Zendikar Rising Spoiler Analysis Part Three: Party!
Hello, Planeswalkers from across the globe! Zendikar Rising is shaping up to be an amazing kick-starter for the new Standard format – with all the new cards, abilities, and interactions to put our deck-building and playing skills to the test. Double-faced cards, crazy Planeswalkers, novel mechanics – both returning and brand new ones – are coming our way. This set has everything it needs to get us excited about playing with it.
Today we will take a look at one of the new keywords making a debut in Zendikar Rising: “Party”. It is not about going to a fiesta and having fun, but about gathering your teammates and making your spells and abilities as powerful as they can be. Make sure to check out our other spoiler discussion articles:
- Zendikar Rising Spoiler Analysis Part One: The Three Planeswalkers
- Zendikar Rising Spoiler Analysis Part Two: Double-Faced Cards
Without further ado, let’s begin!
The Party Mechanic
As stated in the text rule of the new cards, your party can consist of up to one each of a Cleric, a Rogue, a Warrior and a Wizard creature types. This means that if you control only one unit that has one or more of these creature categories, your party count will be 1. For you to have a “Full Party” you need to control four individual creatures that each have at least one of these types. It is completely new and out of the ordinary mechanic, unlike anything we have seen before. Usually, separate creature classes do not tend to have synergy with each another – but when they do, it goes in pairs (a recent example of this is the “Human / non-Human” abilities from Ikoria). Note that for Parties a unit with multiple creature types will not count as more than one member of the group, meaning that you must have four creatures at the same time for the Party to be ‘full’.
The idea is that the bigger our party is, the stronger our spells get, and some of them will reward us with huge power if we manage to get all four team members together on the battlefield. The questions we need to start asking ourselves are: “How likely am I to fulfil the Party requirements? How many creatures of relevant types do I have to play in my deck in order to get there consistently? How cheap these creatures have to be in order to get to them fast enough?” And most importantly: “Is it worth all the effort and deck-building constrictions? Are these cards as powerful as they should be for me to go and make them work?”
My first instinct would be that an ideal Party deck should have as many enablers as possible, with just a few of non-creature Party payoffs. Even though we are seeing that these spells can be extremely powerful in the right circumstances, if we manage to lose our board to a wrath effect, or trade our creatures away in combat, some of these spells can end up being a bit overcosted for what they do. We need to make sure we can abuse the mechanic consistently. Those enablers also should be of the cheapest possible casting cost – the sooner we start developing our board presence, the more reliable our Party spells will be.
Another important factor to keep in mind is that we need to have a mix of different creature types, and sometimes we won’t have great options for them in our colors. Wizards tend to be Blue or Red, Clerics are usually just Black or White, and so on. You might have to resort to playing Party cards in your deck without having the access to all four of the creature classes. It might even be the right thing to do, as getting access to all of them would force you to play multiple colors, a not-so-efficient mana base, and even creatures you wouldn’t want to play in a Constructed deck to begin with.
And this is where I think we find a trap most deck-builders should avoid at all costs. It is highly unlikely that playing useless creatures just to unlock the ultimate form of a couple of spells is a good idea in Constructed. Your deck still needs to execute a coherent and solid plan even when the Party is not completely gathered, and if we add random Wizards or Warriors to our list just to reduce converted mana costs, we could end up ruining our consistency. Sure, there might be some extremely powerful party payoffs at some point that would justify playing anything, but I want to make sure I have a real reason before I add cards like Overwhelmed Apprentice into my deck.
What I find very smart from a set design perspective is the fact that they included this new mechanic in the first post-rotation Standard set. Zendikar Rising will be Standard legal for two full years, and this means we will be paying attention to creature types printed in new sets for the next twenty-four months.
Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting Party cards revealed so far!
This one may be the first creature in Magic’s history that needed this sort of dedicated listing of its types. Since there is only room for three different creature categories, they had to stuff them inside the card text instead. It looks like this Elf has also EVERY creature type that can you can fit in a Party. What a coincidence. Assuming you are willing to play green, Tajuru Paragon might be your choice of the premier two drop for this strategy, being able to function as any of the classes you are missing at the moment (working as a “Changeling”, so to speak). Having solid stats for its converted mana cost, we are getting a 3/2 for two, or can pay the full five mana to go get another Party member from the top six cards of our deck. These will ensure that we will be able to fulfill the Party requirements at some point in the game, assuming we have the time to invest that much mana resources. Solid in the early turns, and a good top deck later on.
