Power Ranking the Battle for Zendikar Intro Packs

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#5 Swarming Instinct (Blue/Green)

Played by Marcus Hunter
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Swarming Instinct has a clear strategy with a lot of great looking Eldrazi spells; however, the deck falls short of expectations leaving much to be desired.  This deck is an Eldrazi sacrifice deck that requires throwing out a lot of Eldrazi Scions so you can sacrifice them to add colorless mana to you pool and cast your heavy hitting creatures. It’s a great strategy, but there are not enough cards to make an impact early in the game. You’re stuck waiting to cast your powerful finishers while your opponent slowly hacks away at you.

This deck had a tough time performing well against the other intro decks because one removal card from your opponent will put a roadblock in your winning strategy pretty fast.  Swarming Instinct does have a splash of control but it’s not enough keep your opponents at bay and prevent them from removing your expensive Eldrazi spells.

Even though Swarming Instinct performed the worst out the five intro decks, it contains a beneficial strategy to know for people newer to MTG and cards that would be great to add to any player’s collection.  If you put a little TLC to refine the components, a player can make this deck much more competitive and playable against the other intro decks.

The deck has some key cards for success: Blisterpod, Call the Scions, Eyeless Watcher, and Bane of Bala Ged.  Blisterpod allows you to have some early attackers/blockers that give you time for your higher mana cost spells and produce an Eldrazi Scion (1/1 colorless creature with “Sacrafice this creature: Add 1 to your mana pool.”) when Blisterpod dies.  Call the Scions is an important card because it is setting you up with more creatures that you can sacrifice by putting two Eldrazi Scions on the battlefield.  Bane of Bala Ged is my favorite card because it is the decks cheapest powerful Eldrazi card.  Bane of Bale Ged is a 7/5 creature that causes a defending player to exile two permanents when it attacks.

#4 Zendikar’s Rage (Red/Green)

Played by Corey Hunt

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Zendikar’s Rage, the red/green intro pack from the new Battle for Zendikar set, focuses on the Landfall ability which gives the creatures in the deck unique bonuses or buffs when land enters the battlefield under your control. So as you would hope there are lots of cards to bring out tons of land in the deck.

My favorite combo in the deck is using Nissa’s Renewal while you have the Oran-Rief Hydra on the battlefield. Nissa’s Renewal allows you to put 3 forests on the battlefield; this triggers Landfall three times, making the hydra a 13/13 with trample. On top of that if you have enchantments Retreat to Valakut or Retreat to Kazandu out, the hydra goes up ridiculously high with trample in just one turn. Getting all of that land on the battlefield also lets you cast a lot of big spells and use the high-cost abilities of the Invokers.

One of the weaknesses of the deck is a lack of removal. While there are a few spells that damage creatures, the overall level of removal is really low. I would say out of the five intro decks from this set, this one has the most potential, but the vanilla version I played with ranks fourth place out of the five intro packs. If you already have some cards, this deck is a good one to toss some high-cost creatures and a pit fight or two to wreak some havoc on the battlefield.

#3 Eldrazi Assault (Red/Black)

Played by Cory Vincent

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The Red and Black Eldrazi Assault deck may have received first place in the ‘looks badass’ department, but ultimately its functionality and performance in terms of wins and losses lands it in the middle of the pack at number 3. Being the only deck in the bunch that is exclusively Eldrazi, this deck relies heavily on the brand new Devoid ability. Generally most of the card effects in the deck are triggered by ‘Whenever you cast a colorless spell’ since Devoid makes cards colorless, virtually every card you cast gives you bonus effects.

The highlights in this deck were the two Nettle Drone cards and the two Molten Nursery cards. Every time you cast a colorless spell, which is every spell, these cards allow you to ping life points from your opponent or knock out those pesky weenie creatures and Eldrazi Scions. This deck also seemed to contain more variety of removal spells than the rest of the intro decks, which was a real advantage late game against the Zendikar’s Rage and Swarming Instinct decks.

While this deck did well against the other intro packs, in general, I think this deck would need quite a bit of work to become relevant at your local comic shop. The deck’s strategy is very straightforward and was a bit too formulaic. Generally decks that allow more creativity and utility are appealing to me. Once the full strategy of the deck came together it was awesome, unfortunately those moments were a little too far and few between.

#2 Call for Blood (White/Black)

Played by Eddie Villanueva Jr.

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Coming in second place on our list is the White/Black “Call of Blood” intro deck that features a “life gain and drain” theme. This means that the cards in the deck work towards gaining life, in the process triggering effects causing your opponent to lose life or take more damage. As far as its synergy as a standalone deck, it is lacking in some key areas. It does contain a few cards that work towards creating “life gain” opportunities, but, unfortunately, not enough to capture the number one spot.

One of the staple cards of this deck– the Stone Haven Medic is one of your few priority action cards, for one Plains mana and a tap its ability allows you to gain one life. Now one life itself isn’t so impressive, but using him as an instant to trigger other card abilities is what makes him so pivitol to the deck composition. The problem is the deck doesn’t contain any bounce or counter spells, leaving your key creature cards ripe for removal. Next to Stone Haven Medic, you have two other creatures that have consistent life gain ability (Drana’s Emissary and Zulaport Cutthroat), and one other creature that allows you to gain two life upon coming on the battlefield (Courier Griffin). Unfortunately, they’re casting cost is significantly higher than Stone Haven Medic.

Overall, the deck has a great theme but is lacking in some areas that could be beefed up, like protection or reanimation. As far as its ability to battle against the other decks, it faired pretty well. The life gain provided enough sustain to survive the other decks initial assault while slowly witling their life down. Games were often long and drawn out, but simply counting wins and losses, this deck managed to stay high-tier compared to the rest of the intro packs. .

#1 Rallying Cry (Red/White)

Played by David Ng

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During our starter deck tournament the Rallying Cry deck went undefeated against the other intro packs, and even came extremely close to thwarting the over-powered Ultimate Sacrifice event deck we reviewed earlier in the week . Let’s also start by saying that I have always loved the play style and mechanics of the allies creatures introduced in the previous Zendikar set.

This is a red/white deck and is designed to play a bunch of creatures’ early: Expedition Envoy and Kor Castigator get out quickly so that you can attack before your opponent has a chance to put up any defense. In the late game you have a few removal spells like: Outnumber and Smite the Monstrous, which take care of the big Eldrazi threats that inevitably crop up in Battle for Zendikar decks.  Then you have the big creatures which grant game ending power to your whole army, Resolute Blademaster grants double strike and Hero of Goma Fada grants indestructible to every single creature you already threw onto the battlefield.

With a decent mana curve and some combat tricks in the form of pump effects from Cliffside Lookout and Inspired Charge, it is easy to keep your opponent on their back foot while you keep pressing the attacks forward. This deck performed especially well against the other starter decks right out of the box because most other decks in this set need time to ramp up to their 10/10 Eldrazi and Rallying Cry just does not give them that opportunity.

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Cory Vincent
Cory Vincent 434 posts

Forged in the crucible of awkwardness and self loathing, Cory somehow manages to get himself out of bed each day and make it a priority to spend life killing Beef and going H.A.M.

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