Get Ready to Dual

Posted in Making Magic on February 27, 2017

By Mark Rosewater

Working in R&D since '95, Mark became Magic head designer in '03. His hobbies: spending time with family, writing about Magic in all mediums, and creating short bios.

It's Modern Masters 2017 Edition preview week, which means I get to show you a preview card. It's the first day, and I have a little pull behind the scenes, so I have a pretty cool preview for you. Everyone ready?

Check out the first Modern Masters 2017 Edition preview!

Marsh Flats hangs out with his friends, so I guess I could show you a few more preview cards.

Yes, the Zendikar fetch lands are finally back, and you'll be able to get them in Modern Masters 2017 Edition.


I don't have much to say about the design of Modern Masters 2017 Edition as I wasn't on the design team (and there's an article by the lead designer Adam Prosak to go read), so I thought I would use today's column as a history lesson to talk about the many dual lands that we've designed over the years. I'm going to introduce them in the order we made them and talk a bit about what went into their designs. Note that for today, I am only talking about dual lands—that is lands that tap for two, and only two, colors of mana. I'm also only talking about lands, so no dual mana producing artifacts.

The Original Dual Lands—Limited Edition (Alpha/Beta)

The very first dual lands are the most famous, probably evidenced by the fact that people refer to them as "the dual lands." These were the creation of Richard Garfield and were simply each combination of the basic lands. The original dual lands showed up in Limited Edition (Alpha). (Well, technically only nine of them did, as Volcanic Island was accidentally left off the rare sheet; the problem was corrected in Beta). The lands do nothing other than count for each type and tap for the appropriate color. Richard was aware that these were powerful, but using the assumption that people would spend on Magic what they would spend on any normal game, he thought the cards wouldn't exist in a high enough number to be problematic. This is why Richard put them at rare.

The Ally Pain Lands—Ice Age

The next dual lands didn't show up for two years until the set Ice Age in the summer of 1995. Ice Age introduced not one, but two new dual-land cycles, although both are only for the ally color pairs. It was decided that we wanted to stress that the ally colors were more willing to work together. (We would move away from this many years later.) The pain lands all tap for a colorless mana without any drawback and can tap for one of two colors—but if you do, the card deals 1 damage to you. Why was this damage rather than a life payment? Because damage protection was a big thing back in the day.

Both new dual-land cycles came about because it was decided that the original dual lands were a little too strong. R&D adopted a philosophy that we didn't want lands that were "strictly better" than basic lands. For example, there was almost no reason not to play the original dual lands in place of basic lands (the only exception being nonbasic land hate, of which there was little at the time). This meant that there had to be some kind of drawback if you got more than one colored mana out of a land. The pain lands' approach was to damage you every time you got colored mana. The colorless mana option was added to lessen the drawback, meaning you only took damage when you specifically needed the color.

The pain lands were considered a success and for many years were the dual lands in the core sets (appearing in each one from Fifth Edition through Tenth Edition, with the exception of Eighth Edition).

The Ally Depletion Lands—Ice Age

The depletion lands, in contrast, were not as popular. The depletion lands used a different drawback. Whenever you tapped them for one of the two colors, the land didn't untap during your next untap, meaning you only got mana out of them every other turn. The big problem with depletion lands was that they didn't give you the option to tap for colorless mana without a drawback, which meant that you were often paying for the drawback without even needing the colored mana. The ally depletion lands have never been reprinted.

The Ally Slow Fetch Lands—Mirage

Mirage tried a different approach to dual lands. Instead of making lands that could tap for two different colors, we made a cycle of ally-affiliated lands that could search out one of two different basic lands from your library and put it onto the battlefield. The idea being that the lands had the potential to tap for one of two colors, but you locked in which color when you played it. The lands entered the battlefield tapped because without a drawback, they would break the "better than a basic land" rule. This drawback proved to be a little too much of a drawback and the cycle would never be reprinted (with the one exception of Vintage Masters online). It would though be the inspiration for today's preview cards (as well as the ally cycle that compliments it).

The Enemy Slow Pain Lands—Tempest

After three ally dual-land cycles, we decided in Tempest it was time to do another enemy one. This cycle took the ally pain lands from Ice Age and added in one more drawback: they entered the battlefield tapped. The extra drawback was us trying to represent mechanically that enemy colors didn't work as well together as ally colors. The lands saw some play as they were the only option for enemy dual lands, but the enters-the-battlefield tapped drawback proved to be too harsh and, other than some online-only sets, the enemy slow pain lands never saw a reprint.

