Last updated on July 19, 2022
Dreamroot Cascade | Illustration by Sam Burley
There’s a cost associated with every benefit in Magic. If a spell is more powerful, it costs more mana or needs more of a specific type of mana. Likewise, lands that produce a single color often have fewer restrictions than lands that produce multiple colors.
Shock lands cost life to enter untapped. You can mitigate that cost by lowering your tempo and having the lands enter tapped. Lands like the Triomes can greatly fix mana, even enabling 5-color mana bases, but they always enter tapped. In the middle are dual lands with drawbacks that can sometimes be mitigated.
Today I’m looking at a land that plays with tempo: the slow lands.
What are Slow Lands?
Sunken Hollow | Illustration by Adam Paquette
Slow lands come into play tapped in the early game and enter untapped in the midgame. They’re the opposite of “fast lands,” which enter untapped if you have one or two other lands. Slow lands enter the battlefield untapped if you control two or more other lands. For the Battle for Zendikar lands, those two lands must be basics.
This drawback's balance comes in which decks can afford a tapped land on turn 1 or 2 in exchange for untapped lands from turn 3 onwards. Aggressive decks shy away from losing tempo in the early turns. These fast decks don’t want to go slow, even for just one turn. But midrange and control decks want their lands to enter untapped in the midgame and fix mana without cost and thrive on this kind of land.
This alignment of deck speed with which style of dual lands are best helps contribute to the slow land’s name and where they see play.
List of Slow Lands
Battle for Zendikar
Innistrad: Midnight Hunt
Innistrad: Crimson Vow
Stormcarved Coast | Illustration by Sarah Finnigan
Given the fresh nature of the Innistrad slow lands, it’ll probably be some time before we see any new slow land or reprints. But these are popular in Standard and Pioneer and give midrange decks a smoother mana base so I fully expect to see them again at some point in the future.
Much like the check lands and many other duals printed for Standard, slow lands will probably see play once they rotate out of Standard in formats like Pioneer and EDH rather than across the competitive landscape. Their potential popularity in Commander should help keep the price stable over time, so picking these lands up for Standard will almost definitely serve you well over time.
The Battle for Zendikar slow lands would be great reprints for a Standard with fewer duals. They were paired with the fetch lands the last time they were in Standard, which greatly helped their playability. I’d also enjoy WotC finishing this cycle sometime in the future.
Slow Lands' Importance
So, why are these new lands so important? Well, slow lands are going to be the backbone of Standard alongside seeing play in Pioneer midrange and control decks. While they won’t have the same popularity or importance as fetches, they’ll be a staple their entire time in Standard.
Slow lands play well with creature fast lands like Den of the Bugbear. They also give decks a painless way to play more color-intensive spells, especially in formats like Standard and Pioneer where aggressive decks already have plenty of tools.
What’s Their Power Level?
Canopy Vista | Illustration by Adam Paquette
The new slow lands act as staples in Standard and Pioneer. Once you expand your scope into Modern and Legacy, it becomes unlikely these lands see much play at all. The older formats need interaction in the first few turns of the game which makes slow lands a larger detriment there.
I expect slow lands are similar in power level to check lands in that they’ll always see EDH and Cube play, Standard play while legal, and possibly Pioneer play. But the power level isn’t there for much more than that. Players who don’t enjoy Standard will likely need one or two slow lands, but I wouldn’t rush out to collect a full set.
Ratings for Play
Slow lands are foundational staples for every dual-color deck. Mono-colored aggressive decks avoid them, but the opportunity cost for even aggressive dual-color decks is low enough that these lands will still see play.
Slow lands see light play in Pioneer depending on the deck style. You’ll see the first example of the expanding card pool limiting the effectiveness of slow lands in Pioneer. While they fix well, especially for 2-color control decks like Azorius () Control, these lands cost a lot of tempo against early aggressive or combo decks.
Modern, Legacy, and Vintage: 0/10
Slow lands won’t see any play in these formats.
Commander and Cube: 7/10
I fully expect slow lands to become Cube and EDH staples forever. Quality dual lands always allow for interesting decks in these formats, and the opportunity cost for running these lands is outweighed by using stronger spells. I’d happily run these in most Cubes with high-powered Cubes potentially cutting them for more powerful options.
Mana Base Construction
Deathcap Glade | Illustration by Sam Burley
Unlike many types of lands, the new slow lands restriction doesn’t incentivize any specific mana construction like added Plains or basic lands. The only major consideration is how many lands to run. Don’t skimp on lands in a deck running these! Most decks running less than 23 or 24 lands should consider how often these lands will hamper their early development.
You’ll need to ensure a higher basic count with the Battle for Zendikar slow lands or they’ll never come in untapped. These lands only see play in basic heavy decks like Azorius in Modern thanks to this restriction, especially since they’re fetchable.
Luckily slow lands aren’t very expensive yet since they’re brand new, and they're just rares. I doubt they’ll peak over $10 at any point especially since their appeal to formats beyond Pioneer is limited.
The slow lands are also a unique effect, so there aren’t many similar options for budget alternatives. But the check lands do a reasonable job in place of these lands outside of Standard and are similarly cheap, if not cheaper.
Prairie Stream | Illustration by Adam Paquette
That’s all there is to know about slow lands. They’re still relatively new, especially their most recent reprints, so we’ve yet to see where exactly they end up on the popularity scale. Still, it’s safe to say that Commander and Standard players will likely see slow lands the most.
What do you think of the slow lands? Do you already have a full set, or do you prefer another alternative? Let me know in the comments down below or head over to our Twitter if that’s more your style.
That’s all I have for you today. Stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll see you in the next one!Follow Draftsim for awesome articles and set updates: