Thursday, September 17, 2020

Zendikar Rising Set Review: Green

 Ah, the color of ramp and draw. Green may well be the best color in the format, though of course it is a close competition between it, Blue, and Black. And it only gets better when you combine them - Golgari, Simic and Sultai are probably the best two- and three-color combinations in the format. Or perhaps I'm just biased because those colors do the things I like to do best. Oh well. On with the show.



Landharmonicon on a big, beefy stick. 

With Reach.

And a Crucible of Worlds stuck to it. 

Well, okay sure. Why not?
Ashaya seem quite powerful, and quite different from some of the more popular Mono-Green commanders of late. Definitely feels like she tends toward a different deck type from the likes of Yisan, Selvala or Omnath. Yet, she still feels quintessentially green. I'm certainly interested to see how she develops, but not yet committed to trying to build her myself. 
I don't see the option to play this as a land to be enough of a deal-sweetener to get me to play this over Eternal Witness or Regrowth. Just seems downright mediocre.

I think WotC was playing it extra safe with this mechanic, and probably rightfully so, but I also think maybe they played it just a hair too safe. Very few of these cards are at all exciting or even just good enough. But hopefully they will be successful enough that WotC decides it's safe to push the next crop of them just a wee bit more.
This would be the face card of one of those precon decks they used to do. It's big and splashy, and makes new players go "whoah, awesome!" but in reality they're just overcosted jank.

While I certainly like everything this card does - I just don't see 10 mana as a viable cost for it.  
I feel much the same about this Inscription as I do the other two. I generally like everything the card does and more or less want to do those things, but I'm not quite sold on the overall package. 

That said, I feel like this one has the most potential out of the three, as it is cheap, provides solid utility across the three effects, and, unlike the others, I wouldn't feel bad about casting this one un-Kicked for just one of its effects.

(Okay, the lifegain one is pretty terrible on it's own, but you get the point.)
I really like this effect but I hate the CMC. I really wish this was just an enchantment instead of a creature, and cost 1 or 2 mana less. Or even if it was just a smaller creature, like a 2/2 for 4 mana, that'd be cool. It'd be especially good in Ezuri, Claw of Progress if it were a 2-power creature instead. 

Alas, it's ALMOST a card I'd play but they had to give it a beefy stat line and totally wreck its potential. 
Oh, cool, a creature with Landfall that can also just be a land. I appreciate that kind of symmetry. A 3/3 for three isn't bad either. Landfall trigger is fine. The only thing holding this back, really, is the lack of Trample. 

WotC has had a habit for a while now of being far too liberal with their use of Trample, just tacking it on to almost every big, beefy boi they can. Then people complain they they're overdoing it, and they listen... but as a result we get cards like this. Cards that actually NEED Trample, but can't get it cause they wasted all their Trample points on big dumb mythics that had too much going on already. 
Okay so this has some cute interactions. Basically with anything that says "Whenever you gain life...". Some of my favorite examples include: Archangel of Thune, Dawn of Hope, Drogskol Reaver or Heliod the Sun-Crowned. 

Probably does some work in Tatyova as well. 

I also enjoy how it negates the drawback of Fastbond, even though Fastbond is (rightfully) banned in EDH. 

Cool design, but not sold on it's effectiveness even in a dedicated +1/+1 counters deck. Maybe it gets the job done, maybe not. I'd have to see it in action first.

Obviously gets better if you drop Hardened Scales beforehand. 
Almost-Harrow-but-not-quite. It's worse than Harrow, of course, because the lands enter tapped. That's relevant more than you'd think. However, it does have one niche case where it can be safer than Harrow - the sacrifice is not part of the cost, but part of the effect, so that means if someone counters this, you don't lose the land. In counter-heavy metas this almost certainly replaces Harrow if you were even running Harrow to begin with. 

