Welcome to the second week of Battle for Zendikar previews! Fall set reviews are always a little different, so let’s begin with a refresher course
on my Battle for Zendikar philosophies:
-Fall sets have lower prices because they are the most opened expansion of the year. Battle for Zendikar will have even lower prices than normal
because of the Expeditions, which will remain expensive. There is very little financial upside to go around, so we have to be more conservative than
-It’s very hard for a Magic card to be worth more than the pre-order price unless it becomes a staple in multiple decks. We’re looking for Den Protectors
and Hangarback Walkers-cards with the upside to see play in two or three good decks at once. Cards with single-deck upside aren’t going to provide you with
a very good return even if they pan out.
-We’re also looking for properly valued staples that are likely to provide you with stability during their time in Standard. No one made money pre-ordering
Thoughtseize at $20 when Theros came out, but I doubt anyone who bought or traded for their copies right away felt bad about the decision, either.
This becomes especially important when trading during the next few weeks, when it will be possible to ship an overinflated BFZ card for one that’s likely
to hold its value.
-Don’t be fooled by any price spikes that happen during the first few weeks of the format’s legality. Last September, Mantis Rider was $8 and Wingmate Roc
was $20. Sell or trade these spiking cards as fast as you can.
-When in doubt, trade Battle for Zendikar cards for Khans block or Eternal cards of equal value. Older cards are more likely to hold
Now that I’ve tempered your expectations enough, let’s get to the cards themselves. Despite my belief that Battle for Zendikar‘s prices will be
quite low overall, there are quite a lot of very powerful Standard cards worth talking about:
Kiora, Master of the Depths – $19.99
My Simic heart beat a little faster when I first saw Kiora. Stunning art! Thassa’s Bident! Three giant octopi that will fight for you! Kiora is my personal
favorite card in the set and it’s not close.
Financially, though, there’s no possible way that Kiora will justify her $20 pre-order price tag. It almost doesn’t matter what her text box says – a
four-mana planeswalker that requires both blue and green mana is too narrow to become a multi-deck staple.
I don’t doubt that Kiora will show up in Standard from time to time. Her plus-one ability is strong in a ramp deck (and with Jace, and with Hangarback
Walker…), and the card advantage from her minus-two ability can take over on a pressure-light board. Her loyalty is surprisingly high as well, especially
compared to the last time we saw Kiora. She doesn’t protect herself all that well, though, nor does she help all that much when you’re behind. Even at her
best, Kiora isn’t going to be a four-of in more than one or two decks. In this set, that’s a $7-$10 card.
Ob Nixilis Reignited – $19.99
Ob Nixilis’ path to stardom largely depends on how powerful the control strategies end up being in BFZ Standard. We’ve been living in a midrange world
recently, but I’d be shocked if there isn’t at least a somewhat playable U/B or Abzan Control list in the new metagame. Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is still a
thing. So are Languish, Siege Rhino, and Dig Through Time.
Your five mana planeswalker had better be doing something good, though, and Ob Nixilis appears to fail that test at first glance. ‘Destroy a creature’ was
better in the years before Hangarback Walker, and getting a Phyrexian Arena activation every turn off your five mana card is not exactly game-breaking.
Ob Nixilis’ deceptive strength lies in its loyalty, which starts at five and can ramp straight to six. That’s not quite Gideon Jura territory, but it’s
enough to pose serious problems as a long-term removal and card advantage engine. The emblem is no joke, either, especially as an alternate win condition
in a very grindy deck. Ob Nixilis provides both power and card advantage regardless of whether you’re ahead or behind, and he protects himself well. The
fact that both Luis Scott-Vargas and Patrick Chapin believe that this card will be a player in Standard clinches it for me-when in doubt, follow the lead
of people who are smarter than you.
Ob Nixilis might spike a little once people realize how good he is (he’s being underrated at the moment), but I can’t see the card being worth more than
$10-$15 long term. Too many Battle for Zendikar packs will be opened, and I can’t see any deck wanting to run more than two or maybe three copies
of this. I also doubt we’ll see Ob show up en masse in more than two good decks, further limiting his upside.
