by Phoenix Desertsong, Old School Duelist
Guardian of Tazeem from Magic the Gathering’s Battle for Zendikar set may not look incredibly exciting, but this rare Sphinx creature had potential to be a pretty sweet weapon in control decks. The Guardian is a 4/5 flyer for 3UU, already solid stats for a mono-Blue creature. It also has a Landfall ability. Whenever a land comes into play on your side, you tap a target creature an opponent controls. If that land is an Island, that creature doesn't untap during its controller's next untap step.
The cool thing about the ability is that the land in question doesn't have to be a basic Island. So, if you have dual lands such as Breeding Pool, Hallowed Fountain, or any other nonbasic land that has the land type Island, you get to freeze creatures for a turn each time you play one of them. Best of all, if you happen to make all lands Islands - such as with Stormtide Leviathan or the Enchantment Prismatic Omen if you're also in Green - every land you play has that effect.
What held back Guardian of Tazeem from competitive play is that it was vying for deck space with Icefall Regent in Standard. The Regent can keep a creature tapped down as long as it's on the battlefield. While on paper the Guardian of Tazeem can tap down a lot more things, having to depend on a land-drop makes it less consistent. Also, the Regent being a Dragon made it fit better into many Dragon-centered strategies at the time.
The only competitive play that Guardian of Tazeem has seen over the years was in occasional Azorius Aggro deck lists. Even in decks that relied on staying ahead on tempo and winning the game in the air, it was still relegated to sideboard action. About the only consistent home for Guardian of Tazeem came years later in Commander, with the printing of the Sphinx tribal lord, Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign. As Unesh makes Sphinx spells you cast cost 2 colorless mana less, pretty much every mono-blue Sphinx becomes playable in that context.
Like many creatures who have been useful but on the fringe in competitive play, Guardian of Tazeem has found its niche in Commander. The Guardian has also found a home as a tempo piece in Patron of the Moon and Meloku, the Clouded Mirror decks, which involve a lot of Islands leaving and entering play on a regular basis. As generally weak as Battle for Zendikar was as a set, the Guardian of Tazeem was far from one of its weaker cards.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Old School Duelist
Void Winnower from Magic the Gathering’s Battle for Zendikar set is quite an odd Eldrazi. All “can’t even” and other “odd” jokes aside, the mythic rare Winnower is pretty unique in its abilities. Nine mana for an 11/9 body is already pretty good. Being unable to be blocked by creatures with even converted mana costs gives it a rather unusual form of evasion.
But, Void Winnower goes even beyond that, preventing opponents from casting spells with even converted mana costs. Obviously, this is a Limited bomb that you can likely drop before turn nine in the typical draft or sealed deck, thanks to all of the colorless mana ramp available in that set. But, how good is it in Constructed?
For starters, creature tokens can’t block Void Winnower, since they have a 0 CMC. According to an official judge ruling from Wizards of the Coast, 0 is considered even. Mathematical debates aside, it’s going to be fairly tough to chump block this guy. Then again, plenty of removal options exist at odd converted mana costs, so there are definitely ways to deal with this behemoth.
What Void Winnower seems best at is being a metagame answer to the big even converted mana cost spells in Standard. At the time of Void Winnower's release, these were Ugin, the Spirit Dragon at 8 mana and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger at 10 mana being the chief concerns. With Eldrazi Ramp a legitimate deck archetype, especially in Modern, Void Winnower became a legitimate candidate for sideboard play. It can randomly hose a number of decks if their key cards have even converted mana costs.
Void Winnower Makes Things Not Even in Pioneer
While Void Winnower made a few Top 8 appearances in 2015 and 2017 in Modern, it took awhile for the true power of Void Winnower to be realized. This was a card that for years could be had for as little as a couple of dollars. But, in 2019 with the invention of the Pioneer format - which includes cards from Return to Ravnica forward in its card pool - Void Winnower would soon find new life.
It took until 2020 with the release of Fires of Invention to truly see Void Winnower suddenly become a competitive powerhouse. Fires of Invention is a silly enchantment that gives you the ability to cast just two spells in a turn, but it can be any spell with a mana cost equal to or less than the number of lands you control. That means by turn 9 you can play the Void Winnower and another card in one turn. By that point in the game, it’s going to be tricky to stop the Winnower from taking over the board.
Void Winnower in Commander / EDH
In EDH, Void Winnower is a “just say no” card that will lock some Commanders out of the game. It’s a pretty mean card in the format. While someone will probably find an answer to it in a multiplayer game, it will wreak havoc while it remains in play. It may come down to using Swords to Plowshares on it and gaining the controlling player 11 life. The fact it can help your team get through for extra damage is also another big consideration. Also, because it's colorless, Void Winnower can be included in a wide variety of decks.
Naturally, the Commanders that will want to use Void Winnower the most are those that can sometimes cast him for free (Rakdos, Lord of Riots and Animar, Soul of Elements) or cheat him into play (Mayael the Anima and Jhoira of the Ghitu). Also, with the release of Commander Legends, Void Winnower found a new home in Belbe, Corrupted Observer decks. Belbe’s ability can net you a ton of colorless mana, making Void Winnower easy to cast.
It also helps that Commander Legends also released Apex Devastator, a ten-drop Green creature that cascades 4 times - literally allowing you to play 4 spells that cost 9 mana or less for free in a row straight from your deck. Void Winnower is an obvious include in any deck that features the Devastator.
Pretty much any Commander deck can make use of Void Winnower if you can somehow get him into play on the cheap. Because it doesn't have an on-cast trigger, it's actually a big threat and always worth putting into play no matter how you do it. Void Winnower is definitely a keeper.
How would you use Void Winnower?
by ElspethFTW, Gaming Successfully Staff
Of all the Battle for Zendikar cards we reviewed on Gaming Successfully, one in particular was very popular. It wasn’t the new Kiora, Master of the Depths or any of the other planeswalkers. The most popular of all of our Battle for Zendikar spoilers was Bring to Light. It's a very interesting sorcery that costs 3UG and has Converge.
In our review, we found that there is plenty of potential for Bring to Light. This is especially the case in Commander, and in 4 and 5-color decks where its true power can be realized. Considering the amount of interest this particular card has, we’ve decided to go into greater depth into how Bring to Light can be used most effectively.
Bring to Light in Modern
As far as Constructed goes, it will take quite a specific brew that doesn’t mind waiting to have 4 or 5 colors of mana to seek out a specific creature and/or combo piece. There was a lot of fun during the early days of Battle for Zendikar Standard when people were cheating Siege Rhinos into play. It wasn't a bad deck and could win some games, although it wasn't going to win any major tournaments.
The one deck that I had in mind which seemed a natural fit was Scapeshift in Modern. Scapeshift decks already run four colors and has access to five. The sorcery Scapeshift itself costs 4 mana, so barring counter-magic, you could tutor up Scapeshift and win the game. I just don’t know what you’d cut from the deck to play a 5 mana sorcery that isn’t an optimal draw a good chunk of the time. People have definitely been trying, though, with varied success.
One interesting theme that has been discussed surrounding Bring to Light is using it cast the 0 CMC casting cost spells from Time Spiral: Ancestral Vision, Hypergenesis, Living End, Restore Balance, and Wheel of Fate. These spells have some powerful effects, but can’t ordinarily be cast unless they are Suspended with the costs on the card or cast for free by a Cascade Spell. In fact, Cascade cards have been used to great effect with Living End in the infamous Modern combo deck and has been also done at times with Restore Balance. Bring to Light gives you another way to play these cards for free without investing any extra colored mana. But is it worth ramping up to 5 mana just to have a chance to tutor them out?
The most important aspect to consider in Modern is how rampant counter-magic is in the format, especially Remand. Who wants to Bring to Light a Living End only to have it countered, or worse, put into their hand where you then have to suspend it? Granted, this is the same deal as with Cascade, which requires you to still cast the spell, even if it is for free. But with Cascade, you typically get the 3 or 4 mana to cast them far more quickly than you would with Bring to Light.
The chance of your opponent essentially countering 2 cards at once feels bad. With the Cascade spells, you typically will just have an opponent counter that and not simply wait for you to tutor the card you really want before actually casting a counterspell. A 5 mana card just seems a bit too slow to jam into Constructed if all it does is set you up to potentially waste one of your combo cards and possibly a whole turn.
The one of these five that I feel could benefit the most from Bring to Light is Hypergenesis, a card that only sees play in Commander decks like Phelddagrif and Maelstrom Wanderer. Hypergenesis is super good if you have a stacked hand of bombs. Being a “group hug” type of Commander, Phelddagrif decks don’t mind suspending it until such time that it’s okay to let everyone dump their hands onto the table. Maelstrom Wanderer would just cascade into it at often random times, making it not quite optimal for the deck.
Bring to Light makes it so that you can play Hypergenesis when you actually want to play it. This should help the card’s playability a bit. The only requirements are that you play blue and green, and there are plenty of Blue/Green commanders happy to oblige. But often Hypergenesis will be the best target, especially in a two-color deck. Getting a Birds of Paradise or another 1 or 2 mana creature doesn’t feel so powerful for 3UG.
The true power of Bring to Light will be in five-color Commander decks. This card’s true power comes from being able to simultaneously tutor and cast 4-5 CMC spells from the deck. The question is what spells are there for Bring to Light to get and how powerful is it as one of the 99. Underwhelmed by its Constructed prospects, it seems that there is real potential for this 5-mana Converging sorcery in Commander. Let’s take a look.
Scion of the Ur Dragon
Imagine a tutor that could go get a Dragon and put it directly onto the battlefield without having to pay its mana cost! True, Sarkhan Unbroken can help you do that in a big way. So how can Bring to Light help the 5-color Dragon deck? Most of your best Dragons are 6 or more mana, but there are some targets that this tutor can find you in a pinch.
One particular card that Bring to Light is good at getting is Crux of Fate, which is a 5-drop Black board wipe that can destroy all Dragons or all non-Dragons. In a dedicated Dragon deck, this is a sweet boardwipe. Being able to tutor it up and play it all for five mana is pretty sweet, providing you can tap WUBRG.
Creatures you could get with Bring to Light include Dragonlord’s Servant (1R to let you cast Dragon spells for 1 less), Dragonspeaker Shaman (1RR to let you cast Dragon spells for 2 less), Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon (who can kill opponents out of nowhere with Infect, and Thunderbreak Regent (which makes it painful for opponents to use targeted removal on your dragons). Kaalia of the Vast and Stormbreath Dragon are other creatures you tend to see in Scion that would be Brought into the Light easily.
