Too-Specific Top 10 - White Landfall

(Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines | Art by Martina Fačková)

"Whenever a land enters the battlefield..."

Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know that Canyon Jerboa is the only Mouse with Landfall?)

So, Panharmonicon is white now, and it's... better?

Which, of course, leads to the question: what are the most fun enter-the-battlefield effects to abuse in white?

Top 10 Mono-White Enter the Battlefield Effects

  1. Sun Titan
  2. Cathars' Crusade
  3. Knight of the White Orchid
  4. Mentor of the Meek
  5. Felidar Retreat
  6. Karmic Guide
  7. Archaeomancer's Map
  8. Soul Warden
  9. Authority of the Consuls
  10. Sigarda's Aid

Just the top ten enter-the-battlefield effects give us a lot of ideas, from recursion to aggro to lifegain to Enchantress. Notably absent is one of the main drivers that's inevitably going to be an engine in any Elesh Norn deck: blink shenanigans. Heck, we didn't even see a single Oblivion Ring, which will also be heavily featured on Elesh Norn's page, if I had to guess.

Why cover any of that new ground, though, when I could just revisit mono-white ramp yet again?

Top 10 Mono-White Landfall Cards

Despite probably being the second best color at land ramp, mono-white has never really been known for Landfall. There's been some overlap with lands decks that happened to have access to white, such as Omnath, Locus of Creation, Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis, Obuun, Mul Daya Ancestor, Amareth, the Lustrous, and Karametra, God of Harvests, but even in those builds the lands shenanigans have been decidedly green-focused.

That does not, however, mean that there are not mono-white options. Knight of the White Orchid has famously been one of the best white ramp spells ever printed, giving rise to an entire line of Land Tax-inspired ramp creatures. Here just ten of the top ones:

  1. Knight of the White Orchid
  2. Keeper of the Accord
  3. Weathered Wayfarer
  4. Loyal Warhound
  5. Oreskos Explorer
  6. Cartographer's Hawk
  7. Stoic Farmer
  8. Boreas Charger
  9. Scouting Hawk
  10. Space Marine Scout

While not all of these options contain an enter-the-battlefield trigger that can be abused with Elesh Norn, a good number of them do. There's a problem with them, though. Generally, you can guarantee that you'll be behind the table 75% of the time, just by the nature of there being four players in a Commander game and the random selection of who will go first. Those are pretty good odds for sandbagging a Knight of the White Orchid on turn three before you make your third land drop, but at that point, you're caught up if there's not another ramp deck at the table.

This has been the issue that has kept mono-white from being a ramp color in its own right: white can catch up, but it can't really get ahead without spending a lot of mana on things like Kor Cartographer. So how do you get around that problem?

Well, if you're a Landfall deck specifically, that doesn't necessarily mean that you're a land ramp deck. Who's to say you can't play your land for the turn, get that Landfall trigger, and then make some room for some Knight of the White Orchid shenanigans by getting rid of a few lands?

The economical way to do this is with bounce, as has been seen in blue-inclusive Landfall builds for a decade now with effects like Trade Routes and Meloku the Clouded Mirror. Unfortunately in white, this effect is hard to come by, with really only the original Karoo and the new Guildless Commons providing an easy means to returns Plains to your hand. The only other really good options that synergizes with Elesh Norn are "return a permanent" creatures, like Kor Skyfisher and Emancipation Angel, along with maybe the best effect, Cloudstone Curio, which would allow you to return two lands to your hand for every land you get down on the board.

That may seem like working backwards, but again, what we want is more Landfall, not necessarily more lands. With that in mind, if you really want to go to the extreme, there's always Storm Cauldron. It'll have the entire table targeting you, but when you're averaging four Landfall triggers a turn and the table as a whole is stuck on two mana, hopefully you'll be able to stay ahead!

Believe it or not, however, there are even more extreme options than Storm Cauldron.

Aura Fracture has been a low-key all-star for white decks for quite some time, but it has yet to really enter the public's consciousness at only 922 inclusions, with even lands decks that include white still preferring the more notorious Zuran Orb. There are even less well known options in white that allow you to sacrifice lands, however, from Prophecy Limited nightmare Troubled Healer to the Buyback options of Pegasus Stampede and Reaping the Rewards.

Alright, enough about ways to get rid of your own lands. What are we going to do with all those lands we're going to replace them with?

Criteria: Cards within the mono-white color identity that have Landfall. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.

