dodo

Written for Dodo Bird Commander by Josh Jurgensen

Just as I’m able to start getting the feel for how the first round of cards from Origins are doing in my decks, they go and throw another set at us. I’m up to my elbows in work but I’m still getting plenty of time to play cards every week. I thought we could stay in Tempest again this month – and we’re showing off a card that commonly gets dismissed as a combo piece – and I’ve done a fair bit of work to change that image in my area. I’m talking about…

Spotlight – Earthcraft

When I played back during Tempest, I was still innocent – I played cards I liked and tried to put the cards I owned in decks as best I could. I had heard that cards like Earthcraft, Recurring Nightmare and Survival of the Fittest were amazing new cards – and they must have been – because no one ever had any for trade! Back then, I didn’t fully understand them because I was looking at those cards in a vacuum. Now more than 15 years later, I’ve got a little more perspective and history to see how they’ve interacted with all of the newer cards. Earthcraft is likely most notorious for the Squirrel Nest combo (where you play the nest on a basic land) – and I’ve got a few copies of this card in decks and not a single nest –because that combo is fast and easy and it’s a bit of a letdown for my crew when someone wins that quickly. There’s plenty of other great ways to use this card without comboing out – so let’s take a look at what we have here:

116

Analysis

Card Name: Earthcraft
Mana Cost: 1G
Types: Enchantment
Card Text: Tap an untapped creature you control: Untap target basic land.

So what? This turns every creature you have into a Ley Druid (or a Voyaging Satyr) – but worse, it can only untap your basics. Well, it turns out that being able to do that with your creatures can be fantastic in some circumstances. The biggest point worth noting is that since the ability is on Earthcraft and not the creatures, you can tap them the turn they enter play – even if they have summoning sickness.Suddenly dropping a handful of elves on turn two was never easier.

Odds are that if you’re already playing an archetype like elves you might be aware of this card – but if you’re one of the people who’s a fan of the fantastic Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury starter deck but hasn’t considered this card for the deck yet,I’m going to strongly recommend trying it out. Earthcraft isn’t just for elves, Squirrel Nest combo and token strategies (although it is great with them) – but I’m here today to talk about it being an overlooked piece of solid utility for nearly all decks containing both creatures and a bit of green. Outside of the four decks of mine that run it, it isn’t played often at any of the shops I frequent – and that’s a shame, because EDH is one of the last venues this gem can shine. Let’s take a look and if you’re already an avid user of the card, make your voice heard in the comments and share some of your favorite stories or applications of the card.

Applications

Attack Attractor – This is technically a drawback, but you’ll probably have to address this issue quickly. That is the issue of fear that you’ll combo out immediately after playing this – once you address that concern and demonstrate that you’re not running the other half of the combo (if you aren’t), then things get a little less hostile for you. The fact that this only untaps basics keeps you from going bonkers with Cabal Coffers or Nykthos also helps vent a little more attention away from you – for the time being, at least.

Value Engine – Many Commander decks in my local shops utilize many utility creatures – creatures that often serve far more good sitting in play on your side not attacking or blocking than they do risking getting killed in combat. If you’ve found yourself with a few creatures in play that you don’t want to attack with, then feel free to use them with this enchantment to extend beyond the normal reach of your mana. During your turn, you simply can count those creatures as extra copies of the basic lands you already control – but they serve even more utility if you leave them untapped (to serve as potential blockers) until the last possible moment – and then play instant-speed effects with the mana from them.

Perennial Response Threat – Not having any untapped islands but having an untapped Merrow Rejeerey and a clone of the Rejeerey makes math a total guessing game for your opponents with Earthcraft out – and keeps you a potential counter threat even if you don’t have any untapped islands showing. With untapped creatures in play, you’re going to be a threat – or bluff like you’re a threat until your board state changes significantly. You want to exercise caution here,obviously – if the entire table is scared of you, it’s likely you won’t be able to keep these cards out for very long.

Zendy

Non-combat use for Tokens – Perhaps one of the most frequent uses I have for the card is using it to immediately turn a card like Avenger of Zendikar from a creature token creator into a mana source. Being able to tap all of those plant tokens immediately is an undoubtedly explosive burst of mana – and a serious threat for the rest of the table to deal with. If you’re playing a token deck with any amount of green and not using this card, I strongly urge you to try it out.

