Battle for Zendikar Constructed Predictions Finale! (Gold and Artifacts)

Welcome back for the last section of my set review! You can find part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 here. The full spoiler is still here, and the official soundtrack for this section is here.

Let’s go!

Angelic Captain: I expect if you have enough Ally creatures to make this worthwhile, you’d be better off casting Overrun instead. Obviously this is a bit better if you end up just trying to get there with your one remaining creature, but I would prefer something with more immediate impact on the turn I play it in an all-Ally deck.

Bring to Light: Probably the most exciting card in the set from a deck building standpoint. It starts off as a powerful card and will only become more powerful over time as new cards are printed. Seems playable in both 4 or 5 colour decks, but you definitely don’t want it in a deck that can only cast it for 3 unless there’s some kind of cool combo that is printed later.

Bring to Light definitely seems best when you’re not the aggressor, since you can more easily tailor your deck to brutally punish most kinds of assault. Single Rhino attacking you? Find Gilt-Leaf Winnower. Bunch of Thopters and pals? Tragedy strikes. Just trying to play a single guy out to avoid you going those things? Trumping their guy with a Rhino will do as well. Maybe they are trying to get sneaky with a SiegeConclave their face in!

On the offence, well, Rhino for 5 mana is okay, but you’re less likely to threaten most opponents that’s on the same level of brutality as a Languish against an opponent that is weak to it, except maybe an Ojutai against decks that can’t kill it. Another typical weakness of a deck built to be flexible is that if your opponent is trying to go bigger than you, your deck is probably too reactive to stop them effectively with a cheap toolbox.

It isn’t trivial to play all 5 colours either, even with all the fetchlands and duals in the world. In addition, if you want enough good targets for this to find, you run the risk of having a deck that’s too filled with 4 and 5 mana cards to survive the early turns. It also doesn’t go well with other Converge cards, which you probably want to look into for your multi-coloured deck.

My opinion is that you’re more likely to want to cut down on the powerful one-of effects to only the absolute best, and be perhaps just play a couple of these. It is very powerful, but if you end up needing to cast this regularly for things like Ruinous Path, well, you probably just want more Ruinous Path in your deck and be more efficient.

Brutal Expulsion: I can dream of the double-use value, but being able to use both modes profitably isn’t going to come up that often. It doesn’t hit the enemy face, and doesn’t counter spells efficiently or permanently. Would be better if there were cards like Delver or Young Pyromancer to both kill and be supported by this, but there aren’t. I think this will be popular fine as a 1 or 2-of in decks that can cast it easily, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to put this in my deck.

Catacomb Sifter: I think this card is certain to break into constructed. It doesn’t depend on the ‘Green Black Sacrificial Stuff’ deck being playable at all, rather when being a 2/3 creature is in a fine spot in the metagame. Sometimes all the creatures in a format are too big for that to matter, in which case this won’t be a 2 for 1, and you don’t need it right then. If there are a lot of 2/2s, then you get a useful body and a Scion for a low-ish cost which can shut down the enemy very well.

The Scry effect is just a nice bonus, I don’t think anyone would play it for that ability if the body isn’t relevant. Against control it’ll often be a better threat than ludicrously powerful mythics like Drana and Undergrowth Champion just by virtue of leaving a 1/1 behind, which relates back to the point I made earlier about ‘big dumb monsters’ gradually getting replaced by value guys as removal improves. A prime example of this is in modern, with most 4 drops being essentially unplayable since they get removed easily and usually for less mana than you cast them for, but Chandra’s parents are actually quite playable there!

I’m willing to believe that other 3 drops will see more play, and maybe the format just end up a bunch of decks doing the most powerful things possible to each other all the time, leaving the Sifter outclassed. But I predict that by the end of BfZ standard, Sifter will have been one of the most quietly hard-working cards in the set.

