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Battle for Zendikar Limited Set Review – Colorless, Artifacts, Gold, and Land

Previous Reviews – Limited

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*Retired and inducted into the Limited Hall of Fame: Pack Rat. Umezawa’s Jitte.

5.0: The best of the best. (Citadel Siege. Wingmate Roc. Dragonlord Atarka.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Tragic Arrogance. Whirler Rogue. Icefall Regent. Hangarback Walker.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Abbot of Keral Keep. Jhessian Thief. Ultimate Price.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Separatist Voidmage. Fiery Impulse. Epic Confrontation.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Deadbridge Shaman. Skyraker Giant. Watercourser.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Read the Bones. Silumgar Butcher. Dragon-Scarred Bear.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Throwing Knife. Chandra’s Fury. Artful Maneuver.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Vastwood Gorger. Aeronaut Tinkerer. Cobblebrute.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Thornbow Archer. Deep-Sea Terror. Akroan Jailer.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Vandalize. Vine Snare. Congregate.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Fascination. Infinite Obliteration.)

First, a quick note on 5.0s: I am slightly relaxing what I consider a 5, as reserving it for just the top cards ever in Limited isn’t as useful. Yes, Umezawa’s Jitte and Pack Rat are on another level, but cards like Citadel Siege or Atarka should make the list as well. You are going to see more cards get the highest grade, even though I’m not going so far as to say that the best card in a set automatically gets it. It’s possible for the best card to still not quite get there.

Colorless

Bane of Bala Ged

Limited: 2.5

The rating here reflects how good this is as a finisher, even if not every deck can afford to play it. Annihilator is back, and does not cost that much to get going. This will trade for plenty of cards if you get to attack with it, and is the kind of card worth ramping for.

Blight Herder

Limited: 3.0

Looking at the set, 4/5 for 5 is better stats than normal. There just aren’t that many 5-drops, especially with this high of toughness, and a lot of the more expensive creatures are 4/4’s or 3/3’s from awaken. That means that playing Blight Herder and having it not trigger isn’t the end of the world, with it being incredible if you do manage to trigger it. I would try and make this work, with a fallback plan of a decent vanilla creature if it doesn’t.

Breaker of Armies

Limited: 2.0

Breaker of Armies is another solid finisher for the ramp deck. Costing 8 and being a little worse than Bane makes it a little narrower, but it’s still the kind of card that you want to close out games.

Conduit of Ruin

Limited: 3.5

In a deck with zero 7+ drops, Conduit of Ruin still is reasonably costed and makes your turns more efficient. Once you have a powerful card or two to get, this card is great. Beware getting a creature and having Conduit killed, as you could be stranded with some uncastable monster in hand.

Deathless Behemoth

Limited: 3.0

This is another big Eldrazi that is great when you can build around it and still solid when you can’t. Having this as your finisher means that you have a lot of redundancy, and in a deck with tons of Eldrazi Scions it’s pretty easy to shrug off removal.

Desolation Twin

Limited: 1.0

Now we are getting to the monsters. Desolation Twin(s) is (are?) powerful, but ten mana requires quite the commitment. Unless your deck is capable of serious ramp, with tons of Eldrazi Scions and cards like Hedron Archive, this is just straight-up uncastable, so you won’t get to play it all that often. When you are in the market for something truly gigantic, this does fill the role, so be thankful that it’s so expensive that others are unlikely to take it.

Eldrazi Devastator

Limited: 1.5

Ulamog’s Crusher was the exciting common Eldrazi last time, and this is not quite as devastating. It still can give you an outlet for your big mana deck, just not one that’s so powerful that you are happy to run it.

Endless One

Limited: 4.0

Even if this isn’t the flashiest rare, the fact that this by definition fills your curve at any point is very powerful. Sometimes you just need a 2/2 for 2, and getting to make sure you hit your 2-drop while also providing a 10-mana play is great. It’s probably the most above the curve at 4 mana, though I’d recommend playing this as late as possible if you have other things to play early.

Gruesome Slaughter

Limited: 2.0

You may not get to play this every time you draft it, but when it’s good, it’s VERY good. If you have 7+ decently-sized colorless creatures, I’d start this, and once you have 10+ it becomes a real game-ender. As long as you can reliably get two fights out of the deal, this is great, and more than that is a beating.

