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By: Leviathan, Mike Morales
May 17 2012 8:26am
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Welcome to another set overview!  As most of you know, Avacyn Restored is available online this Monday!  So everyone needs to be prepared for the new stuff that is coming out.  Just so we are clear, this is a review of the new set as it relates to Commander!  Not Standard or Modern or Legacy or Emperor or any other format.

AVR brings a couple of new things to the table.  The most important one is Miracle.  Miracle gives a reduced cost for a pretty big effect if it is the first card you drew that turn.  In Commander, this is pretty easy to set up.  Whether it is through Mirage tutors like Vampiric Tutor, or through stacking your deck with Sensei's Divining Top, there are plenty of ways to put things on top of your deck.  And with SDT and other card draw effects, it is fairly easy to draw these during an opponent's turn.  Almost all of the Miracle cards are worth playing even for their full CMC.  But it's worth making the extra effort to but a Crystal Ball or Sylvan Library in your deck if you do play with them.

This set also brings a human theme to the forefront.  While there aren't that many human token makers available (Increasing Devotion probably being the best and only major one), there are plenty of good human cards.  Although most humans are small, there are the occasional big ones like Iwamori of the Open Fist, and the extremely powerful ones like Rafiq and Zur.  It is pretty easy to put together a powerful human tribal deck I think.  So be aware that even if it may not be popular, some enterprising players may try and work with this theme.

With the set themes out of the way, let's look at the individual cards, shall we?


Avacyn, Angel of Hope - All right, starting with the big, bad girl herself.  Yes, she is truly a beast as a Commander.  She basically becomes a better version of Konda, Lord of Eiganjo when you use her.  You can play with all the board wipers in the world, and even your artifact mana that you used to ramp her out will remain untouched.  Basically, this is notice that everyone needs to start playing with Chaos Warp, Condemn, Path to Exile, Hallowed Burial and bounce in order to get around her ability.  Grave Pact and All is Dust effects won't hurt either, since there's nothing that prevents her from being sacrificed.  You know how much it sucks when you are playing against someone with Elspeth, Knight-Errant and they are able to get her ultimate off?  That's what Avacyn does, without the wait.  And on top of all that she is a 3 hit Commander with vigilance.  Just beastly.

Avacyn is going to be packed into a lot of people's decks as a reanimation target and someone to help push their decks over the top.  I would have loved to have had her in the Chromium reanimator deck that I posted a while back.  She will be a great top of the curve creature in a lot of creature based decks.

Bruna, Light of Alabaster - I like Bruna, I really do.  She is obviously a "build around me" Commander, and that's where she leads to some problems in my eyes.  Since there aren't a ton of great creature auras in these colors besides Steel of the Godhead, Eldrazi Conscription, Pemmin's Aura, etc., my fear is that Bruna will essentially turn into a new, flying version of Uril.  Essentially you know exactly what to expect when you see her hit the table:  She's going to use some ramp, cast Three Dreams and Intuition for a couple of fat auras, include Hanna, Ship's Navigator and go to town.  The rougher versions will include Armageddon and some other stuff, but the general principle will be the same in almost all of the Bruna decks we will see.  And there will be a lot of them.  As a matter of fact, there have already been three different decks using her as a Commander published on other major websites.  I hope that I'm wrong, but I really don't see how outside the box you can get with her.  It will be funny when she steals all of Uril's auras though.

Bruna is a creature that really needs to be built around.  If she didn't have Blue in her casting cost you could stick her in Uril decks as a back up creature, but otherwise she doesn't really fit into anything.  You could use her in an aura based Rafiq deck like (the one I built) a while back but otherwise her options are limited.

Gisela, Blade of Goldnight - Gisela is a bomb, and the options to build around her are much more varied.  Of course you can always stick in things like Manabarbs and Pyrohemia, but you have to remember that Gisela costs 7 mana, so you aren't always going to have her in play.  Feel free to include a few universal damagers like Heartless Hidetsugu, just don't go overboard.  Where Gisela really shines is during combat, where she essentially has double strike.  So you are getting a Commander that can kill with 2 hits if you give her a piece of equipment.  You are going to find a lot more variation with Gisela decks.

