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Traderous Instinct – Manifest Destiny

“Land’s the only thing that matters, it’s the only thing that lasts!” – Gerald O’Hara, Gone with the Wind.

Consider [card]Riptide Laboratory[/card].

Out of the four hundred and forty two distinct non-basic lands in the game of Magic, it certainly isn’t the most remarkable.

Back in Onslaught block, when wizards were a joke of a tribe, it was one of the worst possible opens in the set. I remember pulling what seemed like an endless number of these when all I wanted was another [card]Polluted Delta[/card] or [card]Flooded Strand[/card].

It saw marginal play with [card]Venser, Shaper Savant[/card] and a few other things in Legacy a few years back, but the card had never been in seriously high demand.

Then came [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card].

Much like [card]Vampire Hexmage[/card] transformed the future of [card]Dark Depths[/card], [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] suddenly made [card]Riptide Laboratory[/card] far more intriguing. Due to Legacy speculation, the card jumped from about $2 to $15 overnight. And with [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] seeming more awesome each day, I have to think that the good old Laboratory will likely maintain a high price tag for years to come.

After all, what better land is there for returning wizards to your hand?

I have a theory about lands: the ones that are the best at what they do are always solid investments.

Historically, this argument has been pretty much the case. The original duals, the Onslaught fetchlands, [card]Maze of Ith[/card]…these cards have stabilized or risen in value pretty much continually since their first printing.

The cards that tend to lose value are the ones that are the best in a given format only.

Remember: for YEARS, the Apocalypse pain lands were worth an easy $6-$10 each. Good luck getting $2 for them now.

While bannings and format popularity keep this rule from being iron-clad, (or else [card]Strip Mine[/card] would be worth twice as much as [card]Wasteland[/card]), I think it’s worth keeping an eye on which lands are the best in the business at doing whatever they do.

So let’s look and see if we can identify the best lands ever printed at doing one specific thing really, really well.

Of course, Wizards rarely prints cards that are just straight-up 100% better than others. Different drawbacks and advantages are worked into design so that there are cases where different lands will shine.

But let’s be real. We’ve played with these lands for years, and we know which drawbacks are harsher than others.

A lot of these calls are easy because many of these lands face no competition. If you want to tap a non-creature artifact, your only option is Blinkmoth Well. That’s it.

Other cards can be easily picked for this list because the only competition they’re facing are newer, watered down versions of the same card. – [card]Miren, the Moaning Well[/card] vs. [card]Diamond Valley[/card], for example.

In other cases, however, there’s simply no way to quantitatively pick one card over another. The overall power level between some cards is too close, and if you ask ten people you’ll get ten different answers. In those cases, I will attempt to cover my bases as well as I can.

So let’s hit the real estate market and see if we can find some good buys, shall we?

As always, all prices are from the Channel Fireball retail store.

Making Multiple Creature Tokens

[card]Kjeldoran Outpost[/card] – Rare – Alliances – $4

I decided to start this list out with a blast from the past: one of the premiere token creators of the mid-nineties. The Outpost doesn’t get much love today, but newer token generating lands haven’t quite lived up to this one’s power level. [card]Urza’s Factory[/card] is nice and all, but the Outpost can give you a win condition while still allowing you to amass an army. You know, in cube or something.

Making a Single Creature Token

[card]Dark Depths[/card] – Rare – Coldsnap – $20

Apparently a two-card combo with a land and a 2/2 for BB that makes an unstoppable dude is too slow for Legacy.

I love that my old [card]Cloudpost[/card]/[card]Vesuva[/card]/[card]Dark Depths[/card] casual deck contained two format-warping combo pieces long before [card]Glimmerpost[/card] or [card]Vampire Hexmage[/card] made them viable.

Temporarily Acting As a Creature

[card]Mutavault[/card] – Rare – Morningtide – $30

This is the hardest call on the entire list, not close.

I asked my Twitter feed what they thought the objective best manland was, and there wasn’t even a ghost of a consensus. [card]Mutavault[/card], [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card], [card]Mishra’s Factory[/card], [card]Raging Ravine[/card], [card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card], and [card]Faerie Conclave[/card] each received multiple mentions, with a ton of other cards receiving at least one.

