Monday, October 5, 2009

Magic the Gathering: Zendikar release

I've been playing Magic over 10 years now on and off. I enjoy the game for its simplicity and flexibility and I find it the best CCG out there. Wizards of the Coast keeps it alive and fresh with new sets that don't try and re-invent the wheel, but do a good job of making them unique and different.

The latest set - Zendikar, like all their "blocks,", has a theme. It's one of the neat things about Magic that keeps it alive. These themed blocks give new mechanics to the same old game ... breathing new life into the basics of tapping mana and casting spells. Zendikar's theme is LAND. A lot of the new mechanics revolve around playing of land. Land, of course, is one of the basics of the game. Nearly 1/3 of every deck is simply land, so a set that revolves around playing it and having effects based on the number of lands in play is pretty powerful to say the least.

Every set usually introduces a new mechanic or two. Zendikar's? Landfall:
Landfall—Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, ... do something.

For example: (from

So .. ya . every time a land comes into play (which can be almost every turn!) you can gain 2 life. Pile that on top of all the effects in this set that lets you get land from you deck and put it right into play (beyond your standard one a turn).

Verdant Catacombs

Land Rare
{T}, Pay 1 life, Sacrifice Verdant Catacombs: Search your library for a Swamp or Forest card and put it onto the battlefield. Then shuffle your library.

The other main mechanic in the set is the return of the "Kicker" ability. This ability lets you pay extra mana to get an extra effect from your spell or creature. Very handy for late-game when you have the mana to overpay and get a two-for-one effect.

Torch Slinger

Creature - Goblin Common
Kicker - 1{R}
When Torch Slinger enters the battlefield, if it was kicked, it deals 2 damage to target creature.


Another new mechanic are "Traps". Traps are just instant spells you can get cheaper than normal if your opponent met some condition. Very handy spells that can catch your opponent by surprise and let's you be a bit more efficient with your mana.

Lethargy Trap

Instant - Trap Common
If three or more creatures are attacking you, you may pay {U} rather than pay Lethargy Trap's mana cost.
Attacking creatures get -3/-0 until end of turn.

I play only on a limited basis now. I just participate in sealed deck or draft events. The Standard competitive scene requires too much time and money for me to invest into that. That's not to say I wouldn't have fun, I just prefer the even playing field of limited play. That being said, I would highly recommend going to a local pre-release or release event. These events are big sealed deck events with the latest set .. fun for all no matter what your experience.

I played in the Zendikar pre-release the last weekend of September. This set, since it is all about land, is VERY powerful in a limited format. Some of the Landfall abilities are good on there own even if you are doing nothing but playing a basic land per turn as normal. It's almost TOO powerful in limited. As green has a majority of the Landfall effects (especially on creatures), green was used by a vast majority of players in the tournament. Something I had never come across before in a tournament happened. EVERY one of my opponents (6) were using green in their decks as a primary color. (I was too). With creatures that instantly get more powerful if you play a land (a basic mechanic of the game!) they are greatly efficient for their cost.

The Grazing Gladeheart shown above was a key card that my opponents had in my losses to them. They gained so much life from the simple act of playing land that I couldn't keep up. I was unlucky and didn't get any of those cards in my pool to play, otherwise I would have.

As I haven't been a constructed player in quite a while, I can't speak on how this set will integrate into the current tournament scene, but I definitely see a set of card that deal with land manipulation (a key to building tournament level decks) providing some powerful card options. So from a limited standpoint, Zendikar can be rough with all those Landfall abilities and lack of "easy" removal and seemed heavily skewed to green and white. Be aware of that when playing in sealed or drafting and you may be able to take advantage of that fact.

For those players who always complained about mana floods (drawing nothing but land for a few turns in a row) could make or break your game, this set is for you. With Landfall and Kicker costs, even a basic land could make your turn more exciting than it used to be.

Played in two drafts at Oshcon. I tried Black in both drafts. I would highly suggest against it. It has some removal, but it's creatures are overcosted and weak. Good, but just not enough big beats like you sometimes need in limited (for either offense OR defense).

The members of Console and Cardboard are also doing a Zendikar league. Starting out with 5 packs and playing over the course of the next few months, adding a pack every now and then. If you've never thought about a casual limited league for your play group I would highly recommend it.
- Everyone is on a even playing field (no "Mr. Suitcases")
- More relaxed than an official Limited tournament.
- Easy to get those friends who have been on the fence to try it out as a limited environement is less intimidating.

No comments:

Post a Comment