Also it is just fine to run as a second copy of Harrow in decks like Gitrog or Korvold.
This card kind of feels like a nightmare to keep track of in paper Magic. Online, it's no big deal, but in paper? Yeesh. Keeping track of what are ordinary 1/1's and what are 1/1's that make 1/1's is just kind of a lot. I hope this card is dirt cheap because I think the best way to manage it in paper is to literally just by a fuckton of them and use them as the tokens once you hit six lands. 

Logistical nightmare aside, this card is hilarious and awesome and I'm absolutely going to run it in any landfall-related deck I can. 

There are always more scute bugs.
Not sure what this does for your deck even if you're deep on the +1/+1 counter plan. There are certainly better options for whatever slot this would take.
Party on, Garth!
Man, that's rough. This just does not compare favorably to similar effects such as See the Unwritten or Selvala's Stampede. For seven mana, you only get the one creature, and you only get the counters as a bonus of you play a 3-or-less dork. That's some weaksauce shit right there. 

That said, Green has been given some of the most ridiculous mythics lately so getting one dud ought not to sting so much. It's just that this card COULD be really cool and playable without being blatantly overpowered... but instead it is blatantly underpowered.
Quite expensive to Kick, but it's quite an effect if you do. I like the card in theory but I'm not sure if it will be quite good enough for most decks. It certainly deserve a chance, though.

It almost certainly makes the cut in Hallar, though as both the Kicker keyword itself and the kicked effect synergize with him perfectly.
I guess I shouldn't have been so saddened by all those blue Kicker support cards that can't be played in Hallar, because it turns out Green did get some good support as well. 

Speaking of Hallar, we have an Eternal Witness that is tailor-made for a Kicker deck. It's far to niche to be useful anywhere else, but it's definitely a welcome addition to that specific deck. 

Zendikar Rising Set Review: Red

Installment number four brings us to... Red! Red often gets shafted, at least in terms of EDH-playable cards, because much of it's forte - burn, direct damage, and cheap aggressive creatures - simply doesn't scale well in a multi-player, 40 life format. But, it does seem like WotC is at least trying to throw Red a few more EDH-worthy cards here and there, so let's see what we get this time around.


Oh hey, the first common to appear on the list and it's Red! Quite a surprise. Also it's a land destruction spell and I actually love it.

It's pinpoint removal for annoying or overpowered lands like Cradle or Maze of Ith, but super fair in that it replaces the land it kills with a non-threatening basic land. And it also replaces itself via the cantrip rider. 

This is a near-perfect design, allowing casual tables that shun land destruction in general to have a fair way to deal with powerful utility lands. 
Cowards can't block Warriors is still funny even after all this time. But remember when I said that Red's cheap aggro dudes typically don't scale well in EDH? This is a good example of that. About the only place this MIGHT be playable is in Mardu Warriors but even then I'm not certain it makes the cut - not sure how deep that particular well is.
Basically a Red, flying Omnath that, instead of wasting its stored mana when it inevitably gets removed, explodes in a big ball of fire upon its death.

Seems like an auto-include in any Big Mana Red decks like, say, either of the two Mono-Red Nehebs. 
Cute design but I don't think UR Spellslinger decks would even want this. Maybe Mono-Red Spellslinger would, if that's even a thing. I guess if you wanted to make a burn deck work in EDH this is potentially one tool you could use to keep the gas flowing, but it's not strictly card advantage, so you'd need more than just this.

I am curious, however, to see if this has any play in a (somewhat) more casual build of Rielle the Everwise. I could ALMOST see this being good in such a deck. Maybe I'll have to try that out, if I get around to building Rielle.
Also yes. Every Gruul or Jund Lands-Matter deck out there is going to run this. It's especially bonkers in Korvold, which is already a stupid good deck without it. I feel like this is one of those cards that is just too good, but somehow not quite ban-worthy.

Moraug, above, is probably the most broadly powerful Red card in the set, but THIS is the card I'm most hyped about - I mean, it's a card draw spell in Mono-Red that isn't a Wheel! 

