Too-Specific Top 10 - Mountains
(Mountain | Art by Douglas Shuler)
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 Dwarven Mine is the only Mountain that can get you a token?)
There's a new Valakut in town, and as such I felt it was time to check in on a fun idea I've had kicking around for a few years: Five-Color Mountains. The only question is, are there enough Mountains?
Top 10 Mountains
Honestly, this criteria might not quite meet up to the name of the series, but here we go:
Criteria: Cycles of lands that contain lands with the land type "Mountain" but are not, in fact, Mountain. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.
Why not Mountain? Well, simple, really: It's easily number one. By 700,000 inclusions, in fact:
(900,297 Inclusions, 89% of 1,008,529 Decks)
So, with that out of the way, what about the rest of the Mountains? How much play do they see? Are there enough that you can play a five-color deck with all lands having the type "Mountain"? Let's find out!
10. Madblind Mountain
(2,504 Inclusions, 0% of 1,008,529 Decks)
To answer the question, there are exactly ten kinds of Mountains, which is convenient for our purposes. What it also means is that we get the bottom of the barrel, and Madblind Mountain is that. Don't get me wrong, there are some niche uses for a random shuffle, such as decks like Melek, Izzet Paragon and Elsha of the Infinite that can cast cards off the top of their library. It also solves the age-old Brainstorm, Sylvan Library, and Sensei's Divining Top problems in the same vein as fetch lands, but repeatable. Overall, however, most times you're looking to stack the top of your deck, not randomize it again.
9. Fetchable Tap Lands
I challenged both the staff of EDHREC and of our sister site, Commander's Herald, to come up with a more catchy name for these basic-land-typed tap lands, and no one came up with anything even a little bit snappy. The old stalwart that usually takes care of these things, MTGlands.com, also seems to have stopped updating, so if we could get a moment of silence while we attempt to think of something better to call these, please.
Taptypes? Proxy duals? I dunno, you tell me in the comments.
As for the lands themselves, the newest cycle of dual lands featuring basic land types are easily the worst cards to ever fit that description... but they do fit that description.
8. Dwarven Mine
(18,740 Inclusions, 2% of 1,008,529 Decks)
It might not be searchable as a single-mana ramp spell with Green Sun's Zenith, but it's still hard not to compare Dwarven Mine to Dryad Arbor. Probably the better comparison is Khalni Garden, only it can be better in mono-red decks both because it comes into play untapped and makes a 1/1 rather than a 0/1.
Of course, I might have to drop the "mono-red" part of that description, giving the monstrosity we're trying to construct here.
7. Cycling Duals
They're slow, they've almost entirely seen their playability get wiped out by the Triome cycle, but they do nonetheless draw you a card when you're land flooded. There's no question the Cycling Duals are rapidly falling out of favor, but they do still fit a few niches that are worth talking about.
First off, in dedicated Cycling decks, they can be preferable to Triomes simply because they Cycle for free with Fluctuator, which also just happens to be the cheapest effect that allows you to Cycle for free. The difference between Cycling for zero and Cycling for one cannot be overestimated. It's literally one to infinity better.
Secondly, and more simply, there are a lot of decks that can't play Triomes. In two-color decks, the Cycling Duals remain king by default (at least for us plebes that still believe in playing lands that enter the battlefield tapped).
6. Snow Duals
As we continue down our trek of lands that feel like they were specifically printed to make the Slowtype Duals feel bad, we now hit the Snow Duals. I must admit, as a "slow down and smell the taplands" type of player, I'm a huge fan of the Snow Duals. They're the only snow lands ever printed that don't feel overpowered, yet have a solid use-case. Are you in a deck that happens to have wanted snow lands for some reason (read: Arcum's Astrolabe)? Are you playing more than one color? Congratulations, you probably want to consider the Snow Duals.
5. True Duals
Unless, of course, you're playing at an entirely different level, and you're including snow lands in your deck simply to make sure that you don't get tripped up while resolving a Tainted Pact. In that case, you're probably playing these instead, or maybe playing a set of United Type Duals with sharpie over their "enters the battlefield tapped" text (you know, "Proxy Duals" really is starting to grow on me).
