Fat-Free Magic: the Gathering – Without Lands (Channeling Land Variant)

Ever since Magic’s debut, there has been a built-in inefficiency to deck building and play caused by the requirement of including basic land.

This always irked me, and here I’ll look at why basic lands exist, then explore some house rules variants which remove them and evaluate the merit of each. Find out how Magic: the Gathering can be more fun with no lands!

(For those who want to skip the explanation and get right to playing without lands, check out the Channeling Land Variant)

Evaluating Magic’s Lands

I opened by stating that playing Magic and building decks is made less efficient by basic lands. Is this valid and accurate?

First let’s consider what basic lands mean to Magic. Every turn you’re allowed to play one. This constrains your available mana to a slow progression, controlling the rate at which players can attain more mana and cast more powerful spells. I think this is a good thing. This infuses Magic’s play with much-needed pacing, in my opinion (on the other end is Type IV Magic, aka Limited Infinity or inifinite mana, which I’ll get to later).

So, basic lands produce mana and are limited to playing one per turn. And that’s pretty much it. Is that really worth a whole card, and roughly two-fifths of an entire deck?

Mana is required to cast almost every spell, and power many abilities. So clearly mana is necessary to Magic, and basic lands are the primary source of mana. As a result getting the right combination of spells and land in your opening hand, and with each card you draw, is critical to success – everyone who has played and gotten land screwed or land glutted (and this really is everyone who has played Magic) faces this fact.

Don’t forget the standard card-drawing mechanism of one per turn, and seven cards in your opening hand, which are basic limits that can be modified but essentially everyone faces. All the more reason why composition of card types in your deck matter greatly.

So the question becomes: How can we get the pacing effects of land, the progression of available mana, without using basic land cards?

Resources in other Deckmaster Games by Richard Garfield

I once read somewhere that Richard Garfield considers basic land to be a mistake in the design of Magic: the Gathering (though I couldn’t find the source so I may be mistaken). Certainly in CCGs he went on to design after Magic he made use of non-card resources to “pay” for playing cards.

Jyhad/V:tES uses blood points and transfers. Blood points spent from your blood pool would be analogous to spending your life points in Magic to gain mana (Channel anyone?), while transfers are a rough analogy to the “one land per turn” progression in Magic which gradually lets you bring out more powerful creatures. Neither specifically require cards devoted to them; although there are a few cards which modify blood points or transfers, each exist without requiring any cards to produce them.

I’m leaving out the Battletech deckmaster game also designed by Richard Garfield, as I’ve only played it once and don’t have enough experience with the mechanics.

Netrunner uses bits, plain and simple. Without getting too deep into Netrunner’s elegant system (and, to some, infuriatingly mathematical, which is to say many cards suggest a purely mathematical means to evaluate their respective power levels), bits are the game’s monetary resource and most everything (cards, actions) can be represented by a number of bits. The crux is still in the pacing, but the structure of that pacing is somewhat more open to be influenced by player decision; typically players must choose between expending some kind of immediate “opportunity” to afford greater opportunities in future turns. Again bits exist, and can be gained and spent, without requiring cards (though certainly there are cards which speed bit production for initial, or ongoing, investments; none of these are quite the simple equivalent of basic land and offer greater choice).

Each of these games were designed without requiring a resource-producing card type in a player’s deck. The point I’m trying to make is that modifying the availability of resources is a perfectly fine and desirable card effect, but requiring basic lands for resource production leads to the dreaded land screw/land glut situations plus inflated card count in decks to accommodate them.

Alternatives to Basic Land in Magic

I’ll cover three ways to play Magic without basic lands and the advantages and disadvantages of each:

Limited Infinity Variant

Stephen Menendian wrote a post over at Wizards which describes so-called Type IV Magic or Limited Infinity. In this style of play each player has infinite mana. Thus casting any spells, including the most powerful in Magic, on the first turn becomes possible and even downright easy.

This fact is countered by the limit of playing only one spell per turn. Hence some pacing is reintroduced where it would otherwise be obliterated by the aforementioned infinite mana.

Clearly this changes the game of Magic. Intensely. All of those cards which cost a buttload of mana but grant a ridiculously powerful effect suddenly become prime deckbuilding candidates for this style of play.

