Planar Boxing

Posted in Reconstructed on October 12, 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.

Ladies and gentlemen and neither, boys and girls and Eldrazi Scions—come one, come all, and welcome to the Standard planar bout of the millennia!

Innnnnn one corner, we have Zennnnnnndikar! It's an entire plane that's practically alive, shifting and fighting like one tremendous shapeshifter! Rocky Balboa has nothing on the rocky nature of this place. And as if the plane itself wasn't perilous enough, just as hardy are its inhabitants, the creatures that can survive it! Wielding all manner of weapons, Zendikar's denizens will fight tooth, claw, and kitesail back against any opposition. Creature and land, fighting side-by-side, shoulder-to-steppe, should be able to take down anything.

Except, for perhaps, one foe in particular.

Coming in from the other corner, the challengers. Weighing in at an entirely inscrutable number of pounds, we have Uuuuuuuulamog! The mighty 'Mog and his fearsome Eldrazi lineage are ripping Zendikar apart—literally! Ingesting everything in their path, these truly titanic monsters tower above the opposition and stomp out both life and hope wherever they roam. The weaponry of the plane might as well feel like the pinprick of a bumblebee sting to some of the largest of the brood.

Take your seats. Grab your cards. Choose a side. And let's prepare to battle!


Let's first size up the challengers.

The Eldrazi are big, and they're strong—but they can also be slow. While there are much quicker devoid-style decks (for example, the red-black deck from a couple weeks ago), what I want to look at here is something that is actually capable of deploying the monsterous Ulamog.

Fortunately, my readers delivered in spades.

Let's take a look at one such deck, submitted by Sinagel:

Sinagel's Eldrazi Midrange

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A natural pairing for the Eldrazi is green to partner with mana ramp. So that makes sense—but what are red and blue doing here?

Well, a big card out of blue—or rather, blue and green—for this deck is the new Kiora. Incredibly powerful, it's just a matter of whether there's a deck she will fit into—and perhaps she could align herself with Eldrazi overlords.

For example, imagine this draw:

Turn three: Shaman of Forgotten Ways

Turn four: Kiora, Master of the Depths

Turn five: Tap Shaman for two, tap your lands for mana, use Kiora to untap Shaman and a land, cast Ulamog.

That's a hardcast Ulamog. On turn five . . . without doing anything on the first two turns!

Shaman has picked up a lot of power with huge Eldrazi to ramp into, and this deck takes advantage of it well. Even casting Shaman into Oblivion Sower is incredible!

Kiora also helps power you into See the Unwritten. That card is something you can expect to power a lot of post-Battle for Zendikar strategies. Slamming huge Eldrazi onto the table early is a big deal, and this deck can power out a turn-four See the Unwritten with Kiora's help!

Not to mention, if you have ferocious, you can always try to find an Eldrazi and Surrak, the Hunt Caller together. Attacking right away? Sign me up!

While this deck does also sport blue for Retreat to Coralhelm, I'm less convinced by that card. While it can be explosive with cards like Shaman of Forgotten Ways, a lot of time it's a do-nothing enchantment if you don't draw it early.

Speaking of red, Brutal Expulsion is, well . . . brutal. It doesn't fit that well into a ramp deck like this, but it can still buy you enough time to keep a couple copies around.

While Sylvan Scrying finding specific lands is nice, I would rather just straight-up ramp my mana further. Enter: Whisperer of the Wilds. It also seems custom-made for something like getting to Ulamog, since it doubles its mana production once a big Eldrazi is on the board. He certainly knows which side he's on!

And finally, one more big creature I'd like to ramp into here is Dragonlord Atarka. While Barrage Tyrant is nice, Atarka is pretty easy to get to and incredibly effective. Although it's a flavor nonbo, hey, the Eldrazi could certainly keep Atarka under their thrall if they ever met, right?

