Today I am going to discuss what I take to be the best home(s) for each of the five M15 pain lands and why I expect them to put certain strategies over the top. Then as an added bonus I will show you my top two Ajani Steadfast lists. That's 9 total deck lists, each with sideboard and tournament ready.
Let's start with perhaps the most obvious one: Battlefield Forge
The best Battlefield Forge deck is very likely Boros Burn.
This is essentially a port from the deck Timothy Mezoff finished in the Top 16 of SCG Worchester with. Boros Burn has already been on the fringe of Tier 1 for the past couple months, and most versions run some number of Mana Confluence and/or Boros Guildgate simply because they need access to enough white mana to cast Boros Charm, Chained to the Rocks, Warleader's Helix, and various sideboard cards. Battlefield Forge is exactly what this deck wanted – an untapped land that only deals you damage when you need colored mana.
While it is true that some of the white-based aggro decks, such as the ones Melissa DeTora discussed earlier in the week, gain more from Battlefield Forge than Boros Burn does, the overall better Battlefield Forge deck is likely the one that has already established itself a top deck in the format, especially given that the Forge shores up one of the deck's biggest weaknesses, namely its mana.
A deck like Boros Red Devotion also does not gain nearly as much from access to Battlefield Forge, given that its mana requirements are heavily colored in order to satisfy devotion for Fanatic of Mogis. Hence a card like Battlefield Forge would end up dealing its controller about as much damage as Mana Confluence in this style of deck. In short, devotion and pain lands are not a combo. Caves of Koilos
The best home for Caves of Koilos is very likely Black/White Control.
This is basically Ben Friedman's second place SCG Invitational list but without the three Plains and the one Orzhov Guildgate. One of the most awkward situations with Black/White Control is when you have [Mutavault, Plains, and Swamp] on the battlefield and you're holding [Hero's Downfall, Underworld Connections, and Lifebane Zombie]. You need enough white sources in the deck to cast Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Obzedat, Ghost Council, and all your other white cards, but you can't afford too many tapped lands beyond the four Temple of Silence. So you basically just had to settle for slightly subpar mana.
Enter Caves of Koilos. Now instead of getting bottlenecked by your Plains or looking at your Mutavaults like they're that second serving of cheesecake that was probably a little too greedy but just way too enticing to pass up, you're now able to cast all the spells in your hand guilt-free for the low price of just one point of damage. I suspect Mutavault will be the real winner with the reprinting of enemy pain lands since no one has to decide between shaving their Mutavaults (not an option if you run Pack Rat) and just having mediocre mana. Speaking of which, did I mention this deck also gains Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth? Yeah, Mutavault (and thereby Pack Rat) got even better with M15!
Next is another deck that benefits quite a bit from Caves of Koilos (and Urborg). It wants both black and white early (and untapped), and it wants double white by the third turn. And it wants Mutavault because it's a battalion / Xathrid Necromancer deck. This used to be asking a little too much, but not anymore! WE ALL GETZ CHEESECAKE!!!
While Battlefield Forge and Caves of Koilos have homes that are already furnished and borderline Tier 1, my pick for the land that will see more play than any of the others is Llanowar Wastes, due to its ability to push multiple fringe decks into powerhouse territory. Llanowar Wastes
There are two decks that benefit heavily from Llanowar Wastes. The first is Constellations:
This deck benefits significantly from Llanowar Wastes. It wants double black for Underworld Connections and Bile Blight; it wants double green for Courser of Kruphix, Eidolon of Blossoms, and Nylea's Disciple; and it wants one of each early on for Abrupt Decay, Pharika, and Golgari Charm. Yet it also doesn't want to spend its first turn playing a tapped land – it wants to cast Thoughtseize or Duress. Concessions had to be made before, but no longer! You even get to play Mutavault despite all these requirements because – well – why not?
The second deck to benefit heavily from Llanowar Wastes is BG Dredge.
This deck wants first turn Elvish Mystic so badly, yet it also needs to hit double black quickly. Llanowar Wastes acts as a perfect Overgrown Tomb proxy in these scenarios. And gaining the life back is not that difficult given the three copies of Whip of Erebos main. I would not be at all surprised to see more people dredging in the near future due to improved mana. It's unclear exactly what a post-M15 dredge deck would look like, but it may involve Chord of Calling. Regardless of how it looks, it will look much better because of Llanowar Wastes.
For those who fancy analogies in Old English: If Overgrown Tomb is ye rainbow unto thy Elvish Mystic, then Llanowar Wastes is ye double rainbow.
Well then, time for blue/green! Yavimaya Coast
I expect Green Devotion to rise sharply in popularity due to the reprinting of Chord of Calling, but not only Monogreen or Green/Black Devotion. I also expect Green/Blue Devotion to become a thing, mostly because Yavimaya Coast offers yet another dual land to help fix its mana. Consider the following list:
If Mutavault (or subsequently Pack Rat) are the biggest winners from the reprinting of enemy pain lands, then Elvish Mystic is about the closest runner-up possible. The mystic was already one of the Top 5 cards in the format and now it is legitimately vying for best card in Standard!
