Battle for Zendikar Constructed Predictions! (Colourless, White and Blue)

I’m baaaack and I’ve got a new trick! Battle for Zendikar (or BfZ) is imminent, and the full spoiler has been revealed! Time to write down what I think about the new cards and how they will be relevant in the future. Or maybe I’ll comment because I heard other people commenting, and I’m yet to be convinced.

I’m going to miss out a whole bunch of cards because I don’t think they’re really worth looking at in terms of 60 card decks, so if I miss the next sleeper, well, it’ll be plain for all to see in a few months time when I go over my predictions again. :3

This is the full spoiler, follow along! It feels like it might be fairly tedious to manually link all the cards in here when you can just open another tab, and see what cards I’m leaving out. Let’s go!

(p.s. I will however provide links to cards I mention that are not in this set)

Bane of Bala Ged: Losing annihilator was a knock against most of the eldrazi monsters, but look, this guy has it! I don’t actually think this will be featuring in many decks, but it is one of the few cards that pretty much end a game if it is allowed to attack a couple of times, which makes it worth some slight consideration, and even if it dies immediately after attacking it’s still a 3 for 1. Sadly, I expect this will be relegated to dishing out incredible beatings in limited instead.

FNM deck idea: this guy with Temur Ascendancy! Think of ~the value~!

Blight Herder: This will go for all of these processor cards, but obviously this isn’t good if you can’t ever trigger it. I’m not sure how easy that will be, but I’m giving WotC the benefit of the doubt and say that if you *want* to trigger these guys, it won’t be that difficult to do so in a reasonable way. Perhaps not right now, but after the next set or two.

5 mana for 7/8 worth of bodies isn’t a bad rate, and it passes the ‘what happens if it dies immediately’ test (aka. the Doom Blade test) quite well. The three Scions represent a decent squad of attackers at minimum, and a huge boost in mana at best. That aspect depends on how good the big things you are casting on 8 mana are. Ugin is the obvious answer and he’s great. Needing 2 cards to process does make it not a trivial thing to set up, so rather than pure ramp decks, this seems best in control decks that are quite reliably casting things like Silk Wrap or Utter End rather than other mana acceleration.

Conduit of Ruin: Conduit of Ruin is here to dominate some mid-range decks. 5/5 for 6 isn’t a all that great a rate these days, but ensuring you’re going to draw some powerful card is nice, and lets you run titans like the new Ulamog as a 1-of rather than risking running more and having them clogging up your hand. There aren’t that many things to get right now that are worth it, but I’d keep an eye on this. Only getting creatures keeps it out of modern as a sort of super-Treasure Mage, but I’m sure casual formats will enjoy this too.

Deathless Behemoth: Extremely vulnerable to being exiled via Abzan Charm, but I could theoretically imagine certain match-ups that have a hard time with this if the Scion making things are in your deck anyway. Not very exciting, but if you look at it as a card that an Eldazi Scion theme deck would play rather than a ramp deck, it gets a bit better. I think this is the kind of card people would pick up while brewing a deck, think “Hmm… maybe this guy would be good…” then put it back in the box.

Desolation Twin: Destined to be overshadowed for the most part by Ulamog methinks. On the other hand, if the toolbox Eldrazi plan is at all playable, this is probably worth a look. Maybe there will be some hexproof guys that need blocking and they’re countering your big guy, or you have something to give your 10/10’s haste and murder the enemy right away. Or maybe just attacking for 10 is not enough. I don’t think there will be a deck where you are choosing this and not playing any Ulamog, in your deck, but you don’t want to get Ulamog flooded either.

You said it!

Endless One: Certain colours have a harder time filling their curves than others, so I can see this showing up from time to time. If they print a Ranger of Eos type thing, it becomes a fine flexible tutor target. Likely to be overshadowed by Hangarback Walker in the ‘versatile mana cost’ slot in decks, but if you just want a bigger guy RIGHT NOW or they print some more ‘Eldrazi matters’ type cards it can get the nod.

Oblivion Sower: I believe this was the first card spoiled, and most people reacted with ‘meh’ from what I observed. Comparisons to Primeval Titan are unflattering, but to be fair, Prime Time is insane. Assuming you… assist this card with some extra exiles, or maybe the opponent helps with Delve (fetchlands stolen may or may not help you out though) I think this card has the potential to power up any deck that intends to cast Eldrazi titans in the future. Obvious combo with Crumble to Dust is cute for certain match ups, and might end up being the only reason to gets played, but honestly if there’s ever a reliable way to get 3 lands out of this, it’ll be worth it. As for right now however, well, Nissa’s Renewal is what you want if you want a 6 mana ramp spell.