Sorceries you may want to tutor up with Bring to Light include Fearsome Awakening (reanimate a Dragon with +2/+2) and Living Death (awesome with lots of Dragons in the grave). For instants, you have Sarkhan’s Triumph for 2R to tutor up any Dragon to your hand - which probably doesn’t seem like the most cost-effective way to do so, but it works in a pinch. You also have access to a suite of removal spells in Utter End, Putrefy, and Mortify. These cost 4, 3, and 3 respectively, but in the right spot, paying 5 with 3 or 4 different colored mana could be the difference in a game.
Verdict: B in this deck. There are enough solid target for Bring to Light to rarely be a dead card once you get to 3 out of 5 colors of mana. It gives you access to a bomb like Living Death, a one-sided boardwipe like Crux of Fate, and a few of your utility creatures. Grabbing a removal spell in a pinch isn’t bad, either, since otherwise you’d spend a Demonic Tutor or even Diabolic Tutor seeking them out sometimes.
Sliver Overlord / Sliver Queen / Sliver Hivelord / Sliver Legion
If there were any archetype that appreciated Bring to Light, it would be Slivers. There are very few Slivers that even cost more than 5 mana. Those would be Battering Sliver (5R), Fury Sliver (5R), Megantic Sliver (5G), and Groundshaker Sliver (6G). Groundshaker and Battering Sliver both give trample, but Battering Sliver helps all Slivers, while Groundshaker only helps yours. Horned Sliver gives all Slivers trample for only 2G, however, so you can live without those two in play. Megantic Sliver gives all your Sliver +3/+3 and Fury Sliver gives all Slivers (including those you don’t control) double strike. Those would be the only 4 that you would care about that can’t be tutored up by Bring to Light.
The coolest thing about Bring to Light in Slivers is that you can get any of the WUBRG Slivers into play with it. Whichever one you’re not playing as your Commander can be almost essentially be cast from the deck! Slivers have such a toolbox to draw from that Bring to Light is essentially: WUBRG: Cast target Sliver with converted mana cost 5 or less from your deck. That’s extremely good and can probably be a game-winning play in some circumstances.
Beyond that, Bring to Light can tutor up Distant Melody (to draw you a bunch of cards) or Patriarch’s Bidding (to bring back a ton of Slivers). It also can tutor up Utter End to exile any nonland permanent that’s bugging you and/or preventing you from winning the game outright.
Yes, Demonic Tutor, Diabolic Tutor and company can get you the card you need when you need it, but getting 2 cards out of 1 is always cool and with Slivers, the synergy is there to make tutoring up the right guy super strong.
Verdict: A- in this deck. It doesn’t get every Sliver ever, but besides Megantic Sliver and Fury Sliver, it can get pretty much anyone you need. Plus tutoring up Distant Melody or Patriarch's Bidding under certain circumstances feels pretty good.
Top Commanders: General Tazri, Karona, the False God and Reaper King
With Battle for Zendikar, Allies have been a big deal. While only a handful became Standard playable, Allies got plenty of good cards for 5-color Ally tribal commander. Best of all, the ones you care about are 5 mana or less, so hurray.
While there weren't any 5 color Legendary Allies printed in Battle for Zendikar, there was one in Oath of the Gatewatch, General Tazri. Because of her 5 color ability, this makes her eligible to play every color Ally in a Commander deck led by her. So can she and the other two 5-color Legends commonly seen with Allies use Bring to Light to their advantage?
Karona, the False God gives all creatures of a chosen type +3/+3 until end of turn whenever she attacks. The downside is that Karona gets to run around the table as each player gets control of her during each upkeep. There are ways around this, like equipping her with Assault Suit or attaching any of the Vow Auras to her, which all prevent her from being able to attack you. Then she can get really fun.
Reaper King is another option, and by using Enchantments like Conspiracy and Xenograft to make all your creatures Scarecrows in addition to their other types, each creature that enters play basically says: destroy target permanent. Ouch.
General Tazri can tutor up any Ally from your deck when she enters the battlefield. While Bring to Light isn't 100 percent necessary, pretty much any Ally you'll want will be CMC 5 or less.
For purposes of Bring to Light, Reaper King is probably the one who can use it the best. With Reaper King, you can tutor up lots of Changeling creatures, which count as both Allies and Scarecrows without any outside assistance. Karona prefers to be more of an Enchantment-happy deck, something that Bring to Light doesn’t really like unless you’re playing all of the Theros block Gods. More on that later.
The best allies you can tutor up? Turntimber Ranger is the most obvious choice, as he costs 5 mana (3GG) and can overrun the board with Wolf tokens. Hagra Diabolist costs 4B and can make opponents lose life rather quickly. Kabira Evangel offers your Allies protection from the color of your choice each time he or another Ally enters battle. Seascape Aerialist costs 4U and gives all your Allies flying when he or another Ally enters.
From Battle of Zendikar? The only one I’d bother to tutor up is Drana, Liberator of Malakir. Her ability to quickly pump your team is pretty awesome when you’re going for an alpha strike. There’s another one I like, Tajuru Warcaller, who costs 3GG, and has a Rally trigger that gives all your creatures +2/+2 until end of turn. He’s stupidly fragile as a 2/1, though. None of the others seem like considerable enough threats to warrant being pulled out by Bring to Light.
Verdict: C. You can get some nice advantage by tutoring out Changelings and the right Ally when you need one, but it’s not really best suited in the 99 when it comes to Allies. In a more typical Reaper King deck, though, it’s going to be fine for grabbing any Changeling or Scarecrow you want, as most are 5 or less CMC. But even in that build it’s barely a C card choice.
Because of the fact that Karona works best with the five Vows (and Assault Suit) being played on her to make her downside into an upside, it makes sense that she’ll want lots of Enchantments surrounding her. While she makes an interesting Tribal commander, which is why some Ally players like her, the real cool thing she can do is play God Tribal.
That’s right. Karona is typically built with the Theros Gods in mind. All 15 are played in some Karona lists. Best of all, all of the Theros block gods cost 5 CMC or less. So any of these can be solid targets with Bring to Light. Karametra, God of Harvests perhaps isn’t the best in this deck, but she’s almost always going to get you at least a land or two (her ability to grab Forests and Plains aren’t limited to basic lands). Having between 10-15 realistic targets for Bring to Light seems a decent plan.
You can go get Chromanticore, too, but you can’t use its alternate casting cost to Bestow it on another creature, which is probably the best thing about it in the first place, so that’s not really going to ever be a realistic target unless it happens to be your only remaining target for Bring to Light or something.
Verdict: B-, while not necessary as one of the 99, Bring to Light can seek out any of the Theros Gods you want or need at any given time. It’s otherwise pretty weak in an Enchantress deck, unless you’re using it to cast Demonic Tutor or Diabolic Tutor from your deck, which isn’t really that great.
Child of Alara
The best targets in Child of Alara aren’t really that wonderful. It’s typically a control deck based around planeswalkers. That said, Theros Gods appear in quite a few Child lists, as their being indestructible is really good with Child’s effect of blowing up all non-lands. You can also get any wraths, such as Supreme Verdict or Wrath of God with Bring to Light. Other than that, though, there’s nothing else exciting to get.
Verdict: C-, it has decent targets but Bring to Light is a bit of an awkward choice for this deck’s 99.
Here we have another Commander that loves Planeswalkers, but also really likes the Theros gods. Also, Child of Alara being able to be in the 99 gives Bring to Light a saucy target. Maelstrom Archangel, which is also seen in some Child builds, is also lots of fun to play with, cheating any nonland card into play whenever she deals combat damage to a player. Grabbing boardwipes is okay, too.
Verdict: C. Not sure I’d play it in my 99, but it can tutor up Child of Alara, which bumps it up a few points.
Horde of Notions Elemental Tribal
Tutoring up Mulldrifter and Shriekmaw at CMC 5 feels OK to me. Getting Torrent Elemental at 4U, a card really only playable in Elemental Tribal EDH, seems OK, too. Tutoring Incandescent Soulstoke, the Elemental lord who can let you cheat Elementals from your hand into play for 1R is less exciting, but fine. Soulstoke forces you to sacrifice those Elementals, but Horde of Notions can always get them back. Ingot Chewer and Wispmare are fine for value plays, but don’t seem worth casting Bring to Light. Grabbing Reveillark seems fine to reanimate a couple of little guys seems fine though.
There are a bunch of other cool Elementals you can get. Animar, Soul of Elements would be my favorite target. Forgotten Ancient can rack up quite a few +1/+1 counters for you to share with the rest of your army. Lord of Extinction is one of the most powerful Elementals ever, and he’s only 3BG. You could also bring in Fusion Elemental, an 8/8 for WUBRG - just to say you did it.
While not quite as exciting as what you can do with Slivers, Bring to Light does go get you your value creatures, although in the case of the Evoke creatures, you’re probably better off naturally drawing them and Evoking them to naturally reuse with Horde of Notions, anyway.
Verdict: B+. You get a pretty sweet variety of value with Elementals as you do with Slivers. Being able to tutor out Animar is pretty sweet, too.
Typically, Cromat is a “Super Friends” Commander, in that the deck plays all the Planeswalkers you can stuff into a deck. Other players just build 5-color good stuff decks. Basically, anything that you’d want to get in Child of Alara or Progenitus decks you can and would get here.
Verdict: C-, you’ll want to focus on the Planeswalkers, probably, and this doesn’t feel like an optimal use of a slot in your 99.
Atog tribal is a cute deck, but besides grabbing Living Death or Patriarch’s Bidding (which are good in Slivers, too) and the usual suspects like Eternal Witness, this is probably the worst of the 5-color decks to play this
Verdict: D+. I wouldn’t play it in here. It would work, but it’s sub-optimal.
Overall, Bring to Light does work in a lot of 5-color strategies, but it’s probably not optimal in every deck. It can take the place of Diabolic Tutor in some decks, especially Slivers and Elementals, which is not nothing. If the tuck rule, which allowed players to return your Commander to the deck, wasn’t changed to allow you to prevent your Commander from being returned to the deck, this would always be a pretty good way to get your Commander back. As such, you technically still could, especially if you’ve cast your Commander a bunch of times in that game. This is a pretty sweet toolbox card in the right deck.
Could Bring to Light be good in other Commander decks that aren’t 5-color? I wouldn’t suggest it in Maelstrom Wanderer, as Cascading into it means you can only get 0 CMC spells. But there are plenty of Blue/Green/X decks that want certain creatures, instants or sorceries, so I definitely wouldn’t count it out. However, as we’ve seen, the real power is getting that full 5 CMC value out of the card you tutor, so in 2 or 3 color decks you’re definitely getting diminished returns. U/G/x decks have some decent targets, but most of them are 4 or 5 mana, so Bring to Light is pretty useless.
