It's time once again to look at all of the new cards from a new set to put in our new decks! Preview season is an exciting time and while 2020 has been an incredibly overwhelming year in terms of the sheer volume of cards and products being shoveled on top of us as we try to navigate a deadly pandemic, I've managed to maintain my enthusiasm for new products. In fact, I'm going to cover TWO products today because on top of Zendikar Rising we also have Zendikar Rising Commander decks, containing cards that are not in the set but which will absolutely go in some of my decks. In fact, why don't I start out with one of those cards?
WOW. Cards that require you to hit a player to do something are generally pretty sketchy, but this is in a Rogues deck helmed by a new card called Anowon the Ruin Thief which incentivizes you to hit them with Rogues. Last week we talked about making our Rogues unblockable by having them also be Merfolk which can get Islandwalk from Merfolk lords. With equipment like Whispersilk Cloak, lands like Rogue's Passage and ways to give creatures all sorts of evasion like Shadow, Flying and even Horsemanship, you're liable to connect with creatures if the deck is set up to do it. Getting spells from their yard that they discarded because they cost a lot of mana or which are in there from killin' or millin' gives you a big advantage. I like to cast their cards and this is another way to do that. This is very, very 75% and a ton of my decks, including the one I brewed last week, make sure I can take full advantage of this powerful and fun effect.
The other deck, based around an eld called Obuun, Mul Daya Ancestor, has a surprise killer card in it as well. Trove Warden is going to do a ton of work in my new Omnath, Locus of Creation deck since you can just target lands in your 'yard, as well as cards like Coiling Oracle that do some work when they come back into play. This card is definitely getting tested as soon as my copy comes in. It's not specifically a 75% card per se, but I like it and I wanted to mention it. If you'd like to hear about 75% cards, though, don't worry because I can't wait to talk about this next one.
I almost saved this card for last because it's my favorite card in the entire set. This is the epitome of a 75% card - cards that steal permanents from opponents help us scale our decks to the level their decks are at. We won't hit them with anything they can't handle because we're literally using their own cards. If they brought a Mana Crypt to the party, they can handle it when their Crypt becomes your Crypt. If they have a Manalith, stealing a Manalith from them won't put you so far ahead that they can't keep up. Thieving Skydiver removes Hexproof and Shroud by swiping the boots right off of their Commanders' feet, disrupts combos by stealing key pieces and encourages you to bounce your creatures rather than blinking them which is becoming a bit of a lost art as blink decks get more pieces. Ninjitsu is an excellent way to return Skydiver to your hand and Skydiver being a Flying Merfolk Rogue makes me think it's getting there unblocked quite a bit. All in all, there is a ton to be excited about here. Every deck I had that was running Thada Adel should run this, too. If you had Thada and found it to be an awkward card for webcam games, here's your replacement. Able to come down early to keep that turn one Sol Ring player from running away with the game but not irrelevant drawn late due to the scaling nature of a kicker of X, Thieving Skydiver is a play whenever you draw it.
Archon of Emeria
I love cards like this that slow down a player who is getting a bit too far ahead. If you're playing a ton of extra lands, you're playing a ton of extra spells and those two things form a feedback loop that can spiral the game out of control. What I like about Archon that I specifically do not like about Confounding Conundrum is that this is harder to defeat than Conundrum with the cards those rampy decks already play. My Omnath ramp decks (I am building a third right now) run Burgeoning, Sakura-Tribe Scout and other cards that put lands into play on other players' turns. Conundrum just gives me more landfall triggers late in the game and doesn't slow me down that much early. Archon, on the other hand, doesn't just hose ramp decks by making everyone only able to play one spell per turn, it can stop those wicked mana rock chains, the Kalamax decks that are everywhere and a few of the more aggressive decks with small creatures. Archon slows the game down without actually making it so a player can't play Magic better than almost any "hate bear" that has come before and is a non-trival creature to boot, with evasion and good stats. The goal of cards like this in a 75% deck is to make sure one player doesn't get too far ahead of everyone else and Archon does that beautifully.
