Innovations - Zendikar: The Five Strongest Spoiled Cards
Take it from a connoisseur of hyperbole; there are an awful lot of exaggerations and absurdities one can conjure up to describe things of impact and events of significance. I am in a crusade against hyperbole at the moment. I am engaged in a war a war on hyperbole as it is dangerous literary and verbal crutch one that adds flavor and excitement in the short-run but robs us of our ability to speak realistically about subjects.
One of the reasons it is so important to fight hyperbole is so that when a situation arises where you actually mean that something is the most extreme event of its kind people know that you are not just saying that. An awful lot of people say pretty extreme things all the time. What can you say when extreme statements are the norm?
How do I say that Zendikar will be the best selling Magic set ever and that it will sell more and faster than M10?
I am not Ben Bleiweiss and this column is not about the financial value of Zendikar so I will summarize my thoughts on this subject like this:
I suggested people buy Future Sight. I suggested people buy Morningtide. I suggested people buy M10. Now I am suggesting that you buy Zendikar. I think Zendikar will “case” better than any set ever meaning that when a dealer opens a case the singles will be worth more on the average than any other “current” set ever printed.
Dealers will open tons of boxes and people will buy tons of boxes. I think that the singles market will thrive and my prediction is that Zendikar will not only sell out rapidly but that savvy dealers will realize that the market value of Zendikar boxes is significantly higher than the average Magic set. There are not a ton of great investments readily available in the current economy.
I am recommending to my friends and associates that if they have a thousand dollars to invest they strongly consider buying a couple of cases of Zendikar. First of all the set will turn in to singles well but then if you don’t open one of the cases you will be able to sell the boxes for 20%-40% more than you paid just a matter of weeks later. Obviously this is just my opinion and I can offer no guarantees but I will tell you one thing: I am planning on investing in Zendikar packs.
It is not that I am saying this to prop Wizards of the Coast up. I love Wizards - that is no secret - but I am not praising all the choices in the set. I am just saying that they will lead to Zendikar being the best selling set ever printed.
Why will this set sell so well? A variety of reasons including: it looks fun it’s flavorful and it seems well designed. The thing is it also contains an absurd number of chase cards that will drive sales through the roof. For example:
That’s right… enemy fetch lands are finally a reality. Ironically my first reaction was very bittersweet as I was personally looking forward to an Extended format where people actually had to play honest manabases. I mean obviously these are super powerful and obviously there will be interesting deck building decisions that spring out of them. Of course they single-handedly assure that the set will sell unreal.
However I am not a fan of the “Erik Lauer Experience” (where players shuffle their library over and over in order to gain tiny but real advantages). The shuffling is not just annoying it is a waste of time and it leads to an increase in cheating. In addition I think fetchlands are a little too good. I mean I think Polluted Delta is better than Underground Sea and I think that Arid Mesa is better than Plateau. That is too good.
Fetchlands produce a problem in Extended that is every bit as bad as what Vivid lands did to Standard but they will do it for another seven years (well unless Ravnica Lands rotate). They make it too easy to get whatever you want. This is actually a much bigger problem than most people realize. If you can have whatever you want without trying presumably so can your opponent. If you can both have whatever you want without trying what option do you have to improve your chances? Normally you can work harder smarter and come up with something better. If it is too easy there is less room above you to discover.
Anyway there are bad sides no question but after sleeping on this news I have started to come around. First of all I may dislike Vivid lands but I sure do love them. The fetchlands may be too good but I know they are too good and at least some people don’t fully appreciate them or how greedy they let you be.
Second of all they seem like they might be cool in Standard. I love a playable dual land that can cast Noble Hierarch on turn 1. It is really cool how well they interact with M10 duals. For example check out this Jund manabase:
Talk about well equipped to cast Putrid Leech turn 2! You could stick a Mountain in here sure and it is certainly an option to play with the numbers a bit maybe use a couple Terramorphic Expanses especially if Landfall is pushed but you see my point. Making a Shard work will be easy.
I want to speculate on some possible directions for Post-Rotation Standard decks a bit. Many (myself included) saw a very real possibility of Standard after the rotation being Shards block the format 2.0. However at this point I have seen only half the set and I can safely say Zendikar will do more than just shake things up.
