One defining aspect of my cube is that I have a vast number of dual lands and fixing. For a lot of the cubes, such as the Magic Online one, having this much fixing would put an emphasis on multicoloured decks and just drafting the best cards while not worrying to much about colours. In my cube however I have so many support cards that decks my be honed far more into archetypes even in draft and are therefore much more powerful. In my cube mono coloured decks still have a huge consistency advantage over two or more coloured decks, they are also far less restricted in playing double coloured mana two drops meaning their potential card pool is not as reduced compared to multicolour decks as it first seems. With the degree of dual lands I have even a three colour deck simply can't play them all, let alone four or five colours. There are not enough slots you want as land in your deck to accommodate all the appropriate dual lands across three or more colours and that is assuming no basic lands or utility lands are getting played. The critical point is about 6 types of dual land per colour combination where by adding any more to your cube only really helps two colour decks. As I mentioned earlier, even with all this fixing fewer colours still means greater consistency and an easier time of constructing your mana base in my cube. I like to play Magic, winning or losing due to a colour screw isn't very fun or satisfying and one of the best ways to prevent screws is an abundance of dual lands. The balance I presently have of fixing results in a fairly balanced spread of different numbers of colours being played in decks. The dual lands certainly all deserve their slots as they are all amongst the top most played cards. As they tend to come in cycles that are functionally ideantical excepr for the different combinations of colour they offer I have reviewed the lands as the cycle. While some are more played than others due to those pairings of colours appearing in more powerful and viable archetypes I have assumed all colour combinations are of equal worth and compared like colours of different cycles for the sake of assessment. You only have to look at the difference in price between an Underground Sea and a Badlands to appreciate this difference but it would have been very tedious to review each land separately each time harping on about why certain combnations were better than others and not talking about the way the lands functions and how and when that is good.
The Original Duels 4.3
The sac lands take home the prize over this set as the best mana fixing lands in the cube but a huge part of what makes the sac lands so good are the original duels. The most powerful side of these lands is that they are the basic land types and not the lack of a drawback that comes on all other dual lands. I believe if these were just non-basic lands while the ice age pain lands were given the appropriate basic land types that the pain lands would see more play. Having both no drawback and the sub type these are far and away the best lands that tap for multiple colours of mana. Cards that say get a forest instead of get a basic land become better with the existence of these. You just can't go wrong with these lands, the only time they ever hurt you is when cards like Wastelands take advantage of them still being non-basic. Despite this you are always playing these in your deck if for any reason you can make use of both colours in your deck. This could be as simple as playing a Volcanic Island in your mono red deck to pay the cost on Spellskite or perhaps cast the Ice half of Fire / Ice. These duals don't really feel overpowered, they are just better than the other non sac land duals.
The Sac Lands 4.6
If these could only get basic land they would still be in the cube but would be far more reasonable. As it stands you can pretty much fix any colour you like with any given sac land if you have the right original duels and shock lands. This can be done untapped for the same life cost as one use of a pain land. These can safely be laid and remain immune to targeted land destruction for use with following land drops. The only drawback I can find for these cards is that their effect may be stifled which would be ruinous if it ever happened. So far we have only covered the advantages these have purely as land cards. Filling up a graveyard, thinning a deck and offering a shuffle mechanism can all be taken advantage of or abused. One life is still not much to pay, even if the card is not being used for mana fixing, should your deck wish to include any of those effects. Many mono coloured decks use this cycle of lands and many multicoloured decks play as many as they can physically ram in, often more than they have targets for. Sac lands are what make Brainstorm, Divining Top and Jace, the Mind Sculptor so easily abused. They are the reason that Steppe Lynx, Lotus Cobrea and Plated Geopede have a cube slot. They work with so many non-land cards while also being the best fixers in the game when in combination with other lands and, unlike the original duals, do feel somewhat overpowered. On the plus side, they come with an awful lot of choices thus increasing the depth and complexity of the game.
The Bounce Lands 2.7
These high risk high reward lands are great aids in deck construction. They allow you to somewhat freely bolster your land count without having to cut any spells. They also have a lot of useful synergy with other lands and spells that can be taken advantage of. By tapping for two and bouncing one of your own lands they allow you to carry on making lands drops without taking a dent in your overall curving potential for an extra turn. They can be abused easily with cards that untap lands, require you to have fewer lands in play or with lands that have a comes into play effect. The cost for these pseudo-card advantage lands is the risk that you double the effectiveness of any spell that targets a land. A Wastelands, Vindicate or even the humble Boomerang on one of these is painful at the best of times and usually game over if done in the early game. You cannot run more than two of these in a 40 card deck without it coming back to bite you at some point. Even one will be overly awkward from time to time. If all you have is a come into play tapped land and one of these in your opener you are going to be very very slow out of the gates. With just these in your opening hand you can't keep the hand. Great to have as an option for your deck but usually even better when you don't have to include them.
The Shock Lands 3.9
The fairer version of the original duels but still significantly more powerful than most other duels due to possessing the basic land sub-types. These supplement the original duel and sac lands perfectly offering redundancy in your mana base that is far harder to get in the singleton format. Even without the sub-type these are probably still just better than pain lands although it is very close. Having a choice to make is always a nice bonus on a card and being able to play mind games on people by running them out untapped and passing is great too, better still is running them out tapped on turn one with a force spike in hand only to hit a key spell slightly later on as they assume you don't have! Great lands and usually the 3rd name on the roster for two colour decks behind sac and original dual lands. Two life is fairly hefty and in a lot of matchups you will find yourself holding out on these lands trying to lay them tapped to preserve the life. Even if these always shocked you on entry to the board I think they would still average about the same life loss as pain land per game. As they stand they average much closer to one life lost per game making them a total bargain. They never shaft you as you have complete control over the card making them one of the safest dual lands on offer, not to mention their useful synergy and redundancy (again).
