Monday, March 4, 2013

Utility Lands and You

I didn't notice it until recently, but Wizards has not only given us a lot of options when it comes to fixing colors, we've got a real preponderance of very playable colorless-producing lands.  This is intriguing to me.

If you're one color, then you can play almost as many colorless lands as you want.  Two colors, and I'd have to start thinking hard about what's needed vs. what is useful, and probably no more than seven or eight such lands.  Three colors, I'm maxing at five colorless lands, and at five colors (we don't have the four-color legends yet, but they are coming!) a colorless-producing land needs to be amazing or exactly on the deck's theme.  (for reference, my Kaalia list has four of these lands and a Maze of Ith.)

I find that there are so many choices for multi-color lands, especially in three-color decks, that I could play all nonbasics if I wished.  This is dangerous--Ruination is a card to be respected, as is Blood Moon and Magus of the Moon. I make it a point to keep in as many basics as I need for the color requirements.  For example, if I have Visara the Dreadful, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, and Woodfall Primus in my Adun Oakenshield deck, I don't go below three Swamps, three Mountains, and three Forests.

Before we get into the 'taps for only colorless by itself' crowd, let's take a moment and look at lands that actually don't tap for mana.  This may surprise you, but for a while, this was a real thing and it seems silly in retrospect.

The non-mana-producing lands:
   Fetchlands from Onslaught (Polluted Delta), Zendikar (Arid Mesa), and Mirage (Rocky Tar Pit)
Yeah, yeah.  They don't actually tap for mana, but they find things that do.
  Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
It ends up tapping for black, but it needs to be mentioned anyway.
   Dark Depths
Since it is best friends with Urborg (above) and Vampire Hexmage, it bears mentioning.   The funny bit is that the token is a hard thing to find.
   The 'bands with legends' lands (Adventurers' Guildhouse)
I will bet a dollar that many people reading this don't even know what banding is.  And that's fine.  Those who know can tell you it's not worth the time to explain.
Now we are talking.  Fight!  Only downside is that they get to pick what fights after you do.
   Bazaar of Baghdad
This doesn't see much EDH play, but for a Karador or other graveyard-based deck, this sort of says 'draw five cards.'
   City of Shadows
Usually, this pops up in token decks as a cute trick.  Because it's an exile effect, you can't even get good loops going in recursive decks.  Sure, if you have lots of token creatures to spare, you can work this up to a good size. Wouldn't you rather be doing something good with those creatures, like attacking?  
   Diamond Valley
Read it again.  It's exactly as good as you think it is, plus some.  No mana, no restrictions, just tap and sacrifice to gain some life.  Useful to prevent theft or to gain lots of life.
   Eye of Ugin
Colorless creatures include not only Eldrazi, but artifact creatures too.  Amusingly, Ghostflame Sliver isn't colorless until it's in play.
   Glacial Chasm
Yeah, it's a standoff of a card.  Almost nothing can hurt you for a few turns, as long as you pay the life.
   Halls of Mist
This and Glacial Chasm in the same set.  Imagine what fun Limited games were!
   Ice Floe
Oh yeah, this too, but this isn't that terrible. It's not pretty, but it can keep something from hitting you twice.
   Island of Wak-Wak
I never understood the art.  It's like Aladdin wanted to launch some ICBMs or something.
   Maze of Ith
Important: Do not count this as a land.  It's a spell slot in your deck, and a very useful one at that.
   Safe Haven
People try so hard to make this work.  But you shouldn't, because of the timing restriction on when you can bring things back.
   Sorrow's Path
If you want to Donate this to someone and then tap it with an Icy Manipulator or some other effect, that is amazing.  Otherwise, it's terrible.
   Thawing Glaciers
I play this whenever I can.  It's slow, but it's effective.  
   The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
This card is both amazing and godawful.  The key is that it never shows up alone--they usually have Stasis or Winter Orb or a card that impedes your mana to make you get rid of your creatures.  If someone is managing to return it to hand before they have to pay the tax themselves, then you should learn from their example and indulge in evil.

Now, let's talk about utility lands.  I'm leaving out lands that tap for colorless or can be tapped for some other color effect, like Mogg Hollows, Twilight MireDarkwater Catacombs, things like that.  But leave a comment if I forgot something.

