When evolving new cards, one strategy I have found to be effective is to
put myself in the shoes of the designers. What would they have wanted to
push? If something looks too good to be true, what would they have done to
make it work out.
Sometimes, cards look really exciting, and are just masterpieces of design.
Lich’s Mastery was and is extremely exciting. It’s very aspirational, and
probably the best designed Lich-variant in Magic’s 25-year history. It has
a lot more rate than many variants, but despite lots of great synergies
with it, the card has never made it to tier 1 (let alone breaking formats).
It costs six, requires a lot of work, and there’s plenty of natural
counterplay in the format that can really get the best of it.
Just calling it was it is, I’ve got to hand it to the R&D team. The
number of awesome, inspiring buildaround engines they’ve been making is
I mean, just consider the following…
… and so many more. The list is absurd.
So, with all due respect, I hope I don’t give the wrong impression when I
say that Wilderness Reclamation looks like a tremendous error.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around would could have happened to arrive
at a place where you’d want to ship that card like that. Like, there’s just
no way they wouldn’t have tested this card.
The best I’ve come up with is that maybe they made a super late development
change, moving the untap to your end step instead of the opponent’s untap
or upkeep. Maybe they didn’t want the card banned in Commander, the way
Awakening is, or whatever, and didn’t fully appreciate how big of a
difference that would make.
I don’t know, though. Maybe they just meant it to be this way. It just
seems so bizarre.
Okay, I realize Wilderness Reclamation doesn’t necessarily jump out as
“obviously broken” to most, so let’s walk through what’s going on here. For
starters, you might compare it to Awakening, except that it doesn’t untap
creatures and it’s one-sided. Already, we’d be talking about a serious
card, as taking such a powerful symmetrical effect and making it one-sided
is already a big game.
I mean, even if you’re doing nothing crazy, it’s basically the best part of
Sword of Feast and Famine but without needing creatures and without being
very interactable. Hitting somebody with a Sword of Feast and Famine even
once was such a big mana advantage, it would frequently be
game-winning. Wilderness Reclamation is a Sword of Feast and Famine that is
much, much harder to stop from getting the untap. It’s even a mana cheaper
than playing and equipping the Sword!
Wilderness Reclamation doesn’t make them discard cards, though!
For sure, and that’s why the better comparison might actually be Gilded
…and that’s the floor.
Gilded Lotus is okay, but it’s never been a format-defining card or anything, right?
For sure, but it’s never had remotely the rate Wilderness Reclamation has.
Thran Dynamo isn’t even that much stronger than Gilded Lotus. It’s a mana
cheaper, in exchange for only making colorless. Nevertheless, it was
extremely impactful in multiple formats. And before you ask, no, it wasn’t
just because of some other broken card or cards. Thran Dynamo was still a
baller even after the busted cards got banned and the card would be filthy
Wilderness Reclamation is like a Thran Dynamo that makes even more mana,
and its colored, and it scales up. The catch? You’ve got to spend at least
half of it on instants, flash creatures, and activated abilities.
The opportunity cost of Wilderness Reclamation is so low. If you
play it on turn 4, you get your mana investment back basically immediately.
Now, despite committing an incredibly powerful permanent to the
battlefield, you have just as much mana as you had before.
Now, you can do something powerful for four mana on your opponent’s turn
and not even miss a beat.
Okay, so Wilderness Reclamation lets you play two cards a turn instead of
one. What’s the big deal?
This is where the untap on your own end step makes all the difference in
the world. If you get to untap with this enchantment you effectively spent
zero mana on, you go straight to ten(!)
That’s right, instead of playing something on your turn, then something on
your opponent’s turn, you can just tap all your lands in your end step with
the trigger on the stack. Then, untap them and tap them again. Boom, ten
mana to spend on something, such as an Expansion//Explosion for six.
Don’t get me wrong, having five extra mana twice is already extremely
powerful, but there are some cards that scale pretty hard. Having ten mana
at the same time is way more abusive than five and five. Besides, if you
play a second Wilderness Reclamation, now you have triple personal Mana
Flare (whereas untapping on your opponent’s untap step would not stack).
I’m not sure the best homes for Wilderness Reclamation yet, but the card’s
rate is so much more efficient than other cards in Standard, the
decks demand to be invented; and to be clear, I’m not just talking Turbo
Nexus of Fate decks (though those are an extremely promising way of using
For starters, a deck like this is well-suited to functioning without
Wilderness Reclamation while also making excellent use of it when you have
Growth Spiral is just an excellent card in its own right. Explore would
already be great, and the option to be played at instant speed is actually
perfect for a Wilderness Reclamation deck. That the acceleration comes in
the form of an extra land on the table is perfect for Reclamation, too.
Search for Azcanta would be such a perfect card for this deck anyway, but
transforming it into Azcanta, the Sunken Ruins is just ridiculous with
Wilderness Reclamation. You can get two extra mana out of it or use it
twice a turn, ensuring you’re never going to be want for things to spend
mana on again.
