Secret Synergies: Mythic Modal Lands in Commander
“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection--thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.
In this edition of Secret Synergies I’ll be covering the new mythic modal lands from Zendikar Rising. These have certainly been touted as auto-includes for nearly every Commander deck that can run them. Their flexibility is fantastic: they are lands when you need them, and spells when you don’t. Top decking them in the late game feels so much better than any other land you could have drawn (well, perhaps with the exception of Gaea's Cradle or Serra's Sanctum). I always find myself getting excited for new mechanics, but not because they are new and work well with other new cards. I am excited about new cards because they make me reevaluate older cards. As a Commander player, I am always mashing up old and new, creating synergies, value, and power that standard doesn’t have access to. Finding that sweet spot where the not-so-obvious older cards are better than ever is what I’m after. So, what cards are rising in play value thanks to Zendikar Rising’s new mythic modal lands? I have the answers for you right here!
All the modal lands benefit from ways to bounce them to our hands, and that is going to be one of the top ways to ensure you get the most from them. Agadeem's Awakening works well when you mix up your mana curve and sacrifice creatures for profit. That’s the obvious synergy. But what old cards got better? The new modal lands shine when you can not only play them early for mana, but bounce them to your hand in the late game for even more advantage. Let’s start with Slab Hammer. It is a universal equipment, and can be slotted into any deck. Having the option to return Agadeem, the Undercrypt to your hand and then cast Agadeem's Awakening is a game winning play. Speaking of bouncing, if you are running a deck with one or more colors, then you should be running the Ravnica bounce lands that fit in your deck. The bounce lands are amazing, and they give you access to your modal lands in the late game.
Shatterskull Smashing is a flexible card indeed. Early on it can be the much needed land to help you develop your board, but it can also be used as a removal spell in the mid-game. Similar to the rest of the cycle, drawing it late game is so much more rewarding than drawing a straight land. Shatterskull Smashing is a late game two-for-one removal spell, and what red mage doesn’t want more of those? I love the idea of pairing it with Stuffy Doll, but how do I get more from this? Mina and Denn, Wildborn is a legit synergy to sweep Shatterskull, the Hammer Pass back to your hand after playing it early on. Additionally, Devour in Flames is a much better card when you’re scooping up a Shatterskull, the Hammer Pass, while burning away some pesky creature.
Turntimber Symbiosis is a fine card. There are other amazing cards that act very similarly— See the Unwritten and Selvala's Stampede for example. Being able to slot in an additional Summoning Trap style card into a deck where you might normally put a land is strictly better than including just another Forest. Hitting big creatures off these spells is almost as good as smashing your friend’s life total with the creature you got off it. On top of that, Turntimber Symbiosis helps alleviate the embarrassment of only finding a small creature by beefing it up with some +1/+1 counters too. Obvious synergies include Nissa's Zendikon and Kazandu Stomper, but we want secret synergies, right? Vastwood Zendikon seems like a fun way to throw an animated Turntimber, Serpentine Wood at our opponents until they are forced to kill it. Then we get to return it to our hand to cast Turntimber Symbiosis for even more value. Now, what other synergies are lurking in the woods of Yavimaya? Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar is a great card, and works so well Turntimber Symbiosis. Using Turntimber, Serpentine Wood for mana early on and then utilizing Multani's ability to return it, is exactly what I want to be able to do. Hitting Multani off the Turntimber Symbiosis is also nice. Why stop the unmitigated growth there? Consider tossing in Storm Cauldron. Storm Cauldron will surely drive people nuts, and allow you to maximize your mana ramp while punishing others. Storm Cauldron might be offering us the best of / worst of both worlds, and who doesn’t mind shaking things up with such an incredibly spicy card!?
Emeria's Call is probably better than even its biggest fans think. Any white tokens, go-wide strategy is going to love this effect. Playing Emeria's Call early to develop your mana, and then bouncing it back to your hand for a strong alpha-strike with blockers to spare will surely snag you several kills and lead to a few epic victories. What sneaky plans can we cook up here? You can use Emancipation Angel to bounce Emeria's Call to your hand. It will be a little sad that the angel won’t get indestructible, but it will have served its purpose well. Kor Skyfisher is another solid option for bouncing lands to your hand and gaining you Zendikar flavor points at the same time. A truly crushing synergy is using Nevinyrral for inspiration. Although you lose the Angels, combining Nevinyrral's Disk or Magus of the Disk with this effect is a crushing blow to most board states. One of the nastiest things about using the Magus to do this is that you get to keep him! Magus of the Disk taps to destroy things, but if he’s indestructible, then he stays around for next turn too! You get to keep the shenanigans going! Emeria's Call is a card your opponents will be praying they can answer.
Sea Gate Restoration is a fantastic card. Blue has plenty of draw effects, but this card is just ridiculously good in Commander. Essentially doubling your hand size is awesome, but also tacking on the “no maximum hand size” clause is what makes this mythical. So, why include this in a blue deck? Well, several blue cards that are either on the cusp of being playable or are already solid just got a lot better when this thing is in your deck. Blue decks tend to keep cards in hand and draw plenty of extra cards, but I’m super excited to use this alongside Kamigawa all-star Meloku the Couded Mirror! Bouncing this later on to cast it, while padding your hand size, is incredible. The sheer flow of knowledge is nigh insurmountable. All of the moonfolk that bounce lands for effects get better with modal lands in your 99, Oboro Envoy for example. Kefnet the Mindful is ridiculous alongside Sea Gate Restoration. While you’re packing in value, you ought to consider Tragic Lesson and Deprive. Countering something and then setting up Sea Gate Restoration is phenomenally fun.
Overall, I agree that these new lands are amazing. I love being able to play them early on, but still have ways to get them back into my hand as late game bombs. These types of beautiful synergies are what get me excited to retool, rebuild, and redesign older decks with newer cards. I’m always looking to get the best lands in my decks, and these are certainly some of the best lands for offering you choices. Will I buy multiple playsets of these lands to outfit all of my Commander decks? No. I prefer to keep variety and spice rather than lean toward uniformity and conformity. Should every Commander player own at least one cycle of these? If budget allows, then yes! This is the type of card cycle that is worth owning one of each, even when you “never play” that one color. As a rule, I do not love having my lands come into play tapped, but these do have the option of bolting you for instant mana. As I’ve said, these cards are good, and they get even better when you can bounce them back to your hand with minimal effort. These mythic modal lands offer so much, and shine best in decks that can utilize their spell effects at any time. Having access to one more spell while avoiding mana screw and safeguarding against flood is incredibly powerful. I honestly believe, barring a Commander series reprint, that they will consistently be going up in price (especially if some standard deck rolls out that utilizes them). If you don’t agree with me, then play with them for a few games, and then let me know. It’s OK to change your mind, because these lands are altering the way we plan and build our decks. Change, my friends, can be a good thing. Until next time, take care, shuffle well, and may you never need to mulligan in cards or life!
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