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AFR Limited Set Review: Black and Red


Welcome back to day two! Today we are going to look at Black and Red and see what cool Dungeons and Dragons flavor we can find.

This article is the second of four, and in it I will be evaluating every Black and Red card - scoring them on a scale of 1-5. These ratings are purely based on Limited formats and have no bearing on Constructed play. I would also like to note these ratings are based on how I believe the card will perform in an AVERAGE Sealed or Draft deck. Often this means a lower score for cards with great potential in a highly synergistic deck.

Rating - Explanation

1- Ideally not making the cut in any of my Limited decks.

2- Not good, but a necessity for curve filling and smoothing out draws.

3- Value cards I am happy to fill my deck with.

4- Cards to get excited about and Premium Removal.

5- Reserved for cards that will win the game if left unanswered.


Acererak the Archlich
Acererak the Archlich - 3.5 - This mythic is a bit slow for Limited to be insane, but it is still very good. It hits really hard and helps you build your board. Spending 3 mana to only venture multiple times will leave you way behind. With a few other ways to venture into the dungeon early, the power of this will increase by quite a bit.
Asmodeus the Archfiend
Asmodeus the Archfiend - 2.5 - 6 mana 6/6s are fine. I am happy to play this as a top end if I can't find anything else. Not getting to draw without spending life scares me. And the pay three lose 7 draw 7 is likely just flavor text.
Baleful Beholder
Baleful Beholder - 2.5 - Large 6-drop creatures is not something Black typically has access to. This will be a decent top end for any deck that needs it. The first ability will be great against Class cards, and at 6 mana will often find one. The last ability will sometimes just kill an opponent.
Black Dragon
Black Dragon - 3 - Of all the uncommon dragons, this one might have the best ability. I do not mind that it costs 7 mana because all the treasure tokens in the format will help with the casting cost. It is also a bit of a slower format where 6+ mana cards are likely to see more play.
The Book of Vile Darkness
The Book of Vile Darkness - 1 - This is definitely a Constructed card. It is unlikely we will be able to lose 2 life on our turn often enough to make this worth playing, and even if you could, it would need to come with a fair amount of life gain.
Check for Traps
Check for Traps - 1 - Getting to pick any card with this does make it playable. Ideally, I like to keep these in the sideboard for longer grindy games. This might be a bit of results-oriented thinking on my part, but I always seem to find these cards later in the game when they matter so much less, and are often just dead.
Clattering Skeletons
Clattering Skeletons - 2.5 - These skeletons are nothing flashy. This is a solid body with a small amount of upside. I gave it a .5 bump in value because there are some Skeleton synergies in the set, and at 4 mana and 4 power it trades up well with the 5-mana 4/4 cycle.
Deadly Dispute
Deadly Dispute - 2.5 - These "sacrifice a creature" cards are always fine to play if the deck has room. It is card parity on its own, so try to sacrifice a creature in response to removal or a combat trick so you can gain an advantage. I've also done one draft and forgot twice that this would make a treasure token... so make sure to always look for that at the bottom of these cards!
Death-Priest of Myrkul
Death-Priest of Myrkul - 4 - A lord that hits three creature types is insane for limited. It will not be hard to make this hit 50% or more of the creatures in the deck. Also, it gets a full point bonus because the second ability doesn't require one of the undead to die - That is so good! It also gets an 11/10 for flavor. Think about it... The undead cleric lord turns recently dead things into zombies. I love it.
Demogorgon's Clutches
Demogorgon's Clutches - 2 - As always, these Mind Rot type cards are always playable if you have room. I often like to keep these in the sideboard for longer grindy games. If you know your opponent has a few six-mana dragons, you will be punished way less for drawing this later in the game.
Devour Intellect
Devour Intellect - 1 - This is not going to see play in Limited. Too often it will hit nothing important, and I can think of many other ways I would rather use my treasure tokens. Look for cards like Check for Traps when wanting this type of effect.