10. Fearless Fledgling

(1,499 Inclusions, 0% of 837,999 Decks)

While researching for the monstrosity of a white Landfall deck I'll have posted down in the Honorable Mentions below, I was initially rather underwhelmed by Fearless Fledgling. In the early days of Commander, I used to be a huge fan of Vinelasher Kudzu, but even that "Landfall" staple from the days of yore has fallen out of favor with lands decks over the years. So what's the difference? Well, two things: one, as we'll see in this list, white Landfall cards are more or less all centered around aggro. They want you go tall and wide with both your landbase and your board state. Two, flying. Vinelasher Kudzu might be a bit of a terrifying threat on turn two in a lands deck, but no matter how big it gets it's just going to get chump blocked. As a flier, however, Fearless Fledgling will constantly be going over the top at opponents for the entire game if it's not dealt with. Even without Elesh Norn, Knight of the White Orchid, or Canyon Jerboa shenanigans, here's that clock, assuming you don't miss land drops:

  • Turn 3: Two damage total.
  • Turn 4: Five damage total.
  • Turn 5: Nine damage total.
  • Turn 6: Fourteen damage total.
  • Turn 7: Twenty damage total.

At that point, again without any outside intervention, it's a 6/6 flier that has to be answered, no matter how you've been spreading that damage around. In my experience, playing a mono-white Landfall build that can possibly double its enter-the-battlefield triggers? This thing is routinely a 12/12 by turn five, and even in the late game is the kind of card you're always happy to see.

9. Prowling Felidar

(2,203 Inclusions, 0% of 837,999 Decks)

I puzzled over Prowling Felidar, which has a worse ability of the same type as Fearless Fledgling and costs two mana more, being much more popular. So naturally, I went to its EDHREC page to figure out the mystery, and it turns out the disparity makes a ton of sense. Prowling Felidar, you see, is what's known as a Cat, and Cats are a well-known creature type with a ton of support. Ergo, more popular kitty, less popular but arguably better Griffin.

8. Eternity Vessel

(3,043 Inclusions, 0% of 1,874,506 Decks)

I'm not confused as to why Eternity Vessel is popular. Being able to reset your life total back to where it started (or whatever ridiculous life total your lifegain deck had on turn six) is not just good, it's great. Whether you're a Group Hug deck just trying to pillow fort your way to victory, or a life total matters deck looking to go down from 48 to 2 and back again every turn, maintaining a healthy status quo is important.

What this isn't, however, is a good Landfall card. Resetting your life total several times a turn does nothing for you, and you have game-winning spells available at six mana.

7. Trove Warden

(5,171 Inclusions, 1% of 837,999 Decks)

I was pretty high on Trove Warden when it initially came out, but it never really delivered. It's not that it's a bad card - far from it. It's that it's just not that reliable with the amount of exile effects out there these days. Even with that in mind, I would still say that more lands matter and Aristocrats decks should be playing this particular Cat Beast, which can bring back both lands and utility creatures from the graveyard with ease, for a lot less than a Sun Titan. Will you eventually stack up six cards underneath this and have it get Swords'd just as you were about to find a way to get rid of it? Absolutely.

Will it also sit there accruing value while an opponent wishes they'd cast their Blasphemous Act a few turns earlier? Yep.

6. Retreat to Emeria

(7,619 Inclusions, 1% of 837,999 Decks)

As I previously stated, a ton of the white Landfall cards don't do much other than make your board wide and tall. Thinking about it, though, that's all Avenger of Zendikar does, and I don't see anyone knocking against that one in lands decks! Retreat to Emeria is a pretty fair card at four mana, only making you 1/1s and making those 1/1s bigger temporarily. It gets a lot less fair when you're doubling up triggers with Elesh Norn, allowing you to make a horde of 1/1s one turn and then make them all 5/5s the next.

Here's my only critique of Retreat to Emeria: Canyon Jerboa. The little mouse didn't make this top ten, and I think that's a huge mistake by lands pilots. Three mana for a creature that pumps itself and the entire team anytime you lay down a land is a great rate, feeling a lot less clunky than four, and there are a ton of other ways for lands decks to make tokens.

With that said, there's always the "why not both" defense, which, as you know, I'm a fan of.

5. Admonition Angel

(8,045 Inclusions, 1% of 837,999 Decks)

There's no doubt we're going to see a ton of Elesh Norn Oblivion Ring decks, and probably more than few social media posts talking about the guy who decides to purposefully draw the game he's losing. With that said, Admonition Angel doesn't have that issue, and even without doubling triggers it's not uncommon to see this 6/6 flying over the top with half a dozen of your would-be blockers underneath it. Late game Landfall decks are terrifying in their ability to keep putting lands in various piles, and a threat like this is not to be overlooked (not that you were, what with the incentive of getting your entire board back when it leaves).

4. Seer's Sundial

(14,221 Inclusions, 1% of 1,874,506 Decks)

I've always been a bit dubious about the popularity of Seer's Sundial. It's a lot of mana to sink in to start drawing cards, but then again, if you're a lands deck, you probably have a lot of mana. Not so with this mono-white Landfall build, however, so I would leave this one on the shelf if you're not including green.

3. Emeria Angel

(18,120 Inclusions, 2% of 837,999 Decks)

If you're looking to go wide, then Emeria Angel has you covered. Plopping down fliers alongside every land you lay down adds up fast, whether they be used attacking or blocking. Add in a Canyon Jerboa to start making them huge as well, and you've just got a game-ender on your hands.

