The Ugly Monster
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The Ugly Monster

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger | Michael Komarck

Magical Thinking: Battle for Zendikar

Welcome back to Magical Thinking, a look back at the cards and art of Magic: the Gathering, set by set, from the beginning, through the eyes of a casual player. This week we’re looking at the first two-set block since Lorwyn and Shadowmoor, the Battle for Zendikar block, starting with October 2015’s Battle for Zendikar.

It’s been two years since we last visited Zendikar and things are not going so well. The Eldrazi are still running rampant across the plane. Led by the monstrous Ulamog, they are devouring and corrupting everything in their path.

But there is hope. Gideon Jura is on the scene, and he’s assembling an all-star team of planeswalkers to bring these big beasts down. On the other end of the spectrum, former planeswalker and current demon Ob Nixilis is trying to figure out how to reignite his spark so he can get out of dodge. Will Gideon and company be able to save Zendikar? Will Ob Nixilis be a planeswalker again? Let’s find out.

Last time I only showed you guys the big three of the Eldrazi, but there are so many more Eldrazi to be seen. Most of them are super-big and scary too, like this huge beast. He’s the Breaker of Armies, and with a statline like that he lives up to the hype.

It’s Seven Brides for Seven Eldrazi!

Okay, that one made more sense in my head, I swear.

That should give you a general idea of how the Eldrazi vs Zendikar fight is currently going. Hopefully though things will get better now that Gideon is here.

Here is the big bad himself. Ulamog is the leader of the current Eldrazi aggressions, with Kozilek currently MIA and Emrakul off plane. Right now Ulamog is the unspeakable abomination to beat.

I feel you, buddy.

Ally is a new creature type brought in for this set. I don’t recall if it was in the older Zendikar block, but hey, it’s always great to have allies. Thank you for being a friend, Angel of Renewal.

Awaken is a new mechanic for this set, and it represents the land of Zendikar itself rising up to fight the Eldrazi. Basically it turns land into creatures if you pay the extra mana. Also, a 4 on the Storm Scale, although it only shows up here.

I always love these alternate win condition cards. “It is the decision of the giant kitty that you have the most life ever, so you win.” Do not argue with the giant kitty.

THERE HE IS. The big man himself. As always Gideon leads from the front, being the only Planeswalker willing to go out there and kick a little ass on his own (I guess also Sarkhan, but he has to turn into a dragon first).

And here we have Rally, which is the mechanic meant to go with allies (Get it, rally? ally? It’s a scoop). Basically whenever you play an ally, rally does something. It’s a 6 on the Storm Scale, and only shows up in this set, so I guess it wasn’t that popular. But Magic is full of mechanics that show up for a set, and are never seen again. Only a select few get to stick around.

Of course I say that and then we immediately get a Landfall card. If you may recall, Landfall is the iconic Zendikar mechanic, being the “land matters” plane, so whenever you play a land Landfall triggers. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen landfall and it wont be the last.

Naughty Eldrazi will be placed in the shame bubble until they atone for their sins. We might be here a while.

Remember, it’s not the fall that kills you, it’s the cliff coming to life and stomping you like a bug that kills you. Wait a second…

Sadly they were over their legal limit on Eldrazi so they had to throw it back.

Here we have two new mechanics. Devoid means that a creature is colorless, even if it has a mana cost. Ingest meanwhile lets you exile an opponent’s card from their library when you deal damage. Devoid is a five on the Storm Scale, while Ingest is a whopping nine on the scale. Why so high? You’ll see.

Ulamog is the cosmic horror equivalent of that bully who kicks sand in your face at the beach. Only it turns out the sand was always there.

Here is the reason Ingest is a nine on the Storm Scale. Because these processor creatures let you put your opponent’s exiled cards into their graveyard to do a thing. This plus a steady supply of exiled card from Ingest is a devastating combo.

It’s always embarrassing when your spells shrivel. I think they make a cream for that.

Yeah, that brook isn’t babbling. It’s cussing you out.

I don’t know who Noyan Dar is, but they gotta be the most badass or the dumbest wizard on Zendikar to just try and shush the Eldrazi.

Hey, guess what? Sphinxes are still cool. We all on the same page? Good.