The original dual lands. Printed in Alpha, almost immediately recognized as some of the best cards in the game while people were simultaneously doubting the Moxen, and notorious for fetching a high price since almost the same time period. They will never be printed again, and for good reason. Commander was created to be the format where you could play all your old cards from way back when that didn't immediately break everything they touch, and True Duals fit the bill. For most decks, these thousand-dollar additions won't really do anything that raises your power level. Sure, in four- or five-color decks, they can make your life total a little bit higher without you Shocking yourself, or make you a little bit faster if you happen to need two Tundras for your specific hand. Overall, though, no deck needs dual lands.
Well, except maybe Five-Color Mountains.
4. Snow-Covered Mountain
(68,883 Inclusions, 7% of 1,008,529 Decks)
"Strictly better" is a phrase that gets many a Magic writer in hot water, so let me acknowledge the existence of Icequake.
Now, these "strictly better" basic lands have been contentious over the years, but they've also proven to be an "advantage" more on the level of dual lands in the Commander format. Sure, they let you play Arcum's Astrolabe and kill people's commanders with Skred, but even when you're abusing Extraplanar Lens, it all feels pretty fair at the average table. Even in cEDH, all snow lands are really doing is giving you an extra basic land with a different name to ensure you can resolve your Tainted Pact while not getting totally screwed over by a From the Ashes. (Yes, that sees play in cEDH now. I know, I'm excited about it too!)
In short, snow lands are one of the most broken things ever printed. They're also probably fine. I play a few here and there, and you probably do too now that they don't cost five bucks apiece.
Not since the Bounce Lands unexpectedly broke into Standard have we seen tap lands have anywhere near the effect that Triomes have. It turns out, three land types and three colors is just a lot better than two. It's one better, in fact. For many decks with struggling mana bases, or for the brewer with a desire to not really have to be worrying about it all the time, that means the Triomes are a gift sent from heaven. Throw in the fact that they can be fetched (you know, like everything on this list), and you've got a heck of a deal.
2. Battle Lands
I love that the Battle Lands are way up here at #2, because there's only one reason on Earth for it: their price. All five of the lands in the cycle, including the two Mountains, are under a dollar, and most are getting to be more like a quarter now, and for the most part, they either come into play tapped early enough that it's not a huge deal, or they come down on turns four or five untapped as you've already played a few basic Mountains. If I could use one word to describe the Battle Lands, it would be "serviceable". They're not going to blow anyone away with their efficiency, but they come into play untapped often enough in two-color decks to do the job, and being able to fetch them is just a bonus.
1. Shock Lands
As usual, cash is king. You might be able to proxy the Shock Lands with crisp $20 bills folded into a sleeve (and I've been tempted to do just that, let me tell you), but there's also no question that they're by far the most efficient duals outside of the hard-to-obtain originals. Two life is just not enough to really even care about when you plop them down untapped, enough so that I've found myself laying down a Steam Vents untapped on more than one occasion just to bluff that I have a Swan Song or a Red Elemental Blast, and if you've already spent the money for the Shocks, most folks will go right on and spend the cash for the fetches as well, giving you a nice Lightning Bolt to the face for perfect mana.
It's not usually my bag, but I do get it.
I get it so much that I built a deck where you have to do it routinely. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present: Five-Color Mountains.
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As mentioned before, this has been an idea kicking around in my head for probably a decade, and I'm beyond excited to have actually brewed it. The steady influx of various duals has finally made it possible, even if only with some proxies or your entire bank account. As for the deck, it looks like it's gonna be an absolute blast to play, although the amount of shuffling involved is going to be a chore!
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?
Probably for good reason, there's not really another land-based effect that's quite as game-ending as Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. There are, however, quite a few effects that care about types of lands, so there's definitely room to play. With that in mind:
Finally, what is your favorite Mountain? Have you ever tried to build a multi-color deck that looked for a critical mass of a certain basic land type?
Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the red table with some rainbow filigree.