A New Frontier: Power Rankings – Lands

‘A New Frontier’ is a new series of articles based around the recently created MTG format that uses only cards with the new border from the M15 set and onward. In these articles I plan on follow the results from tournaments, talk about viable decks in the format, as well as powerful cards. I hope to do at least an article each month with updates on the format, results, as well as the current status of its popularity. Please keep in mind that these are merely exploratory articles and that the Frontier format is still trying to find its footing. It could end up doing very well and develop a following like EDH has, or become just another footnote like Tiny Leaders.

Quick Update

Hello again and welcome back. It’s only been a few days since my last post about Frontier, and while there hasn’t been any new information posted about Frontier in Japan, there have been a few more tournaments over at Hareruya. A total of 31 players took part in 2 tournaments on 12/28 there. The 3-0 decks were Jeskai Aggro, Grixis Ensoul Artifacts, and 4 Color control. I had added an update to the last article I write about the 16 person event that took place on Christmas Day in Nagoya, and since then the list has also been added to Hareruya’s database. I lost to it 1-2 in the finals with my BW Tokens deck due not having enough removal for his planeswalkers and falling behind his card advantage. When I was able to curve out and get around his Radiant Flames with Secure the Wastes I gained the advantage, but having 3 huge threats and being attacked on all fronts (hand disruption and being 2 for 1’d with Kolaghan’s Command taking out my Smuggler’s Copter), I simply wasn’t prepared. It was a great deck and I’ll have to switch my deck around to be able to beat it next time.

Before I go into my final regular article about Lands, I’d like to share my newest brew with you: See the Frontier.

See The Frontier
75 cards, 15 sideboard
4 Cinder Glade
7 Forest
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Game Trail
4 Mountain
2 Hanweir Battlements


25 lands

4 Elvish Mystic
4 Thunderbreak Regent
3 Combustible Gearhulk
3 Shaman of Forgotten Ways
2 Surrak, the Hunt Caller
2 Verdurous Gearhulk
2 Hornet Queen
2 Dragonlord Atarka


22 creatures

4 Lightning Strike
4 See the Unwritten
3 Nissa, Worldwaker
2 Roast


13 other spells

Sideboard
2 Appetite for the Unnatural
2 Arborback Stomper
2 Emrakul, the Promised End
2 Tormod’s Crypt
2 Roast
2 Chandra, Flamecaller
3 Hornet Nest


15 sideboard cards

see-the-unwritten

After my last article about Instants and Sorceries, I got to thinking about some of the old, powerful decks. One of those was the GR See the Unwritten deck that used to combo out quickly with a Surrak, the Hunt Caller and a Dragonlord Atarka for tons of damage. When Theros rotated and the deck lost Xenagos the deck was forgotten, but I decided to take another look at it. The first (and most exciting) thing I had to do was choose which creatures would make the biggest impact if I were to hit them with See the Unwritten. Dragonlord Atarka was already a shoe-in, and of course Surrak must be in there too. After that it got a little bit tougher.

I originally thought that Emrakul would be hilarious to hit off of the sorcery and to give haste to with Surrak, but when I considered the removal and speed of some of the fast decks, I ended up siding with Hornet Queen instead. She’s makes it very tough for your opponent’s decks to push damage through and the longer you can make the game go on the more ridiculous your board state will become. Thunderbreak Regent seemed like a good midrange card to have in the deck since it punishes opponents for killing it, but I don’t think it’s wholly necessary. The flying is important, and it stops both Mantis Rider and Smuggler’s Copter, so it has that going for it. Verdurous Gearhulk is a pretty sweet card to get if your opponent is tapped out and you can make it an 8/8 trampling creature with haste, but it also does a good job of creating multiple 4 power creatures so you are sure to hit the Ferocious bonus on See the Unwritten. However, my favorite card in this deck is Combustible Gearhulk.

combustible-gearhulk

First off, cheating a 6/6 first striker into play around turn 4 is kind of a big deal. Now let’s imagine you put 2 into play at the same time. Your opponent either lets you draw 6 cards (which could give you some serious gas), or you put 6 cards into your graveyard and it deals damage to them equal to their casting cost. There a total of 16 spells with a casting cost of 5 mana or more, meaning it’s not unrealistic to sometimes deal lethal with your opponent at full life. If you add in the 4 mana spells, that raises your damage dealing chances even further.

