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Author Topic: Set Review – Battle for Zendikar    (Read 11026 times)
Maqi
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« on: 18-09-2015, 09:41:27 AM »

BFZ has not been fully spoiled yet but I thought I might as well start with this already. I will rate other notable cards once they are revealed.

Here is the rating metric I will use for this review:

Rating scores:
5 – Cream of the Crop A card that is so strong it will almost always be played when its colors are supported. Examples: Demonic Tutor, Brainstorm, Swords to Plowshares, Sylvan Library, Lightning Bolt

4 – Archetype Staple If it fits your overall strategy, you are very likely to play this card. Examples: Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Goblin Guide, Dark Confidant, Mana Drain, Fauna Shaman

3 – Key card in certain archetypes The card is essential for your primary gameplan or is one of the core cards of your strategy. Examples:  Academy Rector, Time Spiral, Blood Moon, Oath of Druids, Yawgmoth’s Will

2 - Roleplayer in certain archetypes The card fits thematically/strategically with your gameplan either as a supportive card or as a main component. Examples: Three Visits, Thought Scour, Dark Ritual, Faithless Looting, Honor of the Pure

1 – Optional inclusion You may include a card like this if it is approximately as good as another card but just a little bit different, has several synergies with your deck, as a toolboxing option or as a metagame choice. Examples: Magma Jet, Shardless Agent, Zealous Persecution, Relic of Progenitus, Auriok Champion, Body Snatcher


If I do not list a card it is because I think it is unplayable (or I just missed it Wink ).

Let me hear your opinion!


White
Quote
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
2WW
Planeswalker - Gideon
+1: Until end of turn, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar becomes a 5/5 Human Soldier Ally creature with indestructible that's still a planeswalker. Prevent all damage that would be dealt to him this turn.

0: Put a 2/2 white Knight Ally creature token onto the battlefield.

-4: You get an emblem with "Creatures you control get +1/+1."

Loyalty: 4

Gideon is a straightforward and powerful Planeswalker. Your usual play pattern with him will be to use his 0-loyalty ability first and produce a Knight. Next turn, if the board permits, you +1 him and swing for 7 (2/2 + 5/5). If attacking seems bad, you just produce another Knight and set up for his anthem ability.

I’m pretty sure he will replace Sorin, Lord of Innistrad in 4c Blood. Let’s quickly compare the two:
Regarding their mana cost they are basically even. In 4c Blood, Sorin is slightly easier to cast. This advantage is kind of offset however by the fact that you are running two Sorin’s which can lead to awkward double Sorin-draws.
When they come into play and produce a token, their loyalty becomes 4. That’s basically even. Sorin produces 1/1 lifelinkers while Gideon makes beefier 2/2 Knights. I see a slight advantage for Gideon here.
Your second turn with the respective Walker in play is – in my opinion – what tips the scale in Gideon’s favor. With Sorin, you will will either go for another 1/1 or you might go for the emblem and +1/+0 your team.
Gideon allows you to either add another 2/2 (and two 2/2’s look much more impressive than two 1/1’s) or you can go smack for seven (!) with Gideon and his Knight buddy. And you also have the option to go for the anthem and +1/+1 your guys. Here Gideon clearly outshines Sorin.
Although lifelink is a pretty strong ability in several matchups (Mono Red or Jeskai for example), lifelink on 1/1’s isn’t as exciting. You usually need a way to buff up the 1/1’s to really gain a relevant amount of life. In both the Mono Red and the Jeskai matchup, I actually prefer Gideon over Sorin, because of the big body and the better clock he provides.
The only situations where I would rather have Sorin, is in a long, stalled out midrange mirror, where your opponent can’t get through and you slowly threaten Sorin’s ultimate because producing vampires ticks him up.

Gideon of course will be a nice addition to White Weenie and other white-centric beatdown decks. My prediction is we will see him a lot in the future.

Rating: 4 – Archetype Staple

Black
Quote
Ob Nixilis, Reignited
3BB
Planeswalker - Nixilis
+1: You draw a card and you lose 1 life.

-3: Destroy target creature.

-8: Target opponent gets an emblem with "Whenever a player draws a card, you lose 2 life."

Loyalty: 5

In my opinion, the best incarnation of Ob Nixilis printed so far. Five mana is very doable for most decks and he will repay your mana investment with powerful options.
Both drawing a card while ticking up to six loyalty and destroying a creature are very good abilities when it comes to protecting himself from attackers and ensuring he lives another turn.

