Zendikar Rising Constructed Set Review

Zendikar Rising Constructed Set Review

Hellowsa to all of you Gandalf’s and Harry Potters out there! Zendikar Rising is around the corner so it is a good time to talk about potentially strong cards. In this guide, we will try to discuss all the cards that have a potential role in the Standard and Historic constructed formats, and as such I will not talk about cards that I deem relevant enough. If there are some reprints that saw tons of play in the past like Disenchant, I will not talk about them either. I will evaluate these cards based on these criteria:

  • “Visible” power level: This basically just means if I am able to slot a card into an already existing deck or archetype, without changing the original deck too much. It’s probably easier to fit these cards into Historic, as most Standard sets are rotating with Zendikar Rising.
  • “Potential” power level: This will be the more speculative section as it’s tougher to evaluate power of some cards without knowing their right home. It is also very much possible that cards are very strong, but need some more support to get going (remember Wilderness Reclamation? That card saw little to no play until it got stronger with every new set, ultimately getting banned).

Rating System

This article is inspired by Drifter and I will be using his rating system as it is pretty much perfect:

Before we start…

  1. Do not forget that creating this article has a lot of speculation: There is a good chance that I will be wrong about some cards and will even miss some good ones. If you find some of those examples later, let me know in the comments and don’t forget to tell everyone how stupid I am!
  2. Wizard tried to implement the Dimir Rogues and mill archetype with the latest sets: For example, we got cards like Thieves’ Guild Enforcer, Vantress Gargoyle and Drown in the Loch already – this set introduces even more cards. I will evaluate these cards obviously, but will ignore the existence of Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath because it just shuts down the entire strategy in my opinion. You mill your opponent, enable their Escape for Uro, and they just get rid of their whole graveyard with Escape and now you have to start again. Uro is just too good in general – so I will just try to ignore him, but note that I don’t think that this archetype will be playable for as long as Uro exists.
  3. If I don’t mention Historic when evaluating a card, write it off as too bad for that format. I will specifically mention Historic when I think that it’s good enough (or when I say something like: “Every Black deck wants to play this” – that would include Historic decks as well).
  4. Because you’re a responsible Magic gamer, you surely did your homework and did some research on the “Party” mechanic. You didn’t? Don’t worry, I got you: Here is a list of the most relevant Clerics, Rogues, Warriors and Wizards that will stay post-rotation and are not from Zendikar Rising:

White

Angel of Destiny

Rating: 2 out of 5.
znr-002-angel-of-destiny

Looking at this card, it seems like the only place for this will be the lifegain Decks. While Heliod, Sun-Crowned will still be legal in Standard, losing Ajani’s Pridemate is a bit too rough I think (though Hallowed Priest is legal in BO1 Standard now). In Historic we got Soul Warden and Serra Ascendant, so Angel of Destiny will slot into Historic much better. It’s kind of weird, because these decks want to attack the opponent’s life total, and Angel of Destiny kind of prevents that. I could imagine a world where this could be a strong sideboard card that you want to bring in when your opponent stops you from punching through a wall of blockers and need an alternative win condition, but it’s so narrow that I like my rating here.

Archon of Emeria

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Archon of Emeria

This card looks pretty strong to me, but I am trying to be a bit cautious here, as the first static ability is symmetrical: This type of card typically gets played in Decks that have a lower curve, so this could definitely hurt it’s user. The second static ability is very powerful though – remember that Fabled Passage and the new doublefaced lands (Brightclimb Pathway for example) are nonbasic, and this can slow down your opponents a lot. 2 / 3 Flying is also not a bad deal for 3 mana, so this definitely checks out. In Historic there are even more nonbasic lands, but 3 mana could be too expensive in this format. Because of the different upsides and downsides, there is a good possibility that this card will either see tons of play or no play at all – but the potential is definitely there.

Archpriest of Iona

Rating: 4 out of 5.
znr-005-archpriest-of-iona

The floor for this card is a 1 mana 1/2. That is obviously not great, but it’s really easy to get at least 2 or more power – all you need to do is play some other creatures. It’s not hard to imagine a world where you play this with Robber of the Rich, Seasoned Hallowblade or Winota – and should you get a full party this is a 3/3 flier, which is absolutely insane for a 1-drop, although this will not happen too often. You don’t even need a fully dedicated Party deck for this to work – if you got at least one other Party type and get this as a 2/2 most of the time, that is already pretty strong for a 1 drop. This card will only get better the more cards are legal, and because the ceiling for this card is super high while not having a horrible floor, I expect this card to be really good. If it turns out that there is a real party Deck, this card will be a staple 4-of, so I like my rating.

Emeria’s Call

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is definitely a “potential” 5-star card, because it’s possible that not literally every deck that plays white wants to play this – but if I imagine a world where people just replace 4 Plains for this, it seems pretty bonkers to me. Having the ability to turn some of your lands into spells is such a powerful thing, even if the effect is overcosted for what it’s actually doing. Do you want to draw your 7th land or get 2 4/4 fliers instead? This could be format-breaking for sure if it turns out to be good (like the Companions), because it will highly improve any deck that struggles with flooding. This card needs to pass 2 tests: Is 3 life too much of a cost to get it untapped into play? Is 7 mana too much to pay for this effect, even if it’s stapled onto a land? If it passes these tests, it’s an absolutely crazy card and can see multi-format play, even in Pioneer. 

