Welcome to the first week of Battle for Zendikar previews here at Perilous Research, DailyMTG's exclusive Magic Online column. Today's preview card is a powerhouse top-end that's sure to see a good amount of Constructed play during its time in Standard. The ability to advance one's board state while simultaneously generating card advantage has always been a coveted quality for Magic cards. Cards like Eternal Witness, Den Protector, Mulldrifter, Snapcaster Mage, and others have played major roles in shaping every Constructed format.
Magic is a game of economies. Each player has 20 life and some number of cards to work with. Some decks are focused on attacking an opponent's life total with reckless abandon, but a bigger portion of decks seek to win games through the card advantage war. Usually, each of our cards is going to trade for one of our opponent's cards. Occasionally, we'll find a way to get two of our opponent's cards for a single one of ours. A lot of the time, though, we need to devote time to generating tangible card advantage. Cards that draw more cards or draw a card in addition to having an effect that can be used to deal with an opposing card help us get ahead. Similarly, cards that replace themselves while offering up a threat help us grind our way to victory. In theory, eventually one player will run out of cards and the other player will have free rein to take over the game and win without resistance.
Recently, we've seen Den Protector make huge waves in Standard. Den Protector is strong because it provides an effective threat while also, in most cases, allowing us to get a second opportunity to use the card in our graveyard that best attacks the current game state. Oftentimes, we find ourselves returning a card like Abzan Charm to our hand and using it to draw two more cards, essentially making Den Protector a chance to get three cards out of a single card drawn.
Today's preview card lets us dominate the card-economy game while providing us with a very healthy body to work with. Let's take a look at Greenwarden of Murasa!
Greenwarden of Murasa comes down as a massive 5/4 that's ready to rumble, and it immediately returns a card from our graveyard to our hand. We can use this ability to get back a discard or countermagic card that can protect our newly summoned 5/4—when it's reasonable to think that we can ride it to victory. We can get back a removal spell if we're being outmatched by an opponent's board. We can even get back a card like Den Protector or another card-advantage threat when we're grinding our way through a control opponent.
Greenwarden of Murasa seems like it will be right at home in the new Standard. The 5 power we get on the front-end means that it can trade with Siege Rhino and net us two additional cards in the process. It also means that Greenwarden of Murasa will supercharge our ferocious capabilities. Returning a card like Crater's Claws threatens to end the game regardless of how gummed up the ground might be in a given situation. The Crater's Claws/Greenwarden of Murasa combination promises to be a deadly finishing move in the coming months of Standard.
One of the most exciting interactions we find with Greenwarden of Murasa is when it's being played alongside See the Unwritten. When we find Greenwarden of Murasa with See the Unwritten, we can use its enters-the-battlefield trigger to return See the Unwritten to our hand. Then we have another creature to guarantee we'll have ferocious for See the Unwritten, and we still have tons of gas with which to move forward. We'll be able to scoop up the top eight cards of our library with reasonable consistency, until we're dropping Dragonlord Atarka onto the table to end the game in short order. Even if our opponent has the requisite cards needed to deal with our threat, we'll still get to return yet another card from our graveyard to our hand.
Greenwarden of Murasa | Art by Eric Deschamps
That's what pushes Greenwarden of Murasa over the edge. Even when our opponent deals with the 5/4 and the best card in our graveyard, we still get to keep going. We're basically never running out of things to do once this card resolves.
It's hard to identify what Greenwarden of Murasa ramp decks might look like, because a lot of the mana acceleration that we're currently playing with in Standard will be rotating out. Luckily, Battle for Zendikar brings us to a world where we'll be wanting to cast gigantic Eldrazi and Plant creatures, so we can be sure that there will be plenty of great ways to accelerate.
The major hurdle of Greenwarden of Murasa is that it's usually unreasonable to expect that we'll be able to cast another spell on the same turn. For this reason, Stubborn Denial is another particularly strong card alongside Greenwarden of Murasa, especially when the opponent is playing a deck like Abzan, when we'll want to be countering removal spells to ensure that our Greenwarden of Murasa will have the ability to trade with a Siege Rhino or Tasigur, the Golden Fang.
Abzan decks will be losing Elspeth, Sun's Champion with the rotation and will likely be looking for a new card to fulfill the role of "nail in the coffin." Greenwarden of Murasa seems like an early frontrunner to fill this slot. It's easy to imagine an endgame for the Abzan decks where they can use Greenwarden of Murasa and Den Protector to grind out virtually any opponent in the long game, while cards like Siege Rhino dominate the midgame. We'll need to see if the deck picks up a new and powerful two-mana option, but even Seeker of the Way and Heir of the Wilds can fill that role in a pinch.
Here's an early rough draft of what the new Standard Abzan decks might look like after Battle for Zendikar is released!
This deck can tango with opponents at every stage of the game. More aggressive cards like Heir of the Wilds and Seeker of the Way may find their way into new Abzan lists as the new two-drops of choice. Rakshasa Deathdealer was considered, but without cards like Temple of Malady, it seems like a tight requirement for our mana base.
Battle for Zendikar already promises to be one of the most exciting sets in recent memory. Greenwarden of Murasa will find a home in many midrange strategies as a top-end that allows decks to grind their way through any game state once it has the chance to resolve. Remember: Greenwarden of Murasa's power level is directly relative to the power of the cards we're playing alongside it! The card will likely fit best in a deck that simply plays the most powerful cards available in a given color combination.
Knowledge is power!