The Pain Lands 2.8
Pain lands get a bit overlooked these days but they are very reliable which is most of what you want from your land. These always come into play untapped and always offer two colours of mana from the outset. There are many options for duels which do not ever cost you life that are better than these most of the time. The thing is when they are worse they cost you the game, when they are better they save you a life point or two. Basically, man up and run the pain lands, they are better than fancy land that can bite you in the arse. I am certain that the average damage taken from pain lands in the cube would be less than two per game, which is nothing. It is the potential damage they can cause you that is most off-putting. If you are concerned about your life total you should be adding cards like Zuran Orb and Wurmcoil Engine not cutting pain lands. The only valid reasons not to run these when they are on colour is if you need a certain amount of basics or targets for sac lands. After sac, original and shock lands these are the best dual lands you can depend on. Sure they don't offer you the perks of filter lands or bounce lands but those get added should you be able to support them once you have the core of you mana base set up. Pain lands should be part of the core not part of the icing.
Filter Lands 3.1
These are the best of the less reliable duels out there although it is getting closer with the lands in the last few blocks. The huge drawback of these cards is that they don't produce coloured mana on turn one. They can also be a little awkward in how you are forced to tap when you want to cast spells in stages but this is rarely much of a problem and at worst causes a mana burn or gives away a bit of information. The perks you get for these somewhat minor downsides is a dual land that comes into play untapped and ready to use with no pain or life loss that effectively turns one of your mono coloured lands into a dual land as well. They greatly facilitate the inclusion of heavy colour demanding spells in multicoloured decks. Without cards like this playing a Sinkhole and a Strangleroot Geist in the same deck would be really unreliable. Agro decks in particular tend to be cheaper and therefore automatically have a higher ratio of coloured mana to colourless mana in costs. In something like a Boros deck wins you can have no spell that costs more than a single red or white yet still greatly benefit from the filter land. You cannot go overboard on these lands as they only produce coloured mana when you have coloured mana to pump into them. Much like bounce lands having only them in your opener is a no go. They are more forgiving as the game progresses compared to bounce lands and so I will fairly happily play two when needed.
The M10 Lands 2.4
I wanted more dual lands in the cube that provided mana on the turn you make it and particularly felt the need for more enemy colour dual lands. I wanted to add the Mirrodin Besieged cycle of lands as I think they are by far an away the best not in the cube that fit the first requirement however not having enemy colours I went for the M10 lands who had the enemy colours arrive for us in Innistrad. Typically these only see play in two colour decks as in three or more colour decks they are coming into play tapped a lot of the time. Sometimes this is fine but it does mean that cards like the bounce lands get in before them fairly often. I have yet to play over a pain land too which I think speaks a lot to their reliability. They put a higher premium on the sac, shock and original dual which are already the clear best lands and they make the other duals less appealing. This means I will cut these as soon as they print some good tempo enemy colour dual lands. The reason for my desire for enemy coloured dual lands is because the dual man land cycle is only allied colours and makes those decks have an easier time of things. Perhaps this is the flavour R&D would like in our Magic but I don't really see how that makes it a better game. The enemy colour lands from this cycle do see more play than the allied ones but usually wind up in all the two colour decks over basic lands any way so is fairly negligible.
The Vivid Lands 2.2
As fixers for two colour decks these are the worst of the lot in my cube and many others that are not. These still see play in two colour decks plenty in the more limited formats like draft and sealed as mana bases can look pretty scary sometimes. If drafting the whole cube this shouldn't need to happen however. The reason these get their cube slot is for their increasing value in decks of three or more colours. I have never run one of these out of counters and then needed to use them again and can pretty much be viewed as a land that can be tapped for any coloured mana, assuming you have put the right coloured ones in you deck of course! They work just as well as any other land for an allied triple and the best of one of only a few options for opposing colour triplets. The blue and green ones tend to see more play than the others as four and five colour decks are more heavily based on those colours most of the time. I also like the way these cards act as lots of different kinds of duel land adding redundancy to the cube. You can pick one up early in a colour you are already in knowing it will work as a duel land even without knowing what you other colours will be. All too often are you able to work out what colours people are playing by what specific duel lands come round late in a draft, these help to mask that somewhat by being ambiguous and the weakest option for a duel in most decks. Coming into play tapped is a real drawback to a land and something you have to keep to a minimum where possible. There is only so much room for comes into play tapped lands in the cube and with the addition of the cycling lands I have put these in the B cube for the time being. They are worthy of an A cube slot and are very space efficient for what they offer to drafting the cube but with all the other lands I have and no real desire to buff 4 and 5 colour decks over the others these were the most suitable to free up some space with.
The Onslaught Cycling Lands 3.5
Not including these in the cube before was a huge oversight. Since their recent inclusion they have seen play in most decks and have guaranteed a place in the cube for a long time to come. Compared to the original cycling lands these are far far better. Essentially they are half the cost to cycle with all the other functionality the same. The simple reason being when you don't have the colour to cycle an onslaught land you should be making it rather than ditching it, this isn't 100% the case but is more so than most things you could try and cover in a blanket statement in magic. These lands really help sure up mana bases as you are much more inclined to add that extra safety land if you have the option of turning it into another card for very little cost. The difference between 15 and 16, 16 and 17 or 17 and 18 is pretty huge in 40 card decks and the cycling land add a tremendous degree of fine tuning capacity with these otherwise clumsy integers. I have often built 41 card decks with the soul aim of having a more precise land to spell ratio. When 17 lands (17/40 = 0.425 ) is just too few and 18 (18/40 = 0.45) is more than you would like then the old 18 lands in a 41 card deck trick can be employed (18/41 = 0.439). Certainly coming into play tapped is a drawback but is better than not making a land drop and reasonably easy to play around where even agro decks have been packing some despite the risk to tempo loss. The very best home for the cycling lands is teamed up with Life from the Loam which makes for a powerful card advantage engine. All in all they are great cards, they are pretty skill intensive as lands go and offer lots of choices for deck design as well as in game, they are a lovely design which improves magic and are not of a power level where they are always an auto include.
