in sight.
Dead Man’s Chest: Ever want to cast other people’s spells, but don’t want to run Gonti, Lord of Luxury? Dead Man’s Chest has got your back. This card is unlikely to be a huge staple in our format as it is a bit clunky, but it does add a new twist to the spell-steal archetype.
Gruesome Fate: A one time effect for a black token deck with the bonus possibility of being a finisher when the game goes long. The other place where Gruesome Fate shines is when your opponents are onto your plan of incremental life drain with cards like Zulaport Cutthroat and cut off your sacrifice outlets or your other pay off cards, having a spell in hand to just end the game is great way to get to the finish line.
Oathsworn Vampire: I’m not sure where this vampire fits exactly, but black has a long history of creatures that are castable from the graveyard when a condition is met. Creatures like Gravecrawler and Bloodsoaked Champion to name a couple, and make for great recurrable threats for Grave Pact decks or tribal themed decks and Oathsworn Vampire could very easily fit this mold.
Ravenous Chupacabra: This is another Shriekmaw for your two-for-one deck of choice. Less flexible in casting cost, but a stronger enter the battlefield (ETB) trigger is all that I needed to see to make me think that there is going to be people playing this mythological creature.
Sadistic Skymarcher: For a vampire tribal deck, this is basically another Vampire Nighthawk or Gifted Aetherborn. Outside of that though we’re looking for a very normally costed creature and does not do enough to pull its own weight.
Twilight Prophet: We have our mythic black card with Twilight Prophet, and it delivers. Dark Confidant is a card that people are usually scared of running in EDH, as we tend to run higher CMC cards and there is only so many times you can take six or seven damage on upkeep. This vampire solves that problem by making everyone else take that damage while you gain that amount of life! Win-win! Well, mostly just win for you, and that is all that should matter to you as a black player. If the life swings each turn doesn’t finish the game out for you, the card advantage she provides will.
Vona’s Hunger: Instant speed edict effects are pretty rare, they mess with combat way too often. While this isn’t the most consistent edict you can run, Vona’s Hunger has a pretty high ceiling with Ascend being triggered. It won’t be a huge blow out every time you cast it, but when it is a blowout it is going the swing the game very heavily in your favor.
Tomb Robber: I am torn on this guy, to be perfectly honest. This feels like a great card for reanimator and for midrange decks that want to make sure they hit land drops in mono-black. My worry about Tomb Robber is that he might be a bit too slow to get started at three mana. The upside to it is that you get to control what is in your graveyard while getting a menace creature ever bigger to beat face.
Pitiless Plunderer: As a black player, it is a well known fact that sacrificing your creatures for fun and profit is the best way to go about things. Now what if I told you that there is a pirate that makes it even more fun and even more profitable? That’s right, if you act now you too can get an addition treasure token on each Ashnod’s Altar activation! Not only that, but you get to keep that extra mana around for all those Ascend checks for the blessing of the city. If this gold-biting man doesn’t create an infinite loop now, I’m sure he will soon.
Champion of Dusk: Not a lot to say about this guy; if you are tribal vampires and want to draw a bunch of cards then slide this guy in over Painful Truths and thank me later.
Vraska, Scheming Gorgon: While you won’t find this in packs as this Vraska is from one of the planeswalker decks. The only real place I see for her is the classic Doubling Season planeswalker deck, as she can ultimate as soon as she comes down. Six mana is a lot to ask for a planeswalker these days, and her ultimate is the really the only relevant thing she has. Unless you really want to spend six mana to destroy a creature, then more power to you. Even then, chances are you will be better served running a different walker than this.
There are some spicy cards in black this time around, but the real hot spice in the set seems to be in the gold and artifact cards. I know there are a few cards in the set that I am looking forward to trying out in my decks and for brewing around.