Battle for Zendikar in Eternal Formats by Christopher Cooper

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

Battle for Zendikar in Eternal Formats

Hello everybody! It’s that time of year again, when we get a nice big visual spoiler for us to go through and find the best cards from the new set for our favourite decks. A lot has happened in the last few weeks, and the banning of Dig Through Time and unbanning of Black Vise could have a big shake up of the Legacy format, whilst Chalice of the Void‘s restriction has Mishra’s Workshop players in Vintage foaming at the mouth. It’s not all good news for blue players though, as Dig Through Time is also restricted, though this is offset a little by Thirst for Knowledge‘s unrestriction.

I’ve gone through every card in Battle for Zendikar to have a look at which cards could see play in which decks.

Whenever I do this, I’m looking primarily for certain characteristics:

  • What is the mana cost? Is it undercosted for what it does?
  • Is it a unique removal effect in a colour that can’t normally do this?
  • Has this card got an effect that hasn’t been seen before? If it has been seen before, does it do it better?
  • What deck would want it?
  • Is it a big, dumb thing that could be a better option than X, Y or Z in a Reanimator/Show and Tell deck, especially with Dig Through Time now banned?

With all that in mind, let’s have a look at what we’ve got.

***DISCLAIMER*** Throughout this article I will be referring to a Descendants’ Path deck. This is a deck that I wrote about here and is not particularly competitive, though it does get better the more Eldrazi get printed.

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Titan’s Presence

[draft]Titan’s Presence[/draft]

This card might see a little play in the big mana decks, so we’re looking at MUD in Legacy and Workshops in control. In MUD it is relatively easy to cast as all the lands that produce mana can help cast it, as can Metalworker. The additional cost is problematic though, as it makes it a worse top deck and needs a good sized creature to be effective. These decks tend to run Dismember to get rid of smaller things and this requires you to have something pretty beefy in hand to get rid of larger things.

Verdict: could be tried out in a few lists but unlikely to make a long term presence felt.

Scour From Existence

[draft]Scour From Existence[/draft]

This card suffers from the same sort of things that Titan’s Presence does, though it is a lot more flexible. It won’t see play in Vintage, Mishra’s Workshop not being able to pay for it is a huge downside when it comes to paying 7 mana (plus any extra from sphere effects), but I could see Cloudpost decks in Legacy maybe wanting it. The problem is though that Karn Liberated is just better than this except in very niche situations.

Verdict: Unplayable

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

[draft]Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger[/draft]

This is the first one I’ve seen that will definitely be going into the aforementioned Descendants’ Path deck, as it is a big upgrade over the original Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre. Exiling two permanents is a lot more than one, so this will allow you to deal with the Humility/Karakas issue that’s come up for me before. It might see a small amount of play in decks like OmniShow or even other Reanimator type shells, but its use there is limited to “is this better than Griselbrand?” Often, no.

Verdict: Playable but niche.

Void Winnower

[draft]Void Winnower[/draft]

This is a card that I could see seeing play in both Standard and Vintage. In Vintage it could make an interesting creature for Oath of Druids to find, while Show and Tell decks could use this to put their opponents off certain cards. I think that this is best against combo decks and possibly control decks, though Swords to Plowshares may beg to differ.

It is good against:

Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Life from the Loam
Cabal Ritual
Lotus Petal
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Past in Flames
Dread Return
Chalice of the Void
Phyrexian Revoker
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/draft]

It doesn’t even die to Doom Blade.

Verdict: Playable, but it may take a while to get a hold. This may require one person championing this card and grinding good results until it gets noticed.



Quarantine Field

[draft]Quarantine Field[/draft]

So, Enchantress I hear you say? I hear Serra’s Sanctum likes big mana sinks. Whilst this doesn’t work with blink effects as nicely as Oblivion Ring, it can hit multiple things at once, giving it a big boost despite it’s greater mana cost. However, a fringe deck again means I won’t be picking these up in too much of a hurry.

Verdict: Playable but unique scaling effect, just a little too expensive to be a staple.



