Welcome to the Lands and colorless part of our Gladiator Adventures in the Forgotten Realms set review! Let’s get to it!
Starting with a new cycle of rare lands all of which can become a creature temporarily, enter the battlefield tapped if you control two more other lands and, unlike previous creature lands in the format, generate colored mana.
Cave of the Frost Dragon
Cave of the Frost Dragon is the white land in the cycle which can become a 3/4 Dragon with flying by paying five mana. Creature lands are great because they dodge sorcery speed removal, and this one also dodges most of the played instant speed red removal due to its four toughness. Having flying and three power means it is able to consistently hit your opponent for decent damage. Although the activation cost is high and it doesn’t have any land types (compared to basic snow Plains, which have the snow supertype and Plains subtype), it is worth a slot in non Combo white decks either over a basic land or a colorless creature land if you have color dense cards.
Den of the Bugbear
For four mana Den of the Bugbear can become a 3/2 Goblin that creates another 1/1 attacking Goblin on attack. Expect to see it in a lot of the Midrange and Aggro decks playing red as a low opportunity cost creature land, replacing either a basic or a tapped MDFC (Modal double-faced cards). Don’t expect it to see play in three color decks as it only adds one color. Also don’t expect to see it in Control decks because they don’t need a creature land that dies to Shock effects that would normally be worthless
Hall of Storm Giants
For a high cost, Hall of Storm Giants can become a 7/7 with ward three. The mana cost restricts it to Ramp and Control decks, but it can be a three turn clock. In Control, the ward ability consumes a counterspell worth of mana from the opponent, meaning it is easier to protect than the cost would imply. Expect to see it In blue Control and Ramp decks, notably for blue control decks Hall of the Storm Giants adds the most important color for the deck, blue.
Hive of the Eye Tyrant
Hive of the Eye Tyrant is the black land of the cycle. For four mana it can become a 3/3 with minor graveyard hate. In two color and mono black decks this is a low opportunity cost land- it won’t enter always untapped but it will tap for black, which in mono black is important for cards like Phyrexian Obliterator and in two color for any pip dense cards like Murderous Rider. The opportunity cost in three or more color decks is higher, but it is worth testing in black based three color decks as additional graveyard hate and a creature land.
Lair of the Hydra
The Last in the cycle is Lair of the Hydra, which for x and a green can become a x/x Hydra. Due to the flexible activation cost and entering untapped during the first two turns, allowing it to stay relevant in any part of the game, expect it to see play in green decks from low curve Aggro decks to top heavy Ramp decks. In Control decks it is harder to use, because it is inefficient at converting mana to damage.
Dungeon Map is a three mana artifact that can Venture into the dungeon in addition to tapping for colorless. The use of this in Gladiator is in the artifact based Paradox Engine combo deck as an outlet for infinite mana and untaps. If you assemble an infinite untap combo with Engine, like Ancestral Statue and mana rocks, each untap lets you Venture into either Lost Mine of Phandelver or Tomb of Annihilation and drain your opponent without targeting them. In case you have less cards in library than your opponent’s life total, thus being unable to loop the Lost Mine, you can choose the Tomb. Although the second and third section of The Mine are symmetrical your opponent will likely lose first.
Eye of Vecna
The two life loss each draw is a major downside for the card as it is relevant both against Aggro decks and red based Control decks. The two mana is comparable to Mazemind Tome, but Mazemind Tome can be used at any time and also has the ability to scry for free. This could see play in non blue Control decks in a Control heavy meta, otherwise don’t expect to see it.
Hand of Vecna
Hand of Vecna is worth experimenting with in Aggro decks as an Equipment that can immediately buff a creature. Assuming you kept a seven card hand, went first, and cast cards on turn one and two the buff will be +3/+3. Later in the game, you can keep lands in hand to increase the effect.
Temple of the Dragon Queen
As you play Temple of the Dragon Queen you need to choose the color it will be able to produce. At its worst it enters the battlefield tapped, but if you control a Dragon or have one in hand, it enters untapped. Without a Dragon, this land is worse than Shimmerdrift Vale, so you need to be in a Dragon themed deck for it to be worth playing. I do not recommend playing this card unless you have at least 20 Dragon in the deck, which is about the number you need to have it enter untapped 80% of the time.
Treasure Vault is an artifact land with two abilities: tap to add a colorless and pay double X and tap to create X Treasure tokens. The first key text on this card to note is that it is an artifact, and the first artifact land to be legal in Gladiator. This means that any deck looking for artifact synergies will want to play it, but also means it can be the target of artifact destruction. The other use for this is to store mana in Combo and Control decks for the turn you combo or play your threat to have more mana for protection. If an artifact based deck emerges at some point, expect this card to see play in it. Otherwise, the second ability doesn’t overcome the downside of being a colorless land in Control but it warrants testing in some of the Combo decks like emergent ultimatum.
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A Magic: The Gathering player since Guilds of Ravnica. Plays primarily the fan format Gladiator at a competitive level. Writer for the Gladiator blog