The Fixed Ally Depletion Lands—Tempest

Tempest also was the first time we attempted to correct a previous dual-land design. I explained above that depletion lands not having the option to tap for colorless made them mostly unplayable, so the Tempest versions added that option. This change helped significantly, and the cycle saw some tournament play. It would later get reprinted in Champions of Kamigawa with new names. (It also got reprinted in Tempest Remastered online.)

The Ally Tap Lands—Invasion

The next new dual-land cycle wouldn't happen for three years, and it was one of the most contentious dual-land cycles ever made. We had just hired Randy Buehler into R&D because we wanted our development to have more experts from the Pro Tour. Randy felt that our dual lands had never been good enough and pushed to make the tap lands. There was a lot of pushback because many of R&D didn't feel the enters-the-battlefield tapped drawback was enough. Randy managed to convince us to print the tap lands, and history would prove that not only was Randy correct, but we'd also have room to add even more, as the drawback was actually a significant drawback. The ally tap lands would be reprinted in Eighth Edition.

The Enemy Pain Lands—Apocalypse

Apocalypse was the enemy-color expansion, so it seemed only apropos to introduce a new cycle of enemy dual lands. After the disaster that was the Tempest slow pain lands, we decided to just make enemy versions of the original Ice Age ally pain lands without the enters-the-battlefield tapped drawback. Like the ally pain lands, the enemy pain lands saw a bunch of reprinting (Ninth Edition, Tenth Edition, Magic 2015, and Magic Origins).

The Weak Ally Filter Lands—Odyssey

Odyssey tried a different take on dual lands. This cycle got you two colors of mana, but you had to activate it by spending a colorless mana. It filtered your mana into the two colors. This cycle's drawback was a bit subtler—they're useless as a turn-one play because until you have another mana source, you can't get mana out of them. From a design standpoint, I'm not a huge fan of filtering because it requires more cognitive load to track what colored mana you have access to. Individual cards would get reprinted in Commander (2016 Edition), but the full cycle has never been reprinted.

The Tainted Lands—Torment

Here's a fine trivia question: What's the only dual-land cycle with only four cards? The answer is the tainted lands from Torment. Torment was the "black set," where the color balance was weighted toward black and away from green and white, black's enemies. Each land could tap for black and another color if you controlled a Swamp. It tapped for colorless regardless of whether you had a Swamp. Because it was connecting to one color, the cycle is only four cards and is half ally, half enemy. It's one of the quirkiest dual-land cycles in existence. Individual cards would get reprinted in various supplemental products, but the full cycle has never been reprinted.

Riftstone Portal—Judgment

I wasn't even sure if I was supposed to include this card, as it's clearly not from a cycle and it's questionably a dual land. Judgment was the "green-white set" to Torment's "black set," so it included one card that, when in your graveyard, turned all your lands into green-white dual lands. I've included it mostly for completeness. It's never been reprinted.

The Ally Fetch Lands—Onslaught

We'd always liked what Mirage had tried to do with dual lands, but it took us a while to figure out how to make them better. The answer was to exchange the enters-the-battlefield tapped restriction with a life payment to activate the ability. Note that this cycle makes you pay life rather than damaging you. We long regretted the decision to have the pain lands damage you rather than being a life payment, both because it made the template longer and because damage prevention had been something we'd long been moving away from. I also believe this is the first dual-land cycle where we were a bit more careful about naming them, as we were aware of the fact that we might want to one day reprint them. This cycle would go on to be very popular and get reprinted in Khans of Tarkir and in the Zendikar Expeditions in Battle for Zendikar.

The Fixed Ally Depletion Lands—Champions of Kamigawa

This cycle is just the fixed ally depletion lands from Tempest but with new names. The names were chosen to fit within the world of Kamigawa but be reprintable on another world with a little creative massaging.

The Shock Lands—Ravnica/Guildpact/Dissension

This is my favorite dual land-cycle I've designed. The idea behind it was that I knew both the pain lands and the tap lands were a bit week, so I made a ten-card cycle that let you choose one or the other. To simplify the template and gameplay, I changed the pain land option to be a one-time 2-life payment rather than losing life each time you tapped the land for colored mana. Also, because I realized that no dual-land cycle since the original dual lands had had both its basic land types, I also added that to the mix. What resulted was a very potent and popular dual-land cycle. It was reprinted in Return to Ravnica block as well as in Zendikar Expeditions. It's interesting to note that we named them to be reprintable on any world—then the first time we reprinted them was also on Ravnica.

The "Karoo" Dual Lands—Ravnica/Guildpact/Dissension

This ten-card cycle was made because we wanted a dual-land cycle at common in Limited. The design was based off of the five-card monocolor cycle of lands from Visions. The white one was called Karoo, which is where this dual-land cycle gets its nickname. That we named each land after a guild was a sign that we had no intention of using this cycle anywhere else. Looking back, this wasn't a great common cycle as it has a similar cognitive load problem like the weak filter lands in Odyssey. These lands have seen a bunch of reprints in various supplemental products, especially Commander, which needs lots of color fixing due to the singleton construction limit.

