Zendikar Rising preview season is nearly at an end, and the set looks incredible. Landfall has returned, party is an interesting new mechanic, and we have a whole bunch of spells that are also lands.
The Modal Dual-Faced Cards from Zendikar Rising are unlike anything we've seen before. These cards have two faces and can be played as either side. A small cycle of them are lands on both sides that function as the dual lands of the set, but the rest are a spell on the front and a land on the back.
This introduces a lot of consistency and flexibility to Standard, and means we'll likely be playing more lands than ever before. The flip side (heh) is almost all of these spell lands enter the battlefield tapped when played as lands. This consistency and flexibility comes at the cost of speed, so you need to evaluate these cards in the play patterns they'll be a part of. Spell lands whose spells are relevant in the late game and can be lands early are much more valuable than spell lands whose front face falls off quickly, because the value of a land drop also falls off as the game progresses.
The exception to this is the cycle of mythics which can enter the battlefield as untapped lands by paying 3 life. Bolting yourself sounds like a high cost, but that flexibility allows for early game land sequencing that minimizes the tempo cost of your manabase, much like shock lands. On top of that, these spells all scale incredibly well into the later stages of the game.
This new mechanic is going to redefine Standard deck building for the foreseeable future. Situational cards are a lot less situational when they can just be a land. There's more room for removal spells when you can play them as late-game land drops in control matchups where they aren't otherwise useful. You can play multiple copies of expensive finishers because the extra copies help cast the first copy.
I won't be able to touch on every single flip card in one article, but here are the most promising cards for Standard:
Emeria's Call // Emeria, Shattered Skyclave
Sea Gate Restoration // Sea Gate, Reborn
These are both excellent late game "finisher" cards you get to play several copies of. Normally playing a bunch of situational seven-drops isn't viable, but these seven-drops are lands that can enter the battlefield untapped and need to be evaluated as such. These are more lands than spells, but are bigger, better versions of Memorial to Glory and Memorial to Genius.
These aren't spells you'd naturally play, but are both solid flood insurance. As the game goes on and you draw more lands than you'd normally like, these cards convert into spells to keep you in the game. Expect to see these in relatively high numbers, especially in aggressive decks.
Agadeem's Awakening // Agadeem, the Undercrypt
Probably the most powerful mythic of the cycle, and quite likely the most powerful MDFC in the entire set. Agadeem's Awakening // Agadeem, the Undercrypt is a build-around reanimation spell very similar to cards like Gruesome Menagerie. But Agadeem's Awakening // Agadeem, the Undercrypt scales better, and most importantly it can be played as a land. You get to play four copies and really can't flood on them. This card is both incredibly powerful and incredibly flexible, and I plan to play it often.
Bala Ged Recovery // Bala Ged Sanctuary
Bala Ged Recovery // Bala Ged Sanctuary is exactly what you want out of these flip cards. Early on there's nothing in the graveyard to recur, so you just play it as a land. Late in the game you don't want more lands, and you can buy back the most powerful card in your graveyard. Bala Ged Recovery // Bala Ged Sanctuary enters tapped and costs three, so it's a little bit clunky on both halves, but the separate modes line up so well with the stages of the game that it's never a dead card. Expect to see this fairly frequently in Standard.
Beyeen Veil // Beyeen Coast
Beyeen Veil // Beyeen Coast is a low-power card that gives slow blue decks a lot of consistency. Both of Beyeen Veil // Beyeen Coast modes are early game effects, allowing you to bridge into the mid and late game. Beyeen Veil // Beyeen Coast job is to ensure that slow blue decks get to the stage of the game where they can take over with more powerful cards.
Hagra Mauling // Hagra Broodpit
Hagra Mauling // Hagra Broodpit is a little expensive at four mana, but if your opponent lacks basics, this is just a Murder that can also be a land. A removal spell that isn't dead against control and helps you get into the later stages of the game is excellent. Hagra Mauling // Hagra Broodpit is relevant at most stages of the game and both halves are good in the early to mid stages, allowing you to consistently get to the late game.
Kazandu Mammoth // Kazandu Valley
A 3/3 for three isn't the most exciting, but this card attacks as a 5/5 most of the time. Kazandu Mammoth // Kazandu Valley also is a land drop, so duplicates can be used to ensure you hit all your land drops to keep triggering landfall. I expect to see this card a lot, and look forward to seeing someone get 16'd by a Kazandu Mammoth // Kazandu Valley holding an Embercleave. Please tag me on Twitter when you unlock this achievement.