For me, the pick came down to [card]Mutavault[/card] and [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card], with the former edging out mostly due to longevity. Both have proven to be tier-1 tournament staples, but [card]Mutavault[/card] has simply been doing it longer. That said, I can’t fault anyone for disagreeing with me here, and the moral of the story is to acquire these types of cards whenever possible – they tend to be both popular and powerful.

Permanently Acting As a Creature

[card]Dryad Arbor[/card] – Uncommon – Future Sight – $3.50

The fact that this turns [card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card] into a kind of [card]Rampant Growth[/card] for G is what really made the Arbor shine, but it had its uses before that as well. Its utility as a random beater in addition to being a land is kind of cool, and blurring the line between two card types is enough to make this card relevant for years to come.

Regenerating a Creature

[card]Yavimaya Hollow[/card] – Rare – Urza’s Destiny – $6

This card was easily available for a dollar for over a decade and was one of my absolute favorite bargain bin finds – it would always trade right away.

Then came the Commander value surge, and suddenly [card]Yavimaya Hollow[/card] is worth a much more reasonable $6.

Regenerating an Elephant

[card]Elephant Graveyard[/card] – Uncommon 1- Arabian Nights – $30

This card used to regenerate mammoths too, but those are extinct now.

Recurring a Creature from the Graveyard

[card]Volrath’s Stronghold[/card] – Rare – Stronghold – $20

This card is one of the very few lands that I’ve actually scooped to in a sanctioned event. Others include [card]Wasteland[/card], [card]The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale[/card], and well, probably Mountain a good number of times too.

Temporarily Pumping Multiple Attacking Creatures

[card]Contested War Zone[/card] – Rare – Mirrodin Besieged – $1

Remember when I told everyone to buy these at $1.50? And then they saw a ton of play the following weekend and went to $7.99? And then they stopped seeing play and went back to $1?

Oh Standard, you crazy.

Temporarily Pumping a Single Attacking Creature

[card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card] – Rare – Innistrad – $2.50

I guess you could use this for blocking too, but somehow it rarely seems to work out that way. At any rate, this card is stupid in the same way [card]Untamed Might[/card] was in Scars block draft, especially in concert with [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card] for the full-on nostalgia factor.

Permanently Pumping Your Whole Board

[card]Gavony Township[/card] – Rare – Innistrad – $2

Yeah, this isn’t going to be a $2 rare forever.

W/G is already the best token combination, and the Township is just about the best land imaginable for a deck that makes lots of critters. The fact that you can Township up the first turn you play it (later in the game) or pump at instant speed is gravy. This should be a hot card for years.

Being Indestructible

[card]Darksteel Citadel[/card] – Uncommon – Darksteel – $1.50

For when you want to blow up the world but keep a little piece around for yourself. You know, for some light gardening.

Enabling Your Other, More Broken Lands

[card]Deserted Temple[/card] – Rare – Odyssey – $4

This little card was a bulk rare before Commander came along and all the cool kids wanted to get more use out of their [card]Gaea’s Cradle[/card]s and such.

The $4 retail on this seems a little low – it’s out of stock at this price – and I would certainly trade for them at that value if possible. You can still find these in the bulk part of people’s collections, too!

Getting Artifacts Back from Your Graveyard

[card]Academy Ruins[/card] – Rare – Time Spiral – $9

This card was a casual $2 card for years, and Commander pushed it into the $5-$6 range a couple of months ago. Modern speculation pushed it to $10 (and in some cases) above.

I bought a few of these as $8 because I was concerned they’d never drop below $10 again if they started seeing real tournament play. Even though it’s down to $9 now, I still only predict good things for this card’s future.

Being an Artifact

The Artifact Land Cycle – Common – Mirrodin – $1-$2

If you need something to bring back with [card]Academy Ruins[/card], sac to an [card]Arcbound Ravager[/card], or use with a [card]Goblin Welder[/card], the buck stops here. These are commons from a set that isn’t all that old, and they’re still worth $1+

I can’t see these ever coming back in a tournament legal set – it would have happened in Scars block if at all, and Mark Rosewater said they were just too broken. They’ll likely show up in casual/promotional products just enough to keep the price down, though.

