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Back to Basics #4

Back to Basics #4: Battle for Zendikar
By Tony Derbigny
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This article is all about the exciting time of a new Standard constructed format. Rotation brings new hopes, new ideas, and new decks to the table. You will obviously still have pieces of old powerhouses and a few things will not change, but it is definitely brew season.

Wasteland Strangler
In this article, I will focus a lot on the new cards and some new archtypes that could emerge as some of the next powerhouses of the format. I will likely miss on at least one of these, if not all of them. However, this is a great start to open your mind to new possibilities.

In addition to focusing on new cards, I also focused on building decks in a manageable price range. I would not consider these "budget" lists but I would also not consider them to be "high end" decks either. I tried to find a happy medium.

Control tends to be the hardest thing to build with a new format because we are not sure how good the aggro decks and the midrange decks are going to be. The lists I have built are more aggro and midrange oriented. With a new format I feel like the safe play is always a good aggro deck, so I made 2 of those and one sweet ramp deck.

Everyone loves working with the new stuff when it comes out so I will focus on this really aggressive Eldrazi deck to start.

Black/Red Eldrazi Aggro
By: Tony Derbigny
Main Deck (60)
Sideboard ()

4 Sludge Crawler
4 Culling Drone
4 Forerunner of Slaughter
4 Wasteland Strangler
4 Dominator Drone
3 Vile Aggregate
3 Nettle Drone
4 Dust Stalker

Creatures (30)

4 Duress
Ruinous Path

Spells (10)

4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Smoldering Marsh
Bloodfell Caves
Mortuary Mire
4 Mountain
4 Swamp

Lands (20)



So, this deck does a lot of things even though it is singularly focused (creatures and more creatures). The creatures in the deck apply pressure in different ways.

  • Sludge Crawler — Built in pump spell
  • Forerunner of Slaughter — Give all my guys haste
  • Wasteland Strangler — Built in removal spell
  • Dominator Drone — ETB Life Drain
  • Nettle Drone — Allows the deck to deal damage without having to attack

Whenever an agro deck has the ability to apply pressure without wasting a turn to cast a removal spell it helps you finish games before your opponent sets up their game plan. That’s why I like the non-creature spells so much because they are a low investment and allow you to stay aggressive.

  • Duress — Takes key removal spells or board wipes out of your opponents hand
  • Outnumber — Cheap removal spell that gets an early blocker out of the way
  • Ruinous Path — Necessary evil (3 mana but deals with creatures and planeswalkers)

I think this list is a great place to start in the early weeks. I think with a good sideboard plan and some small changes here and there this can be relevant for a while.

The next list I am featuring is also an agro deck but focuses on one of my favorite mechanics from our last visit to Zendikar.

Red/Green Landfall Aggro
By: Tony Derbigny
Main Deck (60)
Sideboard ()

4 Scythe Leopard
4 Snapping Gnarlid
4 Akoum Stonewaker
4 Makindi Sliderunner
4 Undergrowth Champion
4 Tunneling Geopede
2 Akoum Firebird

Creatures (26)

4 Swell of Growth
4 Atarka’s Command
4 Collected Company

Spells (12)

4 Wooded Foothills
2 Bloodstained Mire
2 Windswept Heath
4 Cinder Glade
2 Blighted Woodland
4 Forest
4 Mountain

Lands (22)



I really love the explosiveness of this deck and I think it has potential for some of the best starts, but it also has potential to run out of gas. That being said, I still think it will be more consistent than gimmicky.

  • Scythe Leopard, Snapping Gnarlid and Makindi Sliderunner — your early beaters that you want
  • Akoum Stonewaker — A 2 drop but actually more useful as mana flood protection
  • Undergrowth Champion — Does not fit the deck perfectly but is too powerful not to play
  • Tunneling Geopede — See Nettle Drone above
  • Akoum Firebird — Flying Haste creature that you can rebuy when you flood out

When building this deck I worked hard on balancing the decks landfall cards to make it more consistent. I focused on having a good mix of creatures/spells that prevent it from "running out of gas" every game before you can finish off your opponent.

I used spells and lands to try and make that happen:

  • Swell of Growth and Atarka's Command — Both are amazing combat tricks that allow you to threaten lethal damage at any given moment
  • Collected Company — A great fit for this list (24 targets) E.G. EOT CoCo + landfall = Lots of power

The lands also play a crucial role in this deck, you have to hit a "sweet spot" with how many lands you draw throughout the game. I currently have 8 fetch lands in the list to help get those explosive draws. One of the cards I think helps the most is Blighted Woodland. It lets you set up a turn where you get 2,3,4 or even more landfall triggers in a turn. It can really allow some explosive mid game turns.

I believe with a little playtesting and a little tweaking this list can be very good. I think it has the potential to be very consistent and put its imprint on the meta.

The last list is an Eldrazi ramp deck that I think can be built several different ways. I focused on this one because I think it can be the most consistent early on before the meta is defined.

This list may be even more straight-forward than the agro decks. Its game plan is to play early ramp creatures that can block against aggressive decks and early ramp/removal spells. After it gets past the early game you just want to ramp into one of your win conditions, mainly Ulamog, The Ceaseless Hunger.

  • Whisperer of the Wilds, Rattleclaw Mystic, Nissa, Vastwood Seer — Your early ramp creatures
  • Nissa's Pilgrimage, Explosive Vegetation — Your early ramp spells
  • Titan's Presence — Your only early removal, save for the most troublesome creatures
  • Ugin, the Spirit Dragon — Serves as your board wipe and a finisher
  • Conduit of Ruin — Serves as a tutor and ramp, key piece to the deck
  • Void Winnower — Thorn in your opponents' side, as well as a finisher
  • Ulamog, The Ceaseless Hunger — Top end of your curve, primary finisher
  • Greenwarden of Murasa — Fits the "Den Protector" role for this list

The lands fell together better than I expected, I think if you time your ramp spells and land drops well, you will have some really explosive draws. I like Sanctum of Ugin because it is another tutor that gets your win conditions in a timely manner.

Well, that’s what I have for today, hope you guys enjoy the lists! Happy Brewing!!!

Tony Derbigny

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