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Sorry I... Didn't Finish Your Land Cycle (Part 1)


Hey there. My name is Eric, and I've been an occasional Magic humor writer for the past decade or so. Here on MTGGoldfish, I'm starting a (roughly) quarterly new Magic humor series called "Sorry I...". That's pretty much all you need to know going in. Seriosity set to −1. Engage!

So, I thought it'd be worth taking a look back at all the "unfinished" land cycles in Magic's history and figure out which ones we really want to see again, along with which ones will have opponents calling their friends over because they can't believe you're actually playing that card. And, then you go home and throw them in a shoe box in the back of your closet, never to touch human hands again, until your mom throws them out after you leave for college—along with your fetch lands.

 

PART 1: Pre-Modern Lands!
HOMELANDS (oh, you just know this isn't going to be good)

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

You'd think that with dual lands and City of Brass under their belt, Wizards would have had some vague, basic sort of idea of what makes a land that can produce multiple colors of mana work: great Magic art by classic artists, awesome names like Castle Sengir, and abilities that make them into blank pieces of cardboard. Kind of a shame. Magic's first "tri-lands" were more like a severe punishment for trying to play a three-color deck than anything that could help you do it. You almost certainly would win more games by just trying to mise three different basics than by adding these to your deck. They're pretty much the absolute worst.

I'll just remind you that we've had this card for nine years now. At common.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

In fact, it's so harmless at common that they decided to do a functional reprint with a better name, so now you can play eight! Woo. So. Excited.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

FINISH THIS CYCLE!: 0 out of 10. Magic will never finish this cycle. We don't want them to finish this cycle. We just want to forget this cycle so Baron Sengir doesn't have to live in the shantytown of Magic lands anymore.

 

ICE AGE (also a giant red flag for quality)

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

At one point, this cycle was errata'd to have nothing to do with counters and just not untap the turn after you used them. Then, we threw out those rules bums and got us some new rules guys who un-errata'd them back to using counters so people with Power Conduit decks would shut the heck up already.

Bad cards are bad, but the most annoying thing about them is how they took nice, general dual land names away from us forever. Like, I know what a delta and a ridge and even a veldt are. But you have to be a friggin' geologist these days to know what some of the dual land names mean without looking them up. I'll Fumarole your Caldera Heath, Mr. Tarn.

Very strangely, they were printed in the same set and at the same rarity as Adarkar Wastes and the other infinitely superior ally-color pain lands. So, rather than getting Battlefield Forge and the other enemy-color pain lands six years early, they threw in more ally-color lands that were worse in every way. They don't even let you have colorless mana without inducing their drawback, which, by the way, reads "Like half the time, skip your next turn because you can't cast on curve. Sorry." It's like your opponent gets to cast Stitch in Time for free every single time you tap them.

For some reason, Wizards just hated enemy-color decks back then. There was a rumor at the first Pro Tour that if you showed up with an enemy-color deck, a member of R&D would just walk up and punch you in the face at some point during the tournament.

FINISH THIS CYCLE!: 1 out of 10. Unless there's a block that really really digs counter-shifting or Wizards lets Chisei, Heart of Oceans have his watery way with them, I don't see it happening. They're way too fiddly and complex for anything less than rare in limited, but their power level is lower than draft commons. So, that leaves them in a fairly awkward spot, like when your mother-in-law really needs to use the bathroom while you're showering.

 

MIRAGE (Do you like uncounterable fireballs at common? Do we have the set for you...)

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Oh, they're so goooood. No, they're not as good as the Onslaught / Zendikar fetches, but man, they do work. Once they spend a turn tapped, they're a fetch land with no life loss. People have wanted the enemy versions of these for about 20 years now, but it's really picked up in the past few years, as fetch lands became super important (and super expensive) and budget players want to be part of the shenanigans.

The problem is that they work way better online than offline, especially at their uncommon rarity. They were awesome in Vintage Masters, so Eternal Masters will be a good litmus test on how Wizards feels about them in paper and whether they get printed there or not (SPOILER ALERT: NOT). And unfortunately, the shuffling these lands would cause at uncommon in a standard-legal set is probably way more than Wizards wants or will ever want again in the future.

Also, they are not Modern-legal, and with the amount of shuffling already in Modern, I don't think Wizards has any real incentive to bring them into Modern. That said, I think there are ways to get the enemy ones printed. These methods are probably the only chance for a lot of these early lands.

  • Conspiracy-type sets (Woo! Conspiracy: Take the Crown is the greatest paper reprint set of all time and looks as fun as the first!)
  • Enemy-color or maybe three-to-four-color Commander decks
  • Masters-type sets (where they're actually allowed to finish cycles with some new cards)

I just think Bad River is one of the best dual land names of all time. It's like a normal river that produces blue mana, but it wasn't breastfed or hugged enough as a child or something, and somewhere along the way, it just joined up with the wrong crowd and got into some black mana—and probably drugs.

FINISH THIS CYCLE!: 9 out of 10. These have been at the top of many people's hitlists for a long, long time, although some recent cycles may have passed it.

 

TEMPEST (The best set since Alpha...right?)

