Last updated on October 4, 2023
Great Furnace | Illustration by Rob Alexander
Magic released Mirrodin in 2003, the first artifacts-themed set since Antiquities. But unlike the artifacts of Antiquities with their archaeological dig style brown borders, Mirrodin’s artifacts used the new “metallic silver” color. The redesign gave artifacts a shiny new look that fit the Mirrodin block with a shiny plane full of artifacts.
And nowhere was the feel of that new plane more visceral than in a new cycle made for the set: artifact lands. These lands became the prime engine behind the affinity mechanic, which dominated Standard to such an extent that eight cards were banned in March 2005, the most ever at one time, and six of those cards were the artifact lands.
Let’s get into it!
Vault of Whispers | Illustration by Rob Alexander
Artifact lands are cards that are both lands and artifacts in every zone. Because they’re not basic lands they’re subject to the 4-card playset limit in 60-cards formats.
Artifact lands are cards that support aggressive affinity-based strategies. Their chief drawback (that they’re more susceptible to destruction because land and artifact destruction can target them) isn’t as much of a risk in a lightning-fast game.
That speed comes from the affinity mechanic, where the casting cost of a card is reduced by the number of permanents of the designated type on the battlefield. Although there were cards that had affinity for other things, like Islands, affinity for artifacts was the thing that made artifact lands pop.
Take Frogmite for example. In the Standard of late 2003, you could play it on turn 1 if you played an artifact land and then two copies of Welding Jar. A card like Thoughtcast could easily be cast for only one mana whenever you dropped enough cards on the table to need to draw more.
The utility of artifact lands outside of affinity is much more limited, but they’re still really useful cards. Metalcraft triggers if you have three or more artifacts on the battlefield and the best of those effects, Dispatch, can make up for the tempo loss of a tap land or two.
And there are plenty of commanders that care about the number of artifacts you have or can do things like sacrificing artifacts.
#18. Slagwoods Bridge
The MH2 tap lands have some use with newer affinity decks in Modern, but green and red have never been central affinity colors and this hasn’t changed. The tap lands served good purpose as color fixers in MH2 draft, but Slagwoods Bridge doesn’t see huge play outside of that.
You can find it as a color fixer in EDH decks and in the few commanders that care about artifacts in these colors, usually Akiri, Line-Slinger with a partner in some form of green, especially Ich-Tekik, Salvage Splicer. It has a triggered ability when an artifact hits the graveyard, which this card can help towards.
#17. Thornglint Bridge
Thornglint Bridge goes in those same decks at around the same rate. But you can also find it in artifacts builds of Amareth, the Lustrous, which most of us probably run as an enchantress deck, but artifact lands like this would smooth that out a bit.
#16. Goldmire Bridge
Another land for that soup of artifacts partners decks, Goldmire Bridge shows up in Esper () decks as a fixer and is a nice contributor to Naomi, Pillar of Order decks, which need artifacts. This card is used heavily in Breya, Etherium Shaper decks as sac fodder, but sacking your lands has diminishing returns.
#15. Darkmoss Bridge
Not typically played in Modern, Darkmoss Bridge finds play in Golgari () decks that want tap land fixing, usually with Ich-Tekik, Salvage Splicer and a black artifacts-matter partner like Armix, Filigree Thrasher. It’s also used in Sultai () decks, for which this card counts toward two types for delirium.
#14. Tanglepool Bridge
Tanglepool Bridge also joins the Amareth decks, the artifacts partners (especially with Silas Renn, Seeker Adept), and in decks that want cheap Simic () fixing. This is a pretty useful land if you’re mashing up an affinity plus Neoform combo deck in Modern. Tanglepool is your huckleberry if you’re looking for that kind of wild ride.
#13. Drossforge Bridge
One of the more popular MH2 artifact lands on EDHREC, Drossforge Bridge sees play across a lot of different decks. It feels like it’s mostly used for budget fixing outside of the artifacts-matter partners, someone in red like Akiri, Line-Slinger and someone in black like Armix, Filigree Thrasher.
#12. Mistvault Bridge
#11. Rustvale Bridge
An artifact tap land perfect for Lorehold colors and play styles, Rustvale Bridge is probably a must-include in Alibou, Ancient Witness and Osgir, the Reconstructor decks as well as Akiri, Line-Slinger.
#10. Silverbluff Bridge
A key part of that Pauper affinity deck, Silverbluff Bridge is perfect for the Izzet () commanders that care about artifacts. Especially Saheeli, the Gifted, Galazeth Prismari, and Bjorna, Nightfall Alchemist.