Tide Drifter and Salvage Drone

[draft]Tide Drifter
Salvage Drone[/draft]

These two are both considerations for my Descendants’ Path deck. Blue opens up a nice new avenue of cards we can look at, with Tide Drifter a strong defensive card and Salvage Drone‘s loot death trigger being far from insignificant. The Ingest could be a positive and a negative though, as messing with Brainstorms and Sensei’s Divining Tops is always a risky business. However, neither gives card advantage in the same way Nest Invader does, which could lead to them being unplayable.

Verdict: Wait until I do my reworking of the Descendants’ Path deck, coming soon!


Vampiric Rites

[draft]Vampiric Rites[/draft]

This kind of card is a little unusual in black, I keep reading it as lose a life and draw a card. However, I love the grindiness of the engine of it, it could go really nicely into a Zom-bardment type deck with Bloodsoaked Champions, Gravecrawlers and Bloodghasts. In Vintage this is just outclassed by Skullclamp

Verdict: Playable and fun, but needs to find the right deck, something I will definitely try to do!

Wasteland Strangler

[draft]Wasteland Strangler[/draft]

A 3 mana Nekrataal wannabe is a very nice effect, but just how good the effect is depends on how reliably you can make your opponent exile cards. Deathrite Shaman could be good with this card in a BGx shell, along with sideboard cards like Leyline of the Void and Surgical Extraction (though the sort of decks you’d want these against are far less likely to be running relevant creatures). For all the value I’d recommend an Abzan deck so you can use Swords to Plowshares to help fill the exile zone up.

Verdict: Very playable, pick up your foils now.



Zada, Hedron Grinder

[draft]Zada, Hedron Grinder[/draft]

I just want this card to be broken so much. Could Goblins play it? Could there be an ally deck with this as a finisher? It only takes one card for this to Become Immense. It might not see play straight away, but somewhere, somewhen, this will be broken.

Verdict: Please, please, please send me your Zada decks!



Scythe Leopard

[draft]Scythe Leopard[/draft]

Zoo is all but dead. Is this the card to revive it? I don’t think so. I like Steppe Lynx as much as the next man but this ain’t it.

Verdict: Unplayable

Sylvan Scrying

[draft]Sylvan Scrying[/draft]

This already sees play in Legacy in turbo Dark Depths decks, so I’m cheating a little bit here. However, I think the artwork on this one is nicer and will pop in foil.

Verdict: Get your foils now!

Blisterpod, Call the Scions and From Beyond

Call the Scions
From Beyond[/draft]

More fodder for the Descendants’ Path deck! Blisterpod is a definite include as it is a two-for- one for one mana, the more Eldrazi creatures you can create in this deck, the better. Call the Scions is possibly just slightly too expensive, I like it better than Brood Birthing as you’re guaranteed two rather than one or three, but three is a lot more mana than two. I am unsold on From Beyond too, Awakening Zone is cheaper, but the power of Scions give us another angle of attack against control decks as we can actually attack with the tokens.

Verdict: Watch this space.

Beastcaller Savant

[draft]Beastcaller Savant[/draft]

Look for the relevant creature type! Yes, this will see play in the allies deck. What, you mean there isn’t one? Well, yet anyway. OK, so other relevant types. Well, I guess that there’s the Elves! deck. This could see play in Elves! as a source of coloured mana and a hasty one at that. This could make a Glimpse of Nature turn very explosive. Also, I love his little Lotus Cobra buddy in the art.

Verdict: Will see play as a 1-2 of in Elves! and will be a player in any allies deck that happens.



Brutal Expulsion

[draft]Brutal Expulsion[/draft]

So we kick off the multicolour section with a colourless card. This could definitely see play in Miracles, as a nice 4 mana two-for-one removal spell. You can use it to bounce your own Force of Will that’s being countered to recast it (or other cheap counter like Spell Pierce) and deal with multiple small threats. This can be a good way of stabilising but there are likely better ways at 4 mana. Sadly though, despite the blue symbol in the top right corner it does not pitch to Force of Will itself, a big strike against its playability,

Verdict: 1-of at best, but will catch people out who undercommit to the board.

