Last updated on September 29, 2020
To this day, I’ve never met an MTG player who’s never gotten screwed by a bad land draw. Sometimes you get too few (mana screw) and sometimes you get too many (mana flood). Finding a good balance of lands is crucial to any deck. There are a couple of ways to do that. We’ve talked about shocklands before, and now it’s time to talk about another useful way to smooth out your land draw and hopefully avoid screw/flood altogether: fetch lands.
Fetch lands—as their name suggests—allow you to search your library for a land and drop it on the battlefield. This is especially useful when you’re playing multicolor decks since you’d need to be efficient with your mana distribution or else risk getting screwed. This has the added benefit of taking said lands out of your library, making it less likely you’ll draw land and more likely you’ll draw the cards you need to win. There are a few variations, so let’s start with the ones that came first.
The “Originals” – Mirage Slow Fetch Lands
As soon as they were released, these cards became very popular with the player base, and the reason was simple: players had a new way to fix their mana and ensure more consistent draws. It showed players the strength of manipulating lands as well as how to use multicolor decks more effectively.
However, there was a problem with using these fetch lands: the lands they fetched came to play tapped, so you had to wait a turn before you could use them. This meant trading your turn for better mana control later, but it was a risky trade. These fetch lands are known as “slow-fetches,” and although they were very popular back then, nowadays you’ll usually only spot them in budget decks.
The List of Fetch Lands
Here’s the list of what are now known as “The Fetch Lands”:
- Windswept Heath
- Flooded Strand
- Polluted Delta
- Bloodstained Mire
- Wooded Foothills
- Marsh Flats
- Scalding Tarn
- Verdant Catacombs
- Arid Mesa
- Misty Rainforest
There are two sets that probably come to mind when you talk with experienced MTG players about fetch lands: Onslaught and Zendikar.
Onslaught Allied Fetch Lands
Unlike Mirage fetch lands, these come into play untapped and you need to pay one life to sacrifice them and fetch your land. They also each align with one of the allied color pairs and can only fetch you a land from its pair. Oh, and the land you fetch comes into play untapped, too. Bonus!
At first glance, paying one life for a land might not sound like a good idea, but it’s actually pretty beneficial.Think about it; if you’re playing a multicolored deck,you need a specific amount of different mana types and you need to be lucky to draw matching lands. Especially if you’re going for a strong early game, lacking two mountains can completely destroy your game. What’s better: paying one life to get the mana you need, or waiting a couple turns before you can start dropping creatures on the battlefield?
Zendikar Enemy Fetch Lands
These fetch lands encompassed the enemy color pairs to complete the set. The 2002 fetch lands plus Zendikar’s new five quickly became popular among MTG players and they haven’t lost their popularity since. This wasn’t just because they allowed players to control their land flow, though. There are a couple more uses to these fetch lands than fetching basic lands, which made them even better for multicolor decks.
What’s the Big Deal? Why Fetch Lands Are So Good
We talked about land types in our shockland article, but let’s go over it again just in case. Take a look at these lands, specifically their type line between the illustration and text box:
You’ll probably notice that Flooded Strand says “Land,” Hallowed Fountain reads “Lands – Plains Island,” and the Island says “Basic Land – Island.” Because Flooded Strand allows you to search your library for a Plains or an Island and doesn’t specific basic or nonbasic, you could grab an Island or you could grab the Hallowed Fountain shockland, since it has Plains and Island as its subtypes. You could also grab Watery Grave, Temple Garden, Godless Shrine, Steam Vents, Sacred Foundry, or Breeding Pool, as each has either Plains or Island as a basic land type.
Quick note: You’d still have to pay the two life to have shocklands enter untapped, as their ETB condition still applies. The fetch lands don’t specify if what they fetch enters tapped or untapped, so that’s up to the fetched card’s conditions.
Brainstorm | Card art by Willian Murai
There’s also the “shuffle” effect, which can come in handy. Let’s say you’re using Brainstorm, which allows you to draw three cards and put two on top of your library. If you have cards in your hand that won’t be useful in the next couple of turns, you can activate Brainstorm, put the cards you don’t want on the top of your library, and then fetch a land. You’ll shuffle and get rid of the useless cards. Combine this with a couple scrying cards and you’ll have greater control over your draws.
Finally, you can also trigger “landfall” effects multiple times by using fetch lands and then putting another land on the battlefield, which can help you quickly snowball the game.
There are multiple uses of fetch lands in theory, but how useful are they in practice? Naturally, it depends on your game style. They can simply be used for better mana in some decks while other decks rely on them to work. Non-standard formats like Modern, Legacy, Vintage, Commander, and Cube where people have access to more cards find them particularly useful. Every deck needs to take multiple win conditions into account in these formats because of their variation.
People tend to use multiple colors while building decks in these formats (even more so than in Standard), so you’ll have to respond to more threats and it can be a headache if you can’t play what you have in your hand. Fetch lands also help your deck become more versatile by giving you access to more cards across colors.
Some players argue that deck-thinning isn’t a solid strategy and is generally useless, but there’s still a good amount of people who use fetch lands to get the mana base they want quickly and reduce their chances of drawing additional lands. The benefit is marginal, but Magic is a game of small decisions. Sometimes you’ll need to consider the cost of paying one additional life vs. the chance of drawing an extra land you don’t need.
Maybe the worst thing about fetch lands is their price. After all, I just listed a lot of benefits, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
You can buy them from other players, but prices vary greatly, from $10 to $15 USD for rare older prints to a whopping $200+ USD for mythic reprints in releases like the Onslaught fetches as Magic Judge promos.
