Last updated on August 9, 2022
Clearwater Pathway | Johannes Voss
Lands are an integral part of any MTG deck. There’s been a wide variety of dual lands over the years, starting with the original duals that came in Alpha. But few (if any) have been as original as the Pathway lands.
Let’s talk about that.
What Are Pathways in MTG?
Lavaglide Pathway | Illustration by Kieran Yanner
Pathways are “modal dual-faced” lands, each side of which can tap for a different color. This is different from the “transform” dual-faced cards that appeared in sets like Innistrad in the past.
Pathways were first introduced in Zendikar Rising in September 2020, and the cycle was completed in the following set, Kaldheim, in February 2021. Both sets featured MDFCs, which are dual-faced cards that you can play either side of.
The art direction of these Pathways is really neat: both sides of the card mirror each other in the context of what their mana produces. For example, on Riverglide Pathway someone rides a Kitesail over a coursing river framed by floating grassy rocks on either side. On the reverse, Lavaglide Pathway, the same kitesail flies along a river of lava with dangerous looking rocky spires. This fantastic duality is present in each pathway’s artwork.
How Do Pathways Work?
You choose which side of a Pathway to play when you play it from your hand. The land can then be used to tap for one mana of the color that side produces. The land can’t be “flipped” to the other side without shenanigans from cards like Flickerwisp, or by returning it to your hand to replay it.
Pathways also have other dual-faced card quirks. If an effect would cause a Pathway to be “put onto the battlefield,” like Elvish Rejuvenator, it can only be put onto the battlefield front-face up. This differs from an effect that says you can play the card, like with Light up the Stage.
List of Pathways
- Hengegate Pathway / Mistgate Pathway
- Clearwater Pathway / Murkwater Pathway
- Blightstep Pathway / Searstep Pathway
- Cragcrown Pathway / Timbercrown Pathway
- Branchloft Pathway / Boulderloft Pathway
- Brightclimb Pathway / Grimclimb Pathway
- Riverglide Pathway / Lavaglide Pathway
- Darkbore Pathway / Slitherbore Pathway
- Needleverge Pathway / Pillarverge Pathway
- Barkchannel Pathway / Tidechannel Pathway
What Sets Are Pathways From? How Many Are in Each Set?
You can find Pathways in both Zendikar Rising and Kaldheim. You might expect a 5-5 split of the 10 pathways, with the five allied colored lands in one set and the enemy colored lands in another. Instead there are six pathways in Zendikar Rising (three each of allied and enemy color pairs), and the four others are in Kaldheim. These were available in regular and borderless frames in both sets.
Are Pathways Good Lands?
The major advantage of Pathways is the ability to be played untapped in the early turns. But they aren’t perfect.
They struggle more in decks with 3+ colors since they can only be used to produce a single color of mana once played. They’ll be a miss for Standard when they rotate out, but they aren’t seeing a huge amount of play in the wider formats that are often more demanding on the color versatility of their mana base.
Where to Find Pathways
Pathways are available from sets coming to the end of their Standard rotation, so they’re generally easily findable from the usual suspects: TCGPlayer, CardMarket, and Card Kingdom among others. They aren’t generally very expensive with both regular and full-art versions averaging less than $10, sometimes even less than $5.
Are Pathways Better than Fetch Lands?
Erm… In a word, no. Fetch lands are arguably the best dual lands available in the game, though there is some discussion as to whether they or the original dual lands are more powerful.
Pathways are fairly innovative with their double-sided design but can’t touch these multi-format staples. You can’t beat something that easily supports mana bases of 3+ colors and still allows you to make plays early.
Slitherbore Pathway | Illustration by Alayna Danner
Pathways are Schrodinger’s mana: neither you nor an opponent can truly know what you’ll use it for until it’s on the field. They’re versatile and useful at all stages of the game. And though they’re far from the most powerful lands, they’re likely to see a good amount of play for a while to come.
What do you think? Where do these rank on your top dual lands cycles? Will you miss them in Standard? Share your thoughts below or over in the official Draftsim Discord.
Until next time, stay safe and stay healthy!
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