Battle For Zendikar: White, Black, Red!

Patrick returns to put a bow on his Battle for Zendikar brewing series! If you want a deck for #SCGIndy, as always, Patrick has dozens!

We’ve got a ton of ground to cover today, so I want to jump right into brewing with the new cards from Battle for Zendikar. Discussion on the blue
cards can be found here, and green cards here.

There was originally an unfortunate error in Wednesday’s article that did not list the Abzan Midrange deck in question. It has since been fixed; however,
in case you missed it, here’s the list in question:

The planeswalkers are great. The lands are great.

Some astute readers pointed out that all of these cards are black and white (not to mention Ruinous Path and Transgress the Mind). Might it be time for an
Orzhov comeback? Now that there are all kinds of lands we can use, there’s a meaningful alternative to just splashing green for Siege Rhino.

This list, like its ancestor from PT Dublin, is a bit schizophrenic. It’s got some cheap aggressive creatures, but it also uses them for defensive
purposes, to try to bridge to the planeswalker component of the deck.

Silkwrap has improved a lot with the rotation. There is less incidental enchantment hate, now Courser and company are gone. There’s also a lot of value to
exiling small creatures right now, namely Hangarback Walker. Bile Blight is gone, and Ultimate Price isn’t as good as it used to be. I’d totally be okay
with playing more Silkwraps, but we have so many two-drops, we don’t need to. We could even get away with not playing it, but it’s nice when Knight of the
White Orchid can be a three-drop and followed up with another two that same turn.

Mortuary Mire did not survive the transition, as tapped lands that don’t make white are a nonbo with Knight of the White Orchid. Besides, most of this
deck’s threats are planeswalkers, anyway.

However, Blighted Fen is great! It’s untapped land for the early and middle turns, but then later, can be cashed in for a powerful spell like effect.
Having answers to Dragonlord Ojutai is great, but mainly it just lets us get away with playing enough land to consistently hit our mana early, without
flooding out later. It’s a little bit of a bummer that we can’t use it to cash in our Hangarback Walker, making it basically the first card in the history
of Magic to not combo with the ubiquitous two-drop.

Gideon and Sorin combo with each other a lot of different ways. Gideon’s Allies make for a lot of bodies to pump with Sorin. Gideon as a 5/5 gains a lot of
life from Sorin’s lifelink ability. Gideon’s emblem can make the the Vampires Sorin made into much bigger threats. Both are fantastic with Hangarback

Ob Nixilis makes us want to play a little more lifegain than usual, but Sorin, Seeker of the Way, Shambling Vent, and Scoured Barrens are all great
options, so that’s not hard. If we had more token-making, Blighted Steppe would not be out of the question.

I was working on a mono-black control deck, but found there’s just not nearly enough reason to stay straight black. White would give us access to a great
creatureland that does what we need, multiple powerful planeswalkers, and a better assortment of removal. Without Gray Merchant, why stay straight black?
We might get to play with half a dozen colorless lands and a playset of Mortuary Mires, but that’s about it; and that doesn’t even play that nicely with
Erebos’s Titan.

Erebos’s Titan does combo nicely with Grave Birthing, however. Sure, a lot of the time they will be able to exile a fetchland, but if we’re just playing
the Grave Birthing anyway (perhaps with Wasteland Strangler and Blight Herder), it’s a play that will come up from time to time.

Most of the reason to play mono-black, I suppose, is to have consistent, untapped lands in the first two turns. This takes us towards Mono-Black Aggro:

Bloodsoaked Champion is awesome, but having to play Mardu Shadowspear and Thornbow Archer is disappointing. At least they each deal two a turn, I guess.

Despoiler of Souls and Hangarback Walker make the two-slot a lot more exciting; and perhaps there should be less bad one-drops, more two-drops. Mardu
Skullhunter, Sultai Emissary, and more Silumgar Assassins are all options.

The reason to play the deck, Drana is a very powerful card and much harder to kill than she would have been in the old format. If she connects even once,
you are really doing it. Flying makes this easy, and first strike means her counters buff your team before they deal damage.

