Ranking Every Land with EDHREC – Part 11: 'Strictly Better' Shall Drive Me Insane
(Expedition Map | Art by Franz Vohwinkel)
Come One, Come All!
Welcome to the Throne of Eldraine set review! Yes, I, the esteemed Random Person who wrote articles on Reddit, has been given the set review all to himself, weeks before the entire set has even been released, as I rightfully deserve!
I'm kidding, of course. We continue today with our series ranking every land in the Commander format by using the numbers here on EDHREC!
244: Mishra’s Workshop: 1,052 Decks
Yet another case where the number of deck inclusions does not scale with how powerful the card is, but rather with how many people actually happen to own one. A land that taps for three mana to cast some of the most busted cards in the entire game? Wow. Yes, it’s probably not as good in Commander because of the format's singleton nature and the Workshop's restriction to artifacts, but come on! You know that if you owned one, you'd include it in whatever artifact deck you're running! Arcum Dagsson, Breya, Etherium Shaper, Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer, Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter, Hope of Ghirapur, whatever!
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: What is that art?
243: Painted Bluffs: 1,088 Decks
This is just a better Unknown Shores, right? Maybe there’s some card that destroys a Desert that I don’t know about.
The Unknown Shores variant is going to show up a lot in the middle of this list. Most of them are not good. Budget is often the prime motivator behind people trying these, but almost all of them are traps. They aren’t the worst land you could play, but playing these is like playing a Sphere of Resistance that only affects you. If someone told me they thought their deck needed this, I would suggest they just fix their mana base.
Over, Under, or Just right? Just Right: Despite my rant, Commander is the format where people play what they own, so I can’t be that mad, and it’s not the absolute worst, especially if it gives your Scavenger Grounds another potential Desert to sacrifice. Place your bets on which variant of Unknown Shores I think is the best. Hint: It’s not Cave of Temptation.
242: Piranha Marsh: 1,088 Decks
I was originally super down on this land, and on some level, I still am, but there is some cool stuff here, mainly that it’s a kill condition with an infinite flicker combo. Something like Aminatou, the Fateshifter with Felidar Guardian and Panharmonicon will give you infinite flickers. This can also be a win condition for the Animate Dead and Worldgorger Dragon combos.
A few years ago this land would've been unique, but now Sunscorched Desert exists, and entering untapped more than makes up for the fact that it produces colorless instead of black mana. However, lands have lower opportunity cost, so I could understand running two infinite flicker wincon lands.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: All that said, in any other non-combo strategy, I think this is unplayable. Would it be funny to kill someone at one life? Yes. Will it happen? No.
241: Crypt of the Eternals: 1,102 Decks
Speak of the devil, an Unknown shores variant! A worse one, too. Not strictly worse, because it gains you a life, but it’s basically worse because it can’t tap for green or white. However, if you’re running a Grixis deck, I suppose this is actually a strictly better Unknown Shores? Then again, if you steal or reanimate someone's creature, and that creature has a green and/or white activation cost, Unknown Shores has applications there....
Regardless of whether it's strictly or marginally better, why is it in over 1,100 decks? Maybe budget Grixis decks want this, but even then, I can name ten budget lands I’d run before this card. Part of the reason it’s seeing play seems to be because of Bolas Tribal decks. I can’t say it doesn’t belong there, but only about 300 decks running this card appear to be Bolas Tribal, so what the heck?
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: I think people just saw a land that tapped for Grixis and didn’t actually think about it too much.
240: Lotus Vale: 1,108 Decks
It’s now impossible to talk about this card without talking about the new hotness from M20: Lotus Field. Lotus Field is better than Lotus Vale in almost every way, although after the hemming and hawing I just went through with the previous card, the notion of "strictly better" is starting to grind on my sanity. The reason the Vale is less desirable is simply due to the fact that if someone plays Strip Mine, you may have to throw yourself into the sea.
That said, I don’t think that makes Lotus Vale useless. The decks that want to Twiddle or Blood Sun their Lotus Field won’t say no to a second, more fragile version. Plus, this one enters untapped so shenanigans can start right away. Basically, the question is how badly does your deck want Lotus Field? If the answer is "very badly" then Lotus Vale should probably be there, too.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: To the 30 people currently playing Lotus Field in Yarok, the Desecrated decks, you might wanna reread both cards again.
239: Urza’s Factory: 1,137 Decks
How in the world did Urza win the Brother’s War? Mishra’s Workshop is one of the most busted lands of all time, whereas Urza’s Factory takes a million mana to make a derpy 2/2.
Seriously, seven mana? Plus tapping the land, making it effectively cost a total of eight mana? Being able to make 2/2 on demand is pretty good, but good luck doing anything else on your turn. What situation is there where you can activate this twice in a game, and how are you winning that game? It’s cute with Seedborn Muse, I guess.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: I guess in colorless decks there’s a chance they might actually just make enough mana to activate this, but anywhere else: SEVEN. MANA.
238: Ruins of Oran-Rief: 1,139 Decks
It says 'target colorless creature.'