With those tweaks, we're looking at something like:

Gavin Verhey's Temurdrazi

Download Arena Decklist

When it comes to playing an Eldrazi ramp deck, this is definitely an excellent shell to start from. Creatures, not cards like Rampant Growth, tend to be the best way to ramp in this Standard format. This deck has a critical mass of them, and can start casting huge spells early and easily.

If this is a taste of what the mighty Eldrazi have to offer, what can Zendikar do for itself?
Well, let's take a look!


When it comes to Zendikar as a whole fighting back against the Eldrazi, I can think of fewer greater implementations than landfall. This showcases both the creatures and the lands of Zendikar working together and teaming up to take down the tentacle menace.

What does a landfall deck look like? Well, let's start with what Zach Stainbrook sent in:

Zach Stainbrook's Landfall

Download Arena Decklist

The key to most landfall decks is to hit hard and fast. Since, naturally, you are going to have fewer lands to play as the game continues onward, you want to extract the most value out of every land drop you play. And to do that, curving low is going to be a huge boon. And in this case especially, it helps you get out under the Eldrazi menace!

I have been seeing a lot of landfall decks come into my inbox, many featuring cards such as Oran-Rief Hydra. And while the Hydra is certainly an attractive card, it isn't generally the kind of thing my Standard landfall decks are looking for: I want to hit hard early, not try and rely on a six-drop.

Similarly, cards such as Explosive Vegetation, while tempting since they double-trigger landfall, are only awesome in the situation where I have a bunch of landfall creatures, the coast is clear to attack, and playing another creature or burn wouldn't just be better. Every card you play comes at the cost of another card you could be playing, and Explosive Vegetation isn't quite worth it there. Blighted Woodland, on the other hand, is perfect. As a land that does what Explosive Vegetation does, it doesn't really take up a card slot while still providing that effect for when you really need it.

I would trade those cards off for more cards in the realm of Makindi Sliderunner and Snapping Gnarlid, which can swing for tons of damage early. Plus, if you flood out on mana, they ensure you have a constant source of damage that's down on the table before the flood happens. While it does put more of your power into the early game, if you are trying to fight in the midgame with landfall, you are going to get eaten by decks like Dragons and Eldrazi—but the early game can be uniquely yours.

That doesn't mean you have to only look at the early game, though. Playing a few Dragonmaster Outcasts and Nissa, Vastwood Seers ensures that if the game goes longer or becomes a fight of attrition, you'll have some tools in your tool belt to still have power in the midgame without the need for a bunch of expensive creatures.

What exactly might this look like? Well, how about something like this!

Gavin Verhey's Zendikar Landfall

Download Arena Decklist

With power both early and midgame, this can attack from several angles. Akoum Firebird is a great card that is emblematic of this deck: It attacks for 3 as soon as it comes down, but is also a persistent threat if the game drags out.

If this deck were to take on the Eldrazi deck from above, you'd surely have a great battle with a lot of back and forth. If you want, you could even try building them up as a pair of Standard dual decks and see how they face off against one another!

Have fun!

Battling on a Budget

Today's article showcased the battle between Zendikar and Eldrazi—and up in two weeks, I want to showcase a different battle: the battle to build on a budget!

Let's see what you can come up with! Send in your best budget Standard decks. Here are the rules for this week's challenge:

Format: Standard

Restrictions: Your deck is on a budget. For a loose definition, consider budget to contain few rares and very few—if any—mythic rares.

Deadline: Monday, October 19, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time.

Submit all decklists by emailing me at

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 Makindi Sliderunner

3 Valakut Predator

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 Wild Slash," 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!

There's plenty to do in Zendikar on a budget, with plenty of exciting and powerful lands and creatures at common and uncommon. But what will you do? I'm excited to see!

In the meantime, if you have any thoughts, questions, or feedback, feel free to send them my way! You can always catch me on Twitter by sending me a tweet, or ask me a question on my Tumblr and I'll be sure to take a look.

I'll be back next week when we take a look at something a little different: devoid in Modern! There are some sweet decks to look forward to. But until then, have fun brewing!

Talk with you again soon,




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