MtG Zendikar Rising: 11 Best Cards for Standard

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The world of Zendikar is back in the new Magic: The Gathering set, Zendikar Rising. The new set includes 285 new cards, and only a few of those cards are reprinted from previous sets.

Zendikar Rising introduces a new card type to the world of MtG: modal double-faced cards. With these cards, players choose which side of the card to play before they put it on the battlefield. All of these cards are lands, in addition to other types of spells.

But the most exciting new feature in this set is the introduction of Parties, which reward you with extra abilities and consist of four types of creatures:

  • Clerics
  • Rogues
  • Warriors
  • Wizards

This list highlights the 11 best MtG cards from Zendikar Rising, pinpointing the cards you should seek out for your deck in the upcoming standard season.

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Ancient Greenwarden

Ancient Greenwarden is a new elemental creature that really cares about lands in graveyards, and it synergizes perfectly with Nahiri's Lithoforming, another card in  Zendikar Rising.

You can use Nahiri's Lithoforming to sacrifice all your lands, draw the corresponding cards, then immediately replay all those lands from your graveyard using Ancient Greenwarden's ability. Doing so will allow you to trigger any card you need on-board twice that many times.

One of the best new solutions for this combo is the Felidar Retreat enchantment, which creates a 2/2 cat token for each land entering the battlefield. You will get two tokens for each land, which could escalate quickly in a proper ramp deck.

Thieving Skydiver

It appears this flying Merfolk creature will be a force to be reckoned with in all blue decks this season. Thieving Skydiver can easily steal an opponent's Stonecoil Serpent for a mere 3 mana, though you will still need to pay 1 mana for the kicker effect, even if Serpent Coil technically costs 0 mana.

Aside from that, there are plenty of artifacts that can be used alongside this card in competitive decks. 

Thieving Skydiver is not on par with Agent of Treachery, a card that can steal any permanent card in your opponent's control, but it doesn't mean that it won't be loathed by the community for similar reasons. Especially, when the stolen artifact acts as an equipment card.

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Grakmaw, Skyclave Ravager

Grakmaw is the perfect card to have on-board when your opponent tries to remove cards of wipe the whole board because it simply replaces itself with a token of the same power level.

Since The Ozolith and the Conclave Mentor are included in standard, you could easily find a way to turn Grakmaw into a monster card that never leaves the battlefield.

Grakmaw also synergizes well with the mutate mechanic, and the legendary rule in this case helps your board state. Either way, Grakmaw, Skyclave Ravager will find its way into any Golgari or Abzan decks this season, especially those that care about counters.

Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients

Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients is a new planeswalker without a passive ability, and since this card has a very specific focus, many players will most likely skip over it. But when used in the right list, it is a borderline broken card.

Nahiri's second ability plays an important role for players who run the warrior creature Winota, Joiner of Forces. Currently, Mardu Winota is one of the top-tier decks in MtG, and it looks like Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients will find its rightful place in the list, especially when you consider that Nahiri can dig for Embercleave equipment. 

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Leyline Tyrant

Leyline Tyrant allows you to build up red mana quickly, attacking your opponent for 4 damage in the air while doing it. If your opponent finds a removal spell, you can use all of your accumulated red mana to deal the accumulated amount in damage to them. 

This could make for an easy win, especially for an aggressive mono-red deck, which can afford to include a couple of 4-mana creatures. If you are flooded with lands and have the Leyline Tyrant on-board, you will be able to convert all of that mana into damage.

There is also an Irencrag Feat spell that can quickly add an extra 3 red mana to Leyline Tyrant's pool, which practically equates to a free Lightning Bolt.

Charix, the Raging Isle

This card may look ridiculous at first sight, but there is actually a really neat combo that allows Charix to attack for 19 points of damage. Here's how it works:

  1. Play Charix, the Raging Isle
  2. Attach Sentinel Eyes aura to it
  3. Attach Solid Footing aura to it
  4. Attack for 19 damage

It's simple and only requires three cards, but its upside is tremendous. If your opponent does not have targeted removal, it's basically game over.

Raging Isle could also be used in Mono Blue decks and White-Blue Control decks that need a good blocker and an occasional attacker.

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Jace, Mirror Mage

The new Jace planeswalker is one of the most entertaining cards that Wizards of the Coast have printed recently. The best way to utilize this planeswalker is to:

  1. Play Jace, Mirror Mage
  2. Pay the kicker price (2 mana)
  3. Create a copy of Jace, Mirror Mage with 1 loyalty counter
  4. Activate the first ability on the copy to scry and determine the next card draw
  5. Activate the second ability on the original Jace, Mirror Mage to draw a card and keep both planeswalkers in play

You can repeat this pattern each turn, intertwining the roles of both Jace planeswalkers.

Phylath, World Sculptor

Phylath will be a remarkable card in the post-rotation world of standard. It is very similar in effect to Avenger of Zendikar from the original Zendikar block.

Now, it works well alongside cards like Bolt Hound, which makes all plant tokens attack with +1 damage, and Return of the Wildspeaker, which gives all non-human creatures +3/+3. 

Since all of these cards require a lot of mana, you will probably see Phylath only in ramp decks.

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Confounding Conundrum

Ramp decks are now the most played decks in competitive standard. That's why Confounding Conundrum is such an important addition for Zendikar Rising — it basically prevents any decks from ramping. However, it's only available in blue decks, where white would have been more appropriate. 

In any case, if every ramp decks begins playing Confounding Conundrum, there will be no point of playing ramp decks in the first place. If Wizards of the Coast wanted to change the MtG meta with this card, then it looks like they may have succeeded.

Scourge of the Skyclaves

Every modern MtG player will see the resemblance to Death's Shadow in Scourge of the Skyclaves. Of course, it's not as good as Death's Shadow, since you need to control your opponent's life total, too. But aggro decks with burn spells can easily turn this creature into a huge threat for just 2 mana.

Expect to see Scourge of the Skyclaves in Red Black Aggro decks and lists that utilize Lurrus of the Dream-Den companion. In the latter case, don't worry about losing your creature, as it can be easily replayed from the graveyard.

Moraug, Fury of Akoum

Moraug, Fury of Akoum is the perfect top-end card for Gruul decks in the vein of Carnage Tyrant. With it, you will have enough time to build up your board before playing Moraug, and then you will have two sequential attacks that have the possibility of dealing lethal damage.

Lands like Fabled Passage and Evolving Wilds could trigger Moraug twice, too, providing you with another combat phase on top of the first two. So there is a lot of potential in this minotaur warrior if you enjoy playing big finishers in your decks.

That's all for the best 11 cards in MtG's Zendikar Rising set. In addition to this list of the best Zendikar Rising cards for standard, be sure to check out our other MtG guides and card lists here

Published Sep. 14th 2020

Correspondent

Sergey has been a freelancer in the video games industry for more than five years, writing for various publications around the world. His favorite games are MtG, Dark Souls, Diablo, and Divinity: Original Sin. Sergey doesn't own consoles because a PC is all he needs.

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