It’s Party Time With Zagras, Thief Of Heartbeats In Zendikar Rising Standard

Who wants to party hearty in Zendikar Rising Standard? Michael Majors brews around Rakdos standout Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats.

Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats
Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats, illustrated by Anna Steinbauer

In some ways, Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats is fairly straightforward: I want to reduce this card’s casting cost as much as possible and have it serve as a top-end hasty threat that can also let all of my creatures punch through.

Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats

This is a reasonable take on Zagras. The thing is, if you really want to maximize the cost reduction and party, the path to get there is anything but simple. Party is unique as a deckbuilding consideration, as typical tribal decks only need to stack the strongest-in-slot cards of a certain type; figuring out how to blend many tribes while maximizing your potential on the curve is a much larger ask.

Granting deathtouch to your entire team also happens to be a powerful effect.  Any creature that “deals damage” is certainly worth taking a look at moving forward, and there also happens to be some “deathtouch matters” stuff that’s trickled in over the course of last year, most recently Hooded Blightfang.

Hooded Blightfang

For starters, I’m going to list fairly comprehensively any relevant creature type that currently exists or has been previewed that fits a party type, at least in an aggressive shell; talk a little bit about major standouts; and then start presenting some decklists.  This should also help make your life easier when taking a look at party moving forward throughout the preview season.


One Mana

Thieves' Guild Enforcer Tin Street Dodger

Two Mana

Chevill, Bane of Monsters Robber of the Rich Acquisitions Expert

Three Mana

Brazen Borrower Nighthawk Scavenger Relic Robber

Four or More Mana

Rankle, Master of Pranks

Rogues look to be fairly close as a relatively standalone Rakdos aggressive deck.  Tin Street Dodger and Thieves’ Guild Enforcer are passable one-drops, Robber of the Rich is a payoff, and Nighthawk Scavenger, Rankle, and Zagras are all strong potential top-ends.  Mind Carver can even be another big threat if you want to eschew some of the top-end potential.  

There is no Rakdos Pathway, however.  This is a pretty big strike against going this direction, and since Mardu picks up three multicolor lands, that’s going to be our first look.


One Mana

Elvish Reclaimer

Two Mana

Kargan Intimidator Goma Fada Vanguard Cliffhaven Sell-Sword Seasoned Hallowblade Grotag Bug-Catcher

Three Mana

Radha, Heart of Keld

Four or More Mana

Winota, Joiner of Forces Tazri, Beacon of Unity Legion Angel

Warriors are looking a little light at this stage in preview season, but as far as looking for a semi-dedicated take, I’d take a look at Ari’s article about Nahiri as that direction stands out as the obvious “Warrior deck.”  

The big call-out here for our purposes today is Tazri, Beacon of Unity.  A big question in my eyes is whether or not to push the diversification route to maximize Tazri alongside Zagras.  


Two Mana

Drannith Stinger Dreadhorde Arcanist Fae of Wishes Heartfire Immolator Magmatic Channeler Fissure Wizard Watcher of the Spheres Sea Gate Stormcaller

Three Mana

Gadwick, the Wizened Rielle, the Everwise Ardent Electromancer Irencrag Pyromancer Barrin, Tolarian Archmage Cloudkin Seer

Wizards are also tricky.  Historically they aren’t exactly known for creating tribal decks and typically building blocks for spells themes.  Magmatic Channeler has a lot of potential to fit into a traditional spells deck and many of the leftovers from last year support draw or discard themes.

Finding ways to slot Wizards into your aggressive decks will be a little more rigid than most, but notably Heartfire Immolator has direct synergy with Zagras, turning its damage activation into a clean removal spell.  Similarly, some odd crossover synergy decks could see Irencrag Pyromancer doing some good work with Zagras.


One Mana

Archfiend's Vessel Archpriest of Iona

Two Mana

Conclave Mentor Apostle of Purifying Light Niambi, Esteemed Speaker Luminarch Aspirant Skyclave Cleric Cleric of Life's Bond

Three Mana

Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate Kaalia, Zenith Seeker Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose Taborax, Hope's Demise

Four Mana

Orah, Skyclave Hierophant

Clerics are pretty deep so far, and since they have such a strong identity for doing “lifegain things” there’s a good potential for them to stack up into a coherent strategy.  Ross took a look at this through the lens of Taborax, Hope’s Demise last week but it’s important to note how important Archpriest of Iona and Luminarch Aspirant are going to be for filling the curves of party decks over the next year.  These cards are just strong, period.

The One-Off

Tajuru Paragon

This one is the wild card.  Tajuru Paragon is curve-filler, party-enabler, and passable card advantage source.  This could could be strong enough to inspire certainly party color combinations all by itself.

This deck, which is Boros splash Zagras, has a pretty good spread of party types, some natural aggression, and even a little resilience and closing power with Tin Street Dodger, Zagras, and burn.  Without even really trying there’s a lot of nice things to do with Luminarch Aspirant.  Not only is the Cleric an awesome card for making difficult blocks for an opponent, but the synergies with Tin Street Dodger, Heartfire Immolator, and Seasoned Hallowblade are all meaningful here.

This is more of a proof of concept of “don’t underestimate four-mana Zagras” more than anything else.  You don’t need a complete overload of creatures to accomplish that task, and Zagras’s deathtouch ability does a lot to power up creatures that exist more for their incidental bodies like Sea Gate Stormcaller.  There’s a lot of blending of elements here and the mana isn’t anything to write home about, but I really like the idea of exploring a spell-based tempo deck that utilizes Zagras as a finisher that lets you attack and block effectively.

An entirely different take for Zagras, this is more of a… combo deck?  Sure, we can beat down pretty effectively with some deathtouch creatures, but the really adorable punch is to tutor up Hooded Blightfang with Vivien’s -2 after a Zagras and really show some drain triggers (or any of the aforementioned replacing a piece with Questing Beast, but really the Blightfang is way cooler).  

On a final note, largely to illustrate a point:

Add two copies of Stonework Packbeast to complete the deck.

I actually like the look of this deck quite a bit except the mana is just so laughably terrible.

This is the new world we live in, and Pathways and the Triomes are largely going to dictate the viability of multicolored decks moving forward.  The combinations that will be available between mana, creature types, and spreading them all around the curve to create a coherent and consistent package are extremely complicated.  This is barely touching the surface, not to mention the additional information that will come to light as the final cards become available to us.

There’s a lot of sweet stuff in Zendikar Rising, and party is anything but a simple and straightforward mechanic when it comes to deckbuilding.