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Insider: Battler for Zendikar Spoilers

Mike-Lanigan QS Magic the Gathering MTG

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The Battle for Zendikar has just begun. So far our heroes are revealed, as is some of the landscape on which this epic battle will be fought. I discussed one of the villains, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, last week in one of our spoiler articles. Spoiler coverage is one of the best new parts about Quiet Spec, so make sure you check it out.

Let’s start off by meeting our heroes.

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

gideonallyofzendikar

As the protector of Zendikar, Gideon leads the charge against the Eldrazi horde. As the leader of the allied forces, this time around he is bringing the ally mechanic to life through his new planeswalker self.

There’s good and bad news about this card. Starting with the bad news first, Gideon is competing with another version of himself--Kytheon, Hero of Akros // Gideon, Battle-Forged is quite good as well. Just like Garruk, Primal Hunter and Garruk Relentless // Garruk, the Veil-Cursed before him, one version will likely win out and the other will sit on the sidelines. Character development is great, but situations like this with the same planeswalker in Standard multiple times causes good cards to not see play.

The good news is that this card is powerful. First of all, we know planeswalkers that make creatures tend to be playable and powerful. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar reminds me a little of Xenagos, the Reveler because they both make a 2/2 with an ability. Haste seems better on average than a corner case creature type like ally, but we won’t truly know that until we see the full set. Gideon does provide a constant stream of allies and that’s something that might have pushed the tribe over the top the last time around.

In true Gideon-like fashion, this planeswalker not only makes creatures, but also turns into a creature himself. While he is a creature he is still hard to kill, but he remains vulnerable in his planeswalker state as always. He becomes an ally in his creature form, but it remains unclear if that will matter as the new "rally" mechanic buffs all your creatures regardless of type.

Finally, Gideon can make an emblem right away. Although, Xenagos came to mind, Gideon ends up resembling Sorin, Lord of Innistrad much more. Both make you a creature every turn and can give you an emblem to boost those creatures.

This time, our emblem gives +1/+1 instead of +1/+0 and that bonus matters a lot. The new format is shaping up to contain similarly sized creatures battling each other so this is a way to break parity. Comparing a new planeswalker to these two proven cards is a good sign that Gideon will be seeing some play once he is in the hands of the players.

One worry I have about Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is that he is dropping into a format that already contains Sorin, Solemn Visitor. Sorin brought his vampire pals to the party and they can fly over the heads of your unsuspecting opponents. They can also get +1/+0 and gain you a bunch of life. That’s no emblem but we all know how powerful it is. Maybe we can play them both side by side and create an unstoppable army of 2/2’s, but Gideon may get lost in Sorin’s wake.

Kiora, Master of the Depths

kiora master of the depths bfz spoiler

Up next we have Kiora, Master of the Depths joining the fight. I’m not sure what to make of Kiora, but I like her. She doesn’t really protect herself unless you already have a creature in play, but if so, that creature basically gets vigilance. You can also untap a land in addition to your creature though so she functions as mana ramp. Xenagos, the Reveler is almost the love child of Kiora, Master of the Depths and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Gideon provided the creature producing while Kiora added in the mana production and card advantage.

Mana and card advantage are great but what Kiora really needs is a home. That was her problem last time. Every time I played against Kiora, the Crashing Wave, which was not often, it was difficult to defeat her. She was a strong impact on the board and I saw opponents beaten down by 9/9 krakens. This time around, her ultimate might take longer to pull off, but summoning an octopus army that fights you is no joke.

She is good enough to find a home but I’m still looking for where that is. The right place might be alongside Harbinger of the Tides and Bounding Krasis. I’ve loved those cards since they were released in Magic Origins and I’d love to keep playing them after rotation. Hopefully we will get the tools to make a deck like that able to compete in the new meta.

Ob Nixilis Reignited

ob nixilis reignited bfz spoiler

Ob Nixilis is an ally of Zendikar? Maybe when he reignited he started along a new path towards helping the plane of Zendikar, but I’m doubtful. When was the last time you trusted a demon to help you out of a situation? I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Mr. Ob betraying the allies in the end.

As far as the card itself, we need a lot of action for a five-mana planeswalker to make it in competitive play. Good old Ob does have some rather good abilities but I don’t know if they justify the steep cost.

To start, Ob Nixilis provides his summoner with a Phyrexian Arena. You won’t start this process until turn five when he is cast. Both the old Arena and Underworld Connections let you start drawing extra cards on turn four, and this is only a turn off from those known powerhouses. That’s a good start. We saw a progression like this when Elspeth, Knight-Errant followed up Bitterblossom and that one turn wait proved to be well worth it. Elspeth is regarded as one of the best planeswalkers of all time though but I doubt Ob will follow her to that list.

His second ability is solid as well, but we’ve seen a countless number of five-mana removal spells never come close to impacting a constructed format. Most recently we had Unholy Hunger printed in Magic Origins. If you told someone you were playing that card in a tournament, they would know that you are not likely to succeed. Ob does destroy a guy, then stick around to draw you more cards though.