Undergrowth Champion – $9.99
On one hand, Undergrowth Champion can become very large very quickly thanks to fetchlands and mana ramp. It can be fetched with Collected Company and
Woodland Bellower. It can block an Eldrazi for days without breaking a sweat. It is nearly impossible to kill in combat. It’s difficult to kill with a burn
It’s also a 2/2 for 1GG that is embarrassing late in the game.
Many people are dismissing Undergrowth Champion out of hand, and the most common comment on it has been, “why is this even a mythic rare?” While the card
isn’t as splashy as Ob Nixilis or Kiora, I wouldn’t be surprised if it finds utility as part of the Eldrazi Ramp or Abzan Midrange deck. Playing a
fetchland into a ramp spell the turn after you drop this isn’t out of the question, and ending up with a 5/5 that can start to pressure your opponent or
block for days is pretty spicy. Creatures are far better now than they were ten years ago, but Vinelasher Kudzu and Phantom Nishoba both saw play in their
If I’m right, though, the upside for this card is still only $7-$10, which makes buying in now a pretty silly proposition. If I’m wrong, this card will be
$1.50 by the end of October. At $10, I’m trading these away.
Greenwarden of Murasa – $7.99
Wizards of the Coast has been generous to green mages lately. We have so many Eternal Witnesses! Greenwarden of Murasa is a three-for-one Witness that’s
almost impossible to miss on, so it warrants some serious consideration.
Greenwarden’s biggest downside is that most decks will probably choose to run Den Protector instead. The megamorph is both cheaper and more versatile. This
card is no slouch, though. It trades with Siege Rhino (though it doesn’t survive Languish), and it plays remarkably well with See the Unwritten.
Worst case, Greenwarden of Murasa is one of those cards that is going to show up in green-based Commander and causal lists from now until the end of time.
A relevant body that regrows two cards and can be blinked for value is outstanding. This is the only card in the set that I personally pre-ordered, because
I knew I’d have a home for them in my casual arsenal even if it doesn’t pan out in Standard.
I think Greenwarden of Murasa will show up in Standard, though, potentially in both See the Unwritten ramp and as a value creature in Abzan decks. Add that
to its mythic rarity and casual goodness and you end up with a card with $10-$12 upside. This card’s floor is only about $3, too. I loved the buy-in when
this card started at $5, but it’s less exciting at $8. For now, call me cautiously optimistic that Greenwarden of Murasa can maintain its current price
Lumbering Falls – $4.99
Lumbering Falls is very good. U/G is one of the better color combinations for Eternal play, and hexproof is an underrated Constructed ability. Lumbering
Falls will see play in Standard, where Awaken spells will turn this into an unkillable monster in the end game. Lumbering Falls will also see play in
Modern, where it will be a less powerful Celestial Colonnade for decks that value the upside more than the (minimal) drawback.
For the first year or so that this card is available, though, its price will adjust almost entirely based on how good U/G is in the Standard metagame. If
one of the top decks is heavily U/G, (not out of the question considering green’s current power level and blue’s historic power level) we could see
Lumbering Falls closer to the $7-$9 range. If Worldwake not, the floor on this card is $2-$3.
$5 is close to the top end of what the creature-lands were worth when they were Standard legal, though it’s worth remembering that prices in that set were
majorly warped thanks to Jace, the Mind Sculptor and (a little later on) Stoneforge Mystic. If Lumbering Falls had been in Magic Origins, I’d be
predicting a price closer to $10 or $15. As is, $5 is probably a reasonable median. There will probably be chances to get it cheaper, but its long-term
upside is high thanks to Eternal play. If you think you’ll be heavily using these for the next half-decade-and many of us will–pre-ordering at $5 is
Shambling Vent – $4.99
Much of what I wrote about Lumbering Falls applies to Shambling Vent too. It’s not quite as powerful in Modern and B/W isn’t quite as good a color
combination, but it could actually see more play in Standard and could still see some eternal play as well. All of these lands have a high floor and a good
long-term spec profile. If you need to own a set of these now, go nuts.