Drana’s Emissary: I KNOW it’s a Wind Drake. But it’s also an Ally, and triggers all these random lifegain cards if that ever matters. I just like draining my opponent for one each turn, it makes me happy. Okaaaay, it is probably just outclassed by… nearly everything, but it’s probably surprisingly good if you’re playing a budget BW deck at FNM.

Dust Stalker: 5 power of haste for 4 isn’t a bad deal. You don’t necessarily even need many if any other colourless creatures in your deck to play this! It would be very easy to splash with fetchlands, and this type of card has been playable before. Good in a world full of sorcery speed removal as a repeatable source of damage, and Zurgo has shown how this can be useful even on a tiny creature. You can’t play too many of these if that is your plan though, don’t want to get Dust-flooded, but I expect it to pop up now and then.

Fathom Feeder: I think this would be pretty great if instead of needing to tap 5 mana to draw a card, may it could be costed the same as Jushi Apprentice. But, instead, most of the time this will be a Typhoid Rat and outside of limited that seems like a low power level to be on. While it’ll rarely be absolutely dead, and once in a while a game will stall and it can take over the game with card drawing, I think the majority of the time you will be underwhelmed by this card.

Maybe if the UB Ingest/Processing deck gets more cards it’ll be a thing, but UB control won’t want to play this maindeck and give enemy removal spells targets, and once you’re a 3 colour deck this becomes a bit tricky to cast on time for in exchange for a low reward. Like the previously mentioned Apprentice, Fathom Feeder does join a long list of cards that control decks might want to sideboard in against each other.

Forerunner of Slaughter: A serviceable 2 (or 3!) drop for your Red/Black deck. The Haste ability makes it somewhat flexible for your mana curve by itself, and might occasionally give a Hangarback Walker, Nettle Drone, Endless One or even just some Thopters haste.

Grove Rumbler: Oh dear, another 3/3 for 4 mana. That probably dooms it, but it does at least trample in for 7 off of a fetchland! I could imagine a GR landfall deck being desperate for an explosive 4 drop that can defeat a Rhino in single combat.

Herald of Kozilek: A 2/4 for 3! That might make it situationally playable since Blue/Red tends to be a colour combination that wouldn’t mind a decent blocker. I’m not sure exactly what colourless cards U/R decks want to play though. While there’s the obvious ‘Devoid’ themed aggro deck to try out, playing a pair of Nettle Drones or something doesn’t seem too exciting, and UR doesn’t seem like it has the tools to be better at casting the big Eldrazi better than say, a green deck.

I guess maybe the flavour text is totally right on this one, what is the purpose of this thing? Maybe it’s a plant for next set where this will become amazing, but until then don’t think a Herald of Kozilek deck does anything special.

Kiora, Master of the Depths: Kiora comes with more loyalty than last time, but is a bit worse at defending herself to compensate. Sure, you can untap something to block, but it’s hard to block big trampling creatures and sometimes your creature will die with Kiora quickly following them to the grave. The -2 ability means you’ll rarely be down cards at least, and she does require an answer out of control decks fairly quickly lest she let you bury opponents in extra cards and mana.

One area that people have already picked up on is that she ramps very well. Much in the same way that an unchecked Xenagos could let you rocket-boost into brutal expensive cards, untapping a mana creature and land can lead to some disgusting plays, especially with Shaman of the Forgotten Way. Obviously, this requires your board to not get murdered while you set this up, which is somewhat unlikely, but it’s another sequence of cards that demands a removal spell from the opponent, unless they want to be buried by powerful plays.

I don’t think she will see as much play as the other Planeswalkers since she’s not as broadly applicable, but she’ll rarely be terrible either, since at her worst she’ll usually get you a couple of cards and gain you some life.

March from the Tomb: If you are planning to combo-kill people with a lot of dead Ally creatures, Rally the Ancestors will usually get the job done better. But it’s also possible that there’s not enough support to make it a good idea to go all-in on filling your graveyard, and that this will do the job most of the time. It’s also pretty good value to get a few guys back to keep battling with if you’re not quite ready to kill them, a task that Rally is generally terrible at doing, so even without combo-kills you can sideboard this against removal-laden decks to keep up the pressure.

