Going Mad – Winners and Losers at Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar

By: Derek Madlem

You placed your bets and now the results are in. Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar has come and gone and while we were robbed of the champion we deserved (Finkel), we did at least find out what we already knew: Jeskai and Abzan are STILL good decks, IMAGINE THAT. Let’s take a look at the big winners and losers in this latest iteration of Standard:


Wingmate Roc

Everyone that had the common sense to buy $2.50 Wingmate Rocs, $1 Crackling Dooms, and $1 Mantis Riders. All of these cards were obviously good and the bulk of us just sat around ignoring them at bulk prices. While we were all excited about the “sure thing” Rattleclaw Mystic, many of us skimmed over proven staples.

This is a great lesson in going with your gut, a good card is a good card…most of the time.


Sorin, Solemn Visitor

Sorry Sorin, Solemn Visitor, nobody loves you. Sorin is one of my picks for this spring’s Duel Deck and put up disappointing results at the Pro Tour, with only six copies total appearing in all of the decks that went 7-3 or better in constructed, Sorin just isn’t the powerhouse we hoped for; filling much the same role (and casting cost) as Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Sorin just couldn’t compete in that same space.



Narset Transcendent appeared as a single copy in a single sideboard of a single deck. If there was any doubt about this “do nothing” planeswalker being hot garbage, that doubt should be squashed now. While most of us had the sense to stay away from this one, I’ve witnessed hopeful speculators ask vendors how many Narsets they had followed by the words, “I’ll take them.” Sorry guys, this one’s not paying off any time soon.



While we’re on the topic of planeswalkers that people went ham on, we’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker. This is another card I witnessed people buying by the stack, at the promise of future wealth. As it turns out, Sarkhan did see actually see some play in the Jeskai decks. But the reality of this is that Sarkhan showing up as a one-of is not going to be enough to push this guy up in price enough. There’s already the reality that Sarkhan has less than six months to live looming on the horizon and he showed up in one of the most opened sets of all time.


Ojutai's Command

Ojutai’s Command has been on a steady march to major contender since the printing of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. While Jace was a great reason to run Ojutai’s Command, the real push came in the form of Brian Kibler Outcast. The ability to “flash in” this 1/1 at the end of your opponent’s turn really pushed the envelope on Ojutai’s Command, making it a staple in pretty much every iteration of Jeskai that we saw this past weekend.

There’s a small army of players that bet big on these guys at $1 or less and now they’re looking like prodigies themselves. The lesson we should learn here is that if a spell is one number off from being really good, something is likely going to be printed to make that number work.



Bring to Light was fun, but it’s time to move on. Remember those sweet four color Siege Rhino decks? Yeah, real cute guys. As it turns out, in long tournaments stacked with skilled players, you don’t really want to be stretching your mana base too thin trying to be cute. This card is already in a downward spiral, shedding 20% in the last week. Soon enough we should be seeing this in the “premium bulk” pile on the buy mats of the world.



Zurgo Bellstriker is basically at an all-time high now, surpassing his initial sell price of $4. This is another card that savvy buyers picked up on in the $1-2 range and now get to dump. The lesson we should be taking away from this is that people like dumb red decks and dumb red cards, unless you’re…


Dragon Whisperer

Dragon Whisperer is a mythic rare that we’ve all eyed coming into rotation as the heir to the throne of key 2-drop in every red deck, but it’s not. While Dragon Whisperer did show up twice as much as Narset, that number still only totals two. We can all let this one go quietly into the dark at this point, there’s not much hope left.


Abbot of keral keep

Abbot of Keral Keep continues to show up in more and more decks. As it turns out, this card is still really awesome (I told you so) and I expect to see it continue to see action across Standard and Modern for the foreseeable future. Abbot has remained relatively stable around $7 for quite some time now, but we’re not going to see too much more Magic Origins being opened / redeemed in the near future so the supply for this guy is probably a lot smaller than most of us realize. This is a great card to pick up as you can as it’s only a matter of time before the price tag starts to quietly tick upwards 1% at a time.


oblivion sower

Saito bought all of these! OMG! While some people smell conspiracy or market manipulation, the reality here is that people in Japan were buying these cards at a much higher rate than we were. Saito was in town and saw that he could buy piles of these for what amounted to his buylist price, so he did. This is how the global Magic economy works folks.

As far as the Pro Tour went, there isn’t much to be said about Oblivion Sower other than it did show up as a single copy in a few sideboards and as a four-of in a single big dumb ramp deck. While I’m not completely counting this guy out yet as I still have to unlock the Crumble to Dust / Oblivion Sower achievement, this card was not the cornerstone of a top secret Japanese ramp deck for the Pro Tour.



Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is in pretty much the same boat as Oblivion Sower except he (she? it?) didn’t show up in any sideboards. While this is good news for the people that want to own Ulamogs, it’s not exciting news for anyone that expected this to be a breakout card or a sweet target to put into play on the cheap with…


See the unwritten

See the Unwritten is a casual card guys, you’re going to have to accept that. Summoning Trap was only played in it’s heyday because you could cast it for free if your opponent countered your Primeval Titan. There was no feeling greater than getting your Titan countered with three Summoning Traps in your hand and just dropping them onto the table with a twisted grin on your face.