Another possible direction go with Drana is in G/B Elves. She may not be an Elf, herself, but she sure works great with big armies, and they appreciate a

The manabase uses Smoldering Marsh and Cinder Glade to make Bloodstained Mire and Wooded Foothills capable of fixing both colors, following the rule that
enemy-colored pairs should use fetchlands of the color they both share as an ally. Polluted Delta can’t find green mana, and Windswept Heath can’t find
black mana.

Interestingly, a lot of Elves in Battle for Zendikar are also Allies. Drana is an Ally…

Literally every single creature spell in this deck is an Elf, aside from Drana, which makes Shaman of the Pack an effective source of reach. However,
there’s also 24 Allies, making Tajuru Warcaller a lethal threat.

Remember, the Warcaller’s ability powers up your entire team, not just your Allies. All by itself, it’s 2/3rds of an Overrun, and if you untap with it, you
will often get another +2/+2 or +4/+4, particularly since you can use Ally Encampment to bounce Beastcaller Savant for an extra trigger.

Ally Encampment helps ensure we can cast Drana on time, despite her double black cost, as well as supporting the Skyrider Elf splash and ensuring that
Tajuru Stalwart is always fully pumped. It also gives us a way to cash in extra lands to generate some action.

A 3/4 for three is a very modest body in Constructed for a creature with no other abilities. It has both of the right types, but if we decide to not be
crazy people that play zero removal spells, we should probably look to cut these.

Skyrider Elf, on the other hand, is a quality card, since a 2/2 flier for two is already not that far off, and it can also be a 3/3 flier for three, a 4/4
flier for four, and even a 5/5 flier for five (thanks to Ally Encampment and Beastcaller Savant); not to mention having both of the right creature types.

It’s nice having so many flying threats, particularly with the Warcaller to power them up and Shaman of the Pack to finish our opponents off. A fun play to
keep in mind is using Ally Encampment late, to bounce the 2/2 flier we played on turn 2, letting us recast it as a 5/5.

This one, I actually like, but realistically, we may need to cut these, as well. There are probably too many expensive cards in this list, and Grovetender
Druid is probably the weakest of the bunch. I still want to find a home for this card, since I feel like it’s better than people might guess. There’s
probably just too many four and five-cost token making options, though.

Unified Front is a serious pay-off, as four tokens for four mana is already totally reasonable (particularly when you play Drana), but when combined with
Tajuru Warcaller, is typically an instant win from either side.

Turn 2 Leaf-Gilder

Turn 3 Shaman of the Pack

Turn 4 Unified Front

Turn 5 Tajuru Warcaller, attack for 21!


Turn 2: Leaf Gilder

Turn 3: Shaman of the Pack

Turn 4: Tajuru Warcaller

Turn 5: Unified Front, attack for 31!

That’s right, if you ever get to cast Unified Front with a Warcaller on the battlefield, your entire team gets +8/+8! However, just dropping Warcaller and
a second Ally in the same turn is a big game. Beastcaller Savant, in particular, is an excellent follow-up to Tajuru Warcaller if you have seven mana. Not
only do you give your team +4/+4, the Savant has haste, so it gets to add three more damage to the table.

While the Beastcaller doesn’t help cast Unified Front, it does everything else, and the haste is actually meaningful both for attacking and for letting us
make two plays in a single turn. For instance, let’s imagine we play a Leaf Gilder on turn 2, hoping to play Dwynen’s Elite next turn. Our opponent Wild
Slashes it–but we follow it up with a Beastcaller Savant into Dwynen’s Elite that turn. That adds four more power to the table, but also sets up a 5/5
flying Skyrider Elf or Tajuru Elite next turn.

Of course, if we’re going to be looking at token-based strategies, we certainly need Atarka Red as a foundation. A lot of people like lists along the lines

Maybe this approach is the right way, but it doesn’t actually get to use any new cards in its maindeck at all, aside from Cinder Glade. The sideboard has
very little, either.

Boiling Earth is not a slam-dunk replacement for Scouring Sands, and it might just be that all Arc Lightnings is better, since we’re rarely going to have
enough mana to use the awaken ability.

Even if you don’t want to go all the way to R/G Landfall, you can incorporate a little bit of it easily.

Atarka’s Command has new meaning once you’ve got landfall cards like Retreat to Valakut, not to mention the power of playing a Looming Spires in the middle
of combat.