Stephen suggests that drafting, from a card pool carefully selected up front, is the best way to play this variant and I would probably agree. This variant changes the game in fairly huge ways and typical “with basic land” decks would not play well here by simply stripping their land. While it might be fun to try sometime when looking for a way to use all of your most expensive spells, this isn’t really the type of variant I’m seeking. Rather I want a way to play those “typical” decks, but without the inefficiencies of basic land, where Limited Infinity is really a whole different game.

No-Land Magic Variant

Andrés Santiago Pérez-Bergquist offers his variant, which is much closer to what I’m going for here.

Basically his description of no-land Magic borrows from Big-Deck Magic, where the deck contains no basic land but any card can be played as a land which produces the corresponding color(s) of mana, instead of the card’s stated effect.

This solves the primary problem by eliminating the need for basic land and neatly does away with the hated land screw/land glutting. The advantage here, which is also essentially present in Limited Infinity, is that every card you draw is a useful card.

Some disadvantages remain, including the bounce problem: bouncing a “land” back to owner’s hand allows that card to be replayed as something other than a land! Similarly, there are situations where a “land” entering the graveyard or being removed from play takes on a different meaning. To some this might not seem like a problem, but it alters the Magic experience in ways that cause trouble with some cards and may even break others. I feel that these can be improved upon…

Channeling Land Magic Variant

I’ll start with the rule first (20080728 Edit: changed to sorcery speed, based on feedback below).

  • Whenever you can play a sorcery, you may play the channeling land ability:

    Remove a non-land card in your hand from the game: Add a basic land card to your hand corresponding to one of the removed card's colors (Swamp for black, etc.).

Multi-colored cards can be channeled to a basic land only, though the player may choose which type of basic land to channel, so a spell with blue/white hybrid mana in its cost could be channeled for either an Island or a Plains.

It should be stated that the basic land cards being added to your hand come from outside the game, possibly a generic pool of basic land you and your friends can share.

Note that the channeling land ability does not state “draw a basic land card” or “search for a basic land card” and as such does not trigger “whenever you would draw a card…” effects and the like.

Like Josh’s Big Deck variant, this gets around some of the problems caused by representing lands in play (or in your hand, graveyard, or removed from the game zone) with non-land cards.

How Does Gameplay Change Under the Channeling Land Variant?

Players are still limited to playing one land per turn, as usual; channeling land simply changes the availability of basic land from deck composition and random chance to the player’s choice. In fact pretty much everything else about Magic’s gameplay remains the same, which is why I think the Channeling Land variant makes a good alternative for playing Magic with no lands – most cards and deck types should still work as intended, merely by removing lands and adding a few more spells (as suggested for No Land Magic I would recommend building 40 card decks).

Retrace still works, simply channel a land and then discard that land when paying the retrace cost.

Bounce becomes more consistent again, as bouncing a land merely puts a basic land back into its owner’s hand, rather than allowing them to play that “former land” as a spell. Same with putting a land on top of its owner’s library, you get to skip the weirdly dangerous side effects.

Searching your library for a basic land is probably the main game effect which breaks. But let’s be realistic, searching for a basic land was only ever good because it helped smooth out mana problems caused by the requirement of using lands to begin with. I’ll argue that we’re better off without basic lands in decks and the need to search for them.

Alternatively, it would be simple to adapt those abilities (and any library-searching ability, if so desired) to allow players to grab a basic land of their choice from the pool, which still grants those effects the same utility in the way of card drawing or mana acceleration.

(20090823 Edit: Added the following paragraph) I recommend adapting all library-searching abilities, consider your land pools as part of your library while searching for a card. Thus searching for a basic land could retrieve any basic land in your designated land pools. Abilities such as that of the Trinket Mage could be used to retrieve an artifact land mixed into the appropriate land pool as though it was in your library. After searching, shuffle your land pools (separately, of course).

What About Non-Basic Lands?

This is the other “big” question (for most people it’s probably not that big). Many non-basic lands provide mana and have one or more special abilities, but as soon as land screw/mana screw goes *poof* and disappears with the Channeling Land variant, the value of such non-basic lands is called into question.

This is fine; again lands, specifically basic lands but all mana-producing cards to an extent, are the weakest point of Magic’s game design. Mana is a basic resource, ripe to be optimized out of “playable cards” and decks, and handled instead by tokens… which happen to be readily available in the form of basic land cards.

Players choosing to include non-basic land cards in their decks are free to do so under this variant. Of course, some (most?) of them become rather weak compared to cards which can be played as either a basic land or a cool spell.

