Top 10 Casual Cards from Battle for Zendikar
by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
The anticipation is mounting! In just a few short days we will be getting our first chance to play Battle for Zendikar and I’m pretty excited. There are some amazing new cards in this set, and some terrific reprints that got some slick new art. It looks like there are going to be some bonkers new additions to just about every format, including Casual Kitchen Table Magic. Today I’m going to go through my Top Ten cards to bring to your next Casual Kitchen Table Magic game night and spice things up. Let’s get down to business.
10. Common Land Cycle ( Sandstone Bridge, Skyline Cascade, Mortuary Mire, Looming Spires, Fertile Thicket ). This common land cycle doesn’t look super spicy, but let’s be real, any time you can play a land card and have an effect that is normally created by a spell you have something that is deceptively powerful. There will be loads of decks looking to pick these up to replace just a regular basic land card, and the extra ability is always a solid trick. Now, let’s talk about how to abuse these (i.e. get more than one activation). In a Kitchen Table world you are constrained only by your card pool and the rules you and your friends have established, so finding fun ways to take advantage of these should be easy. Let’s start with the “Karoo” lands or “Bounce” lands from Ravnica. These were reprinted in Modern Masters 2015 making them pretty readily available and an easy way to get more than one activation of these. Emancipation Angel or Kor Skyfisher, or even Pearl Lake Ancient are also some of my favorites and could easily get you additional activations. Going a little more in the the history of Magic, Soramaro, First to Dream would be hilarious.
As if just getting the value off these lands wasn’t enough, don’t forget this set is packing Landfall meaning that you are very likely to net all sorts of value off of just playing these lands. That makes these things even more appealing. The nice part is that you will usually be pleased to see these guys, regardless of what stage of the game you’re in. Keep your eyes peeled for these small, but significant, additions.
9. Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper: What isn’t to like about this guy? He’s a 4/4 for 5 mana which is a pretty reasonable rate to start and you will not feel ashamed to run him out. His size also makes him surprisingly robust and able to tussle if the need arises. However, what is truly gross is his ability. You get free +1/+1 counters on your lands every time you cast an instant or sorcery…and in Blue and White isn’t that what you want to do anyways? I can well imagine EDH decks premised on this guy or just jammed in there for value. However, what I think might be truly busted is playing Jeskai and slamming this guy and Zada. Cast your instant on Zada, copy the spell a bunch of times, make a pile of Elementals, attack for the win…or something like that. Yes, that is magical Christmas land, but it’s fun to dream. I’m kind of excited to see this guy and try him out.
8. Omnath, Locus of Rage: I don’t know what to do with this guy…but I like the fact that Omnath is getting a reprinting, and this time he’s pissed. I haven’t got a clue how good he will be, or any deck built around him using elementals as a centerpiece, but this guy sure looks unhappy and ready to kick some butt. All he really asks of you is to play your land and benefit from an army of 5/5 tokens, but that feels a little too simple. Omnath makes the list because of his unbridled anger…and big scary tokens. For those of you out there with RTR block cards still kicking around, time to dust off those Populate enablers..
7. Catacomb Sifter: This guy is among my favorite cards in the set and the art is insane. That is spectacular art! The colours and contrast really stand out and makes this thing look super frightening. But enough about the art. This 3 mana creature packs 3/4 worth of power and toughness across 2 bodies which is a very good rate. I know I play casually, but I also really like efficient creatures…they help me get to the much less efficient but fun part of my deck! This is exactly the sort of thing I want to do. However, there is still more. This packs the Scry 1 ability that Reaper of the Wilds packs just because…umm…value? This is a very strong card and I can’t wait to get my hands on some of these guys and ride the Value Train.
6. Halimar Tidecaller: How is this NOT a rare? Can you just imagine pairing this with Noyan Dar and making FLYING land creatures? Wow. And you even get to bring another relevant spell out of your graveyard to replay and get yet ANOTHER land creature. Sure, it is a bit of a build around, but if you can successfully build around it this looks amazing! For a paltry 3 mana this feels as if it has been pushed to try and push an elemental theme…and I’m taking the bait! I can almost taste the Elemental Deck…Brews to come!
5. Defiant Bloodlord: Ok folks, this makes the list because you now have Sanguine Bond attached to a 4/5 flying body. This gives those janky “life gain” decks you see around the Kitchen table yet another win condition and NOW it gets to attack too! I’m just dreaming of casting this and Feed the Clan to maximum effect. The interaction between this and Gray Merchant of Asphodel seems like it could be potent too. All in all, there will be lots of ways to abuse this around the Kitchen Table so you had better buckle down.
4. Felidar Sovereign: Felidar Sovereign is yet another example of the power of alternate win conditions. This guy is a reprint from the original Zendikar block and became a staple in EDH decks all over the place as an alternative win condition. The issue WAS that Felidar was a $10-12 card that essentially exclusively saw play in Casual formats. By getting a reprint players will be getting a shot to grab this guy at a much more affordable $2 price point. Enjoy the savings Casual players, this one is for you.
3. Kiora, Master of Depths: Kiora made this list because her ultimate is nutty. Three 8/8 octopus tokens PLUS they get to fight your opponent’s creatures? Whatever…you win the game if you get this Emblem online. If you can look me in the eye and honestly tell me that you aren’t interested in doing that then you’re lying to yourself.
2. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger: If the Eldrazi somehow didn’t make this list then I wouldn’t be doing my job. What’s NOT to like? It’s big, splashy, hard to kill, wrecks the game instantly, can be played in virtually every deck and looks to be about the best thing you can do with 10 mana. Also, because this version of Ulamog doesn’t come with the “feel bad” Annihilator mechanic your buddies around the kitchen table are more apt to agree to let you play it. Yeah, Ulamog is a thing and makes our list.
1. Zada, Hedron Grinder: Zada is getting lots of buzz and with good cause because her ability is just outright insane. Any time you can copy spells you have a strong effect. Zada will let you copy them multiple times for FREE! Magic players love the word FREE and so Johnnies around the world are setting up to break this. I’ve heard lots of players talk about casting Titan’s Strength or Become Immense on Zada and then pumping your team to significant effect, but I was going somewhere completely different. I was going to aim for Feat of Resistance and essentially allow your team to get protection from…oh…everything…and crash in for the win. But things at the Kitchen table can get better! Ranger’s Guile protects ALL your stuff. Rootborn Defenses fights off Board wipes. Retraction Helix allows you to turn all your creatures into Unsummon spells! Really, the possibilities are endless and this is why so many people are excited about Zada. There really isn’t much doubt, Zada is the real winner for the Casual Magic crowd.
Well, there we have our top ten cards for Casual Magic. I’m sure there are a few spicy things that I left off the list, but I have to draw the line somewhere. If you have something you think should be added to the list, send me a tweet and let me know. I’d love to hear what has got other people excited!
Thanks for taking the time to stop in and have a visit and have yourself a great MTG day!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter