BFZ: The landfall deck

Green is so unpopular in Battle for Zendikar nowadays that it is frequently underdrafted. This opens up opportunities for those who are less biased against the color and are willing to move into it under the right circumstances. I’ve written about G/W Allies previously; today, we’ll try to determine whether there’re enough cards to support a landfall deck in a typical 8-person draft, and identify the cards that should draw you into the archetype.

Let’s start by looking at 2 categories of cards that are important in this deck: cards with landfall, and enablers (cards that allow you to find/play additional lands). Within each category, cards are organized by rarity and converted mana cost. The highlight indicates the color of the card, with some exceptions: no highlight (white background) is used for lands, grey highlight is used for colorless/artifact cards, yellow highlight is used for white cards, and gold is used for multicolor cards. Unless specified otherwise, monocolored cards require one colored mana. In the Landfall table, the text in parenthesis after the card name describes the landfall trigger, and bold indicates creatures whose trigger makes them larger without additional mana. In the Enablers table, the text in parenthesis describes the effect that allows you to find/play additional lands, and bold is used for cards that let you trigger landfall more than once a turn.

R/G has access to 5 commons, 8 uncommons, 2 rares, and 3 mythics with landfall. Excluding Jaddi Offshoot and Omnath Locus of Rage, which are not good fits with the otherwise aggressive cards, a R/G deck has access to an average of 19 cards with landfall in an 8-person draft. While the other colors offer 1 splashable common and uncommon each, those cards are not good fits for an aggressive deck, with the exception of Retreat to Emeria.

All the commons in the first table except Belligerent Whiptail are creatures whose landfall trigger makes them larger without additional mana. There are also 2 uncommons (Scythe Leopard and Grove Rumbler) and a rare (Undergrowth Champion) that have such abilities. These cards are bolded because they usually form the core of most landfall decks, and are quite strong in aggressive decks.

Next, let’s look at the cards that help you find/play additional lands. They are all colorless or green, except Kiora Master of the Depths which is G/U but can easily be splashed. There are 3 commons, 1 uncommon, 1 rare, 1 mythic, and 10 expeditions (bolded) that let you trigger landfall more than once a turn, for an average of 8.7 such cards in an 8-person draft (some of these also help you find a land to play). And there are 2 commons, 3 uncommons, and 1 mythic that only help you find lands, for an average of 7.7 such cards in an 8-person draft.

It seems there are enough cards to enable 1-2 R/G landfall decks in an 8-person draft. However, that doesn’t mean the deck is necessarily good, and it certainly doesn’t seem popular or particularly strong. This is because the format contains a plethora of cheap 4-, 5-, and 6-toughness creatures: Fortified Rampart, Kozilek’s Sentinel, and Benthic Infiltrator at common, and Tide Drifter, Vile Aggregate, and Herald of Kozilek at uncommon. W/U skies, U/B exile/process, and U/R devoid all have access to more than one of these, so aggressive decks need to have a plan for getting past them.

Even if you trigger landfall once each turn, an X/4 blocker can safely block all the common landfall creatures except Valakut Predator, Belligerent Whiptail, and Territorial Baloth, while X/5 and X/6 blockers neutralize everything except the Baloth. Red and green don’t have removal that can kill high toughness creatures in the early game, so we have to consider other options. We can use pump spells like Sure Strike and Swell of Growth, global pump effects like Tajuru Warcaller and Retreat to Emeria, or we can find ways to trigger landfall more than once a turn (most landfall abilities are cumulative; only Belligerent Whiptail doesn’t benefit from additional landfall triggers).

I believe that in order to combat the powerful defense available in this format, landfall decks have to have a number of these cards. Swell of Growth, Evolving Wilds, Blighted Woodland, and Nissa’s Renewal need to be picked especially highly. If you have a few of the bolded creatures from the first table in play, the additional landfall triggers act like a mini Overrun. Similarly, you should snap up any Tajuru Warcallers you see, even though there aren’t any Allies with landfall (the closest is Retreat to Emeria). And don’t always crack your Evolving Wilds and fetchlands (if you were so lucky) immediately; the threat of activation can sometimes be more powerful than getting in for a few extra points of damage right away.


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