Last updated on October 30, 2020

Steam Vents MTG card art by Jonas De Ro

Steam Vents; look at all those vents and steam—hey, wait a minute….

If you’re new to Magic, you may not be aware of some of the game’s older, iconic, or just-plain-useful cards. Some have been reprinted over the years while others have been permanently shelved, never to see the ink of a printing press again. We’re going to take a look at the former and dive in to a special type of rare dual land, affectionately called “shocklands”.

They’re also called “shock lands”, but when it comes down to it “space or no space” is just semantics. We’ll go with no space on our end and stick to plain ol’ shocklands, so if you’re on team space, well… sorry? … Moving on.

Journey to Nowhere MTG card art by Warren Mahy

Journey to Nowhere

What Are Shocklands?

Shocklands are dual lands — lands that can be tapped for one of two types of mana — that you can pay 2 life to have enter the battlefield untapped. There are 10 of them, each aligning with one the 10 different guilds in Magic, and each counting as two different land types.

All About MTG Shocklands

These are pretty unique, for a variety of different reasons. Shocklands are nonbasic dual lands that come in 10 different color-pair variants, as is typical for a cycle of lands. But the fact that each land “counts” as two different land types is pretty unusual.

For example, Watery Grave counts as both a Swamp and an Island. We’ll get to why that’s important in just a bit, because it’s kind of exciting.

They’re a useful bunch, as most other dual lands will always enter the battlefield tapped and leave you hanging until the next turn. With shocklands, though, you can have them enter the battlefield untapped if you pay two life. If you choose not to pay the two life, the land just enters the battlefield tapped as dual lands typically do.

Dimir Guildgate MTG card art by Cliff Childs

Dimir Guildgate

This is also where the cards got their name, as their life payment is the same as the damage from the ever popular Shock. The difference is pretty much irrelevant in today’s Standard, but technically paying two life and taking two damage aren’t exactly the same. Still, the comparison stands.

Here are the 10 shocklands from their most recent sets, Guilds of Ravnica and Ravnica Allegiance:

The History of It All

Speaking of their most recent set, these lands have been in quite a few. They were first printed back in 2005 as part of Ravnica: City of Guilds, usually just called Ravnica. As mentioned, they were named after Shock because of the similar two-point life payment. Though the card is pretty prevalent now⁠—thanks to a certain feisty, fiery-colored archetype⁠—it was on its game back then, which is why the name stuck.

Name Dropping MTG card art by Tony Szczudlo

Name Dropping

When it comes to specific decks that shocklands work well in, the first thing that comes to mind for me are decks that use its life payment to their advantage. Working with synergy is always a good option, and a good Pay Life deck lets you really take advantage of your shocklands. A couple of Font of Agonies and some Revival / Revenge with a handful of Godless Shrines could work wonders as a wild Orzhov deck.

But we’re here to talk about shocklands’ history, not my janky fantasies. In general, these duals really shine in tri-color decks. Control might want a humble serving of shocklands with a mittful of checklands and basics to match, but you don’t need to heap them on.

Aggro really needs to stay ahead of the curve so there’s no time for tapped lands. Really you want the game to be over before you have to worry about your opponent chipping away at your life anyway, so a couple Shocks to the face should be no big deal.

Painiac MTG card art by McLean Kendree

Painiac

Though shocklands can be helpful in making sure you’re never forced to play a tapped dual, make sure they fit in your deck and the current meta. Unless you’re like me and are mostly just looking to play jank nonsense. Then go wild and electrocute yourself as much as you want.

Going back to what we said a bit ago, though, there’s the matter of the various sets that have featured these helpful cards since their original printing in 2005.