Drider - 3 - At 5 mana, Drider is a bit clunky. It will often just trade down. With any type of evasion buff (like Fly) this might be worth playing. The power of this card will also go up the more removal the deck has.
Dungeon Crawler
Dungeon Crawler - 1 - This Zombie is aggressive and will want to end up making the cut in some decks, but on average it is too low impact to make it into most decks. With two Death-Priest of Myrkul I would be happy to play these - That would be a fun deck!
Ebondeath, Dracolich
Ebondeath, Dracolich - 5 - The dragon is easily killed with 2 toughness... Or is it?! I love the flavor of this undead dragon. Getting to come back when ANY creature dies is insane, and having Flash makes it hard for an opponent to both block and attack.
Eyes of the Beholder
Eyes of the Beholder - 2 - This removal spell is really expensive. Yes, it kills anything, but so do most six-mana removal spells, and those typically do something else - like Learn. Nothing in the set is big enough to warrant the extra mana. Unless you plan to spend 16 mana to kill The Tarrasque. I do love the flavor though. Beholders have 11 eyes.
Fates' Reversal
Fates' Reversal - 1.5 - Cards like this do not provide any sort of card advantage, so the target needs to be really good to make it worth drawing. Ideally, I am looking for 3+ game winning cards before being interested in this.
Feign Death
Feign Death - 2 - This type of effect is only worth playing if the deck has things worth protecting. It is typically one of the first cards cut when slimming the deck down to the starting 40. With a few 4+ rated creatures I would consider playing this if I can make room.
Forsworn Paladin
Forsworn Paladin - 2 - Likely to be too low impact in most decks. With any treasure synergy or a splash color this will be worth playing.
Gelatinous Cube
Gelatinous Cube - 4 - I only gave this a 4 instead of higher because it has little effect on the board if answered quickly, but don't underestimate it. If left on the board this can win games. A 4/3 creature for four is actually really aggressive when it comes with a built in removal spell. In fact, I am writing this the day after set launch and this card has already killed me 5 times in just the first day.
Grim Bounty
Grim Bounty - 3.5 - We see similar removal spells in every set, and they are always decent. There is a bit less Black removal than normal, so this might even play better than we expect.
Grim Wanderer
Grim Wanderer - 3 - Grim Wanderer is a really aggressive creature. Decks with a lot of 1 and 2 drops will want as many of these as they can find. Get an opponent to think they're making an early trade in their favor and BOOM! Follow it up with a removal spell and that can be game over.
Herald of Hadar
Herald of Hadar - 2.5 - The ability is a tad expensive, but it provides a decent late game mana sink that gives the deck a bit of extra reach. The stats are also decent in this set, so it is likely to attack and block well.
Hired Hexblade
Hired Hexblade - 2 - Without treasures this is just a simple bear. Early in the game it can fill the deck's curve and when drawn later it will often give you the extra draw. I always love 2- and 3-drop cards that have bonus abilities later in the game. It is so much less punishing when drawn mid to late game.
Hoard Robber
Hoard Robber - 2.5 - I really like this card. On the play this will really help fix and ramp into an extremely aggressive start. It's not powerful on its own, but it is a great enabler for all of the treasure token synergies in the set.
Lightfoot Rogue
Lightfoot Rogue - 3 - This is a decent early play in any game. The 1-9 and 10-19 rolls are both fine and the critical is really nice. It is a bit awkward to have a deathtouch creature be only offensive - but I guess it makes sense that rogues are only deadly when they are doing the attacking...
Lolth, Spider Queen
Lolth, Spider Queen - 4 - The Planeswalker offers a lot of card advantage and does a really good job of protecting itself when needed. It is a bit tricky to make sure there are enough creatures to keep this running, but the extra card draw should help keep her running. Not as powerful as planeswalkers we have seen in the past, but it is one of the stronger ones in this set.
Manticore - 3 - This Manticore offers a lot of flexibility. This allows smaller creatures to trade up or even get a free removal if the creatures bounce off of each other. It can be flashed in as a surprise blocker when behind and jump in as an attacker when ahead. One of these is likely to make the cut in most Black decks.
