SCG Daily - The Golden Age #7: Location, Location, Location!
If you're anything like me (and if so the best of luck) you find lands boring. At best they're there to cast your Craw Giants and at worst they sit around mocking you singing (to the tune of A Pair of Brown Eyes) "If you wanted to pay the cumulative upkeep on Yavimaya Ants maybe you shouldn't have put them in 4-Color Hippo Survivor Madness!" But in the Old Days things were different. Back then lands were hyper-cool and all the women looked like characters from a Tom Tykwer film.
It started with Ice Age. Now you may think that the Artifact Lands from Mirrodin Block are some big-deal-whoopty-doo but they're nothing compared with snow-covered lands. Snow-covered lands are not in fact non-basic lands. That's right you can play with as many Snow-Covered Islands Forests Plains Swamps and Mountains as your precious little heart desires. And why would you desire to play them? Why would you risk being hit by an Avalanche or a Cold Snap? Not merely to pump Karplusan Giant or enhance Snow Devil surely.
Most of the advantages to be had from playing with Snow-Covered Lands are subtle. Viscerid Drone rewards snow-covered land use with the ability to kill artifact creatures as well as non-artifact creatures and Snowblind rewards it with versatility. Some cards like Drift of the Dead and Winter's Night are neither subtle nor powerful but there are exceptions. Both Glacial Crevasses and Sunstone use snow-covered lands for repeatable Fog-effects and sacrificing a snow-covered land can return Whiteout from the graveyard for more anti-flying fun. Goblin Ski Patrol still symbolizes Goblins for me and if you're using snow-covered lands Withering Wisps is even better than the already phenomenal Pestilence. Woolly Mammoths meanwhile may not be showy but they're still the best at what they do.
Although snow-covered lands are brilliant from a flavor perspective they're functionally flawed. The majority of the cards from Ice Age that mention them do so negatively. Three creatures either have or can grant a type of snow-covered landwalk and cards like Arctic Foxes Arcum's Sleigh Thermokarst and Icequake also penalize playing in the snow. Still whatever the failures of snow-covered lands Ice Age Block brought with it a bundle of interesting non-basic lands. In Ice Age itself we have Ice Floe and Halls of Mist two non-mana producing lands designed to slow down creatures. Even if Ice Floe is actually rather good you should remember that it doesn't remove from combat the creature it locks down. Halls of Mist is perhaps a bit dicey on its own but in conjunction with some Fog-effects one could almost imagine a workable deck. But not quite. Glacial Chasm could also be seen as a hopeless method of forestalling inevitable doom. Or it could be abused! After a few insubstantial tweaks to a certain deck we get:
U/G TurboLamb v. 1.2
2 Glacial Chasm
You see the Moonfolk allow you to escape Glacial Chasm's painful upkeep! Wow!
However that may be two sets later (in Alliances) lands snuck out of the periphery onto center stage and completed the mixed metaphor by performing a slam dunk. Each of the five colors received an immensely playable non-basic land. We'll start with the most significant of them just to keep your eagerness at an acceptable level: Thawing Glaciers is such an incredible card that even if Alliances hadn't also given us Diminishing Returns and Force of Will Control players wouldn't have had anything to complain about.
On another plane of existence are the set's five cannibalistic lands. Heart of Yavimaya gives Green yet another source of instant-speed pump action and Balduvian Trading Post takes an arrow from White's arsenal by giving Red a defensive pinger. When I think of Alliances' lands though I think of Kjeldoran Outpost. Considering the sacrifice it requires one activation of Kjeldoran Outpost costs the same amount and occurs on the same turn as one activation of Mobilization from Onslaught. If you're a real sucker for sacrifice you'll love Lake of the Dead. Assuming you're too lazy to do the math yourself: You could play Lake of the Dead on turn 3 and sacrifice a Swamp from which you'd just floated mana. Then you could tap another Swamp and sacrifice it to Lake of the Dead giving you six mana on turn 3. This is just one mana better than what Dark Ritual could do at far less cost but there's no reason to gripe when Dark Ritual itself is so broken that it's doing cameos on cable television. In fact the only thing that stops Lake of the Dead from being played in Vintage is that in Vintage you'll find very few Swamps.
More difficult to use is Sheltered Valley and this may be a good thing because I'm pretty certain that I'd rather not use Sheltered Valley anyway. On the other side of the rainbow you'll find Soldevi Excavations a real thinking man's card. Unlike the other four cannibals Soldevi Excavations results in no net loss of mana unless you face land destruction (far more likely during the Ice Age of course). The land's ability however ranks right up there with the best of them and its mini-Scrying can be a godsend for Control.
So if you're using the lands from Alliances (and honestly I can't see why you wouldn't be) how do you take advantage of the fact that your graveyard will be overflowing with dead lands? Weatherlight presents the dirt-cheap (Ha.) Harvest Wurm to retrieve your deck's victims. One could also imagine Fallow Wurm here.
Nevertheless we're now living in a more enlightened age and we realize that lands don't exist just to be used manipulated and discarded like some woman. No lands deserve respect. It was with this in mind that Enchant Land cards were invented and Ice Age Block provides them in bushels. Besides the o-so-overdone Forbidden Lore-Earthlore-Hot Springs-Mystic Might (in Blue!) clique we have the downright deadly Dwarven Armory and the downright laughable Caribou Range.
And when you get tired of those lands and their silly enchantments? Then you can play Zuran Orb.