The Many Insane Things Enabled By Incubation Druid

Part Gilded Lotus, part Sylvan Caryatid, part busted! Pro Tour Champion Ari Lax has a multitude of new Standard decks that use and abuse this innocuous mana creature to the fullest! Could this card be the real star of Ravnica Allegiance?

What the heck is this?

Who let this one out of the Wizards of the Coast office?

In case you missed it, people were regularly playing Druid of the Cowl in Guilds of Ravnica Standard. Not saying they were right, but they
did. Fortunately for everyone involved, that card is now left in the dust
by Incubation Druid.

Incubation Druid fixes for all your double cost spells like Rekindling
Phoenix or Vraska’s Contempt.

Incubation Druid upgrades to a relevant 3/5 body once you hit the midgame
and reimburses you on the five-mana activation by adding an extra two mana
on the first tap.

Incubation Druid’s extra mana not only enables random eight-drops like
Zetalpa, Primal Dawn, but simpler mana sinks. Return multiple creatures
with Find and cast them in the same turn, activate a Shalai, Voice of
Plenty, or cast a giant Hydroid Krasis instead of just a 4/4. It’s your
mana; do what you want.

And that’s the baseline. When you add a +1/+1 to Incubation Druid in a
cheaper way, things get wild. Not only do you get an immediate rebate via
the additional mana, you get to do absurd things way too early. On a first
pass through the format, here are the cards I found to do that.

One option is mentor. I’m not in love with trying to attack with an 0/2
creature or trying to build a deck that wants Llanowar Elves and
mentor-able attackers. Attacking for mentor also taps the Incubation Druid,
removing the immediate rebate upside. I can see a world where Aurelia,
Exemplar of Justice or Tajic, Legion’s Edge ends up being the right card
for a Naya mana curve, but this isn’t a good plan.

The next batch is one shot ways to add counters. I’m not excited by these
either, as I can’t imagine wanting to draw them when I don’t have
Incubation Druid. The exception is Assure, where the Assemble side is close
to a reasonable card and a fine way to spend Incubation Druid mana.

Stony Strength is cute though, and we have multiple creatures capable of
producing a bunch of mana per activation with Marwyn, the Nurturer.
Unfortunately from
Gerry’s Prime Speaker Vannifar deep dive
we know Standard is a bit short on untap effects other than Cacophodon and
Gift of Growth, so some wild Twiddle combo is a bit of a stretch. Just keep
that one in the back of your mind for the future.

Now we move up to good one-shot effects that incidentally add a +1/+1
counter. I think all of these are perfectly reasonable depending on your
deck, though Savage Stomp might be the most ambitious. Better hope there’s
a good small target from Incubation Druid to step on!

There’s a large set of enchantments that add counters. I can see any of
these working out well, though Song of Freyalise is really just a different
plan altogether. I’ll play Song of Freyalise with Incubation Druid as they
push towards the same goals, but I’m not counting on the +1/+1 counter to
get any work done.

New Horizons is definitely the worst card, but it and Incubation Druid tell
the same ramp story very well. New Horizons also opens up Incubation Druid
to all five colors by granting the land another mana ability!

Finally, Selesnya has a bunch of good threats that incidentally add a
counter to your Incubation Druid. Shalai, Voice of Plenty is really
promising as a way to protect your Incubation Druid investment and a mana
sink, but Venerated Loxodon has to be the most powerful card of this batch.
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants is weird in that it wants you to be a lean and
efficient beatdown deck that normally doesn’t support mana dorks well, but
at the same time, all your cards might just be good enough to ignore this.

Looking over these, it seems like we have a few obvious shells for
Incubation Druid.

Rhythm of the Wild

Rhythm of the Wilds is busted. Brad Nelson
is definitely wrong
. Ben Friedman
is very correct

I found all the best cards, then I put them in my deck. It just happens
that Growth-Chamber Guardian is a great mana sink for Incubation Druid, and
Skarrgan Hellkite is also fine. Merfolk Branchwalker over Jadelight Ranger
is just a curve consideration. Rhythm of the Wild is your best three-drop
and you would much rather have multiple two-drops to cast after an
Incubation Druid.