Tapping a Noncreature Artifact

[card]Blinkmoth Well[/card] – Uncommon – Mirrodin – $0.10

Weirder things have happened than this ability being relevant. Not many, though.

Giving a Creature Protection from Artifacts

[card]Tower of the Magistrate[/card] – Rare – Mercadian Masques – $7

This was a stupid bulk rare until Scars block brought three more protection swords with it and everyone started jamming them into all their casual decks. [card]Maze of Ith[/card] is probably a more direct answer, but this card certainly works too.

This card was particularly annoying the time I had all three Kaldra pieces out and Kyle kept using Tower on my token. Screw you, Kyle! All I wanted to do was win the game!

Getting Me a Free Soda

R&D’s Secret Lair – Rare – Unhinged – $0.50

One of the things I like about having a large (720 cards) cube is that I don’t have to worry about perfect balance like I would in a smaller build. I can keep some of my pet cards around – like my foil buy-a-box original art [card]Serra Angel[/card] and my NM Beta [card]Shivan Dragon[/card] – that should get the axe for being too weak. Sometimes they even see play, which makes me unreasonably happy.

By far my favorite personal cube touch is the two-card combo of [card]Ashnod’s Coupon[/card] and R&D’s Secret Lair. We already have a house rule that any player who drafts [card]Ashnod’s Coupon[/card] MUST run it, and so far it’s never been the last pick out of a pack. R&D’s Secret Lair takes this strategy to the next level and is probably even worth building the entire deck around.

Of course, Wizards did ‘rule’ once upon a time that since the ‘errata’ on [card]Ashnod’s Coupon[/card] is actually written on the card, it’s not technically errata and isn’t affected by the lair. To this, I say, “Phooey!”

R&D’s Secret Lair is by far the best card at getting me a free soda ever printed. I traded for a foil copy a few years ago and it’s still paid for itself.

Giving a Creature to your Opponent

[card]Forbidden Orchard[/card] – Rare – Champions of Kamigawa – $6

Ok, so the drawback is pretty huge on this one. The primary thing the card does is to ensure your opponent has a dork in play, which helps enable oddball strategies like [card]Oath of Druids[/card]. (Or, in casual circles, [card]Glissa the Traitor[/card]).

Giving Life to your Opponent

[card]Grove of the Burnwillows[/card] – Rare – Future Sight – $13

Obviously this is high on the list due to the sick combo with [card]Punishing Fire[/card], but it’s just another example of why being the ‘best’ at something silly is often good enough. Lands the produce additional effects allow decks to have so many more options, the good ones are ALWAYS in demand.

Take note that the price on this is down a bit due to anticipation of banning on Dec. 20th. If it doesn’t get the axe, this may hit $30+ during Modern season.

Getting Your Stolen Creatures Back

[card]Homeward Path[/card] – Rare – Commander – $6

I don’t know about your Commander games, but mine certainly involve a lot of creatures getting stolen by however many of my opponents are running blue. Which is most of them.

The path is a great tool that really every non-blue Commander deck should be running. This card started around $15 and will always trade well. Just saying.

Tapping Opponents’ Lands

[card]Rishadan Port[/card] – Rare – Mercadian Masques – $30

For when [card]Wasteland[/card] is just too permanent.

Destroying Opponents’ Lands

[card]Strip Mine[/card] – Rare – Antiquities – $5

[card]Wasteland[/card] is like Rock and Roll music. It’s cool, it’s been around long enough to seem classic, and it’s still pretty much the gold standard that everything hip now is based off of.

[card]Strip Mine[/card] is like classical music. You don’t know too many people who care about it, and you probably don’t enjoy it as much, but it’s hard to argue with people who claim it’s strictly better.

Draining Your Opponents’ Life Total

[card]Stensia Bloodhall[/card] – Rare – Innistrad – $0.25

I get it. This land is slow. Its ability isn’t flashy or fast or cool. But twenty-five freaking cents!? That’s less than the price of freaking [card]Deathless Angel[/card]! For a card that can win the game on its own!

