Flashback drafts bring back a lot of fun memories, but Zendikar is uniquely memorable for me personally because of the bitter emotions it evokes. My initial experiences drafting Zendikar were pure failure. I was distracted by all of the cool things you could do, and missed the memo on the fact that Zendikar was, and still is, the fastest and most aggressive draft format.
Creatures are slanted towards aggression, exemplified by landfall triggers that pump the power and toughness of creatures on a land drop, with makes them great attackers and awful blockers. There's plenty of efficient removal and some tricks to support these creatures, and there aren't effective great defensive and control cards to actually contain them. It means the format is all about two decks racing against each other.
Not all colors are as well-suited for aggression as others, so in Zendikar the colors are poorly balanced. Red stands above the rest with great removal spell in Burst Lightning and a wealth of aggressive threats like Plated Geopede and Torch Slinger. Black stands right behind it with two premium common removal spells, Disfigure and Hideous End, and efficient aggressive creatures including Surrakar Marauder and the best creature of all, Vampire Nighthawk.
The best decks of all combine red and black into an aggressive nightmare, but otherwise the best plan is to focus on one of these colors and support it with some cards in whatever color looks open. White provides some strong aggressively oriented creatures like Steppe Lynx and Kor Hookmaster, and a common removal spell in Journey to Nowhere. Blue provides some strong threats including Welkin Tern and Windrider Eel, and tempo elements like Into the Roil and Whiplash Trap.
Green is the odd color out with the weakest cards and the least aggressive slant. It does have a great common in Grazing Gladehart, and arguably the best ally in Oran-Rief Survivalist. Green also provides some extra support for landfall with Harrow and Khalni Heart Expedition, so it can work well with landfall cards in other colors. The best green decks of all may be those that are nearly monogreen, so they can take advantage of Timbermaw Larva and Primal Bellow, but also simply so they can consistently cast Nissa's Chosen on turn two.
Equipment is strong, and Trusty Machete shouldn't normally be passed. Adventuring Gear is a common equipment that essentially turns any creature into a landfall creature, so it works especially well in any already focused on landfall.
One thing to keep in mind is that landfall makes land drops more valuable, even in the late game, so playing 18 lands is the standard even in decks with low curves. Games are short, so there's certainly no time to miss a land drop in the early game, and because games aren't typically attrition grinds, getting flooded is less punishing. In fact, decks loaded with landfall creatures have been know to play 19 lands.
One last piece of advice is that you want to avoid going for a dedicated Ally strategy until Worldwake is released next week. All of the aggressive Allies that get +1/+1 counters are fine creatures on their own, so if you are in that color they are fine picks that will be great if you get multiples, but they aren't worth warping your strategy and your mana for.
What are your Zendikar memories? If this is your first time playing or seeing it, what's your impression? Share your thoughts in the comments, and I'll answer any questions!
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