After the World Championship I flew back to Israel to relax for a month until the next Pro Tour. Yesterday during my break in Israel, my dad, brother, and I participated in the Battle for Zendikar Prerelease. Prereleases are always exciting for me, it's the first in person testing I get with the new cards before I go AWOL in preparation for the next Pro Tour. It's also the only event my brother and dad actually play in and, most importantly, it was an opportunity to meet the rest of team Israel.
My deck looked very average. I had an okay looking U/R deck with not much ingest but tons of devoid. Two Nettle Drones and a Brutal Expulsion were the key cards. I played seven rounds and man, I have to say Brutal Expulsion is the real deal. A huge tempo swing and it even turns on your Processors. I had the option to play three colors and have more synergy with devoid, ingest, and processors in black, but looking at the set it feels like if you're not playing green then you want to stay in two colors. There is a lot of fixing in Battle for Zendikar for Constructed, but most of the lands are rares which makes it a mostly two-color format in Limited. Now of course there are the converge decks and with Natural Collection there will be four or five-color decks but probably only one at the table.
The only match I lost was to the most busted card in sealed: Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. When my opponent played it I grabbed it to read and, yup, that card is not beatable. When you play it you kill two of their best permanents, and if you ever attack you will basically win on their draw step...and oh, it's indestructible. Ya, that card is fair and will be a blast to play with but definitely not against.
One more card I wanted to discuss is Tajuru Warcaller. This card is unbelievable. When you play it you Overrun your team for +2/+2 and you just keep doing that every time you play another ally, let's not even get to turns that you play two or three allies on the same turn. At uncommon this guy will be a powerhouse in Limited and a clear first pick if not the best uncommon in the set. As for the rest of the set, I really like the new allies and the devoid, ingest, and processor mechanics; it's something new and I'm excited to draft them all in the coming months.
I've played the last two years on the Israeli World Magic Cup team. The first year was with Niv Shmuely when we made the Top 16 of the tournament with a very good run at the end getting us there. The second year was with a group of unknown-but-good players and we lost our last three rounds finishing in 9th place. This year I'm teaming with Keinan Omer, Daniel Lewinski, and Raz Lotan. I have only seen one of the guys play, but I played against Raz last Prerlease in Israel and I remember after the match hoping that he will be on the team next Magic Cup. He played really well and it felt like he really understood the game; I was impressed. The other two guys on the team, after talking to them, seem like they are solid players and will work together to practice with the decks they are most comfortable with so they will be prepared. This is a different kind of testing that they asked me to do. It means we have to make a deck choice very early and then master the deck in a week or more. What I like to do and what we did the last two Magic Cups was decide the deck choice at the very end once we're comfortable playing everything, this gives us more time to understand the format and make a decision the last day once we have all the information. I'm always going to go with what the team wants, and if the team wants to make a decision early so they can master the deck, it just means they are committed and will work hard with the deck given. As you can see I have high hopes for this team and I believe we can make the Top 8 this time around together.
Since I'm flying to Milwaukee in a week and will only come back to Israel after the Magic Cup our testing will involve Skype calls and Facebook conversations, at least on my side.
I wanted to briefly talk about all the mythics Battle for Zendikar has to offer. This set is a very interesting one with new and cool mechanics that are still somewhat similar to previous sets; sets like Rise of the Eldrazi, Zendikar, and Mirrodin's Fifth Dawn. Converge is like sunburst, and the Allies and the Eldrazi are back from Zendikar and Rise of the Eldrazi. The combination of these three mechanics in Battle for Zendikar is a great idea and Battle for Zendikar is one hell of a set!
Limited: This bird is a complete bomb in Limited - a flying, hasty, big flyer for just four mana, that rebirths itself like a phoenix is not very beatable. Hard to race, hard to kill, and there aren't many good answers like Arrest, or Pacifism in the set, just one.
Constructed: To reach four mana on curve is tough in a red deck that plays close to 20 lands. On top of that this Phoenix rewards you for playing even more lands that an aggressive red deck. A deck that could use a hasty beater just doesn't want that. Maybe this card will find a home in a "bigger red" style deck with 24-26 lands.
Limited: I had two of these in my Prerelease and it was completely insane. This card would be good if it cost up to four mana even. The fact it costs so little makes it pretty unfair. If there were very cheap ways to deal with it like a Shock then that would be another story but the cheapest way costs three mana so you'll get your value no matter what.
Constructed: Same goes for the Outcast as the Phoe Nix: it really rewards you four having six lands so its home is not an aggressive red deck but a "bigger red" style deck. Now that we get two of these mythics that might be an option.
Drana, Liberator of Malakir
Limited: Again this card isn't very fair in Limited and is another complete bomb. An undercosted flyer with a very powerful ability...oh, and it's also an Ally.
Constructed: I'm not sure if some B/W Ally deck will be viable in Standard but this card will be an auto four-of. She reminds me a bit of Vampire Nighthawk, though not as good against Burn decks of course. In block though Allies will be huge and this Vampire with friends will be a big part of it.
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Limited: Planeswalkers in Limited are bombs and this guy is no different. The only exception is Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded. The biggest reason they are so powerful in Limited is the ability to create tokens every turn and pull ahead of their opponent this way. Well Gideon does that very well, making 2/2s every turn, but not only 2/2s. They are allies so you get all those triggers for your allies entering the battlefield.
Constructed: If B/W Allies will be a deck Gideon will be another great addition and an auto include; he's one of the best incentives to be playing an ally deck. If not though, Gideon will be a Standard staple either way, finding his way into control, midrange, and aggro decks all over.
