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Battle for Zendikar Spoilers - Limited Review for September 7


Enemy man lands, new Planeswalkers and more Eldrazi! There are a ton of great new cards to review today. I'll be reviewing these cards from the standpoint of how well I expect them to perform in Limited. We can't rate the cards completely accurately without knowing the entire set, but we can evaluate the cards in an "average" limited format.

You can find all the latest spoilers on the Battle for Zendikar page. Please note that if I haven't yet reviewed a card, it's probably because the official English spoiler for it has not been released yet.

Grading scale

A: This card will often be the best card in one's deck. I'd consider splashing it where possible. (Dragonlord Atarka, Tragic Arrogance)
B: This card is rarely cut from a deck that can cast it. In draft, it signals that a color or archetype is open. (Death Wind, Blessed Spirits)
C: Cards like this make up the majority of limited decks. You're neither excited nor embarrassed to have them in your deck. (Screamreach Brawler, Aspiring Aeronaut)
D: I'm not putting this in my main deck unless I have a specific reason or I'm low on playables. (Blessed Reincarnation, Gather the Pack)
F: This card will have little or no impact on the game if I draw it or is strictly sideboard-material. If I cast this card, please stage an intervention for me. (Keeper of the Lens, Jace's Sanctum)

White

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

B-

Rares that are strong but beatable; that's a great start of a good Limited environment. Lantern Scout won't win any wars by himself, but if you can trigger him a few times, it will be very difficult for your opponent to win a damage race.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

B

Unconditional removal is great in a slow format and this is a fairly costed version. The double white may be difficult and it can be destroyed by a card like Felidar Cub, but this is still powerful enough to be a high pick. It even exiles so it can lock up Indestructible creatures.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

C+

We've already seen the green version of this cycle in Retreat to Kazandu, and this version costs more mana. It's pretty standard that 1/1 creatures are better than +1/+1 counters though, and the fact that these are Rally-triggering Allies is a pretty big deal. The threat of using the Glorious Charge mode may also incentivize your opponent to stay back and block.

Blue

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

B

Mulldrifter is back... sort of. It costs one more than the Elemental for both the draw and creature options, but grants a 4/4 instead of a 2/2. If you can cast this with seven mana available, the 4/4 can even have Haste; if you only have six mana to spare, the Elemental will be tapped and won't be able to block right away. This distinction between these two modes is going to be an important recurrent theme with the Awaken cards. 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

B

It appears that Waxmane Baku has become an Eldrazi. This card is pretty incredible. By itself it can take two creatures out of an attack/block turn cycle then swing for five. If you have this in a dedicated Scion deck you could potentially tap the entire opposing team to allow all your creatures to attack uncontested. Whether this is used offensively or defensively, it offers good stats and a relevant ability at almost any point in the game.

Black

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

A

At worst Ob Nixilis Reignited is a kill spell that gains you 2-5 life when your opponent attacks him. At best this is an expensive Phyrexian Arena whose ultimate ability will kill your opponent long before it kills you. I'm pretty sure I know why this is already one of my favorite Planeswalkers ever: it fits the incredible template set by Karn Liberated and Liliana of the Veil of Card advantage/Kill spell/Win condition in the three ability slots.

The art is also quite intimidating — seriously who would mess with a Demon Planeswalker? No one, that's who.

$ 0.00$ 0.00

C-

Being unable to block is a downside that hurts a lot in Limited. When you're behind, having a creature that does nothing to help you survive feels awful. On the other hand, in an aggressive deck with colorless synergies this could just be an all-star. Getting through for 4 damage or forcing blocks sounds like a good way to apply pressure. This is going to be a card that only the Devoid deck really wants so they shouldn't have to pick it that highly to get it. 

