Feature Article – Zendikar Limited and Austin Wrap Up

The StarCityGames.com $5,000 Standard Open Series Comes to Nashville!
Tuesday, October 27th – Zendikar Limited is proving to be an interesting beast, and today Quentin Martin provides his personal color pick orders. He also brings us his view of Dredge in the new Extended, and a couple of interesting Mono-Red Standard decks…

This is going to be an article on Limited but, after all the work I put into Austin, I’m going to kick things off with a look at what I played. I missed out playing for Day 2; a combination of high variance and not the tightest of play. However, I had some phenomenal games along the way, and overall I was very happy with my deck choice.

The night before the tournament, I cut my fourth Drowned Rusalka for a sixteenth land, but I’ve switched it back given the popularity of Dredge (I was more than happy with my four Leyline of the Void!). I also think that the Flame-Kin Zealot doesn’t need his place, as nothing is faster than you in the first game and you always sideboard him out; there’s little people can do about the Ancestor’s Chosen that I’ve moved off the bench to replace it. I’ve also cut the Chalice of the Void and Echoing Truths from the sideboard in favor of Tombstalker and Nix. We’d come up with Nix in Austin but couldn’t get our hands on any — it’s still untested, but being able to stop Tormod’s Crypt and Ravenous Trap seems cute at worst.

I don’t think it’s worth not playing Chrome Mox just to keep you land count up for Hedron Crab. Life From The Loam plays a very important part here, but the speed of the Mox enables far too much (and you always have dead cards in hand): first turn Glimpse the Unthinkable, Hedron Crab and activate it, or just a Drowned Rasulka are all too good to pass up.

Malfegor is a beautiful addition. It’s a very solid reanimation target against Affinity and Zoo, as well as being a kick in the teeth for Hypergenesis if you’ve managed to draw it. Being able to win through an Arcbound Ravager, Mogg Fanatic, or Drowned Rusalka is very important. Some decks stop you by crippling your Bridge From Belows and often Iona, Shield of Emeria is not enough.

I don’t have a problem cutting Echoing Truths entirely. They’re there for Meddling Mage and Gaddock Teeg more than for Leyline. The only deck that should play Leyline over Ravenous Trap or Tormod’s Crypt is the mirror, and post-board games become all about decking them with your Crab and Glimpses.

One of the most important things about Dredge is knowing what to sideboard out. You never bring more than five cards in, and the most popular targets to take out are a combination of the four singletons and a Bridge From Below or two. Dredge is still in a great position in the metagame, even with all the hate. It has a good matchup against Zoo and Dark Depths, with the mirror being, obviously, 50/50. I don’t know if I will play it at Worlds yet, but it’s likely.

Not making Day 2 did give me a lot of opportunity to draft. A lot. What are this format’s rules? It is very tempo based; two-drops are key; and three toughness is golden. I’ve used Stonework Puma as a way to help benchmark the colors against each other .

With plenty of experience under my belt, I’m going to bravely wade into color pick orders. From the outset, let me issue all the regular warnings: these are not set in stone. They are subject to change, to the type of deck you are drafting, to the current composition of your deck.


1) Journey to Nowhere
2) Kor Skyfisher
3) Kor Sanctifiers
4) Kor Hookmaster
5) Cliff Threader
6) Stonework Puma
7) Kor Cartographer
8) Makindi Shieldmate
9) Pillarfield Ox

I don’t really feel this is an order that has much flexibility. All in all, this format is very fast, so there’s a premium for solid two-drops which can often accelerate the Cliff Threader. This format is all about three toughness. Most offenses are blunted by a guy with three on his butt. Your opponent needs either a removal spell, some evasion, or pump to get round them. They will often have one for the first creature but not the second, so don’t believe the lies of people who claim control is dead; just draft accordingly.

To wit, a pet favorite of mine is Caravan Hurda. This guy singlehandedly stops your opponent from attacking. Narrow Escape also deserves a special mention as some decks get really tricky re-using enters-the-battlefield effects. Also, for those not in the loop, stack the trigger of a Journey to Nowhere and return it to your hand, and the creature will never come back.