Kiora, Master of the Depths

[draft]Kiora, Master of the Depths[/draft]

We’re really going deep on the niche decks today. Any guesses at my thoughts for this card? No?

How about Stasis? A RUG Stasis deck has Garruk Wildspeaker, Ral Zarek and now Kiora, Master of the Depths to play with to untap its lands and Kiora comes with a built in win condition. Yes please!

Verdict: Format all-star as Stasis becomes the deck to beat and rounds go to time all the time.

Bring to Light

[draft]Bring to Light[/draft]

Expected Results, guaranteed. In a deck that can support enough colours this is amazing. There has to be a combo deck somewhere that wants it and I might know just the one. This isn’t broken, but it is very, very strong.

Verdict: Will see play, its just a matter of time.

Ulamog’s Nullifier

[draft]Ulamog’s Nullifier[/draft]

BUG decks will love this. Deathrite Shaman to eat your graveyard then a two-for-one here to fill it up again. Yes please.

Verdict: Playable. Definite role player in Shardless BUG.



Blighted Fen

[draft]Blighted fen[/draft]

This could see play in a Lands deck of some flavour, but I am sceptical. There are enough other ways of dealing with creatures in these decks that this seems both expensive and superfluous. That doesn’t stop me wanting to give it a try though. The only other one from this cycle that might see play is the blue one, as people like drawing cards.

Verdict: Marginal at best.

Lumbering Falls

[draft]Lumbering Falls[/draft]

Man lands are always powerful, and multicoloured ones even more so. This could replace a Creeping Tar Pit in some decks, as Hexproof has some advantages over unblockable but I feel the Creeping Tar Pit is still the better card. I like the Welkin Tern reference in the art though.

Verdict: Fights in the same space as a mostly better card. Could see play but not much.

Ally Encampment

[draft]Ally Encampment[/draft]

Not quite Cavern of Souls, but, should the ally deck become a thing this will see play. Personally I think that deck will go the way of the sliver decks and disappear quite quickly, but it will be flavour of the month for a few people.

Verdict: 4 of in a niche deck that’s likely to be popular amongst newer to Legacy players in the short term future, though I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Mortuary Mire

[draft]Mortuary Mire[/draft]

Nice effect but not quite good enough. Maybe a one of as a Crop Rotation target in some decks, though there are probably better cards you can get than this. Could also work nicely in tandem with Knight of the Reliquary and/or Life from the Loam. This is the best of the cycle, the others are all basically unplayable.

Verdict: Highly unlikely, but someone could give this a try.

Lastly, but not least we come on to the dual land cycle:

[draft]Prairie Stream
Sunken Hollow
Smoldering Marsh
Cinder Glade
Canopy Vista[/draft]

It wouldn’t be fair for me to talk about the set without mentioning these. Now, I am a very budget conscious player, so having fetchable duals that can painlessly enter the battlefield untapped can only be a good thing, right? Well, acually, I think these are bad. There are so few two colour decks these days anyway because splashing for a third colour is so easy that the likelihood of having 2 basics out is incredibly slim. I just don’t feel that they are worth the tempo loss. Buy shock lands instead.

Overall this set seems to be toned back a little in terms of low cost power to let the big stuff shine, and quite right too in a world full of Eldrazi. Sadly, the only things I’m excited to play from the set are all actually terrible in terms of the cards that they are. I think that the biggest two cards from this set will be Wasteland Strangler and Ulamog’s Nullifier, which could help spawn (or should that be scion these days) new offshoots to the Shardless BUG archetypes. Vintage will barely register the set in comparison to Khans of Tarkir, which will probably be a good thing as it gives the format time to settle down a little.

Community Question: What cards from Battle for Zendikar do you expect will make the most impact/see the most play in Eternal formats and why?

What cards from Battle for Zendikar do you expect to see the most play in Eternal formats and why?

Thanks for reading,

Christopher Cooper

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