Wednesday 11 August 2021

Mono Coloured Non-Basic Lands Part IV


Dryad Arbor 5/10

A highly unique card that forms a strong partnership with Green Sun's Zenith akin to Stoneforge and Batterskull or Cabal Coffers and Urborg. While still a strong pairing in cube it is a lot weaker in 40 card singleton lists. Half the time you draw the Dryad and that is not ideal. As a land the card is slow and incredibly vulnerable and is not what you want. It needs to be cheated into play or left in the deck for nice trickery. Being a forest makes this kind of trickery easily possible. The classic is voiding an Edict removal spell by using a sac land to find the Dryad etc. Only run this in your cube if you have the Zenith also available and even then it is a bit on the narrow side. Much more of a constructed tool. 

Kamigawa Legendary Cycle

These are some of the most free lands you can run, with zero functional drawback compared to basic lands in a vacuum. Certainly they have those minor issues as with all non-basics when you account for things like your own check lands and Koths etc and their Wastelands and Settle the Wreckage etc. Sometimes these lands are played just to avoid things that hose basic land types. The effects these lands have are surprisingly not all that minor thanks to the ratio of cost to effect. The cost is low meaning seemingly more minor effects can do a lot of work on the tempo side of things. The issue is much more to do with how situational these are. You need a legend in play as well as the right board state for the buff you have on hand to be relevant. When you force an awkward combat or kill a planeswalker in the midgame thanks to one of these lands it is amazing. That just doesn't happen very often. Having the legend isn't even the hard part, cube has a lot of those. These are as such a fine example of incredibly playable cards that fail on the impact side of things. My personal favourite use for these is in combination with cards like Board the Weatherlight for their historic properties. 

Eiganjo Castle 4/10

One of the more played of the cycle but also one of the weakest in effect. The play has been historically down to there just being more cheap white legends than in other colours and so this had a higher instance of doing something. Typically keeping Isamaru alive! 

Minamo, School at Water's Edge 5/10

The outlier of the cycle being more about combos than combat. Typically found doing things like untapping Tolarian Academy for loads more mana. This is narrower than the rest as you don't just need a legend but also one worth untapping. Minamo offsets the narrow in its rating by having the best ceiling on offer.

Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers 3.5/10

The worst of the cycle with it being a fairly minor effect that doesn't do all that much in the way of scaling. Arguably more powerful than the white one but less well suited thus resulting in a worse rating. Green likes forests and tends to have legends that are already perfectly big enough! A fine low cost card you play here and there in constructed decks but far from worth it elsewhere.

Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep 5/10

A certain little monkey really upped the stock in Shinka recently. Red has a bunch of small legends, a bunch of which have relatively high power to toughness ratios suiting first strike nicely. First strike or not is quite a big difference to combat outcomes and can make things very tricky. The best thing about Shinka is that you rarely have to activate it, mostly opponents will respect the fact you will use it and just act as if your legends already have first strike. 

Shizo, Death's Storehouse 5.5/10

Shizo has the most impactful effect being able making a something into a really awkward threat. Shizo is great against planeswalkers and offers a surprising amount of reach. It is certainly the only one of the cycle that can be said to offer reach. The thing keeping this in check is that black has a bunch of stuff that specifically likes swamps. They also don't have that many legends that are all that empowered by fear, either they have low power or simply already have some evasion. Shizo is much more exciting for giving Ragavan fear than it is for any black cards. Even so, it is hard to deny that a land with decent power, decent impact, and near zero cost is anything but good. 

With Basic Land Types

There are two cycles of mono coloured utility lands that also have the corresponding basic land type. The first was from Shadowmoor and their drawback was entering play tapped. The second set is from Throne of Eldraine and they would enter tapped and without other effect unless you have three basic lands of the type already. Three of a basic type is a big hoop to jump through but if you can manage it then it is well worth having that free value. Rather than the effects themselves these lands have two massive perks going for them. The first is that they are easy tutored for with fetch lands, and plenty of green ramp spells too. The second is that they don't harm other synergies that want you to have basic land types which helps to lower the cost of inclusion. The Eldraine cycle are not only better for potentially entering untapped but also thanks to higher impact effects, all of which are one off immediate ones when they enter play. All the Shadowmoor cycle have a tap to activate effect with impressively low impact! They also all have a prerequisite condition of having two permanents of the associated colour in play in order to activate them. This pretty much places them about as low as possible on the impact meter. Without the basic types these would all be rated substantially lower.

