Last updated on October 8, 2020
“Gotta go fast.”
In a world of mana bases with fetches, typed dual lands, and lands that draw you a card, the fast lands of MTG are often the most overlooked and forgotten of the land quintets that are the bread and butter of the Modern format. They can be a useful ally to the right deck’s mana base in multiple formats, though.
As the name may suggest, these dual lands are meant for decks that want to gain advantage or mana early without the downside of shock and check lands. Fast lands enter the battlefield untapped as long as you have two or fewer other lands in play (not counting themselves) which means that they’re essentially a better basic land (in your hand) for the first three turns of the game.
This gives you flexibility in your early plays. You get the chance to play an opening Thoughtseize into a turn 2 Wrenn and Six and still be able to play Liliana of the Veil on-curve on the third turn. All without the downsides of other mana bases.
Blooming Marsh | Illustration by Adam Paquette
What Are Fast Lands?
The Allied Fast Lands
The allied fast lands were originally printed in Scars of Mirrodin. They consist of:
These lands were first printed in 2010, meaning they were only legal in Modern, Legacy, and Vintage until recently. They’d only had the one printing until Zendikar Rising Expeditions, though they’re still not Standard-legal. This does mean that they’re fairly difficult to get a hold of but are still considered budget in comparison to the highly collectible fetchlands. The most expensive fast land is Blackcleave Cliffs at $22 and the least is Razorverge Thicket at $7, around the same price as some shocklands.
The Enemy Fast Lands
The enemy fast lands were printed in Kaladesh. Here they are:
These lands are legal in Pioneer and earlier formats, so they saw a minor spike when Pioneer was announced. They still remain relatively cheap (all under $10) while still seeing play in multiple formats including Pioneer and Modern, though. They’re only available in their Kaladesh (and prerelease promo) printings.
History of the Fast Lands, Pre-Kaladesh
The fast lands from Scars of Mirrodin were instant hits in Standard, seeing more play than the Zendikar fetchlands because of the lack of fetchable lands. At Worlds 2010, the first major event after the release of Scars of Mirrodin, seven of the top eight decks from the tournament had their corresponding fast lands, with the last being a Mono-Green deck. That’s a pretty impressive performance.
However, the inception of Modern and the introduction of the fetch-shock mana base saw a shift away from fast lands. They were overlooked at the start and played in fringe decks like the early Melira Birthing Pod deck, not seeing much play at the professional level at that point.
That is, if you don’t count the breakout Midrange deck: the infamous Jund.
Blackcleave Cliffs | Illustration by Dave Kendall
Blackcleave Cliffs saw play in Jund right from the very start and eventually became one of the main lands of the deck over the years. Starting as a singular copy in the Worlds 2011 deck, the card slowly rose to the top of the deck, alongside Verdant Catacombs, as cards like Grove of the Burnwillows stopped seeing relevance with the ban of Punishing Fire. In Mat Mercier’s 5th Place Jund list at Grand Prix Lincoln 2012, less than three months after Worlds 2011, there were four copies of the card, creating the most iconic fast land mana base the Magic world had and continues to see.
Almost as a catalyst, most of the other allied lands saw some amount play after this Razorverge Thicket found a home in the now-improved Pod decks and Bogles (hexproof aura) decks. Copperline Gorge slipped into a few different Jund, Delver, and Pod lists. Seachrome Coast saw some play in Caw-Blade, though not permanently. And, finally, Darkslick Shores disappeared into the void entirely.
Rise // Fall | Illustration by Pete Venters
By the release of Kaladesh in the fall of 2016, all of the lands I just mentioned had started seeing significant play, barring the two blue lands (Seachrome Coast and Darkslick Shores). Jund is obviously Blackcleave Cliffs’ home, Copperline Gorge found a place in Dredge, and Razorverge Thicket headed over to Selesnya Death and Taxes.
Before Kaladesh, though, it’s important to understand how the fast lands work and why the blue ones didn’t.
Fast Land Place in Modern
As stated above, these lands’ MO is to come into play and generate immediate effect in the early stages of the game. This means that the lands work best in midrange and aggressive shells because of their low mana curve and high threat density.
This can also explain why the blue ones didn’t work. Blue’s Modern identity is all about counterspells, gaining control, and/or tempo. Fast lands won’t work in a deck like Azorius control where lands need to come into play untapped all game to be able to cast a number of reactive answers. That’s a complete write off.
