Insider Information – Zendikar: Overrated?

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Thursday, September 17th – It seems that everyone is excited about Zendikar. However, Cedric Phillips is not so sure. In today’s Insider Information, he lists a few cards he believes are overrated. Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom from Ced: he also brings us a few tidbits he believes are stronger than they appear…

Oh, Zendikar…

Being a Magic writer right now is a pretty miserable job. We are in the lull where nothing relevant is happening. Sure, the Powers That Be are previewing brand new cards, but that becomes unexciting quickly. It is especially unexciting when the cards they reveal aren’t that good.

I don’t really like Zendikar that much. I think the set is very overrated, and I think a lot of the cards that are being hyped up are pretty mediocre. I know I am probably in the minority on this one, but I am willing to explain myself:

Overrated Card #1: Warren Instigator

Warren Instigator
Creature – Goblin Berserker
Double Strike
Whenever Warren Instigator deals damage to an opponent, you may put a Goblin creature card from your hand onto the battlefield.

Let’s look at this card across the formats. In Vintage, it is irrelevant. This does nothing to solve the Time Vault/Voltaic Key combo, nor does it make Goblins that much better.

In Legacy, where Warren Instigator should have the most impact, I think it is very poor. Yes, if Warren Instigator connects, the game is over. However, if Goblin Lackey isn’t connecting, what makes you think that Warren Instigator is connecting? Attacking with Goblin Lackey on turn 2 is a lot different than attacking with Warren Instigator on turn 3. Legacy decks will have an answer for Warren Instigator at that point in the game unless they have drawn poorly. And if they have drawn poorly, weren’t you going to win anyway? Once again, if it hits in Legacy (due to Goblin Matron and Goblin Ringleader) you have certainly won the game, but I do not think it is going to occur on a consistent basis.

In Standard, the cards are just not there to punish your opponent. The best we can do to punish our opponent is Siege-Gang Commander, and that really isn’t very good in a format full of Volcanic Fallout, Maelstrom Pulse, Infest, Jund Charm, and Day of Judgment. Not to mention this: how is that Warren Instigator getting through Putrid Leech, Wall of Denial, Path to Exile, Lightning Bolt, or even a vanilla 2/2?

I’m not saying Warren Instigator is a bad card. It is a good card on paper, but in gameplay, these dreams rarely come true. Remember Vedalken Heretic? He has the exact same problems.

Overrated Card #2: Bloodghast

Creature – Vampire Spirit
Bloodghast can’t block.
Bloodghast has haste as long as an opponent has 10 life or less.
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may return Bloodghast from your graveyard to the battlefield.

I’m fairly tired of people comparing this card to Nether Spirit. Both card come back from the graveyard. That is where the similarities end. Bloodghast cannot block. Nether Spirit had decks built around it with the intentions of blocking with it every turn of the game.

With that being said, I think this card is good, but far from great. I think it is extremely powerful in Dredge, but I am not sold that Dredge needs more of this type of card. I think Narcomoeba plays the role of being a free creature better than Bloodghast does. I think Bloodghast will be an acceptable card in Standard, but, once again, far from great. Standard is a format that revolves around creatures. In Standard, decks are playing the best undercosted aggressive creatures (Putrid Leech, Sprouting Thrinax, Bloodbraid Elf, Baneslayer Angel) or the best defensive creatures (Wall of Denial, Kathari Remnant, Baneslayer Angel). Bloodghast is too fair compared to these creatures.

The argument can be made that if you draw multiple Bloodghasts, it is pretty hard to lose, but I will counter that statement with a question. What if you are being beaten down? Bloodghast does nothing to save you. I guess it can keep attacking and can continuously put your opponent on a clock, but is that even that great if you are going to keep getting mangled by bigger more efficient creatures? The answer is no.

Bloodghast is going to play a role somewhere. That is certain. But for now, this card has a lot of holes.

Underrated Card #1: Goblin Guide

Goblin Guide
Creature – Goblin Scout
Whenever Goblin Guide attacks, defending player reveals the top card of his or her library. If it’s a land card, that player puts it into his or her hand.

It’s not all hatred this week. There are some cards I like a lot in this set. This is the one I like the most. I am going to make a bold statement here:

Outside of fetchlands, Goblin Guide will be the best card in this set.

There. I said it.

At the end of my last article, I made fun of all the “Crown Royal Dicebag Playing Red” players. This is a card that actually makes me want to play Red. And I hate Red so much. But here’s the thing…

Goblin Guide doesn’t have a drawback.

Remember when we thought Path to Exile had a drawback, and then we felt real stupid and kept jamming four into our deck? We are reliving the same scenario with Goblin Guide. Haste makes Goblin Guide’s drawback obsolete. I hope they hit a land every single turn I attack with Goblin Guide. If they don’t, they are just:

D. E. A. D.

Seriously, I could write a whole article about how this card could revive RDW in Standard or Extended, but let me just say this:

Goblin Guide is very real. I hate Red more than I like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and I want to play this card in the near future. They are cheap right now. You should probably get some. If I am wrong, you can make fun of me endlessly and I will sign every Goblin Guide you own with “Cedric Phillips is an idiot!” That is how strongly I feel about this card.

