Landcycling cards are nothing new to MTG. Back in Alara Reborn, cards like Pale Recluse were known for their versatility. While the card is relatively inefficient and has lower power level than many cards with similar mana costs, the ability to cycle the card away to search for a Plains or Forest made the card better than expected by giving you options. In Limited, cards like this help fix your mana early and make sure you don’t run out of lands, and later on in the game can still be cast at face value.
While these cards were mostly praised for their versatility, the Lord of the Rings Landcyclers greatly changed players’ persectives of these types of cards. Being able to use the Landcycling ability for only one mana instead of two not only makes a huge difference in mana efficiency, but also helps the cards see play in different contexts than they otherwise would. There are tons of ways these cards are utilized in different formats. For starters, let’s take a look at how these cards affect their Limited environment.
Landcyclers in LOTR Limited
Lord of the Rings Limited is in an interesting state. Lots of players are extremely hesitant to play green in the first place, and black and red are typically prioritized at an extremely high rate. As such, many of green’s best cards of any rarity don’t have very high average winrates when played. Surprisingly, the best performing green common is Generous Ent, the Forestcycler. Even more interesting, Generous Ent is the second-best performing mono-green card period, regardless of rarity. While this does suggest that green is relatively weak overall, there’s more going on than that.
In March of the Machine limited, there were similarly costed Landcyclers that all generally underperformed. The problem was that at two mana, the Landcycling ability often came at the cost of making other plays that developed the board. At only one mana, cards like Generous Ent can be cycled on turn one, a turn where plays that affect the board are scarce. This makes it much easier to use the Landcycling ability and still curve out on time.
Splashing in LOTR Limited
Beyond that, there are a handful of multi-color green cards that are actually quite strong. Cards like Old Man Willow have decent win rates even though they are in green. Unlike in March of the Machine, there isn’t a common cycle of lands that help provide color fixing. Therefore, cards like Generous Ent that help make splashing for powerful cards easier go up in value. There are plenty of decks that don’t play green as a primary color, but instead splash for cards like Old Man Willow and utilize Generous Ent to do so. With Landcycling at only one mana, cards like this are actually used less for their versatility and more for their ability to fix mana at low cost. This pattern of utilizing this cycle of cards more for the Landcycling ability than anything else continues into a multitude of other formats as well.
Generous Ent and Lorien Revealed both have given upgrades to multiple multi-color Pauper decks. One of the best shells for Generous Ent is Gruul Cascade. Generous Ent plays a few roles here. First, this deck splashes red for Boarding Party and interaction like Skred. Being able to search for the one copy of Highland Forest that can tap for both green and red helps a lot. The deck also wants big cards that Annoyed Altisaur can cascade into, and Generous Ent checks that box as well.
Lorien Revealed fills a similar role in Dimir decks built around Tolarian Terror. Lorien Revealed can search for either a basic island or Ice Tunnel, which helps enable Snuff Out more reliably. The ability to shuffle with Landcycling makes Brainstorm significantly better too. Both Generous Ent and Lorien Revealed are reasonable cards to cast as well if you have enough mana, as many games of Pauper can go relatively long. Still, the ability to search for non-basic lands for only one mana is significant, and any decks like Gruul Cascade and Dimir Terror that can get additional synergy from having access to these cards have grown in popularity in the metagame.
Modern Living End
Another deck that makes great use of these Landcyclers is Living End. Living End is a combo deck centered around the namesake card, Cascade cards like Violent Outburst that consistently cast Living End, and large Creatures with Cycling. After Cycling away a bunch of Creatures, you can use Living End to wipe the board and bring back all the goodies you discarded. The deck tends to prioritize one mana Cyclers to efficiently build up a substantial graveyard before Living End is Cascaded into.
Generous Ent and Oliphaunt were huge upgrades for the deck. Not only do they cycle away for one mana, just like traditional Cyclers do, but they help guarantee that you hit your second and third land drops on curve. Not only that, but these cards allow you to run less lands total, which increases the odds of drawing more Cyclers or interaction and helps prevent you from flooding out.
Commander and Beyond
Each of these Landcyclers help multi-color Commander decks consistently have access to the colors they need. For example, Generous Ent can find any color of fixing needed when combined with Dual Lands, Shock Lands, or Triomes. This helps make Five-Color decks more consistent, especially for players who can’t afford original Dual Lands. The fact that these cards only cost one mana to Cycle is such an enormous upgrade that cannot be overstated.
In fact, it’s such a big upgrade that some of them are even showing up in powerful formats like Legacy. Last weekend’s Legacy Showcase Challenge featured a Death’s Shadow deck in top eight that utilized multiple copies of Troll of Khazad-dum, which could grab basic swamp, Watery Grave, or Underground Sea. Again, the synergy with Brainstorm is a nice bonus, as is fueling Delve for Murktide Regent. Despite being hard cast infrequently, these Landcyclers are making their presences felt in a multitude of ways across different formats, and they showcase just how much mana efficiency matters when evaluating cards and their abilities.