Kozilek’s Channeler

Limited: 3.0

Kozilek’s Channeler is how I want to ramp to 8. It’s a 4/4 by itself, which already justifies a slot, and adding two mana makes this pretty close to a 2 for 1 when it comes to mana production. That’s a good mix of power at a low cost (both mana-wise and opportunity), so I’m a fan.

Oblivion Sower

Limited: 3.5

Not only is this a very respectable set of stats (odd as 5/8 may be), you will get almost two lands on average, and that’s without counting any other exile effects you’ve used earlier. That’s a great way to ramp and a powerful threat all rolled into one, making this one of the better ways to enable an Eldrazi deck.

Ruin Processor

Limited: 1.5

This is another example of the finisher for the Eldrazi decks that don’t have a ton of options. Ruin Processor has reasonable if unexciting stats and an ability that won’t always be on, though it becomes much more interesting if you can reliably trigger it. Once you are in the full-on ingest deck, Ruin Processor’s rating goes up significantly, but I’m evaluating it assuming you aren’t hitting multiple themes (ramp + ingest) every time.

Scour from Existence

Limited: 0.5

I just can’t stomach paying seven mana for a removal spell. I don’t mind siding this in, but unless this format is a lot slower than I think, I suspect the next couple weeks of play will vindicate my first impression of Scour.

Titan’s Presence

Limited: 1.5

You need a fair amount of colorless creatures before this is castable, and they have to be big for it to be any good. Granted, when you do get there this is just a great piece of removal, so it’s another card which ranges from unplayable to great depending on the support.

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

Limited: 2.0

Besides having my favorite name of the set, Ulamog is one of the cards that rewards you the most for ramping to it. I don’t think you will always get there, hence the rating, but if you take this and go hard on ramp spells and Scions, it will be awesome. I hope this is a good and castable card in this format, as I’m very much looking forward to playing gigantic spells. If the marquee card is not one of them, I will be very sad (and hungry).

Ulamog’s Despoiler

Limited: 2.0

This is another card with a very mild fail case, which makes it a solid addition to any deck that needs a six-drop and has a couple ways to enable it. These are the perfect cards for the casual ingest deck, the deck that could be a lot better at ingesting if it really tried.

Void Winnower

Limited: 1.5

Well, I certainly can’t give this an even rating, right? Void Winnower seems like a good enough card to ramp to, but expensive enough that you really need to have a powerful ramp deck before including it.

Artifacts

Aligned Hedron Network

Limited: 1.5

If your deck has zero creatures affected by this, you have a puny deck and I feel sorry for you. Past that, it’s worth running to randomly get the opponent, but I don’t see you hitting multiple creatures that often. If you can get two creatures, this is great, and exiling just one at sorcery speed isn’t the worst. The main drawback here is that you are likely to have at least a few creatures hit by this, so running it isn’t worth the risk.

Hedron Archive

Limited: 2.5

Some decks will have no use for the extra mana this provides, which is why it isn’t an auto-include. The decks that do want to hit 6+ mana like this card a lot, as you can cash it in for more business if you get flooded. That’s a very nice ability to have on your powerful ramp card, and this is one of the better ways to make a big deck more consistent.

Hedron Blade

Limited: 0.5

I don’t think the power level on this card is high enough to justify inclusion, though I could see siding it in against a defensive deck that has high-toughness colorless creatures.

Pathway Arrows

Limited: 1.0

The prohibitive activation + equip costs keep this from being incredibly annoying, which is why they are so conservative. Given enough mana, you can move and shoot in the same turn, stacking up multiple damage, but that’s not cheap. This is another card I could see siding in, but would prefer not to run maindeck.

Pilgrim’s Eye

Limited: 3.0

I can’t imagine a deck that wouldn’t run this card. It’s cheap, it’s a 2 for 1, and it fixes your mana at basically no cost. It doesn’t add anything particularly powerful, but it’s such a good value proposition that even aggressive decks will be happy.

Slab Hammer

Limited: 1.0

It may look like I’m just hammering all these equipments, but it’s not for no reason. They are just too expensive and not powerful enough, and Slab Hammer is no exception. Unless you are an aggressive landfall deck, this just doesn’t cut it. Or smash it, or whatever.

Gold

Angelic Captain

Limited: 3.5

An aggressively-costed flier with an upside is always something worth playing. This rewards you for being an Ally deck without requiring it, which is a pretty safe bet to take early.

