Last updated on May 12, 2021
Savai Triome (variant) | Illustration by Robbie Trevino
Lands are a core piece of Magic: The Gathering. The game would be vastly different from what we know and love today without them. There are lots of different types of lands ranging anywhere from basic lands to fetch lands, each with a set of rules unique to them.
Today I’d like to touch on the topic of cycling lands. These lands are good helpers when it comes to drawing the right cards at the right time, so let’s check them out!
What Are Cycling Lands?
Cycling lands are a special type of land that has the ability to be cycled by paying a mana cost and discarding the card. Once the cycling ability resolves, you draw a card. Pretty neat, right? Some cycling lands have different names like “bicycle lands” and “tricycle lands” because of the mana they can produce. Let’s take a look at them now, shall we?
List of Cycling Lands
Hour of Devastation
- Desert of the Fervent
- Desert of the Glorified
- Desert of the Indomitable
- Desert of the Mindful
- Desert of the True
Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths
Triomes / “Tricycle Lands”
Where to Get Cycling Lands
If you’re looking to pick up some cycling lands of your own, I recommend purchasing singles. Buying packs to open can be fun, but there’s a good chance you’ll never come across the card you’re looking for. If you’re looking for anything specific, that is. Thankfully, most of these lands are relatively cheap.
Most of the cycling lands are worth a dollar or two at the most, with only a few of them (a couple of the Triomes from Ikoria that are particularly popular in Standard right now) breaking $10 or more. I always recommend checking your local game store when buying Magic products. If you’re looking to order online, though, there’s always sites like TCGPlayer or CardKingdom as well as eBay or Facebook buy and sell groups.
History of Cycling Lands
Cycling lands were first introduced in Urza’s Saga in 1998. At the time they only sported the ability to cycle by paying two generic mana in addition to discarding the card. More cycling lands appeared later in Onslaught in 2002, followed by the deserts and bicycle lands in the Amonkhet block in 2017 and the tricycle lands in Ikoria in 2020.
You can find reprints of most of these cards scattered throughout Commander sets released over the years. Aside from the Triomes, which are still pretty new.
Canyon Slough | Illustration by Titus Lunter
Astral Slide and Fluctuator
If you’re thinking that cycling lands can’t be powerful because they enter the battlefield tapped, think again. Cycling lands pair nicely with a couple of cards that are made for strategies centered around cycling, the most notable being Astral Slide and Fluctuator.
Astral Slide is often paired with Lightning Rift to create a versatile deck with a solid win condition. Players cycle cards and burn down opponents with Lightning Rift while using Astral Slide to blink their own creatures for powerful ETB effects or to protect strong creatures.
Fluctuator is used in a devastating early game combo. Cycle cards and burn through a majority of the deck in order to make Haunting Misery lethal by dumping enough creatures into the graveyard or casting Songs of the Damned and following it up with Drain Life.
These were strategies for some of the defining decks back during Onslaught’s heyday.
How Powerful Are We Talking?
Cycling lands are pretty strong, but they aren’t fetch or dual land strong. The thing that really holds them back is that they enter the battlefield tapped. Even the Triomes having three colors doesn’t do much to call them equal against duals that can enter the battlefield untapped.
Scattered Groves | Illustration by Christine Choi
Where Do They Go, Then?
It depends on the deck you’re running and the format you’re in, honestly. Cycling lands are cool because they can help you draw into things you need for a little extra cost rather than just drawing a land that does nothing for you. A fetch can’t find a removal spell or a counter spell, but you might be able to draw one by cycling.
In formats like Commander that play with singleton rules, you’re kind of stuck only having one copy of each land in your commander’s color identity. I like to include cycling lands in my Commander decks whenever it’s possible to help prevent me from flooding out.
In the Vintage and Legacy formats, you still have access to the full list of cycling lands as well as Fluctuator, Astral Slide, and Savai Triome, is a popular budget deck on Arena in the current Standard meta. It doesn’t use a lot of rares and can climb the ranked ladder well with the right pilot. Most of the Triomes see play in Standard with use of either a versatile mana source or an emergency card draw, too.
Other Interesting Uses
Actually, yes. While the single-colored cycling lands are nonbasic, the bicycle and tricycle lands all have land types that allow them to be grabbed by fetches. This is particularly useful with the Triomes if you’re willing to wait a turn to use the land since they’ll still enter the battlefield tapped.
You could also play Amulet of Vigor with the Triomes to make them pieces of extremely versatile cardboard by having them untap when they enter the battlefield.
Lonely Sandbar | Illustration by Noah Bradley
How Do These Affect My Deck?
Cycling lands are finicky things, so let’s look at some reasons behind their inclusion or exclusion.
Let’s cut to the chase: these things are slow. I mean it.
Yes, they draw a card. That’s nice and all, but they enter the battlefield tapped. The big reason to use these cards would be if you have another card that makes use of discarding a card or drawing a card, or the cycling ability itself. Another big hit for cycling lands would be in decks that already have bad card draw and need more ways to get through the deck.
If you don’t have a lot of early plays, then the “one mana cost” of having a land come into play tapped might have less of an impact in your deck. You trade tempo for flexibility later.
Cycling lands in Limited might not have any particular synergies in the deck you build, or they might. Regardless, you can get away with a larger land pool using cycling lands in Limited because they can help you draw into big bombs and important cards a little easier by acting as a way to thin out your deck. Less cards in the deck means you’re increasingly likely to draw what you’re looking for, and that’s never a bad thing.
Lands are often bad/blank cards in the late game. So by running more lands than usual with cycling lands, you’re able to make it more likely you can a) hit your land drops and b) if you flood out, you can just cycle them for a new card.
Bringing It To a Close
Ketria Triome | Illustration by Sam Burley
All right, I think that just about sums it up. I could go on forever and ever about cycling lands, but I don’t want to bore you when you’ve probably gotten the info you’ve come for already. In case I didn’t answer your question, ask away in the comments below! Feel welcome to discuss your favorite build that includes cycling lands, too. Maybe you have a take on these lands that moves away from the usual opinion? Let’s hear it!
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With that, I bid you adieu. See you all next time!
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