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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.)

Multicolored

Flayer Drone

Constructed: 2.0

A 3-drop that is good in combat and can potentially deal an additional 1-2 damage a turn is not bad. The 1 toughness gives me pause, but if BR Devoid aggro is good, this could be the new flayer of the month.

Mindmelter

Constructed: 2.0

This isn’t mind-blowing, but a cheap, unblockable attacker that can harass the opponent’s hand has some value. Fathom Feeder never really got there, but a slightly more aggressive version might.

Void Grafter

Constructed: 2.5

The rate on this is pushed. It ambushes many of the smaller creatures in the format, especially against red decks, and has a lot more utility than that. Against removal decks, paying 3 mana to counter a spell and get a 2/4 can lead to a huge blowout, and worse comes to worst, firing this off end-of-turn as a threat isn’t bad. The biggest challenge with this card is finding a good UG deck to play it, as that color combination has been underrepresented recently.

Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim

Constructed: 3.0

I really like this card. Ayli is efficient, protects you from getting burned out, and is impactful in the early or late stages of the game. She is legendary, so you probably shouldn’t just jam 4, but 2 or even 3 sounds good.

You’ll be very thankful every time you draw a Pilgrim on turn 2 against red decks, and even against something like Abzan, she trades for a more expensive card.

It’s not that implausible to imagine her + Siege Rhino getting you to a high enough life total that you can start casting Utter Ends with her ability. You then start sacrificing Hangarback Walkers, and soon enough you can declare victory.

Baloth Null

Constructed: 2.0

It’s hard to compete with cards like Whisperwood Elemental for card advantage, or Dragonlord Silumgar for power, which, at 5+ mana, is what Baloth Null would be doing.

Still, this scrappy uncommon could draw just enough cards to see some play as a card advantage machine, maybe out of the sideboard in a grindy matchup. It may not be a full Mulldrifter, but a Nulldrifter is the next best thing.

Jori En, Ruin Diver

Constructed: 3.0

I really hope there’s an archetype that can support Jor En, because the UR cantrip style of deck is one of my favorites. The power is here, as a 2/3 for 3 that draws you a card each turn is awesome, so it’s really up to the rest of the deck to deliver. Fiery Impulse is the perfect removal spell, but you need more cheap interaction as well. Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time help take advantage of a deck full of cantrips, and I wouldn’t be surprised if cards like Slip Through Space or Expedite end up being the way to go deep.

In older formats, Gitaxian Probe kicks the Jori engine into overdrive, as turn three Jori + Probe is an uninterruptible draw. Add in cards like Lightning Bolt, Vapor Snag, and Remand, and you could trigger Jori on both your turn and theirs. Granted, Modern/Legacy/Vintage are fast and powerful formats, but Jori En has the power necessary to make an appearance.

Mina and Denn, Wildborn

Constructed: 2.5

My favorite part about this card is the ability to just play it (them?) on turn 4, and immediately play another land. That gives you an Explore at the very least, and implies that you might hit 7 mana on turn 5 if it survives. The trample-granting ability seems like a stretch outside of a dedicated landfall deck, though it’s nice that there are reasons to play this in a big RG ramp deck or a low-curve RG landfall deck.

I do like this more in the big deck, as playing extra lands is the most powerful part of the card, and you get that benefit even if this dies. One additional thing to keep in mind is the flavor combo of using Den Protector to get this back.

Reflector Mage

Constructed: 2.0

A 3-mana 2/3 that bounces creatures isn’t quite good enough for Constructed these days, so if this sees play, it’s based off the extra benefit. Stopping the opponent from recasting their creature for a turn isn’t bad, and in Constructed they could have multiples in hand. This stops all of them, and the possibility of wasting multiple turns of the opponent’s mana reflects well on this card.

I’d look for a UW tempo-style of deck if you are interested in playing this. It’s already become an interesting addition to Rally the Ancestors decks as a replacement for Fleshbag Marauder in the “please let me stop Anafenza” slot.

Stormchaser Mage

Constructed: 3.5

Cards like this are exactly why drawing comparisons to previous cards is useful. I definitely underestimated Monastery Swiftspear, a card that has proven itself in Standard, Modern, and even Legacy. Stormchaser Mage is exactly Swiftspear, but you’re paying an extra blue mana to give it +0/+1 and flying. That strikes me as still good enough, especially given that UR decks are among the best suited to use this type of card. Stormchaser Mage could easily see more play in Modern/Legacy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had wings in Standard too. It’s too close to a 3-power haste flier to disregard, and the high toughness makes it quite resilient.

Weapons Trainer

Constructed: 2.0

As little as I like the current crop of equipment in Standard, this is a powerful enough ability that I’m willing to mention it. In a go-wide tokens deck, having a 2-mana global pump is pretty good, and coming with a 3/2 body is even better. Note that the equipment doesn’t have to be on anything—just control one and you are good.

Artifacts

Bone Saw

Constructed: 2.0

Look, it costs zero, there are cards that care about equipment, and even my natural skepticism of the card doesn’t mean I won’t acknowledge that some decks may want this. There is a lot more support for it than the last time we saw it in Standard, and between the equipment deck and the possibility of surge combos, Bone Saw could be ready for action.

