Last week was the first official week of spoilers for Battle For Zendikar, though we had already seen quite a few cards previously at the yearly PAX Prime event last month. Wizards of the Coast kicked things off in great order for the first week, revealing excellent cards like the new Planeswalker cards for Kiora and Ob Nixilis, or enemy manlands, some more Zendikar Expeditions promos, and an assortment of other cards of all types. There was a lot of good in those spoilers, and though there were a few duds for me, nevertheless it was a pretty exciting week, and now we get into the second week of the spoilers.
In all, we’ve seen a little over 40 cards so far this week, which does go some way towards alleviating my concerns about the slow-rolling of spoilers. We still have two more days to go, so this is definitely a much better rate than last week. So far, we’ve seen lots of new full-art basic lands, we’ve seen the uncommon cycle of mono-lands, some more cool mythics, and more allies and colorless spells and more. Things seem to be really kicking off now for Battle For Zendikar and with prereleases being just 9 days away, this is a very exciting time to be in. So let’s see what all we got this week.
We’ve seen most of the flashy lands only so far, such as the gorgeous full-art basics and the rare cycles of lands to be found in the set. But we haven’t yet seen something at the common and uncommon rarities. That’s where these lands come in, commonly called Spell Lands I believe, because of the one-time effect that they provide. Of these, my favourites have to be Sandstone Bridge and Looming Spires because they directly affect creatures and combat and are in the colours I want to play in the Battle For Zendikar Standard. The Fertile Thicket seems to be good, but it doesn’t put the land into your hand, so I wouldn’t rate it highly. The Skyline Cascade is also interesting, but the effect is perhaps too variable, especially since creatures like Icefall Regent haven’t seen much play. Though again, this is on a land, so that’s different. The Mortuary Mire on the other hand is something that I see being relevant more in the mid-late game, because early on you should have a relatively steady stream of creatures, but later on, you need that one specific creature to turn the corner, and this one helps there.
Now this is a Converge card that I can really get behind. This is going to come in as a 4cmc 3/3 with Vigilance and Trample most of the time, but still, getting a second color to go off, or even a third is fairly easy in the current Standard, and will remain so in the new Standard. In any 2-color deck, this is going to be a 4/4 body, and the extra abilities just add gravy. But once you add in a third color, that’s when this starts becoming a monstrous thing, similar perhaps to the Outland Colossus or Gaea’s Revenge, or even the Polukranos, World Eater from Theros. And should you have a fourth colour for this, then you have a 4cmc 6/6 with Vigilance and Trample, which is just absurd. I love this card.
Definitely a late-game card for most decks. Ramp decks will have an easier time reaching the required mana cost early on, but they’ll be focused on cranking out some serious firepower in those early stages, where this won’t help much. But later on, this becomes rather excellent because the Scions come in as 1/1 creatures, superior to the Eldrazi Spawn of old which were just 0/1 creatures. blockers in a pinch, and decent ramp otherwise.
I have a feeling that this is going to be a great card for Limited. Right now we have Disdainful Stroke which counters any spell with converted mana cost 4 or greater. And that spell saw a lot of play since Khans of Tarkir was released, countering all sorts of spells like Treasure Cruise, Siege Rhino, Wingmate Roc, Planeswalekrs, various Dragonlords, Whisperwood Elemental and what have you. Now we have Horrible Awry, which is going to go a long way for blue-based decks to counter early aggression in Standard or even stop certain graveyard decks like the Abzan Rally decks, while also proving to be a bomb in Limited since in Limited a lot of your tempo-success comes with getting early creatures on the board. Even in Modern, this card might show up in some decks, though I doubt that any deck running Scavenging Ooze wants it, because of the exile clause.
This is a really, really cool Land. For any Ally decks in the new Standard, or even in Modern for those who play these decks, this is going to be an auto-include because it fixes mana and has a life-saving clause for your Ally creatures. What’s not to love about it. Imagine comboing this with something like Lantern Scout to give your team lifelink, or Resolute Blademaster for team-wide double-strike, or bouncing an early Skyrider Elf to return it bigger and better once you have all your colors for Converge? Seriously, what’s not to love about this card.
This is quite an interesting card. It doesn’t do anything to fix your mana or anything, but in something like a dedicated Eldrazi deck, it is going to work wonders because the colourless ramp possible in such a deck. As you work towards your late game, if you have set up your mid-game well enough, then this will let you find your big haymaker and help close out the game quicker by guaranteeing that draw. And with some of the ETB or even cast abilities on many of the Eldrazi, you’ll get enough value out of them for the draws to be worth it. For other decks, perhaps a one-of at best.
A very simple and straightforward card this one. It is good at all stages of the game, whether it is turn 1 or turn 7 or what have you. The flavour text here is kind of cool as well, so I like this card well enough. Any counters based is going to value this fairly high, in Constructed, especially when paired with things such as Hardened Scales and Hangarback Walker and also any bolster cards such as Dromoka, the Eternal.
