Magic Memories: Harrow


The Tentacled One
At the beginning of the thread for Seasons Past, I noted that my extensive EDH deckbuilding efforts of the past few years and my dabbling in Canadian Highlander have been my only outlet for experience with some of the "new" cards in the game. Going through my most-played cards in EDH for 2019 and 2020, I noticed a card I wanted to talk about, but it's certainly not new. And I've been using it a whole lot lately, but it's not at all new-to-me either. In fact, my memories of Harrow go back to before I had a very good grasp of the game. It might have been the first Tempest card I actually played with.

While playing EDH in local groups, and really in all sorts of other context when people are playing Magic, the topic of when people started playing often comes up. And I always tell everyone that I started in 1997 with the first Portal set. In fact, I have a vague memory of going with my mom to a game store looking for Warhammer miniatures and the game store owner showing me marketing materials for the new introductory product before it had actually hit the shelves. So I think I actually opened up Portal within a week or so of the set's official May 1, 1997 release date. The thing that always bugged me about telling that little story was that I couldn't seem to remember much, if anything, about actually playing Magic in 1997. Wait, it sounds weird when I put it like that. "Some stuff happened decades ago but I'm having trouble remembering the details." Shocking, right? No, that's not what I mean. And I'm struggling to explain why this would be important to me, but let me reminisce about some examples and I think that I can make it more apparent why I'd care in the first place. So, here are some of my memories from Magic in 1998...
  • Getting a Fifth Edition 2-Player Starter set and reading through the included rulebook cover-cover-to cover multiple times.
  • Throwing a bunch of red damage-dealing spells together to construct my Burn deck, which I continued to upgrade and kept together to this day, although virtually every individual card has been swapped out at some point. I think that the copies of the card Fireblast are the exact same ones I was using in 1998. Everything else is almost certainly different.
  • Getting Stronghold booster packs, which might have been the first individual booster packs I bought. And Stronghold became one of my favorite sets.
  • Buying grab-bags of old bulk cards at the game store and getting my first copies of Force of Will in those $1 bags.
  • Playtesting my decks against a stack of 300+ old bulk cards (with basic lands in the mix) and trying to figure out some of those old cards as I was seeing them for the first time. In one of those games, my deck (which wasn't my best deck, thankfully), lost because it couldn't deal with Scaled Wurm.
  • Buying a bunch of Fallen Empires packs because they were super-cheap, and then trying to figure out how to actually build decks with those weird cards. I built a whole deck around Tidal Influence because I liked the art and because it was confusing enough for me to trick myself into thinking that it was a good card.
  • Getting Polar Kraken and trying to build decks that could somehow use this amazing 11/11 creature!
  • Getting a bag of rubber bands so that I could wrap them around my decks to keep them separate.
  • Reading in Scrye magazine that Necropotence was supposed to be a good card, so I started using it because I owned a copy and figured I'd figure out what was so good about it (I actually think I picked up on that pretty quickly). My use of Necropotence + Ivory Tower might actually date all the way back to 1998.
  • Trading for some of my favorite Unglued cards because I thought they were really cool, but didn't have much money to spend on packs.
  • Searching, unsuccessfully, for a copy of Thing from the Deep. I guess I just really wanted to play big creatures and sacrifice my own land.
  • Figuring out that I'd made several of my decks worse by putting in Ice Age cards that had cumulative upkeep.
  • Sorting my entire collection in little piles underneath an old stone table in my bedroom.
  • Building a deck in every color and playing them against each other in a tournament.
  • Reading about the "Emperor" multiplayer format and struggling to wrangle enough friends to play it.
  • My devastating combo of Rolling Stones + Illusionary Wall.
  • Figuring out that if I made myself discard a card, I could discard a big creature (like Polar Kraken!) and then use Animate Dead on it.
  • Seeing "gold" cards for the first time and trying to pick them up in different color pairings so that I could build decks around them. They were gold, so they had to be special. Turned out Sivitri Scarzam wasn't very good.
  • Getting a bunch of Urza's Saga stuff for my birthday. It was revolutionary for me. Urza's Saga was the greatest set in existence. Maybe it still is.
  • Turning the "Tombstone" precon into my own blue/black control deck that became my favorite among my own casual decks for years to come. I loved the art and style of this precon and it was legitimately a better deck than anything I'd built myself up to that point. Refining "Tombstone" was basically how I learned to build real Magic decks instead of nonsensical newbie piles. Also, the use of Power Sink in this deck led me to realize that I'd been playing interrupts incorrectly all along, and led to a frenzy of deck revisions as I incorporated interrupts into my decks.
  • Turning the "The Plague" precon into my own Pestilence deck, another of my recurring casual decks that would evolve and live on for many years.
I could go on, but those were the first 1998 memories that came to mind. And in some ways, 1998 was just warmup for 1999, but some of the ones I've listed here I can recall vividly and tie to other events going on in my life and in the world. 1997, though? I tried to think back to what I did with Magic cards in 1997 and to what else was going on back then, and mostly all I came up with was...
  • When the owner of the game store where I was getting stuff for Warhammer Quest thought I might like Magic, he showed me a card. I think it was Teremko Griffin.
  • Recruiting my 9-year-old sister to play through the scripted teaching game in the Portal starter set.
  • Opening Capricious Sorcerer and Fire Dragon in the first booster packs I cracked. So of course, Fire Dragon was the powerhouse in one of the first decks I built for myself. I graciously allowed my 9-year-old sister to pilot the Fire Dragon deck and endeavored to beat her with the Capricious Sorcerer deck. She won. Since my deck had Snapping Drake and Wind Drake, she concocted an elaborate mythology surrounding the war between the drakes and the dragons, roping our younger brothers into playing with her in this fantastical drakes vs. dragons game. I think she was the high priestess of the dragons or something. She is now 33 and may or may not still be high priestess of the dragons.
  • Going to the game store and seeing a lot of Ice Age cards. Having previously seen only Mirage, Fifth Edition, and Portal, I mistakenly believed that this was a new set. Someone corrected me on this misconception.
And that's about it? So I have this distinct memories, even if I'm sure they're fragmentary and possibly misleading, of games I played and things I learned about the game in 1998. There was this whole plot progression. A story. But I started in 1997, and all I could remember was just playing with some Portal cards and seeing some of the older cards at my local game store. There had to have been more. By the time Stronghold came out, I already had decks and was trying to figure out how to include the new cards in my decks. But what was I even playing before 1998? I couldn't really pin anything down. I'm sure my decks were conceptually immature, but I just would like to be able to look at them and see what I was actually playing back then, naive as I was.