Yet if players really like some of their non-basic lands, there are other ways of incorporating them. I would suggest the following:

In addition to building decks (40 cards with no lands), players build separate land pools. Each land pool consists of a single type of basic land, plus non-basic land cards of the same type (non-basic Swamps go in your Swamp pool). Non-basic lands which do not produce colored mana may go into any pool type, but must be paired with at least one basic land (Urza’s lands could not form pools of their own), hence each player could have at most five land pools. Pool maximum and minimum sizes are probably unnecessary, though if there was great concern over it you could decide that each pool’s minimum be equal to the number of cards in the deck corresponding to the pool’s mana color (multi-color spells count for each color).

(20080807 Edit: The next two paragraph added, based on feedback in comments below) Non-basic lands which produce colored mana but do not possess one of the five primary land types (Forest, Mountain, Swamp, Island, or Plains) should go in a land pool corresponding to one of the mana colors the land can produce. Lands which can produce more than one color of mana can be placed in any corresponding pool, so City of Brass could be placed in any of your five land pools. However each non-basic land should still be paired with at least one basic land of the type for that pool, preventing “automatic” channeling to a specific non-basic land.

It should also be stated that no more than four of each non-basic land card may be included in your land pools.

At the beginning of the game player’s land pools would be shuffled and placed near their decks, face down, but arranged or marked so the player (and others, it should be public knowledge) can tell which basic land type each pool contains. When channeling a land the player would pull the top card of that pool, so they would have a chance to get a non-basic land if they included any.

More Benefits to Playing with the Channeling Land variant

Most of these apply to any method of playing without basic land, I just happen to be a bit biased.

  • Pacing tuned to your deck: If your mana curve is quite high, you’ll be able to keep playing a land each turn until you reach the desired amount. If you have an aggressive weenie deck, play only as many lands as you need to build your weenie horde.
  • More enjoyable deckbuilding: I was going to say “easier deckbuilding” but that would be a falsehood. On the surface it will appear easier, no more need to figure out the right ratio of Swamps to Islands in your bruise deck. Yet the decisions involved in picking the right spells for your deck will probably be just as challenging as before; at least now every card counts.
  • Decisions that matter: Each card in your hand is a spell, hopefully a cool one. The art of playing Magic well becomes more apparent as you must choose which spells, in which situations, to play as lands. “Normal Magic” also has you making decisions about which cards to play and when, yet some decisions have been made for you by the random chance of how many lands and how many spells you’ve drawn.
  • The end of land screw/land glutting: I’ve mentioned this before but it bears repeating, we’re talking about resolving what is probably the single most frustrating part of playing Magic.

Any feedback on the variant, Magic gameplay with and without it, Magic’s design, etc. is welcome. I hope you will try it and tell me what you think, feel free to comment below!

    Mike Says:


    I think we should discuss channeling at our next gaming session. Glad you shared this wonderful variant. It sounds like a lot of fun!


    Thanks Mike! I’m really looking forward to putting it into practice and I think it will be great for our group.


    Note- I added minor clarification above to indicate that the channeling land ability does not trigger “whenever you would draw a card…” effects.


    This looks like a great idea. I’ll try it. Thanks,



    A couple comments from the peanut gallery.

    While I certainly like the idea, as you said it is sort of what I was doing with my Little Big Deck limited idea, I do see a couple things I feel should mentioned.

    I personally think that you should only be able to channel land on your turn, thus not enabling a player to disrupt the discard effects in the way you have mentioned. The reason for this is that I see very little reason to channel when it isn’t your turn other than to disrupt these effects. This seems to do more to effect the game and to alter the play of Magic more than it should.

    I also feel the need to mention, as I always do when this kind of thing comes up, that the power level of Magic cards is not designed for allowing seven mana spells (or whatever cost) to be automatically cast on turn seven. In Magic, spells can get drastically more powerful as each additional mana is added because it is not one more turn but statistically several more turns (without some form of trick or combo) before that spell can be cast.

    This is actually one of the positives (okay… probably the only positive) of the land mechanic. For example in the game Hecatomb where the “spells” could be played as lands you could always play your big scary guy that cost seven on turn seven and thus that big scary guy could not be as scary (or interesting) as a big scary seven mana guy in Magic.

    Essentially I am playing devils advocate here. I too think that Land is pretty poor oddly… Magic is still the game that survives. This tells me that all of the more mathematic and in essence “better” mechanics that have come out since Magic are not as fun for players as lands end up being.

