Monday, March 24, 2014

A Look at Dual Lands

Consider for a moment the variety of dual lands... You have THE dual lands, shocklands, scry lands, pain lands, check/tap lands, gates, karoo lands, filter lands and so on... You basically get the point. But how do they stack up against each other? Are any of them truly better than others? What makes one better than the others? Let's take a look...

So let's take a look at the comparisons of all of them:

Vintage, Legacy, Commander
  • Considered the original dual lands.
  • Have both basic land types like the Shocklands
  • Always entered untapped
  • Considered to be the best dual lands due to lack of restrictions
Glacial Fortress
Vintage, Legacy, Modern, Commander
  • Until recently, this cycle (M10 through M13 and Innistrad) was legal in Standard and was widely used
  • Requires a land with basic land types to be in play under your control for this to be untapped.
Mystic Gate
Vintage, Legacy, Modern, Commander
  • Part of the "Filter Land" cycle
  • Always enters untapped
  • Can tap for a colorless with no restriction
  • Requires either white or blue to filter into two mana
Hallowed Fountain
Vintage, Legacy, Modern, Standard, Commander
  • Considered to be the favorite dual lands of Modern
  • Can enter tapped or untapped
  • To enter untapped, requires a one-time payment of two life
  • Has basic land types
Azorius Guildgate
Vintage, Legacy, Modern, Standard, Commander
  • Always enters tapped
  • Utilized for pauper formats
  • Has the subtype Gate which applies to special abilities of certain cards printed in the Return to Ravnica Block
Azorius Chancery
Vintage, Legacy, Modern, Commander
  • Always enters tapped
  • Returns a land you control to its owner's hand
  • Can't effectively be played turn one
  • Provides two mana instead of one
Adarkar Wastes
Vintage, Legacy, Modern, Commander
  • Always enters untapped
  • Can tap for colorless or colored mana
  • Colored mana requires a payment of one life
Seachrome Coast
Vintage, Legacy, Modern, Commander
  • Comes into play untapped only if it is the first, second, or third land played
  • Taps for either color without penalty
  • Only available in allied colors
Celestial Colonnade
Vintage, Legacy, Modern, Commander
  • Always enters tapped
  • Able too be used as a creature in addition to being a land
Temple of Enlightenment
Vintage, Legacy, Modern, Standard, Commander
  • Always enters tapped
  • Allows you to see the next card of your library and choose whether you want to keep it on top or put it on the bottom
Nimbus Maze
Vintage, Legacy, Modern, Commander
  • Always enters untapped
  • Can tap for colorless at any time
  • Can be used for either color as long as you control a land with the basic type of the other color
River of Tears
Vintage, Legacy, Modern, Commander
  • Always enters untapped
  • Colored mana depends on land entering the battlefield
Tainted Peak
Vintage, Legacy, Commander
  • Always enters untapped
  • Can always create colorless mana
  • Requires a swamp to be under your control before being able to use colored mana
Grove of the Burnwillows
Vintage, Legacy, Modern, Commander
  • Always enters untapped
  • Able to provide colorless mana
  • Gives opponents one life if colored mana is chosen
Horizon Canopy
Vintage, Legacy, Modern, Commander
  • Always enters untapped
  • Can pay one life to add either color to your mana pool
  • Adds the ability to sacrifice and draw a card

I started with White/Blue lands because they covered a majority of lands (enemy dual lands don't fit all the cycles out there) and then I remembered that there are several dual lands not covered like the Tainted cycle in Torment and the other duals in Future Sight. I did skip several, but overall, I think I covered the major ones.

Now, the best lands are always going to be able to provide mana and enter untapped. The original dual lands fit that bill. The next on that list would most likely be the shocklands as they are a one time payment but at the cost of 10% of your starting life total.

Comparing dual lands are pretty subjective to the deck and the format. Let's look at what was my original idea behind this article.

Scenario #1

Imagine you are playing a deck just for fun. Your opening hand has three cards plus four lands. Your four lands are Temple of Enlightenment, Glacial Fortress, Azorius Guildgate, and Azorius Chancery. All four are shown above. As a turn one play, which would you use? Azorius Chancery does nothing for you because once you play it, it comes back to your hand. Glacial Fortress has no basic land type to enter untapped with, so it's just as good as a guildgate in this situation which is to come in tapped and do nothing else. We have the scryland, Temple of Enlightenment left. That would be the play. It comes in tapped but provides an ability and sticks to the board. If you don't draw another land, which do you play next? I personally would choose the Azorius Chancery after using the mana from Temple of Enlightenment, then play it again on turn 3 in order to scry once again. You get your mana one turn behind, but you also trigger the scry ability twice.

Scenario #2

Let's take another scenario. This time, you have three cards plus Tundra, Adarkar Wastes, Seachrome Coast, and Nimbus Maze. Once again, what do you play? Tundra has no downsides at all, Adarkar Wastes requires payment of life for colored mana, Seachrome Coast has to be one of your first three lands to be used effectively, and Nimbus Maze needs to play off basic land types. So Tundra goes first. Next, what do you play to be most effective? Really, it would be a toss up between Seachrome Coast and Nimbus Maze. Either can be played turn two or three. Because Adarkar Wastes in the only one to offer a penalty for using colored mana, you want the other three to start you off because together, they offer versatile mana for casting on turn three.

I guess the main idea here is that you can take a combination of any of these types of lands and find some are better than others. Scry lands are actually better than your tap/check lands if that's all that shows up in your opening hand. Of course, it also depends on your opening hand and whether or not you have a turn one play. Needless to say, it's easy to say one land is better than another without considering them in scenarios like those above.

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