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Thread: A Question about Picking Cards - Crystal Vein vs. City of Traitors vs. Ancient Tomb

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    A Question about Picking Cards - Crystal Vein vs. City of Traitors vs. Ancient Tomb

    Hello all - I'm new to the forum and glad to be here

    Some of the things I'm really interested in learning is how to better assess cards, design Legacy decks, and generally learn how to better identify combos and card interactions. I'd really love to learn how to play the game better in tournament settings.

    So, here's my first question. I'm looking at various lands that produce 2 colorless mana, and I've focused in on the following three:

    City of Traitors
    Crystal Vein
    Ancient Tomb

    Given how fast Legacy is as a format and how powerful combos can be initiated with minimal mana, why is Crystal Vein generally considered substantially weaker than Ancient Tomb? Does the fact that is a one shot deal really make it that much weaker generally?

    Similarly, City of Traitors is nearly 3.5x more expensive ($-wise) than Ancient Tomb. Why is it valued so much more than Ancient Tomb as well as being 10x more expensive than Crystal Vein?

    If you were considering these cards for your deck, what criteria or approach would you take to looking at them?

    Any thoughts are appreciated - thanks all!

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    Re: A Question about Picking Cards - Crystal Vein vs. City of Traitors vs. Ancient To

    City is on the Reserve list, that pushes up its price.

    Tomb is used over Vein because its consistent. It sticks around. Think about the kinds of decks that normally run Sol Lands, Stompy, Stax, MUD and even Sneak and Show, these are decks that need access to mana turn after turn, often seeking more and more mana than the opponent. Tomb's advantage is that you have access to that mana, because playing with Thorn on the table and being down a land sucks.

    In short, most decks that play Sol Lands often seek to win the game by abusing a imbalance in the amount of mana each player can produce. If you have to sac a land every time you want to get ahead, you will fall behind very quickly.
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    Re: A Question about Picking Cards - Crystal Vein vs. City of Traitors vs. Ancient To

    What I never got is why City sees so much more play than Vein. Like, in some ways, Vein is actually MORE consistent long term than City. City is better, kind of, t1, but that's literally it.

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    Re: A Question about Picking Cards - Crystal Vein vs. City of Traitors vs. Ancient To

    Because it's 4 mana for a card, not two mana for a card when you need it. Granted if I was building on the cheap I would make the trade.

    The idea behind decks running Sol lands is to abuse that mana for an advantage, normally on the opening turns. If you are playing a Chalice on turn one you likely want to do something on turn two that costs more than one mana. In that case, Vein is a detriment that actively slows you down. With City you have 2 mana and a land drop, with Vein you have one mana after your land drop.

    That said it is the weaker of the two common Sol Lands. City, after Gods' Eye, is the most common land I sac to my Smokestack.
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    Re: A Question about Picking Cards - Crystal Vein vs. City of Traitors vs. Ancient To

    The decks that combo early generally do so with colored mana. Sol lands are mosty used to ramp into artifacts or Eldrazi. The difference between sacrificing a land for and adding with the downside of 'sacrifice when you play a land' is huge considering the decks running City of Traitors are unlikely to kill an opponent before turn 5.

    Ancient Tombs are very good, but 2 life per activation is painful, again considering it will be tapped frequently in a game that takes several turns.

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    Re: A Question about Picking Cards - Crystal Vein vs. City of Traitors vs. Ancient To

    Quote Originally Posted by MtGStudyGroup View Post
    Given how fast Legacy is as a format and how powerful combos can be initiated with minimal mana, why is Crystal Vein generally considered substantially weaker than Ancient Tomb? Does the fact that is a one shot deal really make it that much weaker generally?
    Decks which play Ancient Tomb usually don't win fast, but tend to play a longer game. There are certainly exceptions, like Bomberman or Sneak & Show, but the reliability of Ancient Tomb is usually worth more than the volatility of Crystal Vein.
    Also, fast combo decks often don't care about their life total, so the downside of Tomb can be especially neglected in fast combo decks.
    And in slower decks, you don't want one-shots.

