I have, in the past, mentioned the influence that original Zendikar block had on my relationship to Magic. It taught me fundamentals, had a neat storyline, and was the first block I played through start to finish; an important marker for a completionist such as I.


In short, I am predisposed to be extra critical of Battle for Zendikar. And yet, in all this, I find myself not joining in the clamor regarding the reduced power level of this set. Sure, it’s not as powerful as Tarkir block was, but that was a block that printed a common that got banned from Legacy. That’s not something that’s happened since [casthaven]Gush[/casthaven] was printed in Mercadian Masques.


And while I am not a giant fan of all this processor business, which strikes me as being far too similar to the exploit mechanic in terms of its application (i.e. reprinting [casthaven]Mulldrifter[/casthaven]s with triggered abilities that are reliant on their condition being met), I am thrilled to see Eldrazi without the annihilator keyword, since that was basically the most infuriating ability to see bearing down at you across a multiplayer table. Nulamog is going to draw less aggro than Ulamog did, despite Nulamog being a more powerful card.


Yes, devoid is kinda a stupid ability, but they both telegraphed the punch with [casthaven]Ghostfire[/casthaven] and opened the design space with the Pacts and [casthaven]Transguild Courier[/casthaven]. If you can have a colored card without a colored mana cost, why not a colorless card with one?


I’ve been trying to avoid commenting on impending sets prior to release, since I think doing so is one of the easiest ways to create proof of what fools we mortals be, but there’s been a lot of negativity facing this one, and I’d like to push back against it. While people are seemingly happy to accept the idea that Wizards dropped a sub-optimal set with some ultra-rare cards in it, I think they’re overstepping the bounds of their argument. Yes, this is less powerful than the sets that brought back Delve, but that’s not a bad thing!


There are still neat cards in this set, and I think it’s taking a closer look at some of them, particularly the ones which will shine in casual and Commander. After all, the professional Magic players don’t have a monopoly on Magic fun.


Here’s my list:


[casthaven]Conduit of Ruin[/casthaven] – Colorless creature tutor plus mana reducer

[casthaven]Desolation Twin[/casthaven] – Great for token Timmys

[casthaven]Gruesome Slaughter[/casthaven] – Good interaction for colorless Commander decks

[casthaven]Oblivion Sower[/casthaven] – Really ramps up the power level of [casthaven]Relic of Progenitus[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Bojuka Bog[/casthaven]

[casthaven]Scour from Existence[/casthaven] – Instant speed removal for colorless Commander decks

[casthaven]Titan’s Presence[/casthaven] – Instant speed removal for colorless Commander decks

[casthaven]Void Winnower[/casthaven] – This has to be fun for a Timmy or two

[casthaven]Emeria Shepherd[/casthaven] et al. – A neat twist on landfall, if one that seems obvious in hindsight

[casthaven]Gideon, Ally of Zendikar[/casthaven] – Four mana and can cash in for an emblem immediately!

Rally Allies – It was a drawback of their predecessors that the ally benefit was restricted to allies; now it’s not!

[casthaven]Planar Outburst[/casthaven] – A Wrath of God effect that doesn’t inadvertently [casthaven]Armageddon[/casthaven] people!

[casthaven]Quarantine Field[/casthaven] et al. w/ Processors – This holds true for [casthaven]Oblivion Ring[/casthaven] and all the other incarnations of this effect; processors make them far more permanent removal than they once were

[casthaven]Ruination Guide[/casthaven]/[casthaven]Tide Drifter[/casthaven] – Colorless creature lords!

[casthaven]Smothering Abomination[/casthaven] – Literally the best Magic card I’ve ever seen printed

[casthaven]Defiant Bloodlord[/casthaven] – Some people love putting a beloved effect on a big creature!

[casthaven]Drana, Liberator of Malakir[/casthaven] – A new, and interesting, take on an OP legend from last time around

[casthaven]Ob Nixilis, Reignited[/casthaven] – His plus is “draw a card,” what’s not to like? Other than the art, that is.

