Last updated on February 19, 2021
Volcanic Island | Illustration by Noah Bradley
Ah, lands. Arguably Magic’s most important card type. They make the game go ‘round, after all. Lands are a source of mana, without which you literally wouldn’t be able to do anything. But they can also be useful in loads of other ways.
I wanna talk about a special kind of land. At least, special in the sense that it’s pretty highly sought after. Dual lands. Specifically the 10 original dual lands, but we’ll get to all that in just a sec. If you’re somehow not familiar with the term “duals,” they’re basically just any nonbasic land that can produce two different types of mana. Albeit not at the same time.
So why are they so highly sought after? Let’s talk about that. And some other things, too.
All About the Original Dual Lands
Underground Sea | Illustration by Cliff Childs
Dual lands, so named because they can produce two mana colors, were originally printed in Limited Edition Alpha in August 1993. They’re also more commonly called “duals” for short.
The lands are fairly basic among nonbasic lands. Each of the original duals can be tapped for one of two different mana colors. And that’s it. That’s all they do. They don’t enter the battlefield tapped, or shock you, or have any special abilities whatsoever. If all you’re looking for is some varied mana sources, though, then the original duals are just what the wizard ordered.
While they don’t do anything other than tap for mana, they do count as two different land types. For example, Dimir’s Underground Sea counts as both an Island and a Swamp. I talked about this a little in my old shocklands piece, but more on why this is so cool a bit later.
Fun fact! The original printings of the duals in Alpha had a couple of hiccups. First, Volcanic Island wasn’t printed in the set because of an internal error. WotC fixed this with the release of Beta. The second issue saw an alternate-art version of Plateau printed in Revised Edition thanks to the original art being corrupted and lost.
Before we get too deep into all this info, let’s take a look at the lands in question, shall we?
The Original Gallery
The History of It All
Let’s talk about these duals some more.
I think it’s important to mention that “dual lands” has come to have more of a general meaning than the original dual lands from Alpha’s set of 10 cards. It basically refers to any and all lands that can produce two different types of mana. Which is a pretty long list. We’ve covered quite a few of them already, in fact, including the most recent on Battlebond lands.
As I already mentioned, the originals were first printed in 1993 in the Limited Edition Alpha set. Alpha is notable as the first ever core set in Magic’s history.
Badlands | Illustration by Daarken
Both the allied- and the enemy-colored duals were printed in just about all of the same sets and promos, with one exception. They were both printed in two Magic Online Masters Editions, but allied saw the press in II and IV, while enemies were III and IV.
Other than that, here’s the full list of reprints for all 10 original duals:
- Limited Edition Alpha
- Limited Edition Beta
- Unlimited Edition
- Collectors’ Edition
- Intl. Collectors’ Edition
- Revised Edition
- Foreign Black Border
- Summer Magic / Edgar
- Magic Online Masters Edition II / III
- Magic Online Masters Edition IV
- Magic Online Vintage Masters
- Magic Online Promos
- Legacy Championship (OLGC)
Their Next Appearance: Why Doesn’t Wizards Reprint the Original Dual Lands?
Tundra | Illustration by Lars Grant-West
The unfortunate reality is that it’s incredibly unlikely, if not entirely impossible, that we’ll ever see the dual lands reprinted. There are a few different reasons for this, but the main one as I’m sure you can probably imagine is money. It always come down to money, doesn’t it?
Let’s start with the fact that the original duals are on the reserved list. What’s that, you might ask? To put it simply, cards that end up on this list won’t ever be officially reprinted by WotC for a variety of different reasons. There are 572 cards on this list, and the original duals are 10 of them. There’s a long, storied history behind the reserved list which even includes some potential legal repercussions if Wizards were to ever just abolish the list and reprint the cards anyway, so I feel pretty secure in saying it’ll never go away.
Bayou | Illustration by Karl Kopinski
Let’s say, just for fun, that WotC did delete the list and get away with it. I still don’t think they’d ever reprint the original duals. These cards sell for crazy amounts of money on the secondary market, just like every other card on the reserved list. The original Alpha and Beta printings might not lose too much value if they were reprinted, but the Revised versions sure would.
If you’re hanging your head in disappointment as the conclusion that the original duals will never be reprinted dawns on you, hold on just a second. I’ve got a tiny little light at the end of the tunnel for you. There’s this nifty little thing called “functional reprints” that could serve as a fun workaround for WotC. These are cards that do the same things as previous iterations, they just have a different name and different art. Functionally the same, aesthetically and technically different.