Captain’s Claws

Constructed: 2.0

This snowballs damage quickly, and I’m way less worried about the opponent having a 2/2 blocker than I am in Limited. The clause that the 1/1 has to be tapped and attacking is just not a drawback in Constructed, and that makes this card very interesting.

I could see this being a great sideboard card against control decks, as every creature threatens to flood the board, and some kind of Standard Allies deck could make use of the creature type if all else fails.

Hedron Crawler

Constructed: 2.0

If colorless decks are that hard-up for mana acceleration, this could make an appearance. 2-drop mana Elves are standard these days, and one that can fit into any deck is worth noting.

Stoneforge Masterwork

Constructed: 2.0

I fear that this is a win-more card, because you need to get +3/+3 to really feel like a master. It does take any army of tokens and make it threatening, but how many armies need that much help? I’d prefer to lean on a Gideon emblem or Nissa unless your deck is heavily equipment-themed.

Colorless

Eldrazi Mimic

Constructed: 3.0

This basically just does one thing: let Eldrazi decks have draws that seem like absolute nonsense. Playing Mimic into a procession of 4/4 and 5/5 Eldrazi seems unfair when it works, and it shouldn’t be that hard to pull off. This is basically the Eldrazi version of a Plated Geopede, as it essentially has Eldrazi-fall +3/+3 or so. It also lines up nicely with Eye of Ugin in Modern, and could be the cause of some very fast kills (play Eye into 4 of these and play a turn-2 Thought-Knot Seer).

Endbringer

Constructed: 2.0

6-mana 5/5s that need to untap don’t usually get there in Constructed, but this does enough different things that I don’t want to rule it out completely. Endbringer pings small creatures, locks down big ones, and draws a lot of cards if it survives. Getting it to survive is the tricky part.

Kozilek, the Great Distortion

Constructed: 3.0

Kozilek and Ulamog compete for a very similar slot in any deck that wants a 10-drop. I don’t think the colorless in Kozilek’s casting cost is all that worrisome, because any deck that is looking to cast Ulamog will naturally generate a ton of colorless mana already.

Kozilek does a great job of refilling your hand and stopping the opponent from doing anything post-Kozilek, which is a powerful set of abilities. Ulamog is the reverse, as Ulamog makes sure you are winning on board by killing the opponent’s best two threats, but can’t stop subsequent cards all that well (though killing lands sometimes does accomplish this). I have to give the nod to Ulamog because you are more likely to be behind when you are casting a 10-drop than ahead or at parity, but that doesn’t mean Kozilek won’t see play.

Kozilek is a very powerful card, and I think there’s room for both Eldrazi titans in ramp decks. My guess is that it ends up being something like 3:1 or 3:2 in Ulamog’s favor, but that still leaves Kozilek as an archetype staple, which I believe he is.

Matter Reshaper

Constructed: 3.5

This card seems awesome to me. Making a mana base that can afford it is not difficult, and a 3/2 that dies into a card plus potentially some mana (or a land drop) is a very appealing card. It’s similar to Kitchen Finks, a card that has seen widespread play. It does work better if you play Matter Reshaper in a deck with good 3s to hit and heavy on permanents, but that’s a very light deckbuilding restriction.

Reality Smasher

Constructed: 3.5

These colorless cards are not weak. Reality Smasher gives colorless decks a very effective high-end threat, one that demands an answer while also punishing the opponent for answering it. You are basically always going to get something good out of casting this, and the most likely scenario is that you get in for 5 and force the opponent to discard a card and a removal spell. That’s a great card, and one that offers significant rewards for playing a colorless deck.

Spatial Contortion

Constructed: 2.5

If you want a Lightning Strike, a Lightning Strike you get. This kills creatures efficiently if you’ve got enough colorless, and in a pinch you can use it for 3 extra damage on one of your larger monsters.

Thought-Knot Seer

Constructed: 4.0

If Kozilek’s Return isn’t the best card in the set, this likely is. Thought-Knot Seer adds a very good dimension to the colorless decks, as it disrupts the opponent while adding a ton of pressure. It’s a lot of punch for just 4 mana, and in Modern it’ll often just be 2 mana. The Modern Eldrazi decks were missing disruptive elements, and getting this is a huge boon. Two Eldrazi Temples or one Temple plus Eye of Ugin means this comes out turn 2, and turn 3 is trivial (though note that Urborg + Eye doesn’t do it turn 2 because you don’t have colorless).

Thought-Knot adds to the ranks of pushed colorless cards, and the combination of Eldrazi Mimic, Matter Reshaper, Reality Smasher, and Seer makes me optimistic about a strong colorless deck emerging in Standard. In Modern, this could be what solidifies Eldrazi as a tier 1 deck, and that’s a lot from just one card.

