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Battle for Zendikar Set Review and Set Redo

Ratings Scale

5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Siege Rhino. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren. Seeker of the Way. Hordeling Outburst.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Deathmist Raptor. Dromoka’s Command.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept. Tragic Arrogance. Dragon Fodder.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living Guildpact. Naturalize. Duress.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.
1.0: It has seen play once. (One with Nothing). (I believe it was tech vs. Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)

Bearer of Silence

Constructed 2.5

A flying bear(er) is already borderline Constructed playable, though it takes a bit more than that to actually make the jump. The ability to pay an extra 1<> when you cast this to get a Diabolic Edict is enough, and this is a card that will see play. Because this can’t block, it is likely restricted to decks that are interested in attacking, but that’s still a wide enough range to make this versatile. Being colorless is an advantage, though requiring colorless isn’t, so I’d be looking at something like Mono-Black Eldrazi.

Here’s an example of Mono-Black Eldrazi from my upcoming DailyMTG article (look for an in-depth breakdown this Friday).

Flaying Tendrils

Constructed 3.0

It’s funny the cards you take for granted until they’re gone. Drown in Sorrow was a sideboard staple until Theros rotated, and even saw some main-deck play. All of a sudden we were left with Rising Miasma, which was not quite good enough.

Enter Flaying Tendrils, and all of a sudden red decks are back on notice. Esper and Abzan are very happy to have this effect back, and who knows, some Eldrazi deck could care about the fact that it exiles. Additionally, that makes it interesting against Rally the Ancestors, though one Nantuko Husk does take it from Tendrils of agony to Tendrils of mild discomfort.

Inverter of Truth

Constructed 2.5

Cards like this always look better than they end up playing, but here’s hoping that the inverse is true. Having to play this much later in the game than turn 4 takes away a lot of the punch of a 4-mana 6/6, so to get full value from this, you’ll need to go down one (or more) of these paths:

1) Dump a lot of cards in your graveyard early, so you can play this while it’s still ahead of the curve.

2) Get a specific subset of cards into your graveyard, so that when it becomes your library you are drawing only awesome cards.

3) Use a repeatable effect that puts cards on top of your library to keep yourself from decking (like Scroll Rack). This is likely an Eternal format idea more than a Standard one.

Making your library a selection of specific cards is very powerful, so I think this has more potential in older formats, where there are better ways to set this up (and better things to do with it). Imagine getting a bunch of Time Warps into your graveyard and casting this. Granted, you could do it with Part the Waterveil, but you’re missing something like Intuition that could do it very easily.

In Standard, some kind of self-mill deck that just plays this as a gigantic threat seems more realistic, and could be sweet.

This card has a powerful effect, and there are enough possibilities here that I’m willing to give this a speculative grade and hope something comes up.

Reaver Drone

Constructed 2.5

Black aggro has been making vague inroads into Standard, and I think this ends up having more of an upside than downside. Yes, you might lose life in some situations, but being colorless enables Ruins of Oran-Rief, which is a very powerful card. I like black 2/1s for 1 a lot more than white ones, as black has more tools to make a real aggro deck than white tends to.

Sifter of Skulls

Constructed 2.0

If only this sifted through its own skull, though that isn’t really a flavor win. Not triggering when it dies means that the opponent will kill it first, which makes it significantly less dangerous. It still gives you some sweeper protection, and can make stalled boards favorable, but I see it more as a niche card than a mainstay.

Sky Scourer

Constructed 2.0

If turbo-Eldrazi aggro is a thing, I’m sure we will be scouring Gatherer for cheap colorless creatures, and this fits right in. It even flies, which makes it a legitimate threat once you start giving it +1/+1 counters and playing 1-2 colorless spells a turn.

Unnatural Endurance

Constructed 2.0

This may be niche, but a 1-mana spell that can win a combat, save a creature from removal/sweepers, or just deal 2 extra damage could be playable. It’s unnatural for combat tricks to make the jump from Limited to Constructed, but this could.

Visions of Brutality

Constructed 2.0

If black aggro needs a Pacifism-type effect, this could be it. If you are winning the race, this effectively stops a creature from attacking or blocking, while also punishing it for dealing damage outside of combat (as infrequent as that may be).

Grasp of Darkness

Constructed 3.0

Double-black is no joke, but neither is killing most creatures for only 2 mana. I played this last time it was in Standard, and expect it to be a solid option if there are decks with the mana base to support it. The colorless theme makes things a little awkward, because some mono-black decks may not be equipped to run double-black spells, but something like Esper Dragons probably has the mana to accomodate this.

Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

Constructed 3.5

I was tempted to give this a 4.0, and don’t think it would be surprising if in a month Kalitas was all over the place. Legendary status was the biggest reason I didn’t, and the fear of Kalitas dying to a removal spell before going off. A 3/4 lifelink with a very powerful ability is definitely worth 4 mana, and I can’t imagine a creature deck beating this if it stays in play for any amount of time.

The combination of Kalitas + Murderous Cut gets you value even if Kalitas dies soon thereafter, and if you can play a sweeper in the same turn, things get nasty (though Flaying Tendrils isn’t the one you are looking for). The presence of Kalitas significantly weakens Rally the Ancestors, and how played this is will be a big factor in how good Rally is post-Oath.

Remorseless Punishment

Constructed 2.5

As much as I bashed this card in Limited (I still think it’s not good outside of very aggressive decks, and have not decided how I feel about it even then), in Constructed you do have more control over what your deck looks like. If you can pressure your opponent’s life total, this could be very punishing indeed. Having this at the top of your curve could actually work, especially if you sideboard it in against a deck without creatures. Imagine casting this against Esper Dragons while they are at 12-or-so life.

The downside is real: this cares about four metrics (yes, planeswalkers count in Constructed), and if your opponent doesn’t care about some of those metrics, you spent 5 mana for minimal impact. That’s not acceptable in Constructed or Limited, and that’s my fear with the card. I’m giving this a solid rating because black aggro might be a thing, and this could be how they look to close out games, particularly post-board.

Top 3 Black Cards

3. Grasp of Darkness
2. Flaying Tendrils
1. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

Black made out very well in OGW. It got an efficient removal spell, a very effective sideboard card, and one of the most powerful cards in the set. Kalitas looks like quite the beater, and punishes creature decks effectively. I also like Inverter of Truth and Remorseless Punishment as build-arounds, as both reward you for solving the puzzles they present. This feels like a good mix of unconditional power and interesting, off-beat cards, and black mages the world over should be happy with it.

I’ll return with red, which got one of the most impactful cards for Modern.