owdy folks, and welcome back to this wacky laboratory of Magic. Today, fresh off my exhausting pass through the commons of Zendikar, I'm here to take my true first look at the set. And boy, does it deserve a look or two! There are multiple cards brimming with Johnnyness in the set, so much so that I almost can't wait for a non-theme week to dive into them. (Me, yearning for a non-theme week? Scandalous!)
This week isn't that week however, as it carries with it the theme of landfall. Landfall is the major ability word at play in the plane of Zendikar, and thus it makes sense that we have a whole theme week devoted to it. Injecting a bit of my personal opinion here for a second: I think landfall is great. It's a mechanic that relies on something entering the battlefield to produce a different effect, a process that houses many different sorts of interactions.
So here we go—three kooky decks that are based around the various cards in Zendikar that have landfall. Since there are so many ideas that crop up around this mechanic, I've chosen to explore three today, with more potentially popping up within the next weeks.
Cobras and Vampires
Today's first deck revolves around two different creatures with landfall. They are very similar in many ways. For example, they are both 2/1s. They both have a converted mana cost of two. They are both technically "rare," although one is a slight shade rarer. Finally, they were both seen as potential tournament powerhouses upon first glance.
I speak, of course, about Lotus Cobra and Bloodghast. Both of these creatures have very strong landfall abilities. Lotus Cobra has obviously been covered to no end and is clearly one of the strongest creatures to be recently printed. Bloodghast, meanwhile, bears that potentially lethal "return this card to the battlefield from the graveyard" text on a manaless trigger, which makes it an efficient combo piece, if not a recurring threat for dredge decks.
So these cards are very strong on an individual level, but how well can they play together? Fortunately, there's one card that ties them both together into a combo that sucks all the basic land from your library and onto the battlefield. What card is this?
Here's how this combo works. Have all three permanents on the board and at least one mana available (not too hard.) Use that one mana and sacrifice Bloodghast to the Forays. The Ravnica enchantment will search your library for a card with a basic land type (usually a basic land, but perhaps a Ravnica dual) and put it onto the battlefield tapped. This will trigger both the recently sacrificed Bloodghast (which returns to the battlefield) and Lotus Cobra (which adds one mana of any color to your mana pool.) Now you're back exactly where you started, except you've fished a land from your deck onto the battlefield. Do this until you have all the land in your deck on the table.
At that point, what do you do? You could wait to untap next turn and unleash a gargantuan spell upon your opponent. (Banefire will work, but if you want to stay within the green and black spectrum, you have plenty of options, which include Profane Command and even Protean Hydra.)
Or, you could have another landfall effect on the battlefield and reap all the rewards of that as your land combo is exploding into being. Let's see .... Grazing Gladehart could gain you a load of life, Hagra Crocodile could get pumped to lethal levels, and Rampaging Baloths could overload the board with 4/4 Beast tokens.
My favorite method here, though, is one that doesn't force me to wait around. Having forty-some life won't win you the game, a 23/21 Hagra Crocodile could get chumped, and Beast tokens could get swept away in a Day of Judgment. No, I'm going with Ob Nixilis, the Fallen. Think, just for a second, about how busted this guy is. With him on the battlefield, all of your lands have "drain for 3" when they hit the battlefield. And if your opponent has no blockers in sight, the hurt on them gets double to 6 when Ob Nixilis attacks. So when you perform your super land combo, Ob Nixilis will make your opponent lose upwards of 30 life.
Those of you familiar with the various combos with Perilous Forays might be aware that this is a modern-day (and probably more efficient) version of the "old" super land combo. That one involved Seed the Land and Stone-Seeder Hierophant to accomplish the same goal. Since Lotus Cobra and Bloodghast cost literally half as much as those cards, the combo is much easier to assemble.
Bloodghast seems to excel with cards that sacrifice creatures, so I added a few more of those. Diabolic Intent is a good way to find pieces of your puzzle, and Drooling Groodion is a cute in-color beast, but the craziest beyond craziest method of sacrifice here is Primal Growth. Come on! In a landfall deck, this is beyond busted. It's comparable to Harrow as it places two lands onto your battlefield untapped for three mana. However, a sacrificed Bloodghast will come back, whereas a sacrificed land might not. And let's not forget Lotus Cobra, who does its thing throughout this whole process.
I kind of wanted to include Hedron Scrabbler amongst the landfall creatures, just so I could potentially have it on the battlefield alongside Ob Nixilis and call the deck "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." We even have Megan Fox in the artwork of Perilous Forays!
Crabs and Traps
I received a landfall-related email a couple of days ago from a reader named Steffen Hagen. The first line of his email was "Sometimes there are just too many synergies." This was immediately followed by this deck list.
