Zendikar Rising spoilers have come at a furious pace. Now that we have seen over half of the cards in Zendikar Rising it is time to look at which cards could have an impact on Standard. So far, the overall power level appears to be lower than that of the last few sets. Hopefully, this will lead to a better Standard going forward in the upcoming Zendikar Rising season.

Rather than try to recap all the new cards over a few articles I will look at some of the most interesting cards from each of the set’s mechanics. Zendikar Rising has two returning mechanics, landfall and kicker, and two new ones in party and a new type of double-faced cards that have a spell on one side and a land on the other.

Landfall has played a significant role in standard previously, so I expect that it will again in the coming season. Of the released card so far, I think the most interesting are: Akoum Hellhound, Fearless Fledgling, Prowling Felidar, Skyclave Geopede, Valakut Exploration, Lotus Cobra, Rain Crap, Phylath, World Sculptor, and Moraug, Fury of Akoum. While they will not all have a significant role to play in standard, each has the potential to impact standard and other formats.

With the rotation of Scorch Spitter, Mono-Red will look to replace it with a comparable one drop. Akoum Hellhound might be that card. For one mana, you get a 0/1 Elemental Dog with landfall.

On the surface, Akoum Hellhound does not look like anything more than a limited card, but in a deck that wants a fast and powerful threats it might just be good enough to play in standard. The downside to the card is that it is not a good top deck in the mid to late game when Mono-Red decks typically run low on land drops. Akoum Hellhound might fit better in a dog deck. Pack Leader would give it +1/+1 which would make it a very solid card in a dog deck. Time will tell if Akoum Hellhound has a place in Standard.

Conclave Mentor was one of the most intriguing cards from Core Set 2021. Mentor’s ability adds an additional +1/+1 counter to any creature that gets one. This lead players to try and make a counters matter deck work in standard. With rotation, the opportunity exists for the deck to have a better chance at being a playable deck in standard. The two cards that may make the deck viable are Fearless Fledgling and Prowling Felidar. Each has landfall. When a land enters play, each creature gets a +1/+1 counter. With Conclave Mentor in play, this means two counters. The problem with these cards is that a land must be played for the ability to trigger.

Another Zendikar Rising card that might find a home in the deck is Luminarch Aspirant.

On its own, Luminarch Aspirant is not a great card, but in combination with Conclave Mentor the ability can quickly snowball. At the beginning of combat on your turn, Luminarch Aspirant puts a +1/+1 counter on any creature. Together, these cards could be what Conclave Mentor needs to be a competitive standard deck.

One of the important reprints in Zendikar Rising is Lotus Cobra.

When it was standard legal in the past, Lotus Cobra was a powerful card in standard. With green based decks that want to ramp into their large creatures running ramped in standard, Lotus Cobra is an ideal replacement for Paradise Druid or Growth Spiral. Its ability to add an additional mana when a land enters play will help get Uro and friends into play quicker. Expect Lotus Cobra to be a key part of Green/Blue X decks.

Another exciting landfall creature is Phylath, World Sculptor. For a red, a green, and four colorless mana you get a 5/5 legendary elemental. On the surface, Phylath appears to be an over costed creature. What makes Phylath not only playable, but potentially one of the most powerful creatures from the set is its enter the battlefield trigger. When Phylath, World Sculptor enters the battlefield, create a 0/1 green Plant creature token for each basic land you control.

With cards like Uro, Cultivate, and Migration Path, it is easy to ramp into six mana as early as turn four. You could easily create three or four Plant creature tokens when Phylath enters the battlefield. Phylath’s landfall ability lets you put four +1/+1 counters on a target Plant you control. This will grow your team quickly. I can see a Timur or Gruul deck built around ramping into Phylath seeing early play in the format. What other decks are strong at the beginning of Zendikar Rising season will determine if the deck is playable in the long term.

Mill decks got a new card in Ruin Crab. When a land enters play under your control, each opponent mills three cards. Mill already had several good cards from Core Set 2021 and Eldraine. Together they make mill a viable option in standard.

Skyclave Geopede has been panned as nothing more than a limited card, but I feel that it has the potential to be played in standard. Having trample as a keyword ability is a big plus. With landfall, it gets +2/+2 when a land enters play, so it will typically be a 5/3 when it attacks. Getting in damage even when it is blocked could be just what Mono Red needs. How many Skyclave Geopede’s belong in a Mono-Red deck is still to be determined, but I think it is worth playing.
Red provides two other interesting cards with the landfall mechanic: Moraug, Fury of Akoum and Valakut Exploration.

Moraug is a 6/6 legendary minotaur warrior for two red and four colorless mana. Cards that cost six mana typically are unplayable in aggressive decks because they can not impact the game until turn six or later. What makes Moraug interesting is his passive ability and his landfall activation. Creatures you control get +1/+0 for each time it has attacked this turn. This is a very good ability that might make including Moraug as good finisher in mid-range decks. What makes the card more playable in multiple formats is Moraug landfall ability. Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, if it’s your main phase, there’s an additional combat phase after this phase. At the beginning of that combat, untap all creatures you control. If Moraug can stay on the battlefield for at least one turn or you can play a land on the turn you play him then you can finish off an opponent on the turn that he enters play. Either way, Moraug can finish an opponent quickly. The best place for Moraug might be in a ramp deck that can get Moraug out ahead of curve. Moraug and Phylath, World Sculptor could make a powerful one two punch with the right ramp setup.

Our last card for today is Valakut Exploration. This enchantment is not the typical type of card that red decks like to play but having an enchantment that can provide card advantage and possibly provide direct damage to each opponent must be considered in a variety of formats. When a land enters play, you get to exile the top card of your deck. You can play that card as long as it remains exiled. At the beginning of your end step, if there are cards exiled with Valakut Exploration, put then into their owner’s graveyard, then Valakut Exploration deals that much damage to each opponent. The limitation of the card is that a land must be played for it to be activated. It probably makes the card unplayable in a standard aggro deck, but it might work in a ramp deck to deal damage early in the game while ramping into large threats.

That’s it for today. Until next time, good luck finding your win condition!