I started on Regisaur Alpha over Skarrgan Hellkite in the five-drop slot.
Regisaur Alpha is more default power, and my initial impression was that in
multiples attacking for three then fourteen without a Rhythm of the Wild
was better. Then I remembered that haste flier into haste flier also kills
in the same three-turn window. I want to try the new card first, but two
creatures in one body against removal might just be better than flying and
breathing fire. At least until you add Ghalta, Primal Hunger to your deck,
this is a fight that has to be determined in testing.

The other Rhythm of the Wild shell that fits really nicely with Incubation
Druid involves Prime Speaker Vannifar.
You aren’t doing a ton beyond the Vannifar basics that Gerry covered
last week

to make Incubation Druid good, but if the fear with that deck is clunking
out and drawing bad tutor targets, a high power mana accelerant has to be

Hadana’s Climb

The other obvious pairing for Incubation Druid is Hadana’s Climb. What
happens if you follow the same good cards in a deck metric?

Wait, is this just the same deck as the last one with a blue enchantment,
four-drop, and high drop? All the same cards are just good in both cases.

I looked at Merfolk, but I couldn’t figure out why you would play
Incubation Druid there. Merfolk in general sounds like a problem someone
else can solve, probably just by typing “Standard” and “Merfolk” into a
search engine.

I also tried to go down the heavy green route with Pelt Collector and Steel
Leaf Champion, but it just doesn’t work out. Pelt Collector is one of the
best ways to get to two +1/+1 counters to immediately transform Hadana’s
Climb, but none of the other +1/+1 counter creatures are good with it.
Explore and adapt don’t lend themselves to naturally large creatures. You
have to splash red for Gruul Spellbreaker, and that just doesn’t work with
triple green requirements.

I’m still going to splash red in the basic list. Gruul Spellbreaker and
Thrash // Threat are too good.

The One with the Wind and Vine Mare combo is also unattractive. Last year,
One with the Wind was Cartouche of Knowledge that drew a card, and Dive
Down was the more proactive Blossoming Defense. If you want to do the aura
nonsense, just play a Curious Obsession deck.

Still, I think that if you line everything up, the Simic list looks like
the Gruul deck with a less busted four-drop than Rekindling Phoenix. Even
if you go down the Pelt Collector road, I think Kraul Harpooner is more
promising, and again that just points to the Gruul list from
Ben Friedman’s article
and not Simic. You could splash Hadana’s Climb there, but I’m wary of
excessive enchantments and doubt you need the finishing power with all your
red fliers.

Selesnya, but New

There aren’t any Selesnya cards in Ravnica Allegiance, but
Incubation Druid is really good with the ones from Guilds of Ravnica.

It’s also absurdly boring. I took my decklist from last Pro Tour, cut four
Thorn Lieutenant, added four Incubation Druid and changed nothing else. The
deck wanted more mana in non-convoke situations and it got it. You can hit
Trostani Discordant a turn early, Flourish on time, or just pump out extra
tokens from March of the Multitudes.

I guess you could splash a color for a sideboard card. I’ll wait for people
to figure out how they’re building their Hallowed Fountain and Steam Vents
decks before I decide what card I want if I even want any, because the best
answer against Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Niv-Mizzet, Parun is killing
your opponent with Nullhide Ferox.

The slightly more interesting path involves the Path of Discovery deck that
Sam Black and company
piloted at Grand Prix New Jersey earlier this year
. That deck did a lot of powerful things, like resolving March of the
Multitudes with Path of Discovery and Wildgrowth Walker on the battlefield,
but also just clunked out. It required a lot of interlocking pieces, and
sometimes you would draw two The Immortal Sun, two Wildgrowth Walker, only
four lands, and nothing to explore with. Or just thirty lands and run out
of spells because you never drew March of the Multitudes.

That’s where Hydroid Krasis comes in. Incubation Druid ties together your
mana-light draws and Hydroid Krasis lets you overload on big payoff spells
without running into the issues of the prior cards in this category. Unlike
March of the Multitudes, Hydroid Krasis works if your battlefield is
getting chipped away. It’s fine in multiples unlike Trostani Discordant or
The Immortal Sun. They can’t just randomly clear it with a removal spell
and leave you digging for something else because it did the digging.

The blue splash comes with some clear benefits. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
with a bunch of ramp creatures in your deck looks like a real smart
replacement for the stock removal spell this deck played.

