Magic’s Newest Mutavault? Investigating Mobilized District

How will Magic’s latest colorless creature-land interact with the new Standard? Ari Lax takes a deep dive into the possibilities of Mobilized District!

I love talking about lands.

From a set with a few other reasonable competitors, Mobilized District is a clear winner for best Standard land in War of the Spark.

Lands that become creatures have a long history of being good. I would like to remind people that the following card saw considerable Constructed play both times it was printed.

I don’t know what’s worse: the activation cost, the Mirrodin goofballart, or the Tempest interpretive dance art. It really doesn’t take a lot to make a creature-land a solid card, and Mobilized District is solidly across that line.

Baseline Comparison

Where on the creature-land scale does Mobilized District fall?

While comparing a colorless land to a multicolor land isn’t entirely fair, just being a 3/3 for four mana would put Mobilized District into a tier of reasonable but not amazing options. Vigilance is certainly a far cry from hexproof, so the creature is a step down from Lumbering Falls. I would put it around par with the worst couple of Oath of the Gatewatch creature-lands, namely Needle Spires.

But I’m also not being entirely fair to Mobilized District. Four mana is the worst-case expense.

We see the vigilance creature-land scenario pop up a ton in Modern with Celestial Colonnade and Path to Exile. You can attack and cast your cheap removal spell in a significantly faster time frame, which is often crucial in pressuring planeswalkers out of midrange decks. Mobilized District can’t quite cast one-mana spells, but in Standard most of the good removal costs more. Using the colorless mana on a Cast Down is all good.

You want to combine Mobilized District with instant-speed removal so you can animate it, attack, and either kill an untapped creature before blocks or just hold up removal for their turn. Lava Coil is awkward to spend your vigilance mana on, almost becoming a Take Vengeance that only clears tapped creatures.

How about the format as a whole?

While Liliana, Dreadhorde General and pending War of the Spark previews may change this, there’s a trend across the good Standard planeswalkers that makes them vulnerable to a card like Mobilized District. They all protect themselves with destructive minus abilities, not constructive plus abilities that create tokens. If you control a Mobilized District, it’s really hard for your opponent to resolve a planeswalker if you provide any other reasonable opposition. You can just fire up your bonus threat that one crucial turn and take it down.

Legends and Planeswalkers

What happens once we start ticking the cost down?

Good things, real fast.

At one legend, Mobilized District starts looking like something between Stirring Wildwood and Treetop Village. At two, it’s a Treetop Village and Mutavault upgrade. More than two isn’t really a scenario worth discussing, because if you have three legendary creatures or planeswalkers, saving a mana sounds like a win-more bonus.

What does this all really mean across the various scenarios?

Without any legendary support, Mobilized District is a fine creature-land. It pressures planeswalkers well and is a reasonable extra threat in an attrition scenario, but you are never activating two in the same turn.

With a planeswalker, Mobilized District is just okay. Compare leaving up four mana to protect a planeswalker versus just spending four mana on actual action to protect it. Mobilized District does nicely line up with Settle the Wreckage, forcing your opponent to commit an extra attacker to get through your blocker and concealing the spell with your other possible mana sink.

With two planeswalkers, any other card is a win-more.

With a legendary creature or two, Mobilized District is a very reasonably costed way to kick your clock up a notch. If you’re deploying efficient legendary creatures, Mobilized District lets you double up on actions in mid-game turns.

Mobilized District is about as good at fixing your mana as Boros Guildgate, which is to say both won’t do it. Rather than go to the History of Benalia extremes of old Boros Angels decks, I want to try Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin. That card has flown under the radar because it reads like some nonsense Goblins payoff, but it quietly creates explosive attacks with a bunch of other reasonable cards in addition to being a solid solo threat.

Of course, we’re still waiting on a Gideon Jura from this set and it sure won’t be an uncommon planeswalker. This color spread is definitely subject to change based on confirmation of that card.

Colorless Constraints

Awkwardly, Tomik, Distinguished Advokist is the card that comes to mind as a cheap proactive legendary creature, but it doesn’t feature in the previous Boros deck. That bridges to the last big deckbuilding concern with Mobilized District.

A highlight of Guilds of Ravnica and Ravnica Allegiance Standard has been supporting some fairly extreme mana costs. You don’t see many colorless lands around these days.

If you look back to the last time we were on Ravnica, you did see a lot of Kessig Wolf Run and Moorland Haunt even after Gatecrash promoted three-color decks, but you didn’t have the same harsh competition with UUURRR costs.

Where does that leave Mobilized District?

I’m very doubtful any Izzet deck wants to play Mobilized District. By extension, this means Grixis, Jeskai, and Temur. The color-heavy payoffs are just too good, and even if you want a 26th or 27th land, you probably want something that produces colored mana. Even when you don’t draw those cards, these are decks looking to cast multiple spells a turn – often cheap ones like Opt or Shock – where color-specifics come up long before the flashy multicolored cards.

Based on the current Esper Control decks, you would think that colorless lands were just out of the question, but War of the Spark makes that unclear. There’s suddenly another great sweeper, and Absorb isn’t drastically better than Sinister Sabotage. Thought Erasure is great, but there’s room to develop a less color-saturated control deck. I don’t quite have a list, as there’s a lot of work to be done on the two-drop removal slot, but Augur of Bolas, God-Eternal Kefnet, and Settle the Wreckage are all involved.

The other guild I’m skeptical of pairing with a colorless land is Simic. It’s not as clear-cut as Izzet, where your big payoffs are color-heavy, but many cards make you want specific colors at a specific time. This doesn’t include “Simic” decks like Sultai Midrange that are just Hydroid Krasis and Disdainful Stroke, but decks that might want Turn 2 Growth Spiral or Turn 4 Frilled Mystic. You can splash another color because Hallowed Fountain still casts those cards, but Mobilized District is dicey.

There are also the monocolor cards from Dominaria that might get in the way of Mobilized District. You aren’t playing non-Island lands with Tempest Djinn, and you just aren’t playing Dread Shade.

I think Benalish Marshal is another non-starter, not only because of the triple white cost but because the card also tells you to play a white one-drop and then two more on Turn 2. If you were mono-white and wanted another land after sideboarding in Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants, it might be fine, but right now the extra sideboard Island is only there to cast your blue counterspells in Azorius. Legion’s Landing probably just makes up any extra land gap anyways.

Steel Leaf Champion is interesting. Using Llanowar Elves to bridge into activating creature-lands at the right time has been a play pattern since Treetop Village; Steel Leaf Champion decks are especially susceptible to sweepers, which Mobilized District helps against; and the extra land is nice if you want to bridge to a larger threat like Biogenic Ooze.

I almost want to play Paradise Druid here over Incubation Druid to ensure the splash. Paradise Druid is also a reasonable follow up to Pelt Collector. Awkwardly I like Pelt Collector with some of the proliferate stuff, but all the other creatures that go with proliferate start small and gain counters for Pelt Collector nonbos. I’ll file that solidly under problems for later.

Goblin Chainwhirler and Mobilized District are basically assured to see play together. If you’re trying to convert cardboard to damage, a land that does that is basically the perfect fit. Red decks are also often stuck in a bind of not wanting to flood, but also wanting to play Rekindling Phoenix and Experimental Frenzy. Or maybe Siege-Gang Commander, if that’s your jam. The line between Mono-Red Midrange and Mono-Red Aggro is going to get real blurry.

Mobilized District has broad applications across aggro, midrange, and control, just as you would expect from a colorless creature-land. It isn’t quite going to be Mutavault in Theros Standard, but I would expect to play against this card a fair amount over the next year-and-a-half.