Last updated on May 23, 2023

Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle - Illustration by Kieran Yanner

Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle | Illustration by Kieran Yanner

Red knows exactly what it wants to do in Magic. It’s all about speed, damage, and aggression, all the way down to its mana base.

Today we’re diving deep into the magmatic world of red’s best utility lands, where we’ll truly watch the world burn. Grab your sunscreen, it’s about to get hot!

What Are Red Lands in MTG?

Den of the Bugbear (Adventures in the Forgotten Realms) - Illustration by Jeff Easley

Den of the Bugbear (Adventures in the Forgotten Realms) | Illustration by Jeff Easley

Since lands are generally colorless, I’m defining “red lands” as lands that have a red color identity without any other colors. In other words, these are lands you could play in a mono-red Commander deck.

All the lands on this list either produce red mana or require red mana to activate some sort of cost. I’ve also included double-faced cards where at least one side is a red land. That’s pretty easy criteria to work with, so let’s jump into the list!

#29. Hammerheim


Stop. Hammerheim. Or whatever MC Hammer said.

Be honest, did you know this card existed before? Hammerheim is technically strictly better than a basic Mountain, but the added ability is borderline flavor text. What little upside this offers isn’t usually worth exposing another land to effects like Ruination or Back to Basics.

#28. Balduvian Trading Post

Balduvian Trading Post

Balduvian Trading Post is the black sheep of an obscure cycle of lands from Alliances. It leaves you at mana parity unlike some of the other lands in this cycle, but it also doesn’t add much to the game. You might dig up a copy if you care about sacrificing lands or dealing damage to attackers.

Enrage creatures like Vrondiss, Rage of Ancients might push you to consider running this.

#27. Dormant Volcano

Dormant Volcano

Dormant Volcano leaves you mana neutral and guarantees your next land drop, but it does so at the cost of coming in tapped. I’ve been avoiding bounce lands like this recently since they make you highly susceptible to targeted land destruction.

You definitely want the Ravnica bounce lands like Rakdos Carnarium first if you’re playing a multi-color deck.

#26. Sandstone Needle

Sandstone Needle

You need a good reason to include Sandstone Needle in a deck, but I can think of a few. Decks looking to pull off an early-game combo can make use of the double shots of mana and attempt to win before hitting the drawback.

Likewise, decks with proliferate effects can add additional counters to prolong sacrificing this, but that’s not a common theme for red decks.

#25. Barbarian Ring

Barbarian Ring

You should not automatically sub out a Mountain for Barbarian Ring in your red decks. The damage you’ll take to tap this adds up, and the payoff is minor at best.

The trick is to play this in decks that actively want to lower their own life totals. That’s not a common strategy, but Auntie Blyte, Bad Influence comes to mind.

#24. Memorial to War

Memorial to War

Playing a red deck and can’t afford Strip Mine? No worries, Memorial to War is basically Strip Mine at home. It can still create some miserable loops with a Crucible of Worlds effect, albeit at a highly inefficient rate.

#23. Spikefield Hazard / Spikefield Cave

I don’t subscribe to the belief that all modal double-faced cards are playable in Commander by default, but Spikefield Hazard is just over the line for me. Some spellcasting or storm decks just need critical mass of cheap spells, and it’s easy to slot this in over a land.

I could also see it as a niche option for Rakdos, Lord of Riots decks.

#22. Vivid Crag

Vivid Crag

The Vivid lands are all functionally the same until they run out of counters. Vivid Crag is perhaps the worst given that it can’t slot into Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice decks. Still, this provides perfect fixing for the first two taps and pairs nicely with the new All Will Be One enchantment.

#21. Cliffgate + Thriving Bluff

Cliffgate and Thriving Bluff are identical, except one is a gate. Assuming that doesn’t matter, these are both “build-you-own-dual-land” cards that make it easy to hit the right colors on time.

I’m a big fan of these land cycles for budget mana bases.

#20. Ramunap Ruins

Ramunap Ruins

Ramunap Ruins had its time in the Constructed spotlight but barely makes a mark in Commander. Desert-themed decks don’t really exist without Hazezon, Shaper of Sand, and the upside isn’t worth the damage you take to tap this for colored mana.

Save this for decks with damage amplifiers like Fiery Emancipation and Solphim, Mayhem Dominus.

#19. Ghitu Encampment

Ghitu Encampment

Creature lands are great additions to most decks, but Ghitu Encampment ranks fairly low among them. It’s cheap to animate but relatively small on the battlefield, so I’d try to capitalize on the warrior typing before dedicating a land slot to this.