Business lands like Looming Spires are a great way to get away with playing 23-26 land in aggro decks, rather than just 20-22. It’s not just dealing one
extra damage, since it will often allow a creature to get through that would not have otherwise been able to attack at all.

The Battle lands ensure that we can actually splash any color we want, not just the allied colors. For instance:

Akoum Firebird is a reasonably powerful card that matches up extremely effectively against Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Ruinous Path, but poorly against
Abzan Charm and Stasis Snare. You generally want to have the hope of bringing it back eventually, in order to run it, but that doesn’t mean you need to hit
six on six. When the game stalls out, it’s a great way to keep your action going. It’s also a great way to take advantage of Sword of the Animist (which
we’re using primarily to trigger landfall extra times).

If we add white, instead of black, we might end up with a full-on Boros deck, rather than just a R/w deck:

Once we start adding white cards, we might as well as Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, since it works so well with Hordeling Outburst. I went with Seeker of the
Way over Soulfire Grand Master because of how little burn we’re playing, but it’s very easy to imagine wanting the Grand Masters as additional must-kill
threats going long.

I have not included it here, but we could also build towards Knight of the White Orchid to trigger landfall. Makindi Sliderunner is fine, but we’re
probably more likely to use Knight of the White Orchid in green landfall decks since it can tutor up Canopy Vista. Green also has access to Scythe Leopard,
Snapping Gnarlid, and Undergrowth Champion to make it more worth going to the trouble.

Speaking of Knight of the White Orchid

There are actually a number of other “red” aggro strategies, aside from landfall and tokens. For instance, we can put the new devoid “mechanic” to work:

Once again, we can easily just come to our senses and add a few Murderous Cuts or Ruinous Paths. However, the main thing I wanted to test here are the
“colorless matters” rewards. In addition to Ghostfire Blade and Tomb of the Spirit Dragon, we’ve got all kinds of new “devoid lords” from BFZ:

Nothing really too fancy here. The Eldrazi are apparently Slivers now, but with really weird numbers.

Dust Stalker hits pretty hard anyway, but putting it in a devoid deck takes away the “drawback.”

Another possible approach to red aggro is to actually make black the base color instead.

Black is a bit short on one-drops we actually want to play, but maybe if we go all the way up to Thunderbreak Regent and Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury, we
won’t care? I also just enjoy having more fliers to surround Drana with.

Drana is so hot with Hangarback Walker, but she’s also quite decent with Despoiler of Souls and Bloodsoaked Champion. Most one and two-drops would
trade with a lot of potential blockers, even with Drana’s +1/+1 counter. These two, however, come back for more, making blocking a lose-lose proposition.

There are so many possible paths to explore with Dragon-based strategies. Dragons of Tarkir really was a powerful set.

I’m not sure there’s enough reason to play Mono-Red, but there was a request for a Phoenix deck, and this one even made room for an Ashcloud Phoenix in the
sideboard. I wonder if we’re supposed to play Dragonmaster Outcast?

This one is a real hard one to call. I would guess that it’s too low impact in the early turns for a deck like this, but I wonder if there’s some kind of a
U/R Control deck that uses it?

Of course, maybe it’s supposed to be a sideboard card for decks that don’t have good Wild Slash targets (ie, not Jace decks…)

An interesting consequence of using Smoldering Marsh and Sunken Hollow in our U/R deck is the ability to produce a third color of mana for Radiant Flames.
That said, we could just add black and build Grixis Dragons, a strategy that didn’t have a consistent enough manabase until BFZ:

The Battleland + fetchland interaction really makes a lot of shard-colored decks more attractive, even when they don’t get any new maindeck spells. This
isn’t to say you can’t still play the faction colors from Khans, but the manabases are a lot less appealing. For instance, here’s a look at Mardu Dragons:

We sure are playing a lot of painlands, but at least we get Shambling Vent. Interestingly, four of the five Khans color combinations have access to a
creature-land. The only one missing out?

Jeskai has a lot of reasons to be into the color combination. Good mana is not one of them. It might be asking too much to play Silumgar’s Scorn, but I
sure like Counterspell

Bant would have better mana than Jeskai by far anyway, but this list doesn’t even play green cards, besides Dromoka, making Haven of the Spirit Dragon a
meaningful fixer.