A Legendary Merfolk creature! And an Ally creature at that! Well, things are going somewhere good now. While I’m still somewhat pissed at the lack of good GW allies, I won’t deny that this is a really cool card and one that definitely pushes me towards a Merfolk tribal deck for Standard. I like big creatures, and this is one such. While Noyan Dar lacks the Rally ability, he has a built-in Awaken any time I cast my spell spells. Getting to untap with this dude in either Constructed or Limited is going to be a huge thing because this guy can be an absolute blow-out and win you the game on the spot. Like, untap with this in play, and then cast Valorous Stance or Exquisite Firecraft to clear out a blocker or burn face, and then swing for massive damage.
This is one of those cards that I’m really not sure about. The casting cost makes sense from a Standard perspective, but even then, this feels expensive. This might be a good card for Limited given that there will be few nonbasic lands in those games because of just the way that the format works, unless someone really lucks out, and getting their mana fixing before they have a chance to use it is good, but this is going to be a dud most of the time in Standard. Fetches won’t be affected as well because you can just crack the Fetch in response and get yourself another nonbasic or just a basic.
This is a reprint from the previous Zendikar block, and I’m ambivalent about this one as well. For the mana cost, the body is fine, but since the trigger is on upkeep, it is slow, and it won’t be any good until you are on turn 7 (unless you ramp your lands), which is even slower. The effect is powerful yes, but such a slow card. I don’t know if Dragonmaster Outcast saw any play the last time it was legal, but I’m not too hopeful about it for this time.
Painful Truths is a very interesting card I think. For 3 mana, you can draw X cards where X is the number of colours used to cast it, and you lose that much life as well. In a pinch, you can draw 1 and lose 1, but to maximize, you draw 3 and lose 3 life. A good effect for a good mana cost. There was some discussion on one of my WhatsApp groups about this card when it was spoiled, having to do with card-draw in black and the relative power level to other similar cards in the past, and that just made me more curious about it. Of course, Read The Bones is a superior card at the same cost, because it allows you to fix your draws before you draw them, and then you lose the life. Only draw 2, but the quality is better that way, so I don’t think this will see that much play, but it is a good alternative.
More full-art basic lands! And they are, as the trend has been set now, really gorgeous. I really like that first one, the Island, because of the scene it depicts. Just way too cool. And the Plains also is very striking, showing the general desolation of a hedron-ridden Zendikar. Owning these lands in foil is going to be very lucrative just because of how cool they are, though I probably would end up parting with them if the monetary value is significant.
This is a cool card. For one, it is a 4mana 5/3 which is a decent rate for a creature. But then, it also has Devoid, which means that the red and black hate cards like Surge of Righteousness, Encase In Ice, Display of Dominance or others such don’t work against this. On top of that, it has haste. A Limited bomb for sure, I think, and also worth a consideration for RBx decks for Constructed, though only in Standard and not Modern.
These three cards complete the “Retreat to…” cycle of enchantments for Battle For Zendikar, the others being Retreat to Emeria and Retreat to Kazandu, each of them referencing a location on Zendikar. These are some really cool cards with repeatable effects, and at 3mana, they are decently costed as well. Of course, maindeck inclusions are iffy, since most aggro decks want something with immediate effect for turn 3, but in late game, these can be quite valuable. For control decks, Retreat To Coralhelm is a good option on the curve and lets you either screw up combat for an opponent (attack with Dragonlord Ojutai for example, then play a land and untap it for the hexproof effect), or fix your draws. This is definitely the one that I see being played the most, though the others aren’t bad either. Sideboard material, and great in Limited.
I love, LOVE this card. Sure, casting it for X=1 is expensive but good in a pinch. However, the more targets you have, and the more mana you have available, the better this gets. And if you have some kind of an effect to bounce the card back to your hand, then this is even better because you can keep screwing with the opponent’s board and put them really behind. Remove blockers and attack profitably. Boom.
Another card for an Eldrazi deck that it gives it a different angle of attack. The text doesn’t specify what kind of spell, so anything you cast that is either naturally colorless or has Devoid is going to trigger this, and if you can get multiple triggers in a turn, well then, this is a blowout card. I would love to see this card on camera at tournaments.
Another one of my really favourite cards from the new set. For one, it is an Angel. Second, it is an Angel ally. Third, it is in RW, which is an archetype I really want to build in the new Standard. And fourth, it is a decent body for its mana, with flying. And then, it boosts all attacking allies. I wish it was creatures actually, since this doesn’t have any ETB Rally, but I’ll take what I can get. RW Ally is definitely going to be an archetype in BFZ Standard.
A straight-up hard-counter for Standard. I love it. Of course, I don’t blue and what not, but I love this one. Dissolve from the Theros block offered us a scry 1 in addition to the counter effect. While this one doesn’t quite measure up the same, you end up with a 3/3 haste creature by paying the Awaken cost. That is quite valuable actually. And I don’t believe that you even have to have a successful resolution as the Awaken trigger is separate from the spell effect. More bonus? Really good for Standard. Perhaps some fringe play in Modern. Definitely good in Limited at all stages.
