Saturday 7 August 2021

Mono Coloured Non-Basic Lands Part II


Zendikar Plane Lands

There are a wide array of mono coloured utility lands from the various sets based in Zendikar. They all enter play tapped and the common ones provide a one off immediate effect. There is a single rare cycle from the original Zendikar which is fairly polar as cycles go, then there are three common cycles from Zendikar, Worldwake, and Battle for Zendikar respectively. You are effectively getting a free spell on your land at the cost of a mana with the common cycle. You would certainly play a lot more of these cards if they were one mana spells with draw a card tacked on. The reason these see less play is that they are situational and reduce your options. If you want to make a land drop you can be forced into using them without gaining the bonus. Even if you get the bonus just curving out your hand is likely more powerful. When first printed these were a great way to cram a little bit more value into your list but cards now have so much going on you don't need to hurt your curve and options by playing low impact cards like these. 

Crypt of Agadeem 3.5/10

Narrow and very hard to make work in 40 card lists. When you do have a heavy black, heavy creature deck with a significant graveyard leaning then Crypt can be pretty nuts. You can have this tapping for a net of over two mana by turn three and it can become foolish in the mid and late game. So much so that Cabal Coffers looks on in envy. That being said, a deck that fulfils all those criteria then also has to have a use for extreme amounts of mana which is yet more build burdens on what is already one of the toughest cards to get working. The floor is at least acceptable when compared to things like Lake of the Dead or even Cabal Coffers and so it is a touch more forgiving and less polar. 

Emeria, the Sky Ruin 3.5/10

Another somewhat narrow tool but Emeria has seen more play than Crypt over the years. It has the advantage of being an inevitable win condition and source of value once you turn it on and all you need to do that is time. White is great at buying time and rubbish at generating value so Sky Ruin is a valuable tool. What hurts it is being exclusively a mono white tool and a mono white control tool at that. You have to play mostly or entirely plains to go with it ruling out most other utility land options. Approach of the Second Sun tends to be a quicker and less onerous win condition these days for white and the colour has improved in the ability to generate value as well all of which combine to mean Emeria hasn't seen play for a fair while now despite being strong when it was released. 

Magosi, The Waterveil 1/10

Quite the joke land that as yet has not been abused. I have had this played against me but to no good effect. This will jump in power dramatically should there be a way to eon counter it up! Until then there is little to no reason to play this. It is the closest card to a 0/10 on this list so far. 

Oran-Rief, the Vastwood 3/10

This one looks better than it is. As far as curving goes this is a bad play and you are far better off with the graft land as it is only 1 mana and not 2 for the first +1/+1 counter which is typically the most relevant. Better still than the graft land is a simple basic forest as you can obtain more tempo with a mana than a single +1/+1 counter. Where this does look a bit better is in concert with cards that produce multiple tokens or that have synergy with counters. Historically green hasn't had many cube viable token generators low on the curve however more are arriving at a good pace. I can imagine the stock in this one rising having never really performed up to now, even if only slightly. 

Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle 7.5/10

This is obviously a great combo piece to the point that you can even support it in a combo cube should you wish. There are enough means of setting it up that despite a lack of redundancy you can make it work in singleton and limited formats. You can even play it in the fair way in normal cubes if you like. Five mountains isn't a big deal, slower red decks are looking to get to six mana. It is a bit of a Field of the Dead that needs you to be all mountains rather than all different types of land. The combination of it being exclusively a mono red card and exclusively a card for slower decks while also ruling out the use of most other non-mountain lands means I prefer not to use a cube slot on this one but the power and suitability is there. If you only want to support slower red decks this is a good tool for doing so with. It is a fine archetype but it doesn't need the help. I really try and avoid running cards that can only have one archetypal home and this is exactly such a card. 

Piranha Marsh 1/10

The upside here is not even close to worth the cost. This is only playable as a combo kill card as part of an infinite loop. The obvious one being Fastbond and Zuran Orb. Even then, you can just play other better lands and win with infinite mana, cards, stuff, and life. I guess that is harsh, if they bring back spectacle as a mechanic I might think about running this in a deck making heavy use of it....

Soaring Seacliff 1/10

If you want this effect you play Slip through Space or Shadow Rift and not this card as that would keep your options open. It can be randomly great in limited settings, even cube. Especially cube in some cases with such a prevalence of planeswalkers however it is just a long way from worth a slot what with only barely being better than an Island in a tiny minority of blue decks. 

Turntimber Grove 1/10

This is both low impact and low power. It has been outclassed by lands from later sets and is really hard to justify over a swath of alternatives. A small sorcery speed one turn buff doesn't excite at all. I wouldn't often play that as a one mana cantrip. 

