Days of Future Future: Battle for Zendikar

Posted in Latest Developments on October 30, 2015

By Sam Stoddard

Sam Stoddard came to Wizards of the Coast as an intern in May 2012. He is currently a game designer working on final design and development for Magic: The Gathering.

It's time once again for Days of Future Future, the time when I revisit some of our Future Future League Standard testing focusing on cards from Battle for Zendikar.

As always when reading a Future Future League article, keep in mind that many of these decks are not tuned. They are also full of cards that were stronger than they are now, and often are missing real-world cards that were changed later in development. They are also reacting to a slightly different metagame than what the real world has come up with, so don't expect to take these to your local tournament and demolish it. The goal of every deck isn't to be the strongest deck in the environment, it's to try and learn something. While we do occasionally hold tournaments that give us an idea of what the strongest deck is, we have found that getting a feel for what is possible and how good the individual cards are leads to a better Standard environment.

I'm sharing these decks to help give some insights into what we were thinking, and maybe show off some cool cards that haven't made it into the real world just yet. This isn't an exhaustive list of all of the decks we are playing, but rather a peek at some of the decks that I have something interesting to say about.

The first deck is kind of an oldie but goodie from the original Zendikar Standard, though color-shifted from red-white to green-red.

Red-Green Landfall

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We knew ahead of time that we would have fetch lands in Khans of Tarkir and landfall in Battle for Zendikar, so this was deck number one to test out. Our hope was that we would have more than enough landfall creatures to make the deck a "landfall" deck, but not so many that the pattern for making the deck was "put every landfall creature into a deck, add lands and removal." Also, when trying to find out the last mode for Atarka's Command in Dragons of Tarkir, we ended up with putting a land on the battlefield just to make sure it could fit into this deck.

Black-Red Devoid Aggro

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The second deck we knew we wanted to make work was an aggressive deck that somehow involved Eldrazi. That is where our seed cards like Ghostfire Blade came up, letting us have something that we knew would let us push the colorless Eldrazi as far as we could.

Red-Green Ramp

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What would Zendikar be without a ramp-into-Eldrazi deck? See the Unwritten and Nissa's Revelation are both powerful spells to go into a ramp deck, and we had some pretty premium ramp with Rattleclaw Mystic, Nissa's Pilgrimage, and Hedron Archive.

Esper Dragons

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Of course, we also wanted to take some of the strong decks from the last year's Standard and update them with new cards. Esper Dragons kept a ton of its most powerful cards, and also got powerful lands such as Shambling Vent plus a strong mana base in the fetch and battle lands.

Abzan Midrange

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Another huge deck over the last year was Abzan. Again, we wanted to take a powerful deck and see what we could do in an update with Battle for Zendikar cards. Of note, this version tries to use the Eldrazi Processors along with Anafenza, the Foremost and Abzan Charm (two of the most powerful exile cards in Standard) to make Wasteland Strangler into a very strong and reliable removal spell.

Green-Blue Time Walk

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Back to new decks, one of the cards we quickly identified as being very risky in Battle for Zendikar was Part the Waterveil. It would be very easy to have two of them with enough lands on the battlefield to lock up the game in two attacks, so we made sure that the numbers on it didn't make that the easy way to win, with awaken 6 plus another awaken 6 only being 18 damage total. Not that you won't frequently be able to kill an opponent, with so many fetch lands in the format, but at least it isn't a foregone conclusion.

Beyond just black-red devoid aggro, we also had a blue-black ingest aggro deck that played a little higher up the curve, but used a little bit of disruption.

Blue-Black Processors

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Magic Origins had a lot of Elves, but they had very little support in the previous two blocks, since neither Theros nor Khans had any Elves. Battle for Zendikar, however, had more than a few, so we wanted to make sure there was the opportunity for the Elf deck to get some new toys—specifically Beastcaller Savant and Tajuru Warcaller.


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There were plenty of things we tried out, but we ended up making some big changes that eliminated entire decks. In the below list, March from the Tomb brought all Allies back, but it cost more mana. That meant the best way to get the maximum use out of it was to get as many Allies into your graveyard as humanly possible, then cast March from the Tomb.

Raise an Army Combo

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The goal of March from the Tomb was to give the Allies decks a way to fight back against board sweepers—not to act as a combo card, which this deck turned them into. We liked where the card ended up, allowing the Ally deck to recover from removal.

We also tried a lot of things with Bring to Light. Although we really liked the cards, getting the remainder of the converge cards into the right spot was hard. One particular card I want to talk about is Prism Array.

Prism Array

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In this version of the deck, Prism Array had the activated ability to return it to your hand for WUBRG. This made it almost impossible for a creature deck to beat, since the Bring to Light deck could easily turtle up and use Prism Array to lock down two or more creatures a turn, then cast a Wrath once enough creatures were on the battlefield to get beyond the Prism Array.

That's it for this week. Join me next week when I talk about Commander (2015 Edition)!

Until next time,

Sam (@samstod)

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