Thursday, 12 August 2021

Mono Coloured Non-Basic Lands Part V

The Urza's Legacy manlands were the first such cards to tap for coloured mana. The only manland to predate them is Mishra's Factory (unless you count Stalking Stones which I don't). Their cost is entering tapped rather than being colourless. All of them cost two to activate making them fairly cheap to use. Some suffered with this due to being meagre dorks and thus low impact but others went in the other direction and became high impact as you could relevantly use them in the midgame to control planeswalkers or usefully spend mana without extending into something nasty. 

Faerie Conclave 7/10

Evasion is the key to this being good. Just nipping in for a nice uncontested two can take the game and it certainly does good work deterring planeswalkers. Low toughness along with high land demands for most blue decks do make it a bit scary to use. Polar performance (in addition to the ever present tension on cube space) lead me to cut this rather than underperformance. It can be beastly against silly green players while being a bad island against red with their burn and white with their plentiful good for blocking with fliers. There is a long history of high tension moments in cube where a player goes to equip an animated Conclave with a Sword of Something or Other. 

Forbidding Watchtower 2/10

This was always laughed at and reasonably so. Yes, it is a good defender relative to most lands but the strength of the creature land is not being a creature in the face of sorcery speed interaction. If you are blocking with them then you are vulnerable. Equally decks looking to make walls are not looking to tap a bunch of mana in combat so that they have less action in the 2nd main phase. Really Watchtower only has any hope when you have a lot of buffs. It is cheap enough to activate and durable enough that you can realistically pair it with equipment. A deck jammed full of Anthem effects also has some interest in this. I guess a Doran deck might as well but it would be fighting with lands that can fix and that don't suck when you haven't got your appropriate synergy cards in play. 

Ghitu Encampment 4/10

Playable but quickly outclassed and rendered unable to usefully attack. Mutavault and Mishra's Factory are both generally preferable options in aggressive red decks. Being untapped hinders tempo less and the lower cost to animate makes them a more mana efficient damage outlay. The lower cost and higher tempo mitigates the issue they share of being 2 power non-evasive dorks that are quickly outclassed on the board. Encampment looks like it should be better than it is but has consistently underperformed for decades. 

Spawning Pool 2.5/10

This has much the same issues as Forbidding Watchtower. It is rubbish on offense and inherently ill suited on defence. Especially as it costs extra mana to keep safe. Pool can hold off bigger threats and is somewhat safer in the face of removal spells as well. Given you are typically using these later the regenerate just about pips the four extra toughness on Watchtower but barely. It also has less in the way of things that might support than Watchtower and so fails to do much scaling up. Pool is pretty gross against a trampler! One day there will be a skeleton deck and on that day this will still won't be the best creature land for that deck. 

Treetop Village 7.5/10

The best of the bunch being a very efficient cost to size package. Village outputs a good amount of damage and the trample does loads of work. You can't just keep walkers safe with 1/1 tokens, you need proper dorks to handle a Village. Any buff effects go nicely with the trample on Village as well, notable Umezawa's Jitte so as to stop naughty sac effects fizzling your charges. Green also has things like Primeval Titan and Cavalier of Thorns that incentivize playing useful utility lands. Village poses more threat on average than Conclave while also being generally safer to use. Also much better defensively when needs must. Further to that green is weaker to over extension than most other colours and thus stands to gain more from threats hidden in lands. Village is not only more potent than Conclave but contextually better suited as well. 

Adventure manlands are the most recent offering of this kind and they blow the competition out of the water. This is entirely thanks to the bodies being of comparable power and relative animation cost to other good coloured manlands while also having the unique attribute of being able to enter untapped. These lands are highly relevant and impactful as other good manlands are, indeed they are the most commonly sought after and played type utility lands, and one of the few things people will stomach entering tapped lands for in my cube. The Adventure manlands however come at a fraction of the cost to your build than any alternatives. You can pretty much just play these. Their cost is not nothing, they do enter tapped a bit over 50% of the time but it is the time that matters rather less. When you start with them in hand it isn't a problem and later down the line you are better poised to be able to solve any issues their entering tapped might cause. Indeed not having any issues early is a great way to ensure you are well poised further down the line as falling behind early can snowball. I have not played much with these as yet but I have played enough to know they are great. They do need to be on this list too as they are clearly some of the best options on utility lands for cube. I would say the best as far as mono coloured utility lands go. Play this cycle first and then consider more. Not only are animatable lands the best suited kind of utility land in general for cube these ones are weighted fairly nicely. The actual things they turn into all manage to be rather more relevant than a bog standard vanilla dorks like the Urza's cycle ones. They are unlike some of the cheaper manlands that get outclassed on the board quickly but for this they do forgo the ability to easily nip in to help out in the start of the midgame. 