Gisela is great in all Boros colored decks, and can do wonders in other multi-colored decks.  She is essentially Gratuitous Violence and better Urza's Armor in one.  Who couldn't use that?  Her only issue is her mana cost, and the other cards that she competes with in the 7 drop spot.  But I'm sure people can find a spot for her.

Griselbrand - Ok, here is the real gorilla in the room.  Although he costs 8 mana, this isn't necessarily that hard to hit in mono-Black.  And once you get him out, you can essentially draw 30 cards unless people target you.  With that many cards you can get tutors, grab a combo piece, or do whatever you need to do.  He is essentially Yawgmoth's Bargain on a creature, with lifelink and without having to skip your draw step.  He is really, really good and you should target any player you see playing him as a Commander to limit just how much draw he can get once he actually comes out to play.  If you want to play him, you are going to have to pack a bunch of accel into your control package, as well as a couple of 2 card combos.

Griselbrand is a great creature to have in any deck with Black.  He makes an awesome reanimation target to cheat out without having to pay his whole mana cost.  And once you get him out, you have a 7/7 lifelinker who can draw you a ton of cards.  He will further help reanimation strategies, or combo decks that need to find pieces quickly without caring about life loss.  He is very, very good. 

Sigarda, Host of Herons - At first Sigarda didn't really impress me all that much at first.  Sure, she helps against Edicts, Grave Pact, Butcher of Malakir and All is Dust.  But the fact that she is aggressively costed, and hexproof, means that she would be great as a voltron Commander with some control aspects to the remainder of the deck.

Sigarda seems like she would go well in Rafiq decks, and other aggressive Bant and Naya decks.  She could back up Rafiq and Uril.  I just don't have a whole lot to say about her, mainly because I haven't had to run up against a lot of Edict effects recently.  Other than I don't really like her artwork, even if it does work out well from a lighting perspective.


 Angel of Glory's Rise - Recursion on a stick, there are a whole heck of a lot of humans in Magic's history, and I'm sure you can pull off a competitive human tribal deck without too much problem  As a matter of fact you are going to see a ton of human tribal support in this set.  Most humans are pretty small, which means that they will die a lot.  A one sided Twilight's Call is nothing to sneeze at.  Exiling all zombies will occasionally be great, but most of the time it won't matter.

 Angel of Jubilation - This card turns off a whole heck of a lot of stuff.  This means that you can't use Onslaught fetch lands, Phyrexian mana, Necropotence, Diamond Valley, Phyrexian Altar, etc.  The list goes on.  Of course, it affects everyone, including you, which means that you will have to cut back on your sacrifice effects.  But just like Linvala, it can randomly hose people.  Does her art look a little strange to you guys?  Or is it just me?

 Blood Artist - Essentially a smaller version of Falkenrath Noble, works well when sacrificing a creature over an over, or just killing off tokens.  Especially great with Tombstone Stairwell.

 Champion of Lambholdt - Token support on a stick, this creature is well worth adding when you can make a bunch of dudes.  Essentially better than Goblin War Drums since not only does she get larger herself, she also helps make the rest of your guys unblockable.  Worth consideration in any token strategy.

 Craterhoof Behemoth - Another token supporter, this guy has a rough mana cost.  For 8 mana you expect a game changing creature.  This one is basically similar to Overwhelming Stampede but requires that you have a decent amount of creatures in play in order to really get the most out of it.  All Overwhelming Stampede needs is a couple of big dudes, and that's a pretty common board state.  So would you rather have this guy or something like Triumph of the Hordes (which will tick off a lot of people, but gets the job done)?  Redundancy is nice, but sometimes you have to make cuts at the top of the curve.

 Dark Impostor - This vampire assassin has a cool activated ability that unfortunately costs a ton.  Of course, your 6 mana allows you to exile a creature, which gets around recursion.  And you don't have to tap the Impostor to use his original ability, which means that he can use most any ability he gains that doesn't require colored mana.  I just have a hard time imagining using him without Heartstone or Training Grounds in play.  But late game, with lots of mana, he can clear some room out.

