Magic: The Gathering Modern Staples, Part 1: Lands

Today I’m going to start a series talking about the staple cards in the Magic: The Gathering card game, specifically the modern format. We’ll talk about other formats in a later series.

So do I mean when I say something is a staple? A staple card is the kind of card that shows up in many decks, the kind of card that is frequently good, or maybe rather rarely bad. If you grabbed a bunch of staples and made a deck…well, you end up with Jund.

These are also cards where, if you’re looking to expand your collection, you should look at buying. They don’t usually randomly drop in price, though being staples they are sometimes more likely to get reprinted. Reprints do affect price, but as we’ve seen time and again, sometimes those prices drops don’t last for long. Sometimes the worst problem is when they don’t get reprinted, they go up in price, sometimes very rapidly, and sometimes by a lot.

If they drop in price from what you paid for them, hopefully you’ve been playing a bunch of Magic with them in the mean time, and have got a ton of entertainment value out of them, so the price drop doesn’t really matter. Furthermore, these aren’t cards you’d likely want to sell, so price changes shouldn’t make a difference either way.

Anyway, let’s get started with lands.

Fetch Lands

Khans of Tarkir allied color fetch lands
Modern Masters 2017 Edition enemy color fetch lands

The allied color fetch land cycle from Onslaught (reprinted in Khans or Tarkir) and the enemy color cycle from Zendikar (reprinted in Modern Masters 2017) are probably the most important lands in the Modern format. If you have a full set of the fetch lands, you can build a lot of good mana bases. They fix your mana and enable you to play multicolour decks more reliably. They also thin your deck (a little bit) and enable Revolt. Except for some mono-color decks and decks that use weirder lands like Tron/Eldrazi/Affinity, most decks end up running anywhere from 4–12 fetch lands in their optimal configuration. They are great, will always be great.

Verdict: Have a playset (4 copies of each card).

Shock Lands

Allied color shock lands
Enemy color shock lands

The shock land cycle from the Ravnica blocks are your next big land cycles. Since they have the basic land types, they can be fetched with the fetch lands mentioned previously. They can enter untapped if you need them to, or you can save 2 life and bring them in untapped. Combined with the fetch lands, you can make an amazing mana base. These allow you to very carefully tailor and adjust your mana so that you can have one color turn 1, another color turn 2, and a double third color turn 3. You can’t do that with basics.

Verdict: Have a playset.

Pain Lands

Allied color pain lands
Enemy color pain lands

The pain lands, printed in various sets, are a very versatile bunch of lands. Since the printing of the truly colorless Eldrazi in OGW, they have become very important to run Eldrazi decks that play multiple colors, such as Bant Eldrazi. They are also just another dual land that doesn’t come into play tapped.

The enemy cycle was reprinted in Origins, so they are cheap to pick up, and you should have a set. The allied colors haven’t been printed for a long time, but they are still pretty cheap when it comes to useful lands.

Verdict: Have a playset.

Fast Lands

Allied color fast lands
Enemy color fast lands

The fast lands, while not used in every deck that could play them, definitely have their uses. If you don’t really care about the game past turn 3, maybe because you’re playing Infect or Storm, these are your lands. They also just help get both of your important colors on turn 1 without having to pay life, like Jund.

While some are more popular than others, they usually like to get played as a full set to maximize the likelihood that you’ll get one in your opening hand. The enemy color cycle was very recently printed and a pretty cheap pickup. Some of the older allied cycle are more expensive, but again, investing in real estate is rarely bad advice.

Verdict: Have a playset.

Filter Lands

Allied color filter lands
Enemy color filter lands

The filter lands, while useful, frequently only get played as a one-of. It’s fairly bad to draw your opening seven and see 2 filter lands. Sadness ensues. These are very useful in the right decks, the ones where you need double and triple of two different colors. Maybe you want to cast Damnation now and Cryptic Command next turn. Sunken Ruins has your back. Some of them definitely see less play than others, but you really only need one of these guys to have in the collection.

