I’m going to endeavour to keep Real Estate Blues updated as new forms of land are printed by Wizards of the Coast. For anyone wanting to refer to the original beast, you can find it here.

Shadows over Innistrad is out, and by the time you get to read this, the cards will probably be settled in your decks. There are two new cycles of five dual lands – sadly, we are not seeing the ‘enemy’ cycle of the Tango (or ‘Battle’) lands; instead we have been given a long-awaited completion of the basic tap land cycle with the five enemy tap lands.

The Enemy of My Enemy is not always My Friend

These new enemy tap lands make an excellent accompaniment to the recent functional reprints from Oath of the Gatewatch. The original fab five – Coastal Tower, Salt Marsh, Urborg Volcano, Shivan Oasis (which sounds like it really should be U/R) and Elfhame Palace), and now the new clone band (Meandering River, Submerged Boneyard, Cinder Barrens, Timber Gorge and Tranquil Expanse) have been begging for the enemy print since back in the days of Invasion and Eighth Edition.

With the completion of the ten card cycle in Shadows (with Forsaken Sanctuary, Highland Lake, Foul Orchard, Stone Quarry and Woodland Stream), very little has actually changed. For those struggling with stabilizing a 2-3 colour mana base or trying to complete a 5 colour base on the cheap, these may be the tools you are looking for; however, I would like to refer to my original list of my order of priority:

5 Colour Mana Bases:

  • Pain Fetches
  • Revised Duals
  • Rainbow Lands
  • Specific Job Corner Case Scenarios
  • Utility Lands
  • Shock Lands
  • Check Lands
  • Filter Lands
  • Tango Lands
  • Basics
  • General Rubbish

2 or 3 Colour Mana bases:

  • Pain Fetches
  • Revised Duals
  • Drawbackless Rainbow lands (e.g. Command Tower)
  • Shock Lands
  • Check Lands
  • Specific Job Corner Case Scenarios
  • Basics
  • Filter Lands
  • Utility Lands
  • Tango Lands
  • General Rubbish

In my original analysis of the value of Dual lands, the basic tap land compared very unfavourably to the other tools at our disposal. We honestly have better choices – we have basic-typed lands that are searchable, we have lands that offer a benefit for coming in even when coming into play tapped, and we have choices that allow us to bypass tapped entry.

Simply put, a Thornwood Falls is better than a Woodland Stream.

To this extent, while I class these lands in the ‘General Rubbish’ section (which of course has the clause “unless there is a bloody good reason”), I would like to expand on just exactly what I refer to as “general rubbish”.

(Please do bear in mind that corner case scenarios always exist, and sometimes I’ll bump up things I generally class as rubbish to the top of my list if they are meeting a specific need. I am also a big believer in speed in Magic – as we’re dealing almost universally in tap lands, I am discounting speed for the majority. I am sequencing primarily based on flexibility (amount of colour choice) and then additional abilities or clauses.)

  • Pain Lands
  • 5 Colour Tap Lands
  • Tri colour Tap Lands
  • Karoos
  • Fast Lands
  • Scry Lands
  • Man Lands
  • Tribal Lands
  • Snow Tap Lands
  • Lifegain Lands
  • Guildgates
  • Tap lands
  • Slow Lands
  • Slow Tap lands

Shadow Lands

On the other side of the coin, we have yet another cycle of allied check-style lands: terrain that allows us to freely tap for a selection of mana, but comes in tapped initially unless we meet some specific set of criteria. Let’s take a look at our new toys.

Port Town
Choked Estuary
Foreboding Ruins
Game Trail
Fortified Village

Looking at the list here, the first question that comes to my mind is “To what existing land are they most similar?”. First of all, we’re dealing with dual lands here, so we don’t need to compare with 5 colour or tri-lands. Secondly, we have not seen what we always hope for – land types. These new Shadow Lands are not searchable via Sac/Fetch lands; in this way, they do not compare well with fetchable lands like Revised Duals and Shocks, but their ‘enter the battlefield untapped’ clause is most readily likened to the untap checks found on Fast Lands, Tango Lands and Check Lands.

Let’s look at how they really work using Port Town as the example:

“As Port Town enters the battlefield, you may reveal a Plains or Island card from your hand. If you don’t, Port Town enters the battlefield tapped”

Let’s break this down; this is a type check as opposed to a volume check. What I mean is that unlike Fast and Tango lands (which require respectively that there not to be too many lands in play or there to be a sufficient minimum requirement), Shadow Lands look for a specific type of land in your hand. In my opinion, the closest we currently have in print to the Shadow Lands check is on the Check Lands, so let’s compare the Shadow Land Port Town with the Check Land equivalent Glacial Fortress, and see how they stack up.

“Glacial Fortress enters the battlefield tapped unless you control a Plains or an Island.”

