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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Oct 13 2020 12:00pm
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ZENDIKAR RISING

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 Zendikar Rising joined the pool of Magic cards on September 25 (one week earlier in digital form). It's our second return to the native plane of Nissa, Nahiri and Kiora (though the latter is not present in the set, regrettably), the first done as a single set. In fact, the three visits to Zendikar all had different sizes, with the original block from 2009-2010 ecompassing three sets, then Battle for Zendikar developing as a pair in 2015-2016. So it seems we come back to the plane roughly every five years.

  

 In this instance, the party mechanic (replacing the Allies) created a strange tribal environment. The party types, Cleric, Rogue, Warrior, and Wizard, are all classes, so to better support the mechanic, they've been combined with races that usually don't use classes, like Angel, Demon, Golem, and Sphinx. Additionally, three creatures have all the party types in addition to a race type, becoming sort of specialized changelings.

  

 The focus on these four classes also means no other classes are featured in the set, which in some cases, like Soldier or Shaman, is exceptionally unusual. Coupled with the general tribal feel of any Zendikar-based set, where the population is split across a few color-coded racial identities (Kor for white, Merfolk for blue, Vampire for black, Goblin for red, Elf for green, Elemental intersectionally), this approach resulted in a rarely seen concentration of creatures in massive clusters, with five tribes exceeding twenty new additions each.

 Among the minor tribes, Mouse makes its debut, after appearing as a token for Throne of Eldraine's take on Cinderella's carriage.

  

 The set is accompanied by two Commander decks, featuring six new cards that are only legal in Commander, Vintage and Legacy. Nonetheless, for completeness' sake, these six cards have been reviewed alongside their Standard-legal counterparts from the main set, and I've worked them into the totals for Zendikar Rising's new additions to each tribe.

 

 This established, let's have a look at the new creatures and their tribes. As always, the main focus is on all the Constructed applications (though Limited is occasionally touched upon), the tribes are presented alphabetically, and you'll find a hypertextual list at the end.

 Infodump

  • Cards: 270 (+10 alternative basic lands +142 from the Commander decks)
  • New cards: 255 (+6 from the Commander decks)
  • New creatures: 150 (+5 from the Commander decks)
  • Reprinted cards: 15 (+136 from the Commander decks)
  • Reprinted creatures: 1 (Lotus Cobra) (+55 from the Commander decks)
  • New Legendary creatures: 17 (+2 from the Commander decks)
  • New Snow creatures: 0
  • New artifact creatures: 5
  • New enchantment creatures: 0
  • Triple-subtype creatures: 0 (but 3 with all the additional party types)
  • Creature types affected: 53
  • Tribes with more than 5 additions: Human (+29), Warrior (+29), Rogue (+28), Cleric (+25), Wizard (+24), Elemental (+13), Kor (+13), Merfolk (+13), Vampire (+13), Beast (+11), Elf (+7), Goblin (+7)

Angel: +5

  

 

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 New Tribal Total: 168, online: 167

 Related Tribes: Cleric, Warrior, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Angel is a characteristic creature type on Zendikar, with those iconic halos they all (except free-spirited Linvala) wear on their eyes to somberly symbolize their blindness to the Eldrazi threat and powerlessness to stop it. Now these drama queens with wings are back, although drastically reduced in their ranks after the Eldrazi wars. The most striking innovation in this return is the addition to class subtypes, to synergize with the party mechanic – divine flying ladies might not be your typical D&D-style party member, but I can see how they would be in high demand at the local adventuring guild. Prior to Zendikar Rising, Angels only featured a class twice: the first on Warrior Angel, just because the Grand Creature Type Update stipulated that if one of the reworked subtypes was contained in a creature's name, it should have been added to the type line; and more recently with the new Weatherlight crew member, Tiana, Ship's Caretaker, who's given an Artificer job.

 Now party uses Angels, among others, to express a few expected applications of the new mechanic, like basic body enhancement with Emeria Captain and lifegain with Shepherd of Heroes. At higher rarities, Linvala returns as the Shield of Sea Gate. Our winged gal adopted a less provocative dress code since her wild Rise of the Eldrazi days, went to school, got herself a Wizard degree, and is ready to join any party that will have her. Her redirectionable Faith's Fetters is definitely one of the better payoffs for the mechanic, but I'm afraid the whole "get four specific creature types on the battlefield at once" is still not a great fit for Constructed.

 More interesting is Legion Angel, whose ETB trigger searches for more copies of herself, a la Squadron Hawk, but looking into the sideboard rather than the library. The body/cost ratio is barely decent – the three points of toughness are a concern, especially in a Standard environment with Roil Eruption in it – but there might a place for a dependable midrange-y finisher that's hard to completely neutralize. The question might rather become how many copies to play maindeck, one or two?

 Finally, the mythic Angel of Destiny proposes a new fancy wincon for lifegain decks. Getting to 15 life more than your starting total is likely not that hard for a dedicated build, but the victory is predicated on the Angel being able to attack and survive till the end of turn, which is not as simple as it sounds, even for a flyer. Plus, while pursuing this whimsical goal, you don't get to advance the usual assault on the life total, because the Angel will give the opponent their life back at every swing. It feels like a meme-oriented plan, as satisfying as it could feel to pull it off.


Archon: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 16

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Zendikar had Archons in the past (Archon of Redemption first appeared in Worldwake), and this new one is actually the cheaper ever printe. Its threat value is minimal – albeit it's still a two-powered flyer that drops relatively early on – but its two hosing abilities can affect the outcome of a game, disrupting storm-like plans and punishing greedy, multicolored mana-bases and slowing down Shop, Tron and Post. Clearly not a card designed for Standard or Pioneer, it might have something to say in older formats.


Bat: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 21, online: 19

 Related Tribes: Zombie

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Lifelinking flyer with a simple kicker option. Not bad for a Bat, but overall it's mostly going to be a Limited performer.


Beast: +11

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 419, online: 410

 Related Tribes: Cat, ClericFungus, Rogue, Warrior, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Beast is another type we can expect to find in large quantities in a Zendikar setting, especially declined in the form of the native Baloths. This new assortement covers all the set's mechanics, with Lullmage's Familiar caring about kicker, Stonework Packbeast acting as a colorless wildcard for party (turns out carrying a Wizard's luggage makes you a Wizard. Harry Potter should have been Harry Porter!), and the Cat hybrid Prowling Felidar benefiting from landfall. None of these feel particularly playable in Constructed, but they certainly make for strong picks in Limited. The landfall enabler Murasa Rootgrazer might make the leap, being a two-drop in the right colors and with a useful array of abilities, but the fact that the bouncing and dropping of lands is restricted to basics will probably limit its Constructed applications severely.

 Cragplate Baloth is reminiscent of Gaea's Revenge – same cost, same kind of speed and resilience, with the difference that the body is a 6/6 rather than a 8/5, although a three-mana kicker can make it into a 10/10. Revenge saw some moderate amount of play, so this Baloth could have its uses too. Both have the flaw of being way too easy to chump-block, although nowadays it's easier to incidentally have our big boy trample over thanks to cards like Garruk's Uprising. As a topdeck on an empty board, Revenge would hit harder for seven mana, but the potential impact of an uncounterable, untargettable, hasty threat in green must not be underestimated, even just as a sideboard tech against control. If the conditions for Ixalan Standard will repeat during the next two years, Cragplate Baloth might be a new Carnage Tyrant.

