While many people were complaining about the low power level of Battle for Zendikar, they conveniently ignored the returning mechanic with the most raw power. As it turns out, landfall is just as busted as it was the first time around—getting a Mutagenic Growth out of every fetchland through the cheap landfall creatures is as strong as it was when Paul Rietzl was crushing people with Boros.
In the first week of Standard, I find that usually the decks people actually want to play get a brief mention instead of a full-on overview, and the lack of coverage of the landfall decks is pretty surprising. If anything might mark a significant strategy shift to take advantage of the decreased amount of removal and punish 4-5 color decks, this is the one.
My first build is significantly more all-in than the second version, and it’s capable of turn-4 kills through a blocker. The second is built around opponents interacting with you, and instead seeks to punish them via Retreat to Valakut: either pushing your guys to trade with anything in the format, or on Flamewake to dome them for 4 every turn.
Blighted Woodland is a mana source that doubles as a mass Overrun with Retreat to Valakut or multiple landfall creatures on the field. Upping the mana count also gives you Outpost Siege to play a longer game and make sure the landfall creatures still have fuel even when you’re in topdeck mode. The curve stays low, and you still have plenty of power without needing to spend a lot of resources to nab big chunks of the opponent’s life total. Having a free-roll Explosive Vegetation on tap was exactly what this deck was looking for.
For the first week when decks aren’t particularly well tuned I think the deck 1 is fine, even though Atarka’s Command doesn’t make a lot of sense. That’s why I like Temur Battle Rage. You usually only pump 2-3 creatures with Command, and prowess creatures aren’t particularly good here. So you might as well max out on Titan’s Strength and Battle Rage at that point.
My second list has a lot more strength against removal and slower creature decks in general. Esper and Jeskai are still issues due to the variety and amount of removal and countermagic they have access to, but Flamewake and Akoum Firebird both give you some help against Languish and other mass removal. Flamewake in particular has been a huge help against Esper Dragons and similar removal-heavy blue strategies—a recurring threat that naturally dodges Hangarback Walker is a huge help. Plus, Retreat to Valakut allows you to recover immediately if you sandbagged lands or have a Blighted Woodland on the field.
You could slow it down and still keep that burst potential, and run Den Protector and Deathmist Raptor to help combat removal-heavy decks as well. I think at that point, you drop Flamewake from the main board and have to cut your 1-drops. It does give you another way to rebuy lands, which really helps power the deck. You don’t need to set up Den Protector, just having her flip immediately gets you back some reach and a 3/2 in many situations.
Finally we come to the most experimental of all the lists. Once I was shown the power of landfall I immediately thought back to old Boros Landfall and Valakut decks and how best to adopt their strategy.
This build aims to go big and set up kill turns with Surrak or utilize Nissa’s Renewal as a Falter/Overrun split card. The extra ramp also means you can consistently cast gigantic Crater’s Claws and Gaea’s Revenge the old fashioned way against decks that can stymie your early aggression. This build is a lot more suited to beating up fellow midrange decks, and has a better matchup against control compared to the above builds.
Note that while this builds on the tenets of the first two decks, I’m not saying this is inherently stronger. It’s possible that the added pressure from the other decks compensates for having a weaker late game, and makes being able to jam Gaea’s Revenge a bit redundant. Dragonlord Atarka feels a lot weaker than she had in the previous Standard format, and the same could be true of any other large threat in here.
Regardless of which variant you pick, I feel that the raw power of landfall slid right past people. Too much focus was put on the Eldrazi and raw power cards instead of looking at the synergistic ability that has already spawned a number of high quality decks in the past. Whether or not a GX Landfall deck is tier 1 remains to be seen, but until the fetches leave Standard this is one of the most powerful strategies available.