Death’s Shadow | Illustration by Howard Lyon
The premier UB tempo deck in Modern is death’s shadow, which has no space for these lands. Shocklands are used to basically pull the player’s life total down to hit with the deck’s namesake, Death’s Shadow.
This leaves no blue deck that would really want a fast land other than storm, a deck which plans to win the game by the fourth or fifth turn. There’s also no land that can fit in the storm deck, a blue-red deck…
The Fast Lands, Post-Kaladesh
In October of 2016, Kaladesh brought the enemy cycle of fast lands along. This added some much-needed lands to the format for decks that previously had no options that matched their colors.
Each one of the Kaladesh fast lands also sees significant play in Pioneer since they’re the second-best land in the format.
As mentioned above, this deck really wants Spirebluff Canal. A non-downside untapped land for a deck that doesn’t want the game to go for long. The perfect fit.
Burn, which is traditionally Boros, is the perfect place for these fast lands. The deck also doesn’t want games to last long, nor does it need large amounts of mana for each turn. The addition of Inspiring Vantage was very welcome.
Eldrazi and Taxes
While running a lot of brown lands like Eldrazi Temple and Ghost Quarter, the Orzhov counterpart to Selesnya Taxes didn’t have an effective way to fix mana without a huge downside. That is, until the printing of Concealed Courtyard. This allowed the deck to function well with the lack of a need for shocklands. Because of the hate aspect of Taxes, there are no fetch lands in this deck.
Another aggressive, fast, tempo-ish deck, Simic and Bant Infect use Botanical Sanctum some of the time, especially in more budget builds.
Blooming Marsh found a home here, allowing the deck to feel more like its Jund counterpart than before.
Playing Fast Lands
Fast lands are played in a variety of aggro and midrange decks as well as decks that want to win fast. They add flexibility in your play patterns.
For example, in Jund, you can:
Turn 2: Wrenn and Six
Turn 3: Liliana of the Veil
You can do this pretty easily and not lose 4 to 6 life to do it. That play pattern can be the start you need to win the game. And, in Modern, your life total matters very much.
Thoughtseize | Illustration by Chuck Lukacs
However, there are a few downsides to these lands. Because of their lack of basic land types, they’re not fetchable, meaning you have to draw them. Also, in decks that curve out above four or want to play multiple answers a turn (coughcoughControl), coming in untapped later in the game is a massive downside and pretty unfavorable.
It’s also important to note that these lands don’t count themselves, so you can place one down on turn 3 and still have it come down untapped. This is hugely important as turn 3 is pretty vital to the game as a whole.
Here’s a handy flowchart I made to help you figure out if these lands are for you:
Where Fast Lands See Play
The allied lands see play in Modern while the enemy ones are in Modern and Pioneer. But what would it look like if there were a definitive list of every top tier deck these lands see play in?
Well, no need to wonder. Let’s take a look:
- Blackcleave Cliffs: Jund
- Razorverge Thicket: Selesnya Taxes, Devoted Druid Combo, Bogles
- Darkslick Shores: Ad Nauseum, Mill
- Seachrome Coast: Merfolk, Spirits
- Copperline Gorge: Dredge
Concealed Courtyard | Illustration by Jung Park
- Inspiring Vantage: Modern Burn, Pioneer Burn, Pioneer Winota, Pioneer Boros Feather
- Spirebluff Canal: Modern Blitz, Modern Storm, Pioneer Ensoul Artifact, Pioneer Izzet Phoenix
- Concealed Courtyard: Modern Eldrazi and Taxes, Pioneer Orzhov Auras
- Botanical Sanctum: Modern Infect, Pioneer Spirits, Pioneer Lotus Combo (formerly Lotus Breach)
- Blooming Marsh: Modern Rock, Modern Elves, Pioneer Jund Sacrifice, Pioneer Sultai Delirium
No Play in Legacy
The answer to why fast lands don’t see play in Legacy is pretty simple: there’s no need or space for them.
Legacy already has non-downside, typed, untapped dual lands. They run an abundance of fetches and these lands (as well as basics) for deck thinning purposes and their synergy with other legacy cards.
Fast lands are truly a staple of Modern magic, both the era and the format.
Tundra | Illustration by Jesper Myrfors
Getting Your Hands on Fast Lands
Unlike other sought-after lands, most of these lands (other than Blackcleave Cliffs) are very easily obtainable and budget-friendly.
