Last updated on February 1, 2023
Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients | Illustration by Anna Steinbauer
The release of Zendikar Rising marks a very important time in the Magic calendar. The fall major set is always the landmark release of the year, with a lot depending on the quality of its design and overall appeal.
This release will mark 2020’s rotation and, considering its ties to the Zendikar block and announcements from WotC, the set will bring a lot of changes to MTG.
Since the set will be released in September 2020, we can’t say too much about where and when there will be in person events around the world, but most events are still canceled in the Americas. Regardless, we at least have the set to look forward to on MTG Arena and Magic Online.
With all of that said, though, let’s just jump in and take a look at what we know about Zendikar Rising so far!
Zendikar Rising Basic Information
Soul of Zendikar | Illustration by Eytan Zana
Thanks to Magic’s lead designer Mark Rosewater doing a virtual panel at Comic Con, we now know a few things about the set.
We’ll be returning to Adventure World Zendikar, not mean Eldrazi World Zendikar. Rosewater confirmed that there will be no Eldrazi in Zendikar Rising, but we’ll still see their influence and the ramifications of the stories from sets past.
Three planeswalkers will be featured, and all three will be very well known characters who have appeared several times before in Magic sets.
Judging by the packaging and the spoilers so far, these are Jace, Nahiri, and Nissa.
Wizards released a teaser trailer for the set, but good luck figuring out what any of it means:
In a nutshell, Nahiri is returning to her home plane of Zendikar in Zendikar Rising after the stories of Innistrad and Ravnica. Nissa is also from Zendikar, and not coincidentally, is also in the set. Finally Jace is there too for some reason (of course).
What any of these three characters will be up to specifically… still has yet to be revealed. But the good news is that we’ll be getting two weekly story articles per week over on dailymtg.com.
With the official kickoff of preview season, we now know all the mechanics that will be featured in Zendikar Rising. There is one new mechanic (party) and three existing ones: double-faced cards, landfall, and kicker.
Party is the headliner here, a brand new mechanic just for Zendikar Rising. Party evokes not only the adventure world spirit of the Zendikar plane but also the awesome cross-branding opportunity for Wizards to plug Dungeons and Dragons.
Party is a riff on the popular tribal mechanic, where you have to collect as many as you can of a particular creature type. In contrast, party asks you to get one of each of a cleric, rogue, warrior, and wizard creature into play.
When you do, you’ll get various bonuses. Sometimes you’ll get more of an effect from a spell. Other times you might get a mana discount on the spell.
If you’ve collected ’em all, you have what’s called a full party.
In order to make the four classes fit into the five colors of magic, they were divided accordingly:
As you can see, each class has a primary home in a particular color. Green doesn’t get a focus from any particular class, but it gets a light touch of all four.
Flip / Dual Face / Double-Faced Cards
Whatever you want to call them (Wizards calls them double-faced cards), this fun mechanic was originally introduced in Innistrad with its ubiquitous werewolves transforming back and forth into humans. Wizards is also using the term modal DFCs for these cards.
Having stuff on both sides allows a card to actually have two distinctly different cards stapled onto one piece of cardboard.
Here, we see double-faced cards being used to give you more optionality. For example, here is a card that allows you to either play it as a land or as a spell if you hold onto it for maximum effect.
All of the new cycle of dual lands are double-faced cards as well.
Don’t forget that you gotta use opaque sleeves when you’re playing with these bad boys.
What would Zendikar be without landfall? To put it simply, landfall says:
When a land enters the battlefield under your control, do something. This can be pumping your creatures, dealing damage to your opponent, adding mana, whatever.
Landfall encourages you to play a lot of lands in your decks. It gives you spell-like effects when you are flooding and therefore helps prevent you from being mana screwed.
Speaking of playing a lot of lands, kicker is returning in Zendikar Rising! Kicker allows you to pay an additional cost when you cast a spell to gain an additional benefit.
This ability is meant to give you more flexibility when casting your spells, creating interesting strategic decisions about whether to cast the spell now for immediate impact or to wait and get more value from it later. You can think of cards with kicker as “dual cards” that have two modes, a pretty powerful mechanic.
It’s been said that “every mechanic is just a variation of kicker,” which was first introduced way back in Invasion. The last time we saw kicker was actually pretty recently, in Dominaria.
The Return of Expeditions
That’s right, these ultra-rare (“lottery ticket”) premium cards will once again be inserted randomly into booster packs. This time around, they will be in collector boosters and as the box topper for draft booster boxes.
Of special note here is a cool reprint of the allied Battlebond lands with some new art.
