Lands That Time Forgot

Posted in Serious Fun on October 20, 2015

By Bruce Richard

Bruce's games invariably involve several friends, crazy plays, and many laughs. Bruce believes that if anyone at your table isn't having fun, then you are doing it wrong.

The Other Colorless Permanent

Welcome to Devoid/Colorless Week! This is the week where my editor picked a theme and expected me to talk about Eldrazi and other devoid/colorless cards. Instead, I'm throwing him (and you) a wicked curveball and I'm going to look at a completely different group of colorless cards. Artifacts? Really, you think I'm that predictable? Lands! So many people forget that lands are colorless, especially since most of them produce colored mana.

Just recently, I listed the Top Ten lands for multiplayer games. Some of the feedback from the article expressed concern about the availability of many of the cards. Not everyone has Maze of Ith just lying around in their collection, and picking one up isn't easy for a lot of you. This time around, I thought I'd focus on some of the lands I love to play that just don't see a lot of love, all the while making sure that they can be found with minimal effort.

Hammerheim is part of a series of cards from Legends that tap for a mana of a single color, or tap to give another little something, just for you being you. You've likely heard of a couple of the other cards in this series: Pendelhaven and Karakas. Pendelhaven has been reprinted, but Karakas is all but impossible to get if you don't already have one. I've run Karakas in several decks to great effect. However, we're talking about Hammerheim, and it doesn't get the love it should.

This card gets slotted in as a one-of in many of my red decks. Hammerheim taps for a red mana, just like a basic Mountain, but can also be tapped to remove landwalk from a creature until the end of the turn. The benefit of a card like Hammerheim is minimal; removing landwalk from a creature is a pretty niche market. It needs to be untapped, and a creature with some kind of landwalk needs to be attacking, and you need to want to remove the landwalk ability. How often does this actually happen? I've been playing with my two copies for over fifteen years and I think I've used the non-mana ability maybe ten times. The upside on this is minimal.

The key for this nonbasic lies in the downside: There isn't one. It is a nonbasic land, and there is a downside just to being a nonbasic land, but beyond that, there isn't any limitation! So many lands that give you something beyond tapping for a single mana demand that the land at least enter the battlefield tapped. Hammerheim doesn't ask anything other than including it in your deck.

Urborg is a card most people know about because they see it when doing a search for Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. Urborg is the black mana card in the Legends series, and truth be told, it's probably a better card than Hammerheim. Removing first strike or swampwalk from a creature is a more useful ability than removing landwalk, especially given Wizards' shift away from regularly producing creatures with landwalk abilities.

I tend to run Urborg with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, so taking away swampwalk from a creature can be particularly helpful, especially when opponents are attacking each other and you want to mess with the combat a bit. Taking away first strike allows all kinds of combat math gymnastics, and for a card with no real downside, I'll happily throw Urborg into most black decks.

The legendary lands from Legends are fun to run, but Hammerheim and Urborg are dependent on what your opponents play. The likelihood of those cards being useful goes up with the number of players in the game, but you are reliant on your opponents' cards. The Kamigawa block legendary lands don't have that issue. Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep doesn't take first strike from an opponent's creature, but instead gives first strike to a legendary creature. Not surprisingly, Shinka is most often seen in Commander games where the commander is a creature you are hoping to have do enough commander damage to win.

I have run Shinka in regular decks with Sidisi, Undead Vizier, just to get that first strike and deathtouch combination working together. Shinka is also handy with Zurgo Helmsmasher or other larger red legends who suffer from a low toughness. While it hasn't happened yet, I hope to give Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh first strike, then tap her to do a point of damage, then have her flip before the creature she's blocked can do its damage and kill her.

Rainbow Vale is a frustrating card in one-on-one play. You get one mana of any color, then your opponent gets to use it, or chooses not to use it. Most times, you are never going to get the card back, particularly if your opponent thinks you'll need it. In multiplayer games, though, you just need to find someone who will agree to return the land to you! You play Rainbow Vale, then tap it for whatever color mana you need, then pass it to your new friend. On your friend's turn, she untaps the Vale, uses it to help cast any card she chooses, then passes it back to you. You can even choose not to use it until the turn before your friend's turn is about to end. At that point you tap it and pass it over. Finding a friend usually isn't too difficult; just pick someone who needs mana from across the rainbow!

In theory, this Fallen Empires land could be passed to each person around the table in turn, but in practice, someone always decides that it is in their best interest to hold on to it for a while. However, two people in similar situations can make this land a godsend for an entire game.

