Catacomb Sifter is the Sleeper!

Catacomb Sifter
Why does Patrick think Catacomb Sifter will be the sleeper card of Battle for Zendikar?

  • Rate: Catacomb Sifter compares favorably to Hordeling Outburst (a Standard quality Staple) on multiple dimensions. It is three power and four toughness (an upgrade over three power and three toughness) for three mana, also over multiple bodies. Though two bodies are less abusable with pump effects than three bodies, Catacomb Sifter is at least closely in the conversation… Not to mention better whenever you don’t have buff cards.
  • Synergies: Catacomb Sifter is a natural best friend to Liliana, Heretical Healer, and great to flip over alongside Liliana with Collected Company. It will both contribute to Ramp strategies and even compete with conventional three drops, like Anafenza, the Foremost!
  • Scrying: Scrying is a heck on an ability to get “for free” … Especially when Catacomb Sifter comes ready with an Eldrazi body to get the Scrying engine going. It can combine with other Eldrazi Scions just as easily. And anyway, if there’s one thing you don’t want to do, it’s let your Eldrazi opponent scry to whatever cards he wants, for free.
  • … and more!

While Catacomb Sifter projects to be the set’s big sleeper, the discussion in this podcast touches on lots of different Eldrazi (and Eldrazi Scion) setups and strategies.

How does From Beyond compare with Explosive Vegetation, Hedron Archive, or Frontier Siege at the four?

Everyone knows that Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is the Big! Bad! of Battle for Zendikar… But what other giant Eldrazi (or other big threats in general) might you want to ramp up to? What about going after little threats with tutor cards instead?

Crumble to Dust is in many ways an improved Sowing Salt (which makes it almost guaranteed to be a tournament quality card)… But what about using it directly as a setup man for Oblivion Sower? (don’t worry, Mike didn’t realize how crazy synergistic that one is, either)

Check out “Catacomb Sifter is the Sleeper!” now:

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Makindi Sliderunner! Snapping Gnarlid! Pilgrim’s Eye!

Makindi Sliderunner
Makindi Sliderunner is one of three exclusive preview cards Top Level Podcast got for Battle for Zendikar.

Quick verdict on Makindi Sliderunner… We like it!

“I’m a fan.”

Makindi Sliderunner will probably see play, and might be legitimately good. It is a probable inclusion not only for R/G Landfall beatdown decks, but just a pretty good card for a Mono-Red beatdown deck to play at the two.

Makindi Sliderunner is usually going to hit for three or more damage per turn. It starts off as a 2/1 creature so “[i]t just can’t get that bad” (per Mike)… and will hit for three or four damage on many turns, depending on if you have a regular land or a fetchland to play pre-combat.

Speaking of fetchlands, unless you have one, Makindi Sliderunner will hit just as hard as a Plated Geopede with one landfall trigger (and hits harder than Plated Geopede when you don’t!)

Compare to our second preview card, Snapping Gnarlid:

Snapping Gnarlid
Snapping Gnarlid

For one thing, Snapping Gnarlid is a great answer to Twin Bolt… Kinda?

If you start on Scythe Leopard and follow up with Makindi Sliderunner, your R/G Landfall deck is going to be quite vulnerable to a Twin Bolt two-for-one on turn two. Playing Snapping Gnarlid on turn two instead is going to (at least) avoid the two-for-one right there.

Our two-person consensus is that — at least based on what we’ve seen so far — R/G Landfall is going to be a real deck!

Patrick and Michael, however, are a bit divided on which of the two preview cards is superior. Their points:

Mike likes the second point of toughness, in general, more than trample. This is particularly relevant on turns where you don’t have and landfall trigger, and when the opponent is trying to defend himself with Goblin tokens or Eldrazi Scions.


Mike recognizes that because red doesn’t generally have as strong of creatures (on the fundamentals) red might appreciate Makindi Sliderunner more than green does Snapping Gnarlid.

For his part, Patrick gives the slight edge to the red version; among other things, it will probably be the more widely played of the two.

Our final exclusive preview: Pilgrim’s Eye!

Pilgrim's Eye
Pilgrim’s Eye

We guess this third preview card is largely just WotC trolling Mike (but that’s okay!)

Mike claims he doesn’t want to play Pilgrim’s Eye.

Unsurprisingly, it takes Patrick about 15 seconds to pull Mike back to the Church of Pilgrim’s Eye.