Well, yesterday, something unexpected jogged my memory. I happened to stumble across a picture related to my uncle's wedding, which was on June 19th, 1998. I was obsessing over Magic around that time (Exodus would have just come out, but I think I wasn't spending any money and didn't pick up any cards from the set at the time). I had checked out books from the library; during the car rides to and from the wedding, I was engrossed in the Distant Planes anthology of Magic stories. So yesterday I found myself thinking back to reading that book, and it suddenly occurred to me that it was also at this time that I added City of Brass and some other nonbasic lands to my multicolored decks. I'd probably recently acquired some of my first Fifth Edition cards. The basic concept of mana-fixing was already known to me at this point, but my collection of still-mostly-Portal cards had almost nothing to actually fix my mana. I had stuck mostly to monochromatic decks, and perhaps my lack of mana-fixing was part of the reason for this. But I understood the value of access to multiple colors and I was excited to use my newly acquired City of Brass.

And all this led me down the train of thought about that City of Brass. My first. I still miss that City of Brass. Not sure what happened to it, but I know from my recent card sort that I no longer own a Fifth Edition copy of the card. I should pick one up at some point. I tried to think back to what kind of deck I'd put City of Brass into. I know that I eventually put it in my "SQ" deck, but that wasn't until 1999, and this was June of 1998. I realized, somewhat disappointed, that of course I was remembering a generic five-color pile of all my favorite cards crammed into one deck, lacking any cohesion. It might not even have been 60 cards. I was still pretty bad at the game in 1998! So, the deck itself was garbage, but I recalled enough to have an idea of what I'd been running before the summer of 1998. You see where this is going?

That garbage pile of cards was the one I'd had going ever since I first acquired cards from outside the Portal starter set. It was the typical new player "deck of all the cards in my collection that I think are cool." That was why it lacked cohesion. It was the same thing any new player does if not given guidance on how to actually make decks better. And as soon as I picked up mana-fixing, it went in. Because when you're running five colors, you work with whatever fixing you can. I didn't own dual lands or even pain lands. But I did have a few fixing cards here and there. The memories came flooding back to me. Mogg Hollows and Rootwater Depths. Lousy cards, but I guess they were "My First Mana-Fixing." And alongside them there was Untamed Wilds, Mana Prism, and Harrow.

