by Kelly Reid
Black got some of the best rares in the set, in addition to a bombastic mythic in Grave Titan. A few reprints headline the color's rare section, and there are a few very powerful new cards available to the Dark Side as well.
Captivating Vampire is a piss-poor replacement for Vampire Nocturnus, since the "captivating" ability will probably matter very little. Nocturnus was great because he granted a large offensive bonus and evasion. Captivating Vampire is just a generic Gray Ogre Lord, and will be over-valued as tribal lords always are. Vampires was a horrible deck before it lost its quality lord. It's so much worse now. Sell.
Dark Tutelage is neither Phyrexian Arena nor Dark Confidant, but it has aspects of both that allow us to evaluate it. I envision it in a UWB-colored control deck that can use Jace and Halimar Depths to mitigate damage while getting mana-free card advantage each turn. It will not be the card that ressurects mono black control. It has tier 1 implications, but will be over-hyped a bit due to its pedegree. Hold.
Haunting Echoes is a brilliant one-of to fetch with Liliana Vess in a mono black control deck, but won't command nearly the premium it did when Odyssey block was in Standard. Still, some newer and casual players enjoy the card, so Sell them while you can. I won a game with one today, but it's infrequent. It's a very nice answer to Vengevine, however.
Leyline of the Void is a great reprint. It keeps the card accessible and cheap for Legacy players, and it handles DredgeVine decks in Standard with ease. It also gives value against Knight of the Reliquary in all formats, and can often be found causing cheeky shenanigans against any deck that uses the graveyard in any way. It'll be a great sideboard card, but unless DredgeVine takes over the format, it will only be a low-dollar role-player. Hold, because DredgeVine is a pretty good deck and there are a lot of ways this card could become relevant in a hurry.
Dark Tutelage won't bring back MBC, but Nantuko Shade certainly helps its case. I'll be writing more about MBC for BlackBorder.com this week, so I'll save the discussion for that piece. The basic gist is that Nantuko Shade posts up on defense early, gets in some cheap beats, and then is capable of switching gears to end the game when the game goes long. He's an utter monster with Nirkana Revenant since Condemn is going to be a very powerful removal spell for a while. The $5 range is appropriate until a tier 1 deck gives him a home, and that seems very likely for the rest of the summer. Buy, but only if you aren't going to take a big hit to get them. Newer players don't have the same emotional reaction to the Shade that older players do, so they'll be easier to trade with.
A little Nerd 101 for all you people wondering "what in the hell is a Phylactery?" A phylactery is a jar-like object in which, according to the people who make up Sci-Fi and Fantasy stories, a Lich keeps his soul or essence. Thus, even if the Lich's body is destroyed, he (or she, I guess) can rise again. Destroying the phylactery is the only way to kill the undead monster.
Phylactery Lich portrays this essential Dungeons and Dragons mechanic perfectly, and does so with balance, grace and power. It's easily my pick for the best designed card in the set, since it has casual appeal and a chance to see tier 1 play. The abundance of good artifacts to come in Scars gives this some speculative appeal, but there's nothing wrong with binding your pet Lich to a Voltaic Key or Everflowing Chalice. The strategy writers will figure out just how to break it, but first impressions seem to say
that this card is powerful, versatile, but still very vulnerable. It's a 2-for-1 any time it dies, but it can create a very scary board presence very quickly. I'm Buying this, simply for future potential alone.
No matter what Yo! MtG Taps! tells you, Royal Assassin is not a good sideboard card! It's been reprinted for miles and only cost a dollar before M11. Irrelevant.
Kelly Reid has been playing Magic since Revised Edition, when his first purchase was a starter deck and a Scrye magazine. He threw away the magazine and kept the price guide. Years later, he founded Quiet Speculation, the first website dedicated to the financial side of Magic: The Gathering. Preferring to leave strategy to the professionals, Kelly writes about potential sleepers, undervalued cards, and trends as well as covering a wide breadth of theory articles.