We return with continued coverage of this spooky Midnight Double Feature! Black is the color of the Living Dead, and this spook spectacular will make you consider…do the dead rest? Let’s find out!
In our format, instant speed draw two effects are usually four mana. Getting to do so in black at the cost of three mana and some life is new for the format, and provides card advantage to black Midrange and Control lists. The ability to hold up three mana for either interaction or card advantage cannot be understated, and only costing one black pip makes the card very splashable in multicolor black decks. The only danger I’d be wary of is playing this card in a highly aggressive metagame, where the life loss for Control decks can be a major concern.
Champion of the Perished
This card is looking for the Wight deck, so you might have to really pick your brains over where this goes. Champion of the Perished has two potential homes, both of them Zombie related. Zombie Tribal as a deck has gotten a lot of new tools, and the question now becomes if Dimir, Orzhov, or Esper ends up being the tribe’s best colors. Regardless, this card slips right in as a powerful threat that grows rapidly thanks to triggering off of tokens. For example, one potential powerful start comes from playing Lazotep Reaver or two one cost zombies, letting this card hit for three damage on turn two. Of course, the other deck this might end up in is one that already runs plenty of Zombies. With some tuning of the list, and with the new Zombies added by both Jumpstart: Historic Horizons and this set, Mono-Black Aggro could find itself running a Zombies subtheme without having to go full on Zombie Tribal.
Murder most foul. And like Murder, this card probably shouldn’t see play besides as a budget inclusion. Sorcery speed and the power limitation severely hamper the card’s applicability, even with the built in card advantage of Investigate. If you’re really hurting for early interaction, you’d rather play Eliminate or Fatal Push. Despite the allure of Clue tokens, avoid playing this card.
This is an enchantment to die for. Ghoulish Procession offers a consistent flow of creatures to either throw at your opponent or sacrifice for effects, and does so at an astonishingly cheap price. Only being once per turn complicates matters, but the card provides sufficient bodies regardless that it’s worth running, and with instant speed sacrifice effects you can also get more fodder on your opponent’s turn. Aristocrats lists can best take advantage of the flow of creatures this generates, but Zombie decks can also appreciate a lot of Zombie tokens for synergies with cards like Binding Mummy, Cryptbreaker, or Champion of the Perished.
Gisa, Glorious Resurrector
The mad queen of Zombies returns. Gisa provides incidental graveyard hate like Valentin, Dean of the Vein. Of course, the exile ability is where comparisons end. Rather than giving you Pest tokens or the like, Gisa will summon a swarm of dead creatures with Decayed onto your field. However, Gisa only works on every upkeep, making her weak to removal, and Decayed is a pretty significant downside for most creatures. The main advantage of bringing back so many bodies, and without haste, would be to create a wall of meat to protect yourself. However, the mechanic stops them from blocking, and if they do attack they get returned to your opponent’s graveyard, where any graveyard synergies will kick in again. Thus you’ll need to rely on your opponents’ creatures having ETB effects or other abilities that do not require combat, which in some matchups is a big ask. Gisa is slower than any Aggro deck would want to be, and is too aggressive for Control decks, so I feel like the only potential home for her is Midrange. Even Aristocrats find her questionable; with her around, your opponents creatures aren’t dying, which can have an impact on several of your effects.
Graveyard Trespasser // Graveyard Glutton
The best Werewolves are the ones that you would play without their back side, and Graveyard Trespasser passes this test with flying colors. Trespasser is an on-rate 3/3 that has protection, graveyard hate, and life drain. Ward – Discard a card is very punishing, especially if you’re playing this card in a deck that has access to green or white, as you can proceed to protect the Trespasser with a Fight as One or Blossoming Defense. The single black pip makes the card very easy to cast in any black deck, and with the sudden increase in graveyard mechanics like Flashback and Disturb, the graveyard hate is incredibly relevant in Gladiator. And now, as night approaches, we discuss the Werewolf.
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Graveyard Glutton has all of those positive traits I listed, but several of them are even better. Your on-rate 3/3 is now an above-rate 4/4, it still possesses ward, and it can now exile two cards from graveyards. Unlike many Werewolves, you don’t strictly need to let the day switch to night to make this card effective, but the ability to hold up instant speed removal and still develop your threats is very powerful. Black Aggro and Midrange lists should be playing this card, as it’s by far one of the best three drops we have. Truly terrifying.
It’s not every day that I have to consider if a removal spell is better than Doomblade, and this is a card I can pretty definitively say is. Infernal Grasp asks you to pay two life (a very minimal amount in most cases) in return for removing the non-black restriction, allowing the card to kill almost any creature. Of course, singleton being what it is, you still play Doomblade or Heartless Act alongside Infernal Grasp.
Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia
The tide of the restless dead is upon us. Jadar is cheap, and produces a constant stream of disposable bodies to fling at your opponent. Given Decayed creatures self-sacrifice after combat, it’s not exactly difficult to have Jadar produce a 2/2 body every turn. However, Jadar does not synergize well with other Decayed threats (being a singleton format, this downside is not as pronounced), and is extremely vulnerable. A 1/1 body dies to a lot of removal, and it’s not very effective at attacking. Where Jadar’s true power lies is in Aristocrats decks, where he can provide sacrifice fodder every turn. The fact that Decayed tokens sacrifice themselves after combat isn’t a problem for an Aristocrats strategy since they can sacrifice the creature after damage before the end of combat. However, being unable to block is a hamper on the deck’s standard tactic of forcing both attacking and blocking to be unprofitable for your opponent. I’d expect Jadar to see experimentation in both Mono-Black Aggro and Aggressive Aristocrats variants.
