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By: Arnnaria, Sean Costales
Feb 21 2008 12:58am
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Welcome to Pure Standard!

When it comes to deck building, lands have always been an afterthought for me.  I’m not very good at building mana bases, so most of my decks have their mana bases copied from popular current builds.  When it comes to mana, I admit freely that I’m a netdecker.  But currently in Standard, there are a multitude of lands that seem to steal the spotlight from the spells and creatures you’re running.  I decided to look over the top ten lands in Standard.  Of course, like all top ten lists, this is unofficial and subject to much change.  Feel free to post comments on how you disagree with my list.  Without much further ado, here are the top ten lands in Standard.

~ Sean

10.  Urza's Factory

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  Back in Time Spiral Block constructed, many mirror match control games were decided on who found the Urza’s Factory first.  In fact, the once top tier deck of Sonic Boom used to run a Tolaria West to find either a Pact of Negation or a Factory.  But with Elves! and Goblins now taking the top tier spots, Standard has sped up significantly to the point where you’re probably dead by the time you’re able to start spitting out Assembly Workers.  Urza’s Factory still finds a place in many big mana builds, whether the traditional Green/Red version or the up and coming Green/White version.  But with Morningtide giving us Murmuring Bosk and Mutavault, Urza’s Factory probably falls off the top ten in the coming months.  It just goes to show, you never know what’s going to happen in the rapidly evolving world that is Standard.

Secluded Glen
9.  Secluded Glen

Secluded Glen would probably rank up higher if there were more one-casting cost faeries flying around.  But, like all the other black-splashed race-lands, Secluded Glen offers a trick up your sleeve that can’t be denied.  With Secluded Glen, you can reveal a Nameless Inversion to get the land into play and untapped.  This little trick places Auntie’s Hovel and Gilt-Leaf Palace high up on the list too.  And with so many faerie decks running Faerie Conclave, Secluded Glen needs to come into play untapped so you can cast that all important turn-two Oona’s Prowler.


8.  Auntie’s Hovel

Why is Auntie’s Hovel better than Secluded Glen?  Because Goblins have more one-drops to cast than Faeries do.  Goblins need to get out Knucklebone Witch and Mogg Fanatic on turn one, and Auntie’s Hovel lets them do this.  Even if you don’t have a one-casting cost critter, you still need the mana open to suspend a Greater Gargadon.  The two race-lands that didn’t place on this list are Wanderwine Hub and Ancient Amphitheater.  Ancient Amphitheater hasn’t seen much play because giants haven’t seen much play.  Giants don’t have any early plays to stave off a consistent aggro offense in Goblins, Elves, or even Faeries.  As for the merfolk land, there aren’t too many white merfolk out there that are getting play.  The only one that is consistently showing up in deck lists is Sygg, River Guide.  That’s not to say that white should be eliminated from Merfolk builds; Oblivion Ring is a very good card.  It’s just that a turn-one, untapped Wanderwine Hub isn’t as important to Merfolk as a turn-one untapped Auntie’s Hovel is to Goblins.


7.  Pendelhaven

Pendelhaven screws up combat math when your opponent is trying to decide which guy to block.  Most decks that run green are at least packing Llanowar Elves, so the card is warranted.  However, what’s even more surprising is the decks that don’t run any green cards that are running Pendelhaven.  The decks without green that run Pendelhaven are mostly goblin builds and “Red Deck Wins” variants.  They use the Pendelhaven to pump up their Knucklebone Witches, Mogg War Marshals, and Mogg Fanatics.  A free extra point of damage is nothing to scoff at when you’re racing to bring your opponent down to zero life.  And like all legendary lands, Pendelhaven can also act as a Strip Mine to paralyze your opponent’s land base.  If you’re running 1/1’s, there’s no excuse not to play Pendelhaven.

6.  Mouth of Ronom

I’ve always imagined Mouth of Ronom as a scary ice avalanche; the kind where the entire cliff face falls downward, squashing the enemy in a mix of blood and ice.  Flavorwise, Mouth of Ronom makes Desert look like Sorrow’s Path.  For five mana, you can take out over half the creatures currently in Standard: from Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir to the snow-friendly Phyrexian Ironfoot.  Mouth of Ronom also is colorless so it will be able to deal with Chameleon Colossus once Moringtide hits.