Of course in order to play these threats as early as possible, you need a consistent ramp package. We start off with a playset of Elvish Mystic which can enable turn 2 Shaman of Forgotten Ways, which then in turn can give you 6 mana on turn 4 to cast just about any creature in the deck aside from Atarka and Hornet Queen. Another way to create insane amounts of mana is to play 3 Elvish Mystics on turns 1 and 2, then playing a turn 3 Nissa and untapping 3 Forests for a  Shaman. This line of play could give you a possible 13 mana to cast creatures on turn 4, which means you could play a Dragonlord Atarka and use the leftover mana to cast a See the Unwritten to search for even more crushing monsters. Another reason why I like Nissa, Worldwaker is her ability to create a 4/4 creature to help enable Ferocious on See the Unwritten. As for the land, the only thing special about the choices are the 2 Hanweir Battlements. If you somehow manage to get an Atarka in play but can’t find a Surrak, this allows you to still punish your opponent that turn she comes into play.

Sideboard

The sideboard might need some work, but for now I think it covers a lot of the metagame. You have Tormod’s Crypt for Rally decks, Hornet Nest and Chandra, Flamecaller for aggro, Arborback Stomper for beatdown/burn match ups, Appetite the Unnatural for Ensoul Artifact builds, Roast for midrange/beatdown decks playing Tasigur and Siege Rhino, and Emrakul, the Promised End for Delirium or slow midrange deck match ups. Aside from cheating in Emrakul on turn 4, it’s not impossible to be able to hard cast it on turn 4 in some situations.

Through early playtesting, I’ve had an absolute blast playing this deck. The power level is absolutely amazing, and I think that the deck has enough main deck answers to be able to deal with the threats of aggro and beatdown (Atarka, Hornet Queen, Lightning Strike). However, there will be times when you miss with See the Unwritten or you get stuck with cards that are to difficult to cast. After about 20 games with the deck, I would say that overall it’s consistent. I haven’t had too much of a problem with the deck so far, and have been able to dominate about 75% of the games I’ve played when I cast See the Unwritten once. If you like decks such as a Aetherworks Marvel or Collected Company, this mixes the best of both worlds together. The first time you cast a Dragonlord Atarka and a Combustible Gearhulk off a See the Uwritten with a Surrak, the Huntcaller in play you’ll be hooked. I guarantee it.

Power Rankings

Today was going to be my last Power Rankings article, but as it ran longer than expected, I won’t be able to cover my list of commons and uncommons today. I’ll be covering only Lands, and then in early 2017 I’ll be going over all of the commons and uncommons I have missed from the previous card types (creatures, instants, and sorceries). Hopefully now all those people asking “where’s Lightning Strike?” will realize that it wouldn’t have been realistic to add in all of the rarities for the other articles after they see the amount of cards we’re dealing with.

The highest level, 5 stars, are strong cards that you’ll see all around the Frontier format in various decks. These are probably 4 ofs, and will probably be the first cards to see a spike this format takes off.

At 4 stars, we see cards that are still powerful but are usually confined to 1 or 2 decks. This could be a combo piece that only fits in one deck (but is incredibly powerful), or a card that can only reach it’s full potential with a deck built around it to support it. Once it gets going though it’s almost impossible to get rid of.

For 3 stars, we have cards that are showing up more in the sideboards than the mainboards, but depending on the metagame they could show up and be potentially good against a large variety of decks. These are cards that could be silver bullets against certain strategies, but also be weak to other cards unintentionally.

Once we get to down to 2 stars, we start to see fringe playable cards that are good in the lower tiered decks, but probably not a first choice or even the best choice for that deck. You’ll rarely see these 2 star cards played.

1 star is a card that will probably NEVER show up in the format. For the sake of time, I will be focusing mainly on 3-5 star cards and only briefly touching on 1 and 2 star cards when they become relevant.