Warping Wail

Constructed (before Twin ban): 3.0
Constructed (now): 2.5

Warping Wail is a flexible card, but I’m sad it won’t be used to combat Pestermite/Exarch in Modern. It looked like a very cool answer, and I expected to try it in Tron or Affinity. That’s no longer nearly as interesting, though the card still does enough different things that it could see play in Standard and potentially Modern. If the list of sorceries and 1-power-or-toughness creatures is long enough, this does good work, and the ability to make a surprise blocker or ramp by 1 isn’t irrelevant either. While this won’t be format-warping in Modern, it still is a unique enough card to be worth testing.

Lands

Cinder Barrens/Meandering River/Submerged Boneyard/Timber Gorge/Tranquil Expanse

Constructed: 2.0

Every now and then, an ETB dual land sees some play. It’s a shame these don’t give any additional bonus, so I don’t think they will make a huge impact.

Corrupted Crossroads

Constructed: 2.5

For this to be better than something like Llanowar Wastes, you will need to be playing 3-color devoid, which means that this has its best shot of seeing play post-rotation.

Crumbling Vestige

Constructed: 3.0

This is very cool card. It’s an ETB tapped land that adds mana the turn you play it, so it doesn’t really ETB tapped, but you may want to play it early if you need colorless. If you don’t know which color you want to make, holding it is good, so it plays differently depending on your hand. I like this as a way to get colored mana in a colorless deck, and am interested in trying it there.

Hissing Quagmire

Constructed: 3.5

Green/black has become one of the most powerful color combinations in Standard and Modern, so finally getting a creatureland is a big game. Hissing Quagmire isn’t the most powerful, but a 2/2 deathtouch will trade for a card when needed. This card is great, and will see a lot of play, even if it’s for the colors more than the creature.

Holdout Settlement/Unknown Shores

Constructed: 2.0

I’m not a huge fan of either of these lands. They do provide both colored and colorless mana, but the costs are just too steep. Of them, Holdout Settlement is the most likely to see play, because it’s less painful to tap a creature than overpay for a spell.

Mirrorpool

Constructed: 4.0

The power level on Mirrorpool is through the roof. It’s a land that can copy a creature or spell, and does so without costing an exorbitant amount of mana. It even taps for a relevant “color” of mana, because colorless is such a big theme here, so coming in tapped is the only price you are paying. It doesn’t seem difficult to play this in many different decks, and the lure of instant-speed creatures and copying cards like Dig Through Time means you have plenty of incentive to make this work.

Needle Spire

Constructed: 3.0

Red/white is in much less need of a creatureland, though a 2/1 double-striker is nothing to scoff at. This will see plenty of play in Standard, and as always I’m happy when there are good options for lands that do cool things.

Ruins of Oran-Rief

Constructed: 3.5

This does compete with Mirrorpool for ETB tapped land slots, but I still like it. It’s easy to add this to a deck where it works on basically all of your creatures, and having a bunch of free +1/+1 counters in the mid- to late game is powerful. I’ve started with Ruins in most of my aggressive Eldrazi builds, like the mono-black one I mentioned in the Black Set Review.

Sea Gate Wreckage

Constructed: 4.0

These lands are great. Sea Gate Wreckage has implications in any format with fast decks, as a reverse Library of Alexandria is a hugely powerful effect. I mean, I just compared a land in Standard to Library of Alexandria, and I don’t think that comparison is (that) exaggerated. If you can empty your hand, this is exactly the land you want to make sure you don’t run out of gas. Lava Spike may have a new friend, if there’s a way to get colorless mana that doesn’t destroy your mana base.

Wandering Fumarole

Constructed: 3.5

Blue/red is another color combination that sees incredible amounts of play in every format. Fumarole is a fine option for Modern decks, and a lock to show up in Standard. It blocks as a 1/4, attacks for 4, and gives these decks a fine mana sink in the late game. It’s a strange card, and playing with or against it is going to take some time to get used to.

Wastes

Constructed: 3.0

Wastes are worse than a ton of colorless lands in every way except that they are fetchable with things like Evolving Wilds. That’s a relevant distinction, and decks with land searching are likely to play one of these. Wastes also enable Ruin in Their Wake, which might be powerful enough to justify playing 8+ Wastes.

Top 10 Constructed Cards

10. Goblin Dark-Dwellers
9. Matter Reshaper
8. Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
7. Chandra, Flamecaller
6. Mirrorpool
5. Reality Smasher
4. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
3. Stormchaser Mage
2. Thought-Knot Seer
1. Kozilek’s Return

As always, this list isn’t just in order of rating, but is a combination of cards I think will be impactful or interesting. There are a ton of great cards in this set, as plenty that didn’t fit into the Top 10 are going to be great. World Breaker, Oath of Nissa, Sea Gate Wreckage, and many more are all going see a lot of play.

The big winners from this set are Eldrazi decks (both Ramp and Colorless Aggro), though Stormchaser Mage and Goblin Dark-Dwellers give spell-based decks a nice boost. Those two cards might not fit into the same deck, though having more good spell buildarounds makes me happy.

Oath seems poised to shake up the format more than BFZ did (battlelands notwithstanding). The big Eldrazi theme is now fully fleshed out, with Kozilek’s Return, World Breaker, and Kozilek providing more options, so we will truly get to see what this block has to offer.