Magic the Gathering is built on small mar­gins and incre­men­tal advan­tages. As such, Land cards that have extra util­i­ty are strict­ly bet­ter than their alter­na­tives and have wide­spread util­i­ty — there­fore com­mand­ing huge price-tags. The mana-base of a deck can be what makes up the bulk of the cost in some cas­es; with play­sets of Shocklands and Fetch-Lands need­ed in many decks boost­ing the price far and above over what a mono-coloured deck would cost using main­ly basic lands. The orig­i­nal Dual Lands are so expen­sive — and over­pow­ered — because they sup­ply two colours of mana with zero draw­back. That sim­ple fact, cou­pled with their scarci­ty, makes them worth hun­dreds of dol­lars.

The dif­fer­ence between a land that is worth $10+ and a land that is worth $1 can be very sub­tle, com­ing into play tapped is one of the most wide­spread draw­backs of land that pro­duce more than one colour of mana, but in some for­mats and strate­gies this does not mat­ter as much. Let’s start by look­ing at some things you don’t want.


This is a Guildgate. This is shit. Do not use it. It comes into play tapped and has no mit­i­gat­ing fac­tors to off­set that. It just comes into play tapped, mak­ing you feel bad and laugh­ing at how poor you are. Unless your deck cares about the “gate” sub-type, there is real­ly no rea­son to run Guildgates in any build what so ever. Yet I’ve seen many turn­ing to them as the default poor-man’s dual-land. Let’s look at some bet­ter alter­na­tives shall we?

Refuge Lands

Tarkir block has pro­vid­ed very wide­spread access to cheap and use­ful lands cards; the com­mon of which is a full cycle of two-coloured lands that come into play tapped but provide one life when they enter the bat­tle­field. These lands were first seen in the form of the uncom­mon Zendikar refuges, hence their name. Gaining one life doesn’t look like much on the sur­face, but for fac­ing aggres­sive strate­gies, putting three or four of the­se onto the field in the course of a game can buy you some much need­ed lee­way.

refuge lands

Coming into play tapped isn’t as much of an issue for con­trol based strate­gies and so the refuge lands are a per­fect fit for con­trol builds on a very tight bud­get. Any land that is strict­ly bet­ter should always replace an infe­ri­or card in your deck; the bar­ri­er is usu­al­ly price, but at lit­er­al­ly pen­nies each you should be remov­ing all your guildgates from those half-finished com­man­der decks you have lay­ing around and replace them with the­se. They are a joy to have in com­mon.

Alara Shard-Lands/ Tarkir Wedge-Lands

It used to be that to have a land provide three dif­fer­ent colours of mana you had to have some­thing like the dis­mal cycle of Tri-colour lands from Homelands, or have some kind of sac­ri­fice effect — but no more. The release of the Khans block also brought the wel­come com­ple­tion of the cycle of tri-colour tap-lands that allow you to fix mana eas­i­ly and cheap­ly at uncom­mon rar­i­ty. You can pick the Tarklir lands up for under a dollar/pound right now, and the Alara lands gen­er­al­ly run from $1 – 2 depend­ing on where you buy them from. So once again, they are dirt-cheap util­i­ty for you decks — espe­cial­ly in com­man­der.


In strate­gies that require fix­ing for 3+ colours, the­se vital lands are an absolute Godsend. Giving bud­get three, four or five colour strate­gies in for­mats like Commander and Tiny Leaders a bet­ter chance at via­bil­i­ty. They are so use­ful and com­pet­i­tive that they are see­ing very wide­spread stan­dard play right now. Since their util­i­ty is eter­nal, they will always retain the lit­tle val­ue and desir­abil­i­ty they have.