My next thought was, "Hey that's cool. I guess I was using Harrow as far back as 1997." This was followed by, "Oh no, I was using Mana Prism back in 1997." Like I said, you work with whatever fixing you can.

I have to chuckle a bit, realizing that up until last night, the last time I thought of Harrow as primarily being a fixing card instead of primarily being a ramp card must have been around June of 1998, when I pulled it from that five-color deck. Still, Harrow is technically mana-fixing. It's actually pretty good at the task.


The Tentacled One
Harrow was a pretty flexible source for mana-fixing in an multicolored deck and I didn't own a lot of cards back then, so I might have continued to use it for a while after I upgraded that five-color pile in mid-1998 (my whole collection fit in a single plastic tray I'd repurposed from previously storing my 6th grade school supplies. But if I did continue to use Harrow in some deck after this point, it must have been short-lived. I suspect that it just sat in my collection not doing anything. The reason I think this was the case is that I'm recalling another memory.

Invasion was released in 2000 and included a reprint of Harrow. This was sort of my first set for learning Limited formats, and I think that's where I first saw the reprint. It had different art and different wording in the text box, so it threw me off. I can't be 100% sure, but I think part of what was going on was that I initially forgot that the card existed, but that it seemed eerily familiar. Back then, I still had my card sorted by color first instead of by set, and it wasn't long before I saw the two versions side-by-side and realized what was going on.

At the time, I was a bit annoyed with the newer artwork. It's not a bad little painting, but it's a bit generic. Eric David Anderson's piece really stands out, with the woman in the dress being unique and identifiable from a distance. Perhaps that was considered a bit much for a workhorse uncommon utility spell. I don't know anything about Eric David Anderson, but he only did art for three cards in Tempest and doesn't appear to have worked on Magic other than that, so perhaps there was some kind of conflict there. I think that this painting and the one he did for Anoint are both excellent. Ultimately, neither piece actually depicts a harrow as a tool or shows land that looks like it has been harrowed. WotC would go on to use two more illustrations for this card and again, none of them actually depict what the card name indicates.


The Tentacled One
Recently I found myself commenting on how Harrow is so good that a downgraded version of it is still a decent card. The most recent standard Magic set, Zendikar Rising, introduced a Harrow knockoff, and it's not bad.

Having the lands enter the battlefield tapped is a pretty severe drawback and my first impression was that this was just "bad Harrow." But having had some time to try the card out, I'm starting to think that I might use this in my own decks more often than Kodama's Reach or Cultivate, normally considered the default green land ramp staples in EDH. Roiling Regrowth isn't strictly superior to those cards and the comparative value depends a whole lot on the decks surrounding them. Still, everything I'm seeing up to now points to Roiling Regrowth becoming a staple for the future in EDH and other formats. Having the lands come out untapped is huge, and I know I've exploited this myself by using cards that boost the mana production of my lands so that Harrow ramps my lands while generating mana. Take that defining feature away, and we might still have a top-tier ramp spell. Harrow is just that good.

There is a more subtle difference between Harrow and Roiling Regrowth, which might be worth some analysis. The original printed text on Harrow looks pretty similar to the text on Roiling Regrowth, but later printings and the Oracle text on Harrow diverge more with a line break for the words, "As an additional cost to cast this spell, sacrifice a land." This goes back to a quirk of the Sixth Edition rules updates. WotC determined that in Magic rules text, the use of a colon should mark the presence of an activated ability, with all activated abilities on cards taking the form of "[cost]: [effect]." But Harrow was one of several cases from before the rules updated with a colon being used in the rules text of a spell. It wasn't 100% clear what to do about this, and WotC took the path of rewording the Oracle texts on these cards to have the colon-bearing text used as an additional cost to cast the spell. This same approach was taken with cards from before Mirage, where instead of using a colon, the spell would include a sentence spelling out that you were doing something to get something else. Am I explaining this properly? I don't know. Here are some examples from before Mirage.

They don't use a colon, but each one uses some words to describe paying something for something else. I think that it was Mirage which first updated this with a more streamlined version. Here are some examples.

The biggest implication of changing these cards to be worded as having additional costs is that if an opponent counters them, you still paid that cost, but got nothing for it. That matters a lot more for a card like Hatred (if you paid almost all of your life and then your opponent cast Counterspell, it could easily cost you the game) than for a card like Harrow (if you sacrificed a land and then your opponent cast Counterspell, you'd lose your land, but you might have wanted to do that anyway).