Yeah, black/red draw-go isn’t exactly the strategy du jour, but when it is…

Cycling

The Onslaught Cycling Lands – Common – Onslaught – $0.25

Believe it or not, these cards do see play from time to time. Sometimes it’s worth trading off the CIPT drawback for the ability to trade a land for a new card late in the game.

These are particularly good with [card]Life from the Loam[/card].

The ‘1-specific-color-of-mana’ cost is much more palatable than the ‘2 colorless’ cost on the Saga version of these because you are unlikely to cycle away the land if you don’t have access to its color anyway.

Milling Yourself

[card]Bazaar of Baghdad[/card] – Uncommon 1 – Arabian Nights – $300

I’ve been asked many times why this card is good by people who don’t play eternal formats. And not being a Vintage player myself, I can see why it’s a question. After all, it’s inherent card disadvantage!

Unless you’re discarding a [card]Squee, Goblin Nabob[/card] or two.

Or you want to draw cards at instant speed and play them at instant speed.

Or you want to get cards in the ‘yard to power up, say, a [card]Golgari Grave-Troll[/card], [card]Yawgmoth’s Will[/card], and/or other spicy dredge strategies.

Bazaar is actually the perfect corner case for this article. On its own, say in a game of M12 Limited, this card wouldn’t do all that much. But in its specific archetype it’s so good that it’s banned in Legacy and players in Vintage will sometimes mulligan hands until they get one.

Honorable mention to [card]Cephalid Coliseum[/card], which is as good an imitation as you’re gonna get in Legacy.

Milling Others

[card]Nephalia Drownyard[/card] – Rare – Innistrad – $0.80

This card is also awesome at milling yourself – just not as good, obviously, as the Bazaar is.

The power level and versatility of this card is huge, and I absolutely love it. Casual mill decks often don’t have enough to do with their mana, and can end up just a little short. This card fixes those issues while also being fun in any sort of self-mill strategy.

I have no doubt this is a $5+ card two or three years from now.

Exiling Cards from a Graveyard

[card]Bojuka Bog[/card] – Common – Worldwake – $0.05

Even though this isn’t the most commonly seen anti-graveyard card in Legacy, I bet it would cost $5+ if it were rare.

Drawing Multiple Cards

[card]Library of Alexandria[/card] – Uncommon 1 – Arabian Nights – $250

Everyone who passes [card]Library of Alexandria[/card] in cube for a card other than [card]Sol Ring[/card] learns their lesson VERY quickly. Keeping seven cards in your hand isn’t exactly difficult when you’re drawing two or more a turn, and even medium-duration games can be easily won on the back of this single card. It is likely the most powerful land of all time.

Drawing a Single Card

[card]Horizon Canopy[/card] – Rare – Future Sight – $9

The cycling lands will draw you a card, it’s true, but that’s in lieu of getting to use them for mana. [card]Horizon Canopy[/card], on the other hand, draws you card after you’re done with it. It’s also really sweet with [card]Life from the Loam[/card].

Bouncing an Opponent’s Creature

[card]Karakas[/card] – Rare – Legends – $50

It’s true, this only bounces Legends…but what more do you want from a land? [card]Crystal Shard[/card]?

….
..
.
Oh god I just zoned out for a good thirty seconds imagining how sweet [card]Crystal Shard[/card] would be on a land. I’d never play a non-blue color again.

Bouncing Your Creature

[card]Riptide Laboratory[/card] – Rare – Onslaught – $15

Again very conditional, and again very powerful. It’s true that it only bounces Wizards, but we now live in a world where the creature you’d most want to bounce is a Wizard. Funny how these things work out.

Bouncing A Land

[card]Undiscovered Paradise[/card] – Rare – Visions – $8

This is yet another example of a drawback turning into an advantage years later. When this was printed, Paradise was yet another 5-color fixer with a laughably high drawback. Now? It’s the best landfall enabler ever printed. If [card]Bloodghast[/card] ever makes it in Legacy, this card might very well be a big part of why.