The Coloured Artifact Land 3.0
The great facilitators of all things abusing artifacts. The only drawback to these cards is their added vulnerability. While I cannot brush their fragility aside as it often significant, the sheer power and versatility of these lands utterly outweigh this. So many things want to search for artifacts, sacrifice them, discard them, exchange them or just have loads in play. By dumping this effect on a land, something you would be doing anyway it really powers up your options for free. In heavy artifact decks they rarely care about spot removal as there are almost always better targets, it is the mass removal that can be a pain, namely Austere Command, Nevinyrral's Disk and Pernicious Deed. When your mana base is made from these any of those global sweepers will especially ruin you, the idea is to be that much more powerful than your opponent with the help of these lands that you can cope with the occasional de-permanenting. Any deck with any artifact synergy will be picking up and playing these, the on colour ones for sure and the others potentially. Agro, combo and control alike play these lands. Typically control will throw in a Seat of the Synod to a small Trinket Mage package or increase the options when casting Thirst for Knowledge. In control it has to be most worth it as spot removal on your lands is brutal. These are a prime example of the kinds of support cards I include in my cube which do nothing by themselves yet allow for much more streamlined and powerful archetypes to be built. The reason they have a higher power rating that support rating despite being a support card is that they are incredibly powerful in the appropriate deck while having no reason to be played with no cards to benefit from artifacts. Even without any affinity archetype cards in a cube these lands are still worthy of a place in the cube. It is fair to say that the Seat of the Synod is played the most by a reasonable margin with green seeing almost no play as an on colour land.
Darksteel Citadel 2.9
Darksteel Cirtadel is always the first off colour artifact land you play in any deck wanting artifacts. Being indestructible is great synergy for the artifact lands as their only drawback is added vulnerability which this doesn't have. It occasionally sees play in decks trying to cast Armageddon as its main way to win but is still mostly played in artifact based decks. While the Citadel is never the best artifact land in your deck it is also never the worst. It allows you to play a full compliment of six artifact lands in decks should you want which helps for the most extreme of artifact decks such as affinity.
Stirring Wildwood 3.6
Typically a man land either comes into play tapped or produces only colourless mana. Coming into play tapped is often a cost for mana fixing and so either way you feel like you are getting either a free duel land tagged onto your man land or a free man land one one of your duels. Of the set this is one of my favourites as it is cheap to activate and hard to kill when a guy. The reach is less relevant than the having four toughness over say three but it does occasionally bail you out against something like a cranial plating on an ornithopter. He is no Treetop Village when viewed as just man land but he is pretty close, and as he is also a duel land, so who cares? Often replacing Village in decks like zoo where it cannot afford many mono coloured lands or simply offering redundancy to the village in an appropriate deck enhancing the quality of everything. These lands have been a real hardship for control decks to deal with and they have also spawned a new breed of 5 colour control decks using the mana land duels are their primary win condition.
Celestial Colonnade 3.7
While very expensive to use this is not at all a problem for it in the decks that use it. In control it effectively costs one less to activate as you want to be leaving two mana up at least after attacking and so the vigilance comes in handy. In aggressive decks this is only used when your out of other things to cast or it is acting as the finisher flying in for the win. Certainly in the agro decks it would be better without vigilance and costing one less to activate but it is still a happy inclusion for such decks as it is. A flying 4/4 is a pretty big deal and is a decent, reliable clock that is pretty hard to kill. While the Wildwood offers better value of guy for cost it is a less significant creature both generally and in many of the archetypes that use it too. Colonnade is so far appearing to be an auto include in all UW decks. While the best of the dual man lands it is the most control flavoured which does not prevent it getting play in agro decks but does mean in it is often just a Costal Tower in the shorted games. Coming into play tapped is something you can't have on too many of your lands which means you will be passing up on bounce lands, cycling lands or other utility lands for the pleasure of Colonnade in your deck.
Creeping Tar Pit 3.2
I originally had this down as the best of the duel man land cycle but was proved rather wrong with it winding up about 4th best. It is too small and vulnerable to be a reliable finisher and a little too mana intensive to be incorporating into attacks when you have much else to do with the mana. He will still see play in most UB decks and will steal a win here and there too which on a land is truly fantastic. The issue is for every game he wins you he will have probably lost you one from coming into play tapped or getting Shocked too early. Generally better in aggressive decks where the unblockable aspect comes into play most and does make this guy a serious threat if prior aggression has significantly reduced their life total. A control deck would much rather this had shroud over unblockable or perhaps even a 2/1 body for 1 less to activate. In most games the Tar Pit will just be your weakest duel land, sometimes forcing you to take pain from a shock land, sometimes fixing your mana and saving your ass, and sometimes being a pain for coming into play tapped which usually balance out in your favour.In building your deck however, the inclusion of the Tar Pit makes many other options like bounce lands and vivid lands far less appealing as your deck cannot support multiple lands that come into play tapped.
