Tribal Thriftiness #84 – Zendikar’s Top Commons

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Tuesday, September 29th – Zendikar is finally here and is quite literally the talk on everyone’s lips. But beyond the Priceless Treasures, what other strong cards are sitting in the common slots? Dave pulls together his top choices

Hope you all had a great Prerelease weekend!

That’s, like, such an understatement. I haven’t had the chance to have my own hysterical breakdown! Eeeeeeeee! TREASURE!

I don’t think I’ve followed any single Magic event as closely as I did the “treasure” thing as it broke late Thursday night. Even during spoiler season, I’m at the rumor mill once a day at MOST. But from the moment I caught the “rule change” news, through the store that opened the Candelabra of Tawnos, and into Friday morning as “confirmation” came in, I was glued to the monitor. I mean, I slept – I’m not a robot. But I was reading every opinion, every tiny iota of news and rumor.

The set? Completely overshadowed.

The Prerelease? Now had a whole new edge.

Man, I hope I open up a piece of treasure. I’m not gonna lie. It’s the only way I’ll get a Mox.

This is my first article with the full spoiler, so I’m definitely looking through everything with wide eyes. This week, I’ll hit the commons that I think are most likely to be “players” in the new Standard – and then uncommons next week.

Without further “treasure”-related ad …

From The Home Office in Colorado Springs, Colorado…

10. Trapfinder’s Trick

There are a LOT of powerful traps in this set, and the good uncommons and rares will find their way into decks. Archive Trap could be the lynchpin of a mill deck, and big traps like Lavaball Trap and Summoning Trap have such an impact on the game, for such a minimal cost, that it may be worthwhile to get a little proactive. 1U is a small price to pay to blow out Archive Trap Mill (in response to their Path, perhaps?), and I think it will make an appearance in sideboards if that deck becomes big (or other Traps become prevalent).

9. Ior Ruin Expedition

Two mana. Two cards. Eventually. No additional activation cost like Courier’s Capsule. I guess you could think of it as Ancestral Vision, just with one less card, for one more mana, but you get the cards quicker. Oh, and it’s a quarter rather than five dollars. And if you’re playing fetchlands or any of the other mana acceleration cards in this set, the cards arrive that much quicker. No, it’s not instant-speed, but we get less and less of that nowadays. And this is pretty much the only card-drawing option in the set, which means it will get played.

8. Khalni Heart Expedition

Kind of a toss-up where the two good mana acceleration spells go in this list. While I like Khalni Heart Expedition for its pure ramp, and you do get more acceleration out of it, it doesn’t pull you out of mana screw. Forest, Forest, Expedition isn’t going to get you anywhere with lands number three, four, and five, which means Khalni Heart Expedition has a somewhat narrower responsibility. That being said, there are plenty of 6+ mana cost things that are worth ramping up into.

7. Guul Draz Vampire

Man, those dang vampires. From the beginning of the spoilers, it looked like somebody was cashing in on the popularity of vampires, but the truth is, they might actually be a viable aggro deck. Guul Draz is an excellent one-drop partner to Vampire Lacerator (who shows up later in the list) and builds on the “bloodlust” theme that the vampire have going for them.

But the more I look at them, the more I worry about how fragile they might be. Everything in that deck has a two-toughness aside from Vampire Nocturnus, meaning that a timely Volcanic Fallout or Infest blows you out of the water. Eh, I guess Vampire Nighthawk survives too. That’s next week.

6. Spell Pierce

Personally I think this is the best counterspell in the set. Mindbreak Trap is fun and all, but at the end of the day, it’s really easy to play around, so it just becomes a neat way to break those “ultimate” Cascade chains you hear so many people getting excited over. And I think we all can agree that Cancel is about one mana too expensive.

Spell Pierce just answers so many questions, and takes the place of Broken Ambitions in decks that need that early conditional counterspell. Late game, it can be a one-mana swinging point in a counter war to resolve a critical spell. But I think I like it best in an aggro control deck like the old Merfolk deck, where it doesn’t interfere with the mana curve and can counter those absolutely brutal board-sweepers.

5. Harrow

I wasn’t playing when Harrow was first printed in Tempest. Well, I was, but I didn’t know anything about mana curves or acceleration or the risk-for-reward structure of Harrow. Fact is, no one really played it, as far as I can remember. It didn’t really come into its own as a mana ramp spell until it was reprinted in Invasion and became one of the backbone spells of the Domain decks of that time.