By the nature of the card, it can’t be played by anything but Ally decks, and even within them it’ll be fairly fringe, but you’ll want to own a few in the event the next set has Ally dudes that made the deck superb somehow.

Munda, Ambush Leader: I don’t like that you have to put non-Ally cards to the bottom, since it means if you need to draw something like Rally or March from the Tomb, you have to elect not to use the ability since additional Ally things are not going to help you find them while replacing your draw for the turn. If you are at a stage in the game where all you need is to draw Ally-based gasoline, then Munda does that job very well. As I mentioned before, if you have a Munda or two in your deck, you can get away with playing something like one Warcaller or one Lantern Scout and have a reasonably good chance to dig desperately for one if you need it.

It is worth noting that you are ‘looking’ at the top 4, and you are not forced to reveal the Ally creatures you see there, since it’s hidden information from your opponent. This means if you are going to draw a bunch of weak creatures, you are actually able to ‘fail to find’ any allies, and then try again when you trigger him again.

Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper: While he looks like he seems like he goes straight in an Awaken theme deck, I’m not sure that’s actually the case. He doesn’t do anything for you your spells don’t already do, and is sort of expensive to play and protect with counterspells if you’re setting up for the long game.

Never fear though! I think Noyan has some potential, but it’s more like a weird combo card perhaps in a deck featuring Jeskai Ascendancy. If there are some more cheap cantrips available at some point, untapping with him in play lets you potentially chain together cards like Anticipate and Treasure Cruise, untapping your now-animated lands to deal tons of damage like a weird sort of Guttersnipe/Talrand. That doesn’t seem like a particularly flattering comparison since Guttersnipe wasn’t good, but this card is blue, making it naturally better at being in a deck that is playing a bunch of blue card drawing cards.

You know, if they print some cheap ones. Unlike right now, where he feels slightly clunky, but ‘make a creature upon playing a spell’ has a strong lineage of being playable text on magic cards.

Omnath, Locus of Rage: Dragonlord Atarka is still legal in standard. Omnath is very powerful, but I’m pretty sure Atarka is better in the majority of match ups for the foreseeable future due to the value of immediate removal. Against a deck like Esper where Atarka rarely kills anything, Omnath could come in and do some good work, but those are also the kinds of decks that are good at restricting your resources, making it very difficult to play Omnath and a land on the same turn for 5/5 goodness.

Omnath will enjoy being totally sweet in Commander though!

Resolute Blademaster: This better be the blade, or Riot! This is more of a finisher for a non-combo Ally deck since it doesn’t particularly work in any meaningful way with putting a bunch of allies into play at once.

Effects like this are a Savage Beating when they work, but they have never hit the big time, as they only work with a strong board presence, and don’t do anything while behind. The advantage of this over something like Berserkers’ Onslaught is that you can play exactly one of them in your deck and look for it with Munda when it’ll be useful, and brings an extra couple of power to the table itself. (mostly relevant with Chasm Guide)

Roil Spout: As annoying as Time Ebb is, it hasn’t made waves in constructed yet, maybe just a tiny little bit when it could also hit lands. Making Dismisser into a 4/4 is fairly appealing, but I think the non-Awaken mode will be too underwhelming, and even when Awakened, if your only targets are things like Den Protector or Rhino it’s not a wonderful situation.

Sire of Stagnation: A sideboard card for matchups where they want to make lots of land drops and are not also able to very easily counter/kill this and then untap and punish you. 5/7 is pretty big, and if they are forced to play even 1 land then you’re quite happy, but by the time you play this most opponents will either not need to play any more lands, or be able to handle it anyway. Hence, it’ll often basically seem to have no ability.

It will also make people hate you in Commander possibly as much as they would if you’d played Consecrated Sphinx!

