Ranking Every Land with EDHREC – Part 30: Recycle, Recycle
(Maze of Ith | Art by Yeong-Hao Han)
I hadn't played Magic in a couple weeks, so I went to jam some Commander this week, and you know what?
Magic is awesome.
I sometimes feel the need to just restate this. Here I am ranking every land based on how many decks they have on EDHREC, but beyond my spreadsheets is an actual game you can play, and it's consistently great, and I sometimes forget how great it is. This isn't news, but it's nice to stop and appreciate it every so often: Magic is awesome!
50: The Guildgates: 12,489 Decks
(Izzet Guildgate: 14,685; Orzhov Guildgate: 13,117; Simic Guildgate: 13,774; Dimir Guildgate: 12,880; Golgari Guildgate: 12,862; Boros Guildgate: 12,162 Azorius Guildgate: 12,080; Rakdos Guildgate: 11,828; Selsenya Guildgate: 11,590; Gruul Guildgate: 9,913)
The last couple times we talked about common taplands, there were some people surprised they were ranking so high. Clearly these are not even within the top 100 best lands, let alone being above stuff like the OG dual lands. What data like this reveals is not only how many people own these (they come in just about every precon), but also how much of a market there is for them. There's clearly a ton of people that are building decks with whatever cards they own, or within some sort of budgetary guidelines, and it's more than can be seen from most local game stores. Don't let the hidden crown of kitchen table EDH players escape your notice. Data shows they're very clearly out there.
Of course, there is a tiny bit more to say on the Guildgates as opposed to the starter deck lands: that Gate subtype. Not really going to matter unless you build around it, and the payoffs aren’t great, save for two cards: Circuitous Route for being able to fix for multiple colors of mana like a bootleg Skyshroud Claim, and Maze's End! As mentioned before, if you happen to be running all ten Guildgates, this can slot right in!
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: More Maze’s End decks!
49: Geier Reach Sanitarium: 12,527 Decks
The obvious comparison is to Mikokoro, Center of the Sea, although I actually think this is better than Mikokoro. Sanitarium can do everything Mikokoro can do. It's still a way to help other players find answers for problematic permanents, and it's a draw trigger for cards like Nekusar, the Mindrazer. In addition, it’s also a discard trigger. Olivia, Mobilized for War will love being able to loot synergistic cards away. Plus, making everyone discard can just be gross. Narset, Parter of Veils makes this almost Syphon Mind. Notion Thief literally makes it a Syphon Mind. Nath of the Gilt-Leaf, Waste Not, Megrim... there's just tons of cute things this can do. Even with no synergies at all, it's definitely worth it to run this land in decks that lack consistent forms of card advantage, and it's a buck to boot.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: I hate that this is Innistrad-themed because it limits reprint possibilities, but hopefully they can keep it cheap.
48: Homeward Path: 12,953 Decks
When building decks, I like to put them through a simple test: imagine someone plays a turn one Nevermore, naming someone's commander. What does that deck do now? Sometimes the answer is that it's annoying, but it doesn't affect the primary gameplan, like in a Tasigur, the Golden Fang deck. Sometimes it means the deck needs to switch gears and play differently, like a Kaalia of the Vast deck that starts trying to cast those big scary monsters instead of cheat them into play
But sometimes the only answer is get rid of Nevermore. Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer could theoretically win via derpy Inferno Titan beats, but in practice, without Brudiclad, you're just making a bunch of 1/1s. These types of decks have to run Homeward Path, because if your commander ever gets stolen, that might be the entire plan of the deck down the drain, just like with a Nevermore. Stealing permanents with cards like Mind Control or Bribery does happen occasionally, but it’s not super consistent unless the meta is built around that. Homeward Path is generally not worth it for that alone, but if your gameplan requires your commander, or even some specific creature like Stuffy Doll, Homeward Path becomes critical for keeping that creature on your side of the board.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: I don't think it's worth running in more goodstuff style decks, but it’s a card you will be glad to have when you need it.
47: The Khans gain lands: 13,266 Decks
(Swiftwater Cliffs: 15,884; Scoured Barrens: 15,33; Dismal Backwater: 14,712; Thornwood Falls: 14663; Jungle Hollow: 13,817; Tranquil Cove: 13,470; Wind Scarred Crag: 12,295;Bloodfell Caves: 11,991; Blossoming Sands: 11,428; Rugged Highlands: 9,074)
The last of the common taplands, and honestly, I feel like these don't get enough respect. If you wanted very cheap vanilla dual land before 2013, you didn't have a ton of options. Ally colors had a few (the Eighth edition taplands and the snow duals), but it's not like new players were opening tons of packs of Coldsnap, so they weren't super accessible. For enemy colors, there was the bouncelands and then... nothing. There was no easy cycle of mana-fixing that people had access to, so the dreaded all-basic mana base was very common.
Now we have a cornucopia of cheap lands reprinted every few sets for new players to build decks with. You wanna play Commander? Get some of these and put them in your deck. They probably won't stay there, but hey, it's not fun getting color screwed.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: More options is never a bad thing.