Cave of the Frost Dragon 9/10

My personal top pick of the cycle thanks to broad appeal. This is great for control and for aggro. It just does everything in a really rounded and measured way. It is safe, it is threatening, it provides options, it can be used to control a game or push to end a game. If you are at all white you should be playing this if you can. 

Den of the Bugbear 8/10

Being just a 3/2 this is the most easily negated by the board state. Den makes up for it in two ways. Firstly red players are good at clearing the path of things that can trade well with this. Secondly this is foolishly efficient at ending games as far as manlands go and it does so will generating 1/1 token value as well as Castle Ardenvale! It has been feeling like all you need with this is one hit so as to do game ending amounts of free damage. I have used this instead of curving in the midgame so as to just eek out a bit of extra value and mitigating extension and that felt great where as doing so with most other manlands would feel like falling behind. Going forwards I think Den will be one of those kinds of card that you have to prevent being able to freely hit you pretty much ever. 

Hall of Storm Giants 8/10

The least activated so far but the most relevant when it is rather making up for that. This hits very hard and ends games quickly or at least threatens to one shot most planeswalkers. Fast acting is desirable when it comes to manlands getting used as it is often a sign of resources dwindling. Fast acting minimizes risk of losing to a top deck. The weakness of Hall is to small chaffy dorks that can just chump it. Luckily Wrath effects solve this issue nicely! This roughly translates to Hall being better in or against control decks than it is for midrange lists. Aggro ones will play it and it will be free power for them but they will activate it the least of the lot by a reasonable margin. 

Hive of the Eye Tyrant 8/10

The least good of the bodies being just a medium old Hill Giant. Menace helps to up the threat and relevance of the card while Hive distinguishes itself with disruptive utility. When you can use your land to snipe away a nasty looking Uro it is good times. All the other creature lands are just things to get involved in combat with. That is plenty of utility but Hive goes above and beyond offering utility on top of utility and can steal you games in multiple different ways as a result. 

Lair of the Hydra 8/10

Versatile and threatening. This can nip in early to help answer a walker or it can smash in later and close out the game. Always nice to have a relevant mana sink on a land. Perhaps the least exciting of the bunch but certainly not the least powerful. Thus far the most played and activated of the cycle. As mentioned, green has most support for these as well as the most desire to run them. 

Legends Lands

A cycle of legendary lands from legends with no drawback beyond the legend rule. So free were these lands to run that we have seen very few like it since. Some have effects so minor they are barely playable outside of being "historic" cards or avoiding Choke style hate. Others in the cycle are rather more worthy of play in what is another one of the most polar cycles. It is not too shocking land cycles wind up being polar as lands all have the same cost to deploy and thus have the least scope for tuning. As you might expect, the earlier iterations of land cycles such as this one from Legends are the worst offenders.

Hammerheim 1.5/10

Perfectly playable but very little reason to do so. This ranks about as low on the impact scale as it is possible to do with barely any landwalk effects found in cube. 