Void Winnower – $4.99
The obvious comparison here is Iona, Shield of Emeria, but Void Winnower can’t shut off an entire deck (or an entire suite of removal) like the annoying
Angel can. It’s possible that the metagame will conveniently line up in a way that makes Void Winnower pretty annoying to deal with, but I expect the BFZ
ramp decks to be a little more proactive. Void Winnower might find home in Modern Tron against Splinter Twin, but that would likely be as a sideboard one-
or two-of. Void Winnower’s future home is probably Commander, where it’ll paint a very large target on your head until it’s dealt with. I see this mythic
hanging out in the $2.50 range-not bulk, but not expensive, either.
Zada, Hedron Grinder – $3.99
I love Zada’s design, and I’m already dreaming about ways to build around it in Commander. I just can’t imagine a Standard environment where it will see
any play. For Zada to be good, you need to establish your board, pressure your opponent, play Zada, attack with Zada and the rest of your army, and then
play a combat trick on Zada. That’s an awful lot of hoops to jump through for a 3/3.
Of course, enough people disagree with me to pump the price all the way up to $4. Between Goblin fans, Ally fans, and people anticipating a Standard where
going wide with a dozen spawn tokens is viable, Zada could remain popular enough on the fringes to keep the retail price in the $1-$2 range despite the
card not seeing competitive play. Foils should be at least $6-$8 regardless, especially because Zada makes for an intriguing Goblins or mono-red commander.
Akoum Firebird – $3.99
WotC hasn’t made a good mythic Phoenix in a while (ever?), but that hasn’t stopped them from trying. Akoum Firebird is their latest attempt, and I still
don’t see it. Akoum Firebird isn’t awful, but there’s a lot of competition in the red four-drop slot and I can’t see anyone running this over, say,
Thunderbreak Regent. That might change if the format ends up being really grindy and a 3/3 hasted flyer that keeps coming back after turn 6 is the
direction that red aggro wants to go in, but that’s a long shot at best. For now, I’d say Akoum Firebird is likely to be flapping toward the bulk mythic
bin before long.
Smothering Abomination – $2.49
I don’t know how, and I don’t know where, and I don’t know by whom, but Smothering Abomination will be broken. “Sacrifice a creature: draw a card” is too
powerful to ignore, and the fact that it comes attached to a 4/3 flying beater means that even a soft card advantage-y combo in, say, B/R could work.
Flamewake Phoenix, perhaps? Bloodsoaked Champion? Exploit creatures? Just a ton of Eldrazi tokens?
I had Smothering Abomination as a strong buy at $1, but it’s now at $2.50 and rising. Value is going to be hard to come by in this set, and I don’t like
this as a spec purchase unless the price drops back toward $1.50 – $2. At $3 or more, it’d need to see play in in a tier one deck for you to be able to
make a profit, and I’m not confident enough in the card to recommend that.
I do think that Smothering Abomination foils will prove to be a very good long-term buy, regardless of how the card does in Standard. This is a powerhouse
in Commander and a casual combo player’s dream. I’ll be buying a set of foils at the very least if the foil debuts anywhere under $10.
Bring to Light – $1.99
Bring to Light has a whiff of ‘combulk’ to me-I’m not sure it’ll find an immediate home, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be broken somewhere down the line.
It might see some play in Eternal formats where it can tutor up cards from the Living End cycle or any last little combo piece, but I have trouble
believing that a five-mana U/G sorcery will be the answer in Modern or Legacy. It even took Ad Nauseam quite a while to become popular.
In Standard, you probably need to be playing at least four colors before Bring to Light becomes worth running. That’s certainly possible, especially if
Converge means that Oath of the Gatewatch becomes a spiritual sequel to Fifth Dawn (Sixth Dawn?). That’s going to be relevant in one good
deck at most, though, which means that Bring to Light probably doesn’t have much upside beyond the $2-$3 range.
In Commander, Bring to Light is close to an auto-include in every five-color deck, and it’s worth at least considering in any three-color deck that runs
Simic colors. Foils under $10 should hold their value, and there’s some delicious long-shot upside if Bring to Light ends up mattering in Modern or Legacy.
If you’re a believer in Bring to Light, that’s where I’d focus my energy.
