Reflecting Ruel – Tips And Tricks For Zendikar Draft

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Friday, December 18th – Triple Zendikar draft is a speedy format, and its sheer power means that cute combos or intricate tricks are largely kerb-stomped to oblivion. However, there are a few funky interactions that may have passed you by thus far… Olivier Ruel reveals all!

You may not have noticed, but Zendikar draft is not the most complex Limited format ever created. The fast pace of the games usually doesn’t buy you enough time to build long term strategies, and therefore combos are hard to complete. More generally, while this may not be M10, there are not that many synergies to discover. However, there are still a few, and we’re going to focus on them today.

Gomazoa + Bounce Spell

Block with the 0/3, then put his ability on the stack. While you have priority, cast Into the Roil with kicker, or even Whiplash Trap or Narrow Escape, allowing Gomozoa to return to your hand before its ability resolves. In the Into the Roil cases, you will have gained card advantage, and in the others you will have turned a random spell into a removal spell with a bonus (either “bounce another guy” or “gain four life”).

Use Gomazoa to Avoid Being Decked

When you’re about to lose to decking, you may still have a way out if you’re running the 0/3. If so, don’t concede and wait until you draw it. Even if your opponent has a Hedron Crab (the most common situation which will put you into this situation), just wait for your upkeep to shuffle it back into your library. This way, the 0/2 can’t put your flyer into the graveyard. However, using Gomazoa as a way to avoid being decked will not give you the game; it’ll only buy you a few turns, as this situation mostly occurs when your opponent has played a Hedron Crab. He should end up drawing a removal spell, or simply more guys, at some point. They’ll kill you, but this trick will still be enough to win you games if you have an attacking squad.

Guul Draaz’s Special Attack

Maybe I shouldn’t have made it sound so cool… some of you will be disappointed. Still, when your opponent blocks the Vampire with a one-power guy, but still goes down to 10 in the same attack, the Vampire actually survives. The state based effect saying a one-toughness creature which has taken one damage should die is actually only checked after priority is passed. This doesn’t occur until damage is resolved. Therefore, your opponent is already on 10, and your guy already a 3/2, when the one damage it has taken is checked.

Grim Discovery + Harrow/Fetchland

I’m not a huge fan of Grim Discovery. I’m not interested in a card that makes you lose tempo and doesn’t give you any card advantage. However, when there is a good chance you’ll actually return a land, the card becomes a lot better. In order for this to occur, I think you need at least two copies of Harrow and/or fetchlands. Grim Discovery is also a pretty good sideboard card when facing Hedron Crab.

Living Tsunami + Enters-The-Battlefield Trigger Lands

Of course, this combo is pretty obvious, but still, Living Tsunami is one of the best reasons to play these lands. They are often worse than basics, or at least some of them are. I’d say the non-rare land rating is, most of the time:

– A dual in the right colors.

Kabira Crossroads/ Teetering Peaks.

– Basic lands.

Soaring Seacliffs.

Piranha Marsh/Duals with only one of your colors.

Turntimber Grove.

However, when you have already picked a Tsunami, only Turntimber Grove is clearly less good than a basic. Therefore, feel free to pick trigger lands a little higher when you already have a 4/4.

Reckless Scholar Your Opponent

Don’t forget, the Scholar says “Target Player.” It can be useful in two situations. First, when you feel you could deck your opponent, and second, when you want information. If you’re satisfied with your hand and your opponent has no cards in hand, or only one card which you know is pretty good, then you should just Loot him. Even if you can’t deck him, you still gain precious free information. This situation can occur more often than it seems, as even if the format is quite fast, people often empty their hands in order to benefit Landfall.

Anyway, combo or not, never concede a game when you have Scholar in play. Always make your opponent draw a card; free information never hurts.

Spreading Seas Your Opponent’s Second Land

When you’re on the play and have Spreading Seas as your only two-drop, you obviously cast it on your opponent’s only land if it is not an Island. However, when you are on the draw, you should always aim at the second land he has played. Indeed, most players, when they have to decide which land to play on turn 1, will play the one of which they are holding the most copies.

It could be because it’s often the best decision, even if the hand doesn’t show it. Indeed, with a Forest, Forest, Swamp, Greenweaver Druid, Oran-Rief Recluse, Giant Scorpion, Territorial Baloth hand, it is better to open with Forest in case you draw Nissa’s Chosen. However, most players do it instinctively. Just as people usually chose heads over tails, scissors over rock and paper, or left over right, they will naturally choose the land they have two of, if they play intuitively.