Now that I think about it, it's possible that I'm misremembering Fifth Edition rules or that I was misplaying these cards back then. I should look this stuff up. Still, I definitely don't understand WotC's system for updating the templates on these things. Metamorphosis gets the creature sacrifice as an additional cost, much like Culling the Weak or Carrion. But Transmute Artifact has no additional cost. Those two cards are in the same set, so WotC must have examined the wordings at some point and made the call that one should use an additional cost and the other should not.

I find this to be an interesting topic, but instead of going off on this tangent right now, I want to focus on Harrow and how the additional cost makes it different from Roiling Regrowth in this respect. Obviously the lands entering untapped is the really important difference, but everyone immediately spotted that.

Off the top of my head, these are the implications for Harrow's additional cost of sacrificing a land compared to Roiling Regrowth bundling the sacrifice in as part of the spell's effect.
  • If Harrow is countered, you already sacrificed a land. If Roiling Regrowth is countered, you sacrifice a land and nothing happened. The same is true if an effect ends the turn with the spell on the stack or exiles the spell while it is on the stack.
  • If a copy of Harrow is made, you don't sacrifice a land for the copy. If a copy of Roiling Regrowth is made, you sacrifice a land for the copy.
  • Yasharn, Implacable Earth prevents Harrow from being cast, but doesn't prevent Roiling Regrowth from being cast.
  • If an opponent gains control of Harrow, you'll have sacrificed a land and that opponent will get to search for two lands and put them onto the battlefield. If an opponent gains control of Roiling Regrowth, that opponent will have to sacrifice a land in addition to getting to search for two lands to put onto the battlefield.
In most scenarios, these differences don't matter. In fact, I don't think I've ever had an opponent even counter my Harrow in the first place. It's not a common target for countermagic.


The Tentacled One
In EDH, land-based mana ramp is so valuable that green is an extremely valuable color to be running on that basis. The color has other perquisites, but land interaction is pretty much sufficient on its own. According to EDHrec statistics, Cultivate is the third most popular card in the format (behind Sol Ring and Swords to Plowshares). Cultivate and Kodama's Reach are the #1 and #2 cards in green, with Farseek and Rampant Growth taking the #4 and #5 spots. Land-based mana ramp is king. Seeing the games play out, it's not hard to understand why. Each player has three opponents starting at 40 life, so it takes big setups and big plays to win games. EDH leans toward a "battlecruiser" style of Magic and beating opponents to death with a Goblin Guide isn't going to cut it. Getting more mana faster is a way to scale into those big plays. Creatures get blown up by effects like Wrath of God. Artifacts are a bit safer, but still vulnerable to effects like Bane of Progress. Basic lands are the most secure source of a sustainable advantage in these games, and cards like Armageddon see extremely little play.

In such an environment, Harrow is superb, especially in multicolored decks. You ditch whichever land you need least at the time and get whichever two basics you need to cast the spells in your hand. You get those lands on the battlefield right away, so the potential for manafixing is stronger than something like Cultivate. You do only net one additional land, but unlike some of the other options, you don't need to bother with fetching a land into your hand, so if you're already doing that, Harrow works well alongside those other cards. And because the lands enter the battlefield untapped, you can use them for mana, effectively making Harrow a one-mana spell as far as your tempo is concerned. This enables plays like Harrow into Rampant Growth or Harrow into Sakura-Tribe Elder.

Although Harrow's efficient utility is especially notable in EDH, I think the same general principles apply to other casual multiplayer settings. I've seen the card put to good use in some of our CPA games on a couple of occasions (mostly by Spiderman, I think). I suspect that for much of my time here, I underestimated Harrow. I mean, I don't think I ever had anything bad to say about the card, but I do think that it should really have been in more of my casual decks, historically. Harrow has some obvious synergies, and becomes more appealing when used alongside effects that trigger when lands enter the battlefield, effects that trigger when lands go to the graveyard, effects that bring lands back from the graveyard, effects that cause basic lands to produce extra mana, and some other synergies. I've used all of those in EDH and can say some words about them. But first, I just wanted to highlight that even if all you're doing is mana-fixing and mana-ramping, Harrow is still a strong card. I'd argue that even without exploiting synergies, Harrow is better utility than Cultivate, Kodama's Reach, and the rest of the arsenal of green land-fetching spells. And it should be more of a staple than those other cards.


