Battle for Zendikar Sealed and Draft Review: Blue by Eric Harrell
You can find all my articles in this series here.
Good afternoon, night or early morning! I’ve been recently acquired by Manaleak as a writer. I primarily play the Limited & Standard format. Nice to virtually meet each and every one of you.
If you are competitive, this series will provide a quick assessment for cards in the set in regards to Draft and Sealed. At the same time, this series is great for newcomers to the BFZ (Battle for Zendikar) set and the limited format. I try to explain all terms us MTG sage’s might take for granted so that a beginner can quickly grasp what is meant by a bear.
This series grades each card in BFZ for the limited format and provides several archetypes that can help orient your deck building. I try to keep my puns to a minimum as LSV reigns that dark realm, but I do have quite a bit of references and links to ensure this’ll be one entertaining read. One final thing: never be shy of your opinion – yours matters.
Grading Rubric located at bottom of post.
Adverse Conditions (B-) : Designed to slow down your opponent or eliminate blockers, this is a tempo card.
- Used offensively, you can take down pesky blockers
- Great in a White/Blue Awaken or Flier archetype deck.
- Use in conjunction with Sheer drop to kill creature.
- Used defensively, you can play this at the start of combat (on opponent’s turn) to lock down two creatures for two combat phases
- Fits Eldrazi ramp/control archetype
- Spawns an Eldrazi Scion
- Capitalize on the tempo by helping you cast your next big spell
- Can be used to block an opponent’s creature at instant speed.
Anticipate (B) : Smooths out your early game.
- Allows you to dig through the top 3 cards of your deck and draw the best card.
- placing the others on the bottom of your library isn’t that much of a drawback.
- Instant speed
- hold up mana for a counter spell or combat trick, influencing how the opponent plays their turn, then play it at the end of their turn.
- Good at all stages of the game.
Benthic Infiltrator (B-) : Good toughness and the option to deal damage
- Best trait of this card is that it can’t be blocked.
- Offensive: enchantments like Goblin War Paint
- ¼ stats is great for blocking aggressive creatures or Eldrazi Scions
- Devoid might matter in a UR (blue-red) Eldrazi ramp/control deck or devoid combo.
- Ingest is important in conjunction with Unblockable ability
- Easily enables cards that require cards in Exile.
Brilliant Spectrium (C-) : Basically unplayable in mono/dual colour decks.
- Potential to draw 5 cards! (Not probable)
- Acceptable if you are drawing 3+ cards.
- Discarding two cards is a huge downside
- you can discard cards other than those you drew
Cloud Manta (C+) : An average flier; a variant of Wind Drake
- Stats are not the best but acceptable as a flier
Clutch of Currents
Clutch of Currents (C+) : Tempo card that can be a creature late game
- Bounce effect
- Offensively: Bounce a pesky blocker or bounce a token creature (It ceases to exist as a State Based Action)
- Defensively: Can delay the opponent a turn
- Awaken makes this card a huge tempo swing late game, return their biggest creature and make a creature yourself
- Return your own creature if you want to trigger “Enter battlefield” effect
Coastal Discovery (B+) : Your Divination of the set with big upside
- Unconditional draw
- You are okay paying 4 mana for this
- For only 6 CMC, draw two cards and Awaken a 4/4 land!
- To clarify, this is very strong.
Coralhelm Guide (B-) : Its a 2 drop with a good late game effect
- An ally
- Though I think there are better allys for the 2 drop slot
- Ability to make a creature unblockable is very strong
- Utilize the ability late game to have a big creature deal damage while leaving a majority of your force to block.
- For this reason, I think you want at least one if you are playing Eldrazi ramp/control or an Awaken archetype
- More effective in a slower, bigger curve (UG)
Cryptic Cruiser ( C ) : A decent body if you need it.
- The ability requires 3 mana and an opponent’s card in exile (compare to other Eldrazi Processor effects that have no cost associated)
- Quite good in an ingest deck; possibly tapping down a blocker to deal damage with ingest, exiling and repeating this next turn.
Dampening Pulse (C+) : Reduces your opponent’s power
- Shuts down aggressive decks
- Not so noticeable versus bigger decks
- Makes combat easier
- possibly allowing you to swing with more creatures and not fearing reprisal.
- Is an enchantment, making it harder to remove in the set
Dispel ( C ) : Counter your opponent’s combat trick or removal spell
- Could possibly create you tempo (1 mana to counter a 4+ mana spell)
- Flavor text where Jace Beleren is a badass.
- Possibly a dead card.
Adverse Conditions (A) : Great stats for the cost
- 7/7 divided by 3 creatures.
- Sacrifice Eldrazi Scions to ignore a blocker or an attacker (do this before the blocking or attacking phase respectively)
- Alternatively sacrifice the scions to ramp up to an 8 mana spell the next turn.