    Still, good write up Scott! I like the ideas!

    Mike Says:

    I agree that channeling needs to be used only during a player’s turn (like Sorceries).

    Also, I can agree with Josh’s view that getting a land out each turn without any chance involved makes the higher cost cards a little overpowered.


    Yehuda: I appreciate the comment, thanks for stopping by!


    Josh: Thanks, and you bring up some important points.

    I have to agree that sorcery speed is a better fit for the channeling land ability than instant speed. Instant speed seemed neat while I was writing it up, but the side effects are probably unnecessary and have little to do with the goal of playing without lands in your deck. I’ve edited the post to reflect this.

    Your point about casting cost and power level is something that had occurred to me. In the distant past (but not all the way back to the beginning, when cards were really broken) I think spells had casting costs and power levels which increased in a slightly more linear fashion, while more modern magic cards have a sharper incline to the power level curve as casting cost increases. I’m sure it’s due to Magic developers realizing exactly what you indicated, that land number seven doesn’t usually drop by turn number seven.

    Yet just because you can play a land every turn by channeling land doesn’t mean you’ll want to. And if you do you’re still sacrificing other resources and opportunities in order to do so. Does this maintain the same balance, or shift it toward higher mana curve decks? I haven’t had a chance to test it yet (and I do play multiplayer almost exclusively which has its own bias) but I’ll be sure to post info when I do. Part of me suspects that higher cost spells will play a slightly larger role, but also that things won’t change as much as you might expect, and a well-constructed weenie/aggro deck will bask in the increased efficiency. Speculation at present, I assure you.

    Either way, I’m very interested in playing Magic without basic lands and their attendant frustrations. Ultimately I’m for whatever format allows me to have the most fun, and having enjoyed Big Deck in the past I feel it likely the Channeling Land variant will work for me (soon I hope).

    Finally, if it’s not abundantly clear, your Big Deck House Rules were the source of the idea to remove cards from the game and replace them with basic lands, thanks! I just decided to take the work done by others on Big Deck one step further 😎


    One other point Josh brought up that I’d like to touch upon:

    Did Magic survive because of basic land? I doubt it; more likely through business realities such as being the first game of its kind, new and innovative when it debuted, and gaining significant popularity (and the all-important cash infusion) before it had any CCG competitors. The strong player base in the 90s, prior to online play, was heavily invested in bulky (and harder to liquidate) Magic card collections which posed an obstacle to other CCGs gaining traction in a market rapidly growing crowded.

    Seems to me that lands are simply the game design warts we accept when playing Magic. Quite willingly too, as the other facets of the game are so absorbing, and Wizards developers are largely unable or unwilling to risk a schism in the game by pruning lands officially, if they would even see past historical reasons and agree that lands are a pain.


    I honestly think that in the end lands are actually a good thing. I hate them when playing of course but all of the other systems end up feeling very… sterile when compared to Magic. Are they more logical? Yes. Are they better designed? Indeed. Are they more fun? Questionable. Do they have more options for expansion? Generally I think they do not and that is the reason Magic has been able to out last them… at least in part.

    I think the best example is Netrunner. It was great in so many ways but in the end there was little they could do to expand upon it. I have often wondered if the game would have been better as some type of non collectible card game.

    Just my thoughts of course.


    It’s good to hear a different point of view. I disagree, however, with the suggestion that a game design which is less good equates to more fun. Conversely if a game is less fun then I would say the design can’t be better, can it? Unless it is a very bizarre kind of game indeed where fun is not one of the goals.

    Perhaps someday I’ll write up a post just about Netrunner; it’s unique qualities (logical, yes; also poker-like) seem to deserve one, though it’s largely a dead game.

    Anyway, back to Magic’s lands. Some players might find the game to be better with them than without. Certainly their continued inclusion hasn’t prevented Magic from existing and churning out more expansions.

    There is the random element, effectively taking the place of some player choices under a variant like Big Deck or Channeling Land (as I mentioned in the post). To some this could be more fun than having to make all of those choices. Then at a basic level it seems the question would become:

    “Do you find additional randomness and abdication of some decisions (or lessening the mental burden, when put more charitably) brought by lands to be a benefit, considering they also bring land screw/land glutting along for the ride?”