A trio of really good Eldrazi Processors here. The first of these is a straight-up removal spell which also leaves behind a good body to block or attack with; you can either use it to take out a potential blocker or just destroy a blocker which has already taken some damage. The second is a bit more expensive, and is board disruption, but works just as well. You could end up 2-1-ing yourself if the bounced creature has some kind of ETB effect, so it won’t play so well there, but is good nonetheless. The final of the trip is hand disruption and that is always good, especially since here it doesn’t specify a nonland card, just a card. Of these, only the first of these I see having some Standard play, whereas the others are good only for Limited. Not bombs per se but good picks early on regardless.
Previously we’ve had Jace’s Ingenuity in Standard, which was a straight up 3UU instant that let you draw 3 cards. But now we have a same-costed sorcery that does the same but lets you fix your draws if you have any non-land permanents on the board. This is a good boost for control decks that want to attack early, such as with Dragonlord Ojutai or who have Planeswalkers early. Control seems to be getting a lot of good cards recently and this is just more proof of that. Standard playable for sure.
This is decent I suppose. Draw 2 cards off a land for 6 mana, but you have to sacrifice the land too, so that you can’t get any tap-untap shenanigans going with something like a Bounding Krasis. This is card disadvantage in a way, and I doubt it is going to see much in the way of Standard play, but for Limited sure. If you are in blue and you get passed this card, definitely a decent pick as long as you don’t have something like the Murk Strider.
The Culling Drone is a workhorse card for your Eldrazi Processors and is going to ensure that they can go off, although it is not quite so reliable as you might want it to be. Anything to give your Drones trample, or push through damage is going to be highly valued by the decks that Drones will go in to. The Benthic Infiltrator on the other hand is clearly a better card. It only attacks for half the damage as a Culling Drone, but it is unblockable and has a good body on defense as well. Both are good picks for Limited in Eldrazi decks.
Ladies and gentlemen, all hail the new mana dork. In Magic Origins we had the Honored Hierarch, which is an unreliable dork for mana unless you get it off on turn 2, and even then you only get to use it on turn 3. The Beastcaller Expert however, is superior to it in all ways that matter for green-based ramp decks. It has haste, which lets it tap for mana on the turn it comes down. And then, it generates any colour of mana that you need. It is good at all stages of the game, and is also superior in that way to any other dorks in the game post-rotation or even currently. For a RG deck for example, an ideal sequence would be this:
- T1, Honored Hierarch
- T2, Hierarch is renowned; cast Beastcaller Expert; tap for Honored Hierarch #2
- T3, 5 mana floating; cast Rattleclaw Mystic morphed and then flip it for 4 mana floating; cast a Surrak, the Hunt Caller
- T4, 7 mana floating; cast Dragonlord Atarka, get the ETB trigger and then attack with haste from Surrak. Or, cast Savage Ventmaw, get the attack trigger from Surrak for the 6 floating mana and then cast Dragonlord Atarka in your second main-phase
There are any number of iterations possible here. Green-based ramp decks have their new mana overlord, and it should be a fun time!
Limited playable only. That’s all there is to say about it. If you open this in Sealed or get passed in Draft (late), then take it. But this is not Standard playable because there are better options that either let you do more or don’t have the restriction to be found here.
Drana here also happens to be on the Battle For Zendikar Game Day Champion’s Playmat, and it is a glorious artwork. Also, a really awesome card. The mana cost pinches a bit but for decks that have gotten used to casting a Hero’s Downfall, this is really no different. You get a beast of a flying creature that pumps your entire army. This is going to compete with Anafenza, the Foremost in many Abzan decks, but I think that both have their own niche within the new Standard, and that either works. Or you could just be greedy like me and play both! Best thing to note is that Drana can pump herself as well, whereas Anafenza only pumps one (tapped) creature.
A meh card. I’m not sold on this at all, especially since it is too expensive for what it offers. In Limited this might be good, but in Standard, this isn’t going to see that much play by any measure. For what it costs, it doesn’t affect the board immediately, and tapping out for something like this isn’t what I want to be doing on my turn 6.
For only six mana, you get to take an extra turn after your current one. Whether or not this sees Standard play is debatable, especially since a similar card in Temporal Trespass from Fate Reforged hasn’t seen any play at all at tournaments (to my knowledge). But, this also offers you an extra angle of attack through the 6/6 Awaken creature, which has haste, so that’s pretty potent in and of itself. Your opponent doesn’t get to respond and you can get in some serious damage, especially if you can cast some other Awaken spell in that second turn. Then it is just gg.
More support for Eldrazi decks. Depending on how you build your deck, this card can offer some serious firepower to clear out blockers and smash face. There are several big Eldrazi creatures around, as we’ve seen in the last three weeks, and a card like this adds a lot to these decks. Definitely one expensive spell that an Eldrazi player wouldn’t mind tapping out for!
That’s all for this edition of spoiler news. We currently stand at 141/274 cards from the set revealed, just slightly over half. Hopefully we’ll see some 20 more cards or so before the week finishes, and then all the rest getting dumped next week.