If See the Unwritten had been an instant, we’d be having a different conversation all together, but it’s not. See the Unwritten showed up in approximately 0% of the 7-3 or better constructed decks.



In case you missed the memo, Dromoka’s Command was criminally under priced when it bottomed out at $2. We’ve since learned that event decks and clash packs not enough to keep a good card down. With the exception of Silumgar’s Command, this entire cycle has now seen serious constructed play and the flexibility of these cards warrants their inclusion in pretty much any deck that can support the mana requirements. Dromoka’s Command appeared mostly as four-ofs and is going to be vitally useful going forward in the Abzan and Megamorph decks.


Warden of the First

Warden of the First Tree is probably a solid pickup at this point despite being printed in the latest event deck. This small set mythic rare is repping the four-of status and is vital for players looking to apply early pressure. We probably would have seen more of this guy before if Fleecemane Lion didn’t exist, but now that the golden-locked cat is out of the picture, this guy is the premiere badass in the aggressive Abzan builds.



Anafenza, the Foremost is another Abzan all star that put in some work at PTBFZ. Anafenza’s is most powerful against decks featuring Deathmist Raptor or Hangarback Walker because her cursory ability to keep creatures out of your opponents’ graveyards basically shuts off these threats. And if that wasn’t enough, the ability to slow down Dig Through Time and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is not irrelevant. Combine all of this with a solid body that seems even stronger in a format with weak removal and the ability to pump other creatures on attack and you have yourself a mythic rare powerhouse poised for takeover.



Gideon, Ally of Zendikar had a big big weekend. Gideon showed up as a four-of in a variety of archetypes ranging from Jeskai Tokens to Abzan to Esper. Gideon is the man of the hour thanks mostly to the lack of reasonable answers to deal with him, Stasis Snare is not an Oblivion Ring and Ruinous Path is not Hero’s Downfall.

Gideon has carved out a niche as the apex predator of this format and that’s not going to change until we get more cards into the format. If any card is poised to hold it’s price in spite of the massive amounts of downward pressure we’re seeing on BFZ cards, it’s Gideon. We can learn a lot about contextual value from Gideon because it’s likely this card would make a much smaller impact in past formats than it has in this environment, he’s better because so much else is just worse.


Snapcaster Mage

My condolences to anyone that’s forced to play with this hideous iteration of Snapcaster Mage. This is the promo you get for attending the RPTQs this year and it reeks of leftover art from another commission.

Some of you have said that you actually like this art, and I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. This art is garbage.

But art is subjective.

No, it’s not. Here’s a little experiment you can try at home. Take any red or blue instant and put this art on the card and see if makes sense. SPOILER ALERT: it does. You know why? Because this is generic card art, it wasn’t commissioned to be a Snapcaster Mage…it was commissioned to be whatever random spell they hadn’t made yet.


6 thoughts on “Going Mad – Winners and Losers at Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar

  1. Agree with most of you. I have invested in Sorin and he just disappointed me with his performance in Protour.

    One thing I disagree is Sarkhan though. I think he did his job during the past weekend in some games. He is one of the PW that can kill Gideon in one turn and still have loyalty to some other things later on. He was at $5 before PT and I saw some sign that his price will rise even more very soon.

  2. Hate, hate, hate, hate, HATE that Snapcaster art. I’ve been calling it Badcaster, because of how bad the art is. So awful.

  3. Just because the art wasn’t specifically commissioned for snapcaster doesn’t inherently mean it’s bad. What’s funny is i feel the original snapcaster art is hideous. Probably one of the ugliest cards people pay good money for. Luckily since everyone hates the new art, I’ll be looking to pick these up on the cheap.

    1. Agree. The original artwork is horrible. And look closer at the left arm. It appears to have been dislocated at the shoulder. And why the hell is he holding his arm like that? Adding some persons face to the original artwork didn’t improve it. Perhaps his arm has been stricken with rigor mortis.

      With that said, I don’t like the new one either. I agree that it is generic beyond belief.

  4. Great work D Mad. I can’t disagree with anything you have said. I think you overlooked Liliana as a winner. I know you still aren’t high on her but the fact that she’s the centerpiece of a fun combo style cheaply priced deck is important (and not the first time in this Standard). She doesn’t have the Raw power of Jace or Gideon (I still don’t love him but as you said context is everything), but Liliana is really overwhelming in the decks made to exploit her minus ability.

    And I love Sorin too, but the public doesn’t. He’s very good but in the abundantly opened Khans set he doesn’t do enough in Standard to hold a solid price. Gideon has killed Sorin, I still think there’s room in Abzan for 2 Sorins (he gets around Dispel and Ojutai’s Command) but this was a bad call on my part.

    And yes, that Snapcaster Mage is hideous. Looks like a Red Green card. Tiago-caster might have too much going on with the artwork for some, but people who want this one have at it.

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