Being a Swamp

[card]Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth[/card] – Rare – Planar Chaos – $14

One might think that ‘swamp’ would be the best swamp in the game of Magic, but that’s tragically far off base.

Urborg is the best swamp there is. It makes every land in the entire game a swamp, which is pretty tech with fetchlands and/or [card]Dark Depths[/card]. It’s even sweet with [card]Filth[/card] in Commander if you’re so inclined.

I don’t expect Urborg to ever lose the crown of swampiest land in Magic. It is the pure essence of swamp, and nothing can ever beat it. Urborg is absolute swamperfection.

Being Urborg

[card]Urborg[/card] – Legends – Uncommon – $4

While [card]Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth[/card] is a better swamp than swamp, [card]Urborg[/card] is a better [card]Urborg[/card] than [card]Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth[/card] is.

This is, of course, entirely objective.

Producing an Absurd Amount of White Mana

[card]Serra’s Sanctum[/card] – Rare – Urza’s Saga – $20

Having enough enchantments to make this land work well is hard, but certainly not impossible. The Enchantress deck in Legacy uses a couple of these to great success.

Unlike many of these other lands, Sanctum doesn’t see much casual play. It trades at $20, certainly, but not quickly.

Producing an Absurd Amount of Blue Mana

[card]Tolarian Academy[/card] – Rare – Urza’s Saga – $25

The fact that this card is still desirable and worth $25 after being banned in Commander speaks to how popular an iconic it is. Artifacts are WAY easier to come by than Enchantments, though, and blue mana is generally better than white mana.

I miss this one a lot in Commander, but I can’t argue I ever did anything fair with it. Often it’d just let me cast [card]Time Stretch[/card] on turn five or something.

Producing an Absurd Amount of Black Mana

[card]Cabal Coffers[/card] – Uncommon – Torment – $7

Everyone who wants MBC to be good again will likely have to wait until Coffers gets a reprint – this was always the card that made it go.

It’s odd to think about Coffers in the same cycle as the three powerful Saga lands, but it’s true, right? This one just keys off swamps instead of artifacts, creatures, or enchantments.

It’s also kind of funny that they’ve never printed a land that produces lots of red mana, considering that’s been the ‘ritual’ color since Onslaught or so.

Producing an Absurd Amount of Green Mana

[card]Gaea’s Cradle[/card] – Rare – Urza’s Saga – $65

It’s freaking insane that this is $65 retail now. The card is rarely seen outside casual play!

And yet…it’s on the reserved list, so we know it’s never coming back. And there’s really not another card that does what the Cradle can do in a deck that wants it – it’s irreplaceable, and just the kind of thing a heavy green Commander deck needs to compete with something like [card]Sharuum[/card].

Supply is low, demand is high, and the Cradle does rock.

Producing an Absurd Amount of Colorless Mana

[card]Cloudpost[/card] – Common – Mirrodin – $1

The Urzatron (Mine, Tower, Power Plant) used to be the go-to crew for this, but ever since [card]Vesuva[/card] was printed [card]Cloudpost[/card]-based strategies became much more viable.

This card is so good that it was a $2.50 COMMON before it got banned in modern. Wow.

Storing Mana

The Time Spiral Storage Lands – Uncommon – Time Spiral – $0.50

For some reason, this cycle of lands has always worked better for everyone else than for me, but it certainly has its fans. More for casual play now, these cards are fantastic at giving you something to do on turns when you don’t have a play or you want to hold back with some instants and see what happens.

There are many other storage lands in Magic, but these are the best.

Two Mana, One Land

[card]Ancient Tomb[/card] – Uncommon – Tempest – $9

Some consider [card]Sol Ring[/card] to be the most powerful card in the game, even more than [card]Black Lotus[/card].

This is [card]Sol Ring[/card] on a land that deals you 2 damage each time you tap it.

Yeah, still pretty good.

A $3-$4 card for years, this shot up to $10-$15 during the Legacy boom back in the spring. It still trades well at its new price point and sees play in multiple decks.

Honorable mention goes to [card]City of Traitors[/card], which is usually used in tandem for maximum mana.