What if we just +1 our way to more cards and then ultimate? Unfortunately, drawing an extra card per turn is way better than the potential emblem you could obtain. When an expensive emblem doesn’t win you the game or make it so your opponent can’t win, I always feel left out and let down. It’s nice though that his +1 is strong enough that we might forget about that little detail.

Over the past few years, Wizards has shown us that they are pushing midrange strategies. This planeswalker is the perfect addition to that strategy. If we have a deck like Abzan Control around post-rotation, Ob will have a home immediately and might be the most played ‘walker in the ‘verse.

It will be interesting to see where he ends up. I’m not sure how other writers will rate him, but I think at the moment I would classify him as an underrated hero. Since his first version, Ob Nixilis, the Fallen, I've always liked what he could do. Hopefully this time around, I'll be able to get him in play in Constructed and not just Limited.

undergrowthchampion

Speaking of underrated heroes, my pal the new Vinelasher Kudzu should catch your eye because he’s full of potential. Undergrowth Champion is like Steppe Lynx or Plated Geopede stapled to a Phantom Centaur. Add to that the fact that this time around we have fetch lands to double up on counters. This is a solid threat that becomes a serious adversary as the game progresses.

Eldrazi Spawn and Devoid

So far, the army of Eldrazi has yet to impress me. There have been some neat rares and they will be tons of fun in Limited but I haven’t seen cards that I thought would impact Standard yet. Smothering Abomination comes close, but we’ve seen lots of four-powered flyers overlooked for competitive play and one that dies to both Gideon’s Reproach as well as Draconic Roar doesn’t seem too appealing to me.

SmotheringAbomination

One aspect of these cards that my brain glossed over until now was that just like the Eldrazi army getting upgrades, so did their minions. Eldrazi Spawn used to be 0/1 creatures that you could sacrifice to get one mana. Now they are 1/1’s and that makes a huge difference. Suddenly we have this army of 1/1s instead of zero-power chumps and that is impactful. While none of the spoiled cards stuck out, the future might hold powerful token enablers that we can utilize.

Zendikar Expeditions Update

If you’ve talked to any Magic players lately, you know Zendikar Expeditions are on their mind. Last week, I spent some time doing some math and working through what the potential price projection might look like. My numbers were based on the premise that you are likely to open 2-3 of these cards per case.

By the way, make sure to get a full case if at all possible or split it with your friends so you don’t miss out on your cut of this cycle. If it turns out that the average is one per case, the number I discussed will be drastically different. Even if I am correct about the distribution, we don’t always think logically about Magic card purchases and that will certainly affect the price.

From reader and friend feedback, what I discovered is that everyone has a differing opinion about what these cards might be worth. I also learned that my prediction is the lowest by far. Everyone I have talked to about the matter has quoted me prices as high as $600 per land but most average about double what I set as my prediction. If you haven’t weighed in yet, let’s start the discussion in the comments below.

There is another reason that I wanted to bring up Zendikar Expeditions though and it’s one I’m not sure everyone is familiar with. Life has been busy lately so I haven’t been as active on social media as I normally am, so maybe you already know this. First, take a look at the latest addition to this cycle.

sacredfoundry

Now take a closer look and focus on something other than the amazing artwork and the insanely cool border.

sacred_foundry_14-45

That’s right. This is the 14th card out of 45!? We know that there are 25 lands in this cycle in Battle for Zendikar, but that means 20 more will be in the second set in the block! If the 10 fetches, 10 shocks, and 5 new duals weren’t enough, we’re going to get more awesome cards in the second set!

What could they be though? My friends have thrown out crazy speculation like sweet old lands getting reprinted, but I honestly have no idea what they could put in this spot. Maybe they would give us a cycle of manlands like the original Zendikar cycle plus the new Battle for Zendikar cycle. That would only account for half of the spots though. So, what do you think these mysterious 20 cards will be? Post in the comments below about the second set of the cycle as well as your predictions about the monetary value of the first half.

Until next time,
Unleash the Force of Battle!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter
Jedicouncilman23@gmail.com

11 thoughts on “Insider: Battler for Zendikar Spoilers

    1. No we don’t. Is there evidence to support that? The basic lands shown on the spoiler have normal set numbers but that doesn’t disprove your theory outright.

  1. “If the 20 fetches, 20 shocks, and 5 new duals weren’t enough, we’re going to get more awesome cards in the second set!”

    Did you mean ’10 fetches, 10 shocks and 5 duals’ ?

    As there aren’t 20 of each of those in existence.

  2. So most people think we’ll see 10 dual man lands and 10 filter lands? That would be cool. It doesn’t feel right to me though, but I don’t know what else it would be.

  3. 05 will be enemy colored Tango’s
    10 will be manlands
    and the other 5 are a mystery to me.

    I’m hoping for fullart foil versions of ‘best two drops’ in each color, because normal foil Young Peezy just isn’t pimp enough

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