46: Maze of Ith: 14,061 Decks
We have a lot of fun here on this series, but it's time for a serious chat. Maze of Ith is an excellent card. It's kept many people alive in clutch moments during intense games, but there's a very real downside that we need to discuss
Maze of Ith isn't free. It’s “free” in the sense that it costs no mana, but it arguably does something worse: it prevents you from developing your resources. Putting Maze in your deck is more than just the possibility of seeing it in your opening hand. Playing Maze means effectively missing your land drop. When mana production is king, and being able to play multiple cards a turn is how games are won, missing that land drop can have long-term effects. Even in the late game, there're a lot of decks that need to cast six or seven spells a turn, which means missing that one mana can matter.
I sometimes wonder how many decks would benefit from trading Maze out for Kor Haven. Haven is mono-white, which means some decks don't have the option to play Haven. Plus, in decks that don't want to flood out (like Boros or Selesnya), Maze is almost certainly better, but Haven making mana is much better for slower decks. You don't want to activate Maze early, anyway, so for late-game decks that need to be mana-efficient like Pillowfort or Control, I think Maze is actually hurting those decks more than helping.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Maze of Ith is an excellent card, but I think there are decks that should really evaluate if they need it or want it.
45: The Temples: 14,173 Decks
(Temple of Mystery: 18,764; Temple of Silence: 15,864; Temple of Deceit: 15,761; Temple of Triumph: 14,544; Temple of Epiphany: 15,375; Temple of Malady: 13,876; Temple of Enlightenment: 12,732; Temple of Abandon: 11,940; Temple of Plenty: 11,623; Temple of Malice: 11,258)
Fresh off some Standard reprints, the Temples! I hear a lot about how these are great budget lands, and while I kinda get it, they're still $2. That’s budget if you can build a $200 deck; it’s not budget for a deck that's $50.
How much better are these than the Khans gainlands? Better certainly, but they're still a taplands with a small bonus. Similar to the Amonkhet Bicycle lands, it's not that these are bad, it's that they aren't nearly as good as Checklands or Painlands, but also floating around the price point where I'm not thrilled about buying them. To be fair, some of these are dipping under a dollar, and I'd say at that point, they probably are worth getting. Anything more, and I'd say skip it.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Spend your money on lands like the pain lands or even the Shadow lands.
44: Thespian's Stage: 14,348 Decks
I was pleasantly surprised how many decks are playing Thespian’s Stage. I assumed people played it just to combo with Dark Depths, but Stage can be a perfectly playable land on its own. At its worst, it's a color-fixing land. I’ve sometimes just used it to copy a Hallowed Fountain just to cast my spells. It’s not good, but it’s a thing you can do, and then late-game it becomes a copy of the best land in play. Stage can clone a derpy land early and then be a second Cabal Coffers later, or an opponents' Mirrorpool, or a Reliquary Tower. It almost never does nothing, and any deck that wants to make a lot of mana loves this card, even if they don’t have a lot of lands they want to clone in their own deck.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: They acted so well, they brought an Eldritch horror back. Truly the role they were born to play.
43: Halimar Depths: 15,240 Decks
I would not have guessed Halimar Depths was anywhere near this high, and normally I can come to some sort of reason why that's the case. It’s okay if you care about the top of your library, like Aminatou, the Fateshifter, but no one plays Index. We all basically understand that looking at your top five cards does basically nothing and is not worth the card. So why are decks with no top-of-the-library synergies, like Sun Quan, Lord of Wu, running this card? You can't get rid of any bad cards on top of the library, so this card just shows you how screwed you are. I'm honestly curious why this card is seeing so much play. It seems subpar in most decks.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Soldevi Excavation, Ipnu Rivulet, Cephalid Coliseum; those all deserve some of this card's action.
42: Unclaimed Territory: 15,242 Decks
They got tired of making a Sliver Hive and an Ally Encampment for every single tribe and just said, “Here's a Cavern of Souls that's not a million dollars.” Uncounterable is not the main reason you play Cavern in Commander, anyway. It's free fixing for creatures that can go in any deck, and it's one of the first you add. The only place it can be kinda awkward is in a tribe that runs a lot of support cards like Wizards or Angels. I never quite figured out if this belonged in Inalla, Archmage Ritualist or not.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: How long before they need to print a cheaper, worse version of this, that has you name a creature type but only taps for colorless?
41: The Onslaught Cycling lands
(Barren Moor: 18,879; Tranquil Thicket: 16,039; Forgotten Cave: 15,366; Lonely Sandbar: 14,107; Secluded Steppe: 12,159)
I have an unhealthy love for these. There is a real downside to an opening hand with one of these lands in it. Having these when you really need an untapped land gives you the terrible idea that maybe you can Cycle it into an untapped land. Learn from my mistakes: don't do that.
Despite the downside, these things are just all value. See, the difference between this and something like Memorial to Genius is that you don’t have to play the Cycling land to draw a card, and it only cost one mana. It's a way better topdeck, and if you draw a good card, you'll have more mana to be able to cast it that turn.
Plus, these things have so much random synergy. Land decks like The Gitrog Monster love them. Draw decks like Niv Mizzet, Parun love them. Top-of-the-library-matters decks like Yennet, Cryptic Sovereign love them. And of course, they're the backbone of all the Cycling decks. Zur, the Enchanter basically gets three free Cycling cards that actually do a thing.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: I won't say that they are playable in any deck, but I certainly will be testing that hypothesis.
Cycling Lands in Maralen of the Mornsong?
Hey, guess what? Magic is still awesome, and some of these lands are, too! What's your verdict on Maze of Ith? Are you a fan of the Cycling lands? Let me know what you think in the comments below. Until the next one!