 At the opposite side of the casting cost spectrum, we have two rare one-drops. The self-growing Swarm Shambler is a resonable addition to "+1/+1 counters matter" lists (where it also provides a nice Thorn Lieutenant-like "refund" against removal), but unfortunately not a viable replacement to Pelt Collector in Standard Stompy, as it requires a mana investment that only makes it relevant from the mid-game at least. On the other hand, Wayward Guide-Beast is definitely a trap. At first glace, it might look like a reincarnated Goblin Guide (which was first printed in the original Zendikar), but you can't really play it on turn one, or you'll keep being stuck with one land. The idea behind this design, aside from testing inexperienced players the way some cards sometimes do, is to use the Guide-Beast to enable landfall in the late game, but at point connecting with a 2/2 will have likely become a hard proposition, trample notwithstanding. The amount of work required to make this guy perform is not worth the payoff.

 Remaining on landfall but moving onto the Commander decks (therefore into Eternal territory), Trove Warden plays a long game where each played land could mean a small creature being resurrected after the Warden dies. It's a bit too clunky and situational to be a real hit, but I guess it could still put in some work in Commander.

 Overall, the new Beasts might not contribute memorable Constructed specimens, but they're a strong presence in Zendikar Rising Limited, with a number of excellent commons at every point in the curve.

  


Bird: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 267, online: 254

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: This little eagle won't see play outside of Limited, but it's a solid workhorse (workbird?) in Selesnya landfall builds there, providing a flyer and a refreshed land drop. The kind of card that simply needed to exist, given to the kind of tribe that's used to shoulder the filler.


Boar: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 40, online: 38

 Related Tribes: Elemental

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The second legendary Boar ever after last year's Ilharg, touching on the tribe's other main color (plus white, which is definitely not typical; this is indeed only the second white Boar in existence, the first being Woolly Razorback). Yasharn looks mostly like a solid commander for landfall decks, fixing the mana while supplying a couple of triggers per iteration. But this Elemental hog also, and kind of randomly, hates on sacrifices and life payments, shutting down the fetchlands and a ton of powerful spells and effects, especially in black. In Standard, it missed Cauldron Familiar's reign, but still turns Food tokens into trash. As a four-drop 4/4 with no combat abilities, it might oscillate between playable and irrelevant.


Cat: +5

  

 

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 New Tribal Total: 215, online: 208

 Related Tribes: Beast, Horror

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Most of these new Cats seem to like exploring (or whatever landfall is supposed to represent; maybe it's the Roil messing up the landscape). None of them feels particularly noteworthy, unfortunately, not even Trove Warden from the Commander decks. Territorial Scythecat and Prowling Felidar are good in Limited, but their initial stats are probably too low for their costs for them to make the cut in Constructed. And, boy, Mesa Lynx is really not a worthy heir to Steppe Lynx. That's some concerning devolution of Zendikar's lynx population. Or maybe it's the wrong habitat.


Cleric: +25

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 433, online: 408

 Related Tribes: Angel, Demon, Elf, Giant, Human, Kor, Merfolk, Vampire

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Outstanding news for Cleric Tribal: most of the new Clerics are designed with their tribe in mind. Cleric is a party type, so there's an amount of members that care about partying (it'll never be not funny to write that, more so when talking about a bunch of clergymen). This side is chiefly embodied by the rare one-drop Archpriest of Iona, one of the most effective party payoffs – though, it's worth repeating, party is hardly ever going to be a competitive Constructed mechanic, unless Adventures in the Forgotten Realms will reprise and expand it in a significant fashion.

 Among the self-addressing Clerics, the most appealing has to be the uncommon Cleric of Life's Bond, which basically becomes the tribe's own mix between Soul Warden and Ajani's Pridemate. Orzhov Lifegain has been an up-and-coming archetype for a while now, and this guy fits right in the middle of it. Of course lifegain is one of the tribe's primary strategies, so the first ever Angel Cleric, Angel of Destiny, jumps on that same bandwagon, offering a mythic alternate win condition that might or might not be exclusively a janky battleplan. This is echoed by the first ever Demon Cleric, Taborax, Hope's Demise, a neat sacrifice payoff for the tribe. Furthermore, Orah, Skyclave Hierophant, the Cleric member of Nahiri's own party, also wants to be surrounded by representatives of his own class, thus enabling his own tribal-shifted brand of Kamigawa's soulshift – which, granted, isn't the most popular mechanic of all time, but it might work better with Clerics than it did with Spirits, and it's at least updated to move the creature directly to the battlefield rather than to hand, which increases its effectiveness enormously.

 But there's a more beloved return than pseudo-soulshift. The fearsome Vampire queen – and war hero! – Drana is triumphally back as the last surviving bloodchief on the plane (the original Zendikari vamps that are uniquely able to create more vamps), and has now for some reason become a Cleric, perhaps because she's focused on rebuilding her people through blood rituals. In her new Drana, the Last Bloodchief incarnation, she takes back the cost and stats of her original Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief card from Rise of the Eldrazi. Instead of killing creatures, though, now she's resurrecting them – as Vampires, of course. The process requires tapping a five-drop, as well as some degree of control over our own graveyard, since it's the opponent that chooses the target. It might ultimately prove too slow for competitive decks, but it certainly makes for a powerful ability that feels mythic-worthy.

 The simple Luminarch Aspirant might actually be the best new Cleric of the lot; a free +1/+1 counter per turn, and already online on turn two, is nothing to sneeze at, and it works within a plethora of different builds, be they interested in +1/+1 counters synergies, or just aimed at maximizing the early aggression.

 Finally, Nullpriest of Oblivion is a versatile kicker card that can be dropped early on as a valuable two-powered two-drop with menace and lifelink, functional for both aggro and lifegain purposes, but in the late game turns into a six-mana reanimation spell that provides an additional body.

 But Cleric is one of the major tribal elements in Zendikar Rising, therefore its contingent of new additions is huge, and can't possibly be exhaustively covered here, particularly where Limited is concerned. Among the minor new entries for the tribe, deserving of a mention is at least Demon's Disciple (the demon in question being the above-mentioned Taborax, although they might have wanted to keep the name of the card neutral for easier reprints); it gives the tribe its own Plaguecrafter, something that might be worth keeping in mind when building Cleric Tribal.


Construct: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 128, online: 127

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: It feels safe to say that the kicker on this Construct is always going to be an afterthought. Even in older formats where the mana bases are almost entirely nonbasic, seven mana for a vanilla body are going to be too many, and kicker is inherently anti-synergistic with all forms of reanimation and most forms of cheating into play. What this card reads like is a colorless 4/4 that costs four generic mana and replaces itself with four 1/1s (or more, if something was pumping its basic body at the time of its death), maintaining the same power total in a potentially more exploitable way – since, in many situations, four creatures are better than one. It's not Hangarback Walker (it would actually be the superior card if the tokens were Thopters), but it's not a bad rare either, and could see play even just in virtue of its colorlessness.