New Product: Set Boosters
In addition to the typical draft boosters and collector boosters, a new type of product will be shipped for Zendikar Rising: the set booster.
A set booster is supposed to “maximize the opening experience” and be the “most fun to open.” This is for y’all that like to simply open packs and throw them in your binder rather than experiencing the joy of drafting.
Each booster has four sections, or “chapters” as seen here:
There are 14 cards total – 12 Magic cards and 2 “Magic related” cards. These are:
- Slot 1: Art card slot (81 total in Zendikar Rising). 1/20 have a version with the artist signature embossed in gold.
- Slot 2: Land slot a basic full art land. 15% of the time you’ll get a foil full art land.
- Slots 3-8: Connected commons and uncommons. They’ll share some kind of theme between them – flavor, a mechanic, creature type, or play well together. You’re guaranteed 5 commons and 1 uncommon, but any of the commons can also be upgraded to uncommons.
- Slot 9: “Fireworks” – A card that looks different from a normal Magic card. Either a Showcase card or another special thing they’re doing for this set.
- Slots 10-11: Wildcard rarity slots that can have any rarity common up to mythic.
- Slot 12: Rare/mythic rare slot – though you can have up to four in one of these packs, you’re guaranteed to have at least one.
- Slot 13: Foil card that can be any rarity
- Slot 14: An ad or token card, usually. 25% of the time you get an actual Magic card from “The List,” which includes some old favorites. These include: Muscle Sliver, Cloudgoat Ranger, and Pact of Negation.
Set boosters will be “a little bit more” expensive than a draft booster. A display box will contain 30 packs instead of the typical 36 for a draft booster box.
Zendikar Rising Card Gallery
As has become a tradition, MTG lead designer Mark Rosewater has revealed some tantalizing bits of information about the new set. Here’s his full list of tidbits to whet our appetites until we get the full spoiler:
First up, here are some things you can expect:
- A white creature that can make an opponent lose the game simply by attacking them no matter how much life they have
- A multicolor creature that lets you repeatedly reanimate permanents out of your opponent’s graveyard for no mana
- Three creatures with five creature types
- An artifact granting +2/+2 to a subset of creatures that first appeared in Alpha
- X being used for a variable it’s never been used for before
- A 6/6 artifact creature that costs 3 and a 7/5 artifact creature that can cost 3
- The return of four mana symbols that have each only ever been used on two cards before
- Lands that come with a choice you’ve never had before
- Targeted enchantment removal in black
- A red/white creature with a line of rules text that starts with “Whenever” and ends with “draw a card”
- A card with three different activated abilities that all copy something
Here are snippets of rules text, you’ll see:
- “three plus”
- “different converted mana cost X or less”
- “equal to 20 minus”
- “Cowards can’t block Warriors”
- “don’t lose unspent red mana”
- “twice the number of equipment”
- “If it’s the third time”
And finally, here are some creature type lines you’ll see:
- Leviathan Crab
- Shapeshifter Rogue
- Demon Cleric
- Wurm Horror
- Hydra Horror
- Cat Horror
- Angel Wizard
A copule of my own thoughts about this:
For the lands, if you’re into leaks, we kind of already know what type of choice MaRo is referring to. Lands are crucial to the makeup of the new Standard, so if you don’t care about unofficial spoilers, definitely check that out.
Judging by the references to equipment (and the Nahiri card reveal) we can probably guess that there will be an equipment theme/archetype in Zendikar Rising for red/white.
About Zendikar: What Came Before
For those who haven’t heard of Zendikar before, think of a world where mana is overflowing. Without chains, wild mana changes everything and creates a unique and beautiful land that is home to floating terrain, lush forests, and the Eldrazi.
The Eldrazi were called titans by some; they were so powerful that they could travel between planes and devour worlds. They had been forgotten, hidden for a thousand years before some young planeswalkers accidentally awakened them. They started devouring everything in their path including two of Zendikar’s seven continents.
It wasn’t until Gideon Jura, Nissa Revane, Jace Beleren, and Chandra Nalaar teamed up were the monsters stopped. With the physical manifestations of Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre and Kozilek, Butcher of Truth destroyed and Emrakul, the Promised End sealed in Innistrad’s moon, we’ll be returning to a Zendikar that is trying to patch up the wounds of the war with titans.
Aside from their epic storyline, the Zendikar sets had unique characteristics and were very fun to play with. For some people, at least; others kind of hated them.
Zendikar Block Set Mechanics
Zendikar was the first set to introduce the landfall mechanic which was later expanded in Worldwake and Battle for Zendikar.