Titan’s Presence: Narrow in terms of decks it can exist in, I think this is a really strong tool. Lets you play say, GU ramp any not die horribly to an early Tasigur or similar before your guys come online. Would’ve been really fun to cast this while Gods Willing was protecting Heroic creatures. :3

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger: Annihilator was obviously much better at ending games, but exiling 2 permanents is a huge game. If Eldrazi turn out to be a deck, I boldly and shockingly predict this will be a big reason why. Even assuming the ‘exile 20’ part is largely useless because if you’re getting an indestructible 10/10 you shouldn’t need to attack that often, Ulamog pulls you back from being behind incredibly well, and there’s not much people can do about it. And you will be behind, since you don’t typically get to ramp to 10 while your opponent plays no threats.

Void Winnower: Another card very weak to removal, on account of no cast-triggers. But, this is an incredible trump card in certain match ups. You will notice that they can’t even cast most of the other Eldrazi with this out, and they can’t Titan’s Presence it either. Won’t make much of an impact while Abzan Charm and the new Downfall and 5 mana Wraths are running around, but when it’s good, it’s basically unbeatable. (another tutor target!)

Angelic Gift: Perfect for the Heroic dec-hey wait! No, come back Heroic cards!

Emeria Shepherd: Emeria Shepherd is a strong card in a weird place. In a deck that sets itself up to cast this, it should always be accompanied by a plains (or fetchland) on the turn you play it, so it passes the Doom Blade test. Furthermore, you can make some really resilient threats against conventional removal by looping 2 of these with each other. The problem is, if you’re going this late into a game, you’re pretty vulnerable to just being overpowered by Eldrazi exiling your angels and such. So simply doing this for value isn’t as sweet as it might otherwise be e.g. returning Rhinos or Stasis Snare. However, if you are returning other huge threats at the same time, your opponents might not be able to deal so easily with say, a Void Winnower or a previously countered Ulamog. I expect to see this card being tried a lot, and the games where they can’t counter or kill it will make it seem amazing, just don’t expect that to be common.

Expedition Envoy: Oh Savannah Lions, always getting outclassed. 😦 Might be useful that it’s a human, more likely thought that Ally will be important instead. Decent early guy, triggers all the rally guys for cheap. Seems playable, but white 2/1 creatures have been amazing lately and seen almost no play, so who knows.

Felidar Cub: Hey, there are a lot of good enchantments around right now, and maybe you have a way to recur this to shepherd up some value. Ronom Unicorn strikes back!

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar: First of all, thanks Wizards for making him an Ally creature when he animates. Flavour crisis is averted! Secondly, I think Gideon will be fantastic going forward. 4 mana Planeswalkers that make guys without dying have a strong pedigree, and I don’t see why Gideon would be different. Playing him on an empty board demands an answer or he runs away with the game, and if you just need to get damage in as quickly as possible, he hits really hard. The fact that he makes Ally creatures too is a nice little bonus for future Ally decks, and I even like the ‘ultimate’. It means that you’ll rarely get Gideon Flooded, and has great synergy with other token cards without having to dedicate slots to that effect, where things like Honour of the Pure were sometimes dead draws against sweepers.

Hero of Goma Fada: I think this is mostly too expensive since it isn’t that big itself and the effect is situational. However, if your opponents are trying to block and trade creatures with you, anyone that remembers playing against Frontline Medic knows how powerful this effect can be.

Kor Bladewhirl: Serviceable for your ally deck. That’s it, that’s all I’ve got.

Lantern Scout: Underwhelming body, but good out of the sideboard in your ally deck. Maybe even maindeck if there are enough aggressive decks! The existence of Munda *does* make it easier to play a powerful situational Ally as a 2-of and be somewhat more likely to find them on time!

Planar Outburst: 5 Mana sweepers are occasionally good enough. I like that this lets you play a bunch of awaken cards to be one-sided, but that’s a double-edged sword. I expect to see it in some UW decks, but if decks want a cheap wrath effect right now, they’re either playing black for Languish, or playing their own creatures and can play Tragic Arrogance. 8 mana is a lot to Awaken, and admittedly sweet. Duneblast  is exactly the sort of effect you want to topdeck in a late game, so Planar Outburst *is* much better than End Hostilities in that regard though, and you don’t even need to start with a creature to do it!

