Greetings magic fans. The last expansion released in 2020 transports us, once more, to Zendikar. A plane notable for its ever shifting landscape, littered with ancient polyhedron-shaped monoliths. It is home to Humans, Merfolk, Vampires, Elves, Goblins, and the original home of the Kor. The Elven planeswalker Nissa, and Kor planeswalker Nahiri were born in Zendikar. Both feature heavily in the story that accompanies this expansion.
The last time we saw Zendikar was the 2015/2016 Battle for Zendikar Block. The set focused on the battle between Planeswalkers of the Gatewatch and the Eldrazi - ancient titans of great power, who survive by devouring planes. The battle is long over, but the ruin wrought by the Eldrazi is still evident. Nissa and Nahiri return to their home plane in a bid to help rebuild.
New to magic? Here's a quick rundown:
Magic the Gathering (MtG) is a collectable card game for two or more players. Each game represents a battle between powerful wizards, known as Planeswalkers, who have the ability to travel a multi-verse. You’ll discover countless worlds inhabited by species as varied as the fantastic lands they live in.
Players will cast spells, summon creatures, and deploy artifacts to overcome their opponents. Typically, a player will win by reducing their opponent’s starting life points to zero, but there are other paths to victory.
Wizards of the Cast release expansion sets, like Zendikar Rising, regularly. Expansions add hundreds of cards to the available pool. Players now have thousands of cards from which to collect and play within customised decks.
The New Set
Zendikar Rising is the 85th set expansion for Magic the Gathering, released on 25 September 2020. The set is made up of 280 cards: 101 commons, 80 uncommons, 64 rares, 20 mythic rares, and 15 basic lands. This set includes a combination of reprinted and new cards. Collectors can chase an additional 111 cards, comprising of various promo cards, and cards with alternative art treatments.
The product range for Zendikar Rising includes the Bundle, Two Commander Decks, Draft, Theme, and Collector Boosters. In addition, Wizards of the Coast will introduce a new type of Booster with this set, the Set Booster.
A Set Booster will appeal to players and collectors with no interest in Draft or Limited formats. Each booster contains 14 cards: 12 playable, one art card, and one token. A Set Booster Box will contain 30 Set Booster packs.
The idea is to provide a booster with multiple excitement points, making the process of opening the pack more enjoyable. Some cards in a Set Booster will share a theme, mechanic, or flavour.
New Mechanics - Party
Party is a batching mechanic that is present on four creature sub-types: Clerics, Rogues, Warriors, and Wizards. A party can consist of up to one of each of these creature types. Creatures who care about party have an effect or ability that scales with the size of the party. Examples include Archpriest of Iona and Shatterskull Minotaur.
Modal Double-Faced Cards (MDFCs)
Unlike double faced cards of the past, MDFCs do not transform. Instead, when you play an MDFC, you choose the side you are playing. Every MDFC I've seen has a land on one side, and either a different land, or spell type on the other. It's a great way to give yourself options mid-game, to suit a variety of situations.
Zendikar Rising reintroduces three gameplay mechanics. Two are notable for their inclusion in previous Zendikar based sets.
When present, Kicker is a keyword ability that allows the player to pay an extra cost when casting a spell. If the extra cost is paid, then a bonus effect will trigger.
Landfall is another keyword ability. A card with Landfall has an effect which triggers each time you put a land into play.
The third reintroduced mechanic is hybrid mana, by way of Mono-Coloured hybrid cards. These cards have a casting cost that can be paid with generic mana, or a specific colour.
Thoughts on Zendikar Rising
I like the look of Zendikar Rising. In terms of theme, and overall feel, it really appeals to me. The artwork is great, and the introduction of the party mechanic leans into my love for tribal decks. I also like the new MDFCs. I think this form of double sided card is an improvement over previous versions. Having a card that can come into play as one of two lands, or a land/spell etc, is really useful. Combined with Kicker, you have two mechanics that give you lots of strategic options to build a deck around. Speaking of Kicker, having that, and Landfall back is great. Both are interesting mechanics to play with.
I'm sure the new Set Boosters will appeal to some, but I'll stick to Draft Boosters. Aside from casual, limited-draft is my favourite format to play magic.
In terms of playability, I think Zendikar Rising will be an interesting set to draft in isolation. I would still steer new players to Core Set 2021 first, but this expansion is worth their attention. I expect some of the themes and mechanics in this set to appear in releases throughout 2021. Particularly the MDFCs and Party mechanic, the latter feels like a sure hit for the dungeons & dragons set!