Also for reference all spoilers included in this article that do not contain a card image are courtesy of MTGSalvation.com and are based on best information available so be careful not to bet the farm on the information. Also I cannot include in this article spoilers that are not available as a card image that have not already been spoiled at MTGSalvation so suffice it to say there are more cards that will make an impact that are not public information yet so be sure to adjust the information here to fit the new cards as they are unveiled.
I cannot list my ideas for Five-Color Control yet as something vital is not yet available. However I can suggest a place to start on one of the most difficult parts early in a format making the mana work. Here is a rough sketch of how one might make a Five-Color Control manabase particularly for a Five-Color Cascade Control deck with Cruel Ultimatums Bloodbraid Elves and Esper Charms in a similar vein to the Five-Color Deck Zac Hill piloted to the Top 8 of Pro Tour: Hawaii (that dominated the recent Block Championships).
4 Rupture Spire 1 Arcane Sanctum 1 Seaside Citadel 1 Jungle Shrine 1 Exotic Orchard 2 Darkwater Catacombs 1 Glacial Fortress 1 Dragonskull Summit 3 Blue/Red Fetchland 1 Black/Green Fetchland 3 Island 3 Swamp 2 Mountain 1 Forest 1 Plains
An interesting consequence of the Fetchlands is the further powering up of M10 Duals and the building immunity to Anathemancer. It is not just the Control decks that will benefit however. In fact far from it. It looks like it will actually be possible for aggressive decks with one-drops to actually make their mana work. For instance what about the following manabase:
As you can see the possibilities for building manabases in New Standard are kind of exciting. It is like discovering Vivid Creek plus Reflecting Pool all over again. The M10 Dual Lands plus Fetchland synergy is just incredible and leads me to believe that M10 Duals will rise a little in popularity.
Obviously Enemy Fetchlands will impact far more than just Standard. I already thought Polluted Delta and Flooded Strand were among the ten best lands ever printed. Do you think the U/R and U/G ones aren’t in the same league possibly better?
Imagine Legacy decks with access to four of the U/G land allowing them to justify a single basic Forest. The subtle difference between Flooded Strand and U/G Fetch is suddenly an almost complete immunity to Wasteland. That is monumental.
In Vintage the ability to search up Forests and Mountains in your Blue deck is not that big. However it is fun that you can play Fetchlands of four different names for things like Gifts Ungiven and Pithing Needle. Also if you wanted you could really fight Wasteland here. Basic Mountain has never looked so good!
Of course the biggest impact will probably be in Extended. Just when everyone was preparing to have to reimagine manabases built the old fashioned way Zendikar comes along and takes the challenge out of things. Compare these two manabases:
I mean come on. What a joke. Depending on how much non-Blue you are into you could even stick a Mountain and/or a Forest in there. This is hardly new technology playing Fetchlands like this but it is interesting to consider the implications of Green and Red improving their relations with Blue as Tarmogoyf and Lightning Bolt are pretty sweet cards in Blue decks.
Okay I think we can all agree that Enemy Fetchlands are going to be huge in every format and are going to be among the biggest impact cards in years. What else in Zendikar is going to be important? Here are some more cards that have already been spoiled that I think are important to think about.
Possibly the best fatty ever…?
This card has not garnered much attention. However I think that it is truly unbelievable. This might be the most powerful creature in the game or at least that doesn’t have a drawback making reanimation unwieldy. The only card that compares to it in my mind is Sundering Titan as both are often essentially “Win The Game.”
If you animate this guy on turn 3 or 4 in Standard how can your opponent win? I mean sure they could have Path to Exile AND Maelstrom Pulse but the point is this card is a huge board presence and single-handedly blanks almost any counter play from your opponent. How many Jund decks are going to be able to beat this when you name Black?
Even in more powerful formats how do you beat this card? For instance in Vintage why not Oath this guy up and name Blue? What about in any format with Dredge Dread Return and put this guy into play? This card seems absolutely incredible to me and will be at the forefront of my mind for many formats to come. This creature is certainly the best nine-drop ever printed and is probably one of the better creatures in the game’s history.
I knew they were going to push some of the “Traps” but man I did not realize how serious they were. This card is SO cool and is already one of my favorite parts of the set
First of all the card is sweet in high powered formats like Vintage where it provides anyone that wants it access to a super Counterspell that even beats Storm Uncounterable spells Graveyard cards and more all for the bargain price of ZERO mana.
