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4th at the Legacy Pit Open with RG Saga Lands by Jake Romanski

Introduction

My name is Jacob Romanski (Jake) and I just finished top 4 at The Legacy Pit 20k Legacy Open on 18 September 2021. I’m from Allentown, PA and I started playing Magic around 2007 during my university days after having played Pokemon and Yugioh for quite a few years. I played Magic very casually for a few years before even coming close to the competitive scene. The days of needing to get my hands on every powerful, legendary creature to revolve my decks around still feel very recent, and I find this a bit nutty now since I’m writing an article focusing on a deck with zero creatures in the main list. I have a passion for strategy and card games with Magic settled nearest to my heart.

Lessons Learned

A few months ago a local game shop posted their first paper Legacy event since the start of the COVID lockdowns. I took this as an opportunity to play Lands in my first competitive arena, rather than just a bunch of game 1’s with my friends down the street (thanks for the practice Pat and Ryan). I felt in decent shape for the tournament after watching a few videos from players recently running the deck since the printing of Urza’s Saga and Endurance, both of which had some massive impacts on the new iterations of the deck. I was ready…and I ended 2-4 for the day which felt miserable, however I learned two very valuable lessons: I was not ready, and I needed to do something about all of my dead draws during game play (more on this later). After having played Legacy every week at my LGS pre-COVID I had learned that I was not that familiar with how the meta had shifted. So many powerful, legacy-impacting cards had arrived to the game since the pandemic began. At the end of the tournament The Legacy Pit crew reminded the players about their upcoming Legacy 20k which was to be held about six weeks later. It was settled, I decided there was no room for excuses. I would be ready.

I think the single most important thing I did was create a Magic Online account and jam as many leagues as I could while still maintaining a work and social life. In addition to this I watched about 200 YouTube videos spanning the last 5 years. I read as many articles as I could dig up. I also kept an eye on key websites that would post deck lists every few days for both online and paper in order to see what lists were performing well. About thirty MTGO leagues later I finally locked in a list I was about 95% happy with. Before I go into the list however, I want to quickly discuss the breakdown of this deck for any newer players and what I had learned from my time playing leagues. This type of guide would have been very helpful had there been one when I was learning the deck so I’ll share my thoughts on the matter here.

The Data

It took just a few leagues, and one rather heated Magic-related argument, before I decided that I should start planning a sideboard guide and taking notes if something caught me off guard from an opposing deck. It is these exact sorts of surprises that could spell defeat in a tournament, and this is exactly what happened to me at the local tournament a few weeks prior. My BUG Shadow opponent sideboarded into Smog combo and I had no answers, and it wasn’t even on my radar. The same thing happened again when my Oops All Spells opponent sideboarded into Goblin Charbelcher during a MTGO league. My inexperience with the current meta was what spelled disaster for me early on and I needed to begin to build my defenses against threats my deck couldn’t answer. The following data was more or less what I had gathered complete with some match-up notes to eliminate surprises main or post board and ‘Best WinCons’ in the last column as a way to streamline which method I should focus on in specific matches.

I like sideboard guides to a certain degree but it’s crucial to know what the main deck looks like in order to know how to sideboard based on that criteria. In addition, there are some matchups in which I’ll sideboard differently depending on whether or not I’m on the draw or the play, so the above guide is just that, and should not be taken indefinitely. This sideboard guide however was for me about 5 different iterations of playing Lands online (for example one iteration had 4 Ghost Quarters in the main, so if I sideboarded out all 4 of them with that list against a certain opponent I would have to find 3 different cards to sideboard out if a different list I was using contained a different number of them). I also tried different Urza’s Saga packages with these different iterations so those changed from league-to-league as well. I’ve also learned a lot since then, even though it hasn’t been very long, and may change depending on how lists evolve in the future.

One of the things I focused on was how I was winning games. The deck has the following primary winning strategies:

  1. Create a Marit Lage
  2. Mana denial until the opponent concedes (prison strategy)
  3. Beat down with constructs generated by Urza’s Saga
  4. Punishing Fire or Valakut burn

