When I started playing magic four or so years ago, one of the first rules you learn is how the game ends. Besides decking and poison, your life total must remain above zero. During this time I would defend that limit relentlessly.
It seemed such an obvious position to take. Why would you help your opponent by paying life for fetch lands? I would find myself shying away from cards like Sign in Blood and Dark Confidant. I felt that it was inherent card disadvantage to hurt yourself, because your opponents use cards to bring your life total lower. An adequate justification for my position at the time, or so I thought.
What I didn't realize then would dawn on me at the first visit to my local card shop. This was during Scars of Mirrodin Standard. I was standing by the display case with some of my friends, and I saw the card Arid Mesa. I said to my friends "Hey, why are these lands in mono-color decks? Isn't it strictly worse to run this instead of a basic land? All it does is hurt you."
I'll never forget what one of them replied with. They are the words spoken that heralded my rebirth as a magic player.
"They thin your deck. You draw less land."
At that moment, I caught my first glimpse of what it was really like to battle your opponent in Magic. It is so much more than a struggle over life totals. There's a struggle for advantage and disadvantage, pressure and defense, timing and planning, cards in hand, and creatures on the battlefield. Your opponents DO spend cards to lower your life total; but only inderectly so. They spend cards to increase their overall advantage, which they then use to lower your life total.
I gained justification for this way of thinking when New Phyrexia showcased Phyrexian Mana in an environment of Infect. There were some matches where your life total meant literally nothing.
Which brings me to my conclusion, kiddies. Don't be afraid to pay some life. The only point of life that matters is the last one. Sometimes you need to lose a finger to gain the upper hand.
There has been a long standing debate over the efficiency of said lands. It really depends on the deck itself, IMHO, as to if it worth using them. If you are running 24 lands in your deck, then you are trading 5% of your health for 4% less chance of drawing a land on a future turn. Now, drawing a land later in the game MAY be detrimental, and it MIGHT get you killed somehow, but on the other hand it could be just fine to draw one later on. But taking 5% of your total life is garanteed to be detrimental(unless as you said, you are playing Vs Infect or Mill[But you are screwing yourself vs mill using the lands anyway cause it is "Thinning" your deck]). I personally would not use them in a mono colored deck, unless the deck included lifegain or if it was a combo deck or somesuch. Dont get me wrong, the cards are great, just not great enough to be added to every deck. [Report]
Fetch lands do so much more than deck thin. They help you curve your deck. you want to draw lands early and draw spells late. This is achieved by using multiple fetch lands in a game. The first one may only be 5% of your life for 4% deck thin, but that ratio improves each use. It's not diminishing returns, it's augmented returns. [Report]
Possibly so, but if you draw 2 fetch lands in your starting hand, and play/sac them, you now have 8% less chance to draw your needed 3rd land, and that is a big %. If you dont need the mana in your first few turns you dont have to crack them I guess, but the point of the lands is to get that early mana reliably. [Report]
the most important aspect of a fetchland is not the deck-thinning component: fetchlands shuffle your library. everybody who has every brainstormed with jace tms knows the importance of shuffling one's own library. for those who play formats other than standard, you already know the reason you play fetchlands: to fetch shocklands. [Report]
it would just be better to use fetch lands that don't come at a cost, such as terramorphic expanse or evolving wilds you don't have to pay life however, depending on your deck strategy, you might want to pay it [Report]
When competitive magic is so much about maximizing card selection and having many answers available to your disposal, having the exact land you need untapped whenever you want has never been so important. [Report]
Yes, ramp spells can't be compared to fetches, they are completely different. Also, comparing Evolving Wilds to real fetches is like comparing Dark Confidant, Snapcaster Mage or Lotus Cobra to Goblin Piker. [Report]