Thopter Spy Network!

U/W Thopter Spy Network decks have a hard time finding playable artifacts to turn the Thopter Spy Network on to begin with; between Pilgrim’s Eye and Hangarback Walker, U/W has a great start in getting the [artifact] ball rolling.

In addition to our three exclusive preview cards — Makindi Sliderunner, Snapping Gnarlid, and Pilgrim’s Eye — the Top Level Podcast duo discuss more Battle for Zendikar mana bases, the Retreat cycle, and how to procedurally play your Undergrowth Champion.

Check out “Makindi Sliderunner! Snapping Gnarlid! Pilgrim’s Eye!” now:

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Abbot of Keral Keep Better Than Snapcaster Mage?

Snapcaster Mage

We’ve called Abbot of Keral Keep the “red Snapcaster Mage” for months… But could it be better than Snapcaster Mage? Maybe in at least one Modern deck…

“It’s possible that playing Grixis with Abbot [of Keral Keep] is better, but I really liked pairing it with the green cards this weekend. People have been slow to adopt it, but I think Abbot will be ubiquitous before long. It’s better than Snapcaster Mage in my deck this weekend.”

-Patrick Chapin

Patrick is tearing it up at Grand Prix Oklahoma City!

At the time of this writing he’s 8-1… and with a brand new deck (that was hinted at in “Abbot of Keral Keep in Modern”).

So far he beat Temur Twin, Grixis Twin, Affinity, UB Faeries and others (losing only to discarding to hand size three times after keeping a one-lander against ‘Tron). We know that our listeners are eager to hear about this new deck, and didn’t want to wait until next Thursday… So here goes:

Temur Prowess, by Patrick Chapin

3 Snapcaster Mage
4 Abbot of Keral Keep
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Tarmogoyf

4 Mishra’s Bauble
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Serum Visions
4 Vapor Snag
4 Lightning Bolt
1 Seal of Fire
2 Rancor
2 Remand
2 Izzet Charm

4 Scalding Tarn
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Polluted Delta
1 Wooded Foothills
2 Steam Vents
1 Breeding Pool
1 Stomping Ground
1 Copperline Gorge
2 Island
1 Mountain

3 Dispel
2 Deprive
2 Feed the Clan
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Spellskite
1 Seal of Fire
1 Roast
1 Volcanic Fallout
1 Izzet Staticaster

Rancor + Abbot of Keral Keep?!? Rancor seems like just one of many sweet cards the Abbot can flip over that not only gives it greater cachet than the admittedly deserving Snapcaster Mage (in this deck)… And one that not only triggers Prowess but, via trample, makes triggering Prowess better than ever.

Sweet new deck, yes?

Follow Patrick’s exploits tomorrow at the mother ship.

Battle Lands Are Completely Broken!

Kiora, Master of the Depths
While Patrick and Michael originally intended to focus on Kiora, Master of Depths this week, a “mail bag”-style rundown uncovered some amazing synergies between fetch lands and battle lands.

The Battle for Zendikar battle lands:

  • Prairie Stream (W/U)
  • Sunken Hollow (U/B)
  • Smoldering Marsh (B/R)
  • Cinder Glade (R/G)
  • Canopy Vista (G/W)

Check out the cool questions and comments that came up from our Top Level Podcast listeners on social media + the mana base interactions that will define the upcoming format in “Battle Lands Are Completely Broken!”

Matthew Corazzelli

Matthew pointed out that Silkwrap, Suspension Field, etc. can help you set up your Eldrazi. These kinds of white exile cards can help you buy time to get to your expensive cards, plus any “exile” fuel for Blight Herder is potentially welcome. Now, if your Silkwrap is destroyed by Dromoka’s Command, the opponent won’t even get his creature back!

Jamie Johnson

Jamie asked us to talk about Scythe Leopard…

Scythe Leopard

“[Scythe Leopard] might be even better than Steppe Lynx.”
-Patrick Chapin

While Scythe Leopard is less explosive than Steppe Lynx at its best, among other things, it can do damage on defense. On average, and over the course of many games, Scythe Leopard might outperform the white model on average.