Super mana producer – if you’re keen to buck trends and land destruction is rare in your metagame, might I recommend pairing this card with several of the fine land-chantments that have been printed over the years – such as Dawn’s Reflection, Elvish Guidance, Fertile Ground, Market Festival, Overgrowth, Utopia Sprawl, Verdant Haven and Wild Growth. Don’t discount mana doublers as well – like Dictate of Karametra, Heartbeat of Spring, Mana Flare and Mana Reflection and others – with enough creatures, they’re bound to be a bigger benefit for you than your opponent. If you want more effects than just mana, consider Verdant Field,Forbidden Lore or Hot Springs. Outside of green you have Caustic Tar, Chamber of Manipulation, Hostile Realm, Sunken Field, and Underworld Connections. And yes, if you want to make an infinite amount of creatures, feel free to include Squirrel Nest or Spawning Grounds – but don’t hold me accountable for what your playgroup does to you.

Niche Utility – if you see many Hokori/Rising Waters/Winter Orb/Vorinclex effects in your metagame, this can let you use your creatures for access to some of your lands. This is a rare niche use of the card indeed – but sometimes remembering something like this can really save your bacon.

Technical

The mechanics of this card seem pretty straightforward – but attention needs to be paid that the “cost:effect” phrase is on Earthcraft itself and not on your creatures – so that all of your creatures can be tapped at any time, regardless of if they have haste or not.

Also worth noting is that if you anticipate instant-speed removal from your opponents as soon as you cast this, I believe you can say that you maintain priority when this enters play and activate your creatures accordingly – so you get a full use of it even if you know someone’s itching to use their Krosan Grip or Seal of Cleansing on it.

Grip

Dealing with it

The obvious solution is targeted enchantment removal, and one of the best – Krosan Grip – keeps them from untapping a single land (if they haven’t followed the strategy above of maintaining priority). Barring Krosan Grip, any one of the plethora of popular cards that destroys an enchantment can get this thing off of the table relatively quickly. A secondary way to handle this is to get rid of all of their creatures – if they don’t have any out, this card is useless. I want to note that it’s important not to over-evaluate this card’s importance. If there’s more dangerous or disruptive permanents in play, you should certainly deal with those first – particularly if you know that the Earthcraft’s controller doesn’t play Squirrel Nest in their deck.

Financial

Technically,this card is almost out of the price range I had set for my guidelines of this article ($20.00 US) – this card is slowly edging up and I had hoped to get to this card later on in my series, but I feared that if I didn’t cover this card soon that I might lose my opportunity to do so. Earthcraft really has everything going for it – cheap, splashable, innocuous (in most of my circles), a great color, old and on the reserve list. There could be a higher-costed version of this printed at some point in the future – but I don’t think anyone should expect to use creatures with summoning sickness in the hypothetical reprinted version. Any time I see one of these in a trade binder (which is almost never) I try to get it immediately.

Seedborn

Alternatives

From what we’ve talked about,there’s nothing out there that does quite what this card does – but there’s plenty of effects that are similar. The obvious start are creatures like Ley Druid, Voyaging Satyr, Argothian Elder, Juniper Order Druid, Stone-Seeder Hierophant,Krosan Restorer and Magus of the Candelabra. Early Harvest, Rude Awakening,Turnabout, Time Spiral and Reset can untap a bit of your lands also – and so can the cycle of blue creatures – most notoriously including Palinchron. I’m not terribly crazy about Prophet of Kruphix – but it and Seedborn Muse serve similar roles and can even magnify the effect of this card dramatically. Paired together, Seedborn and Earthcraft can be devastating.

End Step

Consider how Earthcraft might work for you – and determine if this piece of magic history deserves a spot in one of your decks. I think it’s a great card – and this article was inspired by a friend at one of my local shops remarking how great the card was performing on my battlefield – and how he should probably get one. I hope he does.

Thanks for checking out this month’s article – and chime in below if you have any questions for us or if you have a story of your own about this card. Thanks for reading!