Too-Specific Top 10 - Fire and Blood
(Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle | Art by Kieran Yanner)
Seeing Red Again
Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know that Last Stand is the only five-color spell with the means to kill a problem creature?)
Last time, we delved into cards that care about how many swamps you play. Those are obviously the best of the basic-land-bunch when it comes to synergy with your mana sources, but that doesn't mean they're the only options. With five colors of mana, each of them has dipped into the "cares about basic lands" pot once or twice, and I'm not talking about Domain. Prismatic Geoscope ain't got nothin' on Mind Sludge. Enough about swamps already, let's take a look at the next land type down the line!
Top 10 Cards That Care About Mountains
That's right, this week it's all about our favorite gobbo homes, the mountains of Magic: the Gathering! Well, maybe not the Mountains themselves.... A quick search of all the cards mentioning Mountains has you scrolling for almost a full page before you even see a nonland card, actually, so lets do what we did last time and eliminate the lands completely from this equation. As much respect as I have for Dragonskull Summit, it's not worth drudging through every fetch land only to find out what we already knew: Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle is the best card that cares about how many Mountains you play.
So, with the lands out of the way, what exactly are we looking for? Well, let's just copy-paste it over from last week, shall we?
Nonland cards that care about the number of
S wampsMountains either you or other players control, or that otherwise trigger when a SwampMountain is tapped or enters the battlefield. As is tradition, all results are ordered by how many decks they are included in on EDHREC.
While there may be some merit to changing it up as we go down the list of basic land types, for this list specifically I think we'll keep it with similar wording to avoid a double-dipping of Blood Moon effects topping our list.
Everyone pretty much knows the scoop with these two. They're great, and if you play them, tables will hate you, so let's skip them this time around, too.
That said, there's a class of card that is specifically relevant to red that enhances effects based on if a Mountain is involved, so let's add a caveat to last week's criteria:
Criteria: Nonland cards that care about the number of Mountains either you or other players control, or that otherwise trigger when a Mountain is tapped, enters the battlefield, or is utilized as a condition of an effect. As is tradition, all results are ordered by how many decks they are included in on EDHREC.
I was really struggling to judge whether or not Downhill Charge and its "sort of cares about Mountains question mark" Fireblast-style alternate casting cost qualified under our new criteria. Luckily, the second half of the card saves us from having to think too hard about it. Notably, this is also Downhill Charge's second appearance on Too-Specific Top 10, also having made the list at number four on the very first list of the series: "Top 10 Free Spells That Aren't Blue". As for the card itself, it's a solid inclusion in any mostly red build that cares about boosting a Voltron commander's power, which is actually some pretty busy space as of the last couple years. Feather, the Redeemed and Greven, Predator Captain specifically both really like what this card can do, especially at the free cost with instant speed.
I didn't expect to see a card that cares about Mountains but which isn't itself red to show up this early in the list. In similar fashion to Gauntlet of Might, Keeper of Progenitus doubles mana based on basic land types, only it only cares about Naya colors. If you're in a combination of those colors that includes green, however, there's no doubt that being able to double your mana across mana types is a powerful effect, even if there are a lot of options for doing so already in green.
Speaking of pricetags, it's no mystery why Gauntlet of Might isn't a little further up on this list. Being on the Reserved List and being a mana doubler in a color that doesn't really have tons of access to that effect, it has ballooned up and up until it's gotten to the point that only the most monocled among us can afford a copy.
All that said, it's hard to argue that this isn't the most potent version of this effect out there. While Extraplanar Lens is cheaper, it also requires that you exile a Mountain to work, and doesn't give creatures the +1/+1 that Gauntlet of Might does. Gauntlet of Power, on the other hand, is a more flexible version of this effect that works for any color, but costs an additional mana. Given that its alternative is $200 cheaper, that many have chosen to follow the path that's easier on the pocketbook, but if you can afford it and you're in red, Gauntlet of Might is definitely the better option.
While it's not nearly as flashy as Omnath, Locus of Rage, being able to hit any target for two damage every time you play a land is still a pretty sweet deal. Landfall isn't an easy strategy to pull off in mono-red, although this still isn't terrible in Gruul. More often, you're going to see Akoum Hellkite as a backup copy of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. Given that it's also a hundredth the price, it's a wonder we don't see it in a few more decks.