Fearless Fledgling

Rating: 1 out of 5.

This card might be good if we get to build aggressive White decks in new Standard (as it’s definitely too weak for any other format), and it could be super decent! If you play some lands and make this bigger every turn, this is a totally fair price for 2 mana, and I am not willing to write this off as a draft card for now.

Felidar Retreat

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Felidar Retreat

Alright is it just me or does this not get enough talk? Sure, it’s a 4 mana enchantment that doesn’t do much when you play it exactly turn 4, but turning all your lands into an effect has so much potential (see: Field of the Dead)! Especially with Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath (did you know that this card is good?) or cards like Azusa, Lost but Seeking where you’re able to deploy multiple lands per turn, this could get nasty really fast. In Historic, you still got Growth Spiral and Explore! Bant could be the color combination for the Uro Decks to go for exactly this card. There is a good chance that I overrate this card – but there is also a very decent chance that people just haven’t caught up on this yet.

Kabira Takedown

Rating: 1 out of 5.

I think this card is close to unplayable because it’s impossible to get it untapped into play. On top of that you need a lot of creatures to make this work. We will have to try out and see how this works if you replace 2 of your Basic Lands in your aggro deck with this, but I am almost certain that it’s not worth it.

Legion Angel

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Legion Angel

First of all, this card is almost certainly too bad for Historic. In a weaker Standard environment (remember that the power level always goes down a bit when sets rotate out) this could actually be decent if you’re playing the war of attrition against your opponent. This card is quite expensive though and a 4/3 for 4 mana is nothing to write home about, but I still think it’s worth mentioning, as you only need to include one copy of this into your deck. Having said that, its power level goes up a lot more in BO1.

Luminarch Aspirant

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Luminarch Aspirant

This is incredibly strong! If you drop this on turn 2 it will make all of your small threats dangerous and it could be one of the best 2 drops that can replace the likes of Runaway Steam-Kin for example. It also plays perfectly into the “+1/+1 counters” theme (remember Conclave Mentor?). On top of that this is a Cleric so it fits into the Party theme as well! I just like how flexible this card is for multiple aggrdecks, and just like Archpriest of Iona there is a very good chance that this will be a 4-of staple in multiple decks going forward.

Maul of the Skyclaves

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Maul of the Skyclaves

Imagine the following line: Turn 3 play this, equip a creature and swing. Your opponent kills it – and the next turn they have to handle your next creature when you equip this! Equipments might be a bit more important this set too – I will get to them later – so if there is an archetype for this, it will be an important role player there. My only concern is that Embercleave is incredibly busted and probably just stronger and this is the reason why my rating is so low.

Ondu Inversion

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Alright, I think the rare cycle of these fliplands is pretty overrated by the community. There is a huge difference between this and Emeria’s Call, because this will always come into play tapped and you can’t just cut some lands for this. The effect is also quite weak and I can’t imagine a world where you want to sweep the board on turn 8 because you need that kind of effect way earlier in your game. Maybe I am wrong, but my first inclination is that tapped lands are pretty bad in general, even if you have some upside – remember that we have something like Forgotten Caves and Canyon Slough in Historic, and even these see only fringe play.

Skyclave Apparition

Rating: 3 out of 5.
znr-039-skyclave-apparition

First of all, without any synergy in your deck, this is just straight up a good magic card. I hate that this card can’t exile tokens, but it can exile Uro! Sure, it sucks that they will get a replacement for this, but at least it’s not the same card. This doesn’t have Flash unfortunately, but in Historic you have Rattlechains – and it certainly seems strong there especially with Collected Company. I like that it’s fairly flexible, because it is also able to exile Planeswalkers (though funnily enough the most important cheap Planeswalkers all rotate). In some ways this is just a better Deputy of Detention because they will never get their card back, thus never enabling any new enter the battlefield effects, though it’s much worse against a swarm of tokens. I am curious to see how this card plays out in the end.

Squad Commander

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Squad Commander

I want to live in a Standard environment where this is a strong card, as it seems fun to play with. Sadly though, I don’t think it’s strong enough against the Adventure cards or Uro, but it’s worth a try for sure! If you get 2 tokens of this it’s a fine deal, but I just don’t think that “fine” is good enough these days. The second line of text won’t happen too often, and even then, it’s only good when you are already winning. I want to be wrong about this card – please be good!

Tazri, Beacon of Unity

Rating: 1 out of 5.
Tazri, Beacon of Unity

This is mostly an honorable mention for all the people that wanna go full ham on the party mechanic – but it’s just too expensive and clunky for any competitive magic games.

Blue Cards

Anticognition

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Anticognition

If the Dimir Rogue/Mill Deck becomes a thing, this card is going to be excellent in it. You really want some flexible counterspells in that Deck, and it perfectly slots into that. If you ever get this active this is just a better version of the original Counterspell and that is just extremely powerful. The floor on this card is already almost Quench – and that card saw play even though it scaled very poorly into the late game. There is a small chance that this is playable even without the milling theme, but I doubt it.

Bubble Snare

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Bubble Snare

The reason why I rate this card highly is that blue-based tempo Decks struggle against cheap efficient creatures because they got no cheap removal – and this card is just perfect for these matchups. You also always have the potential to play this kicked and just use it as pseudo removal, which isn’t great for 4 mana, but it’s better than nothing. I doubt that there will be tempo Decks in Standard, but there is a semi-viable mono-blue Deck in Historic that could use some cheap answers. I hate that this won’t solve the sacrifice issue – but it’s still a good option to have.

