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By: The D.K., Daniel Kenmar
Nov 12 2013 9:22am
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The Commander's Guide to Buying Lands: Part One
Basics and Dual Lands
by Daniel Kenmar (aka The D.K.)

 

Hey everyone! I'm sure you haven't seen me in a while. Well, as of almost exactly a year ago, I'm now a father of a beautiful baby girl named Erika. In just a couple of weeks, she'll be one year old!   Wow, the time flies. In the meantime, I've been playing MTG here and there, mostly with my wife when the baby is asleep. I just downloaded the new MTGO client for the first time, and am honestly very pleased with it. So, it's time to get back to my favorite pastime! Commander!

This week, we're going to be talking about the most important part of any deck you'll ever build: Lands. Yes, my goal in this article is to discuss just about every good land that exists on MTGO. But this isn't just a list of good Commander lands. This is a guide for people who are looking to improve their manabase on a budget. By budget, I don't mean that I won't be covering the expensive lands. I mean your budget. If you have the funds to get the high stuff, we'll be going over the best of the best as well.

Good lands in Commander usually fall under a few different categories: Basic lands, dual lands, tri-lands, multi-lands, value colorless lands, and utility lands. We'll be covering each of these categories, one by one.

Basic Lands

Basic lands are the primary cog that every deck needs. Even if it's just a few. In Commander, there are a lot of non-basic hate cards, and if you run no basic lands, you may be susceptible to a Blood Moon shutdown. That said, basic lands aren't given much thought. If you're on a tight budget, you should be fine with whatever basic lands you have on hand. However, if you're looking to bling out your deck a bit for cheap, you've got a few options.

Zendikar basic lands are very aesthetically pleasing, with their semi-full art frames. Of course, these beauties come at a slightly higher price. As of November 5, each one is 15 cents apiece. Sure, that's only 10 for a $1.50, but if you've ever got some spare credits and are looking for something to round out the ticket, check for Zendikar lands.

The Guru lands are pretty awesome. These lands are money in real life, but thanks to the Momir Basic deck, they are fairly common online. The eclipse effect on each card is beautiful. If you can find any copies, you'll probably be paying around 20 cents.

The Unhinged basics are also extremely gorgeous. These are true full arts and are one of the best ways to bling out your basics. If you can find a copy, you should expect to pay anywhere from $1.50 to $3 for a single copy. The true collector's basic lands.

As for other basic lands, look for foils and promos. Promos are typically very pricey, and in all honesty, aren't usually all that pretty. Foils of normal basics can be had for extremely cheap. M14 basic foils are running the same price as the normal basics at just 2 cents  apiece on MTGO Traders. If you're looking to buy normal basics, why not go for the foils if they're the same price?

 

Dual Lands

Dual lands are defined in a couple of different ways. The most common type of dual land is one that taps to provide two different kinds of mana. These come in a massive amount of varieties, which we'll be covering in just a bit. The other type is called a fetch land. Fetch lands don't actually provide mana. Instead, they search up a land of one of two different types, allowing you to get just the land you need. These will be covered after the true duals. We'll be covering these in order of value, from cheapest to most expensive.

Tap Duals

The 8th Edition tap lands are the cheapest duals in Magic. These beauties come in at 3 cents each. They were originally printed in Invasion, and if you want one of those, you'll pay about a nickel more. They're simple, wonderful little duals that should be in every player's collection. Just play 'em, wait a turn, and profit.

Refuges

At just 3 cents each, the allied-color Refuge Duals from Zendikar are the also the cheapest duals in the game. These duals are the first any low budget player should acquire. A playset for Commander of the whole cycle is just $0.15. The Refuges are nice because they take tap lands and add one line: "When this enters the battlefield, you gain 1 life."

Storage Duals

Just 3 to 5 cents each. Storage duals are quite unique. They were printed in Time Spiral, but received quite a negative stigma for being a bit slow. To use the storage duals, you need to pay a mana (from another source) and tap the storage land in order to add a storage counter on to the land. Then by paying a mana (which can come from this source, since it doesn't require you to tap), you can remove any number of counters to add that much mana of the two colors. These are actually really good in Commander, given the turns where you may not be doing anything else with your mana.