Lavaclaw Reaches 3.0
This is the clear worst of the cycle for a few reasons but it is still a very powerful card. Per damage it is the most expensive of the cycle and offers no other perks such as flying or trample. It has two toughness making it as vulnerable as the Tar Pit and weaker in combat with no evasion. Black/red is the least common colour combination in the cube including all decks of two or more colours. As a duel land that turns into something to spend your mana on when you are completely out of other stuff to do it is as good as you need and continues to scale reasonably as you get flooded in the top deck stage of the game. All the other man lands are viable to use while you still have other things to spend your mana on as they do much more for much less. This would see more play as it is if the colours were more used in combination as a duel man land is still fantastic, even if it is the weakest of the bunch. The nice thing about Reaches is that when you do get to those late game top deck situations you kill them in about two hits thus greatly reducing the chance they will find a useful card.
Raging Ravine 3.5
This is probably my favourite of the duel man land cycle primarily as it fits so well with the general themes of red and green decks. It hits for four immediately which is a sizeable smack and gets more frightening the longer it is left alone making it the best at finishing up a game entirely solo despite being slower than the Lavaclaw Reaches. Both red and green are keen to be able to apply pressure after various board sweeping effects as they tend to have fewer routes to victory than other colours and so a land that offers this fits very well. Green is a fantastic colour for a duel man land to be as well as they wind up in both agro decks and multi colour control decks. The Ravine is also generally the hardest of the man lands to kill off, even if only by a small margin. Ravine complements Treetop Village well as they are both quite aggressive but have very different mana requirements. Village will use up spare mana here and there and start to be useful in the mid-game getting in for three now and again and facilitating play around counterspells etc. Ravine will only really ever come into effect in the late-game but will be a more convincing threat when on line.
I like what Wastelands adds to the cube, it keeps people honest so to speak. If you know you will be facing off against a player with a Wasteland you cannot take the piss with your mana base. Wasteland also offers a great incentive to play mono decks and avoid mass multicolour decks which is not something many cards in my cube really effect. Most other cards that encourage mono decks are way too narrow to really be strong cube cards like Phyrexian Obliterator and Dungrove Elder. Unlike Stripmine you can effectively play around getting ruined by a Wasteland and thus it does not offer the same number of total free wins regardless of match up. Almost any deck that can support this card will consider playing it as it is a reliable answer to various utility and man lands even when not being used to win by screwing people. Most of the time it is the more aggressive decks that actively seek to find room for this card however as they will use proactively not reactively and thus suffer less from the colourless mana production. While Crucible of Worlds and Stipmine was a viable combo deck this cannot be relied upon with Wastelands and will only see play when both cards are separately desired by a deck and although still good it is not highly tedious. There are almost no decks without good targets for Wastelands and it is the most reliably way to deal with the pesky lands out there.If your combo deck can't beat Karakas, if your control deck is losing to man lands or if your agro deck can't take its early tempo advantage into a mid game win then Wastelands is the card for you. Also a great support card for any deck attempting to disrupt spell casting and mana bases. Often played in the spot of a spell rather than a land but in reality is a bit of both and offers you flexibility as to how you curve out.
City of Traitors 3.0
Land that taps for two mana is very very powerful. Assuming you make this one turn one then continue to make normal lands every turn for the rest of the game it is not until turn five that you are at a mana deficit from losing the City on turn two. The idea is to gain a huge advantage from the early mana boost at a stage where your opponent is powerless to respond to goings on. If your deck is able to make use of the early boost then the loss of some mana later on will be inconsequential as you will already be so far ahead. Being colourless mana it is quite hard to reliably make use of the City and so it tends to only find homes in heavy artifact decks and certain combo decks. It almost always comes as a pair with Ancient Tomb for filling very similar roles in decks. While the City is harder to incorporate into a deck than Tomb the lack of any life loss does make it much safer and will see play without the Tomb on occasion for that reason. I particularly like the synergy City of Traitors offers with Mox Diamond, Khalni Gem, Yawgmoth's Will and Crucible of Worlds. Beware of bad beats from this card however, playing against an Aluren deck in a tournament many moons past my opponent made a Chrome Mox prior to making his City and got it Force Spiked thus leaving him without any colour. In game three my opponent remembered the importance of resolving your Mox when keeping City of Traitor hands and threw down the land before the Mox. I felt pretty guilty at this point for having drawn my one random wish target Annul for the Mox and taking the match from a second screw.
Ancient Tomb 3.3
This is the most consistent of the lands that tap for two colourless. Available right away and forever more provided you have the life to pay for it. City of Traitors needs to be in a deck that aims to win in very few turns or abuse the mechanism of card in some way. Ancient Tomb can be more freely played in any deck that has use for the mana and does not anticipate life loss being an issue. It can also be thrown down early with less fear of late game mana shortages. Typically Tomb will find a home in any deck with 50% or more artifacts in it. It also finds a space in any combo deck that has a colourless requirement as part of its engine or combo (unless the combo revolves around untapping lands multiple times for repeat use). I have seen Tomb used in unusual control decks with lots of life gain for the extra speed boost although Temple of the False God is nearly as good in those cases. It can also be good in aggressive non-artifact decks with a high colourless requirement. The problem is that most good agressive cards cost one or two meaning over 75% of the mana requirements are coloured in most decks. There is insufficient redundancy in effects like Ancient Tomb to build a deck around more powerful threats combined with ramped colourless mana production. Still, two mana on a land with a very manageable, reliable and mostly irrelevant drawback is fantastic.
Mishra's Workshop 4.0 (Banned)
While this is much narrower than the Ancient Tomb or City of Traitors as it may only be used to play artifacts it has no other drawback and taps for a really insane amount of mana. Tapping for colourless isn't even a drawback when already only able to cast artifacts unless you are trying to play the few coloured ones like Tidehollow Sculler. This card is the cornerstone of any big artifact deck and is a big part of the reason that artifacts have a much higher average mana cost in the cube than any other group of spells. When half of more of the mana costs in your deck may be paid for with the Workshop then it starts to become highly worth playing, the greater the percentage the more powerful it becomes. It is very annoying that you cannot use the mana to play activated abilities and often causes you to mana burn. This only slightly helps keep the card in check. Some of my favourite openers involve this card such as making a Metalworker or using it to play a Khalni Gem before you lay your second land. It is not often you get to abuse this card with untapping lands effects but when you do it is fantastic fun. In terms of pure power it is one of the most ridiculous cards going and with artifact decks already having plenty of support and being highly powerful the swingy random Workshop is a good card to ban alongside the other power.