Crab: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 29, online: 28

 Related Tribes: Leviathan

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: The time has come! The Crab people finally have their own tribal commander! The event was well worth of an Arena game board! But Charix, the Raging Isle is not just the first legendary Crab. It's also the third Crab with rarity higher than uncommon, after the ancient Chromeshell Crab from Legions and the more recent Growth-Chamber Guardian from Ravnica Allegiance. And it's the current black-border record-holder for largest base toughness as well as largest printed number in the power and toughness area, finally surpassing the useless Impervious Greatwurm. Not that Charix is a slam dunk of a creature, exactly. It's definitely hard to deal with through damage, and the Frost Titan-like tax helps solidifying its grip on the battlefield. But the power-toughness switching ability based on the number of Islands is, eh, not particularly exciting, or effective. You might be better off comboing Charix with cards that weaponize the toughness, like High Alert or Solid Footing. But still, we live in Charix world now. A world where gigantic crabs as massive as islands are around. A better world.


Crocodile: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 24, online: 23

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Could the Mucklord be more aggressively insignificant? Even in Limited it's a low-rated pick. Even the name "Mucklord" feels stupid. See you later, alligator.


Demon: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 111, online: 108

 Related Tribes: Cleric

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: We've seen a few callbacks to iconic cards from previous Zendikar sets. Along these lines is also Scourge of the Skyclaves, an exquisite Suicide Black component that's bound to immediately remind us of the Scourge of Modern, Death's Shadow, a card originally printed in Worldwake. The advent of the "boltlands" (aka the mythic modal double-faced cards like Agadeem, the Undercrypt) will definitely help keeping our life total as low as the opponent's, especially in Standard, so the Scourge will be closer to a 20/20, hence closer to lethal in one single swing. The kicker option works towards the same goal but it's probably irrelevant, since the strength of a card like this, which made it a mythic, is being able to cast a potentially game-ending threat for just two mana. In older formats, it's not going to be an issue to have it out on turn two for an already decent size.

 As for Taborax, Hope's Demise, we already mentioned him en passing among the Clerics, given that he's the first Demon to ever take religious vows, apparently. It comes to no surprise that his ceremonies involve sacrifices, making him grow into, ultimately, a big evasive lifelinker we only invested three mana into. Taborax could work this way in any sacrifice shell, but he's at his best in Cleric Tribal, since the death of his cultist lackeys (use Demon's Disciple for maximum flavor) trigger potential card-drawing, turning Tabbie into a miniature Korvold, except much much easier on the mana cost.


Dog: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 86, online: 82

 Related Tribes: Elemental

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: So, that's what happened to Steppe Lynx! It turned into a red Dog! This might be the most blatant case of color-shifting since Planar Chaos. Of course red had Plated Geopede at the time, and that kind of Boros Landfall Aggro deck doesn't seem bound to happen again in Standard, but a one-drop that can attack for two (or four in a fetchland environment) is still noteworthy, and now red got one too.


Dragon: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 206, online: 204

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Omnath has grown a lot since its Locus of Mana days, and over time has branched into other abilities, most of them linked to landfall. So in order to revisit its original trick of storing mana throughout phases and turns, Zendikar Rising has to rely on the set's Obligatory Dragon. Unlike the younger Omnath, Leyline Tyrant doesn't get bigger while accumulating mana, instead remaining just the same, pretty decent 4/4 flyer for four it started as. The effect of becoming more dangerous the more mana is stored within its belly (or whatever it's actually happening there) is replicated through a death trigger that essentially converts all that mana (and possibly more) into direct damage. The Omnath from ten years ago was meant to be played within monogreen shells, and the Tyrant similarly favors monored, so that most every available land can tap for storable mana. Too bad it's not legendary, so you can't build a Commander or Brawl deck with this ability always at the ready in the command zone.


Elemental: +13

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 470, online: 463

 Related Tribes: Boar, Dog, Lizard, Plant

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Party types aside, Elemental is the true tribal protagonist of Zendikar Rising. Almost all of the new members constitute valuable additions, especially in green – the color even Nissa would agree best represents the Zendikari Elementals as a whole. And in fact, Ashaya, Soul of the Wild is none other that Nissa's Elemental BFF, the incarnation of the plane's very soul that the animist befriended many years ago and had previously only appeared in the game as a vanilla token created by the planeswalker side of Nissa, Vastwood Seer. Now given her own card, Ashaya is one of the (many) Elemental legends that fit in the command zone of a landfall-based deck, as she turns every creature drop into a land drop, additionaly further ramping while also patrolling the board with a gigantic body. For five green mana, she's a good deal that could just pull her weight in a generic midrange build where every subsequent card essentially gets convoke – provided the deck's plan doesn't rely too much on creature tokens, because Ashaya doesn't influence nor is influenced by those.

 Another top-end card that's most exclusively devised for landfall strategies is Ancient Greenwarden. The doubling ability is worded in a way that could affect other kind of land-based triggers (say, Field of the Dead), but it's obvious landfall is the one the designers had in mind here, and the addition of a Crucible of Worlds static ability just cements Greenwarden's place as a curve-topper for landfall decks. Getting out a 5/7 with reach in the process is not a bad thing, either.

 But we're burying the lede a bit here, since the one Elemental that's both the most discussed and the most played since Zendikar Rising joined the Standard pool is none other than the new evolution of the ever-growing Omnath. Adding a fourth color since Core Set 2020's Omnath, Locus of the Roil, the controversial Omnath, Locus of Creation has taken Standard by storm, which was unexpected of a four-color creature in an environment that just lost a good amount of mana fixing post-rotation. Turns out reprinting Lotus Cobra had the side effect of making it easier to cast the new Omnath on curve, and a playset of Fabled Passage is already enough fetchlands to consistently enable its first two landfall triggers. So, in summation, the Locus of Creation is a four-drop to be played on turn five, but likely online on turn three, that replaces itself through its ETB and then gives back the invested mana after also gaining four life – something that it'll keep doing most every turn afterwards. It looks like a case of flawed implementation, a la Oko, Thief of Crowns. If Omnath's second trigger would be positioned as its third, the explosiveness of its play patterns would be somewhat hindered. Sure, four damage to the opponent's face and each of their planeswalkers is also a big deal; but the rotation of the Ravnican sets and especially War of the Spark has largely reduced the quantity of planeswalkers being played, so that wouldn't be too much of an issue for Standard, which found itself dominated by the four-limbed Elemental, to the point that it wasn't too much of a surprise when it ended up sharing Oko's eventual fate, and in a record time – a stay of 25 days of in Standard versus the trickster's six weeks. Omnath is without any doubt the most powerful card in the set, and it's also impacting Pioneer and Modern as we speak.

 The other two Elemental legends (yes, there are four of them, one per Omnath's arm!) are divided among the Naya colors. The Gruul Phylath, World Sculptor is a new take on classic Avenger of Zendikar; the Plant tokens grow bigger at each landfall trigger than they used to, but only one at a time, so it's like going tall and wide at the same time. Not the primary landfall payoff in a set containing Omnath and Felidar Retreat, but still a strong one, including when played from the command zone. On its part, the Selesya side of the divide has Yasharn, Implacable Earth. As we've seen, the resident big pig of Zendikar Rising is a trusty enabler of landfall, or just a "good stuff" complement with important hosing capabilities.