The Tentacled One
In the right deck, Harrow can act like a "Ritual" spell and net more mana than was spent to cast it in the first place. That's pretty obvious and I've found it to be a nice stratagem, but I don't think I ever did this prior to 2018. Of course, it's been an option pretty much all along. Mana Flare has been a part of the game from the beginning, and I am confident that I owned both cards at least as far back as 1999. Even without using any other acceleration, we can see that Mana Flare + Harrow costs three mana and generates four mana, on top of ramping lands for future turns, something good to be doing with Mana Flare anyway.

Mentioning this now, I can see that it would also have been possible to use effects like Emerald Medallion and Helm of Awakening to cause Harrow to net mana in a different way. That's an approach I've not explored myself and should look into, although I don't think it would be as fruitful: reducing the cost of Harrow to a single green mana still only nets a single mana. Even if we use something that lets us cast Harrow for free, it still only nets two mana. In contrast, effects like Mana Flare scale up much higher, and have gotten better over the years...

I've used Harrow alongside, let's see...

Mirari's Wake
Heartbeat of Spring
Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger
Zendikar Resurgent
Nyxbloom Ancient
Lotus Cobra

As the world's premier Dark Ritual fan, it warms my heart to see my spells produce more mana than I put into them. For most of my time playing Magic, Harrow wasn't really a card that I thought of when it came to that, but it's actually quite convenient. Basically any effect that gets you extra mana out of your lands causes the lands Harrow fetches to produce at least four mana, and Harrow naturally costs three mana to cast. Throw in more effects or bigger ones (like Nyxbloom Ancient) and you get even more mana out of Harrow. And if I haven't made it clear enough yet, all of this merely a bonus for using Harrow. As I mentioned, Roiling Regrowth and Springbloom Druid are pretty good, even though the lands the deploy enter the battlefield tapped.

Let's use my most recent EDH build as an example. If I have Mirari's Wake out and I cast Roiling Regrowth, I boost my land count and Mirari's Wake boosts the mana production from each of those lands on future turns, so the value there is pretty good already, and my deck has ways of making it even better. Harrow gets that same effect and, as a bonus, I can have one more mana after the spell has resolved than it took to cast the spell in the first place.

Perhaps because this aspect of Harrow that wasn't prominent back in the "old days" I just never gave it any thought until 2019 or so. Also, it's merely a useful tool, and not an end unto itself. Even now, I wouldn't build a deck with the prospect of squeezing mana out of Harrow as a goal. It doesn't really change my deckbuilding considerations. I'll run Nyxbloom Ancient because the card is amazing, not because it causes Harrow to net three mana. But when I happen to have Nyxbloom Ancient out and cast Harrow anyway, it does feel pretty cool.

I opened this post admitting that I don't think I ever took advantage of this aspect of Harrow until 2018. And I just mentioned that I didn't give it any thought until 2019. That's not a discrepancy. You see, Harrow is a useful spell in any EDH deck helmed by The Gitrog Monster. I also used to run Lotus Cobra in Gitrog County Municipal Lake Dredge Appraisal, but cut the card in early 2019. Cutting Lotus Cobra wasn't an easy decision, but my evaluation and testing supported it, and I needed to make room for other cards that should have been in my deck already. Lotus Cobra was useful for a variety of reasons, and its interaction with Harrow was nice, but barely registered as an afterthought at the time. However, the strong performance of Harrow in this deck did make an impression on me and Harrow remained in the back of my mind as a valuable tool when I built decks for the West Coast Commander League. Much like my usage of Balefire Dragon in the League, this wasn't immediate. I happened to run Lotus Cobra and Harrow together in the a deck in July. I have no idea whether it was a coincidence or some subconscious recollection from my prior experience with The Gitrog Monster, but I stumbled on the mana-producing synergy again. This time, it stuck with me. I liked it a lot and looked forward to such interactions in my future decks.


The Tentacled One
"Turn every weakness into a strength." —Titania, Probably


Titania is the pet commander of a friend of mine. The deck used to always be his default going into unfamiliar territory because a Titania deck can be fast enough to kill high-powered EDH decks, but doesn't really do anything so oppressive that a table can't coordinate and stop it. More recently, my friend has switched over to Grismold, the Dreadsower for that purpose, as Titania can be a bit daunting for inexperienced players to go up against, where Grismold is a bit slower. But Titania is still his favorite deck and he's spent considerable time and money collecting the various foil cards and tokens for the deck.