Quarantine Field: I don’t think this is very impressive. Yes, it’s a big haymaker to topdeck, but it’s not very good as a 4 mana spell, and I expect people should have answers to enchantments in the new standard, whether they are casting Dromoka’s Command or Ulamog. It is worth noting that it’s actually very weak to itself, if your opponent exiles one of these, you get no value if it returns, unlike an Oblivion Ring exiling another Oblivion Ring for example.

Retreat to Emeria: I think this is *unlikely* to be any any good decks, since if you want an anthem for 4, or something that makes tokens, well, Gideon is right there in the set. But maybe something gets printed that lets you dump a ton of lands in and out of play, in which case this has a shot. Let’s say, for example, in the future there existed a way to replay the same 3 lands in a turn over and over again, anyone that’d ever played against a Selesnya Guildmage with a lot of mana behind it knows how fast the combination of token production and enchantment kills people.

Stasis Snare: This will be a commonly played utility card until it rotates out. A bit of a liability while Dromoka’s Command exists, but at least it’s an instant so you can usually still get something temporarily useful out of it.

Unified Front: This is actually very powerful assuming you have at least 2 sets of Ally triggers happening. The 4 slot is a bit crowded for Allies, but imagine playing this with Tajuru Warcaller and a Chasm Guide in play for the ability to just end games out of nowhere, like a card-based RKO.

Benthic Infiltrator: Woah woah, wait! Come back! I know, I know, it’s a Horned Turtle. But if you really need a recurring way to exile things from an enemy library this is pretty reliable at doing it, and in certain metagames a 1/4 can actually brick certain aggro decks. It’s (really really) an outside shot, but there are some specific circumstances where this might appear in an actual deck.

Brilliant Spectrum: Careful Consideration was great… but this is much less flexible and much worse. All the same, if you are one of the undoubtedly many multicoloured decks that might exist in the future and have some powerful graveyard synergies, you can do worse. You really need to be casting it for the full amount though. Likely to be overshadowed by the Converge black card draw spell, but hey, maybe the metagame is too dangerous for a lot of lifeloss.

Coastal Discovery: 4 Mana for 2 cards at sorcery speed is a really bad rate. But if more cards are printed to support Awaken in meaningful ways you can certainly grind out some people by casting this repeatedly. Even when you cast it for the Awaken cost you’re not getting a stupendous deal, so I don’t think this is going to feature in typical decks as more than a 1 or 2 of, if that.

Dampening Pulse: If tokens decks get big again, this is actually a pretty strong sideboard card! Anyone that’s trying to go wide by swamping the board with creatures is hampered by this, making it sort of like a cheaper Orbs of Warding if they can’t targeting you. And hey, the more effects like that, the more likely you are to double up on them and lock little creatures out of ever killing you.

Drowner of Hope: This is a bit overcosted for the effect, but if you’re in some kind of Eldrazi mirror match, I’m not sure how you can win if the other person has this and some Scion factories working away. The fact that it can’t tap Ojutai is actually a significant downside, since it can’t prevent a Dragons opponent for digging into their answers for this if you’re trying to use it as a finisher. Also, presumably, if you are making enough Scions to be controlling enemy Rhinos and such for a decent amount of time, you would rather be using those Scions to cast 10 drops and kill them outright. I guess this would make a good top end for an aggro-scions deck, if such a thing were to exist at some point.

Exert Influence: I think this card looks bad to a lot of people, but I think it’ll be very relevant. Being a spell is a huge bonus right now compared to Persuasion, since it’s immune to Dromoka’s Command and can be replayed with Jace. Even if you’re not playing all 5 colours, on 4 it steals Rhinos, Tasigurs, most Dragons, Undergrowth Champions, Mantis Riders, Archangel of Tithes and so on. It is slightly expensive so I don’t think decks will be jamming 4 of this too often, but as a 1 or 2 of or sideboard card, this can be back-breaking.

Halimar Tidecaller: If all the spells in your deck that you’d want to get back for re-use have awaken anyway, then it’s like an Eternal Witness! Okay, yeah, I know, you can’t get back fetchlands and Thoughtseizes like Witness and Den Protector can, but a UB deck is quite often vulnerable to tiny creatures that slip through the defences and deal loads of damage, so now you can rebuy your Ruinous Paths while not having to immediately use it on their Zurgo!

Horribly Awry: Counters Rhinos, Deathmists and Den Protectors without letting them recur them. This should be mildly playable in control decks even if you aren’t actively doing anything with the exiled cards. If there are are enough enablers and processors at some point in standard, I feel like this into turn 3 Strangler is a stifling anti-creature start.