Leechridden Swamp 2/10

Some very tame reach or perhaps a spectacle enabler. Not impressive as the latter being two mana to use and spectacle often seeming like it is just a two mana discount! I would play this in some aggressive or attrition based black decks but I am not expecting much return for doing so. It is hard to see how the ability is going to make up for the land entering tapped in well tuned lists. 

Madblind Mountain 2/10

Really cool ability that isn't entirely unique in magic but is certainly hard to find and rarely on a card so playable. The best use for this is with Divining Top and cards like Brainstorm and Ponder. Even at the budget cost of two mana to use Madblind that still turns those cheap card quality spells into expensive card quality spells. It is also not common to be flush with red permanents when you are running those sorts of card. I also quite like it in green for Sylvan Library and the many things that let you play lands or dorks off the top of your deck. Sadly again the activation cost and prerequisite just make this a really impractical thing to pull off.  

Mistveil Plains 3/10

I play this pretty frequently but it doesn't achieve all that much. In singleton 40 card lists it is not at all uncommon to simply run out of gas or just to not have enough time left to win win the game. This is a really nice way to make yourself feel safe. It gives you a degree of inevitability. You never get decked nor run out of the tools you need. It is at least the easiest to have active, even if you are playing it in control lists with relatively few permanents. A card like Elspeth, Sun's Nemesis can fairly reliably and easily turn this on. Most white walkers achieve this for that matter even if they can't come back to life from the bin.  

Moonring Island 2/10

I have played this in a cube iteration of a Lantern of Insight control deck. It wasn't great but it felt great having found a suitable home for it! Information is powerful but this is expensive for what it offers and probably the hardest of the cycle to have online. 

Sapseep Forest 2.5/10

Two mana for one life just isn't enough for any sort of normal use. Thanks to some very recent green additions to the lifegain matters archetype there is some renewed hope for this as triggering all your Pridemates on a land you can tutor up has some appeal. I have played Kabira Crossroads in lifegain decks and I prefer the effect of Sapseep Forest. You just need a way to reliably have two green cards in play in a predominantly white deck...

Dwarven Mine 6/10

As your 4th mountain this is nutty value essentially being both a mountain and a Memnite all at once. A cantrip Memnite or mountain are pretty big deals even if beyond turn 4 it is hard to get excited about a 1/1 token. Mine is of most use in Polymorph style decks trying to cheat out a fat Eldrazi. It is decent in any mono red deck wanting and expecting to curve to four each game. The issue there is being very restricted on playing any non-mountain cards. This might be the most efficient of the red utility lands but it isn't the greatest impact and so it tends not to make the cut without significant token synergies. You are just going to play cards like Barbarian Ring and Mishra's Factory first by which point your Mountain count is too low for this to be without cost. 

Gingerbread Cabin 3/10

Forests are certainly the easiest thing to tutor up and indeed to amass so as to turn this on. Sadly a food isn't impressive without having a good reason to want a token, some life, or even the food specifically! Few archetypes can both support this while also wanting what it offers and so it gets little play. 

Idyllic Grange 5/10

Being a fetch land target means this land can offer an instant speed combat trick and that makes it impressive. An auto include in most mono white aggro decks looking to curve to four but yet still too narrow and low impact to be worth running in drafting cubes. There are at least a few less exciting options on non-basic lands as far as aggressive white players are concerned helping to bump this up the rankings rather. In principle I prefer the Dwarven Mine but in practice this less often ruled out by insufficient type counts. It does however lack the combo applications which lowers the overall utility of the card.