I first spotted Titania's potential when running the card here at the CPA as part of the Freyalise "Guided by Nature" precon from Commander 2014. Although I lost that game, one thing that struck me was that Titania was a pretty potent token-generator. Of course, Titania can more fully realize that potency when she's the star of her own deck, rather than a partial theme in a precon full of other stuff. I'm sure my friend's deck had been running Harrow the whole time, but I guess my attention was more focused on other cards at the time.

Notably, I didn't include Harrow when I built my Savra deck for the West Coast Commander League. That was back in April of 2019, and I didn't include Harrow in my League decks until June. That was an oversight. But I did run Titania in “If You Wanna Fight That’s Fine With Me” because Titania is great at turning weakness into strength.

The one drawback to Harrow is that it comes at the cost of sacrificing a land. Everything else about it is pure value. Well, it turns out that there are lots of ways to turn that weakness into a strength. Titania, Protector of Argoth is one way to do that, and I've found that the two work especially well together. Harrow can be deployed early to get ahead on lands, which lets Titania hit the battlefield faster and also get back the land that Harrow sacrificed. Alternatively, Harrow can be deployed with Titania already on the battlefield, which generates a 5/3 elemental and fetches two more lands that can tap for mana and also be sacrificed to some other card (such as Squandered Resources). In short, Harrow is good whether being cast early and without Titania or later and with Titania. In the former case, Titania's first ability is used. In the latter case, Titania's second ability is used. So it's all upside.

Of course, Titania isn't the only card that can take advantage of the fact that Harrow has you sacrifice a land. In my own decks. In fact, the first time I used Harrow in this way in the League was in my Rubinia Soulsinger deck. In that deck, I could activate any of Rainbow Vale, Thawing Glaciers, or Undiscovered Paradise, use Political Trickery, Shifting Borders, or Vedalken Plotter to trade that land for an opponent's land, then sacrifice the land I'd just traded for to Harrow. In this same deck, I was also running Far Wanderings, and it should be obvious that any card with the "Threshold" mechanic has a kind of synergy with Harrow, minor as that synergy might be. This deck was also a Seasons Past deck. In the "Magic Memories" thread for Seasons Past, I talked about how a land, usually a fetchland, could come along for the ride when using Seasons Past to pull other cards from a graveyard. Other synergies I've used to take advantage of the land sacrifice include...

Inexorable Blob
World Shaper (somewhat indirect)
Crucible of Worlds
Wrenn and Six
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
Yawgmoth's Will
Second Sunrise
Faith's Reward
Open the Vault (artifact lands)
Roar of Reclamation (artifact lands)
Deathrite Shaman
Life from the Loam
Splendid Reclamation
Search for Azcanta
The Mending of Dominaria
Ramunap Excavator
Elvish Reclaimer
Skola Grovedancer
Loaming Shaman

There are a lot of options. And again, really all this is doing is just providing a bit more to make a great card even better.

Although it hasn't made any appearances in my EDH decks, I'll note that Harvest Wurm was a key card for me in CPA Tribal Game #11. I didn't run Harrow in that deck, and the fact that I didn't do so seems insane to me now. Maybe I was just a dummy in 2008. :p


The Tentacled One
Loam decks have been a recurring experiment for me in the West Coast Commander League. I've already talked about that in the Magic Memories thread for Life from the Loam. What I don't think I emphasized there was that most of my Loam decks also doubled as Landfall decks, at least to some extent. Harrow is great alongside Landfall cards because it puts two lands on the battlefield without using your normal land drop for the turn, and it puts another land in your graveyard, which you can later get back with another card (such as Life from the Loam). Cards with this mechanic that I've run alongside Harrow include...

Rampaging Baloths
Omnath, Locus of Rage
Lotus Cobra
Khalni Heart Expedition
Grazing Gladeheart
Valakut Exploration
Emeria Shepherd

Those are the ones I can remember. There have definitely been some other strong Landfall cards that I haven't given much attention to, though.


The Tentacled One
I haven't mentioned Crop Rotation yet, another of my staples and a card that could easily merit its own Magic Memories thread. Like Harrow, it is an instant with an additional cost of sacrificing a land. Both cards fetch lands from libraries, but they tend to be used pretty differently. While Harrow only grabs basic lands from your library, but causes a net increase of lands on the battlefield, Crop Rotation is gives a neutral one-for-one trade, but can search for any land.

