Insider: Next-Leveling Based on What We Know About Zendikar

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We now know every card in Khans of Tarkir block. We also know we're returning to Zendikar in the fall. The key is combining these two pieces of knowledge to make some next-level decisions regarding what in KTK block may just be good in Standard next fall. Being way ahead of the game will be the most profitable, so let's examine the information we have with the clues we can deduce.


Tribal warriors was a major sub-theme in Khans of Tarkir. However, due to staples like Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix (especially), a competitive warriors deck hasn't made a real impact on Standard this season.

Two questions regarding this archetype are important:

  1. Does rotation of Theros block make this archetype playable on its own?
  2. Is there anything coming up in the next block that might make the warriors archetype even better?

First, we need to know where the best warriors currently are. The Mardu clan (red, white, and black) is the clan most likely to sport warriors in the block, with the best ones tending to show up in white and black.

Now, there's no way we can know what will be in Battle for Zendikar block. Our two previous returns to planes—Scars of Mirrodin and Return to Ravnica blocks—reprinted very few cards from their original expansions. However, what was similar in each of these returns was the flavor and, importantly, creature types. In fact, creature types are such a big deal that when a new type was added, special emphasis was placed on it to get fan speculation going. (Then #4merfolk happened, so don't get too excited about what gets added to the world of Zendikar this fall.)

If you look through the 24 warriors in Zendikar block, there's a pretty important factor: there aren't any in white. In the land of Zendikar, warriors are black, red, and green. So, this could mean one or more of a few things:

  1. If a black-white warriors deck becomes popular, the white warriors will all be from Khans of Tarkir.
  2. Black warriors are probably better speculation targets, should you decide to go down this road.
  3. A red-black warriors deck could emerge, probably leaning more toward black based on what's in Khans of Tarkir, but possibly leaning toward red if Battle for Zendikar points deckbuilders in that direction.
  4. Green warriors could be an outside factor, but given that all the most powerful warrior synergies are in Mardu, this seems least likely.

If warriors does become a deck, some of the rare warriors from the current block are great pickups.

Bloodsoaked Champion will be key to keeping the damage coming, and it's currently only $2. This reminds me in some ways of Champion of the Parish: a one-drop rare from a large fall set that has narrow but powerful synergy in a particular archetype. Based on that history, $5 to $6 doesn't seem unreasonable if the archetype takes off. That's not worth a cash buy-in, but if you do a lot of trading, this might be a good one to target.

Mardu Strike Leader, on the other hand, is even less ($1.34 as of this writing), but it's not so cut and dry that it would be part of the deck. It lacks evasion and costs three. On the other hand, having dash gives you more options, and it's no small thing to generate reasonable attackers for free. Being from a small set means this one has much more room to grow, even if it's probably not as good as Bloodsoaked Champion.

Like I said, we shouldn't really be expecting any new white warriors in Return to Zendikar. That being the case, what we have is what we've got. Arashin Foremost is pretty good, and given that there are so many parallels with Silverblade Paladin, I'm surprised its price is currently so low. Silverblade Paladin, you'll recall, was a rare from a large spring set, and it started at around $4 and peaked around $12. Sure, Arashin Foremost is more narrow than Silverblade, but it's also arguably more powerful in a deck with enough warriors.

If you believe in the power of warriors once Theros is out of the format, these cards are all reasonable targets. Remember that Zendikar was extremely aggro-focused. If the same remains true in Battle for Zendikar, we could see warriors rise to the top tiers of Standard tournaments.

Morph Synergies

Deathmist Raptor has recently been a posterchild for the idea of a "morph deck," or at least a deck utilizing morph synergies.

Here's the thing: there's virtually no chance that face-down creatures play any role in Battle for Zendikar. In the case of morph, what you see is what you get. You're not not getting any more.

So will there be a morph deck? There are a few powerful ones that have seen some fringe Standard play (Hooded Hydra, Ashcloud Phoenix, and Rattleclaw Mystic come to mind, for example). Each of these have something in common: they are pretty good when cast for their normal converted mana cost.

The Goblin Piker cycle of megamorphs in Dragons of Tarkir could certainly have an impact, but I would be hard-pressed to believe that a morph deck will make any kind of significant impact in competitive Standard. If you want these cards for casual or personal reasons, by all means, pick them up. But if you're looking to speculate on what may be playable next year (or just get ahead of the curve to save some money playing), I'd keep away from morph-specific synergies.


There weren't a lot of repeated mechanics between Mirrodin and Scars of Mirrodin blocks (I believe imprint was the only one?), and there were none between Ravnica and Return to Ravnica blocks. That said, landfall was a very popular mechanic that played a huge role in the way Zendikar played. Mark Rosewater has placed landfall as a "1" on the Storm Scale, meaning it will definitely come back at some point.

Despite the history of returning to planes telling us otherwise, my gut is telling me that landfall is in the set. It helps further explain R&D's decision to plant the Onslaught fetchlands in Khans of Tarkir (in addition to boosting sales numbers, of course).

The question, then, is whether the enemy-color fetchlands will be in the set. Frankly, I would be very, very surprised if they are not. But that's by no means a guarantee.

If (note the emphasis, which implies I don't think it's super likely, but within the realm of possibility) the enemy fetchlands are not in the set, and landfall is, that's going to put a lot of pressure on the Khans of Tarkir fetchlands, and they will be past peak supply at this point.

If you have any designs on picking up fetchlands for Modern or Legacy, the time is over the next four to six months. They're barely being opened in drafts anymore (a small proportion of Fate Reforged packs have them), we'll be hitting the summer lull in a month or two, and everyone will need them forever. Don't expect them to be cheaper when they rotate out of Standard than they are now. That is by no means a guarantee.

Think Ahead

These are three examples of combining information we have based on clues we can deduce. There are certainly plants for next year in Khans of Tarkir block—there always are. We just have to be able to find them. Until next time!

4 thoughts on “Insider: Next-Leveling Based on What We Know About Zendikar

  1. With the way WoTC is heading, trying to keep formats diverse, do you think we will see warriors in white for Zendikar? Just forecasting here: If the only warriors available are RGB, the deck will never take off–losing most of its synergistic creatures in white. Jund, I’m sure, will be looking for a mid-range angle as always.

  2. Regarding mechanics reused, I think we will start seeing more of it with the move to 2-sets blocks, first because they will probably return to existing plans more often, and also because there is less risk of people being bored with the return of a previous mechanic in a 2-sets block.

    I think we may see Allies returning in BfZ : they were pretty popular the first time around but, just like Werewolves before them, they never received the support they deserved.

    Landfall and Eldrazi (with or without Annihilator) are very likely to return in BfZ.

  3. people will keep saying ‘return to zendikar’ for a long time…. sad.

    warriors was huge in this block, which will lead to a few warriors in next block. They like to do that.

    More interesting is to see what hints we get for next block, and I want to focus on creature types. The most likely one will be elementals. We have a few elementals on tarkir because of the lightning. That’s what happens if Ugin stays alive. Zendikar is a good place to do something with elementals.

    Ob Nixilis is still trapped in Zendikar, maybe we see something about him? the commander decks printed 2 planeswalkers that have connection with zendikar, so could be.

    depending on what role Ugin is going to play, we will see more colorless creatures that are not eldrazi (like the dragon now).

    +1/+1 is a huge theme in last sets, and that’s an open design, maybe this can lead to something too?

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