Ranking Every Land with EDHREC – Part 27: I Demand a Dual!

Volcanic Island | Art by Noah Bradley)

From Trash to Treasure

Welcome back to the series where we rank every land based on how many decks they have on EDHREC. I don’t know when we did it, but we've hit the point where I'm talking about only popular cards. You've probably seen every land in this article before, which is weird after going through all the Tomb of Uramis of the world. It's like I was reviewing little hole-in-the-wall cafés in Milwaukee, and now I have to review the newest five-star restaurant in Vegas. This'll be interesting. Let's see how it goes.

80: Arch of Orazca: 7,095 Decks

Wow. Um. Last time I checked this, it was floating at around 4,000 decks, and now we've almost doubled that. I certainly didn't expect to find it floating up here higher than Tolaria West, and Dakmor Salvage.

I won't deny that there's definitely a market for this card, and I'm sure you already are thinking about where this goes. Mono-white, mono-red, colorless, Boros... every deck is going to want some way to refuel, and this card does that for decks that need it with a low downside. The hardest thing about turning on Ascend is remembering to state that you got it.

But, like, does any deck actually want to have a colorless land that doesn't do anything until late game, when you can spend a grand total of five mana, plus the land, to draw a single card? It's similar to Cryptic Caves; I don't want to tell people to run it, but I think I have to.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: I used to play Tower of Fortunes ironically, and now that doesn't seem that far off.

79: The Torment Tainted lands: 7,098 Decks

(Tainted Wood: 9,316; Tainted Field: 9,124; Tainted Isle: 5,800; Tainted Peak; 4,154)

This would be one of the best cycles for budget players if they just reprinted some of them. Non-budget players probably don't want lands that have a chance of doing nothing, especially if they're running stuff like Twilight Mire that won't turn this on. Meanwhile, budget decks run a ton of basics, and they need lands that enter untapped. As long as you have a decent amount of Swamps, maybe 15-20 for a two-color deck, then these are excellent budget lands.

So why have they only reprinted Tainted Wood and Tainted Field and left the other to shoot up to almost $3? Tainted Peak hasn't been reprinted since Torment in 2002! They even had an opportunity with theRakdos preconstructed deck Merciless Rage, and they printed Memorial to Folly over Tainted Peak! Come on, Wizards!

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Wood and Field have more play than the precon effect normally gives, which shows that these would see more play if people had access to them.

78: Tectonic Edge: 7,184 Decks

The best thing that happened to this card was that Field of Ruin got printed. For a while, this card was semi-playable in Modern, but then Field of Ruin took its place, and now the card is less than a dollar. I actually sometimes wonder if this is better than Ghost Quarter. It costs one to activate, but that’s it for downsides. In what world will there be someone you want to target with this effect who only has three lands? It can’t fix your mana like Ghost Quarter can, but if you’ve ever actually used Ghost Quarter on yourself and won, I applaud you.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: If they won't print Ghost Quarter in every preconstructed deck, why not lean on Tec Edge more?

77: Dryad Arbor: 7,436 Decks

Over the past couple of years, we seem to have accepted more mana dorks in Commander. On the one hand, they are super fragile compared to land- or even artifact-based ramp. On the other hand, they allow for busted starts. Turn one Elvish Mystic means any three-drop commander comes out on turn two, and that’s something that nothing else can do. Plus, creatures have synergy with everything from Edric, Spymaster of Trest to Wort, the Raidmother. Having your ramp also synergize with your deck is critical for increasing overall power level.

Dryad Arbor also has the added downside of being a land that gets hit by stuff like Tectonic Edge but has all the land synergies with cards like Titania, Protector of Argoth. It also doesn't technically ramp because it takes up your land drop, but being a mana dork that can be found with land-based ramp and creature tutors is like the best of both worlds. I think it’s similar to City of Traitors; the higher the power level of the deck, the more you need the synergy and the speed that the card provides. Regular decks probably don't wanna spend $17 on a Forest, but more synergistic, high-power decks probably do.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Who’s running Adun Oakenshield, and why is Dryad Arbor a key piece of the puzzle?

76: Gaea's Cradle: 7,463 Decks

Ignoring any price difference, Cradle should just be in any deck with a moderate amount of creatures. Playing a stompy deck? Might as well run Cradle. Casting Dinos? Probably easier to do with Cradle. Freaking Lady of the Mountain vanilla creature tribal wouldn’t mind having a Cradle in the deck.

Normally, this might be cause for concern, but I don't think Gaea's Cradle breaks the format, nor do I think you're missing out on much for not having it. Maybe I just haven't been in the high-power games where Cradle becomes unfun, but speaking from a mid- to high-power standpoint, Cradle is very good, but not much better than Cabal Coffers, except in the highest-powered games. Plus, there are ways to do what Cradle does that don’t cost $400. Obviously Growing Rites of Itlomoc exists, but there’s also just stuff like Zendikar Resurgent, Karametra’s Acolyte, or Omnath, Locus of Mana. None of these ways are nearly as good as Cradle, but they don't need to be. Even high-power Commander is lenient enough that these alternatives can still compete. I'm happy people get to play their baby, but I also don't personally ever feel a need to own one.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: You would assume this is the highest-ranking member of the Urza’s Saga cycle, but we have one more.