Zareth San, the Trickster
Zareth got an entire article last week and while I won't rehash it nor expect you to go back and read it, let me just say that this is a very good card. Rogues players are most likely not going to run this as their commander but most of the ones I've talked to are making room in the deck for Zareth. Zarth's ninjitsu ability coupled with the ability to get a Permanent from their 'yard for 0 mana make Zareth a very potent card. We like to scale our decks to theirs by using their cards and Zareth does that very well. The ability to play Zareth with flash if you don't have a Rogue to swap it with is relevant, as are the Merfolk and Rogue tribal affiliations. This is a very 75% card and I may just build a deck around Zareth because I think it will be fun. Remember, Thada Adel and Thieving Skydiver are both Rogues with evasion.
I don't have a ton to say about this card as it is mostly generically good and my set reviews focus on cards that are good in 75% decks specifically, but I do want to point out a use for this card that I don't think many other people are going to mention. This is very good with both Hellkite Tyrant and Mechanized Production. Getting three indestructible Artifacts with the same name goes a long way toward satisfying the conditions on both of those "you win the game" cards and since I like cards like that a ton in 75% decks, it was worth mentioning how happy this card makes me. This plus Mechanized Production isn't a "good" combo but Mechanized Production is good without Relic and Relic seems just fine without Production, and decks that run either should run both, provided you want to run Blue.
I could (and should) write an entire article about how to keep them off of their Gaea's Cradles and Cabal Coffers. What I like about both Lithoform Blight and Cleansing Wildfire is that they don't hose a player who missed some land drops but do hose a player who played an expensive land that gives them a ton of mana. No matter how good your intentions are as a player, there is always that instinct that we got from our 60 card days to kick someone when they're down so we can win. Sometimes you give in and you Strip Mine a Bounceland just so that player doesn't play any Magic for 3 more turns. In general, I think if your real goal is to get rid of a Cabal Coffers so someone doesn't take over the game, you should play Ghost Quarter over Strip Mine. What I like about Lithoform Blight is that you can help someone fix their mana in a pinch, which gives the spell some utility. It also draws you a card, which is helpful. Ultimately, I don't know if this makes the cut in any of my decks, but I wanted to talk about the concept of using land destruction that removes problem lands and doesn't do anything else. This is very similar to the Spreading Seas we talked about last week and while it doesn't help your landwalkers hit them, it is a good way to remove lands in a 75% pod because all it can really do is get rid of very, very good lands without leaving someone helpless, which should be our aim.
I wanted to talk about a few cards that are just generically good since I don't have a single Green or Red card so far. It's not that there are no good Green or Red cards, it's just that other colors tend to have cards that do 75% things. Here are some cards that aren't necessarily 75% cards but I can't wait to play with them anyway.
All of my many Omnath decks run spells like Scapeshift, Splendid Reclamation, and Boundless Realms. Once you remove a lot of lands, you're going to hit nothing but gas with this and you should be able to deal 20 or so damage to the table with all of the triggers. This is an excellent finisher in landfall decks but it's also a source of card advantage before that huge damage burst. I love this card.
This is just a very good card that costs a lot of mana and does big, splashy things. It's what a mythic rare should be.
This is sometimes better than Scapeshift. Having to tap out for it can hurt, but by the time you are ready to end the game, you should have plenty of mana. I like cards that end the game and this can do that in a landfall deck.
This is self-explanatory but it's also too cool not to at least mention. I can't wait to put this in Kalamax and I may even remake Riku!
That does it for me this week. Thieving Skydiver is a card that I'm very, very excited to put in way too many decks in the years to come and a lot of the non-mythic rares in this set are quite good, which should spread the value around a lot (look at War of the Spark for a recent example of a set where that happens). I can't wait to build a bunch of landfall shenanigans and I can't wait to steal more permanents from other players than ever before - all of them known, face-up cards from the board or graveyard making them much easier to play on webcam than Bribery or Thada Adel or Gonti. There's a lot to like from this set - so much to like I may have left out your favorite card for your own 75% decks. What do you wish I'd talked about? Leave a comment in the comment section below. Thanks for reading, everyone. Until next time!