- Gives scions token utlity late game when you don’t need to ramp
Eldrazi Skyspawner (B) : You get to see an Eldrazi Live-birth for just 3 mana.
- Solid stats, 3/2 divided by 2 creatures
- Eldrazi Scion token created
- A birth depicted in the actual art; kudos to Chase Stone
Exert Influence ( C ) : Wouldn’t play unless I had 3+ colours
- Better in the format since people are paying more mana for undersized stats
- Simultaneously bad against Eldrazi that split over several creatures
- Sorcery speed
Guardian of Tazeem
Guardian of Tazeem (A) : A fearsome flier; represents a finisher
- Robust Stats; 4/5 flier for 5 mana makes it one of the biggest fliers in the format
- Landfall allows Guardian of Tazeem to void flying creatures that could block it by tapping them down or big creatures you just don’t like.
Halimar Tidecaller (A-) : If you have cards that Awaken; you want her.
- Solid stats for the coast (intended)
- A perfect card for UW Awaken Archetype
- Returns Awaken cards, better than card-draw in some cases
- Gives you lands evasion through flying for off/def purposes
- Enables Rally for ally archetypes
Horribly Awry (B) : You will almost always have a creature to counter.
- 4 CMC or less is a big target and 2 mana is not much to spare.
- Exiles the card to enable cards like Blight Herder
- Great for Eldrazi Ramp/control archetype
Incubator Drone (B-) : Decent stats divided by two creatures
- You get one Eldrazi Scion
Mist Intruder (C-) : The stats may not be much but its a flier
- Ingest and flying have good synergy, enabling other ‘exile matters’ cards
Murk Strider (C+) : Didn’t you hear? Eldrazi like to play with their Prey
- Bounce effect on a creature can gain you tempo
- Conditional bounce. Include some ingest in your deck at earlier curves.
- Not a very good blocker; but acceptable stats for an attacker
Oracle of Dust
Oracle of Dust (B-) : Solid body; utility ability
- Great body for blocking
- I think this is fine in a UW flier deck
- One of the few repeatable ‘Exile Matter’ effects. The cost is flexible and cheap to smoothen out your hand.
Part the Waterveil
Part the Waterveil (B) : Expensive cost for a strong effect
- Taking turns is always good and the cost isn’t that bad for Limited
- It exiles itself, so you can’t use it twice in a game
- Awaken makes this card actually good. Late game you can create a 6/6 creature and it can attack in the extra turn.
Prism Array (D) : I’d only play it in 4+ colour decks
- Crystal counters are based on mana spent to cast (maximum of 5) and are used up to tap down creatures
- No way to increase amount of Crystal counters
- If you’re playing the 5 colour deck you’re happy to have this card (but not thrilled)
- Buys you some turns by tapping down their big creatures
- Scy 3 can only be used if you have 1 of every colour but it will be great if you use it. Designed for late game converge decks.
- Worst Rare in set? People seem to think so
- This means it’ll be passed back to you.
Retreat to Coralhelm
Retreat to Coralhelm (B) : All these Retreats are solid cards
- Untapping allows for some interesting combos
- Untap that mana dork for more mana; pseudo-vigilance
- Tapping can be used offensively to bypass a blocker
- Effective in UW fliers
- Scrying is going to smoothen out your draws, leading you to have a more solid game
- Do you scry that land to the bottom?
- Not too great in multiples
Roilmage’s Trick ( C ) : Clearly a Tempo card for Converge decks
- Defensive card that can change how combat is done or nullify an attack step.
- Cantrips, replacing itself. Buying you more time to assemble more colours for Converge.
Ruination Guide (B+) : This is a solid pick-up that you can build around.
- Good stats for cost
- The ability to turn small colourless creatures such as 1/1 Scions into an aggressive force by giving them +1/+0
- Made even better with all the Devoid creatures in blue.
- Ingest enables ‘Exile matters’ cards and Devoid enables Devoid Archetype
- Perfect for the UR Eldrazi deck or UR Devoid Tempo
- I could see a UB Devoid Deck since those colours have the most devoid creatures
Rush of Ice
Rush of Ice (C-) : Shuts down a blocker or attacker but only one
- Sorcery speed and this effect don’t really go well together. Only preventing one turn of combat as opposed to 2 if it was instant speed.
- Ability to Awaken a 3/3 creature
- but the awaken is quite expensive
Salvage Drone (C-) : He has some things going on for him.
- Represents an early blocker.
- Lowest creature with ingest to exile some early cards
- A dead drop late game.
- Allows a free filter when he dies
- possibly trading in combat and smoothing out your curve
Scatter to the Winds
Scatter to the Winds (A-) : Counter opponent spell; profit with Awaken
- Just a straight up Cancel spell
- What makes this good is the ability to gain Tempo by countering an opponent’s late game threat. Countering their spell and Awakening a land for 3/3.
