With Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar around the corner, all my spare time has been spent scouring the spoiler and looking for cards that I can use to create new decks and strategies or cards I can use to plug into existing ones. I’ve enjoyed reading some articles online, speculating about what the new Standard format will look like and what the new hotness will be, but I’m here today to tell you which cards I think those writers and players have missed. These are my picks for the most underrated cards in Battle for Zendikar.
Undergrowth Champion is completely ridiculous. No matter how good you think it is, it’s even better than that. When I see players discuss their picks for the best cards in the set, or say this set is bad, I say take a long hard look at Undergrowth Champion and you’ll be singing a different tune. Imagine a 2-color aggro deck that’s either red/green or green/white and you have a mana base that looks something like this:
You have 12 sources of enters-the-battlefield-untapped green mana for turn 1, and you have 12 fetchlands to fuel both Undergrowth Champion and Scythe Leopard. Not only that, but you have TWENTY sources of both green and your second color! That’s unheard of for Standard. Undergrowth Champion is the second coming of Knight of the Reliquary (for Standard only—sorry Modern/Legacy).
Complete Disregard is one of the most underrated cards in the set. I’ve always had a preference for black-based control decks and this card slots nicely into Mardu, Abzan, or even blue/black control. It’s an instant, which is a huge plus over something like Ruinous Path, and matches up really nicely against Hangarback Walker, Deathmist Raptor, and Mantis Rider. It’s especially impressive against Hangarback Walker, which it can exile in the early stages of the game no matter how savvy the opponent plays, unlike Abzan Charm. It seems to me that Mantis Rider will be a pillar of the format and it’s pretty bad to have to suck it up and take the 3 points of haste every game that they have it before you’re able to use Ruinous Path or Languish to kill it.
Boiling Earth is a card I haven’t seen get its due respect. I think it’s obvious that the successful versions of Mono-Red Aggro will feature Atarka's Command, Hordeling Outburst, and Dragon Fodder. They should look a lot like the version of Atarka Red Reid Duke wrote about a few weeks ago. When Atarka Red was the best deck, players fought it with Drown in Sorrow and Scouring Sands. Boiling Earth is almost as good as Scouring Sands—similar enough that you should always have it in the sideboard of your Atarka Red deck for the mirror. It competes with Arc Lightning, but it’s unique enough that you just have to have it, because if your opponent has it and you don’t, you’re at a huge disadvantage.
Stasis Snare is totally awesome. It's everything Banishing Light wants to be and more. It can't hit planeswalkers, which admittedly stinks, but most of the best planeswalkers have rotated out and the ability to be cast at instant speed means it can be an answer to the Magic Origins flip planeswalkers.
One of the chief complaints about Banishing Light was that it had to sit on the battlefield all game until an opponent could use Dromoka's Command for some insane value, but I don't think that's going to happen as often since the single card you're most likely to Stasis Snare is Hangarback Walker. Sure, have your 0/0 Hangarback Walker back! It's even better since if you Stasis Snare a Hangarback Walker once in a game, you now have a dummy enchantment in play and you can play any enchantment you want and have protection from Dromoka's Command. Stasis Snare is a great answer to Mantis Rider, Siege Rhino, and Hangarback Walker, and any deck that can cast it should be playing some copies.
Jaddi Offshoot is the new and improved Nyx-Fleece Ram. With Lightning Strike gone, 3 toughness is actually a good spot to be in against the Atarka Red decks, and if you're not playing a land every turn (to get the life matching Nyx-Fleece Ram) you're not winning anyway. What Jaddi Offshoot does that Nyx-Fleece Ram couldn't do is negate the pay-1-life penalty on Windswept Heath, which is huge! I've seen some deck lists in this format that play between 12-16 fetch lands—that's a ton of life lost against red that you no longer lose when you have an uncontested Jaddi Offshoot. Part Nyx-Fleece Ram, part Courser of Kruphix, this 1-mana card is just the solution you were looking for against the red menace that has been tearing up Standard. Underrated.