Charix, the Raging Isle

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Charix, the Raging Isle

Not gonna lie, this is tough to evaluate. This card could be absolutely unplayable or the absolute stones. 17! toughness for 4 mana is a huge blocker against aggressive Decks, but this won’t trade at all if you don’t pump mana into it. I like that this will probably always block your opponent’s Embercleave creature though. For that Questing Beast just completely ignores this card. Sadly High Alert rotates so you won’t be able to be tricky here, but go nuts in Historic!

Concerted Defense

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Concerted Defense

This certainly supports the idea of a tempo-based party Deck, but I don’t like that it’s kind of clunky. It will not help you against creatures, but it might be a good sideboard choice for Decks that want to play sweepers and such. The worst thing is that this requires you to be ahead on board already, and even if you have one party member, it’s still just a Spell Pierce. If this Deck exists, it will slot there, but even then I don’t think it’s going to be super amazing or anything, unless you’re already ahead. 

Confounding Conundrum

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Confounding Conundrum

I can already see some people scratching their heads over this rating, but I truly believe that this card is just bad. It’s a hate card against ramp, but it’s super terrible when you don’t slam it exactly turn 2. Even then, you’re not impacting the board at all, so you’re slowing yourself down as well. It also doesn’t stop your opponent from playing cards like Grafdigger’s Cage does, which just shuts down graveyard shenanigans completely – your opponent still gets to play a land per turn. If my sideboard hate card is already meant to hose ramp, at least hose it in a much more meaningful way. I just dislike this card overall even though the bottom line is a cantrip, because you want your hate cards to be super efficient, and not value-oriented. I just hate that it’s bad when you draw it too late – Grafdigger’s Cage or Rest in Peace at least always shut down the opponent’s strategy. I think people will try this card and quickly realize that it’s not worth it. 

Glasspool Mimic

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I know I know, I said that tapped lands are bad. But if you just forget about the land part this is just a 3 mana copy of your best creature, and that’s pretty deece! You can choose to keep some hands where you can just play this as a land otherwise. I wouldn’t replace your Islands with this, but it could be a nice addition if you’re playing with some enter the battlefield shenanigans. It’s probably still bad, so I will rate it lower even though it does have some potential.

Inscription of Insight

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Inscription of Insight

There is a lot of text on this card, but when i read this, every mode seems totally decent when you don’t kick it. If you cast this for the kicked cost, this card is absolutely bonkers and I love that it gives you the choice to play a weaker version earlier so it doesn’t just rot in your hand. Obviously this is quite expensive so you can’t play too many copies, and it’s probably too weak for Historic too. 

Jace, Mirror Mage

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Jace, Mirror Mage

I will be cautiously optimistic about this card, because it is really tough to evaluate. We never had a planeswalker like this before, but 3 mana planeswalkers tend to be better than they look. My concern is that Jace doesn’t protect himself at all – he is only there to be a card advantage piece. Scry 2 is a powerful +2 ability, but at the same time it doesn’t get you anywhere if you just lose him the next turn. I like that you can just draw lands without losing loyalty – but overall we have to get some experience before fully buying into this.

Lullmage’s Domination

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Lullmage's Domination

This card is going to be insane in the Dimir Rogue/Mill Deck. Paying 3 mana to steal their 3 CMC creature is really strong for tempo decks like these, and it scales well into the later stages of the game. I doubt it’s playable anywhere else much like Drown in the Loch or Anticognition.

Maddening Cacophony

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Maddening Cacophony

I think the Kicker part of this card is not good enough for dedicated mill-them-to-death Decks, but I will still mention this card because it’s a 2 mana spell to enable your Dimir deck immediately. It’s probably not good enough anyway because that’s all it’s doing, but it’s still worth noting.

Merfolk Windrobber

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Merfolk Windrobber

This doesn’t look like much for the Dimir Deck, but you need some cheap Rogues for Thieves’ Guild Enforcer and you can cash it in for a card later. It’s just a solid cheap threat that enables your game plan, so I like it there. Like the other cards mentioned before, this is not playable anywhere else.

Nimble Trapfinder

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Nimble Trapfinder

This card could be much better than it looks; if you’re able to play tons of party creatures this is essentially an unblockable 2 drop. Again, I don’t think that the second clause will come up too often unless you’re already winning, so it’s not really something that I consider when evaluating.

Ruin Crab

Rating: 1 out of 5.
znr-075-ruin-crab

Maybe you want this in your Dimir mill deck, but I doubt it.

Sea Gate Restoration

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Yeah, I can’t really see a world where this is good enough. Yeah you can draw a lot of cards late game, but only if your hand is full, and at that point: Do you even want to draw more cards for 7 mana? I think I’d much rather have a land that doesn’t cost me 3 life when it comes into play untapped.

Sea Gate Stormcaller

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Sea Gate Stormcaller

I think people are going a bit too nuts on this one, but I can definitely see why people think that it’s good. It reminds you a lot of Snapcaster Mage in Modern, although it’s much weaker than that obviously. In Standard, you can play something like double Eliminate on turn 4 which will be insane against creatures, and the flexibility on this card just makes it awesome. In Historic, you can even play it on turn 3 and play 2 Thoughtseize, which is a pretty disgusting line and can win a lot of games on the spot. The Kicker part is just gravy – it’s way too expensive to rely on that – but if you ever get to the point you’re probably just going to win. This card has tons of potential as every 2 CMC spell will get better now and I am excited to try this out.