Planar Outburst – $1.99
Move over, End Hostilities! Planar Outburst is here, and it’s, like, a tiny bit better! Planar Outburst will probably make the cut as a two-of here and
there as well as a sideboard card in various control decks, but five-mana board wipes with marginal upside are just a tad slow to become format-defining
staples. There might be weeks when Planar Outburst is relevant enough to hit $3.50 or $4, but it’ll probably be $1-$2 most of the time. Grab a few at $2 if
you think you’ll need them and don’t want to worry, but it will likely stay just above bulk for most of its time in Standard.
Desolation Twin – $1.99
Desolation Twin would warrant ramp consideration in a different format, but I can’t see it winning in a direct competition against Ulamog, Dragonlord
Atarka, and whatever else we end up getting in the seven+ mana range. If Desolation Twin had an enters the battlefield effect that could be easily abused
I’d be much higher on it, but having to actually cast the card to get a second token doesn’t help. This has the look of a $1 ‘just above bulk’ card that
might hit $3-$4 a few years down the line thanks to causal interest. Feel free to ignore it for now.
Felidar Sovereign – $1.99
Felidar Sovereign became enough of a ‘deal-with-me-or-lose’ card in Commander that the price had been circling around the $10 mark. It was a mythic rare,
though, and the downgrade in BFZ really hurts. We already know that Felidar Sovereign is a zero in competitive play, so it’ll probably hit bulk rare range
sooner or later. It might be a nice long-term buy at fifty cents, but I wouldn’t touch it before it hits that mark.
Shrine of the Forsaken Gods – $1.99
Shrine of the Forsaken Gods is worse than Eldrazi Temple, but it still might see some play in the Eldrazi Ramp deck. It could hit $3-$4 if that deck is 1)
very good and 2) wants to run four copies of Shrine, but that’s not enough upside to interest me. It’s more likely that Shrine of the Forsaken Gods will
settle in closer to a buck, so I’m leaving it alone for now.
Brutal Expulsion – $1.99
I like easy two-for-ones, and Brutal Expulsion certainly qualifies. This isn’t quite Venser, Shaper Savant, but it doesn’t need to be in order to see play.
In practice, this is a part of the command cycle with three modes:
–Remand a spell or…
-Bounce a creature, and/or…
-Deal two damage to a creature or planeswalker. If it dies, exile it.
This puts Brutal Expulsion in closer company with Ojutai’s Command than Kolaghan’s Command. You’re paying an extra mana (two or three, in some cases)
beyond what these effects would cost as separate cards. That doesn’t make Brutal Expulsion unplayable, but I doubt we’re going to see it show up in Modern,
either. At three mana, it would be a multi-format powerhouse. At four, it’ll be a player in a Standard Jeskai Aggro deck that might occasionally bleed over
toward control. $2 seems reasonable to me, and there’s a small amount of upside at that price, but the CMC and restrictive mana cost will prevent it from
going too much higher. Feel free to buy a set if you’re going to use them right away, but speculators should stay away.
From Beyond – $1.99
I’m going to need several copies of From Beyond for my various green Commander decks, and this is undoubtedly going to be a very popular kitchen table
card. In Standard, I suspect that From Beyond is going to be too slow most of the time. Infinite chump blockers that come attached to a tutor that also
make you mana when you sacrifice them is great, but playing a four-drop that doesn’t do anything for a turn is a good way to find yourself falling behind
against an aggressive start. I can see it as sideboard tech in a mirror match, or perhaps as a two-of if the format shakes out right, but that’s a $3 card
at most. More likely, From Beyond will drop to $1 and will mostly be wanted by casual players.
Conduit of Ruin – $1.50
Will the most efficient 5-6 mana ramp enabler please stand up? Oblivion Sower was my pick last week, but Conduit of Ruin might actually be better. A 5/5
for six isn’t bad – I lauded Greenwarden of Murasa for similar stats – and this creature also comes with a tutor and a mana reduction attached. Ramping
into Conduit, searching up an Eldrazi, and casting it right away at a two mana discount seems great. This would probably be a Standard staple if it could
fetch non-colorless creatures, but as is I’ve still got my eye on it. If Conduit of Ruin ends up a ramp deck staple, it’ll be a $3-$4 rare. If not, it’s
heading toward bulk. I’m not buying because the upside is so low, but $1.50 is an okay price if you want to start brewing and you think that this card is
Fathom Feeder – $1.25
Fathom Feeder is a pretty wordy card, so let’s scratch some of the text away and see what we’re left with. I don’t care much about Devoid, and none of the
stuff about ingesting libraries and milling people seems all that useful. That leaves us with the following card:
Fathom Feeder – UB
3UB: Draw a card.
