Embracing The Chaos – Favorite 20 Zendikar Cards For EDH

read Sheldon Menery every week... at StarCityGames.com!
Thursday, October 1st – Zendikar is chock-full of treasures for your EDH deck. In fact, I might say that it’s the single best set for EDH ever. There are so many crazy things to do, so many strategic nooks and crannies to explore, that it was tough to even get down to 20, and that’s not even counting the fetchlands…

Zendikar is chock-full of treasures for your EDH deck. In fact, I might say that it’s the single best set for EDH ever. There are so many crazy things to do, so many strategic nooks and crannies to explore, that it was tough to even get down to 20, and that’s not even counting the fetchlands (which it would seem cheesy to list just to pad the count). There are certainly cards not listed here that I’ll probably also play.

I’ve picked my 20 favorite cards, and I’m listing them alphabetically because I’m just plain lazy (and I just got off a red-eye from San Francisco). I’ll tell you below which I actually think the best of the bunch. I’ll also tell you if I were to only have one copy, which of my decks it would go in.

I’d like to mention that Felidar Sovereign isn’t getting banned. Please do not panic. It’s not that good. I’m sure that, every now and again, someone will somehow get it into play on turn 3 and just win. Whatever.

Archmage Ascension

The six counters might be a little tricky to get to, but what else does the Blue mage do better than draw cards (and counter spells I guess)? Once you’re up and running on this one, you’re pretty much set. In an Azami deck, or combo’d with Mind’s Eye, the counters come pretty quickly, since it triggers on each turn, not just yours. Also goes well with Niv-Mizzet. Goes into my Lord of Tresserhorn deck.

Beastmaster Ascension

I was living in the Red Zone before Brian Kibler was born. Okay, that’s a little hyperbole, but you get my drift. I like to attack. I like to turn them sideways. Beastmaster Ascension triggers on every creature that attacks, so you can run up to seven counters in no time. This is a natural fit in Rith and token decks (and definitely goes into my Rith pile), since you might need only a single attack step to get all seven counters.

Bloodchief Ascension

Sensing a theme? I like the Ascensions. Again, living in the Red Zone pretty often, this one will get its fill of counters pretty quickly. Cards go to graveyards all the time, so I can imagine this one triggering usefully early and often. Will go into my Darigaaz deck, likely replacing Wound Reflection.

Eldrazi Monument

This is certainly one of my other picks for number 1. The obvious fit is for my Kresh deck that makes and Regrows creatures (the better to fling them at your face). Having something to help sacrifice them, so that I can then Regrow them with Oversold Cemetery while buffing up Kresh and doming people with Stalking Vengeance, is insane. Note that you can’t Regrow via Cemetery (or Genesis and its cousins) what you sacrifice to the Monument, since you have to target what you’re going to Regrow, and it’s obviously not in the yard yet. Also seems pretty tasty with Thraximundar. And did I mention all your guys are +1/+1, Flying, and Indestructible for only 5 mana? This will certainly rival Akroma’s Memorial as the best make-your-guys-cooler artifact (I already think it exceeds it, but I’d like to test that out).

Emeria, the Sky Ruin

Obviously, this requires a commitment to Plains, but with a two-color General and fetchlands, it should be pretty easy. In Mono-White, it’s just house. Getting a Karmic Guide chain working every upkeep will create positive card advantage. This, too, targets what you’re going to Regrow, so the creature has to be in the graveyard when the ability triggers in order to bring it back. Headed into Merieke, which will undergo some mana fixing as well (so I can get in all the tasty Plains I need).

Eternity Vessel

Gaining life is good. Gaining lots of life for no cost is even better. There are a few things that suggest themselves immediately to comboing with Eternity Vessel. The top three on my list so far are Ageless Entity, Sanguine Bond, and Well of Lost Dreams. Probably going into Phelddagrif, or some new deck based around life gain.

Gatekeeper of Malakir

Many decks play creatures you can’t target, or have creatures that are in some way protected. Like his friends the Edicts (Cruel, Chainer’s, Diabolic), the Gatekeeper gets you around such nastiness. Again, a great fit in either Kresh or Thraximundar. The small downside I see is that it needs to be kicked, so you can’t really run any Galepowder Mage tricks with it. Destined for my Thraximundar deck.

Iona, Shield of Emeria

The ability to close off one of someone’s colors is significant, especially since you’ll likely be hitting a color of more than one opponent. If you play this card with Painter’s Servant, I will call you many colorful names, none of which your grandma would like. I guess that’s where I draw my personal line. It’s okay to shut down a portion of someone’s game, but not the whole thing. The good news is that she can’t shut down artifacts. This perhaps will be going into Phelddagrif, although I don’t know what at this point to cut in favor of it.

Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet

Kill a dude/get a dude is delicious. I find “destroy target creature” lots more useful than “non-Black creature,” which is why Avatar of Woe and Visara the Dreadful are so good. A potential fly in this ointment is that the creature can be regenerated, and if it’s not put in the graveyard then you don’t get the token – which means that it’s not particularly good on Generals. Still, the two-creature swing, especially on a fattie, is better than just killing something. Remember that the token isn’t a copy, it counts the power and toughness of the creature you killed just before it went to the graveyard – so if it was buffed up by a Giant Growth or Mythic Proportions, your token is huge! I’d really like to put it into Kresh for obvious reasons, but it’s a little heavy mana-wise. I think it will more likely end up in Merieke, which has more of a control feel to it.