#9. Razortide Bridge
The most useful of the MH2 artifact tap lands, Razortide Bridge’s Azorius () colors are what matter, and Azorius is the most coherent affinity archetype in Modern. Thought Monitor, the keystone to Modern affinity, wants the blue. The white depends on the build, but Esper Sentinel and Stoneforge Mystic are options, as well as just Ethersworn Canonist in the sideboard.
The most popular artifact tap land on EDHREC, Razortide works in the artifacts-matter partners decks as general blue/white fixing. It also finds a dual use spot in Tameshi, Reality Architect decks.
#8. Power Depot
Power Depot doesn’t see a lot of play in Modern. There are only so many slots for lands that tap for colorless, even in colorless affinity decks, and those tend to be taken up by utility lands like Mishra's Factory or Mech Hangar depending on the build. Or more often the other two colorless artifact lands still to come on this list as well as powerhouse Urza's Saga. Although there is some color fixing here, it doesn’t help with some of the signature blue spells in this area, which are not artifacts, like Reality Heist.
This is less played than you might expect in the artifacts-matters partners decks in Commander, but it finds a solid home in modular tribal commander Zabaz, the Glimmerwasp. I’m a bit surprised it doesn’t show up in Oswald Fiddlebender decks where every artifact land can restart the pod chain given its modular ability to drop a counter.
#7. Treasure Vault
Although Treasure Vault sees occasional play in various Ingenious Smith and Oni-Cult Anvil Standard brews, there doesn’t seem to be much room for it in Pioneer or Explorer riffs on similar builds. It does show up in low-color-intensive Modern affinity decks, but those don’t seem the most popular version of the deck at the moment.
But where this land really shines is in Commander. There are quite a number of Treasure-matters commanders that want this, from Jolene, the Plunder Queen to Magda, Brazen Outlaw to Prosper, Tome-Bound.
Treasure Vault is also a great land for control decks that like to pass the turn with mana up since sac’ing this right before your turn if you didn’t cast a spell sets you up for a nice big turn.
#6. Tree of Tales
Starting off the list of artifact lands that come into play untapped and tap for a color is Tree of Tales. This was the wrong color for affinity builds back in Mirrodin days, and that holds true today. Manuel Bevand top 8’ed at Worlds with a deck using this and the card to follow centered around Krark-Clan Ironworks, which needed every color of artifact land as sac fuel. But nothing in the deck used green or white, so they were just there for the type lines.
The Tree likes Baba Lysaga, Night Witch in Commander, as you’d expect, and the various partner commanders with green. It’s also a nice piece of Glissa, the Traitor which does quite a few artifact shenanigans with the graveyard.
#5. Ancient Den
We’d definitely see Ancient Den in Modern affinity if it hadn’t been banned all this time. Like Tree of Tales, this artifact land was the wrong color for Mirrodin-era affinity. It’s on the list in Commander if there’s a leader who likes artifacts even a little bit in white.
#4. Seat of the Synod
Grixis (), the key archetype in Pauper affinity where these original artifact lands aren’t banned, wants Seat of the Synod mostly for Thoughtcast. So if one of the Grixis lands doesn’t hit the full four playset, it will be this one. This was also generally true for this land back in the Mirrodin block where the finishers were in Rakdos () colors.
#3. Great Furnace
Grixis affinity in Pauper needs to run Galvanic Blast and Makeshift Munitions. Atog was the finisher that needed this land before it was banned in the format and probably ate it on the way out, the way it did back in Mirrodin block.
There are so many artifacts-matter commanders in red, including previously mentioned Lorehold commanders, Osgir, the Reconstructor and Alibou, Ancient Witness, as well as Daretti, Scrap Savant and a bunch of others in Izzet or red.
#2. Vault of Whispers
Two of the most powerful threats in original affinity decks were Cranial Plating and finisher Disciple of the Vault. Both of these are banned in Pauper, but Vault of Whispers is vital for key enablers Deadly Dispute, Reckoner's Bargain, and Blood Fountain.
By now you can likely guess the usual suspects in EDH. Any card or build mentioned thus far with black.
#1. Darksteel Citadel
Being indestructible is always useful, whether that was in Mirrodin Standard with Oxidize floating around or in any format where affinity gets too big and Gorilla Shaman shows up to destroy all your lands for one mana each. The only Mirrodin-era artifact land playable in Pauper, Darksteel Citadel gets played to death there and in most affinity decks in Modern and Pioneer. With hate cards like Wear // Tear and Shenanigans rolling around in sideboards in addition to the Shaman, this card is key to these builds.
