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Top Ten Cards from Zendikar Rising

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Hello folks! I hope that you are having a safe day in our modern COVID-19 world! Have you spent some time looking over the spoilers from our latest set? I have been! Now that I've had some time to invest in the Zendikar Rising spoiler I wanted to take a deep dive into It and give you my top ten cards from the new set.

Let's begin looking at my list!

Honorable Mention #1 - Leyline Tyrant

Leyline Tyrant

I wish this were legendary! I'd love to build around it in Commander! Ah well. This awesome Dragon is the red Omnath, Locus of Mana who saved your green mana and got bigger as well. Only in this case you can do something with said red mana when the Tyrant inevitably bites it. You can send it at something's face for a lot of damage. If the saved amount of mana isn't enough to kill said target (or player) you can tap some Mountains and add to the damage being dealt. Lethal damage is about to smash someone's face! I love this great on-curve, four mana 4/4 flyer with two pertinent abilities! Enjoy it!

Honorable Mention #2 - Sea Gate Stormcaller

Sea Gate Stormcaller

I wish this thing had flash, I'd bump it up to my actual top ten if it did. This solid body is on curve with a 2/1 for two mana that can copy a cheap instant or sorcery for free, like Opt or Preordain or Lightning Bolt. Or the two-mana instant effect in this set called Deliberate. There are a lot of things you may wanna copy in casual world. Swords to Plowshares? Demonic Tutor? Regrowth? The maximum investment of mana for this and the spell to copy is 4 total mana, which makes this ideal for the mid-game. If you have extra mana, why not get two copies instead of one? Three of a key spell instead of two is pretty game-changing. This is card advantage already but you can get more spells later in the game after you've got the mana. This bad lady is pretty strong for instant/sorcery matters builds, it's a Wizard for your party, and works well even with a simple Brainstorm or Ponder and scales up from there!

#10. Roiling Vortex

Roiling Vortex

I adore Roiling Vortex because it does two things very well that are needed in Commander. This is one of the classic "shut down" cards in Red for casual gaming and get ready to use it as a tool! First, it pings everyone for a damage, including yourself. It's a slow barely noticeable clock. Why would anyone bother to take it out? It's hurting the person who dropped it! Then puts a brake on people who break the format with free spells. Brake your breaks! Did you cast something for free? Then here's a Lava Axe to your face; stop it! Just like a parent telling a child to, "Use your words," "Use your mana!" There are a lot of free spells in Commander at the moment. Finally, you can activate it and stop your foe's from gaining life. That's a powerful shut down, as unlike the first two abilities, it doesn't work on you, gain life as you wish this turn. Another tool to keep things honest. We are dying when we die, no getting around it with life gain. This card is awesome!

#9. Nighthawk Scavenger

Nighthawk Scavenger

Did you like Vampire Nighthawk? Three mana? 2/3 flyer, with deathtouch and lifelink. It was a three ability, three mana, solid body that was a lot in one package. It was sort of like a black Akroma with all its abilities. Well then, I have the deal for you! Say hello to Nighthawk 2.0, literally, as it calls out the original with its name. This one is a Rogue for your party pleasure plus it'll get bigger as card types in opposing graveyards rise. By the third turn when you drop it it's highly likely that something is in a graveyard. It's a 3/3 or 4/3 in the midgame and could be better by the late game. It improves as the game goes on and it's also a lot better in Commander and multiplayer formats where you have more chances to get the card type you need to grow in power. Overall, there's a lot to like here!

#8. Ancient Greenwarden

Ancient Greenwarden

Hello Land fans! Are you sad when someone destroys your land? Do you run lands like Akoum Refuge that give you life when they enter the battlefield? Do you enjoy the landfall mechanic trigger of various permanents? Do you wish you could use your fetchlands more than once each time? Do you run lands with value like Bojuka Bog or Khalni Garden that have various enters-the-battlefield triggers? Do you wish that you could get back your sacrificed Buried Ruin or Inventor's Fair? How about that land you lost to your Dust Bowl taking out a foe's Maze of Ith? Do you love lands and want to squeeze maximum value from them? Wow do I have the card for you! Say hello to Ancient Greenwarden, the land loving dork that will let you replay lands from your graveyard and gets you a second trigger when land arrives to the party. Love it!

#7. Lithoform Engine

Lithoform Engine

Well, we've already looked at the value of copying a small instant or sorcery, and now you can copy...anything! Planeswalker loyalty abilities? Check! Your Commander? Check! Enters-the-battlefield ability of anything from Mulldrifter to Mycosynth Wellspring? Check! Activated abilities of lands or creatures or artifacts from Kor Haven to Arcanis the Omnipotent? Check! Triggered abilities like Consecrated Sphinx's drawing a card? Check! Copying your artifacts and enchantments like Sol Ring or Sylvan Library? Check! Copying any creature in your deck? Check! Copying any instant or sorcery from Fact or Fiction to the aforementioned Demonic Tutor? Check! What can't the Engine do? Pretty much...nothing. It's can't copy a land. That's it. Welcome to my top ten list oh MacGuffin of the story!