- Turn 2: Growth Spiral
Turn 3: Wilderness Reclamation, with Settle the Wreckage or
Chemister’s Insight on your opponent’s turn.
Turn 4: Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, untap two land. Of course, then
you tap them for mana with the Wilderness Reclamation trigger on
the stack, leaving you with seven mana on your own end step. Cast
Nexus of Fate and now you’re untapping with Teferi and twelve to
That’s seriously crazy. I mean, you even got to spend your opponent’s turns
with your mana untapped and ready to go.
Todd Anderson has been writing about Wilderness Reclamation decks basically
since the card was previewed. His primary approach, thus far, has been
Temur, in order to capitalize on Expansion//Explosion.
Not playing four Growth Spiral here looks like crazy talk to me, but that’s
not the biggest deal. There’s a lot to like here.
I’m suspicious but open-minded. Primal Amulet is a potent plan for the
non-Reclamation draws, while being super easy to transform with it (at
which point getting to use the copy ability twice a turn seems
Firemind’s Research looks really interesting to me, potentially maindeck,
too. When you don’t have Wilderness Reclamation going, it’s a serviceable
backup plan. When you do, however, the two really do wonders for fueling
each other. Besides, maybe it’s not the biggest deal, but it might be nice
to have a plan for winning besides Expansion//Explosion.
I wonder, could Firemind’s Research have a place in a Wilderness
Reclamation build of Izzet Drakes?
Once you start going down the Wilderness Reclamation road, it really pushes
us away from the one-cost sorcery cantrips and towards more instants and a
general desire to go a little bigger. That’s kind of in conflict with
Pteramander, which has sort of a Delver of Secrets thing going on, though
at least the Pteramander is another potential mana sink for the
While I think Expansion//Explosion is clearly one of the most attractive
cards to couple with Reclamation, that could take a lot of different
shapes. For instance, what about a build similar to our Bant list above,
but with Expansion//Explosion, instead of Teferi?
Growth-Chamber Guardian is a card we’re going to be seeing a lot of today,
though generally as a maindeck threat.
For two-mana, you get a 2/2 that lets you spend three mana to turn it into
a 4/4 and draw a card (and that card is even another copy of itself).
That’s a really good deal. I mean, just having a 2/2 that can become a 4/4
when convenient is interesting, but drawing more copies means it’s actually
kind of a super beefy Squadron Hawk.
Having the unending torrent of 4/4s is a powerful new dimension to add to
the deck, but the activations being able to be played at instant speed
makes the card actually quite harmonious with Wilderness Reclamation. I
really think one of the keys to maximizing Reclamation is going to be
finding cheap, powerful cards that give you open-ended ways of spending
Thinking about Wilderness Reclamation, my mind keeps going back to
Frilled Mystic is definitely an attractive follow-up to Wilderness
Reclamation, and Blink of an Eye letting you get a little “Snapcaster
Mage/Cryptic Command” action is no problem when you’ve got personal Mana
While Nexus of Fate and Caw-Blade styles look more promising, I kind of
think we should be looking more extreme, at least while we’re trying to
understand this powerful new mana engine. Those decks might be excellent in
the previous world, but this world may be so alien, so unlike what we have
experience with, that we could go much further.
There’s a risk when pushing synergy cards as hard as you can. What if you
fill your deck with cards that are only good with your key card and don’t
draw the key card? What it means for cards to be good, however, starts to
look really different as the format gets more and more powerful or warped
around strange things. For instance, Vintage and Legacy have frequently
been full of really weird cards on account of the weird things the format
I could imagine Wilderness Reclamation having such a profound impact on
Standard, that we’re forced to completely reevaluate what is a “good card”
In trying to see what Wilderness Reclamation makes possible, I think we
want to explore the space with all we could imagine using the card for. For
instance, what about Wizards?
Mystic Archaeologist wasn’t far off, and the combo with Wilderness
Reclamation is unbelievable.
Growth-Chamber Guardian may not be a Wizard, but I wonder if it might just
be too good of a card to not play?
Simic Ascendancy and the countless +1/+1 counter cards now available to us
are going to require a fair bit of exploration, themselves. One frequent
theme, however, is how mana-hungry many of them are. If we’ve got
Wilderness Reclamation going, the multiplier we get from our other cards is
Besides, one of the strongest +1/+1 counter cards in the format is Hadana’s
Climb, which transforms into a land that loves getting untapped by
Hadana’s Climb really gained so much from this set, not the least of which
is merely having access to Breeding Pool. For instance, Incubation Druid
and Stony Strength are fine cards that happen to play particularly well
with Hadana’s Climb. Incubation Druid may not get untapped from Wilderness
Reclamation, but it is another strong mana sink.
Wizards isn’t the only tribal draw, either. The printing of Benthic
Biomancer and Zegana, Utopian Speaker means there are now enough good
Merfolk Wizards to play Wizard’s Retort effortlessly, if you want it.
