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October 23, 2015

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A Higher Standard – Creature-Lands

Something every reasonable magic deck has is lands. (Thanks for not letting me write all magic decks mana-less dredge!) You need it to cast your spells. The thing with lands though is that if you draw too many of them and not enough spells you could run out of action and fold to whatever your opponent is doing. The flip side of that coin is that if you draw too few you don’t get to play any magic at all. This could lead you to frustratingly cutting lands from your deck because you got super flooded that one time. It could also lead you to play too many lands because you’re so afraid of missing your land drops.

Something I think magic has done a great job of is giving us lands that do more. Wizards of the coast wants to reward you for putting the proper amount of lands into your deck by giving you lands that can almost serve as spells.

We have had “Spell Lands” like Desolate Lighthouse and Vault of the Archangel that help mitigate the downside of flooding if it is included with your lands.

We had the “Scry lands”! We certainly didn’t give them the respect they deserved right away but by the end of the format it would be hard to find someone who found them to still be a disappointment.

Now in battle of Zendikar alone we have been introduced to 3 different kinds of new lands. We have the comes into play trigger cycle. We have the “Sacrifice for X effect” cycle and we have the Creature Lands.

The Standout for me is the Creature Lands. When Lumbering Falls and Shambling Vent were first spoiled a lot of people were skeptical. I found they were either delusional or had unrealistic expectation due to the enormous power level of the similar lands last time in Zendikar. These 2 are not as good as Creeping Tar Pit, Celestial Colonnade and Raging Ravine. You need to get that out of your head right away. Those were too good last time and I’m sure WOTC would be open to admitting the power level of those specific lands was too high.

Another thing people aren’t considering is the list of quality removal spells that kill these things in Standard. Lumbering Falls is the easy one. It dies to Blighted Fen, Foul-Tongue Invocation and sweepers if you manage to convince your opponent to not animate it during your turn. For Shambling Vent the only cards that are overly played that kill it are Crackling Doom, Murderous Cut, Dromoka’s Command and Fiery Impulse. That means these lands are going to survive a very high amount of the time.

What does having creature lands mean for the format?

These lands completely change the dynamic of decks within their colors. Not very deck that can play them should, but every deck that can afford the tap lands should. Your deck becomes instantly better against wraths and Planeswalkers with the inclusion of creature lands. Whenever there is a planeswalker played into an empty board it can be a very scary thing for the player with seemingly no way to interact with it immediately. That’s where having creature lands comes in handy. It lets you have this backup board presence that helps you keep Planeswalkers in check. Especially with the lack of removal for them.

When playing against wraths the beauty of these cards is that they are threats that do not commit more to the board on their turn when they want to wrath you. You feel like you already have enough of an offensive going but still want to crank up the pressure? That’s when you just activate your land and keep pushing.

Creature lands are already starting to have success. Of the lists that went 8-2 or better at Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar more than one third of the decks were playing either Shambling Vent or Lumbering Falls. If your deck can afford to play the tap lands and you want to increase your land count but don’t want to decrease the amount of threats or action in your deck I highly recommend sleeving up some of these lands. When you play one tapped on turn one, your opponent will think nothing of it. When you start using them to pressure your opponents life total or keep your opponent from attacking you they will see that the turn one land you always wanted to play anyway can turn into a stone-cold planeswalker slayer. I predict that eventually it will become criminal to not max out on these in decks that aren’t hyper aggressive assuming you’re playing the proper colors.

I’m excited to see how much success these will have in standard and I especially am excited to see what they rest of the cycle will look like. If I had to guess I would assume they would be similar to the Keyrunes from Return to Ravnica. The first two look alarmingly similar.

That means I predict the black green one will be a small bodied deathtouch creature, the red blue one will be a small bodied creature with a loot ability when it damages a player, the red white one will be a very small bodied double strike creature. What do you think the new Creature Lands will look like? Want to tell me how wrong I am? Comment your prediction below.

Thanks for reading.

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Andy Football-Peters