#6. Nissa of Shadowed Boughs

Nissa of Shadowed Boughs

Hello, fans of the original Golgari Nissa from the Duels of the Planeswalker series of video games. That's where she debuted, as a haughty, dark, Elf Only Nissa. Then she was changed to a more generic Elf and became a protagonist in a washing of her pervious dark nature which may have now come back. I enjoy her card a lot. She's a four drop that untaps a land on her +1 so that makes her really a 3-drop. You can swing at someone on the turn she arrives for three damage. Her landfall on her first turn will let you -5 her immediately, which is pretty cool, and she is very easy to loyalty up. Take a typical non-powered turn in Commander:

Turn 4: You control a three-mana mana rock like Commander's Sphere or a two-mana rock like Mind Stone and three lands. Cast Nissa. Drop a Terramorphic Expanse or Evolving Wilds and give her a loyalty counter. Then sacrifice for a basic land and give her another counter, she now has 6. -5 her. Put a four drop (or smaller) onto the battlefield from your hand with two counters to grow its size.

That's powerful! Now imagine that you got a better hand...

  • Turn 1 - Sol Ring or Mana Crypt, land.
  • Turn 2 - Land, Nissa, +1 and untap a land and swing for someone for three damage. 5 loyalty.
  • Turn 3 - Cultivate or Kodama's Reach, drop a land from your hand. 7 loyalty. She can -5 for a four drop (or smaller) on turn 3 and she has 2 loyalty left.

She's great in this format! I hope you can see the value of a Nissa, and she gets better the more lands you have in the later game with a full graveyard.

Ready for my top five?

#5. Jace, Mirror Mage

Jace, Mirror Mage

Hello Jace fans! Know what's better than getting a powerful three-drop planeswalker to add to the canon of powerful three drops? Getting two of that planeswalker for five mana. His ability to scry two and then draw with 0 give him flavorful manipulation of the draw. The 0 is similar to Sarkhan the Mad's. His buddy copy can +1 and scry two and then you can use the one with 4 loyalty to 0 and get a land or a cheap card like Opt that only pokes it for a damage. Then you keep the magic flowing. Literally. Jace is here to be a on-curve three drop that gives you extra card flow for a few turns or a five-drop that really ups the deck manipulation stakes. Enjoy him at either level!

#4. The Inscription Cycle

Inscription of Abundance
Inscription of Insight
Inscription of Ruin

I wish this was a full cycle and we were getting the rest! It's a lot of fun because the non-kicked version are suitable as Charms that give you three abilities. Most Charms give you three abilities that are reduced in cost. Take Izzet Charm as a good example, which is a two-drop. You can double Force Spike a non-creature spell, but for that mana at 1U but can just counter a noncreature outright with Negate. It can deal two damage to a creature without any other targets open whereas Red can do that better with Shock at one mana. It can draw two and discard two which both colors have access too at one mana. The Charm is valuable even due to its price because it's so flexible, but this cycle is different. You aren't paying a Charm mana tax, and it duplicates cards like Foresee and Mind Rot for the same mana cost. And then you have the option of kicking them and netting all three abilities, which are all great. The black Inscription will discard two, destroy something small, and recur something small all for one card netting card advantage. My favorite is the creature-power based synergy of the green Inscription. Use them and abuse them!

#3. Skyclave Relic

Skyclave Relic

There are several mana rocks of this variety. They are all three-mana artifact that tap for any color of mana. They are heavily played at the kitchen table as well as formats such as Commander. They have a lot of value particularly in decks with multiple colors. The best of these is Chromatic Lantern, which has the added ability to allow your lands to tap for any color of mana while also tapping for one itself all for three colorless mana. Skyclave Relic is now the second best. Indestructible is quite valuable. Many times, mana rocks are caught up and destroyed in mass removal that destroys all artifacts even when no one wanted them gone. That makes this much more reliable than your typical Manalith. Also, on the early turns this is a three-drop but later on in the mid or late game you get three of these for just a six-mana investment. It's just one more mana than Gilded Lotus but this is better - it's more artifacts for those decks that care about artifacts, it's indestructible, it can tap for multiple colors of mana rather than just one, and so forth. This is very very good. Really good.

#2. Legion Angel

Legion Angel

Hello, Angel fans (and people with money I suppose)! Welcome to my list. This card has a lot of quality. You can toss four of these into a deck and then reliably draw one and drop it on turn four. Reveal one you own and then put it into your hands. Drop that next turn and repeat. You can win the game by never casting a card with a different title again and the card quality here is strong. All you need is to own enough to win the game, which will cause this card's price to rise. Considerably. Consider Relentless Rats for a moment. That card was heavily valued by collectors because you needed a lot if you were going to run them in a deck. This is the Cardboard Carapace of black-bordered MTG. Get them now while you can for cheap because they won't be for long.

#1. Feed the Swarm

Feed the Swarm

Hello, fans of commons and Black! Forget the Edict sacrificing of an enchantment of Pharika's Libation! You don't need to worry about that! Nope! Black just got targeted enchantment removal! This bad boy is strong because it can off a dork as well as an enchantment, so it's ready for Commander and other kitchen table formats. You can kill an annoying enchantment like Sylvan Library just as easily as a Consecrated Sphinx. I don't like it, but there's nothing I can do about it so here you go! Enjoy your targeted removal, and grab some in foil for your decks. When mono-Black began getting exiling targeted removal I gave it high marks in my Top Ten, but it's pretty common now to see it. I suspect that'll be the case with Feed the Swarm as well as this will happen more and more and then you'll have better removal than this. But for now? Feed that swarm!

And there you go! What did you think of my choices? What is in your top ten? Just let me know and have an awesome day!

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