Overrated Card #3: Plated Geopede

Plated Geopede
Creature – Insect
First strike
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, Plated Geopede gets +2/+2 until end of turn.

Overrated Card #4: Steppe Lynx

Steppe Lynx
Creature – Cat
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, Steppe Lynx gets +2/+2 until end of turn.

If you think these cards are good in Zoo, you are crazy. I don’t know what it is with people and their love for conditional creatures in Zoo. Numerous people have asked me what I think about such cards in Zoo, and I say the same thing every time:

Have people been playing Vinelasher Kudzu in Zoo?

That card is better than either one of these, and that card sucks. To the Zoo players that think either one of these cards are good, have you considered the following:

These are very bad when you mulligan.
What happens when you play these on the draw in the mirror match?
What if you don’t continuously draw fetchlands?

Why would you ever consider playing these conditional cards that are decidedly average even when you do what you are supposed to do, when you can play cards that are always awesome like Putrid Leech, Tarmogoyf, Wild Nacatl, Kird Ape etc.

And before you say it, Kird Ape and Wild Nacatl will always be awesome.

Underrated Card #2: Mindbreak Trap

Mindbreak Trap
Instant – Trap
If an opponent cast three or more spells this turn, you may pay 0 rather than pay Mindbreak Trap’s mana cost.
Exile any number of target spells.

This. Card. Is. Awesome.

Everything about Mindbreak Trap is awesome. The design is awesome. The casting cost is awesome (and correct). The effect it has on Vintage is awesome. The ability to keep Storm decks in check for PT: Austin is awesome. The fact that this will keep Enlisted Ultimatum in check in Standard is awesome. The fact that this will still have an absurd effect when hard-cast is awesome.

Yes, Cryptic Command is gone. Mindbreak Trap is here to replace it. It won’t be nearly as good as Cryptic Command, but it sure as hell is going to try. Get ‘em asap.

Applause to Wizards for designing a truly great card.

Overrated (slightly) Card #5: Gatekeeper of Malakir

Gatekeeper of Malakir
Creature – Vampire Warrior
Kicker B (You may pay an additional B as you cast this spell.)
When Gatekeeper of Malakir enters the battlefield, if it was kicked, target player sacrifices a creature.

I think this card is good, as it solves the Wall of Denial problem, but I am bit skeptical due to its casting cost. What deck can realistically cast a BBB spell on turn 3 without screwing up their mana? If this were in print during the Reflecting Pool/Vivid Creek era, I think this card would have been pretty great as I think people would have stretched their mana just to fit this in. I think mana is going to a little more difficult than people think this time.

Yeah, Gatekeeper of Malakir is a good card, but it has flaws. I find the 2/2 body to be pretty irrelevant, and it is pretty hard to cast.

Card I Couldn’t Care Less About #1: Arid Mesa

I am not even copying the text into the article. You all know what it does, and I am disappointed that they are back. I was very happy not having fetchlands in Extended, much like other writers on this website. Now it’s back to trying to defeat four-color Blue decks. Thanks Tom!

Interesting card #1: Chandra Ablaze

Chandra Ablaze
Planeswalker – Chandra
[+1]: Discard a card. If a red card is discarded this way, Chandra Ablaze deals 4 damage to target creature or player.
[-2]: Each player discards his or her hand, then draws three cards.
[-7]: Cast any number of target red instant and/or sorcery cards from your graveyard without paying their mana costs.

I am only putting this here because I think the card is pretty cool. I also think that if you cast this on turn 1 on the play in All-In Red it is borderline impossible to lose. Is that easy to do? No, of course not. But just imagine casting this on turn 1 against any deck in the format and then activating the second ability. How on earth can you lose?

Overrated Card #6: Terra Stomper

Terra Stomper
Creature – Beast
Terra Stomper can’t be countered.

This. Card. Sucks.

Being uncounterable is so irrelevant nowadays. If this card was untargetable or could get through Wall of Denial or could race Baneslayer Angel or could do anything worth mentioning, I would be happy. Instead, it is overcosted, big, dumb, and stupid. Do not seek these out. You will regret it.

This was a lot more fun that I planned on it being. Nest week, I will ridicule some more cards in Zendikar, give some cards that deserve props some megaprops, and probably name drop some names that don’t deserve it.

A little shorter than normal this week, but there just isn’t much to say that everyone else hasn’t already said.

Except, of course…

Kithkin won the StarCityGames.com $5000 Charlotte Standard Open. The final relevant Standard tournament. Congratulations to Vince Lanceford on the victory, and suck on that all you Kithkin haters. The best deck in the format took home the last tournament it could play. Suck. It.


Cedric Phillips

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