Now allow me to tell you that the light at the end of the tunnel I mentioned is in fact mirage, just some weird trick of your mind, as I snuff it out. The original duals could be tapped for one of two types of mana, did not enter the battlefield tapped, and had two land subtypes. I’ll explain exactly why all of this matters in just a bit but suffice it to say that’s kind of the perfect dual-colored land. The subtype can also vary on functional reprints, so any untapped ETB duals that WotC reprints with the same rules text as the originals are unlikely to also have the subtypes as well.
What’s the Big Deal?
Tropical Island | Illustration by Franz Vohwinkel
At one point in Magic’s long history, it wasn’t possible (or at the very least advisable) to play with certain color combinations in Standard. Mana just didn’t work for you if you weren’t combo-ing certain colors. You’d have to use really slow lands that just didn’t compare to the power that mono-colored decks would through at you.
And then came the original duals.
It’s Free Mana
The originals came in every color pair possible, both the allied and enemy combos all in one, and there was no catch to them. No price for you to pay, no condition for you to meet, just a nice little land that could tap for one of two mana colors the second you put it on the battlefield. As far as duals go, that’s a pretty unique function, even today.
Being able to play a dual that doesn’t tap when it enters the battlefield and has no requirements to meet in order for that to happen is pretty sweet. You don’t have to pay life or have any other resources already available to you. The original duals just play and tap for mana. It’s all they do, but damn if they don’t do it well.
This is another point to why they likely won’t ever be reprinted, though. All the other duals currently in Standard would be objectively worse and kind of pointless outside of specific jank uses. The original duals would just be better, and why would you ever use anything else anyway? Their own perfection was the final nail in their coffin, so to speak.
Fetch Me a Dual
Just like the shocklands that I’ve covered before, the original duals have a leg up on a lot of other dual lands: subtypes. They each have two subtypes from the lands whose mana they can produce. Take Dimir’s Underground Sea as an example. Let’s see them next to shocklands’ Watery Grave and pain lands’ Underground River:
Notice the type line between the cards’ image and rule’s box. They all have “Land” there, which is their main type, but the River has nothing else. No subtypes to speak of. The Sea and Grave, however, each have “Island Swamp” listed as their subtypes. Pretty cool, huh? But what does this mean?
Well, in simple terms, it means that the duals count as each of those subtypes. If you’re not sure why this matters, let me refer you to fetch lands. These are lands that can be sacrificed to search your library for a land type, be it plains, forest, island, swamp, or mountain. Thanks to the handy subtypes, original duals can be fetched. Plus, any other fun combo or trick you can think of that uses basic lands by their land type, just substitute the duals in and sow chaos in your ranks. It’s fun (for you)!
Let’s Compare — Duals vs. Shocklands vs. Check Lands vs. Fast Lands vs. Bond Lands
I already mentioned pain, fetch, and shocklands. Fetch lands are kind of in their own little bubble since their use is to retrieve better lands, not to give you mana. Pain and shocklands are similar in that they both cost you life to fully utilize.
Shocklands require you to pay two life as they enter the battlefield or they’ll enter tapped. Pain lands enter untapped but take one life every time you tap them for colored mana. Not super great if you’re just looking for a good mana base, at least when compared to the original duals. Unless you’re specifically looking to make a deck that profits from you losing life, the originals are clearly the better choice.
Check lands enter the battlefield tapped unless you control one of two land types, also coinciding with the mana they tap for. You could combo these with the original duals instead of basic lands thanks to their subtypes. On their own, though, you could get stuck having to play them tapped which is never fun and sometimes loses you the game.
Fast lands and bond lands each have their own unique requirements to enter untapped, both of which involve two of something. Fast lands like to get things done sooner rather than later, and they enter untapped when you control two or less other lands. Fits in aggro or minimal mana decks, but otherwise incredibly restrictive. Bond lands require you to be playing a multiplayer game, lest they enter tapped.
All in all, it’s pretty clear that the original duals are just plain better than all of their successors in almost every scenario. Unless you’re looking to build around a specific combo or trick that would benefit from lands with these qualities, the originals will always be your best bet.
Formats, Formats, Formats
Plateau | Illustration by Mark Poole
Real quick before we get on to where and how to get your hands on the original duals, let’s go over their impact and use in some different formats.