Part the Waterveil: Time Walks haven’t been playable in standard for quite a while now, mostly due to costing 5 or more. Usually what dictates whether these are playable is whether or not you get enough advantage out of things like Howling Mine or if you can recur them. Obviously this is not very good at being reused unless your opponent wants to help out with some processing. 9 mana is a ton and triple blue sort of makes it harder to justify if you’re a multicoloured ramp deck. And if you’re getting that much mana, Ulamog isn’t too far away and is much harder to ignore with counterspells. I don’t think this will actually see play outside of overly ambitious miser copies.

Prism Array: Uh, you know this card is pretty weird and funky, but I like it. Just don’t compare it to say, Collective Restraint, or your domain deck will cry a little bit. I think it’s way too expensive to use for the most part, but maybe, JUST MAYBE sometime in the future, they print some incredibly sick Ball Lightning type cards, this is like a 5 for 1 against them. Or maybe the return of the Illusion mechanic. And who doesn’t want to Scry 3?

Retreat to Coralhelm: Ah yes, the card hailed as a modern playable for the combo with Knight of the Reliquary. Is it going to make it? Well… I’m sure the deck will be at least okay. Any 2 card infinite kill combo deserves a look. This does make you work hard to make sure your mana base combines with it effectively and still does other things. One idea I sort of like is playing a really bonkers hybrid between this and Splinter Twin, so you can perhaps overload their targeted removal and kill then randomly in any number of ways. For example, maybe you only have this in play. You end of enemy turn play Pestermite. They counter it/kill it. Then you crack a fetch for a Dryad Arbor, untap and put Splinter Twin on Arbor and kill them with infinite lands!

In all seriousness there are already a bunch of small creature combination decks, it’s not really going to catch people totally flat-footed and dominate tournaments like a combo involving non-creatures might, but it does have different options and configurations available so people can make it somewhat competitive.

Ruination Guide: Look at this blue aggro lord! I guess blue is the colour of Devoid Lords. I don’t think there is enough of a critical mass of colourless creatures yet, but it has the potential to show up at some point with enough new cards. If all you want to do is pump up Thopters, there are other options available that are not so vulnerable to removal.

Scatter to the Winds: Hey look, a relatively staple effect and cost at rare. Most castings will be in Cancel mode, and Cancel is usually not quite good enough to be playable. Fortunately once in a while it will be in weak Draining Whelk mode, and then you get some value. This will be played heavily by the kind of people that picked up 4 of these during pre-release weekend and will likely never stop playing it until it rotates. For everyone else, don’t worry, it’s not going to be oppressive, 6 mana is a lot for a counterspell.

Actually, I will talk about the ‘UW Awaken’ control decks people are brewing all over the place. I believe there are certain diminishing returns on having tons of awaken cards. These decks all seem incredibly mana hungry, and can’t actually afford to be aggressively awakening everything in sight, since you need to hit land drops consistently until really late in the game. In addition, in control match ups every mana counts, so getting 2 of your lands blown up by an otherwise dead Languish or similar can be a disaster. Basically, when you are making your Awaken control deck, don’t forget to put some cards in that are more effective than the Awaken cards in their most common modes. If you’re doing it right, your opponent hopefully already can no longer win the game before you start waking things up.

Spell Shrivel: More splashable than the other counterspells, but 3 mana conditional counterspells are traditionally very weak. Seems okay if you desperately need some big spells not to resolve.

Tightening Coils: Hey, sometimes blue decks are desperate for removal. It certainly isn’t for everyone, but if all you need to do is buy time and you aren’t able to cast Swift Reckonings or Ultimate Prices for some reason, this can hang out with in the company of those rare Narcolepsy or Encase in Ice that have appeared in 60-card decks.

Ugin’s Insight: Times have changed, and decks can’t really rely on 5 mana sorcery draw spells any more. The other spells that your opponents will resolve are usually very strong, or they’re playing red and you simply can’t take the turn off to cast this very often. That said, assuming you have more or less any permanent in play, this is a great way to refuel. Actually, it reminds me of  Fathom Trawl, in that it SOUNDS great in that you will always get 3 spells, but in reality the format is a much stronger influence on if a card like this is playable that the raw strength of your sorcery draw spell. I don’t think the Delve draw spells will be too afraid of this taking their slots. Maybe it will be a one-of like people kept doing with Interpret the Signs.

Phew! I think that’s more or less it for those colours. Next time will be Black and Red at least, we’ll see how many remote playables there are in there before I feel like stopping. :p

Ciao for now!