Svyelunite Temple is the Force of Will of Alliances-deprived Old School. If I sac a Temple to play a counterspell I pay two cards to counter one like when I use the pitch mode of FoW, and unlike Force of Will I can’t pitch any blue card in the process, it has to be the temple. Also I may have lost a land drop in the process which in early turn is often a big cost. But in many cases, I have a life saver option, and if I don’t have it because I don’t have a Counterspell or Mana Drain in hand, I can still represent them with just an untapped temple, which matters a lot. Of course that’s a virtual one mana cost, a big difference compared to the 0 of the pitch mode of FoW. But there are also great advantages that a land can have over a counterspell. Like, would you believe it, granting mana, fixing mana, offering resistance to specific land hate cards (like Tsunami), generating card advantage (when combined with Mind Twist or Braingeyser), increasing damage output (with X-damage spells), and just general mana acceleration. The most crucial point with the sac-lands is that, in the deck that exploits them right, they can also represent additional security against mana death.
One of the most common mistakes I’ve noticed in formats that allow Fallen Empires is the underrating of the sac lands. I’ve put forward the blue, for I guess obvious reasons, considering I’ve stated them already, but in practice I really started playing and enjoying them during the Necro summer. The name of the game with what I consider to be a good Necro summer deck was Drain Life. Big, fat, dumb Drains. “Drain you for 5.. drain you for 8.. drain you for 11” was nothing extraordinary, it was just business as usual really. Barring prison decks, your mana would be relatively safe. Dystopia was a major problem card from Alliances, it was not only an overpowered sideboard card (and oh how the world isn’t ready to consider sideboard card as restrictable), it was one that solved the few problems Necro had (like creatures with protection from black), and considering Necro was already the top dog.. But the Alliance card that really defined my games, was another broken Alliances release, I’m talking of course of Lake of the Dead. The Lake meant that if correctly timed, I could mostly ignore a winter orb, and at any rate, since it would give me 4 mana at least, I’d be able to play my disk and try to recover from the soft lock. But mostly, the lake meant that I’d just throw gigantic Drain Lifes after Drain Lifes at my opponent’s heads. The creatures in the Necro deck were mostly distractions, ways to occupy the early game and force the opponent to empty their hand. If they’d play much counterspells they’d be screwed since control was an excellent matchup, and if they didn’t, they’d eventually succomb to the accumulation of direct damage; was pretty much the state of things. It quickly got to the point where the goal was to accumulate as much mana as possible, and a few Ebon Stronghold made it to the maindeck of one of the most powerful Standard decks ever.
I haven’t played much of Ruins of Trokair, but I’d definitely play it with Land Tax, especially if I didn’t have access to Zuran Orb. While situational, the opportunity to sacrifice, even without any plans to use the mana, can be crucial in exploiting and fighting Land Tax. Another nice use is with Armageddon : since I intend to lose my lands anyways, why not loose one less ? With a Winter Orb on the board, it might seem like a weaker land, but that’s only true of those that you play after the Winter Orb is played. The others don’t cost you that fruitless land drop and are easy to sacrifice when the orb means that you don’t get to use much of your lands anyways. I’m not sure I’ve seen a specific use for the green one, but maybe that’s just me.
As for our star, of course it had to be the blue land, Islands are the most powerful cards in the game, so a good blue-mana source is always a great card. Anyways beyond the theory, I felt compelled to write this article through my experience playing with it. I just loved it, it saved my ass many times, and since I played it usually with Fireballs and other X-spells, it ultimately represented so much that I’d have to nominate it as one of the most underrated old school cards. Saving my ass didn’t mean always giving me the chance to counter a crucial spell when I could only afford one untapped land, it also meant just getting me through a tough mana patch in the early game. That is, I know that were I not to play the Temples, some of them wouldn’t be replaced by a land or a mana source since they can do so much they’re can replace a spell too, it’s more of a powerful and versatile card, which among the things it does for me is being a mana source which further protects me from mana death.
Dwarven Ruins are a natural include when playing many X-damage red spells (Fireball, Disintegrate, Earthquake), if you play enough of those it’s reasonable to expect that your extra land (again, assuming you add it to an already fine manabase) will add three points of damage to your output (it’s reasonable to assume to use it in two of such spells, adding one damage to the first, 2 to the last). That doesn’t make it a Lightning Bolt or anything of the kind, but the count is right, and just like with Blue sac-lands, since it adds up to the mana fixing and potential acceleration that makes it overall an excellent card. But in some decks, that’s not the most important. There’s no overstating how powerful Conversion can be. Playing 3 or more red mana sources that are protected from that lethal weapon makes all the difference in the world. Or it doesn’t because you don’t draw it or it gets destroyed before untapping, nevertheless it always adds up to the few ways a mono-red deck can combat Conversion. The general rule is : in multi-colored decks, Dwarven Ruins is a tool of great versatility and power, in mono-red decks, a post sideboard game-changer. Of course in many formats, Blood Moon is a concern, and the more concerning it is, the less the sac-lands are desirable (although, again, as an addition to your manabase, it’s much less of a problem), Dwarven Ruins excepted of course, which can easily be introduced in the manabase without such fear. And in fact, when a Blood Moon is in play, not only will this sac-land still provide the appropriate color of mana, it will also enter the battlefield untapped (though that part is true of every sac-land). The other thing is, considering that Blood Moon will often lock your opponent of the game, Dwarven Ruins is another way to play it on turn 2, and while sacrificing one of your land on your second turn is generally a terrible idea, if it means you lock the game in your favor, it becomes a great one. All that making it the clear number two star of our Fallen Empires sac-land roster.