And of course this shows up in artifacts-matter Commander decks. Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper has the most fun with it, turning it into a beater.
Affinity is played in most 60-card formats to some extent. It’s even played in Historic and Explorer where none of these but Treasure Vault are available. To the extent that these lands are legal in your format of choice, they have to form the backbone of any affinity deck. They can power out big creatures and effects really quickly and can easily snowball.
Although affinity isn’t really a tier one deck in most formats right now, it’s always there, lurking, waiting for more artifacts to play with. Maybe in the next Standard sets like Dominaria United and The Brothers’ War, which look to be more artifact focused.
As an aside, affinity was my son’s first Magic deck. It was powerful and fast, and he loved to be able to wield a cheap army of Frogmites backed up by a Myr Enforcer or two to beat back whatever scary and complicated deck I was running once he figured out the fairly simple math. Magic can be pretty thematically scary for kids learning how to play, and the shiny Mirrodin cards, although terrifying if you look closely enough, felt friendly enough to him as long as we played enough myr.
Artifacts commanders get better and better as Treasure-based strategies expand with each new Standard set. Whether that’s artifact sac’ing red, recursion blue, or both in black, decks that might not have been competitive enough last year have gotten a lot more interesting with a few new added tools. Plus we’ve got more and more vehicles-based decks after Neon Dynasty.
All of those decks are sped along with the inclusion of artifact lands. Although full scale affinity isn’t really possible in Commander (yet?!), affinity cards can fit into various other shells to generate speed. There is a cost since these lands aren’t fetchable, but it’s worth it in most artifact EDH decks.
Like all lands, artifact lands are colorless.
Do Artifact Lands Have a Color Identity for EDH?
Like other lands, artifact lands’ color identities for Commander purposes are defined by the pips of mana they can produce. Artifact lands that only produce colorless mana, like Darksteel Citadel, can go in any EDH deck.
Artifact lands aren’t spells, they’re lands. But as lands they are subject to limits on how many lands you can play a turn (usually only one).
As lands, artifact lands can’t be countered. Playing a land is a special action that doesn’t use the stack.
Do Artifact Lands Trigger Cast Triggers Like Alela and Jhoira?
Artifact lands, like all lands, are played, not cast. You can’t Counterspell a Forest. Both Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain and Alela, Artful Provocateur trigger on a historic permanent being cast, so artifact lands entering the battlefield don’t trigger these static abilities.
Artifact lands aren’t basic lands and don’t have a basic land type, so they can’t be fetched the way lands like Xander's Lounge can be. But even nonbasic lands with a basic type can’t appear in a deck more than four times. Artifact lands are subject to the rule of four.
Absolutely! Affinity is the primary reason artifact lands matter, and they power the affinity engine in any format where any of them are legal.
The five original Mirrodin lands, which enter untapped for a colored pip and were banned since the inception of the format, are the only artifact lands banned in Modern: Ancient Den, Seat of the Synod, Vault of Whispers, Great Furnace, and Tree of Tales.
The other 13 artifact lands are legal. 11 of them were printed in Modern Horizons 2, a set designed specifically for the Modern format. Darksteel Citadel, which followed the original artifact lands in Darksteel, wasn’t banned. Although still a powerful part of affinity decks, not tapping for a colored pip hurts it in a deck designed for speed.
Affinity is a muted strategy when four copies of each relevant artifact land aren’t allowed to stoke the affinity count. So there’s no reason for them to be banned in a singleton format like Commander.
Slagwoods Bridge | Illustration by Lucas Graciano
There’s no way affinity as a mechanic breaks Standard wide open in 2003 and 2004 without artifact lands to fuel the fire. Affinity proper only works if there are artifact lands to fuel it. Sure, most any artifacts-heavy strategy in 60-card formats is called affinity these days and there are versions of those decks that can do just fine without the lands. Especially in formats like Explorer and Historic that lack them.
Artifact lands are similarly important for a variety of Commander strategies. They’re relatively inexpensive and are highly unlikely to ever be banned in EDH. So grabbing a few artifact lands to synergize with your support and utility creatures and spells is a good idea if you don’t have some and are thinking about trying out a vehicles deck.
What are your thoughts on artifact lands? Are you excited to maybe get some more in the future with some more artifact-oriented sets, or would you prefer affinity proper stay in the past? Let me know in the comments down below or over on Twitter.
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