 Deadeye Navigator - The sleeper of the set, this card is really, really good.  He can combo with Palinchron, Great Whale or Peregrine Drake for infinite mana.  And he basically works as a slightly better version of Mistmeadow Witch since the activation cost is less and it blinks creatures instead of making you wait, which means being able to use Mystic Snake and Draining Whelk.  The only way that it is worse than the Witch is that it can't generally save things from Wrath effects, but there are so many other ways to abuse it, it is practically an auto-include in most Bant decks.  You should try and kill this thing on sight.

 Devout Chaplain - Although it takes 3 creatures, the ability to exile stuff is always good.  Another card to consider in your tribal human deck.

 Emancipation Angel - You know all those people playing Kor Skyfisher are going to love this card!  Wait, what's that you say?  You've never seen anyone ever cast Kor Skyfisher in a Commander game?  Hmmm, well, come to think of it, neither have I.  That should tell you about how good this angel is.  I'm not saying it's unplayable, I'm just saying you can better use out of your cards with other effects.  Like Deadeye Navigator.

 Goldnight Commander - This is basically a temporary version of Champion of Lambholdt.  Obviously Champion is better, but if you are going mono-White with your tokens this guy is worth looking at.

 Goldnight Redeemer - Token based life gain.  On a decent sized creature too.

 Harvester of Souls - This guy is good.  Although he has a Titan sized mana cost you get a decent sized body with Deathtouch.  The cool thing he has going for him though is the card draw.  Although you don't draw when tokens die, he can net you a ton of cards in the right deck.  Any deck that sacrifices creatures, like Savra or Endrek Sahr, will definitely like him.  My guess is that you don't even need to have a deck based around sacrificing, just have Grave Pact effects and you're good to go.  Definitely include Bloodghast and Skullclamp in your decks with this guy.

 Herald of War - I guess this is ok.  Probably good in an angel themed deck, since most angels cost a lot of mana anyways.  White doesn't really proliferate, but if you combine with Blue you might be able to get some extra counters on this angel.

 Hound of Griselbrand - Double strike is always a relevant ability.  Although the Hound is essentially a 4/4 for 4 mana when he first comes out to play, he can be destroyed and come back even stronger!  Possibly for Godo decks?

 Malignus - All right, everyone's new favorite play toy.  So he is typically huge when he first comes out, but gets smaller over time.  That's fine, I guess.  What you really want to do is use him like Serra Avatar in your Brion deck:  Chuck him directly at something.  Use Fling or Rite of Consumption (a card I forgot in my Vaevictis deck) and you take out the low hanging fruit.  Otherwise, you need to equip him with a Warhammer and go to work the old fashioned way.  He's definitely not an auto-include, but for Kresh decks and those that like to use Greater Good he should be worth the price.  The damage prevention ability is nice, but may not come up a whole lot.

 Misthollow Griffin - Ok, I assume everyone knows the Food Chain combo now, but that's just boring infinite mana shenanigans.  And Food Chain is a crap card.  It can also be used for Commandeer and Force of Will.  And it basically has protection from Duplicants, since no one will want to waste their shapeshifter on it.  Unless it can truly be broken in a future set, don't expect too much of this guy.

 Restoration Angel - All right, so a blink effect that comes on a decent sized flying body with flash.  Pretty good.  Again, Bant decks and others with "enters the battlefield" guys are going to like her.  Solid card.

 Riders of Gavony - Another card for your human tribal deck.  Otherwise junk.

 Silverblade Paladin - Like I said, anything with double strike is worth considering, and this creature should be on the top of your list for any aggressive strategy.  The good thing about the Commander format is that typically you will always have a creature to pair your soulbond creatures with in your Commander.  And most decks have a decent amount of creatures anyways.  Having 2 double strike creatures is better than one.  So include him in your Uril and Dakkon deck and go to town.

 Somberwald Sage - Creature heavy Bant decks will like this guy, who acts as a quicker Gilded Lotus.  Otherwise likely not worth it.

 Soul of the Harvest - Another Titan sized creature, this is a good Primordial Sage variant, although you don't have to cast the creatures.  So if you like to Living Death or use Bloodghast, you will like this guy.  Even with the non-token clause this guy is sweet.  Card advantage is good and this guy will provide it for you.

