Battle for Zendikar is out there! The Eldrazi consume everything on their path and the Zendikari struggle to fight back against these otherworldly monstrosities!
There are lots of new and interesting cards and mechanics, but I’m not going to make a review of this set, instead, I’m just going to talk about 10 cards that caught my eye, plus some suggestions of strategies and uses for them.
So lets begin this list starting by number 10:
A great instant that pumps one of your creatures and also allows you to put an extra land onto the battlefield! It has a good effect for two mana and it’s doubled with Landfall creatures. I can image myself playing a Steppe Lynx on turn 1 and swinging for 10 damage on turn 2 with Swell of Growth, and a Groundswell played with the extra land from Swell of Growth.
It has a lot of potential and it will be a great addition to Landfall decks and to Pauper.
9. Conduit of Ruin:
To me, this is one of the most interesting Eldrazi from the set. When you cast it, you get the ability to fetch any big Eldrazi or any other colorless creature with 7 or more CMC and making it your next draw. Also, Conduit of Ruin lets you pay 2 less for the first creature you cast in each turn, (this will also apply if you cast a creature with Flash in your opponents’ turn), making it easier to put some big threats on the battlefield.
I don’t see many hype around Conduit of Ruin, but I think that it has a good synergy with Tribal (more in the Eldrazi Tribe, but it may work on others as well) and maybe Tron decks.
8. Ally Encampment:
Finally! An Ally all-color and utility land at the same time! You can repeat the Rally of many Ally creatures by sacrificing the land, which can lead you to a winning strike if you return the right Ally to your hand. It also protects one of your allies from creature removal which can also be game changing.
For me, being an Ally player, I’m specially excited with this card. It fixes mana for multicolored Ally decks that won’t have to rely on Harabaz Druid so much for now on to give mana of any color. It will be a certain 4 to have in almost every Ally deck and it will offer a chance to turn this into a more popular tribe.
7. Woodland Wanderer:
Woodland Wanderer is one of the best cards with Converge to play. It works well only if you play it using only two colors, It works even better if you play it with three colors and it will be great if you use four colors. In a multicolored dominant Standard, I think that this card might shine and it might risk some entries in Modern and EDH decks. As for Legacy, I doubt it, although the Vigilance and Trample might tempt some people to use it, but it’s a 4-drop that might not win you the game in the moment you play it.
Everywhere I go, I see a different name to this new land cycle. Tango Lands, Lag Lands, Slow Lands, Late Lands, Battle Lands… I personally like Slow Lands, because of that drawback of coming into play tapped unless you control two or more basic lands.
It will be hard to find a place for them in competitive Legacy, since the number of basic lands in two or more colored decks is usually very small and having a land entering the battlefield tapped is not something that you want in this format. In Modern, they might see some play in decks with more control and more mid/late game plays, so having one or two copies of one of this lands might be a good addition. Standard and EDH are the formats where this lands will be more playable, since the game paces around more slowly and the decks have a bigger number of basic lands on them.
As a final thought, the Slow Lands will be great for budget players who can’t afford other Duals and that play with 2 to 3 colors decks where most of the lands are Basics.
5. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger:
Ulamog is back and he’s hungry! Tired of drive-throughs, Ulamog wishes to eat a whole plane just to try to fulfill his hunger. If he manages it or not, we don’t know yet, but what we’re sure of is that he eats a third of your opponents library!
Leaving your opponents without a library is not one of the most played strategies, since 60 cards to remove is a little more difficult than reducing they’re life total to 0, although it’s a strategy that might be amusing for you and frustrating for them.
Many say that Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger sucks just because it doesn’t have Annihilator. In my opinion, it doesn’t. Both Ulamogs destroy your opponents game. Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre is more focused on the battlefield, destroying everything on its path, while Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger focus in destroying what could be thrown into its path, by devouring your opponents library. It doesn’t mind if it is chump blocked, your opponent will still exile the top 20 cards of his or her library.
There are also other two great things about this card:
- It exiles two target permanents when you cast it, which surely is an upgrade to its predecessor’s Vindicate effect.
- It can be reanimated. Although it won’t trigger the 1st effect, you’ll still get an indestructible 10/10 creature that will exile the top 20 cards from your opponents library on every attack.
