Last updated on June 28, 2022
Blackcleave Cliffs | Illustration by Richard Wright
Dual lands are essential in MTG, and there have been plenty of dual land cycles printed over the years. Some of them are better than others, and it’s easy to decide between one or another depending on the deck and the format you’re playing. Today I’m not looking at any particular cycle, but black and red duals.
This isn’t a “budget friendly list,” and unfortunately these cards tend to have a steeper price than most rares and mythics since good lands are so essential. Today I’m ranking the best black and red dual lands, and lands that go into Rakdos () decks.
Let’s just jump right in!
Badlands (Ultra Rare Cards) | Illustration by Filip Burburan
I’m including lands that don’t necessarily fix your mana, like fetch lands and lands that have black and red abilities. Although these are commonly a part of Jund () or Grixis () mana bases, Rakdos decks tend to be a little bit more aggro oriented so there’s a need for untapped lands in this color combo.
I also considered the format in which the lands are legal. Some lands are better for Legacy and Vintage, while others see more play in Pauper or Standard. Without further ado, let’s go to the rankings!
These functionally identical lands are unique in that they usually come into play tapped on the first turn, and then you can use them every other turn. You can use them the turn they enter, which is nice, but after that it gets rocky.
The fact that Lantern-Lit Graveyard and Cinder Marsh only have the “doesn’t untap clause” when producing colored mana is good, because you’ll still use them as colorless if needed. But the downside is too big, and virtually every other dual land is just better.
Considering the number of better tap lands you can play, the only good thing in Rakdos Guildgate is that it’s a gate. It has synergies in Maze’s End decks or with cards like Gates Ablaze. Otherwise, run better tap lands or duals.
Shadowblood Ridge is a little better than Graven Cairns in the sense that it works with other colors of mana, but it still only generates . These lands are interesting in Commander decks with four to five colors since you can get two colors from colorless mana.
These functional and identical lands gain one life when they enter. Bloodfell Caves and Akoum Refuge seem to always be reprinted in Standard these days, like in Ikoria and Neon Dynasty. These are cheap to get and they get the job done, even better if your deck has lifegain synergies.
A fetch land! Rocky Tar Pit should be way higher on the list, right?
The “enters the battlefield tapped” text makes this land very clunky, and it would be better to play a tapped land that added red or black. Not to mention that it’s only legal in eternal formats like Legacy, Vintage, and Commander. I wouldn’t play this outside of mana fixing properties like a fetching a land. Evolving Wilds would probably be better.
Rix Maadi, Dungeon Palace was designed to support the hellbent mechanic in the original Ravnica set. It’s worth playing if you have discard synergies like madness or some kind of reanimation going on.
The “counter” or “storage” lands like Molten Slagheap are at best in a draw-go style deck where you usually have extra mana laying around. Or maybe you can spend the first two turns charging the land to cast a 5- or 6-drop earlier. Either way, this is too clunky and slow to see play without some specific synergies like proliferate or “counter doubling.”
Tainted Peak is the perfect land in a Rakdos deck because it almost always enters untapped. It even has synergies with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. It’s best in an almost mono-black deck and casual formats that it’s legal in.
Once very powerful staple lands, the bounce lands like Rakdos Carnarium are mostly a relic from the past. Outside of specific Modern decks like the Amulet Titan, you’ll be out-tempo’ed pretty hard by playing this.
But it’s an interesting card for EDH. Especially the decks that have landfall synergies.
Although interesting in the artifact decks, ETB tapped lands like Drossforge Bridge are very hard to justify playing these days. This cycle of lands is very playable in Pauper decks and I’m sure that EDH decks willing to play more artifacts will appreciate it. There’s also the combo with Cleansing Wildfire, which will ramp you and draw a card.
Although Stensia Bloodhall doesn’t generate red or black mana per se, it does have an interesting mana sink ability. It’ll win the game given enough time.
Sulfurous Mire is high on the tapped list for being a snow land, which some decks want, and for being fetchable, offering more synergies. That said, snow isn’t a strong Rakdos archetype.
There’s lots of stuff to like about this cycle of “cycling lands.” Canyon Slough has both the Mountain and Swamp types, which is very nice and works well with lands like Dragonskull Summit. It also has cycling 2 when you don’t need a land, which is good in certain midrange builds that are prone to mana flood.
One of the better “benefits” to compensate for a land to enter tapped, the scry 1 attached to Temple of Malice is very nice. It’s acceptable to run one or two of these in a slow deck with two colors since scry is relevant at almost any point in the game. It’s not advisable to run a lot in a 3-color deck, though.
