Sunday, September 20, 2015

Battle for Zendikar Spoiler: A Kinder, Gentler Eldrazi

No More Annihilator.

Well, not exactly. But close.

And close is close enough.

The full spoiler for Battle for Zendikar is up at, so check it out for all the action.

As with any new set, there are lots of sweet cards across the board to keep things interesting. But what I was really looking forward to in this set are colorless cards to make my Kozilek commander deck more interesting and in-theme.

Did BFZ deliver?

Oh, hell, yes.

In my dream world, I wanted a 5-color Eldrazi legend to build around. I am still holding onto that dream until we see the rest of the cards in the block. For now, a colorless Eldrazi deck is still the way to go with lots of new cards and Eldrazi to try out.

Before we take a look at some of the new Eldrazi cards, let me take a moment to say that the artwork for these monsters is incredible. They really captured the "otherness" of the Eldrazi.

For the old-school Eldrazi, Annihilator is a problem. It feels super-powerful. I like the flavor of the Annihilator mechanic. I don't mind being on the receiving end of it. Heck, it's better than eating combo game after game. But, I get it. People don't like it. So, now we have a kinder, gentler Eldrazi. The new Eldrazi generally eat cards from libraries by putting those cards into exile. It's a neat way to capture the flavor of what the Eldrazi do without directly affecting the board.

The new Eldrazi are split up into two camps. The first camp are cards with colored mana symbols, but that are "devoid" of color. In other words, they are colorless by definition but use colored mana symbols in the casting cost. It's neat, but not helpful for building a colorless commander deck. The "color identity" rule sees the colored mana symbols, so you can't put these Eldrazi in your colorless commander deck.

Boo hoo.

The second camp are cards that are actually colorless. Let's take a look at some of these new colorless cards.

Oh, quick aside. The Kozilek deck is already crazy, before adding any cards from BFZ. It cranks out Kozilek with alarming speed and resiliency. It's basically a combo deck that spits out a card-drawing, annihilator-fueled attacking commander.

That's all fine and dandy.

Adding cards from BFZ will weaken the deck. I am looking for better flavor and more interaction, not an increase in raw power. I want to play an Eldrazi-tribal deck.

What BFZ gives us are more colorless Eldrazi further down the curve. We can run a reasonable number of creatures now, without leaning as heavily on artifact creatures to fill out the deck.

5 Mana Colorless Eldrazi

Endless One

Technically, you can cast this guy for any amount of mana, but 5 mana is a reasonable amount. I like that he scales. More mana equals bigger creature. I don't like that he has nothing else going on. For a guy named, "Endless One," it doesn't seem like he's doing anything endless. He does, like totally, have another Eldrazi coming out where, like, an arm would be. So, maybe in that way he's "endless."

It's Eldrazi all the way down, man.

Blight Herder

A 4/5 for 5 isn't wildly exciting. But, if you meet the trigger condition, you get three upgraded Eldrazi Scion buddies along for the ride. They attack! They block! They ramp!

Kozilek's Channeler

A 4/4 for 5 that taps for 2 mana? Sure. It hits a good spot on the curve and pushes you ahead for casting the big stuff. I don't like my ramp attached to a creature, but it keeps us in theme.

6 Mana Colorless Eldrazi

Oblivion Sower

For 6 mana, at least this guy has 8 toughness? I don't like the randomness, but it could be great. It's possible to hit a couple of lands when you cast him. It's also possible to hit nothing.

Conduit of Ruin

Here we go. We get a sweet "when you cast" trigger that lets us stack our next draw with another Eldrazi, along with an effect that makes our Eldrazi cheaper. I like it.

Ulamog's Despoiler

Sometimes he's a 9/9 for 6 mana. Sometimes he's not. All the time, he gets chump blocked by tokens. Evasion! Where is the evasion?

Deathless Behemoth

A 6/6 for 6 with Vigilance. But is it Sun Titan? No. It is not. With enough Eldrazi Scions running around, you can get this guy back from the dead. Sort of. I'm surprised that he doesn't come back into play, though. You'll have to cast him again.

7 Mana Colorless Eldrazi

Bane of Bala Ged

We heard you didn't like Annihilator. So, here's something even better. His ability is basically super-Annihilator 2.

Ruin Processor

A 7/8 for 7 mana that sometimes gains you 5 life. Okay.

8 Mana Colorless Eldrazi

Breaker of Armies

10 power for 8 mana. Plus, this guy takes hits for the team. This looks like a fun way to push damage through at your next commander table.

Edrazi Devastator

Random name on a random 8/9 for 8 mana with Trample. At least it has Trample?

9 Mana Colorless Edrazi

Void Winnower

Things are getting weird. This guy cares about "even mana costs," which is something that is outside the game world itself. I hope against all hope that there is a version that cares about "odd mana costs," in the next set. Won't that be fun?

10 Mana Colorless Eldrazi

Desolation Twin

20 power for 10 mana?! Sweet. Two monsters for the price of one. I can't wait to see the custom tokens for this guy.

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

10 power for 10 mana. Indestructible. The old Ulamog had Annihilator 4. This one exiles two permanents when you cast it. This version, notably, does not have the shuffle back in trigger. That means we can reanimate it.

Oh, and it eats libraries.

Colorless Ramp and Lands

Hedron Archive

We had Mind Stone. We had Dreamstone Hedron. Now we have this card, smack dab in the middle. Sisay's Ring and Ur-golem Eye, eat your heart(s) out. Actually, ramp is spectacular. Run them all.

Sanctum of Ugin

Get the right Eldrazi for the job. It's nice that it triggers off casting big dudes, which is something I want to be doing anyway.

Shrine of the Forsaken Gods

There's a lot of hoops and conditions with this card, but since it doesn't come into play tapped, I'm happy to run it in a colorless deck. If you happen to meet all the conditions, it pumps out a little extra mana.

Colorless Support Cards

Gruesome Slaughter

I like the idea of this card more than I like the card itself. If you are in a stalemate situation where you happen to be sitting behind a bunch of big monsters, this card can certainly turn the tide in your favor. But it's a lot of mana for a one shot deal.

Titan's Presence

With enough Eldrazi in your deck, this card has a good chance of sending whatever creature is bothering you into exile at instant speed. It adds an element of surprise to an otherwise linear deck.

Scour from Existence

This card handles problems at instant speed. Yes, it's 7 mana, but it hits almost everything.

The bottom line is that there are now enough Eldrazi cards to put together a tribal deck that is thematically consistent.

That's great!

But we are giving up a lot of raw power to get there. Most of the new colorless creatures are outclassed by other creatures in the format, including artifact creatures that are competing for slots in a colorless deck. Consider the lowly Steel Hellkite at 6 mana. If left unchecked, Steel Hellkite rips up opposing boards. I'm as worried about power creep as the next guy, but I'm not seeing enough synergy yet with the new colorless Eldrazi to bring it home.

Steel Hellkite

There's always the next set.

Plan accordingly.