Ever since it was previewed, Wilderness Reclamation is all I can think about.
Wilderness Reclamation represents an effect very similar to Seedborn Muse, which we haven't really seen in a long time. Prophet of Kruphix is the last one that I can remember offhand, but there are a few pretty big differences. For one, Wilderness Reclamation doesn't suffer from being a creature. If your opponent kills Wilderness Reclamation, it will be because they drew one of their very few ways to interact with it. On top of that, costing one less mana (and only one green mana) is a pretty big deal.
The trick to making Wilderness Reclamation work is to use your mana at instant speed. Bonus points if the card you pair with it can be used multiple times. When I first read Wilderness Reclamation, the first thing came to mind was Chemister's Insight. When you hit your fourth land and cast Wilderness Reclamation, all you want to be doing is making sure you can use that extra mana. Chemister's Insight fits the bill perfectly. That burst of mana and card advantage starts to push you forward into the lategame, all starting on the fourth turn.
But instants aren't the only thing to pair with Wilderness Reclamation. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that Nexus of Fate pairs nicely with all the extra mana Wilderness Reclamation helps you generate. Untapping lands during your end step means you're effectively doubling your mana each turn, but it also means you get to untap lands with special abilities. And I can think of a few cool lands to use.
So, this is where we start, but I'm just as excited about where we'll finish!
This deck very clearly resembles the "Turbo Fog" variants of Bant we've seen at points throughout the last few months. However, I've never been much of a fan of Fog and that style of gameplay. I'd much rather actually deal with the opposing threats my opponent is attacking me with.
And while this deck may resemble a Fog strategy, it plays in a significantly different manner. Strange how adding a personal Heartbeat of Spring drastically changes what your deck can do. So what can this deck actually do?
And that's just what I've seen in my first few games of testing. I'm sure I'm missing a thing or two. The more mana you have, the more powerful Wilderness Reclamation will be. In essence, Wilderness Reclamation is just a big mana engine. It's your job to find ways to use that mana once your engine starts running. Chemister's Insight is one of the better tools to use that mana, as it has back to back uses. You also have a bunch of redundant copies of things that are worth discarding to jump-start.
Search for Azcanta is a huge part of your overarching strategy. If you're able to cast one on the second turn, finding your engine is significantly easier. Hitting your land drops becomes significantly easier. And once it transforms into Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin, it combines with your marquee card better than anything I've ever seen. You know how disgusting it is to untap Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria? Well now you get to untap all your mana instead of just two!
I'm a bit concerned about the mana. I don't feel like we can afford to take too much damage from the shocklands, but luckily we have Gift of Paradise to help alleviate some of that pressure. I feel like I'm starting off building all my three-color decks with virtually the same manabase (ten shocklands, twelve check lands, couple of basics), and I don't think that's even close to correct. But so far, everything has felt good enough. I only shock myself once or twice a game, and rarely have any of my lands entered the battlefield tapped. Every three-color combination has 24 possible dual lands. The hard part of building these manabases is going to be figuring out how many basic lands we can fit, as well as working our best to build our spells around our mana. Playing a slightly worse card because it's easier to cast, which in turn puts less strain on your mana, which will allow for playing more basic lands, should be a regular occurrence.
I don't think this will be a tough sell, but Warrant not dealing with a creature permanently is a potential issue. For me, the biggest selling point is that Warrant helps push you toward transforming Search for Azcanta, as well as pumping Enigma Drake and Crackling Drake. I've wanted a spell like Warrant that can handle Adanto Vanguard out of an Izzet-ish strategy, and often found myself playing Seal Away even when an instant or sorcery was much more desirable.
I think the larger selling point is that Warrant is the best part of Azorius Charm, which was a huge hit the first time around. And like Azorius Charm, it has more than one useful mode. Creating a Serra Angel with Warden in a matchup where your opponent has no desirable hits for Warrant is awesome. Split cards are always going to be slightly worse for the cost than a normal spell. You're paying that extra mana for versatility, which is perfect when you're playing a deck where your primary mission is to cast Wilderness Reclamation and generate a ton of mana.
So, we've built one deck with Wilderness Reclamation. Let's try another.
After posting my initial list on Twitter, someone on Twitter told me that I'm like 90% to cut Primal Amulet in a week and replace it with Niv-Mizzet, Parun. My goal is to prove them wrong. If I've learned anything from untapping Azcanta, the Sunken Ruins, it's that untapping one of these lands you have to work to transform is a pretty big deal. And while Primal Wellspring doesn't do anything if you're flooded out on mana, where Azcanta can find action, the strength of doubling up on your spells is insane. But what about tripling up?
