With Theros block rotating out a completely new Standard format is upon us. There are going to be some pre-existing archetypes that will be popular in the coming weeks, which did not lose a ton from Theros rotating out. Decks that immediately come to mind which will be frontrunners in the new Standard are the aggressive decks. I am talking about Abzan Aggro, Monored Aggro, and the like. It will be up to Battle for Zendikar to see what the new control decks will look like. There are so many new cards that have the potential to be game changers, and the aim is to look into some of them here.
The Highest Impact Eldrazi
The first card that comes to mind here is Ulamag, the Ceaseless Hunger. This is one of the most hyped cards in Battle for Zendikar and for good reason. This could arguably be the most powerful Eldrazi ever printed, though that is open to debate. Still, in terms of what you get for hardcasting this card, there is a ton of value immediately. Being able to exile two permanents, not just creatures but any permanent when Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger comes into play is huge. This card will be the most singularly powerful card in Standard; the question then becomes, which decks will be able to play him?
Casting a ten mana spell is no small order. With cards like Elvish Mystic and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx rotating out I expect green ramp decks to be less powerful. In the current Standard format the big finisher of choice is Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and since eight mana is so difficult to get to we see only one or two copies of the powerful planeswalker most of the time. Now we have gone one step further and gone up to ten mana. How many copies of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger can feasibly fit into a single deck? I think the answer depends on what the game plan of said deck is. For instance it is possible to play a number of copies of this powerful Eldrazi if the goal is to Reanimate your creatures, the only issue with that is, unless you actually pay the ten mana and cast Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, there will be no exiling of permanents. I do expect this card to find a home in some sort of ramp strategy though it doesn't fit very well into any of the pre-existing decks from the last format.
In terms of other Eldrazi, Conduit of Ruin seems like a card with a lot of potential. This card actually works very well in conjunction with Ulamog the Ceaseless Hunger, as you can not only search for Ulamog the Ceaseless Hunger, you can cheat him into play with Conduit of Ruin. Another six mana Eldrazi that helps you ramp is Oblivion Sower. These creatures are big threats by themselves but their ability to get you closer to playing additional big mana spells is what makes them really threatening. I expect that there will be some sort of Eldrazi themed strategy that utilizes multiples of these cards.
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Here we have one of the new planeswalkers, and this is a card that I fully expect to make an immediate impact. At first I actually didn't think Gideon, Ally of Zendikar was that impressive, as each of the modes didn't seem that great. The fact is though that for a four mana planeswalker this is exactly what white decks are looking for. The ultimate may seem unimpressive, until you realize that it is possible to ultimate Gideon, Ally of Zendikar the very same turn it is cast. Emblems are no laughing matter, as even if Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is no longer in play, the emblem will of course remain for the rest of the game. The ability to pump your team is an ability that works well in decks that aim to swarm the board with small creatures.
Gideon's middle ability is very much reminiscent of a heavily played planeswalker from Theros, Xenagos, the Reveler. Being able to make a 2/2 without losing any loyalty is very powerful, and may be the most used ability of the three. However, the first ability means that, in a pinch, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar can simply be a large creature, and can close out the game by himself in a timely fashion. I expect most white decks in the format will want to at least seriously consider playing Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. There aren't many planeswalkers in the format and this is one of the better ones.
Here is a card that I haven't heard a ton of buzz about, but the card seems like it has a lot of potential. With all of the new dual lands and fetchlands, it doesn't seem unreasonable to play a four or five color deck, and I expect people to do so. This is one of the biggest payoff cards for playing a number of colors. Paying five mana to say permanently steal an opposing Siege Rhino seems good. Unlike Mind Control for instance, a card which saw some play in its Standard days, this card is a sorcery which means there is essentially no way of reversing the effect once it has resolved. In addition, there aren't that many good instants and sorceries in the set, but this one is reasonable. This is worth keeping in mind when one of the most powerful blue cards is Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. Exert Influence isn't a card that I expect to make a large impact right away, but it could be a major player once people realize how good it is.
