Zendikar Rising Set Review - Green

(Turntimber Symbiosis | Art by Randy Vargas)

It's So Much Fun Being Green

Welcome back to the EDHREC set review for Zendikar Rising, where we're moving into the green section of the color pie. Since we last saw Zendikar, the plane is slowly healing after the Eldrazi devastation. Powerful forces are waking and being influenced by Nahiri and Nissa as they fight over their visions for the people and lands of their home plane. There’s a lot here for Commander players, especially land-based decks, so let’s gather our party and see what treasures there are to be found.

Mythic Rare

Ashaya, Soul of the Wild

Speaking of land-based decks, Ashaya, Soul of the Wild is a powerful new option for existing Landfall decks that'll carve out plenty of space for itself as a commander, as well. Ashaya, Soul of the Wild can make use of a lot of the cards that form the core of Anthousa, Setessan Hero or Jolrael, Empress of Beasts decks. Earth Surge, Timber Protector, and Sylvan Advocate are powerful anthems for land creatures. It also fits nicely into Titania, Protector of Argoth, where you can now sacrifice creatures to generate Elementals. Ashaya will also be a powerful new addition for multicolor decks, letting your creatures trigger powerful Landfall engines like Tatyova, Benthic Druid, Lotus Cobra, and Omnath, Locus of the Roil. Decks built around Field of the Dead, such as Golos, Tireless Pilgrim or Yarok, the Desecrated, will also have a much easier time getting seven lands with different names, especially if you're working on a budget.

Ashaya also combos with several cards on her own, most notably Quirion Ranger. With Ashaya, Soul of the Wild in play, Quirion Ranger can return itself to your hand to untap another creature, which can then tap to recast the Ranger. This will generate infinite creature casts and Landfall triggers, and it can also generate infinite mana if your other creature taps for two or more mana (I'm looking at you, Priest of Titania).

Decks like Yisan, the Wanderer Bard and Marwyn, the Nurturer that include Quirion Ranger will make great use of Ashaya, Soul of the Wild as well. Storage Matrix might also be worth considering in an Ashaya, Soul of the Wild deck, since you can easily untap all your creatures as lands while stymieing combat for your opponents.

Even commanders like Zacama, Primal Calamity that don’t necessarily play Lands Matter strategies can make use of the extra mana that comes from small utility creatures in the same way that Azami, Lady of Scrolls makes all your Wizards much better by adding an extra ability. Brass's Bounty and Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar also take advantage of the increased number of lands you will control. Ashaya also makes board wipes like Planar Cleansing one-sided while shutting off opposing Cyclonic Rifts, so Child of Alara also seems like a natural home for this new Elemental.

Ancient Greenwarden

Playing lands out of your graveyard is a powerful effect. Getting to reuse Wooded Foothills to ensure that you have the right color of mana every turn, or taking advantage of Buried Ruin or Inventors' Fair multiple times just feels good. Ancient Greenwarden takes this already powerful ability and makes it twice as effective by doubling any Landfall triggers you happen to be getting along the way. That's two 5/5 tokens with Omnath, Locus of Rage, two mana generated with Lotus Cobra, and two cards drawn with Tatyova, Benthic Druid. Perhaps the commander best situated to take advantage of Ancient Greenwarden is Yarok, the Desecrated. These two cards work together to triple all of your Landfall abilities. If only Yarok had access to red so you could deal nine damage per Mountain with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle.

Valakut isn't the only red card that benefits from double Landfall either. Moraug, Fury of Akoum only needs two extra combats to potentially knock a player out, and Ancient Greenwarden gets you there with one land. They both even have the same total power and toughness, so Wild Pair can grab you one when you cast the other. Play this with Mina and Denn, Wildborn, for easy access to trample, or Xenagos, God of Revels, to take advantage of other big creatures and haste.

It's also worth noting that Ancient Greenwarden only doubles the triggers of permanents that you control. This means that your friend's Zo-Zu, the Punisher deck won't get twice as powerful if you play the Greenwarden. The same applies for the new Confounding Conundrum, so you won't have to bounce two lands with it in play. If you control the Confounding Conundrum and Ancient Greenwarden, however, your opponents will have to bounce two lands for every extra land they put into play. Simic decks don't need the help keeping up, but it is technically a thing you can do.

Turntimber Symbiosis

I'm still not sure what the best way to evaluate the new Modal Double-Faced Cards is. On its own merits, Turntimber Symbiosis isn't great, but it's not bad, either. It has a much lower ceiling than spells like Genesis Wave or even Kamahl's Druidid Vow, which show up in roughly 13,000 and 3,500 decks, respectively, but it also has a higher floor. In a Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma or Nikya of the Old Ways deck, this will reliably find a big creature to put into play for less mana than Genesis Wave would require to hit the same creature. The new land-spells actually seem perfect for Nikya of the Old Ways, since you can still play Turntimber, Serpentine Wood with Nikya in play. And if Nikya gets destroyed, Turntimber Symbiosis is a great way to get you back in the game.


Scute Swarm

If you've ever sat down opposite a Giant Adephage, you'll know exactly how quickly self-replicating creatures can get out of hand. Scute Swarms will grow even faster, as they rely on lands entering play rather than dealing combat damage. If you have five lands in play, your land for turn will make a copy of Scute Swarm. Your seventh land then creates two more, and your eighth leaves you with a total of eight Scute Swarm on the field. This can happen in one turn with Azusa, Lost but Seeking in play, and things get really out of hand with Cathars' Crusade. Karametra, God of Harvests can make great use of Scute Swarm, or a Yannik, Scavenging Sentinel and Nikara, Lair Scavenger deck focused around blinking Wood Elves.