Both are great cards, but despite all of their similarities, they mostly function very differently. When I use Harrow, I get ahead on lands and can use those lands as a resource, as well as potentially colorfixing and exploiting other synergies. When I use Crop Rotation, it's almost always as a silver bullet to find a particular land. Which land I'm looking for depends on my deck and on the game state, but that's more of a topic for a dedicated Crop Rotation thread. What's noteworthy is despite their disparate functions, both of these instants share some synergies and pair nicely with things like Rampaging Baloths and Life from the Loam. Such play patterns are well-traveled, at least by me, and seem intuitive enough. What's more bizarre is actively looping Crop Rotation and Harrow for some reason, and that's a thing I've done in a few decks. I find this sort of thing fascinating. Looping Harrow and Crop Rotation can become reminiscent of Fastbond, a card that I can't use in EDH or most other formats, in that you break free from constraints of only being able to play some limited number of lands per turn.

It's obsolete now, but in Gitrog County Municipal Lake Dredge Appraisal I used to run Rath's Edge, which could make mana like a regular land, ping a small creature, or loop for repeatable damage. There were a few ways to do this, but the instant-speed version went something like this...
-Assemble The Gitrog Monster + a reusable discard outlet with Dakmor Salvage in either my hand or my graveyard.
-Have at least one black mana available from any source.
-Start the loop of discarding/dredging Dakmor Salvage, using Kozilek, the Butcher of Truth repeatedly shuffle my graveyard.
-Repeatedly loop Dark Ritual for infinite black mana.
-Exile Elvish Spirit Guide for a green mana, then flash in Necromancy on Riftsweeper while it's in my graveyard to bring Elvish Spirit Guide back. Use Culling the Weak to kill Riftsweeper, then repeat this loop for infinite green mana.
-Sacrifice whatever land or lands I have to loop Harrow, getting all of my basic lands onto the battlefield.
-Sacrifice my basic lands to Crop Rotation in non-basic lands, then loop Crop Rotation and Harrow to continually replenish my supply of lands on the battlefield.
-Using my infinite mana and infinite land recursion, loop Rath's Edge to ping all of my opponents to death.

While that's far from the only way to infinitely recur Rath's Edge, it has the advantage that once the initial setup of the Gitrog/Dakmor package engine is in place, everything else happens at instant speed. Although comboing off during one's main phase is common, there are situations in which an instant speed kill is better. My Gitrog deck and most competitive Gitrog decks no longer use Rath's Edge, as Emergence Zone is a more practical way to get instant speed kills. But at the time that I originally built the deck, Emergence Zone didn't exist.

Rath's Edge may have lost its little niche, but I've looped Harrow and Crop Rotation for other reasons. When I played Gitrog County Mana-Laundering Scheme I found myself accidentally going infinite with a Seasons Past loop that involved sacrificing my lands to Zuran Orb and making a bunch of elementals from Titania, Protector of Argoth, followed up with Harrow and Crop Rotation to repeatedly get an untapped Gaea's Cradle on the battlefield. At some point, I realized that Splendid Reclamation was a less tedious way to return my lands to the battlefield for use with recurring Crop Rotation. I've long forgotten which game this was in out of the ones I played (whether it was the first time I looped Seasons Past in this deck or not), but Harrow was involved. Attempting to reconstruct this from my decklist, I'm guessing that the first loop might have been Seasons Past for Crop Rotation, Demonic Tutor, and Harrow. Or perhaps I had Lotus Cobra on the battlefield to make black mana that time and used Harrow in a later game. The details are a bit fuzzy and my description in the thread for the deck isn't very helpful because I glossed over most of the gameplay.


The Tentacled One
I've talked about direct synergies like Lotus Cobra and Titania, Protector of Argoth. While those are the sorts of effects that really make Harrow appeal to me, let's not discount the more subtle advantages. There are a lot of little reasons that trading 1 land for 2 lands might be better than trading 0 lands for 1 land, even though the net increase in lands on the battlefield is the same in both cases. In my own decks, that's been on display with cards like Life from the Loam and Crucible of Worlds. The land in the graveyard isn't wasted if I'm replaying it anyway. Getting the land back is one way to use it. But that's just the beginning. The land that Harrow puts in my graveyard could be used for all sorts of things...
  • To help hit Threshold.
  • To help hit Delirium.
  • To help pay a Delve cost.
  • To help pay an Escape cost.
  • To feed Terravore.
  • To feed Night Soil.
  • To feed Psychatog.
  • In the case of Riftstone Portal, to give my other lands additional functionality.
  • In the case of Dakmor Salvage, to get a Dredge card in my graveyard.
  • To turn on Revolt.
  • To make Elvish Reclaimer bigger.
  • To fuel Forgotten Harvest.
  • To feed Knight of the Reliquary
  • To make Murasa Behemoth bigger.
  • To make Ore-Scale Guardian cheaper.
  • To transform Search for Azcanta or Jace, Vryn's Prodigy.
  • To cover the life loss from Lich's Mastery or Nefarious Lich.
  • To help pay the upkeep for Jötun Grunt.


