Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
How to Use Land Cards in Magic
Essential to just about any deck you'll ever build, land cards fuel your other spells. You normally get to play one land from your hand per turn, gradually strengthening your mana production as the match progresses to afford higher-cost spells. Basic lands simply tap for a mana of their respective color (consult the chart below), yet many lands offers a wider variety of abilities to justify their usage.
But with hundreds of landscapes to choose from, which locations reign supreme? Excluding transformation cards that morph into environments (like Legion's Landing/Adanto, the First Fort) but begin as other card types, these are the ten best land cards in Magic: The Gathering!
|Basic Land Type||Mana Produced|
Colorless (either generic or specific)
10. Command Tower
Although Command Tower is really only useful in commander (EDH) format, it's, well, really useful. This land can simply tap to provide one color of any color in your commander's identity. And since you're only allowed to include your commander's colors in your EDH deck, Command Tower guarantees a mana hue tailored to your build and able to provide any of your sought colors.
Particularly useful in multicolored decks, Command Tower may be limited to a single format, but it's a staple of just about any commander deck you'll encounter.
9. Ancient Tomb
Green typically holds the advantage when it comes to mana ramp, but Ancient Tomb lets any color rapidly produce mana—for a price. Unlike many nonbasic lands, Ancient Tomb enters untapped and ready to rumble, and whenever you tap it, you gain two colorless mana! This mimics the infamous Sol Ring's production, and gaining two resources with a single land can net you an early lead that opponents may never be able to surmount.
The downside is that whenever you tap Ancient Tomb, you lose two life. That's unfortunate, but as professional players like to say, "the only life that matters is your last." Losing life early on isn't that bad as long as it gains you the advantage—which Ancient Tomb certainly will. Useful for any assortment, but especially potent in life-regaining white builds or colorless eldrazi deck lists.
8. The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
As a legendary land, The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale adheres to the legend rule, meaning you can only control one at once. Additionally, it doesn't possess any mana-tapping abilities and won't assist your resource generation.
So why use it? Well, Tabernacle makes all players pay one mana of any color for each of their creatures at their upkeep steps. This forces duelists to choose between losing their units or sacrificing their mana, both significant disadvantages. While the effect applies to you as well, simply construct a noncreature build to avoid its potent power and watch your opponents struggle just to keep their army alive.
7. Cabal Coffers
Cabal Coffers works great as a mid-to-late game mana boost for black decks. While it can't tap for a single mana like most lands, by spending two mana of any color and tapping, Coffers nets you one black mana for each swamp you control.
If you're running a monoblack deck, the vast majority of your lands should be basic swamps, and cards like Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth will ensure all your lands count as swamps, guaranteeing a hefty yield. This amazing ability can spend two colorless mana to grant you five or more black, a huge increase that should let you play your strongest creatures and planeswalkers to seize the victory.
6. Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Like Cabal, Nykthos has a two-colorless mana spent activation (we'll get to that soon). However, unlike Cabal, it's legendary and possesses the standard tap-for-one mana, granting you a single colorless resource. This lets it serve your mana production even if you can't yet afford its real treat.
By spending two mana and tapping, Nykthos adds mana of any color equal to your devotion to that color. Your devotion is calculated by the number of colored mana symbols in permanents you control, and later in matches when your field starts to fill up, you can potentially have dozens of these fielded. Nykthos especially rewards monocolor decks by granting them an astounding amount of mana, often resulting in a net gain of six or more, and the fact that it can simply tap to produce one resource lends it versatility for any situation.
5. The "Temple of" Set
These ten cards share a slot because they all do the exact same thing, just with different color combinations (which you can view below). Each Temple hits the field tapped, forcing you to wait a turn before you can access its mana. However, not only can each tap for two kinds of mana (but only one at once), they also let you scry when they first enter the field. Scrying allows you to peek at the top card of your deck and either return it to the top or place it on the bottom, letting you riffle through your build to quickly access the cards you need. Two great effects more than compensate for the small price of entering tapped.