In a set where Eldrazi tend to exile the opponents deck, Ulamog is its’ king but, will this card play on a competitive level? Maybe. The fact of exiling 20 cards might not be something to finish the game like Annihilator, but it can cause serious damage to an opponent, even if it gets blocked. In the end, it might see play in some Tron, 12-post, EDH and, obviously, Standard decks.
4. Mortuary Mire:
For me, the best spell land in this set. Mortuary Mire works well with all kind of mono-black decks, having a Volrath’s Stronghold effect when entering the battlefield. Although entering tapped, it’s still a great card to have a copy or two in Pauper, EDH, Standard and maybe in some Modern and Legacy decks, being able to bring one of your creatures back from the grave to the top of your library and making it your next draw/drop. It’s great for bounce and it works pretty well with Swell of Growth.
3. Kiora, Master of the Depths:
The new Kiora, Master of the Depths is far more playable than her Theros version. Being able to untap lands and creatures with her +1 will be a useful and powerful effect in most decks, especially to add some extra mana, enable combos or play activated abilities.
Her -2 is also great, acting like a better Grisly Salvage, giving you a land and/or a creature from the top 4 cards of your library and feeding the graveyard with the rest, enabling Delve and possible reanimation targets.
Lastly, her -8 ability can easily finish the game, however it will take time to achieve 8 or more loyalty with her, since her -2 ability can give you a great advantage as the game progresses.
Standard decks will be filled with her, especially Sultai decks, and I believe it will also see play on Modern and EDH.
2. Retreat to Coralhelm:
Part of an uncommon Landfall cycle, this card has a good control effect by letting you Scry or Tap/Untap creatures. Furthermore, it enables some great combos! Retreat to Coralhelm + Knight of the Reliquary is the most popular one, and for a good reason, but you can also make some good infinity combos with Landfall creatures by using Retreat to Coralhelm and one of the following:
- Ruin Ghost
- Cloudstone Curio and Sakura-Tribe Scout (or other creature with a similar ability)
- Meloku the Clouded Mirror and Sakura-Tribe Scout (or other creature with a similar ability) -> This one already gives you infinite tokens!
After that, you just add some Landfall creatures to the mixture and make your own infinite combo deck. Here are some examples:
- Infinite Mill: Hedron Crab or Scrib Nibblers
- Infinite Damage: Tunneling Geopede or Cosi’s Ravager
- Infinite Tokens: Emeria Angel ,Rampaging Baloths or Meloku the Clouded Mirror
- Infinite Life: Grazing Gladehart
- Infinite Mana: Lotus Cobra
- Infinite Power: Steppe Lynx, Plated Geopede, Avenger of Zendikar, Baloth Woodcrasher, …
- Board Wipe: Admonition Angel
As you can see, this card is full of potential, but it’s also the weak point of the combo, since every other card achieve an “Infinite effect” if you trigger the Landfall from the Retreat.
Anyway, I think that Retreat to Coralhelm will play in almost every format, mostly as a combo piece rather than a control card.
1. Bring to Light:
Bring to Light is the last card from Battle for Zendikar that I’m going to talk about and the most worthy to play of cards with Converge.
It has a great tutor effect for five mana, letting you search for an answer for almost every situation of the game and letting you immediately play that card without paying its mana cost, although the card has to be a creature, instant or sorcery and its mana cost has to be between 0 and 5, depending on the colors used to cast Bring to Light, but that is a small drawback, since there are many game changing spells that cost 5 or less.
Another good thing to notice is that you can play spells with suspend with CMC of 0, like Restore Balance, Wheel of Fate, so using Bring to Light in Cascade decks might be fun to play.
In my opinion, this is the card with most potential in the whole set, enabling lots of combos, creating new strategies and it also plays in all formats! I saw and article from Wizards using Bring to Light with Gifts Ungiven and it created a great versatile deck, able to answer almost every situation and, at the same time, enable its wining condition. It’s just a matter of time for this card to appear in some Legacy decks.
And that’s all! This is my list of most interesting cards that Battle for Zendikar has to offer to players, so they can create or tune up their decks, make new strategies and, most of all, have fun.
As to the Zendikar Expeditions: “Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor“.