Mystic Sanctuary 8/10

A somewhat oppressive land able to combo with a wide array of things or just be generically good with plenty. Soft lock people with Cryptic Command or Deprive. Ruin lives with Time Walks. When good this is fairly crushing, when not it is still fine. The way it plays is a bit of a turn off for me but mostly it is that the card is very late and very blue intense. There are less powerful but more playable and fun cards I would run over this in most cubes. When it comes to combo and powered cubes there is a much bigger and better argument for including this powerful tool. A lot of constructed decks pay attention to this card as well and use it for loads of fairer reasons as well as the broken ones. It is nice to be able to recur combo pieces or just have a 2nd go on a strong card.

Witch's Cottage 2/10

There are multiple other lands that do this effect. They are generally less demanding on your list and as such get most of the little action this might otherwise have had. Heavy swamp black decks are a thing and this does fit in them quite well, it is just not all that common that they actually want this fairly minor slow Raise Dead effect. 

Flagstones of Trokair 7/10

A rare one off land that has some very nice combos and synergies. It is a good way to retain advantage when using symmetrical effects like Armageddon. You can also use cards like Cleansing Wildfire to efficiently ramp your mana. Rampant Growth was good without slapping draw a card onto it! There is basically no cost to running Flagstones however there is also no return either without the appropriate supporting cards. Too narrow for most drafting cubes but a unique and powerful tool that gets a lot of constructed attention. 

Flamekin Village 3/10

Another one off land that hails from the commander product. While this might look quite appealing the card is pretty bad for general use and not even all that exciting in an elemental build. Paying two mana to give something haste typically lowers the tempo of your play. It is only good with a few well suited dorks or when you would otherwise be wasting that mana. These small upsides don't offset the high chance it is entering tapped or in the case of elemental lists, the mere fact it isn't producing multiple colours. 

Gaea's Cradle 9/10

Technically part of a cycle but one which is asymmetrical in design and polar in power to say the least. The whole cycle doesn't even qualify to be on this list because apparently Shivan Gorge was too good to produce red mana... The rest technically might not either as they can fail to function as mana producers at all. Cradle is a very powerful land that retains power in most kinds of cube. It is a little bit win more thanks to scaling with a developed board but it is sufficiently powerful that you barely notice. Just play creatures, Cradle, and some mana sinks and watch those god draws crush your enemies. I cut it from my cube as it was on the cusp of a number of iffy properties. Nearly ban worthy levels of power, on the narrow side, and polar in performance. You can be left with a land that literally taps for nothing and lose or have a land tapping for loads and win. That doesn't lead to fun or high quality games all that often. Like Karakas this goes from being near oppressive in unpowered cubes to a necessity in powered ones. 

Serra's Sanctum 6/10

Lots of potential power like Cradle but a little harder to achieve and a little harder to then utilize. Sanctum is slower to get out of hand and runs out of things to do more quickly. Mostly it is unplayable in a limited setting as you cannot hope to have enough enchantments. In a build around sense the card is powerful but nearly as narrow as it gets. 

Tolarian Academy 8/10

A well known bomb of a card. Similar to Cradle in how it works but far quicker and far more abusive thanks to being blue. Aaand Cradle is plenty abusive already. Artifacts are cheap, easily deployed, and critically have no summoning sickness. I have seen more turn one wins with Academy in cube than any other card. Generally good in powered cubes but it can be a trap as you really do need a critical mass of support. Also great in combo cubes but basically unplayable in all other kinds of cube. Often banned out of singleton constructed events too! Good fun (for one player) when it isn't banned. 

Phyrexian Tower 7/10

Another land that is a little bit of a grey area for inclusion given that it isn't tapping for black mana in a conventional sense. At least compared to the other three from this "cycle" here it does always produce some kind of mana... Tower is a great support card that should be in most lists that want to sacrifice creatures and in some lists that just want some burst. It is a really option rich and clean utility card. A bit too cute for most cubes but an impressive constructed card in many an archetype. It might not have the same silly scaling as the previous three but it makes up for that with ease of use, convenience, and plenty of synergy support. Cradle, Academy and Sactum are payoffs while Tower is a support cards that allows you to obtain the payoffs more easily from other cards. Such an odd cycle.  

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