 Soulcage Fiend - This guy is pretty crappy at first glance, but I'm sure there is some sort of combo out there that will allow you to reanimate him and sacrifice him over and over to wipe the table.  I'll let you guys figure that one out.

 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage - I'm not gonna lie, Tamiyo is pretty good.  The tap down ability can come in very useful, and the ability to draw cards is always nice.  She's not outright kill on sight powerful, but she needs to be taken care of without ultimating.  I haven't seen Frost Titan used a ton, but Tamiyo has a lower CMC and provides options.  And Blue decks love that.

 Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded - Here we come to the other planeswalker in the set.  I'm not going to sugar coat this one:  Tibalt blows monkey balls.  He is horrendous.  Sure, you could come up with some sort of convoluted situation where he could be great.  I've heard people talk about using him in Sedris decks.  Reanimator may like him as well.   But the fact that his discard is random, and you can't use his second ability for at least 3 turns, and the second ability is very random, leads me to believe that Tibalt is poop.  If you only play Commander, don't waste your money.

 Tyrant of Discord - Holy randomness Batman!  Now unless you are going up against a token deck it is highly likely that your opponents will have more lands than other permanents by the time this Tyrant comes out.  It's going to be rare for this guy to blow up more than 1 permanent, let alone 2.  Gonna have to pass on you big guy.

 Ulvenwald Tracker - The Tracker gives mono-Green a reliable way to get rid of creatures.  Green decks typically have the largest dudes on the table.  The Tracker takes advantage of this fact.  This way you can use your Hellkite Overlord to repeatedly take out all your opponents' small utility guys.  Don't let this little guy fool you, he is worth it.

 Yew Spirit - This guy is obviously the uncommon, and therefore inferior, version of Chameleon Colossus.  Higher casting cost, lower power and toughness, no protection.  I rarely see Chameleon Colossus played anymore, so I'm guessing the Yew guy will definitely not be played.

 Zealous Conscripts - The Conscripts aren't just like any old Threaten effect.  First of all, it comes with a body, which means that it is easily repeatable through the use of reanimation.  The more important part is that you can grab any permanent on the field.  Meaning that you can take some equipment, or a mana producing land, on top of a creature.  That versatility can come in handy.


 Alchemist's Refuge - Essentially a Winding Canyons for non-creature spells.  You can bet that every Momir deck out there will be adding this to their decks.  And not just Momir is going to like this.  Of course, it is going to fight with a lot of other colorless producing lands for space in your deck, but I'm guessing you'll find room.  

 Arcane Melee - This affects everyone at the table.  So I'm not sure how you're going to abuse it, but I'm sure someone will try.  Storm decks maybe?

 Cathars' Crusade - Hey, more token support!  Also does well in creature heavy decks.  Works as an additional Door of Destinies

 Cavern of Souls - All right, aside from the applications in tribal decks, this is also a great card for decks that are overly reliant upon their Commander.  Just name "beast" and Uril can come out without fear of being Hindered!  If you don't really need your Commander to win, then you may not want it in non-tribal decks.  

 Conjurer's Closet - So this card has one main application:  Use it with a variety of temporary steal effects, like Threaten, to keep the stolen creature permanently.  Of course the other function is to use it with a bunch of 187 creatures, but that's not quite as flashy.  Unless you use it with a Titan.  Then it's really flashy.

 Descendants' Path - All right, tribal decks line up for another card.  This one requires some manipulation of the top of the library, but Sylvan Library, Mirri's Guile and Cream of the Crop are all in color, and that doesn't even include artifacts.  Can be very good with the right cards to help it.

 Descent into Madness - You guys ever been in a game where Possessed Portal was in play?  I have.  It sucked.  This card will be the same if someone tries to use it.  Don't be that guy.

 Desolate Lighthouse - People like to sift through cards, and this will help them do it.

 Druids' Repository - Another token supporter.  Of course, it requires that you have a bunch of creatures already out in order to use it fully.