 Other landfall critters involving red: Brushfire Elemental is for the more aggro-oriented builds, an early attacker that can swing on two past chump-blockers thanks to its "daunt" ability (i.e. the unofficial term for "can't be blocked by power 2 or less"). Geode Rager from the Commander decks, the only monored Elemental in the set along with Akoum Hellhound, brings back the goad keyword, forcing an opponent's creatures to attack. In 1v1, it can leverage its first strike to create suicidal attacks, but six mana are probably too many for this package and such a low toughness.

 The tribe's own MDFC, Tangled Florahedron is noteworthy for being the only mana dork in Zendikar Rising at CMC 2 or less (then there's Lullmage's Familiar at CMC 3, and that's it. The land world doesn't really care for nonland or not land-related mana producers). It's interesting how the Florahedron follows an opposite usage trend than all the other double-faced cards, which are played as lands early on, then as spells if drawn later, whereas you want to drop the little floral rock as an accelerator on turn two, but a 1/1 that tap for green is probably going to be meaningless in the late game, if not as chump-blocker, but that's when turning it into land drop will come in handfy for landfall synergies.

 To be fair, though, it's not all landfall, all the time in the Zendikari Elemental world. The tribe's new additions include a couple of "kicker matters" cards as well. But to be completely fair, they're not going to make the same amount of waves as their landfall counterparts.

 


Elephant: +1

 

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 New Tribal Total: 57, online: 56

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The MDFCs are by far the main innovation of Zendikar Rising. Kazandu Mammoth wouldn't be much of a card, or even a rare, if it didn't have Kazandu Valley on the other side. Like, sure, it's a 3/3 for three with the generic "+2/+2 until end of turn" landfall trigger; its stats make it playable and can become ginormous if enabled by Harrow, or its tamer Zendikar Rising version, Roiling Regrowth – or, you know, Scapeshift. But that's true of any critter with a landfall synergy that makes it bigger. The Mammoth has a place in every green-heavy deck (that doesn't dislike taplands too much) because it replaces a land slot, and that's a huge advantage that results in a deck with higher threat density; or more utility, when you consider the impact of modal cards like Bala Ged Recovery or Khalni Ambush instead. If supported over time (and it looks like it will be throughout all of 2021 at least), this is going to change how Magic is played as much as the fetchlands did.


Elf: +7

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 401, online: 388

 Related Tribes: Cleric, Rogue, Spirit, Warrior, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: These new Elves are a weird bunch (then again Nissa herself is kind of weirdly black now). They care for things the tribe doesn't usually care about, like party types (they don't have Wizards, they have Shamans; they don't have Clerics, they have Druids), and having all colors of mana. Still, Tajuru Paragon is one of the three wild cards for party decks (the other two being Stonework Packbeast and Veteran Adventurer), the only one to appear at rare, which is kind of counterproductive, since party is mostly a Limited thing. But a 3/2 for two that grants you some card selection isn't bad, as long as that particular form of selection is enabled in the deck.

 Down in the Commander side of things, Obuun, Mul Daya Ancestor is helming the landfall-based deck, cementing Naya as the landfall color combination. He's an okay commander that permanently grows himself or others at each land drop, and auto-animates a land per combat based on his own power – so you're incentivized to place Obuun's +1/+1 counters on himself after all. Also because the Hill Giant body/cost ratio is not great, so the sooner you move him out of the bolt zone, the better.


Fungus: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 44, online: 43

 Related Tribes: Beast

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Fungi do have a minor "+1/+1 counters matter" theme (e.g. Corpsejack Menace, Ghave, Guru of Spores), and Swarm Shambler can indeed be played as a one-drop that doesn't bother to tap and pay mana to grow itself, as it can do it in other ways – for instance by attacking alongside Oran-Rief Ooze. I'm not sure it still makes for a must-play in Stompy decks, though, but it does make it more playable than it would be if it were a straight-up 1/1 with the same abilities.


Gargoyle: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 28, online: 27

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Simple kicker application at common, meant to be available to any color combination as a support to "kicker matters" strategies. Seven mana for a 4/5 flyer is kind of a hard sell in Limited, too.


Giant: +2

 

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 New Tribal Total: 167, online: 161

 Related Tribes: Cleric, Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Turntimber Ascetic is a reasonable five-drop common for Limited – the 5/4 body feels sturdy in an environment where nothing is naturally too pushed, and the lifegain is welcome, since the early aggression can be relentless in the format. On the other hand, the rare Shatterskull Charger presents itself with some Constructed ambition. For three mana, a 4/4 trampler with haste competes favorably with the likes of Gruul Spellbreaker. Of course the downside is that this Giant, for all intents and purposes, has dash, so it goes right back into hand at end of turn. It's not necessarily a bad thing, though, as it's protected from sweepers and sorcery-speed removal as a consequence. And it can eventually be played as a stabilized 5/4 for five – once again, modal choices are good. Plus, it could pick up some +1/+1 counters along the way from elsewhere (say, from Luminarch Aspirant in Boros), dribbling the dash routine that way, without costing one mana more.


Goblin: +7

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 359, online: 346

 Related Tribes: Rogue, Warrior, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Relic Robber is the new Goblin more likely to make the headlines. It's in the same family of three-drop Goblins that immediately cause some ruckus on the battlefield, in the recent tradition of Goblin Rabblemaster and Legion Warboss. In the case of the Robber, it it manages to connect right away via haste, the opponent gets cursed with a relic token that works a lot like Chandra, Awakened Inferno's emblem – although, less so if some sacrifice outlet is around. The Relic Robber (a misnomer, as it's more like the Relic Giver) invites the use of cards that makes a 2/2 unblockable, like Goblin Smuggler and this set's own Sneaking Guide. The same goes for Grotag Night-Runner, another three-drop Goblin that wishes to connect every turn; it doesn't have haste, but that's not particularly problematic, since after casting it, we wouldn't have any mana left to pay for the cards exiled via impulsive drawing.

 For the rest, Grotag Bug-Catcher is solid in party decks, and Fireblade Charger is a perfect one-drop for the Boros Equipment builds lead by Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients.


Golem: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 118

 Related Tribes: Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Both Golems here are attached to specific strategies. Sea Gate Colossus is to party decks what Gate Colossus was for Gate decks (even the name is awfully similar), except it's just a common, so doesn't provide much more than a vanilla body for a potentially low cost. Relic Golem is somewhat more effective in mill decks, contributing to the strategies in its early stages, then being an impressive roadblock for three mana once the eight-card threshold is achieved (apparently, playtest prevented reusing the old seven-card quota that the actual threshold mechanic used back in Odyssey).


