Ixalan Exclusive Preview: Legion's Landing
As we set sail towards Ixalan and drink in the new cards we get to play with in a few short weeks, it's once again time to point the spyglass at the horizon and see what's waiting beyond the waves.
Shiver me timbers, it's another preview card off the starboard bow!
Let's get into it! As a baseline, Legion's Landing is a one-mana lifelinking 1/1. We've seen this card before a few times, from Hopeful Eidolon up to Sacred Cat; while neither made huge waves in Constructed, both had upside, and this is also the case with Legion's Landing! There's a lot more going on with this card, however, and it's going to be an engaging but somewhat tricky endeavour to exploit this card to its fullest potential.
We get an immediate sense of what this card is asking you to do even after a cursory read: just like Faith No More, you've got to be aggressive. Attacking with three creatures—one of which Legion's Landing itself generously provides—means that you'll be able to trigger the second line of text. In doing so you're in for a real treat, as you'll see.
But let's suppose for a moment that triggered ability isn't there. Is a one-mana lifelinking 1/1 good enough? Likely not. There is a high bar for one-mana creatures in Standard: they need to hit hard (Toolcraft Exemplar, Dread Wanderer) or provide consistent value (Bomat Courier, Cryptbreaker). For the front half of this card to be relevant, you will need to find a way for that 1/1 to matter - and it may be that Ixalan may yet give you the tools you need to do this.
The most important thing about the token is the fact that it's a Vampire. If there end up being ways to turn this little 1/1 token into a real card, they will greatly increase the impact of Legion's Landing. In the past, we've seen cards like Stromkirk Captain and Captivating Vampire; if Ixalan gives us a card of a similar nature, Legion's Landing may end up being an important part of a Vampire tribal strategy, especially with what's waiting on the other side.
We've got to get there first, however - how difficult is it going to be to flip Legion's Landing? All in all, I suspect it won't be too hard. Bomat Courier headlines the aggressive one-drops available in Standard, and is joined by cards like the on-colour Toolcraft Exemplar as well as a dearth of options in red. We'll have to wait, however, to see what Ixalan offers in the way of aggressive Vampires, as I suspect that's how we're going to leverage the greatest amount of value from Legion's Landing.
Let's flip this bad boy - the legion has landed and is ready set up shop, we've got on the front foot with an aggressive start, and we've attacked with three creatures. Excellent! What do we get for our trouble?
This is where things start to get really interesting - Adanto, the First Fort offers you more opportunities than the top tables at a Magic 2014 Sealed event. Combining an early bump of mana ramp in addition to a token generator (a traditionally powerful late game ability) shows us that Adanto means business. Aggressive decks can always find somewhere to put early mana, and with enough one-drops in your list, this offers access to four mana on turn three.
What does that mean? It means that if you've got a four-mana curve topper like the highly synergistic Oketra, the True, your opponent is going to be unhappy to find she's coming to the party unfashionably early. Alternatively, you can dump the other half of your hand onto the battlefield and put yourself further ahead after an aggressive start. Any way you slice it, the value of an extra mana in the early game is difficult to overstate, and for that reason alone flipping Legion's Landing pays huge dividends.
The second ability of the card comes from a strong pedigree. From Kjeldoran Outpost through to Westvale Abbey, lands that create tokens like this have proven themselves to be robustly playable, and it may be the case that Adanto, the First Fort joins this list of constructed staples. Four mana (when you include tapping Adanto itself) to create a 1/1 lifelinker is a reasonable rate, and will help to push into the late game.
But this is where we encounter the tension built into this card. Generating a 1/1 lifelinker each turn for four mana is an ability that would truly shine in a defensive deck - with it, you can put up infinite chump blocks and pad out your life total a little bit. The problem with that is that a defensive deck will never be able to flip Legion's Landing! So here we have a defensive ability on an aggressive card - it's a knotty puzzle.
Aggressive decks don't look for cards like Adanto, the First Fort to fill out their utility lands, as they're not looking to do things like make a single 1/1 per turn as the game goes long. Instead, lands like Ramunap Ruins are preferred, as they an effect that is guaranteed to have an impact and will help to close out games. Nonetheless, the token-generating ability is still powerful in an aggressive deck, even if it's not perfectly positioned.
Finding a Home
So where is Legion's Landing going to find itself in the coming months of Standard? There are two distinct ways to maximise the value this card can offer you. For the first, we still need a clearer picture of what Ixalan looks like as a whole, but for the second, we can already begin to pull a sketch or two together and get a sense of how we might be able to utilise Ixalan's latest offering.
Sherlock Holmes may have never actually said “elementary, my dear Watson,� but he certainly had his views on speculative decklists during preview seasons. “It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data,� he once advised. “Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.� It's a given that Ixalan has much more in store for us when it comes to Vampire synergies - but we'll have to wait a little while longer before seeing the whole picture.
In the meantime, however, we can begin to twist together some theories with the facts we already have. Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle synergises nicely with our Vampire/token theme, and Bloodcrazed Paladin is a cheap Vampire than has the potential to grow truly enormous. Yahenni, Undying Partisan is a reasonably strong option that may benefit from as-yet unseen synergistic cards such as a Vampire lord, but Sanctum Seeker is really getting my blood up as a Vampire-flavoured Hellrider - perfect for the deck we're looking to build. But if an aggressive Vampire deck is to come together, we'll need to see the remaining technology waiting for us in the rest of Ixalan.
Our second option is to explore the token-based elements of both sides of Legion's Landing. Anointed Procession has been floating around the fringes of Standard playability for the last few months - moving forward, perhaps this might provide us with a blueprint for a post-rotation token strategy with Legion's Landing!
Between Kaladesh and Amonkhet, there are a huge number of cards that incentivise and reward token based strategies. Anointed Procession engages turbo-mode for Adanto along with all the other token makers - most notably, Hidden Stockpile. The deck is in need of more anthem effects (vale Gideon, Ally of Zendikar), but still offers an interesting foundation to work with.
Curving Legion's Landing into Servo Exhibition is obviously nuttier than a squirrel's portaloo, and the excellent removal in black and white gives the list some strong options for interaction. Never // Return even makes a token! Topping off the your curve with things like Angel of Invention or Regal Caracal, both of which benefit hugely from a flipped Adanto on turn three, strongly augment the overall power level of the deck.
Legion's Landing is an intriguing card, offering a pretty solid payoff if you can jump through the hoops it has set up. As Ixalan looms larger on the horizon and we get ready to make landfall, I'll be up in the crow's nest, scouring the seas for new ways to take advantage of Legion's Landing. What are your thoughts? Are there other ways to build around this card? Let me know what you think on Twitter (@rileyquarytower) or in the comments!