Friday, 13 August 2021

Mono Coloured Non-Basic Lands Part VI


Depletion Lands 6/10

A lovely little cycle of lands from Masques block that have a broad range of uses. These are both ramp and burst mana and have some cool synergies going on as well. Typically it is the combo and heavy synergy decks that want these but not exclusively. I have certainly played them to good effect in some midrange/control decks, often red. Prison decks can use them effectively too. As far as mana output these can give 4 over 3 turns thus providing that burst. They can also give you two turns of ramped mana which is pretty perfect for a lot of combos. You need five turns with a conventional untapped land to provide more mana than that which one of these offers. I love the way these lead to dynamic curving and the many interesting choices that come with that. I love the tension on mana with a limit on use thus making me question the value of plays more precisely. An interesting and option rich set of lands that I think add a lot to the game and design process while remaining really appropriate in terms of power level (for cube at least, I can easily imagine these being abused all day long in modern...). My absolute favourite use of these lands is with proliferate effects. With enough proliferate you just have a land that taps for two coloured mana which is a delight! 

The hideaway lands all enter tapped and let you chose a card from the top four of your library that you get to play for minimal cost should you fulfil a condition. These are quite open to abuse as you physically get to cast the card that you find thus triggering Eldrazi titan on cast effects and those like it. Assuming you expect to fulfil the condition the cards are very powerful even when you are not setting up free Emrakuls. Just playing the best card from the top four for two mana (plus one extra if you count the entering tapped to begin with) is massive. It is generally tempo positive ie playing a spell costing more than three as well as being great card advantage and selection. The quality of these lands is really down to the places you can sensibly play them and the kinds of thing you get to play with them. 

Howltooth Hollow 6/10

This isn't all that hard to achieve just by playing out your own stuff and forcing discards on your opponent. You can even do it quickly with a myriad of symmetrical discard such as Liliana. You do need the discard support to play this otherwise your opponent can simply lock you out of using it by holding something back. Despite the relative ease of turning it on the payoff is on the lower side. The kinds of deck playing enough discard to support this will be the kinds of deck that operate well in a low resource game and as such Hollow will generate less impressive mana value. It is still pretty free and still well worth playing when you have appropriate decks but it is too narrow to be of interest in draft.

Mosswort Bridge 3/10

This is really win more. Either your 10 power should quickly win the game or you are somehow in a board stall in with your ten power. In that case you should have more than enough mana to win with a more appropriate or versatile utility land. Kessig Wolf-Run springs to mind but I am sure here are many others more suitable than Mosswort Bridge. Mosswort Bridge has better odds of getting out a fatty than most of the others in the cycle but it does so at a less useful stage in the game.  

Shelldock Isle 9/10

This over performs the design spec in cube by at least double. Cube decks being powerful like constructed decks but only 40 cards means you naturally have Shelldock active pretty quickly. Too quickly. There is so much draw, cantrip, looting, fetch lands, and cycling in cubes that Shelldock feels like it is fairly consistently turned on naturally by one or other player by around turn 7. Putting in effort to do so will get you there sooner. Blue also has more library manipulation than other colours allowing for more reliable top tier hits. Shelldock has the inevitability of being turned on while the others in the cycle really don't. Blue also benefits hugely from the ability to cheaply deploy something. If you can hold up extra mana for counters while making a significant play it is often a deathblow. I banned out Shelldock a fair while ago just because people were getting fed up with the free wins it frequently gave. Random big hits or just that extra card and couple of mana all being too much. A land shouldn't be that consistently advantageous on all fronts and in 40 card lists Shelldock is just that. An errata to 10 cards left in a library would be fairer but would still result in a fairly polar card that wasn't adding a great deal to the play experience. 

Spinerock Knoll 3.5/10

Doing seven in a turn is quite hard to setup and fairly mana intensive. It also gets harder to do as the game goes late or in the early portions. By the time you can achieve it you will not have an extra two spare mana to activate this. By the time you do have that extra mana you will have had to consume some of those resources to stay in the game and as such you will be unable to hit that 7 bar and will likely lose the card you hid in the Knoll. 

Windbrisk Heights 5/10

This got a lot of cube action some years ago when white really struggled to find sources of value. Those are easier to come by now and so white does not have to lean on cards with a fairly win more component to them. Token lists are the best place for this as you can avoid an over extension to turn it on. Being an EtB tapped land in an aggro deck it is not that well suited. Also cheating out a card for no mana is at the lowest return in the aggro decks. Still fine but not the powerful and broadly played card it once was. Certainly too clunky and unnecessary for my cubes these days. 

