Utility Lands You Should be Playing

RJGiel

One of the great things about Commander is that you can run utility lands; lands that do something besides tapping for mana. Today, Robert wants to take a look at some of the greatest potential inclusions.

We've Only Got Space for 100

With a card pool as large as commander, it can be hard to find the right balance for your mana base. Sure, you can put 37 forests in your Mono Green deck and call it a day, but why not explore some of the options that certain lands have to offer. Need graveyard removal? You could run a creature or artifact that does this, but why not a land? Picking these "toolbox" lands allows you to increase the flexibility of your deck without having to "waste" slots that you would rather use on spells. On top of that, some lands even provide access to tools that your color combination wouldn't even have. Today,   I want to go over some of my favorite utility lands and their applications. Some you might already know and can be considered obvious, some might be completely new to you, let's get started.

Arch of Orazca

Arch of Orazca

I can't state enough in my articles that drawing cards is one of the single most important things in Commander. Most green, blue or black decks generally shouldn't have problems with this, but if you are running a white, red, or Boros deck, this becomes a real issue. Arch of Orazca is very straightforward card draw. Yes, it's expensive, and has the pretty steep requirement of getting the City's Blessing, but once you are in top deck mode with your mono white Avacyn deck (which will happen eventually), you will be glad to sink your mana into something that draws cards.

Run it in: Permanent heavy decks that lack card draw due to color restrictions.

Blast Zone

Blast Zone

Blast Zone is a recent addition to the plethora of utility lands, and oh my it's a blast (I'm so sorry). I absolutely wouldn't include it in every deck, but it allows some decks to deal with permanents that they normally wouldn't be able to deal with. Finally, you can deal with Artifacts/Enchantments with your Dimir deck or kill a Planeswalker in mono green. It's by no means perfect and I would never run it in a deck that can run proper removal, but it's better than having no answers at all.

Run it in: Decks that lack certain removal pieces, decks that can abuse lands.

Deserted Temple

Deserted Temple

While not everybody is fortunate enough to own cards like Gaea's Cradle or Serra's Sanctum, Deserted Temple is still a very powerful and flexible land. Cards like Growing Rites of Itlimoc / Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun and Storm the Vault // Vault of Catlacan, Cabal Coffers, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx or even Cabal Stronghold allow you to generate very large amounts of mana and Deserted Temple allows you to do it all again. You should definitely consider this card if your deck runs any of these mass-mana producers.

Run it in: Decks that run lands that tap for large amount of mana.

Dust Bowl / Ghost Quarter / Tectonic Edge

Dust Bowl Ghost Quarter Tectonic Edge

Land destruction might not be your first or second priority in lands but I highly recommend every Commander deck to have at least one way to deal with lands. This is the classic scenario of; "These cards are not broken; you are just not running answers." If your opponent produces insane amounts of mana using one of the cards mentioned in the previous paragraphs, you need to be ready with an answer, otherwise you will simply be overrun. Strip Mine and Wasteland are by far the best contesters for these slots, and if you can afford them, I'd say these should be your first choices. Ghost Quarter is cheap and effective, and I highly recommend running it in nearly every deck. Tectonic Edge should be included if you feel like you need more. Last but not least, Dust Bowl might be a bit overkill, but still a card worth considering. Field of Ruin unfortunately doesn't quite work well, as every opponent gets to search for a basic land.

Run it in: Ideally, every deck should at least run one land-destruction card.

Geier Reach Sanitarium / Mikokoro, Center of the Sea

Geier Reach Sanitarium Mikokoro, Center of the Sea

Geier Reach Sanitarium and Mikokoro, Center of the Sea are two very similar but different cards. Mikokoro is a cheaper to activate version of the earlier mentioned Arch of Orazca that also lets your opponents draw. I still think it's worth running in certain decks, you just have to make sure your top decks are better than your opponents'. Geier Reach Sanitarium is a great card for any graveyard / reanimator deck and definitely worth if your gameplay revolves around getting certain cards quickly in the graveyard.

