Going Over Undergrowth

Posted in Reconstructed on September 8, 2015

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

Welcome back to Zendikar! Or . . . what's left of Zendikar, anyway.

Ever since the Eldrazi rose, life around these parts hasn't quite been the same. The world has been thrown into complete upheaval thanks to these world-eating monstrosities—just one Eldrazi titan (namely Ulamog) is potent enough to send the Allies of Zendikar into disarray.

Or, in other words: If the good guys are going to win this fight, they're going to need some help.

Swords and shields alone won't be enough. To win, they'll need to call upon the land itself.

Or in our case, perhaps a little bit of landfall.

Fortunately, there are a host of powerful creatures that are primed for this job. You've seen some of the Allies. Now, let me show you a landfall monster.

It's time to introduce you to Undergrowth Champion:

I hope you get well acquainted; I have a feeling you'll be seeing plenty of this monster over the next few months.

Let's run through what we just saw.

A three-mana 2/2 might not exactly be the paragon of Constructed stats. But my, how this creature grows. Assuming you have a follow-up land on the next turn, it's a 3/3—and it's headed skyward from there!

Let us not forget the fetch lands either. Thanks to the Khans of Tarkir fetch lands, it's pretty effortless to make this a 4/4 attacker that's only going to get bigger.

And then there's the damage prevention ability. Oh my.

This card is not easy to kill.

Undergrowth Champion can take down creature after creature in combat without dying itself. Whether you need to play offense or defense, it has a role. In matchups where you need to keep it safe, you can wait until turn four to cast it in order to play it and a land on the same turn.

So, how might one use Undergrowth Champion effectively? Well, let's look at two different takes in Standard!

Champion of Beatdown
Perhaps the most obvious deck to play the Champion in is something aggressive. After all, being able to smash in for 4 on turn four and then 6 on turn five with a pair of fetch lands lets you pile on the damage fast!

For example, take a look at something like this:

Gavin Verhey's Undergrowth Beatdown

Download Arena Decklist

This deck attempts to hit fast and hard with overpowered creatures for the mana cost. Already home to Yasova Dragonclaw and Surrak, the Hunt Caller, the addition of Undergrowth Champion provides another strong three-drop for the archetype.

Collected Company can find everybody but Surrak, supplying a lot of points of power to the board quickly. Company for an end step Yasova and Champion? Yes please!

You'll notice Atarka's Command here. If you thought it was good before, now that Battle for Zendikar is here, it's time to highlight the full extent of its power! Triggering landfall at instant speed and extra times per turn can make for a perfect trick—especially with twelve fetch lands available to power out.

Now, this is just a start. Rest assured there are some other fairly aggressive landfall creatures in the set that slot right into this shell. I'm positive you'll be seeing plenty of decks of this kind in the future.

Champion of Control

While aggression might be the clearest way to take advantage of this mighty Champion, it's far from the only option. While focusing on its growth in power for attacking is one direction from which to approach, if you put the emphasis on the ability to prevent damage, then the Champion can actually become an extremely potent defensive card!

For example, consider the following scenarios:

Your opponent is an aggressive deck with a pair of 4/4s on the battlefield. You have a 4/4 Undergrowth Champion. Attacking isn't really very profitable for the opponent here, as they don't even trade with your creature and you can likely bring it right back to a 4/4 next turn.

Now let's try the scenario with three 3/3s. Still not much better. You eat one of them and threaten to take down the other next turn.

Of course, if they don't attack and remove your +1/+1 counters, then it's just going to make for an even better vehicle to kill them with eventually. Yikes!

Undergrowth Champion is a rough one to attack into.

What kind of slower, controlling deck might want a card like that? Well, take a look here:

Gavin Verhey's Dark Water

Download Arena Decklist

Sultai control is a deck that wants to play a bunch of fetch lands to fill up its graveyard anyway . . . making Undergrowth Champion a natural fit! Either the Champion can play the role of blocker, or you can build it up out of Languish range and wipe the board while leaving your gigantic creature behind.

If your Champion buys enough time, then Silumgar and Tasigur can get online, which will help you push the game to its conclusion. All the while, you're controlling the board and finding just the cards you need.

As far as midrange control options go, this one has some legs—and there are plenty other Battle for Zendikar cards to keep an eye out for that can go right into this shell as well!

Exploring Zendikar

I hope you enjoyed this take on the brand new landscape Battle for Zendikar has to offer! We're just at the start of preview season—and you're in for a real treat. This set is a wild one, and I'm excited to see what you all want to do with it!

Speaking of which, it actually is time to see what you want to do with it! A fresh Standard rotation is one of my favorite times of the year. With Theros gone and Battle for Zendikar in, what can you build? Well, you tell me!

Format: Battle for Zendikar Standard

Restrictions: Your deck should use at least one Battle for Zendikar card

Deadline: Tuesday, September 15, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time.

Submit all decklists by emailing me at reconstructeddecks@gmail.com.

Decklists should be submitted with YOURNAME's DECKNAME at the top. Underneath should be one card per line, with just a leading number. For example:

12 Mountain

4 Zurgo Bellstriker

3 War-Name Aspirant

4 Wild Slash

. . .and so on. Please don't use anything but a space to separate the card numbers and names—don't write "4x Lightning Bolt," for example. Well-formatted decklists have a much better chance of being read and making it into the column. Poorly formatted decklists are more likely to be ignored. If I can't read your decklist, I certainly can't talk about it!

With Theros gone, the format is bound to shake up a bit! Thoughtseize, devotion, and the duo of Courser of Kruphix and Sylvan Caryatid all depart—paving the way for a truly fresh format. What can you come up with? You have until next Tuesday to send in your best! Feel free to wait until later in the week to submit your decklists, so you can see more cards previewed first.

In the meantime, I'd love to know your thoughts on this preview card and Battle for Zendikar in general! Please feel free to send me a tweet with any questions you may have, or leave a question on my Tumblr and I'll be sure to go and take a look.

I'll be back next week with another exciting Battle for Zendikar preview card. Have an excellent Preview Week, and I'll talk with you again then!




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