Too-Specific Top 10 - Lands and Taxes
(Archaeomancer's Map | Art by Ovidio Cartagena)
All Things Being Equal...
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 Oath of Lieges is the only card that lets other players search for lands based on the number of lands their opponents control?)
With the release and subsequent hype of Archaeomancer's Map, I've once again found an excuse to talk about white in Commander. Didn't I do that just last week, you ask? And also didn't I do that for what feels like about 30 times before that? To answer your first question, yes, and I don't apologize for it. White is on everyone's brain right now, and it darn well should be with all the good stuff we're finally getting. To answer your second question, I've actually only done two white-exclusive top ten lists, and this one will technically allow all five colors!
Land Tax Effects
Archaeomancer's Map is the best Land Tax since Land Tax, but that seems a bit too narrow. Don't get me wrong, I love a good Tithe as much as the next guy with $50 laying around (Pro Tip: the gold-bordered version is only seven), but what if we took the "Land" out of "Land Tax" and just rolled with the larger category?
Criteria: Cards that check on how many of a specific resource another player controls in relation to you as a condition of an effect. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.
Don't worry, I hear you screaming at your screen about how that criteria specifically excludes Smothering Tithe. And I don't care, because Rhystic Study effects are annoying in gameplay. On with the list!
10. Gift of Estates
(2,665 Inclusions, 1% of 231,620 Decks)
Two mana to draw three cards isn't exactly Ancestral Recall, but it's still a better rate than you're going to find anywhere else without some caveats. Of course, that's not entirely fair, because Gift of Estates does come with some caveats. But honestly, if you're playing a bunch of these effects, you're already making things more "equal" for yourself with the Karoos, bounce lands, and Scorched Ruins of the world. And even if you aren't, you have a three-in-four chance of not going first, which doesn't even take into account the likelihood of having a ramp deck at the table (high).
In other words, a lot of folks are sleeping on this card. It's card advantage in white before it was trendy. It's rare that you have problems casting it, and it can go get dual lands, Mistveil Plains, and Idyllic Grange. It's not a sexy pick, but it guarantees land drops and smooths out gameplay. Asking for more than that is just a tad bit greedy, if you ask me.
9. Boreas Charger
(3,092 Inclusions, 1% of 231,620 Decks)
Long-time fans (or clickers of the mono-white articles I linked above) may be aware of my Pegasus Tribal deck that went off the rails trying to ensure that Pegasus Stampede was a relevant card and became a mono-white Lands Matter deck. It's featured Boreas Charger since day one, but honestly would have even if the theme was Horses instead. In similar fashion to Gift of Estates, this can grab you multiple Plains in a perfect world, although you'll probably average closer to two than three in most games. This is made up for by one of them coming straight into play, not to mention the relevant 2/1 flying body that can get in significant chip damage over a full game. In short, Boreas Charger has a slot in many a mono-white and Boros deck looking to get off the ground (pun intended) a little bit faster, and probably will for quite some time even with the incoming flood of white ramp/card advantage cards we're supposed to be seeing this year.
And for those interested, yes, I have been updating my Pegasi list as these new mono-white card advantage/ramp cards come out, although the only new Pegasus we've gotten in the last year has been Starnheim Courser.
Pegasi!View on Archidekt
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8. Isolated Watchtower
(3,668 Inclusions, 1% of 504,950 Decks)
As a bit of a mono-color connoisseur, Terrain Generator has always been a favorite. In the three years since Isolated Watchtower came into being, I've been adding it in right alongside. With the cost of entry being so low for utility lands, and with the scry portion of the ability, it's hard to argue that there are better ways to spend three mana when your hand gets a little low. Two lands more is a bit of a steep cost, but it's still a fairly low bar if you're built to keep your land count low or there is a ramp deck at the table. Honestly, the biggest issue that Isolated Watchtower has is that fewer and fewer players are making the effort to keep a lot of basic lands in the deck, hence the "mono-color" approach to my statement.