First up, neither is readily tutorable: they do not have searchable land sub-types, nor do they have a basic super-type. As such, we’ve got to review their ability to succeed at their ‘enter the battlefield’ check based on when they can be played from your hand.

Second, their check only requires sighting of a land with an appropriate subtype. This makes them synergistic with Revised Duals, Shock Lands, Tango Lands and Basics. On the surface, this seems to make their value approximately equivalent, so what is the difference?

Location, Location

The only difference between Check lands and Shadow lands is where they are checking. Check lands are looking at lands you’ve previously played, which means that the earliest they can come into play untapped is turn two. This means you must have previously played a matching land type as your first land drop. You are going to have a maximum of three colours available on turn two if you are laying down a Check land.

Shadow lands do not check the battlefield: instead they give you an option to share information about your hand. A Shadow land has the option to be usable on turn one by revealing a matching typed land from your hand. This does not then require the land to be played, meaning that you could play a different land on turn two and have potentially four types of mana available as opposed to three. This is a very valuable possibility in a five colour build; however, in a two-or-three-colour list, the speed of the mana base is more valuable than the coverage of colour.

In a two-or-three-colour list, Shadow lands being available on turn one allow the possibility to make offensive plays while advancing and stabilizing your mana base from the get-go.

It seems that the Shadow lands have the potential advantage in turn one speed over a Check land, but what about the mid to late game? A Check land looks at played information: as such, the longer the game plays on for, the greater the probability that a Check land will successfully come into play untapped. In the case of a Shadow land, the probability of a successful Shadow check is wholly dependent on the contents of your hand.

The difficulty here is analyzing how this probability changes through the course of a game, which is going to be a changing figure depending on the selection of lands you have chosen and your ability to reload your hand with more lands. I would hypothesize that the longer the game goes on, the lower this probability is going to be. Decks that are reliably able to reload their pilot’s hands are going to be best able to reliably pass a Shadow land test with minimal degradation due to pre-played resources; in some circumstances, however, a deck will reach a point where it will not be able to pass such a test, depending on the pre-played lands.

The Value of Information

The final variable that needs to be addressed is the information factor. In Magic, information is king. Knowing what your opponents have on hand, what their threats are, what resources they have (or lack) are all things that allow you to improve your ability to assess threats and to address them.

Shadow land checks are an information reveal. They can be used to bluff lack of lands or they can reveal additional lands and colours in hand. This could show turn two counter magic, or the ability to play a commander in the same time frame. As a defending player, you know that the Shadow land player is holding at least one other land, so you have a better picture of the shape of their hand knowing what they chose to keep as an opening and hence what their possible lines of play may be.

In the later game, a reveal of a land for a Shadow check reveals that a reload with a Wheel of Fortune effect may not have been as efficient as possible, or it may reveal little due to an impending wheel. In the worst case, this could prematurely reveal the next line of play, allowing for judiciously timed counter-magic.

Suffice to say – in Magic, information is always imperfect.

Playability

Here’s the big question – How good are these Shadow lands? I think they’ll see their peak play in two-to-three-colour mana bases: I believe five-colour mana bases will prove to be too fragile for them to compete with the existing choices. A five-colour deck is generally going to rely upon a mana base that can be run out and stabilized by tinkering and tutoring, and then backed up by checks that look at on-field resources.

My revised order for five-colour lists would be as follows:

5 Colour Mana bases:

  • Pain Fetches
  • Revised Duals
  • Rainbow Lands
  • Specific Job Corner Case Scenarios
  • Utility Lands
  • Shock Lands
  • Check Lands
  • Filters
  • Tangos
  • Basics
  • Shadow Lands
  • General Rubbish

I think that these lands could see a preferential differentiation between the construction of the two and three-colour bases; The two -colour bases can possess a higher proportion of on-type lands, allowing higher reliability and a greater density of Fast dual lands (as opposed to the heavier density already possessed to stabilize three-colour bases.)

2 Colour Mana bases:

  • Pain Fetches
  • Revised Duals
  • Drawbackless Rainbow lands (e.g. Command Tower)
  • Shock Lands
  • Check Lands
  • Shadow Lands
  • Specific Job Corner Case Scenarios
  • Basics
  • Tango Lands
  • Filter Lands
  • Utility Lands
  • General Rubbish

3 Colour Mana bases:

  • Pain Fetches
  • Revised Duals
  • Drawbackless Rainbow lands (e.g. Command Tower)
  • Shock Lands
  • Check Lands
  • Specific Job Corner Case Scenarios
  • Basics
  • Filter Lands
  • Utility Lands
  • Shadow Lands
  • Tango Lands
  • General Rubbish

I’ll endeavour to keep this updated as more land types are produced. I’d love to hear what you all think about these Shadow Lands – feel free to hit me up on twitter.

Kaka
@ TheKakaStorm