The Memorial lands arrived in Dominaria and represented the last cycle in the era of generally tame powered utility lands. These look OK relative to much that is covered in these lists but put in the context of the escalating power creep at that time these lands look pretty shaky. In order to keep up pace and remain even a consideration the utility lands since these have been a notable notch up in power. These lands are bad because they enter tapped and get sacrificed in order to use them. The effects are not that impactful and the costs to use them are well above the going rate. 

Memorial to Folly 1.5/10

Despite being substantially worse than Mortuary Mire on terms of efficiency the flexibility on timing does make this a more playable land that gets back a dork. Only playable when you need key creatures and so very narrow in addition to the low power but just about remaining at least theorectically playable. 

Memorial to Genius 1/10

If you include the cost of this entering tapped it is seven mana extra for those two cards. This is laughable in the face of Horizon lands. Slow decks want to keep their lands and quick decks want their lands to make mana immediately. No one wants this. 

Memorial to Glory 0/10

This doesn't just look bad next to Castle Ardenvale it also manages to look bad next to Westvale Abbey or Kjedoran Outpost. Without a lot of scaling perks this fails to even be that relevant by the time you can activate it. Six mana and a card for a pair of 1/1 tokens? If that sounds good then Raise the Alarm is going to blow your mind. If it is the luxury of being able to tap for mana before you get royally ripped off for your tokens then you should be playing the basic Plains. If you really must have both these things combined then play any of the other token producing lands mentioned at the beginning. 

Memorial to Unity 1.5/10

Commune with Nature is a one mana spell and not even that great of one. It is more of a dodgy tutor than card selection as it is so restrictive on type. This charges you five total mana for your Commune. In principle it is nice to be able to cash in lands for more gas as the late game draws in and you are reaching your mana cap. I do prefer this to Memorial to Genius what with it activating for less and having a better shot at hitting the right sort of action but it is still the same kind of ballpark bad card that fails to compete with Horizon lands along with other styles of utility land. Mostly it is the entering tapped that is so discordant with decks that want to ultimately cash in land cards for value. I would like to see more future cycles of utility lands not tied to the same kind of drawback such as pain or entering tapped so that this kind of issue can be avoided and we don't get random near unplayable wastes of card.

Memorial to War 1/10

Seven total mana to Stone Rain something? I could blow up all your lands twice for that price! In a world with Field of Ruin and Wastelands and like, just Stone Rain, there is no real hope for this as a general use tool. Where it might have some mild application is in a lands theme deck things that can play lands from the bin and other things than play multiple lands per turn that is trying to lock someone out of the game. Very very narrow and hardly impressive at that either.

Oboro, Palace in the Clouds 4/10

A means to avoid Choke or to ensure you always have a landfall trigger should you want. Sometimes  cute to do things like activate Land Tax but not the best line often or even the best way to perform the dodgy line. A very low cost land but one with little in the way of things to offer. 

Tomb of Urami 4/10

If you want to go all in this is certainly a way to do it. You certainly couldn't describe this card as lacking impact. Sadly that impact is not all in a positive way for you! Mostly this is a land you can use as bit of a Lava Axe to get those final few points of damage through. It is a very extreme take on Ramunap Ruins. You can lose the game with this should they have some way to answer it but the payoff is large when you judge things correctly or they kindly tap out and broadcast a clear path. If you are aggressive and don't need the life for other things then this is a worthy include. Usually black decks want to spend life on other things like card draw and so this tends to get left on the bench. 

Rustic Clachan 2/10

I do like the design on these tribal lands where by they enter untapped if you can demonstrate you are holding the appropriate tribe. There is some tension between playing this early while you are still holding kithkin so that it is untapped and holding Clachan so that you can potentially use the reinforce mode but it is interesting tension rather than bad tension when you have that option. It is nice to have a proper instant and concealed trick on a land but neither are good value if Clachan isn't reliably able to enter untapped. As such I wouldn't play this outside a kithkin or changeling list, neither of which really feature in any kind of singleton. The tension however between the effect being one you want in an aggressive tempo based deck and the entering tapped on the other hand does rather ruin this cards chances elsewhere. 

The World Tree 5/10

Late game fixing and very late game potential value. The fixing is interesting, the fetching of gods is rather narrower. You might have one or two but at the 11 mana mark it is hardly a power play. There are certainly some decks where the convenience of the fixing alone makes this well worth it. Those decks often pack a load of cards like Explore, Uro, Golos, Primeval Titan, and other things that put non-basic lands into play and perhaps find them for you. It is rare that you can use the mana from those effect all that often and so entering tapped lands are less of a burden. In the tailored decks this is great but in a cube you are better off running cards with a broader range of potential homes such as Vivid lands or things like City of Brass and Mana Confluence. 

