As we gaze across the desecrated landscape of Zendikar, our band of heroes stares out pondering what they could possibly do to overcome this ancient evil that has been allowed to break free. They vow to exile the Eldrazi menace from the plane each with their own Oath.
This is how the story unfolds and we’re in the thick of it. The full spoiler has been released and we can immerse ourselves through the cards. The opening of the article stems from Zendikar Resurgent. This enchantment may never see the battlefield of competitive play, but it will litter kitchen tables for years to come.
There are many gems like this hidden within the walls of this set, waiting for eager adventurers like you to find them. Maybe you will journey on an Expedition, or you will take your first, second, or third step into the world to quest for greatness. As for us today, ours is a journey to find the Top 10 cards for Constructed.
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
Our friendly vampire friend Kalitas is back and in his new form he's much more likely to impact Standard than last time around. Once Kalitas became a Traitor of Ghet, he gained some pretty amazing abilities and I think he could be a hidden gem in the set.
A 3/4 body isn’t the best place to be in the format, but it’s not the worst either especially if you follow him up with a removal spell to start making your zombie army. If you can kill a guy, suddenly you threaten sacrificing the newly made creature to make him larger too.
We all know the exile clause can help nail the door shut for Rally the Ancestors but they will probably just bounce him with Sidisi's Faithful as they do to Anafenza, the Foremost. Overall, Kalitas is in the gray area of playability for me. He is definitely a consideration, but there will be many times he gets cut from your deck list.
Linvala, the Preserver
The more I’ve thought about Linvala, the Preserver, the more she’s grown on me. For a six-mana investment you are awarded two flyers, a 5/5 and a 3/3 as well as most likely five additional life.
There are many good late-game threats and Linvala might be put on the back-burner, but she does provide a powerful effect. With Dragons, Eldrazi, and a plethora of powerful six-mana threats to compete against, her time may never arrive, but depending on what happens in the metagame, she may indeed come to rule the skies.
Bearer of Silence
I really like this card and have spoken highly of it. We do have Merciless Executioner and Fleshbag Marauder in the format already so I’m not sure how much Bearer of Silence adds to the mix, but the fact that we get a creature that sticks around is a big deal.
The option of playing a bear or doubling up on the mana to get one of their guys allows for some great sequences. If the theoretical Eldrazi Aggro deck exists, this guy might be a key element. Reaver Drone goes a long way to help Aggrodrazi, but I don't know if that will be enough to give Bearer of Silence a spot to shine.
If this guy dips into the bulk rare bin though, start snapping them up for your spec box. The potential is there.
Sea Gate Wreckage
In a set with diverse new abilities, determining power level can be tough to do. Inspect this land as an example. Sea Gate Wreckage seems great, but when would we actually be drawing cards from it?
First of all, we need other colorless sources in our deck which means we most likely aren’t playing more than two colors. It may still be possible if there are lots of pain lands involved but that would be purposely creating a weaker mana base than needed. Even if we jump through the hoops with our mana, we still need to have a zero hand size in order to draw.
That seems like a lot of things that need to go right for this card to turn our land into card advantage. If I’m wrong though, this card will shoot up in value.
As a midrange Eldrazi beater, Reality Smasher falls in a difficult spot. There’s no question that this card is great. Who wouldn’t love a 5/5 for five that gets haste, trample, and a better protection ability than Frost Titan?
What deck wants this guy though? Five mana is too much of a commitment for any aggro deck and its most likely not impactful enough for a ramp deck, so it’s hard to imagine a deck that would add Reality Smasher. If he does find a home, beware though, because this is not the threat you want to see barreling down on you from the other side of the board.
If you’re familiar with Dragonball Z, you know how epic it is when two characters do their Fusion dance and combine together to form one powerful being. Reflector Mage reminds me of just that. This card is like a hybrid of Meddling Mage and Aether Adept with all the abilities wrapped into one amazing card.
I’m not sure Reflector Mage has a home in Standard right now, but it nearly made it onto the Top 10 for this set based on power level alone.
Oath of the Gatewatch Top 10!