One of the things that I learned while practicing was I was too mana-hungry. I would try and tap out each and every turn for mana efficiency purposes. I realized very quickly that that isn’t such the case with this deck and that I should learn to keep up Crop Rotation at all times in case I need to grab a critical utility land. More often than not I would start my turn with Mox + land > Loam to get that engine online but then wish that I had kept up Crop, repeatedly getting punished for my mana efficiency addiction. In addition, there was a decent concentration of white decks floating around with the recent printing of Prismatic Ending. Almost every white deck carries a near full playset of Swords to Plowshares, Karakas and possibly some number of Solitude. The Lage line wasn’t winning as many games as I had first expected. The second thing that I noticed was that against another Saga matchup their constructs were generally larger than mine. One of the ways to combat this was the inclusion of Retrofitter Foundry (credit here given to Will Pulliam as he basically solidified my choice with a Tweet stating the card was great for him all day). Not only was the addition of RFF something that quite nicely buffed my constructs but this gave me now a 5th (and arguably better than the Punishing Fire) avenue to win the game, enabling me to generate enough servos to buy time until another engine won me the game or win by creature production. In addition, grabbing a Spellbomb or Map meant that the artifact that I tutored up would almost immediately leave the battlefield, reducing my Saga construct’s power and toughness. Grabbing RFF and having it pump out more permanent artifacts was something that really seemed worth it if I were trying to win with that route. Almost all other games were won using the mana denial strategy; i.e. recurring Wastelands and Ghost Quarters with Life from the Loam. With all of these data, I put together my list for the event.

The List

https://mtgmelee.com/Decklist/View/167009

I’m sure most Lands players would agree that the following cards are locked in in the current meta and for me these cards were solidified at their respective number.

  • 1x Blast Zone
  • 1x Bojuka Bog
  • 1x Ghost Quarter
  • 4x Grove of the Burnwillows
  • 1x Karakas
  • 2x Taiga
  • 4x Wasteland
  • 1x The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
  • 4x Thespian’s Stage
  • 4x Crop Rotation
  • 4x Life From the Loam
  • 4x Mox Diamond
  • 4x Exploration

After having gone 2-4 at the local tournament I realized that I was losing a lot of games by drawing dead cards, specifically Mox Diamonds, Explorations and land when I didn’t have a board state I could sink my mana into. My list for that event ran 2x Elvish Reclaimer, 2 Sylvan Library, 2 Valakut Exploration and I ran out of gas in almost every matchup. I wanted to make sure that my deck had something to do every single turn or that I had mana to sink into something every single turn in an attempt to always be progressing my board state. Here are my thoughts on the rest of deck options and the decisions that I wrestled with up to the day of the event.

Ancient Tomb / Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth: I almost considered running Ancient Tomb since I was running 4 Valakut Explorations and 3 Depths but I ultimately decided that there was no room for it. Yavimaya acts as a way to gain mana advantage by turning all of the non-mana producing lands into forests so I felt it a little redundant to run both, but I don’t necessarily disagree with both.

Field of the Dead: I tried this card for many leagues and many practice games in paper and I just never really liked it. The fact that it comes into play tapped and produces colorless mana ended up hurting me way more times than it ended up winning the game for me. I’m pretty anti-field when it comes to Lands but I could see an argument for running 1 copy in the sideboard against control matchups. If the meta ever ends up shifting this way it may make my 75.

Pithing Needle: I found that I was sideboarding this card out in more than 60% of the matches in which I tried running it in the main deck. I understand that Lands is a prison deck with a combo finish and Needle is an excellent prison card but going off of my strategy of eliminating dead draws meant moving this to the sideboard. If the argument is between having a card that’s good in some matchups but dead in most, then to me that’s almost the literal definition of a sideboard card.

2, 3, or 4 Valakut Explorations: As I’ve stated before, I tried 2 copies of this card at the local tournament and found that I rarely drew them (obviously). The turns that I did draw them I really wanted them to resolve to avoid running out of gas, but some of them were inevitably countered and I found myself wishing to draw more copies. I ultimately settled on 4 and found that even if 1 of them did resolve and I didn’t really need another copy that that would be a better position to be in as opposed to hoping to find them and never drawing them.

Sylvan Library / Gamble: As a way to increase my chances of winning Game 1’s I ran 1 to 2 copies of Gamble in the main deck. The thought behind this was that the games I could find Loam should increase my chances of winning before we went to sideboarded matches where my graveyard would have a higher chance of being compromised. Since I was only running up to 2 copies of this card though I didn’t have too much of a chance to really play test it and ultimately cut it for a copy of Sylvan Library. I’ve played 2 copies of Library before but always hated drawing the second copy, so to continue eliminating dead draws from my deck I settled on only 1 copy… but I’ve not determined yet that Gamble should be completely eliminated from this deck!

