Cycling lands are back!
When Temples were first released, I kind of slept on them—I knew they were good, but I thought the drawback of entering the battlefield tapped was too high, and most of my decks had 4 Temples in them, but no more. It was only after the PT, where I saw players like Wafo-Tapa with 10 Temples in their decks, that I realized that perhaps I had underestimated them. I do not want to underestimate the cycling duals in the same way.
The cycling duals aren’t as good as the Temples (or the creatureland duals, for that matter), but they’re still pretty good. Temples will give you a land and an advantage, whereas the cycling duals will only give you a land or an advantage, but that’s still more than you get out of most dual lands. If you’re ever in a scenario in which a land isn’t useful to you and you can afford the cycling cost, then cycling lands are going to be even better than Temples.
Cycling Duals in Standard
Cycling duals are definitely going to see Standard play (most duals do, after all), but where?
Control decks that are allied-colored will definitely want to play at least 4 cycling lands, potentially 8 if they have access to 2 of them (for example, Esper). Those decks are punished the least for having lands entering the battlefield tapped, and they naturally want to play high land counts anyway, so the ability to cycle a topdecked land in the late game is very useful. A deck like Temur Tower will definitely want to play the R/G cycling land, even if it doesn’t truly need a lot of green mana, and if U/W or U/B become decks, then they’ll want 4 copies of the cycling land as well.
Control decks that are enemy colored will also probably want to play a couple of cycling lands. Decks like U/R, B/W, and B/G might feel like they can afford some more tap lands, so they’ll play some cycling duals even though they have no use for the other color.
Allied-color aggro decks will also definitely want 4 copies of the cycling duals. Decks like R/G, B/R, and G/W might not be well equipped to have a land enter the battlefield tapped, but they are also the types of decks with the fewest uses for late-game mana, which is the spot where cycling lands shine. Given that cycling duals have both basic land types, they’re easy to play with all the other friendly-colored dual lands.
3-color aggro decks are the ones I’m most unsure about, but we don’t get many of those. Right now, Mardu is the only one, and it would probably not play many cycling lands—it would perhaps play 1 or 2 given that some people already play Smoldering Marsh, and it’s better than that. It’s also possible that mana bases change radically, though—before cycling duals, mana bases were built with the assumption that there weren’t any friendly-color dual lands worth playing. Now there are.
Cycling Duals in Modern
Even though cycling duals will be good in Standard, they won’t promote any radical shifts (unless you want to pair them with The Gitrog Monster, I guess). In Modern, however, they can be paired with the card Life From the Loam, and that’s where they shine.
Cycling lands plus Life from the Loam is an endless combo that is only limited by the amount of mana you have and the number of cards in your library. Once Life from the Loam is in your graveyard, you can cycle a land and dredge it in lieu of drawing, allowing you to recast Life from the Loam and getting back the land you just cycled, plus 2 others for free (or in this case, 4 mana). Those extra lands can be just lands for you to play, creaturelands, Ghost Quarters, or even more cycling lands to give you extra cards.
One thing I liked to do, back when the original cycling lands were legal, was to Gifts for a package of Life from the Loam + 3 lands. There was a version of Psychatog that ran this combo, and you can run it in basically any control deck that wants Gifts. You can get, for example, two different cycling lands + Life from the Loam + Ghost Quarter or Academy Ruins, and you’ll win almost any late game with this combination.
There’s one Modern deck that is especially happy to see cycling lands again, and that deck is Jund Loam. Jund Loam was a deck even when cycling lands weren’t legal—it even won a GP—but it hasn’t been popular in a while. With the advent of cycling lands, I think the deck might actually be able to compete again. The core of the deck is to use Life from the Loam with Seismic Assault to kill people, and with cycling lands it becomes much easier to accumulate lands in your hand, since you’re only limited by your mana. Aggro Loam is also a very color-intensive deck, with Seismic Assault costing RRR and all, so the fact that the cycling lands are also dual lands is great. On top of that, they have the basic land types, which means you’re not going to run out of lands to fetch even if you Loam back one every turn.
I don’t know if this mana base is correct. It’s possible you want some creaturelands, but a ballpark of 14G, 19B, and 22R seems like enough to me. In practice you have some more colored sources for red and black since you have 4 Graven Cairns, which should let you accommodate the steep costs for Seismic Assault, Liliana of the Veil, and Raven’s Crime. Grim Flayer is a bit of a puzzle to me, but I think it’s good enough—you actively want to mill lands and Loams, and getting delirium is not hard if you attack once. It’s a bit of a nombo with Life from the Loam, though (you can’t stack your draws if you’re going to dredge anyway), but I think the pros are worth the cons.