Commander Set Review – Modern Horizons (Black)

Posted on Sunday, June 16th, 2019 by KingRamz
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Posted in mtg, serious business

Much to your chagrin, I’m back again! This part’s for you players out there who will do anything to win. You can find the reviews I’ve already written here:

White Blue

I talked all about the rationale behind my reviews in the White review, so if you missed that, just go back and read that one. I’m not going to waste your time repeating myself; I’m going to tell you about Black cards!


Azra Smokeshaper

This is an interesting design direction for ninjutsu, but I don’t think it’s good. Ninja decks are looking to get value from getting creatures past blockers, not trying to keep their blocked creatures from getting smoked. If the defending player could block, you probably weren’t attacking them in the first place.


Cabal Therapist

Run this in any deck that wants a 1/1 menace for B that makes the entire table instantly hate you and come after you so hard that you’ll be having flashbacks a week later. If you want to sacrifice creatures to shred everyone’s hand, do it right and run Sadistic Hypnotist, you monster.


Changeling Outcast

There are decks that like evasive one-drops. It’s pretty easy to overlook cards like this, but it actually seems like a solid inclusion in Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow, for example – don’t forget that this thing is a Ninja. And if you’re just looking for warm bodies of whatever obscure creature type, one mana is the right price.


Cordial Vampire

If you’re a Vampire tribal deck that goes wide, this is an excellent two-drop for you and will play really well with your sac outlets. You are running sac outlets, aren’t you? There’s one thing to be careful of – this guy’s cherry filling appears to be leaking out, so make sure you play with sleeves.


Dead of Winter

If you’re a snow theme deck, you obviously want this. Outside of that context, Toxic Deluge is going to be better almost always. If you’re monoblack with all snow swamps, this might be better than Mutilate, though that ceases to be true if you’re using Urborg. I could also see this in a multicolored deck that isn’t snow-themed but has a lot of snow basics.



I love paying one mana to kill things. You can’t put this in any black deck, but if you’re heavy or mono-black, or are using tutors to abuse Urborg/Coffers, this is a very good removal spell. It doesn’t kill everything, but it’ll kill enough.


Dregscape Sliver

This card looks great. Two mana is cheap enough that you’ll be able to activate three or four times in a single turn without much trouble, and at that point you should be getting a pretty big hit in. Definitely not among the dregs, as far as Slivers are concerned.



It’s got a relevant creature type, but it’s super mana-intensive, endling any hope for me to put it in my deck.


Force of Despair

This effect is pretty interesting. Unlike with the other Forces, Force of Despair is unique and not easily replaceable with other cards. There’s quite a bit of nonsense that this can stop that might otherwise kill you, like mass reanimation, mass token generation, Maelstrom Wanderer and its friends, etc. etc. And if the nonsense is hasty, you get to see if it’s coming your way before you pull the trigger. If it’s not, feel free to let someone take a hit before you solve the problem. But, uh, you still need to cast the spell after that – don’t sleep on this and let the turn pass.



I’ve had Zombie decks where Gravedigger almost made it, and that’s a tribe that’s well-stocked with good cards. Shift him to a weaker tribe like Azra or Aetherborn, and it just might be playable.


Plague Engineer

Seeing the Carrier creature type come back makes me irrationally happy, but I think it’d be too much work to engineer a board state where you’re happy playing this. Sure, you can wipe out someone’s horde of tokens, but you’re black – that is not a hard thing for you to do.


Ransack the Lab

A strategic color-shift. If your plans involve graveyard shenanigans, this is a solid cantrip. Black doesn’t have as many cantrip choices as blue, and usually cares more about the graveyard, so I expect this to see more play than its predecessor.


Return from Extinction

I frequently try to run Aphetto Dredging in my black tribal decks and end up cutting it. Maybe two mana for two creatures is the sweet spot? And this has the flexibility to get back something that doesn’t match your tribe if you need to. I usually try to slavishly adhere to my tribal theme, but even I had a Wirewood Symbiote in my B/G elves deck. I’m willing to give this effect another chance.


