Gimmick, Good, or Gold: The D&D Creature Lands
D&D: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms (AFR)
Hello everyone! Today I’m going to talk about one of the most interesting land cycles I’ve seen in quite some time: the new creature lands. For those unaware with the term, creature land refers to lands that can turn into creatures when you invest mana into them. We haven’t had access to colored creature land in Standard in quite a long time (since Oath of the Gatewatch back in the beginning of 2016). That being said, these lands are quite different from your traditional creature lands, let’s take a look.
So there’s two main distinctions between these and the Fastlands most people are used to. One, they only tap for one color of mana compared to most creature lands tapping for two. Second, these can come into play untapped while most creature lands come into play tapped. So with these differences, the first thought I had was that you would prefer these in monocolored decks as they only tap for one color and they can come into play untapped if it’s your first or second land. However, monocolored decks have some real competition.
Faceless Haven has been a staple in many decks since its inception, and for good reason. A 4/3 for a 3 mana investment that comes into play untapped is a really good creature land. Sure, it’s not Mutavault, but that’s an exceptionally high bar to clear. With all this in mind, I’ll go over each creature land and talk about whether I think it’s a gimmick or gold.
HIVE OF THE EYE TYRANT – GOOD
When I’m looking at a creature land, the biggest limiting factor is generally how good the creature part is. Ideally speaking, you don’t want your creature land to be blocked easily as losing it is a huge disadvantage in the long run. All that said, a 3/3 body for 4 mana with Menace is definitely not too bad of a rate. I’m a bit disappointed when you compare this to something like Creeping Tar Pit, but you have to work with what you have.
Secondly, the ability to exile cards out of the graveyard is pretty niche, but can be useful against decks like Rakdos for Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger.
Lastly, since there’s no Monoblack deck, this wouldn’t be battling with Faceless Haven for a slot. That being said, the body is a bit small for the mana investment and it’s susceptibility to a lot of removal spells makes this a riskier bet.
Furthermore, you really want to activate this and swing with multiple creatures to make the best use of the card which further limits the cards capability as well. All in all, I think some Black decks would play a copy or two as it’s just good enough to make the cut most of the time, but is not anything special.
CAVE OF THE FROST DRAGON – GOLD
I think Cave is also a hit, but maybe for a different reason than you’re expecting. Ideally speaking, we would be looking at this for Monowhite because it seems like a perfect fit: it’s a white source that can come into play untapped and lets you use your excess mana. The problem though, is Faceless Haven. Since Faceless Haven requires Snow mana to activate, you really can’t afford to play many or even any non Snow sources to ensure that Haven is active as soon as possible. That being said, Monowhite could probably afford to play like one copy of this, but I’m not even sure that’s correct. So if Monowhite isn’t playing this, what would be? I’m thinking Midrange or Control.
The closest comparison I have for this card is Celestial Colonnade which is one of the best man lands ever. This isn’t Colonnade, but it’s honestly not a good deal worse either, unlike Hive of the Eye Tyrant which is pretty sad compared to Creeping Tar Pit. A Flying creature land assuming it has any power at all will always be great, and although this isn’t going to be a format defining staple, it’ll definitely be solid in most white decks.
DEN OF THE BUGBEAR – GOOD
I’m actually relatively up in the air about this card still so I’ll fully explain all my thoughts on it. I have a lot of inherent issues with Den versus the other lands. First of all, a creature land with no evasion is always a sad creature land. It is an ok rate, a 3/2 that makes a 1/1 on attack, but will trade down extremely often. As I mentioned before, losing a land is a pretty serious tempo disadvantage and considering this can be killed by most creatures and most removal, this can feel like a liability more than an asset.
Lastly, this just isn’t on par with Faceless Haven realistically. If Haven didn’t exist, Monored would happily play this as a 4 of since it would be functionally free, but here we are. Monored is very likely to play 1-2 copies of this over Castle Embereth and be pretty happy about it. For what it’s worth, this card does work very well with Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, but you’re going to win games that you can keep a Torbran on the board anyway.
