Have you ever walked out of a game of Magic, and done that dreaded thing that we all do from time to time where you thought to yourself, faced in the future with that particular instance and those identical variables, “what could I have done differently in that situation?”
Anyone that’s ever faced a Runaway Steam-Kin backed by Experimental Frenzy or a Turn-2 Steel-Leaf Champion knows the feeling, let’s not pretend in a game with randomness, or half as much randomness as Magic the Gathering that there won’t be those moments that are nothing short of ‘unbeatable’. And I think it’s safe to assume that (try as we might), as long as we’re top decking Glorybringers on our way to victory, that these ‘nutdraws’ are the sorts of draws that it’s impossible to completely rid the game of.
This article isn’t about variance or what it means in the great context of the game. Rather, I’d like to take a moment to point out the KCI in the room, or, as my British peers in this industry might refer to it as, “Cheerios, mate”.
The funny thing about Wilderness Reclamation, is that when I first saw it, I was pretty unimpressed by what it brought to the table. After about a week of light dipping-into-and-out-of the top 10-250 of Magic Arena, I’d initially seen a few Wilderness Reclamation decks, but after a while, I sort of stopped seeing them altogether. As an early hater or “the Shaheen Sorani of my group of friends” it made sense to me that this was the obvious outcome of such a card. The decks that I was seeing were just slowing down an already half-a-step-to-slow Nexus of Fate deck by shoving a ‘4-mana-do-nothing’ enchantment into the mix.
But that’s what I was seeing at first, same colors as before, even more shocklands, eyes light up, and a bunch of deckbuilders that seemed to think that copy-and-pasting a decklist with one card changed in response to a card as complicated as Wilderness Reclamation was all it was gonna take to break one of the most interesting cards we’ve seen in Standard in some time.
The problem with this approach is that it misses the long game for the short. The instant speed nature of Wilderness makes it so that the cards that best pair with it as its ultimate unbeatable win-cons are the cards that allow you to operate at instant-speed in order to maximize on Reclamation’s value. Let’s say you’ve pantsed your lands up with a turn-4 reclamation and zero gifts and no other lands. That untapping won’t help you cast a Teferi on turn 5. As great a card as he is, and maybe some small number is correct to play him, Teferi is no longer what these Nexus of Fate decks should be relying on to take down the competition. Look further people, look to the stars, the card I’m talking about is Expansion // Explosion, a similarly broken Magic card, but one that can make use of all the mana that comes from Wilderness Reclamation.
Let’s talk about my hand. Sometimes with mono-red you just don’t get there. It’s often due to flooding out; every now and then it happens when you can’t find that fourth land drop, and at this point, after playing thousands of reps, I can do a pretty good job of discerning when I lose because I just don’t get down a turn 4, or 5, or 8 Frenzy, and when I lose because I miss lethal or a chance to wipe the board. This was one of those games where they just had it and I just drew lands and it became obviously early on that my opponent was just gonna nut all over me and there was nothing I could do about it. As someone who plays Runaway Steam-Kin and 4 Experimental Frenzy- I’m okay with that, why should I get to have all the fun?
Here’s what I saw from them: for starters, Gift of Paradise remains. This makes sense, it’s double good with Wilderness Reclamation and the life gain negates 4 Bolts that your opponent is running. It’s the most easy inclusion in a Wilderness Reclamation deck and to not play it would be to be a complete and utter fool. Beyond that, one thing that I’m seeing is the addition of these new Addendum cards into the 60. Makes sense. My turn, part I- scry 3 and find a Nexus of Fate, part II of my turn (via Wilderness Reclamation untap step), play Nexus of Fate. The extra mana is a pseudo-turn without the card draw, and its power is realized right away. That was one thing I missed on the card when I first saw it. I called it a “4-MANA-DO-NOTHING ENCHANTMENT” ignoring the obvious fact that this card gives you access to 4-mana right away. If Teferi is basically a 3-mana Planeswalker then Wilderness Reclamation is basically a 0-mana enchantment, and that should tell you a little bit about the power level of the card.
Our was Discovery // Dispersal- there’s a better scry engine out there now in the form of Precognitive Perception and players have taken to it. Root Snare is still the recipe for dealing with aggro decks, though. It also doesn’t even feel like white is necessary anymore. The deck has less real interaction then I’ve seen in a fog deck and it’s almost exclusively drawing cards and playing solitaire at this point.
3 days later
I don’t know about you but when I see a deck that is taking an inordinate amount of time to win I begin to think to myself that odd conspiracy theory that goes with wondering whether or not that player even has a win-condition in their deck. It’s a question that, as someone who has often pondered about putting only counter-spells in their deck, I find myself asking more times then I’d like to admit. Show me that you’re not just going to mill yourself out I was making them tell me.
And find out I did.
1 Week Later
It took forever, no I mean just the final turn itself, even that took forever. On Arena in order to float lands you have to tap lands individually (you can’t just tap one Wilderness Reclamation and say “Float All” so I had to sit there for about 2 minutes while they tapped and then tapped again the 15 or so pansted up lands that they had on the battlefield. The end conclusion, a 50 fireball to the face and then, cute of them, really, I got to draw 50 cards from the whole ordeal.
Now it’s possible that Wilderness Reclamation is just too slow for the aggro decks and Nexus of Fate will stay firmly in the tier 2 where I believe it belongs. And if that’s the case, I think it’s fine for the card to stay. If Jimmy wants to sit there and play with himself while everyone else around him plays Magic, I think that that should be a-okay.
Where it starts to become a problem, and something that I become more and more concerned about is when you consider that we now have Search for Azcanta and Wilderness Reclamation in the format and I’m beginning to wonder if this isn’t just a straight up UNBEATABLE WIN-CON.
As a mono-red player, I don’t come to this game just to win it, that’s not where the fun is for me. The fun that I derive from the game is when my deck has burned not just your life total, but the life totals of each and every Creature and Planeswalker you play to the ground on the way to getting there. When it comes to a fog matchup that only draws cards and plays enchantments, not only is threat and response taken away, but so is the very concept of Magic being a game that is more then just about single-minded sequencing.
There was no Teferi to protect from an attack, no Crackles that I had to determine whether or not it was appropriate to throw spells at. Not a single damn thing for my deck to deal with. Just one person taking three turns in a row and taking way too long to tap their mana while another player sits there with 3 lands in hand and has to wait for them to go through the motions. Is that really what Magic should be all about?
But time will tell. Is Wilderness Reclamation the best card in Standard or is Nexus of Fate going to go back whence it came for such a long period of time- to the dog house where it belongs? I’m in the camp of the former and for that reason, I hope we keep a keen and very watchful eye on this threat of human nature. If the most fun and greatest card ever printed saw the emergency ban hammer so quickly, then a card that *literally* everyone hates deserves to see it even sooner. But I do hope I’m wrong, for the love of Judith and all that is good in this Magical Smuggler’s Copter-less world.
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