Battle for Zendikar limited season is winding down. That means it is time for my favorite tradition: the top ten list. This set has some weird cards, so this will be a fun one. We have no [casthaven]Fleshmad Steed[/casthaven], sadly, but Wizards has to be careful how many broken cards it prints in a set.

My top ten lists reflect my favorite cards. As I always say, my grading is holistic. Anything from being an amazing card to being laughably easy to pass in every draft can garner recognition for a card. I try to avoid a litany of the biggest limited bombs. A card has to be sweet, or special, or funny, or funny looking, to make my list.

Here we go!

10. [casthaven]Broodhunter Wurm[/casthaven]

Let’s start the list off with a bang! This unassuming wall of flavor text got its own challenge: win a draft with [casthaven]Broodhunter Wurm[/casthaven] in your deck! Like taking candy from a baby, it’s harder than it looks.

9. [casthaven]Makindi Patrol[/casthaven]

Limited players constantly underrate vigilance. Creature combat decides the vast majority of games in both draft and sealed. Being able to attack and block with the same creature is a lot better than it looks on first glance. White provides the backbone of any allies deck in Battle for Zendikar, and cards like [casthaven]Makindi Patrol[/casthaven] are a big reason why. Black, green, and red have a few great allies, but the best middle-of-the-pack allies to pick up are in white. Here’s one that isn’t hard to get, provides a lot of value in a rally deck, and is just fine as a curve filler on its own. Stay vigilant, my friends.


8. [casthaven]Boiling Earth[/casthaven]

In a world of scion tokens and stupid [casthaven]Swarm Surge[/casthaven] decks, [casthaven]Boiling Earth[/casthaven] does some work. It also has the very valuable line of text, “Awaken 4.” The card reminds me of [casthaven]Seismic Elemental[/casthaven]—an effect you sometimes want stapled onto a useful body. Instead of needing to pay five mana for both, you can pay two mana for the situational effect and tack on a 4/4 body later for seven mana. This is a surprisingly good deal.

7. [casthaven]Sire of Stagnation[/casthaven]

Play some lands, I dare you. This big bopper crushes spirits and produces some of the most laughable limited landslides. You can’t really beat this card without playing more lands, unless it came down late or you have a super-lean deck. You definitely can’t beat it by playing more lands, though. Is it better to scoop than to try? That is a real question. If your opponent ramps out an early [casthaven]Sire of Stagnation[/casthaven] in game one, you are probably better off conceding the game. Maybe you play it out to see what else their deck can do, but don’t kid yourself that playing lands will do anything but show your opponent some cards from your deck.

6. [casthaven]Herald of Kozilek[/casthaven]

Kozilek gets the coolest look among the Eldrazi titans. His herald is like, “riddle me this, why do my colorless spells cost less?” Cards that make your spells cheaper are always sweet in limited. Well, maybe not [casthaven]Heartless Summoning[/casthaven], but you know what I mean. Curving [casthaven]Herald of Kozilek[/casthaven] into [casthaven]Molten Nursery[/casthaven] plus [casthaven]Spell Shrivel[/casthaven] is a dream. There are a lot of great three-mana colorless cards that become absurd when they only cost two. Oh and by the way, herald is a three-mana 2/4 in a set where four toughness is the sweet spot for blocking. Blue-red devoid is the star archetype of Battle for Zendikar draft, and [casthaven]Herald of Kozilek[/casthaven] is the unsurprising hero of the deck.

5. island

Beautiful. Powerful. Island.

4. [casthaven]Evolving Wilds[/casthaven]

An old favorite really showed up to play this time around. Between the lack of colorless mana-fixing and the value of landfall triggers, [casthaven]Evolving Wilds[/casthaven] did a lot of work for a lot of decks. This is one of the first cards you look for in your sealed pool. Every deck is happy to play one or two copies. I wrote an entire article about its importance and how it opens doors during draft. The next week I earned my first Grand Prix day two 3-0 draft with a pair of these from pack three. I love lands, and in Battle for Zendikar, [casthaven]Evolving Wilds[/casthaven] is the best one.

3. [casthaven]Halimar Tidecaller[/casthaven]

When I saw this card, I knew I’d love it. I’ve been a fan of random 2/3s for three in limited for many years, especially the blue ones. I loved playing [casthaven]Selhoff Occultist[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Halimar Tidecaller[/casthaven] is so much better. Draw one of your best cards from your graveyard, and give some 3/3s flying? How is that reasonable? By the way, she’s an ally too! It feels dirty to trigger rally with [casthaven]Halimar Tidecaller[/casthaven], or better yet, to bring her back with [casthaven]March from the Tomb[/casthaven].

2. [casthaven]Void Winnower[/casthaven]

The weirdest and oddest Eldrazi gets the number two seat. Maybe [casthaven]Spawnsire of Ulamog[/casthaven] is a stranger card, but [casthaven]Void Winnower[/casthaven] actually does something relevant and totally screws up your opponent’s game plan. “Zero is even” is enough to get this big monster on my list, and the fact it’s a dominant card brings it high up the ranks.


1. [casthaven]Grip of Desolation[/casthaven]

This is what I want to be doing in Battle for Zendikar limited. Awaken spells are great and all, but [casthaven]Grip of Desolation[/casthaven] is like awaken taken to a different level. Instead of making your land better, as a bonus to a kill spell, this one makes your opponent’s land worse. Maybe that land was awakened earlier. Maybe it was providing essential access to a specific color. Maybe they wanted to cast seven drops. Grip does it all, while also killing every creature except [casthaven]Plated Crusher[/casthaven]. [casthaven]Volcanic Upheaval[/casthaven] was a playable sideboard card in the format, so that tells you how good the land-eating half of [casthaven]Grip of Desolation[/casthaven] can be.

I have two favorite [casthaven]Grip of Desolation[/casthaven] stories. The first happened in an online sealed qualifier. My opponent started the telltale I’m-playing-black-and-tapping-six-mana process of crushing my hopes with a grip. Except instead of killing one of my lands, he targeted his own. Was he trying to awaken? Needless to say, I won that game. The second is a truly great achievement that was unlocked by Rick Carr during Grand Prix Atlanta. His opponent cast [casthaven]Stonefury[/casthaven] with eight lands targeting Rick’s [casthaven]Ruin Processor[/casthaven]. Rick gripped a creature and land in response, letting his 7/8 survive the burn spell. Now that’s a blowout.

And that’s my top ten from Battle for Zendikar.

Brendan McNamara (MTGO: eestlinc, Twitter: @brendanistan) used to play Magic in the old days. His favorite combo was Armageddon plus Zuran Orb. After running out of money to buy cards and friends who were willing to put up with that combo, he left the game. But like disco, he was bound to come back eventually. Now he’s a lawyer by day and a Dimir agent by night.

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