His ultimate is slow but inevitable and far from useless, although you will most of the time end up wiggling Ob Nixilis’s loyalty up and down which will help you to out-resource your opponent.

In the end it comes down to what kind of deck you are playing. Ramp decks with access to black will surely want him. Esper Control might be a home for him too. Even slower Midrange decks will be able to incorporate him. Overall, I think we will see him quite a bit.

Rating: 2 - Roleplayer in certain archetypes

Red
Quote
Radiant Flames
2R
Sorcery
Converge — Radiant Flames deals X damage to each creature, where X is the number of colors of mana spent to cast Radiant Flames.

This will certainly be played in 3+ color control or ramp decks. I imagine RUG-Scapeshift to want this for example because it can be cast for R(UG for example) instead of 1RR (like Anger of the Gods or Slagstorm).

Rating: 2 - Roleplayer in certain archetypes

Green
Quote
Woodland Wanderer
3G
Creature - Elemental
Vigilance, trample

Converge — Woodland Wanderer enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it for each color of mana spent to cast it.

2/2

Well, that thing can be big! I’m considering this for my 4c-Blood list, which in itself says something about the power level of a card.

You certainly must be playing 4+ colors to want this and also follow a beatdown plan. If those criteria are met however, Woodland Wanderer becomes really exciting.

With only three colors available, this will be a 5/5 trample, vigilance for four, which is good already (even as a 4/4 with only two colors spent on it, this isn’t that bad). For the full four colors though, we get a 6/6, which will basically dominate every other creature on the board. The real kicker are the two abilities though. Trample will make this tree-man a superb equipment target and prevent pesky chump blocking. Vigilance on a 6/6 usually means your opponent can’t attack back, which is very valuable in a race.

Downsides are that you can’t be Aether Vialling or GSZ’ing this thing into play (well, you can but it is kind of embarrassing to do so) and Restoration Angel doesn’t synergize very well with this, too. But that shouldn’t stop Woodland Wanderer to show up quite a bit.

Rating: 1 – Optional inclusion

Multicolor
Quote
Bring to Light
3UG
Sorcery
Converge — Search your library for a creature, instant, or sorcery card with converted mana cost less than or equal to the number of colors of mana spent to cast Bring to Light, exile that card, then shuffle your library. You may cast that card without paying its mana cost.

Very exciting card! It imposes some specific requirements on your deck though: You want to be playing four or five colors and there should be at least one card in your deck that is worth tutoring for which optimally costs four or more mana (otherwise you are paying a hefty price by paying five for Bring to Light. In some cases it might be worth it nevertheless).

The first deck I thought of was 4c-Scapeshift. Bring to Light there functions as another virtual copy of Scapeshift itself. However – and that’s where the card goes from good to great – it can also get other stuff like Damnation, Bribery, Thundermaw Hellkite or what have you.

That’s pretty flexible and powerful. I will love to brew with the card.

Rating: 2 - Roleplayer in certain archetypes

Quote
Brutal Explosion
2UR
Instant
Devoid (This card has no color.)

Choose one or both —
• Return target spell or creature to its owner's hand.
• Brutal Expulsion deals 2 damage to target creature or planeswalker. If that permanent would be put into a graveyard this turn, exile it instead.

Flexible spells like this are exactly the kind of cards you want for Highlander. Since – in our format – creature sizes are rather varied and planeswalkers play a huge role, you will most likely find good targets for the two damage mode. Imagine killing a Vendilion Clique and bouncing Bribery back to your opponent’s hand for example. That is a huge tempo swing. The exiling clause on the damage part is not irrelevant either (Kitchen Finks and Voice of Resurgence are often faced cards). Also, there are some cute value tricks available like bouncing your own Snapcaster or letting a removal spell on your Young Pyromancer fizzle by bouncing it while also exiling their creature and so on.

Brutal Explosion seems to always be at least solid and will occasionally lead to blowouts. URx decks will certainly try this one out and I think it is powerful enough to warrant a spot in many lists.

Rating: 1 – Optional inclusion

Quote
Catacomb Sifter
1BG
Creature - Eldrazi Drone
Devoid (This card has no color.)

When Catacomb Sifter enters the battlefield, put a 1/1 colorless Eldrazi Scion creature token onto the battlefield. It has "Sacrifice this creature: add 1 to your mana pool."

Whenever another creature you control dies, scry 1.

