Latest Update
4 December, 2006

“Doc, Is This Supposed To BE This Colour?” – Timespiral Black

By Dr. Chunk


Welcome again one and all to this fine third part instalment of an ever exciting dissertation on Timespiral draft!

Today we cover the colour of death, plague and pestilence – which reminds me of a good day at work!

Assassinate – Once upon a time this cost BB, but times and costs have changed though I did prefer the name Death Stroke. Flavour aside this card suffers mostly from being a Sorcery but is still able to knock out any aggressive creature or spent Spellshaper for a reasonable cost. There are better removal spells but this can kill any creature that is causing you troubles.

Basal Sliver – Basil the sliver contributes not all that much to the world other than being an Ogre. Potentially he can churn out a six drop turn four or give you some late game mana but it is rare, in black especially, to have hordes of slivers to cull for the benefit of your mana pool. If only we had a good Drain Life or variant.

Call to the Netherworld – Limited in its use by the restriction to return a black creature this card is decidedly below par on many different levels. The madness cost is cute but fails to make this anything more than fifteenth pick.

Corpulent Corpse – Anything you can suspend turn one is a good investment and although this man has a smaller body than the Ephemeron he is still going to cause problems once he hits the board. Picking up multiples is never bad as you will always be pleased to sit him on the side line turn one. In the late game the corpse is a little costly at six, but it is a fair compromise for the suspend. A solid pick, though not strong enough for first.

Cyclopean Giant – These guys are coming around late and not without reason. He is almost certainly going to trade with something that cost your opponent less than four mana, which is a bad start. The “Make a Swamp” ability is really unexciting and might as well not be there. Sure you can try and upset your opponents mana base but it rarely will swing things significantly.

Dark Withering – As blue gets morph then black gets madness and, yes, it is still a ridiculous ability. If you have any way to discard this card then you are onto a winner. Be it Syphon-ing some life and killing a man, be it Axe-ing one guy and killing another or be it just giving your man shadow and taking out theirs then you are still getting advantage. At six mana this is a bit costly but it certainly does the job and has great room for madness efficiency.

Deathspore Thallid – He may be a little slow but it is amazing how often this 1/1 draws fire from your opponent. In a more dedicated BG thallid deck I can see this man being pretty effective but I have yet to draft that archetype. All in all removal, be it slow, is usually playable.

Drudge Reavers – The body is not much to look at and flash makes for an unspectacular combat trick. However against Green, non-trampling, removal light ground pounder decks he can certainly be annoying. The problem is that I really want more for my four mana.

Feebleness – By no means a bad trick and pretty reasonable as far as removal goes. More often than not this will be used directly to kill a creature so the Aura aspect of it rarely comes into affect.

TSCBlack2Gorgon Recluse – Again with the madness and again with the rudeness. Initial impressions were less than brilliant but over time this serpent-domed-lady has proven her worth over and over. If you manage to get enough discard outlets to reliably get her out for two you are once again able to abuse the madness card advantage. She can happily trade with any of the large scary men out of a seemingly innocent board.

Mana Skimmer – Black has little by the means of flying and at 2/2 for four this is not unduly costed. The mana restriction can be a hindrance for an opponent and the Skimmer can also shut down Urza’s Factory and any splash colour.

Mindlash Sliver – A one drop, a poor ability and a sliver in the colour worst at sliver hordes. Not a good recipe.

Mindstab –I hate seeing someone suspend this card turn one against me. I get a great sense of foreboding and as much as I try it is very difficult to empty my hand of everything decent before this resolves. All this considered I still don’t find myself wanting to actually play the card but I find it hard to say why. I don’t like discard in limited, especially when it costs six, but I know there are people out there who are a fan. I want to reserve judgement but, in the end, I know I will still not play it.

Pit Keeper – This guy is a bit of a quandary of a two drop. As he sits on the curve he is an aggressive creature but his ability makes him a late gamer player. I’m not sure if this makes him a conundrum or just a man that you are happy to draw at any time of the game. Either way he fits a slot and potentially recurs something your opponent went to good a lot of effort to kill. Seems eminently reasonable and one of the few black two drops.

Psychotic Episode – This is the one madness card I really dislike and it suffers from the same school as Mindstab. Is Timespiral so bomb-a-licious that discard is becoming playable? I hope to think not.

Sangrophage – I have had a torrid love affair with Sangrophage ever since the first day we met. He was good to me at the pre-release in both the draft and the sealed. Since then he has done little but stab me in the back and prove how wrong I was. I once would have said pick this man high but it seems that I was mistaken and now I hardly ever choose him and certainly never play him.

Skulking Knight – You take the rough with the smooth with this skulking man – you get a 3/3 flanker for three but he turns every combat trick and many of the spell shapers you opponents have into removal spells. He rarely lasts long but sometimes he can get a few good beats and black has a paucity of playable creatures. He certainly fills a hole on the curve.

Strangling Soot – I don’t think I need to tell you this card is awesome. It deals with the majority of the creatures you are going to come across, is easily splashed and can always come back for more from the bin.

Tendrils of Corruption – Although the cost has only one black symbol in it you are going to need a relatively deep black commitment to get the most out of this. However at instant speed it is still not unreasonable with only two or three swamps out and you should always play this if you have at least 50/50 split with black.

Traitor's Clutch – The initial cost is high though the flashback is a bonus. The actual ability though is just not worth the investment and you should not be picking or playing this card.

Trespasser il-Vec – One of the cornerstone creatures of madness decks the Trespasser rarely comes late. If you have any witherings or gorgons then you would like to have one or two of these men. Outside of madness this guy has a good evasive ability and can be a problem when you cannot remove him.

Urborg Syphon-Mage – If the trespasser is one cornerstone of madness then this guy is the other. He is an absolute force in the late game when the ground is stalled. Pitching excess lands or madness spells over a few turns negates your opponents attacks and can quite easily race the last few damage points.

Viscid Lemures – Normally I find I have better five drops than the Lemures but in the colour they have a good power to cost ratio and the potential to evade at no extra cost. That is notwithstanding the “combo” with Cyclopean Giant!

Overall black has a few good tricks with a good suite of removal and abusive madness abilities. It suffers from having a relatively poor creature suite at common level and more top heavy curve. The pick order for me looks like:

1) Strangling Soot
2) Dark Withering
3) Corpulent Corpse
4) Tendrils of Agony
5) Urborg Syphon Mage

This is actually a much more tricky pick order as I would like to have squeezed the Gorgon and Trespasser somewhere in there. If you have gone for a madness orientated deck then they move much higher up the rankings.

Uncommons of note:

Nightshade Assassin – Although you need plenty of black cards in the deck to make this guy work he is still incredible in almost every circumstance.

Sudden Death The black removal spell I want to open in any pack!

Phthisis – Heavy on the black cost this uncommon can end almost any game on resolution. It is always fun to suspend this in response to your opponents Baloth though it is very possible to play around the resolution and for it to shoot you in the foot.

Next time we cross through the land of fire, brimstone and goblins. Until then farewell,

Dr. Chunk



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