Guildgates

Guildgates are also quite cheap, ranging from 3 to 7 cents apiece. They were printed across the entire Return to Ravnica block, with 5 each printed in RTR and Gatecrash, and all 10 seeing a new art reprint in Dragon's Maze. These are functional reprints of the tap lands, but cover enemy color combinations for the first time. They also have the Gate subtype. There are a few other cards that interact with Gates, so keep an eye out for those interactions. That said, these are still stupidly cheap duals with some sweet artwork.

Check Duals

Believe it or not, the next cheapest set of duals are actually rares. The check lands (aka M10 duals) have dropped to 6 to 8 cents each. These duals also only come in the allied color combo variety. Essentially, these are tap lands with an extra clause: If you control one of the two basic land types it provides, it comes into play untapped. Why these are so cheap is beyond me, but who's complaining? These will come in turn two untapped just about always. They may be more of a tap land in a Commander deck without a whole lot of basics. But they synergize with the true duals and shocklands as well. Definitely worth picking up now.

Karoo Duals

Karoo duals (aka bouncelands) come from the original Ravnica block, and range from 4 to 11 cents. These lands are unique in that they require you to bounce a land back to your hand when you play them. They come into play tapped as well, but provide two mana for one tap. These lands are able to synergize with lands that have enter the battlefield abilities, as well as landfall abilities. A tip: play karoos after you already have something tapped. Then bounce a tapped land to prevent extra tempo loss.

Snow Tap Duals

More tap lands! Again, these tap duals only cover the allied color combos. These come in at 9 to 11 cents each. The big difference here is the snow supertype. There are some cards that deal with snow permanents, so be sure to add these if you plan to synergize. 

Tainted Duals

Tainted duals are interesting. They're only good for black decks. In order to use the colored mana ability, you have to control a Swamp. That said, these are wonderful if you are running black. Each one ranges between 9 to 14 cents per copy. Grab them if you run black!

Enemy Check Duals

Innistrad brought in these five check lands to provide enemy color combos, providing another one of the few dual land cycles that actually cover all ten combinations. Thanks to Standard rotation, most of these have seen a considerable drop off in price. Hinterland Harbor (U/G) and Woodland Cemetery (B/G) are the cheapest at 26 cents a copy. Isolated Chapel (B/W) rings in just a couple pennies higher at 28 cents each. Clifftop Retreat (W/R) comes in at 36 cents apiece. And the most expensive of the bunch by 71 cents is Sulfur Falls (R/U), with a price of $1.07 a copy. Even at these prices, scooping up the whole set will cost you less than 3 tickets, so you should definitely be looking for these, even on a tight budget.

Pain Duals

For those who don't know, pain lands provide a colorless mana, or one of two colors of mana. Using the colored mana ability causes you to take 1 damage. These cards have quite a history. The pain duals are as old as the Ice Age. That's when the allied color ones came out. Then in Invasion, the enemy pain duals surfaced. 7th Edition brought the allied color ones to MTGO for the first time. 9th Edition finally brought them all together. And 10th Edition gave the allied pain lands black borders for the first time on MTGO. The pain lands used to be the consistent best-in-the-business, until shocklands came along. That said, these are still very good lands, and in all honesty, that 1 damage isn't all that much (especially in Commander). The cheapest set to buy your painlands from is 9th Edition, which has the cheapest on every single one, except for Sulfurous Springs (2 cents higher than the 7th Edition version). If you hate the white borders, then 10th Edition is the way to go, but expect to pay double for all of them. The Invasion ones look the coolest, but you'll pay a considerable upcharge if you choose to go that route. The majority of these lands are very cheap though, so snatch them up. The following list is for the 9th Edition versions.