Greenwarden of Murasa
Limited: A fantastic card with tons of card advantage potential built in. While a 5/4 for 6 mana isn't great, the Greenwarden is so good at grinding the game. I never got to play Eternal Witness in Limited and this won't be the same thing as it's a later game version of Eternal Witness. Playing it and getting back a removal spell, then trading it with something not too horrible and getting back another removal spell...wow, that's game changing. Biggest thing with this guy is having something to get back when you play him, let alone two.
Constructed: Six mana is no joke but I suspect this guy will make it in a more grindy deck that's looking to go long or some kind of ramp deck. A 5/4 on its own is still a threat so this card has a lot of potential. I think he will see play in some decks as a one to two-of and not more.
Kiora, Master of the Depths
Limited: It is a planeswalker with its -2 loyalty being card advantage so it will be a solid pick up for U/G decks, but by no means is this card a bomb that you take over anything. Kiora in my opinion will be worse than most of the good uncommons and some of the top commons.
Constructed: This card's biggest strength is when coupled with a creature that taps to make mana. The +1 loyalty nets you two mana which can be key to ramping into a seven-drop on turn four. Also, like Garruk Wildspeaker, when you play her you can immediately follow up with a two-drop, provided you have the mana dork out early.
Ob Nixilis Reignited
Limited: Now this is a planeswalker that's a removal spell too. You can play him to kill their best creature, then if you can save him and get to untap with him, you can draw a card and kill another creature to end up with a three-for-one. Or you can let him live if you have the luxury. Huge bomb that wins games on its own.
Constructed: Ob Nixilis will probably not find its home in aggressive black decks, but he will be fantastic in a black deck that's looking to grind out with card advantage. The lower the curve gets in the format the weaker this card gets, but if people are playing a three-drop, or four-drop as their first play, that's when Ob Nixilis really shines.
Limited: In general all the Eldrazi have powerful abilities but most of them are overcosted and, while good, you can't just throw them in your aggressive decks. Oblivion Sower is not overcosted though; in fact a 5/8 for six mana is great and, on top of that, he turns on your processors and gives more lands potentially. He will get picked very highly and is definitely a bomb you rarely pass.
Constructed: If devoid and processors become a deck that's viable this card will surely see play in it, otherwise it might see play in ramp decks or a big Eldrazi deck. If a deck can afford to play a big, vanilla, six-drop creature this Eldrazi will be a great addition.
Omnath, Locus of Rage
Limited: Omnath is very expensive and isn't colorless. It's hard for him to be completely broken but if you get this guy in play he is so powerful he wins any stalemate, hands down. I'm not completely sure if this will be a fast or slow format; most signs actually show it will be fast despite all the Eldrazi cards so Omnath may get worse.
Constructed: Omnath may find a home but only in ramp deck that really utilizes his kit of having tons of lands. He is competing with other ramp targets that are probably better suited for the deck. I doubt he will be anything but maybe a fringe playable in Standard.
Part the Waterveil
Limited: In general I think all of the awaken cards are actually much better than they look. Nine mana is a lot but the fact that you can just cycle this and get a Time Walk is pretty good. I don't think this is a bomb but it is certainly very powerful and blue decks will be happy to see this.
Constructed: Typically six mana for a Time Walk is way too much for Constructed and nine mana for the awaken cost is also an absurd amount. I highly doubt this will see play at all in a tier one deck.
Limited: There aren't a lot of ways to deal with an Oblivion Ring type card in the format, at least not maindeckable ones, and Quarantine Field is so much better than Oblivion Ring. The fact you can pay six mana to exile two of their best threats makes this completely bonkers and can end the game on its own. If you ever get to the late game and top deck this card you can exile three or four targets. Very good and I'm never passing if I'm in white.
Constructed: It really depends on how many ways the format has to kill the Quarantine. It is a four-mana Oblivion Ring but cards like Silence the Believers have seen play and are equally very powerful. If a deck can get to six mana consistently and there are not many ways kill the Field then it will be good. By no means a staple of the format though.
Sire of Stagnation
Limited: Sire of Stagnation basically says that your opponent will never play a land as long as it lives. At six mana not playing a land is actually not that big a deal and so they have to deal with a 5/7 which is doable. If you can get this guy out earlier however they will have no choice but to play their lands if they want to do anything at all. The key is to get him as early as possible with Eldrazi Scions.
Constructed: Sire of Stagnation may not find a home in standard but certainly has potential. If later on in the season it's the best U/B finisher then it will see play, but I don't see that happening.
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
Limited: I briefly talked about how good this card is already so there isn't much to say except, if you pick this guy up, make sure that you're going to be able to cast him. Because once you do, it's over.
Constructed: If a deck can consistently cast this card it will be a great addition. You can't just throw this in any deck though, even any ramp deck. Ten mana is way more than what the ramp decks are designed to ramp into.
Limited: If you're green you absolutely want this in your deck, but this is less of a bomb and I wouldn't move into green specifically because you opened The Champion.
Constructed: Undergrowth Champion has a lot of potential, and I suspect it will make a big impact with fetch lands in the format. It may become a standard staple. I'm certainly getting a playset of him.
Limited: This card is funny. If nothing else, he really doesn't like equality. If you're able to put him in play he will certainly give your opponent a headache, but he may also just end the game depending on what they have in hand and on board. Situationally unbeatable, I'm sure there will be sweet highlight plays with him.
Constructed: I don't see this being too good in Legacy as a Reanimate target because of Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares being odd-costed spells. For standard though we will see. I honestly don't know and am excited to find out with you all.
So there you have it, that's my take on all the Battle for Zendikar mythics. Hope you enjoyed, and see you next time where hopefully I made a Pro Tour Top 8 or Team Israel has won the Magic Cup.