10. Oath of Gideon
Surprise, surprise, Oath of Gideon is number ten on the list. Let’s start the list off with a bang, I always say. It wouldn’t be my Top 10 if I didn’t include some controversial picks. I’m sure lots of you will have rebuttals about this particular card and I look forward to the discussion in the comments.
Follow me here for a moment though. I didn’t just include this three-mana enchantment for the wow factor; this card is actually great.
A couple weeks ago in my Evaluating Oath Spoilers series, I noted that chaining Oath of Gideon into Gideon, Ally of Zendikar himself lets you keep Gideon around after he makes an emblem. That is just one of many potent sequences this enchantment enables.
Let’s start with Oath of Gideon in play and see what our follow up plays look like. Ob Nixilis Reignited can kill two creatures two turns in a row since it will start at six loyalty. Sarkhan Unbroken can make two 4/4 dragons two turns in a row. Chandra, Flamecaller, which I spoke about before, can overcome her greatest weakness and kill five-toughness creatures.
This overcosted Raise the Alarm has much more to it than meets the eye. It can transform your already powerful planeswalker cards into something even more powerful. This meager enchantment plays out more like Doubling Season does in Commander. If you’ve ever seen that in play when planeswalkers follow it up, you know exactly what I mean.
You think ultimating a planeswalker the turn after it comes into play is powerful, try playing against them when they ultimate the same turn! All this craziness can be yours for the mere price of a three-mana enchantment.
9. Call the Gatewatch
If you follow me on Twitter, you know I’ve been pushing this card. Many others in the finance community don’t agree with me on this one but I think Call the Gatewatch has great possibilities. Not only will this tutor see play in Commander as a staple, but I think it has promise as a Standard all-star as well.
Now that Oath of Gideon is known, this card’s value might go down a bit because both cards compete for your three-mana play, but I think there's room for both of them. Oath of Gideon is legendary so you only want so many copies. Call the Gatewatch is great on turn three to ensure you have a planeswalker on turn four, but in the late game extra copies will let you tutor for your walker and play it in the same turn.
These two white cards can form the base of a planeswalker control deck that I think will be very good in Standard. I’m interested to see what more players think of this card, so leave your thoughts in the comments below.
8. Goblin Dark-Dwellers
I’m very excited about this card to see play in multiple formats. This may seem a little nutty but it reminds me of a five-mana Bloodbraid Elf. Instead of flipping cards from your library though, you get to choose from anything in your graveyard.
Many cards I see through the eyes of my cube and this one seems like a great inclusion. What I’m really excited about though is playing the Dark-Dwellers in Standard. I think flashing back Exquisite Firecraft and Hordeling Outburst will be a hard sequence to combat. Modern may accept this creature as well but its play will most likely be fringe.
7. Stormchaser Mage
Our first uncommon to make it into the Top 10 for this set is Stormchaser Mage. For two mana, we get a lot of bang for our buck. Apparently when you add a mana to Monastery Swiftspear, you get flying and an additional toughness. Those are some pretty hefty upgrades.
This innocent-looking prowess creature seems poised to find the main stage in Standard and Modern. There is a huge difference between one and two mana in Modern but your turn three should leave this flyer dominating the skies for big chunks of damage. There may even be a blue-red, Jeskai, or Temur tempo deck waiting to be built in Standard with cards like this and Jori En, Ruin Diver.
6. Thought-Knot Seer
For the past week I've been thinking about this card and its potential. What I’ve come to is that it’ll definitely see play in Modern. The new Eldrazi Black deck is the most likely place you will see Thought-Knot Seer.
When you can play a 4/4 that exiles a card from their hand on turn two, it tends to see play and there are multiple ways to pull that off in Modern. You can cast it with Eldrazi Temple, Eye of Ugin and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. Between those three lands there are several combinations to pull it off.
Before this card, the deck was already decent and it has started making its mark on the format. Once the Seer is legal though, it should increase the power level of the deck dramatically.
5. Spatial Contortion
Play some pain lands and you get access to one of the best new removal spells. Note I didn’t say best removal spells in Standard. Spatial Contortion has the makings of a multi-format power house.
Now all decks have access to a removal spell that won’t cost you life. Decks will still play Dismember but now you can also play Spatial Contortion as long as you can generate colorless mana. I know Tron will be thrilled to jam this into their seventy five. I expect our Nameless Inversion reimagining to find many homes in many formats.
Turning your lands into resources is a great way to win games. If there are creature lands available, players will utilize them. Right now in Standard we have access to Lumbering Falls and Shambling Vent and I’ve been super impressed with both.
Everyone knows Shambling Vent is awesome because it sees play in many decks, but not a lot of players are utilizing Lumbering Falls. When I saw the two manlands from Battle, I immediately started brewing decks in those color combinations because decks with a manland are better than those without. Even Lumbering Falls has been amazing for me in my Temur Company deck (which has been wrecking local events, by the way).
I think the same will be said of the rest of the enemy-colored manlands from Oath. We will now have access to Wandering Fumarole, Hissing Quagmire, and Needle Spires. Most importantly this means that if you are playing a three-color combination from Khans block, you can now play two different manlands.
The key will be balancing your mana base so all your lands don’t come into play tapped, while at the same time making as many of your lands into creatures as possible. In the end, I think some decks will play five or six manlands but any more than that and you are pushing your tempo into a slower position.
It may be obvious to say that these three lands will see a lot of play, but nevertheless, they will certainly be integral to the makeup of the format throughout the course of the next year and a half.
3. Oath of Nissa
There is joy in my heart to see green reclaim part of its original color identity. If you play Cube, Commander or Legacy, you know Sylvan Library is a powerhouse. Before Sensei's Divining Top was printed, players were setting their draws consistently with an innocent little two-mana enchantment. Many years afterward, there was also the less played, but still powerful, Mirri's Guile.
After those two enchantments, we were given instants and sorceries that oddly specified which cards we could find. Examples of this effect were Ancient Stirrings, Mulch and Lead the Stampede. Even though all of these cards saw some amount of play, they never really captured the original intent of the ability.
Now we have Oath of Nissa as a shout-out to what green was supposed to be able to do. We all know blue is notorious for these cantrip type effects that help make your draws more consistent. This green Oath will be no different.
What I am curious to see is just how many decks will end up running this card. Is this a card that automatically goes in every green deck? Even the Eldrazi Ramp deck, where this seems at its weakest, might benefit from being able to consistently hit land drops as well as occasionally finding a creature. What about in Modern? How many decks would like this type of consistency? It will be an interesting story to follow.
Finally, there will be a non-zero number of decks that want Oath of Nissa for the mana fixing ability. Many players will ignore the bottom text entirely, but a few will use the second ability to cast whatever planeswalker they desire.
I wish Nissa’s Oath allowed you to get enchantments as well so you could search for other Oaths, but that might be asking too much from an already powerful one-mana card. To sum it up, at some point, you will want this card so get your play set and hold onto them. It's going to see plenty of play, and it has a great chance of increasing in value.
2. Kozilek, the Great Distortion
Kozilek will be distorting many metagames with his bad new self. Ten mana is definitely a lot but we see Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, who’s devouring his current price and eating his way up the ladder, so why not Kozilek, the Great Distortion? I said before we would most likely see the tag team of Kozilek and Ulamog in a variety of decks and I still believe that.
His current price tag of $15 seems low for the effect he offers. With so many great late-game threats, we may not need another one that also draws cards, but I think there’s room for him in Standard and Modern.
1. Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
Number one on the Top 10 for Oath of the Gatewatch is… Nissa, Voice of Zendikar! Rarely are we presented with a three-mana planeswalker and the ones we’ve had so far have all made their mark. Nissa will follow her path to greatness just like her friends before her. She will generate a plant army for you to go into battle with and then pump them up once the charge is sounded.
Combining her with Hardened Scales seems incredibly hard to defeat as well. Adding two +1/+1 counters to your entire squad is nearly Overrun! She may seem innocent, but she is definitely not. Nissa will be teaming up in Standard and Modern, so start brewing.
Oath of the Gatewatch is revving up to be quite an impactful small set. There are lots of powerful cards for a variety of formats. It seems like there is something in the set for everyone and I can’t wait to get started playing with these new toys. It will be interesting to see how this set impacts Limited as well.
For more info on these cards and others from OGW, below are the links to my other articles on the set.
Until next time,
Unleash the Force of the Gatewatch!
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