Obviously you are not always going to have an opponent willing to play three spells for you and sometimes you are going to want to counter the first one they play but you can just hard cast the card for 2UU. Seem like a lot? Think about how much you hard cast Force of Will and that card costs more…
In Extended the card is probably not at its best as it doesn’t foil Hypergenesis and Mind’s Desire is gone but it will have applications. As far as Standard goes the card is basically a stronger Double Negative. You won’t trap it that often but at four mana it will still often gain value. For instance it is a fantastic answer to Bloodbraid Elf and it is cute that it combos well with Bloodbraid Elf (a problem that Double Negative always had).
This card is certainly no Cryptic Command and is far from the best card in the set but I love the execution and how well it hoses people doing unfair things while still remaining playable and interesting against fair strategies. The only thing that disappoints me is that it is a Mythic. I don’t mind printing cards to drive sales but this is the type of tournament staple that I thought wasn’t supposed to be a Mythic. I personally don’t care for me but I do care for maintaining the positive energy among tournament players that may struggle to fill out their decks with the cards they want.
Fortunately this card is very far from a four-of in every deck and may not even be right for Standard at all. The thing is I wish everyone had access to this card. It is like Thoughtseize Gaddock Teeg Meddling Mage Thought Hemorrhage Great Sable Stag Pithing Needle Stifle and so on. Those are important tools for people to have access to. It makes me a little nervous to print something like that as a Mythic. I am willing to give WotC the benefit of the doubt on this one but it does raise an eyebrow. This is one of the many tournament staple Mythics in this set which is part of the reason I think that this set will “case” better than any other current set.
Creature - Vampire Spirit
Bloodghast can’t block.
If an opponent has 10 or less life Bloodghast has haste.
Landfall- Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control if Bloodghast is in your graveyard you may put Bloodghast into play.
This card seems totally unreal to me. I mean on his own he is the best Nether Shadow variant ever printed serving as a deadly and efficient threat that cannot be stopped by traditional means like Lightning Bolt or Remove Soul. He combos incredibly well with Fetchlands and if you have some way to sacrifice him for profit he is incredibly abusable. Any sort of Graveyard-based strategy is going to want to strongly consider him as he gives great value for so little real cost.
Creature - Goblin Shaman
If Goblin Ruinblaster was kicked destroy target non-basic land when it enters the battlefield.
Wow! Avalanche Riders was incredible and this guy puts him to shame. He is far less abusable as he doesn’t work with ways to cheat him into play nor can he hit basics but as a fair card used as is he is superior on account of not only the no echo but also the option to play him as a two-power haste creature for three.
Of course not everyone is going to have non-basics especially with the new enemy fetchlands but I think most people will most of the time. Besides even if they don’t this guy is a two-power haste creature for three. That is a far cry from Ravenous Baboons and his two power for four with summoning sickness.
Finally I want to leave you with a few thoughts on Evan Erwin’s preview card Warren Instigator.
Evan was right about how insane this guy is although I don’t think he is anywhere near a thirty or forty dollar Mythic. There just aren’t enough applications for him.
That said he is great. Many people will probably like him for the wrong reasons (he is a Double Lackey!) but he will prove a tournament powerhouse regardless as Double Strike on a 1/1 for two is playable on its own and if you ever live the dream he is absurd.
Imagine playing this guy on turn 2 and attacking turn 3. They block with their guy and you Colossal Might killing the blocker during first strike then trampling over and putting a Goblin Warchief into play. Then during regular damage (which you are +1 for) you get your Siege-Gang Commander. I know he is ambitious but he has SUCH a great payoff when you hit and even if you don’t live the dream he is a very respectable man especially with cards that pump him like the Warchief and the new land that is:
Enters the battlefield tapped.
When Teetering Peaks enters the battlefield target creature gets +2/+0 until end of turn.
T: Add R to your mana pool.
I am not sure if Goblins will retake its throne but it would appear that it has fighting chances. For more Zendikar previews check out my exclusive Archmage Ascension preview on the free side today!
I am pysched to see what else Zendikar has in store for us. These are exciting times. There has never been a set like this…