Now that I’ve killed all enthusiasm for this card, let’s talk about it: it’s a riff off of, and a depiction of what happens to, Oran-Rief, the Vastwood, a much better card. Because of this, some people (not me, obviously; why would you even ask that?) have assumed that it works in the exact same way. It doesn't. And actually, why doesn’t it?
Apparently Oran-Rief, the Vastwood did see a little play, but only in Elf decks. Was there really an Eldrazi aggro deck in the format? Actually, there was, but it was in Modern, which they weren’t even testing for.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: I don’t even think it’s good with Eldrazi. Oh no, the 10/10 with Annihilator 4 wasn’t a problem before, but now it has a +1/+1 counter! Ach, Hans, run!
237: Kjeldoran Outpost: 1,139 Decks
Hey! Been a while since we’ve seen this “cycle” from Alliances. And I mean “cycle” in the same way that a taco, a hot dog, and a ham sandwich are all technically the same "cycle" of food.
This one has a lot going against it. Mono-white already has issues when it comes to mana potential, and this card sets you back a turn for the rest of the game. If that's the cost, then that ability better make me very excited. Luckily, it kinda does; making tokens for two mana is really good. This card makes blockers, attackers, sac fodder, whatever. Even Legion's Landing isn’t that efficient. That price is steep, but I think the payoff is worth it. Just pray for no Strip Mine.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: Why is General Jarkeld the top commander for this card?
236: Ramunap Ruins: 1,047 Decks
I've been pretty happy with most of the colored Desert cycle, but a double Shivan Gorge doesn't really make me super excited. There’s some synergy with stuff like Neheb, the Eternal and Heartless Hidetsugu, but other than that, this probably does almost nothing. However, there’s always a chance it could, and again, most of the time this would just be replacing a Mountain, so running it for the 0.1% of games where it could actually win me a game and leave me with an experience I'll remember for years probably seems fine.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Perhaps I'm blinded by my love for this cycle but who cares, it says "each" on it, so I'll justify it just for that!
235: The Original Tapped Duals: 1,193 Decks
(Urborg Volcano; 1,692, Elfhame Palace; 1,661, Coastal Tower; 1,037, Salt Marsh; 948, Shivan Oasis; 628)
The story of this cycle is drastically more interesting than the cards themselves: it took them almost ten years to make the first cycle of dual lands that just entered tapped because, get this, they thought they would be too good. Yes, nowadays they gain you life, or they let you scry, or they have a neat subtype. They do anything to make themselves stand out, but back in 2001, a land that enter tapped might have broken Magic! I wonder what they would think of an Unknown Shores variant.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Even on a budget, you can run six or seven better taplands before you even think of playing these. I think it’s just the Commander 2017 precon decks that even make these cards' numbers this high in the first place.
234: Swarmyard: 1,195 Decks
2006 Design meeting for Future Sight
Developer 1: “Hey, we need to make a nostalgia joke card.”
Developer 2: “How about a land that regenerates old useless creature types?”
Developer 1: “Good idea, how about Insects and Squirrels? I know Mark has a soft spot for those!”
Developer 2: “Spider is a bug type, too. Oh! And Rat! Throw a bone to the Plague Rats players?”
Developer 1: “Haha! This set is sweet. We get to make all these useless joke cards!”
Insect: Caustic Caterpillar, Hornet Queen, Crash of Rhino Beetles, Scute Mob, Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest.
Rat: Burglar Rat, Ichor Rats, Pack Rat, Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni, Marrow Gnawer, Rat Colony, Relentless Rats.
Spider: Nyx Weaver, Silklash Spider, Dragonlair Spider, Thantis the Warweaver, Ishkanah, Grafwidow
Squirrel: Squirrel Mob and Krosan Beast.
Changelings: Mirror Entity, Unsettled Mariner, Taurean Mauler, Morophon, the Boundless, Mistform Ultimus
Current price: $20
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Real funny joke, Wizards. Real funny joke.
233: Hashep Oasis: 1,204 Decks
The ability on this one is actually pretty good: nobody wants to run a sorcery speed Giant Growth, but playing a land that has the ability to give a big dork like Grunn, the Lonely King some extra punchy punchy is super solid!
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: Say it out loud: Hashep Oasis. It’s fun to say! Play it for that alone.
232: Forbidding Watchtower: 1,214 Decks
A 1/5? That’s an odd sets of stats for a creature land. Usually creature lands are best after a Wrath to apply offense, but short of Doran, the Siege Tower, this is basically only pulling defense duty. Three mana to activate isn’t that much, but Commander is the format where creatures have 10 or 20 power, and this doesn’t do much more than chump block.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Some decks want slef-animating lands for synergy reasons like Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper but even in mono-white decks, there are better options for utility lands.
Throne of Eldraine: 7/10
Well, I don’t know what Throne of Eldraine is gonna do to Standard. ANd I don't know what an actual set review of the set is going to look like. But hey, some of these lands right here seem pretty good for EDH. Is the pain cycle of Deserts as good as I think? What’s the next terrible land that will find a home like Swarmyard? As always, let me know what you think about this batch!
Next week, one of the best lands you’re not playing.