    Quote Originally Posted by MtGStudyGroup View Post
    Similarly, City of Traitors is nearly 3.5x more expensive ($-wise) than Ancient Tomb. Why is it valued so much more than Ancient Tomb as well as being 10x more expensive than Crystal Vein?
    City of Traitors is a rare, is on the reserved list, has only one printing.
    Ancient Tomb is an uncommon, and had at least 2 reprints (Expeditions and From the Vault)

    City's price is due to its scarcity, although demand/playability is probably higher for Ancient Tomb.

    Quote Originally Posted by MtGStudyGroup View Post
    If you were considering these cards for your deck, what criteria or approach would you take to looking at them?
    Usually both City and Tomb are played as "Sol lands" together in Stompy decks, i.e. decks, which want to have 2-3 mana on turn one and skip spells with converted mana cost 1.

    City of Traitors is even better with Crucible of Worlds and/or Life from the Loam.
    Ancient Tomb is sometimes in deed very painful and even deadly, especially if you have 2 in your opening hand. Lifegain in your deck mitigates this issue (usual suspects are Wurmcoil Engine, Inventors' Fair, Batterskull).
    I think Tomb decks have bad matchups against Burn and other aggressive decks for this reason.

    I never played Crystal Vein and rarely saw decks with it. I think it should only be played as Sol land 9-12.

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    Re: A Question about Picking Cards - Crystal Vein vs. City of Traitors vs. Ancient To

    Ancient tomb is probably the best of all of them, 2 mana for 2 damage isn't a big deal, like said many decks don't care about their life total until the very last point...

    City of traitors is used when you need to ramp without taking damage, it still happen really often don't think it's rare, that's why if a deck don't need a full playset of both (like UB Show and Tell for example), it will usually play an equal split (so usually it's going to be 2x Ancient Tomb for 2x City of traitors). Because both have flaws, and they are enough different to matter having both.

    Now the "big" ramp use also the posts (often called 12 posts: 4x Cloudpost, 4x Glimmerpost, 4x Vesuva - even if now they are more on 9 to 11 posts...), but that's another story and in general they are quite fragile to wasteland as they enter tapped.


    Why a price difference?
    It has been explained many times above already

    Which one to pick?
    Both ancient tomb and city of traitors are overall equally played, I would say that Ancient tomb is a little bit more played because the land sacrifice is worst overall than 2 damage per activation -in general of course-. But maybe one day a deck will exists that is going to be the exact opposite.

    Why Cristal vein isn't good?
    Because when you play lands like this, you want to do something significant to the game. Let's assume a Show & Tell based deck:

    You opening hand is:
    1x City of Traitors
    1x Island/fetch
    1x Show and Tell
    1x Emrakul
    1x Chalice of the void

    Let's assume you have nothing else, and the card you draw isn't interesting at all, this is possible:
    t1 City of traitors => chalice on 1
    t2 island, tap city to take 2, you got 3 mana and one of them is blue => show and tell t2 with a solid chalice backup, put emrakul into play.

    So with City of Traitors, even by sacrificing your City, you ends up have chalice on t1, and show and tell on t2.

    Cristal vein doesn't allow any play like this, you have to wait t2 for the island and play Chalice on 1, and t3 for Show and Tell by sacrificing your vein, you can't reach the same speed with this land.

    Hence it's obviously less good for this kind of reason.


    I personaly don't recall a single time were I could have said "Crystal vein would have save me here", in a situation enough "common" to think seriously about this card (and usually if this is true in any way, city of traitors would also have made the deal).