Wizards of the Coast certainly knows how to find ways to upgrade Hero's Downfall. Sure this card isn't an instant, but I do think the awaken more than makes up for that. This is a card that every competitive player will have on their mind going into the first few weeks of Battle for Zendikar. If I were a betting man, I would say that this will be the most played Standard card in the set. Hero's Downfall was heavily played and awaken four is an insanely powerful effect. There is no Elspeth, Sun's Champion around to punish you for making 4/4 creatures. Paying seven mana to destroy a planeswalker or creature and make a land into a 4/4 seems reasonable, but now you have the option of just casting it for three mana, and using it as a Hero's Downfall.
Ruinous Path is not just a good card, it goes straight into some of the most powerful pre-existing archetypes. For instance, Abzan Aggro can easily just play four copies of this card if it wants to. While Ruinous Path is a three mana spell, it also means that you can play less big spells, because it can also be a six mana spell. Essentially playing four Ruinous Path means you have up to four six mana spells already in your deck. Awaken is a strong mechanic and this card is on steroids.
Ob Nixilis Reignited
This is the second black card I want to talk about, and it's a doozy. This is the perfect card for a control deck as it can draw you cards or destroy a creature immediately. Drawing cards also adds loyalty which is pretty absurd. Ob Nixilis Reignited can come into play and just go up to six loyalty, and at eight loyalty the ultimate is a legitimate win condition. I expect the black control decks will want to play at least a couple copies of Ob Nixilis Reignited. This card works well in a deck that also has some life gain so that the life loss from drawing cards with the first ability isn't a big deal.
Here we have a creature that red has sorely been missing. The midrange red decks haven't really been popular, unless they have revolved around dragons. With Stormbreath Dragon rotating out red will be looking for Akoum Firebird to rule the roost in terms of the best red flyer. This is a creature that has the ability to recur itself merely by making land drops. This means that unless your opponent can exile Akoum Firebird it will pose a big problem later in the game. Personally, I'm hoping that a big red midrange deck will emerge, with this card being one of the main win conditions. This is the type of card that will have a huge impact if you are already ahead in a game, but won't do much if on the back foot.
Greenwarden of Murasa
There are certainly plenty of big mana spells in Battle for Zendikar, and here is another one. When first looking at the card it seems like an overpowered green creature, as being able to return essentially up to two cards from your graveyard to your hand, and being a big threat seems great. The issue is where does this card fit in context with the rest of the format? The biggest reason this card may not see a ton of play is Den Protector already does a similar thing. Is Den Protector better than Greenwarden of Murasa? This question is tough to answer in a vacuum, though Den Protector can be cast for much less than this card. Since Den Protector has already proven to be very good I expect Greenwarden of Murasa to initially be put on the back burner, but the card is too powerful to not make an impact on the format. Its time will come.
Kiora, Master of the Depths
Here is a planeswalker that I find extremely interesting. Honestly, I'm not sure how good Kiora, Master of the Depths is. To me the middle ability is easily the strongest ability, as being able to grab a creature and a land while still having this card in play is quite nice. Still, when compared to the other two planeswalkers printed in Battle for Zendikar, in some ways Kiora, Master of the Depths is underwhelming. The first ability just doesn't seem very good, though it does allow you to potentially ramp a little bit by untapping a land. I expect most of the time when Kiora, Master of the Depths comes into play its middle ability will immediately be used. The issue with that ability though is sometimes you will whiff on a creature or a land, so it won't always net two cards. It's tough because this card is so unique it is hard to compare to any other card. The ultimate is admittedly very nice, but getting to that point could be difficult.
This card is very much worthy of Constructed play. There aren't a ton of ramp cards in the format anymore, and this seems like one of the best that's available. Paying four to ramp into two more mana is a fine deal, but there's more. One of the biggest traditional issues with ramp decks is flooding out, when not drawing your big mana spells. Here is a card that not only ramps but also draw cards. Exactly what I would be looking for in a deck trying to play huge Eldrazi creatures.