   Academy Ruins
This is a card that makes up a Mindslaver lock in Modern.  It's less likely to end up a lock until the end of the game, but using Mindslaver twice in a row against one person will draw you their ire for a good month afterwards.
   Alchemist's Refuge
This is good enough to be an auto-include if you're in the right colors.  Winding Canyons is good for creature-based decks, but this is flash for anything! The downside is that there are more than a few Riku decks that can really abuse this effect.
   Balduvian Trading Post
Sure, it's extra mana, except it isn't.  Avoid.
   Blasted Landscape
The cycling lands, for colorless and for colored costs, are something I often start with.  I find that I want to be playing with them, until they are my late-drawn, fifth land drop and I have to wait too long.  They are worse than two-color lands, and slightly better than basics. 
   Blinkmoth Nexus
There's a lot of 'manlands', the term for lands which turn into creatures, several of which are on this list.  Having this turn into a flyer, and then equipping it with something, can be a useful backup condition in many decks. 
   Buried Ruin
If you're artifact-heavy, this can help.  We are getting more and more options for exiling artifacts, though.
   Blinkmoth Well
Once upon a time, artifacts could be 'turned off' by becoming tapped.  Reprintings and rewordings have removed this clause, except for a few specific cards, like Howling Mine.  Basically, this is useless now.
   Boseiju, Who Shelters All
Uncounterability is good, and can be very annoying.
   Cathedral of War
There are some Exalted decks running around, mostly with Rafiq.  Toss this in and go to work.
   Cabal Coffers 
I wasn't sure if this should be here, or in the earlier section.  it doesn't actually make mana until you have Swamps in play.  It is a very weak card in multicolor decks unless its BFF Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth shows up.   
   Contested Cliffs
Our first of the Onslaught tribal creature lands!  This is a fight effect, but unlike Arena, you get to pick which of their creatures fights.  As long as you have big creatures, you can tap this and two other lands and kill something every turn.  Not to be overlooked if you have a good number of Beasts in your deck.
   Contested War Zone
I love this card.  I love the fights that pop up over controlling this card.  Interestingly, it needs to stay with one person for a whole turn to get untapped, and in EDH games, the damage can go back and forth enough to make this into a game of Hot Potato.
   Crystal Vein
Some decks really want that burst of mana.  I usually don't.
   Darksteel Citadel
Indestructible and an artifact.  Combine with Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas and start attacking for 5.
   Daru Encampment
A fun card for the Soldier-themed decks, but the single point is rarely amazing.
Sure, it's a free damage.  That's about all it is, though, and it applies after combat damage has been dealt. 
   Deserted Temple
This card looks so darn innocent.  It is not.  It is a sneaky, evil, amazing way to double up on the advantages you built into your deck.  Play it accordingly, especially when Gaea's Cradle is involved.
   Desolate Lighthouse
Normally, I feel this sort of looting (draw, then discard) effect isn't very good in EDH, when there's so many ways to just draw a card.  Also, this is the format with super-expensive spells, so you don't start tossing away lands until you have 11 or 20 on the field.  But if you need to dig for an answer, it'll do. 
   Dread Statuary
This is a pretty reasonable cost to get a manland, especially with this high a power, but no evasion or trample makes it a bit limited. 
   Duskmantle, House of Shadow
Only good if people like to play 'top of the library' tutors like Mystical Tutor.  Rather small corner case, otherwise, only in the most dedicated of milling decks. 
   Dust Bowl
This card is fair as fair can be.  You need answers to nonbasics, and this is not as good as Dwarven Miner, (or as sexy!) but still effective in any color of deck. 
   Elephant Graveyard
There aren't many Elephants who are worth regenerating over and over, but when Frankie Peanuts is involved, anything can happen!
   Gargoyle Castle
I don't like sacrificing my lands, but a flyer is pretty good value for that cost.
   Gavony Township
This can be pretty amazing in token-themed decks, or +1/+1 themes.  People do like to get rid of your Beastmaster Ascension and other swarm-enablers.
   Ghost Quarter
You're putting yourself at a land disadvantage if you use this, unless they are playing with no basic lands (Possible, but unlikely) or you do something sneaky like play Leonin Arbiter or Stranglehold first.
   Ghost Town
Yes, this was printed as a response to Armageddon/Balance decks.   
   Goblin Burrows
At its best with Spikeshot Goblin or Spikeshot Elder
   Gods' Eye, Gate to the Reikai
If you need a token this badly, go for it. 
   Griffin Canyon
Free pumping for Zuberi, Golden Feather!  As someone who plays Castle Sengir in his Garza Zol Vampire deck, I can't fault anyone who plays silly but on theme lands. 
   Grim Backwoods
It's not cheap to use, but it is card draw.  And if you're using this with Savra, Queen of the Golgari, then bonus! 
   Grove of the Burnwillows 