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

There are a lot of weird things about this cycle. First off, two years after the abysmal Land Cap cycle above, they were all like "Whoops! Guess maybe we should give you a colorless option to not skip your turn half the time if you don't want to. Also, you're all so smart! Who needs counters? You'll all remember." So...it doesn't always work out that way. Remembering that you put an opponent's creature to Sleep and that it doesn't untap next turn is a whole lot different than remembering that your own lands—which you tap every turn—sometimes randomly don't untap. And, it can lead to arguments in paper when you tap a bunch of lands to pay for something: exactly which did you draw colored mana from and which did you not? And, Wizards' official philosophy on this since Cavern of Souls has been: We really don't care. Just keep playing. Please stop calling us.

Also, it's easy to accidentally cheat and just forget to keep them tapped, especially in multiplayer. Also, it would be super easy to cheat on purpose with them, but there are so many better lands that no one cares.

But stranger still are their names. Cinder Marsh is fine, but it's the only one of the five to use up a generic name. The other four all have plane-specific names, but the colors don't match the creatures they reference. Yes, this was before they started letting creature types have a secondary color and stuff in Onslaught, but still... Mogg Hollows is R/G with no green Moggs, Vec Townships is W/G with no green Vec people, Thalakos Lowlands is U/W with no white Thalakos, and Rootwater Depths is U/B with no black Rootwaters, although we got a green Rootwater Alligator instead, I guess? Also, you'll notice that we're at two blue races and have no black or green ones. It's all just really weird and would never fly in today's creative.

FINISH THIS CYCLE!: 0 out of 10. As you'll see later, they decided for some reason that this a good cycle to reprint with generic names, along with many other super-great design decisions made during Kamigawa block. So, if they ever finish this, it'll certainly be finishing that cycle instead.

 

TEMPEST (Really, it was the best thing Magic had gotten in five years? Really? These were five rares.)

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

YOU LIKE PLAYING ENEMY COLORS, HUH? HOW ABOUT THIS! *Kick to the face* HOW ABOUT SOME OF THIS! *Repeated pummeling in headlock* YOU STILL WANT TO PLAY BLUE AND RED TOGETHER? *Suplex slam onto someone's bag of d6s* YOU ENEMY-COLOR PERVERTS MAKE ME SICK.

Alpha was a nice set. It gave us all 10 dual lands, and it distinctly did NOT tell us to ignore half of them. I just can't wrap my head around what Wizards was thinking with these lands. Did they think enemy-color decks would destroy Magic for all time? Having 10 two-color choices instead of 5 would have people just immediately throwing up their hands and saying "This game is too complex! I give up forever!"

The pain lands were useful. How they thought that having pain lands that came into play tapped as a punishment for daring to mix chocolate and marshmallows would make anyone happy is beyond me.

Also, Scabland is just...icky. I'm not a big fan of lands named after medical issues. I don't want to see the Pus Cave or the Scabies Ranch or Thrombosis Town.

FINISH THIS CYCLE!: 0 out of 10. They really "finished" this cycle by printing Battlefield Forge, etc. They just ignored all this and completed the cycle that these were meant to be. These were OK at uncommon in Vintage Masters (since that included good rare duals and it's clear they were for limited), but I can't see anyone wanting ally versions of them for any reason, since they could just come into play tapped and then not cause life loss and have you gain 1 life, even (thanks for making everyone else look bad, Khans!).

 

INVASION (In which multicolor finally returned after taking two and a half years off to find itself in Tibet, I guess.)

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

I kind of love this cycle—bit of a shame it's never been re-used. I imagine the issue is that, you know, it can be mana acceleration to get your fatties out, and then if they die, you've also lost some lands and feel bad and will probably lose. So...you might say they're a bit swingy, in the same way that Wilt Chamerblain swinging on a playground swing holding a copy of the movie Swingers is a bit swingy. They are also pretty terrible at actually "fixing" your mana, since by the time you get any good fixings out of them, they're gone forever—much like a health-code-condemned KFC, which is basically a KFC.

The neatest part is that Creative really put some thought into these names and making them match the somewhat odd flavor of a land saccing itself for its two ally colors—way more than they usually do when naming non-basic lands. Not a Crumbling Forsaken Sanctum of Abandoned Ruin in sight. 

  • Irrigation Ditch. You start with a nice flat field (white), then ruin it by building a ditch for water (blue) to grow some plants (green).
  • Tinder Farm. You have a nice grove of trees (green), then cut them down to burn (red) in your new flat field (white).


Ok, the other three don't really work, but still, I appreciate that they really tried, for like almost half the cycle. That's a gold star right there, flavor guys.

FINISH THIS CYCLE!: 6 out of 10. This would be a fun one to finish with lands saccing for its enemy colors. The most fun would be trying to come up with names for it... W saccing for RB could be a battlefield of some kind that was nice until the war happened, G saccing for UB could be some trees you cut down to make a dam, U saccing for RG could be, uh, hmm... a retention pond that gets drained to put out a forest fire? They're not really tournament-level stuff but they'd be fun to have around.