Of course, being useful isn’t the main reason for their price. The problem is with the supply. There were only a limited number of reprints for the 10 fetch lands I talked about earlier. The Onslaught lands were reprinted in Khans of Tarkir in 2014 while Zendikar’s were reprinted in Modern Masters in 2017.
Khans of Tarkir reprints
Modern Masters 2017 reprints
They were also given as judge gift cards, but the supply was still pretty limited. Although Zendikar Expeditions came with 10 fetch lands back in 2016, they are quite rare, so the demand is still higher than the supply.
You can also get them from buying a booster box of Khans of Tarkir packs, which can net you somewhere between none or up to six fetch lands, but it’s a risky deal since you might not get a single one. Or you could get copies of one you’ve already collected or one you don’t want or need.
We talked about the limited list and players who don’t like reprints before, and fetch lands are no exception. But this time their argument is not only limited to reprints effect on prices. The reason some players don’t want fetch lands reprinted is the shuffling mechanic.
The Reprint Argument
Many MTG players are play paper instead of digital and, for them, shuffling can become a bothersome mechanic. Think about it: if fetch lands are reprinted and everyone uses them in their Standard decks, you could end up spending half the game searching your deck for land cards and then shuffling your deck. Imagine doing that five turns in a row, if not more. It’d get pretty tiring real fast (and did during the last Standard format where fetches were legal). And there’s no escape from it since fetch lands are just too useful to miss out on. If all your opponents are using them, you’d probably end up using them too or else you’d be at a serious disadvantage.
But, as always, it seems players are divided and WotC is trying to find a way to please everyone. Back in March, reddit user “internofdoom33” challenged senior MTG Designer Gavin Verhey to answer their question about fetch lands. If he did, the user would donate “the retail cost of a box of (Mystery Booster)” to charity—which they did. And Verhey didn’t disappoint either:
“Do we plan to reprint the Fetch lands (or Oracle of Mul Daya, or Force of Will, or Mana Drain, or Jace, or…)? Absolutely. I can pretty much guarantee you that they will show up somewhere along the line. We know players need them, we aren’t bound by the reserved list, and frankly, we’d be fools to not reprint them.”Gavin Verhey
In short, you can either go price hunting on an MTG card trading site like TCGPlayer, get the Secret Lair: Ultimate Edition, or wait for future reprints.
How to Get Them for Cheap
So we’ve established pretty well that the fetch lands are powerful, expensive, but if you’re playing certain formats, you gotta have em. So what do you do?
If you’re going to buy them, be smart about it. First of all, I recommend buying them on an open marketplace vs. from one seller. One seller may have a significantly higher markup than others, so when you buy somewhere that has multiple sellers competing, you’re bound to get a better price.
A great example here is eBay:
You can score some seriously good deals by combing through the listings; particularly if a seller has underpriced something inadvertently.
A similarly good option is Amazon. Although there’s no “low listing and bidding,” prices are typically pretty comparable (with multiple sellers competing), including with shipping.
Quite affordable, actually (at least for an older MTG card…)
Totally understandable if you can’t afford the fancy blinged-out judge promo or Zendikar expedition versions. In fact, I personally don’t even care if the card is in near-mint condition. The card does the same thing!
This is where TCGPlayer can help out. The website has a marketplace of different sellers that all list their best price and the condition of the card for sale.
So if we are looking for a Polluted Delta, for example, maybe we can get a cheaper one by changing the condition selector.
On Magic Online
The economy in Magic Online is utterly different than that of “real life.” Cheap cards IRL can cost a fortune on Magic Online and vice versa.
But the market there is pretty liquid, so you should be able to get a reasonable price. You can check the online pricing very easily on Cardhoarder or use their loan program to play whatever deck you want without worrying about acquiring the cards.
Maybe you’re even trying to score some fetches for a below-market rate. To do this, I might recommend checking out Facebook “Buy and Sell MTG” groups, Craigslist, and even garage sales and flea markets!
Honorable Mentions / Cheaper Alternatives to Fetch Lands
I talked about the original Mirage ”slow-fetches” and the better fetch lands from Onslaught and Zendikar, but there are some other iterations. Let’s take a look at some honorable mentions:
These can tap for a single colorless mana and can be useful for decks that use artifacts alongside multiple colors. However, they cost mana to sacrifice, can only fetch basic lands, and the lands they fetch come to play tapped, so they’re not ideal.
This can also be tapped for a colorless mana and allows you to fetch two basic lands, but at the cost of four mana, which essentially means skipping a turn.
An old fetch land that allows you to play multiple lands in a single turn and returns to your hand at the end of the turn, but you’ll need to spend a couple of turns to fully utilize it.
There are a couple more slow-fetch lands that essentially have the same mechanics as these ones and they’re much cheaper than their more useful counterparts, so you can try using them too:
Although their name might be cheesy, fetch lands have significant impact on any deck they’re in. They offer great control over a deck’s mana flow for a measly sacrifice of 1 life. Newer players might shy away from paying that cost, but veterans have long seen the benefit of these pricey go-getters.
They might not be in Standard—at least for now—but they’re sought after in almost any format they’re legal in. Be it Modern, Legacy, Commander, or Cube, there are lots of players who are willing to pay a lot of money to have them in their decks. What do you think? Are they nuts or are these cards just too powerful? Let us know in the comments below!
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