Is this a playable card? It’s certainly worth considering, right? Typhoid Rats isn’t a good Constructed Magic card, but a Typhoid Rats that can draw you
cards in the lategame is a lot better. I wouldn’t be surprised if a U/B Control deck made use of Fathom Feeder, which would probably put it in the $2-$3
range. If you can grab a set of these for a $1 each, you might end up with a nice second tier playable.
I haven’t seen any reason to believe that Allies will show up in 60-card decks yet. If so, I might be eating crow on some of these bulk rares. Grabbing
them at a buck if you’re a believer is fine, but I’m going to leave them alone for now.
This Week’s Trends
– Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy continues to climb, while Nissa, Vastwood Seer keeps dropping. I like Jace a lot, and I think he’ll continue to be one of the most
powerful cards in Standard (he’s showing up in Modern, too), but it’s hard for any card in Standard to sustain a price tag above $40. It’s fine to start
trading these away if you’re not using them, but okay to keep if you are. The Nissa hate might be a little premature, too. Battle for Zendikar is
full of cards that reward you for ramping, remember, and Nissa is a major threat attached to a pretty useful ramp card. I’d start thinking about picking
some of these up if you want to play green next month.
– The See the Unwritten price spike has stuck, at least for now. Even as the speculation copies continue to flood the market, people keep buying these in
the $8 range thanks to BFZ hype. If See the Unwritten actually does end up in a tier one deck, the card could spike again, too. I’m holding onto at least
one set for now.
– Standard tumblers: Dragonlord Ojutai, Kytheon, Hero of Akros, Collected Company, Exquisite Firecraft, Abbot of Keral Keep, and Languish. Keep your eye on
all of these cards during the first few weeks of BFZ Standard-they’re all powerful cards that could be tier one staples in the new format. Cards like this
have more upside than the BFZ rares they’ll undoubtedly be surrounded by because very few packs of these sets will be opened from here on out.
– I would buy a playset of Dragonlord Atarka instead of pre-ordering any cards from BFZ. Just saying.
– The Modern index continues to drop as the community’s focus is pulled toward Standard. I expect prices to fall by another 5-10% as winter approaches with
a nadir close to the end of the year. Selling Modern cards now is fine if you want to buy back in a few months from now. Otherwise, just hold until next
The exception to that rule: Sedge Sliver. Adam Bowman took Collected Company Slivers to an 8th-place finish at the Open Series in Cincinnati last weekend,
causing the Time Spiral rare to spike to $10. It’s a cute deck, but I’d like to see a few more results before I start to consider it a real player
in Modern. I’d sell Sedge Sliver into the spike, but I do like Aether Vial long term-it keeps finding different homes and rising in price, something that
will remain true regardless of how this particular deck performs in the future.
– From Friday’s ‘Latest Developments’ on DailyMTG, Sam Stoddard writes, “We knew that Zendikar was about land, and that we would need landfall
back. But we wanted to do it in a way that felt different than the first time and wouldn’t make Standard be all about landfall for eighteen months
straight. To solve this, the first thing we did when we knew we were going back to Zendikar was to place the fetchlands in a set that was far enough away
that they would not overlap in Standard for the entire lifespan of Battle for Zendikar.”
I have been predicting that we would see the Zendikar fetches come back in the set right after Khans of Tarkir rotates, but now I don’t
think that will happen. We could be looking at least eighteen months without the Zendikar fetches, which might mean another round of price spikes
next Modern season.
The lack of Zendikar fetches might also mean a major shift in how Standard manabases work once Khans of Tarkir rotates. We’ll lose
tri-lands, fetches, and the ability to snag the Battle lands with said fetches. Unless the next block’s fixing is dynamite, the entire axis of Standard
could shift from a wedge-based format where splashing is easy to one with mostly two-colored decks again. That’s far in the future, but it’s worth keeping