Pathway Lands – Kaldheim
Date Reviewed: December 27, 2021
Commander [EDH]: 4.50
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale: 1 is bad; 3 is average; 5 is great.
None of these were on my Top 10 Cards of 2021. Also, there are technically 10 lands; the first six were in 2020’s Zendikar Rising, and the other four were in Kaldheim.
The pathway lands present a fairly interesting choice in deck building. They come in untapped and aren’t legendary, but you’re forced up-front to decide which of the two sides you want or need. It’s an interesting sort of choice between speed and flexibility; while they’re flexible at first, it is a downside that you need to replay them (by bouncing them) if you realize that, no, my Darkbore Pathway really wanted to be a Slitherbore Pathway.
Coming in untapped unconditionally is good, and they’ve shown to have decent legs in Modern for the deck that doesn’t want their land base to kill themselves as fast. That said, I’d say these definitely offer a particular set of downsides in their relative inflexibility on-board and their inability to be tutored out readily. Remember that part of what made the shock lands so good (and makes them so good) is their interplay with the Onslaught/Zendikar fetch lands and anything that specifically asks for lands of a particular basic type, and the basic land types on a non-basic land is an upside far more often than it is a downside. You don’t get these benefits with the Pathway lands, so make sure the compromise you’re making is one you’re fine making with them.
Constructed: 4 (they’re among the better mana-fixing options in Standard right now and have had decent legs in Modern, though I’m not sure they’re great)
Pathways Land Cycle
I believe these are the best lands printed since the Ravnica ShockLands because they might be the closest we get to actual non-tap dual lands. You only get one chance to choose but it gives you plenty of time to assess what color you’ll need and when, it could definitely come in handy if you’re needing that red mana but keep drawing islands. They lack the ability to choose while on the battlefield but the ability to choose while in your hand is so valuable when you’re in a pinch or trying to combo off with certain colors. There are so many ways to return these back to your hand that you can make these cards into whatever color you want. I’m thinking about my modern burn deck that splashes white, it is currently running four Sacred Foundry. What if I put in Needleverge Pathway instead? Sure I don’t get the option while it is out on the field to tap for white but what if I can’t afford to lose the two mana to Sacred Foundry? The Ravnica lands are better, you can fetch them, there’s no denying it but I think a couple of these in decks where you want to splash a color is a great addition to any deck. A plus is they are not affected by cards that target a specific land type or creatures that have “X-Walk” which is a plus despite those cards not really being used much anymore. It is absolutely worth picking up a playset of each of these lands now while they are cheap because Wizards is not going to print them often due to the cost and complexity of MFDC cards. They’re only going to be printed in specific sets, just like the Ravnica lands. I chose these as the best cards of the year, and I know what you’re thinking…Ragavan. I was focusing on standard sets for best card, one day Ragavan will get banned for being too good but these cards are here to stay and help all formats!
For many years, Wizards of the Coast’s designers had a principle that no non-basic land could be strictly better than a basic land. The term “strictly better” is surprisingly hard to define, but for a long time, they held to this principle in a way that was unmistakable. The pathway lands from Zendikar Rising and Kaldheim (the latter of which qualifies them for this year’s list) are, arguably, as close as Wizards has ever come to breaking that rule. Both sides come into play untapped at any stage of the game; both sides have no drawback other than making the other side inaccessible as long as the card remains in play. They don’t count as basic lands for any interaction where that’s relevant, and they’re susceptible to cards like Blood Moon, but in the absence of such cards, their flexibility is almost unparalleled.
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