Ranking Every Land with EDHREC – Finale: The “Best” Lands
(Temple of the False God| Art by James Zapata)
And This is How it Ends
One person who did not understand the amount of work he committed to.
It's all come down to this. Ten lands stand between us and completion. Let's get right into it.
10:Rogue's Passage: 55,604 Decks
Even with the astronomical amount of precon printings, I definitely didn't expect Rogue's Passage in the top 10. Maybe I just underestimate the amount of punchy punchy decks, but I definitely don't think of Passage as a staple of the format.
To be less of a Negative Nancy, I'm definitely happy that this card exists. Four mana and the land is a lot, so I wouldn't expect to activate this every game. However, thinking back to games I've played with and against it, I can definitely pinpoint moments where it had a pretty big impact, especially those moments when you make an opponent's creature unblockable. That feels so good. Any Voltron deck, or decks that care specifically about combat, don't lose much by playing it, and it's so cheap to buy.
You know, I kinda talked myself into this. Not every deck has the budget or ability to play lands like Buried Ruin, and Passage is a very cheap utility land that everyone owns with some decent application in most combat decks. Passage can stay!
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Get it in one more time: cheaper than a basic Wastes
09: Bojuka Bog: 55,925 Decks
The gospel of Play More Graveyard Hate seems to be working, as Bojuka Bog cracked 50,000 decks this year, though being in all the precons definitely helps. Side note: you can basically assume all of the top 10 has been printed into oblivion.
Before Hour of Devastation, I would have said that you should run Bog in any deck that could, but now that Scavenger Grounds is around, there’s a little more competition. If you care about your own graveyard, then playing Bog is a good call. If you don’t care very much about it, I think Grounds is probably better because it enters untapped and you have more control over when you pop it. On the other hand, those decks could just run Bog, too, so it doesn't really matter. It’s difficult to swallow running a do-nothing card like Grafdigger's Cage, but running it on a land is super easy, so make sure you've got one spooky Desert or gross Marsh on you at all times.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: I once Bogged the turn one Entombed Sheoldred, Whispering that someone intended to reanimate. That was fun!
08: Myriad Landscape: 56,602 Decks
I hear a lot of people arguing for Landscape as free mana ramp. Whenever someone says something is “free," you should really evaluate what that means. Landscape is free in the sense that playing the card costs no mana and it doesn’t steal a slot from your big scary Dragon. The cost is playing a tapland that taps for colorless and takes time to fix your colors (presumably by fetching you the color you don't already have, since it must fetch two basics of the same type). There're many times that I play Landscape and don't want to crack it because I need to spend my mana on other things. There's definitely a lot to like about Landscape, and mono-color decks that aren't green should definitely play it, but two-color decks, or, Heliod forbid, three-color decks, should absolutely not be playing this; it's way too clunky and it will lose you games.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: I’m not mad that this card exists but it’s not a staple.
07: Exotic Orchard: 63,205 Decks
When they announced that this card was going to be in all four Commander 2019 decks, I was over the moon. This is the one of the first lands I add to any three-color-and-up and even some two-color decks. This land is a gift from Wizards because no other format wants this card, so we get this one all to ourselves.
What’s insane to me is that many people think that this is land is just okay. Exotic Orchard is one of the best fixing lands possible. Next time you play a game, count how many colors are represented. I can't think of the last time it was less than three colors, and having four or all five is very common. Any Chromatic Lantern across the table, any rainbow land, any five-color deck, and Exotic Orchard is a free City of Brass. I can count on one hand the number of times Orchard didn’t tap for a color I needed. The best part is that it's still under a dollar! If you’re on a budget and not playing a mono-color deck, there's very little reason not to run this. If you’re not budget, this is still probably the second-best rainbow land that you can run. I can't stress this enough: this card is amazing.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: I legit think this just goes in any deck with three or more colors.
06: Temple of the False God: 77,797 Decks
You know, for a while I thought this card was over-hated. It was after it got reprinted the fourth or fifth time that this backlash against it started to coalesce. A lot of people were saying, and still say, that this card doesn't deserve to be reprinted or is downright unplayable. I didn't think it was that bad. Sure, there was a downside, but this is the perfect mid-game land, and it can be excellent when you can get your seven-drop out a turn earlier. Mono-white and mono-red can afford to spin the variance wheel for a chance at a free Ancient Tomb. Sure, it's not for every deck, but people surely understood that message and were running it when it was good, right?