Skyrider Elf: I just wanted feel nostalgic for Gaea’s Skyfolk, and they sort of mated it with a Manta! It is versatile, and not embarrassing at any price point, so maybe it’ll appear to fill up some curves and apply some pressure, and maybe it’ll be easy enough for an Ally deck to play for some evasion. It is also cheap to return with March from the Tomb and since it returns as a 0/0, it can enter play to trigger Kalastria Healer and leave play to trigger Zulaport Cutthroat without needing any sacrifice effects. You know, if you are looking for weird ways to maximise life-draining on your Marches.

Ulamog’s Nullifier: Same goes for this as I mentioned about a certain card that hates creatures being able to breathe. To go out of your way to exile a bunch of cards, you want a bigger payoff. This is nice, but probably not worth the effort yet.

Veteran Warleader: This card has seen many forms over the years, and it’s usually never worth it due to the requirement of you over-extending your cards into a board wipe. I think this will suffer the same fate, but at least with the March/Rally package, having all your creatures put into the graveyard isn’t the game ending scenario it usually is for creature swarm decks.
Okay, the gold cards are finished off.

No, not that kind of finished off! Gold cards will be back in Oath of the Gatewatch!

Time to look at all the undoubtedly numerous powerful artifacts!

Hedron Archive: Is… is that Jace there with the barrel-body? Was he always like that? I guess he was after he became a Planeswalker, since apparently wearing a barrel causes you to flip. Do the stars of Donkey Kong Country actually Planeswalk from barrel to barrel?

I wonder how this gear fits into the world of wizard fashion?

I really like this card. It lets you ramp into expensive things while still having a plan to solve the issue of having too many mana sources and not enough action. It is a high cost in terms of board position/tempo to play this on turn 4 and do nothing else if you’re on the draw, but hopefully the big spells you follow up with will compensate.

Pilgrim’s Eye: Finally, a much desired reprint of this Modern powerhouse. Timely, as I’m sure the price was about to skyrocket.

Unfortunately for this fan-favourite card, I don’t really see anyone being desperate enough for mana fixing with now with all the good lands available, and you can play Nissa assuming you want to hit land drops while applying something to the board. I’d recommend you passover this pilgrim in favour of something else.

That’s it! That’s all the cards. I did skip over some cards like Dispel since I figured everyone has seen those enough times already to know if you want them in your sideboard or not. :3

A couple of people told me I was somewhat generous in my application of ‘possibly playable’, but I’m fine with that. For me, it’s valuable to consider what makes a card almost good instead of actually good, since it gives me something to work on for evaluating future cards too.

To provide a couple random examples off the top of my head, have you ever tried to play Dragon Appeasement? Probably not, since that card was Not Good Enough for constructed by a long way. But, having tried out the card casually, I know that the effect on the card is very strong. Appeasement cost way too much, and the drawback was far too steep, but if I consider what a playable version of that card might look like, well, maybe it will look more like Smothering Abomination, a card that is cheaper, has a drawback that is sometimes an upside, and can attack. Hooray!

Maybe a less wild example would be Utopia Tree. That card came out during Invasion, and was reprinted in 9th, and didn’t see a lot of play either time despite Invasion being multicoloured block. Why? Well, while it did have the same text as Birds of Paradise which is great, costing 2 turned out to be a huge downside, making it much easier for your opponents to kill it off before you got the mana boost. There weren’t a lot of 1 power creatures around either, so it couldn’t block most of the time. So what would it take to make the Tree playable? Perhaps you could make it harder to kill, or make it better at blocking? Turns out they did both with Sylvan Caryatid, which looked underwhelming at first due to memories of prior unplayable 2-mana ramp creatures and I encountered seemingly unfavourable comparisons to Birds, Hierarch, and Rampant Growth, but Caryatid quickly became popular.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read my rambles. I expect to be writing more regularly again for now on, so I hope you’ll join me again, even when I talk about non-Magical things!

See you later!

Edit: I forgot to add in a link to my Twitter account again. I am not really big on this self-promotion thing. :3

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