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    Re: A Question about Picking Cards - Crystal Vein vs. City of Traitors vs. Ancient To

    Quote Originally Posted by morgan_coke View Post
    What I never got is why City sees so much more play than Vein. Like, in some ways, Vein is actually MORE consistent long term than City. City is better, kind of, t1, but that's literally it.
    City is better every time you need 2 mana this turn, and the 2 mana again next turn.
    Basically it allows for lines like T1: City-> Grim Monolith. T2: Land, tap in response, tap monolith, ->6 Drop. Crystal vein would have been expended turn one, and you'd only have access to 4 mana. It's a 2 mana difference the turn after you tap for two.

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    Re: A Question about Picking Cards - Crystal Vein vs. City of Traitors vs. Ancient To

    Quote Originally Posted by Deisss View Post
    ...
    I personaly don't recall a single time were I could have said "Crystal vein would have save me here", in a situation enough "common" to think seriously about this card (and usually if this is true in any way, city of traitors would also have made the deal).
    The only thing I can think of is if the sac is an asset - like with Second Sunrise.

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    Re: A Question about Picking Cards - Crystal Vein vs. City of Traitors vs. Ancient To

    In edh, Vein with Crucible and some amount of Exploration effects has let me cast Eldrazi Titans very early. That effect is sometimes really useful.
    It is better to ask and look stupid then keep your mouth shut and remain so.
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    Re: A Question about Picking Cards - Crystal Vein vs. City of Traitors vs. Ancient To

    Quote Originally Posted by Dice_Box View Post
    In edh, Vein with Crucible and some amount of Exploration effects has let me cast Eldrazi Titans very early. That effect is sometimes really useful.
    Sure, but the amount of blue and counterspell is difficult to handle for a crucible based deck... There is a reason why Lands doesn't bother to play crucible and go for Exploration + Loam: it's because t1 Exploration is difficult to counter and always follow a card disadvantage (as you will certain use a FoW for this), and after that you want more loam than crucible so you can still recurse it on a counterspell based deck...

    After all, this deck is a typical example: 1x Ancient tomb in many current list, 0x City and 0x Vein... I really doubt any legacy deck will bother about such interaction tbh. Even Stax prefer to recurse a wasteland with crucible than a 2 mana land...

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    Re: A Question about Picking Cards - Crystal Vein vs. City of Traitors vs. Ancient To

    Really appreciate everyone's take on this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dice_Box View Post
    Because it's 4 mana for a card, not two mana for a card when you need it...
    I'm assuming that this is from a card advantage perspective (got a little confused about the last part saying "when you need it"). As was discussed in various posts, this looks at City from the perspective of tapping it on the turn it hits the battlefield and then tapping it again on the next turn prior to sac'ing it for another land, right? Basically, you'll get 4 mana out of "paying" City over the 2 you'd get for sac'ing Vein right away, meaning more bang for the "1 card buck" I paid for having it in my deck/hand in the first place. Does that make sense?

    The other thing I think I'm being introduced to here is what this thread calls "volatility." As obvious as it sounds, cards that similar effects (in this case, Sol land effects) are going to be rated against each other for their longevity/re-usability. Hence, all other things being equal, if a card is "on a stick" in some sense it will be more highly valued than its one-shot counterpart.

    PS: I will look at the Reserved List more closely from now on :)

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    Re: A Question about Picking Cards - Crystal Vein vs. City of Traitors vs. Ancient To

    Quote Originally Posted by morgan_coke View Post
    What I never got is why City sees so much more play than Vein. Like, in some ways, Vein is actually MORE consistent long term than City. City is better, kind of, t1, but that's literally it.
    I have some experience with the so-called 'Sol-land' manabases (see the Tezz primer in my sig... ) and it really all comes down to what you want to do with the 2 mana. In Legacy, Veins first ability is largely irrelevant, because you aren't playing an acceleration land so you can just tap it for one a few times, because if you aren't doing something unfair by turn 3, you are potentially losing the game. Sure, if we were regularly getting to Turn 6 without either player doing something to try to win outright, Vein would likely be more of a consideration. As it stands, you have to sacrifice Vein to get boosted mana out of it, whereas if you are Saccing the City, you are at least replacing it with a land.
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