- 4 Silvergill Adept
- 4 Kumena's Speaker
- 2 Merfolk Branchwalker
- 4 Merfolk Mistbinder
- 4 Jadelight Ranger
- 4 Merfolk Trickster
- 3 Zegana, Utopian Speaker
- 4 Benthic Biomancer
Zegana is another compelling mana sink for capitalizing on Wilderness
Reclamation, though it might have us looking at more +1/+1 counter cards
and less stuff like Merfolk Mistbinder.
Merfolk has some mana sinks, but it really doesn’t play the full-on instant
speed game as hard as some other decks might be capable of. It also doesn’t
really ever play anything huge, getting full value out of the Reclamation
end steps. What about Bant Tokens, instead?
Obviously, there’s lots of ways to make big Multitudes anyway, but having
such a great X-spell already baked into the deck’s core is really
- 3 Emmara, Soul of the Accord
- 4 Venerated Loxodon
- 3 Trostani Discordant
- 2 Deputy of Detention
- 4 Growth-Chamber Guardian
- 4 Frilled Mystic
Could this be a spot for Biogenic Ooze? It’s definitely an exciting mana
sink for a tokens deck.
Growth-Chamber Guardian and Frilled Mystic are such potent new Elves, maybe
we should be trying something with Elf tribal. Afterall, Elvish Clancaller
is an excellent combo with Wilderness Reclamation (even if the Reclamation
doesn’t actually untap any of our Elves).
When you’re playing such a fast and aggressive deck, holding a four-mana
“do-nothing” is actually a lot of opportunity cost when it could have been
another threat, letting you curve out. Besides, Rhythm of the Wild’s big
draw is haste, and that puts it at odds, somewhat, with Wilderness
Expansion//Explosion isn’t the only fast X-spell that can go face.
Electrodominance is a Volcanic Geyser that lets you play something from
your hand for free. This can lead to some blowouts in combat, but it can
also sometimes just let you play a Skarrgan Hellkite on your opponent’s
Skarrgan Hellkite is a great new threat, letting you choose between a 4/4
flier with haste and a 5/5 flier with an activated damage ability. With
Electrodominance, you can take most of the risk out of the 5/5 mode, and
then when you untap with Wilderness Reclamation, you’ll be able to activate
the ability a scary amount.
- 2 Carnage Tyrant
- 3 Thrashing Brontodon
- 4 Wayward Swordtooth
- 2 Skarrgan Hellkite
- 4 Growth-Chamber Guardian
Electrodominance even gives us more play for when we’ve got Experimental
Frenzy on the table and can’t use the cards in our hand!
Wilderness Reclamation is going to have a distorting influence on the
popular cards in the format, as players seek to adjust their decks to have
more counterplay against it. For instance, Trashing Brontodon is a fine
card, anyway, but in a world of Wilderness Reclamation, it has renewed
purpose as a maindeck or sideboard option.
This aggression is generally better matched with cheap aggressive threats,
but I wanted to try it in a slower, bigger deck, seeing how much it
actually mattered–the “cost.”
I’m not at all sure what the limits of Wilderness Reclamation really are.
For instance, is it enough to power a non-blue control deck, like Abzan?
This list gets to use a lot of new cards, and those cards do work well with
We might have been into Angel of Grace to start with, but the synergy
between flash creatures and Reclamation is surely enough to push it over.
Ethereal Absolution and Profane Procession mean we’ve got a lot of powerful
mana sinks, letting us leverage our huge mana for actual battlefield
advantages. Growth-Chamber Guardian, Arguel’s Blood Fast, Treasure Map, and
Arch of Orazca all contribute here as well.
Arch of Orazca is particularly interesting with Reclamation, ensuring we
needn’t waste turns of huge mana again.
While it doesn’t end the game the way Expansion//Explosion does, Sanguine
Sacrament can buy a lot of time. It’s not unreasonable to think
we’ll be gaining twenty or more quite regularly. If we have access to a
Lich’s Mastery somewhere…
Really, there’s just so many combinations of cards that might love to tap
their lands twice a turn. Like, if you’ve got the time, there’s incentive
for basically every combination out there. For instance, consider Sultai,
which appears on the surface to have less flashy of interactions with
As long as we’ve got plenty of ways to leverage the mana advantage for
actual battlefield advantage, there’s just an enormous amount of
flexibility in what the rest of the deck can look like. For instance, take
even an unassuming card like Djinn of Wishes:
One major limiting factor is going to be consistency. While three-color
manabases are pretty easy, thanks to the full sets of shocklands and
checklands, playing four or more would require some ingenuity and bigger
risk taking. We can try to just bull-in-a-china-shop it, but it does open
us up to more weaknesses than most of these lists have had.
Maybe we can use stuff like Gift of Paradise to smooth out the edges
because it’s another great combo with Wilderness Reclamation. I’m just not
sure we’re really going to need to stretch that much, as we’re not exactly
short on playables.
It’s hard to say what the two or three best Wilderness Reclamation decks
will end up looking like by the time the Pro Tour rolls around. Who knows?
Maybe the format will be able to adjust and we’ll just be living in a very
different world than the one previous.
I don’t know that the card will be banned. Generally, the odds are against
it; but it might, and if not, it will at least rewrite the format