Lullmage Mentor

Azami decks can already get a little out of hand, and the fact that there are (according to Gatherer) 45 Merfolk Wizards, this guy seems like he could help them get a little sillier. Or, if you’re just playing Merfolk/tokens, you can have an emergency counterspell that’s an activated ability, not a spell (and hence not subject to other counterspells, unless they’re Voidslime and the like). I currently have no decks in which this would fit, but I will be on the lookout for this guy (mostly as a target to kill).

Luminarch Ascension

This is likely the top of the Zendikar EDH class. Its ability to passively build up counters early in the game and then not have to sacrifice them in order to activate the ability, which you can do as often as you have mana (and until one of your opponents has the sense to pack some enchantment removal), means you can have a pretty good fleet of angels pretty quickly. This one is definitely going into Phelddagrif, who I think is going to return to a stronger enchantment theme.

Mindbreak Trap

Hurray for combo killers! It’s not like Storm has really reared its ugly head in EDH, but 0 cost counterspells are always a good way of keeping the combo guy from going off. The added bonus that they’re Exiled means they can’t just try it again next turn. Don’t forget (like many people do with Force of Will) that it’s also a hard counterspell. You’re not forced to pay the alternate cost. Phelddagrif already has a decent suite of defensive counterspells and is getting hard to find room in, and I’ve currently being working without a counterspell net in Thraximundar, so it’ll go into the latter.

Ob Nixilis, the Fallen

He’s cheap, and the bonus you get from Landfall doesn’t go away. Left unchecked, he can get pretty big pretty fast. Assuming you don’t have any ramping up, he comes out on turn 5. Drop and crack a fetchland on turn 6 (or Esper Panorama or whatever), and he’s already 9/9, and can only get bigger. Headed into Darigaaz, since it has a slightly heavier Black component than Kresh.

Oracle of Mul Daya

Combo with Landfall much? I don’t really think this guy is going to be all that great in Standard (contrary to other opinions), but in EDH, where things develop a little more slowly, getting more lands over more turns makes big things happen, especially when the land you play off of her is a fetch. Be sure when you’re playing the Oracle that you announce that the first land you’re playing is off the ability. That way if she goes away, you’ll still be able to make your regular land drop for the turn. Also going into Darigaaz to help with getting that much more mana.

Rampaging Baloths

Landfall is simply going to reveal itself as one of the best mechanics in recent sets. Rampaging Baloths is great because it takes advantage of the something-for-nothing principle. You get something (Beast tokens) for literally no investment – you were going to play land anyway. It’s not even like the payment of a renewable resource like mana, which will refill eventually. You actually get more stuff for what you’re already doing. Going right into my Kresh deck, now that I’ve rediscovered the Beast theme.

Ravenous Trap

Great graveyard hate, and one I’m going to have to keep my eye out for when I want to do some Living Death shenanigans. I don’t think it’ll replace Scrabbling Claws, which I run in most decks, but a big Living Death is pretty important to my Lord of Tresserhorn deck, so it’ll go in there to keep the other guys at bay.

Sorin Markov

I’m not a big fan of Mindslaver, since what most people do is recur it endlessly to lock out either a single player or the whole table. I’d love to see people use Mindslaver to kill other players, not to screw the guy they Slavered. That said, especially under the Planechase sky, there has to be a great deal of insanity to be fomented when Slavering someone. Sorin’s second and third abilities are top shelf. Main problem is that as soon as everyone sees this guy, you’re in for a world of hurt, since no one wants to be on the short end of his abilities. If you’re happy with the Bummer of a Birthmark, Hal, then go for it.

Summoning Trap

Lurking Predators’ little brother, Summoning Trap will be most useful with good enters-the-battlefield abilities, and is nice insurance against getting a guy countered. Again, since it’s an Instant, you don’t have to wait until the condition is met just to cast it for 0. Feel free to trot it out there at end of turn. Best thing about cards like this (and Call of the Wild and the like) is also the best thing about Cascade: since you don’t really know what’s coming, it’s always like Christmas! Going into Darigaaz.

Whiplash Trap

The condition for the alternate casting cost is going to get met by someone at your table every game. Someone it going to put some tokens into play, or Tooth and Nail for stuff, and then this trap is sprung. You don’t have to bounce back the creatures that sprung the trap, or even something controlled by that player – which also makes this an excellent politics card. Don’t forget you can also bounce your own guys with good enters-the-battlefield abilities. This one is going into Thraximundar.

World Queller

World Queller is the card that no one is talking about that everyone should. You get the choice during upkeep on whether or not you’re going to do it. If you do, then you get to force some action. Someone have an annoying enchantment and you don’t? There’s your choice. An opponent have a creature that’s just way better than yours? There’s your choice. There’s a temptation to put this into Rith so as to sacrifice tokens and watch everyone else sacrifice better creatures, but I’m pretty sure it’s going into Phelddagrif.

Clearly, the Ascensions and Traps are going to have a huge impact on the format. If I had to pick my top three, in order, I’d say Luminarch Ascension, Eldrazi Monument, and the underrated World Queller. I’m sure YMMV.

Armada Games’ next installment of EDH League will be starting this coming week. I was considering playing Kresh to start things off, but I may also go with Phelddagrif for nostalgia’s sake. If you have an opinion, let me know (choices also include Thraximundar, Lord of Tresserhorn, Rith, Merieke, and Darigaaz). We’ll be playing with Planechase, so I’m looking forward to Embracing the Chaos!