Not even two weeks ago, Fires of Invention was banned from Standard play. The card was notorious for basically doubling a players' mana, and sometimes even tripling it, in the sense that you were not only able to play two spells with costs equal to the number of lands you controlled, but you could also still use the mana from your lands to do things like activate abilities. For this reason, because Fires of Invention provided too much of a mana advantage, the card was banned in Standard.
After the banning, in my article I wondered why Wilderness Reclamation wasn't also banned. On the face, the card was another four mana enchantment that doubled your mana. In some ways the cards were similar, and in others they were much different. If you wanted to combine the mana Wilderness Reclamation provided, for example, you can only do this during your end step, while both the pre- and post-trigger mana was in your mana pool. This is fairly limiting, but on the other hand, you can still do it! On turn five, for example, you could have access to 10 mana during your end step. This is something that was never possible while playing with Fires of Invention. While the two cards have exploitative uses, they function very differently.
Last week on Freshly Brewed, Rob and I talked about how Temer Reclamation simply dominated the Players Tour Online, putting six copies of the deck in the Top 8 and comprising 40% of the entire event. To put things in perspective, there were 32 copies of Growth Spiral in the Top 8 and 28 copies of Shark Typhoon. It makes me wonder if we'll ever see an end to Blue and Green decks dominating in Standard.
Following that, this past Saturday Robero Gonzales and I casted the CSL x theNUEL Battle Across the Pond, which was an Arena event where two teams from the US and the UK battled. A player from each team battled the other until they lost, wherein the next player on their team would take over. Eventually Temur Reclamation ended up winning the event for the US where most games were ended with an Expansion // Explosion for anywhere from 16 to 24 damage. This is not a reasonable thing to be able to do in Standard Magic.
Historically Free Mana
Throughout the game of Magic, cards that provide free mana have historically been overpowered, and never used fairly; by definition, in a game where you are allowed one new resource per turn, allowing players more than that can only give a sizable advantage. In fact, the most famous and expensive card in the entire game is a free artifact that grants a player 3 mana. Five other cards that are in the Top 10 of most expensive cards also give free mana. Sol Ring is another card that gives free and accelerated mana. While free mana from the aforementioned cards is exciting to receive and leads to exhilarating game play from those utilizing them, time and time again these cards have imbalanced the game.
Even after the initial sets released cards like Black Lotus, the Moxes, and Sol Ring, Magic kept pushing the envelope. They wanted to reproduce that Black Lotus feel, so they created Lion's Eye Diamond, a card that has been utilized to broken effect in Legacy and Vintage combo decks. Think about that: even the downside of discarding your entire hand was not enough to deter people from trying to exploit three free mana.
Cards like Simian Spirit Guide and Elvish Spirit Guide have seen play in every format they've been legal. While being able to avoid bannings - likely due to producing only a single mana of a specific color, and only a single time - they're prominently utilized in combo decks that want to accelerate their combos by one or two turns, depending on how many copies of the Guides they have in hand. Simian Spirit Guide has been involved in more than one conversation about being banned in Modern.
We also had the "free" spells in Urza's block, cards like Treachery, Time Spiral, and Palinchron. While one of these is only the best "Control Magic" ever printed, the other two have been included in numerous combo decks, the latter allowing you to go infinite. In fact, time and time again, Time Spiral has been banned and unbanned, restricted and unrestricted, in format after format: Legacy, Vintage, Standard, Urza's Block... you name it! Many of the lands from their Urza's Saga Cycle - Gaea's Cradle, Tolarian Academy, Serra's Sanctum - were also banned in certain formats because the mana they produced far outstripped how difficult it was to get it, especially in conjunction with Voltaic Key.
Time after time after time, whenever Wizards prints a card that breaks the rules of mana development, it ends up being a mistake. Go down the list; it's extensive. Summer Bloom was banned. Aetherworks Marvel was banned. Bridge from Below was banned. Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis was banned. Once Upon a Time was banned. Fires of Invention was banned.
Is it Time for Wilderness Reclamation to Go?
In my eyes, yes. The card has done at least as much damage as Fires of Invention has, and will continue to do more. Just like Fires, it's a four mana enchantment that's difficult to deal with. It's a card that makes things like Wilt and Aether Gust main deckable, because you know your opponent is going to be playing Green or Red (but specifically Green), and an enchantment or artifact. We're basically playing in the same format as when all decks were playing four Noxious Grasp in their main deck, only now every deck has Mystical Dispute, Growth Spiral, and Aether Gust in it, whether it's Bant or Temur.
But now I'm getting into the problem of Blue and Green, more so than the problem of Wilderness Reclamation, and we should really be tackling one issue at a time here. Whether or not Wilderness Reclamation comprises 40% of every event moving forward or not, the card is breaking the same fundamental rules that Fires of Invention did, and its market share in current Standard is, I believe, higher than Fires ever was. Fires came with restrictions, disallowing you to play spells on your opponent's turn, meaning if they wanted to destroy your enchantment, they had all the freedom in the world to do so. Conversely, Wilderness Reclamation makes sure all your mana is untapped going into your opponent's turn, where you can easily have a counterspell or two up. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria only untapped two lands per turn, and that was a great benefit, as it allowed you to keep a 2 mana counter up.
Wilderness Reclamation feels more like the Urza's block cards in that when you cast it, you are immediately allowed to keep up mana for a Frilled Mystic, a Mystical Dispute, or any number of instant-speed cards, so long as your opponent doesn't have an answer between your main phase and your end step. In current Standard, you're even able to wait until turn five, where if your opponent has a counterspell, you can easily keep Mystical Dispute up for them.
I think Wilderness Reclamation is just another in a long line of cards that push the unhealthy advantage too far, and I'm surprised it's still legal. But I would love to know what you guys think! Let me know if the card should still be legal, or if it's too similar to Fires of Invention. Should Wizards just stop making cards that give you free mana boosts, considering they constantly backfire? Give me your thoughts in the comments below!
That's all we have for this week. Be sure to tune in for my birthday stream on Twitch this Thursday, June 25th, and say hey! I love you guys, I hope you're staying safe, use promo code FRANK5 for 5% off, and I'll catch you next week!