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Containment Priest has this effect:

If a nontoken creature would enter the battlefield and it wasn't cast, exile it instead.

Dryad Arbor is a Land Creature — Forest Dryad. If I play Dryad Arbor as my land for the turn does it get exiled by Containment Priest?

A strict reading of the rules indicate "yes", but it's very weird (since playing a land is apparently a special action that cannot be responded to) so I'd like to check.

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You can't cast a land, only play it:

Cast
To take a card from where it is (usually the hand), put it on the stack, and pay its costs, so that it will eventually resolve and have its effect. See rule 601, “Casting Spells.”

601.1a Some effects still refer to “playing” a card. “Playing a card” means playing that card as a land or casting that card as a spell, whichever is appropriate.

305.1. A player who has priority may play a land card from their hand during a main phase of their turn when the stack is empty. Playing a land is a special action; it doesn’t use the stack (see rule 116). Rather, the player simply puts the land onto the battlefield. Since the land doesn’t go on the stack, it is never a spell, and players can’t respond to it with instants or activated abilities.

That means Dryad Arbor isn't cast, and Containment Priest's ability will exile it.

since playing a land is apparently a special action that cannot be responded to

That's right, but the rules talk about a situation when an opponent would like to cast/activate something that would resolve before the land enters the battlefield. Aether Flash would trigger for Dryad Arbor too.

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  • Honestly, I think the Gatherer page ought to have a ruling specifying that lands played the regular way are affected. – Arthur Oct 31 at 10:42
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    There's a subtlety though, in that because dryad arbor doesn't use the stack you can't flash in containment priest in response. It had to be already sitting on the battlefield – Arcanist Lupus Oct 31 at 14:27
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    @Arthur Dryad Arbor is the only land that isn't handled by existing rulings and would be covered by that ruling. Since other lands aren't inherently creatures, they would be covered by the ruling that says "If a noncreature card wasn’t cast and is entering the battlefield as a creature (due to an effect such as that of March of the Machines), it will be exiled." That does expect that you have the general knowledge that playing a land is not casting a spell, but rulings can't reasonably cover all of the basic information that is potentially relevant to the card's functionality. – murgatroid99 Nov 1 at 1:45
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A strict reading of the rules indicate "yes", but it's very weird (since playing a land is apparently a special action that cannot be responded to) so I'd like to check.

This suggests that you have a misunderstanding of how the term "respond" is used in MtG. I'm not sure whether it has an official definition in the rules, but in common parlance, it refers to acting while something has gone onto the stack, but has not resolved yet (and thus is still on the stack). Playing a land does not use the stack, so you cannot "respond" to it; it is never on the stack, so "doing something while it's on the stack" is not possible.

"If a nontoken creature would enter the battlefield and it wasn't cast, exile it instead." is not an effect, it is an ability that creates the effect "exile it instead". "exile it instead" is a replacement effect. Replacement effect do not use the stack, or require priority. This effect does not need Dryad Arbor entering the battlefield to be on the stack; replacement effects simply replace the effect they are replacing. They are not a "response" to the effect they are replacing, they replace the effect. The original effect does not ever happen.

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