Battle for Zendikar Sealed and Draft Review: White 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: Letter grade & Archetype legends located at bottom of post.
Angel of Renewal
Angel of Renewal (B) : A 4/4 flier is always a good body to have.
- Good with all the Eldrazi Scions running around and weenie creatures
- Doesn’t mind being bounced for more life-gain
- Counteracts aggressive strategies.
- Good in life-gain archetype to make use of the small creatures with life-gain synergy.
Angelic Gift ( C ) : Good as a finisher for a deck with early creatures.
- Notably it helps gets over big Eldrazi & Eldrazi Scions (that may otherwise trade).
- Enables combat damage to player for creatures like Windrider Patrol or just large creatures.
- Cantrips (meaning it draws a card and replaces itself)
Cliffside Lookout (D) : a 1/1 for 1 mana with the ability to pump your creatures.
- Not bad for hyper-aggressive decks (decks with several 1-2 CMC creatures)
- Fits into swarm archetype as a possible finisher
- Bad in most other decks (at best a chump blocker)
Courier Griffin (C+) : A solid 2/3 flier with small upside.
- Good cost for body & effect.
- Life-gain slows down aggressive decks
- Fits flier archetype.
- Fits life-gain archetype. But by no means a finisher.
Emeria Shepherd (B+) : 4/4 flier with an amazing effect.
- The downside is the cost (7 CMC takes a while to get to without ramp so it needs support, either through scions or creatures that give you mana)
- Without ramp, this could be an unplayable card against swarm, aggressive allies and landfall archetypes
- Wins grindy match ups
- Play it with the land, so turn 8 for immediate effect.
- Fits into Eldralzi archetype to bring back Processor’s like Blight Herder or Drowner of Hope
Encircling Fissure (B-) : A deceptively strong trick that enables a large swing.
- Only prevents damage from opponent’s creatures
- Awaken cost requires 6 lands if you want to block
- Effect synergizes with Awaken ability
- Giving you a 2/2 creature to block and preventing damage done to it
- Huge ability to swing games in your favour
- Ideal situation: the game has gone long, you are low on life, your opponent has more creatures and swings with a combat trick in hand. You play this for its awaken cost, block however you wish to kill the majority of their creatures because the effect only affects the opponent. The opponent is left wide open with a crippled force.
Expedition Envoy (C-) : an aggressive 1 drop and a cheap ally.
- Good in aggressive ally archetype.
- Good for swarm archetype.
- Poor most everywhere else.
Felidar Cub (C+) : a bear with limited upside (Pun intended!)
- 2/2 for 2 mana, which is good for the creature curve.
- Ability is not that relevant unless opponent is playing landfall enchantments or white removal like Stasis Snare
Felidar Sovereign (A) : The boss bomb who can win a game by himself
- Amazing stats for cost.
- Second effect is alternative win con for life-gain archetype.
- Synergy between first & second abilities means it can win by itself.
- Even with a format with bigger creatures, Felidar Sovereign fits many curves and many archetypes.
Fortified Rampart (D) : Bruh…
- Big blocker
- Unable to kill aggressive creatures because of 0 power
- Awful against aggressive decks, bad against ramp, just bad.
Ghostly Sentinel (C+) : A flying filler but decent in a pinch.
- Tolerable stats for the cost
- Flying and vigilance.
- This card is better against a deck like Eldrazi ramp, that doesn’t have fliers and relies on smaller defensive creatures to survive. This card will be able to successfully get in some damage and block any ground creatures.
- This card is bad against aggressive decks.
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar (A+) : God of Battle for Zendikar limited!
- Any planeswalker is good in limited, essentially begs for immediate removal.
- Any big creature is decent in limited, a 5/5 creature that can be buffed by ally effects is amazing against slower decks, obviously not taking damage that turn is gravy on top.
- With one free activation of +1, he can dodge instant burn spells.
- Anything that creates multiple creatures is already good in limited
- Knights tokens are ally creatures for the Ally archetype & protect Gideon.
- Any anthem effect is good in limited, amazing for aggressive archetypes.
- Versatility and the ability to win the game with very little support is why he’s the best card in White.
- Best of luck with pulling one (and holding onto it)
Gideon’s Reproach (B) : Approach this card with a smile because you’re not disappointed.
- Conditional Removal; similar to Sandblast from Tarkir block.
- Good when attacking (allowing you to mess up their double blocks)
- Or blocking (eliminating an attacker or allowing you to trade up)
- Splashable (meaning it doesn’t require multiple mana symbols of one colour and can be used in colours with 2+ colours).