Landfall was a triggered ability that was activated when a land entered the battlefield under your control for any reason. This could trigger multiple times per turn, even if you had lands placed on the board with other abilities from creatures or spells instead of playing a land from your hand.
As you may have realized from the story I mentioned earlier, Zendikar is a land of magic. And where there’s magic involved, you can expect quests to go along with it.
Quests were enchantment cards that specify certain conditions. When these conditions were fulfilled, you added a quest counter to them and, once you had the necessary counters, you could use their abilities. Quests were divided into three cycles; expeditions, quests, and ascensions.
Zendikar also introduced one of the most argued mechanics: traps.
It may sound like we started playing Yu-Gi-Oh, but traps in MTG worked differently. They were always instants and usually had high mana costs. When certain conditions were fulfilled, you could use lower mana costs to use them during your opponents’ turns. They ranged from being underwhelming to incredibly useful.
If you have quests, it’s only natural that there’s a level-up mechanic.
Creatures with this ability could be levelled up any time you cast a sorcery and would gain additional abilities. It was sometimes difficult to keep them alive as they do so, but they could become incredible creatures in time if they survived.
You can think of rebound keywords as an echo: once you play a spell with rebound, it was exiled instead of going to the graveyard and could be re-cast during your next turn without paying its cost. It was introduced in Rise of the Eldrazi and was used in a couple of sets afterwards.
Draft boosters are optimized for, well, drafts. They’re actually standard MTG booster packs, but they were rebranded to avoid any confusion with theme boosters, collector boosters, etc. They have a fixed rarity distribution, meaning you’ll get 10 commons, 3 uncommons, 1 rare or mythic rare, 1 land, and 1 token/ad card. Around a third of the time, one of the commons will be replaced by a foil of any rarity. You can also get a Draft Booster Box, which will get you 36 Booster Packs.
These boosters focus more on collectors rather than players who like to play competitively. Each pack contains 15 cards, but the exact contents haven’t been released yet. For comparison, here are the contents of the Core Set 2021 Collector Boosters:
- 4 foil commons, common dual lands, or basic lands
- 2 foil uncommons
- 1 foil showcase basic land
- 1 extended art rare or mythic rare (45 rares, 8 mythic rares)
- 2 foil rares or mythic rares, or foil extended art rares or mythic rares
- 2 showcase commons or uncommons, or a borderless card previewed by Martin Juza on June 8
- 1 showcase or borderless rare or mythic rare (8 rares, 17 mythic rares including 5 versions of mythic rare Teferi)
- 1 foil showcase common or uncommon, or a borderless card previewed by Martin Juza on June 8
- 1 foil showcase or borderless card, any rarity (5 commons, 6 uncommons, 8 rares, 17 mythic rares including 5 versions of mythic rare Teferi)
- 1 foil token
Similar to the Draft Boosters, you can also get a Collector Booster Box, which has 12 packs.
Theme Boosters are targeted at deck building players who want to complete their constructed decks. Cards in these boosters share a common theme and have high synergy. Zendikar Rising Theme Boosters will be mono-colored and, as always, will have 35 cards.
Zendikar Rising Bundle
With this Bundle, you’ll get a bunch of different Zendikar Rising Products, including:
- 10 Zendikar Rising Draft Boosters
- 20 foil basic lands
- 20 non-foil basic lands
- 1 foil promo card
- 1 oversized spindown life counter (1.5″)
- 2 reference cards
- 1 reusable storage box
Zendikar Rising Set Booster
As mentioned above, this is a brand new offering for Zendikar Rising that will appeal to both collectors and people who just love crackin’ packs.
Prices on Amazon, at least for pre-order, are actually looking pretty affordable right now.
Zendikar Rising Commander Decks and Gift Edition
We know that there’ll be two Commander decks for Zendikar Rising, and you can read our full review of the product here.
- Join Jace, Nariri, Nissa and more in Zendikar; a dangerous world of lethal risks where brave adventurers in the Edlrazi aftermath delve into ancient ruins in search of priceless rewards!
- Return to Zendikar where the plane is Rising with danger and treasure
- BATTLE YOUR FRIENDS; Commander is a different way to play Magic: The Gathering; It's all about legendary creatures, big plays, and battling your friends in epic multiplayer games
WotC loves to release gift editions around the holiday season as well, so we’ll probably get a Gift Edition for Zendikar Rising after its release.
Commune with the Gods | Illustration by Aleksi Briclot
What do you think our return to Zendikar will bring? Feel free to share your opinion in the comments below!
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