Ranking Every Land with EDHREC – Part 28: Snow Time Like the Present
(Cabal Stronghold | Art by Dimitar Marinski)
I am Very Enthusiastic! Trust Me!
Welcome back to the series where we rank every land based on how many decks they have on EDHREC. I'm currently sick, but that does not stop these articles! Yes, through the magic of words and imagination, your inner voice can imagine a Me that is vibrant and that offers deep discourse on lands, while Me in the real world can't talk for 30 seconds without coughing and is currently living off of tea. Author Me is probably more fun to hang out with right now, so I'll leave you with him.
70: Snow-Covered Basics: 8,803 Decks
(Snow-Covered Swamp: 10,686; Snow-Covered Island: 10,170; Snow Covered Forest: 8,747 Snow-Covered Mountain: 7,413; Snow-Covered Plains: 7,048)
A conversation between me and a friend upon their seeing snow basics for the first time:
Friend: "Ah cool, snow basics! Do they do anything different?"
Me: "Not really. They have all the functions of normal basics, they just happen to make snow mana."
Friend: "Oh, are there specific cards that use snow mana?”
Me: "There’s like two that care about snow mana in particular, and like fifteen that care about snow, but also like five that hate on snow, so it's kind of a wash."
Friend: "So I shouldn't run them then?"
Me: "Oh no. You should run them over basics 100% of the time. No reason not to.”
Friend: How does that work?"
Me: "Don't worry about it. I'm gonna go buy a Amonkhet Invocation Boil."
This conversation basically sums up snow lands. I'm definitely not the first to notice that snow basics are basically just better than regular basics; they act identically, so there's no downside to running snow basics, for random utility. Technically, Freyalise's Radiance exists, but considering that card is first time I've seen the phrase "0 decks" on EDHREC, and I reviewed freaking Veldt, I would guess it's not going to come up very often. In a purely logical world, it's always correct to run snow basics over regular.
Small problem with that: the snows lands are about a buck apiece. Not a lot, but considering you need between 10-30 basics for most decks, that's $10-$30 more for budget. They were even more, but Modern Horizons mitigated the price by making them slightly cheaper, and, indeed, snow lands more than doubled the number of decks they were in after Horizons was released. However, compare the $1 for snow basics to the price of regular basics, which are free, and will be free until the end of time. I could buy $30 worth of snow basics, or I could use regular basics and buy a Rhystic Study. Which improves the power level of my deck more in the long run?
Additionally, what's the upside for warping my mana? Well, I can abuse Extraplanar Lens, because Mountain and Snow-Covered Mountain have different names. Ok, spend $30 to make a $30 card better, not exactly appealing. What else? Scrying Sheets can draw me a card. Dead of Winter can Wrath the board. Sunstone and Glacial Crevasses can Fog people out of the game. These are all cute, but are they worth spending $30 on? Are they worth it a year or two from now when snow lands get up to +$2 a pop? Some people are annoyed that snow lands are better than basics, but having to hunt down the snow basics disincentivizes me from actually playing them.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: On power level: Underplayed. On actual amount of people playing snow basics when they could be putting that money towards something more useful: Overplayed
69: The Ally Pain Lands: 9,017 Decks
(Underground River: 14,933; Adarkar Wastes: 8,368; Sulfurous Springs: 8,201; Karplusan Forest: 6,952; Brushland: 6,634)
It’s kind of impressive how good these turned out to be, considering how early in Magic they were created. Most of the dual lands Wizards made pre-Ravnica were not great (see the exert lands), but the Ice Age pain lands were fine when they came out and are still great in Commander now. Early game, you can tap them once or twice for colored mana, and then late game, you probably have a bunch of colored mana, so these things don't need to hurt you anymore. They aren’t in the top tier of lands, but they are certainly some of the best budget-ish lands.
Yes, the -ish qualifier. Unfortunately, some of these haven't been reprinted in years, and even the ones that were reprinted are around $3. I'm generally kinder on these than something like the Panoramas, because these are a much better investment. Pain lands are playable until a deck becomes non-budget, and generally worth spending the few dollars for budget decks, but I would be overjoyed if these saw a reprint.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Reprint! Reprint! Reprint!
68: Kessig Wolf Run: 9,084 Decks
If you see this land, kill it dead. It will end you every time. You’ll be playing a game and have just stabilized the board against a Gruul deck. You feel pretty good about yourself, and now you finally have the breathing room to get your own value engine going, and then they play Kessig Wolf Run, and you die a little inside because, unless you find an answer to the Wolf Run, every creature they play has to die now or you just lose.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: I have many feelings toward this card, most of them bad.
67: Command Beacon: 9,290 Decks
“Oh, it goes in the land decks like Titania, Protector of Argoth.” While that's true, Command Beacon should be way more ubiquitous, and should be thought of on the same level as Homeward Path as one of the best colorless lands. This may surprise you, but there are Commander decks that don’t have green in them. If your commander costs four mana and is killed twice, that’s eight mana to redeploy it. Realistically, what else are you doing the turn you recast your commander? Izzet or Orzhov or the dreaded Boros often aren’t hitting their seventh or eighth land on time, and are gonna struggle to cast their eight-mana general again, let alone if it costs ten! Command Beacon solves that problem. If your commander has been killed twice, Command Beacon is like a sac land that gets you four mana. That’s insane.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: The price is what’s killing this land. I wish they had just printed this in all the precons or at least printed it more than once.