- Good for almost any archetype.
Hero of Goma Fada
Hero of Goma Fada (B) : Poor body but an effect more than makes up.
- Best as the top of an aggressive curve, allowing you to attack without Impunity.
- Great in ally archetype for obvious reasons.
- Awful defensive creature
Inspired Charge (D+) : You’re no Kytheon’s tactics but you’ll do pig.
- +2/+1 is great for swarm strategy and a high pick for that archetype.
- Low pick for most other archetypes.
- Might even avoid even in aggressive landfall deck.
Kitesail Scout (F) : probably going to be the last picked card in a pack, worst card in set for white.
- Mediocre for swarm archetype but you need many anthem effects like 2+ Inspired Charges.
- Not even an ally -_-
- Since there is no flier in the set with 1 toughness other than this, and few creatures with 1 toughness outside of white, this is awful for blocking.
- There are better choices than this card.
Kor Bladewhirl (B-) : She’s a bear (2/2 Power & Toughness for two mana) and an Ally.
- Enabler for ally archetype.
- The ability, giving first strike to all your creatures, is amazing for aggressive ally decks
- Decent everywhere else.
Kor Castigator (B-) : a 3/1 with a good conditional upside.
- Great stats for aggressive curves and swarm decks.
- Enabler for Ally archetype.
- Fits more into the Red-White archetype
- Solves weakness of aggressive archetypes: Tokens.
- This can get through Eldrazi Scions (which are the most common tokens in the set by fair and highly drafted).
Kor Entaglers ( C ) : Stats are bad for its cost but don’t be fooled.
- Effect is a blow-out in aggressive ally decks.
- Great for the Boros (Red-White) ally deck in conjunction with Chasm Guide, as playing creatures with haste that can get past blockers is very effective.
Lantern Scout (B) : Great in non-ally decks but sweet in Ally decks.
- Acceptable stats.
- Presents the chance for a large life swing, allowing you to alpha strike (attack with all your creatures)
- Great in aggressive archetypes.
- Breaks stalemates by presenting a benefit to allowing your big creatures to swing (a damned if you do, damned if you don’t option to your opponent) or alpha striking
Lithomancer’s Focus (B-) : a solid combat trick, good for everything from trading up in aggressive attacks or blocking, to surviving burn.
- Trades up creatures (1 for 1)
- Great against the Devoid decks because of it prevents damage from colorless sources such as Touch of the void or even abilities like Barrage Tyrant.
- References the Lithomancer, who is Nihiri, a Planeswalker that will most likely appear next set and one of the original three, along with Ugin & Sorin Markov to imprison the Eldrazi. I love cards that foreshadow appearances like this.
Makindi Patrol ( C ) : Its really mediocre.
- Ally creature type but vigilance is not something that aggressive ally archetype wants
- Stats are subpar.
- Okay filler if you need creatures.
Ondu Greathorn (B-) : strong landfall creature and callback to Pillerfield Ox
- 2/3 first strike allows it to be a good blocker but a phenomenal attacker.
- High pick for the landfall archetype because not many 4 or even 5 drops in the set can block this effectively.
- In a non-landfall archetype, its mediocre/bad.
- Flavour text is a reference to Pillerfield ox.
Ondu Rising (C+) : You can’t get Pillerfield Ox but a land can look like one!
- Play this for its awaken cost 90% of the time.
- Notice that it says “whenever a creature” so multiple creatures attacking can present a huge life swing.
- 4/4 with life link for six mana (5 mana for cost and 1 untapped land for you to attack) is not too shabby.
Planar Outburst (A-) : This conditional board-wipe is sweet.
- A board wipe, allowing you to turn the tide and punishing aggressive decks
- Kills non-land creatures so its premium removal if you are playing the awaken archetype (leaving your lands alive)
- granted this means that its worse against an awaken archetype.
- Has awaken itself…let that sink in. For 8 mana, you can wipe the field killing the Eldrazi of an Eldrazi ramp archetype, an army of allies (if you aren’t already dead), midrange decks or life-gain archetypes (that like board stalemates). You kill them all and you get a 4/4 creature remaining (even if you had to tap it to cast the spell).
- Only A- because it has the possibility to be awkward against decks running Awaken and kill some of your creatures
- If you have this pack one, draft as many good awaken cards as you can. Having that Awaken deck makes this the best removal out there.
Quarantine Field (A) : In a similar strain, this is a premium piece of removal.
- For 4 mana: an expensive Oblivion Ring but an oblivion ring nonetheless that exiles one huge threat from the opponent.
