If there was anything to make people sad about Theros and its vast suite of Heroic enablers leaving Standard, it would be Zada. Fortunately, there are still going to be tools in Standard that will make Zada quite formidable. Having only a single Red mana in the casting cost means that you don’t have to overcommit to the color if you don’t want to, which is awesome in Limited, while deriving an awesome benefit.
Even losing the sheer overwhelming number of cheap instants and sorceries that Theros block had to offer, there are a couple of obvious cards that work well with Zada in Standard. A single Titan’s Strength - reprinted in Magic Origins - pumps your whole board +3/+1 and lets you Scry 1 a whole bunch of times. Temur Battle Rage gives all of your creatures double strike, and if properly timed, affords your entire army trample, as well. Goblins have a potential win condition now beyond simply bashing face with a bunch of little guys and hoping the burn spells get there.
Of course, mono-red decks aren’t the only ones benefiting here. There are still some good White combat tricks, like Valorous Stance and the new Unison Strike that can work. The best thing that Stance can do is make your guys indestructible, but that could prove useful enough. Unison Strike can target up to two creatures, but choosing only Zada works just fine. Then all of your guys get +1/+2 and you gain two life for each creature you control because of Zada’s copy effect. Getting a slightly better Glorious Charge plus Congregate for 1W seems good.
Enshrouding Mist is a one-drop that gives your creatures +1/+1 and prevents all damage that would be dealt to them - the renowned part isn’t so important here. Feat of Resistance will give all your creatures +1/+1 counters and gain protection from the color of your choice until end of turn for only 1W. Mighty Leap has always been a decent Limited combat trick, but giving your whole team +2/+2 and flying could be a thing.
Blue should have some interesting tricks to consider, as well. Dance of the Skywise turns all your creatures into 4/4 flyers until end of turn for only 1U. Glint gives your guys +0/+3 and hexproof for 1U, but that’s not so exciting. Refocus lets you untap all your creatures after combat and draw a card for each of them for 1U.
Red already has the aforementioned Titan’s Strength and Temur Battle Rage, but otherwise it really only has Kindled Fury, which gives your creatures +1/+0 and first strike until end of turn for a single Red. Come on Battle for Zendikar and Oath of the Gatewatch - give us more Red pump spells!
Moving into Black we have one-drop Instant, Coat with Venom, which gives a target creature +1/+2 and deathtouch - meaning all your guys benefit. That’s one way to break up board stalls. Dark Dabbling already regenerates all your creatures for 2B if you have Spell Mastery, but with Zada you get to draw a card for each creature you control - much more expensive than Defiant Strike, though.
Awaken the Bear is a Green Instant for 2G that gives a target creature +3/+3 and trample, but becomes an Overrun with Zada. Epic Confrontation will pump your team +1/+2 for 1G and have them fight everyone. If your creatures win the fight, you then get to swing in for major damage. Might of the Masses can get pretty silly, giving each creature X/X where X is the number of creatures you control. That’s definitely worth a single Green mana. Titanic Growth, forever known as the “fixed” Giant Growth that never sees play may be considered for the +4/+4 boost to your team. Ruthless Instincts, Savage Punch, and Tread Upon are other possibilities. The best option, though, is the Delve spell, Become Immense. Making your whole team gain +6/+6 for potentially only a single Green mana is pretty unfair.
In Multicolor, Deflecting Palm is a card that seemed like it may prove to be a decent combat maneuver at some point. Indeed, it has seen some sideboard play. But swinging out, having your opponents declare blockers, then play this… that’s a blowout. Not only do you save your guys, but the otherwise prevented damage gets flung at your opponent’s face. Ow. Dromoka’s Command seems like a nice card to combo with Zada, but because it necessarily has to target two things, which can’t both be Zada, it doesn’t work. Shucks.
White and Green definitely have some good things going for them, with blue having some cute tricks. It seems that the best set up would probably be Naya Allies (red/white/green) or some other sort of Naya Aggro deck. Red/White may be sufficient to get the job done, too, though, especially having Dragon Fodder and Hordeling Outburst to make Goblin tokens that quickly benefit from Zada’s awesomeness. Imagine turn one Goblin, into turn two Dragon Fodder, into turn three Hordeling Outburst, into turn four Zada, into turn five game-ending pump spell. Obviously that’s not going to happen every time, but the game could definitely end quite swiftly with Zada on board with Rebounding combat tricks and Defiant Strike to draw you some cards to recover if you need to. Zada definitely has plenty of tools to work with.
Goblins are already a super popular tribe in Commander, so Zada has plenty of support. The more little creatures you can pump out, the better the pump spells become. You’ll be limited to mono-Red, obviously, but beyond Titan’s Strength and Temur Battle Rage that you’re essentially limited to in Standard, there are quite a few options.
Here’s a quick list of possibilities that can target Zada and the effect you get:
- Accelerate - 1R - give all creatures haste and draw a card for each creature you control.
- Assault Strobe - R - give the team double strike
- Brute Force - R - Team gets +3/+3
- Commando Raid - 2R - if your opponents don’t block, deal damage to their creatures equal to the combat damage each creature deals
- Crimson Wisps - R - Same thing really as Accelerate, but cheaper
- Crowd’s Favor - R - Can be cast for free by tapping a Red dork, giving your team +1/+0 and first strike - very good for free
- Fever Charm - R - Pump the team +2/+0 or give everyone haste
- Fit of Rage - 1R - Pump the team +3/+3 and give everyone first strike
- Fury Charm - 1R - Give everyone +1/+1 and trample or destroy an artifact
- Reckless Charge - R - Everyone gets haste and +3/+0 and you can flash it back for 2R!
- Rise to the Challenge - 1R - Team gets +2/+0 and first strike
- Screaming Fury - 2R - Team gets +5/+0 (!) and haste
- Weapon Surge - R - Gives your guys +1/+0 and first strike but you can overload it for 1R and pump everyone in case Zada isn’t on board.
The best part about Zada is that all you need is enough little guys to ruin the party. You don’t have to play your Commander until you essentially are in position to have the game won. There are enough ways to give all your guys haste that you can just win games out of nowhere and the deck is so brutally mana-efficient that it’s going to out-speed most Commander decks.
Zada looks to be poised to be a sleeper powerhouse in Standard, but as a Commander is where this Goblin definitely shines brightest.
How would you play with Zada, Hedron Grinder?