Griffin: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 50, online: 49

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Oh yeah, this comically ugly Griffin chicken might have a high impact on the tribe because it's a two drop that inescapably grows over time – that's the power of landfall, it's the kind of mechanic that rewards you for playing the game. It's a completely non-parasitic mechanic, since every deck (with some rarther extreme exceptions) plays lands. The more businesslike landfall builds might not bother with Fearless Fledgling, but it would still be an effective evasive two-drop in any of them, and has a place in Selesnya builds that tend towards the early aggression. 


Hellion: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 20, online: 19

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Even within a small tribe like Hellion, this specimen is not particularly exciting, although it's an outstanding pick in Limited, of course for decks that want to enable landfall. For five mana, you get a sizeable body, essentially untap a land, retrigger your landfall abilities, and even deal two damage to your opponents. A deal you want to take, except not in Constructed at that point in the curve. It's nice that, even when declined in a very specific way like here, Hellions still manage to find some way to involve direct damage.


Horror: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 204

 Related Tribes: Cat, Hydra, Wurm

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Amidst a couple of Limited cards – Dreadwurm is another solid five-drop for landfall, roughly as good as Pyroclastic Hellion – stands a rare Horror, the legendary Grakmaw, Skyclave Ravager (nobody seems to leave those poor skyclaves well alone! They're already in ruins!). There's a +1/+1 counter theme with Grakmaw, one that runs across the entire set even if it's not one of the central concepts. If you surround our Golgari Hydra with other creatures with counters, it'll eventually outgrow its initial 3/3 body, provided it'll survive them. The most intriguing chunk of text is probably the last one, though, which basically says Grakmaw gets a second life as a token. And now that death triggers are allowed in Commander and Brawl, a three-mana commander that replaces itself sounds like a sound proposition for "good stuff" builds.

 By the way, I get that a monstrous Cat could be appropriately designated as a Horror. But in which way does a Wurm or Hydra qualify? These two don't look any more frightful or horrific than the average specimen of their species.


Human: +29

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 2445, online: 2262

 Related Tribes: Cleric, Rogue, Warrior, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Irrelevant

 Highlights: The party types are all classes, and classes usually go on humanoid creatures, and Human is usually the primary among those. This said, Zendikar has a well-established range of non-Human humanoids (Kor, Merfolk, Vampire, Goblin, and Elves), and for the sake of variety, Zendikar Rising made the explicit decision to also give classes to creatures that usually have none, like Angel and Demon. As a consequence, it's less of a Human-centric set as it could have been, thankfully. Of course there's still a whole lot of them, including two mythics, six rares, and an instance where Human is the only entry in the type line – although Veteran Adventurer is actually a quasi-changeling with all the party types.


Hydra: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 51

 Related Tribes: Horror

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Black Hydras; there aren't too many of them. If we discount the rainbow-colored Progenitus, which is black uniquely to be all-encompassing, Grakmaw represents only the fourth time a Hydra ever dipped into black mana. And the previous three cases are all fairly recent: Gyrus, Waker of Corpses from Commander 2018; Polukranos, Unchained from Theros Beyond Death; and Zaxara, the Exemplary from Commander 2020. Polukranos and Grakmaw are the only ones that feature black in a two-color combination. Out of curioisity, the only non-Progenitus white Hydra is Phytohydra from the original Ravnica set, all the blue ones were printed in the past two years: Hydroid Krasis, Bioessence Hydra, Thunderous Snapper, and Zaxara. Red is the only non-green color that has monocolored Hydras, although they all date to the early era of the game, before Hydra was established as green's iconic creature type – the last monored Hydra was printed more than 20 years ago in Nemesis. After that point, all Hydra have been green, with the exception of the colorless Clockwork Hydra.


Insect: +4

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 176, online: 172

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Iridescent Hornbeetle cares about +1/+1 counters, in a way that could have resulted in an amazing card if it was on a higher rarity; as an uncommon, the casting cost is too steep to really work competitively, as you don't want to wait to drop an otherwise underwhelming five-drop in order to flood the battlefield with Insects each time you cast a Stonecoil Serpent.

 The other three new bugs are "landfall matters" creatures, and among these, Scute Swarm is the one that calls attention on itself. It's a homage to Zendikar's Scute Mob, but where the old Scute would just go tall at the rate of one (large) growth per turn, this one goes wide using a landfall trigger to copy itself. And it's way crazier, as you might have already witnessed when facing the mutate landfall decks that threaten to break Arena by creating literally hundreds if not thousands of the little buggers, especially when you mutate a bunch of copies of Migratory Greathorn and Auspicious Starrix on top of one, and the entire mutate stack gets copied. The chain reaction of triggers can quickly spiral out of control, as you can see here. Yeah, landfall is a busted, busted mechanic.


Kor: +13

   

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 69

 Related Tribes: Cleric, Spirit, Warrior, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The Kor race is not exclusively found on Zendikar (they retroactively debuted in Tempest), although these proud nomadic albinos originate from here, so any Zendikar-based set is bound to focus on them as one of its main creature types, and Zendikar Rising makes no exception. The two legendary Kor of this new lot are part of Nahiri's adventuring party, which makes sense since Nahiri herself is a Kor. Akiri, Fearless Voyager is the Kor woman we see fall to her apparent death in the trailer (spoiler alert: Nissa rescued her offscreen). Her card is designed to be the centerpiece, or commander, of an "Equipment matters" deck, in which Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients would also be at home. She provides some almost mythological repeated card advantage in Boros, as long as we can attack with an equipped creature, which is not impossible restriction but clearly requires some build-around. She can also protect equipped creatures from destruction, including herself, a trick that works splendidly when the creature can be re-equipped easily, like Fervent Champion, or when Nahiri is on the battlefield. As a 3/3 for three, Akiri is definitely playable, despite the deck she asks for being a bit narrow in its scope.

 The other Nahiri's Kor companion, Orah, Skyclave Hierophant, has a similar build-around flavor, butt based on fellow Clerics, as we've seen above. Other rares in the Kor department include the party payoff Squad Commander, which feels more of a Limited high pick, and the exiler Skyclave Apparition, which regales its tribes with an always welcome Oblivion Ring on legs. The specific twist here is that the Apparition doesn't return the exiled card when it leaves the battlefield, but just a token with power and toughness equal to the exiled card's converted mana cost. In most cases, this is an advantage for the Apparition player, especially when used against permanents with X in their cost; the target's maximum cost capping at four is not a major issue either, as it already hits most of the cards that are played competitively. Definitely a crucial addition to the Kor and Spirit's arsenal.

 The rest of the new Kor are tuned to one particular gameplay, like Attended Healer and the double-faced Skyclave Cleric for lifegain builds, and Kor Blademaster for Equipment decks. Farsight Adept continues the experimentation of monowhite card draw for multiplayer, turning the shared "group hug" advantage into a more political "target opponent" wording.


Leviathan: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 23, online: 22

 Related Tribes: Crab

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Make no mistake, Charix is a Leviathan-sized Crab, not a crabby Leviathan. I won't have it any other way. Also, Leviathans kind of are not too impressed with Charix, despite its unprecedented toughness. But that's their problem, because Charix is awesome.


