Know Yourself: Modern Lands and why they’re great

Hello everybody, and welcome to this week’s edition know yourself. For this week, I want to discuss the many varied types of lands that people play in modern outside of the standard fetchlands, and want to touch on why these lands are so important as to the health and stability of the format. The lands I am going to talk about make up the core as to why modern as a format works, and along with these lessons, I look to express why certain decks and archetypes don’t play some of these lands, though they may seem to be wanting to. The way that modern lands are currently balanced I think is a beautiful thing to behold.

Dual Mana Producers

Ah, dual lands. These lands are the lifeblood of the format, keeping the format a free and open expanse for decks of all stripes and colors to be open to players of the format. While the pain and gainlands are certainly not played much if at all(outside of storm and decks that care about the eldrazi colorless mana, like the oft left behind bant eldrazi) the fastlands, fetchlands and shocklands keep this format running smoothly for decks of all stripes to keep their mana clean, even if that wonderfully varied mana comes with a cost to the life total. And with the advent of kaladesh, the new set of fastlands have opened up entire new decks to the format! I don’t mean to be too jovial, but these lands really keep the juices flowing for deckbuilders.

And remember, fellow magic players, not all duals are right for all decks. Just because storm plays spirebluff canal doesn’t mean jeskai control wants too, and just because jund plays raging ravine doesn’t mean titanshift wants too. From my understanding, the general consensus is this for deck “types” : Aggro – 4 fastland, some shocks and fetches, no manlands. Midrange – a few of a few fast lands, some shocks and fetches, and 1-2 manlands. Control – few to no fast lands, plenty of fetches and shocks, 3-4 manlands. (see Celestial Collonade)

The reason for this is mainly mana usage, but there is a smidge of intent. Aggro decks want their mana and they want it now, and they don’t want to be using it later. The opposite then is true for midrange and control decks: they want lots of mana because their spells are more powerful and land later in the game, and having mana sinks in the man lands makes the deck easier to forgive for land heavy draws since you always have something to do.

Utility Lands / Combo Pieces

These lands make up the outer rims of the land choices, and either serve very specific purposes in a certain deck, or are used to achieve something inside the physical deck. Inkmoth nexus and the scry lands serve to facilitate a combo, either scrying to find specific cards and acting as card advantage for the combo deck, or serving as a 9th-12th infect creature that keeps your infect deck on the aggressive. As for creature based value decks, horizon canopy keeps the card advantage fight fair for the green and white decks, as spells, while being worse than originally, are still certainly good for accruing resources throughout the game. Kolaghan’s command and cryptic command are still all stars at burying unsuspecting opponents, who knew? As for valakut, that falls into its own distinct category since it is a land that gets paired with a spell to go get other lands…….and then those lands use valakut to kill your opponent, by dealing damage by having lots of lands. It’s a weird exception for popular lands, but I think it still holds a special place for keeping people honest with their gameplans. You can’t be to convoluted a deck to win against something like titanshift, it’ll just scapeshift turn five and kill you.

(Also, this is your weekly reminder that Valakut, The Molten Pinnacle is not legendary.)



Creature-focused Lands

Instead of the actual creature lands that were included in the dual lands section, these lands are also affectionately known as rainbow lands. These lands have just recently brought a new archetype blazing into the modern format, and keeping with the themes of the past lands, are just restrictive enough in order to keep people from breaking the format, but enable strong strategies that give players a host of options both competitively and casually. I think that these cards also let someone who really wants to cook up something fresh really shine, because it gives their life total the breathing room in testing that fetch-shock simply doesn’t.


land destruction, and why modern loves it

These lands, in my opinion, are the bedrock that keep the modern format from falling into madness. Outside the obvious power level of tron (that I will not be addressing in this article due to the peculiar state those lands find themselves in) modern landbases are often punished with these lands when they get too greedy. A perfect example is watching Todd Stevens take away all of a players lands in death’s shadow with ghost quarter + Ramunap Excavator soft-lock since that deck runs so few basic lands to begin with. And while field of ruin is the relative newcomer, it is becoming more and more clear that it finds a home in more dedicated control strategies in conjuction with the card spreading seas to keep the cards flowing while shoring up the weaker land-based matchups.

Ghost quarter is the best of the three, being readily available, free to activate, and gets rid of any land. The other two are slightly more restrictive in their costs and modes, but still find homes in more color-focused decks. Tectonic edge can still take out two lands at once of you opponents just like when it was in standard, and these lands keep unfair decks on their toes as being unable to cast the unfair spells in first place make your deck much worse as a result. For example, Thought-Knot Seer is much worse on turn five or six than it is on turn two off of two Eldrazi Temple.


when you SHOULDN’T run these lands

  1. You’re playing three colors.

To put it simply, if you’re in three colors, running these lands simply isn’t feasible. Your requirements make anything outside of colored mana incredibly strenuous, and can risk stranding uncastable spells in your hand, which is basically the same as a mulligan in a format like modern. And while it seems a deck like this would want the lands to make certain matchups better (Jund vs. Tron), it would be at the detriment of the deck to do so. This can be seen as to one of the reasons as to why we saw more of a shift back to classic G/B roc decks in modern, the first being the rise of tron, the other part being the printing of the black green fastland and fatal push.

  1. You’re playing rainbow/ creature lands, or intense mana costs

There’s a reason that merfolk has reached the top 8 of two SCG opens in U/G, and why humans have been smashing people since the printing of unclaimed territory, and it isn’t due to ghost quarter. These decks are so tightly focused and require such specific mana requirements so early that it isn’t possible to draw a colorless land and continue to function. (Honest, what deck runs out a single green mana on turn one, followed by double blue on turn two, ALONG with 4 mutavaults? We merfolk players are out of our gourd.)

Following this, a deck like elves doesn’t have room due to all the green mana needing to be produced so quickly by for the elves, which is then used to quickly kill the opponent. Not only does the mana not play nice, that deck is not one to putz around developing lots of land drops.

So please folks, don’t hamstring your manabases. Modern’s mana is in a wonderful spot right now, but every deck has its natural stopping point. Don’t try to force in ghost quarters and field of ruin if it isn’t right for your deck.

But what do you think? Is this mana a blessing or a curse? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll see you next week!

-Forrest W.


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