With the Commander 2016 decks came 4-color Legendary Creatures, along with the Partner Commanders which also allow for 4-color EDH decks. Bring to Light seems pretty solid in these decks, seeking out key spells at various points in the game. That's a whole other article, though.
I’d really love to see someone make Bring to Light a way to find the final piece of an unbeatable combo. I’m fairly certain that won’t happen outside of some crazy fringe Friday Night Magic deck or in casual play. What I am certain of is that Bring to Light will see some play in 5-color and other decks in Commander, which should keep it from ever falling to true bulk status.
How would you use Bring to Light in Commander? Or if you dare, how would you use it in Constructed?
Oblivion Sower is one of a number of good, cheap Magic the Gathering cards from the Battle for Zendikar set.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Oblivion Sower is a pretty good Eldrazi. At one time, the 6-mana creature was well over $8 a copy. Nowadays, you can find copies of Oblivion Sower for just over $1. He's been long forgotten in Standard, and related to the sideboard of Modern Eldrazi Tron decks.
But in Legacy, he's been seen as a four-of in a tournament winning Eldrazi deck. He also sees a good amount of play in Commander. EDHREC has Oblivion Sower listed in 5000 decks. Still, with a Duel Deck foil printing, there are a lot of copies out there in the wild.
Legacy demand alone won't drive this card in the way that the format used to, but it's so widely usable in Commander that copies will always be selling. But, if a Modern deck happens to win a major event with multiple copies in the 75, it's likely this card could end up spiking in price.
If a price spike doesn't happen ever again for Oblivion Sower, it's hard to see this card ever being worth less than $1. So if you need your copies, now is as good a time as any to pick up Oblivion Sower.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
After being a decent sideboard card in Standard from its days in Worldwake, Dragonmaster Outcast was relegated mostly to casual play and Commander. In Battle for Zendikar, Dragonmaster Outcast popped up again in Standard as a one-of in the sideboard of many Grixis Control decks. Being able to pop out 5/5 Dragon tokens every turn is an extremely powerful ability for a one-drop. Yet the price of the Battle for Zendikar reprint hung around just $3 for years. It shouldn't stay that low for long.
While the price trend on TCGPlayer was trending downwards back in 2016, it was doing the opposite on Magic Card Market in Europe, and still is. It's also popping up in more Commander decks than ever. This is due to the massive supply available because of how many Battle for Zendikar packs have been opened. As a mythic rare that is definitely playable, now is probably the time to make sure to have a copy or two of this card stashed away.
The Outcast was once a $15 card when the Worldwake printing was the only one available. While it may not reach that level again, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Dragonmaster Outcast becomes a $10 card again some day.
by ElspethFTW, Gaming Successfully Staff
Drana, Liberator of Malakir has been one of my favorite Battle for Zendikar cards since her release. She just never really found a home in Standard. While she sees some play in EDH, it appears that Drana has found a new competitive home... in the fledgling Frontier format! Actually, copies of Drana have been seen in two Frontier decks, CoCo Counters (also known as BG Aggro), and Hardened Scales.
The CoCo Counters / BG Aggro deck only runs a single copy of Drana, Liberator of Malakir. But the Collected Company-fueled deck has a good reason to include her. The deck is based around Winding Constrictor, a creature that adds an additional counter whenever you, an artifact, or creature you control would get one. The deck is loaded with creatures that create +1/+1 counters such as Longtusk Cub, Rishka, Peema Renegade, Tireless Tracker, and Verdurous Gearhulk. Drana's ability can give your creatures two or more +1/+1 counters depending on how many copies of Winding Constrictor you have on your board.
The Hardened Scales deck is also based around the Winding Constrictor, but also around an enchantment called Hardened Scales. It does the same thing as the Constrictor, but only for creatures. However, being a one-drop Enchantment, it can come down on turn one and proliferate counters much more quickly. The deck hasn't had a super strong showing just yet, but Hardened Scales decks were very good in their time in Standard and have been popping up here and there in Modern, as well. We'll see how well they hold up in Frontier.
The BG Aggro deck is performing fairly well on Magic Online in unofficial tournaments. Whether this deck becomes a fairly good deck in the Frontier format or not remains to be seen. At the very least, players are now interested in Drana again outside of having a copy for casual Vampire decks and EDH.
Battle for Zendikar is a set chock full of aggressive creatures, most of them Eldrazi. While quite a few have gone on to competitive success, one that hasn’t quite found his place is a 5/3 for 4 mana, Dust Stalker. On the surface, he looks like a powerful creature. He does have the drawback of needing to return to his owner’s hand if you control no other colorless creatures. However, he has haste, and in a deck full of Eldrazi, his drawback is rarely an issue. Overall, he’s a pretty efficient creature.
However, as we are taking a look at Dust Stalker on Anatomy of a Bulk Rare, we have to see where he’s gone wrong. The obvious thing about the Stalker is that he doesn’t have Trample or any other secondary keyword other than Devoid (which just makes him colorless). By no means does this mean he’s bad. But for 4 mana, especially in Standard, you need to get more value out of him, especially in an aggressive deck. Even after Magic Origins and Dragons of Tarkir rotated from the Standard environment, he never really caught on. However, some budget-conscious tournament players have played Dust Stalker with varied success. But there aren’t enough people willing to commit to keeping around four copies for his price to rise much about $0.50 at retail.
In fact, so few people want to own Dust Stalker that many vendor buylists exclude him completely. This doesn’t mean you can’t sneak him into a buylist order to a vendor as an unlisted bulk rare. But major vendors really don’t need him. So what is there to make of him? Is he worth keeping around? Actually, yes. Over time, more casual players looking to build an aggressive red and black Eldrazi deck will latch onto this guy. So he does have a future. But I'd never expect him to be worth much.
As we have said before in this series, not all bulk rares are created equal. While this isn’t of the competitive ilk of Fathom Feeder, it’s definitely no Serpentine Spike. Battle for Zendikar, like many sets, is actually full of rares just like Dust Stalker, cards that over time people will find uses for and suddenly they won’t be bulk any more. I will take Fathom Feeder over Dust Stalker any day, but the Stalker is just one of those creatures that newer players will see, love, and just need to have. There’s nothing wrong with that, and while he may never get you more than 10 cents from a vendor buylist, he’s fine to hold onto.
On Anatomy of a Bulk Rare, we take a look at rare Magic the Gathering cards that will usually only net you a dime ($0.10) if you try to sell them to a store. Today, we take a look at an Eldrazi creature that started out hot, but quickly fell from grace. This little guy is called Fathom Feeder, and vendors have so many copies of this guy that if you don’t include him as a bulk rare to a major vendor like Star City Games, you could get as little as 2 cents a copy!
But wait, you ask, aren’t bulk rares worth a minimum of ten cents a piece? In most cases, yes, this is true. Most stores pay a minimum of 10 cents for each unlisted bulk rare. Some pay 10 cents for store credit, but only 8 cents for cash. Others even pay 12 cents cash. So, yes, on average a bulk rare is an easy dime. However, in some cases, like with Fathom Feeder, the overall supply becomes so great that many Magic card sellers simply don’t want to even pay a full dime a copy. With how popular Battle for Zendikar turned out to be, it’s not surprising there’s a glut of these guys.
There is hope for our two-mana friend, however. Fathom Feeder has actually seen play! For the most part, he sees play in Grixis Control. His main purpose in the deck is to serve as a 1/1 with deathtouch. The Ingest ability which activates whenever he connects with a player is a nice bonus, making that player exile the top card of his or her library. The ability for 3UB to draw a card and also exile the top card of each opponent’s library is also pretty sweet. This is a good creature. The trouble is, where does he fit in a competitive Eldrazi deck?
The trouble for Fathom Feeder is that there just isn’t a regular home for him in competitive play. He’s also not really popular among casual players in the way that many Eldrazi cards are. He’s very similar to Sire of Stagnation, which, while being a strong creature with valuable abilities, simply doesn’t have enough demand to be worth much more than bulk. Even at retail you have been able to buy copies of Fathom Feeder for a quarter ($0.25 USD) each. Paying a single dollar for 4 copies of Fathom Feeder seems a bit too good, doesn’t it?
Fathom Feeder is not what we would call a “true” bulk rare. Not only does he look playable, but he has actually been a part of some competitive Standard decks. He sees play in Commander, too, as part of several different strategies, including mill. Being two colors does limit him a bit, but it’s strange that Fathom Feeder isn’t still worth at least $1.
If you are looking to pick up any bulk rare, Fathom Feeder fits the mold of a card that can make you money someday if you hold onto them long enough. If you get them for 10 cents a piece, which is totally possible if you tack them on an order with TCGPlayer or a similar retailer, you actually can lose almost exactly zero money. It’s not unrealistic for this to be worth at least $1 again, and could get you between 25 to 50 cents a piece on a vendor’s buylist some day. As bulk rares go, Fathom Feeder is a good one. Worst case scenario, you can probably trade it away as a throw-in.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
There are a couple of things that are always true when it comes to selling Magic the Gathering cards. Commons and uncommons will almost always get you between $3 - $5 per thousand and bulk rares will almost always get you at least 10 cents a piece. This means that bulk rares are probably the easiest guaranteed money in Magic. Of course, not all bulk rares are created equal.
On Anatomy of a Bulk Rare, we take a look at a wide variety of cards worth a minimum of 10 cents on the ordinary buylist.
Today, we look at Serpentine Spike from Battle for Zendikar. This is what we would call a “true” bulk rare. That means this card will never see any meaningful Constructed play. This 7 mana Sorcery is actually pretty good in Limited. The fact that it can often kill 3 creatures at once makes it a good card from a card advantage standpoint. It deserves to be a rare from that perspective. The trouble is that it requires three different targets to be effective, even if you have to choose your own creatures. The good news is that you can just choose 1 or 2 creatures, but you have to choose which ones to deal 2 damage, 3 damage, and 4 damage to in succession.
This is what you call a “high-variance” card. There will be times where this card will turn the game in your favor on its own. As a rare that was included in one of the Battle for Zendikar Intro Packs, some newer players probably became a bit frustrated with it due to how awkward this card can be.