Lands

5 Stars Lands – The Wild Frontiers

  • Fetch Lands
  • Pain Lands
  • Shadow Lands (SOI)
  • Kaladesh Fast Lands
  • Battle Lands (BFZ)
  • Aether Hub

I think it goes without saying that Fetch lands from the Khans block will be in about 75% of the decks initially. All colors will see play, and they’ll be in control, midrange, aggro, and even combo decks. You can definitely make decks without them (my BW tokens and GR Eldrazi deck didn’t use any), but for the most part it’s good to grab your playsets of each now while they are $12-15 each. A lot of people are hanging on to their fetches from Khans standard and already have playsets, but everybody that got into the format from Magic Origins and after will probably be lacking them. These people will probably be buying theirs if they plan on playing Frontier, so I think we’ll see Fetches closer to $15-20 by next year. Some people are calling for an outright ban of fetches in the format already, but I think it’s unnecessary. The metagame will eventually punish those that get too greedy.

Battle Lands from BFZ are great targets for fetch lands and I’m sure they’ll see a lot of play in this format. This should help to support their prices as they get closer to rotate, but I don’t think you’ll be paying too much for them any time soon. Battle lands should be in the $3-5 range for a while. Shadow Lands from the SOI block will see a little bit less play in the format since they don’t work well in 3-4 color decks, but I think they’ll be rather popular in 2 color decks like GR beatdown or UR spells. I expect their prices to stay just below Battle Lands.

Kaladesh Fast lands, on the other hand, will probably see more play than you’d think. Beside being in strictly 2 color decks, aggro decks will definitely use them. At the moment that’s just the red/white one, but I think BW and UR will see a bit of play as well in Jeskai or black/white midrange decks. I expect Pain Lands from Origins and M15 to see a decent amount of play as well. Mostly in 2 color decks, but some 3-4 color decks might use less than a playset to smooth out their colors.

aether-hub

Out of all of these cards, there is just one uncommon that will make the 5 star ranking: Aether Hub. It’s already shown itself to be invaluable in Kaladesh standard, doing a lot of work in Aetherworks Marvel and GR Energy decks, and while both of those strategies are viable in Frontier, I think that we’ll see the Hub gain even more acceptance as a mana fixer after Aether Revolt is released. I expect it to hold onto it’s current value of $2.50, but go up slowly after it rotates in 2018. It’s going to be a very useful card in this format.

4 Star Lands – Power Spots

  • Sanctum of Ugin
  • Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
  • Shambling Vent
  • Wandering Fumarole
  • Westvale Abbey
  • Khans Wedge Lands
  • Darksteel Citadel

As you can see from above, I left out most of the man-lands from the 4 star list because I don’t think they’ll be played that much outside of control decks (which are usually either in Jeskai, Grixis, or Esper colors). Shambling Vent ($3.25) and Wandering Fumarole ($5.50) have a good chance of showing up in Frontier once control is established. I expect their prices to go up first if control can find itself a place in the format.

Sanctum of Ugin ($1.50) has recently shown up in the Metalwork Colossus decks in standard, but before that it was in GR Eldrazi ramp decks. Everybody might be using Aetherworks Marvel decks now, but there’s no denying that GR ramp is still very powerful. Therefore I think that you can still count on Sanctum showing up as a 4 of in those decks, along with Shrine of the Forsaken Gods. They both have potential in the future if new artifacts are printed that can put them to good use. I’d keep an eye on them.

Westvale Abbey

I think Westvale Abbey ($3) will have spot in this format as well. Token based decks will absolutely love it (GW, BW, possibly RW), but I think it could also show up in some Aristocrat type decks that want to supplement their sacrifice outlets. Cryptolith Rite decks were popular in SOI standard, so Abbey might not be such a bad choice for some players. It won’t be a 4 of, but I could see 2-3 of these showing in a variety of decks.

Between fetch lands and battle lands, I don’t think the uncommon Wedge lands from Kahns will see widespread play, but there will be a few decks that will want to use them. They’ll be 4 ofs in some control or midrange decks I bet. As for Darksteel Citadel, it’s a great card to target Ensoul Artifact with in those type of decks, but also not a horrible target for Nissa, Worldwaker to make a 4/4 trample elemental out of with her ability. There are a few spots where it would work.

