Things that worry me in Battle for Zendikar

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Battle for Zendikar has been fully spoiled and I have to say I’m not excited wholeheartedly. I was skeptical towards Khans of Tarkir as well at first, but that turned out awesome, so I won’t judge the set before I get my hands on it. That said, there are a few things that worry me in the set.

1. (Some of) the mechanics seem to be parasitic.dominatordrone
A parasitic mechanic, as defined by Mark Rosewater in an article on the mothership, is a mechanic that doesn’t blend well with other mechanics and other cards. I find more than one examples of this in Battle for Zendikar. Ingest has synergy with cards within the set, but will probably not be relevant outside Battle for Zendikar limited, and maybe Standard. Devoid, or rather “colourless matters” is a more broad mechanic in general, since there are lots of colourless cards outside Battle for Zendikar. Rally, the keyword for the Ally enters the battlefield triggers is at least less parasitic than it was in original Zendikar block, since bonuses from allies are granted all of your creatures these days, not just your other allies. That said, in order to re-trigger these abilities you need more allies, a creature type confined to the blocks set on Zendikar, and that’s excluding Rise of the Eldrazi, in which they are inexplicalby absent.

heroofgomafada.full2. The limited format seems wide open.
This isn’t a problem intrinsicly, since open limited formats are a lot more interesting than “on-rails” drafts in closed formats, but even so – having a limited format with very little direction is daunting to me as an irregular Limited player. Aside the blatant Allies deck and maybe some Eldrazi ramp/colourless matters (though the ramp isn’t very rampy, frankly) deck, I don’t see a clear direction. Granted, I’m a really bad Limited player, but I have played Magic for more than fifteen years. I can’t imagine how confused beginners would be, sitting down at a Battle for Zendikar draft table.

3. The Eldrazi are pretty awful villains.wastelandstrangler.full
To kill, to consume, to move on. Eldrazi motivations carry about as much relatability and weight as the Tyranids from the Warhammer 40k universe – which is approaching zero. I’m quite sure that Wizards has designed the Eldrazi to feel strange and alien, and when it comes to the whole “First I put the cards from your library to exile, then I put them in your graveyard from there” does a good job at conveying that, but it turns the Eldrazi into nothing more than a force of nature. Conflict between lopsided sides when it comes to sympathy makes for dull storytelling. Nissa, Jace, Gideon et al might as well try and put out the greatest forest fire in Zendikar history – because that’s essentially what the Eldrazi are, they are a very hard to put out forest fire. Compared to conflicts between sides that have no clear “good” or “evil” alignment – say House Tyrell and House Lannister from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, the Battle for Zendikar falls quite short. With stories with clear “evil” villains, I much prefer relatable villains with understandable motivations over Eldrazi, or Tyranids. This is Vorthos, but Wizards is banking a lot of Vorthos these days, and some players do care.

4. The low power level compared to Khans.akoumfirebird.full
Again, not an intrinsic problem, since power is relative. That said, Battle for Zendikar will spend some time in the sun together with Khans of Tarkir block, which has a generally high power level. My fear is that the cards in the new set will be overshadowed by the older cards, and I have a sense that we will se a lot more Siege Rhinos than Eldrazi on camera during the Standard portion of Pro Tour: Battle for Zendikar.

As I said, these are just my worries about the set, and I might be completely wrong. Reading the spoiler doesn’t get me excited for anything though bar a few of the EDH goodies they crammed into the set.

Zendikar, like Tarkir, seems like a world that was a lot more interesting before the big baddies took over.

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  1. Grim Lavamancer

     /  September 25, 2015

    Yeah. I’m completely there with you on point 3. And here’s why. *Takes a deep breath*

    The problem with the Eldrazi as villains, and indeed the problem with all Lovecraftian horrors in works of fiction that isn’t… well… Lovecraftian horror… is that in order for them to be an effective story device, there need to be absolutely zero chances of defeating them.

    In H.P. Lovecraft’s stories the protagonists always ends up dead, insane or winning petty victories that means nothing in the end. In fact the message in most of his works is that humanity is utterly insignificant from a cosmic point of view and nothing we do is even remotely significant in the grand scheme.

    Let’s take a look at Cthulhu and his buddies. They’re not much more interesting than Ulamog and his ilk – indeed, the Eldrazi works almost exactly in the same way (alien, maddening, incomprehensible) with one small difference. They can be beaten. In order to make them interesting antagonists they shouldn’t be a forest fire that’s very hard to put out – they should have been a forest fire that is impossible to put out.

    The Eldrazi are simply in the wrong genre. They, as H.P Lovecraft’s creatures, would have been very effective in a much more personal story from the sole point of view of the planeswalkers as they slowly realize that nothing they do to halt the Eldrazi form consuming Zendikar (preferably with Jace snapping and murdering Nissa while Gideon flees to another world and signs himself into a mental hospital, convinced that it’s all a bad dream). In a fantasy setting which depends on two or more sides fighting and the good guys (mostly) ending up victorious they just comes across as bland compared to the Phyrexians who actually have a personality, or the grey versus grey morality conflicts on Ravnica or Tarkir where you can root for the faction that you like most.

    Simply put, if you don’t have sugar and eggs, you shouldn’t bake a sponge cake. If you don’t want to write a cosmic horror story, you let Cthulhu sleep at the bottom of the ocean were he belongs!

    (Oh, and that phoenix is pretty stupid as well. It should have cost one mana less, be a 3/2 (or possibly a 3/1) with landfall returning it to it’s owners hand instead of the battlefield for a much smaller cost.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I definitely agree that the Eldrazi are in the wrong genre. Maybe next set we’ll see Nissa, Chandra, Kiora and Elspeth try to run away from Jason Voorhees, and frustratingly running UP the staircase.


  1. What I like about Battle for Zendikar | Goyf Wars

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