My rare card in today’s booster was a Stomping Ground which gives me a great opportunity to talk about “Shock Lands”, a group of cards that confused me when I first came across them.
There are currently 10 shock lands in Standard starting with one per guild in Guilds of Ravnica:
This was then predictably followed by one for each guild within Ravnia Allegiance:
Each one is a dual land card that enters the battlefield tapped unless you pay 2 life; this is the same damage done by the card Shock hence the informal name “Shock Lands”.
In a meta that is filled with dual lands1, why would you want to pay 2 life and why are these cards that damage you so expensive? The simplest explanation is mana advantage; you have the option, should you wish to take the hit, of having a dual land card be instantly usable. This can be a huge advantage if you need to use all of the possible mana you could acquire. If you don’t pay the life cost then (at worst) the card acts like a guild gate but at best it is something that will let you cast a 5 mana creature on turn 5 when you really need it.
Another thing to note is that each of these land cards contains the name of each of the lands it represents within it’s type. For example, Steam Vents is both an Island and a Mountain. This is massively advantageous when you play one of the dual lands that enters the battlefield tapped unless you have a specific land; for example, if you have a Breeding Pool in play then you can bring in a Hinterland Harbor untapped as you control both a Forest and an Island.
Both of these abilities — the option to use a dual land straight away and that it makes other dual lands easier to cast untapped — add up to a high cost for these lands, especially when you consider that they are each rare. In Standard play, these cards and their “enters untapped unless you have x or x land” compatriots are a serious advantage and thus command a serious premium; they usually cost in excess of £10 each! I’ve seen many a deck cost £20 or less when you look at the creatures and other spells but actually jump up to over £100 when you add all of the land.
So the next time you come across one of these lands, don’t think “I’m never going to pay 2 life for land”; instead, look at the advantages you are possibly giving yourself. That or the potential profit you could be making…
You have gates for each colour combination which enter the battlefield tapped (Gruul Guildgate), several dual lands that also enter the battlefield tapped (Foul Orchard), plus a number of lands spread across recent sets that allow a dual land to enter untapped so long as you have a basic land of a specific type (Sunpetal Grove). ↩︎