2 or 3 Green Fetchlands: Since most Lands decks only run on average 3 fetchable lands (1 basic forest, 2 Taiga) fetch lands are very important early game to find the basic forest if needed and also to guarantee the first Loam has an actual target, but quickly run out of targets thereafter. This is one reason I settled on only 2 fetch lands and why I also solidified Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth in my final list. It enabled my fetch lands to tap for green mana if all of the targets for them had been removed from my deck already. In addition, the Urza’s Saga package takes up a lot of slots in this deck and this is usually one place where the cut is made.

Horizon Lands vs. Cycling Lands: I tried both horizon lands and Tranquil Thicket in different iterations of the deck and found a pro and con with each. Tranquil Thicket had some real appeal to me since I could Loam it back and use it as a draw engine without utilizing a land drop and also use it in sideboarded matchups against Surgical Extraction to save my Loams if my opponent wasn’t aware that I had it, however the downside is that if it’s needed as a green source early it enters tapped. I found that having the green source available right away with Horizon Canopy was just better and ended up cutting the Thicket, but I think either are a suitable option.

3 or 4 Dark Depths: I was dead set on 4 copies of this card before I started playing leagues online but the same thing kept happening to me; I would draw multiple copies of this card and hate it every time. I don’t necessarily think that 4 copies is wrong, seeing as how drawing one to pitch to a Mox Diamond and drawing a second one to play isn’t the worst, but again trying to streamline and tighten up the deck to eliminate bad draws meant cutting down to 3 copies. This is the card I think I pitched the most to Mox Diamond if I didn’t have a Stage in hand but with 4 copies of Loam and 4 copies of Crop Rotation I could find another Depths if I really felt the need to.

1 or 3 Rishadan Port: I started off playing the non-Urza’s Saga list of this deck and ran with 3 Ports which was pretty stock. In order to make room for the Saga package this was the next viable cut. While this card is one of my favorite cards in the deck, Wasteland does a fine-enough job at the mana denial strategy that cutting a few Ports doesn’t really hurt the deck too badly. I settled on 1 Port but could have been easily swayed into playing more copies if testing proved worthwhile. 

1 or 3 Urza’s Saga: Not many lists up to this point run 2 or 4 copies although this might change as the meta progresses. I tried playing 2 at the local tournament and looked forward to drawing them every single game. I’m not sure if 4 is correct but because this is 1 of 3 ways the deck has to win I could see this card catching on with a full playset if more answers to Marit Lage deem it necessary or better Saga targets are printed that slot in nicely with this deck. 

Urza’s Saga Package: I settled on Expedition Map as a makeshift 5th copy of Crop Rotation because this allowed me to keep hands more often with Saga and no colored source since I could tutor up the map and find whatever I needed if that need arose. In addition, since Lands is effectively a ‘land toolbox’ deck, Map just makes sense. Pyrite Spellbomb is in the deck for 2 main reasons: the first is that it is an answer to Sanctum Prelate. A Prelate on 2 is almost impossible for this deck to beat since it tags Loam and Punishing Fire, but the addition of Spellbomb gives me an out (and obviously it’s great against creature matchups in general). The second is that once it’s on the field it nullifies any attempt to Surgical Loam due to the draw ability, and if it’s not great in the matchup it just serves as a cycler. Not including Mox Diamonds the last Piece I settled on is Retrofitter Foundry for reasons already discussed. 

Elvish Reclaimer: I tried 2 copies of this card in earlier iterations of the deck and didn’t hate it, as it served as a mana sink and a threat that had to be answered early, but I really liked the idea of having no creatures in the main deck to fog some creature removal spells that normally run around in Legacy. The fact that the lands enter play tapped is a big deal that did weigh in on my final deck list choice. 

2 or 3 Punishing Fire / Lightning Bolt: If a deck doesn’t run the Pyrite Spellbomb as part of the Saga package then the deck generally runs 3 copies of this card, otherwise it’s 1 Spellbomb + 2 Punishing Fire. I like having options available and as I’ve already discussed the upsides to Spellbomb I ended up with 2 Punishing Fires. I have not tried running Lightning Bolts in this deck but thought that they would ultimately dilute what the deck is trying to do so I decided on 0 copies in my 75, however this is another answer for Chalice or Prelate. Since Dreadhorde Arcanist isn’t running around in Legacy anymore I’m not sure that this card is needed.

2 or 3 Maze of Iths: Since Delver is a matchup I expected to play against at least once in the tournament I ended up on 3 copies of this card over 2, but almost all decks play either 2 or 3. It might be personal preference but 3 feels correct. It can pitch to a Mox Diamond if needed and tap for green under the presence of Yavimaya so I don’t think that 3 is too detrimental even in non-creature matchups.

