Power is ultimately a creature’s most important stat. Having activated abilities, specific creature types, or a high toughness are great and all, but I
always try to judge a creature for how quickly it can kill my opponent in combat.
With that in mind, I have an exclusive preview card to show you from Battle for Zendikar, a card specifically designed to drive power into each
and every one of your other creatures, all with a simple land drop. Here it is: Guul Draz Overseer!
Part of a cycle that includes Akoum Hellkite, Guardian of Tazeem, and Oran-Rief Hydra, Guul Draz Overseer likes lands entering the battlefield under your
control, and she loves when those lands have a particular basic land type. Combined with fetchlands like Bloodstained Mire and Polluted Delta, you
can give your team an easy +3/+0 each turn with Guul Draz Overseer without actually casting another spell.
Now don’t get me wrong; Guul Draz Overseer’s ability is powerful, but it, like the other creatures from this cycle, comes with drawbacks. First, the
Overseer is pretty expensive–not only does that mean it’ll often be later in the game when you resolve this spell, but you’ll also have less of a chance
to draw a land, as more of them will be on the battlefield by the time you resolve it. As a 3/4 flying creature for six mana that has a chance to do
nothing else, we could almost always do better. Moreover, the Overseer seems best when you’re already winning. That is, the power boost is most likely
going to happen only on your turn, meaning you have to be in a position to attack with enough creatures that the nice global boost impactful, which you can
only do if the field is already pretty open to your attack.
Its converted mana cost puts it well above the top end of an aggro deck, which rarely gets above four mana, and even then, their four-drops generally win
the game, which this won’t always do. In reality, the Overseer is actually a seven-drop, meaning that you play it on six mana and then play your seventh
land for the turn to get immediate value.
So where does something like Guul Draz Overseer belong? How can the power be relevant enough to change the course of a game without just attacking with
your boosted team for severe overkill?
Blood-Chin Fanatic is a card I’ve had my eye on for months. When you sacrifice a Warrior with the Fanatic, it checks the power of the sacrificed creature
to calculate the life loss and lifegain you experience. With a temporary, non-spell boost from the Overseer, your flimsy Bloodsoaked Champion can become up
to a 5/1, assuming you play and sacrifice a Swamp-seeking fetchland, providing a ten-point life swing. A deck like this may not be as aggressive as typical
Warrior decks, so by playing defense and building up mana, we might be able to create a situation where combat may not be necessary at all.
Ready to build a deck of one-drops that don’t attack?
- 4 Chief of the Edge
- 4 Bloodsoaked Champion
- 4 Battle Brawler
- 2 Hidden Dragonslayer
- 4 Blood-Chin Fanatic
- 2 Guul Draz Overseer
The plan with a deck like this is to push the power of your creatures, block effectively when able, then, once enough mana has been assembled, you can
chain things like Bloodsoaked Champion reanimation and Blood-Chin Fanatic’s sacrifice ability to drain your opponent to death. If they’re not finding good
ways to block you, the redundant Glorious Anthem effects add up and make each wimpy creature reasonable in a scrap. Because we’re planning on blocking,
cards like Battle Brawler and Hidden Dragonslayer become much better, helping you keep a firmer hand on combat.
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar provides an instant, untargetable +1/+1 to your team forever, and Sorin performs a similar task. Sorin’s lifelink ability will
help keep you alive and allow an innocuous attack to put you out of burn range or a lethal crack back. Either planeswalker also deploys reasonable 2/2
tokens which you can use to block while you build your team of Warrior fodder.
Hedron Archive is one of my new favorite “mundane” cards from Battle for Zendikar; it’s been a long time since we’ve seen such a nicely priced
mana artifact. Roughly a double Mind Stone, this strictly better Ur-Golem’s Eye can help a simple aggro deck make the leap from four to six mana. When you
cast this on turn 4, you can untap, cast Guul Draz Overseer, then play a land–hopefully a Bloodstained Mire–to maximize combat. Otherwise, you can untap
with the Overseer, play some lands, then use the Archive to reduce the cost of your first Bloodsoaked Champion/Blood-Chin Fanatic combo to just two black
Secure the Wastes, a Warrior spell that’s often played just for its ability to efficiently spawn creatures, is a ringer with the Overseer, too. It’s turn 6
and your opponent just cast Planar Outburst. You can cast this where X is five at the end of your opponent’s turn, untap on turn 7, cast the Overseer, and
drop a Bloodstained Mire to recover a Swamp and swing for the win. Won’t happen all the time, but sometimes this effect can change the tide of
games in a hurry.
Guul Draz Overseer may not be the flashiest rare in Battle for Zendikar, but even these creatures that you might otherwise relegate to your binder
have a place in a fun, albeit casual deck for the new Standard. It’s important to note that the Overseer is a Vampire, and if the Vampire Nocturnus tribal
deck from several years ago taught us anything, it’s that Vampires like power.
How do you feel about this landloving bloodsucker?