Zendikar Rising Review for Nic Fit
This set has a few especially hard to evaluate cards in it and so I did something a bit different for this set overview. I added a section for cards for “future consideration”. These cards don’t seem to fit into current Legacy Nic Fit but a few of them might be brewed into new archetypes or putting a new spin on an existing deck. While this is me hedging my bets a bit and it’s hard to really evaluate cards before seeing them in action, I think this set has more of those kinds of cards than normal.
Here’s the cards I think are most relevant to Legacy Nic Fit.
Agadeem’s Awakening is a powerful late game value engine that takes up a land slot (or perhaps half a land slot and half a spell slot). It is extremely flexible in that it can be a land if needed, it can enter untapped at a cost or tapped if it’s not needed immediately, but late game it can be used to get a three or more for one. Triple black is quite an investment but isn’t too hard in Nic Fit by the time there are 6+ lands in play which is when you actually want to cast this spell.
Combined with Nic Fit staples like Eternal Witness, this can be cast multiple times to generate very large amounts of value. Field of the Dead has shown the power of threats that only require a land slot and while this card isn’t quite the power level of Field, I expect some pilots will definitely include it.
Yasharn, Implacable Earth is not perfect for Nic Fit. It turns off flashing back our own Cabal Therapy and it disables our fetchlands. However, turning off fetchlands isn’t as critical by the time you can get a four-drop into play especially when that four drop gives you two more lands. Likewise, Cabal Therapy isn’t as important by the time you’re casting Yasharn.
Yasharn hits a ton of other relevant Legacy cards besides fetchlands including:
- Surgical Extraction (requires hardcasting)
- Force of Will (requires hardcasting)
- Clue tokens (usually that hits Nic Fit too)
- Food tokens
- Lotus Petal
- Lion’s Eye Diamond
- Food Chain
- Cavern Harpy (activated ability)
- Griselbrand (activated ability)
- Village Rites
- Canopy land mana abilities
- quite a few relevant Goblins
- Toxic Deluge
- Natural Order (unless sacrificing Dryad Arbor)
- Altar of Dementia
- Carrion Feeder
- Retrofitter Foundry (most modes)
- Pernicious Deed
- Vampire Hexmage
- Dismember (requires hardcasting)
- Urza’s Bauble and Mishra’s Bauble
- Phyrexian Tower (sacrifice ability)
While this card is probably a better fit overall for a deck like Sylvan Plug, I think this will appear in some Nic Fit lists as a potent four-drop lock piece.
Even though Sea Gate Stormcaller is sort of an odd card, it enables some interesting plays like turn one Cabal Therapy into turn two Stormcaller with double Therapy. I want to evaluate this card in a similar way to Spellseeker which sees occasional play in Nic Fit lists but I think Stormcaller has a slightly higher ceiling because of the upside of it having a better body, a possibly relevant kicker, and a lower casting cost. It won’t make every BUG Fit list but I won’t be surprised when I see it.
After posting this article, a few people convinced me that Felidar Retreat might be good enough to merit a mention. Initially, I had pinned this new Retreat as a worse Field of the Dead that couldn’t be found with Primeval Titan. However, it has a few things going for it. It is hard to remove, it makes Veteran Explorer a threat in all phases of the game, it is good in multiples, and it combines nicely with Field itself. It seems worth testing in a Junk Fit / lands matter deck.
Possible for future consideration
Valakut Exploration is a very interesting and strange card. It doubles as a card advantage engine and a slow clock on the opponent. It has clear synergy with Veteran Explorer and it’s a sort of alternative to Sylvan Library and Tireless Tracker. I think it’s a good card against control decks like Snow Control or Miracles but it might not be better for fair Jund Fit in those matchups than Klothys, God of Destiny. As long as Uro is so popular, Klothys will be pretty good. Some Scapewish pilots might try this out as a one- or two-of although it’s awkward if you bin your Primeval Titan or Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. This card merits some play-testing but it might just be a better card in a deck like Burn or Lands.