Thieving Skydiver

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Thieving Skydiver

I am a huge fan of this card. First of all, it’s a 2/1 flyer for 2 mana, which is already a great floor for your card. But the ability to steal opponents artifacts with creatures is just insane because it also scales super well into the late game. The only reason why I don’t rate this higher is the fact that this will mostly be a sideboard card – unless you’re trying to play this for 3 mana and equip your own expensive equipments (looking at you, Colossal Hammer). This card also steals Witch’s Oven and Grafdigger’s Cage – both very important cards in Historic at least. There is just so much going on with this card that it deserves a high rating. 

Black

Acquisitions Expert

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Acquisitions Expert

The floor of this card is a slightly better Burglar Rat, though be careful that they don’t kill your Expert in response. I still struggle to find the right place for this, even in party Decks, so I won’t rate it higher but there is a good chance that it’s much better than it looks.

Agadeem’s Awakening

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This card does not slot in as many Decks as Emeria’s Call, so I am rating it lower. This is still probably just an auto-include for any black Deck that plays some creatures, because you can just replace some lands for spells and mitigate your flood. Even for 5 mana, you can already get a 1-drop and a 2-drop out of your graveyard and that just seems absurd for a card that can also be a land. There is a very good chance that this should be a 5-star card on my list – it looks quite promising. 

Bloodchief’s Thirst

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Bloodchief's Thirst

Yes, I am serious. This card is either early removal for smaller creatures, but unlike cards like Dead Weight this will never be dead in the later stages of the game because you can just play this card kicked. Sure, 4 mana is a bit pricey and it is a Sorcery, but the flexibility makes up for it all day every day. This card is insanely powerful and will slot into most decks that play Black – efficient removal is just always something that’s going to be valuable. I for my part think that this card is better than Murderous Rider – and that card is already really good.

Deadly Alliance

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Deadly Alliance

In a party Deck, this could be quite efficient, but I think you’d rather just play Murderous Rider or Bloodchief’s Thirst anyway.

Drana, the Last Bloodchief

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Drana, the Last Bloodchief

I think this card is pretty horrible overall, but Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord might make this card fringe playable in Historic. Other than that, I just don’t think that it’s worth it at all for 5 mana and is a clunky sideboard card at best.

Feed the Swarm

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Feed the Swarm

Again, I can’t stress enough how good flexible removal is. Black does not have the greatest tool to deal with Enchantments, and you now have a great card in your sideboard that handles both creatures and annoying enchantments. Especially in Historic, we have the Rakdos Arcanist Deck that almost immediately loses to Rest in Peace, and you now have an efficient way to beat it. There is a reason why Abrade is so popular – it’s just super efficient and I am happy that we got something in Black now.

Hagra Mauling

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

This card could be a lot worse because it’s still a tapped land as a floor. I can’t really imagine a world where your opponent does not play a single Basic Land in Standard or Historic, but maybe you can find some spots. Either way you have a removal instead of a tapped land that’s probably better than the Triomes – so I like my rating here. There is definitely wiggle room though.

Inscription of Ruin

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Inscription of Ruin

Much like Inscription of Insight, every mode on this card is decent and should you get to the Kicker mode it’s going to be good, albeit worse than the blue counterpart of this card. Any midrange deck could play some copies of this – although you want to play some creatures to maximize its value.

Nighthawk Scavenger

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Nighthawk Scavenger

For the Dimir Deck, this is just absolutely perfect. It’s a Rogue, it has evasion, it ends games quickly – and it helps you race against other creatures. This card will be unbelievable when it works and you can’t ask for more from your 3-drop. 

Nullpriest of Oblivion

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Nullpriest of Oblivion

This card could be a sleeper in this format. 2 mana 2/1 menace and lifelink is already super solid as they always need 2 blockers for this – and paying 6 mana for a reanimate with a 2/1 body is just a good deal anyway. Note that this is also a Cleric – Black Party decks might just want this to have a cheap party member anyway, and now they got a nice late game mana sink. I am in love with this card and I hope it’s even better than I make it look here.

Scourge of the Skyclaves

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Scourge of the Skyclaves

The more I am thinking about this card, the better I find it  – We got the “pay 3 life” lands that make it easy to lose life, and if you’re playing this in an aggressive deck this could become a very powerful beater for just 2 mana. I hate that this doesn’t have any form of evasion, but just some raw stats could be good enough anyway as Death’s Shadow has shown us. It’s an interesting card for sure and I am looking forward to seeing some interesting decks making it work.

Shadow’s Verdict

Rating: 2 out of 5.
znr-124-shadows-verdict

5 mana is too much for a sweeper that doesn’t even sweep all creatures. It does hit Uro and Cauldron Familiar though, and that alone might make it fringe playable for sideboards.

Skyclave Shade

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Skyclave Shade

I think this card gets too much hate, because people compare it to Bloodghast for some reason. Sure, it’s worse than that, but it’s still a recursive cheap threat that your opponent needs to kill over and over and it will help aggressive Black decks mitigate flood a bit (is flooding even possible now?).