  • Adarkar Wastes {W/U} ($0.53)
  • Battlefield Forge {W/R} ($0.39)
  • Brushland {W/G} ($0.35)
  • Caves of Koilos {W/B} ($0.91)
  • Karplusan Forest {R/G} ($0.55)
  • Llanowar Wastes {B/G} ($0.61)
  • Shivan Reef {R/U} ($2.94)
  • Sulfurous Springs {R/B} ($0.21)
  • Underground River {U/B} ($0.31)
  • Yavimaya Coast {U/G} ($0.34)

Fast Duals

Also known as scar lands, the fast duals are unique in the fact that they come into play tapped unless you control two or fewer lands. If they're in your opening hand, that leaves you with basically a free true dual. Otherwise, they're just really cool looking tap duals. We're getting into the slightly pricier range, but they still won't cost you even a $5 bill to pick up the whole cycle. Seachrome Coast (W/U) is the cheapest of the bunch, just 54 cents each. Copperline Gorge (R/G) is next, at 66 cents a copy. A copy of Razorverge Thicket (W/G) will cost you 70 cents. Darkslick Shores (U/B) costs exactly one whole ticket. Blackcleave Cliffs (R/B) rounds out the list at $1.09 apiece. Commander-wise, these aren't stupendously awesome, but at worst, they're tap lands. And at best, they're true duals.

Old Filter Duals

Man, I love Odyssey-era artwork. These are 5 of the most beautiful duals you can get. I call these old filter duals because there are a new set of filter duals that we'll be discussing a bit later. The way these work is you pay one colorless mana and tap these, then you get one of each of the mana this land provides. Although it may seem like you are, you're not losing mana here. These are land versions of the Signets from Ravnica. Unfortunately, there are only allied ones, but they should still be picked up by anyone playing Commander. The whole set costs less than $7. Mossfire Valley and Shadowblood Ridge both cost a ticket apiece. Skycloud Expanse and Sungrass Prairie both come to $1.15 each. Darkwater Catacombs is by far the most expensive at $1.82 a copy.

Scry Duals

Sure, they're just tap lands with scry 1, but think about what's happening here! You just played a land for the turn. You've got enough land in hand (or maybe not enough). Who wouldn't want to scry that top card and possibly ship away some jank that you don't need right now? These are great and I fully expect to see Born of the Gods bring the other 5, seeing as there are a mix of allied and enemy color combos here. They are fairly cheap at the moment to be brand new rare duals, and may go up in price soon. Then again, they may go down, so purchase these at your own risk. Temple of Mystery is the only one under a dollar, at just 98 cents. Temple of Abandon costs 40 cents more, at $1.38 a copy. Temple of Deceit comes in at $1.76 each. Temple of Silence costs an even 2 tickets. Temple of Triumph breaks that 2 dollar mark, at $2.32 apiece.

Dual Man Lands

Worldwake really brought the "Living Land" theme to life with their man land duals. For the uninitiated, "man lands" are lands with the ability to become creatures, typically until end of turn. Examples of these could be seen with the man lands from Urza's Legacy (which were later reprinted in 10th Edition). The dual man lands always come into play tapped and tap to provide their allied color combination. They also have the ability to let you pay mana to animate them for a turn. Each one is different and the power level varies between them. Lavaclaw Reaches (R/B) costs just 65 cents, easily the cheapest of the bunch. Another two dimes will get you Stirring Wildwood (G/W) for 85 cents a copy. A big jump takes place to Raging Ravine (R/G), coming in at $2.45 apiece. For just a bit more, you can get the unblockable Creeping Tar Pit (U/B) for $2.63 each. But the big boy of the group, Celestial Colonnade (W/U), will set you back a whopping $7.93. These lands are all terrific, and should you have the opportunity to get these, take them!

