At the Gathering – Exclusive Zendikar Preview Card Super Happy Fun Time!

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Friday, September 11th – Zendikar is heating up, and some of the news coming out of spoilers both official and unofficial is rather fetching! Okay, bad pun aside, the big news revealed this week at PAX is that *SPOILER ALERT* are in Zendikar! Holy cow, what an amazing revelation!

Zendikar is heating up, and some of the news coming out of spoilers both official and unofficial is rather fetching! Okay, bad pun aside, the big news revealed this week at PAX is that enemy colored fetchlands are in Zendikar! Holy cow, what an amazing revelation!

A number of writers have covered the topic, so I’ll be brief before moving into our designated spoiler. In Legacy or Vintage, this is only a minor change. Most dedicated players are using originals dual lands already, and thus haven’t really had any issues with fetching out properly most of the time. You end up in a base-Blue deck, running four Flooded Strand and four Polluted Delta, to compliment your U/X land base of Island/X dual lands. This will make the barrier for entry to that format easier in that if you can’t get your hands on Polluted Delta, maybe you can use either of the new Blue based fetchland, either Green or Red. However, I don’t think this will revolutionize the land-bases in Eternal formats, only open up the format to newer players to focus on true dual lands instead of fetches and duals.

In Extended, of course this means that the formerly leaving fetchlands are being replaced by the current ones. Manabases shouldn’t be affected too much, but still somewhat. The biggest effect is on two color decks using a fetch to go get an actual basic. For instance, in G/W Elves, often Windswept Heath could be used to get a basic Forest or a Basic Plains, so as to avoid the shock of a Ravnica Dual land. But if you are running the enemy colored fetches, your fetchland won’t be capable of getting both of them, only one. If you run four G/X fetches, and four W/X fetches, you won’t be able to get a Plains with the G/X fetch. I predict we’ll see a slight uptick in the number of shocklands that are actually shocking players, potentially making Zoo or Burn strategies slightly better.

Speaking of Burn, LightningBolt.dec may actually be viable as a Boros Concoction with Lightning Helix, Char, Lightning Bolt, Flame Javelin, Rift Bolt, Shock, Tarfire, Shard Volley, Incinerate and more all being options worth looking at. Browbeat, Seal of Fire, and maybe even Intimidation Bolt are probably also decent options.

Sorry, back on topic, in Standard these are obviously an upgrade to Terramorphic Expanse. As Patrick Chapin has mentioned, these work extremely well with the new M10 duals, as a fetchland turn 1 turns on all of your M10 duals. I expect the new default for tri-color manabases will look something like this Jund Example:

4 Savage Lands
4 G/B fetchland
4 Rootbound Crag
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Forest
4 Swamp

That is a clean and solid base on which to start a tri-color deck. More importantly, the chances of landing a turn 2 Putrid Leech remain acceptably high. You have 12 sources of each color before you even add in the extra fixing and thinning capabilities of the fetchlands. I’m not sure how easily one will be able to build a 5-color manabase, but three or less colors seems to be quite doable. Personally, I’m excited to see if Counter-Burn will be a viable tempo deck in the format.

Moving on, let’s take a moment to talk about linear versus creative building. Lorwyn was obviously a very linear block, with it’s clear and easy to follow tribal synergies creating power for you, in the vein of Faeries, Kithkin, Elves and Merfolk all having excellent showings along the way. However, the eventual powerhouse of Five-Color Control was built out of creativity amidst the linear thought. Finding the very subtle synergy between Vivid lands and Reflecting Pool taught us that Linear strategies may be powerful, but are also typically a known entity by R&D, and thus kept in check throughout the development process, Bitterblossom notwithstanding. With all this in mind, take a look at Blade of the Bloodchief


Okay, let’s take a look at this from every angle we can.

Set Number: First off, its number 196 out of 249. It’s probably one of the very first Artifacts in the set, and Arid Mesa, the Red/White fetchland is number 211, and probably the first land, meaning we should expect about 15 artifacts for the set.

Mana Cost: We’re looking at a 1 drop, something that will help us out as an early drop for later, and still be useful later in the game. We know that Vampires will be pushed as a tribe, and having this out early may be very important. However, much like Figure of Destiny or Umezawa’s Jitte, this is still useful mid-game, and won’t throw off the mana curve too badly. There could easily be extra opportunities to use this in conjunction with the normal course of your turn.

Equipment: Something that will be sticking around for a while, being an artifact means we may see use for it in Extended. I’ll extrapolate on that more in the potential uses section, but being an artifact gives us a lot more durability and staying power than an enchantment, or even a creature. Removal for artifacts is very slim, and Bant Charm is about the only viable removal right now. Of course, that may change as the format changes, but the fact that unlike Jitte, this won’t be legend ruled out, and can be used in multiples. Often, the best removal for Jitte was your own Jitte, but not so here.