Green

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

B-

This card is so much better than it looks at first glance. First, remember that there are expensive Eldrazi to cast. Second, remember that Landfall is in the set. Third, realize that the 7 life helps you survive to benefit from the effect this provides. Imagine triggering Guardian of Tazeem with 3 Islands to build your own Icy Blast. Imagine pairing this with a card like Retreat to Emeria and creating a free Overwhelm. Whether you use this to ramp into big threats or obtain multiple Landfall triggers, casting it is usually going to feel great. With three or more ways in my deck to take advantage of the mana/lands from this, I'd be thrilled to run one copy of this.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

D

It takes a lot to make a 1/1 playable and I don't think this meets the bar. Goblin Glory Chaser was a recent over performer in this category, but this is less consistent and is printed in what will assuredly be a slower format than Magic Origins. 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

A

This card reminds me of Undercity Troll, a premium uncommon in Magic Origins. The Troll is quite a good card and Undergrowth Champion is easily better. It grows without bound and without needing to deal damage, and the damage prevention effect costs no mana. This card is really more comparable to another Magic Origins card: Managorger Hydra. Undergrowth Champion may grow a little slower than the Hydra, but it also dies to less kinds of removal. This is the type of incredible power I expect to see at Mythic rarity.

Multicolored

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

D

This card is interesting and just about as weird as its predecessor Wargate. Unfortunately two-mana spells are not usually worth five-mana to cast even if you get your pick of all possible spells in your deck. If you can Converge for three or four colors of mana and you have strong targets in your deck, this might become worthwhile. You have to remember that paying five-mana for an effect worth less than five-mana isn't usually that good.

$ 0.00$ 0.00

B

Brood Butcher seems incredible in a Scion heavy deck. Blocking a large attacker with a Scion then sacrificing the Scion to kill another attacker is possible with just the tokenBrood Butcher brings along. Adding more expendable creatures into the equation makes it even better. If you're able to go on the offensive, this ability will make most combat trades less than favorable for your opponent. Unlike other recent sacrifice outlets we've seen, Brood Butcher is able to sacrifice itself so keep that in mind.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

A

Evaluating Planeswalkers is often easiest by comparing them to other walkers. This Merfolk walker's newest incarnation is pretty similar to Jace, Architect of Thought; it matches on mana cost, starting loyalty, and the numbers for the abilities. Let's walk through the abilities one by one:

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

  • The plus ability — protection from attackers: Kiora can generate an additional mana and give your biggest creature Vigilance, but this point goes in favor of Jace. While -1/-0 isn't huge, it is very effective against large swarms of smaller creatures.
  • The minus ability — card advantage: Based on a simulation with 18 lands and 16 creatures, Kiora's ability "draws" two cards 80% of the time and one card 20% of the time for an expected value of about 1.8 cards. On the other hand, Jace is guaranteed 1.5 cards worth of value since you get to pick the better pile. Based on the selection offered and the fact that it fuels the graveyard, I give this point in favor of Kiora.
  • The ultimate — ending the game: An 8/8 that fights a creature when it enters the battlefield has got to be about as good as the best card in a random Limited deck. Since Kiora gets three such threats to Jace's two, and since Kiora also packs an emblem that keeps working on the following turns, this point goes in favor of Kiora.

Overall I think Kiora is a little bit better, which is appropriate given that she's two-colored compared to Jace, Architect of Thought. While her Simic color combination may hurt her chances in Constructed, she'll be a great first pick in Limited.

Colorless

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

B

I greatly prefer Breaker of Armies over the Eldrazi Devastator discussed last article. This creature gets to trade with your choice of two or three creatures in your opponent's army, or forces your opponent to attack into it just to avoid the forced block.

$ 0.00$ 0.00

B+

Desolation Twin is a really neat card. Getting two huge bodies means you can leave one back to block if your life total is low, or you can force your opponent to chump block twice a turn. The huge token it brings along is weak to bounce effects, but even so, you still have a 10/10. Last but not least, it's a cast trigger so the occasional lurking counterspell won't leave you crying. This won't close out a game as easily as Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger (dubbed "New-lamog"), but it will often still do the job. 

Lands

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

B

Enemy Man Lands! Enemy Man Lands! Enemy Man Lands!

Sorry, I'm a little excited. This card fixes mana, can buff Converge spells, and can attack later in the game. Man lands also play well with the Awaken mechanic (though this would leave Lumbering Falls without hexproof when not activated). Based on their monetary value, I'll probably take these man lands over better uncommons. 

Conclusion

Everything I see is pushing Magic Origins further out of my mind and getting me more ready to draft tons of Battle for Zendikar. Join us for more spoilers and more Limited review throughout the spoiler weeks. Reach out to me on Twitter @JakeStilesMTG or in the comments below with your thoughts on the new cards.


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