Battle for Zendikar Sealed and Draft Review: Red 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.
Note: Archetype legend is located at bottom of post.
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
Akoum Firebird (B+) : There have been many reincarnations of this card in recent sets.
- Rather than a strong flying creature, think of it like a Sulfuric Vortex or a repeatable burn effect, its going to keep hitting your opponent from the moment you play it but late game, you can bring it back.
- But its not going to be a creature influencing combat since it can never really block.
- LSV regarded Flamewake Pheonix from Fate Reforged in a similar way. He said, “Flamewake Phoenix is basically Sulfuric Vortex targeting your opponent”
- Aggressive decks will prioritize this card but I don’t see it being any good in any slow deck that needs blockers. If you’re not already winning, then this card won’t help you stabilize a board.
- You can play it in the second Main phase, after combat, if you need a blocker for that turn.
Akoum Hellkite (A-) : Turns each mountain into a Shock? Sign me up.
- Turns lands other than mountains into a one point of damage
- 4/4 flier for 6 CMC is perfectly fine for limited
- Upside to the ability:
- Lands aren’t dead cards in your hand
- they can either take out smaller creatures; allowing you do get aggressive
- or ping the opponent’s life total and allow you to sit back.
- Great in the Ramp/landfall archetype especially with something like Slab Hammer allowing you to repeatedly trigger the Landfall ability
- Downside to the ability:
- by the time you get to six mana, lands will most likely be drawn from the top of your deck. So this landfall isn’t that consistent.
- 2 Damage isn’t a lot if your opponent is playing big creatures
Akoum Stonewaker (C+) : Let me conjure up my inner LSV…hold on…*ahem* Akoum Stonewaker makes me erupt into a magma-lomaniac laughter.
- 2/1 for 2 mana is not bad to fit a curve but bad with all the Eldrazi Scions (1/1) in the format.
- Notably, the elemental creature summoned with her ability has trample.
- So in a pinch you can just rely on her landfall ability to get damage through Eldrazi Scions.
- You might think she’s a blast but you probably could cut her for a better 2-drop. To which I answer: “my sediments exactly”
Barrage Tyrant (B+) : “Blue! No… YELLOOOOOOOOOO!” – Ser Gallahad
- The stats suggest that you want Barrage Tyrant in an aggressive deck
- The ability can be used in aggressive devoid decks to deal direct damage to your opponent’s life total.
- Ability can only sacrifice colourless creatures (fortunately there is a lot of devoid creatures in the set)
- Ability can break stalemates by sacing (sacrificing) creatures that couldn’t attack (without dying in combat) and fling them at enemy’s creatures that you want to eliminate (such as pesky fliers)
- With an effect like Turn Against, you can take control of your opponent’s Eldrazi, attack with it and then sacrifice it to deal damage how you like.
- Strong in BR Devoid combo archetype
Belligerent Whiptail ( C ) : Matches up poorly against 2 drops but thankfully it has landfall
- Not an exciting pick because of the stats
- Best in an aggressive landfall deck
Boiling Earth (C-) : Kills all the Eldrazi Scions, as evidenced in the art.
- I’d pick this for my sideboard; but it would easily be one of the best options against Eldrazi ramp.
- A fine pick for Aggressive decks to kill early blockers or trade up after combat.
- Really depends how many Eldrazi Scions your opponent is producing
Chasm Guide (B+) :
- This card means that each ally you play to trigger rally, will also get to attack immediately. So rally affects that buff through stat gains or keywords like first strike, menace, etc. can also apply to this ally and subsequent allies.
- A 3/2 haste for 4 mana is playable by itself
- though the ability sends it over the top.
- Breaks goblin stereotypes (see flavor text); is female (✓), noble goblin (✓), not expendable (✓).
Crumble to Dust
Crumble to Dust (D) : Could be a dead card.
- The Nonbasics you want to target (such as manlands and BFZ dual lands) will be rare and you probably won’t exile multiple of them.
- Sideboard tech against decks that rely on nonbasic lands.
Dragonmaster Outcast (A-) : You will get to 6+ lands in this format.
- Play this turn 5 onwards, do not play this turn 1 or it will die before you get to 6 lands.
- Begs for immediate removal
- If not dealt with, you could get a 5/5 dragon each turn.
Firemantle Mage (B-) : Solid ally.
- Gives your allies menace, requiring your enemy to double block
- Good in aggressive ally decks
Goblin War Paint
Goblin War Paint (C+) : Aggressive enchantment
- Strong filler in aggressive decks; you’d prefer a 2/2 creature
- Be wary of opponent’s untapped mana or you could get 2 for 1′ed. I.e. you play this on your creature, they kill the creature in response, you lose both the creature AND the enchantment. Option to cry (✓)
Kozilek’s Sentinel (C-) : He got a big booty.
- Fits BR Devoid combo/aggro archetypes
- Can be used as an early blocker
- May indicate how Kozilek will look in a future set (notice the eyes on appendages, jagged shape and the plated armour.)
Lavastep Raider (C-) : He begs for an aggressive red deck
- Fits red aggro/swarm archetypes.
