This week I am going to discuss which cards from Battle for Zendikar are underpriced and which are overpriced, in order to assist you in deciding which cards to acquire now while the price is low and which to sell now while the price is high. For those who are more interested in strategy than finance, I have also included many ideas on how each card will be utilized in Constructed.
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Let me start by saying I preordered a playset of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar for $90 as soon as the card was revealed. I have not yet preordered any other card in the set. I believe Gideon is the best card in the set and the card I am most likely to play in my deck for the Pro Tour. With that said, I think the hype is too high because people overvalue the card's impact in a control deck. Gideon is excellent in an aggressive deck or a midrange deck with a proactive curve. It's not like Gideon Jura or Elspeth, Sun's Champion where the abilities fit right into a control deck. In order to really get the maximum payoff you need to be able to utilize the anthem ability, the token generating ability, as well as the attack ability. I'm hoping this card is WOTC's way of paying me reparations for having to Endure two years of Stormbreath Dragon. If so, I accept your terms and I'll hopefully be casting Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in nearly every Standard tournament for the foreseeable future. One might say we were destined to form such an alliance.
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
Not a lot of people are big on Ulamog, but I am. Eldrazi are a key feature of the set, just as the Dragonlords were in Dragons of Tarkir. The Dragonlords proved good despite initial reactions being mixed and homes not being readily apparent. I believe Eldrazi will follow a similar path and that Ulamog will be the big payoff card. Ulamog is functionally the largest creature in Standard and it will take a ton of food to feed him. I just don't see his hunger ceasing any time soon.
Ob Nixilis Reignited
The card is powerful, but there are 20 other powerful five-drops in Standard right now and the mana is such that by turn five you can essentially cast any five-mana spell you want, regardless of color restrictions. I just don't see this one having quite the impact that some of the other high ticket Mythics are going to have on Standard. It is excellent on a near-empty board but very mediocre otherwise. It's kind of like Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker but with less upside. However much play he sees, it will likely only be as a two-of at most, so his demand is already cut in half from the other mythics that will often be played as playsets.
The most natural home is G/W Hardened Scales, which I expect to be a legitimate contender now, and Undergrowth Champion is an automatic four-of in that deck. He will also see play in other decks since his rate is just generically very good. Everyone will be playing fetch lands, so his stock is quite high and he is difficult to kill. I expect him to team up with Deathmist Raptor in midrange decks capable of attacking or blocking profitably. As far as investments are concerned, the card has double green in its mana cost and has "growth" in the name. How much more clearly do you need things spelled out for you?
Kiora, Master of the Depths
I like Kiora, but I don't expect her to stay above $10. She is great at untapping Dragonlord Ojutai post-combat to protect it from Ruinous Path (the new sorcery speed Hero's Downfall) or Exquisite Firecraft (the semi new sorcery speed Stoke the Flames). Kiora can also untap Shaman of the Forgotten Ways and a land, which is conveniently enough mana to cast both Kiora and Ojutai on the fourth turn and then Dragonlord Atarka on the fifth turn. Kiora is also good at filling up the graveyard and amassing a very strong amount of card advantage on an open board. You can also attack with Savage Knuckleblade and then use Kiora to untap it and a land for Stubborn Denial backup if you're not looking to ramp higher. She's a little fragile and requires some set up, but she is very powerful when she works and I definitely expect her to see play. I just don't see her holding $15, even in a format where the mana makes multicolor planeswalkers look better than they usually are.
Drana, Liberator of Malakir
I mostly see Drana being added to Abzan Aggro. She pumps the squad during the attack, including Hangarback Walker, who really benefits from having counters placed on it. Abzan seems to be all about putting counters on things nowadays and so I definitely expect this vampire to not suck! Well, it will still suck blood because after all it is a vampire, but the card is good!
This is one of the better removal spells in post-rotation Standard, but it is certainly no Path to Exile, nor is it even a Hero's Downfall. Our expectations will be ruined if we try to compare it to either of these cards, but if instead we consider it compared to some of the other removal spells of the format such as Murderous Cut or Ultimate Price, suddenly there are a lot of scenarios in which Ruinous Path is the best that black has to offer. Still it is not so good that it will fit into every deck that can support the mana cost, unlike Hero's Downfall. Instead it will be more like Dromoka's Command where it will only work in decks that want this type of removal spell more than a competing removal spell. For that reason I do not expect it to remain $8. I expect it to fall to around $5 or less with the possibility of its price being awakened at a later time.
