Time for Zendikar Rising notable cards Miscellany. This most recent set of articles has taken significantly longer than anticipated. Maybe not longer than expected, but certainly longer than anticipated. Yes, dear friends, we are well into that annual tradition of back to school. When time is at a premium and that premium time ends up being time spent on the couch watching “Cobra Kai” or “Community”.
Yes, you could argue that if I cared so much about this web page and the content, I would make time while sitting on the couch. And, you’re right, to an extent. I do care about the web page and the content. I wouldn’t continue to pay 12 dollars a month to keep the domain if I didn’t. However, as this is currently just a hobby, well, it just is what it is. And, yes, with an attitude like that, it will most likely remain just a hobby. I’m comfortable with that. Let’s talk Zendikar Rising notable cards miscellany.
Multicolored (Nahiri and Omnath, et cetera, oh my!)
Honorable Mention (Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients): At the beginning of spoiler season, after I was done making a fool of myself by saying that the new Jace is broken af in Legacy and possibly Vintage, I texted Chris about this card. Fear not True Believers, I was not silly enough to call this one broken (or even overpowered) in any format. I simply said, “The new Nahiri looks fun, too.” And, that’s what these articles are all about.
Honorable Mention (Kargan Warleader): I often mention that, while I’ve never played Commander, I look at the game through a Commander lens. I have played a few games of Tiny Leaders against Chris, though, and I enjoy the concept thoroughly. One of my first TL decks was an Alesha, Who Laughs at Death warrior deck. This card would fit nicely there.
Omnath, Locus of Creation">Omnath, Locus of Creation: I don’t usually include actual broken cards in these articles. You can read previous ones to understand why. However, when it feels like WotC is just pushing the power level of Standard to new and ridiculous heights, I am 100% here for it. I watch Legacy and Vintage primarily to watch stupidly broken cards and combos. The difference between them and Standard is that I might actually get to play these stupidly broken cards thanks to MTGA.
Verazol, the Split Current">Verazol, the Split Current: Remember earlier when I said that I fancied myself a Commander player even though I’ve never played a single game of Commander? Well, this card is right up that alley. Technically, it could be a Tiny Leader, too. However, I really want to have the 99 card deck to see if I could truly do some stupid stuff with this card.
Colorless (A One Beast Party and Stupid Fun)
Honorable MentionStonework Packbeast: I’m not entirely sure why, but as soon as I saw this jank, I knew that I had to include it in this article. I mean, it’s jank. It incorporates one of my favorite new mechanics in the set. Let’s go.
Lithoform Engine">Lithoform Engine: I texted Chris when I first saw this card, “Lithoform Engine is a potentially fun card. Bad, but fun.” He agreed. Well, if we’ve learned anything, that’s right up my alley. Can’t wait to play this dumb, bad, but potentially fun card.
The Verdict (Zendikar Rising Notable Cards Miscellany are just that)
There are some fun cards in this article. A few of the cards might even be competitive. Heck, there’s even a broken card that has caused one banning in standard. Similar to the rest of the set, it just depends on what you’re looking for. I know some people are crapping on this current era in MTG history, but I think they truly are threading the needle as well as can be expected. Sure, the competitive scene might not be as healthy as the past, but honestly, it’s kind of silly that they have a competitive scene for a children’s card game.
And now, let’s talk about Zendikar Rising Notable Cards: Gruul Edition. We finally got back into the rhythm (somewhat) of posting gaming content on the page here. As mentioned in the last article, school started back up. With the added pressure of Covid-19 this year, it’s been a bit more hectic than usual.
Honestly, I feel good about being able to get things posted only a week into the school year. Hopefully, I’m able to keep that momentum going forward. As you no doubt know, it hasn’t always been easy for me to juggle school and the web page. Seeing as how school is my actual job, that generally takes precedence.
Well, I’m making a commitment to keep posting at least once (and hopefully twice) a week. I would like to keep the 3 times a week, but that might only happen on comics weeks. Speaking of comics, I know it is severely late, but I’m hoping to make next week comics week. For now, let’s look at some Zendikar Rising Notable Cards: Gruul edition. I promise I won’t give you the spiel again this time. I’m getting sick of writing it. You’ll figure it out. If not, check out one of my other notable cards articles for the skinny.
Red (Is Red Broken in this Set?)
Honorable Mention (Grotag Night-Runner): Hey, look, it’s a sh*tty Goblin Guide. That’s what I thought when I first saw this card. There’s not a ton in this set for me in red, but that’s not surprising. I have never been much of a red player and I probably never will.