Teetering Peeks 3.5/10

Comically this has been one of the all time high achievers from these Zendikar EtB lands despite seeming similar to the Grove. It is simply a lot easier to scale power than toughness and power equates to face damage or trading up which are all great things as far as red is concerned. On average this outperforms a mountain in aggressive red decks by a bigger margin than most of these kins of lands manage over their basic alternative. It also does so for a more commonly seen archetype. Even so I still don't think it is enough impact to merit the slot as it doesn't help to improve the draft format. 

Kabira Crossroads 2.5/10

A cute little defensive land that has seen play in both control decks and life gain decks. Certainly that play has declined since Crossroads was first printed but it still has a place. Generally you can find a window to deploy it in land heavy white control decks making it great against the aggressive lists you might want it against. It is even less risk against the control decks although the return is rather less.

Bojuka Bog 5/10

A fantastic sideboard card but rather too focused to be a great maindeck tool in limited settings. Graveyard disruption is a lot to do with timing and as such being on a land is about the worst place to be. Great when you know you need this effect but as soon as it is situational it is a liability more than a perk.

Khalni Garden 6/10

I highly rate this land. Getting a free dork is outstanding even if it is a fairly impotent 0/1. This is uncounterable board presence. It is two permanents in one card as cheap as it comes. Really good bonus card in Smokestack style decks along with aristocrat lists, even convoke and Earthcraft lists get along great with this little land. Improved with so many common synergies. The only issue faced by Garden is that green has some of the best lands in this group of cards thus bumping it further down the line for a slot. Treetop Village just packs more punch. Without synergy you probably just have a chump block which is nice but not worth the risk of a failed curve. 

Halimar Depths 4/10

This has seen some play as a means to abuse things like miracles. It has even been used just to empower cards like Oracle of Mul Daya. Can just be used with sac lands and self mill to provide card selection as well. Versatile little land. I often think of it as a Ponder without the option on a shuffle. If you could shuffle the card would be played pretty commonly in most blue decks. As it stands you need too much support to make it worth while. Spells that actually do the job in hand are simply played in preference. 

Smoldering Spires 4

Much debate was had at the time as to which was better out of this and Peaks. Generally they are pretty close in overall extra damage and perks afforded. My guess is that time has  been kinder to Spires and that it is now a bit more noticeably better than Peaks. Dorks are just sufficiently improved that stopping one blocking or getting one through is worth more than it used to be. Just Ragavan being a thing makes that feel likely! One of the EtB tapped lands I would be happiest playing in a mono red aggro deck. Still too low impact to tempt me into running in a cube. 

Sejiri Steppe 4/10

Some mild utility as a means to force through attackers but rather too situational to overcome the tempo cost. Where this is actually good is in combination with dorks that can activate to tutor a land into play such as Elvish Reclaimer or Knight of the Reliquary. The Steppe then affords protection as required and generally makes life awkward for the opponent. You might think this was better at forcing through damage given the 3.5 rating I gave Spires however there are several things at play making this less appealing in that role. Firstly red gets value out of any damage at all thanks to the reach it gains from burn. For Steppe to be useful it generally needs to be a fatal attack, otherwise they will just be back to blocking the following turn and you didn't advance your position. Steppe also only permits one attacker safe passage while Spires can let the whole team through. 

Skyline Cascade 3/10

Fantastic when it Ports a mana dork or blanks a big or relevant attacker for a turn. The problem is this doesn't always happen for you and blue is often trying to reach a mana threshold or at least hold up as much as possible. Weaving in EtB tapped lands is awkward and so I found that I only really want this in more of a spell slot at which point it is a little low on the power. It has still performed impressively well if a little polar in the occasions it has been played. It is just too much of a luxury card to ever really find the room for. 

Sandstone Bridge 1/10

A direct power upgrade on Turntimber Grove but still not worth running. Situational and low impact. Inconvenience where you don't want it.

Mortuary Mire 1.5/10

This is a Raise Dead but slower. Raise Dead is not a played card and neither really should this be. There is an argument for it in decks that can tutor lands and have specific important dorks they want to be able to recur but that is narrow even by constructed decks standards.

Fertile Thicket 1.5/10

In principle I like this but the basic land stipulation really hurts it. I commonly find I have about 5 basic lands per colour on average in an even split two colour deck. That doesn't give this great odds on helping you fix. It can even miss entirely and would be heavily odds on to miss in a deck with more than two colours. I also like the idea of using this with cards like Oracle of Mul Daya but that is all a bit cute. You don't need this to fix, it can just be a means to help you continue hitting land drops if you need. The thing is you are just better off running more land that doesn't enter untapped or card quality effects. In testing this performed poorly. 

Looming Spires 2/10

This is fine but not exciting. It typically just forces through 1 extra damage. It is a bit of a middle ground between the other two red EtB lands. It can be better than either but on average is worse than both due to being more situational in terms of when it can be optimal. 

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