Zendikar Rising Limited Review
Another set is upon us with a host of new mechanics to investigate for limited purposes. In this article we'll go over the major themes of the set and discuss how they fit together. The three major themes of the set, party, landfall and modal lands, are each present in every color. In addition there are a few minor themes, counters and mill, which are only present in BG and UB and the party tribes each seem to have their own build around deck available.
- Analysis of Mechanics
- Modal Lands
- Evergreen Limited Discussion
The party mechanic is truly beautiful. I love the flavor of collecting your raiding party. I also expect it to have good game play. It reminds me sort of of delirium where you need to collect four things to get some special payoff. But most of the payoff, especially at lower rarities isn't in getting a complete set but in the linear payoff. There isn't much of a power level jump between casting your
Only rare cards care about full party:
|Number of ...||Clerics||Wizards||Warriors||Rogues||Wildcards||Draws||Trials|
|Party Size =||0||1||2||3||4||EV|
Using the program one can observe that a deck with 3 each of the party types and one wild card is 30% to have access to a full party on turn 5. I would have naively guessed a much lower probability.
In addition to thinking about your deck's party distribution you'll also want to consider the cmcs of party members your party matters cards want. The more expensive payoffs like
Any card game which rewards getting one of each of something has to reward getting a bunch of the individual thing. Doesn't matter if we're playing Rummy, Poker or ZNR limited. So in addition to the party payoffs there are a few tribal payoffs for each of the party tribes. There's the cycle of expedition creatures which get some bonus for having a matching creature:
The above creatures all reward you for having one friend. But there's also a cycle of uncommon artifacts:
In addition to the relic wizards have
We should also discuss the type's prevalence in the set. There are 34 common party creatures and 21 common non party creatures. If you're wondering how this compares to the set we have 21 wizards, 26 warriors, 22 clerics and 23 rogues. So they're fairly evenly distributed. There are no white rogues. There are no black wizards. There are no red or green clerics. There are no blue warriors.
There a ton of modal lands in the set. Each color has four uncommons, a rare and a mythic in addition to the six dual lands. I'm not entirely sure how they will be put in packs but the article which discussed set boosters said a draft pack would contain the normal 10 commons, 3 uncommons, 1 rare so I think the double faced cards will be distributed like normal cards of their rarity unlike SOI or INN which had one double faced card per pack. It's more like the double faced cards in Ixalan or Origins except the double faced card in those sets were all rare. There are no common modal lands in the set but because of their 4*5=20 uncommons they still end up with an appreciable as fan of 0.87. So they'll be a pretty important part of limited with a normal sealed pool having about 5.
When evaluating cards for limited there are four ways one can mean a card is powerful that are correlated but not the same. One can talk about the percent of decks that will want to play a card given they will be the colors to cast it. One can talk about how much a decks win percentage will go up by playing a card. And one can talk about what pick a card should go on average and how likely one is to be the card's colors given they opened it in a sealed pool. Those last two metrics are sort of a function of the first two. The modal double faced cards should be played in 100% of limited decks that can cast the spell half. The as fan isn't high enough that you'll end up with so many that you're glutted on tap lands.
The funny thing about evaluating the modal spell lands is that the narrower their spell half the better they look to me. I'm using a sort of bad heuristic there. I see cards like
The mechanic is going to lead to more situational sort of marginal combat tricks being played than normal. Cards like
Note that these lands are antisynergistic with landfall. In many limited environments the 6th or 7th land is often a brick and replacing it with a spell, even a marginal one, is a huge upgrade for the flooding player. But landfall rewards a player for continuing to make their land drops every turn. I like this tension and think it will lead to hard decisions in game. But the anticipation of those difficulties will never add up to a reason to cut a modal spell land.
Another hard decision that will have to be made every game based on the texture of hands is whether to play your tap land to avoid having it mess with your curve later or hold it in case you continue drawing lands and want to have access to the spell. There are some easy cases like when you have one basic, one modal spell land, no other lands and a two drop you should probably always lead with your tap land and when you have three normal lands you should probably always hold your spell lands. But there are a lot of hard cases in between.
Should Double Faced Lands replace a land or spell slot? I think the answer is yes. I'd guess some system like first replacing a land or a spell based on how your curve compares to normal limited decks i.e. if you have the kind of deck that would consider playing 16 lands, play 16 lands and a modal spell land. If you have the kind of deck that would consider playing 18 lands play 17 lands and a modal spell land. And then after that just alternate cutting lands and spells. There are a lot of aspects to consider though. Some modal spell lands rarely want to be cast. Lands like
A quirk of the modal cards is they allow you to play more lands which can be used as a form of fixing. A 9-9-2 mana base with 3 spell lands seems consistent and strong to me. Keep in mind you don't want to splash the modal cards. You want the spell lands to be in the 9-9 colors.