    Personally I am fairly secure in answering “no” as I know the ability to make more decisions about how to play cards in my hand is enjoyable and fits very well with my personality type (particularly the J of INTJ). I’ll accept that benefit (which is how I see it) while giving up lands any day. Indeed, probably a win-win from where I sit. Your mileage may vary; still I hope to put this variant to the test, maybe as soon as this weekend 🙂


    While this variant does add a certain level of additional consideration it actually does detract from certain mental processes as well. The mulligan is a very real and important aspect of tournament magic and it becomes far less important under your rules. Also, I feel the certainty of playing certain cards on certain turns actually detracts from how much thought that a person needs to put into their play. Where one that does not know if they will get that fourth, fifth, six land has to consider the value of certain attacks, blocks and indeed plays differently.

    I certainly understand your point, that each land means giving up a spell, but I don’t think it is fair to say that this automatically makes this version a more cerebral game. It certainly changes the kinds of thinking one needs to do but that is as far as I would be willing to go with it.


    I was also wondering if the channel lands variant would lend itself to mono color decks more often…

    The reasons for this would be that duel lands (in any of their incarnations) would be less useful and thus probably should not be played. Also to get a color of mana you need to give up a spell of that color so you would need multiples of a color to cast any single spell of that color.

    My second point might only be a perception issue, as you could simply replace all the lands you would have put in with spells of the same color but even in that it might lead to mono color play simply because people would perceive it as being better.

    Perhaps I’m wrong but this is something I was thinking about. I will confess my head has been hurting all day so it’s possibly my thoughts are slightly muddled.

    Joe Says:

    Okay, I like this mechanic variant. It makes me happy to know I will NEVER be glutted. So freakin’ frustrating!

    But I think it breaks Retrace. Retrace can be played anytime he spell could be played. But there are a few Retrace spells that can be played at instant speed. Now all Retrace spells must be played at sorcery speed. Am I correct in thinking this. Maybe I need a better explanation of how this particular ability will be affected.

    Mike Says:

    It would definitely make retrace more potent, as you can call a land into your hand every turn.

    Joe Says:

    But people will see you channeling land and not playing it. Therefore it makes Retrace predictable. Before, you could have lands in your hand and no one would know.

    Mike Says:

    Seems like a fair balance. It’s easier to use Retrace via chaneling, but as you said, it can also give away your plan.

    It can also be a good way to deter an opponent by posturing, setting them up with false intentions.


    Josh- I’ll try to address some of the points you raised:

    -Mulligans important? For one, there’s nothing saying you can’t mulligan when using Channeling Land (probably Paris Mulligan). Then there’s the idea that maybe mulligans are mostly important to prevent land screw.

    -The way Channeling Land changes the availability of land will certainly change the decisions players must make during play. I don’t think it’s any less challenging or mentally demanding than with lands; sure you don’t have to worry about when you’ll draw your next Plains, but you do have to figure out which spell you’ll channel into that Plains, and you don’t know if you’ll draw something next turn that would make one spell a much better candidate than the other. My argument for more challenge is largely based on the concept that drawing land for 2/5 of my cards makes those cards fairly easy to play, and gives me that many fewer decisions to make, vs. 100% spells drawn leaves a greater number of possibilities open for how to play and how to channel my cards, more decision making overall.

    -On color combinations, I think it’s fairly similar to what happens in Magic with lands. The main exception being that splashing a very small number of off-color spells is harder, unless you also replace the lands for the splash color with spells of that color as well. No more splashing one or two cards of a color as they’ll be unplayable. And yes, dual-lands probably aren’t as good, though I haven’t tested that yet. But the reasons for and against going mono color are pretty much equal in strength as before; going mono eases your mana requirements, but gives you access to a narrower range of spells and effects. I don’t think Channeling Lands has a significant bias one way or the other here.


    Joe and Mike-

    Retrace still works, it’s just the surprise factor that might take a bit of a hit. Yet I’d say that since a spell you’re retracing is already in your graveyard, surprise is not a huge deal at that point anyway.

    And I like that Mike found a way to bring the land bluff back into Channeling Land 🙂


    Okay, there is one shortcoming with the rule stated in the post above. We discovered this while testing it out this past weekend (I plan to write up a short post when I get time later this week).

    The gray area is this: what about channeling a colorless spell, like an artifact?

    Technically speaking the rule as written prevents this, but that’s not really what I intended; I would like artifacts to be viable for land trades similar to other spells.