Reprints

So, since their first appearance in Ravnica, shocklands have been reprinted, including promos, 11 times for a total of 12 (paper) runs, though not all 10 duals have been printed each time. Here’s a breakdown of sets and promos these shocking nonbasic lands have featured in:

  • Ravnica: City of Guilds, Oct. 7, 2005 (Dimir, Selesnya, Golgari, Boros)
  • Guildpact, Feb. 5, 2006 (Orzhov, Izzet, Gruul)
  • Dissension, May 6, 2006 (Azorius, Rakdos, Simic)
  • Return to Ravnica, Oct. 5, 2012
  • Gatecrash, Feb. 1, 2013
  • Dragon’s Maze, May 3, 2013
  • Zendikar Expeditions, Oct. 2, 2015 / Jan. 22, 2016
  • Prerelease Promos (Guilds of Ravnica), Sept. to Oct. 2018
  • Guilds of Ravnica, Oct. 5, 2018 (Selesnya, Boros, Golgari, Izzet, Dimir)
  • Planeswalker Symbol Stamped Promos (Guilds of Ravnica), 2018-2019
  • Ravnica Allegiance Promos, Dec. 2018 to Jan. 2019
  • Ravnica Allegiance, Jan. 25, 2019 (Azorius, Rakdos, Gruul, Simic, Orzhov)

They were also added to MTGO as part of the Magic Online Promos in May 2019 with some unique full art, though obviously this didn’t print any new cards to add in circulation out there. Either way, here’s a look at them ‘cause they are very nice to look at:

Magic Online Promos 2019 shocklands

What’s the Big Deal?

If you’re not familiar with these lands, you may be wondering why they’re such a big deal that we wrote a whole article about them. Shocklands are more expensive than dual lands usually are, though they’re much cheaper nowadays than they were back in 2005 thanks to their reprints over the years.

Back then, shocklands averaged around $30-40, whereas they go for about $10-20 now (though the mythic versions from Zendikar’s Expedition tend to go for $70-110). Obviously, the price will vary depending on which set you’ve got your sights on, but if you’re just looking to snag any old shockland you’ll get a better deal.

Syndicate Trafficker MTG card art by Tony Foti

Syndicate Trafficker

We touched on the things you need to know about how these duals work up there in All About MTG Shocklands, so we won’t waste any time explaining ourselves on that front. Instead, let’s just jump into the details that set these lands apart from the others.

Fetch Me a Dual

So, these lands—while nonbasic⁠—are unique among most duals as they also have two basic land types to their name. Let’s do a quick comparison and run through it if you’re not sure what we’re talking about.

Consider our earlier shockland example, Watery Grave. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll stick to current Standard and compare to Theros: Beyond Death‘s Temple of Deceit as well as a basic Swamp land. Let’s take a look at all of these up close for a sec:

Watery Grave, Temple of Deceit, and THB Swamp MTG cards

The thing you need to notice is each card’s type line between the illustration and text box. Both the Grave and Temple read “Land” as their card type while the Swamp specifies “Basic Land”. Following that, the Grave and Swamp share a similarity as they both list their card subtypes (in this case their basic land types) afterwards⁠—”Island Swamp” and “Swamp” respectively⁠—while the Temple has no further text as it’s a nonbasic dual with no basic land types to speak of.

Now you, too, can read your basic and nonbasic lands alike and know what you’ve got! Simple, right?

Because of their basic-land-type appraisal, while they can’t be fetched by cards like Fabled Passage, shocklands can be grabbed by Farseek as well as any other fetch card that specifies land type but not “basic”. This can be incredibly useful in dual-colored (or tri-colored, or more!) decks as you don’t have to choose which one mana source you need more, you get two! No need to be stingy when you can have the best of both worlds.

Untapped Potential

We also already touched on how shocklands can enter the battlefield untapped for the measly price of taking a Shock to the face⁠—kind of. While this isn’t totally unique among dual lands—think checklands like Drowned Catacomb, to keep the Dimir theme going, that could enter untapped as soon as turn three—shocklands are currently the only duals in Standard that provide this opportunity.

And while you might be hesitant to pay two life for an untapped land, it could give you an important head start and help you get ahead of the curve. Imagine getting a Daybreak Chimera out on turn three on top of a Healer’s Hawk and Daxos, Blessed by the Sun while your opponent is stuck on two basics and a still-tapped dual.

Finale of Glory MTG card art by Stanton Feng

Finale of Glory

Don’t forget that your life total is a resource that can be spent just like mana, so don’t be too stingy with it. Obviously don’t go spending two life for untapped shocklands every turn, though. Unless you’ve got a wicked lifegain synergy going on. Who am I to tell you what to do with your deck, really, anyway?