You often see Rainbow Vale show up in Zedruu the Greathearted builds. Opponents have a vested interest in returning the Vale to you, while you aren't too concerned about it coming back since you'll either have access to mana of any color, or you'll gain a life and draw a card.

This is a Conflux card most people know about, but it just doesn't seem to get a lot of love. In multiplayer games, this card often just gives you any color of mana you need. If a couple of players are running lands that produce more than one color, the Orchard gets better quickly. Pair it with Rainbow Vale and you'll always have at least one land that taps for any color of mana.

As someone who played Fellwar Stone a lot early in my Magic career, I can say for certain that Exotic Orchard will not let you down. Your opponents will not stunt their mana just to prevent you from getting a particular color of mana. It just isn't worth it to anyone to do that, so no one does. Many opponents will pay Vivid lands or Mirrodin's Core or something that gives them any color of mana, but with a downside. Exotic Orchard just asks if they could get it, not how badly it would hurt them to get it, then gives you the benefit without the pain!

Ice Floe traps the target creature in ice to prevent it from untapping. Makes perfectly good sense flavor-wise! The land doesn't tap for mana, so there is a downside that can be ugly if you really need to get some mana onto the battlefield. I recommend not including this card in your land count when you are trying to determine how many lands to run. Unless Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is out there, Ice Floe isn't helping you.

I do like that this is an easy way to keep a miserable creature tapped and not bothering anyone. You simply keep that creature tapped until another creature, even worse than the one you have locked down, comes along.

This card isn't famous because it needs to be untapped when the creature is attacking you, and it doesn't stop the attack. You are still taking the damage it is dealing. In spite of that limitation, it works as an excellent deterrent. No one wants to see their creature get locked in ice, so they tend to avoid you unless they can kill you in a single swing. For a long-forgotten card, it works better than it should!

I'm a fan of token creatures, so the Outpost finds its way into many of my decks. The Outpost has a real downside, as it demands you sacrifice a Plains to play it. This means that in essence, you're not getting a land drop for the turn. However, if you can get past that, the Outpost gives you a 1/1 Soldier token every round you happen to have three spare mana (you are tapping two other lands and the Outpost to get the token). It also only stunts the growth the turn after you play it. Just make sure you never sacrifice an untapped Plains!

A 1/1 token can seem like a minor benefit, but that single token, available at instant speed, can mean a surprise blocker, a creature to sacrifice for some greater demonic good, or all sorts of other benefits—not the least of which is attacking your opponents!

Have you heard the phrase "Don't put all your eggs in one basket"? I think it was written with Lotus Vale in mind. If your opponents are playing with any cards that can destroy a land, the urge to destroy this one tends to be strong. I watched several opponents choose to destroy my Lotus Vale over what I thought were far better targets.

In spite of the risks, I continued to play Lotus Vale. The land makes it much easier to run cards like Dictate of Erebos, Word of Seizing, and Chamber of Manipulation in the same deck.

Marchesa and Her Little Birds

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Marchesa, the Black Rose
Planeswalker (1)
1 Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath
99 Cards

The Vale also makes ways to untap your lands (or even just one!) so much better. I'm not a fan of infinite loops, but when a land makes three mana of any one color every time you tap it, you can find plenty of ways to abuse it.

When I saw Paliano, the High City for the first time, I was frustrated. Here is a fun land that can only be used the first time you draft it, or in Cubes that would include Conspiracy cards. It just seemed a shame to take a fun card with obvious benefit and a downside to balance it, and make it unavailable for a casual deck. I proposed a slight change to the card text for our group, and everyone was on board. If you are running Paliano in your deck, before the start of the game, you tell your opponents that you are playing Paliano. The player to your right chooses a color, then you choose a color, then the player to your left chooses a different color. Paliano then taps for any of the chosen colors for that game. If you are playing Commander, I recommend Paliano is shown before showing the commander.

If you are running a three-color deck, at worst, you have a land that taps for one of the colors you need. More likely, though, you have a land that taps for two of the mana you need. Of course, if you are running a four- or five-color deck, Paliano will give you three of the colors you need with no drawback.

With my group, Paliano has proven to be the equivalent of getting an unknown dual land, suited to your deck, added to your deck. Paliano doesn't help your precision mana base, since you are never sure what you are getting. If you only have a single copy of Paliano, I recommend switching it in and out of various decks so your opponents don't know what colors are beneficial for you.

Bruce Richard


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