[casthaven]Vampiric Rites[/casthaven] – Almost as good as [casthaven]Smothering Abomination[/casthaven], and even more fun in concert with it

[casthaven]Serpentine Spike[/casthaven] – Super flavorful removal, for those of us who have seen anime tentacle stabs

[casthaven]Zada, Hedron Grinder[/casthaven] – A neat new archetype commander to take advantage of red’s foray into pump spells

[casthaven]From Beyond[/casthaven] – A better [casthaven]Awakening Zone[/casthaven], that has utility early or late

[casthaven]Void Attendant[/casthaven] – A repeatable processor, so that you can get the effect without having to cast a creature every time

[casthaven]Greenwarden of Murasa[/casthaven] – An arguably better version of [casthaven]Deadwood Treefolk[/casthaven]

[casthaven]Nissa’s Renewal[/casthaven] – This card is crazy bonkers for ramp decks

[casthaven]Swell of Growth[/casthaven] – Instant speed ramp tied to a combat trick! It’s neat and new and weird.

[casthaven]Sylvan Scrying[/casthaven] – A reprint for a card that has utility for Commander players but that had been driven up in price due to its usefulness in RG Tron

[casthaven]Undergrowth Champion[/casthaven] – This [casthaven]Phantom Nantuko[/casthaven] ability has always been powerful, and now it’s easier than ever to add more counters

[casthaven]Brood Butcher[/casthaven] – Repeatable removal/sacrifice outlet

[casthaven]Brutal Explosion[/casthaven] – Neat and weird modal spell that gets around some protection issues

[casthaven]Sire of Stagnation[/casthaven] – A [casthaven]Consecrated Sphinx[/casthaven] that should draw less aggro

[casthaven]Bring to Light[/casthaven] – This is going to be amazingly powerful or really underwhelming; there is little middleground

[casthaven]Kiora, Master of the Depths[/casthaven] – Everything she does is amazing, particularly at four mana, and that ultimate is going to bonkers in a [casthaven]Doubling Season[/casthaven] deck

[casthaven]Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper[/casthaven] – A [casthaven]Talrand, Sky Summoner[/casthaven] who gives you access to white as well

[casthaven]Omnath, Locus of Rage[/casthaven] – An interesting alternative to [casthaven]Horde of Notions[/casthaven] for tribal elemental decks

[casthaven]Aligned Hedron Network[/casthaven] – Colorless mass removal that won’t draw a tremendous amount of hate

[casthaven]Hedron Archive[/casthaven] – The stepping stone between [casthaven]Mind Stone[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Dreamstone Hedron[/casthaven]

[casthaven]Ally Encampment[/casthaven] – a land that supports the 5-color ally strategy

[casthaven]Blighted Cataract[/casthaven] and friends – Utility lands that will see play in all sorts of Commander decks well into the future

Battle Duals – A new set of duals that should make fetch manabases more affordable for your average Commandereer

[casthaven]Lumbering Falls[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Shambling Vent[/casthaven] – The first two in a much-awaited cycle of enemy creaturelands

[casthaven]Mortuary Mire[/casthaven]/[casthaven]Fertile Thicket[/casthaven] et al. – While [casthaven]Bojuka Bog[/casthaven] was really the only long-term standout of the first two cycles of nonbasics, these both seem awesome

[casthaven]Sanctum of Ugin[/casthaven] – for the right deck, it’s a tutor without taking up a slot

[casthaven]Shrine of the Forsaken Gods[/casthaven] – A great play on a Commander staple


That’s not nothing! There are a ton of interesting cards in this set, and it looks like it might be a great Limited format once it all shakes out. If we prejudge it to be terrible, despite it being nothing like any other set that has come before it (particularly when it comes to “exile matters” cards), I think we’ll lose out on the ability to face this new direction with the sense of awe and wonder that I’m sure Design and Development were going for.


Jess Stirba thinks Awe and Wonder would be a good band name.

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