Bring to Light

Limited: 1.0

Despite this being my favorite card in the set for Constructed, Bring to Light is a bit too much work for most Limited decks. It requires 4-5 colors to be mana efficient, and a lot of great cards to be powerful enough. That’s not going to come together very often, though it will be spectacular when it does.

Brood Butcher

Limited: 4.0

Not only does this combo with itself, as it comes with a Scion to sacrifice, it makes all your other token generation much more dangerous. It’s impossible for your opponent to really attack or block effectively, and can pick off their creatures with ease. This is worth taking early and drafting around, and is awesome even without additional support.

Brutal Expulsion

Limited: 3.5

At some point in the game, this will be a giant beating. Brutal Expulsion will kill one creature and bounce something expensive at the same time, whether that be a spell on the stack or a creature in play. Getting this big a mana and tempo advantage without costing yourself a card is a rare treat indeed.

Catacomb Sifter

Limited: 3.5

Like Brood Butcher, Catacomb Sifter is great without help and even better in the right deck. It provides a generous amount of stats and an ability that’s useful at any stage in the game. This is the kind of gold card I don’t mind taking early.

Drana’s Emissary

Limited: 3.5

Drana’s Emissary provides support for the lifegain deck and the ally deck, all while being a very efficient threat. She’s worth playing even if you aren’t aggressive or in any of those themes, so it’s not hard to imagine how good she is when you are. This is just too much of a life swing every turn to pass up, and for only three mana.

Dust Stalker

Limited: 3.0

If your deck is aggressive enough, Dust Stalker is playable even without many other colorless creatures. If blocking is something you care about, you will need ways to make sure this stays in play. It’s also not very mana efficient if you have to keep recasting it, though at five damage a pop you probably won’t have to cast it all that many times.

Fathom Feeder

Limited: 3.5

This is a strange little card, but even if I can’t fathom why it does all these things, I know that the combination is very powerful. This trades for anything, enables processors, and given enough time, will draw you a bunch of cards. I like Fathom Feeder a lot, and anticipate taking it quite early.

Forerunner of Slaughter

Limited: 3.0

Forerunner of Slaughter is good enough on its own to warrant inclusion in any black/red deck, and has a powerful enough ability that it gives you real incentive to pick up more colorless creatures. It definitely has an aggressive bent, but I’m fine playing this in anything but the most controlling deck.

Grove Rumbler

Limited: 3.5

Grove Rumbler is a very solid threat, and is even big enough that it can play defense if need be. A 5/5 trampler is great at any point in the game, especially when it only costs four mana.

Grovetender Druids

Limited: 3.0

The ability costing mana takes this from “awesome” to “decent”, and makes me a little less willing to commit to two colors early. If you are green/white, this is solid, but it’s not one of the gold cards I’m looking for.

Herald of Kozilek

Limited: 3.5

A 2/4 for three is a good enough deal that I don’t need this to work with all of my spells. If even 1/3 of your cards are colorless, Herald is great, and once it goes above that it becomes one of the best cards in your deck.

Kiora, Master of the Depths

Limited: 4.0

Kiora’s -2 ability basically just draws you two cards in most Limited decks, even if one of those cards is a land. She also does a good job ramping you, and has an absurd ultimate. Her main downfall is that she doesn’t protect herself, but she provides enough card advantage that I’m willing to work to protect her.

March from the Tomb

Limited: 3.0

When this gets there, it’s pretty sick. In an Ally deck, March will get back 2-3 Allies, and that’s an enormous swing (especially if one is Chasm Guide). Of course, tons of decks won’t want this at all, so I’m not that likely to want to start a draft with this committing of a card.

Munda, Ambush Leader

Limited: 4.0

A 3/4 haste for four is already great, and Munda finds you a steady stream of Allies to boot. Even in a non-Ally deck, Munda is very good, and he’s incredible if you are dedicated to the theme.

Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper

Limited: 4.0

Noyan Dar is the roil deal, and will lead to some very swingy games. If you can untap with him in play, he will often give you an insurmountable board position, and you may even be able to set up a turn where you cast him and immediately cast a spell or two. If your deck ends up spell-light, clearly his power goes down, but he’s still a 5-mana 4/4 that your opponent is going to try and kill on sight.

Omnath, Locus of Rage

Limited: 4.5

Even though Omnath costs tons of mana, many of it colored, he’s one of the best threats you can find. I don’t see how anyone can beat an Omnath that stays in play for any length of time, and if Omnath does get killed, he takes something out with him. This is a card I’d take early and build around.