The good news about Serpentine Spike is that you can always include it as a bulk rare when you’re selling cards to a store. Is it useful to you otherwise? As far as teaching new players about complicated cards, it can serve as a good teaching tool. If you’re drafting Battle for Zendikar for fun, it’s also good. But if you’re actually building a deck that doesn’t involve a limited card pool, you can happily let it go for a dime.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Drowner of Hope is one of the Intro Pack rares for Battle of Zendikar. It costs 5U to cast for a 5/5 that comes into play along with 2 1/1 Eldrazi Scion tokens. Like all Scion tokens, they can be sacrificed to provide one colorless mana. The Drowner has an additional ability that allows you to sacrifice a Scion in order to tap a target creature.
Essentially, you get 7 power for 6 mana,. If you sacrifice the tokens immediately for mana, you get 5 power for 4 mana, which is pretty solid. It's a really good card in Limited to tap down opposing chump blockers, leaving you able to swing for big damage.
Is it Constructed worthy? It didn't appear so when it was first released. The occasional Standard Eldrazi ramp deck found room for it, but it didn't look like a breakout sort of card. Typically, though, creatures that bring along two dorks with them end up seeing some sort of Constructed play. Pia and Kiran Nalaar, for instance, is a perfect example of this sort of card. With how the newer Eldrazi have built-in ways to ramp with their Scion tokens, dropping this guy on even turn 4 isn’t impossible.
Finally, at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, Jiachen Tao ran 4 copies of the Drowner of Hope in his winning Blue/Red Eldrazi deck. In Modern, Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple were available to accelerate big Eldrazi creatures onto the battlefield early in the game. Because of this, Drowner of Hope's power level in Modern became a lot higher than it could ever be in Standard. It was possible to drop it on turn 3 and turn the Scions into extra mana or tap down opposing blockers to prevent chump-blocks.
Not only has it proven its worth in Modern, but Drowner of Hope has a nice enter the battlefield ability useful in Commander. It can be abused through flicker effects in decks like Brago, King Eternal. He’s easily played ahead of the mana curve and a solid creature. Drowner of Hope is definitely above-average as far as intro pack rares go.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
The Zendikar's Rage Intro Pack for Battle for Zendikar is a Red and Green Landfall-themed deck. It features Oran-Rief Hydra as the cover rare, which is an effective card for the strategy. It also features R/G Landfall staples such as Makindi Sliderunner and Snapping Gnarlid, albeit in small numbers.
The second rare, Nissa’s Renewal is the better value rare in the deck, especially given the Landfall theme. Getting 3 Landfall triggers and 7 life off of a single card is extremely powerful. Also, two copies of Sylvan Scrying help you to grab your Blighted Woodland or Fertile Thickets - plus they are above-average uncommons value wise. You wouldn’t buy the deck just for these, and they’re not build around cards. But they’re good cards to have around, plus they are good in the deck.
Obviously, the number one thing to do with a Landfall themed deck is to replace the Evolving Wilds with the far superior fetchland Wooded Foothills, which lets you grab both Forests and Mountains. You may want to consider also getting a full playset of Cinder Glade, the red/green “tango” land from Battle for Zendikar. Having two basic lands in play usually won’t be an issue at all with this particular deck.
So how does this deck fare out of the box? Watch the video review to find out!
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
The Rallying Cry Intro Pack for Battle for Zendikar is a Red and White deck based around the Ally Tribe. The cover card for the deck is Hero of Goma Fada, an Ally that allows your creatures to become indestructible.. Joining him in the deck is Angelic Captain, who when attacking along with other Allies, becomes a force to be reckoned with! Does this Intro Pack offer a well-rounded approach to testing out the Allies archetype, or does it fall short?
Check out the video review to find out!
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
The Call of Blood Intro Pack for Battle for Zendikar is a White/Black deck featuring a lifegain and “drain” theme - that is, cards that gain you one life and make each opponent lose one life. While it’s a good place to start, and offers a good finisher in Felidar Sovereign (and to a lesser extent, Defiant Bloodlord) it is missing a couple of things that would make this truly good out of the box.
The Deck List
2 Kitesail Scout
1 Zulaport Cutthroat
2 Serene Steward
3 Stone Haven Medic
1 Hagra Sharpshooter
2 Malakir Familiar
3 Nirkana Assassin
1 Shadow Glider
2 Drana's Emissary
2 Courier Griffin
2 Bloodbond Vampire
2 Kalastria Nightwatch
1 Felidar Sovereign
1 Defiant Bloodlord
Non Creature Spells (9)
2 Dutiful Return
2 Demon's Grasp
2 Gideon's Reproach
2 Tandem Tactics
1 Roil's Retribution
1 Blighted Steppe
2 Evolving Wilds
2 Mortuary Mire
For the most part, there’s plenty in the deck to complement the themes of the deck. However, there is a missed opportunity to inflict even more damage. With the amount of Allies in the deck, it’s a bit surprising that they decided not to include the common Kalastria Healer, an Ally that gains you 1 life and causes an opponent to lose 1 life each time a Healer or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control. The deck as it’s build seems more intent on gaining life and having Serene Steward put +1/+1 counters on your flyers - creatures that outside of their ability to fly and take the best advantage of those counters seem at odds with the flavor of the deck.
Felidar Sovereign was a fairly valuable mythic rare from Zendikar before being reprinted as a rare in Battle for Zendikar and seeing its value pounded into dust. That being said, it’s still a popular card among casual players and has single-handedly won many a Commander game with its alternate win condition ability. It’s a fine rare to have. Defiant Bloodlord, while being a bit slow mana-cost wise, is also playable in Commander as an alternative to the enchantment Sanguine Bond. Being a creature, though, it has the downside of being much easier to remove than an enchantment. Being a 4 / 5 flyer isn’t nothing, though. Since the deck offers an alternate art foil version of the Bloodlord, it’s a much better investment than the traditional non-foil set version. So as far as intro pack rares go, these are just fine.
The real value is in the Zulaport Cutthroat, which while only a complementary piece to this particular deck, can be a drain engine in the right deck, especially one that can crank out cheap creatures and sacrifice them for value (a theme which appears in the Battle for Zendikar Event Deck in a very playable manner.) Also, the two copies of Mortuary Mire are good to have, as it’s a utility land that is very playable.
Improving the Deck
The first thing to do would be to have a full playset of Kalastria Healers in the deck. You’d also want two more Drana’s Emissary and at least one more Zulaport Cutthroat. A really good card for this deck would be March from the Tomb, which can bring back up to 8 converted mana cost worth of Allies back to the battlefield for 3BW (3 colorless, 1 Black, 1 White). This allows you to get multiple triggers from Kalastria Healer and make your Bloodbond Vampires really big in a hurry.
Overall this deck is probably a B or B-minus out of the box, but it’s fairly inexpensive to improve afterward. It’s also quite likely you’ll get one or two Kalastria Healers out of the two packs included with the product.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
The Eldrazi Assault Intro Pack for Battle for Zendikar is a Red/Black deck based around Eldrazi and the Devoid and Ingest mechanics. It also has a decent finisher in the cover card for the deck, Barrage Tyrant. Let’s take a look and see if this intro pack has enough bang for your buck.
The Deck List
2 Sludge Crawler
2 Kozilek's Sentinel
3 Culling Drone
2 Forerunner of Slaughter
2 Nettle Drone
2 Vile Aggregate
2 Dominator Drone
3 Vestige of Emrakul
2 Mind Raker
1 Silent Skimmer
1 Barrage Tyrant (R)
Non Creature Spells (13)
2 Processor Assault
2 Transgress the Mind (U)
2 Touch of the Void
2 Swarm Surge
1 Serpentine Spike (R)
1 Complete Disregard
1 Grip of Desolation
2 Molten Nursery
1 Blighted Fen
2 Evolving Wilds
2 Looming Spires
Devoid is a mechanic that makes a card colorless even if it has colored mana in its casting cost. Every single spell in the deck has Devoid, meaning that any cards that benefit from casting colorless spells or having colorless creatures on the battlefield work to maximum effect in Eldrazi Assault. Forerunner of Slaughter can give any of your creatures haste for a single colorless mana. Kozilek’s Sentinel gets a power boost for each spell you cast in a turn. Molten Nursery can ping a player or creature each time you cast a spell. Then, Barrage Tyrant lets you Fling each of your other creatures at your opponent (or his/her creatures) to finish off the game.Ingest is a cool mechanic, too, stripping away the top card of your opponent’s deck each time a creature with Ingest connects. There are a good number in the deck. Unfortunately, only a couple cards in the deck even care about your opponent’s cards being exiled, but simply Ingesting away your opponent’s cards is just fine.
Barrage Tyrant is pretty much a bulk rare, but in this deck he’s an All-Star. You definitely want him in here, and perhaps a second or third copy for redundancy isn’t a bad idea, either. Transgress the Mind is the real card of value in the deck, even being an uncommon, as discard spells that can exile are pretty strong in Constructed formats. It works really well with the Eldrazi Processors that care about your opponent’s cards being exiled, too.
Also, most of the common and uncommon creatures, while not worth big money, are good enough to fill out a budget Red/Black Devoid Aggro deck for Standard. Examples include Sludge Crawler, Forerunner of Slaughter, Dominator Drone, and Vile Aggregate.
Serpentine Spike is a pretty bad rare overall, but in the context of this deck, it’s playable. If you go about improving the deck, though, it’s one of the first cards to go.
Improving the Deck
The Red/Black Devoid deck is actually a pretty strong theme and if you want to build a Standard deck on a budget, this is a good place to start. Maxing out your Sludge Crawlers, Forerunners of Slaughter, and Dominator Drones is a good start. Mind Raker is also kind of an underwhelming Processor, so you may want to look for a better candidate for that slot. Vestige of Emrakul is an aggressive trampler, but there are better options in Battle for Zendikar for this slot.
The best cards you could add to this deck on the cheap are Endless One and Dust Stalker. Endless One gets better as the game goes on, allowing you to pump more mana into it on casting to make it bigger. Dust Stalker is a 5/3 with Haste for 4 mana that has a downside, but one that ordinarily won’t be a big deal in a deck with exclusively colorless creatures. If you want to spend the extra cash, Hangarback Walker works well, too, as not only does it get better as the game goes along, but replaces itself with flying Thopter tokens. Beyond that, just adding Smoldering Marshes and Bloodstained Mires for mana consistency should make this a pretty quick and lethal aggro deck.
As Intro Packs go, Eldrazi Assault has some of the best synergy you’ll find. Getting two packs along with this deck makes this well worth the $14-15 you’ll find this product selling for. The upgrades for this strategy are reasonably inexpensive and the best, more expensive ones are cards that you’d want to have around anyway (Hangarback Walker, Smoldering Marsh, and Bloodstained Mire.) All in all, this is the deck I would buy if I were to pick one of the BFZ five.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
We've already run through and reviewed all of the Ally cards in all five colors, so now it's down to the final few, the multi-colored cards! Plus, we'll have a bonus card to look at! Without further ado, let's take this thing home and reach a final verdict!
