Standard is pretty sweet right now since Magic Origins released and injected all sorts of new cards and decks into the format. It feels that the metagame is still sifting through cards and figuring itself out so it's a great time to be brewing and giving new things a try, and I've certainly got a fair share of ideas I'm trying out. But today I wanted to write a bit about the future and a spoiled card from Battle for Zendikar that has my brain hopping.
I have to admit at first blush I was a little underwhelmed by Oblivion Sower. I mean, when we think of Eldrazi rares and mythics we think of giant monsters with Annihilator. Of course, those giant monsters came with giant mana costs and often require some serious hoops to get into play; Oblivion Sower comes with a much more reasonable cost of just six mana and is something we can expect to cast with minimal mana effort in the course of a normal game of Magic.
So what are you getting for your six mana? A 5/8 colorless body isn't terrifying, but it's also not terrible. It can laugh off burn and can't be targeted by Ultimate Price. It'll give you a life from a Tomb of the Spirit Dragon activation. Once it hits the battlefield, though, it's just a big dumb beater, so we're deciding to play this or not based on its triggered ability. What's cool is that it's got that Eldrazi-ish “when you cast” trigger rather than the more typical “when this enters the battlefield” trigger. Sometimes wording like this is good, sometimes it's bad. For instance, you get the trigger whether or not your opponent counterspells Oblivion Sower, but you also won't be able get the effect from bringing it into play with See the Unwritten.
So about that triggered ability. When you cast Oblivion Sower your opponent exiles the top four cards of his library, and you then get to put any number of land cards that player owns from exile onto the battlefield under your control. If your opponent plays with the normal 24 lands (40%) and hasn't thinned too many from his deck, you can expect to exile one or two lands from that trigger which means Oblivion Sower practically guarantees a ramp up to seven mana and possibly eight. Not only will this get us closer to having mana to cast the larger Eldrazi it's reasonable to expect in Battle for Zendikar, but that's also another couple landfall triggers for landfall cards it's also reasonable to expect in Battle for Zendikar.
So yeah — on his own merits, Oblivion Sower is a so-so card but when we start thinking about the context of the card pool in which he'll exist he starts to get more interesting.
But wait — there's more!
Take a look again at that triggered ability and you'll see a hidden wrinkle. You first exile four cards, but the rest of the triggered ability isn't limited to the lands that were exiled by the triggered ability — you can play any lands your opponent owns that were previously exiled too! So how else can we get opponent's lands into exile? One card immediately jumps out:
Okay... but since your own lands are getting exiled too you'd somehow need to get Realm Razer into play and still have enough mana to actually cast Oblivion Sower, and then you're basically just back to square one mana-wise while your opponent has been hit with Armageddon. Outside of Commander shenanigans, you should probably just play Armageddon.
So another card jumps out:
Alright, now we're actually getting somewhere with a tournament-viable card like Deathrite Shaman, though the only format we're able to play this guy is Legacy. But think about games with Deathrite Shaman and how many sacrificed fetchlands he puts into exile while activating his mana ability? All of the time, right? The next Legacy tournament I play in where Battle for Zendikar is legal I'm going to try something like this:
4 Green Sun's Zenith
4 Deathrite Shaman
3 Swords to Plowshares
3 Abrupt Decay
3 Scavenging Ooze
2 Qasali Pridemage
1 Gaddock Teeg
1 Wall of Roots
1 Sylvan Library
4 Knight of the Reliquary
1 Eternal Witness
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
3 Siege Rhino
1 Titania, Protector of Argoth
3 Oblivion Sower
4 Windswept Heath
2 Verdant Catacombs
1 Dryad Arbor
1 Bojuka Bog
Knight of the Reliquary can search up Wastelands to put more lands into my opponent's graveyard to fuel Deathrite Shaman for an even more spectacular Oblivion Sower land swing. Scavenging Ooze can even get into the land-exiling game, though he doesn't find munching them quite as satisfying as dead creatures. I thought about running Pernicious Deeds to take advantage of all the extra mana, but I think I've got too much to lose myself on the low end of the mana curve; Green Sun's Zenith is probably fine as a mana sink.
Unfortunately, opportunities to play Legacy are few and far between for me, so let's bring our focus back to our future Standard. How else might we exile our opponent's lands? On Magicthegathering.com this week we got a sneak peek at a few more Battle for Zendikar cards from the Eldrazi Vs Zendikar sealed decks than can shed some light. Check out Dominator Drone!
