Released over a year ago now, Zendikar Rising saw the third return to the popular plane without the Eldrazi. Instead, the plane harks back to the original Zendikar, which deeply cares about adventure, exploration and treasure.
There’s another year of Zendikar Rising in Standard, but there’s a lot to like about the “Land Matters” plane for other formats such as Commander, Standard and Modern. There are splashy Landfall cards, great mana fixing, and powerful artifacts to offer something for every kind of MTG player. As such, there is some value to be found in the set and will see an eventual rise once Standard rotation hits next year.
A card that causes countless crashes on MTG Arena, Scute Swarm is brimming with combo potential. If you control more than six lands and have a Scute Swarm in play, you make a copy of the Insect where it’ll trigger again whenever a land enters play.
In Commander, the card pairs well with Kodama of the East Tree and a bounce land such as Selesnya Sanctuary, where you can make infinite Scute Swarms. The card sees some play in Standard, but it isn’t breaking the format in half, but offers a fun yet interesting way to play Standard. Over time, the card will increase in value due to its combo potential in Commander, and ‘Land Matters’ archetypes are commonplace in the format at present.
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Clearwater Pathway / Murkwater Pathway
Zendikar Rising introduced a new cycle of lands that are not only affordable but give you the option of fixing depending on the cards in your hand. The Pathway lands are some of the most effective (and accessible) dual lands around. They come in untapped, give you a second color, and are readily affordable due to being printed in a Standard set.
Out of the cycle, Clearwater Pathway is currently the most valuable since Rogues are viable in Standard, Pioneer, and Commander. Also, eager players are looking to upgrade their Undead Unleashed preconstructed Commander deck, where Clearwater Pathway slots right in. Grabbing these Pathway lands over time is a sensible approach since these will see heavy play in Standard and Pioneer, also they make for great budget placeholders for shock lands in older formats.
One of the best White cards to come from Zendikar Rising is Skyclave Apparition. The Kor Spirit is a staple in White-based aggressive lists in Standard, that sees heavy play in Pioneer and Modern too. What makes the card so powerful is the ability to exile any non-land permanent with a mana value of 4 or less, if the Apparition leaves play, your opponent creates an Illusion token instead.
While the Illusion Token can be a rough trade-off in some spots, removing a tricky non-land permanent can be enough to progress your game plan. It’s a great option to have in the main or sideboard to deal with a problematic creature, enchantment, or even Planeswalkers if their mana value is low enough. It’s going to be a staple in older formats as it’s the best creature with this type of effect since Fiend Hunter. With Spirits coming to Innistrad: Crimson Vow, the card could play an important role in Standard if there are Spirt lords to support it.
Scourge of the Skyclaves
In the world of Modern, Scourge of the Skyclaves is a strong two-drop creature for the format. Typically you see the Demon alongside Death’s Shadow as extra copies of the Avatar which creates another win condition for the strategy.
Sometimes you see the card feature in Standard in Pioneer, but it’s in Modern where it truly shines. The reason is that Modern cares about life loss with fetch and shock lands in the format, making Scourge an impressive threat. Sometimes you see the card in Commander paired alongside a Nethroi, Apex of Death. If Scourge is in the graveyard, you can get up to 30 power back of creatures with Nethroi’s enter the battlefield ability – which can be powerful if you have big threats to return. Scourge is an expensive card at present, and you don’t typically run any less than a playset in constructed formats so expect the demand to remain strong.
Ashaya, Soul of the Wild
Once a token created by Nissa, Vastwood Seer, Ashaya, Soul of the Wild is another ‘Land Matters’ card that grows with the number of lands in play. Also, it turns your nontoken creatures into Forests in addition to its other types, meaning Ashaya grows even bigger with the amount of creatures in play. In a lot of cases, the card will come in as a 4/4 or 5/5 at least which is a decent rate.
For Standard, this is a powerful win condition in the late game if you are flooding out on lands, or need to push through some extra damage. It’s not terrible as a Commander either, since you can protect it with Whispersilk Cloak and win with Commander damage. If you don’t fancy the Elemental leading your Commander deck, it’s perfectly good in the 99 with other Land cards to synergise with.