Getting +1/+1 for each attacking ally is cool. As a curve topper in Limited, this is fine with minimal Ally support. In combination with the red Allies that give haste and menace, this Angel can do work. Tajuru Warcaller in Green pumps your team, and may be a better five-drop overall, but this is fine on its own.
This is easily one of the best Ally creatures in the set. Each opponent gets drained for 1 during each of your upkeeps - meaning you gain 1 life for each opponent that loses 1 life. It's a sweet little clock you get to put your opposition on, and clocks are great in what’s looking to be a very "durdly" Limited format with BFZ. And there are other drain effects in the set, too, that you can play alongside the Emissary. Put them all together and you have a winning draft strategy. It may not make the grade in Constructed, but there are Commander players happy to find the Emissary a home. I love cards that scale up in multiplayer. That being said, a white/black Ally drain deck isn’t impossible in Standard, probably just not anywhere in the top tier.
The Druids were underwhelming to me when the card was first spoiled. Now seeing the whole set, paying the extra 1 for the rally trigger to make a 1/1 Plant token seems slightly better than it did knowing we have allies like Tajuru Warcaller around that can pump those tokens - since Rally triggers affect all your creatures, not only the Allies. I feel like this has a few things conspiring against it, though. It has to be in a very dedicated Ally strategy to be worth playing, plus you need something as good a payoff as Warcaller's +2/+2 or Resolute Blademaster's double strike for the tokens to be of much relevance. It's going to be fine in Limited for Ally strategies, as Green and White is a solid way to go with the deck (although Black/White Allies is looking better), but it's more of a complementary creature rather than a linchpin.
March from the Tomb
There's varied opinions on how good this actually is. If you're just playing the white and black Allies exclusively, this is probably well worth the 5 mana as you get back up to CMC 8 worth of Allies that can drain for a bunch. It's probably good if you play Allies at all. Reanimation spells are always fun. There's no drawback, either, other than being limited to solely Allies, so I think it's better than it's being credited for. Still it is narrow, but as Ally support, it's solid. You just have to set it up well. It’s going to do work in the right Limited decks and there’s possibility for some Standard play, too. Do remember that Rally the Ancestors is still around.
Munda, Ambush Leader
Munda is a 3 / 4 with Haste and with the White and Red Allies around to give him some extra abilities, the Kor Ally is a decent Limited creature, and not a terrible rare to draft. He also has the ability to help you keep drawing Allies, which isn’t nothing. As I said in my spoiler review of Munda, he’s a bit worse Goblin Ringleader, as you don’t directly get card advantage from him. Were he a Ringleader, he’d be a mythic rare and probably loses a point of power and/or toughness. He’s a bit too balanced for most players liking and a bit weak for Constructed purposes, although there may be a corner case where Naya (white/red/green) Allies are good enough that this guy helps you set up a strong Collected Company play, but that seems a bit awkward.
It’s too bad he doesn’t actually add Allies to your hand directly like Ringleader does for Goblins. There are enough Red and White Allies in the game now, plus relevant Changelings, that you could make a pretty sweet Commander deck with him. As of right now, he’s a candidate for General Insanity - a series where we take Legendaries that get no love and try to form a deck around them.
Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper
I like this Merfolk Legend too much for my own good. Awaken is a cool mechanic and animating a land for pretty much free is pretty cool. In Commander, he’s pretty sweet to build around. CMDTower has a pretty awesome start on a good Noyan Dar Commander list, actually. In limited, it's pretty easy to get value especially if you drafted a creature land and have Tidecaller around. I like this way too much.
As an Ally though, it's just a Rally trigger You want this in a blue/white Control build, not in Ally. If it made Elemental Ally lands I'd like the flavor more, although I’m not sure how lands would be Allies. Anyway, he’s good, just not as an Ally per se.
Double strike is very good. 2/2 for 3RW doesn't seem too good but gaining double strike on a regular basis can diminish that downside. I probably wouldn't play this outside of Limited, but the double strike can just kill someone out of nowhere. There are enough Ally synergies, especially with the Red Allies that grant haste and menace, to simply overwhelm your opponent with a team of double strikers that can attack right away and need more than one blocker to stop. Probably doesn’t make the cut in Constructed, though.
At worst, this Elf is a 2 / 2 flyer for two. Being a 2-drop flyer is already worth playing this in Limited. At best, it's a 5 / 5 flyer for 5, which seems decent if you’re playing 5 colors. Having a flyer that rewards you for playing more colors seems sweet. It’s definitely worth playing in Limited, and it scales well, so the X in the casting cost plus Converge is more of a bonus in most cases. It does very badly in Constructed, though, if you want to cheat it in with Collected Company, because it’s just a 0/0 and dies. You have to cast it, essentially, unless you can throw counters on it at instant speed. Really, it’s Limited only, but it doesn’t need a critical mass of Allies to be good and it does have the synergies, so it’s playable.
Featured in the Zendikar vs Eldrazi Duel Deck, we now see that the Warleader could be OK, at least in Limited. He really only needs one other Ally you control to be good. Tap one with summoning sickness and get first strike, vigilance or trample. This seems fine. With 3 or 4 creatures on board he's decent. Probably not super constructed playable, though. Even if you could cheat him in with Collected Company, there are better creatures to play instead in that 3-drop slot in Constructed.
Verdict on the Multi-Colored Allies: B
We have a pretty sweet Commander in Noyan Dar, who is more of a Merfolk Tribal/Blue-White Control card than an Ally, though. He looks Constructed playable in a vacuum, too. Munda is a decent Legendary, although his Commander and Constructed prospects are both murky. The rest all seem worth splashing for, including March from the Tomb, which could bring back 4 or 5 guys. That’s a lot of triggers, especially if you give all those creatures haste with something like Chasm Guide. Drana’s Emissary is particularly sweet. Pretty good group of cards here, if not the most exciting.
Before we get to the final verdict on BFZ’s Allies, though, we have one more card to look at: the Ally tribal land!
Oh, yay, another tribal land. There is something interesting I noticed about it, though. It lets you cast an Ally spell of any color. It doesn't specifically say creatures. Does this mean we will get Tribal enchantments instants and sorceries for allies? Perhaps that's wishful thinking, but that possibility is there. Sacrificing the encampment to bounce an ally you control seems fine under the right circumstances. Again though it doesn't have to be a creature.
I bring this up because way back in Lorwyn and Morningtide, there were introduced Tribal cards. They were cards that benefitted a specific tribe and could be tutored up by tribal cards and benefitted Tribal strategies. You also had Shapeshifter or Changeling Tribal cards that counted as being every tribe at once. Mutavault was part of these changeling cards, and that creature land is a staple in Modern and Legacy Tribal decks.
So is Ally Encampment going to be the land that makes Allies more Constructed-playable than ever? Whether we get Ally Tribal Enchantments, Instants, and Sorceries or not, this is a rainbow land for Allies. The sacrifice effect to bounce an Ally can be relevant in the later game when you really need to save a key creature. In many ways, it's a lot like Sliver Hive, in that you need a crazy amount of dedication to your tribe to make this work. But when it’s good, it’s really good.
Grade A - one of the better tribal lands we’ve seen, and if non-creature Tribal spells get printed, this could get even better!
Final Verdict on Battle for Zendikar Allies: B
So rather than just taking individual grades and doing the math, it felt right to just give the entire Battle for Zendikar Ally tribe a solid B. Grading the cards on an individual basis, I feel like the set’s offerings provide us with a B-minus or C-plus, but with the amount of synergies among the Allies, I had to bump them up a few points. Also, having the Rally mechanic benefit all creatures you control and not simply Allies is a minor but non-negligible upgrade for these newer Allies. Many of the new Allies are slightly more functional counterparts of those from Zendikar and Worldwake. A few are slightly worse perhaps, but make up for being slightly worse with benefitting all of your creatures.
The Ally Encampment is probably the best thing that Allies got in the entire set. The Black allies and Drana’s Emissary form a pretty sweet draft/sealed deck archetype. There are also enough decent two and three mana Allies (as well as the 2/1 one-mana Envoy) that playing a Collected Company Allies deck seems legitimate. There is hope in Standard for Allies.
We also got a couple cool Commanders in Noyan Dar and Zada, and the latter could actually work his way into a decent Standard deck, too.
Beyond Standard, though, the only real thing that I feel Allies picked up is the Encampment. Collected Company Allies have won here and there in Modern, especially having Aether Vial to cheat in creatures. The Encampment makes the mana base more consistent. Also, Zulaport Cutthroat is essentially another Blood Artist, and there are sweet things some Modern decks could do with Blood Artists #5-8, as those combos revolve around creatures you control anyway, so the functional downgrade doesn’t matter in those cases.
As seems to be the case with Battle for Zendikar in general, it feels like the power level of Battle for Zendikar was scaled back a bit too much. A lot of these cards are functional reprints of older cards, and as I said, some of them are actually better and some are only slightly worse. Casual players will jam plenty of these into their existing Ally decks. Only time will tell, but it seems Wizards developed the Allies into more of a Limited archetype than a Standard-playable upper-tier strategy.
However, although many people seem disappointed with what the set has offered, there are plenty of optimists, too. Battle for Zendikar went to the extreme with the tribal flavor of Allies vs Eldrazi. I think they succeeded from a design standpoint, but did development perhaps scale back these guys to be balanced for Limited play and cost them Constructed playability? We shall see.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
As we’ve been reviewing the Battle for Zendikar Allies color by color, they seem to be getting progressively better as we continue in WUBRG order. Green only has 4. But they’re all decent ones. So will Green prove to be the best of the five colors? Let’s find out.
A mana dork with haste is a plus. You can only use the mana for creature spells but honestly this may be okay. Harabaz Druid from Worldwake is tons better in Modern, as the Druid always produces at least one mana of any color to cast any spell. But for Standard purposes, the Savant should be fine, especially in a creature heavy deck, and certainly passable in Limited. You don’t have to even play the Savant in Allies for it to work. The haste is really the best thing about it, so it may have a chance to slip into Standard in the right deck (probably Allies).
5G for a 5/5 is OK. A Rally trigger that gives you an anthem until end of turn (+1/+1 to all creatures) is OK. At common, this is very okay. You won't be seeing this in Constructed, but at such a low rarity it was meant for Limited play, anyway, so who cares. Requiring only a single Green mana makes it pretty splashable, too, so if you just need a fatty to top off your curve, the Beastmaster is your guy. He’s a lot better with Allies, though - actually, a ton better.