    So I encourage you to pitch in your suggestion(s) and we’ll see if we can come up with a good way to channel artifacts into land that’s balanced and elegant. Suggest away!

    Mike Says:

    I was creating a Scarecrow deck today, with the Reaper King as the main force. I was trying to figure out how to bring him out using mostly artifact/scarecrows for 5 colored as opposed to 10 colorless mana. It appears we need to discuss this further.


    In my variant I did not allow colorless spells to be traded for lands. I really don’t see it as a major problem as colorless is automatically easier to cast as you can “channel” any spells you want and still be able to cast the spell. Seems like a fair trade.


    Scott –

    I understand your opinions on this and I guess I will just bow out of this discussion. I simply do not agree with you on this topic. If for some reason the whole community started playing Magic this way, I would simply stop playing Magic. It’s a neat way to play as a variant but it does not suit my play stile as a game I would play often.

    I have these opinions based on having played my variant which is similar to this and having played other games that use “mana” methods similar to this. I don’t enjoy the static progression and find that it detracts from the over all excitement (for me) of the game.

    Jeremy Says:

    Very interesting idea! After pondering this for a while, I would probably go for a compromise approach – Keep everything as-is, but give all players the land channeling sorcery ability, at a cost of 1 life per use. This effectively mitigates land shortages with a minimum penalty. I realize this does not fix land flooding, but I am secretly hoping that Wizards will make retrace a permanent keyword, since it deals with mid- and late-game flooding so elegantly.


    Jeremy- Thanks for the comment! A compromise approach sounds good, particularly for anyone who may not be totally sold on removing land cards from their deck. I’m pretty intent on following through with the latter, but I’m glad the idea sparked some interest for you!


    Josh- I’m perfectly happy agreeing to disagree. Plenty of room for varied opinions on this site 🙂

    Thanks again for your feedback on this, it’s just as useful to see the potential drawbacks and limitations as it is the potential benefits in trying a venture such as saying “goodbye” to Magic’s lands.


    Regarding colorless spells, my vision for the Channeling Land variant is for it to be fairly complete in coverage. Meaning I’d prefer it if the variant worked with, say, artifact decks just like any others. Thus it seems important that colorless spells can be channeled to land… but what is a balanced and elegant means for doing so?

    I’m still in search of an answer. Feel free to comment if you have an idea for a solution!


    Oh, I wanted to comment on your idea for a separate land pool as well.

    “Each land pool consists of a single type of basic land, plus non-basic land cards of the same type (non-basic Swamps go in your Swamp pool).”

    The problem with this is that most black mana producing lands are not swamps. In recent years some have been but a lot of them still are not.


    If the game as a whole were going to convert to a land channeling environment then there is no reason that Wizards could not create a new land that only produces colorless mana and was what was produced when a colorless spell was channeled. Thus, if this is the way your group plans to play, I don’t see it as being all that hard to make your own land. It’s not perfect but I see no other fair way for an artifact to get a “basic” land without really bending the rules you have created thus far.

    Example: Artifact + 2 Life = Any Basic Land. It would work, though again it would make artifact decks pretty terrible and it would break your rules quite a bit.

    The truth is, the only kind of deck channeling does not work with is Artifact decks. Since channeling does change the face of Magic quite a bit, I don’t know if the elimination of Artifact decks is really that big of a deal.

    Just me though. Amusingly, I am a big fan of artifacts.


    Josh- I’ve added some text above to address the potential for [unintended] side effects from the way I worded the land pools stuff.

    Yeah, though I feel this variant is designed to get off with only “minor” changes to rules and deckbuilding, it does change play quite a bit.

    Since Mirrodin I haven’t played with more than a couple of artifacts in any of my decks (though I know Mike is itching to perfect his Shadowmoor/Eventide Scarecrow deck), but I still like the idea of artifact decks and would like them to work here too.

    Josh’s suggestion for a sixth basic land type which only produces (1) colorless is good, but I am too lazy (and picky) to make my own land cards/counters when stacks of the five basic lands overflow from my nearby collection.

    Yeah, that’s right, I made a tangent in my own comment 🙂

    Right now a few basic possibilities come to mind for channeling artifacts, I might as well make a little list. Note I’m simply throwing these out there, brainstorming fashion, without regard to their merit:

    1: Channel an artifact to add a land type of your choice.

    2: Channel an artifact to add a land type of target opponent’s choice (from your pool(s) if you’re using custom land pools as described above).