White has two options: it can be a support color or a stupid beatdown deck. It has plenty of mediocre cards to bolster another more solid color. It also has lots of defensive cards that go well with Blue fliers or Green chicanery. Other than that, you can just draft the blind White Weenie deck with 8-9 two-drops and hope you get there.

The best White uncommon is Shepherd of the Lost, then Kazandu Blademaster and then Pitfall Trap.


1) Umara Raptor
2) Whiplash Trap
3) Welkin Tern
4) Into The Roil
5) Kraken Hatchling
6) Reckless Scholar
7) Sky Ruin Drake
8) Windrider Eel
9) Stonework Puma
10) Ior Ruin Expedition
11) Paralyzing Grasp

Blue’s list is probably the hardest, as it massively varies depending on how much of a control deck you have. For example, Kraken Hatchling can rocket to the top of the charts if you need early defense. Whiplash Trap is the most powerful common, but Umara Raptor has a lot of flexibility and is the one I would prefer to first pick. Having good allies early means you can build a solid base early, picking other allies over individually more powerful cards. To make the pick order even more variable, if I’ve no allies and curve issues, I’ll happily take the Welkin Tern over everything.

I personally dislike the huge variance Landfall bequeaths, and no other card is more swingy than the fragile Windrider Eel. I pick him highly in very aggressive decks, and not at all if I can help it any other time.

Reckless Scholar is also deceptively tricky. He has fallen from grace since last time I interviewed him. It’s still hard to be losing when you have him stick, but it’s much more difficult to find a safe window to cast him, and I find myself blocking with him a lot. If you’ve your fair share of walls, you’ll love him.

As far as uncommons are concerned, Living Tsunami is too huge and too synergistic to not claim the top spot. Initially, I thought that Summoner’s Bane was steak sauce, and although it is still awesome, it’s too obvious more often than not, which is why I now find myself picking the still underrated Merfolk Seastalkers over it. AEther Figment is also pretty solid, and I have a hard time figuring out exactly where to pick it, probably just above Reckless Scholar.

“How good is X, on a scale of 1 to Crab?” was a phrase I heard echoed around the PT’s casual drafters. Hedron Crab is this format’s niche deck; it’s ‘Dampen Thought’ if you will. It’s very fragile, and you often need many Into the Roils to protect it. In multiples it’s a fast clock to race. I’ve yet to force the archetype by first picking one, but I have had a lot of success with the Crab. Keep your eyes open.


1) Hideous End
2) Disfigure
3) Giant Scorpion
4) Surrakar Marauder
5) Nimana Sell-Sword
6) Heartstabber Mosquito
7) Vampire Lacerator
8) Crypt Ripper
9) Stonework Puma
10) Blood Seeker
11) Guul Draz Vampire

I’ve found that Black and Blue are the deepest two colors in the format and, subsequently, the two I find myself drafting the most often. They also go very well together and have two very distinct archetypes: super control or super aggro. If you find yourself in the middle ground in between, pick a side quickly before you sink.

The first two slots are indisputable, but I think the Giant Scorpion will take a lot of you by surprise. I started winning in this format when I figured out the Scorpion. He singlehandedly holds the fort. None of their little guys can attack because he eats them, and eventually he will trade up. Equipped with a Machete and he’s down right awesome.

The Sell-Sword, as with all of the solid allies, is worth picking up as he can lend your deck an absurd synergy, especially if picked early enough to keep the ally door open. If you find your deck wandering down the path of control, then the Mosquito jumps up in value, especially if you are paired with Green’s accelerants.

If you are mono-Black then Crypt Ripper and Surrakar Marauder are premium picks. The first because it is obviously obscene, and the second because it is Black’s only solid two-drop common before you have to rely on Blood Seeker (a card that is phenomenal in multiples). My opinion of the one-drop vampires has gone downhill. With people figuring out the rule of three and how to properly evaluate cards, the silly beatdown decks are much easier to stop. That’s not to say they don’t have their place; if you do find yourself drafting an aggressive deck, then they jump above the Sell-Sword.

Black has the set’s best two uncommons — Marsh Casualties and Vampire Nighthawk. The first is probably the best, as it cripples most archetypes, and it’s too powerful to pass over one of the set’s few board sweepers. The Nighthawk is just obviously an awesome critter. Gatekeeper of Malakir and Mind Sludge are the next best offerings. The first seldom finds a home anywhere other than Swampville, whereas the second is still a blowout in any deck comfortable with nine dark lands.