Sling-Gang Lieutenant

Well, it’s better than Marsh Flitter if you were running that in your Goblin deck. You probably weren’t, though. I do enjoy the reference to Siege-Gang Commander. It’s kind of a bummer that it doesn’t hit each opponent; as-is at four mana I don’t think this is quite good enough. And of course, you never want this unless you’re Goblins.



I enjoy the concept of a Vampire Ninja. I’m skeptical that the card is good, but maybe if you’re consistently getting global evasion on your Ninjas, you’re going to end up in racing situations? Sounds dubious, and that stat line doesn’t wow me either. The set has given us a lot of new options for Ninjas, and I think we can afford to be more picky now than we used to be. Seek a better card.


Undead Augur

Two mana, doesn’t say nontoken? Great, I’m in. If you’re Zombie tribal or you just make a lot of zombies, then run it. Careful not to kill yourself. Pair with a sac outlet to make sure mass exile doesn’t ruin your day, and don’t forget that when your Zombie commander dies to the command zone, it does not trigger this.


Venomous Changeling

Look, it’s not good. Let’s not fool ourselves, here. But if you’re looking for an extra Killbot or Eye, you can do worse. A 1/3 deathtouch is a creature that does something. It’s certainly a better 30th tribe member than Impostor of the Sixth Pride or Moonglove Changeling.


Warteye Witch

The effect looks interesting until you realize we’ve gotten it already. We have Catacomb Sifter, we have Reaper of the Wilds and Shadows of the Past that see everybody’s creatures, and we have Midnight Reaper, Dark Prophecy and Grim Haruspex that will just draw you the cards. So if you’re a Goblin deck that makes tokens and sacrifices them for value, go ahead and play Warteye Witch. If you’re not, look at one of the cards I listed above and pick witchever one of those fits your deck the best.


Yawgmoth, Thran Physician

As a commander: Finally, we get the Father of Machines himself! Yawgmoth has a lot of stuff going on. You can build around proliferate (infect or otherwise), madness, -1/-1 counters or his draw engine. Sac outlets that don’t require mana come in handy even when they provide marginal effects, and this one says “draw a card.” He’s powerful and versatile, but unlike his nemesis Urza, I don’t see the words “BAN ME” written on the card. Play him! Do crazy stuff! Have fun!

In the 99:
Yawgmoth is multiple engines in one, and decks that deal in the resources Yawgmoth converts are going to do busted things with him. He interacts very nicely with Hapatra – as long as you have creatures to put counters on, you get to pay one life to draw a card! That’s a bargain. You can do something similar with a couple of undying creatures, or Mikaeus, the Unhallowed plus whatever. You can play him in madness decks, counter decks, Superfriends, token decks, Aristocrats decks… I mean, this is a super versatile card, and it’s only four mana. Also note he’s a Cleric, and one of the common themes of Cleric tribal decks is that they like to nom their creatures. So yeah, Yawgmoth’s great. Play him and your life will be compleat.

Top 3:
3. Force of Despair
2. Defile
1. Yawgmoth, Thran Physician

I don’t see how any of these cards aside from Yawgmoth could be the top pick. He’s fantastic. I’m not sure that he opens up new archetypes necessarily, but he’s a powerful glue card to pull a lot of different ideas together, and I expect him to see a lot of play. Defile may be the best one-mana black removal spell in our format, and though it doesn’t go in every deck, it can go in a lot of them, especially because so many black decks run Coffers/Urborg as part of their ramp package. Force of Despair rounds out the top 3 as a card that brings some new utility and can go in pretty much any black deck, though some might want it more than others. Most of the rest of the cards on the list are specific to individual tribes or narrower themes. And actually, I’m kind of surprised by how lackluster the monoblack Ninjas were – I think the best Ninja in black is Changeling Outcast.