- Could see this as an uncommon (Am I crazy?)
Spell Shrivel (C+) : An effective early counter
- Loses effectiveness the longer the game goes on
- Enables ‘Exile matter’ cards
Tide Drifter (C-) : Its the butt-end of all Eldrazi jokes.
- It’s a blocker but the 0 power means it can’t kill anything it blocks.
- Increases the toughness of your Eldrazi & colourless creatures.
Tightening Coils (B-) : And stay there!
- Shuts down a creature
- Doesn’t prevent blocking
- Incentivizes sacrificing that creature (not a downside)
- Great for defensive decks.
- An amazing piece of art and the flavour text ties Theros to BFZ (Depicts Koira using Thassa’s Bident which she stole from the Theros Goddess)
Ugin’s Insight (A-) : A first class draw spell for limited
- Allows you to scry first for the perfect draw (this is a very strong relationship)
- In a set with large CMC creatures, you can potentially scry 7 or 8. This proportion might be a quater of your deck and is unheard of.
Ulamog’s Reclaimer (B-) : A great follow up to any instant or sorcery
- Proficient ground blocker
- Can return a instant or sorcery of your choice, creating card advantage
- A lot of the instant or sorceries exile creatures, creating a nice synergistic effect
Wave-Wing Elemental (B) : This is your big beater flier in the UB flier deck.
- ¾ will block a majority of fliers and ground creatures
- Landfall allows this to become 5/6, which is very aggressive for a flier
- representing ¼ of the opponent’s starting life total
- Its expensive so I wouldn’t want multiples
- But it is splashable for decks that want a flier
Windrider Patrol (B) : An flier with great stats and the ability to smooth draws
- Four power fliers can end the game quickly if the opponent has no fliers
- Not a capable blocker itself
- Scrying 2 on damage will ensure you a smoother game (quicker win)
- A solid flier for dual colour flier decks
Letter Grade Legend
A+ = Windmill slam pick! Wins you games by playing them.
A = A “bomb”; very hard to beat.
A- = Good rare or top tier uncommon
B+ = Top tier common or solid uncommon
B = Playable that always makes cut
B- = Playable that rarely gets cut
C+ = Strong Filler; cut occasionally
C = Filler; cut half the time
C- = Bad filler; cut most of time
D = Sideboard material or really obscure utility
F = Unplayable
Identified archetypes in Blue:
Landfall Archetype = Usually an aggressive deck that is composed of permanents with the Landfall keyword. Usually incorporating green for use of green’s land tutoring and ramp spells.
Ally Archetype = Leans on aggressive side, and seeks to put more allies onto field, slowly gaining board advantage through the Rally triggered ability.
UW (Blue-white) Awaken Archetype = A defensive or control type deck that plays defensive creatures until it can take over with large Awaken effect swings, often crippling enemy forces while gaining a large Elemental friend in the process.
Eldrazi Ramp/Control Archetype = Requires 4+ pieces of removal in order to eliminate early threats, ramp up mana and play big Eldrazi cards that take over the game.
Devoid Combo = Uses mostly devoid cards that synergize with each other. Think Nettle Drone
BR (Black-red) Devoid Aggro = Championed by Forerunner of Slaughter, the deck makes use of devoid creatures for strong aggressive effects like Swarm Surge
Swarm Archetype = A hyper-aggressive composed of weenie creatures or Eldrazi Scions, typically 3+ 1-drops and mostly composed of 2-3 drops. Wins with anthem affects that form top of the mana curve (i.e. Inspired Charge is the top of your curve)
Flier Archetype = a traditional archetype that typically has solid ground blockers and aggressive flying creatures. This archetype seems strong against Eldrazi ramp/control. Most effective with the blue fliers in the set.
Converge Archetype = Clearly not supported in white since the only card is Unified Front. This archetype is primarily green for mana fixing and has a minimum of 3 colours to get large value out of sub-par cards (4 colours is ideal).
UW (Blue-white) Awaken = Utilizes the strong Awaken ability on cards primarily from blue and white colours. This deck can afford to be low on creatures and has powerful late game tempo swings. For this reason it never really has a problem with card advantage. Championed and strong supported by Halimar Tidecaller
UB (Blue-Black)/UR (Blue-red) Devoid Variants = Given that these colours have the most devoid creatures, it is possible to craft a deck full of Devoid creatures that synergize with together. A Grixis (UBR) deck may be possible as well.
UB (Blue-Black) Ingest/Processor = Exemplifies ‘Exile Matters’ creatures; Ingest creatures exile enemy cards and the powerful Processor effects use those cards in exile as costs for powerful effects that can take over the game. Championed by powerful rares like Wasteland Strangler, Drowner of Hope and Fathom Feeder.
You can find all my articles in this series here.
Thanks for reading,
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