Scythe Leopard got the ball rolling on fetch land + battle land mana bases…

“We haven’t seen synergies like these since Vivid Lands + Reflecting Pool.”
-Patrick Chapin

Mana bases inspired by this podcast…

Consider this potential (extreme) mana base:

2 Polluted Delta
2 Flooded Strand
4 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Bloodstained Mire

1 Prairie Stream
1 Sunken Hollow
1 Smoldering Marsh
1 Cinder Glade
1 Canopy Vista

1 Forest
1 Mountain
1 Plains
1 Swamp

You get:

  • 14 sources of blue
  • 15 sources of white
  • 17 sources of green
  • 17 sources of red
  • 15 sources of black

… Most of which will come into play untapped


4 Forest
4 Mounain

4 Cinder Glade

4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills

You get:

  • 20 sources of green
  • 20 sources of red

… Almost all of which will come into play untapped


4 Sunken Hollow
4 Prairie Stream

4 Polluted Delta
4 Flooded Strand

3 Swamp
3 Plains
2 Island

2 Caves of Koilos
1 Haven of the Spirit Dragon

You get:

  • 18 sources of blue
  • 17 sources of white
  • 17 sources of black

… Almost all of which will enter the battlefield untapped

Do you know who Abzan Aggro’s new best fried will be?

Flooded Strand!

Flooded Strand can find both Sunken Hollow and Canopy Vista (along with basic Plains), allowing it to find all three colors in Abzan (if by way of blue for black); you never actually have to tap for blue to get the value.

Here’s the key:
“Your Abzan Aggro deck is going to have Crackling Doom in it.”

In addition to Battle Lands Patrick and Michael spend a little time on new land Lumbering Falls…

Lumbering Falls
The alternative was you were going to gain 1 life from your Thornwood Falls?

Chris Beirnes

Chris asks about Nissa’s Renewal… Will this be a tool for Sultai Control to ramp into Ulamog or Ugin?

Patrick speculates on a couple of different kinds of players who will want to cast a Nissa’s Renewal.


Ben Reardon

“Titan’s Presence means every deck can have an answer to Hangarback Walker.”

Does it?

All this and more Battle for Zendikar in “Battle Lands Are Completely Broken!”

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Gideon, Ally of Zendikar (is our headliner)

    Shout out to us!

    MichaelJ points out that we have been doing this for “either forty-three or forty-four consecutive weeks” … and points out that Siege Rhino has pretty much been the best card in Standard the entire time.

    Shout out to the World Championships!

    Siege Rhino was facing off against Siege Rhino in the hands of World Champion Seth Manfield and former Player of the Year Owen Turtenwald.

    “Siege Rhino is kind of a messed up Magic card.”
    -Patrick Chapin

    Well… Enough for Siege Rhino for now. How about some sick Battle for Zendikar previews?

    Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
    Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

    Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is not just a powerful four mana Planeswalker… It will be a likely four-of in Battle for Zendikar Standard.

    Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is a self-contained card advantage engine. Creating a 2/2 creature each turn being kinda, sorta, drawing a card each turn (and kinda, sorta, netting 1G while you’re at it). Besides which, the 2/2 in question is an Ally… Which can give you some untold number of free Ally triggers!

    The flashy ability on Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is yet another look at his Planeswalker animation ability. This time Gideon is a 5/5 Human Soldier Ally (so might topdeck some of those Ally triggers himself) that both avoids taking damage and is actually indestructible. Who is going to stop Gideon?

    Now of course there is the [-4] emblem ability. This, we think, is the ability that can push Gideon from mere Staple to four-of. Why? You can always just sacrifice a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar (that starts with four loyalty) to cash in the emblem… There is much less down side to playing multiple copies here; especially given the long-term synergies with making 3/3, rather than 2/2 creatures.

    Mike also speculates on a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar-driven “sit there” strategy that makes 2/2 creature to block or chump while hitting land drops, milking the opponent into playing multiple creatures into an End Hostilities, and then wins quite a bit later with Secure the Wastes or an emblem activation. This strategy is made available largely due to Gideon’s built in card advantage abilities.

    Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
    Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

    Which Ulamog is better, the original Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre or Battle for Zendikar addition Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger?

    What are the key differences between the two takes on the 10/10?

    We round out our discussion in “Gideon, Ally of Zendikar (is our headliner)” with some thoughts on Battle for Zendikar mana sequencing, plus a discussion of key cards that are rotating out of Standard, including:

    • Banishing Light
    • Master of Waves
    • Bile Blight
    • Stormbreath Dragon
    • Elvish Mystic
    • Fleecemane Lion
    • … And more!

    Listen to “Gideon, Ally of Zendikar (is our headliner)” now:

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