3 Star Lands – Homesteads

  • Haven of the Spirit Dragon
  • Lumbering Falls
  • Hissing Quagmire
  • Needle Spires
  • Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

As I stated earlier, the man-lands from BFZ aren’t all created equal. The BG, RW, and UG ones will see a limited amount of play, but probably not as a 4 of. RW could show up in RW human aggro, Quagmire will probably be in GB Delirium decks, and Lumbering Falls could show up in some bant company/midrange decks. Decent choices for the current standard, but I’m not sure how they’ll do in Frontier. 

I’m sure lots of people are happy to see Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth ($9) again. It saw a decent amount of play when it was in standard to help smooth out a number of decks like Abzan and Esper control, but I don’t think it will be as widespread as before. Some decks will use it to help cast double black cards like Kalitas consistently, but I don’t think it’s value will change much.

haven-of-the-spirit-dragon

Strangely enough, out of this entire list I think Haven of the Spirit Dragon will see the most play. Haven was in GR Eldrazi Ramp, Esper Dragons, and in a variety of other Dragon based decks. Esper Dragons will probably end up being one of the best control decks in the format, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see 5 Color dragons make a comeback thanks to support cards like Crux of Fate. It’s a good pick up at $1 if you are thinking of building decks around Ojutai, Atarka, and Silumgar.

The Best of the Rest

  • Blighted Fen
  • Hanweir Battlements
  • Evolving Wilds
  • Geier Reach Sanitarium
  • Inventors’ Fair

These cards most likely won’t show up in the format, but if they do it will be as a 1 of or 2 of. Blighted Fen isn’t a horrible choice for control or midrange decks that can hit the mana to use it and want extra removal. Evolving Wilds will be the “poor man’s” fetch land for those who are missing their playset of fetch lands, but I can’t really see many instances where you’d want Wilds instead of a fetch land.

I think Hanweir Battlements could be a really good card in the future. Besides turning into a 7/4 attacker when you have Hanweir Garrison in play, I think it does a good job of emulating Slayers’ Stronghold from Avacyn Restored. Giving a big creature like Atarka haste is a powerful effect and the card has a lot of potential as the format goes forward. Geier Reach Sanitarium is another card I’m interested in. It seems like a good card to have in a format that wants to put cards in the graveyard to fuel either Delirium or Delve. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it show up as a 1-2 in some decks. With Inventors’ Fair it’s a little bit more of a longshot, but if a good artifact based deck with the new Tezzeret ever comes about, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see the card in there.

On The Stack

I’ve recently been listening to www.mtgfrontier.com‘s podcast and it has been a great source of information and insight on the format. I thought that I had thought about a lot of different types of decks so far, but I was blown away to hear about so many other possibilities from them. It really goes to show you just how open ended Frontier is right now. The further we get away from its inception, the more we see the the naysayers being proved wrong. 4-5 color decks have not taken over the format, Rally the Ancestors is beatable, and Fetch Lands are not a problem (well, they do make the format more expensive to play, but as more decks that don’t use them are built that won’t be an issue).

I have decided to go up to Tokyo on January 9th for the God of Frontier tournament at Hareruya to see just how much the format has grown from before. The first major event on October 30th capped at 300 players, and I think since then Frontier has grown even more. Initially I thought the tournament would get a minimum of 100 players, but now I’m thinking that it will most likely be closer to 200. Hareruya has the cap set at 330 players, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it reached.

In my opinion, It looks like we are eventually moving towards Frontier being recognized as a real format by WoTC. It won’t be in the near future, but maybe sometime next year. Frontier hasn’t reached critical mass yet, but the big Hareruya tournament and continued support at local game stores around the world in North America and Asia are all good signs. I think Frontier is here to stay. People are enjoying playing it, enjoying building decks, and enjoying seeing a use for their old cards that didn’t have a spot in either Modern or Legacy. If there are a few more high level tournaments with good turnouts, I wouldn’t be surprised to see WoTC make an announcement about the format over the summer during the slow down before the fall set and rotation.

Even if the format ends up being another casual format like Pauper and not constructed down the road there will be a decent amount of fans. I could see myself building some decks like I have done with Pauper and EDH and playing with my local group of players from time to time. I would love to see the format at future Grand Prix as a side event as well. I would definitely take part in those.

I’d also like to apologize for not being able to do uncommons and commons in this article. I added them to my enchantment, artifact, and land portions, but I have left out creatures, instants, and sorceries. Look for a supplemental article covering those in early 2017! Thanks for reading.

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