Week two of Battle for Zendikar is starting tomorrow, and I’ve got a power rankings update. In the past week, I did a bunch of testing in preparation for a PPTQ this weekend. I talked about my experience at that PPTQ here. This is the time where I start to form a lot of my opinions about ta format. I get to play with the cards and experience them in actual game states, and inevitably this changes the way I look at the cards. We definitely have some shakeups in the rankings this week. You can review last week’s rankings here.
This is a major shakeup. I’ve had red rated as the top color for the past two weeks, but after doing a lot of testing and seeing decks all through the PPTQ, I think I have to move Blue up into pole position. The majority of the decks that made top 8 at the event were blue based, and the winning deck (mine) was almost entirely blue. Furthermore, blue has consistently been the color I want as my base in my practice drafts, usually paired with either Red, Black, or Green. Blue is great in this format because it can play both aggro and control. Cards like Eldrazi Skyspawner and Incubator Drone are good in either of these kinds of decks and have tremendous impacts on the game.
The archetypes list saw a ton of change this week, but I kept the top 3 decks in the same place. Both RW and UB moved up in the rankings because they are powerful strategies that fill particular niches in the format. RW is the fastest deck in the format, and it’s a great way to approach any metagame where people skew towards slower decks. UB is the opposite; it’s the slowest and grindiest deck, and it tries to control the board and eke out advantage in the long game, and it’s therefore a good choice against decks that aim for more of a midrange style strategy. Both of these decks are heavily synergy based, so it pays to know when the seat is open and then draft the deck hard.
WG also moved up a slot. I had it as the worst deck, but I did see the WG deck doing some reasonable things this week. But the WB seems to be a mishmash of cards that looks powerful when it all comes together perfectly, but in which all the cards are pretty miserable on their own. If it doesn’t draw perfectly or if it gets disrupted, it just falls apart.
*Rolling Thunder is actually an uncommon, but still better than almost all the rares.
This list saw some changes in the bottom half as I got to play more with the set. Ob Nxilis Reignited stays on the top on account of he’s just bonkers and insane. I did get an Ob Nixilis in my sealed pool, and it dominated every game in which I played it. If your opponent cannot kill it immediately, then you are almost guaranteed to win. Guardian of Tazeem jumped up a couple of spots because it is just so aggressively costed. There aren’t a ton of answers that responded to it affectively, and it locks down even big creatures and usually kills your opponent after two attacks anyway. Gideon moved down a smidgen because the format is aggressive enough to pressure him, so it isn’t trivially easy to keep him out, but he’s still very good. The biggest change was Omnath dropping 4 places. This is mostly because RG has just kept disappointing me as an archetype. There are just so many reasons to be in other color combinations. Omnath is powerful enough to be worth the pay off, but going into RG is a real cost. The other big change was dropping Planar Outburst from the list and putting Drana, Liberator of Malakir back on. Drana is incredibly efficient and takes over the game in just a couple of swings. A big part of the change was that I realized that she puts counters on herself. The other big part is that there are enough Awaken lands on each battlefield that Planar Outburst has a significant cost. It’s still a great card, but I think it doesn’t quite make the top 10.
Again, the top cards didn’t change much here, but there was quite a shakeup in the bottom five cards. The first major changes are that Vile Aggregate and Tajuru Warcaller both moved up a slot, which shifted Deathless Behemoth down. Vile Aggregate impresses me more and more every time I see it, often playing as a 4/5 for 3 mana that turns on your processors, and sometimes getting even bigger. I also got to be on the receiving end of Tajuru Warcaller this weekend, and it is amazing how quickly the damage adds up.
I should note that I’ve got my eye on Turn Against. I’ve seen it do some good things, but I’ve also played around it, but I’m hearing that it is harder to leave up 5 mana than at first seems obvious. Once I get a little bit more experience with it, it might fall of the list.
The new addition here is Ruination Guide. This card is an absolute lynchpin in the UR, UG, and UB decks, and all of them want that card very badly. The combination of Skyspawner and Ruination Guide is just so strong that it usually wins the game in very short order. It turns all of your Eldrazi scions into efficient threats, and powers up its archetypes in ways that few other cards can do.
The most important story here is Incubator Drone. The shift in blue from second place to first place is largely a result of how far up the ladder this card has been climbing. It isn’t as good as blue’s two other top picks, but it has a dramatic impact on the board that is usually reserved for the uncommon slot. It gives you 3 power and 4 toughness for 4 in blue, and it combines incredibly well with all of blue’s strategies, whether it be UR aggro that powers up Vile Aggregates, or UG ramp that wants to dump out Eldrazi, or UB control that wants to hold the ground while your Benthic Infiltrators set up processor card advantage, or WU Awaken that just needs to hold the ground long enough to start powering out all of its two-for-ones.
The other important change here is switching Sheer Drop and Gideon’s Reproach. The mana difference here is so dramatic that you just have to take Gideon’s Reproach first, and it’s an incredibly card that disrupts a lot of the key strategies in the format.
In the coming week, Battle for Zendikar is going to go up on MTGO, and that is where we are going to start to see the most important shifts in the format. I’ll be grinding some drafts next weekend and I’ll let you know how things change.