1) Burst Lightning
2) Plated Geopede
3) Torch Slinger
4) Bladetusk Boar
5) Goblin Shortcutter
6) Shatterskull Giant
7) Spire Barrage
8) Magma Rift
9) Tuktuk Grunts
10) Highland Berserker
11) Stonework Puma
12) Molten Ravager
13) Zektar Shrine Expedition
14) Ruinous Minotaur

I seem to be the only person who doesn’t like Red in Zendikar. I’ve listed more cards than any other color, but they stop being good fast and slide into the realms of almost mediocre. Most of the mono-Red decks I’ve seen seem to 0-3. This is the list I would be most wary of, as I’ve much less experience with Red than any other color. One of the reasons is because although Burst Lightning is the most powerful common, I will pick every other good common over the rest of the Reds.

The color is aggressive and in all pairings other than with Blue, I feel it’s almost necessary to lean on aggression as much as possible. With Blue, it’s a very tempo based, tricky deck. Molten Ravager is at its best here, and Ruinous Minotaur at least trades on defence. Lots of bounce, fliers, and Shock-effects make UR a lot of fun, especially when you start bouncing your Torch Slingers.

Geyser Glider and Inferno Trap are the only two uncommons to get excited about. And I’m not that excited.


1) Vines of Vastwood
2) Glazing Gladehart
3) Oran-Rief Survivalist
4) Territorial Baloth
5) Harrow
6) Nissa’s Chosen
7) Mold Shambler
8) Timbermaw Larva
9) Oran-Rief Recluse
10) Vastwood Gorger
11) Stonework Puma

The Green order is really difficult to figure out. If your deck is looking on the slow side, then you want Glazing Gladehart. Alternatively, Oran-Rief Survivalist is a cornerstone of any ally strategy. Vines of the Vastwood is amazing throughout, and probably the color’s best spell. And Harrow? Well, let’s just say that this isn’t Invasion Block; there’s next to no need to color fix, making its core purpose to trigger Landfall and as an average accelerant.

Nissa’s Chosen, assuming you are running enough Green to cast it consistently, is a fantastic two-drop in both aggressive and defensive decks. I prefer Mold Shambler, but I find that one of the most important things to take care of with Green, as with most other colors, is the two-slot; when that’s sorted, the rest tends to take care of itself. Timbermaw Larva keeps getting better, but is only really at home in an aggressive deck and, naturally, the closer to mono you get, the higher you should pick it.

The big mana Green decks need to put their priorities on Gladeharts, Harrows, and the kicker guys, whereas the more aggressive decks should focus on the two-drops, Larva, and Vines. I’m happy matching Green up with every color, but it is very important to know what you need of it in each combination. GB is big and consistent. GR is aggressive, often tilted towards Landfall. GW can either be stupid beats or fumbling control, if the latter then you need as many ways as possible for card advantage. GU is great but you need to prioritise removal of all colors and bounce if you’re to stand a chance.

An uncommon that’s nowhere near as good as it looks is Quest of the Gemblades; it now almost never makes my deck. Baloth Woodcrasher was my gut’s nomination for best uncommon as it ends games, but after playing with the set a lot, I’ve found that it can come too late and is too easily dealt with; you have to go all in on it a lot. River Boa now gets my nod. There’s nothing he doesn’t do well!

That brings today’s insight into Zendikar to a close. Bring your thoughts and pick discussions to the forum.



PS – Here are two untested Mono-Red Standard decklists that were the brainchild of my journey home from the PT. If everyone is faffing around with Jund, maybe it’s time for Red to rear its ugly head. I’ve gone with Ball Lightning.dec and Goblins. In the first deck, it’s highly possible that Hell’s Thunder is better than Zektar Shrine Expedition as the Shrine makes for an abysmal topdeck. There might well be room for a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle but I’ll leave out a fifth tapped land for now. There might well be room in the Goblin deck for Siege-Gang Commander, not only because we all want to Instigate it into play, but because is can kill a Baneslayer Angel.