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Insider: Evaluating Standard’s Powerful New Lands from Battle for Zendikar

Mike-Lanigan QS Magic the Gathering MTG

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Lands matter. They really do! Last time around, landfall did not have much impact outside of a couple creatures like Steppe Lynx and Plated Geopede. We did see some players utilizing Teetering Peaks in their aggressive decks and some man-lands, but outside of those situations, you might not have noticed the importance of the ability lands very much.

This time around things will be different. We still have some of the same types of effects but now there are more of them, and they’re a bit better. Let’s start with the cycle of commons.

Enters-the-Battlefield Ability Lands

BFZ Common land cycle

This cycle contains some powerful lands that Standard decks can really take advantage of. Depending on how the format shapes up and what the decks look like, we might see a lot of these lands. If we are all playing three-color decks, I doubt these will make the cut, but keep them in mind down the line.

Both of the pump lands are great and the added vigilance or first strike can have a big impact on how the combat plays out. In black we get to know our next draw will be a threat and late in the game that’s how you win games. Green gives us exactly what we want: more lands. Then finally, in blue we get our first controlling land in a long time. Although we have to wait until the creature becomes tapped, which can be a little slow, this land allows us to slow our opponent down with a mere land drop and use our mana for other aspects of the game.

Man-lands

shamblingvent lumberingfalls

We only know two lands in this cycle so far, but they show us that this will be a major part of the metagame. Cards like this leave me hesitant most of the time because they seem so innocent. For example, not many players are afraid of a five-mana 3/3 hexproof. That’s way above curve. We would have to up the ante to something like Fleecemane Lion to get our attention.

What we need to remember is that this is a land and not a spell. You are going about your business, playing the game, and fixing your mana. Then all of a sudden you activate your land and add another creature to the board. It doesn’t really matter how good the creatures attached to the man-lands are, they’re always going to be better than gaining one life.

Usually the man-lands with the lower activation tend to be the stronger, more played ones, but all five should see play no matter what their stats are. My recommendation is to pick up your playsets when you can because they will be a relied-upon resource the entire time they’re in Standard. Even if you don’t think they are good enough, they will be playable.

Blighted Lands

blighted_cataract

I’ve heard that there will be a whole cycle of these lands and that is wonderful if it’s true. If not, only blue mages will reap the rewards of this land. Think about how potent Desolate Lighthouse is with helping you dig for whatever you need. With Blighted Cataract it goes beyond mere looting--we get actual card advantage.

Getting more cards out of your land is going to shape the format. We could see this land getting played in a variety of control decks but also in ramp strategies. There have been a number of green ramp decks that added blue mana in for a variety of reasons. Most recently blue was added to Green Devotion for cards like Prophet of Kruphix and Cyclonic Rift. If we see that idea implemented this time around, Blighted Cataract is going to be an all-star. I’m excited to see what other effects this cycle brings us.

Landfall

Omnath,_Locus_of_Rage

Speaking of ramp decks, check out Omnath, Locus of Rage! Last time, Omnath, Locus of Mana’s job was to get our gears ramping up. This time around, he’s the payoff. If you want an end-game card that can add a lot to the board the turn he comes into play, the rageful Omnath is the way to go.

I know this card has been spoiled for a while now, but he hasn’t gotten nearly enough hype. Not only is he a 5/5 that makes more 5/5’s, but your opponent will also take damage if they kill any of them! The fun part of my heart desires more elementals for some sick tribal action. If they reprinted Smokebraider, I’d be all over that in Standard.

Regardless of how many other elementals are available to us, Omnath is a powerful card that needs a home. We all know how well Whisperwood Elemental pairs with Omnath, now we just need to build a deck around those two. I don’t usually want my ramp decks to have red mana, but for Omnath, I will make do.

sylvan_scrying

Sylvan Scrying is no joke and we all know its power in Modern, but I’m curious to see how many decks take advantage of this effect. I would prefer Farseek or even Rampant Growth, but formats with those types of cards tend to have a high power level. For Sylvan Scrying to be played, we would need lands that demand we search for them.

Although we have more lands spoiled in this set so far than most sets have total, I haven’t found a reason yet that we would want to search for lands other than basic forest from Nissa, Vastwood Seer. We would need a land like Eldrazi Temple or Cloudpost for us to take this card seriously.

Regardless of how much Standard play it sees though, foils will be desirable for Tron players as well as Commander aficionados.

Landfall Enchantments

retreattoemeria retreattocoralhelm

Up next, we have a cycle of enchantments that generate pretty strong effects every time you play a land. All these abilities are amplified due to the fact that we have fetch lands in Standard. While I'm not sure that any three- or four-mana card that doesn't effect the board immediately will see much play, some of them demand our attention.

Take the white one, Retreat to Emeria, for example. It turns your lands into more creatures or pump spells for your team. That's a powerful effect. Costing three and four mana makes this cycle unlikely to see lots of play, but we have seen cards like the sieges on the battlefield. This cycle is not as powerful, but they do provide an interesting addition to any deck.

Until next time,
Unleash the Force of Battle!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter
Jedicouncilman23@gmail.com

Bonus Decklist

This deck is sweet and everyone should know about it. I don't know when I'll have time to write about Modern again, but this deck got me excited about the format again. Also, it's good. Test it out. Play a guy and then make him huge. I might change up to the full four Remand because that card is basically Time Walk in this deck, but I'm sure Chapin had a reason for not playing them all.

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