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Ixalan Standard Set Review: Black


Darkness consumes all! Well not really, but today it will because today is Ixalan’s Black set review! We will be evaluating these cards for Standard. Before we begin reviewing the cards let’s go over some things. I will not be reviewing cards that I believe will not see play in Standard. For example, cards like Encampment Keeper and Paladin of the Bloodstained will be omitted since they are just Limited cards and me saying, “This is just a Limited card” repeatedly is redundant and not necessary. However, I will be covering all the rare and mythic cards in the set. Let’s go over my grading scale for Standard.

RATINGExplanationStandard Examples

0 — Will never see play in Standard. (0 ratings are not listed).

1 — Unlikely to see play. (Dubious Challenge)

2 — Could see fringe play, or occasional sideboard card.(Authority of the Consuls, Deadlock Trap)

3 — Commonly played, staple in a single deck, or frequent play in several decks. (Attune with Aether, Abrade)

4 — Format staple, sees play in multiple decks, one of the best cards in the format. (Torrential Gearhulk, Glimmer of Genius, Glorybringer, The Scarab God)

5 — Standard all-star. When building a deck, you keep this card in mind. If you’re playing this color you have this card in your main deck or at the very least, in your sideboard. (Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Hero's Downfall, Snapcaster Mage)

Check out the previous entries!

White | Blue

Let’s dive on into the abyss!

