The curious case of Barry’s Land

A look at the curious case of Barry's Land.

Back in 2000 Magic was only seven years old. Rumors of new land types and complete deck overhauls were more likely due to not having decades of testing to learn from. So when the Invasion block was slated for October that year, Mark Rosewater wanted a new card. One that would build up Domain. And thus began the nearly 20 year saga of Barry’s Land.

During play tests in the spring and summer of 2000, everything seemed ok. Barry’s Land was a cool colorless land card that gave Domain and was designed to be a huge trump card for domain decks. They even got a testing name: Barry’s Land, named after the creator of Domain, Barry Reich. However, despite being popular, problems soon arose. Developers saw that a huge problem was that Barry’s Land was only being counted as a Basic Land - besides having a Domain move, there was nothing else about it that made itself unique like other lands. Likewise, it couldn’t be a non-basic land either since it was still being counted as a basic land. It was like a like  basketball player scoring a three-pointer and a slam dunk at the same time. It didn’t compute. And thus it was moved to Planeshift in 2001 - the first of many, many, MANY moves.

After being passed over there, Barry’s Land came up again in 2003 during the eight edition when lands were reformulated. However, like last time, playtesting weeded it out. 

Somehow Barry’s Land wasn’t dead. It was the Duke Nukem Forever of Magic: Nothing could kill the development despite the wheels constantly turning.

In 2009, during Conflux expansion, basic lands began getting subtypes. Bill Rose, a lead designer, thought Barry’s Land could count as a basic land in play. 

However, basic and non basic land rules clashed again. It couldn’t be two directly opposite things at once (basic and non-basic land). 

Despite this, they pushed through, renaming Barry’s Land “Cave” and slotting it as a sixth land type. It was going so well that it even got some nifty artwork.

As stated by the card, it did the following: If you would count the number of basic land types you control, instead count them and add one". This was confusing,and it was soon changed to ‘Incursion Zone’, offering a bit of mana in the process. It also got even cooler artwork.

But soon they realized that, thanks to the changes, it was totally incompatible with Invasion cards. You know, the set Barry’s Land was created for in the first place. So back down went the land of Barry. But at least the sweet Artwork was salvaged when it was repurposed to the Reliquary Tower.

Barry’s Land was dead again.

Rosewater and the team kept trying to make it work. Hope popped up occasionally, but each new edition brought new ways for it not to work. When Wastes came out in 2016 and effectively became the new colorless land, Barry’s Land went to life support. Wastes was everything Barry’s Land/Incursion Zone/Caves was, but with the big difference of not tacking on anything that would break the game (primarily Domain).

Finally, in May 2019, Rosewater confirmed that Barry’s Land was officially dead, thus concluding two decades of continuous changes, testing and R&D.

Despite the failure, Barry’s Land did have it’s uses. It led to wastes being created. It helped the development team nail down what Domain could really do, and how it could be played. It led to more colorless cards. And who knows how many editions and expansions it helped develop by always being there in testing.

Maybe Barry’s Land wasn’t a failure overall. Maybe it was what Magic needed to help them get through their teenage years and come out stronger than ever. Good or bad, it certainly was a curious case in the history of MTG.

And now (because we couldn't resist):

Evan Symon

Evan Symon is a graduate of The University of Akron and has been a working journalist ever since with works published by Cracked, GeekNifty, the Pasadena Independent, California Globe, and, of course, Magic Untapped.