7. Verge Rangers
(4,134 Inclusions, 3% of 137,215 Decks)
Verge Rangers doesn't quite live up to being a white Courser of Kruphix, but it's a bit better in other areas at the same time. Whereas Courser reveals every card you draw, Verge Rangers lets you simply look instead of revealing. Add to that a bit of first strike and a more aggressive body that doesn't also die to enchantment removal, and the comparison doesn't seem all that bad!
6. Sandstone Oracle
(4,314 Inclusions, 1% of 504,950 Decks)
And here we have it, the only non-land-based card in our tax list! Sandstone Oracle doesn't immediately leap off the page as a powerhouse, given its seven-mana casting cost, but blink and Sneak Attack decks have long loved this effect to constantly refill their hand. After all, there's always a blue player out there somewhere with seven to twenty cards stacked up, so why not join them?
5. Oreskos Explorer
(4,374 Inclusions, 2% of 231,620 Decks)
I've always been a bit confused by people who didn't like Oreskos Explorer just because it puts lands into your hand rather than onto the battlefield. It's a two-mana 2/2 that has the chance to draw you multiple cards upon entering the battlefield. Sure, those cards will be lands, but it's not like you don't need those in a game of Commander. In fact, they're more important than ever in this format, so why is it that people enthusiastically play Elvish Visionary, Wall of Blossoms, Wall of Omens, Dusk Legion Zealot, and Phyrexian Rager, then complain when it comes to this Scout Cat? Sure, you may not get two or three Plains every time, but when was the last time as a white deck that you didn't have at least one opponent that had more lands than you? And even if they don't, is playing a bear just because you have it even that bad? Because that's literally the worst case scenario here.
4. Keeper of the Accord
(5,425 Inclusions, 9% of 63,630 Decks)
That's right. It's only been five months since the release of Keeper of the Accord and Commander Legends, and it's already the fourth most played Land Tax effect in the game. It's also the only card that could have made this list twice, as it not only cares about ramping you on every single land-rich opponent's turn, but also does the same when it comes to creatures! It's not uncommon to see this thing go absolutely nuts in a game of Commander even when the owner's deck isn't built around "lowering" their land count, but when it is it's an absolute must-remove. If you don't, the greedy Lotus Vale player can end up with multitudes more mana than the ramp deck, all while using their sac utility lands, like Scavenger Grounds, Strip Mine, Dust Bowl, Emergence Zone, and Cryptic Caves, at will because they know they'll get the mana back as soon as you pass the turn.
If there's any card out there that has shown the "white can't get ahead while playing from behind" folks exactly how wrong they are, it's Keeper of the Accord, and I feel so strongly about that that I would be willing to get the Land Tax guy tattooed on me if Keeper of the Accord doesn't overtake it in the next year.
Mark your calendars.
3. Weathered Wayfarer
(7,256 Inclusions, 3% of 231,620 Decks)
While it's not quite doing Crop Rotation numbers, there's no question that Weathered Wayfarer's ability to search for any land is extremely powerful. The Land Tax drawback rarely stops you from tutoring for the specific land you need, which really makes me wonder why this card isn't even on the Maze's End page or the Marit Lage page?
2. Knight of the White Orchid
(15,001 Inclusions, 6% of 231,620 Decks)
One thing I can agree with when it comes to the mob at large: putting a single Plains into play with your 2/2 for two is probably better than drawing between one and three Plains with your 2/2 for two. Mana restrictions might keep things a bit tighter with Knight of the White Orchid, but it does absolutely deserve to be ahead of Oreskos Explorer in the general deck. Blinking or recurring it can rapidly catch you up to the ramp deck, the first strike is relevant in the sneaky way that first strike often is, and the art is absolutely killer. I mean, the dude is in full plate, riding a lion in full plate. How could you not root for that?