The Stalwart with Converge is easily a 3/4 in a three color deck, something Allies tend to call for anyway. With +1/+1 counter shenanigans, it gets even bigger. It probably won't crack Standard, but potentially having a 3 / 4 for only 2G is definitely decent. In an Ally centric deck in Limited, this is definitely a strong pick. At common, it’s especially a good value.
As a mere 2/1 to begin with, the Warcaller seems fragile. But the +2/+2 boost her Rally trigger provides is the real deal. The Warcaller is easily a 4/3, and is so as she enters play, and possibly a 6/5 on some turns in a dedicated Ally strategy. This is definitely an Ally I want topping out my curve. She does require two Green mana symbols, which makes her a bit less splashable than some Allies, but her Rally ability is worth it if you’re going all in on Allies - which this set really wants you to do.
Verdict on the Green Allies: B
I might be grading the Green Allies a bit highly, as there are only four of them, and their high grade is mostly due to the fact that you don’t have to commit to Allies to play 3 out of the 4 of them. Beastcaller Savant is borderline Constructed playable, and all 3 others are good Limited plays. As far as Constructed is concerned, this batch is probably more like a C. Green isn’t the best color - that seems to be a relative tie between Black and Red - but it’s close.
Now that we’ve looked at all 5 colors, will the multi-colored Allies make or break the Ally tribe in Battle for Zendikar? We’ll find out.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Battle for Zendikar has given us more than a few Allies. Are they going to make the grade? So, far, we’ve looked at the rather average White Allies, the two Blue Allies (one of which is pretty cool), and the above average Black allies. So what does Red have in store for us?
Haste is good. Essentially having Haste herself and giving it to any Ally when they enter is pretty solid. A 3/2 for 4 isn’t great, but what she does makes for a playable creature. Rally the Ancestors and March from the Tomb have already been mentioned as being playable along the Guide in some Mardu Ally deck. As a replacement for Mogis’ Marauder, which gave intimidate, the popular Rally deck will get new life with Allies. The haste is probably better than the intimidate fueled by devotion to Black anyhow. March from the Tomb gets a lot better if the Allies it brings back suddenly have haste. I’m with the crowd on this one; this obviously is no Goblin Guide, but she’s solid.
Menace isn't quite as good as haste, perhaps. But with enough creatures on board, being unable to block any one creature with a single creature can leave opponents dead. Being able to get Menace on a regular basis is scary, and in combination with Chasm Guide, Allies have some serious acceleration. The fact that they curve well into one another in Limited helps matters, as well.
Who doesn’t love trample? Who doesn’t love Minotaurs? Ondu Champion gives all creatures you control trample with his Rally effect, which is pretty nice. In a Limited format full of chump blocking Eldrazi Scion tokens and other little creatures that need to band together to be any good, Trample is especially useful. Those few extra points of trample damage here and there can prevent opponents from ever being able to drop their big Eldrazi bombs by virtue of simply being dead.
A red “bear” is fine, but the downside is meaningful. In an Ally deck, you won’t have to worry about this guy recklessly killing himself, but the drawback does downgrade him a bit overall. Limited player only and really only in Ally-heavy builds.
3RR for a 4 / 4 with Menace is good at common. Exciting he is not, but he owes the Kor a debt of gratitude and is potentially going to take at least two creatures down with him. Any common that can give you a two-for-one is a solid card in my opinion.
Zada, Hedron Grinder
As an Ally, Zada doesn’t really have any synergy with the tribe outside of being an Ally himself. I’ve already gone into how good he is as a Mono-Red Commander and how you can use Zada in Standard without ever needing another Ally on board. Remember, Become Immense is a thing, and giving your whole team +6/+6 is sort of unfair. Here’s that in-depth review of Zada.
Since then, the entire set has been spoiled, so now we get to see what Zada has to play with in Limited. There aren’t a bunch of useful spells, but the ones there are should be good enough. Tandem Tactics is fine, giving Zada and your team +1/+2 as long as you only choose Zada as your only target (gaining 2 life for each creature is a nice bonus). Lithomancer’s Focus gives your team +2/+2 and invulnerability from colorless sources until end of turn - not quite protection and certainly no God’s Willing. Sure Strike in Red for 1R gives +3/+0 and first strike until end of turn - solid enough. The best ones appear to be in Green, Earthen Arms and Infuse with the Elements. Earthen Arms essentially gives all your creatures 2 +1/+1 counters. Infuse is a Converge spell for 3G that gives a target creature X +1/+1 counters and trample until end of turn. Four colors of mana is not out of the question for an Ally deck. But even for just 2 or 3 colors, it’s a nightmare with Zada.
Since Zada does have some decent firepower in Limited, I can get behind him in an Ally deck. But he doesn’t have to see play in Allies. The only thing about Zada is you need to have a pump spell to fire off right away to get the most out of him. You do kind of have to build around him, but when you do, you’ll probably win quite a few games.
Verdict on Red Allies: B+
Chasm Guide and Zada definitely look like Constructed playables, but as four-drops they will need to find their niches in Standard. In Limited, though, these Red Allies are all playable, with Cohort being the worst. Even Cohort is fine if all you’re casting are Allies. Black may have some great stuff, but so far, Red has the overall best cards. The Vampire theme in Black has proven a bit too cute for some players to stomach, so the alternative option to just bash face with Red is a welcome sight. Of course, Red and Black are probably going to be working together a lot when it comes to allies. Perhaps Mardu Aggro really will be a thing in Standard - finally.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Battle for Zendikar gives Allies a new breath of life after a long absence from the Standard scene. Now with the tribe being reinforced in a big way, will they have enough of an army to make Allies a true contender in competitive play? Will they rise above the chaff and make a reasonable contender in Standard? What about for Modern and beyond? Let's find out. We’ll be going in WUBRG order, ending with the multi-color cards. One article for each color seems worth it to give these cards the attention they probably deserve.
With White, we had a C-plus bunch. Blue only had two, but one was super good and supplemented the Awaken theme as a viable draft strategy. As we’ll see with Black, there’s some value creatures here that are not only good in Limited, but could break into Standard in a big way.
Gaining life is bound to happen with the drain effects that we’ll be seeing on some of these Allies. Bloodbond Vampire is set-up to benefit from the life gain. As a 4 drop 3 / 3 to begin with, it's not hard for this to become a 5 / 5 or 6 / 6. The incremental gains are better realized in Limited. It's pretty borderline when it comes to being constructed worthy, but it fits into Limited decks alongside its black brethren just fine.
Drana, Liberator of Malakir
From a raw power standpoint, the original Drana, Malakir Bloodwitch can take over a game in more ways than the Liberator of Malakir can. But purely as an Ally, the new mythic rare Drana is very powerful. Being a 2/3 flyer with first strike is awesome and the ability for her to pump your team during first strike damage means most of your team will often get a permanent +1/+1 boost before dealing their own damage. This makes for an awkward interaction with any card that gives all your creatures first strike, but most of the time, Drana will be the lynchpin in a successful alpha strike.
For a more complete look, check out my spoiler review of Drana, Liberator of Malakir. Apparently, I’m higher on her than a lot of people are but I think she’ll see quite a bit of play in Standard, and not just in Allies. That’s why she gets such a high grade. She’s got a lot of power for 3 mana, even if she’ll never compare to her Worldwake version.
A 2/2 for 2B and an ability is fine. When that ability costs 4B it better be good. Giving a target creature -1/-1 is not good. Even if it's repeatable, paying 5 mana for that ability is just not efficient. Sure you can use it during combat as a nifty trick but that's quite an investment. It's OK to round out a curve in an Ally deck in Limited. He can also pick off Eldrazi Scion tokens. But little else.
While a lot more conditional than his friend Zulaport Cutthroat (who we’ll get to in a bit), draining each opponent when the Healer or another Ally enters play is fine. A 1 / 2 for 1B is fine, too. Yes, the Healer needs Allies to be good. It has potential to do plenty of work, though. Not only is this likely a centerpiece to any Limited Ally deck, but it could even be a part of some Standard Ally brew, as well.
4B for a 4/5 is plenty decent on a common. If you happen to gain life, it flies. Hard not to like this at common. While it’s pretty conditional and needs its Vampire friends alongside it to do work, it fits nicely on the curve and again, it’s only a common. The high rating I’m bestowing upon it considers that rarity a great deal. Not Constructed worthy.
As a common a 2 / 3 for 2B that sometimes has deathtouch is decent. Gaining life is obviously a decent sub theme in black with this set. Being conditional deathtouch, opponents may block incorrectly and lose a guy they didn't mean to. Not constructed worthy but OK in Limited. I like it slightly better than Hagra Sharpshooter.
Oh, look, a good creature. He's not quite Blood Artist as he doesn't create loss of life when opponents’ creatures die. But Cutthroat drains for 1 when any of your creatures die, himself included. This is not only good in an Ally deck. It's also good with Eldrazi Scions as you sacrifice them. Flavor fail. What a traitor. Then again, he is a Rogue, so he doesn’t really care what side he takes.
In multiplayer, this guy is super good as his effect affects each opponent. There are more than a few black Commander decks with infinite sacrifice loops that can use the Cutthroat. Heck probably even some crazy Standard or Modern deck will find a way to abuse him. This guy is good and Constructed playable.
Verdict on the Black Allies: B/B+
Black would seem to have the best of the Allies from what we’ve seen so far. The drain effects are pretty powerful. A couple of these guys are even Standard playable, especially Zulaport Cutthroat and Drana. Kalastria Healer is really good in the right deck and they have a curve-topping common that can fly. Combined with the White Allies, you have a pretty strong base for a Limited Ally deck. You’re going to pick the Black Allies pretty highly in Limited. Cutthroat, Healer, and Drana can all work with Collected Company, too. So there are some great pieces to brew with in Standard and Modern. Finally, we have some real hope for the archetype!
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Battle for Zendikar has given the Ally tribe a slew of new recruits to join the fray. But will they be enough to make Allies a true contender in competitive play? Do they have a shot at being a strong archetype in Standard? Has this set provided new Ally tech for Modern and beyond? Let's find out. We’ll be going in WUBRG order, ending with the multi-color cards. One article for each color seems worth it to give these cards the attention they probably deserve.
With White, we had a C-plus bunch. Blue only has two, so we’ll give these two as much attention as we can.
