The first thing that I did as soon as I got online was to check out the latest Dragon’ Maze spoilers. With the Dragon’s Maze prerelease event to take place on the 27th and 28th of April, the Dragon’s Maze spoilers has begun and the first week didn’t disappoint as a couple of the cards spoiled really got my attention starting with of course, the Izzet-aligned planeswalker Ral Zarek!
So what are we looking at right now?
Manacost: Ral costs four which is acceptable for your average planeswalker. Like Jace, Architect of Thought, Ajani Vengeant and other similarly four-costed planeswalkers, it is very possible that Ral will see play. With the obvious inclusion of this card in URW shells.
Starting Loyalty: Four. Pretty decent for a four-costed planeswalker, does not easily die to Flinthoof boars or Dreg Manglers or rampaging Reckoners
Looking at the first ability, it clearly shows that Ral doesn’t have the means to tap down a permanent similar to what good ol’ Ajani Vengeant can do which can be an edge against opposing Thragtusks and other similar fatties in the current standard. Not to mention the fact that the vengeful Ajani also has the quirk to keep control players off from one of their lands. But what makes Ral’s first ability interesting is that it can be used aggressively and defensively. Just imagine having a third turn Geist of Saint Traft followed up by a fourth turn Ral Zarek. You can simply tap one of your opponent’s blockers and untap one of your Hallowed Fountains or any blue source for an Unsummon or perhaps a pillar of flame BEFORE attacking with the spirit cleric. You can also take advantage of that untapped mana for an end of turn Thought Scour if necessary or dispel that fog in case your opponent is trying to prolong the game with it.
In fact, if you are going to imagine it, Ral Zarek virtually only costs three, provided that you will be utilizing the first ability to untap one of your lands after your cast the planeswalker. Another thing that you may also want to consider is that it can combo well with Izzet Staticaster. Normally, the flash shooter can only kill one toughness creatures but with the ingenious planeswalker’s help, you can shoot down two toughness creatures. And the same thing applies with any creatures out there with an ability which requires you to tap them to activate.
Of course it doesn’t necessarily mean that the first ability is limited to untapping your land, mana dork or that staticaster for a second ping but have you ever wished that Boros Reckoner had vigilance? Well, with Ral, that is a dream come true. Not only can Boros Reckoner play defense against the aggressive match ups but then again, thanks to Ral’s first ability, you can have your minotaur wizard attack AND THEN block during your opponent’s turn. Having problems with Blind Obedience? Let Ral handle it. Overall, there are a lot of things that Ral’s first ability can do.
The application of the second ability of Ral Zarek is pretty obvious. Just like with Ajani Vengeant, he can bolt any creature or player minus the lifegain. So what makes this second ability any special as compared to the former planeswalker? Ral can do this twice in two consecutive turns unlike Ajani Vengeant since Ral’s loyalty counter is a notch higher than the leonine planeswalker.
And because of that knowledge, your opponent’s likely to attack Ral right away which can serve as a fog effect for you unless he or she wants to get another of his three toughness creatures bolted on the spot, assuming that Ral killed a three toughness creature the turn he entered the battlefield. Some of the creatures that he can kill would be Flinthoof Boar, Vampire Nighthawk, Boros Reckoner (Though you wouldn’t want to bolt this one in particular), Centaur Healer, Dreg Mangler and many more. On the other hand, Ral can deal a total of six damage on two consecutive turns that he is online. Though the lifegain that old Ajani had will be missed, being able to virtually fog the next turn and kill a few creatures gives you virtual life anyway.
Unless you are extremely unlucky, you should at least get an extra turn with the Izzet planeswalker’s ultimate. But then again, if you are having your lucky day, you can get as much as five extra turns and you can potentially win the game with those five consecutive turns. Though the chances of you having five extra turns is not at all likely, getting a few extra turns is still possible. However, being able to actually get to the point of being able to activate his ultimate is a bit questionable but there will still be those who will attempt to do so. Besides, isn’t it cool being able to activate his ultimate at least once during the course of the day? I won’t even discuss what you can do with those extra turns which can potentially win you the game.
Overall, Ral Zarek has much to offer the current standard, and I am one of those people who are excited to play the card! Will he be able to greatly impact the current metagame? None knows for sure but the fact remains that he is an interesting addition to decks out there and it’s only a matter of time before standard is shaken by the Dragon’s Maze.
credit image: mtgsalvation, gatherer.wizards.com