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As the days pass by and we stare out of our windows remembering what life used to be, I’m reminded that we’re halfway through the year with only a couple of months before the release of Zendikar Rising. 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 anything about what we’ll be looking at in terms of in-person events being pushed back or not. We’ll have to wait and see as the date gets closer to say anything concrete, but at the very least the set will be available 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!
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, these appear to be Jace, Nahiri, and Nissa.
Unsurprisingly there will be full art lands in Zendikar Rising, a signature of the Zendikar plane.
So far, we know of three mechanics in the set. One will be a brand new mechanic that is a variation on a popular theme. There will also be two returning mechanics (see further below for speculation).
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.
Given the current lack of more information, let’s delve into the past to understand what may be coming in the future…
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.
Skyline Cascade | Illustration by Philip Straub
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.
Zendikar Resurgent | Illustration by Chris Rallis
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.
Avenger of Zendikar | Illustration by Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai
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.
Archmage Ascension | Illustration by Christopher Moeller
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.
Ricochet Trap | Illustration by by Jaime Jones
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.
Kargan Dragonlord | Illustration by Jason Chan
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.
World at War | Illustration by Igor Kieryluk
What Can We Expect?
Now we’ve arrived at the part where I’ll go all-out Nostradamus and try to speculate at what kinds of mechanics we can expect from Zendikar Rising. Keep in mind that this is completely based on my incredible prophetic abilities and may end up being completely wrong.
Dark Prophecy | Illustration by Scott Chou
First, considering we got shocklands in Guild of Ravnica and Zendikar is known for its unusual terrain, we’ll hopefully see some fetch lands or, at the very least, some other form of non-basic lands. Zendikar is also the set that introduced landfall, so I for one would be disappointed if we didn’t see any kind of high-value lands. Of course, this might mean that we’ll also see some land removals.
We may also see the return of level-up mechanics. We already have adventure cards but considering the new companion mechanic was on the verge of destroying the meta before WotC finally nerved it a bit, the level-up mechanic could be an attempt to bring balance to the companion rush. Who knows, we may even see new adventure cards with Zendikar Rising.
Foulmire Knight | Illustration by Alex Brock
Of course, even though the war with the Eldrazi caused destruction in Zendikar, it’s still a land of mystery and treasures. I think new quests and artifacts with Zendikar Rising isn’t out of the question. The reason Zendikar banded together originally was to fight against the titans, though, so with the threat gone, I don’t think we’ll see any allies.
Since Ikoria brought a lot of creatures to the battlefield, I think Zendikar Rising will bring new traps as a way to deal with them. I’m not sure about the rebound mechanic, but traps. Definitely.
So, we can expect new kinds of quests revolving around discovering the treasures and past of Zendikar. Since Throne of Eldraine is staying in Standard for another year and has some solid enchantment combinations, bringing quests into the mix would help prevent the “older” sets from being completely trampled over by newer sets in terms of power.
Khalni Heart Expedition | Illustration by Jason Chan
Finally, I think we’ll see some new versions of the four planeswalkers that banded together to defeat the Eldrazi. Did they retire after finishing off the titans, or keep going to unite the war-struck world? It will definitely be fun to see what kind of future they had after defeating multiverse-level threats.
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
- 1 Zendikar Rising Collector Booster
- 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.
Commander Decks and Gift Edition
We already know that there’ll be two Commander sets for Zendikar Rising, but there’s no info about their contents just yet. WotC loves to release gift editions around the holiday season, so we’ll probably get a Gift Edition for Zendikar Rising after its release.
There’s very little new news about Zendikar Rising for now. Since we’ll see the release of Core Set 2021 before Zendikar Rising, I think we’ll need to wait until at least August to learn more about what the set will bring. For now, we can only speculate on what we’ll get from the last set of 2020.
What do you think our return to Zendikar will bring? Feel free to share your opinion in the comments below!
Commune with the Gods | Illustration by Aleksi Briclot
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