Soul Shatter

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Soul Shatter

This is the third efficient Black removal spell already, and it’s also good. Black just gets all the goodies this time, and this is going to kill problems that are hard to kill otherwise (Dream Trawler for example). Because we just saw some other efficient removals, I don’t know if it makes the cut, but having the option is nice.

Taborax, Hope’s Demise

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Taborax, Hope's Demise

This card is kind of clunky, but it is a Cleric and something you might want in your Party deck. It’s kind of tough to evaluate as every cell in my body screams that this is worse than something more generic like Midnight Reaper, but that card rotates so there you go. It also grows and is an evasive threat, so maybe it’s better for the Party decks?

Red

Akoum Hellhound

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Akoum Hellhound

I am not kidding, this kind seems kind of strong to me, because it can be a 2 power beater for 1 mana, which is always very good for 1-drops, and is the main reason why they usually have some kind of downside attached to them. This only requires you to play some lands – and if you have the ability to play multiples each turn, it’s just going to be super gross. If we get more cards like Fabled Passage in the future, this will get even more absurd – and it does have a lot of potential for sure. 

Cinderclasm

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Cinderclasm

This card is almost strictly better than Flame Sweep; the only difference is that it hits your own creatures too. It is still a very potent sideboard card and I love that both modes are pretty cheap, making it a lot more flexible. Instant speed is also perfect for this kind of card – and I expect this to see a lot of sideboard play. 

Cleansing Wildfire

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Cleansing Wildfire

We don’t need this stuff right now, but should a problematic land join Arena (like Field of the Dead) again, it’s nice to have access to this kind of stuff. 

Fireblade Charger

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Fireblade Charger

I like this for the equipment archetype that is getting more and more support. It’s a cheap creature so you can play it early and start getting some equipments going – and in the late game when you already have some equipments and mana lying around you can just play it and start swinging again with haste. The second line of text is also quite relevant because equipment Decks want to pump a few creatures and make them huge – and it’s going to deal a lot of damage when that happens. This will be one of the most important creatures should this archetype be playable – and I am excited to see what people make of it.

Kargan Intimadator

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Kargan Intimidator

This card just seems super pushed to me. It’s a 2-drop that can easily attack for 4 damage on the following turn, make himself (or other warriors! there are a lot of them in this set) evasive, or give it trample too? Yeah there is just so much text on this 2-drop that I just have to rate this highly. 

Leyline Tyrant

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Leyline Tyrant

This card has got a lot of things going for it. First of all, it’s a 4 mana 4/4, which is already great as a baseline stat. And should it die, you can spend all of your mana and just completely blast your opponent or some problematic creatures or planeswalkers? My god, this card is good. It does have the weakness of being soft to exile removal like Elspeth Conquers Death, but should you be able to make use of the “when it dies” clause, this card is going to tear some holes into your opponent.

Magmatic Channeler

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Magmatic Channeler

Another super strong 2-drop in red. First of all, the card type checks out for party shenanigans. Second, it’s pretty easy to make this a 2 mana 4/4 in the right Deck (Izzet spells is shaping up, looking at you, Sprite Dragon). Third, it draws you cards in the late game! That is so much goodness for a 2-drop to have, and I am surprised that not many people are talking about this card. It is seriously good.

Moraug, Fury of Akoum

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Moraug, Fury of Akoum

This card does have the potential to be super messed up, but I don’t like it when my expensive spells are clunky and need some support to work. It’s also volatile to the efficient black removals that we just saw. I am willing to rate it higher when I see it work – but until then it has to prove itself first. 

Nahiri’s Lithoforming

Rating: 2 out of 5.
znr-151-nahiris-lithoforming

This card can be amazing in some fringe Decks that use this to go complete nuts (I have some Lotus Cobra combos in my mind) and I am sure that some people will try to completely break this card. It will still see only fringe play and only slots in very narrow Decks, so this rating seems appropriate. 

Relic Robber

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Relic Robber

This card is either decent or very much unplayable, but one thing is for sure: this card is just super stupid. All jokes aside, I am leaning towards the unplayable part simply because it only has 2 toughness. It can get out of control quickly if your opponent doesn’t answer it though, and I would not be surprised if this card actually just completely stomps some people.

Roiling Vortex

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Roiling Vortex

I am in love with this card and I want to rate it higher, but I have to be realistic. The floor of this card is the first line of this text, which isn’t great, but also not horrible. When you get to stack these, they will deal a lot of damage; and as a sideboard card against some Decks that want to cheat spells this will punish them greatly (the one time where I wish Fires of Invention was legal so I can punish them). It’s also a nice card to have against lifegain like Uro, as you can always shut it down and it’s not as volatile as Tibalt, Rakish Instigator for example. This card could easily see play in Historic as well, as a larger cardpool usually also means that there are more ways to cheat some cards. (Note that this works against Dreadhorde Arcanist, too). I just love that this card hoses your opponent without denying your own game plan too much, because it also attacks their life total directly. This card will definitely see play; but I think it’s still relegated to sideboard only.

Shatterskull Charger

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Shatterskull Charger

This card is very good for aggressive decks for multiple reasons: First, it kind of protects itself from Sorcery-speed sweepers, because it returns to your hand. Second, against empty boards it’s like an expensive, recursive burn spell that you can play every turn. Third, you can just pump your excess mana into it and make it a 5 mana 5/4 with haste and trample! I mean come on, that has to be good. It’s also a Warrior, so even that checks out – I am just excited to try this card out for sure.