And then I compiled this list and saw the number "77,797" next to the word "Decks" below the card Temple of the False God. I can't defend this anymore. There are certainly decks where Temple does work, but there is a massive risk that most decks don't need to take. Temple is a blank piece of cardboard early in the game. I have seen far too many games where someone had a Temple of the False God instead of a basic, and lost because of it. When it happens, it feels awful, and the best case scenario isn't even that high like it is with Cabal Coffers. The reward is an extra colorless mana on turn 5. That's worse than Rampant Growth. It's fine, but most decks could just play Rampant Growth and not possibly lose because of it. In mono-color decks, it's passable. Anything more and it will lose you more games than you would win, and the reprints in three-color decks is kinda ludicrous.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: I'm all for people playing what they want, but I think that people's decks would be a lot better without this card.
04: Reliquary Tower: 112,683 Decks
The #5 and #3 lands are identical, so we’ll get to them next.
When you talk about lands in Commander, this is probably one of the first you think of. The format of Blue Sun's Zenith for 10, and where Rhystic Study is one of the best cards you can drop down. The format where people are running stuff like Mind's Eye and Truce, just to get a taste of that value action. Yeah, decks are gonna want a way to make sure cards drawn stay in hand. I've seen some murmuring of this being overplayed, but a lot of the high-synergy stuff is card-draw-related, and any blue deck is probably better running this.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Even at over 100,000 decks, I'm still pretty on board with it.
05: Terramorphic Expanse: 101,447 Decks & 03: Evolving Wilds: 123,832 Decks
I don’t know when playing Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse became unfashionable. A few years ago, people were playing a bunch of glacially slow tapland-filled mana bases. Then, around 2015, we started shifting towards the idea that playing taplands was slowing your decks down and that you should run more basics, which is a good development overall. Running too many taplands will destroy your early game tempo, but I think it was Ash Barrens that pushed people too far down that road. With Barrens, the sentiment was “Oh, well now you never need to run Evolving Wilds again." And while that's definitely tenable with Ash Barrens' price tag, there's always the invisible cost of using the effort to find a copy, or purchase one online.
Let’s make Evolving wilds and Terramorrphic Expanse cool again. They are still some of the best budget 'fetch lands' you can ask for. Yes, they do only get lands that tap for one color. Yes, they will make your deck slower. However, the consistency is unparalleled for budget decks. There are much better lands that you could acquire, but sometimes that’s not the option. Sometimes the choice is between a mana base of taplands like Guildgates or a mana base purely of basics. Telling people that they should never play taplands is not pushing them towards better mana, but towards clunkier mana. A lot of my decks have Evolving Wilds and I am totally happy with that, even disregarding synergies with Delve or Landfall. The real reason that I got into Commander five years ago when I had no job or income was from seeing Zedruu, the Greathearted and wanting to build around it. Had the budget list I found run a ton of basics, I would have had a thoroughly bad experience.
Viva la Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse! May you see play on tables for years to come!
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Keep Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse as reasonable suggestions for decks!
02: Basic lands: 153,360 Decks
(Island: 164,610; Swamp: 160,297; Forest: 153,115; Mountain: 146,256; Plains: 142,520)
It’s been funny reading all the comments joking that Island was gonna be #1, and knowing that Island is actually only #2! Take that, interwebs!
I’ve ragged a bit on basics, but obviously every deck needs some. For budget, they represent about 15-30 cards in your deck that you don't have to worry about buying or finding. For non-budget, your Cultivates or Rampant Growths need basics to function, so they also get some fun. Plus, there’s always a looming Back to Basics], or a more friendly Collective Voyage that rewards those who have a couple basics to get. Even Snow basics don't have the accessibility of basics. No matter what new lands might come out - a second cycle of fetches, a land that draws you six cards, whatever - there will always be a reason to run the first card every player plays in their first game of Magic.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: But they aren’t number 1. Basics are still restricted by color identity, so they can’t go in any deck. What is the most-played land in all of Commander? From 369, all the way to number one? The most played land is…
01: Command Tower: 214,306 Decks
Either you saw this coming, or you just said something like, "Oh, of course." It’s Command Tower! The best land in the format. Playable in any non-mono-color deck and even then, I’m sure there’s some weird synergy you could find there. I wonder what would happen if they'd never printed this card. It's perfectly reasonable to imagine. Back in 2011, why would they print this random land to work with this niche format and nowhere else?