The ten battle lands (and no, they are not 'Tango' lands) are currently overpriced by quite a bit. People are rushing to acquire their play set because they know they will for sure be format staples for their entire life in Standard. Therefore the price is current high. As more product is opened, the price will begin to drop. People will realize they often only need one or two copies of the battle lands for their deck instead of the full playset, much like we see in Modern with shock lands, you only need a target or two to fetch out of your library. People will consequently play lots of fetch lands and few battle lands because those will be the best multicolor manabases. If you can wait, hold off for a few weeks and you'll likely get them at half price. If you aren't concerned with saving money and just want to pick up playsets of all the staples, these are the safest pickups in the set because they will go into so many decks.
Bring to Light
At first I wasn't big on this one. It's a sorcery speed card that usually can only find a card that costs less than five mana, so whatever it finds will not be a good deal. Then I saw the light and changed my opinion of the card. Even though you will nearly always get a card that costs less than what you paid to cast Bring to Light, the enormous versatility of the card makes it exceptionally powerful. For instance, if you need to Remove a permanent, it can do that. If you need to gain life, it can do that. If the board is empty, it can find a Siege Rhino or a card draw spell. That essentially makes it a split card for every spell and creature in your deck, which is well worth overpaying by one mana. I expect this card to see a lot of play and maybe even in older formats.
Everyone knows that creature lands will see play. Lifelink is powerful and only having to pay thre mana to activate is also very nice. I suspect the existence of battle lands will decrease the popularity of creature lands by some amount, but Shambling Vent will still see quite a bit of play. It will also see play in Modern, at least in B/W Tokens. $5 may be about right for this, but I expect it to eventually go up if not soon. I plan to acquire a playset of these shortly.
Greenwarden of Murasa
Everyone wants to compare every green six-drop to Primeval Titan. If you do this, then every green six-drop is going to disappoint you, just like if you compare every planeswalker to Jace, the Mind Sculptor you're going to have a bad time. Greenwarden is like Den Protector with +2/+2 and a second opportunity to Regrowth when it dies. If you are a deck that is ramping into Ulamog, then Oblivion Sower is better, but otherwise Greenwarden is about as good as it gets. I suspect that between Greenwarden of Murasa, Woodland Bellower, and Den Protector, green decks will have no difficulty smashing other decks in attrition fights. These kinds of cards are what will replace Courser of Kruphix in the card advantage department. Greenwarden also works well with Jace, Kiora and Sidisi, so I can definitely see a Sultai graveyard deck crop up soon.
Omnath, Locus of Rage
The effect is powerful, but it doesn't immediately impact the board the way Dragonlord Atarka does. And although it does pose a greater win condition if left unchecked, Dragonlord Atarka is sufficiently good at closing out games when unchecked such that Atarka's superior immediate impact makes it the better card in nearly every deck. Hence I'm selling Omnath. I'm sure this with cause him to go loco and rage tilt.
This creature land has not gotten much love and I think it's because people don't quite grasp how good hexproof is. Creature lands are dual lands, which already makes them close to playable without any abilities. The abilities are most relevant against midrange and control decks where a battle of attrition is going on and resources are constantly being traded back and forth. Not only does Lumbering Falls increase your threat density and force the opponent to trade a nonland resource on one of your lands in the late game but hexproof also makes the land immune to a lot of the removal spells that the opponent might draw. And since it is only a creature when attacking, it is also immune to sorcery speed removal, including Languish, Ruinous Path, or Exquisite Firecraft. I am high on creature lands and I do not expect the price to fall on Lumbering Falls.
I expect this one to play a key role in Eldrazi Ramp decks. He acts as an intermediate step in the game plan. Oblivion Sower will get you closer to Ulamog, usually hitting approximately two lands each time. And it will also stall the ground with its large body. It's also a solid hit off Nissa's Revelation or See the Unwritten, two cards that Eldrazi Green decks will likely want to play. You can also play all the lands exiled from Crumble to Dust. That in itself will accelerate you all the way to Ulamog. I'm firm believer in the adage 'You Reap what you sow,' and I expect to Reap big rewards from investing in Oblivion Sower.
Banishing Light costs one less mana, but if you have six mana you get two copies of Banishing Light. Not a bad deal, and I expect it to see play in more controlling white decks. I don't see it being good enough in aggressive white decks though. They already have Gideon and Archangel of Tithes at four mana, so the removal really needs to cost less. Still I think it will see enough play to merit $4.
I can't even. (Yes, I went there). I would be surprised if no one ever found a way to use this in Legacy. Might be overshadowed by Ulamog in Standard though. I think in the short term it drops until it finds its way into a winning Legacy deck and then it will rise. Yes, the Eldrazi will rise.
Reprint, saw very little play the first time, and there is no Ranger of Eos to find it this time around. I predict he will mostly be an outcast in current Standard.