 Exquisite Blood - Yes, it combos with Sanguine Bond.  Other than that, it's actually a pretty good card.  Unfortunately it will also paint a giant bullseye on your forehead.  People will not want to attack your opponents just so you don't get life, which means that they will attack you.  So unless you have Edric out, or something else that will keep people from attacking you, you are going to get a lot of hate.  As a matter of fact this card is sort of the opposite of Edric.

 Favorable Winds - Combine with Gravitational Shift to make your fliers even better!  RAWR!  Flyers!

 Infinite Reflection - First thing to remember is that you can enchant any creature with this, not just your own.  Next, if you put it on a legendary creature, it effectively acts as a non-token board wipe.  This thing has a whole lot of ways to use it.  The only thing keeping it down is the mana cost.  But I'm sure you'll like it when all your creatures become Primeval Titans.

 Moonsilver Spear - Slow token creation is slow.  But it at least it gives you angel tokens.

 Slayers' Stronghold - So for essentially 3 more mana you can give any creature you cast vigilance and haste.  That's a pretty hefty price to pay, but in the late game when you have extra mana it can be pretty sweet.  Is it better than something like Hall of the Bandit Lord?  I don't think so, but if you want redundancy it is probably good.

 Vigilante Justice - Humans!  Tokens!  Human token deck?  Doesn't sound very easy, mainly because there aren't that many human token creators out there.


 Appetite for Brains - The thing that is noticeable about this card is that you can exile the card that you make your opponent discard.  Is that going to make you play it?  Probably not, but it's worth noting.

 Banishing Stroke - Tuck effects are always worth looking at.  This is a great removal card that just happens to cost a ton if you don't get to pay the miracle cost.

 Battle Hymn - More token abuse!  The great thing is that this is an instant, and not a sorcery like Mana Geyser.  Although it requires that you have a bunch of dudes in play, I'm sure that you will find a way to use the mana.

 Bonfire of the Damned - It has been a long, long time since I've seen anyone play Lavalanche.  I guess the main problem with the card is that it doesn't hit all opponents, but I guess that would make it really broken.  If you pay the full price, it means that you need to pay 11 to hit your opponent and his creatures for 5.  The discount becomes greater the more you want to pay.  The mana isn't a huge issue late game, so it's probably still worth it.

 Dangerous Wager - So this is instant speed card draw.  Of course, you have to discard your hand, but there are lots of decks out there that dump their hands quickly.  And being able to dig a little deeper may be worth it.  If you are able to stack the top of your deck through the use of something like a Mirage tutor it gets better.

 Devastation Tide - A Kederekt Leviathan that can be cast for 2 mana, the non-miracle cost is pretty  reasonable as well.  Well worth playing in your decks.

 Divine Deflection - How come no one plays with Shining Shoal?  That's a good card.  This is a slightly cheaper version without the alternate casting cost ability.  People just don't play with this type of card any more.

 Dreadwaters - Some people really like milling.  This will help out The Mimeoplasm and even Wrexial decks.  Or Szadek, Lord of Secrets.

 Entreat the Angels - This is good.  You should probably play it.  That is all.

 Essence Harvest - Remember Soul's Fire?  Similar to that.  But way better.  Who doesn't like a little bit of life gain with damage dealing?  Should go into my Vaevictis Asmadi deck.

 Killing Wave - Unfortunately, despite the cool art of Liliana taking out a bunch of angels, I don't think this is all that great.  If someone has a creature they really want to keep, they will just pay the life.  If they can't, that means that you are sinking a ton of mana into it, and it turns into a very expensive Damnation.  Why not just use all that mana for a big Black Sun's Zenith?

 Primal Surge - If you built your deck around Warp World, you might as well add this card also.  In my Xira Arien Warp deck, it only had 6 non-permanents in the entire deck.  So you have a good shot of dumping a bunch of cards into play.  Is it better than Genesis Wave?  No, but in the right deck it still may be pretty good.

 Rain of Thorns - A better version of Decimate since you don't need every type of permanent out to target.  Well worth the mana cost.

 Reforge the Soul - Another Wheel of Fortune effect?  Yes please!  Worth it even at the full cost.

