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Zendikar Review Part 1: Mana Fixing September 25, 2009

Posted by James in : all, reviews, previews, design , trackback

The Zendikar Spoiler is complete, so I will now begin my Zendikar reviews, starting with mana fixing. Mana fixing comes in three forms. Color fixing, help with not enough mana, and help with too much mana.

Color Fixing

The help with color fixing is pretty decent. There is Harrow, dual lands, and some less important cards.

harrow

Harrow is by far the best color fixing and mana acceleration card you will tend to see in limited (sealed and draft). One reason that it is so good is simply that puts two lands in play, which is quite good with Landfall. However, from the design perspective, Harrow is uninteresting because it’s a reprint. No design was required.

Akoum Refuge is just one of five allied colored uncommon dual lands in the set. They going to be the best color fixing in the set in limited events. if you aren’t playing green. Again, from the design perspective these lands are uninteresting because they’ve already been made (slightly differently). No new idea was required. (We also can use triple lands right now that are almost the same thing but better.)

scalding tarn

Scalding Tarn is one of the five enemy-colored fetch lands. This will be powerful color fixing used in Standard, Extended, Legacy, and Vintage tournaments. Oh yeah, and it will be even more powerful considering all the landfall in the set.

From the design perspective fetch lands are uninteresting because we’ve already seen them before.

lotus cobra

Lotus Cobra is the best color fixing in the set, and it’s great with Harrow and fetch lands. This card is new, so it is interesting from the design perspective. Of course, Vinelasher Kudzu basically had landfall as well.

There is something that makes me upset about Lotus Cobra: This card will be expensive to buy and will contribute to the problem that Magic is too expensive to play. People with lots of money can beat all the poor people at magic. Not fun.

Lotus Cobra is a utility card that tons of decks will use and it’s a mythic rare. The fact that it is bordering on over-powered will also drive up the price. These things are already selling for around 25 dollars on ebay and they might go up even more. This could become the new Baneslayer Angel. In fact, Mark Rosewater promised that we wouldn’t get utility mythic rares:

We’ve also decided that there are certain things we specifically do not want to be mythic rares. The largest category is utility cards, what I’ll define as cards that fill a universal function. Some examples of this category would be cycles of dual lands and cards like Mutavault or Char.

It’s almost not worth mentioning any other mana fixing from Zendikar, but here are some of the other cards:

Expedition Map

1
2, T, Sacrifice Expedition Map: Search your library for a land card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.

Expedition Map looks like a card for limited events, but I don’t think I would want to play it. Three mana to get one mana is not a good deal. Harrow is an exception because it puts the land in play and can get you two new colors.

Of course, Expedition Map can get any land. If you get a really awesome nonbasic land, it could be worth playing.

Additionally, Expedition Map isn’t very interesting from the design perspective because it’s very similar to Wanderer’s Twig.

khalni heart expedition

Khalni Heart Expedition is also interesting from the design perspective because it’s never been done before. It’s both a quest and something with landfall, so it’s the most unique piece of mana fixing.

Unfortunately, Khalni Heart Expedition is everything I don’t like about color fixing and mana acceleration. I want mana acceleration to also help me get mana when I lack it, but this card requires you to get five mana to get two more lands. By then you should already have enough lands.

The whole point of this card is just to help get you landfall, which might actually be useful in constructed events. I would have just liked it to be better in limited.

Not Enough Mana

Lotus Cobra, Khalni Heart Expedition, Harrow, and Expedition Map can all help you get mana when you don’t have enough, but they aren’t the best ways to fix mana in that way because they require too much mana in order to get you mana. Expedition Map would be the best option in that situation, but it seems too under-powered.

The best solution to not getting enough mana was already mentioned by Mark Rosewater: Play extra lands. Getting too many lands isn’t such a bad thing in Zendikar.