66: Academy Ruins: 9,378 Decks
I haven’t been a huge fan of 'top of library' cards like Volrath's Stronghold, so you would think that I wouldn't be a huge fan of Academy Ruins. As it turns out, I think Academy Ruins is probably one of the best lands an artifact deck can have. Part of the leg up is that artifacts are not as easy to return from the graveyard as creatures. Black is overflowing with Phyrexian Reclamation and Diabolic Servitude, so they don't need a clunky land to do this job for them. Artifacts have some recursion, like Sharuum the Hegemon, but the effect isn't as plentiful or efficient as it is for creatures, so in this case, Ruins is playing a necessary role.
Another part of it is the nature of the format. Creatures die to a lot of things. While it's nice to buy them back when they die, a Wrath or removal spell puts it straight back in the yard. Artifacts can be removed, but it's not as common, and artifact decks run buckets of protection, from Padeem, Consul of Innovation to Welding Jar. There is just a soul-crushing feeling when you finally dismantle an opponent's intricate board of Unwinding Clock and Darksteel Forge, and then they play Academy Ruins and they can do it all again.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: I didn't even mention Mindslaver loops.
65: Mortuary Mire: 9,507 Decks
I was beginning to think I was done with these Zendikar tap lands, but then Mortuary Mire comes to ruin my day. I was gonna buy a cake. It was going to have raspberries on it.
Okay, that's a little unfair. Mortuary Mire isn't the worst of the common taplands. If you have synergy with the top of your library, like Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire, then the card is excellent. If you have some sort of way to get the card back immediately, like Anje Falkenrath, then it's okay. However, if you're playing Torgaar, Famine Incarnate, and the plan is to put something on top to play next turn, it better be game-winning, because, you basically told opponents exactly what the next turn looks like, and you can't change your mind, because you know what you're drawing. When played with no additional synergy, it's just bad.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: I will remind you that Tower of the Magistrate was in a cool 500 decks and this land is in almost 10,000. I think that speaks for itself.
64: Karn’s Bastion: 9,533 Decks
I don't think I've quite made it clear how insane War of the Spark lands are doing on this list. Blast Zone and Emergence Zone each cracked the top 100. Karn's Bastion was in just under 1,000 lands when I started; now it's in almost 10,000. Compare these to other sets. Do you even remember which lands were in Ravnica Allegiance? Guildmages' Forum is boasting a paltry 2,350 decks. I think War of the Spark was a decent set.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Of course it was gonna see play. Atraxa, Praetor's Voice is one of the most popular commanders ever, and planeswalkers exist.
63: Alchemist's Refuge: 9,808 Decks
As I said with Emergence Zone, there are plenty of decks that want this effect, and it's pretty tough to think of a Simic deck that doesn't. Simic decks have tons of card draw, lots of answers that they want to deploy most effectively, and they have big game-ending threats that you’d like people not to respond to. Oh, and Seedborn Muse, which is basically a build-your-own Prophet of Kruphix. I think I'd potentially even play this over Vedalken Orrery for the super surprise factor.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: And with that, we say adieu to the Innistrad colorless utility lands.
62: Cabal Stronghold: 9,967 Decks
Wizards seems unwilling to print Cabal Coffers again, so they made one that’s much cheaper with a downside that doesn’t really matter because you can’t afford Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, either. The result? Bam! Instant mono-black staple. The worst thing you can say about Cabal Stronghold is that it’s not great with other utility lands, but budget mono-black decks will happily take that for a land that often taps for 10+ mana.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: It’s already in almost all the mono-black decks. What more do you want?
61: The Ally Bicycle Lands: 10,086 Decks
(Fetid Pools: 11,186; Irrigated Farmland:10,668; Scattered Groves: 10,003; Sheltered Thicket:9,471; Canyon Slough: 9,104)
These should in no way be a replacement for shock lands. Playing them in addition to shock lands, as targets for fetch lands? Sure. But playing these as your only dual lands with basic land types is not a good idea. The whole point of fetches isn't just to fix colors, but to provide consistent untapped mana. These are the opposite of that. And don’t even get me started on the slow fetches and tapped Cycling duals mana base. It’s bad.
Outside of that, it's cute that they can be grabbed with cards like Skyshroud Claim, but are these that much better than taplands? I have professed my love for Cycling lands many times, particularly as insurance against mana flood, but they live in an awkward spot. Non-budget decks probably don't want taplands unless they need extra shocks, and budget decks also don't want expensive taplands. I wouldn't recommend these for budget mana bases, I'd recommend other untapped duals. The pain lands, the check lands, even the Shadow lands and the Odyssey filter lands. These are what budget decks should be upgrading towards, not more tapped duals. If you own these already, there’s not downside to putting these in, but if you’re starting from scratch and were asking me what you should be buying to spice up the mana base a bit, these are very low on my list.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: And I’m saying that as a fan of Cycling lands and budget lands.
I Do Not Want to Ride My Bicycle
Well, I'm going to bed to rest off this cold. When I wake up, let me know what you think about these lands in the comments! Do you have a deck for Mortuary Mire? What's your opinion on the Bicycle lands? All these thoughts should be shared in the comments below! Till next week!