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Another card that generated hype during the Zendikar Rising preview season is Lithoform Engine. Feeling somewhat similar to Stronic Resonator, the Legendary Artifact offers the option to copy effects, spells, or permanents depending on what you want to do.
As it’s colorless, you can slot the card into any existing Commander deck and reap the benefits of what your Commander deck wants to achieve. It saw brief play in Standard alongside Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset as you can go infinite with the pair and a creature with an untap ability. Either way, the artifact has plenty of potentials since copying effects is a powerful thing to be doing in MTG. Expect to see this one in Commander quite a bit.
Omnath, Locus of Creation
Currently banned in Standard, Omnath, Locus of Creation is a powerful option to lead a Commander deck. Not only does the Elemental come with card draw, you also get to gain life, ramp, or deal damage to each opponent depending on how many Landfall triggers you make. Since there are various ways to ramp in Standard, the card warped Standard and saw a ban in October 2020.
However, it’s not only Commander where the card is seeing play. You see the Legendary Elemental in Modern and Pioneer to decent success. In particular Modern where you have access to fetch lands and with these fetches, you are able to get the most value out of Omnath, Locus of Creation. Often you see Omnath in Yorion, the Sky Nomad Control/Midrange strategies since you are running more lands to meet the companion criteria. Either way, Omnath is a strong option in whatever format you play, and will only become better the more ‘Land Matters’ support comes in future sets. Maybe one day, we’ll see a five-color Omnath that could plague Standard once more.
Sea Gate Restoration / Sea Gate, Reborn
With Zendikar Rising‘s release, a new cycle of Mythic lands is making waves in Standard, Modern, and Pioneer. What makes these lands so intriguing is they are double-sided with a spell on the backside, providing you with the option to either play it as land or cast it as a spell. These also have the option to come in untapped if you trade three life to do so, but Sea Gate Restoration is one of the more eternally played out of the cycle.Sea Gate Restoration offers card draw and offers no maximum hand size for the rest of the game. While this effect is less desirable in constructed formats, it’s important for Commander. Having the ability to draw a bunch of cards and not to worry about discarding is huge, especially as you’re in Blue. Typically you’ll want this spell in The Locust God, or Nekusar, the Mindrazer as you get the most value out of drawing cards. If you are struggling for lands in a pinch, you can always play Sea Gate, Reborn instead. The Sorcery sees play in Modern in dedicated Goblin Charbelcher as it’s a spell, but can play it as a land from your hand in the early turns. These effects are often in demand and as it’s a Mythic, expect the price to creep up over time.
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As Zendikar Rising uses the Landfall mechanic, it makes sense to have powerful top-end creatures incorporating the mechanic which is where Ancient Greenwarden comes in. It sees fringe play in Standard as a means to grab lands from your graveyard, but it’s in Commander where the Elemental truly shines.
Similarly, the creature acts as a Panharmonicon but for lands. As such, this makes Ancient Greenwarden a staple in any ‘Land Matters’ Commander strategy as it offers an incredible value with Field of the Dead. Not only does it allow double triggers, it has a decent stat line so it’s able to get into combat or block any troublesome flyers that come your way. Given there is an emphasis on Lands in MTG, cards such as this are always desirable in singleton and Cube formats.
Read More: The Best Lands Commanders In MTG
Agadeem’s Awakening / Agadeem, the Undercrypt
As part of the cycle with Sea Gate Restoration, Agadeem’s Awakening is one of the most valuable cards in Zendikar Rising. As a Sorcery, you can return any number of creature cards from your graveyard depending on the mana value and costs paid. If you don’t fancy that, you can use it as a Black mana source and trading away three life for it to come into play untapped.
What makes this card so good is the ability to bring back cheap creatures, most notably Death’s Shadow in Modern which also acts as a way to reduce life totals. Outside of this, it’s generically a good card for Mono-Black Aggro in Pioneer, and Rogues in Standard. It’s also good in Black-based Commander decks which care about recurring creatures in the late game. You don’t want to replace the Sorcery with another spell, but can take up a land slot since you have the option for it to come in untapped. Either way, these spells are very powerful and will see extensive play in constructed and singleton formats in years to come.