When I first started brewing with Primal Amulet during the release of Guilds of Ravnica, I had the most success when I was playing cards that could incidentally untap my Primal Wellspring. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria was a no-brainer, but I also figured out that Unwind was pretty good. And when most of your deck functions at instant speed, untapping your Primal Wellspring with Wilderness Reclamation effectively ends the game on the spot.
The first thing I learned after casting Wilderness Reclamation was that anything that gave you a way to use your mana in a big way was important. Drawing cards is key, because it gives you fuel to continually abuse that mana generation. And any card that can do that while also providing you with alternate value, like Search for Azcanta, is something you want in your deck. You want to see the perfect card?
Expansion acts as a Negate for your opponent's counterspell. It can copy your opponent's card draw spell when you're low on mana and need to hit your land drops. Expansion can double up your removal spell to kill two creatures and buy you time. You play four of this card because Expansion is a fine spell on its own.
But you also play four copies because a fourth turn Wilderness Reclamation followed by a fifth turn Explosion draws you six cards and kills something. Winning after that should be trivial. I could be overstepping myself, as I've certainly lost before when casting a big Explosion. However, that usually only happens when I was unable to contain a wide array of threats from my opponent. This version of the deck has Lava Coil and Shock to help in the early turns, but we're not really that kind of deck. We only have those cards to help buy us some time until our engine gets running.
Then we dumpster them.
As you read this, Ross Merriam and I will likely be preparing for VS Live! where I'll be piloting this deck in one of our matches. If I had things my way, I'd be playing three different variations on this archetype, because I think the card Wilderness Reclamation is absolutely busted. I'd be trying out a different removal package every game. I'd be mixing and matching the numbers, trying out different manabases, different sideboard plans, all for the glory of Primal Amulet.
Todd Anderson (@strong_sad) September 11, 2018
I was always under the impression that transforming Primal Amulet into Primal Wellspring would be the most difficult aspect of this card. When it was first printed, I was able to use it to copy a Hazoret's Undying Fury, thinking it would easily win me the game. I was wrong, and transforming it felt a little too difficult for the payoff. It wasn't even close to Pyromancer's Goggles, a card I could just cast for five mana and then use to cast and double up on a one-mana red removal spell.
But then they printed cards with jump-start and everything changed. When I started jamming four copies of Radical Idea into the deck, transforming Primal Amulet was almost too easy. I was using it to copy expensive and splashy stuff like Star of Extinction or utility spells like Revitalize. Ultimately, my win condition was Explosion, but it took a lot of effort to get going. We needed more mana. And now we have it.
Before I go today, I want to go over some of the cards I want to try out with Wilderness Reclamation, as well as a brief explanation as to why I think they'd be useful.
Primal Wellspring can produce any color of mana, which is particularly useful with split cards. That means you get to double up on Dispersal if you want. Warrant is sweet but could be a little too difficult to cast in the deck. With only sixteen sources of blue mana, getting two blue by the second turn, untapped, could be relatively difficult.
I think this card will probably end up seeing some play in the deck, as addendum means instant. And I don't mind casting things on my main phase, untapping, and then using that mana to cast my "real" card draw spells. It might ultimately be too expensive for what it does, and possibly worse than Blink of an Eye because it can't "unlock" your permanents from an opposing Ixalan's Binding.
Drawing seven cards feels pretty good, but especially so when you get to play a free permanent from your hand. And if that permanent is Wilderness Reclamation, that means you get to untap immediately, and potentially follow it up with Nexus of Fate.
This card works pretty well with Wilderness Reclamation on the front side, but probably isn't good enough to justify the inclusion.
Both sides of Vance's Blasting Cannons work well here, giving you a card advantage engine to go alongside your mana engine. Plus, when you get to transform into Spitfire Bastion, you can end the game rather quickly (or contain your opponent's threats).
While this requires you to play four colors if you want to play blue, which is relatively important for casting things at instant speed, it's possible you could find enough permanents that allow you to dump all that extra mana where you don't actually need to play blue at all. Profane Procession seems like a fine answer to Niv-Mizzet, Parun if you ask me. And all that extra mana, plus the ability to activate multiple times means you should be able to grind through Dive Down.
I don't think it's an accident that Wilderness Reclamation works well with all these cards from Ixalan. The trick is finding the ones worth putting the effort into transforming so you can get a lot of mileage out of their abilities. At the moment, I think Primal Amulet is the best one for this, I could just be blinded by my love for all things Izzet. But the whole reason I even started building this deck was because you can Explosion for X=6 on the fifth turn, and all you have to do is cast Wilderness Reclamation on the previous turn! That's ridiculous!
My goal over the next few weeks is to see if Wilderness Reclamation is the real deal. I'll hopefully learn a bunch from my VS Live! session with Ross and put together some cleaner lists for next week. We should also be getting the full set pretty soon, which will make this whole speculation/deckbuilding process a bit easier.
I just hope there are a few more cool instants and sorceries to try out!