I feel like you're making bad comparisons. You probably wouldn't slot in TW over another tutor, you'd slot it in over a land. Saying a land is worse than a tutor is...kind of true, I guess, I mean tutors are much higher impact cards, but you still need lands. Getting them to pull double duty is a nice bonus, even if they're less good at both - that's the price you pay for flexibility.Quote from Jostin123 »My thoughts on utility lands:
I'm a purist when it comes to cramming utility effects in edh, as I want the maximum amount of options / decision trees when I shuffle up at the table. I like utility lands and how they allow you to conserve deck slots where you would otherwise slot a spell for that same effect. I also feel that not all utility is created equal, and as such, a utility card (land or otherwise) that works really well or synergistically in one deck wont have that same compatability in a other.
When I play utility lands, they often play a very specific role that I feel needs to be filled to shore up my deck. Personally, I rarely play a Tolarian West over a actual Tutor: I rarely play a deck that is looking for a 0cmc card or an X cmc spell, and prefer the increased targets that come with a less narrow Tutor. By that same token, I play Mirokoku when in decks that play both notion thief and Con-Sphinx, Bojuka bog in decks with bouncelands, and prefer Thesbian's stage over Vesuva because I can still copy other lands if needed when the gamedtaye changes . I wouldn't slot a tolarian west if my deck didnt hinge on specific 0 drops to run properly.
With that said, sculpting the perfect 99 is hard, and it's a great way to get the deck down to 99. My utility lands will typically also change my spell slots to ensure that I get the most synergy and value possible from it and the rest of the deck. When the land works as well as or better than the spell you'd slot to replace it, that's when it warrants serious consideration. To me, that's the reason why people gravitate to Strip, Wasteland, Cradle and Winding Canyons, and dont rush to play Soldevi Excavations, Yavamaya Hollow, Thawing Glaciers, or their ilk with the same ferver.
I think it's pretty unrealistic to expect a utility land to be as powerful as a spell doing a similar thing. They are free, after all, and usually pull double duty as a mana producer (minus maze of ith, tabernacle, etc). Strip mine and cradle are aberrations, but I don't think that winding canyons is remotely in the same category. Not that it's a bad card, but I would only consider it in a small number of decks, and it's certainly less powerful than the spell equivalent (vedalken orrery, for one). Not that I wouldn't still play it over orrery in some decks, because it fits into that land slot, but if what you want is flashing in creatures then orrery is definitely better at that particular job. But I'd totally include yavimaya hollow as being quite strong, and not having a very direct spell equivalent. Maybe broken fall, but that's clearly much worse in almost any scenario. If I'm in green and playing very many creatures, that's a utility land I'd be very likely to include. And Thawing Glaciers is very slow, but it's pretty efficient at what it does if you can afford the tempo hit. Plus it does hilarious stuff with land untappers, especially stone-seeder hierophant. Not something I play in many decks, but a far cry from what I'd consider a bad utility land. I would have gone with something like, idk, blighted gorge that belongs in very few decks. Or something like maze of shadows that belongs in no decks at all.
Anyway, TW is not a card I'd run in every deck ever, but if it's a deck that either is highly dependent on a specific land (i.e. my child of alara build that almost needs a sac outlet land to work) or a deck like Phelddagrif that naturally plays a large number of utility lands of different stripes that would make drawing a land tutor late-game a reasonable topdeck, I think it's a pretty reasonable inclusion, especially if tempo isn't critical. Whether it should be played over sylvan scrying or expo map is a little tougher to answer.
It's fairly obvious to say that some utility lands are better in some decks than others, but I don't think it's a clear black-and-white between good enough for the deck and not. There are enough potentially playable utility lands out there that most decks can't run more than a handful unless they're very heavy on lands or monocolor, so things do generally get whittled down to just the very best. But there's always going to be a fuzzy line somewhere in the manabase where it's hard to say whether a utility land is better than a fixer or vice versa.