Sure, the classic combo is Punishing Fire, but why not go for Kavu Predator instead? 
   Grove of the Guardian
The biggest token you can get from a land, unless we're talking Dark Depths. I really hate sacrificing lands, but getting an 8/8 with vigilance isn't a bad deal.
   Hall of the Bandit Lord
This appears to be the newest card to get the "Someone's buying this up, the run is on!" hysteria, because while haste is a pretty amazing ability to grant a creature, this is so highly costed and restrictive that it just doesn't see a lot of use.
   Haunted Fengraf
Don't do it, not for a random creature.  There are better options!
   Hellion Crucible
I approve of this card, because even though it takes turns to build up, you can get that hasty damage in when you need it, but without needing much else.
   Henge of Ramos
I have played this card, and not been unhappy about it.  Sometimes, expensive is worth it.
   High Market
It's always useful to have a sacrifice outlet, as I've mentioned.  This isn't as big an effect as Diamond Valley, but this is free and good.
   Homeward Path
I try, very hard, to make room for this in every deck of mine, since I tend to be creature-based.  I'm not always successful.
   Inkmoth Nexus
A must-have for decks that are heavy on the Equipment.  Manlands are good for those decks anyway, but Infect is silly with just a little power boost.
   Keldon Necropolis
Another sacrifice outlet, only it is overcosted to the point of being laughable.
   Kessig Wolf Run
A home run of a card.  Possibly too good, but when you have mana to spare, you can make a humble Saproling into a terrifying threat.  Play accordingly--in almost every R/G deck.
   Kher Keep
It's only a 0/1, but lots of decks could use token creatures effectively.
   Kor Haven
A 'fixed' Maze of Ith, it's both better and worse.  It's two extra mana to use, true, but you get the option of tapping for colorless AND it's not 'removed from combat' but instead, it's 'prevent all combat damage dealt by that creature' which is an important distinction.  The creature isn't untapped as Maze does, and you can throw everything into a group block and prevent the damage that their attacker would deal.  Maze can never allow for the chance of killing that problem creature.
   Krosan Verge
Land finding, on lands!  This is similar to the Esper Panorama cycle, but the Verge allows you to find shocklands/dual lands.
   Library of Alexandria
This taps for mana?  Oh yeah, it does.  It's hard to take advantage of this in EDH, since it's banned.
   Maze of Shadows
Shadow is not an ability you see much, outside of the amazingly undercosted Dauthi Embrace.   
   Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
Everyone loves you if you have this and activate it.  Unless you have Consecrated Sphinx and Psychosis Crawler out.  Then you're Public Enemy #1.
   Miren, the Moaning Well
Sure, it costs a little more mana than the Diamond Valley, but it's still super effective.
   Mishra's Factory
The original manland.  You can block as a 3/3, or equip up and attack.  I think Prime Speaker Zegana decks want to max out on manlands, so that her ability always has the chance to be effective. 
   Mouth of Ronom
This is one of the reasons to play Snow-Covered lands, 4 colorless damage when needed.
Why is this price so high, you ask?  Legacy/Modern Merfolk and Goblins.  
   Mystifying Maze
Oh, the trickiness of this card.  It does so much for your investment.  Thievery decks, enchantment decks, token decks, +1/+1 counter decks, they all hate this card. 
   Nantuko Monastery
Threshold is not a tough condition to meet in most EDH games, unless Rest in Peace is out. 
   Nephalia Drownyard
If you mill someone out with this, congratulations, but you're never getting that four hours of your life back. 
   Nivix, Aerie of the Firemind
Five mana, and then you're allowed to pay the full price of that instant or sorcery.  Yawn. 
   Novijen, Heart of Progress
Does this fit perfectly into the Evolve mechanic? Yes it does! 
   Orzhova, the Church of Deals
It's six mana to have a two-point life swing.  If you have nothing else to be it. 
   Petrified Field
An often-overlooked card, this gets back Gaea's Cradle so often it's ridiculous.   
   Phyrexia's Core
Super-combo with Spine of Ish Sah, and a useful way for some mono-colored decks to have at least one out to Iona, Shield of Emeria.
   Phyrexian Tower
I have no idea why this is a $10+ card.  It's one extra mana, and needs a creature.  Another one of Savra's best friends, though.
   Prahv, Spires of Order
This is expensive to use, and it's in play for everyone to see.  But it will stop some spells from ever being cast as long as you have the mana open.
I have played this in Standard and Limited, but I wouldn't touch it in EDH. 
   Rath's Edge
You thought Keldon Necropolis was bad?  Here you go.
   Reliquary Tower
Simple and effective.  Pick up as many of the FNM versions of this as you can.
   Riptide Laboratory
I have a confession to make: While I could use this for defensive purposes only, 99% of the time, I'm resetting either Venser, Shaper Savant or Willbender.
   Rishadan Port
This is much less of an annoyance in EDH than it is in Legacy. Most often, it's used before combat to tap down a Maze.
   Rix Maadi, Dungeon Palace
