The Anchors of Battle for Zendikar

Posted in Event Coverage on October 10, 2015

By Corbin Hosler

Every Magic format is unique, and Battle for Zendikar is no exception. While some Sealed Deck formats can be fairly straightforward, Magic's newest set offers plenty of room for exploration. While the straightforward, two-color decks do exist, players are often finding success with more ambitious four or even five-color takes on their pool.

But few of the many talented players in the room at Grand Prix Madison sit down with that intention. In fact, many of them aren't even looking at the powerful rares they open when beginning the deck-building process. Instead, they're looking at what can be referred to as “anchors” — cards they can expect to find in multiples to provide some direction to begin building a deck.

“There's so many ways to go about building in this format,” Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir Top 8 competitor and noted deckbuilder Adrian Sullivan said. “Even in one color, like black, there's two or three different kinds of decks you could end up playing.”

Which is exactly why it wasn't the Kiora, Master of the Depths that Sullivan was most interested in when he took a look at this particular Sealed Deck pool; it was a particular set of the green cards that appeared in the packs.

Practice Sealed - Green

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“With the druids and the Connections, along with the Pilgrim's Eye and Prairie Stream, you can definitely look at playing four or more colors with this deck,” he explained. “The Kiora is great, but when I start to look at this deck, it's the mana-fixing that draws me first.”

But just because the mana-fixing was the first thing drew his eye, it wasn't the only color with strong anchors.

Practice Sealed - Red

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Practice Sealed - White

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Practice Sealed - Black

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“That's a lot of Allies,” Sullivan explained. “Playing a very aggressive deck with a lot of Reckless Cohort and Kor Castigator can be very good. While everyone else is going slow and trying to ramp or play lots of colors, you can just kill them.”

It's the aggressive two-drops that Sullivan looks for as a signal to play an Allies deck. The heavy-Ally colors are strong in Battle for Zendikar — 10 of the 13 grinder-winning decks played at least one white card — and taking advantage of the Ally synergy is the backbone of many a strong deck in the room today.

For 2013-14 Rookie of the Year Raymond Perez, Jr., every Battle for Zendikar deck begins with the mana-fixing, and he's excited to stretch his deck to play the most powerful cards available.
“Even Sylvan Scrying is playable, because it gets you any land, not just the basics, so we can use it to find Prairie Stream or one of the other lands,” he explained. “I love being able to take advantage of the best cards in the pool, if you can make your mana work.”

Practice Sealed – Multicolor and colorless

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While the pull to take advantage of all the mana fixing in Battle for Zendikar can be tempting, four-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Josh McClain noted that cards that work together can often produce better decks than just a handful of powerful cards that don't interact particularly well.

“You want to look for synergies in this set, which can be hard to do in Sealed but great if you can get them,” he said. “In this format I tend to only look for the mana-fixing if there's an abundance of it. In this pool, we have it but we don't need it and I don't think you always need to try for that. This pool can just play a strong green-blue deck and have a lot of game, and maybe you can splash for something like Smite the Monstrous if you want.”

Practice Sealed - Blue

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While Battle for Zendikar is a unique format with its own challenges, Sam Pardee still begins every deck construction with the same guidelines that have led him to seven Grand Prix Top 8 appearances and two titles.

“You can do a lot of things in this format, but you still want to be doing what you usually do: look at your bombs and then your removal.”

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