Creaturelands have been around for a long time, since 1994’s Antiquities set. Over the years, a ton of them have been printed – some powerful, some not, some just plain weird. Some creaturelands have defined decks and even formats, and today we’re going to have a look at some of the best creaturelands ever printed and talk about the work they’ve done over the years. Here we go!
Mutavault is notable as it’s one of those creature lands with a miniscule activation cost: just a single generic mana! It’s at its best in tribal decks, of course, as it has every creature type, and so it used to see play in various decks built with tribal synergies (I believe it got a run in Modern Merfolk decks, when people were trying to make them work).
It was reprinted into Standard in 2013, and did a lot of work in that format. Quite aside from the fact that many of the top decks were monocolored (it was just after the devotion mechanic had been printed for the first time), one particularly dominant deck was White-Blue Control. This control deck initially played Elspeth, Sun’s Champion as a win condition, but many people cut the Elspeths and just relied on Elixir of Immortality and a few Mutavaults to get the job done.
A spiritual successor to Mutavault is the more recent Faceless Haven. While it has a much more restrictive activation cost, of course, it has already been a centerpiece of aggro decks in Standard for a few months – and now, with its game-winning (or at least game-non-losing) combo with The Book of Exalted Deeds, Faceless Haven is in the spotlight more than ever before. Maybe it will even eclipse Mutavault as the changeling creatureland!
Treetop Village is part of a cycle that dates back to 1999’s Urza’s Legacy, along with cards you might have heard of like Faerie Conclave, and cards you likely haven’t like Forbidding Watchtower. What’s notable about these creaturelands is, once again, their very cheap activation cost – all of them came in at just two mana.
Getting a 3/3 trampling creatureland for 1G is quite a good deal, even if it comes into play tapped. So good, in fact, that thanks to the Tenth Edition reprint this cycle received, Treetop Village was often played in Modern Jund, back when what it had to offer was a) desirable and b) playable. How times have changed.
The original and the best! Well, at least half of that is true. Mishra’s Factory has been around a lot longer than any other creatureland, first printed in Legends almost thirty years ago. Much like Mutavault, it offers a 2/2 for just a single generic mana, and can even buff itself on blocks (or buff other copies of itself).
For the longest time, it was the only reason that “Assembly-Worker” was a legitimate creature type in Magic’s rules, even surviving through the Grand Creature Type Update of 2007 (RIP Ali-Baba, which used to be a creature type you could name with something like Patriarch’s Bidding). These days, Wizards has leant into the joke a little more heavily: Time Spiral brought us Assembly-Worker, with the creature type Assembly-Worker, and there have been six more printed since then.
But none are as iconic as the original, Mishra’s Factory, which any self-respecting Magic boomer will tell you was a terrific card for their day, back before you had your Treetop Villages and your Dens of the Bugbear. Back in my day, we had to activate our creaturelands in the snow, uphill, both ways! Okay, grandpa, let’s get you to bed.
Worldwake brought us a cycle of creaturelands that were, in many ways, the most powerful ever seen. Raging Ravine, Creeping Tar Pit and Stirring Wildwood all maintained a good presence in Modern for years and years, while Lavaclaw Reaches… was a card that was legal to put into a deck. Few people did. Curious.
The best of the cycle, however, was undoubtedly Celestial Colonnade. This card, despite having the most expensive activation cost of the lot, was a perfect win condition for control decks, which tend to be based in white and blue anyway. Celestial Colonnade used to be so powerful and so dominant, particularly in Modern, that control decks would play a full four copies of it, tapland or no.
Things have moved on since then, and these days you’re lucky to find two copies of this once-mighty card in a Modern control deck. Nowadays it’s competing for space with cards like Castle Vantress and maybe even Hall of Storm Giants. But there was a time, young one, that Celestial Colonnade was a $50 Magic card, oh yes, and we had to activate it in the snow, uphill, both ways! …oh no. I’ve become the very thing I shamelessly mocked.
If you tallied up all the games that have ended thanks to creaturelands, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Inkmoth Nexus at the top of the list of total kills. This card was the centerpiece of Modern Infect, and also played a big role in Standard back when it was legal. We’ve talked about one-mana activation costs for creaturelands – Inkmoth Nexus is, like Mutavault and Mishra’s Factory, essentially a 2/2 thanks to infect, but this one has flying.
Having an evasive finisher that evades sorcery-speed removal and that, with a few pump spells, can kill your opponent out of nowhere meant that Infect decks were a real force to be reckoned with. Whenever Modern became a little too navel-gazey, a little too uninteractive or durdley, Infect players would sleeve up their 75s with glee and get in there with a huge Inkmoth Nexus.
Today, rather than being in dedicated Infect decks, Inkmoth Nexus plays an important role in explosive Modern decks like Hammer Time and Hardened Scales. Never mind that Colossus Hammer takes Inkmoth Nexus out of the skies – it’s attacking for 11 infect damage, enough to end the game on the spot.
The number of creaturelands keeps growing, year by year – even the most recent set brought us a new cycle of them. However, and maybe this a ridiculous call as cards like Mishra’s Factory have been around a lot longer, but I’d wager that Inkmoth Nexus has the highest body count of any creatureland, given how present it has remained in top-tier Modern decks for so long. What do you reckon?