Run it in: High-End, low-card-draw decks.

Hall of the Bandit Lord

Hall of the Bandit Lord

Hall of the Bandit Lord is an interesting card that should only be included in decks that need a Hall of the Bandit Lord. Sounds logical right? In my opinion, Hall of the Bandit lord isn't a very good Magic card and I wouldn't advice you just putting it in every deck. With that said, it's amazing in any deck that requires the commander to attack and doesn't really care about mana afterwards. It's almost an auto-include in Narset, Enlightened Master and Kaalia of the Vast. It's good to know about this card's existence but be wary of simply slamming it in every deck.

Run it in: Fast decks that require their commander to attack (or tap).

High Market / Miren, the Moaning Well

High Market Miren, the Moaning Well

Both High Market and Miren, the Moaning Well are great cards for several reasons. Being able to sacrifice your creature on instant speed without having to use any spells saves them from steal-effects as well as cards that exile them. It allows you to instantly trigger "dies-abilities" such as Arena Rector, Archon of Justice, or any of the new Elemental Knights. It sets up the graveyard for reanimate spells and most importantly, they're cheaper than Diamond Valley.

Run it in: Aristocrats style decks or decks that require creatures in the graveyard, such as reanimator strategies.

Homeward Path

Homeward Path

If you are running a battlecruiser-like creature-based deck, Homeward Path is a card that should almost always automatically be included. Stealing creatures is (unfortunately) a very popular strategy in commander, whether it's with cards like Gilded Drake, Mass Manipulation, Dragonlord Silumgar, or Admiral Beckett Brass. Homeward Path hard counters these strategies and protects the creatures you put so much effort in getting on the battlefield. Homeward Path is also an excellent counter against some of the "oops, I win" cards like Rise of the Dark Realms or Insurrection.

Run it in: Battlecruiser-style decks with a high creature count.

Isolated Watchtower

Isolated Watchtower

Admittedly, Isolated Watchtower isn't one of the most exciting lands out there, but it does a decent job of filtering your draws. Like I mentioned earlier, especially mono-white and mono-red decks can run into a situation where they are in top deck mode and the Watchtower can be a welcome mana sink. I'd even make an argument that this card is good enough for mono-black and mono-blue decks. The fact that it taps for mana itself means that it's just a colorless land at worst, and a great setup for your next turn at best.

Run it in: Mono or two-colored decks (non-green) that have trouble drawing cards or are in need of a mana sink.

Karn's Bastion

Karn's Bastion

Karn's Bastion is a great addition from War of the Spark for decks that care about +1/+1, -1/-1, or loyalty counters. It truly shines when you've assembled a board position that's threatening enough for opponents to interact with, you can commit your resources into activating Karn's Bastion, rather than putting more threats on the board and risk losing it all.

Run it in: Decks that interact with counters (obviously).

Maze of Ith / Mystifying Maze

Maze of Ith Mystifying Maze

Maze of Ith and its budget-brother Mystifying Maze are just great in Commander. I would argue that if you have the space, you should run them. It hard-counters Voltron-style decks (given the creature can be targeted) and instant win creatures such as Blightsteel Colossus. Mystifying Maze is a lot cheaper to buy, a lot more costly to activate but has a few interesting upsides over the OG Maze. It immediately removes any aura, counters, or equipment from the attacking creature, and can also exile Tokens, while still being able to tap for mana.

Run it in: any deck where you can find space for one of these cards.

Myriad Landscape / Thawing Glaciers

Myriad Landscape Thawing Glaciers

Myriad Landscape and Thawing Glaciers are both excellent cards that fix your mana while thinning your deck. The fact that they don't require any colored mana to activate makes them always relevant. I my opinion these work optimal in non-green, two-colored decks where you can't rely too heavily on artifact-ramp. They also both work great in landfall style decks. Thawing Glaciers might be a bit on the expensive side, but Myriad Landscape is very affordable.

