Despite all the talk about spoilers and rumors from Dragon's Maze and beyond, Gatecrash is still the new, exciting thing in the here-and-now of Magic. So I think at this point I can skip the long introduction and get to the point. This is part two of my analysis of the black cards in Gatecrash, continued from part one in this article.
Mental Vapors - This isn't quite as "too-expensive"-feeling as Last Thoughts, since technically forced-discard is more valuable than draw. Regardless, you'll need to get in at least a couple of hits in with the creature you encode this on for this to be remotely worth the cost, and most cheap and evasive creatures are pretty fragile; this is only good in Limited if you have a consistent disruption strategy as part of an effort to make sure your opponent's hand is always empty.
Midnight Recovery - Now this is a much more proactive kind of card advantage than either of the other two spells I discussed in the previous entry. This works pretty well with any kind of creatures with sacrifice abilities, of course; it's nice to be able to recur them for their tricks again and again and again. This one actually has some Constructed potential in a niche aggro-combo deck.
Ogre Slumlord - This is something every set needs: A card for the 25-cent-rare bin. I think players might be underestimating just how many tokens this guy can put out and how deadly they can be. If nothing else it's an excellent combo piece with Pack Rat (which, admittedly, is the perfect combo piece with itself in the first place). If it cost only one mana less it'd be seeing competitive play. I like it for the Johnny/Vorthos appeal and would be perfectly happy opening it in my rare slot in a booster pack.
Sepulchral Primordial - Every one of the Primordial cycle seems to play a particular role in a multiplayer game. This is what you drop after you've nearly avoided death by killing off your opponent's biggest threats, before they have time to play more threats, and then go about striking back with your newly-reanimated servants. This gets extra playability points for its very relevant evasion ability.
Shadow Alley Denizen - This is one of the cheapest among the Denizen cycle, so it can get up to its tricks as early as turn two. It is also the only one that grants evasion. This means this is even more relevant in Limited than the rest of its cycle, which are all common Limited stars in their own right. If you've got some cipher spells in your deck, Shadow Alley Denizen will serve you well.
Shadow Slice - The fact that this only hits for 3 life for five mana might initially be a turn-off. But holy hell, that 3 turns into 6 and 9 really quickly. It costs so much because you can win games off this in Limited. Encoded on a mere 1/1 with evasion, it takes roughly four attacks to kill an opponent. Do not underestimate this - you do so at your peril.
Slate Street Ruffian - Remember that disruption strategy I brought up earlier with regard to Mental Vapors? That might be easier to pull off in Limited than you think thanks to this guy. If only he were bigger than 2/2, he'd likely be much more "evasive" (nobody wants to risk the double card disadvantage of chumping a big creature and having to discard a card) and go much better with cipher spells, not that he doesn't already. There's also a satisfying result if you put the Vapors on the Ruffian - it comes out to basically "Whenever this creature attacks, defending player discards a card."
Smog Elemental - The fact that this costs six mana just makes me sad. If it were only a little bit cheaper, it'd be extremely relevant in Limited. I suppose it's so expensive partially because it does, technically, have a mass-removal function, albeit only against one-toughness creatures with flying. It's sad that such an interesting and flavorful design will never find a proper home in either Limited or Constructed.
Syndicate Enforcer - Like extort, but tired of the slow, defensive playstyle of most of the cards with it? You're in luck with Syndicate Enforcer, the one extort creature that takes a proactive approach to the cutting-down of life totals. Sure, a 3/2 for four mana isn't exactly ideal for a theoretically aggressive creature, but the inefficiency of this body is largely compensated for by the fact of, well, extort, which is a consistent drain on your opponents' life totals. This is honestly probably going to be played in other black decks than Orzhov - suicide black would probably like this as a form of life total insurance.
Thrull Parasite - Definitely the most Johnny-ish of all the extort cards, this is perfect either as a narrow Limited hoser on a relevant body (good for harassing and annoying Simic, Rakdos, and Golgari decks, while incidentally also going well in a Rakdos deck in case you ever need to switch your creatures into blocker-mode), or as a cheap combo piece. That nonland clause is odd - the only land it'd be really relevant with is Dark Depths, and that combo is served much better with Vampire Hexmage anyway - so maybe that's a hint that the Dragon's Maze mythic rare land (The Implicit Maze) will have an autowin ability based on losing counters.
Undercity Informer - Another example of the original new-Dimir mechanic, grind, this one is vicious simply because it can do it multiple times in a row, as many times over as you can get creatures on the board. This is very synergistic with Midnight Recovery, and in a creature-dominated Limited format, this might be the key to playing a winning mill deck. Heck, I wouldn't be entirely shocked if this showed up in Constructed mill builds.
Undercity Plague - Unlike a lot of the less-expensive spells with cipher, this one only really needs you to get in one unblocked hit for it to pay for itself. Six mana is certainly not practical for a spell that's not a board-sweeper in Limited, but this is capable of winning you a game by inches.
Wight of Precinct Six - Yet another strong, cheap, black aggro creature for Limited? Say it ain't so! This compensates for a grave (hah) lack of evasion or removal-proofing by getting really big really fast. Hell, you can give your opponents a "pleasant" surprise by dropping three or four of these late game and having them stare down a bunch of 8/8s or something that you paid two mana each for.