So the Ingest mechanic is another way we might be able to get opponent's lands into exile. Dominator Drone looks like a Limited card and unlikely to make it into Standard, but I feel confident that there will at least be a couple cards with Ingest that will be pushed for Constructed.
We also have the Awaken mechanic, which will animate lands and make them creatures. An Awakened land from Sheer Drop will be a 3/3 and could get exiled with Abzan Charm, or maybe even Silkwrap or Suspension Field.
Of course let's not forget that our opponents may cooperate with our fiendish plans by putting lands into their own graveyards to fuel their powerful Delve spells!
Hedonist's Trove is an interesting card that hasn't yet made a splash in Standard but it might make some waves in a slower, smaller metagame. It's a card that preys on your opponent's graveyard, so it's probably best alongside cards that mill your opponent's graveyard in case your opponent isn't interested in self-milling strategies.
Of course the biggest, baddest card in the room that exiles an opponent's lands is one of my favorites: Villainous Wealth! One of the biggest feel-bad moments when playing Villainous Wealth is when you exile very few of an opponent's playable spells and instead it's mostly a bunch of lands. Not only does Oblivion Sower help you fuel larger Villainous Wealths, but it can also recoup those wasted exiled lands from previous Villainous Wealths! Villains value value above all else.
I actually really like the idea of running Oblivion Sower in a Villainous Wealth shell. The biggest issue though is what a Villainous Wealth shell might look like in a new Standard. I had the most success running Villainous Wealth in a Green Devotion deck, but Battle for Zendikar will mark the rotation of Theros Block out of Standard and Devotion support goes with it.
So what mana acceleration options will we have that carries forward into the new Standard?
Rattleclaw Mystic and Whisperer of the Wilds seem like the best early choices we have. Honored Hierarch and Leaf Gilder are further options, but I consider both of them pretty weak. Shaman of Forgotten Ways is great for powering out an early Oblivion Sower, but you can't use the mana for Villainous Wealth.
At three mana there's Abzan Banner, Atarka Monument, and the others in each of those two cycles along with Sheltered Aerie. My hunch is that the artifacts would be better choices so long as Dromoka's Command continues to be a good card.
At four mana there's the conditional Circle of Elders which feels inferior to Frontier Siege, especially since Circle of Elders can't give you mana even if you've got Oblivion Sower in play since they won't add up to give you Formidable.
Some other, more expensive and interesting options are Meteorite, Sarkhan Unbroken, and Savage Ventmaw. I'm not sure Savage Ventmaw can cut the mustard in a world with Languish, but if you can untap and attack with it that's a lot of extra mana for a gigantic Villainous Wealth!
What sort of actual mana ramp carries forward that can not only fuel Villainous Wealth but trigger potential landfall cards? Sword of the Animist is on everyone's radar as a potent piece of equipment if we're running enough basic lands. Embodiment of Spring is a rare turn-one play that can block early and then get cashed in later on to get the party started. Animist's Awakening seems like it could be good until you start doing the math and then it seems not so good. Explosive Vegetation has solid tournament pedigree, and while it hasn't broken into the current Standard it seems well-positioned to partner with Oblivion Sower since it ramps you directly from four to six mana (again, assuming you're running enough basics).
Nissa, Vastwood Seer could play a part in a mana ramp strategy since she already wants you to get seven lands in play, and once she transforms into Nissa, Sage Animist her +1 ability can potentially drop even more lands into play.
So what role do you think Oblivion Sower may play in the upcoming Standard?
Before I go, I did want to write a moment about the revelation that the original Zendikar fetchlands wouldn't be in Battle for Zendikar. After a brief feeling of disappointment, I realized that it's actually better that we don't get that cycle yet — having all ten fetchlands available in Standard at the same time would mean R&D had to be very careful not to give us too many good Landfall cards. This way with only the five fetchlands from Khans block they can make some really spicy Landfall cards in Battle for Zendikar, and it seems likely to me that they'd reprint the original Zendikar fetches in the next set when Khans rotates out. This would keep five fetchlands to power Landfall for the entire duration while Battle for Zendikar remains in Standard while shuffling the color mix and breathing new life into the same cards. I'm curious what you all think about that idea?
New to Commander?
If you're just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
- Commander Primer Part 1 (Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
- Commander Primer Part 2 (Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
- Commander Primer Part 3 (Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
- Commander Starter Kits 1 (kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 2 (kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 3 (kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
Commander write-ups I've done (and links to decklists):
- Trostani, Selesnya's Voice ( new player-friendly)
Uril, the Miststalker (my "more competitive" deck)