    3: Channel an artifact to add a land type chosen at random (from your pool(s) if you’re using custom land pools as described above).

    4: Channel an artifact to add a land type corresponding to a type you control.

    5: Channel an artifact to add a land type corresponding to a type you control. If you control no basic lands, choose a type.

    6: Channel an artifact to add a land type corresponding to your land pool which has the most cards remaining of all your land pools.

    7: Channel an artifact to add a land type corresponding to a type target opponent controls.

    8: Channel an artifact to add a land type corresponding to the type of target land (a simpler way of stating something similar to several of the above)

    I sort of knew Scott would not go for the 6th land type idea for cosmetic reasons. I still think it’s the best solution but having a lot of anal retentive friends and having a touch of the OCD myself I can see his point.

    Getting any land (Idea #1) would make artifacts a bit more powerful than I think they should be. They are already easier to play in this environment and adding in the ability to get any color mana you need seems a bit overreaching.

    Number 8 also has some issues in that it allows this channel mechanic to be tampered with by an opponent (changing the target) and I sort of feel that channel land should not use the stack and be more like morph.

    Oh, oh, you could call it Morph Land! I think that would be cool! Also, I totally one upped you. I have two tangents in my comment!

    I like Number 4 best out of all of these but again if you have no colored spells in your deck your out of luck.


    What if each player had a single pile of face-down, shuffled land that they could channel from? This would fix the artifact deck problem and let you include non-basic lands.

    There are two downsides:
    1. You lose the “land must match one of the colors on the card” flavor.

    2. More luck is introduced – you could draw five Swamps in a row in your Green/Black deck and not be able to play your green cards. Of course, you could channel multiple times in one turn in an effort to dig up the right land.

    The next question becomes: Can I use Search for Tomorrow to fish that extra Forest I need out of the land deck?

    Mike Says:

    I agree, and even stated something to thr effect last time we played, that lands should be face down. You draw the top land when you channel. You can throw any land cards into the land deck, and you get what’s on top by chance.

    So if you are playing a black/white deck, you throw the number of swamps and plains that you want, and it’s random which pops up. This simulates the original randomness of Magic while still making sure you get get a land, although it may not be what you want.

    So when you channel an artifact, whichever color is on top is what you get. This way, artifacts are not overpowered.


    This begins to sound more like the old variant where you had two decks, one land one spells and you could choose to draw from either at any time. In all honesty if this is the way you plan to go, it almost seems like you don’t need the channel mechanic at all.

    This form of Magic would actually stick closer to actual Magic play but would remove the problems of land glut and land screw just the same.


    Jeremy and Mike- Thanks for the suggestions. I think that’s a fine way to play (and wish I had a link to the original variant which did something similar, as Josh mentioned), but it does drift away from what I had in mind with Channeling Land. Specifically the ability to channel a green spell for a Forest (and black for a Swamp, etc.). My goal with Channeling Land is to maintain this ability while still fitting in artifacts.

    To this end, I’m thinking about going with #3: Channel an artifact to add a land type chosen at random (from your pool(s) if you’re using custom land pools as described above).

    This would allow first-turn artifact channeling, and should work fine for all-artifact decks. Decks which mix artifacts and colored spells can still channel artifacts for a land, simply with less precision (unless you’re playing mono-color and a land pool), which feels like the right level of power for a colorless spell being channeled.

    Krystofer Says:

    You know, this is very interesting, shall have to get my mates to give a whirl and build some decks better suited to it, but what I’m really looking for is some kind of.. co-operative variant. My wife commented yesterday “You win everything we play” which while untrue.. is actually true. She rarely wins any game we play together. I was hoping, KNOWING I would find a 2 player, non competitive variation of Magic we could play TOGETHER… I suppose I’ll have to drag out and re-learn that horrible monstrosity that is Warhammr:Quest, one of the only games in my entire closet that doesn’t pit the players against each other.

    That, or I suppose, I could work up some kind of co-operative based MTG variant of my own… Time will tell.

    Jeremy Says:

    Krystofer: Not to get too off-topic, but if you are interested in a cooperative game, you should check out Lord of the Rings:


    Hehe, I liked Warhammer Quest, back in the day. But yeah… it is pretty bad. I highly recommend Pandemic for co-op gaming. Or for something more dynamic (read wacky) Arkham Horror.

    Co-Op Magic on the other hand… interesting but I’m not sure how to make it work and be interesting without turning into two people playing on a team against a gold fish.