Arguel's Blood Fast
3Arguel's Blood Fast is the Black flip enchantment and it seems strong. It does a good Erebos, God of the Dead impersonation by drawing you cards the same way that Erebos did. Instead of turning into a creature with devotion though, it transforms into a legendary land. When you are at five or less life, Arguel's Blood Fast will transform into Temple of Aclazotz which will allow you to sacrifice creature to regain some of the life you lost and then play another Arguel's Blood Fast to start drawing cards again. Temple of Aclazotz is a great way to protect The Scarab God from going to exile. It's also great with Threaten type cards or even something like Captivating Crew, which would allow you to take your opponent's biggest threat then sacrifice it to not only get rid of it but also gain some life in the process. Now you might argue that Arguel's Blood Fast is bad against aggressive matchups but even then, it's not as bad as you'd think. You can just play the enchantment and control your life so that it flips on your upkeep and then start getting out of burn range. Maybe I'm just super hyped on these flip cards but Arguel's Blood Fast seems like another slam dunk, especially since multiples work well together.
Bloodcrazed Paladin
2 — I can see this card being played in sideboard of token strategies or aggressive strategies with a lot of tiny creatures. Flashing him in after a board wipe like Hour of Devastation or Fumigate puts you right back into the game or better yet, has your opponent dead on the crack back.
Boneyard Parley
2 — You need five targets for this spell to be good, once you start having less than five it gets significantly worse and worse. Ever After saw some play but you always got what you wanted and it only cost 6 mana. A possible singleton in a reanimator strategy but you really can't play too many since it costs 7 mana and isn't reliable, especially since I imagine The Scarab God will be everywhere. Max out on Liliana, Death's Majesty first.
Costly Plunder
2 — I'm all about sacrificing a treasure token to draw a couple cards but treasure tokens aren't going to be easy to come by in Standard. Might see some fringe play.
Deadeye Tracker
2.5 — I really like this card just as a sideboard option against graveyard based decks. It's also a pirate but doesn't really fit the tempo theme that the pirate tribe seems to be giving off. It's also reliant on your opponent having cards in their graveyard so playing it on turn one doesn't guarantee you'll be able to use the ability on turn two, three, or even four. We'll need more than this to get pirates off the ground.
Dire Fleet Ravager
2 — An okay top end card not just for a pirate deck but any midrange Black deck. Grasp of Darkness is out of the format so it's harder to kill but it still dies to Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Glorybringer on curve. This card has a lot of text but I just don't see a home where it would realistically fit. I'd rather play Liliana, Death's Majesty or splash Red for Glorybringer.
3Duress has been a staple in sideboards and main decks alike since it was printed. It's a powerful card that isn't as backbreaking as Thoughtseize would be. It's been a while since we've had a strong one casting hand disruption spell and this is just the spell Black decks have been looking for, especially since Lay Bare the Heart no longer gets Planeswalkers.
Fathom Fleet Captain
2 — 2/1 with Menace is a fantastic start, but the ability relies on you playing pirates and, again, I don't think we have enough. I'd rather be playing Glint-Sleeve Siphoner as my 2-drop with menace.
Kitesail Freebooter
3 — Not only do we get Duress, but we also get Duress on legs?! Being a pirate and having flying is a nice peg-leg up too. I expect to see this card in many sideboards and even main deck if it's the right meta.
Revel in Riches
1.5 — An exciting build around me card but if you can't kill anything of your opponent's because they are playing a control deck or just a deck with few creatures then it will be hard to win the game off this enchantment. A fun card but ultimately, it's not going to win any competitive tournament.
Ruin Raider
3 — Oooooo, I like curving Glint-Sleeve Siphoner into Ruin Raider. Draw all the cards while also killing your opponent, what's not to like? Ruin Raider does a decent Dark Confidant impersonation in Standard. I think people will look over him at first because he's worse than Dark Confidant but then he will gain traction as people see how good he can really be!
Sanctum Seeker
1.5Sanctum Seeker is no Hell Rider. Brutal Hordechief saw no play and it didn't even care what you were attacking with. Sanctum Seeker requires you to attack with a Vampire to trigger its ability. No thank you!
2 — A possible sideboard option for Black aggressive decks to fight against other aggressive decks. Wring Flesh saw some play and this one is better in the right deck. I wouldn't be shocked to see it come out of sideboards.
Sword-Point Diplomacy
1 — Don't be fooled! These are always traps, especially when they are non-creature spells. We did this last set with Torment of Hailfire. You will never get what you want from this, except maybe some lands. Just play any other three casting cost Black sorcery/instant to draw your two cards.
Vicious Conquistador
2.5 — Just a better Pulse Tracker. Solid 1-drop in a br aggressive.
Vraska's Contempt
3.5 — No Hero's Downfall but that's okay. It gains us life and exiles the creature or Planeswalker forever. I don't know about you but this is a welcome addition to any control/midrange deck trying to deal with The Scarab God or any other God for that matter.
Walk the Plank
2.5Walk the Plank is a trap for control decks playing countermagic. They are better off splashing Red for Harnessed Lightning. Walk the Plank is miles weaker than Grasp of Darkness. Grasp killed Hazoret and Glorybringer (before it attacks) where Walk the Plank cannot. The only play this card will see is in a tap out control deck or a midrange/control deck that isn't already in Red. They also have to not mind playing at Sorcery speed. We will dearly miss Grasp of Darkness.

Top 5 Black Cards

  1. Vraska's Contempt
  2. Duress
  3. Ruin Raider
  4. Arguel's Blood Fast
  5. Kitesail Freebooter

Ixalan just keeps rolling with the goodness. Black does not disappoint either, I expect that five of these cards will make some impact in Standard. They are all Standard playable. Ruin Raider and Arguel's Blood Fast you’re going to need to work a little bit to find a home for but they will do a lot of work once that home is found. Kitesail Freebooter is a fantastic way to combat control decks or even in the Sideboard of control decks for the control mirror, he might even make his way into some sort of ub Tempo Spell Pierce deck. Vraska's Contempt and Duress will see play as soon as Ixalan is legal in Standard. If you play to play Black at all in Standard, I’d go ahead and at the very least pick those two up.

And we’ve come to the end. Don’t worry though, we will be back with more tomorrow. Be sure to join me as I go over the Red cards of Ixalan!

As always.

Thanks for reading,

Ali Aintrazi

@AliEldrazi on Twitter

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