"Temple of ____" Color Combinations:
- Red and black: Malice
- Red and white: Triumph
- Red and green: Abandon
- Red and blue: Epiphany
- Black and white: Silence
- Black and green: Malady
- Black and blue: Deceit
- White and green: Plenty
- White and blue: Enlightenment
- Green and blue: Mystery
4. Gaea's Cradle
A land that I'm astounded hasn't been banned in commander (as of this writing at least), Gaea's Cradle taps to provide you one green mana for every creature you control. While this certainly helps green decks, you can really use Cradle in any creature-oriented build, especially ones that rapidly swarm, like many white strategies or red's Krenko goblin-token production. Even if green mana isn't their forte, they can still spend it as colorless to fuel their most costly spells.
Remember, most lands can only tap for one mana at once. Cradle gives you as many as the number of creatures you control, which can easily hit three or more even in the early stages of the game. And if you rapidly swarm, Gaea may provide you the dozens of mana needed to cast the game's strongest creatures far before your opponents are prepared to handle them. Truly this land is your land, this land is my land, and was made for you and me.
3. Mishra's Workshop
A force that's forbidden in legacy but unrestricted in most other formats, Mishra's Workshop grants an unholy amount of colorless mana. Each tap bestows three colorless resources, the only catch being that this mana can only be spent on artifact-type spells.
However, since most artifacts are colorless, they're easy to fit into any deck, and several artifact-creature blends also qualify for the mana. What else can I say? Use Workshop to quickly access mana-producing artifacts like Thran Dynamo or Worn Powerstone to trump even green builds in mana ramp or to swiftly field the best artifact-equipment cards ready to boost your monsters. As icing on the cake, since Workshop isn't legendary, you're more than welcome to field multiple copies at once.
2. Maze of Ith
Here's another rare nonmana-related land. Maze of Ith won't aid you resource capabilities, but it can instead tap whenever an opponent's creature swings at you. At the point, you target one of the attackers, untap it, and prevent all combat damage that would be dealt to or by it for the turn.
This essentially shuts down an attacker every unit; since that creature's combat damage is prevented, even if you don't block it, you won't suffer any direct damage. This awesome and reusable stall tactic doesn't have any price or trade-off other than its inability to produce mana. A superb defensive tactic for any deck, but remember that since you need to target, Maze can't impact enemies with the shroud or hexproof traits. That said, since it isn't legendary, you're able to field as many duplicates as you like.
Maze of Ith has often stalled long enough for me to rebound and steal the win, and it's a great defensive measure for any build. Plus, unlike the $200 price tag (I'm not kidding) of our next cards, Ith costs well under $20, making it much more affordable to budget players.
1. The Two-Type Land Set
Most lands that can provide two mana types come with some sort of gimmick or limitation, like entering tapped unless you pay two life or face multiple opponents. Additionally, many don't bear the basic types of the mana colors they produce, preventing them from supporting type-dependent effects. Enter the "two-type" land cards, each entering the field untapped and ready to produce one of two types of mana with no errata. Additionally, each wields the basic land classifications of the colors it produces, helping them benefit certain effects (like the swamp-reliant ability of Cabal Coffers).
Like the Temple set, you can find a double-mana land for every color combination, ensuring there's something to suit your build. Check the list below to find the card matching your desired hues.
- Red and black: Badlands
- Red and white: Plateau
- Red and green: Taiga
- Red and blue: Volcanic Island
- Black and white: Scrubland
- Black and green: Bayou
- Black and blue: Underground Sea
- White and green: Savannah
- White and blue: Tundra
- Green and blue: Tropical Island
Future of Land Cards
As essential to Magic libraries as ever, lands form the backbone of your build, and finding the right balance to include in your deck remains an engaging challenge. Oversaturate your build and you may not draw enough spells to beat your opponent regardless of your capable mana production, but employ too few and you'll find yourself with several great cards but no methods to play them. Experiment to find the right balance and you'll be well on your way to victory.
But for now, as we eagerly await the future expansion packs with more beautiful landscapes (the Ixalan set introduced several interesting double-sided lands that we'll undoubtedly tackle), vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
Questions & Answers
Question: Isn't Command Tower the best land?
Answer: Well, it's a must-have in EDH format, but pretty useless elsewhere. And even in its element, it still only gives one mana at a type (where some lands can give multiple) and doesn't have any basic land types, reducing its synergy with cards like "Hinterland Harbor" and such.
Don't get me wrong, it's an amazing card, but arguably not the best land even in commander format.
© 2018 Jeremy Gill