Najeela, the Blade-Blossom and Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats are examples of commanders that might be interested in Encampment.

#18. Great Furnace

Great Furnace

I’ve gone on record saying that I think it’s generally a trap to run the Mirrodin artifact lands in most decks. They can hide extra artifact synergies in your mana base, but they’re a huge liability when someone casts a card like Vandalblast.

There are red artifact decks that can make good use of Great Furnace, but I’d look to get your value out of it sooner than later.

#17. Spinerock Knoll

Spinerock Knoll

The Lorwyn hideaway lands were definitely not designed with Commander in mind. You have Mosswort Bridge and Windbrisk Heights with somewhat easy hideaway conditions, then Howltooth Hollow and Shelldock Isle which basically never get activated.

Spinerock Knoll falls somewhere right in the middle. You can often time it right to meet the 7-damage threshold, and you don’t even have to be the one who dealt the damage.

#16. Cycling Lands

Mono-colored mana bases have more room for utility lands, and cycling lands tend to fill out those slots well enough. Red can choose from among Desert of the Fervent, Forgotten Cave, and Smoldering Crater, with the Cave being the best of the bunch by a small margin.

It’s crucial to remember that each tap land you include is one less Mountain for payoffs like Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, so don’t go too crazy with these.

#15. The Autonomous Furnace

The Autonomous Furnace

All Will Be One added a cycle of mono-colored spheres that can sacrifice to draw a card later in the game.

After some thought, I think I’m a little higher on these than I am normal cycling lands. Spheres like The Autonomous Furnace give you mana up until the point you need an extra card, while cycling lands can only do one or the other. I’m curious where others land on generic cycling lands vs. the ONE spheres.

#14. Dwarven Mine

Dwarven Mine

Dwarven Mine doesn’t look like much until you see how players are stretching its effect beyond what’s written on the card. Level one is playing this in a dwarf deck, where it works beautifully with Magda, Brazen Outlaw or The Lady of Otaria.

The next step up is playing it in a Polymorph deck that only runs one or two game-ending creatures and uses lands like Dwarven Mine to set up a combo with cards like Transmogrify or Indomitable Creativity. I personally use this land as an extra token generator for my Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer deck.

#13. Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep

Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep

Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep is another strictly better Mountain along the same lines as Hammerheim. You won’t use the second ability often, but first strike sometimes means the difference between being able to attack or not.

At the very least this is a legendary land that slots in nicely with Shanid, Sleepers' Scourge.

#12. Flamekin Village

Flamekin Village

I’m mostly ignoring the elemental text on Flamekin Village and evaluating it as a haste enabler. Lands like this come in handy but play out slightly worse than you’d expect because they require you to play off-curve to get a benefit from them.

For example, casting Inferno Titan and giving it haste with the Village requires tapping an extra two lands on top of the 6-mana casting cost.

#11. Hanweir Battlements (Hanweir, the Writhing Township)

Hanweir Battlements Hanweir, the Writhing Township

Hanweir Battlements can’t tap for red mana, but unlike Flamekin Village it always comes into play untapped. I like this one better in general and almost always find an excuse to run Hanweir Garrison for the shot at melding into Hanweir, the Writhing Township.

#10. Kazuul’s Fury / Kazuul’s Cliffs

Fling is an effect that a lot of decks would be interested in but can’t justify running over another card. Kazuul's Fury solves that issue, attaching Fling to the front half of Kazuul's Cliffs.

I’m much more tolerable of MDFCs with situationally powerful effects stapled to them.

#9. Vance’s Blasting Cannons / Spitfire Bastion

Spitfire Bastion is an outlier on this list because you can’t freely play it as a land. You need to stick Vance's Blasting Cannons first, cast three spells in the same turn, and then transform it. Bastion is a powerful land, and Cannons facilitates finding the spells to transform it.

The problem is that the front half doesn’t allow you to play lands exiled with its ability, which puts it a step below other red card advantage enchantments like Outpost Siege or Visions of Phyrexia.

#8. Mountain


It might seem silly to include a basic Mountain on this list, especially considering that I’m ranking it higher than lands that are technically strictly better. But I think there’s a strong case for running regular boring Mountains over some of these cards.

Yes, you can easily sub out a Mountain for Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance or Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep without hurting your mana base, but doing so decreases the effectiveness of payoffs that specifically need Mountains to work. Cards like Koth, Fire of Resistance and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle key off Mountains, and you’ll feel the hurt when you diminish those cards’ potential with a nonbasic that could have been a Mountain.