 Rite of Ruin - This is a pretty efficient card for the mana cost.  If there are 3 opponents when you play it, you can potentially get rid of 18 of your opponents' permanents.  Of course you may have to lose a bunch of yours as well, but you can play around the spell before you cast it.  I don't think I'll be playing with it any time soon, but it's worth knowing about.  Like Wildfire, but different.

 Temporal Mastery - People who like extra turns will like this card.

 Terminus - Hallowed Burial doesn't get enough play, but my guess is that this card will see plenty.  Tuck effects are always good, and another one means that you need more sacrifice outlets in your deck.


Let's take a look at what I think will be the staples from this set:

That's a pretty long list for a recent set.  I can probably be talked out of many of the Miracle cards.  Temporal Mastery and Bonfire of the Damned are probably the easiest to drop down to the next level.  But those 2 are still really good cards.  

On top of all these, here are the other cards that I am going to pick up for use in my decks:  All the legends, Angel of Jubilation, Blood Artist, Champion of Lambholdt, Craterhoof Behemoth, Dark Impostor, Herald of War, Hound of Griselbrand, Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, Ulvenwald Tracker, Zealous Conscripts, Cathars' Crusade, Conjurer's Closet, Exquisite Blood, Infinite Reflection, Dangerous Wager, Battle Hymn, Divine Deflection and Essence Harvest.   Some of these are deck specific, needing either a tribal or token based deck.  Some of these are pretty expensive mana cost wise.  And some of them I may just never play, but would like to have in my arsenal.

Avacyn Restored is a really good set for Commander.  I am pretty surprised in the lack of really good artifacts, but the rest of the stuff more than makes up for it.  There are a lot of goodies in here.  I think that if the Miracle cards become really popular you may see in an increase in cards like Psychic Surgery to mess with stacking the top of your deck.

Seriously, wasn't Sorin supposed to be a big player in Innistrad?

Leviathan, aka Tarasco on MTGO
mrmorale32 at yahoo dot com



Best one graphics I have ever by Raman Mahajan at Thu, 05/17/2012 - 10:06
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Best one graphics I have ever seen...Love this one so much...NET CSIR Coaching In Chandigarh | UGC NET CSIR Coaching

* by Elbinac at Thu, 05/17/2012 - 16:56
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Angel of Jubilation only prevents the sacrifice of creatures. Fetch lands etc are fine.

It stops fetches by by bogtrog at Thu, 05/17/2012 - 22:14
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It stops fetches by preventing you from paying the life.

Here is the relevant portion by Leviathan at Thu, 05/17/2012 - 23:55
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Here is the relevant portion of Angel of Jubilation's text:
"Players can't pay life or sacrifice creatures to cast spells or activate abilities."

This means that if the phrase "pay X life" appears anywhere before the colon of an activation cost, like on fetchlands, Griselbrand, Necropotence, Greed, whatever, then you can't do it when this Angel is in play. It also means that if you try to use the alternative cost of a Phyrexian mana card to cast it by paying life, you can't do it.

The sacrifice creatures part relates to cards like Diabolic Intent, Birthing Pod, and Ashnod's Altar.

Ah right, I keep forgetting by Elbinac at Fri, 05/18/2012 - 01:39
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Ah right, I keep forgetting about the 1 life they tax.

This is such a good set for by bogtrog at Thu, 05/17/2012 - 22:30
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This is such a good set for commander. I have a list half a page long of cards I at least want to try. It certainly makes up for the disappointment that was Dark Ascension. I think you are pretty on the ball with you review here too.

I think the thing that really stands out is the murderers row of legends. Everyone of them is begging to be a general.

This is such a good set for by bogtrog at Thu, 05/17/2012 - 22:31
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Double post

Great list, I was waiting for by themonkey at Fri, 05/18/2012 - 13:42
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Great list, I was waiting for the read.

I think Zealous Conscripts sounds like one of the most fun cards out of the new set. The fact that you can steal ANY permanent for the turn is great. You could steal someone's 'walker just before it goes ultimate, or just nag an annoying enchantment, equipment, or land for the turn. Imagine taking someone's Maze of Ith so they can't hide behind it when you attack, or better snagging a tapped Strip Mine and using it on another of their own lands.