Power Word Kill
Power Word Kill - 4 - Even though this doesn't kill some of the bigger threats it will still find a solid target. For only 2 mana and instant speed this is a heck of a bargain. It is also really flavorful because in Dungeons and Dragons the spell Power Word Kill only hits monsters with less than 100 health - IE not angels, demons, or dragons! Super cool.
Precipitous Drop
Precipitous Drop - 3.5 - Without being able to complete dungeons with some regularity I would avoid playing too many of these. With a solid venture build I am likely to play as many of these as I can. The average deck will likely be happy with 1 or 2.
Ray of Enfeeblement
Ray of Enfeeblement - 3.5 - Nothing exciting if the opponent isn't playing White, but there are enough x/1s in the format to justify playing this if there is room. This is the best color specific card in the set, so it's worth picking up as many as you can for the sideboard. With 2 or 3 of these in the sideboard, White players won't stand a chance!
Reaper's Talisman
Reaper's Talisman - 3.5 - I am actually really impressed with this equipment. This gives great reach in a color that already has a lot of drain. It also turns all of your smaller earlier creatures into threats that can attack through better creatures. The added life gain helps keep you from getting into racing situations. This will perform much better than most people think.
Sepulcher Ghoul
Sepulcher Ghoul - 2 - This ghoul is decent filler if you need 2-drops. Likely best in Black/Red where we can create the most tokens. The higher creature count in your deck, the better this card gets.
Shambling Ghast
Shambling Ghast - 1.5 - On its own this creature is a bit too low impact to see play in most decks. It will make combat difficult for your opponent and gets better if you can control when it dies with a few sacrifice outlets.
Skullport Merchant
Skullport Merchant - 3 - The creature size is not impressive, but being able to be activated at instant speed gives the ability a huge bonus. Responding to removal or combat tricks will create decent card advantage. There is also a good chance the deck will be able to make some random unneeded treasures - A lot of cards make them.
Sphere of Annihilation
Sphere of Annihilation - 3 - As far as Wrath effects go this one is very awkward and hard to use. I am not a huge fan of it, but it is still likely to see a fair amount of play.
Thieves' Tools
Thieves' Tools - 2 - A little reach is always a good thing if the deck can make room for it. This is good for longer grindy games. Even if you do not intend to play it in the main deck, consider picking one up for the sideboard for these games.
Vampire Spawn
Vampire Spawn - 2 - On its own, this vampire is nothing to get excited about. This is likely to be filler in most decks. They do start to work better in multiples. There is a drain deck and it is really fun to play.
Vorpal Sword
Vorpal Sword - 3.5 - I like this card a fair amount. It is cheap and reasonably easy to equip in most decks. It offers great stats and an alternate win condition that might come in handy. Creature-light decks will not want to play this.
Warlock Class
Warlock Class - 2.5 - Each level of this Class card is decent. It will really put a lot of pressure on an opponent. If the game is longer this will likely swing the outcome into your favor. This is really slow, so consider sideboarding it out against more aggressive decks.
Westgate Regent
Westgate Regent - 5 - This card is nuts. This might be one of the biggest bombs in the set. Answer this or die... and it doesn't even give you very long to do it. This is going to hit so hard!
Wight - 3.5 - This zombie has a lot to offer. It is very aggressive and offers a possible board advantage. Any Black deck will be happy to play this.
Yuan-Ti Fang-Blade
Yuan-Ti Fang-Blade - 3 - This solid creature offers a fair amount of long term value. Deathtouch allows it to trade up really well, and the venture ability means it can still get a ton of value when you are ahead on board. This will be a staple common for any Black deck.
Zombie Ogre
Zombie Ogre - 3 - Zombie Ogre is a solid creature that will block well against more aggressive decks. It also gives you long term value when you make trades with your opponent - A few extra ventures really start to add up.

