By now you’ve heard the big news. Fetchlands are being reprinted in Khans of Tarkir. These are reprints from the allied-color fetch-lands from Onslaught: Bloodstained Mire, Flooded Strand, Polluted Delta, Windswept Heath, and Wooded Foothills.
The reason these reprints are such a big deal is, not only will Standard have fetch-lands again, but this is going to put fetch-lands in a lot of hands that didn’t have them before. Fetch-lands are extremely useful in Commander, the ever-growing casual format. The bigger news, however, is that the Modern format now has changed forever, no longer having to rely on the 5 Zendikar enemy-colored fetchlands: Arid Mesa, Marsh Flats, Misty Rainforest, Scalding Tarn, and Verdant Catacombs.
At first, you may be thinking, wow, this means that shards like Esper (White/Black/Blue), Grixis (Blue/Black/Red), and Jund (Black/Red/Green) get their allied colored fetches! Doesn’t that make everything better for them?
Technically, not really. There are, of course, 10 “shock” lands from the original Ravnica block & Return to Ravnica/Gatecrash. Even “off-color” fetchlands can get whatever shock lands you need from the deck. What can change is that you can simply play more fetchlands in the deck, shrinking your mana base even more. Also, because not as many decks will rely on the same 5 fetches anymore, the prices of the Zendikar fetches will even out a bit, making Modern mana bases a bit more reasonable to acquire. The cost on Legacy and Commander players will drop, as well, as fetches are extremely good in those formats, as well.
What this really changes, besides the overall price of mana bases, is that you can now play more basic lands in Modern. In two color decks, especially, there will be some difference. In Azorius Control (White/Blue) you will not have to depend on your Hallowed Fountains, Glacial Fortresses, and Celestial Colonnades quite as much. You’ll have Flooded Strands to grab your few Islands and Plains as well as the Hallowed Fountains, without having to worry about stuffing off-color fetchlands into the mana-base. It’s the same with Red/Green, Blue/Black, Green/White, and Red/Black. Suddenly those mana bases are just a bit more consistent without the need for expensive “filter” lands from Shadowmoor and Eventide.
As for the three-color decks, however, there are definitely going to be some mana base shifts. Let’s go over each of the color combinations, and how dramatically each will be affected… some of them won’t be as much as you’d think.
“AMERICA” or U/W/R Control only gets Flooded Strand as the one allied fetch that it was missing. It plays full sets of Scalding Tarn and Arid Mesa already, so it’s hard to say if it really needs the Strands. I can see a couple copies working their way in.
BANT (White/Blue/Green) is perhaps my favorite three-color combination in Magic. Elspeth Tirel‘s great legacy on that Shard of Alara probably is the main reason for that, but I just love the combination of cards that it gives you: a perfect blend of aggressiveness, control, and tempo. Getting two on-color fetchlands makes me very happy because it allows for a bit more creativity when dealing with cards with UU, GG, or WW costs. I mean, you run Cryptic Command in Bant most of the time and a lot of times you won’t have the UUU to cast it.
Having these two fetchlands available makes your fixing a tad better. Running Arid Mesa and Scalding Tarn in Bant never felt right. However, in this case, I feel it’s more aesthetically pleasing to run these fetch-lands instead of the enemy colors. I think more people will play Bant due to this fact, as well. Your mana base is going to flow much more smoothly, and I’m all for that.
“BUG” or Black/Blue/Green is a popular color combination for Infect decks in Modern, allowing you to play all of the best Infect creatures in one deck. Does Polluted Delta help the deck that much, and help push it more towards top-tier Viability? It’s hard to say. It does make dropping your Phyrexian Crusaders in an otherwise Green-heavy deck a bit easier. This one is a wait and see.
ESPER or White/Black/Blue is definitely getting a boost. It gets both Flooded Strand and Polluted Delta. While “filter” lands could certainly make the mana base fairly consistent, you have to draw them, and fetchlands help you to get the answer you need right away. Marsh Flats, while it can get any of the decks shock lands, isn’t enough to make the deck stand alone. It needs the blue/white and blue/black options working in tandem with the white/black.