First of, 1U for a 2 / 1 is OK, especially at common. Being able to making a creature unblockable is also ok. Paying 4U for that ability isn't so OK. This reminds me of an Ally version of Amphin Pathmage from the Magic 2015 core set with a couple of elements switched around. The Pathmage was 3U for a 3/2 Salamander Wizard, but the ability to make a creature unblockable was only 2U. Basically you swap the Guide coming down 2 turns earlier for the cost of the ability. I’d prefer to play the Pathmage, honestly.
She’s probably filler in Limited, but the 5 mana unblockable ability could help you kill a player out of nowhere. At common, she won’t be hard to sneak into your draft deck.
Grade C (simply because unblockability out of nowhere can be good)
As we’ll see with many of the best Ally cards in the set, Halimar Tidecaller continues a theme of not caring about what other Allies are on board. This is a very interesting creature. Not only does she recycle any card with Awaken to your hand, she gives your creature lands flying. Not only does she consider awakened lands, but also gives your regular creature lands like Lumbering Falls and Shambling Vent flying, too. I really like the Tidecaller as she also has decent stats: 2 / 3 for 2U. She’s kind of a niche card, but seems playable in the right deck. Any Rally triggers you get in addition are gravy. The Tidecaller also has a really good friend with Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper in the set. We’ll get to him later.
Having an Awaken “lord” at uncommon is pretty awesome. This is definitely a build around uncommon in Limited and possibly Standard playable if Awaken becomes a strong Standard theme. Usually this will just get you back this set’s Awaken version of Cancel, Scatter to the Winds. That’s usually going to be good enough. Coastal Discovery at 3U is an overcosted Divination, but it’s another potential target. Clutch of Currents is a sorcery speed Unsummon that also has Awaken. Rush of Ice is half of a Send to Sleep. Both of those are one-drops, so they will probably be common choices. The coolest target would be Part the Waterveil, except that it exiles itself upon resolving. So Tidecaller has some decent targets in Blue alone.
In Standard, Scatter to the Winds will definitely be a good target, as well as Ruinous Path in Black. It goes downhill from there in potential good targets, though Rising Miasma is Drown in Sorrow for one more mana and no Scry - it’s marginally playable. Mire’s Malice is an overcosted Mind Rot at 3B. White has the playable board-wipe Planar Outburst. But that’s about it. Encircling Fissure is a way overcosted Fog. Ondu Rising is an overcosted Lifelink enabler. Sheer Drop is a White Assassinate, which will be fine in Limited.
Red does have a 1R sort of Electrickery in Boiling Earth. That’s it for Red. Green has Earthen Arms at only 1G, which has good synergy with Awakening lands by putting 2 +1/+1 counters on any target permanent. That’s also the only one in the color. Finally we have Roil Spout. It costs 1WU to put a target creature on top of its owner’s library. This Time Ebb effect is properly costed and should be a good card in Limited. It’s even better if you use it on an opponent’s Awakened land.
A lot of the Awaken cards are familiar effects that cost one more mana and some are a bit too slow at sorcery speed. Others are clearly decent. Tidecaller definitely has cards that work with her, especially Earthen Arms. Having the ability to use the Awaken spells for their regular effect earlier in the game and be able to have a second chance to cast them for their Awaken cost later in the game is pretty solid. Whether this will be an effect worthy of Standard play remains to be seen.
Grade B+ (with the potential to get better with additional Awaken spells in the format).
Verdict on the Blue Allies: B-/B+
While the average of these two is technically a B-minus, I bump the verdict all the way up to a B+ on the strength of Tidecaller, who I could probably give an A-minus just for being one of the best uncommons in the set. Having either of these two can force a somewhat awkward Blue splash if you’re going all in for Allies. But there are enough decent Awaken cards in Blue that you don’t even have to be on Allies for either of these cards to make your Draft deck. The Guide isn’t really good enough for Standard play, but Tidecaller may be. In any case, you want to pick Tidecaller as early as possible. Just being an Archaeomancer with a bit narrower focus is good enough, but giving Awakened or otherwise animated lands flying is just too much fun. Just make sure you have Noyan Dar in play for maximum effect!
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Has Battle for Zendikar finally given the Ally tribe enough to be a true contender in competitive play? Do they have a shot at being a strong strategy in Standard? Did they get any new toys for Modern and beyond? Let's find out. We’ll be going in WUBRG order, ending with the multi-color cards. One article for each color seems worth it to give these cards the attention they probably deserve. We begin with White.
Angel of Renewal
Here’s a 4/4 flyer for 5W that gains you 1 life for each creature you control. That would seem to have good synergy with the “if you gained life” creatures in the set. It’s a bit worse than Goldnight Redeemer from Avacyn Restored, which gained 2 life for each other creature. This Angel does count itself. Conclave Phalanx from Ravnica was a 2/4 for 4W but it had Convoke and gained you 1 life for itself and each of your other creatures. Angel of Renewal is an Ally hybrid of those two. It’s OK. It only gives you a single lifegain trigger, so you can’t abuse it, but that’s fine for purposes of Limited play in this set.
Grade: C+ (gets better than that with a dedicated Ally strategy in Limited)
This is a worse Sunblade Elf. That could become a 2 / 2 if you controlled a plains, so the 4W anthem was gravy. This is just a 1/1 with the only upside being able to trigger Rally. You can play it in Limited, and it’s a relevant one-drop in the late game. But it's not good enough for constructed.
A 2/1 for one white seems to be a new thing in each set that is released now. This one is a vanilla ally though. Playable yes. Exciting no. But Savannah Lions is still a card. It's a good Ally one drop nonetheless. Hada Freeblade is a bit better in Modern, though, even though it’s a 0/1, because it can grow to a 2 / 3 upon playing just one other Ally once the Freeblade is on board.
Grade: B (for Standard Allies), C (for Modern Allies or non-Ally applications. There are better options.)
Hero of Goma Fada
Indestructible is a cool keyword and I'm happy to have this topping out my curve in limited, but it needs a good number of allies to be good. It does make all creatures indestructible with its rally trigger, but you still need allies. It's pretty underpowered stat wise (4/3 for 5) to be much good in Constructed. First picking it in draft pretty much pushes you into allies. so not sure this is what I want to see in my first pack.
In Modern, Kabira Evangel giving protection more often than not will be more valuable, and he’s only 2W, so he can be cheated in with Collected Company and Aether Vial. This isn’t quite as good as Frontline Medic was in Return to Ravnica Standard, either, as the Medic only needed two other creatures attacking along with itself. Having the ability to sacrifice itself to become a permission spell for Rakdos’s Return and Sphinx’s Revelation was also quite relevant at the time. This doesn’t see Eternal play, unless someone wants to jam it into an Ally-themed Commander deck.
A 2/1 with a Rally trigger that gives your creatures first strike seems fine. It's very Limited playable. Whether this is good enough for standard play, I feel like it's not. One of the better kor Allies, though. It is, in fact, better than its Red predecessor, Highland Berserker from Zendikar. Bladewhirl has one more toughness and gives all creatures you control first strike, not only Allies.
3/1 for 1W and can't be blocked by Scions… Awfully limited in scope, but he’s a slightly better Oreskos Swiftclaw, and that saw actual Limited play. 3 power is nice, and with enough Rally triggers this can be okay, but it’s an option to round-out a curve, not any sort of Ally staple. Were this more like Daring Skyjek, which had the ability to gain Flying with Battalion (attacking alongside two or more other creatures) I’d really like it. Alas, R&D probably felt that was too good at common with Ally synergies.
Tapping opponent creatures is a fine effect. Strapping it to a 4/3 that costs 4W is mediocre. Yeah there are decently cheap ways to make Rally happen. This is fine in limited. However, Court Street Denizen did this on the cheaper side for white creatures in Gatecrash and it’s better than the one shot tap and freeze for a turn of Kor Hookmaster. It’s more Kapsho Kitefins than those, though, and I’d rather have Kitefins because it counted any creature. In any case, too slow for Constructed.
Lifelink isn't bad, but it's hardly going to win you games on its own. I really like this in limited with how many white allies are decent in draft. It also has nice synergy with all of the Black “drain” creatures in the set. In constructed, though, I'm not sure it makes the cut. Still, it’s one to watch, and if black/white Ally Drain can be a deck, this would be a key contributor.
Talus Paladin is strictly better in Modern and beyond, as its a 4-drop, but also grows with +1/+1 counters for each trigger. So it’s really a 3 / 4, too. Lantern Scout is cheaper, though, and does give all creatures lifelink, not only Allies. Also, it could be cheated in with Collected Company, so there’s that. Modern sideboard for Collected Company Allies against burn, perhaps?
Grade: C (if it remains a Limited-only card), B (if there’s a Standard deck for it)
Vigilance is cool but is that worthy of a Rally trigger? In Limited, maybe. In Constructed, certainly not. In all fairness, the Patrol is a slightly cheaper more functional reprint of the 3G 1 / 4 Joraga Bard.
Retreat to Emeria
While not technically an Ally card, the Landfall trigger lets you make an Ally token. It also can give your creatures +1/+1 until end of turn. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar does these things better for a similar mana investment. This Retreat is fine in limited to make chump blockers and get some random rally triggers. Not really a constructed card.
Grade C- (mostly because it's splash-able in limited)
This is one of those “whenever you gain life” cards, which is cool. Each time that you do, you get to pay one White mana and put a +1/+1 counter on a target creature. It’s not exciting, but a mini Cradle of Vitality is hardly awful. The Steward will find a home in the White/Black/X Drain decks likely to emerge in BFZ Limited (more on that later).
Grade: B- (in the right deck, even better)
Were this 3W spell at instant speed, I’d like the Converge bit a lot more. Alas, it is at Sorcery speed. It takes 4 different colors to get this card up to its full potential, then. Still, 4 1/1 Ally tokens that can create 4 Rally triggers can create some nice combinations in the right situation. That’s probably why this is sorcery speed. 4 colors in Allies is definitely not hard to do, and casting it for just 3 different colors is probably worth the investment. It’s basically Spore Burst with greater upside - as Saprolings don’t necessarily offer the benefits of Ally triggers - and that was Domain (counting basic land types).
Grade: B (in Limited, especially. It may even be playable in the right Standard deck.)
And no, I didn’t forget about that White planeswalker. I was simply saving the best for last.
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Not only can Gideon become an Ally, benefiting from old school Ally triggers from “back in the day” but he also creates Ally tokens, which trigger both old and new Ally triggers. Becoming an ally with his loyalty ability sadly does not trigger Rally - which would honestly be silly - as he doesn’t actually re-enter the battlefield. The anthem emblem is cool and is not something that has to be limited only to Allies, either. He fits into a few strategies, actually. Allies certainly want him around. He’s a cool, solid planeswalker.