Foreboding Ruins is fine, but it enters tapped a great deal because decks play less dual land options with basic land types. It’s even worse because it doesn’t count the lands already played, and sometimes even gives information about the components of your hands to your opponents.
That said, you’ll play this in a Rakdos EDH deck and it’s a cheap option to replace a more expensive dual.
Rakdos’ pain land is an interesting one because this is usually an aggressive color pair. Sulfurous Springs should be a good budget dual land, but it’s more expensive than the enemy ones since it’s not reprinted a lot.
The last reprint is from Tenth Edition, so I’d expect them to be reprinted in a Commander product or even in a Standard set at some point.
Smoldering Marsh is an almost strictly worse Haunted Ridge, but not so strictly because it’s fetchable. This cycle of lands, aptly named the “Tango Lands,” made a strong mana base during its Standard time along with fetch lands. This allowed for easily playing 4-color decks.
But there are surely better options if you’re not on a budget since Smoldering Marsh requires a great deal of basics. It’s nice for splashing a second color in a deck full of basics, though.
The filter lands have the dependency problem, meaning they don’t generate mana by themselves. Graven Cairns is usually played as a 1- or 2-of in the decks that need it. The print of better lands in recent sets hit filter lands rather hard.
Every color pair has its manlands, and Lavaclaw Reaches is a good option to play even if it’s not the best one. I’d say it’s best mostly in EDH and casual formats because it hasn’t seen much play in the formats it’s been legal. Maybe as a 1-of in certain modern decks but that’s it.
The cycle of check lands that Dragonskull Summit is a part of is a perfect complement to the shock lands. But the check lands lose steam in formats that don’t have fetches because they don’t enter untapped as much. The slow lands will enter untapped more often, and you’ll also be interested in playing other lands like Temples and manlands that don’t have the Mountain/Swamp types.
That said, you’ll probably play at least two or three Summits in a deck that need their colors. It shines in decks with three colors when you have 12 lands that help it.
You choose between the black or the red side when you cast Blightstep Pathway. This can be trickier to play since you need to think ahead a little bit, but other than that it’s fine. Not coming into play tapped is huge, and this is a nice land to play in aggro and tempo decks.
#6. Haunted Ridge
Haunted Ridge’s stock is on the rise for players that have been playing Standard and Explorer on Arena like me. It’s one of the better lands to play in midrange and control decks since they can afford to play a tapped land on the first two turns, trumping cards like Dragonskull Summit.
The fact that Blackcleave Cliffs enters untapped as long as it’s one of the first three lands you play classifies it as a fast land. It’s better in aggro decks and decks that want to play 1- to 3-drops on a curve, like most Rakdos and Jund midrange decks.
This is a land that’s interesting to splash red in black aggro decks, or black in red aggro decks.
Luxury Suite is one of the best lands to play in a multiplayer format like EDH since it always enters untapped. And you don’t really care about it entering tapped if you’re down to one opponent in a 4v4 game.
The shock lands are the protagonists of every deck that can cast them. Blood Crypt and its shock brethren are usually reprinted a lot and have an accessible price.
You just pay two life if you want the Crypt to enter untapped. Having the Mountain and Swamp types is relevant for fetch purposes and other synergies. It even opens the possibility to bluff, since your opponent will always think you have something if you paid life to have immediate access to the land.
There’s an argument that Bloodstained Mire is better than Badlands because it’s legal in more formats and is played more. You’ll play more fetches than dual lands in most decks, and fetch lands are useful to fix more colors. But I’m still putting the Mire here because it has a downside, and it doesn’t generate mana per se.
It’s hard to go wrong with the original dual lands because everything about them is favorable. The Swamp and Mountain types make Badlands fetchable, you don’t lose life, and it doesn’t come into play tapped. The only problem is that you can’t buy this for paper without spending a whole load of cash since it’s on the Reserved List.
Although Badlands is only really necessary in some decks in formats like Vintage and Legacy as well as most Cubes, lots of EDH players that play Rakdos can replace it with any option from this list. But if you have it, then by all means play it.
Rakdos Guildgate | Illustration by Eytan Zana
Dual lands have almost always had a downside so that they don’t eclipse the basic lands. It’s part of the mana base design of a deck to get the most out of your lands, and you’ll have better options depending on the format.
You can lose a game if your land comes into play tapped in the first turns in Legacy and Modern, so shock lands like Blood Crypt are a good option. In formats like Commander, you don’t mind the life loss coming from pain lands as much. And there are formats with reduced options like Standard, Pioneer, and Pauper where you’ll take whatever you can get.
What are your thoughts on these red black lands? Let me know if I missed your favorite Rakdos land in the comments below or over in the Draftsim Discord.
That’s all from me for now. Stay safe, stay healthy, and wash your hands!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: