Dale Yu: First Impressions of Magic: The Gathering – Battle for Zendikar Expansion


Magic: The Gathering – Battle for Zendikar Expansion

  • Designer: not listed on box nor rules, base game by Craig Van Ness, James D’Aloisio, Ethan Fleischer
  • Publisher:  Hasbro / Wizards of the Coast
  • Players: 2-5
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: ~60 minutes (for base game)


Last fall, I got a chance to play the much anticipated tabletop game version of Magic: The Gathering.  You can see the whole review of that here: http://opinionatedgamers.com/2015/09/17/dale-yu-review-of-magic-the-gathering-arena-of-the-planeswalkers/    In short, the M:tG boardgame was a revamping of the Heroscape game, but with the addition of five themed armies, in the five colors of M:tG mana, and each color with its distinctive theming and feel.  That base game promised some deck building, but there simply weren’t enough components in the box to really allow players to build an unlimited number of different decks.

Courtesy of Hasbro

Courtesy of Hasbro

This first expansion helps to expand the component set a bit as well as providing players an additional scenario to explore with the game.  The expansion includes two new Planeswalkers, Ob Nixilis and Kiora.  There are also a handful of new hero and squad figures to use.  Finally, there are also 15 new Spell cards – 3 per color – that can be used as well.

The 15 new spells

The 15 new spells

The game, like the base set, is still very much about the minis.  The whole vac tray is essentially to hold the miniatures.  There isn’t even a slot for the cards.  They simply slip underneath the insert in the box in the empty negative area where there aren’t deep vacuum slots for the minis.


With new cards and units, you can now build armies of up to 600 points in value – or you now have  some choice when making a 500 point army for the scenarios in the base set.  (In the base set, you simply took all the units of a given color as the total value per color was only 500 points).  There are also a few colorless army units which can be used by any color.


The other big change is Kiora, the first dual colored planeswalker.  She is both green and blue, and therefore can use armies and spells of both of her colors.  At this time, she is the only dual colored planeswalker available, but I’m sure that future expansions will provide new combinations to use.


As I mentioned earlier, the game also adds another Scenario to play – this is a one versus all scenario where one player takes on the role of the Eldrazi Ruiner and Scions and the other 2 or 3 opponents are regular Planeswalkers trying to defeat the Eldrazi.



I have played the new scenario twice, and it’s a challenging affair.  It seems to be well balanced, as our initial games have been close affairs.   But, for me, the bigger feature is the increased ability to build armies.  The addition of a dual colored Planeswalker as well as some uncolored armies gives you a lot of tactical options now.  The downside of this is that there is only one in this expansion, so only one player at a time can build the blue/green army.  Additionally, given the shortage of pieces, it’s pretty hard to field a separate blue or green army if Kiora is in play because there is only one army unit each of blue and green in the expansion box.

In the end, I think that if you liked the base M:tG boardgame, this is just more to like.  I really don’t know if there is anything in this expansion that would make you like the game if you didn’t care for the base game itself…  However, the promise of more pieces, more multicolored planeswalkers and the eventual ability to truly have a larger selection of armies to choose from is something to definitely look forward to.  Of course, it does look like you’ll need to wait for the next expansion (or two) to continue expanding your selection of armies and spells.

MTG Zendikar components

But, so far, I like what I see, and I continue to look forward to see what comes next.  (And it looks like there is an expansion planned for this fall called “Shadows over Innistrad”… More details on that as soon as I know more!)


Until your next appointment,

The Gaming Doctor










About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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