Resolute Blademaster

Limited: 3.0

Aggressive decks want a couple powerful cards to close out the game, and Resolute Blademaster does that very well. He gets even better once you draft a couple allies, but is fine even without much backup.

Roil Spout

Limited: 3.5

Roil Spout is one of the few awaken cards that I’m happy to cast for either mode, which is why it’s going to be a high pick. Most awaken cards offer flexibility, but at a power level cost, where one of the sides is much more appealing than the other. Roil Spout is great no matter what you do, which is the mythical combination of flexibility and power that I’m always spouting off about.

Sire of Stagnation

Limited: 3.5

I’d rather lose than play a land against one of these, a sentiment that I’m sure any honorable magician can attest to. There are some decks that don’t mind stopping at six mana, and those decks just see this as a 5/7, which is still good. Some decks get completely hosed by this, and that’s why it’s significantly better than your average giant monster.

Skyrider Elf

Limited: 3.5

Like Endless One, this is efficient at any cost. I’d gladly play this if it were only a 2/2 flier for 2, and it’s much more than that. If you are a dedicated converge deck, Skyrider Elf is amazing, and even in a normal deck I’ll try and have a way or two to get it to 3/3 or 4/4.

Ulamog’s Nullifier

Limited: 3.5

Even if the counterspell part isn’t on all the often, this is still a 2/3 flash flier for four. That’s a very playable card, and in some decks this will just be absurd. Don’t be too married to getting full value from this card, as it’s near the top of my list for cards that people hesitate to cast for too long.

Veteran Warleader

Limited: 2.5

If this is reliably a 3/3, it’s going to be one of the better cards in your deck. If it’s lower than that, it’s marginally playable. I’d want at least 9 allies before I was happy with this, and 12+ before I start getting very excited.

Lands

Ally Encampment

Limited: 2.0

If you have a bunch of Allies, this is pretty free to play, even if the ability isn’t earth-shattering. Beware playing this in a deck with tough mana requirements, as the drawback of not giving you the right colors of mana for casting spells or non-Allies is a very real one.

Blighted Lands

All of these are powerful additions to any deck that can afford some colorless sources. I love being able to play 18 lands and have flood protection, so even minor effects are something I’m interested in. As it turns out, the red, black, and blue lands have very powerful effects, and I’m quite happy with any of them. White is the least impactful, though it’s still good, and green is the unique effect that doesn’t actually help with mana flood.

Limited: 3.5

Limited: 2.5

Battle lands

Limited: 3.0

In a format with converge, these become free ways to splash other colors, and they are good even in a 2-color deck. I’m not prioritizing them unless I know I’m going to be 3+ colors.

Evolving Wilds

Limited: 3.0

Like the battle lands, this fixes your mana at a fairly low cost. It does have the additional bonus of double-triggering landfall, or letting you save landfall triggers until your opponent’s turn, so if you are in the landfall deck it becomes a bit more interesting.

Limited: 3.0

I’d play one or two of these lands every time, though the abilities here aren’t quite enough to make me play off-color copies. Fertile Thicket is the one I like most, as it lets you keep riskier hands (who doesn’t like a good gamble?), but all of them are worth running.

Limited: 3.5

Here are the actual lands that double as spells (or creatures, to be more precise). Lumbering Falls is a little better, as it’s big enough to handle itself in combat, but either of these lands is very good if you are in the right colors.

Sanctum of Ugin

Limited: 2.5

I’m likely to run Sanctum of Ugin if I have a couple ways to trigger it, though it’s not a guarantee. Once you cast a giant colorless card, I’m not sure you need that much more, and there are a lot of lands vying for your attention.

Shrine of the Forsaken Gods

Limited: 3.0

This is more of a Constructed card than a Limited one, though I’ll still play it in a big mana deck.

Spawning Bed

Limited: 3.5

Much like Foundry of the Consuls, this lets you cash in a land for real value, and does so in a format where accelerating to 8+ mana is a thing. I’d play this in any deck, barring the super dedicated converge builds, but it’s at its best in ramp.

 

Phew. We made it, finally. I’m going to try and recover before my prerelease, and thanks to everyone who made it this far. We will find out the winners and losers of the set fairly quickly, and I’m sure I’ll look back at some of these ratings in disbelief, but for now, enjoy the prerelease!

LSV

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