75: Emeria, the Sky Ruin: 7,508 Decks

The big problem with Emeria is how telegraphed it is. Playing this is a big siren that something scary is going to happen if someone doesn't do something, and because it’s very slow, your opponents have ample time to get rid of it. Now, lands are some of the least-targeted permanents in the format, so sometimes this card will just run free. When that happens, this card becomes bananas, like a super Sun Titan that doesn't need combat. However, it usually teaches the table that next time, they have to stop Emeria ASAP. It’s similar to Mikaeus, the Unhallowed: everybody will immediately will make that target number one, but if they can't deal with it, you're probably gonna have some fun.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Worth running for the potential, but it probably won't happen as often as you'd like.

74: The Artifact lands: 7,548 Decks

(Seat of the Synod: 13,425; Great Furnace: 9,937; Vault of Whispers: 6,534; Ancient Den: 6,143; Tree of Tales: 1,701)

Poor Tree of Tales. I know green doesn’t play well with artifacts in theory, but I wouldn't expect it to be this bad. Is it because it’s the wrong color for Breya, Etherium Shaper?

The artifact lands are a case of lands with low downside with random synergy that makes them very good. It's not no downside. Something like Vandalblast or Subterranean Tremors also randomly Strip Mines you. But much like Thran Quarry, when your entire board is blown up, the one land probably isn't going to save you. The upside is that any card in your deck that says "artifact" on it can randomly be improved for free, and there're quite a lot of those. I wouldn't recommend it outside of dedicated artifact decks, but also, the downside is low enough, so even that's debatable.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Reprinting Vault of Whispers and Ancient Den would be nice.

73: Cascading Cataracts: 7,902 Decks

We are on an eternal search for budget five-color lands, and I don't know why they didn't just reprint Crystal Quarry, but whatever. Give it indestructible, completely different card. Great! For a while, Cascading Cataracts was a great land for $25-50 five-color decks, and it was one that cost mere pennies. But then Amonkhet got older and less opened, and people kept needing it for budget decks, and now the card is $3. That’s not a ton, but it’s still more then a tenth of your budget for a $25 deck.

So now it’s out of reach for most budget decks, which makes it not a great card. It puts you down a mana to use it. In a perfect mana base of Shocks, Fetches, and five-color lands like Mana Confluence, why would you waste your time on this? Even for a semi-budget deck with pain lands, and check lands, this thing is just too slow. So now it’s absolutely not deserving of the price, but if it even goes down, the demand for the card will drive the price right back up. Such is life for the budget player.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Until it dips down again, or they reprint it, I don't think it has much of a home.

72: The Alpha Dual Lands: 8,422 Decks

(Underground Sea: 9,362; Bayou: 9,110; Tropical Island: 9,049; Savannah: 8,799; Scrubland: 8,675; Tundra: 8,511; Badlands: 8,378; Volcanic Island: 7,550;Taiga: 7,414; Plateau: 7,372)

Well. Here we are. When I started this series, it was just to highlight some neat lands that no one had seen before; it didn't really occur to me that, at some point, I'd need to provide some sort of opinion on the original dual lands.

For those of you that don’t know, these lands are stupid expensive, but also incredibly good. In formats like Legacy, these lands are basically required because of the interaction with fetch lands. Basically, lands like Flooded Strand can get something like a Tropical Island because it has the "Island" subtype. This turns fetches into five-color lands that can get exactly whatever mana you need, provided you have these dual lands. There's no two ways about it: shocklands like Breeding Pool do a passable impression, but if you want the best mana base, you're playing fetches and duals.

But that's the beauty of Commander, isn't it? You don't need to be 100% optimal. You don't need duals. Heck, for most metas, I don't think you need shocks or fetches, or even tango lands. You can build a deck with Guildgates and still have a functional deck. Will you lose some games? Yes. Do I wish that everyone magically gained 27 copies of these to make all their decks better? Absolutely. And if you want to play in the highest-powered metas, not having duals will cost you. But most people don't want to play the highest-powered decks, and not having duals doesn’t exclude you from playing the format. You can play in 90% of metas with a $10 mana base and still win games, provided you build the rest of the deck well, as people like Tomer and Mitch continue to prove. The ability to not have to play the absolute best cards is what got me into Commander five years ago, and what keeps me in the format to this day.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Obviously, if we all owned these, we would play them, but we don’t, and we don’t have to!

71: Rupture Spire: 8,483 Decks

That's all I've got today, let me know what you think about... Wait, I have one more to do. I just did a triumphant speech on the beauty of inclusiveness triumphing over adversity, what more do you want from me? Anything I say about Transguild Promenade number three here is going to pale in comparison.

Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: I think we can all agree this card has been printed too many times.

Dual-ing grounds

Well, that was quite a note to end on. Let me know what you think about these batch of lands. Are you running the artifact lands in anything spicy? What's your take on duals or budget mana bases? Let me know these things in the comment. On to the next batch!

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.