Run it in: Non-green, 2 colored decks. Landfall Decks.

Reliquary Tower

Reliquary Tower

This list wouldn't be complete without including good ol' Reliquary Tower. It's an interesting card. I think its ability can be very valuable and powerful, but I also see people putting it automatically in every deck. The deck really shines in blue-green based decks where you will be drawing a whole lot of cards and plan to either flash cards in during the opponents turn and/or want to overwhelm them with card advantage. There's a lot of decks that run card draw where Reliquary Tower is not required however, often enough you'd rather see colored mana.

Run it in: Big mana/draw decks.

Rogue's Passage

Rogue's Passage

Another card that is cheap to pick up; Rogue's Passage is a card that shines very well in Voltron-style decks. Once you've assembled enough critical mass on your Commander, giving it unlockable for four-mana is a small price to pay if it allows you to hit an opponent for 21 damage. Other decks where this car does solid work is attack-matter decks like Alesha, Who Smiles at Death, Narset, Enlightened Master, and Kaalia of the Vast.

Run it in: Voltron-style decks and attack-matters decks.

Scavenger Grounds

Scavenger Grounds

Earlier I mentioned how essential it is to run at least some land destruction in commander, and the very same is true for graveyard hate. Now I don't think it makes sense to just slam in cards like Leyline of the Void or Rest in Peace in your deck, as it may very well be the case that they don't do anything but running some graveyard hate is essential. Unfortunately, not every deck has access to staples like Bojuka Bog. Or do they? Scavenger Grounds is a great land that taps for mana AND can be used to pressure graveyard decks. Since it's desert, it can sacrifice itself, so you don't need to worry about running more of them. If you have other graveyard hate, you probably don't need to resort to Scavenger Grounds, but if none of your nonland cards are able to deal with graveyards, Scavenger Grounds should be a serious consideration.

Run it in: Any deck that doesn't run nonland Graveyard-hate.

Winding Canyons

Winding Canyons

Alchemist's Refuge is an amazing utility lands and a solid inclusion for most U/G colored decks, but did you know that there is a similar card without any color restrictions? Winding Canyons is a great card indeed. We can see by the popularity of cards like Vedalken Orrery that allowing you to play at instant speed can make all the difference in a game of Commander. Winding Canyons allows you to do exactly that, without having to commit a card slot, as it will just serve as a mana source until you want to use it for utility. Winding Canyons is flexible enough to work in both dedicated creature strategies, where it allows you to be more reactive to your opponents, or control decks that can leave mana open for either interaction or a haymaker.

Run it in: Any deck that is centered around creatures.

Perfectly Balanced, as All Lands Should Be

It is a challenge to find the right amount of utility lands and actual colored lands, but I'm sure that if you play around a bit with the options you will find a balance. Only you can decide where the needs of your deck are, and what lands are suited to deal with that problem. I hope this guide helped you discover some new utility lands for your future deckbuilding. As always, thanks for reading and until next time!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.



3 Comments

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LaGalop(2019-08-03 00:14)

Actually the Rogue's Passage activation cost is 5 mana since it includes the tapping itself.

RJGiel
RJGiel(2019-07-31 18:21)

Hi Tuardian, thanks for the comment :)

I believe I missed many cards! These are just some of my favorites.

Arcane Lighthouse is a decent card, but I think it's a bit too narrow, it might be a meta-call to put it in.
Thespian's Stage is only as good as the lands that you and/or your opponents are playing, so defenitely not an auto-inlcude if you play against different people :)

Tuardian(2019-07-30 20:14)

Great article, thanks for it.
But in my opinion you missed out on 2 important cheap ones, which saved me (and i think a lot of others) a good amount of games:
Arcane Lighthouse
It can be a life saver and/or Juggernaut.
The answer against Shroud and Hexproof.

Thespians Stage
Its not a Vesuva, but it comes close and costs only a fracture!

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