NOTE: this article has been slightly updated with knowledge gained after Battle’s release so it’s a more useful read for Oath’s prerelease.
This is a guide about Battle for Zendikar cards that get better (or worse) in Two-Headed Giant because of the rules and dynamics of the format, with a focus on sealed. If you are planning to play in a 2HG prerelease, these are the extra cards to look out for!
This is not a list of the most powerful cards. Of course the bombs and efficient cards in a regular game will likely still be the best cards in 2HG. This is a list for the cards that see a notable power boost in this format. The hidden gems of 2HG.
The cards are divided into several categories based on the rule interactions that give them their boost:
- “Each opponent”
- “Each player”
- Life total
- “Attacking creature” without “you control”
- Beneficial for teammate
- More possible targets
And of course a category for the cards that get worse:
This category is for cards that read “each opponent” or “opponents” or trigger every time “an opponent” does something. Because there are two opponents in a 2HG game compared to one opponent in a duel, these cards are sometimes twice as effective.
Nettle Drone, Dominator Drone, Kalastria Healer, Drana’s Emissary, Zulaport Cutthroat, Retreat to Hagra, Tunneling Geopede
These cards all deal damage to or cause life loss for “each opponent” so they’re twice as painful in 2HG. Even though the drain cards do not double the amount of life gained (see the Release Notes) all of these cards are much more dangerous in 2HG.
EDIT: Nettle Drone and Dominator Drone are very good in devoid decks, while Kalastria Healer, Drana’s Emissary, Zulaport Cutthroat and Retreat to Hagra are very good in ally lifegain decks. Tunneling Geopede would be decent addition to a landfall deck but that archetype isn’t as strong as the devoid or lifegain ones.
Another staple category that we see in many sets, the discard spell (or in this case creature) that gets twice as many cards.
All Their Creatures
Boiling Earth, Dampening Pulse, Roilmage’s Trick
Sire of Stagnation, Void Winnower
These are some weird otherworldly effects! They certainly annoy twice as many opponents in 2HG.
A variation on the previous category, these cards get more potent because there are four players doing things rather than two players. This is for cards with a beneficial ability that look at “all players” or “each player” or trigger whenever “a player” does something.
Ob Nixilis Reignited
Even though you only grant the emblem to one opponent, it does trigger for each player drawing cards, so in a normal 2HG turn cycle that’s already 8 life lost! But as we’re talking about a planeswalker ultimate it’s best-case scenario overkill.
In 2HG your life total is equal to your team’s life total so it starts at 30 rather than 20. Lately we’ve seen a lot of the “starting life total” technology on cards like Path of Bravery that closes this loophole, but some cards still abuse it.
Because you start at 30 you only have to gain 10 more life to win the game!
“ATTACKING CREATURE” WITHOUT “YOU CONTROL”
Most mass pump effects such as Inspired Charge and Guul Draz Overseer say “you control” so you’re not pumping your opponents’ creatures, but that means they’re not much help to your teammate’s creatures as well. There is one notable exception though and that is effects that pump all attacking creatures. Because your creatures and your opponents’ creatures are never attacking at the same time those effects don’t have to say “you control” and they do benefit your teammate.
EDIT: because Battle for Zendikar is such a synergy-driven set, it is unlikely that your teammate will play any random Allies if you play an Ally-themed deck. If for any reason your teammate does, this card gets buffed by your teammate’s attacking Allies.
Thanks to the awaken ability this card is worded in a 2HG-friendly way. Normally this would just say “Creatures you control gain lifelink until end of turn” but that would’ve meant the animated land misses out. So we get this slightly unusual wording that benefits your teammate!
BENEFICIAL FOR TEAMMATE
This is just a miscellaneous category for cards that can benefit your teammate. By default all pump effects and beneficial auras belong in this category because you can cast them on your teammate’s creatures. Not all of those will be listed, just the ones that get a very notable boost.
Part the Waterveil
Let’s start with the big one, extra turn effects are absolutely fantastic in 2HG! In a normal duel you usually use up all your mana to cast such a card so the potency of the effects depends on what else you have going on, like creatures that can attack, planeswalkers that can tick up or upkeep triggers that trigger an extra time. If you have an empty board such a card is just a free cycle + land drop. Add a teammate however and even with an empty board an extra turn generates so much extra value. It’s a draw two rather than cycle because you both draw, and your teammate gets two whole turns to spend all his or her mana. And that’s just with nothing else going on for either of you.
Kiora, Master of the Depths
One thing each and every one of us has wished at some point in a game of 2HG is giving our teammate some mana. With Kiora you can! The turn you cast her untapping a land is not always relevant in a duel, but she can untap your teammate’s lands. You can use this to ramp your teammate to five mana on turn four and on later turns you can decide who can use the extra mana the most.
Forerunner of Slaughter
EDIT: while this could target creature from your teammate, just like with Angelic Captain it will be unlikely your teammate has random colorless creatures.
Looming Spires, Sandstone Bridge
If you draw these cards early sometimes you need to play these without a good target to make your land drop. But with a teammate the chance of a good target increases.
MORE POSSIBLE TARGETS
This category is for situational cards that get better in 2HG because with four players rather than two there’s a higher chance that these cards have good targets.
In a duel it’s sometimes tricky to figure out whether you want this card or not if your opponent has only a few flyers. With two opponents there’s a much smaller chance that this is ever a dead card.
Ah, it’s been a while since we’ve seen an instant version of Act of Treason. The best case scenario for these cards is taking over creature A and blocking creature B, with both creatures dying. This does require that your opponent has two relevant creatures that trade with each other. With two opponents that’s much more likely.
The best-case scenario for this card is to blow your opponent out with two suddenly profitable attacks/blocks but that requires at least four creatures attacking/blocking in a particular manner. With double the amount of players that becomes much more likely. Be very wary of this card when doing combat math on a big turn.
There are also cards that lose some potency in a 2HG game. That does not make them bad cards, just a bit worse than normal.
Firemantle Mage, Shatterskull Recruit
Menace is a bit worse in 2HG because with two opponents there’s a higher chance there are two good blockers for a creature with menace.
This targets only a single opponent and while it’s still a very powerful effect that can blow out one of your opponents, this card does lose the ‘guaranteed fog’ mode. In a duel you can use this to stall a turn and get no damage at all, but in 2HG if both opponents have a commanding board position preventing half of that might not always be enough to buy your team an extra turn.
That’s it from our side for now. Comments for this article are open, so feel free to share your opinions below! Which of these cards are you looking most forward to open? Any cards that you feel deserve a mention as well? And afterwards, did you have a notably broken pool or any awesome plays?