Leyline Tyrant – Either I texted Chris or he texted me about this card. I don’t remember how the conversation started. It was probably him. He is our resident dragon whisperer. However it started, I think my main comment was, “Uh, that feels broken.” I admit that I haven’t been paying much attention, but there hasn’t been much hullabaloo about the card, so I clearly was wrong on that. It still seems like a fun and dumb card.
Valakut Exploration: You are about to recognize a pattern. We’ve been talking about patterns in my Geometry class. That has nothing to do with MTG other than I’ve never been one to shy away from non sequitur. The pattern here is that when I first saw this card, I immediately Googled, “breaking valakut exploration”. I found some ideas and I might play around with them on xMage. Again, seems like a dumb and fun card.
Green (The Land Serves Me!)
Honorable Mention (Lotus Cobra): Yes, the subtitle is from a completely different game. A game that I, yet again, swore off from playing a few weeks ago. However, it’s immediately what I thought of when I considered the theme of the cards I picked. I more or less picked this one because it is a staple in my terrible Gx cube decks that I always draft.
Skyclave Pick-Axe – I thought this was neat, because I’ve never seen Landfall on a weapon before. I might be wrong. I mean, there’s over 25 years of MTG history, after all, and I’m often surprised to see a card that’s an established part of that history but just never got played before. So, if there is another weapon out there with Landfall, don’t @ me.
Scute Swarm – I played against a deck in MTGA that abused this card and ended up with something like 40+ tokens. I still could have won if I had drawn any of my mass removal spells. Alas, as is my luck, I did not and the deck ran me over while I held my removal spell in hand, unable to cast it due to drawing it too late. The main point is that they want to bring MTGA to mobile. How are phones going to handle 40 tokens on the field at once? I’m all for it. I’m just skeptical.
The Verdict (Zendikar Rising Notable Cards: Gruul Edition are also underwhelming)
Sure, there are some fun and potentially broken cards in red. However, aside from them, I haven’t been terribly impressed with the set so far. I think Chris is just right and they need to take a break from familiar settings at this point. Sure, there have been some new planes in recent sets, but we’ve gone back to Ravnica (again), Innistrad (again), and Zendikar (again). Heck, we even got another Theros set. I’m excited for new settings to explore.
Well, we are finally getting around to our Zendikar Rising Notable Cards: Esper Edition. Apologies that it’s arriving a bit late. I’m back in school and the beginning of this school year has kicked my butt. You should be happy that I’m back to gaming after all that football the last two articles. Heck, I was only able to recently resume my workout routine and that’s just because we have remote Wednesdays at my school. We’ll see if it persists to Friday.
So, yesterday, I was outed to a colleague that I play Magic: the Gathering. I have installed it on my work laptop. I probably shouldn’t be saying that, but there you have it. Well, we had a Zoom meeting yesterday and I was playing some MTGA. Wow, this entire paragraph could get me reprimanded. Oh well, in too deep now. No going back. Long story short, she saw me playing the game and playfully acted shocked at my audacity. That has nothing to do with the set. I just thought it was a humorous story.
Before I get onto Zendikar Rising Notable Cards: Esper Edition, let me remind you that these aren’t necessarily the best cards. You might not even consider them good. Hell, some of the cards might offend you personally. But, it’s my page. I’m going to pick the cards the way that I want to pick them.
White (It’s my party and I’ll be the fun police if I want to)
Honorable Mention (Practiced Tactics): The new party mechanic is mostly here, I assume, to prepare for the Dungeons and Dragons crossover set that is coming next year. Whatever the reason, I think it is a neat idea with much utility. I’m just glad that I mostly play on MTGA and don’t have to manually keep track of my party.
Journey to Oblivion – I wish that they had given this flash. It’s still good if you can discount it, but I just love the imagined look on my opponent’s face when I cast a flash spell that exiles. Oh well, guess we can’t have it all.
Tazri, Beacon of Unity – Chris and I were texting the other day and I said something about fancying myself a Commander player. Now, mind you, I haven’t played a single game of Commander and only a few games against him of Tiny Leader. Still, I’m intrigued by the format and hope to get a playgroup together when this pandemic is over.
Blue (Tatsumaki Senpukyaku)
(Dis?)Honorable Mention – If you get the reference in the header, then you will understand the theme of my blue choices. This card intrigues me. I’m not sure if it is a misprint or they are just messing with us. If you don’t kick it, it does nothing. I mean, it adds to the number of enchantments you control for spells that rely on that. But, there’s better ways to achieve that. What a dumb card.