The best way to buy cards, in mine and many other players’ opinions, is to go to a marketplace with multiple sellers. Think TCGPlayer, CardMarket, and eBay. It’s than a single seller to find competitive pricing and a range of sellers. Stores tend to mark up prices.
With that being said, it’s always best to support your LGS is you’re able to! As a pillar of your local Magic community, your support helps keep them running, even if you’re not finding the cheapest deals there. Saving on postage sometimes does recoup those costs, though.
Botanical Sanctum | Illustration by Christine Choi
The first place to look, depending on where you are, is your region’s local market site.
In North America, TCGPlayer is the standard for buying cards at market value. If you want a solid sale and just want to buy one and have it over and done with instantly, head over to their site and find what you’re looking for.
But, if you’re willing to spend more time scouring the web (
I’m now wondering why there’s not a card called Time Scour…), you can find some great deals on eBay! It does take a little longer as it’s essentially the wild west of trading cards. There’s a lot of low prices as well as a lot of high prices, especially if you learn to utilize the “Best Offer”feature properly.
You can also look into your local Facebook trading group if you have one. It’s a good way to network, make sure you’re buying from those who want to sell, and, if you’re savvy enough, you can scrape a few good deals on there, too!
Now, before I talk about this, I wanna preface it by saying that cracking packs for value is definitely not the way to go to find the cards you need. You’re more than likely going to lose profit and, as the saying goes, the house always wins. Buying singles always ends up giving you value for money in the long run. It’s the best way to get the cards you need without wasting any time or money.
Packs are incredibly fun to draft, though, so if you wanted to draft the sets these cards are in, you’d be looking for Scars of Mirrodin and Kaladesh boosters.
Leonin Arbiter | Illustration by Shelly Wan
Kaladesh is easy. A lot of stores stock these boxes and you can find them on eBay for around twice the price of a Standard booster box. As long as you’re willing to invest a bit more, this draft format is fun and very artifact themed, if that’s what you’re into. The lands are, as always, not guaranteed in the box.
- 36 booster pack booster box
- This is of sealed booster box . From the Kaladesh set.
Scars of Mirrodin is a very different story. Booster boxes cost over four times the amount of a box of the most recent Standard set and fast lands aren’t guaranteed. The draft format for Scars is very fun, though. It’s one of the best sets I’ve ever drafted. It is very expensive to do in paper. If you’re looking to draft this highly exciting set, feel free to vote for it in our Patreon set choosing poll!
- Magic the Gathering – MTG: Scars of Mirrodin Booster Box (36 Packs)
- Each Booster Box of Scars of Mirrodin contains 36 booster packs
- PACK: 15-Cards including 1 Rare/Mythic Rare plus a tip/token card
- Scars of Mirrodin is the first set in the Scars of Mirrodin block
- NOTE: This product can ONLY be shipped the United States, Puerto Rico, APO/FPOs and USVI.
If you were to buy these boxes, make sure that they’re in their original plastic wrapping and that they’re bought from a seller with a good reputation or an official store.
The MTGO economy means that these lands are a lot cheaper on Magic Online than their paper counterparts on average. The Kaladesh lands are dearer than their Scars of Mirrodin counterparts, but not by much. To play on Magic Online, Cardhoarder has a great way to buy the cards you need and even rent the cards you need which I highly recommend if you play a lot of different decks.
River of Tears | Illustration by Chris J. Anderson
Maybe you can’t afford fast lands. Maybe they don’t fit into your deck as intended. That’s okay! There are some lands that follow the same philosophy, but better.
The future sight land cycle is full of lands that are similar to fast lands but with weird effects. Some are cheaper and some are more expensive. River of Tears is my favorite out of the bunch and I’m hoping they’ll print more like it, but I’m betting that they won’t. It acts as a productive (black) land on your first few turns and then lets you have reactive (blue) spells for the rest of the game, which lets you also use fetches if you need to trigger the black mana clause.
Another good cycle are the allied reveal lands like Choked Estuary. These will usually come in on turn 1 untapped. They’re good for super budget decks with a lot of typed lands but unfortunately reveal some info to your opponent.
So, that’s it for this one! Fast lands are great and vastly underappreciated and I hope that you find some use for them. They may not be the most exciting of the rare lands, but they can elevate decks tenfold in some cases.
What do you think of the fast lands? Are they as great as I’m saying they are, or do you see them as draft chaff? Did you enjoy reading and want to tell us? Please let us know down below!
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This is where we part ways for now, my friend. Thanks for reading.
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