The recent round of changes to Alchemy has seen a famously terrible land – Dungeon Descent – receive a significant buff. Unsurprising, considering how bad the original printing of the card is. But it’s not the only terrible land, not by a long shot. There have been some absolute stinkers printed over the years, and today we’re going to get across the worst of the worst lands in MTG.
These cards don’t tap for mana and provide a weird, outdated mechanic to a tiny subset of creatures. Why were they printed? None can say. These cards are as baffling as they are terrible.
Everyone knows getting mana screwed sucks. Sheltered Valley seems to have started off as a way to make mana screw a little less painful: oh no, stuck on lands, are you? Here, have some extra life. I don’t know if they were worried the effect was too strong, however, as they then added a weird pseudo-legendary ability to it so, you know, you can’t play three Sheltered Valleys and clean up with three free life a turn (while being stuck on colorless spells only). So strange.
Here’s another land that taps for colorless and has a useful effect that was, for some reason, slapped with a huge downside. Wintermoon Mesa’s tap-two-lands ability actually seems like the sort of thing that you could put to good effect… if it didn’t mean sacrificing Wintermoon Mesa in the first place. On top of that, it also enters the battlefield tapped – they squeezed every last drop of playability out of what could have been a supercharged Rishadan Port.
Any card that synergizes with itself is worth a second look, as it’s nice to get a little package deal of setup and payoff without having to play extra cards. Nomad Stadium certainly synergizes with itself, but only in the sense that it solves the problem that it itself creates. Coming in as a worse Plains (which is saying something) in costing you one life per white mana, Nomad Stadium then… gains you four life later on? Sure. Considering other cards in Nomad’s Stadium cycle give you a triple loot effect or a Dead Weight, Nomad Stadium really is an absolute stinker.
I don’t think anyone expects an untapped, five-color land to come without some sort of downside. Mana Confluence, Forbidden Orchard – it’s only fair that perfect mana doesn’t come for free. Rainbow Vale, however, might be asking for a bit too much. Having to hand it over to an opponent after using it is a steep cost, even if you might get it back later. On the other hand, I suppose Rainbow Vale does teach you how to share, so there’s that.
Forsaken City is cut from the same cloth as Rainbow Vale – a five-color land that definitely doesn’t come for free. Not only does it come into play tapped, to untap it you have to exile – not discard, but exile – a card from your hand. What’s the play here, exiling Misthollow Griffin or Torrent Elemental for value, just to untap a five-color land? Again, I don’t expect cards like this for free, but ripping apart my hand every upkeep for perfect mana? I’ll pass, thanks.
With some of the cards we’ve already looked at, you can see why they were overloaded with drawbacks, even if the drawbacks overshot the runway a bit. Tapping for five colors, tapping down opposing lands – these are powerful effects that have been conservatively costed. Dungeon Descent, however, makes no sense. It seems to have a new drawback every time you read it. First you’re surprised the activated ability costs four, then you’re amazed to realize you have to tap a legendary creature, and then you put the card through a paper shredder when you find out it enters the battlefield tapped. No wonder it got buffed in Alchemy.
Lands with spell-like abilities are often very useful, providing you with interesting deckbuilding angles that can significantly power up a deck. Even if a card like Tomb of Urami pings you for mana, that’s often a fine trade-off for the activated ability – and even if you have to sacrifice the land for the effect, that’s often worth it if the effect is sufficiently powerful. Sacrificing all your lands, however, is a different story – and I don’t think a 5/5 flyer is ever going to be worth Armageddoning your lands away.
Lands that tap for two mana can pick up pretty significant downsides and still be playable – Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors have pretty massive drawbacks and are still powerhouse cards. Untaidake, however… well, despite tapping for two mana, it doesn’t come close to being good enough. Not only does it come into play tapped – fair enough – and not only does it cost you two life for its ability – also fair enough – the mana can only be used on legendary spells. Sure, many legendary cards are amongst the best in the game, but this card doesn’t even tap to cast nonlegendary cards. No thanks.
Why would you ever, ever play this card. Sure, it’s a five-color land, which is nice, but it also turns every single one of your opponents lands into Rishadan Port. What is the point in having a mana source that only functions when your opponents are tapped out (and when they see your Rhystic Cave, I can guarantee they’re not going to tap out often)? Rhystic Cave sucks, it sucks so much, and I can’t possibly imagine a five-color deck with mana requirements so stringent that you’d ever run it.
Forget about the worst lands ever printed, Sorrow’s Path is often cited as one of the worst cards ever printed. This land is so confusing, so weird and so bad that it beggars belief that it was ever printed. All this card does is swap the positions of two opposing blockers – which opponents can easily play around, because this card is a land, not an instant, so you can’t even ambush them with this effect. And even worse – somehow – it deals two damage to you and all your creatures when you activate it. But wait, there’s more – it doesn’t even tap for mana, the one job that lands have!