Lizard: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 57, online: 55

 Related Tribes: Elemental

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Some stuff is going on with the new Lizards, but not much. Spitfire Lagac is a mediocre landfall application. Vine Gecko is unique in being an enabler cum payoff for "kicker matters" decks, but Im not sure "kicker matters" decks will actually be a thing, at least to a degree where you could say that Vine Gecko also matters. For one, it could have afforded to reduce the cost of all kicked spells, not just one per turn.


Merfolk: +13

   

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 237, online: 234

 Related Tribes: Cleric, Rogue, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Merfolk is the blue-aligned race on Zendikar and a critical part of the plane's history (they're those who believed Emrakul was the benevolent goddess Emeria. They should all be atheists by now). The Rogue slot in Nahiri's party is occupied by a Merfolk, Zareth San, the Trickster, who appeared in the Zendikar Rising trailer alongside Akiri. He's a five-drop 4/4 with flash with an extremely powerful "saboteur" ability that reanimates any permanent from the affected opponent's graveyard. Flash helps sneaking him into an empty battlefield to surprise-connect, but the best way for him to do that (if he doesn't start from a command zone, that is) is exploiting his virtual ninjutsu activation. It can only target other Rogues, though, which makes Zareth another of the stealthily tribal cards in the set. Sure-Footed Infiltrator also cares about Rogues, whereas Umara Mystic and the double-faced Umara Wizard are both "Wizards matter" cards.

 The new Merfolk equally distribute between these two classes, while simultaneously also catering to either kicker or mill strategies. In the former camp we find the rare Coralhelm Chronicler and Tazeem Roilmage, both Wizards with kicker synergies. The Rogues are more interested in milling the opponent, as the simple but effective one-drop Merfolk Windrobber proves.

 The third rare for the tribe, Thieving Skydiver, is a little flying scoundrel that likes to steal artifacts through her kicker, essentially paying their converted mana cost in generic mana in order to pilfer them. But before you get ideas, she's prevented from paying zero this way. I guess Moxen are too expensive to grab all willy-nilly while doing aerial acrobatics. Why do Zendikari Merfolk fly anyway?


Minotaur: +3

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 91, online: 90

 Related Tribes: Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Three new Minotaurs on Zendikar Rising, all of which monored. The double-faced Akoum Warrior is only notable because it is, indeed, a double-faced card, although it's far from being one of the most useful, as a 4/5 trampler for six is not very appealing. Shatterskull Minotaur is an application of the party mechanic; it could be good as an immediat follow-up to a turn-three Ardent Electromancer that was able to generate three red mana, since that would mean the Minotaur's cost is also reduced to just three. And then there's Moraug, Fury of Akoum.

 Let's talk about Moraug. This savage bullman is one of the most groundbreaking implementations of landfall. One extra combat phase per each land you dropped in the turn? With an incremental power boost, even? It might well end the game right there. Sure, he's a six-drop that might also want to have a land drop still available after you cast him, or excess mana to cast some spell that could drop one or more lands onto the battlefield, like Harrow or Roiling Regrowth (in red, the set offers Cleansing Wildfire and Nahiri's Lithoforming, so there's a chance to produce a devastating Moraug turn even in Brawl). It's a lot of mana, but a landfall deck is most likely constructed as a ramp deck, so hitting six or more mana relatively early is not too much of a concern. The problem with Moraug is that his rule text is a veritable trap.

 This guy just doesn't work the way you expect him to. You see, most of the "extra combat phase" creatures are worded as "Untap all creatures you control. After this phase there is an additional combat phase" (sometimes even "followed by an additional main phase", but the absence of that part in Moraug is fairly noticeable). See for instance Aurelia, the Warleader or Combat Celebrant. The thing is, all these creatures trigger the extra combat phase after they attacked. Not Moraug, though. He's linked to landfall. So what happens is that you expect to drop your land, attack with the team, then untap everyone and attack again. But you can't. If you sequence it this way, you'll take the extra combat phase before the regular combat phase (and it's a specific restriction, the landfall only triggers in a main phase); all the creatures will be untapped before the extra phase, when they were probably already untapped, and then they won't untap anymore, so you pass directly to a combat phase where nobody without vigilance can attack, because they're all tapped. What Moraug wants you to do is to take the combat step as usual, then drop a land in the second main phase, and have an additional combat phase after that. Which is counterintuive in so many ways, and even forces you to give up on all the other landfall synergies for the first combat phase – so you have a landfall creature in a landfall deck that runs contrary to all the other instance of aggro-oriented landfall on creatures. It's kind of maddening, as general design, and for the fact that could have at least not tried to trick you, by explicitly calling for the use on the second main phase. You're a bad, bad bull, Moraug.


Mouse: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 1

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: Mouse officially joins the family of Magic creature types appearing on cards, after debuting on Throne of Eldraine as the Cinderella-homaging tokens from Enchanted Carriage. Mark Rosewater said on his Tumblr that this Mouse couldn't have been a Rat, and I guess he meant this particular team-boosting landfall trigger wouldn't fit on a vermin, but they could have given it to a number of different, suitable creature types. They wanted a Mouse. And then they made it a jerboa, which is a rodent, but not a mouse (it's more like a miniature kangaroo). So, I'm sort of baffled here. I'm not even sure how a jerboa is supposed to be inspiring an army that way. But hey, welcome to Magic: The Gathering, Mouse who isn't a mouse! That ability can ben pretty neat for white weenie, even if it'll probably stay out of Constructed on a 1/2 for three mana.

  


Ooze: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 29, online: 28

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Finally a synergistic new Ooze to complement the tribal curve of Experiment One, Scavenging Ooze, Predator Ooze, and Biogenic Ooze. They all have or provide +1/+1 counters, whose number Oran-Rief Ooze will increase! It must attack alongside them, but it's essentially a 4/4 on the first swing (you typically want it to partake on the counter bonanza), so not too fragile. It's also pretty effective in any build that has a decent density of creatures with +1/+1 counters; Stompy often qualifies, while Selesnya Aggro has been all about this particular synergy in recent years.


Ox: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 16, online: 13

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Playable five-drop in Limited, where breaking board stalls is important. No uses in sight for Constructed. Ox remains a pretty weird classification for bovines. The one in the art looks like some kind of buffalo, and it's clearly neither domesticated nor castrated.


Plant: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 51, online: 47

 Related Tribes: Elemental, Skeleton

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Moss-Pit Skeleton is a valuable self-returning creature for any deck containing a few creatures with +1/+1 counters. You lose a draw in the process, but in the late game it can be played as a 5/5 for five, which can still be relevant, and even triggers effect that care abot counters being placed on creatures, like Wildwood Scourge or Iridescent Hornbeetle. And it means you can use it freely to trade when it's a 2/2 in the early game. Tribal-wise, Plants can be already interested in black for cards like Slitherhead and Vulturous Zombie, but the tribe doesn't dabble in +1/+1 counters much – Vinelasher Kudzu and Genesis Hydra are the best cards in that subset.

 Murasa Sproutling is a kicker card for kicker decks, providing a Regrowth targeted at other kicker cards, for just two extra mana. Otherwise its a honest 3/3 for three. Playable, if inessential.