The Ally Storage Lands—Time Spiral

This dual-land cycle explores new space. Each land has three activated abilities. One, they can tap for colorless mana. Two, they can turn generic mana into storage counters. Three, for one generic mana, they can turn storage counters into one of two colors of mana. Time Spiral block had a time theme, so the storage lands were an evolution of a few monocolor land cycles from the past (Fallen Empires and Mercadian Masques being the most influential) that built up mana over time by accumulating counters on themselves. These lands were a bit fiddly and, other than in supplemental products, they have never been reprinted.

The Ally Future Lands—Future Sight

This is the dual-land cycle I'm second proudest of designing, mostly because the high concept of it entertains me to no end. This is a cycle of five ally future-shifted land cards (aka cards from potential futures) each from its own cycle. Nimbus Maze is a dual land that provides colored mana if you control the other type of basic land (having an Island, for instance, gets you white mana). River of Tears provides one of two colors depending on whether or not you've played a land this turn. Graven Cairns filters one of two colors into any combination of two mana of the two colors. Grove of the Burnwillows has the downside of giving your opponent life. And Horizon Canopy is a dual land that makes you lose a life whenever you get mana out of it, but allows you to trade it in for a new card. Of this cycle, only Graven Cairns has gone on to have its cycle fleshed out (in Shadowmoor and Eventide), but we often discuss making cycles out of the other cards.

The Tribal Lands—Lorwyn/Morningtide

This is another odd cycle. Five appear in Lorwyn and three more appear in Morningtide (Primal Beyond taps for five colors, so it technically isn't a dual land, and Rustic Clachan doesn't even tap for more than one color mana—but I've included them as they're clearly part of this cycle). These dual lands enter the battlefield tapped unless you reveal a creature of a particular type as you play them. Lorwyn block had a tribal theme and these lands line up with the eight supported tribes. These and the lands from Torment and Judgment are why there's not an equal amount of ally or enemy dual lands. These cards have only seen reprints in supplemental products.

The Ally Filter Lands—Shadowmoor

Graven Cairns from Future Sight turned out to be from a very immediate future. Shadowmoor had the ally color cycle. It would later be reprinted in Zendikar Expeditions.

The Enemy Filter Lands—Eventide

And Eventide had the enemy cycle. It too would be reprinted in Zendikar Expeditions.

The Ally Check Lands—Magic 2010

Magic 2010 was the first core set (outside of Alpha/Beta) to create new cards, among them a new ally dual-land cycle. This cycle enters the battlefield tapped unless you control one of the two basic lands connected to the land's colors. This land cycle appeared in all the core sets from Magic 2010 through Magic 2013.

The Enemy Fetch Lands—Zendikar

We finally get to today's preview cards. We had done the ally fetch lands in Onslaught, and it was finally time for the enemy fetch lands to get a turn. These lands, like the ally fetch lands, were very popular and were reprinted in Zendikar Expeditions and Modern Masters 2017 Edition.

The Ally Refuge Lands—Zendikar

We wanted a cycle of uncommon dual lands. Tap lands had proven to be a little weak, so we were looking for a bonus to add to them, and gaining life was both simple and useful. This cycle gets reprinted often in supplemental sets, and returned in Khans of Tarkir with new names.

The Ally Creature Lands—Worldwake

This cycle was a riff on a popular monocolor land cycle from Urza's Legacy (Treetop Village being the most famous member) where each land tapped for a particular color and then had an activation including that color to turn into a creature until end of turn. The design in Worldwake was to make an ally dual-land version of that cycle.

The Ally Fast Lands—Scars of Mirrodin

Normally, the trouble with enters-the-battlefield-tapped dual lands is they aren't good in aggressive decks. This cycle tried to correct this problem by allowing them to enter the battlefield untapped as long as it was the first, second, or third land you had played. We knew that dual lands with an enters-the-battlefield-tapped restriction got a little bonus, so why not the bonus of not having the restriction situationally? This cycle has yet to be reprinted.

The Enemy Check Lands—Innistrad

This is the enemy version of the check lands from Magic 2010. Normally, the dual lands are chosen by the development team and the design team just puts in whatever the development team tells them. I was a little hesitant to put in the enemy check lands in the set, as Innistrad was focused on ally tribes and the rare dual-land cycle was an odd fit, but sometimes you include things for the greater environment and not just your set. This cycle has yet to be reprinted.

