Ranking Every Land with EDHREC – Part 22: Making the 20/20s Your Own!
(Dark Depths | Art by Mathias Kollros)
It’s Certainly a Magic: the Gathering Set
Welcome back to this crazy series where we rank every land based on how many decks they appear in on EDHREC. We're still right in the middle of preview season... well, for you folks, anyway. At the time of writing this, I haven't actually seen any of the major previews yet. Don’t worry, though, I came prepared for any outcome. Observe:
Wow, folks! Have you seen the spoilers for the new set? The cards are so awesome/terrible! The legendary Gods are so unique and fun to build around/derivative and not nearly as good as the old ones. I'm so excited to build around all the sweet rares/frustrated that there are so many terrible cards that no one likes. Truly this is the set that will keep Magic going strong forever/kill Magic and everything I love about the game!
There you go! Just fill in whichever options match your current mood.
130: Crystal Vein: 3,818 Decks
A colorless version of the Fallen Empires ritual lands, I already professed my love for these when they popped up a million parts before, but I don't think that they're actually good. Sacrificing a land for mana isn't really worth it until the late game, and by then, what do you need the extra mana for? Crystal Vein is a lot better; entering untapped covers a multitude of sins, and the colorless decks might as well play it even if it isn't worth it to sacrifice this land most of the time. If you're playing something like Arcum Dagsson where the commander has a bad reputation, this is probably okay to run, but then there's decks like Daretti, Scrap Savant that are running this card, and getting him out a turn earlier doesn't seem worth Strip Mine-ing yourself.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Hey, a good land for Titania, Protector of Argoth! I feel like I'm back in part one of this series again.
129: Shizo, Death's Storehouse: 3,833 Decks
Is this... a Kamigawa legendary land... with a decent ability? I don't know what to do with myself. I guess I actually have to apply some analytic ability to this cycle now.
This is basically a land that gives a commander unblockable against roughly 80% of opponents. I'd play that in some decks if it entered tapped. Untapped, you might as well run it to give opponents' creatures Fear and let them do your dirty work for you. Of course, because it's actually good, the card is $20, so if you can afford it, this is one of the few legendary lands that's worth the asking price.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Everybody go build Volrath the Fallen!
128: Slayers' Stronghold: 3,853 Decks
This cycle of Innistrad lands is probably one of the better land cycles for Commander. It's got EDH all-stars like Alchemist's Refuge, Kessig Wolf Run, and Vault of the Archangel, and I would even put Slayers' Stronghold right alongside them. I’m guessing few people would even remember that Stronghold was in this cycle, but that’s a shame, because this card is amazing!
Stronghold provides two pretty relevant abilities for a cheap cost. Haste is obviously great for commanders that want to come out swinging, or creatures like Etali, Primal Storm that you don't want to give people time to react to. Vigilance is easy to sleep on, but it can be very relevant in aggressive decks, and it also works really well with creatures with tap ability or with abilities like lifelink. Both are great abilities, and you get a bonus pump just for activating it. What's not to like about this card?
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: This land is only in 27% of Boros decks. Why? It does everything they want to do and more.
127: Dark Depths: 3,865 Decks
Let's get this out of the way: do not try and play Dark Depths fairly. I know that's how Wizards intended you to do it, but don't do that. I'm sure your cousin told you about someone who'd heard about someone at a Commander table in Iowa somewhere who spent the thirty mana to remove all of the ice counters off of this thing, but that will not happen for you. Don't do it.
I mention this because only 80% of decks running Dark Depths are also running Thespian's Stage. For those that don't know, if you use Thespian's Stage to copy Dark Depths, it will have no ice counters on it, and will automatically make the 20/20. Is a 20/20 indestructible as good in Commander as it is in other formats? No, but it still kills an opponent in two turns, and the lands decks need finishers that can be found with cards like Sylvan Scrying. I wouldn't play it outside of lands decks, but I don't see a ton of evidence that it's in non-lands decks. Other than the fair Depths players, that is, but again: stop that.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Word to the wise, if someone pulls off Depth + Stage, they have to sacrifice both lands to get the 20/20. Look it up.
126: Mystifying Maze: 3,871 Decks
Whose idea was it to put this in the Arcane Wizardy precon deck? Speaking from experience, almost every land in that deck needed to tap for blue, especially if you wanted to add stuff like Venser, Shaper Savant or Aether Adept. I was never happy to draw Mystifying Maze. A derpy colorless land was the last thing that clunky, slow, color-intensive manabase needed. It ran Niv Mizzet, the Firemind. Like, come on!
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Oh right, I have to actually do my job. The card itself isn't the worst. A four-mana Maze of Ith is still a Maze of Ith. I might play it in budget mono-color decks or colorless decks, but keep it far away from anything with three or more colors, and keep it an ocean's length away from Inalla, Archmage Ritualist.
125: Drownyard Temple: 3,875 Decks
This is the archetypical overplayed card. A role-player in certain decks, but also seeing play in a lot of decks in which is does not belong. Self-mill is not where this card shines. If the plan is to pay three mana for a Rampant Growth, that's incredibly underwhelming for a utility land slot. It’s not bad, but there are much better colorless land options. Outside of the Anje Falkenrath precon deck and the colorless decks that have almost no way to get this into the graveyard, there're a ton of decks that could invest in better options than Drownyard Temple.
