The Magic Show #158 – Zendikar Cobra Strike!

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Friday, September 18th – Hello everybody, and welcome to another edition of the Magic Show. This week we’re focusing once again on Zendikar. New spoilers have come to light, ridiculousness is at an all time high, and if you were looking for an incredibly powerful and exciting set to take the place of Lorwyn and define our Standard environment, you got one. Let’s go!

Hello everybody, and welcome to another edition of the Magic Show. This week we’re focusing once again on Zendikar. New spoilers have come to light, ridiculousness is at an all time high, and if you were looking for an incredibly powerful and exciting set to take the place of Lorwyn and define our Standard environment, you got one. Let’s go!

So this week some incredible spoilers have come up on our radar, and let’s get to talkin’ about ’em.

First I’ll start with a fatty, because who doesn’t love the fatties? Check out Terra Stomper:

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

Now THAT’S a fatty. Holy crap, I would like to take a moment here and appreciate the creature power creep we’ve seen over the years. Terra Stomper comes from a long line of just-how-good-can-we-make-it-for-the-cost, and I guess we’ll just go old school and feature Force of Nature here. Yeah, this is Force of Nature 2.0, with an easier casting cost, same stats, AND it is 100% going to rock the battlefield like a hurricane when it hits. Yes, it’s no longer 1993 and we’re no longer excited by a four Green mana upkeep. Of course, IDTE comes into effect here, a.k.a. “It Dies To Everything,” but if you don’t have the removal spell, you know what’s going to happen next.

Speaking of the fat, instead of a six mana version, let’s go one mana instead. Have you seen the itty-bitty Scute Mob?

Scute Mob

Creature – Insect
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control five or more lands, put four +1/+1 counters on Scute Mob.

Aww yes’ms, yes him’s a good Scute Mob yes him is! This ah… cute little 1/1 is what I call Dangerous. And no, not in the Michael Jackson way, but in the Oh Mah God You Serious? Dangerous. The fact is Scute Mob gets out of control pretty much faster than any other 1/1 ever made… perhaps sans Figure of Destiny… given that you have five lands in play. Of course, whenever you have a good Green creature the first thing you hear is Tarmogoyf Tarmogoyf Tarmogoyf, but for me I see a dude who is the best Ranger of Eos target ever, is basically a one mana 5/5, and needs only a few counterspells or a Time Warp to be truly ridiculous. You got the Cancel for their Doom Blade or Lightning Bolt… and they got nothing else… what are they going to do except lose? This is a card who split the camps once again, half saying it’s the dumbest Blue/Green finisher ever, the other half wondering what the first half is talking about. I would say this card is not to be underestimated, but don’t go paying $20 for it just yet.

Up next is one of the most exciting pump spells ever. Check out Vines of Vastwood:

Vines of Vastwood
Kicker G – (You may pay an additional G as you cast this spell)
Target creature can’t be the target of spells of abilities your opponents control until end of turn. If Vines of Vastwood was kicked, that creature gets +4/+4 until end of turn.

First, let’s just get the cost out of the way. This is a GG spell. If you play it for only a Green mana, I think you’re probably getting some fantastic utility out of it, saving your creature from removal most likely, but it’s better to get your chocolate WITH your peanut butter and simply dodge the removal spell AND smack ‘em for four more.

For me, this is another example of Wizards trying to make combat tricks really matter. I mean, they give us Giant Growth and we shrug. They give us Colossal Might and we shrug. Now they give us Stonewood Invocation 2.0, More Efficient And Cost Efficient, and I really hope this one makes the cut. This is both a trick AND a pump, and with no damage on the stack any longer, this spell got even better. A monster in draft and sealed, it may be just enough to break into Constructed applications.

But screw the combat tricks, let’s get to something really exciting. Have you seen Archive Trap?

Archive Trap
Instant – Trap
If an opponent searched his or her library this turn, you may pay rather than pay Archive Trap’s mana cost.
Target opponent puts the top thirteen cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.

Unbelievably cool. Why? Because it rests squarely in the middle of the Spike / Timmy zone. Timmy, as a player psychographic, is the type of player who enjoys milling the cards amongst other things. This one? It does all of that, most of the time, for free. So high five to that. But Spike? Spike wants to win. What does Spike get out of this card? Notice that thirteen cards is a very peculiar number. But what is thirteen times four? Fifty-two. How many cards would be left in a sixty-card standard deck after their opponent drew their opening seven, then played and used one of those shiny new fetchlands? That’s right – If you have all four Archive Traps in your hand when they go off to find themselves a land, you just mill their entire freakin’ library. Wow!

Now that is fantastic not only because in Magical Christmas Land where these things happen it’s all sunshine and lollipops, but that the card is potentially useful enough for the tournament tables and crazy fun for the kitchen tables. Also note that Wizards deftly chose to word it “target -opponent- puts the top thirteen cards…” because otherwise you’d have some seriously out of control Extended Dredge decks milling themselves to pieces on the first turn. But I digress.