Mishra's Factory 2.2
The cheapest of the many man land options but sadly not often played as the evasion from Blinkmoth Nexus is far more useful and the lack of coloured mana is off putting. Tapping for only colourless makes it very difficult to include Factory within mana bases despite it coming into play untapped. With the abundance of decent coloured man lands Factory typically sees play in almost purely colourless decks such as affinity. The ability to pump is pretty handy defensively but otherwise pretty useless in singleton. Man lands in general however are not ideal blockers as it makes them quite vulnerable. Factory and Mutavault have swapped places in the cube a number of times as they are both effectively tribal cards. The Mutavault is OK in merfolk and goblins and can occasionally appeal in some other weaker tribal decks but tapping for colourless in those decks is far worse than in artifact decks. Being an artifact is a vulnerability but it is also much more use than any given creature type. Overall the Factory is optimally suited for less decks than Mutavault but is much better in those decks than the Mutavault is in any tribal deck, this is the case if you disregard the self pump effects and include the added vulnerability to getting Disenchanted. Although a B cube card for being too narrow when Trade Routes is dredged up for play it works very well with Factory. The cheap activation means you don't lose much tempo if they kill the Factory and being able to bounce it for just one mana negates its vulnerabilities. Most decks can afford to play one colourless land and with the right mana base, colour intensity of your spells and the right curve the factory is a pretty useful and relatively painless asset for any deck. It is so cheap to use it can help you to spend mana more efficiently while curving out or be equipped to attack without costing the earth.
Blinkmoth Nexus 2.5
The Nexus sees the most play of all the colourless man lands. Compared to Mishra's Factory the Nexus is far more useful to have around. It can reliably get in for nibbles or keep planeswalkers off their ultimate or even as a chump against a big flying threat. The difference in their power ins't nearly as significant as it may seem. If you are putting on pressure with a Factory early you are likely losing tempo, later on a 2/2 isn't exciting in combat at all. In many of the decks that play this a 0/1 would still be better than Factory as the evasion is what kills people in combination with modular or Cranial Plating. The pump is slightly more useful than Factories as well despite costing a little more as Inkmoth Nexus may be targetted with it. Any deck than would play a Factory would also play the Nexus and likely in preference. Nexus will also see play in white weenie and blue skies type decks where Factory would not nearly so often. They also only compliment each other in mainly colourless decks as you can't afford to load up on colourless lands in the coloured decks. The dual man lands are great en masse as you can rely on them as a strategy in the late game, you know you will always have a good way to sink mana and so can safely increase your land count etc. A white weenie deck would really harm its ability to curve out with WW two drops or an abundance or one drops if it played Blinkmoth and Mishra's Factory and therefore couldn't rely on having man lands in the late game.
Inkmoth Nexus 1.5 (B cube)
There are some niche homes for this card but sadly all are too narrow to run in the A cube. It is nice to be able to tutor this and a Kessig Wolf Run up with a Primeval Titan. It is outstanding in an affinity deck where it is often a one shot kill with the modular effect from Arcbound Ravager and Cranial Plating. There are the god awful infect decks in which this is one of the best cards.. It is playable when you have some pump effects in your deck but without support it is far worse than Blinkmoth Nexus. It cannot usefully apply pressure to your opponent without pump as you are so rarely going to get in ten times with it. As a blocker it is slightly better than Blinkmoth but you are not including man lands in your deck to give you chump blockers. The best support cards for Inkmoth are themselves all a bit narrow to reside in the A cube and all those that remain don't really give it enough power or a broadness of playability for itself to deserve an A cube slot.
Treetop Village 3.9
I think the Village probably has the most wins under its belt in the cube compared to any other man land. It is also the best return on damage for your mana investment per activation (other man lands such as Mishra's Factory have the same ratio but lack evasion). The toughness is decent as well and allows Village to tangle one on one with almost all the utility monsters in the cube and kill them without dying. Village sees a great deal of play with the RG and WG man lands as redundancy is useful for both building and assessing odds in game. The 4 or 5 colour green control decks often use primarily man lands as a win condition so overall Village sees play in most of the decks with green in them. Most of the dual man lands are more powerful bodies however the difference in cost is enough that they are activated significantly less. Often you can incorporate a few smacks from a Village in you curve should you wish to play around cards or lack anything worth playing, even at three mana to activate a man land will tend to only start getting used once there is nothing else to cast. So basically Village is a very good man land and man lands are very good already for their free value and difficulty in dealing with. Green is one of the most vulnerable colours to Wrath effects which further increases the value of Village.
Faerie Conclave 3.2
Another one of the most played man lands and similar Village in style. The drawbacks on the Conclave are that in blue you often want to be leaving your mana open for their turn making it a little less synergic. Also the low toughness is also scary as losing lands is very bad, again particularly in blue. While it hits for less than Village the evasion is far better allowing you to attack more freely but at a reduced damage per mana cost. Being a faerie is occasionally useful with Spellstutter Sprite too but this is only the most minor of perks. I am glad to say this is the last man land I need to review as there is only so much you can say about generic bodies on lands. The cube is full of them as the principle of getting some late game value out of your mana sources is great. A lot of spells such as Maelstrom Pulse have been balanced so that they cannot be used to harm mana bases however this only stands to makes man lands more dangerous in the cube. They greatly reduce the value of sorcery speed creature kill and are have more than their fair share of game wins under their belts.