Admittedly, in decks like Tatyova, Benthic Druid or Titania, Protector of Argoth, this card becomes magical. With sacrifice engines like Sylvan Safekeeper, it can become "Three mana: draw a card" or "Three mana: make a 5/3." In other words, it can be the scariest of cards in certain decks and is absolutely worth playing... in those decks.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Not bad at all. In fact, it’s really good. It's just not good in decks that don’t have the right shell for it.
123: (Tie) Kher Keep: 3,919 Decks
Kobolds of Kher Keep. A 0/1 for zero mana. The stupidest of cards, and we’re paying two mana for the privilege of making one. Only in Commander is a card like this remotely good. Very good, even. Kher Keep is an untapped and repeatable source of tokens, but unlike Springjack Pasture, activating this card doesn’t take the whole turn. There's all sorts of random stuff you can do with these. Sure, I guess they make decent chump blockers, but that isn't why you're playing this card. You're playing this card because sometimes the Kobolds ping opponents for two with Purphoros, God of the Forge, or because they’re secretly Wurmcoil Engines with Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer's ability, or sometimes they’re thoughtful gifts from Zedruu the Greathearted. In terms of playability, this isn't one of the most powerful lands, but it's definitely one of my favorites.
Over, Under, or just Right? Just Right: The synergy with Rohgahh of Kher Keep, though.
123: (Tie) New Benalia: 3,919 Decks
This is where we're at, huh? Look, mono-white players, I understand you‘re desperate for card advantage, but you don't have to stoop to this level. There’s Sea Gate Wreckage. There’s Geier Reach Sanitarium. There’s Cryptic Caves. There’s all sorts of untapped lands that actually give you some card advantage. You may feel like you need this, but you don't, and you absolutely will lose games because this enters tapped.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Don't resort to this for your card drawing needs.
122: The Enemy Creature Lands: 3,927 Decks
(Lumbering Falls; 4,938, Shambling Vent; 4,345, Hissing Quagmire; 3,928, Wandering Fumarole; 3,490, Needle Spires; 2,934)
I feel like the Battle for Zendikar block is going to have a legacy akin to that of Kamigawa. It was hated at the time for its generally poor design and low power level compared to the original Zendikar. It's not a set most players liked at the time, but now that the set has cycled through Standard and Limited, and now that eternal formats want nothing to do with the blocks, Battle for Zendikar becomes the playhouse of casual and Commander players. Nobody wants cards like Sire of Stagnation, so they become EDH all-stars and the set finally finds its home years later.
This cycle is a good example of that. It has a lower power level compared to the creature lands from OG Zendikar, but that also means they're much cheaper. In fact, for Commander, I think these lands are actually better. The original cycle has Creeping Tar Pit, and Celestial Colonnade, both of which are pretty good, but the other three are much more suited for 1v1 formats. Here, I think the only one that's not great is Wandering Fumarole. The other four are pretty good: Shambling Vent's lifelink is gonna have a ton of synergy with Orzhov decks, Hissing Quagmire can be a great way to deter attackers, Lumbering Falls works really well with stuff like Awaken, and Needle Spires might actually kill someone by itself. If these cards were $10, I wouldn’t be so high on them, but BFZ was opened to death, and no one else is looking for these, so why not?
Over, Under or Just Right? Just Right: I can justify telling budget players to go get these.
121: Detection Tower: 3,939 Decks
The new toy from Core 2019. Shroud doesn’t show up in Standard-legal sets anymore so take off the weird outdated mechanic, and voilà! We have a worse but much cheaper version of Arcane Lighthouse. There are some decks that want both Lighthouse and Tower, like Horobi, Death's Wail. However, most everyone else probably doesn't need two of this effect, and Lighthouse is just better. Lighthouse is also $3, so the question becomes: is not hitting shroud worth the money you save by playing Detection Tower?
There’s not a lot of stuff with Shroud, and most of it, like Plaxcaster Frogling, is cute but not going to come up very often. What hurts the most is staples like Lightning Greaves, Whispersilk Cloak, Sylvan Safekeeper, or Argothian Enchantress. These are all cards that see a ton of play, and you'll curse up a storm when you draw Detection Tower against them. In contrast, while there are more cards with hexproof, they don't pack the same amount of punch. Swiftfoot Boots and Heroic Intervention are about it in terms of staples. While I think getting rid of hexproof is slightly better, it's not by much. Ditching shroud basically cuts Tower's usefulness in half.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: I wasn’t expecting shroud to be so useful. If the option is this or nothing, go with this. It’ll come up often, and you'll be glad when it does, but you do lose a lot of value, and it's not a huge jump from this to Arcane Lighthouse.
Every Shroud has a Silver Lining
Well, I wish you the best of luck in preview season for your deck brewing/pitchfork rioting. Before that happens, though, let me know if you're playing any of these sweet lands! How good do you think Kher Keep is? What do you think about Battle for Zendikar? Let me know in the comments below. Till next time!