In Defense of Bounce Lands

Benjamin Levin • May 16, 2024

Dimir Aqueduct | Illustrated by John Avon
Azorius Chancery | Illustrated by John Avon

Lands. They're the cornerstone of all Magic: The Gathering. You can't cast spells without them. Except for all those free spells they've printed in Modern Horizons 2, but those are busted. With over 950 nonbasic lands to pick from, choosing the right land can be difficult, especially when building on a budget. Not everyone can afford ABU duals, fetches, shocks, Triomes, and so on. Thankfully there is no shortage of budget lands. Of that 950+, 641 of them are under $1. There are staples such as Command Tower, Exotic Orchard, and Path of Ancestry. But that's not what this article is about, as I'm sure you could tell from the title. I want to talk about the bounce lands. 

First introduced back in the Ravnica block each tapping for the guild's colors, along with Arid Archway and Guildless Commons, which tap for two colorless. There are also Karoo lands, but I don't care about those. Bounce lands, in my opinion, are one of the most underrated and underutilized lands in EDH, and, to be clear, I'm talking about casual EDH, not cEDH. 

So why do I love bounce lands? There are a few reasons. 

  1. They help guarantee land drops. 
  2. They can be powerful combo pieces, even in budget decks. 
  3. They can return utility lands and MDFCs to your hand for additional value. 

Come on this journey with me as I enlighten you, and by the end of this article, you'll see the light that is bounce lands. 

Point #1: They help guarantee land drops

Technically, all lands give you land drops, but bounce lands provide you with three mana across two lands. A two-land hand with a bounce land and a normal land gives you three turns of land drops. There's always the worry that you have to discard for hand size if you don't have a one-drop, but I'd rather discard a card than have no mana. And this is the worst-case scenario. Bounce lands can let you play a four-drop and then a six-drop or a three- then five-.

And they get even better if you have additional land drops from cards like Explore, Growth Spiral, and Urban Evolution. Also, I'd consider them as a source of card advantage. Even though you're taking a turn off, they still provide card advantage since you get more mana with fewer lands. And they can provide even more mana when using cards such as Frantic Search, Snap, and Unwind, which let you untap your lands, so instead of these spells being free, they actually act as rituals letting you generate mana. 

Point #2: They can be powerful combo pieces

They are key pieces to some three-card infinite combos; as an example, Retreat to Coralhelm, Sakura-Tribe Scout, and a bounce land give you infinite Landfalls. Now just add Scute Swarm for infinite Insects, Rampaging Baloths for infinite Beasts, Tireless Provisioner for infinite mana and life, and Tireless Tracker for infinite Clues, just to name a few. There are plenty of variations of this combo that can replace Sakura-Tribe Scout, like Walking Atlas, Kodama of the East Tree, or Skyshroud Ranger.

Can a reveal land give you infinite mana? No. I didn't think so. So take them and put them right where they belong, in the trash. 

Point #3: They let you reuse, ETB lands, utility lands, and MDFCs.

Speaking of trash, because segways are hard, bounce lands let you return ETBs lands and MDFCs to your hand for additional value. Maybe you slammed that Bala Ged Recovery early because you needed lands, but now you can return it to your hand, and boom value. Or maybe you put Blightstep Pathway down and want to flip it for red mana. Boom now you can. Or maybe you want to bounce a surveil or scryland to filter the top of your deck again. My personal favorite land to bounce is Mosswort Bridge, so I can reuse the hideaway ability to cheat on a spell's mana cost.


Now of course they aren't perfect, so let's address some of the downsides. First, if you have a lot of land destruction in your meta, bounce lands get a lot worse. If I can Strip Mine a bounce land, I will do it most of the time. In faster metas, they tend to be worse, which is why we don't see them in cEDH, among other reasons. But does that mean they are bad? Of course not. When evaluating cards, context matters. Just like a card might be a powerhouse in Standard, but in Modern, it's unplayable.

Look at a card like Reanimate. It is a powerhouse in vintage cube because of the support it has, but in Outlaw of Thunder Junction Limited, it's not nearly as busted. It's still great there, but we don't have Entomb effects or creatures like Atraxa, Grand Unifier and Griselbrand. Just like an ABU dual, shocks, and Triomes are great in decks with fetches, but in more budget decks they are just solid fixing if you can't fetch them. 

Do I run bounce lands in every single deck? No. But do I make it a priority to add them in my slower decks, such as Commodore Guff Superfriends? Yes, because hitting my land drops is more important in that deck than the speed. 

Let me know your thoughts on bounce lands in the comment section down below. Do you think they should be played more? Played less? Overrated? Underrated? 

Ben has been playing Magic since 2012 and started creating Magic the Gathering content in October of 2022 on YouTube under the name BathroomBrewsMTG ( Primarily focusing on budget EDH content. When he isn't thinking or talking about MTG, he is usually playing video games, spending time with his wife or playing with his two cats. You can find him on Twitter @BathroomMTG.