Kazuul's Fury // Kazuul's Cliffs
Kazuul's Fury // Kazuul's Cliffs is an expensive version of Fling. Fling is already a niche effect and adding a mana to the cost is usually a recipe for an unplayable card. The other mode of Kazuul's Fury // Kazuul's Cliffs being a land, however, means you can get away with playing a few copies maindeck as a "cycle land" that always draws Kazuul's Fury // Kazuul's Cliffs. This will probably see play in small numbers in various aggressive decks, especially Landfall-based ones.
Khalni Ambush // Khalni Territory
All of the points about Kazuul's Fury // Kazuul's Cliffs are still valid for Khalni Ambush // Khalni Territory, but fight spells see more play than Fling effects, because Mono-Green often struggles with removal. I'm unsure this unseats Ram Through or Primal Might, however, as both of those cards are efficient at what they do, and Mono-Green Aggro relies heavily on the ability to curve out smoothly.
Malakir Rebirth // Malakir Mire
While Mono-Black Aggro similarly relies on the ability to curve out, Malakir Rebirth // Malakir Mire is efficient enough on the front side to see play. Aristocrats-style decks have played this effect in the past, and several cards in the Sacrifice decks work well with this effect. Archfiend's Vessel, Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger and Village Rites are all incredibly synergistic with Malakir Rebirth // Malakir Mire, to say nothing of the ability to protect your engine creatures like Lurrus of the Dream-Den. I expect to see Malakir Rebirth // Malakir Mire played as a spell most of the time, but the option to play it as a land is valuable.
Sejiri Shelter // Sejiri Glacier
Sejiri Shelter // Sejiri Glacier is a similar effect, but it costs an additional mana without any of the synergy implications. While it is clearly a weaker card, I still think that the flexibility of Sejiri Shelter // Sejiri Glacier means it still sees play in some white aggro decks.
Silundi Vision // Silundi Isle
This card is very similar to Bala Ged Recovery—early on it ensures you hit all your land drops, and then gives you a way to spend all that mana late in the game. Six cards is a lot to look at to find your answers, and this is going to give control decks a large amount of consistency. Don't forget, there are a lot of instants and sorceries in this set that are also lands, so this card hits what you want even more often than you think. I expect to see this as a full playset in a lot of decks.
Spikefield Hazard // Spikefield Cave
Spikefield Hazard // Spikefield Cave is likely not strong enough, with the caveat that if there is a card allowing an aggressive deck to cheat on land count with these flip cards, Spikefield Hazard // Spikefield Cave is that card. I don't currently think you're allowed to play a "12-land" deck with a bunch of red spell lands, but if you can, it's because Spikefield Hazard // Spikefield Cave, Shatterskull Smashing // Shatterskull, the Hammer Pass and Valakut Awakening // Valakut Stoneforge enable you to.
Tangled Florahedron // Tangled Vale
Tangled Florahedron // Tangled Vale is a mana source on both sides, which makes it a lot less flexible than the other MDFCs. However, Tangled Florahedron // Tangled Vale is an incredible consistency enabler, as it's very difficult to miss your land drops or your early mana dorks when you get to play four cards that are both. Much like Beyeen Veil // Beyeen Coast, Tangled Florahedron // Tangled Vale is a low power, high consistency card that may see play as a way to enable ramp decks to have the same start almost every single game.
Valakut Awakening // Valakut Stoneforge
Valakut Awakening // Valakut Stoneforge is a weird one. Red decks don't generally want a tap land, nor the ability to cycle a bunch of spells. But if you get a land that can help mitigate flood in the late game, the combination of those effects is appealing. Likely to be a tool for bigger red decks than more aggressive ones, I can see Valakut Awakening // Valakut Stoneforge making the maindeck of red midrange decks in small numbers.
Zendikar Rising looks incredibly powerful, and I'm excited to start brewing decks when the full card set has been revealed. Keep an eye on my Twitter page, because I'll once again be brewing 50 decks (or more!) for Zendikar Rising. And keep checking back here on TCGplayer Infinite as I and my fellow writers get you ready for new Standard, Historic, Modern, and more!