Gaea's Cradle 2.5
This card has fallen in use over the years despite the increase in power and endurance of creatures to go with it. While it can offer a huge boost in speed and tempo and overall power to a creature based deck it is very unreliable. The removal of the power and improvement to creatures means that creature based decks no longer need to take risks in order to beat the crazy combo and high power decks. The only deck for which Cradle is an auto include is elves which, given that the various key elf only cards are in the B cube, means Cradle is very thinly supported in the cube. Stompy has never really become a cube deck and is tier two at best which is another deck that would likely play it. The reason Cradle is so unreliable is that it taps for nothing when you have no creatures which is often enough with unreliable mana, and lots of good mass and tragetted removal floating around to deal with all the powerful monsters. The classic Cradle screw is; 5 great cards, Land Grand and Gaea's Cradle opening hand. With only one copy of Cradle you cannot really base a deck design around it and so it is hard to make good use of the extra mana when it does come on line. You have to be playing other powerful ramp effects such as Rofellos to be able to support the high end the Cradle commands to be abusive. The Cradle is one of those cards that will utterly ruin a fair game making it totally unwinnable for the opposition however in return it will frequently be dead or even screw you out of a game. Creatures are more expensive, slower to do things and more vulnerable than artifacts all of which make Cradle well removed from the power levels of Tolarian Academy. Green also lacks the card quality desired for supporting a deck with lots of high end threats and very low end mana ramp dorks. Despite this the power you can get from Cradle makes it highly worthy of an A cube slot. It is hard to build with but worth it when you get it right it is very much like having a Tolarian Academy.
Not the most exciting land in the world but with basically no drawback and a really pesky ability it is well worth throwing into lots of different decks. Sometimes a basic Forest is preferable when you have things like Arbour Elf or Orcish Lumberjack or even Land Tax but if you have no need to max out basic lands and you have any 1/1s Pendlehaven is worth the risk of getting Wastelanded. Turing pretty useless (in combat) 1/1s into 2/3s may not sound all that but at that size your guys trump almost every single utility and card advantage dork in the cube of which most decks play several. Being able to do it to any of your 1/1s after they declare attackers or blockers makes it very hard to play around and greatly increases your outcome in combat. It is also the most common on the board trick to be missed in cube so if you play with lots of stringent rule abiders, draft this lots and make them pay for it! Although not absurd power and relatively marginal effect in most games (without bad mistakes) it goes in a wide selection of decks due to lack of drawback and thus fully deserves its cube slot.
Volrath's Stronghold 2.0 (B cube)
Colourless lands in black are a real burden with black having the highest ratio of black mana to colourless mana on its cards. This is a little offset by Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth but still a concern. The recursion offered by Volrath's Stronghold is slow and offers no intrinsic card advantage however it is reusable which is key, particularly in singleton formats such as the cube. Black also has a wide array of monsters that perform quite different roles but tend to have little redundancy. This means a lot of the time you only really want to cast one of your creatures over and over again such as Vampire Nighthawk against red deck wins or Dark Confidant against control. Stronghold also makes you less likely to get decked which crops up now and again. Overall I tend to favour consistency in my coloured mana in my black decks and only play Stronghold in threat light control decks. When I think I can get away with a colourless land I often find I would rather a Wasteland or Blinkmoth Nexus that can be of some use earlier in the game. Other players swear by Stronghold and never leave it out of a black deck they build. Mostly I would just rather play a swamp and include Recurring Nightmare than have this in a creature heavy deck. A handy little utility card but very much a late game effect and not that powerful compared to the many other options on lands.
Lake of the Dead 3.4
This land works out a little like Gaea's Cradle but with less of a tie to creatures. Unlike Cradle it can cripple you for later in the game with too much use and just like Cradle it can be a very bad land to have in land light opening hands. In combination with Dark Ritual it gives you some reliable ways to burst out something expensive and powerful and works well with cards like Yawmoth's Will. I will play Lake of the Dead in almost any aggressive mono black deck (or these days those decks with a splash of white) and fairly often in mono black control although in the latter you need to be more careful and have high land counts. A neat but rather all in trick with the Lake is laying it as your second land and putting the come into play effect on the stack and using the ability to get five mana on turn two which leaves you with no land in play but hopefully enough threats to win with. The cheesy turn two Hatred win works very well with this too. It is a card fairly restricted to mono black decks like many of the black cards themselves. It does however offer an awful lot to the colour allowing it to be bursty and really abuse more mana intensive spells even in agro decks. Yawgmoth's Will has been mentioned, Death Cloud is another, as is Recurring Nightmare, even extending as far as Yawgmoths Bargain, both to get it out and to then make use of the card. If you drop this one turn three and use it right away and again every turn there after always making a swamp to replace the one used and compare this against an opponent who curves out normally making one land each turn by turn six you will have had 27 mana to their 21 and will still have the advantage for another three turns. The point is more that you have double their mana on turn three and get so far ahead in those first few turns of active Lake that the game doesn't go on that long. I play this in almost every heavy black deck I make, it forces you to do things like having a heavier land count but is well worth it. It is an incredibly power card that is very underused. It is less risky than a bounce land despite looking worse as you get the boost in mana before they can kill it which means you will be down way more in cards but not nearly so much in tempo.
Flagstones of Trokair 2.1
A quirky land with no real drawbacks other than denying you value with Land Tax or Knight of the Reliquary. They are also not able to work like they do in tournament play for procing land fall effects as you only have one copy and therefore it only find use in decks wanting to exploit white mass land kill effects. These decks come in a few guises and so Flagstones has a few homes but these are not the most common of decks and so overall it sees less play than most of the other coloured utility lands. It can be a way to fix your mana base with cards like Zuran Orb but this is unreliable and should be considered most like a basic plains. The cube would not really miss this card and its inclusion in the cube does more to boost the ratings and power of the white mass land kill cards than anything else. It will also see play in any white deck that anticipates land sacrifice effects or mass removal to be played against them.