Shatterskull Smashing

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Like Emeria’s Call, this card is not limited to a specific archetype, thus deserving the 5 stars. It is a pretty expensive removal spell, but the ability to snipe up to two creatures or planeswalkers with your excess mana is just amazing. I don’t think you want to replace 4 mountains with this, but It’s definitely worth including and living with the drawback of paying 3 life sometimes. Again, don’t underrate the ability of lands doing things – it’s seriously good as flooding is a major reason why many Decks lose games. 

Thundering Rebuke

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Thundering Rebuke

Efficient, cheap removal – this time in red. Lava coil will rotate and this will take its place, with the downside of not exiling, but being able to hit planeswalkers instead. It’s a fine tradeoff; but I’d much rather have Lava Coil in a format with Leyline Tyrant right now. 

Valakut Awakening

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I will rate this card slightly higher because of Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast and Transmogrify. This can act as a tapped land (which is not great of course) or you can use this to shove the cards back into your library that you want to cheat in with Lukka or Transmogrify. You will sometimes draw the pieces that you want to get into play, and this is always a bit hurtful. Other than that, this card is rough for me to evaluate, and I would not be surprised if this didn’t see play at all.

Valakut Exploration

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Valakut Exploration

This will only see fringe play in very special Decks – but it’s potential is unbelievably high. You can easily knock out your opponent in just a few turns; and if you don’t, it will act as a card advantage enchantment. Especially in Historic with Explore, Growth Spiral and Uro, you can get a lot of triggers in the same turn, and things can go nasty quickly. This is the type of card that’s either completely busted or straight up unplayable and we’ll have to see how it works out.

Wayward Guide-Beast

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Wayward Guide-Beast

This can do some serious work in the right Deck – 1 mana 2/2 is already very good, put some haste on top of that and it’s even better. The downside is incredibly rough though so you can’t just slot this into every Deck. You’re going to need a good justification to play this card – such as the ability to trigger landfall multiple times (like Akoum Hellhound). If we get to scratch an aggressive landfall Deck together, this might work – but I will have to see that in action first. It’s definitely not as bad as people make it out to be, because it’s definitely not unplayable – but I am just not sure that this has a Deck where it slots in.

Green

Ancient Greenwarden

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Ancient Greenwarden

This only gets such a high rating by me because of its potential to combo with Radha, Heart of Keld, Nahiri’s Lithoforming and cards like Dryad of the Ilysian Grove. You’re going to be able to play a lot of lands and draw a lot of cards like that, but obviously that idea is very fresh and might just be super bad (sounds bad against counterspells for example). I should probably rate this much lower, but it could also be one of the more busted cards in this set. 

Bala Ged Recovery

Rating: 2 out of 5.

This could be worth it for Decks that don’t play tons of tapped lands and have got some room for it, as you can get any card from your graveyard, even lands. 

Cragplate Baloth

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Cragplate Baloth

This card is expensive and doesn’t fit into any Deck, but it’s quite strong. It’s like a Carnage Tyrant on steroids and that card saw tons of play when it was standard legal. Do not underestimate the power of Hexproof on beefy creatures like this – especially with haste. Aether Gust also rotates out of Standard, which would technically be able to remove it from the stack. 

Inscription of Abundance

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Inscription of Abundance

I think this is the best Inscription out of this cycle, because it has instant speed. This can lead to you blowing your opponent out significantly, as the ability of fighting at instant speed and putting counters can make your opponent’s combat math a tough nut to crack ; and it’s also good against burn spells that target your creature’s toughness instead of straight up killing it. The lifegain mode is just gravy. I like that this at least powers your creatures up if your opponent is on a controlling strategy, and this flexibility makes me rate it pretty highly. 

Iridescent Hornbeetle

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Iridescent Hornbeetle

This has the potential of being absurd with the Ozolith, and I will definitely try to break it. It might also be a nice card to board in when you play Selesnya Counters or something like that, and it can get out of control quickly when unanswered. In reality, it’s probably too clunky most of the time, but that should not stop us from trying.

Kazandu Mammoth

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Yes, tapped lands, yada yada yada. I will gladly play some tapped lands if they result in me having a huge cheap beater that I can play when I flood out. Seriously, this is a 3-drop that hits for 5 most of the time and is just the perfect card to play in your Landfall Deck. You could just forget about the land part on this card and it would still be good. For this reason, it’s not a downside that this comes into play tapped, because the spell half on this card is already really strong.

Lotus Cobra

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This little Snakes slots perfectly into all this Landfall theme – and remember that we still have Fabled Passage and Uro in this format. Uro synergizes so well with it, that it could be format breaking (again! thank you, Uro), as you’re going to produce a lot of mana quickly. One point of advice if you want to build new decks: Play something that answers Lotus Cobra on turn 2, or you’re going to be in a lot of trouble.

Oran-Rief Ooze

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Oran-Rief Ooze

This is just the perfect card for the Selesnya Counters Deck (it’s getting better and better), and if this deck works, this card will be a huge game changer. Imagine a world where you have Conclave Mentor out and you attack with this little ooze! Yeah, the potential is definitely there, and you should have this card on your radar.

Roiling Regrowth

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Roiling Regrowth

This card is good because it ramps you while also giving you two Landfall triggers – when you have Lotus Cobra on turn 2 and curve into this, you’re going to have 3 new mana to spend. That sounds absolutely crazy to me, so you should not overlook this card.