#7. Castle Embereth

Castle Embereth

Castle Embereth is fairly easy to slot into any Mountain-heavy deck and works especially well in go-wide token decks. It’s ultimately very fair, being strong enough to consider adding to your mana base without having a game-warping impact when activated.

#6. Valakut Awakening / Valakut Stoneforge

Valakut Awakening is another top-notch MDFC that should always be up for consideration in red-heavy decks. It helps you shape your hand and leaves you at card parity when all is said and done. It’s effective in wheel strategies led by The Locust God or Niv-Mizzet, Parun, and Valakut Stoneforge ensures it’s never a dead card in your hand.

#5. Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance

Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance

The channel lands from NEO are Commander staples at their finest. The legendary “drawback” is non-existent in Commander, so you’re free to play these in any deck that runs their colors.

Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance is probably the weakest of the bunch but still passes the bar with ease. It can create surprise blockers, gets around most counterspells, has minor spirit synergies, and puts a land in the graveyard for strategies where that matters.

#4. Shatterskull Smashing / Shatterskull, the Hammer Pass

Shatterskull, the Hammer Pass isn’t as free as Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance since putting it into play untapped costs you three life. Still, the Zendikar Rising mythic MDFCs are another showcase in nonbasics that drastically increase the power of your mana base.

Shatterskull Smashing isn’t a radically new effect and isn’t even as good as comparable cards like Crackle with Power or Comet Storm, but you have to remember that you’re getting that effect in a land slot, not your typical spell slot.

#3. Kher Keep

Kher Keep

Kher Keep is reminiscent of what I said about Dwarven Mine. 0/1 and 1/1 tokens don’t sound exciting, but it’s how you use those bodies that make these lands powerful.

This red land gives you a steady stream of sac fodder and chump blockers at a reasonable cost. Pair with Kobold Drill Sergeant and Kobold Taskmaster to really put the fear in your opponents.

#2. Den of the Bugbear

Den of the Bugbear

Den of the Bugbear is a huge improvement over Ghitu Encampment. It has no downside as your first or second land drop, and the creature it becomes can snowball if left unchecked.

There’s a neat trick with lands like this, where activating its ability multiple times gives it multiple instances of the attack trigger, allowing you to make extra Goblin tokens in combat.

#1. Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle is the pinnacle of mono-red lands. It’s one of the reasons to play mono-red, giving you repeatable removal attached to a land provided you have the correct number of Mountains in play.

Having Valakut in your mana base is one of the key reasons you might refrain from adding too many utility lands to your deck. You need to keep the number of actual Mountains high enough to consistently deal damage with Valakut, so think twice before jamming Hammerheim over another basic.

Best Red Land Payoffs and Synergies

Plenty of red decks have land-based synergies and payoffs, but you should always address how important basic Mountains are to your deck. A lot of red cards that key off Mountains won’t work with nonbasic lands. Whether that’s Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, Goblin Charbelcher, Chandra's Regulator, or Gauntlet of Might, you need to evaluate how much room you have for utility lands in your red decks.

Assuming you’ve addressed that question upfront, there are some strategies that are thrilled to use the lands on this list. Red is an essential color for lots of landfall decks. From Omnath, Locus of Rage to Phylath, World Sculptor, landfall decks can make great use of sac or cycling lands by playing them in conjunction with Crucible of Worlds and similar effects.

Damage-dealing lands also play into the strengths of mono-red decks looking to burn opposing players out. Not every red deck wants or needs Ramunap Ruins, but these lands give you extra reach when played alongside damage doublers. Just a quick reminder that lands are colorless, so these effects don’t stack profitably with effects like Torbran, Thane of Red Fell or Mechanized Warfare.

Burnt Out?

Shatterskull Smashing - Illustration by Adam Paquette

Shatterskull Smashing | Illustration by Adam Paquette

I don’t consider myself a red player at heart, but I have to respect the fact that red decks always know exactly what they’re trying to do. Aside from a few niche synergy lands, the entries on this list help complement red’s typical strategy to “get ‘em dead” as soon as possible.

Hopefully you’ve found a new red land to add to your deck. If I can leave you with one piece of advice, it’s to make sure you’re not skimping on your basic Mountain count if that’s something that matters for your deck. Let me know which lands you’re running in the comments below or over in Draftsim’s official Discord.

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