There is quite a bit of hype surrounding this card, considering it is only $3. If ingest is a legitimate Constructed mechanic, this guy will definitely be involved. And even if it isn't, he will likely see some amount of play just as an efficient two-drop with good stats and late game relevance. He's a great target for Ojutai's Command mid-combat. I couldn't fathom this becoming a bulk rare.
If you can reliably make him a 6/6, he is worth it. Outclasses every other ground body at the stage of the game where he comes down, including Siege Rhino. Unlike the Rhino, however, he offers no advantage if immediately answered. I'm medium on Woodland Wanderer, but I see a big potential upside depending on which removal spells see the most play.
Zada, Hedron Grinder
Good in Commander, but not enough good cheap spells to target it with in Standard. Defiant Strike would be sweet I guess.
I think The Savant will see play, but will not be worth much money. Rattleclaw Mystic dropped below $1 despite seeing play. Mystic is better in most decks than Savant, so I don't Foresee Savant settling at more than $1 even if it sees some amount of play.
Marginally playable, but I don't see it being good in a format where the mana incentivizes multicolor decks.
Scatter to the Winds
I see this as one of the best cards in the set. People are used to the good three-mana counter of the format being common or uncommon, so the price is a bit tempered for this one despite it being rare. I predict pricewise this will be the Hero's Downfall of the format, not Ruinous Path.
Stop thinking it's Bitterblossom. It costs twice as much to cast and doesn't make fliers. Awakening Zone only saw play in Polymorph and it cost one less mana.
Part the Waterveil
I would part with these quickly while some people still believe it has potential. Soon they will be worth the same whether mint or water damaged (i.e. worthless).
This is my pick for sleeper of the set. I think it will see a lot of play and at least triple in value from its current price of $1. It will fit into several multicolor decks and at least be a powerful sideboard card for the strategy. Anger of the Gods and Drown in Sorrow rotate, so the context for this card makes it the go to cheaper sweeper in the format!
Andrew Cuneo said Pantheon is having everyone on the team build a deck containing four copies of this card and then voting collectively. Whoever decidedly built the worst deck gets kicked off the team. That will likely be the only time anyone builds a deck with Brutal Expulsion.
Alies do not look great yet and the only deck I've seen with them involves casting a big spell to get them all back from the graveyard at once, so I'm not buying on this card just yet. If more good allies are printed in the next set, I would reconsider buying, especially if this drops to around $.25, which I expect it will.
I'm not sold on this one being the new hotness, but it's mythic and has some potential. If it finds its way into a deck, it will at least triple in value, maybe more. If you believe it will see play in a deck, then buy them. If not, then sit and watch with a finger on the trigger to buy if it ever shows up in a winning list anywhere.
Conduit of Ruin
I believe Eldrazi will be a real deck and I believe that they will want to cast a six-drop to accelerate them into Ulamog. The problem is that I think the six from of choice will be Oblivion Sower and I don't know how much space there would be for another six-drop. With that said, it's close enough that I would rather buy than sell on this guy at $1.
There are so many token generators right now that I find it more likely that this guy hits than misses. And it doesn't have to do much to go up from $1. It basically just has to not turn out to be a complete Abomination of a card...well, hmmm...yeah.
Potential Sleepers under $1
The truth is I'm big on this card. Read the Bones is overall slightly worse on average in a three-color deck, especially one that can utilize excess lands in hand later in the game. Read is already a good card. I want this card in my deck, and I don't say that about many black cards.
I'm never quite sure why playable wrath effects aren't worth more than they are. This one is pretty much straight up better than End Hostilities and will for sure see play in any nonblack control deck. It's basically a better version of Martial Coup since the wrath side is the cheaper side.
I don't know where this will see play, but the power level is high enough that I would consider buying a playset for $3 total. If someone figures out how to use it, it can payoff big time.
Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper
Jeskai Ascendancy will likely be the reason this card takes off if it takes off. The combo is great. The question is whether Noyan is better than Dragonlord Ojutai in that deck. It's certainly more explosive and ends the game much faster, but it is also more fragile. At under $.50 it's hard to go too wrong if the card misses.
Aligned Hedron Network
I expect there to be a lot of high power creatures in Standard, enough such that this will be a common sideboard card of the format. It Removes Eldrazi but also big green creatures, and it exiles them too, which turns on the process mechanic if you happen to be an ingest deck. I Foresee this spiking at $2-3.
Sorcery is the new instant. It doesn't work well in conjunction with Counterspells like Scatter to the Winds, but it works great in any deck running creatures or planeswalker that looks to reload at some point in the game. I suppose even with Scatter to the Winds it could be good. You counter their spell, awaken your land, then untap and cast Ugin's Insight and then attack with the land. I'm not huge on the card but at $.25 it really has no place to go but up.
Follow me on Twitter: @Nacatls4Life
Follow me on Facebook: facebook.com/Craig.Wescoe