Let’s Talk Formats

All right, we covered what’s so good about shocklands and why they’re so expensive. What about in different formats, though? Things aren’t going to affect Standard the same way they affect Commander, or Cube. Formats can differ wildly, so the impact shocklands have in each will not be the same.

Standard

While we have all 10 shocklands now, we used to be constrained to the five guilds in Guilds of Ravnica; Hallowed Fountain, Watery Grave, Blood Crypt, Stomping Ground, and Temple Garden. This left Standard with only Azorius, Dimir, Rakdos, Gruul, and Selesnya color pairs to play with.

With the release of Ravnica Allegiance, we got some more options which really opened up the format. This set brought us Godless Shrine, Steam Vent, Overgrown Tomb, Sacred Foundry, and Breeding Pool and allowed Orzhov, Izzet, Golgari, Boros, and Simic decks to be a real viable option.

Modern

Shocklands, while not as prevalent here as in Standard, are still a staple in dual- and tri-color decks. Modern hasn’t really been impacted by the recent reprint of shocklands in Guilds of Ravnica and Ravnica Allegiance as they’ve had them since they were first released in Ravnica: City of Guilds from 2005.

Lightning Bolt MTG card art by Christopher Moeller

Lightning Bolt

On average, you’ll see a handful of shocklands in decent Modern tri-color decks. They’re not useless but Modern has access to a much wider variety of dual lands. Some of which can in fact enter the battlefield untapped without taking a Shock to the face on turn one, so shocklands aren’t as big of a commodity to Modern as they are to Standard.

Pioneer

This is an interesting one, because the only lands other than Field of the Dead that are banned in this format are fetch lands. This voids out some options to take advantage of shocklands’ basic land type advantage for fetching, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t grab a couple if you’re building a Pioneer deck.

Because fetch lands are banned, your mana base is going to have to be really solid. Shocklands are a decent way to do this or at least to supplement it for the same reasons we’ve already covered. Checklands paired with shocklands, basics, and maybe even some painlands are a good base.

Cube

This format also appreciates shocklands, as they’re pretty versatile even on their own and outclass pretty much any other dual save for the originals. Other duals might be more or less sought after depending on the deck you’re playing, but shocklands are useful all around.

As an added bonus, though, shocklands work great with checklands and this is especially appreciated in this format.

Mulldrifter MTG card art by Eric Fortune

Mulldrifter

Commander

Mana base is crucial for a good Commander deck. Though this isn’t really unique to this format, it is potentially much more costly if you mess this part of your deck build up. This can also be a huge investment though, especially since the deck is so much larger than most other formats.

With a larger card pool, you need to make sure the cards you draw provide immediate value. While shocklands could be useful if you had some fetch power and a good basic land base to speak of, it’s pretty irrelevant since Commander is a singleton format. So… you can definitely add one shockland to go with your color pair, but it’s not really going to be the star of the show by any stretch.

How to Get Shocklands (and Other Options)

Now, getting your hands on shocklands. Obviously if you’re playing MTG Arena, your only options are to either buy Ravnica Allegiance and Guilds of Ravnica packs and hope you get lucky or craft the duals with Wildcards.

When it comes to paper Magic, you’ve got more choices. You could buy packs or other MTG card products, buy the shocklands individually from whatever set you prefer, or pick alternative lands that you can’t get in Arena to go after.

Cracking Packs

Open the Vaults MTG card art by Brian Despain

Open the Vaults

As much as I’d love to be able to say that you can get X shocklands every X packs you buy, it’s really not that simple. We can do some math to get a rough estimate of probability, but in just a minute I’ll touch on why that’s not really all that helpful in reality.

Let’s assume you’re getting a booster box, which comes with 36 booster packs. So, each 15-card booster pack is gonna net you 10 commons, 3 uncommons, 1 rare, and 1 basic land. Shocklands, as rare nonbasic lands, have the potential to show up in the rare slot. Then you have to take into consideration how many other rares are in the set that you’re opening. We’ll take the most recent set that reprinted all 10 shocklands, Gatecrash from 2013.

Gatecrash has a total of 53 rares and 15 mythic rares—we’ll get to why the mythics matter in just a second. The shocklands make up 10 of these 53 rares, which is about 18.9% of the set’s rares. This means that there’s just under a 20% chance that you’ll get any of the shocklands in a Gatecrash booster pack. If you’re looking to get a specific one of these duals, you’ve got a 1.89% of getting the one you’re after.

There’s more to this, though, because there’s a 1 in 8 chance that a mythic rare will take the rare’s place in the pack. This means there’s about a 12.5% that you get no rares and thus no chance to see any shocklands, which bumps the previous percentages down a bit. Instead of an 18.9% chance to get any old shockland, its 16.5% (1 in 6), and the 1.89% for specific duals gets knocked down to 1.65% (1 in 60).

Calculating Lich MTG card art by Antonio José Manzanedo

Calculating Lich

Going by the odds, you can expect to get five shocklands and, if you’re looking to get one in particular, it almost definitely won’t be one of them. You could get incredibly lucky and see much more, or you could get incredibly unlucky and see none at all. The thing with probability is that it doesn’t change just because you’ve opened six packs and haven’t gotten a shockland yet, your odds of seeing one are always the same. They don’t go up or down if you’ve been overly lucky or unlucky. That’s… just not how probability it works.

Anyway, let’s move on with some more relevant numbers for Standard. Opening a booster box of Return to Ravnica nets you the same odds and you should see five shocklands. In both Guilds of Ravnica and Ravnica Allegiance you’re likely to see just three of these duals.

Dragon’s Maze went a bit off book, with shocklands showing up in the 15th card slot along with the gates of the set and its mythic rare of choice, Maze’s End. According to Wizard’s themselves, you’re about half as likely to open a shockland in this set as you were in Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash, bringing your likely shockland take-home from a Dragon’s Maze booster box to a measly two since you can’t very well get just half a card. Though you could round up to three if you’re feeling optimistic.

Their Next Appearance

As it stands right now, it’s incredibly unlikely that we’ll see shocklands reprinted this year. All 10 of them are currently Standard legal, and they won’t be out until the end of the year around October. When it comes to next year, though, who knows! The best that we can do is take a look at their history of reprints and take a guess at when the next time we’ll see them could be.

Kaho, Minamo Historian MTG card art by Greg Staples

Kaho, Minamo Historian

We’ll stick to main sets just for the sake of simplicity, which leaves us with:

  • Ravnica: City of Guilds, Oct. 7, 2005 (Dimir, Selesnya, Golgari, Boros)
  • Guildpact, Feb. 5, 2006 (Orzhov, Izzet, Gruul)
  • Dissension, May 6, 2006 (Azorius, Rakdos, Simic)
  • Return to Ravnica, Oct. 5, 2012
  • Gatecrash, Feb. 1, 2013
  • Dragon’s Maze, May 3, 2013
  • Guilds of Ravnica, Oct. 5, 2018 (Selesnya, Boros, Golgari, Izzet, Dimir)
  • Ravnica Allegiance, Jan. 25, 2019 (Azorius, Rakdos, Gruul, Simic, Orzhov)

So, the first four shocklands (Temple Garden, Sacred Foundry, Overgrown Tomb, and Watery Grave) were originally printed back in 2005 as part of Ravnica. Just five months later we saw three more (Godless Shrine, Stomping Ground, and Steam Vents) join the fray from Guildpact, Then Dissension gave us the last three (Hallowed Fountain, Blood Crypt, Breeding Pool) four months later and rounded off the 10 shocklands representing all 10 guilds.

It was another six years before we got shocklands again in Return to Ravnica, bringing these electrifying duals back to the spotlight. Following the theme from the Ravnica block, we saw them reprinted as part of Gatecrash just four months later. Dragon’s Maze didn’t technically reprint the duals since they had either the Return to Ravnica or Gatecrash expansion symbols, though they were included in the set.

