Ranking Every Land with EDHREC – Part 13: Holdout for Better Lands

(Expedition Map | Art by Franz Vohwinkel)

Friendship is Literally Magic

The My Little Pony cards for charity were announced last week, and that is legitimately awesome! But now that we have the Ponies, Transformers, D&D, and Nerf in Magic, I wonder what other properties will become Magic cards next?

For example, did you know Hasbro has the license to Star Trek toys? I want a Captain Picard Commander deck. Or Power Rangers! Rita Repulsa should have an activated ability to Giant Growth!

Wait, wait! I got it! Fortnite! You couldn't tell me with a straight face that you wouldn't enjoy Stupid Sexy Jace doing the Fortnite dance!

Anyway, while we're excitedly waiting for the next property to integrate into Magic, let's continue our series ranking every single land in EDH!

220: Blinkmoth Nexus: 1,589 Decks

I think there’s an argument for this being the best "manland" for Commander. While there will be games where attacking with a Creeping Tar Pit will deal those last few points of damage, it’s not the reason you want creature lands: you want them because of their synergy with your deck and your commander. Luckily, there’s a lot of synergy with Blinky here: it’s cheap to activate for decks like Jalira, Master Polymorphist; it’s an artifact for decks like Breya, Etherium Shaper; it’s a flyer for Edric, Spymaster of Trest; it’s a Wastes for any colorless deck; and it’s even got synergy with Mistform Ultimus. What more could you want?

Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: If you were to ask me where Blinkmoth Nexus would fall among the 667 total EDH-legal lands (369 if you group things by cycles) I would've guessed it was somewhere in the top 50. Then I would have wondered why you were asking me to rank that many lands in the first place, because no one in their right mind would want to do that, right? Right....

219: Rix Maadi, Dungeon Palace: 1,622 Decks

Some lands cheat. Rix Maadi was in a comfortable 235th place just a couple months ago, then Commander 2019 came out and it ended up in the Merciless Rage deck, so it shot up 15 slots. Were I to keep updating this list, it would probably keep going up, but no! The record will keep you here, Rix Maadi, Dungeon Palace! You’re a big fat cheater, unlike fair lands like Riftstone Portal.

Besides being the scum of the earth, ol' Ricky M is a fine Magic card. Originating from the underwhelming Ravnica guildhall cycle, I would expect this activated ability to cost six mana or more, but this cheaper cost is a steal. Geier Reach Sanitarium is arguably better, but they're doing slightly different things. Decks helmed by Neheb, the Worthy love this card.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: If I didn’t know any better, I would have no idea this came from the same cycle as Nivix, Aerie of the Firemind.

218: Holdout Settlement: 1,624 Decks & 211: Survivors’ Encampment: 1,767 Decks

Let’s get both of these out at the same time, because they are basically identical unless you fear the Desert Nomads Infect deck.

These are bad rainbow lands. Creatures want to be attacking or activating their abilities, not holding back to help fix your mana. Plus, these lands do a lot of nothing without creatures. Where these cards shine is as a free way to tap creatures. Emmara, Soul of the accord and King Macar, the Gold Cursed are the two big commanders for these cards, but they also work well with anything with Inspired, or the creatures from Lorwyn that care about being tapped. Decks with these cards in them should have plenty of other ways to tap creatures for free, but putting the effect on a land means that there’s little reason not to have one of these, just in case.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Both of these are totally good if you want to do something silly.

217: Guildmages' Forum: 1,650 Decks

Here’s an old card all the way back from Guilds of Ravnica, practically an eternity ago. It’s a better Unknown Shores, for about the same price, so if you're running Unknown Shores, there’s basically no reason not to swap it out for this. The Forum should always give your commander a counter, unless you’ve come up with the mono-color Unknown Shores deck, but it still has all of the problems Unknown Shores has, so unless a deck really cares about a +1/+1 counter, it’s probably not worth it.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Just to be clear, 'overplayed' doesn’t mean 'bad.' There are good decks for this card, like Roalesk, Apex Hybrid. It’s just all those commanders that don’t care about the counters that won’t want this.

216: Svogthos, the Restless Tomb: 1,657 Decks

Of all the lands in the guildhall cycle, this is the one where the name matches the effect. Svogthos is already a pretty metal name, and the ability turns it into a giant shambling Zombie that is worthy of the title. It does cost six mana to activate, which is gross, and isn’t great early on in the game, but if it's available to close out a game, it can do so in a hurry. I don’t think I’d go so far as to play this in a Sultai or Abzan deck, which makes it a strange choice to have been put in The Mimeoplasm precon deck. I’m all for cool obscure cards in precons, but the mana base can be really tough in those.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: It’s fine. It’s certainly another option for black-green decks.