Shocklands

Quite possibly the most famous (and infamous) duals in the game of Magic are the shocklands. These duals were originally printed in the Ravnica block, and became infamous as the lands low budget players could never afford. Single copies of these lands typically cost you about a twenty dollar bill. If you had playsets, you were looked at as a snob by the peasants who couldn't afford them. Thankfully (for the cheaper players at least), Return to Ravnica brought reprints of all 10 shocklands, dragging every single one of them down to a respectable price right around $5 each. Shocklands are great for a couple of reasons. First off, they actually have basic land types. This allows them to interact with cards that call on specific basic land types, like fetch lands and Farseek. Secondly, they enter the battlefield untapped as long as you pay 2 life (the equivalent of being "Shock"ed). This makes them only slightly worse than the true duals, the best duals in the game. These should be the first duals you go for if you're willing to drop $5 on a single copy. The prices I'm listing below are for the Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash reprints. If you want the originals, expect to pay about a dollar or two more.

  • Blood Crypt ($4.27)
  • Hallowed Fountain ($4.05)
  • Overgrown Tomb ($3.61)
  • Steam Vents ($3.50)
  • Temple Garden ($3.89)
  • Breeding Pool ($3.71)
  • Godless Shrine ($3.94)
  • Sacred Foundry ($5.99)
  • Stomping Ground ($3.99)
  • Watery Grave ($4.20)

New Filter Duals

Shadowmoor and Eventide brought along a full set of new-style filter duals. As opposed to the Odyssey filters, these are able to tap for a colorless if you don't want to filter. They also give you the ability to get two mana of one color it provides if you'd like, as opposed to only one of each. The downside is that filtering requires you pay a mana of one of the colors it provides, so if you're running R/U/G and open with a hand of Cascade Bluffs and a Forest, you're only going to be making {1}{G} for the time being. The allied color filters are quite a bit cheaper than the enemy ones from Eventide, so chances are you'll be hitting up the Shadowmoor ones first. The list following contains the prices of each one, starting with the allies followed by the enemies.

  • Fire-Lit Thicket {R/G} ($2.40)
  • Graven Cairns {B/R} ($1.16)
  • Mystic Gate {W/U} ($4.50)
  • Sunken Ruins {U/B} ($3.86)
  • Wooded Bastion {W/G} ($2.89)
  • Cascade Bluffs {R/U} ($17.31)
  • Fetid Heath {W/B} ($7.69)
  • Flooded Grove {U/G} ($6.94)
  • Rugged Prairie {R/W} ($5.21)
  • Twilight Mire {G/B} ($10.51)

True Duals

The big papas. The original ten. These are the true duals (also known as alpha/beta/unlimited duals). As old as the game itself, these ten lands are as simple as they come. They are two basic lands on one card, with the only downside being that they're not basic themselves. Of course, they have the price tags to back their awesomeness. These are by far the most expensive dual lands available. If you want the cheapest copies you can get, you'll probably be looking at the ones from Master's Edition IV, which are the price tags you'll be seeing below. If you can afford these, good on you. The main thing to keep in mind: They're worth every penny.

  • Badlands {B/R} ($14.05)
  • Bayou {B/G} ($30.65)
  • Plateau {R/W} ($7.00)
  • Savannah {W/G} ($11.52)
  • Scrubland {W/B} ($17.16)
  • Taiga {R/G} ($12.17)
  • Tropical Island {U/G} ($32.28)
  • Tundra {W/U} ($29.28)
  • Underground Sea {U/B} ($33.20)
  • Volcanic Island {R/U} ($28.47)

Future Sight Duals

I decided to list these and the Lorwyn duals after the true duals because they're very unique. The Future Sight dual lands are "time-shifted" to represent that they may be seen in future sets. As a matter of fact, does one of them look familiar? Yep, Graven Cairns joined the rest of the new filter duals in Shadowmoor just a few sets later. None of the others have been reprinted in a new set (Grove of the Burnwillows was reprinted in From the Vault: Realms). And boy are they all different. Grove of the Burnwillows is kind of like a pain land, but gives your opponents 1 life instead of dealing 1 to you. Horizon Canopy is also similar to a pain land, but allows you to draw a card if you don't need it anymore. Nimbus Maze is almost like a check land for W/U, except that the abilities themselves require you to have a Plains or Island. River of Tears normally gives one blue mana, but if you drop a land that turn (including the turn you play it), it taps for black instead. This copy of Graven Cairns is actually cheaper than the Shadowmoor one, at just 78 cents. Nimbus Maze is the cheapest of the group coming it at 56 cents a copy. River of Tears is strangely fairly expensive for what I feel is somewhat unreliable at 90 cents. Horizon Canopy jumps the price up over $10 to $11.99 apiece. Grove of the Burnwillows rounds out the group at a fairly high $18.24 each. Get the cheap ones if you can afford them, but I wouldn't be surprised if you wait on the other two.