Three Mana, One Land

[card]Mishra’s Workshop[/card] – Rare – Antiquities – $380

A couple of months ago, I was drafting at a friends’ house when he pulled down two giant 5,000+ count boxes of commons and uncommons from his bedroom. I was bored, so I told him that I’d look through a couple rows and see if I could find some gems.

The collection was organized by color and set, and he knew enough to have already taken out the [card]Wasteland[/card]s and [card force of will]Forces[/card], but I still found a ton of smaller money cards – a [card]Nimble Mongoose[/card] here, a [card]Worldly Tutor[/card] there. Bored, I skipped to the artifacts & lands section, because that’s where the best stuff always seems to be.

After flipping through a couple hundred cards, I came upon a clump of Urza’s lands from Antiquities – Mines, Power Plants, etc. “These are worth a couple bucks each,” I told him. “Casual players still like them, especially the black-bordered versions in good shape.”

Then I came to the end of the stack, and staring back at me was a NM [card]Mishra’s Workshop[/card].

My jaw dropped.

Yeah, the guy had no idea the value of the card until I told him. And he was pretty excited, but not half as excited as I would have been. I was slightly bitter since I’ve bought hundreds of similar collections and sorted through hundreds of thousands of random commons and NEVER found anything like that – and here it was, in my hand, the one time I wouldn’t get to keep it.

He did pay for my Chinese food that night, though, so mise.

Gaining You Life/Providing a Sacrifice Outlet

[card]Diamond Valley[/card] – Uncommon 1- Arabian Nights – $100

The early expansions played around with ‘spell lands’ that allowed you to trade your mana drop for the chance at furthering your board. This is where broken crap like this and [card]Library of Alexandria[/card] come in.

[card]Diamond Valley[/card] is more of a curiosity than a powerhouse, but it’s still plenty great in casual formats. The $100 price tag is a bit steep, but, well, it IS from Arabian Nights.

Allowing an Infinite Hand Size

[card]Reliquary Tower[/card] – Uncommon – Conflux – $4

Yeah, four dollars for this. Bet a lot of you didn’t know that.

Hey, Wizards, why not print THIS as an FNM foil one of these days instead of, oh, I don’t know, [card]SAVAGE LANDS[/card] AND [card]TEETERING PEAKS[/card].

I swear, someone in the WOTC promo department had a really bad Jund colored Standard deck two years ago and they’re seeing how may of the different cards in it they can make promo versions of before anyone catches on.

Being the World’s Slowest Half of a [card]Debtors’ Knell[/card]

[card]Emeria, the Sky Ruin[/card] – Rare – Zendikar – $2

Yeah, this is kind of like extolling the guy who wins the crappiest technical award at the Oscars, but it’s still one more Oscar than you’ve ever won.

Tutoring for a Basic Land

[card]Thawing Glaciers[/card] – Rare – Alliances – $7

This is one of those cards I never know how high to pick in cube. All I know is that it never comes back around when I want it to and it always comes back when I don’t care.

Tutoring for a Non-Basic Land

[card]Tolaria West[/card] – Uncommon – Future Sight – $2.50

This is easily a top-20 favorite Commander card for me, even though I think I’ve put it into play like twice. It either transmutes for the last piece of fixing I need, a [card]Reliquary Tower[/card], or a [card]Maze of Ith[/card].

Tutoring for a Creature

[card]Eye of Ugin[/card] – Mythic Rare – Rise of the Eldrazi – $2

The first ability on this card will likely not be useful for a while, but the second seems quite good. If the Eye actually tapped for a single colorless mana, I believe it would be $10+ and see play in multiple formats.

In something like Commander, though, the repeatable tutoring is phenomenal, and this card gets better with every strong artifact dude printed.

Making your Beasts Fight their Anything

[card]Contested Cliffs[/card] – Rare – Onslaught – $1

It’s too bad beasts aren’t much of a supported tribe these days, because this was a pretty sweet card when they were running around causing havoc in Onslaught.