2. Emeria Shepherd

(28,602 Inclusions, 3% of 837,999 Decks)

If you've ever tried to go big in mono-white before, chances are you've played with Emeria Shepherd and are acutely aware of just how good it is. Seven-mana spells should more or less win you the game, and Emeria Shepherd delivers on that in spades if your graveyard hasn't been exiled. Go ahead, plop down a Prismatic Vista and get back that threat the table spent three turns getting rid of earlier in the game, then crack it and go get another. You've earned it!

1. Felidar Retreat

(57,652 Inclusions, 7% of 837,999 Decks)

Retreat to Emeria was a great card. If you were in Landfall and had access to white, it was always worth considering. Felidar Retreat isn't worth considering, it's worth including in absolutely anything that cares about lands or even just has more than your average amount of fetches. They pushed this card in every direction they could, from the 2/2 Cat Beast bodies to +1/+1 counters instead of until end of turn, and then they went and threw vigilance into the mix just to make sure. Felidar Retreat is, hands down, the best white Landfall card, and it's not close.

Honorable Mentions

Unlike the last time I visited Landfall, this time I kept it strictly to the keyword. There are still a few pseudo-Landfall cards that are worth consideration in white, however, chief among them being Archaeomancer's Map.

Easily the best white ramp card printed to date, Archaeomancer's Map is a combination of Land Tax and Burgeoning that will have you laying down several lands with every rotation of the table. What left it out of consideration was not the lack of a keyword (I would have made an exception given how high on the list it was), but rather the fact that it triggers off or your opponents playing lands, rather than you yourself.

In a similar vein, any white Landfall deck with an interest in life gain would be considering Shattered Angel, even with it caring about opponents' lands rather than your own.

The last real card to consider that doesn't strictly have Landfall is the newly printed Tiller Engine. Every day, decks as a whole are playing fewer and fewer lands that enter the battlefield tapped, but that doesn't meant that Tiller Engine isn't useful for your average lands deck. Most land ramp out there brings the lands into play tapped, and this undoes that. Not only that, but for Elesh Norn specifically, Tiller Engine is ramp in and of itself, in a non-intuitive way. With double the triggers, you can not only initially untap the land, but then also tap it in response to the second untap trigger, netting you two mana off of your tapped land the turn it enters the battlefield! I'm no mathematician, but zero becoming two seems like a good deal!

That more or less sums up the non-Landfall land fall cards out there in white that you'd want to play in a mono-white Landfall deck. Which reminds me...

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As a note, there will be a lot of folks copy-pasting Panharmonicon into their Elesh Norn decks, but be careful! Unlike Elesh Norn, Panharmonicon only doubles the triggers resulting from artifacts and creatures specifically entering the battlefield, meaning that for Landfall or Enchantress, it's not going to be a good fit.

As for the deck I built, I expected it to feel a bit clunky. Once you get used to purposefully lowering your land count, however, this janky-looking pile ends up being a pretty lethal aggro deck, rapidly going from a fairly innocent-looking durdle pile on turn four and five to threatening the entire table with a loss on turn six. Storm Cauldron specifically can just spell game over with any kind of Landfall pump on the board, routinely meaning you can untap with it in play, use your five mana to play Elesh Norn, returning them to your hand, and then playing down two more lands for four Landfall triggers. After all that, you still have two mana at least left over to cast a Knight of the White Orchid effect, giving you two more!

Just keep in mind that like all Praetors, Elesh Norn will always have a target on her back, and play accordingly. Here's hoping you enjoy the brew!

Nuts and Bolts

There always seems to be a bit of interest in how these lists are made (this seems like a good time to stress once again that they are based on EDHREC score, NOT my personal opinion), and people are often surprised that I’m not using any special data or .json from EDHREC, but rather just muddling my way through with some Scryfall knowledge! For your enjoyment/research, here is this week’s Scryfall search.

What Do You Think?

As I said in my opening, apparently Panharmonicon is white now. At some level, I understand the thought: if white can be the home of Hushbringer and Blink, then it should surely be able to be the home of enter-the-battlefield triggers, right?

At the same time, it's difficult to know if this is a permanent home, or a one-off that may never be revisited in the color (or at all). The question is, where do you think Panharmonicon effects should live?

Finally, what do you think of Landfall in white? Have you ever built it? If you have the deck, are you going to be including Elesh Norn? Or are you building Elesh Norn now, but in a totally different way?

Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the two tables the store split apart when they saw how many folks were coming.

Doug has been an avid Magic player since Fallen Empires, when his older brother traded him some epic blue Homarids for all of his Islands. As for Commander, he's been playing since 2010, when he started off by making a two-player oriented G/R Land Destruction deck. Nailed it. In his spare time when he's not playing Magic, writing about Magic or doing his day job, he runs a YouTube channel or two, keeps up a College Football Computer Poll, and is attempting to gif every scene of the Star Wars prequels.