Monday, 16 January 2012

Reviews: Lands

TaigaThe Original Duels 4.0

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. 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. Good lands reduce chance in magic and allow for more options and so the more the better as far as I am concerned. With nearly 20% of my cube as lands, the majority of which only fix colour it does add an unusual element to draft which I think adds to the game.

Windswept HeathThe Sac Lands 4.5

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. At least with the abundance of power and utility comes an array of difficult choices.

Izzet BoilerworksThe Bounce Lands 2.5

These lands can make you vulnerable as they can be weak in opening hands and are a disaster to have killed or bounced. Typically people will save versatile removal like vindicate for problem threats like planeswalkers but if you run this out on the first few turns you will pretty much always draw out the turn three spell on it. Wastelands is situationally best to use to cast your own spells, this is a much less likely scenario if you have one of these. Coming into play tapped is a savage drawback for a land to have as well when so much happens early in games. To offset these limitations the bounce lands effectively offer card advantage by allowing you to carry on making land drops a turn longer that you other wise would be able. By inclusion in your mana base you can have the effect of increasing the land count without cutting any spells by running one of these which makes deck construction more scope. These combo especially well to generate extra mana with the various untap land effects and optop of all this they help fix your mana base! These offer more advantages than sac lands do while still helping generate and fix mana. They suffer a far lower rating however as unlike sac lands they are a high risk card with multiple downsides. The more you play the riskier they get too, two is the maximum I have ever run and that is neither often nor without consequence.

Watery GraveThe Shock Lands 3.5

The fairer version of the original duels but still significantly more powerful than most other duels due to possessing the 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!

Sulfurous Springs

The Pain Lands 2.5

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 round to 1, 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.

Rugged PrairieFilter Lands 3.0

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 manamana and casting lots of interactive one mana spells using these lands can get annoying or tip your hand to the opponent. Due to the concerns for opening hands you do not tend to play more than one or two of these in a deck, much like the bounce lands, however they are far lower risk than the bounce lands. While duel lands tend to see about as much play as the colour combination the filter lands have a little more bias based on the needs or decks. The RW filter land is used relatively more than the others as RW decks tend to have low curves with high coloured mana requirement meaning that a lack of the right coloured mana early in the game can really harm you curving out. All the blue filter lands are used more highly relative to the others as well due to the strength of counterspell, manadrain and cryptic command.

Vivid Meadow
The Vivid Lands 2.0

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.

Great FurnaceThe Coloured Artifact Land 4.0

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. These see use in control as well as combo and aggressive artifact decks, it is in these the spot removal is more frightening. The blue is the most used, then red, then white then black and finally green. Commonly all are used but in the more coloured decks where they are used as utility they tend to only be played if on colour.

Darksteel Citadel
Darksteel Citadel 4.0

The citadel is used in some places where the coloured artifact land is not, and does not make all of the decks that do use some coloured ones. It will however find a home an any deck that uses all the coloured artifact land. On balance it sees about the same amount of play as the coloured artifact land and is always the best off colour one you are playing. The indestructible side is required specifically far less than it being an artifact but does find homes with armageddon and jokulhaups often enough. Even if the whole affinity deck was removed from the cube all six of these lands would still remain in the cube for their wide spread utility. They would however suffer  a rating loss with no affinity around to abuse.

Stirring Wildwood
Stirring Wildwood 3.5

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 as a pure 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 however they have spawned a new breed of 5 colour control decks using the mana land duels are their primary win condition.

Celestial Colonnade
Celestial Colonnade 3.5

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.

Creeping Tar PitCreeping 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 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 ReachesLavaclaw 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.

Raging Ravine
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 sizeable smack and gets more frightening the longer it is left alone making it the best at finishing up a game entirely solo. 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.

Wasteland 3.5

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.

City of Traitors
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 of a second screw.

Ancient Tomb
Ancient Tomb 3.5

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 WorkshopMishra's Workshop 4.0

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 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 as it is on the fringe of being banned regardless of this irritation. 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.

Mishra's Factory
Mishra's Factory 1.5

The cheapest of the many man land options but sadly not often played as the evasion from Blinkmoth Nexus is far more useful. 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 now only 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.

Blinkmoth Nexus
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 keeping 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.

Inkmoth Nexus
Inkmoth Nexus 1.5

I threw this card in just to test it and it has remained just about good enough thus far to remain in the cube. In affinity decks it is a much more fearsome threat as it can often just one shot people. It turns out it does not matter all that much that there are no other poison effects in the cube. Certainly it is annoying to get close to ten counters on your opponent only to then have it dealt with but there is the point - it does need to be dealt with and that can be hard to do. Infect makes it slightly more useful in when blocking or blocked than normal nexus but is nothing to get too excited about. The main home for this deck is in affinity decks where Arcbound Ravager, Cranial Plating and even just Blinkmoth Nexus or a Steel Overseer make this terrifying. It has seen play in control decks just as an alternate threat, like a cheap Faerie Conclave. It has also been used in proliferate decks which are great fun despite using very narrow cards and not being tier one decks.

Treetop VillageTreetop Village 4.0 

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 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.

Faerie ConclaveFaerie Conclave 3.5

Another one of the most played man lands and close to Village in power. 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 and is not that much slower of a clock in the end. 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.

Gaea's CradleGaea'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.

Pendelhaven 2.5

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 StrongholdVolrath's Stronghold 2.0

Although lower rating that Gaea's Cradle I think this land sees more play. 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. 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.

Lake of the Dead
Lake of the Dead 2.5

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.

Flagstones of TrokairFlagstones of Trokair 1.5

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 and therefore 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
Kessig Wolf Run 1.0

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 likely far more useful and less detrimental at the same time. I suspect this will ultimately slip into the B cube when I want to free up some space and do a cube spring cleaning. 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.

Urborg, Tomb of YawgmothUrborg, 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 Burnwillows
Grove of the Burn Willows 2.5

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 Fire is just ineffective burn.

City of BrassCity of Brass 3.0

The ultimate in mana fixing technology for decks that are playing more than 2 colours. Not coming into play tapped and having a drawback no 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).

Teetering PeaksTeetering 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 and 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.

Barbarian Ring
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. Having now thought about both cards enough Ring is probably the better of the two as it has more applications and is slightly less narrow whilst having more synergy with the decks that want to use it, particularly in terms of its drawback being less severe. It is a slightly scarier card to play however and makes construction more interesting.

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