The Channel Lands
With the spoiler season of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty still ongoing, we have finally seen all of the cards in the legendary land cycle through leaks and spoilers. It is clear that this new cycle is very powerful and will feature in a ton of decks. The opportunity cost of these lands is incredibly low, but not zero. This means that lots of decks should play them, but not all of them. In this article I will go over every land in this cycle and discuss what decks I expect to see them played in and what to consider when deciding on how many copies you are going to run.
SOKENZAN, CRUCIBLE OF DEFIANCE
The most obvious deck that Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance shows up in is the mono-red deck that has been getting more popular since the printing of Cemetery Gatekeeper. The reason for it is simple: there is literally zero opportunity cost to running one copy of this land. The deck is mono coloured and runs zero copies of cards that care about basic landtypes like castles. This means that, for all intents and purposes, this is a Mountain – until you want it to be something else.
Another deck this slots into very well is Jeskai Creativity, which seeks to sacrifice two tokens to the card Indomitable Creativity to get both The Locust God and Sage of the Falls onto the battlefield for a combo win. You can channel a card at instant speed, which means you can channel this on the endstep of your opponent’s turn four, then play Creativity for X=2 for a turn five win. The opportunity cost is not zero though since this deck often runs check lands. Swapping a Mountain for this can damage your consistency, so you might want to rework the manabase a little bit. Since these lands also count as (weak) spells, it can be a reason to increase the number of lands in the deck like people started doing when Zendikar gave us MDFCs. This applies to all lands in this cycle. I expect this deck to run fewer copies of cards like Omen of the Sun in favour of this land and then either upping the landcount or finding room for one or two more impactful spells.
Another deck that could look for this card is Winota, Joiner of Forces since these tokens are non-humans with haste. Though it seems like a perfect fit for Winota and it doesn’t run checklands, most lists don’t even run a single Mountain to replace “freely.” I would expect Winota to run a copy of Boseiju over this, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Winota players can make a copy of this card work.
Face value, Sokenzan looks to be one of the weaker cards of the cycle, so it isn’t an auto-include as often as some of the others might be. 2 1/1 tokens for 4 mana is not a very strong effect. Before adding this card to your deck, you have to ask yourself these 2 questions:
- What is the opportunity cost of running this card? If it’s zero, you should 100% run one copy. This is fairly likely in mono red decks since Castle Embereth is not a very good card. If not:
- Do I get something extra out of this effect than just the tokens? In case of Jeskai creativity, the tokens can literally win you the game. In case of Winota, it is potential Winota triggers.
If you get no extra value out of the tokens and there is a reasonable opportunity cost, you should probably look at the other lands before looking at this one.
EIGANJO, SEAT OF THE EMPIRE
Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire is one of the more overlooked cards in this cycle. The Selesnya and Orzhov Humans decks have been creeping up since the reprint of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben into Pioneer and this card could not be a better fit for these decks. Creature combat is the name of the game when it comes to weenie style decks, not just Humans. There will be a lot of attacking and blocking in these games and using a land to kill a creature can be incredibly swingy. 4 damage is also nothing to scoff at, especially because it can also be used on blocking creatures. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet dies when it blocks anything, Thalia can now 1v1 a Niv Mizzet, Reborn and come out alive and Bloodbaron of Vizkopa is suddenly unable to attack or block against an Orzhov deck because Eiganjo’s damage is colourless. The humans deck gets even more out of this than other weenie decks since between Thalia, Kytheon, Hero of Akros and Adeline, Resplendent Cathar, there is a good chance you can actually channel this for 1-2 mana. Also, nothing stops you from channeling multiple copies of this to kill something larger.
Eiganjo might look like one of the weaker cards in the cycle but might actually be one of the stronger lands in the context of the Pioneer format. Pioneer revolves a lot around creature combat, so having your flood protection be a removal spell is extremely potent. The only issue with it is that as opposed to Sokenzan, there is currently no deck that has zero opportunity cost to running this card, so there is always a trade-off between consistency and value. I would squeeze at least two copies of this into any Humans deck to deal the cards mentioned earlier and Azorius control players will not mind having a bit of extra removal in their manabase. Other decks like Spirits and Winota will probably be looking at the other cards in the cycle before this one.
TAKENUMA, ABANDONED MIRE
Takenuma, Abandoned Mire is probably the least interesting card in the cycle, but least interesting does not mean it is not a good card! Takenuma is simply good value and slots very well into decks like Dimir Control and various Rakdos Piles. Fueling the graveyard for cards like Dig Through Time and Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger while recurring strong cards like Narset, Parter of Veils and Chandra, Torch of Defiance is incredible. And that all on a turn one Thoughtseize enabler. So why not just throw a few in every deck that has black in it? ‘I could cast five Niv Mizzets in a game rather than four!’