Next up, how about some EDH Generals? Don’t play EDH? That’s Elder Dragon Highlander, a 100-card singleton format played on kitchen tables and tournament side events around the world, where you choose a legendary creature as your general and all cards in your deck must be the same color(s) as that general. And man, have WotC given you some awesome EDH Generals. First up, let’s take a look at probably the best Limited bomb in the set… Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet:

Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet
Legendary Creature – Vampire Warrior
BBB, T: Destroy target creature. If that creature is put into a graveyard this way, put a black Vampire creature token onto the battlefield. Its power is equal to that creature’s power and its toughness is equal to that creature’s toughness.

Yes, read that ability again. It encompasses the three awesomes of a great Limited deck: Card Advantage, Creature Advantage, and Creature Kill. All of that, and, look even closer: Kalitas can target himself! That’s right, with three Black mana open, your opponent will have to kill that 5/5 monster twice and then you could play another copy if you wanted! Just insane and one hell of a Mono-Black EDH General.

But what about the blue mages? Check out the fiesty-est Octopus around, Lorthos, the Tidemaker:

Lorthos, the Tidemaker
Legendary Creature – Octopus
Whenever Lorthos, the Tidemaker attacks, you may pay . If you do, tap up to eight permanents. Those permanents don’t untap during their controllers’ next untap steps.

Awww yeah. He’s large, in charge, is an 8/8 for eight that taps eight permanents for eight mana. That’s a lot of eights, and that’s a lot of whoopin’. Lorthos will make any EDH player giggle with glee, and if you actually get to bash in the red zone with this monster, and happen to have eight mana available, I’d safely assume the game just ended. But in multiplayer, this guy gets a lot more interesting, allowing you to pick and choose permanents from across all of the battlefields for which to target. This is one of those cards that if it doesn’t excite you, it wasn’t meant for you. I love ol’ Lorthos and look forward to building an EDH deck around him soon.

Jumping around, I am absolutely in love with Emeria, The Sky Ruin:

Emeria, The Sky Ruin
Emeria, the Sky Ruin enters the battlefield tapped.
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control seven or more Plains, you may return target creature card from your graveyard to the battlefield.
T: Add W to your mana pool.

Now that’s an incredible land right there. Valakut (val-uh-koot), the Molten Pinnacle was one thing, but this guy is way, WAY over the power curve for a mere land. Sure it needs seven other Plains, but what deck was virtually begging for this card? Yup, that’s Martyr of Sands in Extended, a card so stupid and scary that Wizards immediately printed its antithesis in Planar Chaos (Sulfur Elemental) to keep it in check. Once this thing sticks, and note it is not a Legendary Land, you wlll be gaining infi life soon thereafter. And then it’s just a Chronosavant or Sanguine (San-gwine) Bond later and the game’s all wrapped up. Again, probably way too slow for Standard, but with Extended’s now eight Wrath of God’s courtesy of Day of Judgment, I think you’ll be seeing more of Emeria as Extended season gets closer.

Speaking of lands, how about a dual land cycle? Yep, everyone loves ‘em, and I’m no stranger. This go-around, we have some Strictly Better lands we need to discuss. Do you remember the Invasion comes-into-play-tapped cycle? Coastal Tower, Elfhame Palace, etc? Remember how beautiful the art was, and how painless dual lands returned, albeit slightly underpowered, for the first time since Revised?

Yeah, screw those cards. We got better ones. Now we have enters-the-battlefield-tapped dual lands that not only don’t hurt you, they gain you 1 life when you play them! Talk about obsoleting your past cards… I never thought the Invasion duals were that bad to begin with, and now they basically bribe you to play them, as the Shards of Alara tri-lands are probably too good and they have to give you some reason to play these. It’s simply fascinating and perhaps somewhat troubling how quickly older cards are getting dismissed by current designs (Serra Angel -> Baneslayer Angel, etc).

Moving on, how about the sickest joke in the whole set? Have you seen Halo Hunter?

Halo Hunter
Creature – Demon
Intimidate (This creature can’t be blocked except by artifact creatures and/or creatures that share a color with it.)
When Halo Hunter enters the battlefield, destroy target Angel.

Get. The hell. Outta here. This is SUCH a low blow, Wizards… I don’t know what else to call it. Of COURSE you couldn’t make this a Horror, or a Zombie or something. No, it has to be a Demon, that way those $30 flying pieces of Mythic ridiculousness will still be ruling the skies of Standard, and Black decks will continue to rely on Doom Blade or Consume Spirit to take her down. So instead of a powerful and unique way to deal with Baneslayer Angel, we get a powerful and unique way to suck righteously in the current format. Thanks.

But what about some new Blue Counterspelly goodness? Check out Spell Pierce:

Spell Pierce
Counter target noncreature spell unless its controller pays 2.

