The night of the big announcement, I spent hours compulsively refreshing my Twitter page. Which would get reprinted, the Zendikar or Onslaught fetches? Would the new art suck? Was Wizards just yanking us around?
Bam! Five ally fetches in all their beauty.
Pros and Khans
I’ve heard complaints about the amount of shuffling that fetchlands add to Standard, but as an Eternal player I’m used to it. Most people have figured out how to shortcut by finding times to shuffle at the same time as the opponent or to shuffle during the opponent’s turn when you wouldn’t be doing anything anyway. It wasn’t that long ago when every deck had four Farseeks and it wasn’t ideal but oh well.
Some have accused Wizards of using fetchlands as a cheap tactic to sell the set, a sort of low-hanging fruit. I’m a little skeptical, as the rest of the set looks sweet and multicolor blocks tend to be popular already. Besides, fruit tastes the same regardless of how easy it was to pick.
This is Wizards we’re talking about. Don’t mistake them for some conjurers of cheap tricks. For that matter, I don’t see how printing cards people want to buy is a bad business practice, or how that’s something we (the target market) should complain about. This is the third time fetchlands have been printed en masse, and the hype is still very real. If we get them every five years or so, that’ll keep them fresh enough to be exciting.
The price drop sucks for people that were sitting on them, but that’s a “live by the sword, die by the sword” type of thing. The original Onslaught versions will slowly go back up, especially since some players prefer the old border.
The ally fetches are worth trading for. I almost never mention financial stuff, and it’s not really my niche, but they’re free money for those willing to invest. People are going to draft the heck out of this format, keeping the price down, and four years later more people will be playing Magic and need them for eternal formats and they’ll have doubled in price. The only investment more lucrative or consistent is human debt.
Historically, fetchlands in Standard have served as duals, fixing between two colors at the cost of a life. The exceptions are interesting. Sometimes, fetches have unique synergies with certain cards and mechanics.
Consider Gary Wise’s 2002 Invitational deck:
As you can see, he has a large amount of fetchlands, some of which are off-color and provide no fixing at all. Instead, they’re there to help reach threshold, the same reason RUG Delver plays eight fetches with only six actual duals to fetch out.
Onslaught Standard had a few other interactions, like Polluted Delta giving Psychatog +1/2+1/2. While Wake used fetches for fixing, it had enough thinning and drew enough cards to see a real impact in its draws.
Fast forward to Zendikar, where the interactions with set mechanics got more heavy-handed. Landfall helped the fetches feel at home in that Limited format, and triggering landfall was so important that you could rare draft a land early and feel good about it. Meanwhile, there were enough Constructed landfall cards for fetches to see play even when they weren’t fixing colors.
Based on this history, they should have a few synergies that make them more than fixers, even if we lack something as direct as landfall.
Delve is coming back for Khans, which cares about fetches in the same way as threshold. Both mechanics want any old card in the graveyard, and fetches do that fairly painlessly.
Unless they give us something aggressive and powerful like Tombstalker, Delve won’t be enough of a reason for off-color fetches. The delve card you’re facilitating has to be worth the extra work.
And then there’s scry, which is less of a synergy so much as something to keep in mind when sequencing. Usually, it’s correct to scry first to help plan out the rest of the turn. If you need to use a Polluted Delta that turn, however, it’s correct to fetch first so you don’t upset the scry. Later in the game when mana is less scarce, you can leave a fetch in play to intentionally reset a scry if the board changes and the card you left on top is no longer good.
In the early game, you’re going to want to scry high-cost bombs to the bottom. Fetches help shuffle those bombs back into the deck when you want to draw them in the late game. On the other hand, a shuffle can mix in a long series of bottomed dead cards as well.
As we’ve seen in Modern, Courser of Kruphix will do work with fetchlands.
The new fetchlands are HUGE for Modern. This is coming from someone who hates typing in caps, too but the emphasis is necessary. It never made sense that only enemy fetches were available in Modern, which made me think it was only a matter of time. I’m glad that time is now.
A lot of color combinations suddenly become more attractive. While there are a few reasons that UWR variants are so popular, with Electrolyze and Path to Exile being great cards to Snapcast back, one of the biggest benefits is that the mana is so good with both Scalding Tarn and Arid Mesa to fix for basics.