Rogue: +28

   

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 293, online: 278

 Related Tribes: Elf, Goblin, Human, Merfolk, Shapeshifter, Sphinx, Vampire

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Rogue is, among the party types, the one that most clearly coalesced in Standard into a proper tribal package, especially since terrific new member Zareth San asks for another Rogue as a partner to perform his ninjutsu trick. Many of the common and uncommon Rogues are serving a mill battle plan, which has tribal connotations since Core Set 2021 printed Thieves' Guild Enforcer with its "or another Rogue" rule. Soaring Thought-Thief continues along that same route, but also provides a power boost to the tribe, in case all that milling wouldn't pay off. It's also a three-toughness flyer with flash for two mana – we can appreciate how this uncommon alone is spearheading the ascent of Rogues to top tier list. But the mill theme is everywhere with Rogues.

 One of the Commander decks pushes the concept even further, being helmed by a Rogue lord who's also a mill lord, Anowon, the Ruin Thief (remember him? The shady Vampire sage who accompanied every possible planeswalker on their way to the Eye of Ugin? He managed to survive the Eldrazi ordeal and is now more willing than ever to put his greedy hands on some ancient relics).

 The party side of things is still well-represented, and if the rare Nimble Trapfinder is too dependent on the elusive full party to properly function, the uncommon Acquisitions Expert works as a straighforward Burglar Rat (worse in multiplayer but with more toughness) even when dropped on party-less board, and only gets better when there's a party going. And the legendary Vampire Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats is possibly the best reason to attempt a party build, to have access to a discounted 4/4 flyer with haste that grants super-deathtouch to all your creatures, making them one-shot kill both creatures and planeswalkers. Dropping Zagras for two mana is a dream, but aiming at three or four is a reasonable goal.

 Also noteworthy, and yet another callback to the original Zendikar block, Nighthawk Scavenger is the improvement on Vampire Nighthawk you didn't know you needed. It's virtually identical to its predecessor, except the power is a variable based on the card types in the opponent's graveyard, like a one-sided Tarmogoyf. There's a chance it'll start lower, although in any format with fetchlands, it seems extremely unlikely. Having it as a 3/3 seems trivial, 4/3 is quite common, 5/3 is not unlikely; 9/3 will probably never happen, but the possibility still exists!

 More Rogues of note are primarily rooted in other tribes, like the Shapeshifter Glasspool Mimic, the Goblin Relic Robber, as well as the Sphinx Enigma Thief from Anowon's Commander deck. To say Rogue is one of Zendikar Rising's top tribes would be an understatement.


Serpent: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 37, online: 36

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Verazol, whose name comically evokes a pharmaceutical or communication company, really believes it could be the new Hydroid Krasis. It's just a somewhat clunky enhancer for kicker decks, instead. It has some potential for great play, as copying a kicked creature is probably worth the loss of a couple +1/+1 counters. And there are ways to replenish Verazol's supply, anyway. Its applications are very narrow, though, and hinge entirely on the appeal of a deck filled with kicker spells – and even there, it's not a guarantee it wouldn't just be win-more, or else too janky to actually do anything outside of a very casual environment. To its credit, counting the colored mana in addition to the generic X when calculating the initial counters is an interesting twist that shouldn't go unnoticed.


Shade: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 30, online: 28

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: Time to revisit Bloodghast! This time the landfall returner is neither a Spirit nor a Vampire, which is good news for an often overlooked tribe like Shade, rarely allowed to evade the decrepit Frozen Shade blueprint. Overall, Skyclave Shade's power level is lower than Bloodghast's, given that it doesn't just hop back onto the battlefield for free. The impact on the board is higher, though, especially when recast as a kicked 5/3 later, a threat much harder to ignore or neutralize than a puny 2/1.


Shapeshifter: +1

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 97, online: 95

 Related Tribes: Rogue

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: The MDFCs with a land on the back are a truly brilliant design, because they allow for higher deckbuilding variety. Only decks with a specific plan would care to include Mirror Image, but what if Mirror Image was allocated to a land slot? Suddenly, you can run support cards you would never find room for. Of course, overcommitting to taplands is another type of risk, but a deck that doesn't intend to curve out early on can probably afford a few double-faced lands that enter tapped, thus enjoying the opportunity to turn them into spells when drawn later (not to mention, after bouncing them back to hand whenever possible). Figuring out the mana base might have become a lot more difficult all of a sudden, but the topdeck quality improves considerably thanks to this new design space.


Skeleton: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 54, online: 52

 Related Tribes: Plant

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: If Plants can be somewhat interested in going black, Skeletons have essentially no reason whatsoever to splash green, and no serious +1/+1 counter synergy (unless you count stuff like Grim Roustabout and Skeleton Scavengers), so I'm afraid Moss-Pit Skeleton is not going to make tribal waves on this side.


Snake: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 90, online: 82

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: It would take an amazing Snake to eclipse the reprint of Lotus Cobra, but Hagra Constrictor is serviceable in the "+1/+1 counters matter" build it wants to be included in. Menace is a strong ability to grant to the entire team, and the theme works from a tribal point of view as well, through cards like Lorescale Coatl, Stonecoil Serpent and Hooded Hydra, plus Winding Constrictor to enhance them all.


Sphinx: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 60

 Related Tribes: Rogue, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The iconic Sphinges got one new member in the regular set, plus one in the Commander decks. Master of Winds has an alluring ETB that draws two cards by looting one, so sheer card advantage. The body is severely underwhelming for four mana, but switching it to four power by casting an instant or sorcery doesn't seem too much of an issue – the Wizard tribal component is probably secondary, especially in a Sphinx deck (Sphinges have class types occasionally, but the only other of them that is a Wizard is Arjun, the Shifting Flame). On the other hand, the switch ability might force you to cast instants in your turn, and leaves the Sphinx exposed with one toughness. She's not a bad rare, but not on par with the best four-drops in the tribe, like Conundrum Sphinx and Sphinx of Foresight, either.

 As for Enigma Thief, it brings back prowl from Morningtide, so it's meant for Rogue decks more than it is for Sphinx decks or for generic non-tribal builds. If cast for its prowl cost, it's outstanding as a 5/5 for four that bounces a permanent of every opponent. Otherwise, it's a seven-mana Riddlemaster Sphinx with a slightly better ability in 1v1, but probably still preferable in multiplayer.


Spirit: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 473, online: 466

 Related Tribes: Elf, Kor

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Two ancestor Spirits in Zendikar Rising. The Kor one is in the regular set and gives both tribes their very own Deputy of Detention, if limited to CMC 4 or less (but returning a vanilla token in place of the original creature, which is an advantage). It's more of a big deal for Kor than for Spirits, which have built-in ways of exiling threats; but Skyclave Apparition is more proactive than Spell Queller and less mana intensive than Hanged Executioner. It'll prove popular.

The Elvish ghost of Christmas past is the leader of one of the two Commander decks, the one based on landfall. It's a fine card in +1/+1 counters synergies, and/or in generically aggressive builds, given that he essentially swings at twice his nominal power every turn.