Yes! Now that is Force Spike 2.0: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. The implications for this spells are great, particularly in older formats that chug along on three to four mana, i.e. Legacy and Vintage. These will be the most impacted by this spell, I believe, but rest assure Extended and Standard will benefit from this Almost Force Spike But Kinda Better in the coming months. It’s no Spell Snare, but what is? All I know is, now with only a single Blue mana up control mirrors will think long and hard before tapping out for a Cruel Ultimatum. I hope this thing plays as good as it looks.

Speaking of control decks, let’s give them an awesome tool shall we? Check out World Queller:

World Queller
Creature – Avatar
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may choose a card type. If you do, each player sacrifices a permanent of that type.

Yes! Love this guy. This gives control decks answers to anything. Any permanent on the field has a type that can be named with World Queller, and so any permanent on the field is suspect. World Queller deals with Terra Stomper just like it deals with Sorin Markov, just like it deals with Oblivion Ring. It’s not overcosted by any means, has a respectable 4/4 body, and I think will be a sleeper hit until people realize how valuable his Braids-esque ability is. Fantastically versatile card.

While we’re on the subject of control decks, how about one of the most powerful creatures ever? Check out Iona, Shield of Emeria:

Iona, Shield of Emeria
Legendary Creature – Angel
As Iona, Shield of Emeria enters the battlefield, choose a color.
Your opponents can’t cast spells of the chosen color.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the reanimator player’s dream card. Hell, let’s go one step further and not even take it out of the graveyard with Zombify, but what about searching your library for it and Painter’s Servant with Tooth and Nail? Oh yeah, no one plays any more spells for the rest of the game, and I beat you to death with my flying Angel? Sounds good. Iona is a monster for EDH decks, Standard control decks, Cube draft reanimator decks, and more. Did I mention she’s an Angel, which of course is one the best and most lauded creature types in the game? I would expect no less for one of the most badass creatures ever.

But how about the most badass creature in Zendikar? I’m pretty sure we found it. It’s a Mythic, and it’s definitely coming to a tournament table near you: Feast your eyes on Lotus Cobra.

Lotus Cobra
Creature – Snake
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may add one mana of any color to your mana pool.

Oh. Mah. God. I don’t know what else to say, but that this creature is frickin’ insane and will be impacting for years to come. Yes, years. This guy is so good let me count the ways:

First, he’s cheap. He hits on Turn 2 and he’s even better if he was assisted by something like Noble Hierarch or Llanowar Elves.

Second, he’s a 2/1 for two mana, efficient enough to still get in there and bash face if need be.

Third, his ability stacks. Two of these guys give you two free mana for each land drop.

Fourth, the ability makes every fetchland you play a Black Lotus. That is dumb. I don’t know how much I can really explain how far above the curve is with Lotus Cobra, but I’ll try.

First of all, he doesn’t even need accelerators or fetchlands to be great. He just needs you to play lands, which is what you do every turn anyway. Just imagine turn 3 you play your land and then play Bloodbraid Elf and flip up Maelstrom Pulse and/or Blightning. How much further did you get ahead there? Again, this isn’t Magical Christmas Land, this is basic, everyday, Jund cards you can play together.

But hell, if we want to visit Magical Christmas Land, we should. Here’s an example of dumb Lotus Cobra stuff:

Turn 3 Violent Ultimatum – Turn 1 Noble Hierarch, Turn 2 Cobra and play a fetchland. Turn 3 play another fetchland for a free mana, use it for another free mana, tap that land for three mana, use your other fetchland for four mana, tap it for a fifth mana, play Harrow, getting two free mana for the lands that come into play taking you back up to four mana again, tap those for six mana total, then use Noble Hierarch for the final seventh mana to cast Violent Ultimatum.

Then your opponent plays Spell Pierce and laughs in your face! Ha! Yup, it’s Magical Christmas Land for everybody, even your opponent!

The implications of this card are astounding, and the way it puts you that much further past your opponent in resources is incredibly scary. This reminds me of one of the tenants of playing Magic back in the day. If your opponent opens with a first turn Birds of Paradise, you kill it on the spot. Nowadays, if your opponent plays a second turn Lotus Cobra, you kill that thing as quickly as possible. This guy is No Joke and will see a ton of play in a huge variety of formats. Opening a foil one of these at the prerelease isn’t a winning lottery ticket, but it’s damn close.

All I know is, Zendikar is absolutely ridiculous. I thought I was excited about Lorwyn, or the in-hindsight-pretty-damn-disappointing Conflux, or even the awesome Alara Reborn and M10. But no, this set is Where It’s At. Destined to be one of those You-Shoulda-Played-When-This-Was-Out sets, Zendikar will be talked about for years and years and I suggest you plan on getting yourself to a prerelease next week to enjoy the set before you can buy it. I’ll be in Richmond, Virginia this go-around with Ken Nagle from Wizards of the Coast slinging cards and signing playmats as necessary. Try and make it, won’t you?

Next week we’ll talk more about Zendikar and its impending release, and more. So until next time Magic players, this is Evan Erwin. Tapping the cards… so you don’t have to.

Evan “misterorange” Erwin