(Author’s note: This arti­cle con­tains spoil­ers for the upcom­ing set in the Magic: The Gathering card game.  If you wish to remain unspoiled on cards, please do not con­tin­ue read­ing)

Ask any good Magic: The Gathering play­er what the most impor­tant cards in their deck are and with­out any doubt their answer will be “lands.”  As lands pro­duce mana, the cost required to play the cards in your deck, hav­ing the right num­ber and type of lands present in your deck is some­thing that often requires almost as much thought as putting the rest of the deck togeth­er – if not more.

As details of new sets are tan­ta­liz­ing, ago­niz­ing­ly leaked to the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion, the new cycle of dual lands – lands that, for a price, can be tapped for mul­ti­ple col­ors of mana – are eager­ly dis­sect­ed for their via­bil­i­ty in Magic’s var­i­ous con­struct­ed for­mats.  And as, his­tor­i­cal­ly, the Zendikar world con­tained some of the most use­ful lands, a return to this par­tic­u­lar plane in Battle for Zendikar sparked count­less dis­cus­sion on what lands would be present, or if any reprints would be seen in the set (as was the case with the Khans of Tarkir set).

Basic Terminology

For the sake of clar­i­ty, the author assumes that the read­er is rel­a­tive­ly new to Magic and isn’t aware of for­mats beyond Draft or Standard.  If the read­er is, then this sec­tion is entire­ly skipable, unless you need a refresh­er on land types.

Basic lands: Lands that can be tapped for only one col­or of mana, and have no addi­tion­al effects or costs to gen­er­ate mana.  These are your Plains, Islands, Swamps, Mountains, and Forests, and unlike the oth­er types of land that fol­low, you have no lim­i­ta­tions on the num­ber you can have present in your deck.

Dual lands: Historically, this refers to the orig­i­nal ten land cycle present in Magic’s first few sets, but has become a catch-all for any two-color gen­er­at­ing land.  Dual lands are sub­di­vid­ed into two groups based on what col­ors they can be tapped to pro­duce; “Allied” lands are lands that, when look­ing at a speci­fic col­or on the Magic mana col­or pie, tap for both one col­or (such as white) and the col­or imme­di­ate­ly to that col­ors left or right (blue or green in this case).  “Enemy” lands are those that tap for one col­or and a col­or that isn’t adja­cent to that col­or (such as white and black, or white and red).

Shock lands: The name for the land cycle in the Return to Ravnica block, the­se lands enter the bat­tle­field tapped unless you pay 2 life.  Despite the require­ment to sac­ri­fice life in order to be able to imme­di­ate­ly usable, the­se lands see a lot of play due to the next land type.

Fetch lands: Originally print­ed in the Onslaught set, and return­ing in Khans of Tarkir, the­se lands don’t tap for mana – instead, by sac­ri­ficing them and a sin­gle point of life, you can search your library for either of the basic land types list­ed on the card and put it onto the bat­tle­field.  Thus, the rea­son that shock lands see so much use despite the draw­back is because they are legal tar­gets for a fetch – a card like Steam Vents is list­ed as Land – Island Mountain, mean­ing it can be tar­get­ed by any fetch land with either Island or Mountain in its search para­me­ters.


Battle for Zendikar: New land cycle

On August 29, Wizards of the Coast start­ed leak­ing spoil­ers for Battle for Zendikar (release date October 2) fol­low­ing cov­er­age of the annu­al World Championship event.  Spoilers have includ­ed some very inter­est­ing cards that may see cov­er­age in lat­er arti­cles, but as always the lands take prec­dence.

Magic’s newest land cycle has yet to be named, but con­sists of five allied dual lands that enter the bat­tle­field tapped, unless you con­trol two or more basic land cards.

These five cards – Prairie Stream, Sunken Hollow, Smoldering Marsh, Cinder Glade, and Canopy Vista – can all be tar­get­ed by fetch lands, due to being list­ed as Plains Island, or Mountain Forest.

As the Zendikar world is also well-known for its full art lands – art­work that encom­pass­es the entire­ty of the card, rather than half – full-art vari­ants of the cards will also be print­ed.

Eagle-eyed observers will note that the set sym­bol and rar­i­ty col­or of the­se full-art vari­ants are dif­fer­ent than the reg­u­lar cards above, and that’s because tonight more than one land cycle was announced.


Battle for Zendikar: Zendikar Expeditions

Zendikar Expeditions is a set of rough­ly 20 land cards that will be avail­able in packs as “pre­mi­um” (also known as “foil”) mythic rare cards.  These cards can be played in Limited for­mats, if some­one hap­pens to pull one, but are not legal in the Standard for­mat.  However, they will be legal in for­mats where they already are legal – such as Modern.  They have a rar­i­ty slight­ly more com­mon than the cur­rent rar­i­ty for foil mythic rare cards, but oth­er than the two cards spoiled tonight – Steam Vents and Arid Mesa – we haven’t seen any of the oth­er cards from the cycles that will be print­ed in Zendikar Expeditions, although Mark Rosewater con­firmed that the Zendikar Expeditions will con­tained the full cycles of shock lands and fetch lands.

Curiously, this fol­lows only weeks after Rosewater announced that that the Enemy-colored fetch­lands from the orig­i­nal Zendikar set wouldn’t be reprint­ed in Battle for Zendikar.  This new mini-set of dual lands from past sets may be a way for the Magic team to please both those want­i­ng to see less expen­sive ver­sions of high­ly sought-after cards, as well as new con­tri­bu­tions to the avail­able land-base.

While Rosewater’s announce­ment led to a minor pan­ic in the sec­ondary cart mar­ket, dri­ving prices up on the Zendikar fetch­lands, it’s unlike­ly that the Zendikar Expeditions cards will have any notice­able effect on the prices after the spike, due to the rar­i­ty of the cards.

Looking forward

The Zendikar Expedition is an inter­est­ing con­cept, but one that will most­ly like­ly not be reused when the block is fin­ished.  Thematically (and mechan­i­cal­ly), the Zendikar plane in Magic is one that is high­ly asso­ci­at­ed with land.  It would make no sense to con­tin­ue the prac­tice in future blocks that don’t have such strong ties to land – espe­cial­ly if the block doesn’t return to a plane pre­vi­ous­ly vis­it­ed, but instead focus­es around a new sto­ry­line.

Interestingly enough, whether the Zendikar Expedition mini-set of 20 cards is some­thing that only the Battle for Zendikar set will have, or if the sec­ond half of the block will have a mini-set as well is an unknown quan­ti­ty.  If the sec­ond half of the block gets a mini-set like this, play­ers may be able to have access to a num­ber of hard-to-acquire lands for use in the Modern for­mat.  However, as stat­ed above, the impact the­se spe­cial reprints will have on the sec­ondary card mar­ket is low – espe­cial­ly if enough Battle for Zendikar prod­ucts are opened, lead­ing to a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion as with the Onslaught fetch lands in the Khans of Tarkir set. Card GamesTraditional GamesBattle for Zendikar,Magic The Gathering(Author’s note: This arti­cle con­tains spoil­ers for the upcom­ing set in the Magic: The Gathering card game.  If you wish to remain unspoiled on cards, please do not con­tin­ue read­ing) Ask any good Magic: The Gathering play­er what the most impor­tant cards in their deck are and with­out any doubt…