This will be a must-have causal card if there’s ever some kind of amazing RG beast casual deck or something, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Being an Impostor

[card]Vesuva[/card] – Rare – Time Spiral – $12

This card was awesome back when it came out. If you didn’t want to buy an expensive land, you just had to get a couple of these and play against people who DID shell out for an awesome mana base. It worked well as long as you always played the same colors as your opponent.

Of course, now [card]Vesuva[/card] is the pricey card. Shouldn’t we do something about this? We are the 99%! Occupy [card]Vesuva[/card]!

Giving You Extra Turns

[card]Magosi, the Waterveil[/card] – Rare – Zendikar – $0.25

If your Commander group is friendly or underpowered, Magosi is one of the best cards in the game. Just skip an early turn, and build your forces a little slower – many groups won’t target you for this, instead ignoring you while going after the more obvious threats first.

Then, when you absolutely need that one additional turn to put the game away, you have it ready to go.

Wrathing the Board

[card]The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale[/card] – Rare – Legends – $180

They couldn’t just print [card]Wrath of God[/card] as a land and call it a day, of course. No – they need to make you work for it.

Of course, if you are, this card is just about the best thing possible. It can lock your opponent out of a game the way only stuff like [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] can.

Lands is actually quite well positioned right now, and I expect this card to make a bit of a comeback. If you still need your Tabernacle, this is a pretty good time to buy.

Killing Your Opponents and their Creatures

[card]Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle[/card] – Rare – Zendikar – $1

There’s not much I can write about this volcano that hasn’t already been written. I always thought this card would end up being worth more than it is, but it just needs too many expensive support cards to really shine.

Stopping an Attacking Creature

[card]Maze of Ith[/card] – Rare – The Dark – $40

This is one of the best lands of all time, especially in casual play. It’s saved my butt in Commander more than any other card, not close.

This card was $7-$8 for years, but the rise of casual prices made this one go up more than almost any other. I can’t even say it’s a bad deal – – Maze is just so essential in some decks that you just need to bite the bullet and get a couple.

Stopping a Blocking Creature

[card]Smoldering Spires[/card] – Common – Worldwake – $0.10

It’d be kind of cool if there was a [card]Maze of Ith[/card] for aggressive decks – a ‘tapper’ land that could ice a blocker every single turn. Until that happens, (and it probably won’t), we’re left with [card]Smoldering Spires[/card] as the best land for forcing through an attack.

Yeah, it’s not a very good card.

Preventing Damage

[card]Prahv, Spires of Order[/card] – Uncommon – Dissension – $0.25

This is a criminally underrated casual card. In Commander, holding this up can either push combat wildly in your favor or prevent something like a [card]Fireball[/card] from burning you out of the game. It’s a two-color uncommon with an expensive activation cost, so it’ll never be worth all that much money, but it’s a worthy addition to your Commander toolbox if you have one.

Allowing You to Play Creatures as Instants

[card]Winding Canyons[/card] – Rare – Weatherlight – $6

Another purely casual card, [card]Winding Canyons[/card] is a must in any big mana Commander deck. Even if you’re not planning to abuse the ability, the threat of it is generally enough to make attacks go in someone else’s direction.

Stopping Counterspells (from Taking Out Your Instants & Sorceries)

[card]Boseiju, Who Shelters All[/card] – Rare – Champions of Kamigawa – $5.00

This is actually a card I’m surprised I don’t see more. In a counterspell-dominated format, this is an amazing way for force through that one essential spell. And Phyrexian mana proved that the life loss is negligible.

The ‘colorless only’ drawback is pretty real, though, as is the CIPT clause and the fact that it won’t just tap for mana in addition to the ability. It’s ultimately just too slow for Legacy.

Being Mad

[card]Madblind Mountain[/card] – Uncommon – Shadowmoor – $0.10

The Shadowmoor cycle of uncommon non-basic lands is legendarily bad.

Luckily for us, [card]Madblind Mountain[/card] is legendarily mad.

[card]Madblind Mountain[/card] isn’t the maddest card in Magic – that honor goes to [card]Sarkhan the Mad[/card], [card]Mad Dog[/card], [card]Madrush Cyclops[/card], or possibly even [card]Dwarven Nomad[/card]. It is, however, the angriest land by far.