2/3

The combination of all the abilities this has might be enough to raise it to playability level. It won’t find its way into goodstuff decks but can play nicely in decks with a sacrificial theme. It does a little bit of everything somehow. It is a little bit beefy (cumulated 3 power and 4 toughness for ‘only’ three mana), a little bit ‘valuey’ (two creatures out of one card), it ramps for 1 colorless and will enhance the quality of your topdecks.

Too bad you can’t GSZ for this one because it has Devoid…

Rating: 1 – Optional inclusion

Quote
Kiora, Master of the Depths
2UG
Planeswalker - Kiora
+1: Untap up to one target creature and up to one target land.

-2: Reveal the top four cards of your library. You may put a creature card and/or a land card from among them into your hand. Put the rest into your graveyard.

-8: You get an emblem with "Whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control, you may have it fight target creature." Then put three 8/8 blue Octopus creature tokens onto the battlefield under your control.

Loyalty: 4

I don’t like this Kiora very much because it is too fragile. Imagine playing her on the third turn off of an elf of some kind. Then what? You might -2 to get the rough equivalent of draw about two cards. That is certainly not bad, but the fact that she now sits on only 2 loyalty makes her rather vulnerable. Imagine Arc Trail at this spot…
You could also use her untap mode and follow up with a 2 drop (if you happen to have one). Now she sits on 5 loyalty but has not produced value for the time being.
Starting with the second turn, you might be able to ramp into something (provided she lived through your opponent’s last turn) or you could cash her in for another ‘not quite two’ cards.

Overall I feel I’m not getting enough bang for my buck with Kiora. That being said, there surely are specific strategies which want this. Like an UG-centered ramp strategy for example and maybe something like a creature-based BUG-Reanimator deck.

Rating: 1 – Optional inclusion

Lands
Quote
Canopy Vista, Cinder Glade, Prairie Stream, Smoldering March, Sunken Hollow
Land - Forest Plains
(T: Add G or W to your mana pool.)
Canopy Vista enters the battlefield tapped unless you control two or more basic lands. (The other lands tap for the remaining allied color pairs and are of the appropriate basic land types)

Pretty good dual lands because you can fetch for them. They are not good enough for 4+ colored lists but some will make the cut in 3 colored decks. Especially Scapeshift decks will profit here, because they can substitute shabby mountains and play Cinder Glade and Smoldering March instead.

Another thing I like about these lands is that 2c-lists will profit relatively more from them than 3c-lists.

Rating: 1 – Optional inclusion

Quote
Lumbering Falls
Land
Lumbering falls enters the battlefield tapped.

t: Add G or U to your mana pool.

2GU: Lumbering Falls becomes a 3/3 green and blue Elemental creature with hexproof until end of turn. It's still a land.

Pretty good UG-manland. The power level seems to be somewhere in the Stirring Wildwood league. Will definitely see play. I like that you can run this into open mana without the risk of getting blown out.

Rating: 1 – Optional inclusion

Quote
Shambling Vent
Land
Shambling Vent enters the battlefield tapped.

T: Add W or B to your mana pool.

1WB: Shambling Vent becomes a 2/3 white and black elemental creature with lifelink until end of turn. It's still a land.

This is somewhat lacking. It just feels a little bit weak. This either needed to be a 2/4 or a 3/2, I guess. It is not bad, don’t get me wrong. Just having this up on defense will discourage an opponent from attacking with about as much as four 2/2’s. The problem is, Highlander has long stopped being a format where 2/2’s are good. In reality, Shambling Vent can’t block very well and can’t attack very well either (compared to Stirring Wildwood and Treetop Village for example). Lifelink makes up for some of that though.

I admit I could be very wrong here. Usually manlands play their biggest part in a game where everything has been trade off and the board is kind of clear while cards in hands are scarce. In a scenario like this Shambling Vent shines because it can gradually get you back into a game where you have been on the backfoot since the beginning by recovering precious lifepoints and thereby initiating a comeback.

In the end, I’m just not sure. Smiley Let’s wait and see…

Rating: unplayable or 1 – Optional inclusion
« Last Edit: 18-09-2015, 11:34:28 AM by Maqi » Logged
Maqi
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« Reply #1 on: 18-09-2015, 11:02:09 AM »

Quote
Expedition Envoy
W
Creature - Human Scout Ally
2/1

I thought I'd mention this one because it is yet another 2/1 for one mana. I was of the opinion that - once there were enough those one-drops - aggro might be viable again. I am no longer of that opinion.

