Gobble gobble folks! It’s Thanksgiving, which means it’s time to for us to give thanks for what Magic has given us!
Wait? That was yesterday? Damn. What’s today? Black Friday? Hmm…
Ok! Welcome back folks! In the theme of Black Friday, today we’ll be ranking the top 10 black cards in Standard. These rankings are not simply which card is the most powerful or sees the most play. Rather, it’ll be my opinion on the 10 black cards that have the biggest effect on the shape of the Standard format. Let’s go!
10. Mindwrack Demon
Mindwrack Demon is secretly two different cards, but don’t tell anyone. The first card is a 4/5 flyer for 4 mana that helps you turn on delirium. That’s incredibly powerful. The second card, however, is a 4 mana 4/5 flyer that deals you 4 damage every turn. That’s slightly less powerful. Obviously, the key to this card is being able to cater to its strengths and weaknesses. Before Kaladesh rotation, decks like Jund Delirium and B/G Delirium were able to play this card without second thought. The important enabler cards, such as Grapple with the Past, Vessel of Nascency, and Liliana, the Last Hope have not rotated, which has allowed the powerful B/G Delirium deck of the current Standard to use Mindwrack Demon to its fullest. As the format progresses, l expect to see less and less of Mindwrack Demon. It’s obviously a very powerful card on its face, but, as crazy as it sounds, a 4/5 flyer for 4 mana only goes so far.
When Murder’s reprint was announced, I was incredibly excited. Maybe even too excited. This card was really needed in Standard, and it’s been consistently played since it was printed for the second time. Currently, It’s only seeing play as a 2-of in most B/G Delirium decks, but it plays an important role in the deck. It’s not flashy, but 3 mana to destroy any creature is a good rate for an instant. Murder will be a consistently used card in this Standard format. No shift in format will see B/G Delirium stop using this card. More control? Grasp of Darkness will be cut first. More U/W Flash? Ruinous Path will be cut first. My only issue with this card is that the old art was strictly better. Fight me in the comments.
8/7. Prized Amalgam & Haunted Dead
I put these two back to back on my top 10 list, and I realized that it would just be wrong to give them each their own segment and separate them. Why? Because these two are best friends and when one is thriving, so is the other. This combination was been so powerful that it has made the Modern Dredge deck not only viable, but solidly tier 1. When Haunted Dead was printed in Eldritch Moon, players quickly recognized the powerful synergy between these two cards. At the Pro Tour, Sam Black popularized the U/B Zombies deck that would be a minor player in Standard for the rest of the format. Since Kaladesh rotation, it has been B/R Zombies that has utilized this combo to its fullest so far. B/R Zombies may be tier 1.5 or tier 2, but it is a force to be reckoned with in this format, and this combination or cards are the reason. I’m a B/R Zombies supporter, so I expect that we will see this combination of cards more and more as this Standard format progresses.
When this card was printed, no one doubted that it was powerful. However, most people did not expect it to turn into the Modern “staple-ish” that it is today. It’s power and toughness, its important exile clause, its activated ability, its fairly low mana cost. All of these combined have caused Kalitas to be a force to be reckoned with, and its moderate play in Standard right now will only increase. Cards this powerful never fade away from Standard. Instead, they take small breaks of dominance. Brad Nelson’s winning B/G Delirium list from SCG Knoxville had no maindeck Kalitas, but I expect that as the format develops, Kalitas regains the spotlight.
5. Grim Flayer
This card, on the other hand, is seeing an impressive amount of play in the B/G Delirium decks. It allows them to be proactive in an otherwise reactive deck, which is an angle that can help B/G Delirium capitalize on opponents stumbling on mana or curve. Before Kaladesh, Grim Flayer was seeing significantly less play. But, with the pseudo-rotation of Sylvan Advocate (it’s very bad now), Grim Flayer has taken the spotlight that people knew it would have. Grim Flayer is the definition of a Standard staple, and it won’t lose that title any time soon.
This is the first Kaladesh card on the list! Yay! It’s also the only Kaladesh card on this list. Kaladesh didn’t add much to the black decks in this Standard format, but Unlicensed Disintegration has been critical to the success of the archetype that this set created: Mardu Vehicles. On its surface, this card’s power-level is apparent. 3 Mana to kill any creature is a great rate (sound familiar?), and dealing 3 damage is extremely useful for the aggressive Mardu Vehicles deck. When many players were testing Standard before the set was released, they realized that the best Vehicles cards were in W/R, but Unlicensed Disintegration was powerful enough that it demanded a splash. Since release, most of the Vehicles decks have elected to play Unlicensed Disintegration, and they won’t be looking back any time soon.
I considered putting this card next to Prized Amalgam and Haunted Dead, but I believe that this card is more powerful than either of them, individually. The real power of this card is its synergy with…itself. Firstly, in any deck where you want to play Cryptbreaker, you will want to play cards that have synergy with discard, so 2 mana to make a zombie and gain value is a good rate. Later on, the zombies you’ve created draw you cards to regain the card advantage that you’ve “lost” through discards. However, since cards like Prized Amalgam, Haunted Dead, and Fiery Temper would rather be discarded, the cards you gain at a cost of zero mana through Cryptbreaker’s second activated ability are actually simply card advantage at its most basic. Part of me wants to make the claim that this is the most powerful card in Standard, but I can’t in good conscience say that. However, the claim I can make is that this is the only card in Standard that can single-handedly win a game on its own if its played on turn 1 and never properly answered.
Liliana is an excellent card for the current and past incarnations of the Delirium archetype, as her +1 allows Delirium to stall until Ishkanah, Grafwidow can take over the game, and her -2 allows the deck to play another “free” delirium enable, and to play a more powerful late game than its opponent. As the format develops, Liliana will surely stay relevant, as its applications are wider than most other cards in the format. Unfortunately, the fact that she’s played in the same deck as Emrakul, the Promised End is a disgrace. How am I supposed to live out the storyline of Eldritch Moon if Emrakul and Liliana are working together? Tell me!
No, it’s not flashy. No, it will never win you a game. However, Grasp of Darkness is the best black card in the format. It’s an easy and consistent inclusion as a 4-of in every B/G Delirium deck, and that won’t change any time soon. Against U/W Flash, Grasp kills every creature they play in the mainboard. As long as U/W Flash is being played as much as it is now, Grasp of Darkness is going nowhere. 2 mana to kill most creatures in the format is exactly what B/G Delirium needs to stall the game until its more powerful cards like Ishkanah, Grafwidow can land and take over the game. In a format that only has 2 tier 1 decks, building your tier 1 deck to be good against the other will help improve your matchup. Grasp of Darkness being played a full playset in most every B/G Delirium deck is the result of this. As a quick aside, I may be recognizing a pattern about myself, as I really don’t think the current art on Grasp of Darkness comes close to the old art. Again, fight me in the comments.
That’s it for this Black Friday-themed top 10 list. Do you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments below.
Until next time.
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