Lands are an integral part of every deck (Manaless Dredge notwithstanding). Not only are they needed to cast your spells, but they give you more options throughout the course of the game. Utility lands tend to shine brightest in more casual games, where a higher land count is the norm, and they give you something to do when you’re flooding or are short on action.
The utility lands I’ll be talking about here do more than just generate mana, so you won’t see any Cabal Coffers or Myriad Landscape here! Also, as many of the best utility lands have a colorless identity, they can technically be added to any deck. Many decks may find it hard to cast their spells on time if you run too many though (especially multicolor decks), so you’ll rarely want to run more than just a few relevant ones.
Here is a rundown of the best and most popular utility lands in Commander, to help you decide which ones are best for you.
Many decks are combat-focused, so making sure your creatures can push through for damage is a priority – especially if you’re trying to win through commander damage. Rogue’s Passage may be a bit costly to activate, but it’s perfect for evading your opponents’ defenses. Access Tunnel is a great recent alternative or additional copy, though it does have a power restriction to prevent it from being too easily abused.
Giving a creature some important keywords can be the difference between winning and losing in many games. Kessig Wolf Run’s trample is another form of evasion, and the land also pumps the power of the attacker. Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion is ideal for Boros Voltron decks to double their clock, and Witch’s Clinic should help you to outrace your opponents. All of these lands help you to either end the game quicker, or give you enough time to survive until the end.
One type of utility land that doesn’t see enough play are creature lands. They’re ideal for increasing your threat density while still allowing you to maintain a high land count. I use a lot of these in my Esior, Wardwing Familiar & Ardenn, Intrepid Archaeologist deck as a way to keep the pressure up after a board wipe. Mutavault is best in tribal decks that can grant additional bonuses, thanks to its creature types; Mishra’s Factory is another fantastic choice with a cheap activation cost; Inkmoth Nexus can be a surprise infect kill at the right time!
Card Draw, Recursion & Tutors
Lands that generate value are very popular choices in Commander, and often help to keep the gas flowing in the mid-to-late game. War Room is a relatively new addition to the format, but is already seeing a lot of play, particularly in decks with one or two colors. Drawing an extra card per turn can make all the difference, and has often helped turn the tide of battle. Bonders’ Enclave is very similar, but it’s much better if you play a lot of large creatures, and Arch of Orazca is perfect for decks with a lot of permanents or tokens. If you’re already flush with card advantage, be sure to add a Reliquary Tower instead to keep all those extra cards you draw!
Recursion is super important in Commander; you can only have one copy of each card, so rebuying or reusing spells can open up a world of extra depth and flexibility. Hall of Heliod’s Generosity and Academy Ruins let you rebuy any important permanents, like a Smothering Tithe or Aetherflux Reservoir. Mystic Sanctuary and Mortuary Mire give you single-use ways to get back creatures or spells, and can even be abused in combos with cards like Ghostly Flicker. If you’re after pure reanimation, however, Emeria, the Sky Ruin is an excellent way for white-heavy decks to turn any topdecked Plains into a threat.
Tutors are everywhere in the format, even in the mana bases. Urza’s Saga is the latest in a line of land-based tutors; while its tutor targets may be restricted to certain artifacts, the worst case scenario is that it fetches your Sol Ring! With an Urza’s Saga in your deck, you can run a similar package to one for a Trinket Mage, which I covered recently in my Tutor Packages article. Inventors’ Fair is a much more flexible artifact tutor, if you’re looking for ways to find a specific artifact. My personal favorite, however, is Tolaria West. This land can transmute for anything with a mana value of zero; I use it in Slogurk, the Overslime as a way to fetch up a Zuran Orb, or one of the many utility lands I run!
Shenanigans are common in Commander, such is the nature of the beast. Sometimes opponents will try something absurd, and you have to be the voice of reason at the table (or risk losing to a wild play). Some decks are more susceptible to certain wild moves than others, and identifying those weaknesses and planning accordingly can be a level-up moment for many deck builders.
Homeward Path is a good hedge card against these issues. It’s especially useful for Voltron decks, which can suffer terribly if their main threat is taken from them. Regaining control of a stolen creature can be the difference between playing the game and losing it on the spot.
Voltron decks also tend to include some amount of protection for their main threats, most notably hexproof. If you’re playing against Voltron, Arcane Lighthouse and Detection Tower can be useful for removing hexproof. Without lands like these, many control decks will fall at the hands of an attacker with more Equipment than, er, hands.
Another approach is to remove those creatures from combat entirely. Maze of Ith is the classic land for keeping big threats in check, and it still holds up to this day. Labyrinth of Skophos may cost more mana to activate, but unlike Maze of Ith, it actually taps for mana. If you’re determined to avoid combat completely, you can run Glacial Chasm, though your opponents may not always appreciate it. It does have a relatively steep cost to both play and keep around, however, and it doesn’t tap for mana, either; bear all of this in mind when you consider it for a deck.
More often than not, you’ll want to run utility lands to just deal with a problem an opponent has presented you with. If you see a Maze of Ith on the other side of the board as you’re playing Voltron, for example, that can cause a lot of problems for you. A timely Ghost Quarter or Wasteland can be all that’s needed to get rid of those issues. You could also use them to destroy bounce lands and set an opponent back on mana, or to hit a resilient win condition like Field of the Dead.
Whether you’re a graveyard player or one that opposes the play style, you’ve got to respect it. As I mentioned in a recent article, most people should be playing with the graveyard in some capacity, or have a plan to deal with it. Graveyard hate is now becoming more prominent in mana bases, thanks largely to Scavenger Grounds. Bojuka Bog is a common alternative in black decks, too, so you don’t have to reduce the number of black sources to fit in some great incidental hate!
There aren’t many useful ways to remove permanents from play using utility lands, but Blast Zone is definitely the best of them. It’s a symmetrical effect and it can be costly to use, but it gets the job done! I’ve seen it in a lot of colorless decks, like the Eldrazi titans and Traxos, Scourge of Kroog, but it’s also a great addition to decks with ways to tutor for it (like with Tolaria West!). If you want an alternative to Blast Zone, Underdark Rift is a new land from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms that works as single-use targeted removal, even if it’s a little clunky.
There are many other lands that can play important roles in your decks. Maybe you’re running a lot of counters? Then Karn’s Bastion is a must. If you’re playing with a lot of different lands, Field of the Dead can give you free Zombies just for playing the game. Vesuva and Thespian’s Stage can lead to all sorts of shenanigans, particularly as ways to copy other utility lands you or your opponents are playing!
There are so many great options out there, and there are new utility lands coming out in almost every set. If you want to do a search for yourself, you can use this Scryfall search to find the next great piece of spicy tech for your creations.
Are there any lands that you always make room for in your decks? I’d love to know what utilities you bring to every game, and how you use them, so let me know on Twitter! I hope you have a lovely and safe holiday period, and happy brewing!
Scott is an Irish content creator and the Head of Budget Magic for the Izzet League. He focuses on affordable decks in Pioneer, Modern, and Pauper, particularly ones that stray from the mainstream. When he’s not writing about his favorite decks, he can be found talking incessantly about them on Twitter and on The Budget Magic Cast.