Glacial Chasm: This is a card that I considered running in the sideboard but it never ended up making the 75. I’m not opposed to running this card and I like the interaction with this and Stage but I just chose not to run it. If you’re going to consider running this card you need to make sure you’re very familiar with this interaction and be aware of your time because this can soak up a lot of it. Lands is a deck that can very easily go to time in a regular 50-minute match and this card will absorb a lot of that time if no progressive game actions are taken.

Sideboard choices

Most sideboard lists are pretty equivalent with only a few flex slots. Most players I think would agree on the following in the current meta, but the rest of the sideboard choices are preferential:

  • 4x Sphere of Resistance
  • 3x Force of Vigor
  • 3x Endurance

2 or 4 Red Elemental Blast / Pyroblast: This card is great against blue combo decks (Sneak and Show, Echo of Eons decks, etc) and Delver decks as it’s an efficient answer to Delver and Murktide Regent. Since I chose to play the Pithing Needle in the sideboard and I was pretty set on the above choices I decided to cut one of the blast slots. I also chose to play 2 REB over Pyroblasts solely because of the amazing artwork and dark color of the Beta blasts, although it would probably be more correct to play Pyroblast in case you need to target a non-blue permanent or spell. But since I’m bringing this card in to strictly counter/destroy a blue spell/permanent I didn’t see a reason not to play them.

Choke: This is a card that can just win a game for you, however since you’re brining it in in only blue matchups and it costs 3 mana it’s likely to get countered. If you’re running it against a Daze deck then this card effectively costs 4 mana. It’s a card that either absorbs a counter spell (or 2 if it gets FOW’d), or wins the game. I considered going down to 1 to open up another slot but I ultimately ended on 2 copies. With that being said, I have certainly lost games where I’ve successfully resolved this card, so while I like the option of running it this was definitely a card I could see cutting over other options.

Crucible of Worlds: I’ve seen some players sideboarding with 1 of these for matchups where Surgical Extraction on Loam can be an issue or in a heavy Wasteland mirror (D&T, mirror, etc.) but this is a card I haven’t play tested with prior to the event. I wanted to be very familiar with every card I chose for my 75 so it didn’t make the cut, but I don’t hate seeing it in sideboards and I completely understand the efficacy of the card. 

Tournament Weekend

I’m feeling pretty good the morning of the tournament after coming off 2 12-hour work shifts the previous days, and I’m just hoping that if I can’t make Top 8 I lose quickly and make it home in order to wake up for another 4am 12-hour shift the next day. As I’m shuffling up, I try and keep 2 thoughts in my mind that weren’t there at the local tournament a few weeks ago:

  1. Figure out what my opponent is playing no later than turn 2
  2. Strategize the best win condition for that deck and sideboard appropriately

These are likely the thoughts of all advanced magic players, however it’s really easy to forget that at the start of a big tournament when anxiety is at its highest I think. 

The pairings for the first round is announced, someone makes a joke about Legacy being a dead format as almost 400 people struggle to move around each other, and the first match begins.

Match 1: BUG Reanimator w/ Smog Combo (WW)

Game 1: My opponent leads on Bloodstained Mire > Badlands > Faithless Looting. I put him on either Reanimator or a Hogaak-type deck. He discards Griselbrand + X  and passes to me. Having been a Reanimator player for a number of years I feel like I know exactly where this is going, and I distinctly remember saying to myself, “I’ll keep up Crop Rotation for Maze of Ith or Karakas even though there’s no way he’ll be able to attack me next turn.” On his turn he casts a second Looting and discards X + Shallow Grave, and at this point I feel like all of the testing I’ve been doing online was almost for nothing and that everyone at the tournament is just playing a pile of cards to 1-up their opponents. The lesson that I’ve learned to try and always keep up Crop Rotation however has already pulled through for me and it’s only turn 2 of Match 1.

He casts Dark Ritual into a second Shallow Grave and puts Griselbrand onto the battlefield and I’m very happy that I’ve kept up the ability to Maze. My fear at this point is that he gets Archon of Cruelty next turn, as that is a card that’s very difficult for me to beat unless I make Lage after its trigger resolves, assuming I have enough resources by that time. He attacks, I maze and he passes back exiling G at EOT. He casts some Lotus Petals and Entombs again, this time for Witherbloom Apprentice. I’m having vivid flashbacks to the last tournament where I lost to this card out of a BUG Shadow sideboard so I keep in mind to keep my Punishing Fires in my deck post-board. If this were straight Reanimator, there may be a reason to cut them, but I hope to not be caught off guard again. He’s at 4 life at this point and decides to Reanimate the Apprentice going to 2. I have a Punishing Fire in my hand and cast it on the end of his turn.

