Kozilek’s Return in Eldrazi Ramp

Open up the ‘ol internet and what do we find? Someone spoiled every mythic from Oath of the Gatewatch… Well, that sucks.

While I’m saddened we won’t get the drip-feed of hype that normally accompanies new sets, there’s not much I can do about it now except talk about them. Not doing so is pointless in a Standard format with only one major event left, and for the most part everyone is going to be locked in on their decks already. The holidays were already a dull time for content producers and Magic events in general, but in two weeks the landscape will be outright barren.

So let’s jump in with what I feel is the most practical of all the spoilers for Standard.

Kozilek’s Return – 2R

kozileksreturn

Instant
Devoid
Kozilek’s Return deals 2 damage to each creature.
Whenever you cast an Eldrazi creature spell with converted mana cost 7 or greater, you may exile Kozilek’s Return from your graveyard. If you do, Kozilek’s Return deals 5 damage to each creature.

This card fills two important gaps: the lack of a solid non-Radiant-Flames sweeper, and it gives the Eldrazi Ramp deck a board wipe other than Ugin. The fact that one card can play both roles is amusing and quite scary for the rest of the field, considering swarms were one of the major weaknesses for the deck. Kozilek’s Return solves this by being a fine removal spell against Atarka Red and Rally decks while also combining with Kozilek, the Great Distortion, Ruin Processor, or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger to simply shut the door on midrange decks.

Part of the reason you need so many Ugins in your ramp deck is because sweeping the board is so important. Giving the strategy a card that they can trade 1-for-1 early and get a “free” 5-damage wipe later by playing an Eldrazi is a huge buff for the deck. You can aim the exile trigger at manlands or other annoyances instead of their biggest threats. You can hedge against counters to make sure that Dragonlord Ojutai kicks the bucket.

It provides board control consistency that the GR versions lacked. Now players have a versatile sweeper that can be used twice against Atarka Red or potentially deal 7 damage in the late game. In other formats, cards like Ancient Stirrings dump Kozilek’s Return into the graveyard. A free 5-damage sweeper will make almost any green or aggressive deck pack it in on the spot. Better still, the relevant half of the card is discard proof. Putting it into the graveyard may prevent a trade early on but won’t stop the free 5 damage later.

Of course, ramp isn’t the only deck that can benefit from this card, just the most obvious. Grixis or Jeskai Control could gain a big buff with a playable sweeper. At that point, the effect competes with the normal suite of removal that black or white has access to, but even then it may pay off big depending on the configuration.

What does this do to the metagame? Without knowing the rest of the set, the obvious implication is that ramp strategies will increase in strength and Atarka Red and token-based decks take a hit. Green midrange also gets slammed badly if the sweeper that’s best against them is Duress-proof, and they have 8 sweepers between Kozilek’s Return and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon.

Let’s look at potential deck list:

Eldrazi Ramp

This list isn’t entirely out of this world, since we don’t know what else it could gain. The combination of Jaddi Offshoot and Kozilek’s Return is really nice against Atarka Red. Wiping the board without risking your life gain engine is sweet, and pilots already have a ton of options against control decks. Even just knowing what little we do about Oath, the deck already seems better suited to the metagame and if we get another sweet ramp spell (especially something to replace Rattleclaw Mystic) then this could easily be a top deck once again.

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