    Mike Says:

    It should be noted that certain cards like Oona, Queen of the Fae are grossly overpowered in a channeling environment, as there is 0% chance of an opponent drawing a land using her special ability…whereas a “normal” Magic deck consists of 35-45% land.

    Also, given the multi-coloring that is such a huge part of Shadowmoor/Eventide, getting her ability to “land” (heh) successfully is already too easy (dare I say over powered).

    I really believe they should have raised the cost of her ability or made her tap to use it (or both). Even not removing the cards from the game, instead placing them on the botton of the library, would be a little help.


    When you change a game, any game, you are going to end up with issues. Sometimes these issues are worth it and other times they are not.

    Channeling land also ruins certain cards that need to draw lands to operate as well.


    Krystofer- I would agree with Jeremy and Josh. If you’re really set on some kind of co-op Magic variant, I’m not familiar with any that would be good. You could adapt one of the solitaire variants, but I’m not sure how much fun that would be to play… if you come up with an interesting variant of your own let us know!


    By the way, I have a new post up with some thoughts and observations from the first couple weeks of playing Channeling Land.


    My wife and I play this, but with one twist. Because I don’t like the fact that it does hurt decksearching, like landcycling, etc. You can only Channel Land if you have not played any spells or abilities for that main phase, and once you channel the land your main phase immediately ends.


    While it’s not the focus of this post, it does mention adapting land-searching abilities using land pools. That’s also what my group has settled on, and it seems cards with land-searching abilities work fine for us.

    If you’re talking about a more obscure ability which flips cards from the top of your library and does something based on the card’s type, that’s another story. Oona was an example of one such card for us, and required its own house rule.

    Thanks for the comment Ravious, it’s good to hear from someone else who’s playing this variant!


    […] radical solution, but completely eliminates the problem. There’s a good blog post about it here. To summarize, Channeling Land works as […]


    Minor note: while he doesn’t exactly say that Magic’s basic lands were a game design mistake, Richard Garfield briefly mentions his dislike of their prevalence in this interview looking back at the design of Jyhad.

    Jonathan Says:

    I was Google searching Magic land variants and came across this site. Except for the two deck (one spells, one land) variant, none of them have the simplicity I was looking for. You see, all I wanted to find was if someone had already created an unofficial variant with this rule — “In lieu of playing a land this turn, you may get one basic land from outside the game and play it.” This negates mana screw, allows nonbasic lands to be kept in the main deck for those that choose to play them, allows smooth multicolor play, and encourages a simple deck with only spells, no lands. It does minimize land destruction, so perhaps the land should come into play tapped? Anyway, have fun playing.


    If I understand you correctly Jonathan, it sounds like you’re after a variant that would let you get a free land each turn, without channeling/removing a card from your hand.

    That sounds like another reasonable way to approach the land screw problem. I think the thing that would give me pause is getting land free without giving up a card in your hand, as I enjoy the economic conflict, if you will, of managing your resources (cards) and having to choose how best to use them, when to trade them for land.

    There’s also the balance to consider, which might be tilted by gaining a free land each turn. Perhaps with some cards and situations more than others.

    Still I’m game for house rules, let us know how it works out!

    Bill Says:

    I was hoping to find a variant/house rule that would take care of the glut/screw issues. For the record, I have the worst luck of everyone so I guess I was looking for a variant which might help me enjoy the game more.

    This, by far, is the best discussion going with regard to the topic. With that said, my game consists of the following: a library of spells (55+ cards) and a land pool. The land pool consists of 18 basics (only playing single color) and 9 non-basics which make that color and do something else, and usually come in tapped. Each player begins with 6 spells and 1 basic land (which allows red to cast the annoying 1 red-mana-cost haste critters on its first turn).

    Any spell can be converted into a draw from the land pool, regardless of casting cost… the card itself is payment for delving into the land pool. And as you suggested this conversion and draw is at sorcery speed and timing during a players main phases.

    So if you’ve got artifacts and want to spend/convert them in this way, they also count as 1 draw from the land pool. Cards used in this way are removed from the game.

    Interestingly enough, we’ve found that one can usually play a game with about 7-8 lands and only having to sacrifice that many spells makes it enjoyable and strategic, especially in the beginning.

    Thanks for everyone’s comments thusfar and if anyone sees where my gameplay might be an issue, please let me know. Thx in advance.