1. Land Tax
(21,802 Inclusions, 9% of 231,620 Decks)
For two weeks in a row now, the white card that's been at the top has not been a mystery. I'd feel bad about that, but you really can't when it comes to certain criteria. There's always going to be a card at the top of the heap, and for Land Tax effects, that turns out to rather obviously be Land Tax. Despite the still ludicrous pricetag, there's really not a better option for cheaply filling your hand every turn or consistently hitting your land drops forever, even outside of white. Land Tax is the definition of a card that would never be printed today. As such, it will be interesting to see what the year of white brings us that can compete. While I am of the opinion that there are many decks that will want to cut Land Tax for Keeper of the Accord (along with just playing both), it's hard to imagine too many cards that can be safely designed that fit anywhere close to that description.
It's a nice change of pace to see that an imminently playable card rounds out the top ten when it comes to Land Tax effects, and I only see things getting more competitive from here as Archaeomancer's Map joins the fray along with what we can only assume will be many other contenders in sets later this year. That does not mean, however, that there are not several other cards that met our criteria, both in the vein of Land Tax and just plain old Tax!
Whether you wanted it to be or not, your opinion on Cartographer's Hawk instantly became a hot take. For myself, I don't play it in anything at this point, although I have been tempted in my aggro Boros deck, as it's both an aggressive body and a ramp effect in one. With that said, it's just not a clean fit, and I feel like that's the non-hot-take for this little bird: it could be fine in the right deck, but the right deck is hard to find.
Tithe should absolutely be higher up on this list, but the Reserved List is what it is. Still, if you can afford it in either black or gold-border, it's an instant speed cantrip for any Plains no matter what, and a one-mana draw two if you do happen to have not gone first. That's pretty darn good no matter how you swing it, even if it might not be worth a full $50.
13. Voice of Many
I'm not sure that I would call Voice of Many a color pie break or even a bend, but man does it sting to see what life could be like if you weren't a white mage. Four mana for a 3/3 body and a couple of cards is a pretty good deal, even before you get into recursion and blink strategies. If you're playing an Emiel the Blessed deck now that Jumpstart prices are finally starting to come down, then you should definitely be taking a look at this thing, as it's not too hard for a blink deck to create a situation where they have "fewer" creatures than the rest of the table. Ditto for our number-14 card, Garruk, Unleashed.
15. Oath of Lieges
For those not aware, there was an entire cycle of "Oath" cards in Exodus, long before the Guildwatch "Oath" cards we've now come to know and tolerate. Unlike those planeswalker-specific cards, the original Oath cycle was all about the exact tax effect we've been listing about today.
And aside from the much-memed-before-meme-was-a-word Oath of Mages, the cycle is actually pretty darn solid. Oath of Lieges is surprisingly the most popular of the bunch, and is, I believe, the most fun card out there that constantly has an entire table shuffling. Whether it's just following the turn order or helping out the mana-screwed among us, it's usually a bit of a riot for everyone involved, while only you have actually planned around it. And if that's not a recipe for some one-sided symmetry, then I don't know what is.
Nuts and Bolts
There always seems to be a bit of interest in how these lists are made (this seems like a good time to stress once again that they are based on EDHREC score, NOT my personal opinion), and people are often surprised that I’m not using any special data or .json from EDHREC, but rather just muddling my way through with some Scryfall knowledge! For your enjoyment/research, here is this week’s Scryfall search.
What Do You Think?
With all this talk of taxing in the year of white, I can't help but wonder if we should be expanding the definition somewhat as far as the color pie is concerned...
And finally, what are your favorite tax effects, Land Tax-wise or more generally? Do you play some of the original Oath cycle that's all based in this idea, or some more obscure cards that didn't quite make the list? Are you going to pay the already ludicrous prices for Archaeomancer's Map, or hope that more good white ramp goodies come down the pipeline soon?
Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the table you have to pay to play at, because the owner says so.
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