But a third color has more of a cost here than I initially expected. I
don’t think you can reasonably play Flower // Flourish in a three-color
deck. You’re either cutting untapped lands to cast it with on turn 1, or
you are cutting duals of your splash color, or you aren’t playing any basic
lands to find with it. Maybe strike that previous comment about a sideboard
splash in the basic Selesnya Tokens deck.

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria also means cutting The Immortal Sun. That’s fine
by me, but without it or Flourish, you lose a lot of March of the
Multitudes combo potential. I want to try this as a good stuff engine deck
for a bit, but if it needs a bit more punch, you may need to trim down to
two colors or a real light splash for Hydroid Krasis.

It would make a lot of sense to play Growth-Chamber Guardian in this deck,
but between the existing explore and March of the Multitudes engines I just
can’t find room. Just another thing to consider for the sideboard or if the
deck must drop down to two colors.

Frilled Mystic also plays nicely with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, but that’s
about it in this creature-heavy shell. Check out Gerry’s a
rticle last week for better examples of where to fit that one in decks

Big Mana

My first goal is not to build a bad Wilderness Reclamation deck, so I’m
going to avoid the natural instinct to go Bant and protect yourself with
Settle the Wreckage. Go to Todd Anderson’s l
ast article for a full exploration of that card.

Let’s look at a different card I listed instead. Phyrexian Scriptures is a
sweeper that I think people just forget. It had some flaws, namely dying to
Vivien Reid or Conclave Tribunal, but the card still is a one-sided

Sultai also lines up with two of my favorite things to ramp into in the
format. There aren’t a ton of great high-end spells in Standard, so you
just have to find reasonable ways to spend mana that aren’t naturally
expensive. Vraska, Relic Seeker is just a good six-drop, and Hostage Taker
is another card people just forget about. In testing the Dimir deck that
Mark Jacobson nearly Top 8’ed Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica with,
Hostage Taker was an all-star. The deck could extend the game long enough
to immediately cast the hostage and the backing of Thought Erasure to clear
the way meant lots of successful thefts.

The interaction here I want to explore the most in the future is Muldroth,
the Gravetide with Sagas, a classic combo from Dominaria draft. I
may even be underestimating how many The Eldest Reborn I want, as that card
has a long history of success in Standard.

Sadly, you don’t get to recast Frilled Mystic on your opponent’s turn this
way. Part of me also wants to add more Golgari Findbroker for even more
loop shenanigans, but I can’t advise starting too heavy on GGUU and GGBB.
At least New Horizons helps. Essence Capture being interesting with
Incubation Druid is the kicker that pulls me towards the new Mystic Snake
over the new Eternal Witness.

The three-color manabase that’s shorter on shocks than checklands is stolen
from Gatecrash Standard.

Gerry Thompson’s first Pro Tour Top 8

was a Jeskai Midrange deck with 25 lands, split between ten shocklands,
eleven checklands, and four basics.

I think this was just the warmup though. Remember this deck from last year?

Let’s see if we can bring that a year forward into 2019.

This is the deck that exploits Incubation Druid the least, but I’m not
passing up starting that good of a ramp spell.

Yes, a planeswalker and The Immortal Sun looks stupid, but you’re tutoring
for Vraska, Relic Seeker more as a planeswalking Disenchant and The
Immortal Sun as more of an unanswerable threat. Though in a Bedevil world,
we may need to diversify into enchantments as well.

I might have the wrong end game going on here, but I think both older big
engines of Lich’s Mastery and The Mending of Dominaria are outside the
scope of Incubation Druid. Lich’s Mastery, especially, starts taking me
down the road of Kaya’s Wrath, which is not a combo with creatures that tap
for mana.

Ravnica, City of Flexible Cards

For the third week
in a row
, I find myself talking about some individually powerful card from Ravnica Allegiance that has build-around potential on top of just
being a good effect.

This high density of cogs in the format means that refining archetypes is
going to be a process. Decks like this focusing on one card are just the
first drafts. Figuring out how to splice together the most effective
smaller packages is going to be a key part of the format moving forward.

Incubation Druid is well-suited for this role. It’s just a good card that
lets you cast more good cards, and the cards it synergizes with are also
just good cards that enable other nonsense.

If Incubation Druid doesn’t end up among the few most impactful cards from Ravnica Allegiance, I would be shocked.