There are two reasons you might not run (as many copies of) Takenuma in your deck. The first thing to consider is how much emphasis you put on getting card advantage through your graveyard rather than simply adding cards to your hand with a card like Castle Locthwain. A Rakdos Pyromancer deck can really struggle under the effect of a Rest in Peace. If you replace a Castle with this card, you only add to that struggle. The second consideration to make is: when do I have too much value? As a control player I know all to well that having a full grip of cards is useless when you are dead. This probably shouldn’t go in a Niv deck and even 3-4 colour decks might want to focus more on getting their mana to work as opposed to getting more value. It is more important to be able to cast the cards in your hand than to add to your handsize. Overall, I think this card is exceptionally good, but it does compete with other strong options in black like Hive of the Eye Tyrant and the aforementioned Castle Locthwain. A true embarrassment of riches.
OTAWARA, SOARING CITY
Otawara, Soaring City is, in one word, incredible. Four mana is a steep cost, but this card is a real (short-term) problem solver. The main question you must ask yourself is: what value can my deck get out of taking a permanent of the board for one turn? In a control deck this can remove a problematic permanent that resolved earlier in the game, giving you another shot at taking it with a Thoughtseize or countering it on the way down. It can also allow you to recast a card like Narset, Parter of Veils when she reaches one loyalty or a Torrential Gearhulk in order to cast another copy of a card like Dig Through Time. It can also save your win conditions which you usually have a low number of. Combo decks can take stax pieces like Grafdigger’s Cage, Deafeaning Silence or Rest in Peace off the board on the opponent’s endstep, ending the game before the card is cast again. Aggro decks (though not commonly blue in this format) can timewalk opponents who just spend their whole turn casting a card like Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, Baneslayer Angelor Elder Gargaroth.
I’m sure we can all think of examples where Otawara would have won us a game, and that is why the card is incredible. The strength of Otawara is that it can deal with basically any problem your opponent can throw at you bar sweepers (though you could save a key creature with this) and is very easily maindeckable. With the exception of mono-blue tempo, which is not seeing any play at this point, I must point out that there is no deck where this has zero opportunity cost. There are, however, few decks that would have no interest in trying to fit this card, which speaks to the power of it. I think the only reason you wouldn’t want to run this is if you already have cards that allow you to deal with any nonland card. Utter End and Binding the Old Gods come to mind. The amount of cardtypes that Otawara interacts with and the wide applications of its effect in numerous archetypes makes Otawara an incredible part of this cycle.
BOSEIJU, WHO ENDURES
Boseiju, Who Endures. An uncounterable Disenchant/Field of Ruin effect that is also basically a Forest when you need it to be. Oh, did I mention your opponent cannot Thoughtseize it? Needless to say, this card is phenomenal. Just like Otawara, the strength of Boseiju lies in its flexibility and the amount of situations it can get you out of. Thought it does not deal with as many things as Otawara, it does deal with them permanently. Boseiju is an incredible fit for Lotus Field decks as it allows them to answer most of the cards people bring to counter the deck while being tutorable with every tutor in the deck, including Sylvan Scrying. This assumes there is one in the main and one in the side, which I will guarantee you is going to be the case. Deafening Silence has recently picked up a lot of steam as an answer to decks like Lotus Field and four Colour Ascendancy (which might be running this too). This is basically the absolute perfect answer to it, especially for Lotus Field. The fact that Lotus Field can tutor this up, then channel it to destroy a Deafening Silence and then continue to combo on the same turn is downright gross. Recent builds of Lotus Field have found a way to play through Notion Thief and Narset, Parter of Veils with Behold the Beyond, therefore the fact that this cannot hit creatures or planeswalkers doesn’t even really matter to the deck. Although not hitting creatures and planeswalkers is not very relevant to Lotus Field, it is for Four-Colour Ascendancy which has no means to play through Narset and Notion thief without taking them off the board. This could leave Otawara to be the more desirable of the two.
Another big winner here is Winota, Joiner of Forces decks. Winota is a deck that relies on having a green mana available on turn one. This makes it hard for the deck to run plains and mountains, so it might also struggle to include Sokenzan and Eiganjo. Boseiju simply taps for green, so there is no opportunity cost in a deck that that runs forests while not running checklands or castles. You can just replace a forest with a Boseiju while suffering no loss to consistency. Grafdigger’s Cage is an answer to Winota that is seeing an increase in play in a lot of decks. Having a zero opportunity cost answer to that card is incredibly useful and will be a big boon for the deck.
Now before you order your playset of Boseiju: I do think the card is a little overrated. People get caught up in fever dreams of looping this with Wrenn and Six and Life from the Loam in other formats, but that stuff doesn’t apply to Pioneer. If you have specific situations like I just talked about with Lotus Field and Winota, Boseiju is probably the one should take the consistency hit for. I If you play another green deck like Selesnya Humans, you might be better off with Eiganjo because you might struggle more versus strong blockers like Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. Even Four-Colour Ascendancy might be better off with Otawara because it can deal with Narset, Parter of Veils and Notion Thief.
The important takeaway is that while these cards are sometimes free, they are not always free. In the case of an opportunity cost, you should try and think of what you are trying to get out of your lands. This should inform your decision on which lands to swap for these or if you should simply run more lands. I think this entire cycle is incredible and there is a place for each and every one of these lands. I hope this article has helped you make sure that you know if your deck is the right home for these amazing lands.