Kozilek's Return

Posted in Reconstructed on January 4, 2016

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.

Kozilek had quite an explosive reappearance.

Everything on Zendikar was starting to go all right. And then, in one earth-rumbling swoop, the beast below awoke: Kozilek surged up and reappeared on the scene.

And suddenly, some of our Planeswalkers' worst fears were realized.

Well, by now you've all seen Kozilek. I'm sure you've seen some of his brood, and his wastes, and plenty to do with colorless mana.

But how about the moment of his reappearance?


When I think of the story moment in Oath of the Gatewatch, of all that earth being upturned and our Planeswalkers sent into disarray, I certainly equate that with devastation. So, perhaps, it's only fitting that this card is likely to be a complete blowout.

The versatility is tremendous. Let's break it down a little here.

At its base, it is three mana for a 2-damage sweeper. Entirely reasonable—Pyroclasm has seen plenty of play for one mana less—and it can effectively clear the board of creature swarms.

...But what's that? Instant speed?! Yes, indeed! We very seldom make instant-speed sweepers, but here you have one. Not only can this entirely muck up a combat step, but it can also hit cards that most sorcery-speed sweepers can't. Dashing Lightning Berserker got you down? Creature lands giving you trouble? Well, perhaps a bit of Kozilek's Return is just what you need!

And then there's the real juice at the end: the re-sweep when you cast a big Eldrazi. Now this is tremendous. Often the problem with wanting to tap out to cast a big creature against an aggressive deck is, even though you landed your win condition, your opponent has mounted enough of an offensive to defeat you on the return volley.

Not so much with Kozilek's Return.

You can use it early to wipe the board of small creatures. Then, when you cast, say, Kozilek, the Great Distortion as your finisher, you get to wipe the board with the second use of Kozilek's Return—and in Kozilek's case, draw up to seven, then counter what your opponent casts next. Beating that is a tricky endeavor indeed!

Oh, and to top it all off, it's colorless! If something like Kor Firewalker has ever been an issue for you, this is a way to get those off of the table.

Kozilek's Return is so strong that you can definitely expect it to show up—the only question is where.

Well, let's take a look at a pair of possibilities across two different formats. First up: Standard!

Kozilek Has Standards

White can sweep the board in Standard. Black can sweep the board in Standard. Red has access to Radiant Flames—but Kozilek's Return provides another tool to play with.

For example, imagine a blue-red control deck shell that looks something like this:

Gavin Verhey's Blue-Red Eldrazi Control

Download Arena Decklist

This kind of control deck is especially well-positioned against creature decks—featuring a plethora of cheap, interactive removal and six board sweepers, everything from Mono-Red to even Abzan is going to have trouble keeping a heavy board presence against a deck like this one.

Brutal Expulsion—a card that hasn't seen a ton of play yet—is very powerful here. It provides some big tempo swings that put you in the driver's seat, while even setting up your Ruin Processors!

Ruin Processor certainly might not look like a Standard all-star on its own by any stretch, but when it comes with a Kozilek's Return attached, suddenly it looks a lot more attractive. And alongside the exiling power of Brutal Expulsion, it also helps ensure that you can keep your life total up against decks like red in the midgame.

Thanks to the powerful mana bases available in Standard, this deck doesn't need to stay just blue and red—it's easy to expand. The black is basically already there if you wanted to move in that direction and have some additional removal spells, or potentially even some discard.

Another interesting choice is actually green! You get to play Sarkhan Unbroken in your control deck, which is pretty nice, and there's a particular seven-mana green Eldrazi named World Breaker that triggers Kozilek's Return in Oath of the Gatewatch, and that is also pretty nice to play.

Oh, and that's not even delving deeper into the potential here for colorless mana! Could colorless be this deck's third "color"? Well, you'll have to give it a try yourself once you know a few more of the colorless cards.

Okay, so that's an attempt at Standard. But what about Modern? Oh yes—I have big plans for this card in Modern. Let me show you!


Kozilek's Return feels practically perfect for the Modern red-green Urzatron decks. This is a deck that has played Pyroclasm before...and now you have a colorless Pyroclasm!

Why does that matter? Well, for example, Kozilek's Return can be found off of Ancient Stirrings—that's quite a big deal, because when you need it you really need it. That just makes your Ancient Stirrings even more versatile.

And once you're playing a few Kozilek's Returns, it could be worth considering some Eldrazi in your deck. After all, the "magic number" for the Urzatron is seven: it creates seven mana. This means that if there's a seven-mana Eldrazi you want to cast, you'll get to clear the board on your way! You'll have to stay tuned to Oath of the Gatewatch to see if there's one that fits the bill. But even that aside, wiping your opponent's board again when you play an Ulamog can be the difference between winning and losing.

Let's take a look at an example decklist:

Gavin Verhey's Kozitron

Download Arena Decklist

Remember: the Urzatron not only provides seven mana, it provides seven colorless mana—meaning casting colorless spells from Oath of the Gatewatch is a total cinch! At that point, Kozilek, the Great Distortion becomes a very real option.

Drawing back up to seven cards means this deck will be full of gas—able to deal with whatever interactive spell your opponent might have! Since so much in Modern costs one mana (like, for example, Path to Exile), Kozilek lets you almost assuredly shut those down considering the number of one-mana spells in your deck.

Plus, it's just sweet to have Emrakul, Ulamog, and Kozilek all hanging out in the same deck.

This is definitely something to keep your eye on with Oath of the Gatewatch. And there may even be some other colorless-mana spells that will want to try and make their mark here as well!

Returning Things Around

I hope you enjoyed this look at Kozilek's Return! This is a powerhouse you can expect to see showing up in a variety of formats—be prepared for it, or risk falling prey to it.

So, what else to note?

Well, starting next week, DailyMTG is changing its structure a little bit. (And definitely for the better!) I don't want to steal Blake's thunder here, but as far as this article slot goes, one thing I want to note is that I'm not going to be modifying submitted decklists nearly as often as I used to.

But, I want to let you all know this: my (virtual) door is always open. If you ever have any questions about decklists or just about Magic in general, feel free to ask me. You can always find me on Twitter or Tumblr, so go ahead and shoot me a tweet or a Tumblr ask and I'll be sure to see it.

That note aside, I hope you are all enjoying Oath of the Gatewatch previews! The set was a blast to work on, and I can't wait to see how it plays out. Enjoy the rest of the week's previews, and I'll talk with you again next week!




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