Into the Roil – This article is coming so late this time that I’ve actually had a chance to play and play against some of the cards. I haven’t played this one specifically. However I have it in the stupid ramp deck that I grabbed to complete a quest in MTGA. It’s just a “fun” effect and the kicker draws you a card!
Jace, Mirror Mage: Chris texted me this card early in the spoilers. I texted back, “That’s going to be broken af in Legacy”. I’m pretty sure I was wrong about that. Hey, I’ve never claimed to be a professional at any of this. If I’m right, though, I’ll take all the credit and this paragraph will disappear from the article faster than you can say, “SAD!”
Black (The Orzhov have taken over)
Zof Consumption – Chris and I were just texting. I noticed something over the last few expansions and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just me. I won’t tell you how the conversation started. It is definitely not safe for work. Maybe not safe for any environment. In any case, lifelink is becoming more and more a part of black’s color identity. I first noticed it with Vito, the Rose Thorn or whatever. That’s only because it is an annoying card to play against.
Ghastly Gloomhunter – While the earlier card isn’t strictly lifelink, that’s where our conversation ended. That these cards don’t have lifelink, but they have an effect very much like it. This card has lifelink and more and more black cards are coming out with that keyword. I don’t know why that bothers me. I do know that this card has a stupid name. That’s really the main reason I picked it. I want a job naming cards.
Nighthawk Scavenger – Chris texted me this one, too with the message, “It’s kind of like Tarmogoyf.” I texted back, “But it dies to lightning bolt.” We both got a good laugh from that because his friend who is more competitive than we ever are said the same thing. I guess you had to be there.
The Verdict (Zendikar Rising Notable Cards: Esper Edition are underwhelming)
Other than Jace, there isn’t much to get excited about. And, Jace might not even be all that exciting. I mean, there are some neat drafting strategies. Maybe I’ll mess around on xMage some once the set releases there. Because I’m mostly trash at drafting and I’m not sure how popular sealed is on MTGA, that’s the place that I can do my trash drafting without losing much in the way of resources. I think Chris was right when he said that Zendikar just isn’t that exciting anymore. We’ve been back three (!) times now and maybe the setting is just getting old.
This is the time in Magic the Gathering history when the game was supposed to change forever. They made an announcement that there would be no more core sets. Admittedly, I don’t always have my finger on the pulse of various communities, but I never heard a huge outcry during the announcement. Granted, as a collector, I mourned the loss of those sets, but I’m not sure that many others did.
Aside from that, they reduced the number of sets for each block from 3 sets to 2. In response to this announcement, I did hear quite a bit of murmuring from the crowd. Perhaps it was a bridge too far so soon after the abolition of core sets. As we’ve discussed several times, some portions of the nerd community have become resistant to change. Furthermore, they are quite vocal about it.
Magic the Gathering Origins and Competitive Play
In the previous two articles, I’ve included the core set with the block. I change that here for two reasons. First, with the core sets being discontinued, WotC assured us that there wouldn’t necessarily be “blocks” of sets anymore, even though there were for the next six cycles. Second, since Origins was supposed to be the “last” core set, they promised something innovative for the set.
As with most of WotC’s promises, this wasn’t entirely true. While there were some new things in the set that I will talk about briefly, at it’s heart, Origins was a core set. I think in my article about it, I called Origins the “corest of core sets”. I don’t blame them. Core sets existed for a reason. If you’re going to have core sets, then it should fulfill that purpose. Just don’t promise that you’re going out with a bang and then offer a slightly exaggerated whimper.
Okay, enough of my own “Grumpy Cat” impression. As I said, there are things that I enjoyed about the set. Before I get to those, I will just write a quick note about competitive. I’m not a competitive player by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t aspire to be one either. I do enjoy watching Magic, though, and this set was very kind to competitive players.
My Thoughts on MtG Origins
Finally, we get to my positives from the set. Not to give too much away, but they’re what you have come to expect from a filthy casual such as myself. I might be mistaken here, but it’s the first time that I noticed that WotC made the story front and center in the game. I know that there has always been lore. It’s one of the things that we love about Magic. But, this is the first time that I saw them pushing that story on their web page and through the cards. That story focused around five main Planeswalkers and their journey through Magic history.
Speaking of those Planeswalkers, they lived up to the promise of “something different”. None of them start off as Planeswalkers. Instead, they are cast as younger versions of themselves. Then, through a mechanic associated with their color identity, they “gain their spark” and flip to become a Planeswalker. There has been at least one other flip Planewalker since, but this was like nothing that I have ever seen in the game before this set. I don’t know if they have plans to do so, but I would love to see more cards like this in the future.
