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Knowing What I Know Now: Revising My Zendikar Rising Top Ten

On Destroy Target Permanent our top ten episodes that we do for each set are some of our favorite episodes that we produce. The process of really looking at what cards we like or what cards we believe will be hits in a constructed format only adds to the excitement of a new set. If you have been listening for any amount of time, you will know that we don’t always get things right when it comes to the evaluation of constructed levels cards. Since I began writing for Goblin Traders, I have been looking back at my top tens a week after the given episode is released. We have arrived at the time once again. 


This was my original top ten for Zendikar Rising, along with my honorable mentions. 

  1. Mythic Modal DFC Cycle

  2. Zareth San, The Trickster/Rogues

  3. Magmatic Channeler

  4. Bloodchief’s Thirst

  5. Ancient Greenwarden

  6. Omnath, Locus of Creation

  7. Pathway Cycle

  8. Akoum Hellhound/Landfall

  9. Nullpriest of Oblivion

  10. Jace, Mirror Mage

Honorable Mentions: Kaza, Roil Chaser; Nighthawk Scavenger; Orah, Skyclave Hierophant; Skyclave Shade


While I believe that there is still plenty of time for this list to really enter into the standard metagame, I’m still going to look and provide a critique of the above list.


Honorable Mentions

Currently I don’t see a reason to move any of these cards from this section of my list. 


10. Jace, Mirror Mage



This is our eleventh version (including Planeswalker deck) of Magic’s resident telepath. Let me start by saying, I still believe that this card has a place in Standard. Jace, Mirror Mage may be a sideboard player for the time being though. Through my play with this planeswalker, it has become apparent that the power really comes into play when Jace is kicked. Two planeswalkers is better than one, go figure. The most common pattern of play, which I believe to be correct under normal gamestate circumstances, is to plus the copy of Jace and depending on the results of the Scry; then minus the original Jace if the top card will not result in losing said Jace. This process can be repeated as needed. This is a card advantage tool, not the planeswalkers that we are used to. Jace, Mirror Mage most likely will not take over any games while he’s in Standard, but he can and will enable other threats to take over games. At this time Jace, Mirror Mage will be staying at the number ten slot. 


9. Nullpriest of Oblivion



This is our first stop in Sadtown on the top tens train. I believed this card was going to immediately become a standard powerhouse. The cost of including Nullpriest of Oblivion in decks that can cast it is negligible. So far, this has not been the case. We still have plenty of time for this to change. The two drop slot has become more important with the release of Zendikar Rising. It feels as if you do not do something on turn two, you are already woefully behind. Don’t get me wrong, the tools are readily available to catch up in a game when behind. That being said, there doesn’t seem to be a place for this card just yet in Standard. Currently, Nullpriest of Oblivion will be moved to the Honorable Mentions section of my list. 


8. Akoum Hellhound / Landfall



Landfall is a mechanic that has returned each time we have revisited Zendikar, and with good reason. I believe Landfall is one of the top five mechanics of the modern age of card design. There has also been a one-drop creature with Landfall each time we see its return, Akoum Hellhound being the most recent. This card has been great, but not in the deck that I expected. Akoum Hellhound has been utilized much more effectively in mono red decks in the early days of this standard format. If I had to keep a Landfall creature on my top ten it would be Brushfire Elemental or Kazandu Mammoth. Notice I said “if”; currently Akoum Hellhound falls from my top ten; that could easily change.


7. Pathway Cycle



There’s not much to say here, we all knew they would see play and be good. In fact, they have been great in my experience. I really enjoy the play of this latest version of “dual lands”, they create very interesting decisions from game to game. Currently the Pathway Cycle will be moving up one slot to number six, dropping Omnath to number seven; though not for long.


6. Omnath, Locus of Creation



Talk about powerhouses! This creature is insanely powerful and trivial to cast at best, regardless of the four color mana cost. This is also the fourth iteration of Omnath. Omnath, Locus of Creation literally does it all. I was super high on this card before release and I wasn’t even prepared for how impactful it has been. Spawning an archetype that has dominated the early events in the format. Omnath will be moving to number two on my top ten, thus shifting all of the cards above it down one slot.


5. Ancient Greenwarden



This card is my pick for top sleeper right now. It will most definitely have its day in the sun, just wait. Ancient Greenwarden, or “Landharmonicon” as it has been called, not only allows you to double up on triggers from lands entering play; it can do some disgusting things when combined with Ashaya, Soul of the Wild. Unfortunately, for the moment this powerful green mythic drops to Akoum Hellhound’s previous spot, number eight.