Update (9-27-09): I found out the hard way that you can’t always rely on landfall to save you. Playing extra lands in a deck might be a viable way to avoid getting too few lands when you have a lot of landfall cards, but you aren’t always going to get a lot of landfall. You’re probably lucky to get four good landfall cards in a sealed deck. So, I am actually disappointed with Zendikar’s mana fixing for the all-too-common problem of drawing too few lands. (Drawing too few lands in a set with landfall is also a much worse problem than usual.)

Too Many Lands

This is where Zendikar shines. Landfall is a good solution to the problem of drawing too many lands. In fact, my favorite commons and uncommons have landfall. For example, Plated Geopede:

plated geopede

From the design perspective, Plated Geopede is interesting because landfall has never been done in quite this way before.

Plated Geopede is almost a 3/3 creature for only two mana. Not a bad deal. Of course, if you play fetch lands, it can also become a 5/5 creature.

The one bad thing about landfall is that you really need the fetch lands to get landfall to work up to its idea. This gives players with the money to spend on fetch lands have an advantage over everyone else. Originally the fetch lands were worth around $7 when they were made in Onslaught. This wasn’t completely unaffordable, but the Zendikar fetch lands are selling for around $10 right now on ebay, which is more than I would want to spend on them. Since fetch lands are so essential to making Zendikar work, they might even go up to around $20.

Conclusion

The mana fixing in Zendikar lacks innovation and it’s too expensive, but it’s still an improvement over what we usually see.

The most innovative mana fixing cards from the design perspective are all landfall cards, which help you out when you draw too many lands. The innovation of landfall is not incredibly innovative because we already saw it on Vinelasher Kudzu.

There’s nothing very innovative as far as color fixing or helping us get more mana is concerned other than Lotus Cobra.

Overall, the mana fixing isn’t very innovative, but that’s nothing new. It might actually be more innovative than usual considering that we don’t see innovative forms of mana fixing very often.

Unfortunately the mana fixing of Zendikar is unusually expensive. Dual lands worth around $5 to $7 is one thing, but Lotus Cobra is worth around $25 and the fetch lands are worth around $10. Mana fixing for a single competitive deck will cost a minimum of $40, but that is a very conservative estimate. It is likely that the prices of the cards will go up.

Overall, Zendikar looks like it is a decent set based on the mana fixing. The fetch lands are worth money just because they are good. Lotus Cobra on the other hand shouldn’t be a mythic rare because it will just double its value and make green more expensive to play. Lotus Cobra is the only real “problem” with the mana fixing found in Zendikar.

Comments»

1. michael - September 25, 2009

This set really wants you to play with too many lands. They try to give you a bonus for it with landfall, but the set really needs something besides overpriced kicker costs to help with mana flood. I would like to see something like “tap, sac a land: draw a card.”

2. James - September 25, 2009

Is there something in the set that wants you to play too many lands other than landfall and kicker?

Mana fixing is something they have never done a good enough job with, and part of the reason is the corporate mentality. They can’t have too much innovation at once because they need to make so many sets in so little time. So, they spread out the innovation. The mana fixing innovation the game should have had from the start can’t happen with that attitude.

The mentality is basically, “Buy this set cuz it has something new!” Many new ideas won’t sell a set much better than a set with one new idea. And even if it did, the next set might not live up to the high expectations of innovation.

This is exactly why we are getting Comes Into Play Tapped Duals again. We just saw that two seconds ago with triple lands, but they don’t have time to think of new ideas when they have five sets to make at once.

Wizards isn’t running out of ideas. They are still showing us new ideas in every set. They just can’t show too many new ideas at once.

3. Bob The Builder - September 27, 2009

concerning the heart expedition i found it to be quite good when it was being used not only as manafixing but also as a instant speed landfall ability or just an absurd way to get a creature to 12/12 in one turn

4. James - September 27, 2009

Bob,

I agree that it can be good with landfall. The card basically says, “Since this kind of card is too good with landfall, we can’t let it be very powerful for anything else!”

I got mana screwed quite a bit during the sealed event and that card wouldn’t have helped much. I want color fixing that can also help me get lands when I don’t draw enough.