I see this archetype benefiting a lot, perhaps even more than Bant will. It makes what you can play a lot more diverse, and Esper is such a strong color combo that just isn’t well-represented in Modern without these two beauties to prop it up. While we won’t get Legacy Esper Stoneblade in Modern, we might at least see a popular combo get some more play due to its mana base now being so much less restrictive.
GRIXIS (Blue/Black/Red) needs more mana fixing that many of the other three-color combinations, especially as one of its key win conditions is being able to cast Cruel Ultimatum or Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker on a regular basis. As the deck tends to have a lot of double mana requirements (BB) or (UU) in its card’s casting costs, having a full array of fetchlands at its disposal truly helps. A couple Polluted Deltas or Bloodstained Mires could go a long way towards making Grixis Control, once a very popular deck in Standard, a much more consistent archetype in Modern.
JUND (Black/Red/Green) gets two new friends in Modern: Bloodstained Mire and Wooded Foothills. Interestingly enough, Jund only really plays Marsh Flats and Verdant Catacombs anymore for fetchlands, using Blackcleave Cliffs for the Black/Red mana and fixing for green with Treetop Villages and the occasional Twilight Mire for Black/Green fixing. It will be interesting to see how having the Red/Black and Red/Green fetchlands affect the mana base. There are a lot of ways this could go.
JUNK (White/Black/Green) is a growing archetype in the Modern Format. It’s doing just fine with Verdant Catacombs and Marsh Flats being on-color with the deck already, and the only real White card in the main-board is Lingering Souls, which has a Black Flashback cost. Windswept Heath is nice to have though, and could find a copy or two slipping its way into the mana base somewhere.
NAYA (White/Red/Green) is best known for Zoo. They’ve only really had Arid Mesa, though. They’ve also run a full play-set of Verdant Catacombs and 2 Marsh Flats, which isn’t quite optimal. The main thing about Zoo is that the deck used to be about playing cards like Loam Lion which becomes stronger with a certain land type being on the board. The deck currently plays just Wild Nacatl and Flinthoof Boar, but now being able to run more fetchlands in a deck which has a mana curve topping out at 3 mana, you may be able to add Loam Lion back into the mix.
Also, having more fetchlands means that the Knight of the Reliquaries in the deck become that much more powerful. It’s a deck that is definitely going to be improved by having more fetches.
While Red/White/Black (RWB) is not really a popular archetype in Modern, it was missing Bloodstained Mire. As the Black component of the deck is probably the most important, having a full play-set of Bloodstained Mires could really help that deck find some consistency. Arid Mesa and Marsh Flats are good, but the second Black fetchland could help a lot. As it stands right now, there aren’t really any highly competitive RWB lists, so it’s hard to say what the impact may be yet.
RUG (Red/Blue/Green) is a popular color combination for Ramp decks, as well as the dreaded Tarmo-Twin or RUG Twin lists. But while those decks do extremely well in Legacy, the deck hasn’t fared quite as well in Modern. Wooded Foothills joining its Zendikar brothers Misty Rainforest and Scalding Tarn might help balance out the mana base to make it more Modern-friendly. This is something I’m very happy to see, especially if the RUG clan in Khans of Tarkir provides some support for those decks in Modern borders. Definitely a benefit here to RUG.
People are super excited that they don’t have to rely on the Zendikar fetchlands completely anymore, and they should be. It will definitely change the meta-game more now, but I feel it’s more because of the fact that mana-bases will now be more affordable. Yes, it will affect deck-building, most certainly, but more for the two-color combinations and only a handful of the three-color ones. What it does do is allow players to build more creative mana curves as the fixing will be a bit more specific and if decks can play more basic lands to counteract decks that play Blood Moon, I’m all for that. Shock-lands have never thrilled me. I always preferred buddy lands myself, and obviously the Alpha/Beta/Unlimited/Revised duals in Legacy/Vintage and Commander are the best there is.
It’s going to be fun seeing these fetchlands seeing Modern play, and especially Standard play. Also, it will be easier for Commander players on a budget to acquire them for essentially shortening their 99. I hope that the mere new affordability of the reprinted fetchlands grows the Modern format. It needs to grow, because it’s been getting a bit stale.
Also, I realize there is the question about how archetypes that don’t rely on fetchlands like R/G Tron will be affected. That question and many more will be answered on future Modern Mondays.
Until next week,
– Elspeth for the Win