We discussed Scatter to the Winds and Stasis Snare earlier in the week, but I want to talk about Quarantine Field for just a moment.

Quarantine Field is a Banishing Light that costs an extra white mana, but effectively has kicker 2. For six mana, you get two Banishing Lights, for eight
you get three, and so on. That may seem expensive, but you’re just paying the one mana up front for the option, and then when you actually have enough
mana, you get to put it to good use. In many ways, it’s like a better Silence the Believers. Having one in your deck to Dig to also gives you some really
nice options, going long. Just remember to try to avoid putting it in decks that rely on Ugin, the Spirit Dragon.

Depending on how risky we want to get, U/W Control gained another new victory condition that seems to be flying under the radar at the moment.

Emeria Shepherd may look relatively harmless, but she can take over the game completely, leaving opponents with little counterplay. Just remember to play
her as an eight drop (before playing your eighth mana). After she resolves, play a fetchland, and you get to Regrowth a non-land permanent. Then, sacrifice
the fetchland and put Ojutai or Dromoka directly into play from your graveyard. Now, they still have to kill Angel (or she’s going to keep doing this), but
you’re also up a Dragon and a card in hand (possibly even the other copy of Emeria!)

Emeria works great with Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, letting you get back whatever you looted away earlier. Remember, she can also get back Stasis Snare and
Silkwrap, if needed. If you moved away from the white enchantments and more towards Ugin, she can also get him back.

Remember to find Prairie Stream with Knight of the White Orchid, and that Prairie Stream will trigger Emeria the good way since it counts as a Plains.
Also, be careful not to play Canopy Vista on turn 1 if you want to be able to Silumgar’s Scorn on turn 2.

While the above list doesn’t make that great of use of Quarantine Field (Emeria can’t get it back very effectively), the following list actually pushes
Quarantine Field to the max:

Silkwrap, Stasis Snare, and Quarantine Field are an interesting way to fuel processors, such as Blight Herder. Now, even if they get destroyed, nothing
comes back! Titan’s Presence also exiles, which is important to remember against Hangarback Walker. Just don’t reveal your own Hangarback, as the target
would get -0/-0.

Quarantine Field is also hot with Shrine of the Forsaken Gods, Mage-Ring Network, Hedron Archive, and Knight of the White Orchid all adding to our mana
beyond the norm. While there are no blue cards in this maindeck, it’s such an easy splash, we might as well do it.

I’m just about out for the day, so let me know what cards or decks I missed this week, and I’ll be back Monday. However, I do have one last brew I wanted
to share on the day. It’s a little… well… wacky, but maybe there’s something to this concept or someone can find a way to build on it.

The concept here is to to play all colorless cards so that we get to play with 27 business lands. There is no question, this deck’s manabase is going to
outclass everyone else in the format by far. It’s not just that you’re never getting color-screwed, you’ve got 27 land so you’re hitting your drops, while
also having eight of them produce multiple mana and nineteen of them produce spell-like effects to ensure you aren’t without options.

The problem, of course, is that we have to play with all colorless spells. We do have Titan’s Presence and Ugin for removal, but that’s a bit lean. We’re
also short on acceleration, even with Hedron Archive, Conduit of Ruin, Shrine of the Forsaken Gods, Mage-Ring Network, and Spawning Pool. I wonder if we
can splash any two Allied colors, and support it with a manabase along the lines of:

4 Atarka Monument

4 Hedron Archive

4 Spawning Pool

4 Mage-Ring Network

4 Tomb of the Spirit Dragon

3 Sanctum of Ugin

4 Wooded Foothills

2 Cinder Glade

1 Mountain

1 Forest

Obviously, it wouldn’t be hard to add even more colored mana, whether by basics or possibly even by a Temur Banner! The point, however, is that there is a
lot of room outside the box to construct manabases in the new format.

If you can dream it, if you can see it in your imagination, it might be possible; even if no one has ever seen anything like it, and even if people doubt
it or think it’s stupid. Always remember:

Brilliant ideas are stupid ideas that worked.