Oran-Rief Ooze

Oran-Rief Ooze brings us up to 32 Ooze type creatures in Magic, and one step closer to an actual Ooze tribal deck. Outside of Ooze tribal, Oran-Rief Ooze is great for aggressive decks focused around +1/+1 counters, like Ukkima, Stalking Shadow and Cazur, Ruthless Stalker. This effect gets more powerful the more creatures you control with counters, so it could also find a home with Rhys, the Redeemed or Emmara, Soul of the Accord.

Inscription of Abundance

Inscription of Abundance isn't as flexible as other popular modal spells like Golgari Charm or Rakdos Charm, but it still has some niche applications that could make it worth considering. Having Kicker makes it a consideration for Hallar, the Firefletcher, especially since it can put counters on Hallar without being kicked for a bigger payoff later on. If you do choose to kick Inscription of Abundance, it's almost always worth it to use all three effects. You'll put the counters on your creature first, so you'll get to gain two extra life and make your creature punch up when it fights. If you're already playing Rabid Bite for creature removal, consider adding this in as well. Here's lookin' at you, Rhonas, the Indomitable.

Tajuru Paragon

There isn't a ton of direct support for the new Party mechanic in green, but I think Tajuru Paragon could find a place in the right Party-themed Commander deck. It doesn't do much on the field, but Tajuru Paragon can come down early and won't make you a threat at the table. Having the option to kick the spell later on to find another Cleric, Warrior, Rogue, Wizard, or Elf in the top six cards of your library isn't terrible, either.

Uncommons and Commons

Bala Ged Recovery & Khalni Ambush

Spells that are also lands continue to confuse me, at least in the context of Commander. With access to all of the best ramp and fixing tools in Magic, is it worth playing Bala Ged Recovery instead of Regrowth? Having extra options is never a bad thing, and having the option to play a land is always a good thing. Without having played with any of these cards yet, I wouldn't recommend swapping out a land for either of these spells, but if you want either effect, it's probably worth it to slot Bala Ged Recovery or Khalni Ambush in alongside Regrowth or Rabid Bite, respectively. Also keep in mind that you can play the land side of these spells from your graveyard with Ancient Greenwarden. The best place to try out these cards is likely in land-focused Korvold, Fae-Cursed King decks or in Lord Windgrace where you can expect to make full use of either side any time you draw them.

Iridescent Hornbeetle

Token decks that play with +1/+1 counters are getting a lot of new toys in Zendikar Rising, and Iridescent Hornbeetle stands among the best of them. The Hornbeetle doesn't only care about token decks, since it will create just as many Insect tokens if you go tall with +1/+1 counters, too. This makes it perfect for Thromok the Insatiable decks, where it creates a huge field of fodder when you cast your commander to serve as blockers, or future food for Thromok's Devour ability. And, of course, any deck running Cathars' Crusade will probably want to play Iridescent Hornbeetle as well. I'm thinking Ghave, Guru of Spores, Marath, Will of the Wild, or even Zaxara, the Exemplary to complement the large Hydras that that deck can produce.

Roiling Regrowth

Harrow is a pretty darn good spell. Roiling Regrowth is almost a functional reprint of Harrow that is, in most cases, going to feel worse. This is mostly because the lands from Roiling Rebirth enter the battlefield tapped, although casting it as an instant can make that a non-factor. In return, sacrificing a land isn't an additional cost for Rebirth. This makes copying it worse, since you'll end up having to sacrifice two lands instead of just one. It does mean you won't have to sacrifice a land if it gets countered, like you would with Harrow, and you can technically cast it with no lands in play, although I wouldn't recommend trying to engineer that situation.

Roiling Rebirth will shine exactly where Harrow shines: triggering extra Landfall effects for the likes of Yarok, the Desecrated, Omnath, Locus of Rage, Omnath, Locus of the Roil, and Tatyova, Benthic Druid, and sacrificing things for Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, Titania, Protector of Argoth, The Gitrog Monster, and Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest.

Vastwood Surge

We just got Migration Path in Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, so Wizards really seems to like four-mana spells that ramp you two lands. Vastwood Surge and Migration Path both take a step up from Explosive Vegetation by having extra utility late in the game. Vastwood Surge, in particular, rewards you for ramping fast by putting two +1/+1 counters on each creature you control if you Kick it. This is a pretty significant buff that, while not as effective as Overrun, could push you up to lethal damage if you have enough creatures. Rhys the Redeemed is particularly well-situated to take advantage of this spell early or late game. Oh, and Hallar, the Firefletcher and the new Verazol, the Split Current are quite excited, too.

At the Root of the Matter

Thanks for joining me on this adventure through the green dungeon of Zendikar Rising. Which cards are you most excited about in this set? Did I miss any fun cards, or am I wrong in my analysis of any of these cards? Let me know in the comments below!

Ben was introduced to Magic during Seventh Edition and has played on and off ever since. A Simic mage at heart, he loves being given a problem to solve. When not shuffling cards, Ben can be found lost in a book or skiing in the mountains of Vermont.