Consider the following Esper list:
This is a version of the Teachings deck I worked on for PT Seattle. It was always just shy of good enough for a major tournament, and I look forward to testing it with a better mana base.
Here, the main benefit of the change is that Cryptic Command becomes a much stronger card when all of the fetchlands can get basic Islands. Before, Marsh Flats was the only on-color fetch available, and I didn’t even play four because it was less painful to run more blue duals instead.
While decks like Esper and Grixis were possible before, mostly thanks to the Scars and M10 duals, they still had some awkward hands where you had to Bolt yourself before casting a turn one Thoughtseize. In a format where burn is a tier deck, that’s just not an attractive strategy.
Speaking of Burn, that deck has knocked me out of more Top 8s than any other deck in Modern, and I hope it takes a hit from this reprint, if only a small one.
While I’m excited to see what happens, I’m mostly pumped to have access to them as a deckbuilder. Part of the fun of fetchland formats is splashing a fourth color for some obscure bit of technology that answers some pressing problem.
One downside is that Blood Moon, one of the best ways of keeping people honest, gets a bit worse. Still, the card was at its best against decks with special lands like Celestial Colonnade, Valakut, or the Urzatron. If the new crop of fetches make it easier to get greedy, people will get greedier, and Blood Moon will be right there to punish them.
In older formats, the reprinting acts as a price support, which is awesome. This is the main reason I loved the Zendikar fetchlands when they were first spoiled, as they helped people move into Legacy. Now, Zendikar fetches are growing more and more expensive, and the cost of Polluted Delta online has priced me out of a few different Legacy and Vintage brews.
While the difference might not seem like much when you’re spending thousands of dollars on dual lands, a couple hundred bucks is still a significant sum to most players. It’s like handing a thimble of water to a ragged man crawling through the desert. It won’t be enough water to get him out of his situation, but it’s not like he’s going to turn it down either.
A Few Random Spoilers
I love how this card is designed. Giving each creature a +1+1 counter isn’t inherently worse than a Glorious Anthem, as if you get rid of the Anthem you get rid of the buff. Ascendancy is a bit more permanent, though it doesn’t help creatures you play later on.
Fortunately, it can turn later creatures into valuable 1/1 flyers, which can in turn get pumped by later Abzan Ascendancys. Abzan decks will be rewarded for running four of the enchantment, or maybe even ways to bounce it back to hand. Invasive Species is cute.
An instant-speed Searing Blaze edict? Seems reasonable, especially since it’s not a proper edict in that it doesn’t give the opponent a choice in what to sacrifice. In fact, this card will often be closer to untargeted spot removal since their biggest creature is likely to be their finisher.
Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
If this guy only triggered when he attacked, he wouldn’t be worth it, but any creature that can produce value on entering the battlefield is worth looking into.
When I first read this, I thought it made a token for each creature milled, and I got excited. Still, value creatures are solid and I wouldn’t be surprised if this saw some mild play.
Charms always catch my interest because options are good. While the recent two-color cycle in Return to Ravnica never dominated the metagame or anything like that, and all were fairly costed, they did see varying degrees of play in their respective colors. The real trick to evaluating a charm is figuring out if you’d play it for just one of the abilities. For example, Esper Charm was almost always used to draw two cards, and if that’s all it did people still would’ve played it. Sometimes it did something else and that was gravy.
Izzet Charm fails the single ability test. I wouldn’t play a two-mana Shock, Spell Pierce, or Faithless Looting, so the Charm was bad even if I valued the flexibility. The one time I played Izzet Charm, I primarily wanted it as an answer to Mutavault in a deck that didn’t care about the opponent’s life total. It was just as good at killing the 2/2 as Lightning Strike, but sometimes it countered something and that was sweet.
The value of Sultai Charm depends on the first ability. Destroying a mono-colored creature is enticing in the abstract, but we’ll have to see how the format shakes out before we know how many priority targets it has and thus how good it is.
I love the flexibility of the Disenchant effect. Holding a spell that can only hit enchantments while getting beaten down by some busted equipment is frustrating. Actual Disenchant has been maindecked in various metagames, and this version is definitely worth the unwieldy cost if you’re in those colors anyway.
Finally, drawing two and discarding one is some good old-fashioned CA-neutral filtering. If they’d wanted Izzet Charm to not suck, it would’ve had this ability so people could hit land drops early without bleeding value.