I can confidently predict that Battle for Zendikar will be a large part of Mark Rosewater’s next State of Design article. It wasn’t a definitive failure by any means, but it does have lots of problems: a majority of the cards feel uninspired, allies and nonallies have very little differentiating them, and the power level of the whole set is much less than the past three sets. That being said, there are a few key things that Wizards did incredibly well with their design of BFZ.
Landfall was the ultimate slam dunk home run of the original Zendikar set, so Wizards was tasked with making it even better in BFZ. Thankfully, they succeeded! Not only did they fix some of the issues with Landfall, i.e. Steppe Linx, but they also took the mechanic to the next level with their cycle of rares that cared about what types of lands proced the effect. I’m actually surprised they chose to change it slightly, but I’m glad they took that chance.
4. Eldrazi Scions
The switch from Eldrazi Spawn to Eldrazi Scions was a great idea. Now, all of the little duders that your Eldrazi create are actually worth keeping around, which makes each exchange of Scions for mana much more interesting. Before they gained +1 power, sacrificing your spawns was a no-brainer, but now they’re actual creature tokens, making each choice much more difficult.
3. Expedition Lands
Like most of the other topics on this list, the choice to add Expedition lands to BFZ killed two metaphorical birds with one stone. First of all, the return to Zendikar brought with it the expectation to have some kind of incredibly rare and expensive cycle of cards that could be cracked in each $4 pack. Instead of repackaging classic cards, Wizards instead chose to reprint a bunch of expensive lands. The second bird that met its end was the need for having more of the nearly mandatory lands for eternal formats. The Expedition lands don’t necessarily make it easier for new players to find these lands, but I have a feeling that the people who are buying Expedition lands are going to be selling their other versions of the lands, making it easier for more budget players to pick them up.
Although the synergy between Ingest and Processors is still up for review, the Ingest mechanic itself is a great addition to the game. Obviously, the Eldrazi draw a lot of inspiration from the Lovecraft Mythos, which deals with the concept of insanity. Ingest perfectly translates that concept into Magic’s mechanics. It also leads to really fun interactions, even if it means getting completely screwed by someone Ingesting three lands off of the top of your deck that you desperately needed. To top it all off, an opponent of mine from the BFZ prerelease call-shot my Kiora off of the top of my deck with their 2/2 Ingest creature, creating favorite moment in BFZ so far.
Awaken is the biggest win for Battle for Zendikar design, no contest. Cool spells with upside has always worked very well in Magic, whether it’s Evoke, Retrace, or Rebound. Awaken takes that design space to the next level, succeeded on every possible level; it’s perfect for the flavor of Zendikar, works well with the amount of lands BFZ decks will play, gives archetypal instants and sorceries another mode to ensure that they aren’t dead draws later on in the game, and provides an interesting skill-test that tries to trick players into thinking the cards it’s on are bad. Coastal Discoveries is probably my favorite card from the set, and its Awaken effect is what brings it there. If I only get one thing out of BFZ, it’s a bunch of really sweet Awaken cards for my cube.
What do you guys think about Battle for Zendikar? Is it really as bad as everyone is saying? Let me know in the comments below.