Answering Landfall

dormant volcano near mounts on foggy day

Hey Commander players! Did you see the impact Landfall made on Standard this past weekend? It was a crater. I think this post by Coolstuffinc’s Michael Flores illustrates the problems quite well. On the same website, Zendikar Rising set reviewer Zvi Moscovitz had some dire conclusions about Omnath (and Lotus Cobra) that were without knowledge of the weekend. That would be opening weekend for the new set, and in the inaugural MTGO Standard Challenge, the Omnath Ultimatum deck was 111 of 124 total decks involved, took 4 of the Top 8 slots, and won the whole thing. Solved! I feel like even Sherlock Holmes or Poirot would have waited out the weekend before the big reveal that Omnath, Locus of Creation, Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, and the Cobra were the true culprits after all. Build some suspense! Some drama!

What on earth does Wizards do now? Emergency ban again? It’s week 1. My roommate and I ordered a box of Set Boosters. Not enough are coming that we’re going to be able to get them, so we’ve switched to Draft Boosters. We could have picked them up by now, but haven’t. So we, and probably many other players, don’t even have the cards yet. My roommate reported ridiculous mana generation on Arena, and it seems like another toxic Standard is here for me to shun. If you go back to Zvi’s set review, he has nothing good to say about Jace, Mirror Mage, aka Kickem Jace, either.

It’s times like these that I love Commander most. You can escape the format-solving and cutthroat nature of 60-card constructed formats, and build a pile of jank. But even wonderful janky piles are going to feel some impact from the big Landfall. Why? Commander is the format of big mana for big spells and big plays. Land ramp is the best way to big mana because Lands are the hardest things to interact with in Commander. Landfall is the natural beneficiary of Land ramp, and does not require any additional deckbuilding considerations, or have to be a cohesive strategy on its own. Basically, if you’re in green, and you ramp a bit, or even fix your mana with fetches and Evolving Wilds, cards like Avenger of Zendikar and Felidar Retreat stand alone and win games just fine. And the Landfall cards are getting really scary.

Here we have Ancient Greenwarden, or ‘Landharmonicon’ after the classic card Panharmonicon. While this is specifically a Landfall enabler, what better enabler could a Landfall deck ask for? It even shores up a potential weakness of the deck in that killing their Lands now enables more Landfall triggers. Along with Crucible of Worlds, Ramunap Excavator and even Scaretiller, a glaring weakness is now a strategic strength. Ashaya, Soul of the Wild is another card to watch, because nontoken Creatures now cause Landfall. Yikes. And don’t forget the modal Landspells to add more trigger potential. It’s not like Landfall wasn’t good enough already. So what do we do?

Make the Meta call. Playing cards specifically targeting Landfall strategies is one strategy, if not a subtle one. Polluted Bonds and Sire of Stagnation are the best available options, really, and Dingus Egg is surprisingly good at bringing down the fetch-happy. OG card Ankh of Mishra and Invader Parasite do pretty well, as does Zo-Zu the Punisher. Tunnel Ignus seems like a great option, but very fragile. Dirtcowl Wurm and Lava Runner are cute but a little silly. Mana Breach and Overburden might backfire. Same with Numot, the Devastator and Price of Glory. Shattered Angel and Lifegift seem like weak sauce. Tectonic Hellion was a recent attempt at some sort of land control, but I doubt it ever gets there. Tectonic Instability might be a decent answer to Landfall decks that win with big combat steps, but all they have to do is wait until main phase 2. Creatures like Terra Ravager and Wilderness Elemental can get the job done in aggressive shells that force damage through. Burning Sands and Earthlink are real longshots. Anathemancer has some serious potential if you can fire it off at instant speed. Too bad it won’t affect Unearth. There are a growing number of ways to cast Restore Balance on command. Trailblazer’s Boots help you go explore their terrain.

Change it up on them. Turning powerful lands like Field of the Dead and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle into something else, or monkeying with their mechanics might work. The industry standard is Blood Moon, but it sucks to have to play something like that. Blood Sun at least cantrips, but again, is tough to have to play. To target Valakut specifically, Whim of Volrath and other text-altering cards can make it so it erupts at the sight of Plains. The buyback makes Whim vaguely playable. A favourite of mine that plays well into my overall Zombie strategy is Zombie Trailblazer, which can even change enough names of an opponent’s landbase that Field of the Dead can fizzle. Zombie mastery FTW. Quicksilver Fountain works (slowly), and can even be something a Merfolk or Sea Monster deck would want anyways.