- Blocks Eldrazi Scions and can trade up against 2-3 drops.
- Bonus points to using a hedron as the spearhead.
Makindi Sliderunner (C+) : Is it running down a hill or are we on an angle?
- Your aggressive red creature for GR landfall aggro
Molten Nursery (D) : I keep mistaking this enchantment for a creature.
- Only play it in the Devoid Combo archetype or if you have 5+ colourless spells
Nettle Drone ( C ) : Great if you have 5+ colourless spells; mediocre otherwise
- Essential for Devoid/Colourless Combo Archetype
- Great for BR devoid aggro or aggro in general
- bad stats for the cost, dies to Eldrazi scions.
Ondu Champion ( C+ ) : He got a lot of tribes and he’s exhausted.
- Decent stats.
- Good in ally decks
Outnumber (C+) : The Scions Strikes Back
- Fine in stalemates
- Amazing in Swarm archetype
- Strong instant effect for 1 mana
Processor Assault ( C- ) : Play if you have devoid creatures or 3+ sources that exile
- Only hits creatures
- Represents 5 damage for 2 mana
- Potential to be a dead card
Radiant Flames ( C ) : You may not always want to play this.
- Deals damage to EACH creature
- Requires a minimum of 2 mana to be effective board clear
- Can kill multiple eldrazi scions
Reckless Cohort (C-) : They’ll run into a bigger creature eventually
- An ally; designed for aggressive decks
Retreat to Valakut
Retreat to Valakut (B) : Both of these effects are strong.
- Possibly allowing your creature to trade up (after +2/0)
- Can eliminate a blocker
- Do not estimate this ability; it can be devastating vs a Ramp/midrange deck. Reducing their big creature to a bystander as you alpha strike.
- Synergy between modes
- Turns late game land drops into useful effects
Rolling Thunder (B) : Spreadable removal.
- Powerful effect in the late game
- Weak card for early game
- Sorcery speed
- Worth Splashing for; this was raised from common (Tempest Printing) to uncommon for a reason – dudeitslieb
Serpentine Spike (B) : “You better hope I don’t get to 7 mana” -Ulamog to Drana
- Enabler for Eldrazi that need cards in exile
- Powerful late game effect; can target the same creature even
- Can only target creatures
Shatterskull Recruit (C-) : A big dumb ally
- Has menace and is an ally.
Stonefury (B-) : Reliable removal as long as you didn’t ramp into it
- Will deal 5+ to a creature, and has the potential to kill a much bigger creature
- bad against aggressive decks
Sure Strike (B) : A very strong combat trick
- Allowing your puny creature to trade up immensely
- First strike will protect your creature
Touch of the Void
Touch of the Void (B) : Reliable removal or burn spell
- Enabler for certain Eldrazi that care about exile
- Top tier card for Devoid decks
- Essential for Eldrazi control/ramp archetype
Tunnelling Geopede (C-) : Filler card with puny ability
- Obviously best in a landfall deck; filler if you need a 3 drop
Turn Against ( C ) : Expensive Act of Treason
- Very expensive for this kind of effect
- Little better with all the better creatures
- Perfect for any deck that has sacrifice outlets
Valakut Invoker ( C ) : Sub-par stats for a Lightning Strike late game
- Great if both players are top decking late game
- Can be good for an early blocker but filler usually
Valakut Predator (B) : Strong card for any deck; premium for landfall decks
- This card is often a 4/4 on subsequent turns and represents a strong threat
- With one evolving wild, you paid 3 mana for a 6/6 that turn.
- Devastating in a landfall deck.
Vestige of Emrakul
Vestige of Emrakul (C+) : Good stats
- Fits devoid archetypes
- Solid creature
Vile Aggregate (B-) : a minimum of 1/5 & devoid is solid for 3 mana
- Can be very strong with Eldrazi scions or devoid creatures
- Toughness indicative of 5 drops in the format
Volcanic Upheaval (D) : Kills pesky nonbasics or awakened creatures
- Still a sideboard card; even though awaken is in the set
Zada, Hedron Grinder
Zada, Hedron Grinder (B+) : You got Zada in limited? You want pump spells.
- Only works with instants or sorceries that target Zada.
- Primarily pump spells
- Suited for Aggressive decks but can be great in stalemates.
Identified archetypes in Red:
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.
RW (Red-White) Ally Archetype = Leans on aggressive side, and seeks to put more allies onto field, slowly gaining board advantage through the Rally triggered ability.
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 or Molten Nursery.
BR (Black-red) Devoid Aggro = Championed by Forerunner of Slaughter, the deck makes use of devoid creatures for strong aggressive effects like Swarm Surge
UR (Blue-red) Devoid = Championed by Herald of Kozilek, the deck functions as a ramp deck with more access to burn and creatures like Valakut Invoker.
Life-gain Archetype = Either an aggressive weenie deck with life-gain to mitigate retaliatory strikes or a methodical deck that prefers to gain incremental advantage through life-gain to triggers effects or even as a win condition.
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.
Converge Archetype = 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).
You can find all my articles in this series here.
Thanks for reading,
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