Shadows’ Verdict is very mana-intensive for a card that might just be countered. However, it is a clean answer to many of the format’s recent fair threats as it solves Oko, Thief of Crowns and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath cleanly. It also could be a one-sided board wipe since many Nic Fit sized threats can be bigger than three CMC. I view this as an alternative to Pernicious Deed that solves 2019-2020 problems.
Where I don’t like Shadows’ Verdict is that many fair Nic Fit decks were already trending toward cheaper curves with cards like Tarmogoyf coming back and playing our own Okos and Uros being strong plays. I don’t think this is a maindeck card, but I could see this showing up in some sideboards for Uro and Oko matchups.
Confounding Conundrum is interesting as a way to mitigate the opponent’s benefits from Veteran Explorer ramp. It has the added benefit of significantly weakening opposing fetchlands especially when it comes out on curve on the play. I will admit that this card is a bit hard to evaluate but I don’t think it’s a fit in the current Nic Fit game plan. Perhaps some future combo variant could use this card.
The new Green-Black Nissa of Shadowed Boughs is a pretty strong planeswalker for four mana and has obvious synergy with the Nic Fit game plan. Nissa’s -5 is very attainable, doesn’t target, and can retrieve big threats from the graveyard without being dead to Leyline of the Void. Menace on her +1 really improves the ability as well. What I don’t like is that she doesn’t protect herself very well and doesn’t have enough impact on the board immediately when played on curve. I think that the current planeswalker options like Oko, Thief of Crowns and Vraska, Golgari Queen are better than this Nissa but if the format changes a bit I could see Nissa being a decent alternative.
In a format where Plague Engineer is pretty common, Scute Swarm doesn’t look great compared with other comparable three drops like Tireless Tracker. However, Scute Swarm has obvious synergy with Veteran Explorer and go-wide strategies sort of ebb and flow based on the number of sweepers in the format. This isn’t a fit in 2020 Legacy, but might be worth looking at in the future.
Not quite a fit
Hasty beaters that are Green Sun’s Zenith targets are always interesting and being uncounterable and hexproof is very nice. At 7 CMC, this is very pricey and it dies without making an impact against Baleful Strix or Ice-Fang Coatl. I think a lot would have to change in the format for this to make more sense than Questing Beast.
All the bolt-lands (what are we calling these?) are interesting to Nic Fit as the options can be very relevant late game. However, none of these have quite the impact or synergy with our existing game plan as Agadeem’s Awakening.
Nighthawk Scavenger is the unholy combination of Tarmogoyf and Vampire Nighthawk and seems very powerful on paper. However, for a few reasons I don’t think it’ll see play in Legacy Nic Fit. Goyf looks at both graveyards while this only looks at your opponents’. You don’t have as much control over your opponent’s graveyard as your own and this means you can’t also play Leyline of the Void which is a very common Nic Fit sideboard card. Secondly, a three drop that doesn’t do anything until the next turn seems like a pretty weak play in current Legacy with Oko, Thief of Crowns. Lastly, with Ice-Fang Coatl being so ubiquitous, I think the value of this card when it does stick is still pretty questionable.
A powered-up Ramunap Excavator that doubles your Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, Field of the Dead, and Tireless Tracker triggers isn’t bad. However, as long as Primeval Titan is around, that seems like a much better card for your mana than Ancient Greenwarden.
There are a few cards for Legacy Nic Fit in Zendikar Rising but none seem to fit better into our existing plans than Agadeem’s Awakening. In addition, there are some cards in this set which are very different from existing options and might allow the creation of entirely new archetypes or taking a deck in a different direction. Specifically, I’m thinking of things like Valakut Exploration or Confounding Conundrum. Overall, this set has cards I’m interested to try in Legacy but nothing that seems absolutely broken which is nice to see.