Once a mighty powerhouse of mono-red decks, Goblin Charbelcher has since become a casualty of the desperate need to cut mana costs in our Commander decks. While you still see it in the odd Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient deck to try to copy the ability and make it more worth the four-mana casting cost and three-mana activation cost, it's difficult to see a grand niche for this old finisher to fill unless you have a means to stack your deck. Luckily, sometimes Fblthp, the Lost and Proteus Staff need a few backup win conditions, or just want to get a little bit more creative than Laboratory Maniac.
Can we just pause for a second and admire this art?
Thank you, Wayne Reynolds. This is amazing.
All right, now that that's out of the way, we can talk about sacrificing half the lands you control to turn them into Goblins. While in the early game two Mountains is a lot, in the late game it might be just enough to push through with a Purphoros, God of the Forge for the win. The real question is whether you should be playing him as the commander of this hypothetical Goblin deck, or if you stick with everyone's favorite Goblin-with-his-tongue-out.
While we're all trying to keep our mana bases a bit more realistic these days, it's still hard to see Spawn of Thraxes out there in the world and not slide it into each and every one of our mono-red decks. While seven mana is a lot, this often just says "destroy target player" in the late game, and in the meantime will usually kill the biggest threat at the table. It's debatable as to whether or not that's actually worth it for the pricetag when it comes to red decks at large, but if you do manage to find a deck that already cares about enter-the-battlefield triggers, like, say, Ilharg, the Raze-Boar, well....
It's a testament to how many good cares-about-swamps cards there are that we didn't run into this problem last week. For those of you not in the know, Eventide had a cycle of Hedge-Mages that cared about basic land types in their hybrid mana identity. While they do all qualify per our criteria, it feels like a bit of a technicality considering that they only check for two of each basic land type, instead of caring about your total of the specific land. There are two of them that are partially black and therefore care about Swamps: Gwyllion Hedge-Mage and Hag Hedge-Mage. Neither were good enough to be even close to making the list last week.
That said, the quality of Swamp options isn't the whole story. Paying Reclamation Sage mana to destroy not just an artifact or an enchantment but an artifact and an enchantment is pretty darn good, as it turns out. Duergar Hedge-Mage with a few dual lands or a heavy dedication to your basics (perhaps via Land Tax, Tithe, or Gift of Estates) is some of the best card advantage available in Boros, albeit not in the form of direct card draw that we're more used to in blue. And green. And black. Oof, no wonder the numbers don't actually root for the underdog.
In mono-red, mana ramp can be hard to find, so a four-mana planeswalker that can act as both a mana dork and a Seething Song is a hell of a get. Koth of the Hammer is at home in anything playing a fair amount of Mountains, whether it be to +1 him to get an extra mana, +1 him to swing in for some aggro, -2 him to get a boatload of mana in one go, or just to try and get him up to five loyalty so you can ping the entire table to death for the rest of the game. While mono-red is preferred, he can certainly spice up a dual-colored deck as well, provided you haven't gone nuts with the non-basics. Which you shouldn't; people play Magus of the Moon for a reason, you know. (That reason, by the way, is to get hated by friends even though it's kind of their fault for being greedy with their $600 mana bases.)
If you've got a way to get cards in the graveyard and you play creatures, then Anger is probably already in your deck. While it might not make the cut in four- or five-color decks, in anything less than that, it isn't difficult to meet the Mountain requirement. Giving all of your creatures haste is extremely powerful: whether it's swinging in for damage, or just making sure that Etali, Primal Storm gets to do some actual work before it dies, there are just so many reasons that giving your entire board haste can change the whole dynamic of the game. My favorite? Well, I have been known to sneak a Heartless Hidetsugu into my decks from time to time.
While there are certainly a lot of other cards that met the qualifications, the only one that made me sad to see fail to make the list was the Theros powerhouse known as Chained to the Rocks. It comes in at number 12 on the list, behind Firecat Blitz, and is still a card I try to sneak into every deck that can play it. I honestly believe that the cheap price of Swords to Plowshares is the only reason this is not further up the list, and that it still should be given how good it is in the few Enchantress decks that share Boros colors.
All that said, hopefully someday this beautiful piece of design will have its day. You know, outside of the 181 Tiana, Ship's Caretaker decks that exist.
What Do You Think?
We tried out a new reverse numbering format today, what did you think of it?
And finally, what are your favorite cards that care about Mountains? I'd give you a few examples of mine, but I feel like I've been a bit too public about my love of Chained to the Rocks to now dive into my love for Genju of the Spires. So instead, you tell me: what did I miss? What's your secret tech when it comes to mono-red? Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the table at the top.