 

INVASION (So many ways to play multicolor, as long as you still only play ally colors! Sorry, wait six months!)

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

These dual lands were famously considered too good to exist until someone actually played with them and realized they're actually pretty terrible. Yeah, Magic has changed. The Khans lands have also totally made them obsolete, and these exact lands were just reprinted with nice, generic names in Oath of the Gatewatch such as Cinder Barrens, etc.

Again, these names were a weird mix of totally generic (Salt Marsh), generic if you have some people who build towers near coasts (Coastal Tower), generic if you have Elves and they're the kind of Elves who like building palaces for themselves (Elfhame Palace), and locations directly tied to Dominaria (Shivan Oasis and Urborg Volcano). So...pretty random. I'm pretty sure the flavor guys spent all of their precious time on the 2/5ths of the common cycle that made sense and then went back to their wild glowstick raves (it's research, man!) and just phoned in the rest of Invasion.

FINISH THIS CYCLE!: 0 out of 10. I mean, they sort of just finished this cycle after 15 years in Shadows over Innistrad with Forsaken Sanctuary, etc. But really, that was completing the Oath of the Gatewatch cycle, and this one remains uncompleted. But, how would you even finish this cycle? Mix generic names with really specific architecture and some random Dominaria references? WB: Mire Parking Garage. BG: Ashnod's Back Porch. GU: Llanowar Aquarium. UR: Dwarven Hair-Salon. RW: Icatian Brewery. Sadly, these names are exactly as reprintable as the actual ones in a random set.

 

PLANESHIFT (Next set, you can play with enemy colors. We swear we'll stop punching you.)

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Planeshift, Magic's first set all-about-Dragons-that-didn't-actually-have-a-single-Dragon-in-it (I see you hiding there, Dragon's Maze) had a bunch of cards referring to the Invasion Dragons, and among them were these beauties. I like the flavor on these lands a lot. Well, three of them are just trying to find different ways to say "dark hole in the ground," but I like the fact that they tried to go specific and give these Dragons their own lairs and some personality. Maybe the glow tick raves did help.

The design is much, much less likable. Let's compare these to the Ravnica bounce lands like Boros Garrison. Say it's Turn 2, and you have one of them plus a basic land in hand and a basic land on the field.

LAIR: Turn 2 = 2 mana, 1 of it fully fixed. Turn 3 = 2 mana, 1 of it fully fixed. Turn 4 = 3 mana, etc.
BOUNCE LAND: Turn 2 = 1 mana. Turn 3 = 3 mana, 2 of it half-fixed. Turn 4 = 4 mana, etc.

Unlike the bounce lands, you forever remain a land behind, because these don't tap for 2 mana. And, fixing for three colors just isn't worth that. They're almost strictly worse than something like Unknown Shores, which only delays you by a turn if you don't have the right fixing already, or Arcane Sanctum, which delays you one turn up front like the bounce lands but nothing later.

FINISH THIS CYCLE!: 3 out of 10. They're bad, but wedge-color lands are lacking, and it wouldn't hurt anything to finish this cycle by giving the Planar Chaos Dragons some lairs in a future wedge Commander set. C'mon, who wouldn't want Teneb's Tunnel of Terror, Intet's Inner Burrow, Oros's Original Cavity, Vorosh's Very Deep Hole, and of course Numot's Second Floor Apartment with Stuffed Dog and Monkey?

 

ODYSSEY (Red, your theme for the whole block is "make yourself discard at random." Losing is fun!)

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

For the time, these were decent enough fixing and even showed up in a few tournament decks. These days...eh. Even in two-color Commander, they're OK but there are probably enough lands these days to skip 'em. In non-singleton formats, they're just stone cold unplayable. Graven Cairns and the rest of the filter lands are pretty much strictly better in two-color decks.

It's all because these lands have just one tiny little (cataclysmic) problem. Mainly, if you are playing more than one, eventually you'll draw a starting hand with two of them as your only lands—a hand that then contains only blank pieces of cardboard. They're some of the most "legendary" lands in Magic that don't actually have legendary printed on them, if you know what I mean. The number of times you straight-up lose to having three or four in your deck is way higher than the number of times you win due to having extra fixing, and even having two in a deck is highly questionable. They've only gotten worse with time, and these days, there's just no call to run lands with "2% AUTO-MULLIGAN" printed on them—I mean, I guess unless Richard Garfield signed your cards, and that's what he decided to write.

The best part of them? Magic for a while was in that phase where "every fair land can be a two-mana artifact," and these led directly to Azorius Signet and the like, which isn't a bad legacy for some pretty suicidal lands. Odyssey block had a really amazing hidden sub-theme of "play cards that make you randomly lose the game," and these fit right in.

FINISH THIS CYCLE!: 2 out of 10.There's really no good place (or reason) to finish this cycle. They're very underpowered for rares, and at common or uncommon, the "randomly lose the game" problem is even worse.

 

That concludes our look into the wildly uneven early days of Magic's unfinished land cycles. Join me soon as all those Modern land cycles that people actually care about start showing up. Also, Modern frames with 95% less squinting! Yeah!


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