How good is Tectonic Edge? Should I add it to my deck? What do I cut? These questions immediately follow the release of a potentially powerful card like Tectonic Edge. You could play hundreds of games trying to figure out exactly how good it is, but you might not have time to. I can’t stress the importance of recognizing patterns enough. Metagames can change so quickly (as anyone playing Constructed PTQs knows) that you often can see a change in the metagame, but don’t have time to actually playtest the implications of this change. What I mean is that you might on Saturday notice that Blue decks are a lot more popular now than they were 2 weeks ago. You might only have a week before the next PTQ or 3 days before the next MTGO PTQ to adjust your deck. Are these Tectonic Edges still good? Should I add [card]Tectonic Edge[/card]s to this deck that didn’t have them before? This article will help you make these decisions, and may also help you set up similar models for how other cards are sensitive to changes in your deck and the decks others will likely play.
What does Tectonic Edge give me, and at what cost?
Here is a chart of typical land destruction cards, ranked from highest power level to lowest power level. The context for the power level is that I imagine we drop these cards into the current Standard and evaluate how powerful they would be.
What is the cost of “1 Land Drop”? It is typically more expensive than 1 mana, but cheaper than 2 mana. How did I arrive at this conclusion? Strip Mine is better than Sinkhole, but almost certainly not as good as “R (or B) – Sorcery – Destroy target land.” Also, Sol Ring would be better than Ancient Tomb, even if Sol Ring damaged you for 2 each use, but Ancient Tomb seems more powerful than an artifact that costs 2 with the same mana ability. This isn’t a perfect way to measure how much Strip Mine and Wasteland “cost” but it seems good enough to get them about where they belong in my chart.
Where does Tectonic Edge belong? It costs “Land Drop +1” to use, which assuming “Land Drop” is more than 1 but less than 2, makes it more expensive than Sinkhole but cheaper than Stone Rain. But there is more going on. You aren’t getting “destroy target land” for Land Drop +1, you are getting “destroy target non-basic land IF an opponent controls 4+ land.”
You get to activate your Tectonic Edge about the same time you get to cast a Demolish. The fact that it costs “Land Drop +1” instead of 4 and can be played and tapped for 1 when you don’t need to or can’t destroy a land with it makes it more attractive than Demolish. You get Demolish’s effect at a cheaper price. But is it cheap enough to make us want Demolish in our decks? Seismic Spike gave the player 2 mana back on his/her Demolish, so it was similar to a 2 mana Demolish that couldn’t be used until turn 4. Sounds like Tectonic Edge, doesn’t it? Seismic Spike wasn’t a good card. This is part of the analysis, but it is an incomplete comparison.
The Demolish/Seismic Spike analysis helps us understand how strong the land destruction effect is at the phase of the game we are likely to get access to it, but we aren’t just getting “Demolish for Land Drop +1″ when we add Tectonic Edge to our deck. We can use Tectonic Edge as a colorless land when we don’t want to or we can’t destroy a land. How much better than Seismic Spike is Tectonic Edge in my deck? This is the first thing we need to look at.
Principle #1: the more useful a colorless mana producing land is to our deck, the more we want Tectonic Edge.
There is a critical question deckbuilders must answer regarding Tectonic Edge: “Am I going to cut lands or spells from my deck when I add Tectonic Edges?” My first instinct is to cut something like 2 lands and 2 spells when I add 4 Tectonic Edge, since it sometimes will be used like a spell, and sometimes as a mana source. But this is just lazy deckbuilding. If most of my spells or a few critical spells in my curve cost only colored mana (I’m looking at you Bloodghast, Leatherback Baloth, and Cruel Ultimatum), I can’t add 4 Tectonic Edge to my deck and pretend I’ve added 4 mana producing lands. Thus, in Cruel Control, Vampires, or Eldrazi with Nissa’s Chosen and Leatherback Baloth, I would consider the Tectonic Edges more spell than land (it still helps you cast Eldrazi Monument, Malakir Bloodwitch, etc., so it isn’t pure spell, but if I’m adding 4 Edges to one of these decks, I might need to cut 3 spells and 1 land to preserve my ability to cast the all colored mana spells in my deck). Since Tectonic Edge is more spell than land in these decks, we must ask: do these decks want a slightly-better-than-Demolish spell? This leads us to principle #2, which deals with when we want the effect.
Demolish is so bad vs. aggressive decks that we wouldn’t play it even if it gave us 2 of the mana back (i.e. we won’t play Seismic Spike). Also, since many aggressive decks seem to be mono- or two-color in the current standard (Bloodghast, Leatherback Baloth, Elemental Appeal will lead to this), the faster decks tend to have less non-basic lands than the slower decks. The slower decks need Cruel Ultimatum or Ajani Vengeant to catch up, and thus they need non-basic lands to make their mana work. Control decks are also interested in casting expensive spells and reactive spells that need a particular type of mana. This leads to…
Principle #2: the slower our opponent’s decks are (on average), the more we want Tectonic Edge.
The addition of the very playable Worldwake man-lands provides a fairly obvious, but still important, third principle. The man-lands will always be an important part of Tectonic Edge’s position in the metagame. They show up even in aggressive decks that otherwise might not care about a land destruction effect on turn 4+, making Edges useful in those matchups.
Principle #3: the more man-lands we expect to encounter, the more we want Tectonic Edge.
Just to put them all in one place:
Principle #1: The more useful a colorless mana producing land is to our deck, the more we want Tectonic Edge.
Principle #2: The slower our opponent’s decks are (on average), the more we want Tectonic Edge.
Principle #3: The more man-lands we expect to encounter, the more we want Tectonic Edge.
These three principles force us to look at our deck and the expected metagame, and provide a framework for doing so (i.e. what to look for). Tectonic Edge will find a home in a successful deck at some point. Will it be at this month’s Pro Tour San Diego? Perhaps. This article isn’t about a single snapshot of “is this card good” at a particular time. Those of us planning to play in San Diego are testing now, trying to figure out how good we think Tectonic Edge will be. But after San Diego, as the metagame and our decks shift, we can re-evaluate whether we should be playing Tectonic Edge using the above principles.