Verdict on the White Allies: C/C+
Averaging out all the grades gives us a C, but I bump it up a few points to count Ally synergies. There are some functional upgrades from older Ally counterparts and having Rally affect all of your creatures and not just Ally was a good design and development move for the archetype. Together in Limited, these could form the backbone of a very playable Ally deck. I don’t see tons of upside here beyond Gideon, though. Unified Front I think is pretty decent even at Sorcery speed. Token generators are usually pretty playable. It may be one of the better Converge cards in the set, actually.
How do you feel about the White Allies and how they match up with their past and present Ally counterparts?
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
With all of Battle for Zendikar revealed, there have been some interesting cards revealed as reprints. Besides Dragonmaster Outcast and Felidar Sovereign, neither of which should make many waves in Constructed, a few commons and uncommons are in BFZ that may well have an effect on the Limited and Standard formats.
Last printed in Standard: Magic 2014
Also printed in: Conspiracy
This was a Standard-playable card when it was first introduced in Innistrad. Then again, Morbid triggers aren’t around in the format any more. Sacrificing a creature, then drawing two cards for 1B isn’t too bad, though. It will definitely be a strong pick in Limited. On Magic Online, it does see some play in the all-common Pauper format and the new Ob Nixilis art is pretty awesome, so I see players wanting this version.
Last printed in Dragons of Tarkir
While this seems like an awfully fast reprinting, Anticipate is an excellent card in Limited. It’s also seeing some play in Esper Dragons and Blue/White control in Standard, and some fringe play in Modern including some Scapeshift and Control builds. This reprints ensures that Anticipate will remain in Standard for an extra year. Financially, this means DTK foils, which are around $7, will be adversely affected. The new art is excellent.
Last printed in Standard: Avacyn Restored
Also printed in Duel Decks Speed VS Cunning, Modern Masters 2015
There are enough expendable creatures in this Limited format, and perhaps even in Standard, where this one-mana sorcery should actually see a good amount of play. You do have to sacrifice a creature, but it kills anything for just one mana. It’s at least going to be strong in Limited, but I see some Standard decks using it.
Last printed in Standard: Return to Ravnica
Originally printed in Worldwake
A very popular card in Modern, Dispel gets some sweet new Jace art. It’s a great card for control decks, and while it’s typically been a sideboard card in Modern, it’s a good card to have back in Standard for those worried about Instant speed threats.
This reprint will definitely have an effect on its previous foil printings. Return to Ravnica foils are up to $10 on average, and the original Worldwake printings are around $6. The former seems to have the more desirable art, so we’ll see how the new Jace art, which is very good, affects those foils.
Goblin War Paint
Last printed in Standard: Magic 2012
Also printed in Modern Masters 2015
A pretty good Aura in Limited, giving a creature Haste and +2/+2 is pretty meaningful. It’s interesting that this is a card that was actually first printed in Zendikar to begin with. It may not see a ton of Standard play, but it’s definitely a good pick in Limited.
Last printed in Standard: Worldwake
Also printed in: Duel Decks: Venser vs Koth/Commander 2013/Commander 2014
Bumped up to uncommon for BFZ, Pilgrim’s Eye is decent mana fixing in Limited, and sees a good chunk of play in Commander, too. As an uncommon, it won’t be nearly as relevant in Limited, though. It’s still good, but it’s not the first uncommon you’ll want to take from most packs. Doesn’t really see Standard play anyway.
Smite the Monstrous
Last printed in Khans of Tarkir
Also printed in Duel Decks Heroes vs Monsters, Innistrad
Smite the Monstrous is another card that’s still in Standard at the moment, but will be gone after the next rotation. Smite barely sees any play in Standard, but is quite good in Limited. In the BFZ Limited format, this will be prime removal: destroying a creature with power 4 or more at instant speed is strong. It does cost 3W, but that’s fine for limited.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Dragonmaster Outcast is pretty fragile and a removal magnet, but for a single red mana just getting a single 5/5 dragon mid-game is worth it. The reprint at mythic won't cripple his price the way Felidar Sovereign seeing reprint at rare did for that casual hit, but the BFZ copies will be much cheaper. No longer will he be just a $15+ mythic rare from Worldwake that only sees play in Dragon EDH decks.
The Outcast was pretty fun for me when I was able to make a clone of him with Riku of the Two Reflections in Commander. While that was probably not the best deck to try and jam him into, I must add that this was in 2011 when I had just gotten the Commander 2011 Mirror Mastery deck. Plus, he was actually effective. I actually got at least four Dragons out of him and some damage through before a board-wipe came. In a multiplayer game, usually there are a lot bigger threats at the table for opponents to worry about. Then, suddenly, you have a couple of extra 5/5 dragons. It’s an effect that sort of creeps up on you, provides a clock that opponents have to worry about, and can provide really good value. Just being a target for precious removal is worth the one mana, as it’s a piece of removal that won’t hit one of your bigger threats.
The best Commanders that Dragonmaster Outcast seems to complement are Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (who gives those Dragon tokens haste), Atarka, World Render (who gives them double strike), and Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury (which allows your Dragon tokens to potentially pump your team by a considerable margin.) Pretty much any Dragon deck running Red will find a way to give the Outcast a home.
How about Constructed? If you play this on turn 6 and it survives an upkeep, you’ll be getting a 5/5 flyer for only a single Red mana. It probably won’t survive, though. Having a one-drop you have to hold until turn six isn’t really optimal in 60-card Constructed. There was a time, however, when he was a sideboard option in Deciever Exarch/Twin combo decks against Control. You could drop him on turn one, force a removal spell to be played, or he’d just sit there and make you a flier or two eventually. He’s one of the few one drop creatures you ever like to see late game. Perhaps a deck will find room for the Outcast in BFZ Standard.
How would you use Dragonmaster Outcast today, or how have you gone about using him in the past?
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
What’s this? A Converge card that I like? Such madness! Woodland Wanderer is actually a pretty good creature. It’s only a 2/2 for 3G to start with, but it has vigilance and trample, keywords that go a long way towards making a creature Constructed-playable. But with Converge, it’s at worst a 3/3, and in any three-color deck, it’s usually going to be a 5/5. Splash a fourth color and you have a 6/6 trampling vigilant nightmare for 3G. The power creep is real, folks.
Temur needed a creature like this, and it got one. Abzan didn’t need a creature like this, but it got one anyway. Hardened Scales didn’t need this, either, but popping an extra +1/+1 counter on him seems ridiculous. It’s pretty easy to get the three colors of mana, with Rattleclaw Mystic hanging around, and the newly spoiled Beastcaller Expert able to give an off-color fourth color of mana to benefit him. What Standard was losing with Polukranos, World Eater, it’s pretty much getting back with Woodland Wanderer - although losing the Monstrosity ability is not irrelevant.
This appears to be one of the best Standard-playable creatures from Battle for Zendikar. What do you all think?
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
How refreshing: a Constructed-playable ally that costs less than 5 mana! We’ve seen how Zada, Hedron Grinder could be good, but Drana, Liberator of Malakir can fit into far more decks. Like Zada, Drana could care less about what Allies are on the battlefield alongside her. If she deals combat damage to an opponent, each of your attacking creatures - herself included - get a +1/+1 counter. Due to her having first strike, the rest of your team gets the buff before they even deal damage. Being a flyer, as well, you’re looking at a very solid 3-drop that could fit into a ton of Constructed strategies.
Is she better than the original Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief? As someone who has pretty much single-handedly won Commander games with her before, it’s hard to say. The original Drana is probably the better mono-black Commander, as being able to drain a creature and gain that power as a flyer until end of turn is simply nasty. Of course - little known tidbit - that Drana was originally meant to be a mythic rare, but was powered down slightly to fill a rare slot in the set. The Bloodchief didn’t really catch on in Standard, but the new mythic rare Liberator of Malakir most certainly should. Of course, you can play them together in Commander.
In Standard, the +1/+1 counter pump seems pretty relevant for Abzan Aggro decks that want to pump their Hangarback Walkers and is a great complement to Anafenza the Foremost. Drana’s presence may make Hardened Scales a more relevant card, too, pushing what’s been a Green/White deck into Black, as well - which also introduces the mythic Anafenza into that deck. Scales doubles Drana’s ability, as well as Anafenza’s. Perhaps Drana was the missing piece for that deck to be a top tier contender. Drana helps Abzan stay relevant - that’s for certain.
The other cool thing about this Drana is that she’s a 3-drop, making her playable with Collected Company, an Abzan variant that has seen some success. She might even creep her way into Modern, a format where Collected Company is even more powerful.
Being a legendary mythic rare that will probably see at least 3-of play in more than a few decks, this should be one of the more valuable mythics in the set. Her Commander value is going to be pretty good, as well, giving Vampire tribal a huge weapon, plus giving Alesha, Who Smiles at Death another two-power creature to play with. This is going to be a fun creature to play with.
What do you think of the new Drana? Do you think she’ll make Allies a worthy contender, or is she simply good enough on her own to be a part of some of the best decks in Standard?
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Ugin's Insight is being called the "fixed" Dig Through Time. It's not at instant speed and doesn't have the advantage of being able to Delve away your graveyard to cast it for cheap. But 5 mana to draw 3 cards was fine on Jace's Ingenuity. Ugin's Insight lets you scry X, as well, where X is the highest converted mana cost among permanents you control. On turn 5, that number could easily be 3 or 4, so Scry 3, draw 3 seems pretty decent.
Where this card really becomes powerful is when you have much larger permanents on board, such as Ugin the Spirit Dragon himself (with a CMC of 8) or any of the bigger Eldrazi cards. You can dig pretty deep for this card and send away anything you're not going to want to draw to the bottom. Dig is probably going to be strictly better during its time in Standard, but this is a pretty decent card to help you dig for combo pieces or otherwise set up your draws in the late game. Perhaps this could help set up See the Unwritten plays, but you need to have a decently sized creature on board already to get the full power out of this card.
The best applications for this sorcery, like many cards in Battle for Zendikar, are in Commander. Braids, Conjurer Adept and Narset, Enlightened Master are two that have come up a lot already. With Braids, you'll get to at least Scry 4 and make sure you're drawing better artifacts, lands, and creatures than your opponents. Narset is a bit better, as she's a 6-drop, getting you Scry 6. You can try to draw 3 cards that you don't really want to hit with Narset. Then, you get to maximize her ability to cast any of the top four cards for free as long as they're non-creature spells. It's powerful card filtering that can simply win you the game. There are tons of other commanders that will love this ability, of course, but those are the most obvious two.
What do you think of Ugin's Insight? Do you think it's Standard playable? How would you go about using it?
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