Eldritch Moon is finally out and I can't even begin to tell you just how many fun and exciting decks there are to be brewed. This set has so many build-arounds, unique effects, or new linears that even if the Tier 1 metagame doesn't change much, you can expect a lot of movement everywhere else. And for whatever my opinion is worth, the Tier 1 metagame is going to be turned on its head too.
One of the most exciting cards in Eldritch Moon is Splendid Reclamation. This is a niche effect but one that has a high ceiling. The card is primarily being looked at in older formats and for good reason. Not only are there better lands in older formats, such as fetchlands or Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, but there are also better enablers and ways to get them into the 'yard. Splendid Reclamation could easily be the centerpiece of multiple combo decks across Modern and Legacy. When it comes to Standard, however, the card probably looks mostly useless. Well, that's probably how it looks to most people, at least...
For the last year, we have seen more and more land-centric cards continue to be printed. It began with cards like Molten Vortex and Animist's Awakening, but neither card really did much. Then we saw landfall return followed by cards like The Gitrog Monster. Clearly, there was some sweet stuff to do with lands, but nothing ever quite came together. Now, with even more synergy seeing print such as Splendid Reclamation, Grim Flayer, and Grapple with the Past, its at least worth looking into whether we have finally hit a sweet spot.
If nothing else, Splendid Reclamation offers these decks an entirely new look and way to win, so it alone might be a revival for land-based strategies. With that said, I present to you Splendid Awakening:
Go ahead, take one more look at it before I spell it all out. This is actually a skill I find very useful in deck building for both limited and constructed. If you can reverse engineer a list and sort of break it down into various components, you can use that same knowledge of structure to build new lists from the ground up.
Figure it out?
Basically, this is a combo deck that often plays out like a burn deck. 36 lands makes Molten Vortex, Animist's Awakening, and Magmatic Insight all pretty solid and reliable, but those cards have been in Standard for awhile. What we really want to be doing is using lands to generate damage via Molten Vortex, Crawling Sensation, and Blighted Gorge. At some point, we should have enough lands in the graveyard from these three sources that we can fire off a Splendid Reclamation to rebuy that stuff and hopefully have lethal damage when all's said and done.
If we don't have enough to purely burn the opponent out, however, we have a solid backup plan in Westvale Abbey, which is actually sweet enough that it might actually be plan A a little more often than expected (wink wink). With Crawling Sensation, you can reasonably make a bunch of tokens to already have them prepped for when Westvale Abbey transforms. Even if you don't have insects lying around, if you do manage to return a pair of Westvale Abbey or more, because of all the mana you have, activating them both in a turn is quite reasonable, enabling Ormendahl that much faster. We also included copies of Spawning Bed and Foundry of the Consuls, which get you to Ormendahl even quicker than that! And with that much token production and burn, you can end games even without a flipped Westvale Abbey helping you out.
Going creatureless is a natural direction when building around lands, but there are a lot of creatures in Standard that directly reward you for similar land synergies. Grim Flayer is a new one that dumps lands into your yard for Splendid Reclamation to later bring back and the duo of Sylvan Advocate and Tireless Tracker are some of the best creatures in Standard at the moment. If we combine them with any other landfall stuff, such as Undergrowth Champion, which has been criminally underplayed, we can start looking at cards like Gather the Pack to draw us those creatures but also conveniently put lands into our graveyard.
That intersection of selection and graveyard enabling is something green can do all on its own without red around. So, using that as a guideline, I ended up here:
You can see we decided to go with nice green cards that do some form of self-milling as well as three black cards in Liliana, the Last Hope. Between that, Grim Flayer, and our natural lands that sacrifice themselves, Splendid Reclamation does a lot of work without ever being part of a true combo.
This list is less interactive than the previous list, but in return we gain a pretty reasonable aggro game plan that we can use to put pressure on the opponent. This can snowball into a win as our creatures get to unreasonable sizes quickly, or it can simply be a distraction.
Imagine getting in 10 or so damage with your creatures early but your opponent expels their resources and manages to stabilize. You can simply cash in a Splendid Reclamation to not only power up any remaining creatures that were left behind, but you also have eight creature lands to bring back. These creature lands, especially with the aid of Sylvan Advocate, are able to take down most control players who thought they had recovered already or just to finish the job off against aggro or midrange.
Our sideboard is worth mentioning here as it allows us to do a bit of transforming — we can go big, either to have more threats against control or to go over the top of other aggro decks while we pick up sweepers. Our synergies remain and our deck still wants to set up little two or three card combos, but we can do so in a slower fashion with more ability to control the game.
Of course, of these synergies or combos in both lists, none are really immediate. Even at their fastest, when you cast Splendid Reclamation, you still need to untap before actually winning the game. In Modern, you expect to win when casting Splendid Reclamation as you should be triggering Valakut or Hedron Crab, but can we ever have that same expectation in Standard?
What do Merfolk Looter, Goblin Tunneler, and Boros Mastiff have in common? They're all diggers! I immediately apologize, but when you have a digging themed deck, sometimes you gotta go deep!.... (Sorry, again)
If we want a more explosive combo, we first need to find a finisher that allows for that. As cool as Westvale Abbey and Crawling Sensation are, they are generally going to need a untap step or two before winning. Similarly, while our aggro deck can have an explosive turn four that sees an Undergrowth Champion get huge, it probably is going to take a little more time to win with.
Looking through the options for best combo finisher you have Retreat to Hagra, which offers a life drain, Akoum Hellkite, which needs specifically mountains, or Tunneling Geopede, which is cheap and seems reasonable enough for us here. We also will want a little more card flow than our other decks as we need to assemble a few key pieces to win. Also, because Splendid Reclamation is likely to be more key in this list than the others, having some more consistent ways of finding it would be nice.
As you can see, we have a pretty heavy commitment in this deck toward looting, filtering, and digging to find our two primary combo pieces of Tunneling Geopede and Splendid Reclamation. If Tunneling Geopede happens to die or gets milled, we have Grapple with the Past to get it back online. Similarly, a flipped Jace can give our Splendid Reclamation flashback, allowing the deck to play out of hand or the graveyard.
A few creatures, Kiora, Master of the Depths, and creature-lands do find ways to get in extra damage over the course of a game, helping ease the burden on the number of landfall triggers you need. Going long, your creature-lands can take down a control opponent pretty easily as they come back so often and both are pretty difficult to interact with. Also keep in mind that Kiora, Master of the Depths has a nice interaction with Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and can sometimes flip it faster than an opponent Anticipates.
Once again we have a sideboard that isn't too fancy but tries to address some of the issues we are likely to have. Hyper aggro is going to be tough for us as we just want to be left alone for a bit, which is where Radiant Flames and Jaddi Offshoot come in handy. Negate helps us protect our combo against those decks trying to disrupt us. Simple enough!
As I mentioned in the intro, I find it an exciting time to be a brewer! Seriously, just go looking through this set and you will find inspirational card after inspirational card. Even some of the obviously powerful ones, such as Emrakul, the Promised End have a very open ended story to be told. They can be seen in the most obvious competitive shells, such as ramp or something, but Emrakul, the Promised End could easily make it into your reanimator deck or something too.
I am sure I will end up recording videos with one or more of the above decks once Eldritch Moon hits Magic Online. Until then though, enjoy the lists and enjoy the new set! There are all sorts of fun things waiting to come into existence! Thanks for reading!