With the release of the final preview cards for the upcoming set of Magic: The Gathering – Battle for Zendikar, now is a good time to talk about all the new mechanics and key words to ensure everyone is on the same page come pre-release and launch weekend.
To start with we have new mechanics for the Eldrazi. Gone are the days of feel bad mechanics like Annihilator, making your opponents sacrifice permanents when they are declared as attackers. New Eldrazi have Ingest, which allows them to exile cards from the top of a player’s library when they are declared as attacking that player. Some Eldrazi cards will also have Devoid, which outlines how even though you must pay some amount of coloured mana as their cost, the cards themselves are colourless.
New Eldrazi creatures will sometimes come with Eldrazi Scion creature tokens. Similar to Eldrazi Spawn tokens, Scion tokens have Power and Toughness 1/1 with the same rules text of “Sacrifice this creature: Add 1 to your mana pool.” It is important to note that this can be used at instant speed and any time the creature’s controller has priority. The mana produced is colourless so it is important to incorporate coloured mana sources into your Eldrazi decks in order to cast Eldrazi spells with coloured mana in their casting cost.
Eldrazi now have interactions with the exile zone and graveyard, with some cards requiring a player to return cards from exile to their owner’s graveyard as part of the cost of their abilities. When playing an Eldrazi deck with these mechanics, be sure to only return spells you yourself won’t wish to use later. Spells like Oblivion Shower will allow you to retrieve any number of land cards from an opponent’s graveyard onto the battlefield under your control. In this way it is an important decision a player must make to return a spell an opponent may be able to retrieve from their graveyard later or a land card which nets them no value.
Returning in Battle for Zendikar are Allies. Ally is a creature type printed across all five colours which all trigger when another ally enters the battlefield. In Battle for Zendikar Allies now have the keyword Rally, which serves to remind the player that an effect will be triggered when a condition is met. In this case Rally will trigger when that creature enters the battlefield and whenever another ally enters the battlefield.
In order for the Zendikarians to defend themselves the land of Zendikar itself has come alive to assist them. Awaken is an alternate casting cost of some spells, that will put a number of +1/+1 counters onto a land equal to its Awaken Number and transform it into an Elemental Creature with base Power and Toughness 0/0, while still being a land card. So, casting Earthen Arms will allow you to put 2 counters on a permanent and an additional 4 +1/+1 counters on any land you control. Advice for players wanting to run Awaken spells in their deck would be to include Lumbering Falls and Shambling Vent as they not only provide fixing for Green/Blue and White/Black, but also can become Elemental Creatures when their controller pays a mana cost (which can also be activated at instant speed when the player has priority).
Another returning mechanic from Zendikar is fan favourite Landfall. Whenever a player puts a land card into play any card on the battlefield under their control with landfall will trigger and an effect will resolve. Usually these are in the form of buffing a creature’s Power and Toughness, but can also affect an opponent’s board state or gain the player value in some other way. If possible, it is advised that players run fetch lands or ramp spells to put more than one land into play per turn and gain even more value just from lands entering the battlefield.
Have fun at the pre-release!