Top 3 Black Commons:

  1. Grim Bounty
  2. Precipitous Drop
  3. Yuan-Ti Fang-Blade


Armory Veteran
Armory Veteran - 2.5 - I actually like this a fair amount. It is a bear that has some great upside in the equipment deck. This is aggressive and exactly what I want to see is my Red/White equipment decks.
Barbarian Class
Barbarian Class - 2 - This Class card is based totally on dice synergy. It will likely be good in a Red/Blue build around, but the average deck will not have much interest in playing this.
Battle Cry Goblin
Battle Cry Goblin - 3 - When ahead on board, this card will snowball into a win very quickly. It is a bit small so some of the better combat tricks will be great with this. I am looking forward to the goblin deck in the format - it seems fun.
Boots of Speed
Boots of Speed - 2 - Normally these smaller equipment are not something I want to play, but in a set where so many creatures reward them it might be worth considering. The sooner we can equip cards like Armory Veteran the better.
Brazen Dwarf
Brazen Dwarf - 2 - Two-mana creatures with these stats and some upside are always playable. Ideally most decks will have more powerful cards, but there is nothing wrong with playing these for early plays.
Burning Hands
Burning Hands - 3.5 - Two damage for 2 mana is nothing to get excited about, but it is still worth playing. It will kill something and there is some upside when paired against a Green deck. Keep these in the sideboard and pick them up often. Of the cycle of color specific hate cards, this is one of the best ones.
Chaos Channeler
Chaos Channeler - 3.5 - 4 mana 4/3s are common in this set. This one offers a lot of card advantage and I am a big fan of that in Red. This will help more aggressive decks keep applying pressure when they normally run out of cards. Drawing an extra removal spell or combat trick can make a huge difference.
Critical Hit
Critical Hit - 2 - These types of combat tricks are typically best to finish a game, and with so many big flying dragons in the format it might do just that.
Delina, Wild Mage
Delina, Wild Mage - 3.5 - Delina is a bit tricky to play because she is blocked so easily, but with the right cards she can win games quickly. My favorite combo with this card is Arborea Pegasus.
Dragon's Fire
Dragon's Fire - 4 - This is worth playing even without any dragons. Getting to cast this at instant speed makes this a great removal spell with a lot of upside.
Dueling Rapier
Dueling Rapier - 1.5 - Having a four-mana equip cost would normally make me avoid the card at all costs, but the equipment theme is really strong in this set. This will likely see some play. Be careful not to play too many expensive equipment.
Earth-Cult Elemental
Earth-Cult Elemental - 2 - The ability will likely only hit a land, so by the time it is cast for 6 mana it won't make a huge impact. This is just a 6 mana 6/6 for the top end of the deck if you can't find a better dragon.
Farideh's Fireball
Farideh's Fireball - 3.5 - 5 mana 5 damage spells are normally just a 3, but I am less impressed with the removal in the set so I gave it a slight bump.
Flameskull - 4 - This is an early aggressive card that can win the game if not answered. If it is answered it replaces itself - There is nothing more we can ask for.
Goblin Javelineer
Goblin Javelineer - 2 - This Raging Goblin has a bit of an upside when it comes to trading up, but only the most aggressive decks will consider playing this.
Goblin Morningstar
Goblin Morningstar - 2.5 - Equipment that comes into play with a creature are always decent cards. It is a bit low on stats to make the cut in most decks, but it is playable and will be happy in the equipment decks.
Hoarding Ogre
Hoarding Ogre - 2 - The creature's stats are not exciting. The treasure ability can be a good enabler for any treasure pay off, but this is likely to see little play outside of that.
Hobgoblin Bandit Lord
Hobgoblin Bandit Lord - 2 / 4 - Lords are always hit or miss in Limited. There are enough goblins in the set where this will always be good, and will sometimes be great. Goblins seem to have a lot of support in the set and I can't wait to play them.
Hobgoblin Captain
Hobgoblin Captain - 2.5 - This is a decent aggressive card that works well with a lot of the other synergies in the format.
Hulking Bugbear
Hulking Bugbear - 2.5 - Three-mana 3/3s are well rounded creatures that make it into most decks. The added keyword is also a great bonus is more aggressive decks.
Improvised Weaponry
Improvised Weaponry - 2 - Without enough playables, this will likely see some play. I would be more willing to play this if my deck had a high number of treasure synergies. At sorcery speed it is nothing I am ever happy to play.
Inferno of the Star Mounts
Inferno of the Star Mounts - 5 - After reading this dragon I spent about 30 minutes trying to figure out the best way to get to 20 power... But in all seriousness this is a great creature. After playing this, an opponent will only have a turn or two to answer it before the game is over.
Jaded Sell-Sword
Jaded Sell-Sword - 2.5 - Can someone tell me why a sell-sword has a battle axe? The 4/3 for four is a bit worse than some of the ones we have been seeing, but this one is good in a more aggressive deck. Often though you will not have a treasure or would rather save it for something more important.