215: The Ally Storage Lands: 1,684 Decks

(Dreadship Reef: 2,911; Saltcrusted Steppe: 1,862; Molten Slagheap: 1,537; Calciform Pools: 1,347; Fungal Reaches: 765)

Holy deviation, Batman! That average does not nearly tell the story of this deep-fried nonsense cycle. Taking this cycle individually, Dreadship Reef would be in the mid 150’s while Fungal Reaches would be in the 270’s. This is an example of the precon effect in full swing: Dreadship Reef has been printed in multiple precon products, including Commander 2016, which gave us some of the most popular Commander preconstructed decks of all time, and it's a similar story with Saltcrusted Steppe and Molten Slagheap. Compare these to Fungal Reaches, which was printed in Commander 2011, before Commander really kicked off.

There’s also the Phyrexian elephant in the room: the 2016 precon deck that had Dreadship Reef was Breed Lethality. You know, the most popular precon of all time, led by the Angel we can never escape from in this series with the most decks on EDHREC ever. Atraxa, Praetors' Voice is so popular that it pushes cards like Calciform Pools way up, despite having never been in a precon deck, just because it says 'counter' on it.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: This is a case where the data does not reflect how good these lands are: they're great in Atraxa decks or other Proliferate decks, but anywhere else, these are too slow. Very rarely will you have extra mana to give to these, and it takes a long time for these to pay off.

214: Isolated Watchtower: 1,712 Decks

The first Commander-exclusive land to grace our list, and I'm pleasantly surprised by how cheap it is. Most of the lands from the Commander precons end up being some of the most expensive cards from the decks, but Isolated Watchtower's price is completely reasonable. Isolated Watchtower is a colorless land that enables land ramp, but it only works when you have less lands than everyone else. That being said, it is repeatable, which makes it more palatable.

But is it good? I don’t know. I’m sure you all have been taking my opinion as complete unquestionable fact, but I can’t possibly play all 667 lands, and this is one I have no experience with. Some cards don’t need to be played to assess their playability. I have yet to put Castle Sengir in a deck, but can comfortably conclude that it’s probably unplayable. But Isolated Watchtower is the type of card I’d need to play to evaluate. How often can you activate this? How often do you want to activate this? I’ll say I think it’s good but I’m not really sure.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: To complicate the subject even more, the decklist count for this card is also influenced by the precon effect: it's only ever been printed once, in Commander 2018's Subjective Reality, the Esper deck helmed by Aminatou, the Fateshifter. All I can really say is 'try it and see what happens.'

213: Sunscorched Desert: 1,726 Decks

An untapped Piranha Marsh. Once again, if you can infinite flicker it with something like the Animate Dead and Worldgorger Dragon combo, Sunscorched Desert can kill everyone else at the table. In general, there’s also less to lose playing this over Piranha Marsh because it enters untapped, but I still wouldn’t run this just to deal one damage.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Rakdos, Lord of Riots is the only other deck that would like this effect, but decks like Neheb, the Eternal should strive for better.

212: Mirrodin’s Core: 1,756 Decks

This is the Exert lands’ slightly less creepy cousin, but who ultimately still smells of eggs. Putting a counter on this basically makes it worthless for that turn. Unlike the Exert lands, where you get untapped mana now at the cost of future tempo, this land trades that turn's tempo for the ability to have good mana in the future. However, when do you need perfect mana the most? The early to mid-game. Giving up perfect mana during this time to ensure that late game you have a rainbow land is super awkward. By the time that this matters, you should have perfect mana already. It feels bad to play a tapland and then lose a turn of tempo, but imagine that feeling every other turn. 

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Once again, it appears we can partly blame Atraxa. Can I convince Atraxa players to play Balduvian Shaman? They appear to be playing anything that says 'counter' on it.

210: Endless Sands: 1,804 Decks

Way back in part two of this article series, I talked about Safe Haven, one of the few manaless taplands that is pretty good. Well, what if we took that card and got rid of the stupid downside? Enter Endless Sands. The only downside is that it costs five mana to crack, but I'll take it if it can tap for mana.

There’s just so much flexibility here. Whether saving the best creature you control from a Wrath, or saving creatures from Threaten effects, or even re-triggering enter-the-battlefield abilities like Cloudblazer, you can do a lot with this land. Heck, that’s the simple stuff. Wouldn’t Sneak Attack be better if the creatures didn’t go away forever? Endless Sands can fix that. Unearth got you down because it's sending stuff to exile? Endless Sands says they can come right back. Wanna exile stuff forever with Fiend Hunter and engineer some stack shenanigans? Endless Sands says just exile in response to the ETB trigger, and bye-bye creatures! All this and more, for the low low cost of several payments of two mana. Buy today!

Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: There’s stuff I haven’t even mentioned. Hazezon Tamar anyone?

The End... Less Sands

Well, now that I’ve done that, you can get back to playing all the sweet new Throne of Eldraine cards. Before you do that, though, let me know what you think of this batch of lands. Is Endless Sands as busted as I think? Can we all cool it with all the 'counter' lands in Atraxa? Pretty please? Sometimes that deck needs regular ol' mana, you know! Let me know what you think!

Joseph started playing in Theros Block but decided that the best way to play the game was to learn every single card and hope that would somehow make him good at Magic. It hasn't. He is a college student in Santa Fe, New Mexico and also enjoys reading and other games of all shapes and sizes.

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