The Dark Confidant – Amonkhet Constructed Set Review: Black

Previous reviews:

Time to continue the review with Black. Here again is the tl;dr tags established last time:

  • Multi-Format Staple – Powerhouse in multiple formats.
  • Single-Format Staple – Powerhouse in a single format.
  • Hit or Miss – Either potentially gamebreaking and enabling a powerful deck or otherwise unplayable.
  • Potential Role Player – Solid card that goes into various decks and does its job without making or breaking any deck.
  • Fringe Playable – Situational niche card that might be ok in small numbers in specific decks or metagames or in a very specific archetype as a filler.
  • Not good enough – Just not good enough for constructed while not being obvious draft chaff.

Bontu the Glorified

While this guy doesn’t look super impressive he might find a home. A 4/6 that is hard to both kill and block while also providing some extra filtering and a way to close out the game in a stall isn’t entirely unappealing. Making it attack or block does come at a fairly steep price in both mana and resources, but there might be a shell that can mitigate the resource part well enough. If that’s the case, the mana cost alone might not be that bad if you can gain some extra upside or utility from the sacrifice cost. Has decent synergy with Dread Wanderer.

Tl;dr: Fringe Playable

Liliana, Death’s Majesty

While Liliana isn’t the most powerful planeswalker for what she does at five mana, a planeswalker that comes with 6 loyalty and is able to protect itself the turn it comes down is definitely a good start. If the deck can also make some additional use of the self mill and has good targets for her -3 we are talking about a pretty solid Standard planeswalker. The most appealing part of Liliana will actually be her ultimate since she can activate it two turns after she comes down (or 3 turns without dying) which makes her quite attractive for a midrange or control shell.

Tl;dr: Potential Role Player maybe better

Trial of Ambition

This might be the best Trial so far. A Cruel Edict with potential huge upside, getting to reuse this is a big deal and very crippling to any creature deck. An important question will be which Cartouche to pair it with best. Maybe Cartouche of Strength so you have a lot of in-built removal in a GB Shell or maybe Cartouche of Zeal in a RB aggressive deck to make it near impossible for the opponent to muster a defensive board presence. Either way this card seems to have a lot of potential.

Tl;dr: Single-Format Staple

Cartouche of Ambition

The weakest Cartouche so far, as three mana is a lot for such a marginal effect. Not impressed. Might still see a little play with some of the Trials as an enabler but might easily not.

Tl;dr: Fringe Playable at best

Stir the Sands

While this isn’t quite Decree of Justice by any stretch, it still looks like a decent card. It’s not clear if the format is going to shape up in a way that this won’t be too slow or too low impact, but it looks like a reasonably well-rounded card and might make a splash.

Tl;dr: Potential Role Player

Cruel Reality

Seven mana is A LOT, but at least we get an Edict effect out of it right away. It’s also a win condition by itself, so the card at least does a whole lot if you have enough time to let it do its work. But yeah, given the speed and high power level of current Standard I am highly skeptical that the format will look a way that makes this possible or appealing. If it does though, this can potentially be a pretty nice advantage engine and game-ender.

Tl;dr: Fringe Playable

Disposses

Well, Extractions keep getting worse don’t they? Maybe a fringe sideboard card versus something like Aetherworks in decks with little other good options but that’s about it.

Tl;dr: Fringe Playable

Shadow of the Grave

The card is pretty situational and durdly but has a fairly high ceiling so maybe it might end up worth it in a Cycling shell in some number as another way to refuel. Getting back cards like Curator of Mysteries and Archfiend of Ifnir is at least nothing to sneeze at.

Tl;dr: Fringe Playable

Dread Wanderer

A pretty nice aggressive black one-drop with some potential to help fight grindier control decks and sweepers alongside Scrapheap Scrounger and such. Also a key piece to a potential WB Zombie aggro shell that I already touched on in the White review since these are the cards you need to make it possibly work.

Tl;dr: Potential Role Player or maybe even Staple

Plague Belcher

Another pretty good Zombie. At worst a 3/2 Menace and at best you’re getting a 5/4 while killing something expendable like Dread Wanderer. Having the occasional ping at the opponent on top makes him put the hurt on rather quickly. We are getting closer to a Zombie deck being real with cards of this quality.

Tl;dr: Potential Role Player or maybe even Staple

Liliana’s Mastery

Well that’s what I’m talking about! This is a real powerhouse of a five-drop for an aggressive Zombie Tribal deck, and together with some of the white cards this starts to look like it might be a real deck.

Tl;dr: Single-Format Staple

Archfiend of Ifnir

Another pretty strong looking payoff card for cycling decks, Archfiend is pretty decent on its own and also acts as an enabler at the same time. It looks like Wizards is trying to push some sort of UB Cycling deck on us, and looking at cards like this, it might very well work.

Tl;dr: Single-Format Staple

Baleful Ammit

Unfortunately Baleful Ammit is not a Zombie and I am not sure how many of these types of cards a deck wants or can possibly support without simply having them put the counters on themselves making them somewhat mediocre. But if a deck can support this, a 4/3 Lifelink for three is reasonably impressive.