Magic has shifted away from non-red aggro over the course of the last years and this is not a HL-only phenomenon. Midrange creatures have gotten just so much better than aggro creatures and are still very fast when battling against control. There is almost no reason to go pure aggro anymore because your midrange matchup is horrendous and your control matchup is not even that good. Especially green-based midrange will go toe to toe with aggro one-drops by just deploying elves instead. I'd rather have a t3-board of Llanowar Elves, Anafenza, Siege Rhino than Expedition Envoy, Savannah Lions, Mardu Woe-Reaper, Honor of the Pure.

That being said, I'd like to get proven wrong and if there is a viable dedicated white one-drop aggro deck then this is surely in.

Rating: unplayable or 4 – Archetype Staple

Quote
Retreat to Coralhelm
2U
Enchantment
Landfall — Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, choose one —
• You may tap or untap target creature.
• Scry 1.

This together with Knight of the Reliquary will let you grow the Knight to enormous size, adding mana in the process for each untap iteration. With the last Knight activation you can get a special land or go get a fetchland, use the scry on Retreat to Coralhelm or tap down a blocker, and then swing after untapping KotR with your fetch activation.

Together with mana creatures this can provide very respectable amounts of mana (imagine Rofellos...), especially when fetchlands are involved in the equation. Fauna Shaman will sort of transform into Survival of the fittest with this and a fetch.

There is also the pseudo-vigilance mode, the ability to tap down blockers (or attackers with instant landfall), you can get double activations out of Hangarback Walker, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Deathrite Shaman etc.

All in all this offers some nice utility even without KotR which might make it playable. Keep in mind though, that this does absolutely nothing on its own, which is a steep price to pay for a card.

Rating: 2 - Roleplayer in certain archetypes

Quote
Drana, Liberator of Malakir
1BB
Legendary Creature - Vampire Ally
Flying, first strike
Whenever Drana, Liberator of Malakir deals combat damage to a player, put a +1/+1 counter on each attacking creature you control.
2/3

This is certainly playable in Suicide Black because the stats are somewhat fine and flying means you threaten to repeatedly trigger the anthem effect without having to fear much blocking.

Rating - 1 – Optional inclusion
« Last Edit: 21-09-2015, 04:00:50 PM by Maqi » Logged
tonytahiti
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« Reply #2 on: 20-09-2015, 12:47:05 PM »

this seems like a very weak set. also uninspired and plain boring. especially the rares suck so much.

either way - my top 10 for hl:

1. gideon
2. ob nixilis
3. the new duals
4. catacomb sifter
5. woodland wanderer
6. bring to light
7. kiora
8. blighted fen
9. the two mediocre manlands
10. retreat to coralhelm (just because of that 2card combo with knight of the reliquary)


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« Reply #3 on: 21-09-2015, 10:04:09 AM »

Added the remaining cards I wanted to write about (see the second post).

Overall the set seems mediocre from a card quality perspective. This is mostly due to the fact that R&D was very conservative with the landfall mechanic and because of the fact that many Eldrazi cards rely on the exile zone and require too much setup for effects that aren't even that strong.

The spiciest cards are the Planeswalkers and the cards that tap into the converge mechanic. In the end, I don't mind a weaker set after the many powerful cards which Khans of Tarkir block offered. Although it is kind of sad that Zendikar had to be the plane where the overall power level was toned down.
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« Reply #4 on: 21-09-2015, 04:34:03 PM »

This set does not bring much for our HL. But I think, think that somewhere in top 10 Radiant Flames should be named. Since it is another 3 mana sweeper. Might not be good enough for grixis decks, but for jeskai? who knows.

I know it is matter of personal preference, but the cards we will face probably the most often from this set, are the full art basics. Some of them are quite beautiful.
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« Reply #5 on: 21-09-2015, 07:56:06 PM »

I think you are needlessly pessimistic. I think this is a decent set. I also think you guys missed couple of cards I personally have high hopes for.

I just submitted my article to Poromagia, which probably takes a day or two to process. I will post the link here once finished.
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« Reply #6 on: 21-09-2015, 11:23:01 PM »

Quote
Expedition Envoy
W
Creature - Human Scout Ally
2/1

I thought I'd mention this one because it is yet another 2/1 for one mana. I was of the opinion that - once there were enough those one-drops - aggro might be viable again. I am no longer of that opinion.