Harrow is an amazing card because of three reasons. One, it’s instant speed, which lets you bluff if necessary – and it also forces your opponent to counter it (if he’s going to) on his turn. (And trust me, in this format, it will get countered.) Two, obviously, it accelerates you a single mana, ramping you from three to five on turn four. Three, and this was critical for the Domain deck, it also does color-fixing. In the Domain deck, you often ran a ton of Forests (and maybe Island), but only a handful of the other two, knowing that you could fetch them out. The sacrificial Forest was fine at that time because you already had access to plenty of Green mana.

Now, in Zendikar, Harrow adds a fourth possibility: as an instant-speed Landfall trick. It will be interesting to see what Landfall decks spring up to take advantage of all the instant-speed land that’s available thanks to this set.

But, I gotta be honest. I’m going to go back and look at those Domain spells from Conflux. Harrow (and Khalni Heart Expedition) provide you easy access to the Domain – I just don’t know if the cards in Conflux were strong enough to merit a whole deck.

4. Disfigure

A single Black mana can do a lot. Historically it’s turned into three mana, forced selective discard, put a card into your graveyard, or powered the strongest of reanimation spells. But in terms of removal, a single Black mana has either come with a steep side effect like Vendetta, acted in a balanced manner like Innocent Blood, or was somewhat less effective at killing anything other than X/1’s.

Disfigure is the other side of pushing the creature curve. Essentially a Black “Shock,” this gives black a one-mana answer to most of the aggro creatures in the format, putting it back into the “effective removal” company currently populated by Red and White. But more importantly, it gives Black a cheap removal spell to use on the wimps, saving its targeted auto-death removal for bigger things like Baneslayer Angel. And I’m building that deck. I’m such a sucker for Black control decks.

3. Journey to Nowhere

One of my “oh man that’s frickin’ sweet” moments this weekend came when I was checking out the card art. Seeing spoilers is great and all, but there just is no substitute for seeing the whole card – art, card text, flavor text, the whole package.

I mean, they put art on it for a reason. And not just so you can identify it in foreign languages.

The art of Journey to Nowhere is so sweet. It almost looks like you’re sending that poor sucker to a better place, in an AWOL kind of way. And the fact that it’s a 75% Oblivion Ring, for a mana less, is amazing as well. I call it “75% O-Ring” because 75% of the time, you’re pointing O-Ring at a creature. It’s like… a baked O-Ring. Do they make those?

I think we all expected Oblivion Ring to be re-printed, after Lorwyn and Shards.

2. Teetering Peaks

One of the enters-the-battlefield lands? This high? Really? Hey, my grandma dropped these straight into her Red Deck Wins deck and is ready to clean up at Friday Night Magic. The truth is, with the way that the Red-based aggro decks are going to likely adjust to include hasty trampling things, Teetering Peaks has tons of great targets that are going to get that damage through to your opponent. Hellspark Elemental, Ball Lightning, Elemental Appeal – all great targets. Even Bloodbraid Elf or, heck, Putrid Leech. If it forces your opponent to use a piece of removal or change how he blocks, then guess what? You’ve spent exactly zero cards (essentially) and zero mana to make him alter his game plan.

The real question is, does this slow down the deck since it comes into play tapped? Probably. Is turn-four 8/1 Ball Lightning worse than turn-three 6/1 Ball Lightning? Somehow I’m thinking no.

1. Vampire Lacerator

Red’s 2/2 for 1 with a drawback is a RARE. Black’s 2/2 for 1 with a drawback is a common – and you can (and should!) shut that drawback off. Yeah, I’m still as high on Vampire Lacerator as I was two weeks ago when we first got a whiff of him. He’s a super-aggressive one-drop, and now we know that he’s got an entire curve of supporting players in Zendikar. Maybe the deck builds itself, maybe it’s a little forced (or, uh, “linear” in its construction), but the bulk of the deck is going to be common or uncommon, making it a great choice for competitive players on a budget.

Next Week

Next week, we’ll look at the uncommons from the set, see what’s going to be strong in the new Standard, and probably look at a decklist. I’m going to go ponder and look at more cards. Counting down the days until the set goes on sale!

Get out next week and go to a Launch Party – another great way to get to play the new set, another great promo, and this set is one that you are going to want to get your hands all over.

Until next week…


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