Oran-Rief Recluse + Soaring Seacliff

Usually, if I have both cards, I’ll leave the land in the sideboard. I know I may miss a combo, but a seven mana combo that will make you keep a land in hand for a while is just too slow. Also, what if you draw the combo, but your opponent plays Goblin Shortcutter on turn 2 and your only three-drop is the 1/3? What if the guy you want to kill is already a flyer? In both cases, the combo is useless, so I’d only use the combo after boarding, in slow matchups. In the same way, I wouldn’t play the land in the same deck as Tajuru Archer. The combo may be cheaper, but an Ally deck will have enough mana troubles not to run an Island which enters the battlefield tapped.

Predatory Urge + River Boa/Savage Silhouette/Giant Scorpion

If you have an early pick Predatory Urge, keep in mind to try and pick up combos that go with it. The card is good on its own, but its combo with five-drops is quite slow and not so hard to stop, while if it’s played on a regenerator, the card becomes a bomb. Therefore, pick Savage Silhouette higher than you normally would, and feel free to take Giant Scorpion higher also, as the combo with Deathtouch is quite good too. For instance, if your draft opens with pick 1 Predatory Urge and pick 2 River Boa, you should probably third pick Giant Scorpion over Harrow or Vines of Vastwood. Also, talking about Deathtouch, Turntimber Basilisk would be quite good with Savage Silhouette, and you could end up not having one but several interactive winning combinations in your deck.

Molten Ravager + Soaring Seacliff

Surprisingly, it is not necessary in Blue decks that Soaring Seacliff shines the most. If you play mono color, your mana should be safe enough for the Blue land not to cost you much. It’s the case in mono Red decks, in which some cards require a maximum number of Mountains (Spire Barrage, Molten Ravager). One of those cards, the 0/4, could push you into playing the Seacliff. I usually won’t run it for one copy of the Ravager, but if I have two Molten Ravagers, I’ll greatly appreciate the Fireball effect.

It is even better in a mono Green deck (huge attacks with Territorial Baloth or Timbermaw Larva), but I’ve only drafted one mono Green deck in the format, when I’ve drafted mono Red over ten times.

The Obsidian Fireheart Effect Continues After its Death

It may sound obvious, as the card doesn’t specify the opposite, but it is still so non-intuitive that many players actually get confused with it; killing Obsidian Fireheart doesn’t mean you will stop the 4/4’s land-burn ability. Only cards like Harrow, Narrow Escape, or Vampire Hexmage will.

Mark of Mutiny on Your Own Guy

Once again, a play which isn’t used very often, as it is not the card’s primary goal. Whenever a +1/+1 counter on one of your guys, or playing a dude and attacking with him straight away, could make the difference, keep in mind that this is an option. Also, concerning Mark of Mutiny: has anyone ever noticed the creature that is being controlled on the card’s art? Clue: it is one of Zendikar’s two illegal targets for the spell.

Electropotence + Zektar Shrine Expedition

This combo is the main reason why I like the enchantment. The card usually is too slow to perform well. However, it almost doesn’t affect your tempo to activate it when a 7/1 Elemental token enters the battlefield, and the combo almost kills your opponent on its own.

Electropotence + Deathtouch

It is the creature, not the enchantment, which deals damage.

Electropotence + Pump Spells

The trigger ability goes on the stack when your creature enters the battlefield, but it only checks its power at resolution. Therefore, you still have time to pump it either with a spell or, in the case of Shade-type creatures (Crypt Ripper, Molten Ravager), to use its ability to deal more damage.

Journey to Nowhere + Into the Roil/Narrow Escape

Just like the Gomazoa combos, this allows you to turn an average card into a removal spell. In order to do so, return the Enchantment to your hand right after you cast it, when its effect is still on the stack. This way, the return-to-play effect will trigger before the remove-from-the-game effect, and the removed creature will never come back.

-Bounce Spell/Removal+ Opponent’s Journey to Nowhere

When your opponent casts Journey to Nowhere and you have only one guy on the board, feel free to return it to your hand if you have a bounce spell. You can even possibly kill it if needed. For instance, if you have Turntimber Basilisk in play, Burst Lightning in hand, and your opponent has Vastwood Wurm when he casts Journey to nowhere. If you kill your guy in response to his spell, he will be left with no choice but to remove his 5/6. The same applies to cards like Kor Sanctifiers or Oran-Rief Recluse.

Next week will be my last column of the year. If there are specific subjects you’d like to read about in 2010, feel free to discuss it on the message board, and to send them to me via my forum’s private message box.

Have a great weekend, and Happy Holidays!