Before Coldsnap, Ice Age block didn’t really offer any decent cards that had benefits for running snow mana.  However, Coldsnap changed all that by making snow really matter.  Many mono-colored or bi-colored decks run a snow base to take advantage of Mouth of Ronom and its partner-in-crime, which comes in at number five.

Mouth of Ronom

Scrying Sheets

5. Scrying Sheets

Scrying Sheets is a must include for any mono-colored build.  Instead of adding regular basic lands, add the appropriate snow-covered lands to your build.  The card advantage Scrying Sheet generates in the late game is powerful, essentially guaranteeing that you never draw a dead land if you have the right mana open.  The only non-land snow cards that get play are Phyrexian Ironfoot, Ohran Viper, and Coldsteel Heart so don’t expect to get anything but lands with your Scrying Sheets.

But what are the benefits of snow?  We’ve already seen the creature-nuking power of Mouth of Ronom, but what else can a snow mana-base offer?  A snow mana-base offers three cards that shine in Standard: Into the North for green, Skred for red, and Phyrexian Ironfoot for all decks.  All decks have access to the cheap and efficient beater in Phyrexian Ironfoot.  For only three mana you get a 3/4 that stops most creature rushes in its tracks.  This is the main reason that Pickles plays it as it stops most creatures in their tracks. 

Into the North is a fun card as it can fetch a snow dual land, a Mouth of Ronom, or a Scrying Sheets.  This added versatility makes it much better than Search for Tomorrow.  In the late game, when you’re mana base is already established, being able to look for creature destruction or card-drawing power is a godsend compared to a card that would be dead in Search for Tomorrow.

Skred is quite possibly the best burn spell for creatures in Standard.  In the late game, when most of your lands are in play, Skred can nuke the biggest of Tarmogoyfd for one red mana.  Mono-Red Snow plays Stuffy Doll and is often able to kill an unsuspecting opponent by aiming the Skred at one of their Dolls.

4.  Gilt-Leaf Palace

Gilt-Leaf Palace gets bonus points for being in the two most powerful colors in Standard right now: black and green.  Black gives you access to some powerful removal spells in Eyeblight’s Ending and Profane Command.  Green has the best planeswalker Garruk Wildspeaker, and of course there’s also Tarmogoyf.  Gilt-Leaf Palace also gets bonus points because it gets untapped by two non-creature elf cards: Eyeblight’s Ending and Nameless Inversion.  Like Goblins, Elves! also has the one-drops it needs to get out on turn one: Llanowar Elves and, in some decks, Boreal Druid.  Doran Rock and some Rock builds also run Llanowar Elves to be able to get in a turn two Troll Ascetic, Phyrexian Totem, or even Loxodon Warhammer.


3. The Painlands: Adarkar Wastes, Battlefield Forge, Brushland, Caves of Koilos, Karplusan Forest, Llanowar Wastes, Shivan Reef, Sulfurous Springs, Underground River, and Shivan Reef

I remember waiting for the spoilers to come in for Tenth Edition.  Ninth Edition had spoiled us.  Wizards of the Coast, in a feat of pure brilliance that deserved magnanimous praise, had given us all ten painlands to play around with.  The original allied pairs from Ice Age, and the enemy pairs from Apocalypse.  But the biggest question was, would all ten return for Tenth?  Eventually among the rumormongers and the speculators, it was confirmed that deck builders and innovators would be blessed again – all ten painlands were coming back to Tenth.  This meant that standard would be color-combo friendly for an additional two more years.

Painlands are a magnificent thing.  Free colorless mana, and one point of damage to the dome for every colored mana you pump out of it.  But while painlands are an auto-include for the mana base of any non-mono-colored deck, not many of us think of the ramifications in including them in a deck.  Successful players traditionally don’t fear taking damage.  Whether it was the old Necropotence players of old, or a Classic Flash player searching for his combo pieces with Lim-Duls Vault: better players don’t seem to fret over losing life points as much as newer players do.  As a result, no one has ever tabulated how much painlands actually hurt you.  They’re just included with nary a fret over how much it’s going to affect your bottom line.  I decided to find out once and for all how much pain one takes from these mana makers.