Jerren, Corrupted Archbishop // Ormendahl, the Corrupter
Rewarded, as a traitor deserves. Jerren is a powerful card, with or without deliberately building your deck around him. For the most part, you may ignore his flip side; Ormendahl is certainly a powerful card, but it’s not usually worth sculpting your life total to activate his effect, though since he causes you to lose life in increments of one it isn’t impossible to achieve. Instead, you’d much rather have the 2/3 body that produces 1/1 Human tokens. Entering with one token already makes Jerren good at a baseline; removal still leaves behind a body, after all. However, given the sheer number of Humans that most decks play, it’s not exactly challenging to trigger his ability more than once, and in such an event he will quickly snowball. On top of that, granting lifelink for two generic mana helps offset the life loss in an aggressive matchup, though this is much more useful in Human Tribal decks that can buff Humans up to considerable power. All of this, along with a splashy casting cost, means that Jerren will definitely be a staple in Humans lists, Aristocrats lists, and will likely see test play in Orzhov Aggro or Mono Black Aggro.
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Lord of the Forsaken
This card is even more of a Griselbrand imposter than that dude wearing the Mask of Griselbrand! Lord of the Forsaken is a Reanimator card, but one that isn’t as big as other options for more value-based versions of the deck. While the skeleton of a lower to the ground Reanimator deck might exist with Priest of Fell Rites and Unburial Rites, it simply doesn’t have enough cards at present to really work, and the more value based decks can’t afford to sacrifice creatures to activate the mill effect. Limiting the mana it generates to colorless mana that casts spells from the graveyard also hurts the card, since many of the powerful Escape and Flashback cards we have involve colored casting costs. As a package, the card just doesn’t seem to do enough, but might eventually find a home in the right deck as we get more cards
As your creatures draw their last breath, Morbid Opportunist draws you cards. The once per turn restriction limits the insane ability of this card, but being able to activate it on both your turn and an opponent’s turn gives the card the ability to draw two cards a turn cycle as long as you have creatures. Having a 1/3 body means it dodges Shock and blocks effectively. It’s too expensive to really see play in any other list, but Aristocrats could potentially find use for the card advantage this card generates in order to supplement the many cards that require nontoken permanents to die instead.
This is the best “Hunted” card we’ve ever gotten. The second best Hunted card in our format, Hunted Nightmare, looks like a chew toy in comparison. Slaughter Specialist is a powerful 3/3 body, but it also has significant growth potential akin to Yahenni, Undying Partisan. Giving your opponent a 1/1 blocker isn’t exactly that scary when this card will grow off of that creature’s death. The main weaknesses of this card are going to be if your opponent has a way to use that 1/1 to further their own game plan, or if they have removal to cleanly kill your Specialist, in which case they get a free 1/1. However, that downside is nothing compared to the upside of an unchecked Slaughter Specialist, who only needs one creature death to dodge most red damage based removal. Mono-Black Aggro is a great home for this card, as is any other Bx Aggro deck. I think that this card doesn’t get into Midrange solely off the fact that those lists would prefer having consistent threats and can afford to go bigger instead of trying to work cheaply.
If this card was just a 2/3 with deathtouch for this casting cost, I’d already be considering playing it. Having the ETB mana sink only improves the card, turning this solid early play into a powerful late game draw. Tainted Adversary is always relevant, and with only one activation of its ETB ability will be a major finishing threat. The base mode and the five mana mode are the most common use cases for this card in Aggro decks, which tend not to get too late into the mana, but producing two 2/2 Zombies with Decayed is a great finisher if you just need to push some damage through, especially since it also becomes a 3/4 deathtoucher. Midrange decks will love this card even more; the ability to create an immediate game-ending threat by sinking mana into this card is absurd, and the fact that it’s an ETB helps avoid the pitfalls common to the Multikicker mechanic. Namely, counterspells are not an achilles heel. I’d call this card a staple in all black creature-based strategies.
The Meathook Massacre
Sometimes, this is an expensive wrath that stabilizes you. Other times, it’s an engine piece for Aristocrats that provides a clock. Meathook Massacre is in an awkward position, slotted in between two archetypes and not quite as good for either as those decks would want. It doesn’t create a board presence like Bastion of Remembrance, and lifegain or damage being divided between your creatures and your opponents creatures makes it much less consistent. Control decks, meanwhile, have better wraths that come down earlier like Cry of the Carnarium or Languish, and thus might not have much use for this card. Expect this card to see experimentation in both lists, but I don’t think it’ll get its hooks in either.
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Writer and Editor for the Gladiator Blog and perpetual Green-Black Aggro player. He has a tendency to get distracted by random digressions about food, especially pizza. Don’t get him started on why you should be playing Witherbloom Command.