Pain Lands

Historically hold­ing a val­ue -/+ $5 or above, the ene­my coloured cycle of the land nick­named “Pain lands” (because they come in untapped but do dam­age to you when you tap them) have been re-printed so often. Most recent­ly in Magic Origins, that the price has been reduced to around $2 or less. The allied coloured lands also saw mul­ti­ple print-runs in core sets — mean­ing their price is only slight­ly high­er. I’ve seen the­se lands for sale online at as low as 50 pence so for a rare dual-land. They seem a stu­pen­dous­ly good val­ue at this price. I’m not per­son­al­ly a big fan of the Pain-lands; they only fit into cer­tain aggres­sive strate­gies and are use­less, in my opin­ion, for for­mats like Commander where the sheer length of games is going to ren­der that dam­age too much of a bur­den.

pain lands

I also think the­se cards scare new play­ers a bit. Inexperienced play­ers tend to val­ue their life-total too high­ly and can be scared to tap into it for some­thing like fix­ing. They have a more speci­fic usage than the pre­vi­ous two lands on this list, but fill their niche so well and have been in stan­dard for so long that they are cheap enough to be worth look­ing at for play­ers look­ing to shore up their mana-base.

Theros Temples/ Scrylands

These rare lands cur­rent­ly run about $2-$5. Once com­mand­ing a heftier price-tag of $10+, the­se cards are quite cheap right now because they have been super­seded by the more flashy reprint­ed fetch­es and the more com­mon tri-lands. Not to for­get that Theros is get­ting close to cycling out of stan­dard. Personally, I would wait to pick the­se up until Theros does go out of stan­dard and the price drops even fur­ther, but if they fit into your stan­dard deck then they are a no-brainer.


Scrying can be very pow­er­ful in a con­trol strat­e­gy, and I like the fil­ter­ing it gives me in sin­gle­ton for­mats like Commander where see­ing all of your deck can be a strug­gle. In terms of util­i­ty, the­se feel more akin to many uncom­mon lands. But if you can get them cheap enough then they are very use­ful. These cards are often over­looked but are still a decent choice.


Honourable mentions

  • Reflecting Pool: With its recent reprint in Conspiracy and its abil­i­ty to dupli­cate exist­ing avail­able mana free from draw­back, Reflecting pool is a card worth hav­ing. Whilst not pro­vid­ing its own fix­ing, it can stop you from tak­ing ill-effect from any lands you cur­rent­ly have in play that may require spe­cial con­di­tions to pro­duce cer­tain colours of mana.
  • Mana Confluence: Regarded as the “fixed” city of brass, this card still runs around $10 which is a more hefty price tag than most on this list. But if you real­ly need a land that pro­duces all colours of mana, then Mana Confluence is a good fit. Worth pick­ing up as the price may increase once Theros has been out of print for a while.
  • Check Lands: Printed in Magic 2010 through to Magic 2013, the first half of the cycle of check-lands (so called because they ‘check’ again­st land types in play) are a very good val­ue due to their mul­ti­ple print­ings. But the ene­my coloured cycle print­ed in Innistrad is anoth­er set of lands where cer­tain cards can be $10 or high­er. You should seek out the more bud­get ver­sions of the the­se lands, as the incon­sis­ten­cies in the pric­ing and avail­abil­i­ty of the cycle can be frus­trat­ing.

I hope this has pro­vid­ed you some insights into how to make your multi-coloured decks run more smooth­ly with­out break­ing the bank. Casual for­mats can be a great place to get the most out of the cards on this list as they tend to be less focused on tem­po and have more turns per game. As always, be sure to seek the­se out at your local game store as they will gen­er­al­ly be hap­py to shift some of their extra stock at rea­son­able prices. Plus that way you can also avoid ship­ping costs on cheap­er cards, as that can cost as much as the cards them­selves.


John SweeneyTrading Card GamesTraditional GamesMagic The GatheringMagic the Gathering is built on small mar­gins and incre­men­tal advan­tages. As such, Land cards that have extra util­i­ty are strict­ly bet­ter than their alter­na­tives and have wide­spread util­i­ty — there­fore com­mand­ing huge price-tags. The mana-base of a deck can be what makes up the bulk of the cost…
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John Sweeney
John Sweeney is a ter­ri­bly British man with a back­ground in engi­neer­ing. He writes long-form edi­to­ri­al con­tent with analy­sis of gam­ing, games media and inter­net cul­ture. He also does the occa­sion­al video game ret­ro­spec­tive with a week­ly column about Magic the Gathering thrown in for good mea­sure. He also does most of our inter­views for some rea­son, we have no idea why. A staunch sup­port­er of free speech and con­sumer rights; skep­ti­cal of agen­da dri­ven media and sus­pi­cious of unac­cou­table author­i­ty but always hope­ful for change.