Archpriest of Iona
The cheaper the creatures in your deck, the faster and easier you will get to complete your Party, and this Cleric comes out as early as turn one. Not only that, but he has also been designed exclusively for this type of strategy! Not only will he help you in your gathering process, but also will be very good as a member of your team. The ceiling is high enough here that it makes me want to include him in every Party deck, as this Cleric might represent five damage in the air by himself! You can even put wings on any creature. And in the meantime, while your members are still being gathered, he will be a one-mana creature with decent stats to stand on his own.
This is what we get when we take Burglar Rat to a whole new level. And that Rat has seen play in competitive Yorion decks during last Standard season! Acquisitions Expert will come down on turn two and automatically trade for an opponent’s piece while also contributing to your Party. It can also be played later in the game to ensure that you get to choose the card you want to remove from your opponent’s hand. It is cheap and annoying enough so that I would start including it in all the Party decks but the most aggressive ones.
Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate
Collected Company decks may have gained a new tool to tinker with. Even though tough creatures have become bigger these days, three mana flyers that bash for three still hold strong, and Linvala comes with enough relevant abilities to justify her even if we are not planning to gather all of our party members. Indestructible to all your creatures means you would resist any wrath effects, while creature combat becomes a nightmare for your opponent. The hexproof part could be less relevant if we do not have a specific threat we want to protect, but it still is a nice added bonus. If you manage to get your four Party creature types on the board, Linvala will ‘paralyze’ a nonland permanent on the other side of the board. Overall a solid card that I think could find its way in many decks.
Now things start to get a bit crazy. There is a classic iconic card from Magic’s past called “Demonic Tutor” that lets you search for any card from your deck and put it into your hand for just two mana. That is an insane deal, and this new sorcery can do even better than that! The fact that it can reach the power of Demonic Tutor, and even go beyond that in its optimal scenario, is mind-blowing to me. As with most of these cards, everything will depend on how hard it is to get your Party going. But the power level in a perfect scenario here is absolutely ridiculous: one mana tutor, casting a four-cost card for free (that does not have to be the same card you searched for!). We will experiment with this new mechanic once the Zendikar Rising launches, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Coveted Prize ends up taking the title for best Party pay-off.
Spoils of Adventure
Beautifully flavored design, this one is another example of a card that does not need to be at its best to present a solid deal. At four mana it is decent, but paying three to draw three and gain some life at instant speed is fantastic. However, if you managed to get a full Party going this is a premier spell, something worth working your way towards. It requires two specific colors of mana, so you won’t be able to splash it in any creature deck, but if you were going to play those colors anyway this becomes a fantastic payoff.
Thwart the Grave
In the worst case scenario, it brings back two creatures from your graveyard to the battlefield for six mana. Sure, Clerics or Wizards might not be the most exciting and powerful units to reanimate, but you are still getting two specific cards directly into play with a single spell. In a better scenario, you are paying four or three mana to get a pair of creatures back, and that should be often enough to swing the game in your favor. It is another example of a card that becomes better the more relevant creatures we run in our Party decks, and it has a high enough ceiling to become a premier spell in this type of strategies, especially in the more grindy matchups.
Tazri, Beacon of Unity
Assuming you are playing a multicolored creature deck (which is not a requirement but will make its activated ability much more appealing) we have a strong 4/6 legend that can come out as early as turn three and stay there to make sure you never run out of cards for the rest of the game. Tazri brings back the colorless/colored casting cost: each mana symbol means you can either pay two generic mana, or the color indicated in it. These means you can pay for it in many different ways depending on the colors available to you: you can do , , , and so on.
Pre-Zendikar Potential Enablers
- Speaker of the Heavens
- Containment Priest
- Heliod’s Pilgrim
- Archfiend’s Vessel
- Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose
- Niambi, Esteemed Speaker
- Conclave Mentor
- Ghostly Pilferer
- Brazen Borrower
- Thieves’ Guild Enforcer
- Rankle, Master of Pranks
- Robber of the Rich
- Cunning Nightbonder
- Chevill, Bane of Monsters
- Seasoned Hallowblade
- Wildwood Tracker
- Savvy Hunter
- Radha, Heart of Keld
- Haktos the Unscarred
- Winota, Joiner of Forces
- Drannith Magistrate
- Fae of Wishes
- Barrin, Tolarian Archmage
- Gadwick, the Wizened
- Drannith Stinger
- Heartfire Immolator
- Irencrag Pyromancer
- Rielle, the Everwise
Thank you so much for reading! We will continue in Part IV with a deeper explanation of Landfall and Kicker cards, along with some history of each ability since their first appearance. You can find me streaming on Twitch, and on social media Twitter, Instagram.