I could see decks needing this, but I haven't built one yet.
   Rogue's Passage
This has the potential to make people cry.  Put Runes of the Deus on Uril, the Miststalker, then make him unblockable.  Ouch and ouch.  The mana cost, though, means that you're unlikely to do something amazing, and then activate unblockability.  For breaking a stalled board, this is top-notch.
   School of the Unseen
As I said with its identical cousin the Henge of Ramos, sometimes you need it.
   Scrying Sheets
This land is one of the main reasons to play Snow lands.  Hit it once and you feel good.  Twice and it's paid for itself.  Everything else is just delicious gravy. 
   Seaside Haven
Have you heard?
   Seraph Sanctuary
It's free life, and in the right deck, or Entreat the Angels, it's a lot of life.
   Sheltered Valley
Why anyone would want more than one of these is a mystery to me.
   Shimmering Grotto
It's the loss of a mana, but it does the job.
   Shivan Gorge
With Rakdos, Lord of Riots, this might not be truly awful...but it's still fairly awful.
   Skarrg, the Rage Pits
This will still be good enough, even in the age of Kessig Wolf Run.
   Slayers' Stronghold
An outstanding card.  An auto-include in R/W decks, because haste is really worth whatever cost you have to pay.
   Springjack Pasture
Goat-flavored goodness!  Use as needed or desired--you're rarely playing this for mana acceleration.  I would guess you just need goats.
   Stalking Stones
This effect doesn't end at the end of the turn, like most of these cards.  Now, they just sacrifice and you get a token, to make understanding the board state easier.
   Starlit Sanctum
Mmmm this was a real winner in my Cleric deck.  Still a useful infinite-life trick with Shaman en-Kor and Daru Spiritualist.
   Stensia Bloodhall
Six mana to deal two damage to a player.  Not very appealing at all.
   Strip Mine
Classic, simple, useful.  Play with Crucible of Worlds and Azusa, Lost but Seeking at your own risk.
   Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
Another easy inclusion in most R/W decks, as double strike can end games very quickly.
   Svogthos, the Restless Tomb
This is only good if you can get it to decent size.  I know that seems self-evident, but hear me out.  If you're using five other mana, you want to get at least 6 power.  It doesn't have trample or anything special for evasion either, so use accordingly.
Several fun tribes want this land.  If you're playing them, use this.
   Tectonic Edge
A much less costly Wasteland, and with a restriction I can live with.
   Terminal Moraine
Land finding on a land?  Best in three or more colors.
   Terrain Generator
I only have this in my Azami deck, but just like Scrying Sheets above, once you can get it going, it's remarkable.
   Thespian's Stage
You are going to have to work very hard to convince me that this shouldn't be in every deck.  EVERY DECK.  There are some lands you can't copy because they are Legendary (Gaea's Cradle being the most notable) but the flexibility this offers is incredible.
   Tower of the Magistrate
Want to mess with someone?  Use this to make their equipment fall off of a creature.  Hilarity!
   Unholy Grotto
First of all, super-fun name. Second, it's an uncounterable source of recursion for a tribe that doesn't need much help in this regard.
   Unstable Frontier
It's another form of costly mana-fixing, but if you're into Pauper or playing cheap, this will work.
   Urza's Factory
Since lands are the hardest permanents to kill, naturally, giving them abilities means those abilities will be overcosted.  This is eight mana for a single 2/2, which is as pricey as it gets.
   Urza's Mine
   Urza's Power Plant
   Urza's Tower
Known as the 'Urzatron', these three lands are hard to get together in EDH without serious searching.
   Vault of the Archangel
Giving just lifelink or just deathtouch would have been good.  Giving both is pretty darn amazing.
   Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree
Perfectly costed. Five mana for a Saproling, and almost nothing counters the ability or kills the permanent.
   Volrath's Stronghold
If you can play black, play this.  It makes people so despondent when you do.  Keep in mind that you can use this in response to Bojuka Bog or other targeted graveyard removal. 
Not as evil as Strip Mine, but in this format, killing one land can be exactly what you need.  It's when Crucible of Worlds gets involved that we have a problem.
   Winding Canyons
This card is overdue for a reprint.  We love our creatures in EDH, and getting to play them at instant speed is among the best things you could hope for.  If you have more than 40 creatures, at least think seriously about picking one of these up.
   Wirewood Lodge
Tap my Priest of Titania for 6 mana, untap it, tap for six more, use Deserted Temple, get 6 more mana, do something gross.  Well done!
   Yavimaya Hollow
This is not hard to make work well for you.  Regeneration is an ability that doesn't get the love in EDH, mainly because so many spells have 'can't be regenerated' on them, like the original Wrath of God.  That being said, tapping two lands to regenerate will frequently be useful to you.
   Zoetic Cavern
Fun for the surprise factor, as well as the 'A creature is a land?" silliness that makes up this card.