Equip Cost: Again, a low equip cost means that we could potentially be using this to good effect sooner than later.

Rarity: This is a Rare, so expect it to go in the $2-3 range, possibly higher as it becomes more popular. If Baneslayer Angel gets played as much as she should, people may be turning to Black for Doom Blade, and that may mean some sort of Vampire deck. Unfortuately, that may become an expensive tribe to play, as there are already more than a few Rare or Mythic Rare Vampires spoiled at MTGSalvation.

Effect: This is not temporary pump, this is counters. This means that the effect is permanent, or as permanent as you can make it. Does removal still wreck you? Yes, but Sleep doesn’t, nor does Blinding Mage, or any other temporary effect.

Synergies: Well, it obviously points to a strong Vampire theme. If it’s on a vampire, it’s twice as good in the effect of placing counters on the creature. But also, look at the synergy with Vampire Aristocrat. Every creature you sacrifice to the Aristocrat is now +4/+4 if this is equipped to it. Depending on what sorts of Token production we see, this could be similar in explosiveness to Ravager in its ability to just decimate an opponent out of nowhere. Imagine this hypothetical series of turns.

Turn 1: Blade of the Bloodchief
Turn 2: Child of Night
Turn 3: Vampire Aristocrat, swing with Child of Night for 2 (18)
Turn 4: Spectral Procession, equip Blade of the Bloodchief, swing with Aristocrat for potentially 18 (0)

Now, of course Spectral isn’t legal, and the Black/ White mana isn’t good enough to pull off such a play right now, but there will doubtless be other synergistic combos to use with this. Another potential combo is in Extended Affinity, where each creature sacrifice can add more +1/+1 counters towards the lethal swing. I haven’t tested it out yet, but there’s some potential there that may push affinity up with Zoo as Extended Aggro deck to beat. I imagine it will fly under the radar until someone finds just the right way to tune the deck, and then will become the hated out agro deck, like the Kithkin of this past summer.

For instance, I played against an Affinity deck with Atog last extended season that lost game three by going all in on Atog. Now, my removal was Path to Exile, but still, Extended is a format with things like Cryptic Command now, and an effect that lasts well past your turn is good. Also, this can keep your guys out of burn range, or more importantly, make your burn even better. Imagine a Red/ Black Vampire Burn deck that uses burn to clear the way and pump. Siege-Gang Commander seems like a good top end for this deck, with its ability to use each goblin and 2 mana for a potential of 4 +1/+1 counters each. There are a lot of synergies out there for this card, and I for one am excited to find a few ways to use it well.

Looking at Zendikar, One of the obvious synergies is with Bloodghast, which keeps coming back into play as long as you play a land (and with haste to boot) and you can feel free to keep running him into blockers to grow your other Vampires.

Given the name, I’m also not surprised to find that it has synergy with Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet. His Activated ability reads “{BBB} {T}: Destroy target creature. If that creature is put into a graveyard this way, put a black Vampire creature token onto the battlefield. Its power is equal to that creature’s power and its toughness is equal to that creature’s toughness.” Each time you use that, you’re setting yourself up for two +1/+1 counters on Kalitas. Same thing each time you use a Doom Blade or Hideous End. There’s also a few new creatures that do some destroying of their own when they hit the battlefield.

Come to think of it, I’m quite excited to use this in a Red Black deck. Let’s try to brew one. I really wish Bitterblossom were legal to make tokens. Ah well.

Vam-Pyre Burn

4 Blade of the Bloodchief
3 Vampire Aristocrat
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Siege-Gang Commander
3 Vampire Lacerator
4 Bloodghast
4 Goblin Assault
3 Vampire Nocturnus
4 Child of Night
4 Doom Blade
2 Arid Mesa
2 Misty Rainforest*
2 Verdant Marsh*
2 Obsidian Flats*
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Swamp
4 Mountain
2 Savage Lands
2 Crumbling Necropolis

The land base should keep opponents confused long enough to throw them off guard, although we may want to up the basic count by one or two and lower either the fetchland count, or the tri-land count. Probably the tri-land count, as they come into play enter the battlefield tapped. This is a rough first build, but I think as more of Zendikar is revealed, we can definitely make this an early aggro contender in the Standard Metagame.

Well, that’s all we have for this time. Let me know what you think of this new equipment

Until next time, this is Jeff Phillips, reminding you: Don’t make the Loser Choice.

* Tentative name, courtesy of MTGSalvation.com