Magic has shifted away from non-red aggro over the course of the last years and this is not a HL-only phenomenon. Midrange creatures have gotten just so much better than aggro creatures and are still very fast when battling against control. There is almost no reason to go pure aggro anymore because your midrange matchup is horrendous and your control matchup is not even that good. Especially green-based midrange will go toe to toe with aggro one-drops by just deploying elves instead. I'd rather have a t3-board of Llanowar Elves, Anafenza, Siege Rhino than Expedition Envoy, Savannah Lions, Mardu Woe-Reaper, Honor of the Pure.

That being said, I'd like to get proven wrong and if there is a viable dedicated white one-drop aggro deck then this is surely in.

Rating: unplayable or 4 – Archetype Staple

Well I played nayazoo (well ok, it has some red cards too) in this year's Finnish champs and lost in top8. After that the same deck with a few adjustments has been played in two other smaller scale tournaments by two different players and went undefeated in both. So like I have said before, if a deck is not played in highlander, it doesn't mean it's necessarily bad. It might be just that there's not a proper build around. Then again I do think ww is very bad but still some people play it with moderate success.
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« Reply #7 on: 22-09-2015, 08:44:24 AM »

Paulo Vitor is also "needlessly pessimistic" about this set: http://www.channelfireball.com/articles/everything-thats-wrong-with-battle-for-zendikar/

I share his sentiments exactly. The set seems very flawed but maybe thats not very obvious and you need a certain amount of experience and need to be a premium caliber player to be able to notice that.
« Last Edit: 22-09-2015, 08:48:23 AM by tonytahiti » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: 22-09-2015, 09:41:41 AM »

Paulo Vitor is also "needlessly pessimistic" about this set: http://www.channelfireball.com/articles/everything-thats-wrong-with-battle-for-zendikar/

I share his sentiments exactly. The set seems very flawed but maybe thats not very obvious and you need a certain amount of experience and need to be a premium caliber player to be able to notice that.

HAHA! Jesus, dude. You really don't have the healthiest reaction to different opinions, do you? Maybe work on your insecurities instead of projecting them onto others? Just a thought.

Also, what are you saying here? I am quite sure that PV did not have HL in mind when he wrote that article. You share his negativism about this set not being transitioning enough? And that matters to HL players exactly how? Same goes for random mechanics which are like the definition of a good HL game. Allies are crap for HL, but it's not like 80% of every set is unplayable in an eternal format anyway. "Too many good colorless lands"? This has been true for years in this format, nothing new here.

Rest of his complaints are about flavor choices with Devoid, which are valid points, but I fail to see how anybody should care if they didn't before reading his article.

I am not saying PV is wrong, in fact I agree with him, but at the same time none of his complaints affects me as a magic player. If you play a lot of standard, you have every right to be disappointed, but I can't speak for those people and this is not the forum for being disappointed about standard.
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so_not
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« Reply #9 on: 22-09-2015, 11:48:17 AM »

you need a certain amount of experience and need to be a premium caliber player to be able to notice that.

Cheesy Cheesy
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« Reply #10 on: 22-09-2015, 07:34:11 PM »

@tiggupiru: wow, man. way to get pumped up about something. you sure went all in. you go ham on everybody that calls you a "non-premium-caliber" player in your store too?..talking about insecurities..

so_not seemed to understand that i was not being serious (how can i be? i dont know you, you might be just as much of a premium caliber player as i am).
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« Reply #11 on: 28-09-2015, 03:11:07 PM »

As promised: My article.
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« Reply #12 on: 28-09-2015, 07:55:53 PM »

just as a quick response (the usual stuff still applies (good writing etc.):

Bring to light + new duals > moves scapeshift easily to a Tier 1 deck (if it werent already there with dark petition) (there is no such thing as tier 1 decks in HL though).

Since you were wondering which deck could use that card. Its a ridiculous tutor and I think that will push the 4c version over the top.
« Last Edit: 28-09-2015, 08:43:52 PM by Tabris » Logged
Maqi
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« Reply #13 on: 28-09-2015, 08:22:25 PM »

Bring to light + new duals > moves scapeshift easily to a Tier 1 deck

Agree. I'm quite excited about the new Scapeshift deck. Will become even better with the upcoming ur battle land.
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« Reply #14 on: 28-09-2015, 08:25:53 PM »

If this is true, I am excited. I have no experience about that strategy. The new duals do allow some really cool stuff.
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