There are a few different landfall designs but a common theme is that they encourage you to attack. Most long term advantages a card can give you would add up to too much if they happened with every land drop. So a lot of designs give you a stats boost of some kind. But then you only get the stats boost on your turn so they're only helping you if you're attacking. I think they learned their lesson with original Zendikar as this set has much more defensively minded designs, though I think on average the set skews aggressive. In original Zendikar every color had a common creature with landfall +2/+2. In this set the only commons with that ability are
The white landfall commons are
Blue has the
Green has the most landfall cards, which makes sense because it also has the most ways to put multiple lands into play in one turn. It's commons are
Some cards to look out for if you're playing a landfall strategy are
There's a small counters matter theme in black and green. At common in black we have
There's a small, and frankly kind of strange, mill subtheme in this set (one could say that about about half of mtg set). This one is centered around payoffs for getting a fifth of the way there i.e. cards that do a little something extra when the opponent has 8 cards in the graveyard. At common you have
At common the enablers are,
Every equipment in the set equips on ETB. As the spoilers were coming out I thought there was a tight colored cycle but they're all over the place in terms of rarity and power level without a unifying theme besides this new mechanic. I kind of like it. Equipments need to have a high equip cost to make them not too efficient in the early game. But then their cmc is effectively at least their equip cost because you need to equip them before they do anything. And they still need to have an actual cmc. By giving a rebate on the first activation these equipments become much more reasonable aggro plays but not significantly more attractive to players looking for a long game. They remind me of living weapons in a way because they come into play equipped. But unlike living weapons they're not obviously great limited cards by being at least as good as a bear or whatever. The equipment in this set sort of feel like what equipment should have been in the first place. We'll see how they play.
In addition to a greater number of equipments than normal they have a few friends in
Pressure Point, Dauntless Unity, Disenchant, Practiced Tactics, Resolute Strike.
Chilling Trap, Anticognition, Deliberate, Glacial Grasp, Into the Roil, Negate, Shell Shield, Living Tempest, Zulaport Duelist.
Deadly Alliance, Oblivion's Hunger, Subtle Strike, Nimana Skydancer, Vanquish the Weak.
Inordinate Rage, Molten Blast, Sizzling Barrage, Synchronized Spellcraft.
Broken Wings, Might of Murasa.
Allied Assault, Kabira Takedown, Sejiri Shelter.
Beyeen Veil, Concerted Defense, Jwari Disruption, Silundi Vision.
Cinderclasm, Kazuul's Fury, Spikefield Hazard.
Khalni Ambush, Roiling Regrowth, Vastwood Fortification.
Spoils of Adventure, Soaring Thought-Thief.
Rares and Mythics
Hagra Mauling, Soul Shatter.
Inscription of Abundance.
Zareth San, the Trickster.
Nahiri's Binding, Practiced Tactics, Smite the Monstrous.
Drana's Silencer, Feed the Swarm, Subtle Strike, Vanquish the Weak.
Molten Blast, Roil Eruption, Sizzling Barrage, Synchronized Spellcraft.
I'll close with some uncategorized observations.
Spare Suppliesfeels like a strange color pie violation to me. In any other set this would have just been Divination. I think this one is a little worse since it's more overall mana and a worse top deck. But it's possible controlling decks would rather take off turn two than turn 3 because there are stronger defensive options on three. I'm certainly interesting in playing it in some durdly ones.
- Jerboas are actually real animals. Basically Gerbils. Don't let them intimidate you.
- While doing research in the base rates of wizards, warriors, clerics and rogues I discovered that 3:30 am EST September 9th, 2020 there were exactly the same number of wizards and warriors 769. With the release of the full set Warriors have the lead by one. Unsurprisingly clerics and rogues are rarer with 432 and 300 respectively. For modern context there are 462, 574, 251, and 211 respectively. Seems like mtg has gotten less magical in modern times.
- There's just a hint of a life gain theme with
Attended Healer, Cleric of Life's Bond, Scion of the Swarmand Maruding Blight-Priest. The priest is a design I can't believe we haven't see before. It's a Sanguine Bondwhich isn't stupid. Farsight Adeptis an interesting one. I guess it's hard to design a white wizard. I'm not sure why Kabira Outridercouldn't have just been a warrior. Nessian Coursergets worse every year but if you're aggressive enough I suppose it has some upside.
- I love
Guul Draz Mucklord.
- I was so sure
Broken Wingswas a reprint but I guess I was thinking about Crushing Vines. Power creep has gotten out of hand.