That said, being mad isn’t a quality that makes a Magic card particularly valuable or good. I don’t expect [card]Madblind Mountain[/card] to ever go up in price, but if you can pick them up for seven cents and trade them for a dime you’ve made a 30% profit!

I have a better use for your [card]Madblind Mountains[/card], though.

My good friend and Level 3 Judge Eric “Raging” Levine works at Superstars, the Channel Fireball game store. And he collects [card]Madblind Mountains[/card].

Especially [card]Madblind Mountains[/card] with funny faces drawn on the side of the mountain.

If you have any [card]Madblind Mountains[/card] lying around and you want to get into the Christmas spirit, please draw all over them and send them to:

Eric “Raging” Levine
Madblind Mountain Sweepstakes (Not a real Sweepstakes)
c/o Superstars
30 N. Third St.
San Jose, CA 95112

You’re welcome, America.

Fixing Your Mana Perfectly! (In a Deck with only Creatures)

[card]Ancient Ziggurat[/card] – Uncommon – Conflux – $1.50

Yeah, it’s rare you’re gonna want this since most decks need at least a couple of utility spells. But if in the future it somehow becomes right to run a Legacy deck without spells, well, here you go.

Fixing Your Mana Perfectly! (In a Deck with only Gold Cards)

[card]Pillar of the Paruns[/card] – Rare – Dissension – $4

Imagine if this were legal in Shards-era Jund decks. You could run 4 of these and four Ziggurats and play with only gold cards and have your only non-creature spells be [card]Blightning[/card] and [card]Maelstrom Pulse[/card].

Yeah, that would probably have been terrible.

Fixing Your Mana Perfectly! (In Commander)

[card]Command Tower[/card] – Common – Commander Precons – $2

I went over this in my 2011 speculations article, but I have a roughly infinite number of these that I bought at $2 each. It’s the ultimate fixing in a format that has proven to be both popular and successful enough to drive card prices long term. Its current retail value is a bargain.

5-Color Fixing

[card]City of Brass[/card] – Rare – Arabian Nights/Chronicles/Base Sets – $4-$6

Sometimes the classic is still the best.

There have been scads of lands that tap for all five colors, but the city still stands above all. A $1-$2 card for years, this thing has finally been out of print long enough to hit $5 about a year ago.

3-Color Fixing

The Shards Lands – Uncommon – Shards of Alara – $1.50

These lands didn’t see a ton of play in Standard because most decks didn’t need the extra color and/or just used two color duals, but these lands are actually paragons of efficiency if you need access to 3 colors very quickly. The CIPT drawback is large, but less important in casual formats. I doubt these will ever see much play in eternal competitive formats, though.

2-Color Fixing

The Original Duals – Rare – Alpha/Beta/Unlimited/Revised – $40 – $120

One land/two colors? Can be fetched with things that get lands of a certain type? The only drawback is that they’re non-basic?

Yeah, these are a relic of a very different era.

Duals have been cash money for almost two decades now, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

Overall Mana Fixing

The Fetchlands – Rare – Onslaught/Zendikar – $8 – $40

The original duals are awesome for sure, but the fetchlands are arguably more important for mana fixing. In any format where they’re legal with either the original duals or the Ravnica duals, it becomes easy to crack a fetch for virtually any two colors of mana you might need at the time.

In terms of overall ‘reach’ in finding the land you need, these are the absolute gold standard. I would argue that these are the best fixing lands of all time.

That’s it! Those are the best lands in the game!

Honorable mention to the Lorwyn ‘hideaway’ lands – I couldn’t come up with what they were best at, but they’re probably best at something, right? Sneakiest lands? Best at hiding stuff?

At any rate, a quick reminder: anyone who says something in the comments about how I missed something like “the best land to tap for green mana as long as you have an [card]Unyaro Bees[/card] in play and your opponent is playing burn” is 100% guaranteed NOT to get a Christmas present from me this year.

Everyone else, let’s talk.

And make sure you send in those [card]Madblind Mountains[/card]!

Until next time –

– Chas Andres

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