Tl;dr: Fringe Playable

Ruthless Sniper

Well this card is really nice. While somewhat fragile as a 1/2 creature, if Ruthless Sniper lives it is going to be quite the board-dominating powerhouse. The fact that it comes down on turn one and can then be used on turn two to start crippling an opponent’s only barely established board is pretty strong. This is gonna be a centerpiece of a UB Cycling midrange or control deck which at this point is looking pretty appealing and might have a lot of potential.

Tl;dr: Single-Format Staple

Bone Picker

This guy is really sweet and pretty powerful. Great synergy with stuff like Bontu or Plague Belcher or simply as punishment for opposing removal, unfortunately Bone Picker is not a Zombie as one might hope. This also might even have potential outside of Standard in say Modern or maybe even beyond that. A 3/2 creature with deathtouch and flying for one is nothing to sneeze at.

Tl;dr: Multi-Format Staple

Faith of the Devoted

While no Drake Haven or Ruthless Sniper, Faith of the Devoted is still a solid cycling pay off card since draining for two every cycle goes a long way toward both staying alive and killing your opponent.

Tl;dr: Potential Role Player

Lord of the Accursed

A Zombie Lord that also provides a built in alpha strike/stall-breaker mechanism. The Zombie deck is really getting pushed and the power level is pretty impressive at this point so I would definitely try to find a list that works.

Tl;dr: Single-Format Staple

Grim Strider

Given that Horror is not a relevant creature type and that Grim Strider has pretty unimpressive stats when it comes down on turn four and doesn’t have any evasion, I don’t see this being relevant.

Tl;dr: Not Good Enough

Nest of Scarabs

This is a decent synergy card with the -1/-1 counter creatures but overall seems a bit too slow. There aren’t enough ways to abuse it for it to make a big splash, but maybe it is just good enough to be put to some good use though.

Tl;dr: Fringe Playable

Lay Bare the Heart

A slightly more restricted two mana Thoughtseize just isn’t impressive; not losing two life doesn’t change that much. That said it might still serve some purpose in Standard if a deck needs a discard effect like this but I do not have high hopes.

Tl;dr: Fringe Playable

Gravedigger

The fact that this is a Zombie makes it at least an option for the Zombie deck. While it is obviously weak for constructed these days, the tribal synergies could end up making it work.

Tl;dr: Fringe Playable

Festering Mummy

Festering Goblin goes Mummy. This should make for a great one-drop in the Zombie deck and a decent target for Belcher’s counters.

Tl;dr: Potential Role Player

Soulstinger

The fact that this is not a Zombie and is effectively a 2/3 for four if we want the payoff from the die trigger make this just not good enough.

Tl;dr: Not Good Enough

Horror of the Broken Lands

While its frontside is not very constructed appealing, the mere fact that it cycles for one black mana might make it worthwhile in the cycle deck alongside the fact that if you REALLY need a threat it isn’t even THAT bad.

Tl;dr: Fringe Playable

Wasteland Scorpion

If this would cost one to cycle it would likely be pretty sweet in the cycling deck. As it is, it is not gonna cut it.

Tl;dr: Not Good Enough

Supernatural Stamina

While combat tricks are usually not good enough for constructed this might just be powerful enough to make it. Allowing you to trade into bigger creatures with no loss of extra cards or board presence is pretty sweet, Supernatural Stamina also works as removal protection at the same time and even has the added benefit of reusing enter the battlefield triggers when applicable.

Tl;dr: Potential Role Player

Cursed Minotaur

While a 3/2 Menace for three is not particularly impressive by constructed Standards it is fairly decent, especially if you add in the fact that it is a Zombie. This just might become a decent curve filler option in a Zombie deck if needed.

Tl;dr: Fringe Playable

Dune Beetle

Oh look MTG got finally got its own Scaly Gruan. Another fringe, anti-aggro, early-game sideboard card, maybe in something like UB cycling or control.

Tl;dr: Fringe Playable

Miasmic Mummy

This might actually be better than it looks if the Zombie deck can make enough use of discarding a card with Dread Wanderer, Scrapheap Scrounger and the likes. Miasmic Mummy could quickly turn into a much more impressive Ravenous Rats with a relevant tribe.

Tl;dr: Potential Role Player

Unburden

Possibly a decent cycler for the cycling deck since there are matchups where casting this might be good too.

Tl;dr: Fringe Playable

Scarab Feast

Another great one-mana cycler that has a relevant frontside in a world full of Scrapheap Scroungers and a couple of other recursion cards. Also a great sideboard card if needed.

Tl;dr: Potential Role Player

That’s it again for this time. I hope you guys enjoyed the review and maybe took something helpful away from it. Let me know in the comments what you think. See you next time with Red.

Thanks for reading,

ManuS

Emanuel Sutor

Emanuel Sutor

Emanuel Sutor is a long time competitive Magic player from Germany with a Grand Prix final and a Pro tour Top 16 under his belt. He is a constructed expert and co-founder of 'Team Luxurious Hair' now called 'Team TCGPlayer'. He loves brewing and tuning decks in various constructed formats and in his column he confides his findings to you.

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Emanuel Sutor

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Published:April 28, 2017

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