- For 6 CMC (your most likely timing for this card): exile two huge threats and swing game in your favour.
- 8+ CMC and you are guaranteed game.
- Compare it to Scour from Existence; yes its much better.
- Great for those Eldrazi decks that love cards in Exile, such as Wasteland Strangler.
- Does not hit awakened creatures, making awakened a strong archetype against white.
- For me, this card wins for flavour as well. This card embodies the effect of the Hedrons, which places Eldrazi in stasis, exiling them but leaving the chance for them to return if the Hedrons were to be destroyed. Finally, to exile many Eldrazi it would require mana of a significant magnitude!
Retreat to Emeria
Retreat to Emeria (B+) : An impressive landfall card of impressive value.
- Multiple ally triggers due to this card’s effect of creating 1/1 allies in conjunction with something like Tajuru Warcaller.
- Ability to pump up your creatures with its second effect.
- Synergy of this card can be a blowout.
- Best in a primarily Green-white Ally deck but can be good in a Naya landfall deck.
- Good in non-ally deck, 1/1s are never bad for chump blocking in a defensive flier archetype.
Roil’s Retribution (D) : Yea some cards in the set have to be bad and this may not look like one at all.
- In fact, instant-speed 5 damage divided can kill a lot of scion tokens or just a big attacker/blocker.
- It has one crime itself, its CMC.
- If you leave 5 mana open, players will play around you. Aggressive decks will either build up their force or have a pump spell in response to your trick , defensive decks won’t take their chances or simply have creatures that are too big to care.
- Rather just draft a Gideon’s reproach, which is 2 mana and less predictable.
Serene Steward (B-) : A bear (2/2 for 2 mana) is always nice for a curve and White seems to have a lot of them.
- Rewarding for the life-gain archetype (which is looking Black-white at this point) or even with all the Life-link in the set.
- Notably it’s ability can put a 1/1 counter on other creatures.
- Unfortunately have to pay mana to use its ability which ultimately prohibits it.
Shadow Glider (C-) : 3 mana for a 2/2 flier is fine usually
- Considering the fliers in the format, it matches up bad.
- Almost every flier in the set has more than 2 toughness
- Only survives a trade with Kitesail Scout. Enough said.
Sheer Drop (B+) : Premium removal for white.
- Kills all attackers in the set except for Plated Crusher, Gideon, ally of Zendikar or a Hero of Goma Fada trigger.
- Basically making this card amazing against any other colour.
- Can awaken as a creature.
- Sorcery-speed (people will make the mistake of playing as an instant at Pre-release)
Smite the Monstrous
Smite the Monstrous (B) : Good removal that I hardly pass up.
- Kills most bomb creatures in the format (which is full of big creatures).
- Destroys most landfall/awakened creatures.
Stasis Snare (A-) : Premium removal at instant speed.
- Exiles opponent creatures
- Eldrazi Processor’s can utilize that.
- Minor enchantment destruction in set means it’ll probably stick to the battlefield.
Stone Haven Medic
Stone Haven Medic (D) : Not too happy to see this.
- Other than the life-gain archetype its quite poor. Even in the life-gain archetype you’re not happy to have this defensive creature.
- Stacks up bad against the much better 2 drops in the format.
Tandem Tactics (B-) : This card is an amazing trick for white because it can be a 2 for 1.
- It allows you to trade up in combat.
- Its great in aggressive archetypes facing each other
- Life-gain gives it utility in the life-gain archetype.
Unified Front (C-) : I’d only play it if I could reliably cast it with 3+ colors or had a total ally deck.
- Making multiple allies is great, whether to trigger multiple ally triggers, chump block, trade up blockers or just create an army.
- 4 mana for 2 or even 1 ally is not worth it to me. Sorcery speed also hurts this card’s versatility.
- White’s only Converge card – so you probably want to draft other colours for converge.
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 White:
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.
White-Red Ally Archetype = Leans on aggressive side, and seeks to put more allies onto field, quickly gaining board advantage through the Rally triggered ability and not giving the opponent the chance to stabilize the field.
White-Green Ally Archetype = Leans on the midrange side, and seeks to put more allies onto field, slowly gaining board advantage through the Rally triggered ability.
White-Blue 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.
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 white 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 such as Pillarfield Ox variants and aggressive flying creatures. This archetype seems strong against Eldrazi ramp/control.
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 colors to get large value out of sub-par cards (4 colors is ideal and very possible).
Generic Curve Guideline (From Wizards)
You can find all my articles in this series here.
Thanks for reading,
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