Battle for Zendikar/Oath of the Gatewatch
I have to admit that I was surprised when they announced this group of sets. While the first Zendikar block might have been popular at the time, the only thing that I ever heard from players was how much they hated the Annihilator mechanic. Wizards of the Coast even publicly admitted that Annihilator might have been a mistake. I think I wrote in my previous article that we haven’t been back to Mirrodin, mostly likely because of infect. But, now, we’re back in Zendikar with an even less interactive mechanic? Okay. Let’s do this.
Yes, the Eldrazi are back. No, they don’t have Annihilator. Most of them don’t have Annihilator. Okay, none of them have Annihilator, but Ulamog is hungry and he wants to eat your deck. In keeping with the colorless theme, this set has colorless colored cards. Yeah, I know. For a game that prides itself on its adherence to logic, that might be a tough circle to square. Hear me out on this one, though. I mentioned earlier that WotC was choosing to incorporate lore more into the game. The Eldrazi are colorless creatures that consume all in their path. Zendikar is a rich source of resources. It makes sense that as the Eldrazi consume Zendikar’s resources, there would be those that were in the process of being converted.
Maybe I thought too much thought into that. I’m sure that I put too much thought into it. Okay, I’m positive that I thought about that way too much. But, it was a fun train of thought for me and who knows? Maybe I’m on to something.
Back to the sets themselves. You can’t just have colorless spaghetti monsters (Actually, she’s not even here. More on her in the next section. Spoiler Alert.) destroying all in their paths. Well, you could, but that’s not much of a narrative. In addition to the old mechanic of landfall to symbolize the land itself fighting back, there’s also a mechanic called converge that pumps the ability of cards based on the different types of mana used to cast them. Multicolored v. colorless. Great flavor win!
Shadows Over Innistrad/Eldritch Moon
If it was a surprise that we returned to Zendikar, it was a relief to go back to Innistrad. I said several times in my previous article that Innistrad was right in my wheelhouse. If you haven’t read that article, I will summarize here. Having grown up with fantasy and fantasy horror, Innistrad reminded me of times playing the D&D campaign Ravenloft with friends as a teenager. The addition of flip cards, the lore win of graveyard interaction, and a strong story overall cemented Innistrad as one of my favorite blocks. I’m glad to be back.
Okay, but what are those shadows over Innistrad? Who knows? Who cares? It’s probably just witches or giant bats or something like that. It’s certainly not a giant spaghetti monster that has come to consume this plane that we all love. To be honest, I had no idea during the first set that there would be Eldrazi on Innistrad. I mean, I did find it odd that Emrakul was missing from Zendikar, but I wasn’t paying full attention to the story at the time. I was just happy to be back on Innistrad.
You got Eldrazi in my zombies! You got zombies in my Eldrazi! Two disgusting things that go great together? I admit that it was a complete surprise when the reveal of Eldritch moon showed that much of the madness on the plane was courtesy of Emrakul’s influence. I wasn’t sure how the crossover might work and felt skeptical that it would be any good. I’m happy to have been proven wrong. While not as strong as the other Innistrad sets, in my opinion, Eldritch Moon delivered enough fun to be a solid filler set if nothing else.
The “new era of Magic the Gathering” as ushered in by the end of core sets and the switch from 3 set blocks to a less rigid construct for sets got off to a mostly successful start. While Origins was, at its heart, just another core set, it did introduce some cool new things into the game. My favorite from the set was the flip Planeswalkers. I hold out hope that we will see more, but to this day they are unique to Origins. Kudos to WotC for keeping things unique.
I never got to play the original Zendikar. I wasn’t even able to collect it as boxes were pushing 300 dollars at the time that I was trying to put together sets. It was nice to be able to see some of what I missed without having to deal with the annoying Annihilator mechanic. I’m not as much of a fan of the Eldrazi as maybe Chris is, but I’ve developed a soft spot since these sets for the big lugs.
The revisit to Innistrad wasn’t as much fun as the first. Guess you really can’t go home again. The Eldrazi only partly played a role in making the Innistrad not as fun. I actually enjoyed the story and some of the weird creatures that came as a result. It was just too much of a good thing perhaps. That’s what I fear from a Return to Return to Ravnica. This will be the third time on the plane in just over a decade of time. What could they possibly have that will make it worth it? I suppose time will tell.
3 down, 2 to go. Next time, we visit the 3 newer planes introduced recently; Kaladesh, Amonkhet, and Ixalan. After that, it is Dominaria and Return to Ravnica to finish the series. I hope you all have been enjoying reading this as much as I’ve been writing it. See you in a couple of days.
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