The Guildgates—Return to Ravnica/Gatecrash

We needed a common dual-land cycle, so we started looking for small bonuses we could give to a Tap Land. After much searching, we finally decided to try something a little more parasitic. We made them subtype "Gate" (the idea of Guildgates had come from worldbuilding) and then we designed a handful of cards that mechanically cared about Gates. The Guildgates would all get reprinted in Dragon's Maze, the final set in the block.

The Scry Lands—Theros/Born of the Gods/Journey into Nyx

Erik Lauer had wanted to make a dual-land cycle with scry for a while, so when development added scry to Theros (this was before scry became evergreen), Erik realized he finally had his chance. The lands in this cycle are basically tap lands with the added bonus that you get to scry 1. The ten-card cycle was a bit quirky in that it was put out slowly during the course of the whole Theros block, with five lands in Theros, three in Born of the Gods, and two in Journey into Nyx. The cycle was given a temple creative to match the scry flavor. This cycle has yet to be reprinted, but with scry now evergreen, I think its chance are high.

The Ally and Enemy Refuge Lands—Khans of Tarkir

This ten-card cycle is the five ally Refuge lands from Zendikar with new plane-neutral names along with a cycle of enemy Refuges printed for the first time. This cycle will see a lot of reprinting in supplemental sets. The cycle was also reprinted in Fate Reforged.

The Ally Battle Lands—Battle for Zendikar

This ally cycle of dual lands is kind of the opposite of the fast lands. This cycle enters the battlefield tapped unless you control two or more basic lands. The basic land rider is to keep players from playing too many versions of this cycle in the same deck. This cycle is also the third dual-land cycle (along with the original dual lands and the shock lands) to have both basic land types on them. This was done to make them synergistic with the fetch lands that had been reprinted in Khans of Tarkir block.

The Enemy Creature Lands—Battle for Zendikar/Oath of the Gatewatch

For the return to Zendikar, we made the companion enemy creature lands to match the ally creature lands that appeared in Worldwake. This five-card cycle was stretched out over the block with two cards appearing in Battle for Zendikar and three appearing in Oath of the Gatewatch.

The Simple Ally Tap Lands—Oath of the Gatewatch

We decided that we wanted our introductory products to have access to the simplest version of dual lands possible, so we remade the tap lands with no upside and nice clean names we could use in any setting. The ally versions were put into Oath of the Gatewatch.

The Simple Enemy Tap Lands—Shadows over Innistrad

And the enemy versions were put into Shadows over Innistrad.

The Ally Reveal Lands—Shadows over Innistrad

This is a different take on the fast lands. In this version, the land enters the battlefield tapped unless you reveal one of the two affiliated basic lands from your hand.

The Enemy Fast lands—Kaladesh

Kaladesh introduced the enemy versions of the ally fast lands from Scars of Mirrodin. This is a cycle that players had been asking us to complete for many years.

The Dual Is Over

And that, my faithful readers, is every dual land we've ever printed . . . so far. I hope you enjoyed this jaunt through history and look forward to the enemy fetches returning in Modern Masters 2017 Edition. As always, I'm interested to hear your feedback on today's column. Do you all like history columns, and would you like to see more or would you rather see fewer? You can email me or contact me through any of my social media accounts (Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, and Instagram) to let me know your thoughts.

Join me next week as I share some card-by-card stories from long ago (and some maybe not so long ago).

Until then, may you learn to love Magic's history as much as I do.


 
#412: 20 Lessons: Loved Not Liked
#412: 20 Lessons: Loved Not Liked

40:11

This is part eleven in my 20-part series "20 Lessons, 20 Podcasts" where I recap 20 lessons I learned in my first 20 years working on Magic. This is based on a speech I gave at the Games Developers Conference in 2016.

 
#413: Ravnica Cards, Part 4
#413: Ravnica Cards, Part 4

38:19

This is the fourth part of a five-part series on the cards of original Ravnica.

Latest Making Magic Articles

MAKING MAGIC

March 25, 2019

Storm Scale: Kaladesh and Amonkhet by, Mark Rosewater

Many years ago on my blog (Blogatog on Tumblr), I created a scale which I used to judge how likely a certain mechanic or other feature was to return to a Standard-legal set. I called it t...

Learn More

MAKING MAGIC

March 18, 2019

Resonate Spinning by, Mark Rosewater

Longtime readers know that I feel resonance is an important part of game design. For example, "Resonance is important" was one of my 20 lessons from my 2016 Game Developers Conference tal...

Learn More

Articles

Articles

Making Magic Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All

We use cookies on this site to personalize content and ads, provide social media features and analyze web traffic. By clicking YES, you are consenting for us to set cookies. (Learn more about cookies)

No, I want to find out more