Lorwyn Tribal Duals

The Lorwyn Tribal duals are unique in the fact that they're just tap lands, unless you happen to be able to reveal a certain creature type named on the card. Since tribal decks in Commander are fairly uncommon, you may not see these too often. That said, they're all fairly cheap tap lands that may be useful in a deck you might be making in the future. Ancient Amphitheater provides white and red, checks for Giants, and only costs a nickel. Gilt-Leaf Palace provides green and black, checks for Elves, and costs 12 cents each. Secluded Glen provides blue and black, checks for Faeries, and comes in at 28 cents a copy. Auntie's Hovel provides black and red, checks for Goblins, and costs 43 cents apiece. The top of the price chart is Wanderwine Hub, which provides white and blue, checks Merfolks, and jumps the prices up to $2.36.

Fetch Lands

Glad you stuck with me! This particular article is almost done, but we've still got plenty of lands to go after these. Let's head into the last type of dual land: Fetches. Like I said earlier, dual fetches don't actually provide mana themselves, but instead search your deck for a land that has one of the two basic land types listed on the card. They synergize very well with non-basics that have basic land types, such as shocklands and true duals. Not only that, they thin your deck and fix your mana very well. There are two kinds of dual fetches: slow fetches and pain fetches.

Slow Fetches

Slow fetches were printed waaaaaaay back in Mirage. These fetches come into play tapped, then are able to tap and sacrifice to search your deck for one land of the two basic land types. They only come in allied color combinations. These are the ones for the financially infirm. They range from 8 cents to 29 cents. The full list is below:

  • Bad River {U/B} ($0.29)
  • Flood Plain {W/U} ($0.27)
  • Grasslands {W/G} ($0.13)
  • Mountain Valley {R/G} ($0.15)
  • Rocky Tar Pit {R/B} ($0.08)

Pain Fetches

Finally, we have the pain fetches. These are the equivalents of true duals as far as fetches go. The allied pain fetches come from Onslaught, and the enemy fetches finally came out in Zendikar. Pain fetches are awesome because they come into play untapped and only require 1 life to use them immediately and get whatever land you need. If you're not using these to fetch shocklands or true duals, you're either doing it wrong or you can't afford them. That said, if you can afford these, you can probably afford shocklands. Get these as soon as you can afford them, because they are so very useful.

  • Bloodstained Mire {B/R} ($5.17)
  • Flooded Strand {W/U} ($19.91)
  • Polluted Delta {U/B} ($21.35)
  • Windswept Heath {W/G} ($8.43)
  • Wooded Foothills {R/G} ($7.97)
  • Arid Mesa {W/R} ($10.98)
  • Marsh Flats {W/B} ($10.92)
  • Misty Rainforest {U/G} ($21.08)
  • Scalding Tarn {U/R} ($19.12)
  • Verdant Catacombs {G/B} ($15.77)

And that does it for part one! I hope you stayed with me this long. Now, I know we may have not hit on many lands you didn't already know about, but hopefully you got a good glimpse at the prices of duals these days. Next time, we'll be going over the tri-lands and multi-lands, and maybe we'll cover the colorless and utility lands in that article if we have time (and space). So definitely be on the lookout if you're looking for more lands! If you feel so inclined, you can follow me on Twitter @danielkenmar. Hope to hear from you there. And sound off in the comments as well! Later!