Special add-on section! (aka Yes, I didn't put these down at first)

   Temple of the False God
As one of your first four land, it's pretty rough, but after that, it's pretty handy.
   Scorched Ruins
This is a stiff price to pay for two extra mana.  If your lands don't get blown up often, then it's good (and amazing with the Deserted Temple) but one piece of nonbasic land hate and you are extremely sad.
   Mishra's Workshop
Impressively, this isn't banned in EDH yet.  Fast mana is one of the main no-nos, but these are fairly rare.  I can see it being out-of-hand good, but you can't activate artifact abilities (like pay to untap Mana Vault) only cast those artifacts.
This card is causing a lively debate among my pals and some people I know online.  On one hand, it's a free copy of a land.  So at worst, you're getting a basic land.  I think that Thespian's Stage is strictly better, for the flexibility that the Stage offers and the immediate use of a colorless mana.  To me, there is nothing Vesuva can do that Stage can't, and there's a lot that Stage can do which Vesuva cannot.  Your mileage, and opinions, may vary, though.

It is possible I missed one or more of your favorite lands.  I'll edit as needed, just tell me via Twitter (@WordOfCommander), email (WordOfCommander at, or just leave a comment.



  1. You claim that Thespian's Stage is an auto-include, and yet you don't even mention Vesuva, one of the absolute best lands in EDH. It's better than Thespian's in every way other than the ability to recopy (which you probably won't do very often with that 2 mana cost overhead).

    1. Actually, this was pointed out yesterday to me on reddit by user locohobo. It just took me a day to get around to it. (see )

      I don't agree that Vesuva is the best land in EDH. It's like saying Clone is the best creature. Would you rather have a Clone or a Vesuvan Doppelganger?

      As for paying the cost more than once, I'll always have that option. If someone drops a sweet land a turn or two after Vesuva, I can't upgrade it. Stage allows me to do so. It's the versatility that makes Stage so good in my eyes.

      But thank you for the suggestion and the feedback.

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