Alter Reality MTG card art by Justin Sweet

Alter Reality

That brings us to our current Standard about five years after we last saw shocklands printed as part of an official Magic expansion. We saw five of the ten shocklands (Temple Garden, Sacred Foundry, Overgrown Tomb, Steam Vents, and Watery Grave) in Guilds of Ravnica and the last five (Hallowed Fountain, Blood Crypt, Stomping Ground, Breeding Pool, and Godless Shrine) came to us about four months after in Ravnica Allegiance.

If we go by the pattern we see here, we won’t see the shocklands reprinted for at least another five years. When we do, though, they’ll either be reprinted in full twice within the same (unofficial) block, or they’ll be split up and reprinted over the course of two or three sets.

Cheaper Alternatives

Shocklands tend to be on the expensive side, but there’s a reason for that. It really comes down to supply and demand, and people really favor these duals which ups the demand while supply stays stagnant until they’re reprinted again.

These duals tend to be more popular for some pretty simple reasons, which we already went over but we’ll remind you just in case: they can be fetched by cards like Farseek because of their basic-land-type allotment, plus they’re able to enter untapped even if you have nothing else of the battlefield. They’re useful and have the added benefit of potential adding to some synergy in a Life Pay deck.

First Response MTG card art by Slawomir Maniak

First Response

Another, similar dual land that we haven’t mentioned yet that may be able to compete are painlands. These are lands that enter untapped and can be tapped for one colorless mana or—if you’re willing to pay a measly one life—can be tapped for one of two mana colors. These are definitely useful but can be much more costly in the long run as you need to pay one mana every time you want to use them for colored mana.

After just two turns you’ve matched the life-price of shocklands and now you’re in a bind because if you want to use them for colored mana even one more time, you’re in the red in comparison. The better thing about these cards by far, though, is their price bracket.

Obviously if you’re looking to play Standard, this is kind of irrelevant as none of the painlands are currently Standard legal, but they do (for the most part) run much cheaper. The most expensive one of the bunch is Adarkar Wastes which peaked at $15 back in 2016 but averages around $9 now, comparable to the cheaper shocklands. Caves of Koilos, on its end, also saw its highest price back in 2016 but for just $2.37 while it averages $1 today. The rest of the bunch run between $2 and $5, so they’re much less expensive overall.

Checklands are a decent alternative as well, though you need to make sure you’ve got enough basics in your deck to make them useful. These go for between $3 to $6 depending on which color pair you’re looking to snag, but they’re all cheaper than shocklands.

Treasured Find MTG card art by Jason Chan

Treasured Find

A Shocking Conclusion

And with that, we’ve come to the end of our little story. Have I made enough shock-related puns, yet? Should I go for one more? … Nah, I’ll leave it be.

There’s not much more to say about these duals. They’ve more than earned their name, and there’s a reason they’re so sought after and played. If you have a chance to get your hands on some for cheap, at the very least you’ll likely be able to make a profit off them if you’re not looking to add them into your decks.

What do you think about shocklands? Is there an alternative dual that you prefer to use? Let us know if the comments down below. If you like our content and want to see more of it, consider supporting us through our Patreon. It’s always appreciated, but even just a comment or a share of your favorite article goes a long way!

Treats to Share MTG card art by Daarken

Treats to Share

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2 Comments

  • Avatar
    Michael March 8, 2020 12:31 pm

    What I want to know, is when they rotate out of standard, what will be the new standard-legal dual land?? Kind of bummed since I just invested many WCS on them…

    • Nikki
      Nikki March 10, 2020 7:46 pm

      You’ll be able to use them until late fall this year, so you’re still getting a decent amount of use out of them. Shocklands are powerful on their own and can go in just about any dual deck which means it’s definitely not a waste to get them, even if they’ll be out of Standard in the fall.
      We’re always going to have dual lands of some kind in Standard, they may just not be as useful/powerful as older duals. Who knows, maybe R&D will give us something new that outclasses even the best duals in upcoming sets (doubtful, but you never know).
      After the next rotation, though, all of the duals from THB and ELD (plus M21, Ikoria, and Zendikar Rising) will stay in Standard, so any investment there is gonna last a while. That doesn’t mean that getting cards from sets that will rotate out this year is a waste. They’re still in Standard for the time being, and if they help you get an edge or improve your decks until they rotate out, they’re worth it. 🙂

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