"The interactions are just ... too numerous," said Steffen. I agree. Let's look at many of the possible interactions that Steffen's list could perform, before I create my inspired version.
New Frontiers + Hedron Crab: This is a big one. Let's say you unleash New Frontiers as X equaling 5. Not only have you increased your land base by five lands, you've sucked up to twenty cards out of your opponent's library. (Five from the New Frontiers, unless they decline to find, and the other fifteen from the three cards milled by the Hedron Crab for each of your five lands.)
New Frontiers + Archive Trap: Here's another way to mill a chunk from your opponent's library. New Frontiers lets your opponent search, and thus shuffle, his or her library, so unless he or she is on guard for it, the Trap's restriction will be fulfilled. Combine this interaction with the above one for lots of millage.
Weird Harvest + Archive Trap: Same concept as the above, except Weird Harvest can
find some of your key creatures (Hedron Crab, Ambassador Laquatus).
Daze or Thwart + Hedron Crab: Returning lands to your hand for replaying is great for any landfall effect, and Daze can surprise-counter a spell while setting yourself up for another mill for three.
Oracle of Mul Daya + nothing: Yeah, the Oracle is that good. It's a crazy version of Azusa, Lost but Seeking. Getting extra lands while averting mana flood is an excellent addition to any deck, but the Lantern of Insight–like peeking ability also comes in handy with your numerous shuffle effects. If there is a card on top (not a land) that you don't want to draw, sacrifice a Misty Rainforest or cast a New Frontiers or Weird Harvest to shuffle your library and reveal a possible new card.
Trapmaker's Snare + Archive Trap: This is kind of obvious.
Sakura-Tribe Elder + Evolution Charm: The Elder can sacrifice itself to find a basic land. Evolution Charm can return dead creatures to your hand. Sounds like a good match. Of course, the Charm can also find basic lands by itself, so this might seem a bit pointless, but it can get an extra land onto the battlefield on top of the one you play each turn. Regardless, it's another option.
I really liked Steffen's list, but felt there was not enough going on in the early game. Steffen himself suggested Memory Erosion as a possible entry, so I shaved some numbers to add three of those. While I've always liked Sakura-Tribe Elder, it is Landfall Week, so I swapped those for Khalni Heart Expeditions. Thwart bothered me (returning three lands to your hand is a pretty staggering cost—just ask Ovinomancer), so I subbed those for three copies of Gush. Returning two Islands to my hand instead of three is a lot less of a drawback.
I also felt Wall of Roots was a bit out of place, and another Steffen suggestion that didn't make the deck took its place: Veteran Explorer. The Explorer can actually play some good defense when Hedron Crab and Archive Trap are ready to spring upon its death. Finally, I wanted Trapmaker's Snare to have a bit more utility, so I added a singleton of Whiplash Trap. Another singleton I added was Magosi, the Waterveil, not so much for potential turn-taking as much as for having a land to return to my hand. Oboro, Palace in the Clouds falls in the same category. Here's my version of Steffen's deck.
Eternity and Frog Suits
Eternity Vessel is a mythic rare if I've ever seen one. A pretty zany effect tacked onto the mechanic of the block coupled with dozens of charge counters sounds like a Johnnytastic card to me.
I was thinking about how best to use Eternity Vessel. Imagine it in a regular game state. Let's say you drop it when you are at a reasonably healthy life total of 17. Unless you are under a lot of pressure, the Vessel won't be doing much. It's kind of like when you are playing Planechase and you roll chaos in the Sanctum of Serra plane. Either you were on the brink of death and were thus miraculously revived to 20, or you barely blinked as you went from 19 to 20. I'd rather have moments like the former than the latter.
But that isn't the focus of this deck. No, the focus is to do crazy things with the whopping amount of charge counters that are created with Eternity Vessel.
The first insane thing is Gilder Bairn. Whoa, 20 charge counters just became 40. Weird!
The second insane thing is Dismantle. Whoa, 20 charge counters just jumped over to Darksteel Reactor. Weird!
There are lots of things going on here that could be molded together differently. Fabricate and Drift of Phantasms combine to tutor for anything. Lumengrid Sentinel taps things (including Gilder Bairn). Delusions of Mediocrity is a boost of life for an early Eternity Vessel. Finally, the various charge counter artifacts. While winning with Darksteel Reactor is efficient, you might try making twenty 3/1 Elemental tokens with Lightning Coils or 1/1 Snake tokens with Orochi Hatchery instead. Or adding loads of mana to your pool with Coalition Relic. Or going berserk with Umezawa's Jitte. Have fun with it, and we'll see each other next week!