Modern Thoughts: Early Battle for Zendikar
With the recent PAX Prime spoilers from Battle for Zendikar I felt it would be a good time to mix things up with my weekly modern thoughts article. Rather than more thoughts on the ban list, I decided to take a closer look at a few of the upcoming cards….
Many of the cards showcased were commons and uncommons that I would describe as “best played in limited”. Some of the new cards we’ve seen so far may very well make appearances in standard, but a few from last night may show up in modern. First and foremost we have the big guy:
As a creature that costs , there really is only a single deck that can support the new Ulamog: Tron. Tron was already playing the old Ulamog as a one of, and I think that this guy is strictly speaking better. When you cast him you get rid of 2 problem cards instead of one, and he flat out wins usually with 2 attacks. Annihilator would win very quickly before, but probably not as quickly as this guy can. As much as this card is something that will see play in modern, it’s not exactly changing the format much. Tron swaps out a creature that wins the game when it starts attacking with a different creature that does the same….
I’ve seen some people making an argument for the new Gideon in tokens decks. The argument is that the tokens it produces are superior to Elspeth, Knight Errant and Sorin, Solemn Visitor (due to it not being a -2 loyalty ability). I am 100% of the opinion that Sorin is the best planeswalker this deck can run due to the life gain being super relevant in a ton of matches, but at the same time it might be nice to diversify a bit (maybe trying a 2 Sorin, 1 Gideon split). Gideon can close out games very quickly while also providing the option of an emblem anthem or a steady stream of 2/2 tokens.
The rare land cycle is pretty interesting in that they are searchable with fetchlands. Unlike the shocklands, however, they’ll often enter tapped in the early turns where having perfect mana to play on curve is super important. While the shocklands are generally superior because of the choices given, there are certain decks that may prefer these new lands, and it’s very possible that we’ll see a mix of shocklands plus these in any given deck. The big winners early on with these are decks that actually care about having land types in play, such as Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and Emeria, the Sky Ruin. The awkward thing right now is that we only have ally versions of these lands being printed, which limits their options some as it seems to me that most decks that are only two colors seem to be enemy pairs ( or mostly). Perhaps we’ll get the rest in the next set….
Last but not least I wanted to give a bit of a shout out to the latest promotional offering that will drive pack sales of Battle for Zendikar. Packs will have the chance to contain an alternate framed land card which is foil, with about the same frequency as getting a mythic foil. There are 25 possible lands that can show up in Battle for Zendikar packs: any of the 5 new lands shown above, any of the 10 shocklands, or any of the 10 fetchlands. All of these lands have new art depicting the landscape of Zendikar, and will be highly sought after due to being super rare, super shiny, and super unique. The followup set will have 20 lands that can show up in the same way, but we can only speculate at this point as to what they could be. It’s important to note that these cards are not part of Battle for Zendikar, which means they are not legal to be played in standard unless they were printed in a standard legal set (so the new lands plus the fetches that appear in Khans of Tarkir). They are, however, legal in limited formats where you open the card.