Sign me right the fuck up.
This is just a weird-ass card. I don't think I like it much, but I certainly do appreciate the big swing they took with it. Who knows, maybe it'll do something? I guess it's a way to make your Dockside Extortionist functional when your opponents stubbornly refuse to play any mana rocks early on?

Cards this wacky are hard to evaluate, because someone very clever will likely find a use for it, but for the vast majority of us, I think we just look at it, say "neat" and then binder it for good.
Meh. Another narrow card that hoses a particular thing that you may or may not see in any given EDH game. But at least it does still do the ping even if the other stuff is largely irrelevant. 

Alas, I just do not see this effect being consequential enough to find much purchase in the EDH format. Too small and too slow to really impact most games. 
Oh man, I was really loving this card until I got to the last part. I guess a 4/3 with Trample and Haste with absolutely no downside at all would be a bit too good in some 60-card formats, but in EDH it just barely be playable, but I'd 100% for sure have jammed it in Stonebrow.

A 5/4 with Trample and Haste for 5 is just not as exciting. That said, it probably still has a home in Hallar just for the sake of being a non-terrible Red card with Kicker - something that deck will always be happy to see.
Ah, the big splashy mythic with a land on the back side. So far we haven't been too jazzed about these (well, I loved the Blue one even thought I know it's wrong to). 

This one... it's fine. I don't hate it. I can see myself playing it, somewhere. I'm just not sure where. Again, Big Mana Red seems the obvious choice, but I'm wondering if it has any other homes besides various Neheb decks. 
This is a weird, interesting take on the classic Wheel effect. Firstly, the whole modal DFC thing, but I guess that's not THAT weird. But the fact that you don't just throw away your whole hand, but get to choose what to keep and what to jettison is a very welcome twist. Then, there's also the fact that instead of discarding them you put them on bottom of your library.

For some decks that actually makes this card a little worse - my Feldon deck would LOVE this if you discarded those cardss instead. As would Rielle decks. 

Still, this is a FANTASTIC card-selection spell for Red decks that aren't heavily graveyard-reliant. Very cool design!
Another Valakut-themed card and another kinda weird, unique design. So the whole "exile the top card,  you can play it this turn" thing is not new to Red, but we're used to seeing these effects leave those cards in Exile forever if you don't cast them right away. This lets you get some value (damage) out of the cards you can't or don't want to cast. Then they end up in your graveyard for potential reuse later, rather than languishing in Exile for the rest of the game.

Also, the landfall ability says "play" not "cast" so if you hit a land and you have any Exploration effects that let you play multiple lands, you can just play the land you exiled and get another shot at something with more juice. 

No idea where I play this, but I like it a lot and will definitely try to find some kind of use for it.
I'm not sure if this is good anywhere, but it is absolutely atrocious in EDH. Straight up garbage. 

Zendikar Rising Set Review: Black

 Here we are with another installment in the Zendikar Rising review. Today's article is brought to you by the color Black!


Kicking this one off with a big, splashy mythic. Unfortunately, I just don't see any use for this in a format where cards like Living Death, Rise of the Dark Realms, and probably a few other cards are just plain better. 

Also it's just getting tiring seeing so many Black mythics revisit the old "mass reanimation" well, especially when they so often fail to compare favorably to past iterations. 

This is undeniably a cool card, and probably still quite powerful, so it's not like you'd be ashamed to run this, but it's hard to find an excuse to do that if you already own one of the much superior versions of this effect.
Fairly decent beatstick for Rogue decks. I'd like it better if it was a 1/2 for 2 with the same buff. Menace is an underrated evasion ability, but then again token/go wide decks are pretty popular in some metas. 

Fine for Rogue decks but it's not going to be an all star even there.
One of the few pay-off cards for the Party theme that I actually dig. This could pretty easily be just a second copy of Demonic Tutor in the right decks, but having a full party makes this thing kinda crazy good. 

The interesting this is, if you get the "full party" bonus effect, you don't actually have to cast the card you tutored for. Really interesting design and a card I like in theory, I just wish it wasn't tied to the Party mechanic.
Oh look, yet another Fleshbag Marauder. The twist on this one is, it can, theoretically hit planeswalkers. I don't see that as a super relevant upside but I suppose it is still TECHNICALLY better than the OG Fleshbag. Also the creature types are relevant, not just for the Party theme but for B/W Clerics and various Human Tribal decks. 

Still, even though I am a die hard fan of the Fleshbag effects in EDH, and was positively thrilled when the started printing functionally identical version, I feel they peaked HARD with Plaguecrafter, and now it's just getting tiresome. 
I still kinda like the aggro version of Drana from the last time we went to Zendikar, but man the potential value on this one is pretty sweet. Definitely have to find a slot for this in nearly any Vampire deck you build. She's probably a bit too slow for some metas, but for casual builds, I think she's just the right level of splashy and powerful.
So... you punish greedy/expensive mana bases by... what? Getting to cast Murder? Just Murder, no upside? They could have cost this at 1BB with the exact same text and I still wouldn't play it, because Murder kinda blows in this format. 

Hard pass.
Does not scale well to the EDH format. It almost certainly has niche uses here and there, but... paying 7 mana to make just one opponent discard, get back a 1-drop or 2-drop, and kill a single 3-drop... all of these effects combined simply do not feel impactful enough to add up to 7 mana of value. 
An almost, sorta, strictly better Vampire Nighthawk is certainly welcome. Nighthawk is a very good card and is playable even outside of vampire-themed decks. It's just a really good early blocker. 

But this can also be a really good attacker, once even a few cards have hit your opponents' graveyards, and that really pushes it into the "better than Nighthawk" realm. 

Also worth noting it's a Rogue for times where that matters. I really hope they bring back Prowl in a future set soon.
As far as reanimation-on-a-creature cards go, this one ain't bad, but it's not that great either. It's certainly playable, but feels a bit overcosted. Personally, I think in most cases I'd rather just ditch the nearly-worthless 2/1 body and just play one of the amazing 4-mana Zombify variants that exist. Dread Return, Vigor Mortis, probably half a dozen or so more that cost 1 to 2 mana less than this. And you likely won't miss the 2/1 body at all.

That said, the creature types attached might make this relevant for tribal reasons. Also creatures themselves are easier to recur, so if you can bounce or recast this multiple times somehow, it stands to outperform a Sorcery effect. 
Given the starting life totals in our format, this seems pretty terrible at first glance. Still, that Kicker is bound to pique some folks' interest and I've seen some chatter about weird combos with Nethroi. 

All told, this might have some very niche, corner-case uses, but for the most part it's just plain awful in EDH. 
Perfectly fine if you play against a lot of weenie decks or go-wide decks that like to poop out small creatures en mass. Still, on average, most of the truly scary cards in our format cost well more than 3 mana so I think much of the time this is just going to clear the chaff but leave the wheat, so to speak. I'll just stick with my Toxic Deluges, thanks.
Oh, look, a new Bloodghast for us to feed to our Skullclamps over and over! Neat! I don't really see myself paying the Kicker much at all. But I'll happily draw 2 turn after turn after turn.
Good draw effect for Abzan or Golgari decks built around the +1/+1 counter theme. I especially see this as a strong addition to Mazirek decks. 
Okay I know I just said I was getting tired of them printing Fleshbag Marauder effects every other set, but damn this one is GOOD. I usually like the effect on a creature because creatures are much easier to recur and reuse. But casting a Fleshbag effect at Instant speed is also VERY powerful. 

I also appreciate the way this is worded so they can't just fodder some mana dork or utility dork that they no longer need. It is much more likely to hit an actual threat. And even if not, it's still a good tempo play to make this sac whatever they spent the most mana on. 

