Insider: Building Manabases in Zendikar Standard

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The easiest thing to do when a set is released is to just call it bad, and expect little from it. Expecting very little from something is really just the easiest perspective to have. If very little is delivered, then hey, you were right. If more is delivered than expected then you get to be pleasantly surprised. I've seen a lot of negativity expressed towards Battle for Zendikar, and even claims as insane as Zendikar Expeditions having been included in a purposefully bad set.

I don't think that Battle for Zendikar is a bad set. I agree that it's considerably lower powered than Tarkir block, but I think it's important to note that Tarkir block features a ton of very powerful cards that don't even see play. It's a hard act to follow. I'm pretty bored by the new Ulamog, but it's foolish to think that Battle for Zendikar won't shake up Standard despite it leading Standard in a less powerful direction.


From a financial perspective, if you were waiting to invest in BFZ you've already missed two great opportunities. When Gideon was initially spoiled it was very likely to be the best card in the set, and now that the full spoiler is out it is obviously so. As such, the preorder price of Gideon has jumped from around $15 to the $30 range.


Gideon might still have a little room to grow, and his long-term price is going to be based off of how deep people go looking for Expeditions. I imagine he won't tank quite the way that Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker did, even if the set is opened as much as Khans, simply because people will need the full four copies, in addition to the card just being better. Although Gideon will certainly decline if the set is successful.

Bring to Light has also seen significant growth since it was spoiled. It's definitely too late to buy into a regular rare from this set, but it's worth knowing that people are excited about this card. There's a lot of buzz right now about "8 Siege Rhino" decks, and understandably so. If this card is as good as people predict it might see a nice bump from Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar, though it will inevitably depreciate in value from there.

bring to light

Of course, the real big hit from BFZ is the lands. You can't cast your spells without mana, and BFZ's new cycle of fetchable duals makes seemingly anything possible. People are excited about a four/five-color tutor after all.

These duals are pretty unexciting on their own, but they make fetchlands exceptional. If you're willing to include one of each new dual, then every fetchland can potentially find four different colors of mana--each color except for the color that is the enemy color of both colors of that fetchland.


The interesting implication of the new duals is that four-color decks end up playing fewer lands that come into play tapped than three-color enemy color decks. It doesn't make sense to play Abzan without Sandsteppe Citadel, but a four-color deck can be all fetches, duals, basics and pain lands.

Within a four-color set, there will be one fetchland that can find all four colors, with the other two doing a solid tri-land impression. If we decide not to play white, then Bloodstained Mire will be able to find us all four of our colors by finding either Cinder Glade or Sunken Hollow. The other on-color fetchlands get a little worse, with Wooded Foothills only finding BRG through Cinder Glade and Smoldering Marsh, and Polluted Delta only finding UBR through Smoldering Marsh and Sunken Hollow. The two off-color fetches function as duals, but you'd have to heavily favor two of your allied colors or want to play more than 12 fetchlands to go this route.

Twelve fetchlands is a pretty high number, and it's possible that even four-color decks decide to go lower, but I wouldn't be afraid to commit to the full twelve. You'll want to have enough fetchable lands so that you don't relevantly Stone Rain yourself when you draw the wrong fetch, but it's rare that you actually need ten sources of mana in play in a lot of decks and fetchlands still have significant upside with delve in the format.

If we're building a deck with a lot of fetches that isn't trying to play a million "actual" lands, then Treasure Cruise sounds like a great way to build a high-velocity machine. I haven't gone super deep in brewing at this point in time, as this mana gives us a lot to grok, but Jeskai Ascendancy is a tried and true card to pair with Treasure Cruise.

If I want to play Ascendancy and Cruise, then I'm going to want to be a tokens deck. As a thought experiment, let's say we want to include a fourth color because it just makes our mana better. There's no shortage of splashable cards, but the card in other decks that seems to combine best with Hordeling Outburst is Atarka's Command, so green it is. We won't have the aggressive curve that Atarka Red has, but our Ascendancies and Jaces will help us loot away Atarka's Commands when they're not great. This insanity leads us to this list:

Here we have a grindy token deck featuring the best spell from BFZ, planeswalkers, and a few aces on the splash to win games out of nowhere. With this configuration, the deck has 16 sources of green and white, and 15 sources of blue and red. The second Cinder Glade and Prairie Stream make an appearance because red and white are the two colors that we have double-colored requirements for.

For this color set, Shivan Reef does some serious work for the manabase, though the non-white non-blue decks get the option of playing a man-land in that slot.

shamblingvent lumberingfalls

Expect decks with similar manabases that are more controlling and feature Dig Through Time. Consequently, Dig is poised to make significant gains during its time in Standard.

I don't think there are any great pickups at retail from Battle for Zendikar at the current point in time, though I stand by the picks that I've previously made from Khans block. The cards that will see the biggest increase in play post-rotation are fetchlands. The floor is long passed, but decks are going to need more fetches with the insanity that will be Standard manabases. There's really no better Standard cards to be trading for right now.


It remains to be seen what cards will break out from Battle for Zendikar, but it's obvious that the new duals will have a dramatic impact. Delve as a mechanic and gold spells benefit most from this great mana, so speculate accordingly.

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan Overturf
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter

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