Let’s start with a fun, non-competitive format: Cube. If you’re looking to encourage your players to draft multicolored decks, your cube is going to need some duals. Since Cube is for fun, I wouldn’t suggest going out of your way to get the original duals to add in. If you’ve already got them, great! Pop them in there. If not, either get some proxies or pick some other duals to slide in. The price and headache of getting original duals for your cube is honestly not worth it.
You’ll find some mixed voices in the community here, but overall the original duals are great in Commander. Especially if you’re running a 5-color monstrosity. It’s generally agreed upon that decks that pop out original duals are more powerful and threatening. Do with that info what you will.
Vintage and Legacy
Ah, the big boys. I know there’s a pretty big different between the two since Legacy bans the big guns while Vintage tends to just restrict them, but when we’re talking about the original duals, they’re mostly on the same playing field. This is where the original duals really shine. Mostly because this is where the big ticket decks usually live, anyway.
How to Get Duals (and Other Options)
Scrubland | Illustration by Eytan Zana
Here we are, at arguably the most important part of our talk today! You’re probably just wondering where the heck you can get your hands on these beautiful, beautiful duals. I’m unfortunately about to burst your bubble quite a bit.
The Price of Original Duals
I mentioned already that the original duals are crazy expensive, but I didn’t specify. Let’s talk about that now, shall we?
The cheapest of the lot is Taiga, which sells for a pittance of $200 to $400 for a Revised copy, provided it’s in good condition. If you’re looking for a copy from the Alpha print, though? Roughly somewhere in the $2,000 ballpark. The most expensive is Underground Sea, though Tropical Island isn’t far behind it. The Sea goes for over just under $1,000 for a Revised copy, while the high-end Alpha print varies between $4,000 to just over $6,000.
Can I get a yikes? I know some people can afford these prices and will without even batting an eye. I am, clearly, not one of those people.
As we mentioned, though, they’ve been reprinted a few times before they were put of the restricted list, and there are some alternate border versions. These run a little cheaper, and they’re your best bet if you’re trying to keep on a budget.
Let’s look at Underground Sea to get an idea of how the most expensive of the lot drops in price with some other sets and border options. I’m looking at trollandtoad, MTGstocks, and TGCplayer prices to get a decent sense of the pricing online.
The cheapest you’ll find (though it’s not tournament-legal) is either the International Edition or the Collector’s Edition, both of which are around $400. If you want tournament-legal, the cheapest option is the foreign white border version of Revised, which is around $500. You’ll often find these out of stock, in other languages, or in poor condition, though. Bargain-hunting has its downsides.
Because these are so expensive and in such high demand, there’s also the potential for fakes. This is something you’re going to have to keep an eye out for if you’re not looking for proxies and actually want the real deal for your collection. Something to keep in mind.
Savannah | Illustration by Charles Urbach
Now that I’ve gone over the pricing of the originals, what do you do if you can’t afford them? The first option is proxies. If you just want them for casual games to make your decks better, you can either make your own or buy proxies for much, much cheaper.
If you want real, official cards to add to your collection or you want them for competitive play, you’re going to need some alternatives. I’m personally a fan of shocklands because I love decks that play around with your life total. Outside of jank shenanigans, though, these have subtypes just like the original duals which are great to pair with fetch or check lands.
You could also just build a deck that doesn’t need duals, or a deck that uses the duals’ requirements to your advantage. A Back to Basics miracles deck with just one Tundra is another option if you really want an original dual. I know it’s not an alternative, but it’s an option that’s cheaper than a full set of originals.
That’s all, folks! I’ve talked about these lands for way too long at this point. I am a jank player at heart, as I’ve mentioned before. While I can understand the power behind the original duals and why they’re so much better than anything we have in Standard now, I’d much rather mess around with the new duals and build something fun around their mechanic that only works a fraction of the time. It’s not frustrating if you expect it to fail!
There’s nothing else for me to talk about now. You know what it’s time for? Shameless self-promo! Speaking of promo, though let’s shake it up a bit with the MTGA promo codes! Did you know there’s a new code for some free Kaldheim packs on Arena? You should go grab those. And since we’re talking about Arena I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Arena Tutor, our powerful tracker with Draftsim’s signature AI built right into it.
Okay, now I’m actually done. Thanks for sticking around through my nonsense. Stay safe, stay healthy, and we’ll see you in the next one!
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