The Tentacled One
When talking about EDH in these Magic Memories threads, I've sometimes reviewed my usage of a card in decks I built for the West Coast Commander League in 2019 and 2020. In the case of Harrow, I had 20 total decks with a green color identity in which Harrow was eligible, and used it in 10 of those, and 9 eligible decks in 2019, with Harrow appearing in 6 of them. So the omissions are actually less common than the inclusions. Looking back, I'm a bit surprised that there were even that many. Harrow is such a workhorse of a card that I almost always used it when available. It's not quite Sol Ring, but it could be viewed as in the same general category. Ultimately, I suspect that several of the omissions were mistakes on my part and that those decks would have been better with Harrow. But let's scan through those omissions. Without exhaustively listing decks, I'm seeing...
  • Mistakes: decks where Harrow made perfect sense, but where I inexplicably just didn't use it.
  • Combo: explosive decks that didn't use basic lands much and didn't especially need or want a card like Harrow.
  • Deliberate weirdness: decks that were jammed full of certain themes, generally suboptimal, and built to accrue points in the WCCL.
  • Nonbasic manabases: decks that used hardly any basic lands and didn't stand to gain much from sacrificing a nonbasic.
I'm reminded that we could call my "mistakes" stylistic choices instead. Harrow is potent, but not universally so. However, trying to be honestly retrospective about this, I do think that of the omissions that weren't nonbasic manabases, combo decks, or purposeful oddballs with no room for workhorse cards, about half of them were what I now consider mistakes.

Looking at other green mana ramp in my pool of decks from 2019 and 2020, Harrow tied with Cultivate and fell exactly one spot behind Kodama's Reach. However, it occurs to me that while I tried to be comprehensive with my 2020 data because my usual weekly events were shut down so early in the year, I didn't bother with that in 2019 on account of getting plenty of weekly League games. If my regular EDH decks from outside the West Coast Commander League had been part of my 2019 data collection, Harrow would have edged out Kodama's Reach, making what I think was 2 or 3 more appearances. And if I'd corrected some of what I now call mistakes, it would have beaten Kodama's Reach by another 4 or 5 appearances.

While I may have underutilized Harrow in the past, the EDH community as a whole seems to be more egregious. On EDHrec, Harrow shows up in 33,159 decks, just barely beaten by Skyshroud Claim and Wood Elves and way behind Sakura-Tribe Elder, Rampant Growth, and Farseek. Kodama's Reach is the second most popular green card at 85,076 decks and Cultivate is easily the most popular green card at 110,115 decks. Don't get me wrong: Kodama's Reach and Cultivate are good cards and there are decks for which it makes sense that they'd be stronger than Harrow. However, I do think that such decks are probably in the minority.

If you have the tools to use lands in your graveyard as a resource in any way at all, Harrow looks better. If you can benefit from landfall triggers, Harrow looks better. If you copy your own spells, Harrow looks better. If you make your basic lands produce extra mana, Harrow looks better. If you already have lands in your hand anyway, Harrow looks better. If you can cast multiple spells in the same turn and can take advantage of the fact that Harrow effectively has a net cost of just one mana, Harrow looks better. I'd argue that for a lot of decks, not only is Harrow superior to Cultivate and Kodama's Reach, but that even Roiling Regrowth is a contender, despite not putting the lands out untapped. The gulf between them is that wide. But it's true that in some cases, Cultivate and Kodama's Reach are better. If you only care about gradually ramping up your manabase and if you aren't using any synergies for Harrow, then the slower spells are more effective in the long run. Harrow only nets +1 lands on the battlefield. Cultivate and Kodama's Reach can technically net +2. The first one enters the battlefield tapped and the second one has to be played from your hand, but that's still more ramping than Harrow itself achieves. Technically.

Maybe my decks have more of the sort of cards that make Harrow shine. Maybe the rest of the playerbase has it right. After all, I've seen that there are a lot of underpowered decks and budget brews out there. Are there so many of those janky decks where Cultivate and Kodama's Reach outperform Harrow that seeing more of them in the database makes sense? Maybe. Are there so many more of them that those cards should rightfully be seeing triple the gameplay of Harrow? I severely doubt it.