Second turn Courser of Kruphix is pretty nutty, and this deck has that. Second turn Dissolve? Woah, you're not supposed to have a hard counter that early in the game! Between Syncopate and Dissolve, this deck can start no sir'ing spells right out of the gates.
It's a true midrange deck that can tap out four consecutive turns in a row and bury an opponent with the power of its Planeswalkers and/or creatures. Or it can play a control game, countering spells before playing a Prophet of Kruphix. Most midrange green decks end up being an inferior Jund Monsters deck, but Yavimaya Coast may be enough to really turn the corner on this deck and put it in the same class as said default best midrange green deck in Standard. Being able to reliably counter the opponent's big threats will give it the edge in the green midrange "mirror" match.
I'm skeptical that it has the ability to handle Planeswalkers reliably, though it has access to Pithing Needle and Sylvan Primordial in the board. This is definitely a deck to keep on your radar moving forward though, and also another deck that may benefit from Chord of Calling.
Also for what it's worth, Mutant Lifegain Launch gets better with Yavimaya Coast. I'm not sure that will be enough, but if fun is your thing, Yavimaya Coast will allow you to have fun with greater consistency with that deck. Shivan Reef
I'm not yet sure what the best Shivan Reef deck will look like, but perhaps this is the coolest one:
This deck gains some speed from Battlefield Forge and Shivan Reef. It has some built-in protection spells (Gods Willing, Ajani's Presence, Boros Charm) and a sweet "combo" kill in Nivix Cyclops + Boros Charm. You'll be done with your matches in ten minutes and you'll be doing cool stuff. Of all the lists in this article, this one is probably the highest variance, but it's also the most likely to take a tournament by storm and smash everyone senseless without anyone knowing what hit them. If that's your style, I recommend topping it off by using pink sleeves. Nothing says "you just got wrecked by the rogue Izzet mage in the room" quite like pink sleeves.
Bonus Section: Ajani Steadfast
Ajani Steadfast, the card I've been testing more than any other card from M15, has managed to prove himself worthy in two different builds for me so far.
This one is very similar to the list Owen Turtenwald wrote about in his Spoiler Spotlight article a couple weeks ago. I also discussed a similar list in my last article. Since the writing of that article, I dropped the soldier theme and instead moved more toward Ajani. It's great to have a maindeck life gain card to combat the red decks while also acting as an anthem against all the other decks.
This is the other Ajani list that I've liked. It's not as strong against Esper/Azorius Control decks as some other versions of Green/White, but it's better against a lot of the other decks in the field. In this format I'm a big fan of playing aggressive creatures on the first two turns and then playing pump effects thereafter instead of more dudes. Creatures get outclassed quickly by bigger creatures and there is lots of removal running around, including Golgari Charm. Anthems also set up the Brave the Elements kill by sneaking in extra damage. In all likelihood I'll probably end up with a Civic Saber in this build, given the amount of multicolor creatures, but it hasn't managed to find its way in just yet.
The sideboard plan is fairly straightforward. Game one we blitz out the opponent and game two we can adjust and become a more controlling deck. Then if we deem it worthwhile we can become the blitz deck again in game three.
Against Stormbreath Dragon or Blood Baron of Vizkopa, you bring in Celestial Flares. Against Blue Devotion you bring in all the other removal spells. The deck is already very good against Black devotion, so we probably don't need anything there, though Fortify is a solid card either "countering" a Drown in Sorrow with +0/+2 or pushing through for the win a turn sooner with +2/+0. If we decide we want more cards for the Esper matchup, either Ajani's Presence or Rootborn Defenses should be added to the board. Civic Saber is also good against Esper…
…Yeah, who am I kidding, that second Spear of Heliod should definitely be a Civic Saber. :PConclusion
The M15 enemy pain lands are clearly very powerful and will have a significant impact on Standard. Today I attempted to answer the more difficult question of exactly which decks gain the most from them and why. Some decks that were on the fringe due to mana issues, having to run some number of Guildgates and/or Mana Confluence, improved the most. Other strategies that were already running the full amount of Mana Confluences and yet were still too slow or inconsistent, such as Nivix Blitz, are now possible because of pain lands. Lastly, Ajani Steadfast is probably my favorite card in the set so far, which I'm sure is no surprise to anyone reading this. He works great as a second anthem effect backing up early pressure.
Now that I've helped fix the mana in these decks and identified which decks are poised to make a rise into the tier one ranks, let me know in the comments below what other M15 cards you think could improve these nine lists. I'll start us off: Chord of Calling, in all the green decks. Now it's your turn.
Craig Wescoe@Nacatls4Life on twitter