Kessig Wolf Run 1.0 (B cube)
The Wolf Run has been getting quite a lot of play but hasn't really performed all that well as yet. The most effective it has been is in the ramp decks in combination with Primeval Titan. As a land in a RG beats deck it gets occasional use but at a cost. Barbarian Ring is far more useful and less detrimental at the same time. I just really struggle to appreciate a land that offers you no coloured mana and then requires you to have two different types in order to gain any late game benefit. Ramp decks are not common and while RG beats is more common, as I have mentioned, the Wolf Run performs very poorly in it. Most of the time you are just using it to give things trample as you haven't any spare mana to get through extra damage. When it is late game you often have man lands which are more appealing to use your spare mana on. All in all a nice card but too niche in its homes and in its uses. Its effect is so infrequently used in games that it really isn't worth running a colourless land to have.
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth 3.0
This is a fantastic little card that I love the design of. I would love to see a cycle of these be would fear some of the unpleasant things that would go with that such as Vedalken Shackles seeing play everywhere. First and foremost it turns all your non black producing lands into dual lands or in the case of things like Volrath's Stronghold just a lot more useful. When making any mana base for a multicoloured black deck playing Urborg will ease up the strains on your mana and allow you to play one less swamp in favour of another Plains for your splash or something. I will almost always play it in mono black too as it improves Lake of the Dead and allows you to play a luxury colourless land should you desire. In terms of how it is like a dual land it works most like a filter land but rather than making one other of any land a dual it makes all of your non black lands duals instead. It also taps for coloured mana itself unlike the filter lands as well as its other cool applications. Being able to tap sac land or Ancient Tombs for black mana when your life total is getting dangerously low is really handy however this tends help your opponent out more than it does you so it is almost always correct to only lay the Urborg when its your only remaining land or when you need it for your own benefit.
Grove of the Burn Willows 2.3
This is slightly worse than a pain land as a dual land for most of the decks that want to run a RG dual. This is just because more RG decks are agro than control as not losing life is preferable to the control player. While it stands up fine as a dual it is in the cube for its synergy with a few cards although it is Punishing Fire in particular which gives a variety of control decks a cheap and easy mechanism in which to get ahead. Kavu Predator is another good way to abuse the effect although narrower and more subtle. I think it is reasonable to include both this and Punishing Fire despite being a low impact combo as they are acceptable cards on their own, the Grove in particular does not require anything from your opponent in order to be a very helpful card. Unless your opponent is playing life gain the Punishing Fire is just ineffective burn.
City of Brass 2.3
The ultimate in mana fixing technology for decks that are playing more than 2 colours. Not coming into play tapped and having a drawback not really worse than Barbarian Ring or pain lands when used for colour. Most commonly found in combo decks which cannot afford a mana screw of any sort in the early game and have lots of colourful and cheap spells to be casting. The life loss generally isn't an issue but it does deter control decks from wanting to include it. Effects that tap lands repeatedly are a little slow for the cube and are not a concern for City of Brass which is underused if not underrated. Most agro decks can easily afford the life and for the most part will be better off playing this over a basic land if they have any colour requirement beyond the first. While City looks a bit poor when compared to the dual lands in the cube it is head and shoulders above the various lands which reliably tap for all colours (as well as most that manage three). One of the only lands that isn't an original dual, a shock land, a dual man land or a sac land that is played in zoo decks where it really facilitates curving out with all manner of gold cards.
Teetering Peeks 2.5
I thought that putting this in the cube would be a waste of a slot due to the card being both narrow and really unexciting. I now struggle to decide which I prefer out of this and Barbarian Ring. Peaks is a little slower as it comes in tapped and cannot target pesky monsters with its bonus two damage unless you force a block to occur. Having a creature in play is easier than having threshold and not having to take a damage to get mana is nice. It is very rare for the Ring to ever cost you a race as you are the red deck but you do often play things like Sulphuric Vortex which makes the Ring damage more of a concern. Essentially in a red deck you want every card to deal at least two damage, when you can get your lands to do this as well you are looking really good. The question as to which is better is fairly irrelevant as you play them together in every deck in which they are good. Mostly this is just red deck wins and variants splashing a colour although I have seen them used in more mid range RG beats decks too. Another great thing about Peaks is the synergy you can get from using with things like Spikeshot Elder or more subtle advantages like getting a second use out of it by returning it wit a bounce land. It may be a minor and somewhat situational effect but it does what you want it to be doing in red and at very little cost which in a colour with limited card advantage is pretty massive. It seems low power compared to a man land however if you consider what the actual cost is to obtain the advantage from this card you realise more how powerful it actually is. You would quite happily play an uncounterable card that cost R, found you a mountain (even before you cast it somehow like superhaste) and then gave +2/+0 to a dork for the turn. While fairly narrow in terms of how many archetypes will want to play this it does have the huge advantage of being an auto include in red deck wins which is both the best cube deck and one of the most commonly played.
Smoldering Spires 2.5
I was suspicious about adding Teetering Peaks to the cube yet have gone and thrown in this as well. Red deck wins is fairly happy to have two comes into play tapped lands and while this is not as obvious as to what it will do for you turns out to be just as good as the Peaks. It has slightly less synergy but is easier to make use of effectively than Peaks and scales better into the game both with you having more dorks and them having better monsters down. It is a card that somewhat depends on what your opponent is playing and what they do to determine how good it will be hence my initial preference to the predictable two damage from Peaks. Spires is a little random and will sometimes just get in one damage for you but when it is at its best it almost feels like Time Walking. Most decks play creatures, they are just such high power compared to other cards you can invest early mana into and if you can't beat them, join them, so the control decks are all running things like Blade Splicer and Kitchen Finks. If you make some weenies and the first thing they do is tap out to make a three mana top quality road block and you flop this down and carry on as if nothing had happened they don't look so clever. In fast, cheap and powerful formats the cheap and subtle effects make a lot of difference and this is no exception.