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth 7/10

This is a great land with an array of cool uses. The best of those being support for Cabal Coffers and Lake of the Dead and sometimes even Bubbling Muck. It is kind of fixing but in a reverse way. It doesn't fix itself but it helps other things fix for you. It isn't fixing if you only have single black mana symbols in costs and has an element of the filter lands about it. It can let you play more cards with only black mana requirement while running a risky colourless land or two. It can even turn on your own swampwalk creatures! It can turn lands like Ancient Tomb and Horizon lands into painless mana sources which is most pleasant. Really versatile and convenient land but one that doesn't really do anything without other cards and as such too narrow to be a worthwhile inclusion in drafting cubes. 

Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth 7/10

All the same things that apply to Tomb of Yawgmoth also apply here. The synergy cards are obviously different but there are still plenty of good ones. Rofellos, Nissa Who Shakes the World, Beacon of Creation to name a few. Despite being effectively part of the same incomplete cycle these lands do operate rather more differently than other equivalent cycles. This is because these depend on the things you are playing with them to determine their power and that is wildly effected by the colour of your deck. Blue and red versions of these would likely be a bit oppressive in some of their uses while a white one feels like it would be the least exciting. That being said, it doesn't take too much to change the value of these cards. They are never bad but they can easily be made naughty. They are the kind of thing that can limit future design space so it seems reasonable that they have printed them sparingly and not given us all five. At least with Cradle of Growth we can expect Rofellos to be the most naughty card you could pair it with and we are very unlikely to see him or a card that like him again. 

Thriving and Vivid Lands

These are another couple of sets of closely related lands that are very much in the grey area in regards eligibility for this list. They are both dual lands/fixing rather than utility lands, they just also both happen to be rooted in one colour and thus have the appearance of being a single colour utility land. Where both of these lands really shine is in their space efficiency. One land from either of these cycles represents four dual lands from another more conventional dual land cycle. Thriving Lands are better in two colour lists and Vivid lands are better in those that are more than two colours. Entering tapped dual lands with no upside like scry however is a big old cost to pay for the space efficiency. As such these don't really cut it in the higher powered cubes but for those that are budget or toned down these two cycles would be some of my go to lands. I have a set of the Vivid lands in my combo cubes because it is really common to wind up in loads of colours splashing the odd card here and there. It is also a cube very sensitive to size due the inherently parasitic nature of combos and trying to draft them. The fewer wasted or bloated slots you can have in such a cube the better and Vivid lands can take a lot of bloat out of your fixing. 

Thriving Lands 5/10

Vivid Lands 6/10

Teferi's Isle 3/10

This is a massive delay on mana production and thanks to the phasing it is averaging less mana per turn than other EtB tapped lands. There are a couple of reasons you might play this. The first is burst. If played early this will allow you to power out something above curve like a four drop on turn three or a five drop on turn four which can be quite swingy. The other reason to play this is when you have a bunch of effects that untap lands. That can get quite fun but mostly you are just playing basic Islands to work with High Tide and so this sits on the bench. The nice thing about this with untap effects is that you can start using it right away and can empower going off out of nowhere.

Having now covered all the lands I feel like there needs to be a conclusion which is probably just a top 3-5 list per colour, per cube type, of the most appropriate lands that are good to run. The MDFCs complicate that somewhat as there is pretty significant overlap as far as cube design goes. As such I will look to complete an article covering the MDFCs and then consider the conclusion article rounding up everything. There is also some overlap with colourbound colourless lands such as Volrath's Stronghold. It only produces colourless however it requires black mana in order to be useful. The cost of running it in a deck is very different to the cost of a land that produces black mana however the cost of including it within a cube is much more akin to that of a black utility land such as Hive of the Eye Tyrant. Both are lands you typically play a basic land in place of and both are only considerations in black lists. These are some of the narrowest lands on offer being hard to include, being narrow, and being pick that doesn't count towards your needed playables. The actual narrowest are the gold versions of these colour-bound colourless lands like Kessig Wolf Run. Luckily there are not all that many lands in this group of colour-bound colourless lands and with them being such luxuries very few manage to make waves in cube. The Wolf Run is likely the most all round playable of the lot. I think I shall likely just cover relevant ones of those in the conclusion, at least to begin with. Reviewing all of them before the conclusion seems a little over the top as so few feature in cubes. Stay tuned for the upcoming MDFC breakdown and conclusions. 

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