Kick in the Door
Kick in the Door - 1.5 - Strixhaven had First Day of Class that was very similar to this and it didn't see much play despite getting to learn. With some big venture payoff card, it might be worth some consideration.
Magic Missile
Magic Missile - 3 - There are a few X/1 creatures in the format, so this might get a two for one once in a while. I like the flexibility. Most of the time this will likely be a slow expensive removal spell.
Meteor Swarm
Meteor Swarm - 4 - This is a really interesting spell. The range of power of this card is from good to amazing. If you are in Red there is no reason not to play this card.
Minion of the Mighty
Minion of the Mighty - 1 - This is a cool dragon build-around for Constructed, but this won't see any play in Limited. With 5+ dragons it could be a fun casual draft to try though.
Orb of Dragonkind
Orb of Dragonkind - 1 - Much like the last card this was created for casual Constructed play and not for Limited.
Plundering Barbarian
Plundering Barbarian - 2.5 - There are a lot of Artifacts in the set worth playing. This will often hit something and come with a free body. It also ramps, color fixes, and synergizes with the treasure theme. The more I see this card the more I like it.
Price of Loyalty
Price of Loyalty - 1.5 - These steal spells are normally unplayable, but in this set there are a few sacrifice outlets - Always a fun thing to do in Limited. I only tent to play these in aggressive decks that have trouble finishing the game.
Red Dragon
Red Dragon - 3 - Like most of the uncommon dragons in the set, this is worth playing. The ability doesn't affect the board in any way but as the top end of an aggressive deck this will give some much needed reach.
Rust Monster
Rust Monster - 2 / 3 - Unplayable in most decks, but the treasure deck will be excited to have this. Many of the cards in this set produce treasures so there is certainly a home for this little monster.
Swarming Goblins
Swarming Goblins - 3 - I love how wide this creature can go. With so many goblin synergies in the set this will be a really great addition to any Red deck. This and You See a Pair of Goblins seems like a great pair.
Tiger-Tribe Hunter
Tiger-Tribe Hunter - 3 - Getting to remove blockers is a nice bonus. Overall, this is a well-rounded creature with an interesting ability.
Unexpected Windfall
Unexpected Windfall - 2 - I am sure this will see some play in the treasure deck, but needing to pay four for neutral card draw seems steep. Holding onto a few lands late in the game is common, so more aggressive decks might consider this to help refuel their hard once it is depleted.
Valor Singer
Valor Singer - 2.5 - 3 mana 2/3s are typically a 2 on our scale, but I gave it a .5 bump for the ability. Getting to give any creature a buff is a nice bonus that will help creatures trade up nicely. It will also help get in a little extra damage in an aggressive deck.
Wish - 1 - Getting cards out of the sideboard is always tricky in Limited. It is hard to find cards worth playing that are not just better off in the original 40 cards. With a wide range of sideboard spells it could be kinda cute, but definitely not worth it.
Xorn - 2 - Not as flashy as most rares, but this is a really nice enabler for the treasure deck. In any other deck it will just be filler and that is why I only gave it a 2. This set seems to have a lot more synergy specific spells that have so little flexibility.
You Come to the Gnoll Camp
You Come to the Gnoll Camp - 2.5 - Another highly flexible card that will always find a place in my decks. Neither mode is particularly powerful, you will always find a use for it!
You Find Some Prisoners
You Find Some Prisoners - 1.5 - This feels a bit more like a sideboard card, but with all the equipment in the set it might see some play. It is never a dead card because it replaces itself if needed.
You See a Pair of Goblins
You See a Pair of Goblins - 2.5 - All of these dual-mode cards are worth playing. Trumpet Blast is always fun, and this has no downside because it can just create a board if you don't have it. It also means it rewards playing them in multiples.
Zalto, Fire Giant Duke
Zalto, Fire Giant Duke - 3 - A decently powerful card, but it will likely trade easily after the first attack. If this attacks more than once it will be very powerful. I only gave it a three because it is removed and trades down so easily.
Zariel, Archduke of Avernus
Zariel, Archduke of Avernus - 4 - This Planeswalker is a lot like the others in the set. Not overly powerful to win the game right away, but surely will if left on the board for more than a few turns.

Top 3 Red Commons:

  1. Dragon's Fire
  2. Farideh's Fireball
  3. Swarming Goblins

Now that we have seen Black and Red, I have to say I am not impressed with the removal in the set. For the last few Limited formats I always come away thinking "Wow that's some good removal!" Today I can only remember one or two spells that stood out. For a set with so little good removal it sure does have a lot of dragons....

Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Did I miss read something or forget about a cool interaction? Let me know! Thank you for reading. See you tomorrow for Green and colorless.

Twitter: @MTGNerdGirl

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