Barbarian Ring 2.5
Well, its a free shock on a mountain with a few pretty irrelevant provisos. So what if you need threshold before you get your option of shock, normal mountains don't ever get to shock things. So what if it hurts you a bit, your a red deck and are dishing out way more hurt, especially now you have mountains that can dish it out too. Typically you reach threshold in the cube about the time you have run your hand out of other resources for a red deck which is the optimal time to Ring someones face or dorks. It has a bit of anti synergy with Grim Lavamancer but not enough to make you play one over the other. If you get lots of uses out of Grim that is better than one use out of a Ring and it is still a land so nothing is really lost. I have used Ring in a variety of land recursion decks as well using Crucible of the Worlds or Life from the Loam to gain repeat shootings from. Barbarian Ring is more flexible than either Teetering Peeks or Smoldering Spires and is generally at a lower tempo penalty however they are almost always used while Ring gets detonated under half the times it is made.
Desolate Lighthouse 2.6
The understated nature of this card made me under evaluate it where I should have been rating it more highly. The effect is useful in any deck yet abusable in some and neatly fits into lots of archetypes, more than many single coloured cards in the cube find their homes in. The activation cost is steep for a loot effect but cheap compared to most activations of land and is not really about the cost of the ability. In reality the cost you pay to have access to looting when you need to or have spare mana is losing the ability to tap for a coloured mana on one of your lands. If your deck can support it then there is basically no reason not to include it however assessing when this is the case is trickier business. As a general rule most decks can support a colourless land and things like UR Tinker decks can support loads. The main two considerations are the ratio of coloured mana cost requirements in your spells to colourless and the number of spells in your deck which have no colourless mana in their cost. The first ratio will reflect the latter value but having more ways to look at a problem is best for resolving it. As a general rule I would start to avoid colourless lands when I get to double figures of cards with no colourless or at around 65-75% ratio of coloured mana requirements on spells to colourless. If you really want the reliable reusable looting from Lighthouse but you are concerned about casting consistency then consider playing it in a spell slot rather than a land or even tossing in something like a Chromatic Star to smooth things over. Any game that goes past the mid game that is close will be won by the player with an active Lighthouse the vast majority of the time which makes it worth spending a long time deciding if you can afford the cost of playing it. I am happy to call it the best of the Innistrad gold utility land cycle despite thinking the RG and RW were initially better. The problems with those lands is that they go in less archetypes and those they do fit into tend to have much bigger issues incorporating the colourless aspect. The UW one is quite nice but has an awkward prerequisite that makes it too big a risk to play in the creature light decks that most want it and can best support the colourless aspect. Of the whole cycle Lighthouse has the most stand alone usage and is the easiest to use with all the others needing you to have creatures in play or doing very little.
Rishidan Port 2.7
The Port is a nice little card that allows you disrupt as and when it suits you without costing you a land later in the game as Wastelands does. It is not as effective mana denial as Wastelands as they can still cast instants or abilities by tapping in response to the Port. On the plus side you can hit basics with Port making it a more reliable source of disruption. The main issue with Port is that it costs you more mana than your opponent (unless you hit a bounce land with it) and so you have to really think you can take advantage of it with your deck. Perhaps you are up against a three colour top heavy control deck where you can not only keep their top end at bay but easily colour screw them early on in the game. If you don't know what you are up against you have to have an incredibly cheap deck such as red deck wins or a very agro white weenie to play it or a lot of other mana disruption synergy. This could be in the form of Winter Orb, Thalia or even Wildfire but it has to be somewhat of a theme. In a game where you are both equally matched for tempo the port will screw you far more than it will your opponent. To use it well is harder than with Wastelands as to get the most out of the Port you should aim to make the biggest difference in your curving out compared to your opponents rather than purely trying to harm your opponents curving. A fair card that gives much more game to the cheap agro decks and decks trying to win without doing broken things.
Shelldock Isle 3.0
I love nothing more than someone losing a game because they were greedy and played this over an Island. This is a card I don't really like but must concede it is of more than enough power level to deserve a slot. Not only does it have great synergy with all the decks that try and cheat bit fat things in to play it is also quite good in normal mid range and control decks where it is a free spell and a bunch of mana saved for the small loss of one mana earlier. In cube with 40 card decks it is really easy to activate this land and often before you are really into the late game. You even get to play the card making all manner of things like Emrakul even more unfair to hideaway. I also dislike the way this card is unbalanced by the difference in deck sizes and considered changing the requirement to 13 cards or something similar but that would be awkward, ugly and just make the card way too niche in application so I might as well just play it as it is or not at all. Sure, I think it ruins games when someone comes along and flops a free bomb into play but it is probably a lot of fun to do that regardless of the skill it took to do. I am not sure if there is such a thing as a Magic snob but I feel as if I may be turning into one. Basically this just counts as a come into play tapped land like any other, the greedier your mana base and the higher the number of other comes into play tapped lands the less able you are to play more. You can usually afford more comes into play tapped lands than colourless lands but it obviously depends on many things. Oddly cards like Divining Top make you more able to stomach extra comes into play tapped lands as it gives you a good way to spend odd mana when your curving is hampered by your lands. If you can support the fact that it comes into play tapped and your curve goes beyond three than there is little reason not to play this card if in your colours but it is still a bit cheap.