Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
What Are Transforming Lands in Magic?
Featured in the Ixalan set, a rare group of spells transforms into lands once certain conditions are met. These unique lands offer abilities beyond the standard mana-per-turn, don't take up your round's land play, and offer additional effects in their pre-transformation forms.
Many of these initial spells are colorless and don't need much mana, making great additions to both standard and commander decks, and several are legendary, highlighting their fierce powers. But which two-sided cards reign supreme? These are the ten best transforming lands in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Azor's Gateway/Sanctum of the Sun
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 2
Gateway begins as a two-cost artifact that taps and spends a mana to draw a card, then exiles one from your hand. Your overall hand size doesn't change, but you get to keep what you need and toss what you don't. Eventually, once you exile five cards with different costs using this ability, Gateway morphs into Sanctum of the Sun, and you gain five life.
Sanctum simply taps for an amount of mana (from any single color) equal to your life total! Unless you're on your last legs, that's an insane amount of resources on top of a solid hand manipulator; combo with white's life-gaining spells to ensure you'll attain heaps of mana.
9. Dowsing Dagger/Lost Vale
Dagger only needs two mana, but it has an additional cost—you have to give an opponent two 0/2 plant tokens with defender. These are weak enemies but can be used as throwaway blockers—which foes will want since Dagger grants its recipient (once you equip it for two more mana) +2/+1. And all it takes for Dagger to transform is its holder to score direct combat damage; grant it to flying creatures to help bypass the plant tokens.
Once cultivated into Lost Vale, your new land taps for three mana of any one color, a prime ramp reminiscent of the infamous "Black Lotus" artifact.
8. Hadana's Climb/Winged Temple of Orazca
Climb impresses even in base form. You'll need blue and green mana to cast the enchantment, and it automatically gives one of your creatures a +1/+1 counter at the start of your combat phase, transforming if that unit now has at least three counters. Heck, if you don't want Climb to transform yet (so you can attain more overall counters), simply pick different creatures to spread out your bonuses.
But once the transformation triggers, Climb becomes the legendary Winged Temple. Here, it can either tap for one mana of any color or spend three mana and tap to grant one of your creatures +X/+X for the turn, where X is its power, as well as flying. Doubled stats and flying on a reusable and instant-speed boost—an excellent addition to any Simic theme.
7. Profane Procession/Tomb of the Dusk Rose
Procession plays for the long haul and requires several mana investments, but it's worth your time in extended matches. You'll need three mana (including black and white) to initially cast it, then five more to utilize its effect, which simply exiles a creature. While expensive, that's a handy instant-speed removal that prevents graveyard recoveries.
Then, once you have at least three cards exiled with Procession, it transforms into Tomb of the Dusk Rose. Not only can Tomb tap for one mana of any color, but it can also spend four and tap to place a creature Procession exiled onto the field under your control. Removal, ramp, and creature steals all in one.
6. Primal Amulet/Primal Wellspring
Amulet's clear focus makes it easy to determine its synergies—you want it in instant/sorcery decks. Accepting any mana types, Amulet simply reduces the cost of your instants and sorceries by one colorless mana. And whenever you cast one, Amulet gains a charge counter, transforming into Wellspring once it has at least four.
Wellspring can tap for one mana of any color, and when that mana is used to cast an instant or sorcery, you get to copy the spell (and select new targets if you wish), for free! Both Amulet and Wellspring make it easier to afford your one-offs, and double spells are no laughing matter—you can take two extra turns in a row with cards like "Time Warp."
5. Treasure Map/Treasure Cove
Treasure Map provides some easy deck manipulation for any theme. It only needs two mana, accepts any color, and can spend one mana and tap to scry one and gain a landmark counter. Once Map has at least three counters, you remove them, transform it into Cove, and create three treasure tokens that can each sacrifice for one mana of any color.
Thanks to the tokens, you're essentially getting back all the mana you've spent on the scrying, and now you have Treasure Cove, which can either tap for one colorless or sacrifice a treasure token to draw a card. Thus, you shouldn't find yourself starved for mana or draws even in the later portions of your match.
4. Growing Rites of Itlimoc/Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun
Growing Rites works great in creature-focused decks. It arrives as a three-cost enchantment that lets you add a creature from among the top four cards of your deck to your hand, a decent semi-search.
Rites remains fielded until one of your end steps where you control at least four creatures, where it transforms into Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun. Itlimoc can either tap for one green mana or one green per creature you control! This not only mimics the infamous land "Gaea's Cradle," but actually exceeds it since you can still tap for something with the base ability if your creatures get wiped out.
3. Legion's Landing/Adanto, the First Fort
Today's cheapest card, Legion's Landing, only needs one white mana, making an excellent first-turn play. It's an enchantment that creates a 1/1 vampire token with lifelink, a decent soldier (especially in vampire-focused decks) for such low cost.
Landing then remains dormant until you attack with at least three creatures, where it evolves into Adanto, the First Fort. Adanto can either tap for one white mana or tap and spend three to create another 1/1 vampire token with lifelink. These guys are weak in the late game, sure, but they help recover your life and can be used as fodder blockers against big threats. A staple in my own white commander decks, Landing is also one of today's cheapest cards, costing well under three dollars!
2. Search for Azcanta/Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin
Another great deck manipulator, Azcanta essentially surveils at the start of your upkeep, letting you look at the top card of your deck and either put it back or place it into your graveyard, helping control your upcoming draws. Then, if you have at least seven cards in your graveyard, Azcanta transforms into its Sunken Ruin mode.
Here, Azcanta can either tap for one blue mana or tap and spend three to pull a non-creature non-land from your deck's top four cards. Use this to repeatedly nab instants, sorceries, planeswalkers, and other non-creatures, ensuring you're prepared to overwhelm your foe with sheer card advantage.
1. Journey to Eternity/Atzal, Cave of Eternity
Like most auras, Journey attaches to a creature you control; when that unit dies, you return it to the field and transform Journey into Atzal, Cave of Eternity. So not only does your creature gain a second life, you receive a powerful land that can either tap for one mana of any color, or tap and spend five to return any creature from your graveyard to the field.
You won't find many superior late-game tools than a reusable creature revival, letting you continuously rejuvenate vanquished monsters. Admittedly, Journey is vulnerable to spells that exile or return creatures to the hand, but these aren't the most common removals. It also works great with self-sacrificing units like "Burnished Hart," who quickly trigger Journey's transformation, then let you repeatedly revive and sacrifice using Atzal for a continuous loop.
Transforming Creatures in Magic
While today's lands transform from non-creatures, many creatures themselves (especially werewolves) can shapeshift into stronger versions. Often, this occurs after a turn where no spells were cast, though the upgraded monsters revert following a turn where two or more were played.
Whether you're transforming creatures or other permanents, these spells offer affordable early-game plays that remain relevant in the late-game thanks to their upgrades. But for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of double-faced cards, vote for your favorite spell, and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on November 20, 2019:
It's not bad, but the fact that you have to spend both mana and life for its effect holds it back a bit. For similar but better life-spending black draw engines, try cards like "Phyrexian Arena".
Rex H on November 20, 2019:
Is Agruel’s Blood Fast/ Temple of Aclazoto a good transformed land? It’s the only one I have. The way I see it, you can draw cards while loosing life ( and mana), then transform it at regain the life you lost. Seems risky, dropping yourself down to 5 life. But it’s useful for emergency draws or gaining life after a near-death experience.