Scute Swarm

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Scute Swarm

Man, isn’t this a huge payoff for your Landfall Deck. The word “swarm” is perfect for this card, as you’re going to be making a lot of tokens in a dedicated Landfall Deck. It is volatile to removal, sure – but this card has the ability to completely take over games , and it’s just a three drop.

Skyclave Pick-Axe

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Skyclave Pick-Axe

This does say Landfall, but it’s really only good in aggressive Landfall Decks. I don’t know if we are going to be able to build something like that, so I’d rather rate it lower than higher.

Swarm Shambler

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Swarm Shambler

First and foremost, this is an excellent one drop. It scales well into the late game, and it protects at least itself from spot removal. But you know what I am going to say right now: Selesnya Counters, baby! This slots perfectly there because Pelt Collector is going to rotate. There’s not much more to say other than that – it’s just a very powerful one drop that also slots into a pushed archetype perfectly.

Tajuru Paragon

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Tajuru Paragon

This will be your most important two drop if you’re trying to make Party work. It has aggressive stats so it’s great on turn 2, and later it will give you the opportunity to use your extra mana to get some more value (it seems that this set wants to mitigate flood a lot in general). Simple, supportive and strong.

Tangled Florahedron

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Paradise Druid rotates and this could be a replacement option, along with Ilysian Caryatid. I just think that it’s worse even if you can play it as a land, because both halves on this card are unimpressive when you’re flooding.

Turntimber Symbiosis

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The power level of this card is definitely deserving of 5 stars, but this does require you to need at least some amount of good creatures, so I don’t want to give it the full rank here. It’s still incredible, because this will also mitigate flood incredibly well, because the effect is also quite powerful. In Historic, this can even find you a Craterhoof Behemoth, which is obviously absurd. Looking at 7 cards is also quite a range and even protects you from whiffing with something like Llanowar Elves to make it at least a 4/4.

Multicolor Cards

Akiri, Fearless Voyager

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Akiri, Fearless Voyager

I think it’s getting pretty clear that Wizards of the Coast wants to push archetypes so that they become playable quickly. This is just the perfect card for the equipment Deck, as it is both card advantage and protection for your important creatures. It even protects itself which makes it twice as nasty. It is legendary, but should Equipment be playable you’re probably still going to play 4 copies, as this card really makes it tick.

Brushfire Elemental

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Brushfire Elemental

This card slots into the aggressive version of the Landfall decks again. It can attack right away, has evasion and potentially hit for a ton. My only fear is that this deck might not have all the necessary pieces to make a decent deck – but time will tell.

Grakmaw, Skyclave Ravager

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Grakmaw, Skyclave Ravager

That card is already good by itself, because it leaves a 3/3 behind when it dies without any support. If you get some synergy with counters going, this will become absurd quickly, and it’s probably good that it’s not in the Selesnya colors as it would be a bit too much power in one deck, though the correct answer could be splashing to make it Abzan.

Kaza, Roil Chaser

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Kaza, Roil Chaser

A potentially strong card for the Izzet fans, especially Historic. It pairs well with cards like Adeliz, the Cinder Wind as a support card, and it won’t hit for much unlike Sprite Dragon so I won’t rate this higher.

Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate

Forget the second line of text, it’s the last line I am excited about: It is absolutely crazy that this not only protects your creatures from removals, but from sweepers as well. It also has very solid baseline stats as a 3 mana 3/3 flying – and is a Wizard on top of that for your Party synergy. This card is the real deal and I would not be surprised if this sees play in Historic too.

Murasa Rootgrazer

Rating: 3 out of 5.
znr-229-murasa-rootgrazer

This card is pretty sweet to keep triggering your Landfall, and it might be a reason to go into White for this. Similarly, Parcelbeast is worth looking at for the same reason after rotation.

Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients

Rating: 4 out of 5.
znr-230-nahiri-heir-of-the-ancients

This is just the perfect support for your Equipment / Warrior deck, and it does so much for only 4 mana! It will create tokens that have the relevant creature type, it looks for your important equipments (hello, Embercleave) and important warriors (hello, Winota), and it’s even able to remove planeswalkers and creatures. Nahiri just does it all, every ability is relevant and strong, and it makes me excited for equipments.

Kargan Warleader

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Kargan Warleader

Three mana lords are not the best, but I like that this synergizes so well with Nahiri, and I think this is just something that you want in your Boros Equipment Warrior deck.

Nissa of Shadowed Boughs

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Nissa of Shadowed Boughs

I think Nissa is absolutely crazy because you don’t need to play her in a specific Landfall setting, you can just play it in any Golgari deck and she will do just fine. Yes, you already need enough lands on the battlefield to make use of her -5 ability, but the fact that you can play her on turn 5 and immediately activate this ability and even keep your Nissa when you play Fabled Passage just makes this look absurd to me. Her +1 is not as good as the +1 of Nissa, Who Shakes the World, but the difference between 4 and 5 mana planeswalkers is huge (and of course serves differen roles), and this card will most likely see tons of play if the Golgari colors are playable; and it should be even better in Historic with Growth Spiral, Explore and Thoughtseize.