Squid: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 6

 Impact of the New Additions: Extreme

 Highlights: A new Squid is always cause for celebration (of sort, they're still Squid), given that there are only other five of them in black border. The immediately previous one, the only other one to appear in the modern frame, was the quite powerful Oneirophage from Modern Horizons, recently reprinted in Jumpstart. Skyclave Squid is not quite at the same level, but for a common, it's actually pretty good. Defender creatures that situationally lose defender typically get a strong body/cost ratio as counterbalance, and our guy (which is actually a cuttlefish, apparently) has a very natural trigger in landfall, so it's conceivable for it to attack most every turn.


Troll: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 36, online: 35

 Related Tribes: Warrior

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Nothing of particular note to say about this lone Troll, a functional reprint of classic Limited workhorse (no pun intended) Centaur Courser


Vampire: +13

   

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 254, online: 250

 Related Tribes: Cleric, Rogue, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Vampire is Zendikar's characteristic black creature, so they contractually have to show up in force at very visit. They have nice flavor, being wilder and grittier than their Dracula-like counterparts from Dominaria and Innistrad. They currently face the problem of having been exterminated during the Eldrazi war, so Drana is their last surviving bloodchief, i.e. the only vampire who can sire more vampires. Her new card and additional type reflects her new mission of repopulating the race as a spiritual leader. And, oh, she's a five-drop mythic that might not be hyper-competitive but looks very entertaining to play, giving the opponent the choice of resurrecting one of our fallen as a newborn, strengthened Vampire. The clause that prevents legendaries from getting this treatment is probably what will keep this Drana from becoming as popular as she would have been if Vampire Ulamog was an option.

 Other new Vamps of relevance include the new and improved Vampire Nighthawk copycat Nighthawk Scavenger; versatile reanimator Nullpriest of Oblivion; and deathtouch party guy Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats. We've already talked about all of these as well as (Cleric of Life's Bond), which explicitly calls for Cleric synergies rather than Vampire synergies.

 The commander of the Rogue deck, Anowon, the Ruin Thief, similarly dismisses his Vampire tribality, while a few other Vampire Clerics focus on lifegain-based strategies, which are typical of the Cleric tribe but definitely effective in Vampire tribal, too.


Wall: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 133, online: 112

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: If in this day and age the designers still feel the need to print damn Walls (it's been 27 years and I still don't get the rationale for treating a piece of scenery like a living creature), you'd better give them some useful static ability. Universal haste is indeed useful, and combo-friendly to a degree, so, all right, Tuktuk Rubblefort checks out, it's a Wall worth having in the game. Despite being directly referred to as a fortification. They could have at least made it a red artifact, for crying out loud.


Warrior: +29

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 762, online: 745

 Related Tribes: Angel, Giant, Goblin, Golem, Human, Kor, Minotaur, Troll, Vampire

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: One of the four party types, Warrior has some party synergies, but also a number of "Warriors matter" cards beyond the two primary ones, Kargan Intimidator and Kargan Warleader.

   

 If the Warleader is just a basic two-color anthem lord that appears to be one mana too expensive compared to similar cards like Legion Lieutenant and Merfolk Mistbinder (possibly because his tribal reach is wider), the Intimidator is most interesting, as he brings back the amusing "Cowards can't block Warriors" mechanic from Future Sight's Boldwyr Intimidator. Making Coward a creature type, if only a virtual one that doesn't actually show up in any type line, is a wild, Un-set-esque idea, but also mechanically sound, as it essentially marks down creatures that are prevented to block, and then links this process to a tribal faction. Like his older namesake, which was later reprinted in Morningtide, Kargan Intimidator can activate to make any creature a Coward until end of turn (that's the "intimidation" of it all), but no more than once per turn. To make up for it, he can also pump himself and get trample, or give it to another Warrior. These activations only cost one generic mana apiece, and his CMC and power are both aggressive skewed, making the new Intimidator a much more playable card than the original Giant that initiated this intriguing tribal mechanic.

 The party business is best represented in Warrior with Tazri, Beacon of Unity. The reliable and unwavering Tazri was the field commander of the allied forces under the guidance of Gideon during the Eldrazi war. Her new card is the only one in Zendikar Rising to reference the Ally type (Mark Rosewater is on record saying he was saddened by not being able to have Allies in the set in the end, due to the party types taking over. They're still around and will be back one day). Mostly, the Beacon of Unity seems to have been designed as a commander for five-color party decks – her CMC is reduced by the party size, and she can dig for more.

 Other Warriors we already covered include the badly worded mythic Moraug, Fury of Akoum; the solid beater Shatterskull Charger; Nahiri's party member and fellow Equipment carer Akiri, Fearless Voyager; and overgrown Squadron Hawk emulator Legion Angel.


Wizard: +24

   

   

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 New Tribal Total: 763, online: 745

 Related Tribes: Angel, Elf, Goblin, Human, Kor, Merfolk, Sphinx

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Party types comparisons. Cleric and Warrior have one more mythic than Rogue and Wizard in Zendikar Rising (two mythics and five rares for the former versus one mythic and five rares for the latter; and in Rogue's case, the mythic is from the Commander decks, so not even Standard-legal). Wizard has also the smallest number of new additions of all the four tribes, though only slightly (the new Warriors are 29, the Rogues 28, the Clerics 25, the Wizards 24). So what do the Wizards have to show for themselves here?

 Primarily, Sea Gate Stormcaller. While not quite on the same level as something like Snapcaster Mage, the Stormcaller has a powerful delayed trigger that copies an instant or sorcery with casting cost two or less. The kicker raises that effect to a double copy instead, but that's seven mana, so not likely to matter too often. Stormcaller's basic ability is already enough to fuel combos, like this Legacy/Historic one involving Neoform in partnership with Dualcaster Mage. And there are certainly more crazy things in that cost range to copy for free.

 A Wizard is also the last member of the Nahiri Four (I just made up that name, Nahiri doesn't even care about them very much, they're just her pawns). Kaza, Roil Chaser is designed as a "Wizards matter" card, but in the end she's just a glorified mana dork – albeit in Izzet colors is not every day you get a creature that taps for mana.

 The other "Wizards matter" creatures in the set are nothing memorable. Umara Mystic is playable as a power-focused prowess beater. Umara Wizard has the big advantage of taking up a land slot, even if I can't imagine many competive Wizard deck caring about a five-drop 4/3 that might sometimes get flying. But hey, if the occasional early tapland is not an issue (which often is, though), this is sort of a "free" creature.

  


Wurm: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 91, online: 86

 Related Tribes: Horror

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: There's a surprising large amount of black Wurms in the game, most of them monoblack like Dreadwurm is – the most well-known being of course the recently reprinted Massacre Wurm. This landfall guy is not really Constructed material, but it's a respectable member of its community, and a serious support player in Limited.


Zombie: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 458, online: 451

 Related Tribes: Bat

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: This is a case of Zombie being used as an attribute rather than a race. In fact, it's a typical use within the tribe, whenever some specific creature type gets a reanimated member, which automatically receives the additional Zombie subtype. This is all to say, Ghastly Gloomhunter is a Bat. As such, it's decent enough. As a Zombie, it's almost completely irrelevant.


SUMMARY

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 Check the Complete Creature Types Reference Table here.


BEST IN SHOW
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NAHIRI'S PARTY
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KUMA'S TRIBAL EVALUATIONS