Let this be a lesson: Just because you’re a reality-eating eldritch horror doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pack a jacket for cold weather. I’m getting spell shrivel just looking at them.

Oh, hey, Ugin is here, and offering some sound advice. Remember, Ugin is the Darth Maul, and the other two are Count Dooku and Palpatine.

Hey, it’s the official card of people who refuse to get vaccinated.

Seriously, go get vaccinated. I am not kidding.

That angel isn’t renewing anymore.

Smothering Abomination is annoying because not only do they make you sacrifice creatures every turn, but they are constantly pestering you on Twitter and checking up on you. I NEED MY SPACE, OKAY? LEAVE ME ALONE.

Not the last time we’re gonna see vampires vs. Cthulhu in Magic. Let me just say I’m very glad I got around to this in October.

Yeah you probably could help with that Ob, you creep. There are people other than you trying to fix things here.

Black gets a bad rap, but this card reminds me that Black is the color of freedom in Magic. So take up your sword and help these vampires kill some Eldrazi.

The fact you’ve been overheard referring to the medical tent as “The all you can eat buffet” might have something to do with that.

Ob got his spark back! Now he can go away if he’s not gonna help destroy the Eldrazi.

What happens when Eldrazi eat at Taco Bell.

Fling effects in Magic are always amusing, especially when you have one Eldrazi throwing other Eldrazi at things.

Just a reminder that Kozilek may be out of sight, but he’s not out of mind.

Zendikar tattoo removal is serious business.

It wouldn’t be a phoenix unless it had a way to come back from the dead over and over. Pretty much a prerequisite at this point. This one works on landfall, so you’re probably always gonna be able to pay to bring it back.

It’s always great to see goblins getting their due. Also, for some reason the Zendikar goblins have undergone a pretty drastic change since last we saw them.

Really, in two years it took the goblins to stop and say “hey these hedrons are pointy, let’s stab the Eldrazi with them!”

Hey, Breaker of Armies, now it’s your turn to be broken. Honestly, that’s the best thing ever: Red overwhelming enemies with sheer numbers.

I haven’t been talking about them but there is a cycle of these retreat cards, which are basically landfall enchantments. I always love seeing how they come up with new uses for existing mechanics.

Because sometimes the best answer is “rocks fall and everyone dies”.

Eww, blisters are the worst. Zendikar should consider better footwear.

You cannot tell me that’s not an HP Lovecraft reference. That guy in the picture looks like Cthulhu.

Temember that iconic scene from Aliens where Ripley comes in with the power loader? This is that, but with rocks and branches.

Yep, nothing like eldritch horrors to make you appreciate the giant killer insects in your ecosystem.

Nissa’s about to unload a can of elvish brand whoop-ass on the Eldrazi. Also, this card has some power to it if combined with landfall.

Playing forests with this hydra out is a great way to get ahead.

Why did someone stab them? Poor little guy is just doing their thing. Leave your anger for the Eldrazi, okay?

Basically me talking about climate change.

Here’s our last new mechanic: Converge does something based on the different colors you spend on it. So it pays to have a diverse color team. I mean, it makes sense considering you’re up against the Eldrazi, so it’s color vs. colorless.

Eldrazi were yeeting before it was cool.

Eldrazi never skip leg day (Upper arms could use some attention, though).

Always a pain when nullifiers show up unannounced, ruining your best spells and such.

Kiora’s back from Theros and she brought a little souvenir. As well as giant octopi, which are helpful.

Temember Omnath? Well he’s back, and he’s added a new element to his repertoire. Yeah, Omnath is going to add a new color each time we see him, becoming bigger and better as time goes on.

Well, that’s it for Ulamog. Well, actually no because Kozilek will be showing up with a steel chair at this point to make the save.

This is neat. Allies get their own associated land card.

There’s also a cycle of these cards, representing Eldrazi blighted land. This is what the Eldrazi are doing to Zendikar. Will they be stopped?

We’ll find out next week. as a new band of heroes emerge to stand against the Eldrazi. Better than the Nine Titans, it’s time for the Gatewatch’s big debut. Get ready to make your Oath of the Gatewatch next time. But until then, Stay Magical.

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Jessie Staffler

Jessie Staffler

Creative Writer looking to make money writing. Prefers to write stuff based on fantasy, Sci fi and horror