Verdict: Have 1 of each.

Scry Lands

The scry lands tap for 2 colors, come into play tapped, and let you scry 1. This is pretty good. Sure, there are duals that come untapped, duals that come in tapped but beatdown later (creature lands, up next), but a “free” scry isn’t something to shy away from. These are all inexpensive cards and can find a home in a lot of decks.

Verdict: Have a set.

Creature Lands

The creature lands are a mixed bunch. Some, like Inkmoth Nexus, Mutavault, and Raging Ravine, you probably want 4. Others only get played as 1 or 2 in a deck. If you can afford it, having a full set of all of them is great, but if you can get 2 of each you’re in a good spot. If you can never see yourself playing Affinity or Infect, you probably don’t need Inkmoth Nexus. If you never want to play UW Control, you can probably skip Colonnade. Don’t like Grixis? Skip Creeping Tar Pit. Hate Jund? Maybe don’t worry about Raging Ravine. The rest of them are all cheap enough that you should be able to get them and not worry about the cost too much.

There are other creature lands, but they don’t get played as much.

Verdict: Have a set if you can, 2 if you can’t.

Tron Lands

Tron lands

The Tron lands, while they only go in “two” decks (anything regular Tron and anything Eldrazi Tron), they are just great. They aren’t expensive, and are obviously required for the decks they are in, so why not get some that sweet sweet 7 mana action.

Verdict: Have a set.

Strip Lands

Ghost Quarter and Tectonic Edge are the “strip lands” of modern. These lands destroy other lands, and looking at this list, there’s a lot of good lands in Modern that you might want to destroy. These are free to include in a lot of decks, they come in untapped and tap for mana, and are a great way to deal with opposing creature lands, among other things. On top of all that, they aren’t even very expensive.

Verdict: Have a set.

Other Lands

Finally we have a smattering of a whole mess of lands that see solid play. They aren’t a cycle, and don’t really fit into a specific category. Some of them don’t see play as a full play set. Some of them require a specific deck.

Eldrazi Temple

Eldrazi Temple is a 4-of in any Eldrazi deck, and basically nothing else, but it’s totally boss in those decks.

Glimmervoid and Spire of Industry

Glimmervoid is required for Affinity, and you probably want 4. Some decks are running a split with the new Spire of Industry. Both lands work great in decks with a lot of artifacts, like Affinity or Lantern Control. You should be able to get Spire of Industry for a great price, but Glimmervoid is more expensive. If you have the Spires, you can slowly buy into a set of Glimmervoids.

Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle is really only played in Scapeshift based decks, but if you want to play the deck, you need 4.

Horizon Canopy

Horizon Canopy gets played in Abzan Company, and it’s a dual that comes in untapped and draws you a card later on. I can’t justify the price tag, but if you have any, I wouldn’t sell them. One or two is good.

Grove of the Burnwillows

Grove of the Burnwillows gets played in RG Tron, because you don’t care if your opponent gains life. You probably need 4 for max power.

Cavern of Souls

Cavern of Souls is typically a 4-of in tribal decks like Merfolk, Elves, or any Eldrazi decks. It’s a great land.

Gavony Township

Gavony Township wrecks face in Abzan decks, you normally need 2.

Academy Ruins

Academy Ruins gets used in artifact decks where you need to recur things. Lantern Control and Blue Tron want it a couple copies.


Whew! We did it. We got through it.

So now what? Well, first you have to decide what you want to do with Magic. Are you in it for the long haul, playing the game as long as your fingers and mind can sustain? If yes, work your way down the list and start building the collection. Focus on the decks you find interesting, get good with those decks, and then you can use winnings at store events to buy more of the staples you want. Investing in real estate is rarely a bad decision in Magic: The Gathering.

Until next time, crack Bloodstained Mire, fetch, shock, Thoughtseize you!

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