Risen Reef is a 1/1 elemental creature with an interesting “enters the battlefield” trigger; every time you play an elemental, you get to draw a card which can then be played tapped if it’s a land. This is a bonkers ability for a 3 mana creature, especially as it triggers the ability itself when it enters. Yes it’s a 1/1 creature that isn’t going to do you much good in combat but there are plenty of ways to beef it up including Creeping Trailblazer, Overgrowth Elemental, and Omnath, Locus of the Roil.
In terms of elementals to trigger this ability, there are currently 55 elemental creatures in Standard1 plus 13 cards that can create elementals. It is worth noting that abilities that turn lands into elementals such as those found on Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi will not trigger the reef as they are not entering the battlefield, they are simply changing something that already exists.
One of the better combos, and one found inside this booster pack, is using the +0 ability on Chandra, Acolyte of Flame to create two elementals for the turn; these will activate the ability twice giving you a steady card draw and two attacking bodies. There are good synergies to be had with any elemental creature but Creeping Trailblazer, Living Twister, and Omnath, Locus of the Roil are going to be your key combo pieces.
You may be wondering why you are given the option of playing a land card tapped: why doesn’t it just do it automatically? I think the reason for this is that there are some land cards you may want to hold back until later in the game. Field of the Dead is one that comes to mind as you may want to wait until you have six lands with different names before you play it lest your opponent has a way to blow up lands before you get a single activation. If you’re playing with this on Arena, you may notice that if you choose to play a Shock Land it will still ask if you want to pay 2 life to bring it in untapped; this is annoying as if you say yes you’ll pay 2 life but it will still enter tapped2.
Thanks to this card, the Temur Elementals deck is definitely a real thing and seeing a lot of play on Arena. I’ve tried it out myself with the deck from SBMTG and it is definitely fun to play, especially when you get a long combo thanks to having multiple copies of Risen Reef in play. There have been a few people wondering if this card will be banned due to being too broken but I think that is unlikely at this stage. I do think this card should have been set at a higher rarity and should possibly have been made a legendary creature; as an uncommon regular creature it does feel a little too accessible, especially as you can have multiple copies in play.
As is often the case, I’m going to finish off by talking about the physical design of the card. First of all, I love the flavour text on this card so much but the font styling always trips me up on it; the word walked would usually be italicised but instead it is made regular as the rest of the flavour text is in italics3. It’s a great line though. The artwork too is especially good; I adore the bright colours and the level of detail. Take a look at a larger version uploaded by artist Johan Grenier and you’ll see the sheer artistry that is gone into those waves. It doesn’t look like he currently sells prints but if he does in future I would snap this up at instant speed.
Comprised of 15 blue, 4 black, 23 red, and 23 green. The number doesn’t add up to 55 as 9 of them are multicoloured. The basic gist, though, is that elementals work beautifully in Temur () colours. ↩︎
This catches me out frequently with Nissa, Who Shakes the World. The reason for it is that the Shock Land is appended with “put it onto the battlefield tapped” and paying the two life does not cancel this out; nowhere on the card does it say “enters untapped if you pay 2 life”, it just says that if you don’t pay the life you’ll be tapped. It’s a bit of a linguistic nightmare but Arena will prompt you and you can easily end up paying 2 life with no benefit. ↩︎
It’s such a minor thing but it bugs me a lot that flavour text is italicised specifically for this reason. Just use a smaller font! ↩︎
This post is part of a weekday series where I open up a booster pack and pick a card to discuss. Whilst these are often the best cards from the set, I'll often pick one that is a bit niche or one that has cool artwork or flavour text. If there's a particular card you want me to take a look at, get in touch or join my Discord community.