Luckily, they did bend the rules for our weird format, and it's better off because of it. No one likes getting mana screwed, and because of the nature of Commander, everybody having a rainbow land doesn't break the format. I’m also very happy it's so readily available. It’s printed five times a year and the card still hovers at just over a dollar. Having one in the product that gets people into the format is incredibly useful. Regardless of what type of Commander player you become, or what decks you choose to build, you’ll always need a Command Tower.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: A fitting end to our journey.
That Was Certainly a Thing
And that’s it! We’ve walked through all 683 lands legal in Commander. What are we supposed to take away from it? Before I never ever think about mana bases again, let's end off with three more lists that are sort of the Cliff's Notes version of the entire series.
Top Ten Overplayed Lands
I just spent almost 70,000 words talking about lands, so if you want an explanation why I think these lands are overrated, go find the article I mentioned it.
HM: Tempest/Kamigawa Exert lands. Wasteland, Bouncelands
- 10: The Lair lands: 956 Decks
- 09: Opal Palace: 19,870 Decks (Or any Unknown Shores variant)
- 08: Novijen, Heart of Progress: 3,260 Decks. (Have to kick the Guildhalls one more time)
- 07: Warped Landscape: 6,565 Decks
- 06: Mortuary Mire: 10,808 Decks
- 05: Halimar Depths: 16,488 Decks
- 04: Slow Fetch Lands: 4,290 Decks
- 03: Blighted Fen: 2,093 Decks (This could be the entire Blighted cycle, but Fen is particularly befuddling)
- 02: Memorial to Folly: 6,494 Decks (Again, this could be the whole cycle)
- 01: Temple of the False God: 77,797 Decks
Top Ten Underplayed Lands
There were so many lands I wanted to put here. Assume if I ever gave a land an underplayed ranking, it's an honorable mention
HM: Rustic Clachan, Kor Haven, River of Tears, Nantuko Monastery
- 10: Thawing Glaciers 1,741 Decks
- 09: Grove of the Burnwillows: 2,009 Decks
- 08: Petrified Field: 1,847 Decks
- 07: Amonkhet Pain Deserts: 1,427 Decks
- 06: Undiscovered Paradise: 377 Decks (Also Ghost Town)
- 05: Tower of the Magistrate: 575 Decks
- 04: Thran Quarry: 520 Decks
- 03: Spawning Pool 516 Decks (Faerie Conclave is great too!)
- 02: Cephalid Coliseum: 4,098 Decks
- 01: Riftstone Portal: 867 Decks
Top Ten Big Picture Takeaways
- 10: Lands that don’t tap for mana are basically spells. Lands like Maze of Ith cost tempo, development of resources, and time.
- 09: Cycles aren’t the only place to find useful lands. Stuff like Riftstone Portal isn’t going to show up in any general list of cycles.
- 08: Remember colorless lands. While you can go overboard, running three to seven colorless lands that have decent utility can make the difference between flooding out and winning.
- 07: Wastes are kinda overrated. There are loads of options that are way cheaper than a basic Wastes.
- 06: There are lots of budget options. Even budget options that I trashed such as the exert lands have several defenders. You do not have to resort to $200 mana bases.
- 05: Stay away from mono-color taplands. There are exceptions, but for the most part, you should save that space for tapped dual lands or colorless lands.
- 04: Dual taplands are totally okay. Please, please, please don’t build only basic mana bases. Taplands aren't the best, but you will win more games with them.
- 03: Lands have gotten way better. Like it or not, there are a ton of lands within the past few years in the top 50. If you have a hunch that a land is good in Commander, get it soon.
- 02: Five-color is doable on a budget. Run whatever staples you can afford like Exotic Orchard or Painlands, and supplement with budget all-stars like Vivids.
- 01: Have a reason why you're running a given land. Every land has a place, but you should have a reason why your specific deck needs X land. Playing something like Maze of Ith just because it's generally good isn't enough. Have justification, and make sure that justification is still true after a few games.
Onto New Horizons
And that's wraps this project up. I wanna thank EDHREC for publishing these articles on their website, and I wanna give a huge thanks to everyone that commented with a combo or synergy I missed, said that they look forward to these articles, or even just quietly reading these every week. You are the reason one random Reddit post became the article series you're reading now. Thank you.
As for what's next: I leave that to you!
As always, let me know what you think about these lands, or the series as a whole! Until the next adventure!