The foundation of any good multicolored deck is its mana base. Over the years, we’ve had a huge number of different takes on lands that produce two colors of mana, most of them with some kind of downside as a tradeoff for the power that comes with smooth mana. From iconic and powerful options like shocklands to niche options like fastlands, there is no shortage of sweet dual lands that have seen play over the years. Let’s get across the best of them!
Would you believe me if I told you these lands used to be so good that slower two-color decks would play off-color Temples just for the free scry? In original Theros, White-Blue Control often ran a few Temple of Silence or Temple of Deceit, whereas once they were reprinted almost a decade later, they saw next to no play. Maybe the format wasn’t slow enough, or maybe cards just got a lot better – whatever it was, the Temples aren’t the terrific cards they used to be.
The painlands are good for one reason: they’re cheap. Really cheap. They’re a good way to start to get into Modern, where you can afford to pay a few points of life in exchange for good mana. They’re not fetchland or shocklands, but in many cases they do an appreciable impression of them for a fraction of the monetary price – and some decks, like Fetchless Storm, even prefer painlands. Thanks, painlands – you still kinda suck, but at least you don’t cost hundreds for a playset!
Fastlands are terrific, offering low-to-the-ground decks the opportunity to get out of the gates nice and quick. Multicolor aggro decks love these cards – Inspiring Vantage and Concealed Courtyard were huge in Mardu Vehicles back in Kaladesh Standard – as do Modern decks with stringent color requirements, like Boomer Jund. When you need to be able to curve Thoughtseize and Lightning Bolt into Wrenn and Six, having painless, straightforward duals on the opening turns makes all the difference.
My personal favorite dual lands, checklands aren’t flashy or overbearingly powerful, but they’re fair, balanced and very reliable. They reward good, honest mana bases with plenty of basics, or alternatively are the perfect support act for three-color shockland mana bases. While they can be awkward to draw in multiples, as far as I’m concerned, strike the perfect balance between powering up mana bases without ever being ridiculous in terms of overall power level.
Creaturelands are a staple in slower, controlling decks that love to hide their win conditions in their mana bases. They don’t go in every deck, as the enters-the-battlefield-tapped clause is very punishing (particularly in older formats), but in Modern decks like White-Blue Control and Boomer Jund, Celestial Colonnade and Raging Ravine do a lot of work. The enemy colored ones aren’t anywhere near as strong, comparatively, but Shambling Vent and Hissing Quagmire saw a lot of play – and while they’re not dual lands, the monocolored ones from AFR are also very popular in today’s Standard!
Bouncelands are extremely popular in EDH, a format that doesn’t heavily punish the early setup turns most often used to sort out and accelerate your mana. These lands – “Karoos”, as they’re sometimes known – help you continue to hit your land drop and can be exploited with the use of untap abilities, something we’ve seen commonly even outside of EDH! Modern Amulet Titan decks were so good they got Summer Bloom banned, and even since they’ve remained very powerful – all thanks to bouncelands.
This weird, 60 percent-complete cycle of cards began in Future Sight with Horizon Canopy, hence the name, and have proven to be very powerful. Since the enemy-colored versions were printed in Modern Horizons, they’ve been staunch inclusions in lean decks that look to skimp on lands, such as Burn, to avoid being flooded out. They don’t go in slower decks due to the life loss, but in fast lists looking to end the game swiftly, they’re perfect.
Amongst the most iconic and fan-favorite dual lands of all time, the shocklands have been the backbone of every Standard format they’ve been legal in, and are an integral part of every older format that doesn’t have access to the original Alpha duals. The combination of coming into play untapped for a small life payment and the fact they have the basic land types mean these cards are amongst the best of the best. Why are the basic land types relevant? Well, not only do they mean that checklands come into play untapped, they also synergies magnificently with the…
It’s hardly fair to call these lands dual lands. On the face of it, that’s what they are – they fetch one of two basic land types, which would ordinarily make them dual lands, right? Well, no. With shocklands, triomes and other nonbasics with basic land types, fetchlands very quickly become five-color lands (and instant-speed, uncounterable creatures with Dryad Arbor, to boot!). Still, in a very strict sense they are dual lands, and therefore I feel they warrant inclusion here – even if they aren’t often used for that purpose.
Nothing comes close to the original dual lands, first printed in Alpha and now worth hundreds if not thousands across Alpha, Beta, Revised and Unlimited. These cards offer pristine fixing, no questions asked, and define the Legacy format. Unfortunately, their ridiculously high price tags combined with their scarcity due to the Reserved List mean they aren’t hugely accessible for most players, and the biggest barrier to entry for Legacy as a format. They’re the original and the best – the best dual lands ever printed, no question.