First, I wanted to pick decks that played a lot of painlands – not the normal four that are thrown into bi-colored decks.  This meant I was looking at decks that were three or more colors.  Currently in Standard, there are only two top tier decks that are more than two colors: Blink and Doran Rock.  Here’s a list for those unfamiliar with the decks:

 With each deck I played twenty games and kept a running tally at how much damage I was dealt.  Going into this experiment, my hypothesis was that I would take about four damage each game due to the painlands.  However, my estimates were greatly exaggerated and I was surprised how few damage the painlands actually deal.


Wins:                            0, 0, 1, 1, 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 6 damage

Median damage:           2 damage

Mean damage:              2.5 damage

Losses:                         0, 0, 0, 1, 1, 2, 2, 4, 5 damage

Median damage:           1 damage

Mean damage:              1.7 damage

So it appears as if with Blink in games where you win the duel, you take more damage from your painlands.  But, if you are winning the duel, damage doesn’t really matter.  A win at 20 life is just the same as a win at 14 life.  The culprit card here is Mystic Snake – a fairly mana-intensive card.  Mystic Snake requires two blue mana and one green to cast, so you’re almost guaranteed to have to take one or two to the dome to cast this guy.  But, if you are successfully casting Mystic Snakes, you’re winning the game.  It’s the games where you aren’t casting Mystic Snakes that you’re losing.  With Mystic Snake and the decks namesake Momentary Blink, you can have your opponent in a three-turn soft lock.  And all it costs you is some piddly little life points.  Was the same true for Doran Rock?  Does Doran take more damage in games that it wins?  The answer to that question is a definitive “no.”


Wins:                            1, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 6 damage

Median damage:           3 damage

Mean damage:              2.6 damage

Losses:             0, 0, 0, 3, 3, 4, 7         

Median damage:           3 damage

Mean damage:              2.4 damage

There isn’t any difference between the medians of these two data sets and there is barely any difference between the means.  If you’re playing Doran, win or lose, you’re looking at approximately taking three damage per game.  This is much more than Blink, but you have much more color-intensvie cards in Doran.  The deck’s namesake Doran, the Siege Tower costs a prohibitive BGW.  Unlike Mystic Snake though, Doran does not put your opponent in a soft lock.  Doran is a threat and there are many ways to get rid of it from Oblivion Ring to Eyeblight’s Ending.  Doran Rock also runs Ohran Viper, which costs double green.  However, three life per game isn’t anything major to fret over.  Imagine yourself starting the game at seventeen life instead of twenty.  The trade off is, you’re mana base is much more stable and you are more likely to be able to cast the cards you need. 

Ultimately, it appears as if the payoff is worth the pain.  That’s why so many people play painlands and don’t fret about the damage.

2.  Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth 

Splashing black has never been easier.  Not only are all your lands able to produce black mana, you now can also use your painlands for black without taking any damage.  Urborg with a Horizon Canopy is able to produce black or colorless mana without causing any pain.  Urborg also works well with Gemstone Mine; it allows the Mine to tap for black mana without removing mining counters.  How many Urborgs should a deck run?  The consensus seems to be one or two, but nothing more.  I have made many a misclick by playing an Urborg in my hand while another one I control is already in play.

Besides its legendary status, there’s only one downside to this exceptional land: your opponent gets black too.  If you’re playing against an opponent who is running Damnation, a single Urborg means that they’ll be able to cast it against you no matter what their land configuration is.  Have you ever lost your army to a Damnation your opponent wasn’t supposed to be able to cast?  I have, and it’s not a pretty sight.  Back in Time Spiral block, the clan I was in ran Extirpates in the sideboard of all decks.  The trick was that a blue/black Mystical Teachings deck would play an Urborg and you’d be able to cast it without playing any sources of black mana yourself.  While that’s a risky strategy these days, it still highlights the one weakness behind this powerful land.

