Cycling Duels

Posted in Latest Developments on March 31, 2017

By Sam Stoddard

Sam Stoddard came to Wizards of the Coast as an intern in May 2012. He is currently a game designer working on final design and development for Magic: The Gathering.

Today on Latest Developments, I bring you an early preview of Amonkhet. I generally think it is good to give people an idea of what their mana fixing will be as they enter the preview season rather than waiting until late in the season to know what it will look like. If you want to start brewing decks in the next week, then having an idea of what duals will be added to the format is a good place to start! So, without further ado, I present you . . .

The long-awaited appearance of cycling dual lands!

It's really great when we have a block mechanic that ties into our dual lands because we get to make unique lands that can impact Standard and play very differently than lands that only provide mana, like the shock lands, check lands, or even fast lands. I know that when I premiered the scry lands in Theros, there were a lot of concerns that those lands were too weak for Standard, or didn't do enough—but looking back on it, I think we can agree they did a great job of ensuring an interesting mana base in Standard when combined with the shock lands. Yes, the cards themselves were weaker than shock lands, but they definitely had a place, and over the course of the game, playing a few scry lands was a huge advantage versus a deck that didn't play any. These lands will have a similar effect—they are going to give the late-game advantage to any deck that is running them against a deck that isn't.

One of the interesting things about these lands is they are, in many ways, the opposite of the fast lands for decks in Standard. The fast lands allow for stronger early-game plays, contrasted by a bit weaker late game. The cycling lands are weaker in the first three turns of the game, but being able to trade a topdecked land for a new card in the late game is huge. The lands are a bit weaker as a whole than the fast lands, which is part of why we ended up adding the basic land types to these; it gives them some extra play with the Shadows over Innistrad ally-color lands in helping them enter untapped.

There are also a few cards in Standard that combo pretty well with cycling lands, if you want to get cute with them.

Cycling lands let slower decks play a slightly higher land percentage than they might otherwise, rarely stumble on their mana, and then still be able to keep playing spells every turn in the late game. These, much like the scry lands, are the kinds of cards that are stealthily much more powerful than they can look like at first glance. They increase the power of your mana-heavy hands and don't punish you too much for your mana-light hands. While these alone aren't the only piece that control decks need to become tier 1 in Standard, I think they will go a long way toward allowing two-color ally control and midrange decks to be a thing.

Also, there will be plenty of cards with cycling rewards in Amonkhet, and while neither Astral Slide nor Lightning Rift make the return (boo old templating . . . among other things), there are possibilities for these lands to add a little bit of extra oomph in a deck that is seeking to play one of those rewards.

Modern Times

Beyond just adding things to Standard, the cycling lands even have some uses in Modern—namely, fueling Life from the Loam. The classic combo, like peas and carrots. Well before Modern was imagined as a format, Life from the Loam plus cycling lands was a popular card advantage engine. Loam back two cycling lands plus something else for steady and hard-to-interact-with card advantage. This isn't good for fast combo decks, but if you are looking to slowly grind your opponent out with one-for-ones and disruption spells, then Loam plus a cycling land will fuel your deck for a long time to come.

You can also just be the beatdown and plan on using Tranquil Thicket plus Life from the Loam to make Seismic Assault incredibly painful. With six mana on the table, you can do 10 damage with just Loam and one cycling land. This list, for example, propelled Gerry Thompson to a 1st-place finish at an Indianapolis PTQ, which qualified him for Pro Tour Hollywood.

Gerry Thompson's Red-Green Loam

Download Arena Decklist

If you look at a Modern Loam list, you can see where these lands can fit in. You don't need a lot, but having access to even one or two helps to create an inevitability when tied with Loam. Who knows, maybe even a more disruptive version like the one below could pick up Seismic Assault again.

Four-Color Loam

Download Arena Decklist

In any case, I believe that these add a lot of interesting options for various Loam decks in Modern. It might take a while to find the right version, but I believe that these will be a huge help to devotees of Life from the Loam.

That's it for this week. Next week, I'll be back to preview a card I think Standard players will be very happy about.

Until next time,

Sam (@samstod)

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