Omnath, Locus of Creation

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Omnath, Locus of Creation

This card is powerful – I don’t need to tell you that – but it’s also not easy to cast in a Standard environment that just lost all of its Shocklands. Omnath is still ridiculously strong, and it should not take long for him to make an impact in Historic, as the mana base is much better there. It’s also a nice card for the 5-color Niv-Mizzet Reborn deck, so keep an eye out for that.

Orah, Skyclave Hierophant

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Orah, Skyclave Hierophant

I just want to mention that this works quite nicely with Archfiend’s Vessel – other than that it could be a decent card for your party. I don’t know if this targeting only Clerics is too limiting or not for deckbuilding, so I will be a bit cautious here, but the potential is definitely there.

Soaring Thought-Thief

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Soaring Thought-Thief

Very good 2-drop for your Rogue Deck and it will be a huge roleplayer. The cards have not been as powerful when it comes to attacking their life total (besides Nighthawk Scavenger) , and this will definitely help out a lot there. You also get to mill pretty quickly early, which is something that this Deck needs.

Yasharn, Implacable Earth

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Yasharn, Implacable Earth

Where were you, when Witch’s Oven took over Standard! I really wish this was in Standard earlier, but you know what, I will be happy enough that we have this card in Historic. Witch’s Oven + Cauldron Familier is still a thing there, and Phyrexian Tower gets used a lot as well there. It also disables Adanto Vanguard and Village Rites and it will hose a lot more cards that I don’t think of right now – but it’s definitely a strong sideboard card and something you should keep in mind when you board with or against Selesnya.

Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats

This doesn’t look like the payoff I am looking for when I play a party Deck. Maybe I underrate Deathtouch, but this card just seems too clunky to me at first glance. I am willing to be wrong here though, as it does have some nice keywords in flying, deathtouch and haste and it hits hard.

Zareth San, the Trickster

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Zareth San, the Trickster

This card is absolutely amazing in that Dimir Deck. Of course it’s a Rogue on top of all that sweetness that this card already brings: You mill your opponent, and then you play his own spells? Imagine hitting with this on turn 4 and getting their Ugin onto your battlefield! This card is just unbelievable to me and I really want to make this Dimir Deck work now. 

Forsaken Monument

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Forsaken Monument

I think we don’t have enough support for this in Standard, but in Historic we still have Renowned Weaponsmith to get this into play as early as turn 3 – and then you can do all kinds of absurd stuff like playing Stonecoil Serpent for 0 mana and still have it as a 2/2; ramp super hard into cards like Ulamog, Ceaseless Hunger or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. It just does so much for colorless Decks, and I think we need a bigger card pool for this than just the one we have in Standard, but it’s seriously very strong and every effect on this card seems relevant.

Lithoform Engine

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Lithoform Engine

I am pretty sure that some genius will take this card to break some formats, as every ability on this card seems pretty strong to me. It is quite expensive but we just saw a card that adds an additional colorless mana when you tap a permanent for it; and remember that we have cards like Mind Stone and Hedron Archive in Historic.

Myriad Construct

Rating: 3 out of 5.
znr-246-myriad-construct

I want to rate this card better but I dislike the fact that your opponent can use sweepers against this or just block it to death. which will make this a bad Vanilla creature. Still, you can also get the tokens if you target this, and I am sure there is a lot of nonsense you can do with this.

Skyclave Relic

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Skyclave Relic

I am not particularly high on this card, as this is already expensive when you want to get more of this onto the battlefield. It will help you to get to exactly 10 mana the turn after you kicked this, allowing you to play exactly Ulamog in Historic. It’s also just another mana rock in Historic for that colorless ramp Deck, in case you need even more of these. 

Lands

Pathway Lands

Rating: 5 out of 5.

All of these are amazing even though they are not as good as Shocklands (that doesn’t say much, there are not many lands that are better than Shocklands). We really needed a replacement for the loss of those and these will do just fine. It’s amazing that they come into play untapped all the time, even if you only get 1 source of colored mana. All Decks that are not mono-colored will want to play these to some amount – keep in mind that it doesn’t have a basic land type, which makes this a bit awkward with cards like Glacial Fortress in Historic

Crawling Barrens

Rating: 3 out of 5.
Crawling Barrens

This card is awesome, if you can make some room for it. I like it more than stuff like Mobilized District, because it will keep growing and keep getting stronger. There are not too many Decks that can slot in some colorless sources, so I can’t really rate this one higher.

Base Camp

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Base Camp

You should really only play this when you’re trying to play something like five-color party, because this still comes into play tapped for some reason (I strongly believe that they made a typo on that card, I can’t find a reason on why this does not come into play untapped).

End Step

I am sure I missed some cards here and there, but this is probably the longest article I have ever written. As I mentioned in the beginning, if I missed any cards you think will make an impact, definitely let me know, but remember to stay friendly! Thank you so much for reading through all of this – it is a pleasure to write for you guys over and over.

Have a good one, and stay safe my Gandalfs!

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damianvc31
damianvc31
14 days ago

Great job!
I also have no idea why the party land comes into play tapped, we did have cards like Unclaimed Territory before, so why can’t the party theme have good things? Sadly i believe that’s the nail in the coffin that confines the archetype to limited environment, but i’d be glad to be proven wrong.
I think you missed Ashaya, the green mythic that turns everything into Forests. It could be a powerhouse in a landfall deck, enabling multiple triggers, and it can also have some nice upsides like making your creatures inmune to “non-land” removal. If there’s a way to give it trample it can also end the game in a single attack.