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Treetop Village

1.  Treetop Village

Treetop Village has single-handedly eliminated the mono-blue builds that were so popular initially in this Standard season.  Sonic Boom loses to an unchecked Treetop Village.  What are they going to do to your Ape land?  Bounce it?  That only delays the inevitable.  And adding a white splash for Wrath of God or a black splash for Damnation doesn’t help too much either.  The man-lands scoff at mass removal as they aren’t usually creatures on your opponent’s turn.  Treetop Village isn’t invincible, it succumbs to Condemn, Nameless Inversion, and Eyeblight’s Ending – but it doesn’t die to Shriekmaw, which is a big plus.

Treetop Village also gets the top spot because how much play green is getting right now.  Green has the self-anointed “best creature” in Standard right now: Tarmogoyf.  Some have claimed that he’s the best creature in all of Magic, but I think it’s too early to speculate on that.  Green is also going to be getting a huge baddy once Morningtide comes out that will turn the metagame on its head.  How much is Chameleon Colossus going to affect Standard?  I think there are two possibilities.  The first possibility is that decks will be running Wrath of God and Damnation to deal with the Colossus.  Mass removal will be favored because the Colossus has protection from black, thus Shriekmaw and Eyeblight’s Ending won’t get rid of it.  The second possibility will that white will get more play due to Oblivion Ring being able to get rid of the Colossus.  And white comes with Condemn as another answer to the problem card.  Ultimately, these two possibilities hurt creature decks, and perhaps the pendulum will swing from aggro decks dominating the metagame to more midrange or control decks doing well.
The big question is whether Mutavault will make it to the number one spot to challenge Treetop Village.  Mutavault is an auto-include in a lot of tribal builds.  In Kithkin, it gets +1/+1 for every Wizened Cenn you have in play.  In Faeries, it gets +1/+1 and shroud for every Scion of Oona you control.  It counts as a rogue so you can play all those prowl cards off the back of an attacking Mutavault.  But, in green decks, which would you rather run – Mutavault or Treetop Village?  Well, in the new Warriors build I talked about last week, Shimizu Naoki runs both!  Perhaps Mutavault won’t be replacing Treetop Village as much as it will become its partner in crime.


by JXClaytor at Thu, 02/21/2008 - 12:58
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I think you may have missed Horizion Canopy, that one sees a ton of play, and maybe Grove of the Burnwillows, I think one of those two would have made my list, and maybe Tolaria West as well. Good stuff

The best lands are.... HOMELANDZ!!! by S.A ---Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 02/21/2008 - 08:57
S.A ---Anonymous (Unregistered)'s picture

The best lands ever are the three color lands from homelands. I think those lands should be banned due to their overwhelming power over the metagame.

Imagine this play, First Turn Castle Sengir, followed by.... nothing i still cant make any mana. Well, i got something cookin, so don't get too comfortable, Mr. Wizard.

 Shame on U for promoting painlands over HomeyLandz.

by nayr626 at Thu, 02/21/2008 - 10:59
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Good article.

by HydraLord at Thu, 02/21/2008 - 11:26
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Sadly, I must confess to having played Castle Sengir. In a mono-black deck.

It was for flavor reasons though...I had all the other Sengir cards. I reasoned that they really needed a home. And apparently, that it had to be a four-of. 

I thought the painland damage analysis was very interesting...not sure what it means, but it's interesting. 

Self-anointed by eotinb at Thu, 02/21/2008 - 12:29
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Nice article. I had no idea that Tarmogoyf was generating its own buzz.

Mutavault by Culex at Thu, 02/21/2008 - 01:25
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Mutavault will most liekly place at least#2 most everybodiestop 10 for standardlegal lands. The nuts synergy with the top performingdeck, Elves is just nuts. Even the basic  Imperious Perfect pumps it to a 3/3.

Another advantage that will vault the Mutavault to top positions is the fact that it comes into play unttaped and ready to become a 3/3 blocker the turn it comes into play. As you said, maybe having both is just easier than picking one.