Last updated on June 21, 2021
Graven Cairns | Illustration by Adam Paquette
Blah blah blah fetch lands, blah blah blah shock lands. We all know they’re great. Okay, but what about filter lands? Filter lands are honestly a little underrated. I mean, while these lands might be less popular in some cases, they’re phenomenal the times when you can use them and really help a deck get off the ground or stay in the air.
Not following? That’s all right, today we’ve got nothing but time to talk about the glory of filter lands!
What are Filter Lands?
Sunken Ruins | Illustration by Warren Mahy
Filter lands are a unique type of land that turn one mana into a combination of two colored mana. For the most part, at least. A more general definition is that they turn a certain amount of mana (meaning not always just one) into more mana. Some of them only change the mana’s color.
Let’s say you have a Mystic Gate and a Sunpetal Grove on the field. You tap the Grove for a white source and then use the Gate’s ability to tap it and produce two colored mana in any combination of blue or white, meaning you could double up on one color or create one of each.
Pretty nifty, right? This is how they got their common name as “filter lands,” since they take mana and filter it into a different color or combination of colors. That said, you’re likely wondering what your options are for including these types of lands in your decks.
Well, uh, wish granted? Here’s a list!
List of Filter Lands
Odyssey: The Originals
These are a bit special since they’re technically filter lands, but with a looser definition. They’re also much worse than “regular” filter lands, despite also loosely meeting the tri lands definition.
Miscellaneous Filter Lands
These lands didn’t fall into any cycle. Some of them are also only technically filter lands with a more general definition just like the Homelands cards mentioned above.
- School of the Unseen
- Henge of Ramos
- Cabal Coffers
- Shimmering Grotto
- Unknown Shores
- Painted Bluffs
- Cascading Cataracts
- Crypt of the Eternals
- Cabal Stronghold
- Cave of Temptation
- Castle Garenbrig
Where to Get Filter Lands
If you’re looking to get your hands on filter lands, fret not. They aren’t nearly as pricey as fetches or dual lands. In fact, you can find the more popular ones from Shadowmoor and Eventide for anywhere from $5 to $10 on average.
The less notable filters that get printed every few sets like Cave of Temptation and Unknown Shores are usually only a few cents, and the most expensive out of them all is the one and only Cabal Coffers. It’s a staple in Legacy, Vintage, and Commander and sits at around $50, give or take a few bucks depending on the vendor and condition.
If you’re looking for a good place to hunt for deals on filter lands, I always suggest checking out an online vendor like TCGPlayer or CardKingdom. You can filter by condition on either site and hunt down the price that works for you best. eBay and Amazon are also options, or even a buy and sell group on the Facebook Marketplace.
I also always recommend seeing if your LGS has a copy of what you’re looking for in stock. It can be harder to find specific single copies of a card at physical locations, but your LGS puts in the work to provide Magic products and events so you can enjoy the game and they deserve some attention. Especially if that attention comes in the form of revenue to help keep them afloat.
Reprints are definitely possible, especially for the ally and enemy cycles from Shadowmoor and Eventide. They tend to get a decent amount of reprints already, and it’s safe to say we’re due for at least a few when Masters sets and the like roll around. It definitely doesn’t happen every time, but we reliably see them come around every few years.
Filtering Through Magic’s History
Mystic Gate | Illustration by Adam Paquette
Filter lands are no new concept if the full list is anything to go by. While the style of filter lands we would eventually get used to began in Odyssey with its cycle of lands that would take a single mana source and create a specific combination of two colored mana, there were technically filter lands before even then.
Back in the Homelands expansion, some lands were printed that could produce three different colors of mana. They produced one colored mana source by paying one generic mana, essentially just acting to change the color of any particular mana. Or they took two mana of any color to create one of two other colors. It was a hefty price, but it gave the filter land concept its origin.
The next big cycle of filter lands — and the most iconic — was introduced in Eventide and Shadowmoor, with these lands being able to tap for a colorless source unlike their Odyssey predecessors which were only used for filtering. They even came sporting a more flexible set of options for the output, allowing you to make two mana of either color or one of each.
It’s the Shadowmoor and Eventide filter lands that tend to get the most love. You can find most of their reprints in Masters sets such as Iconic Masters or Double Masters, and in special cases like Zendikar Expeditions. That doesn’t go for all of them, though, and the more common filter lands like Unknown Shores have gotten reprinted in Standard-legal sets like Ixalan and Theros: Beyond Death.
Where Do Filter Lands Find Their Home?
Rugged Praire | Illustration by Christine Choi
That’s a phenomenal and fun question. Filter lands don’t really find a home in many places. To be completely honest, you shouldn’t expect to see them too often. Fetches and shocks are objectively better, and so are check and fast lands.
These types of dual lands are faster at fixing mana pools because they don’t need anything else to do it. And in the case of fetches, well, they fetch out these other powerful lands and thin out your deck while they’re at it.
Instead of focusing on the negative, let’s go over where filters are good at. I’ll be talking mostly about the Shadowmoor and Eventide filter lands as they’re the most versatile options out there, even if their activation cost is more restricted.
Demanding Mana (i.e., Control)
You’re going to want to slot these lands into decks that run cards that can be demanding in their mana costs. Think Cryptic Command that requires three blue plus a colorless source. Sometimes that third blue mana can be hard to come across, and paying a white into your Mystic Gate or a black into Sunken Ruins to produce double blue can save your rear.
You’ll run into these situations more in control decks than anywhere else, so keep an eye out for opportunities like this.
Avoid Too Many Colors
Unknown Shores | Illustration by Rob Alexander
As weird as it may sound, try to avoid filters in decks with tons of colors. They’re at home in decks running two colors. They’re good as long as you have anything but another filter land on the field.
Filters work still well in 3-color decks, but any more than that and I’d say you’re cruising for a bruising. You start to thin out what you can produce while increasing what you need. Plus, running too many filters can lead to disaster if you can’t even power them.
You could argue that the Odyssey filters are better for 5-color decks, but they don’t even produce the colorless mana that the Shadowmoor and Eventide filters do, which is risky.
Eternal Formats and Filters
All of that said, the more formal filter lands I’ve been talking about are solid in eternal formats where they’re available as long as your deck can support them. Now, as for the Limited environment, we like to see something a little different.
This is where you’ll be picking up cards like Painted Bluffs; they’re nice to have in some situations. I wouldn’t recommend taking more than one or two as their method of filtering requires you to tap two lands for one mana, but it’s nice when you’re stuck for a particular source and really need it for a splash. They also produce a colorless mana on their own, meaning they still pull their weight.
Alternatives to Filter Lands
Fetid Heath | Illustration by Christine Choi
I can’t really say that there are alternatives to filters. They’re very unique in their design and application, and most of the time your alternatives are just the types of filter lands that are more geared towards the Limited environment like Shimmering Grotto.
They can help convert your mana, but you’ll be at a net loss on the battlefield and that’s a little ugly. At that rate, the subpar filter land could have just been the basic land you needed or even another dual of some sort.
Cascade Bluffs | Illustration by Brandon Kitkouski
So, what do you think? Do you have a use for these lands that I’m not aware of that you’d like to share? Maybe you have some questions about other situations that would call for them to be used. Whatever it may be, feel free to drop it in the comments below for some discussion!
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In the meantime, I hope you’ve had or are having a wonderful day, and I can’t wait to see you again in the future!
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