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Points Announcement: Zendikar Rising

Hello players,

Covid19 infections are reducing (good work Australia!) but we’re still without large tournament results to assist with improving the points list. 

Like the past couple announcements we’re relying more on theory, sentiment and data from smaller tournaments. Here are the changes:

Wrenn and Six is now 1 point.

Shadowed for a while by the many powerful cards of 2019/2020, Wrenn and Six arguably could’ve been pointed earlier.

Wrenn and Six’s ability to recur Strip Mine and Wasteland early in the game makes for frustrating play experiences. The opponent may not ever get a third land, making it very difficult to break out of the lock before it’s too late; And cheap tutors like Crop Rotation, Entomb, Sylvan Scrying and Expedition Map increase the frequency of the lock.

Unhindered, Wrenn and Six performs like the pointed Life from the Loam except no ‘draw step’ is lost and it doesn’t require two mana every turn. However, Wrenn and Six can be destroyed:

Attacking creatures are the natural predators of Planeswalkers but Wrenn and Six ends turn-two on 4 loyalty and continues to +1. This is typically too much to bring down with creatures so early in the game, especially when many cheap creatures die to the -1 ability. 

Apart from attacking, the only way to profitably trade against an early Wrenn and Six is a one mana counterspell or cheap graveyard removal like Deathrite Shaman. These aren’t reliable answers though. Removal like Abrupt Decay and Dreadbore are reliable but inefficient because Wrenn and Six probably still got back a fetchland. This ‘never lose’ situation is part of why Wrenn and Six so good.

Strip Mine/Wasteland abuse aside, Wrenn and Six causes another problem for the format: It scares players away from running 1 toughness creatures. Having a Birds of Paradise killed for practically no loss to the other player can snowball a game to victory; Having a two-cost or more creature like Dark Confidant killed is devastating. For a long time Liliana, the Last Hope has caused similar grief but at an acceptable level; She is more expensive and at least allows mana creatures to get one activation in. 

With two popular ‘pingers’ in the format, players’ card choices are being swayed. The card pool of one-toughness creature is massive and an important part of the ‘ecosystem’ which we want to maintain.

Thassa’s Oracle is now 3 points.

Thassa’s Oracle received 2 points immediately after its inaugural performance at CanCon earlier this year. In that tournament Thassa’s Oracle was only seen in Flash + Protean Hulk combo decks but since then the combination of Thassa’s Oracle plus Demonic Consultation or Tainted Pact has been added to control and midrange decks as well. The immunity to removal  makes it very powerful and exacerbates the feeling of helplessness when losing to it.

Despite being a two card combo, it is assembled frequently because Tainted Pact finds Thassa’s Oracle, and then all that’s needed is a fetchland for Mystic Sanctuary or any one of blue’s many ways of recasting Instants and Sorceries from the graveyard. Demonic Consultation acts in the same way when the player is against the wall and must take the risk.

The combo is so compact that Gifts Ungiven finds the whole package: Demonic Consultation, Thassa’s Oracle, Snapcaster Mage and Unearth means a turn five win.

This combo allows control decks to ignore many threats that traditionally kept them in check, such as Thrun, the Last Troll, recurring creatures like Bloodghast and other grindy effects.

Rather than put a point on Demonic Consultation or Tainted Pact, we decided to put another on Thassa’s Oracle because the black instants weren’t problematic until Oracle showed up. We don’t think players will cut Oracle and use Jace, Wielder of Mysteries and Laboratory Maniac instead, because these are more fragile and expensive.

We want players to pay a high price to include such a powerful combo in their deck. The past several months have shown that it slots easily into existing decks without enough build cost.

Mystic Sanctuary is now 1 point.

Mystic Sanctuary provides an unprecedented level of access to recursion; The four blue fetchlands all find it and the effect costs zero mana. It effectively amplifies the power of all Instants and Sorceries. The committee discussed whether the most powerful Instants and Sorceries, i.e. Ancestral Recall and Time Walk should be pointed instead, but it was decided that there are too many other powerful ones that gain too much from Mystic Sanctuary.

The build and play cost is significant: needing to have three other islands. However, due to fetchlands and dual lands, it is easy to overcome. For example, a three colour manabase of 9 fetchlands, 3 duals, 3 shocks, 3 basic Islands, a Triome and a few other lands, should have no issues getting three islands and casting its non-blue spells.

Blue is by far the strongest colour; Pointing Mystic Sanctuary has the added benefit of relatively improving non-blue decks.

That concludes this points announcement. Hopefully the control of Covid19 continues to improve and we will eventually be able to participate in large paper tournaments in the near future.

You can find a list of cards that are in discussion for a points change here on our watch list.