That being said, that’s just Monored, what about other Red decks? Inherently, I think the cost is a tad high for the payoff, but this can be excellent if you build with this in mind (even in Monored). This land excels on an empty board as it’s the only one that gives you a tangible resource after the fact, so if your deck is designed to keep your opponent’s board clear, then this can really shine. I don’t have a rating between Gimmick and Gold where I think this does lie, but I do think it’s definitely good enough to warrant play.
HALL OF THE SEA GIANT – GIMMICK
This is likely going to be my most contentious review considering the hype surrounding this card, but I very much don’t see the appeal. To start off, let’s get the obvious out of the way. Considering the prohibitive cost to activate this, you would only want this in pretty slow Blue decks. With that, any more aggressively slanted Blue deck would probably be out of the question, not that we have any of those anyway. Secondly, the only Blue deck that would even consider this in Standard would be Izzet Dragons, and this doesn’t hold a candle to Faceless Haven. So what about a harder control deck like Dimir Yorion? I’d say absolutely not.
The issue with Control right now in Standard is the power level of the threats is extremely high, thus making Control’s job much harder. If one threat slips through the cracks but can easily kill you, what’s the point of playing control? To answer that, Control needs to do one of two things: either answer every relevant threat in a timely manner or establish a clock early enough that you don’t have to answer everything.
Izzet Dragons focuses more on the second answer as they have Galazeth Prismari, Goldspan Dragon, and Alrund's Epiphany to end games relatively quickly. For something like Dimir Yorion, you would more so need to answer all the relevant threats the opponent presents. So the issue with this creature land is that although it’s a good clock, it’s way too expensive to consider as it will likely leave you vulnerable to your opponent the next turn. If the opponent can’t follow up to punish you then this is more effective, but you’re likely winning those games anyway.
In hard Control, you really want threats that can be utilized instant speed. Shark Typhoon is a great example of this, but if we’re talking man lands, then Crawling Barrens has this beat by miles. Barrens is much more mana intensive in totality, but allows you to make a huge threat that can put a serious clock on the opponent without forcing you to completely tap out in the late game. Sure this land has Ward where Barrens doesn’t, but most decks can’t afford to keep removal in against hard control anyway unless it’s something like Giant Killer. However, something I don’t want to undervalue is that this is a colored land where Crawling Barrens isn’t which is a huge advantage.
However, the fact that this will come into play tapped very often is also detrimental. With all these factors in mind, it may compete with the Crawling Barrens spot and may even overtake it, but I’m really not sold on it.
HYDRA’S NEST – GOLD
At first, I thought they did the Green land pretty dirty. If you’re playing Monogreen, this seemed worse than Faceless Haven most of the time (although Monogreen would still likely play a few copies). It’s a hefty mana investment to make this into any sort of threat which is definitely a huge detriment. It’s nice how you can put a little mana into it to get it swinging, but using 4 mana to get a functional Mutavault is very underwhelming. However, this does have a distinct advantage compared to the other lands: this can be used at any point in the game.
Magic right now is dominated by strong early plays and card advantage. It’s extremely rare that you don’t have anything to do in the early or midgame as most cards are so efficient or provide you with additional card advantage. The appeal to Nest is that it can give you something to do early if you’re left with nothing somehow and it’s a great beater really late in the game where both players are expected to run out of gas.
All that being said, I would assume that Nest would see more play in the multicolor green decks as it does help you end the game if you flood out or both you and your opponent are running on fumes. Still, it’s relatively small for the mana investment, but growing as a function of your mana investment should not be taken lightly. As a functional Lavaclaw Reaches, this is a very solid card.
ARE THE CREATURE LANDS GIMMICKS, GOOD, OR GOLD?
Overall, I would say they are extremely good, bordering on gold. Not only does the power level seem just right for Standard, they present interesting deckbuilding decisions as they aren’t just free inclusions in their respective colors. This is the type of card I absolutely love to see and hope Wizards keeps feeding us situational, but powerful cards.
Thank you for reading! What do you think about the creature land cycle? Let me know in the comments!