Exceptionally good card, and that art is fucking exceptional as well.
I like seeing cheaper, smaller demons getting printed. They don't all have to be 8-mana 7/7's, y'know. I hope they continue the trend and allow demons to thrive at all levels of the CMC curve. 

But this one is such a specific design, I'm not sure exactly where it has a home. I mean, some sort of cleric tribal deck is the obvious answer, but outside of that archetype, it's ceiling is just a large, flying lifelinker. That's not terrible - see Serra Ascendant for example - but this costs more and is much harder to turn on its buffs. 

But I think what really kills my enthusiasm is that "nontoken" caveat on it's "dies" trigger. Man that really bums me out.

Zendikar Rising Set Review: Blue

 Time for our second installment, covering Blue cards this time. Let's jump right in, shall we?


<-- LOL
Sweet! A cantriping anti-ramp card. Cool. 

The issue I have with these cards is, you don't run them for what they do for your deck, you run them for what they do to your opponents' decks. And, generally, in most decks, I'd prefer to run something that is either A) synergystic with or at least proactive toward my own game plan, or B) a more broad, reliable answer that can deal with a variety of issues.

Hosing one specific type of deck is a meta call, and personally I'd rather not have a dead card in my deck if that one type of deck isn't represented at the table.
Kicker support in Blue makes all those Hallar, the Firefletcher players sad. I was planning on building a Hallar deck myself. I still might of course. But it's definitely a feel-bad seeing all these card that would be GREAT in that deck being the wrong color for it.
I don't hate this card - a 3-mana Clone is pretty swell, even if the restriction on what you can copy is a tad harsh. This is one of the few modal DCFs in the set I can really see myself playing and being happy with. Maybe.
Pretty darn expensive to play and Kick but pretty darn awesome if you do. Still, it's a pretty far cry from Blue's most ubiquitous and infamous Kicker spell - Rite of Replication. 

I really like this card, I just don't know how many decks are going to be able to find a slot for it. I'll almost certainly be able to make good use of it in my Teferi, Temporal Archmage and MAYBE something like Riko or Kalamax can do bonkers things by copying it. But overall it feels like one of those cards you keep slotting in, then cutting.

Just fucking bonkers. 

Basically a Glimpse the Unthinkable that you can Kick into a Traumatize... except it hits ALL YOUR OPPONENTS. This HAS to seem like a godsend to Mill players everywhere. 

I absolutely love it, and I haven't played any sort of dedicated mill deck in years. I might just have to rebuild Wrexial as an excuse to play this.
This one also features the newly-keyworded Mill mechanic, but in such a small increment, I feel like this card is much more exciting as both a Rogue for Rogue decks and a 1/1 flyer with some small value for Edric decks.
Party on, Wayne!
HA HA HA HA! AGAIN! This time they took Hedron Crab and made it strictly better for multiplayer games. 



Mill might actually be a thing finally.
Ugh. I love this more than I should. I know it's technically bad, because if you have the luxury of taking a whole turn off to cast a 7-mana spell that doesn't impact the board in any way, then you're probably already winning, making this "win more". But God knows how greedy I am about drawing cards and the whole "PLUS ONE" part really tickles me!

That said, this actually CAN impact the board in something like The Locust God or Pyr and Toothy, so it might have legitimate homes in those decks, but I'll probably just jam it into any deck I can find room for it. 
Woof. 7 mana for a 2/1 just to copy a 1 or 2 mana spell twice? Yikes. Given both the steep Kicker cost and the severe restriction on what you can copy makes this a dud in my book. I'm sure it will have some kind of life within our format in some very specific decks, but I can't fathom any of my decks running this.
3 mana to steal a Sol Ring? Sure, I can see that maybe being a thing. Also, Rogue with Flying is fine on it's own.
Is it just me or does this seem a bit OP for an uncommon? Absolutely has a home in UR spellslinger decks, from where I'm sitting.