4. Bloodchief's Thirst



Did anyone expect this card to see so little play when it was previewed? I sure didn’t expect it. Trust me, it’s only a matter of time until this card is the most important removal spell in standard. While it is a Sorcery, the flexibility that you gain from Bloodchief’s Thirst is undeniable. I would imagine that once the correct build of black based Aggro decks is found, this card will be a four-of in those lists. Clerics seems like a good place to start, so you may see something in that vein from me soon. I’m going to leave Bloodchief’s Thirst where it is for now, at number four. 


3. Magmatic Channeler



We’ve finally arrived at a card you all knew would be somewhere on my top ten. I always have a card or two that I think would be really good in an Izzet style spells matter deck. It would seem that I chose wisely with this one, it is great in the Izzet decks that I have been working on. In a deck constructed to use a creature such as Magmatic Channeler, this card is good early and good late. In the early stages of the game it can help you dig into your deck for whatever you may need, and in the late game it comes down as a two-mana 4/4. What more could you ask for from you two drop? Due to some of the other cards that are entering my top ten though, Magmatic Channeler finds itself at number seven. 


2. Zareth San, the Trickster / Rogues



During preview season there was a lot of talk about rogues and the tribe as it is represented in Zendikar Rising. Many players were split on the tribe’s playability and power level. I was on the side that thought the archetype could hold its own and have legs in the format. I still believe that the current build just hasn’t been found yet, but we’re on the right track. Zareth San, the Trickster is the real deal. This has been the top end of the version of Rogues that I’ve enjoyed the most. His ninjitsu-like ability has been instrumental in many of my wins with the archetype. This card, as well as Soaring Thought-Thief, are why this deck is poised to break out when the moment is right. Don’t be surprised if Zareth San and his band of Rogues steals a tournament or two in the near future. Zareth San, the Trickster will be staying where he is. 


1. Mythic Modal DFC Cycle



These are still the most powerful cards in the set in my opinion and as such they will be staying at the number one spot. Everyone of these has been seeing play in some way, and some in numerous formats. Each is an extremely powerful spell, but also a land when needed. This means that these expensively costed spells don’t just sit in your hand all game. If you can’t cast them, play the land side and you’re still not out of a card or tempo in the game. I said this before when we were discussing our top tens on the Destroy Target Permanent episode (https://bit.ly/3mIuBSj), the cost of playing these cards is nearly zero. I have seen Agadeem’s Awakening showing up in low curve decks that will most likely end up finishing a game before it can cast the card for much value. That’s my point, those decks still aren’t losing anything by playing Agadeem’s Awakening. The only one of the five that has yet to see is the blue on Sea Gate Restoration, but there’s still plenty of time for a deck that needs that level of card draw to show up.


Now that I’ve gone through the previous iteration of my top ten for Zendikar Rising, I present to you my revised top ten list. 

  1. Mythic Modal DFC Cycle

  2. Omnath, Locus of Creation

  3. Zareth San, The Trickster/Rogues

  4. Lotus Cobra

  5. Bloodchief’s Thirst

  6. Pathway Cycle

  7. Magmatic Channeler 

  8. Ancient Greenwarden

  9. Nahiri, Heir to the Ancients

  10. Jace, Mirror Mage



The new additions to my top ten are Lotus Cobra and Nahiri, Heir to the Ancients. Not having Lotus Cobra in my original top ten was just a mistake on my part. I played with it in the original Zendikar, so I should’ve known better. The fetchlands aren’t in this standard format like the original Zendikar Standard format, but that has served to only slightly nerf this serpent. Take my advice, kill it on sight; if you can’t do that, change your deck. 



Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients is a card that caught me off guard. This planeswalker follows the more traditional design of planeswalkers, but falls into the power level of the more conventional planeswalkers. Nahiri definitely goes in a specific type of deck, she wants you to play with warriors and equipment. Conveniently, Standard already has a breadth of both of those categories of cards. Winota, Joiner of Forces is a very important warrior in standard, just saying. Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients has the ability to protect itself while also giving you the ability to dig for more gas to keep your game going. 


I hope that you have enjoyed this look into my initial top ten and the reworking of said list after a week of experience of the gameplay that has developed in standard so far. Let me know in the comments below what you believe should or shouldn’t be in my revised list and why. 


I can’t wait to dive into the format more, as well as Pioneer and Modern. Until next time, stay safe out there.


Good luck, I hope you lose!



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