Punish their excess. Make them pay for having so much Land. Harsh Mentor and Immolation Shaman tax the richest of the rich. Manabarbs, Burning Earth and even something like Scald might burn them up. Combining Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Karma is something nasty you can do to any table in mono-white. If you also play Cyclopean Tomb or Kormus Bell and some ways to wipe the opposing creatures…. Acidic Soil, Treacherous Terrain and Price of Progress are drastic actions, but they can be taken. A sneaky damager to try is Psychogenic Probe, which gets them every time they shuffle.

Attack their strong points. Figuring out what exactly the Landfall deck is using to kill you is a huge deal. You might want to save your Acidic Slime and other spot removal for the Valakuts and Fields of the Dead of the world. Spreading Seas cantrips and can shut down a volcano completely if the controller can’t handle enchantments. Creatures like Avenger of Zendikar and Omnath, Locus of Rage are game-winning favourites, and super-enablers like Lord Windgrace and The Gitrog Monster make the machine go. Watch out for Felidar Retreat and Titania, Protector of Argoth. If it make armies of creatures, it’s worth pointing removal at it. Strip Mine, Wasteland, Ghost Quarter, Dust Bowl, Encroaching Wastes, Memorial to War and Field of Ruin are all options to pack in your mana base.

Mill them out. Take advantage of their high-velocity deck-thinning. Consuming Aberration, Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker, Trepanation Blade, Sphinx’s Tutelage, Undercity Informer and Balustrade Spy all love a library that is mostly free of Lands. If you can win somehow with Horn of Greed and more draw triggers than an opponent can handle, you also win the internet.

Leverage value from them. Play cards that help you do stuff when they do stuff. The classics are Rhystic Study and Mystic Remora, but they only address the spell side of an advanced Landfall game. Burgeoning, Runic Armasaur, and even Strata Scythe can reap some decent benefits from an opposing Landfaller. There are plenty of cards in white that play ‘catch-up’ to a player with more Lands, like Land Tax, but those are often too slow for Landfall.

Slow em down. Making sure their Lands enter tapped is a solid strategy against many decks. Frozen Aether, Kismet, Loxodon Gatekeeper and Thalia, Heretic Cathar can help out. There are also plenty of cards that further mess with a Land-heavy strategy. Mana Web is on the Reserved List, but War’s Toll and Tsabo’s Web aren’t. Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger is pretty mean overall, and blinking Gulf Squid during the draw step or something seems like a terrible thing to do to someone, but if it comes to stopping the Landfall deck…. To that end, Winter Orb seldom wins friends. Same with Stasis.

Steal from them. Gilt-Leaf Archdruid is the dream. Herald of Leshrac is the daydream. Realm Razer plus Oblivion Sower? Probably not. Vedalken Plotter, Annex, Political Trickery, and Conquer seem too narrow but if there’s a notorious Land in your meta, you might win style points too. Confiscate, Lay Claim and anything else that steals any permanent might be right up your alley.

Block the search. Landfall decks often want to play from the Library, so shutting down their ability to search can work wonders. It’s not bad against a lot of decks, especially fragile, tutor-dependent ones. Mindlock Orb, Aven Mindcensor, Leonin Arbiter, Stranglehold and even Shadow of Doubt can do work.

Prevent Lands from Falling at all. There aren’t many cards that halt a player from playing Lands, but two to look at are Damping Engine and Ward of Bones. I find these are pretty strong in general, but the biggest obstacle for the tabletop is having to stop and count permanents often.

And some strategies are just tough to stop no matter what, like anything involving Golos. Almost all of these ‘answers’ to Landfall are fairly narrow, though some might fit into your strategy like a glove. Landfall is strong, and there are not enough solid answers to it overall. But unlike Standard, we have some game. Hopefully the tribulations of poor Standard will result in a few actual answers to Landfall, that are playable in a way that’s more than just a meta-call. Or maybe we just all join them, and all Commander is Omnath. Thanks for reading! Your life matters! Black Lives Matter!

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