Karakas 10/10

About as good as it gets as an overall package. Super high impact and super low cost. You don't even need legends yourself for this to be good, indeed it is best when ruining the life of opposing legends. I effectively banned this from my unpowered cube as it was stifling design. Cube just has such a high proportion of legends and is increasing that ratio all the time. Karakas was played every time it was picked and picked highly whenever it was seen, often by non-white players. As such any costly legends, especially those without immediate effects were simply unplayable. Have fun with Kalitas as he turns my Karakas into a card with 8 times the efficiency of a Rishadan Port! Despite being incredibly powerful Karakas is still less powerful than some cards that I have not banned. It was just too free to be good fun, a bit like Lutri is. A good balance to Karakas should you really want to play it is allowing it to only target your own dorks. I actually played this as it is written for a while and let it bounce any legend which was even more oppressive. You couldn't play things like Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth without risking a beating from Karakas. If you neither ban or errata Karakas at least use the oracle text! In powered and combo cubes Karakas is almost a necessity as a means to combat the myriad strategies that cheat out fatties like Eldrazi. As soon as you move towards unpowered cubes the card becomes oppressive.

Pendelhaven 6/10

Likely the most on point in terms of power and impact for the cycle. Pendelhaven is by far and away the most often missed on board trick in my cube. So many 2/2 dorks have needlessly died to Llanowar Elves. Being overlooked does increase the performance of the card but it feels wrong to account for that in the rating of it. I don't enjoy winning a game because someone made a daft misplay. Once the trick aspect is removed the card is rather lower on the impact. It usually has targets but it doesn't often do that much. It isn't always an auto include as green decks can either specifically want a very high forest count or they can be struggling to fit in enough forests for their other cards while also having the desired dual lands. 

Tolaria 1.5

This has less targets than Hammerheim. I would have given it a 1/10 but then Choke (Boil/Tsunami) is rather more played than Conversion...

Urborg 3.5

First stike is a thing cube creatures have and removing it is no bad thing. A near free land with a minor but not irrelevant effect. Rarely worth the bother despite feeling like a boss when you do bother and it does come up!  

Pain Deserts 

This cycle of utility lands enter untapped and tax you life instead. Unlike the Odyssey lands however these have a painless colourless mode making them far more palatable in slower decks. One of the main things I find myself using these lands for is to play Battle for Zendikar spells that require you to specifically have colourless mana. These can effectively be dual lands when used as such. Sadly the effects are all a bit inefficient thanks to the very low cost of including these card in a list. The impact is medium at best and the cost to obtain that medium impact effect is well above the going rate. One nice, but rarely relevant in cube aspect of these cards is that the sacrifice ability can sac any desert rather than just itself and so you can get multiple uses out of these.

Hashep Oasis 3.5/10

One of the more played from the cycle but primarily because I have found Eldrazi green to be one of my favourite pairings for when I want to pack Thought Knot Seers. The pump effect is unexciting thanks to sorcery speed.

Ifnir Dreadlands 2.5/10

Almost all the same issues that Cabal Pit has with the extra bonus issue of being a really expensive Disfigure as well. A mild chance of me wanting to play this with counter synergies like Hapatra and Generous Patron...

Ipnu Rivulet 4.5/10

I have seen this played both to mill yourself and to mill the opponent, as well as an Eldrazi blue support card too of course. Nice free utility for when you want this sort of thing. The one hit nature of it makes it more impactful than other mill lands even if it doesn't have the same ongoing capacity. This on top of being a far lower cost inclusion makes it the best of the mill lands. The general low relevance of a small one off mill also allows this to cost little to activate compared to the others in this cycle which has the reverse effect of greatly increasing the impact of the card when you are in those instances where mill is useful. 

Ramunap Ruins 6.5/10

This had a tier one deck named after it which is always a sign something is pretty good. That was a standard deck however and standard is one of the less comparable formats to cube. The high mana activation cost on this makes it less appealing reach to alternatives, both spell and land based. Ruins might well be on theme but red does not lack for that. The failing here is low utility and option density on top of unimpressive efficiency. That latter point means this is pretty much always the last thing you do and that in turn means you frequently end up not using it either winning or losing before you reach the end of the que. It remains perfectly playable, good even, just neither interesting nor all that impactful. 

Shefet Dunes 2.5

One of the weaker offerings as it suffers from the combined problems of all of the cycle starting with not being very exciting for an Eldrazi deck. It is sorcery to activate ruining the combat trick aspect. It is expensive to activate. Situationally useful to activate and scales with you either over extending or just being a bit win more. Absolutely play this in your aggressive white decks where it costs you no picks but you are going to struggle to exhaust the pool of more useful cards than this in a draft setting! 

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