WINCON: Punishing Fire damage

Game 2: I keep a hand with turn 1 Mox + Sphere since I’m able to get it out early. He plays a land and passes and I drop Sphere and pass back. He doesn’t do anything turn 2 except tap a land and play Lotus Petal and on my next turn I start Wastelanding him. He misses a land drop (Reanimator generally plays ~15 land) and I draw Rishadan Port for the basic he finds. A few turns later he concedes after I get GQ online with Loam. 

WINCON: Mana Denial

Match 2: Mono Red Painter (WW)

Game 1: Opponent begins his turns with Great Furnace + Goblin Engineer and pitches a Grindstone. I Wasteland his Furnace and he misses his next land drop while I start Loaming back a bunch of lands. He packs it in.

WINCON: Mana denial

Game 2: We play back and forth for a bit but on turn 3 I use Stage to copy his Urza’s Saga and then proceed to Wasteland all of his lands (including his Saga before it goes off). Normally I like destroying all lands except the Saga, since the Saga will destroy itself but in this type of deck the Saga can fetch up a large variety of hate plus combo pieces and I don’t want any part of that. He eventually gets some lands out along with Grindstone and on my turn my Valakut Exploration finds a Force of Vigor. I use it to destroy Grindstone + something else and he concedes.

WINCON: Mana denial + construct beats

Match 3: 5-C Storm (LWW)

Game 1: My opponent starts off by Duress’ing me on Underground Sea and the only deck I can put him on is Storm with a possibility of Doomsday. He starts combo’ing off by turn 3 but I do notice he’s playing the Echo of Eons version of this deck which tells me to bring in both of my REB’s for Game 2. He also shows me Burning Wish so I remember to keep in Tabernacle as I suspect he may have Empty the Warrens in his sideboard. Blasting an Echo off of LED mana is generally game over for them. He wins Game 1 easily however. 

As we’re shuffling he tells me that he’s very familiar with the Lands matchup as his friend runs Lands all the time and that his friend won’t play this matchup anymore. I tell him that I don’t blame his friend in the least and was hoping to avoid this matchup all day as well. He obviously agrees but is thrilled I’m sitting across from him.

Game 2: We play a few lands back and forth, he cantrips a bit and I set up some stuff. I keep FOV in my hand along with a Loam which I feel won’t do too much right now. I have 4 mana-producing lands on my side of the field and I draw a second copy of Crop Rotation. I pass back and hope that he doesn’t kill me this turn as I have the win wrapped up if he passes. He thinks a bit… and then starts storming off. He leads with Chrome Mox > LED > LED, but before the second LED resolves I FOV both the LED and the Chrome Mox hoping he doesn’t have enough mana to win. FOV resolves and he floats no mana off of them. The second LED resolves and he passes to me. I double Crop Rotation for Stage + Depths and present lethal. We go to Game 3.

WINCON: Lage

Game 3: I didn’t do any sideboarding differently than Game 2 since my entire sideboard is now basically in my deck. I start Wastelanding him early on and I believe he was on a mulligan this game so I’m just trying to slow him down until I can make Lage, which I believe is my best win condition. I make sure to leave up Crop Rotation at all times and a few turns later he starts storming off. He Wish’s for Empty and puts out 8 goblin tokens. One of his friends is now standing behind him watching the match as we’re close to time in the round at this point and on his EOT I Crop for a Tabby. His face fills with dread as he only has 2 lands on his side of the field and he says to me “That’s still in your deck?” To which I reply “Yeaaaa,” trying to sound empathetic but feeling like I have the game wrapped up. His friend walks away from the table and I’m about to tell him that Tabby is pitch-able to Mox Diamond as the very least and that I’d rather have it as an option in case my opponent is playing Empty than not have it but I don’t say anything else to him (plus he showed me Burning Wish). On my turn I wasteland him down to 1 land and take a few hits from 1 goblin until I work up getting a Saga online and start beating down with a construct. He now has a full grip of 8 cards the turn before I’m about to win and casts a Brainstorm. I REB it and he concedes.

He tells me that his friend probably won’t let him live down the fact that he lost to Lands and I explained then that he just shouldn’t tell him anything. He then tells me that he’s sure that that was the reason he friend left the table and the blasphemy within his group of friends was already being spread. I wished him luck and walked away feeling unbeatable, and hungry. I walked to my car, ate half of a meal I had prepared and waited for my next match.

WINCON: Mana denial + Construct beats

Match 4: Yorion Death and Taxes (WW)

Game 1: I know what my opponent is playing because he sat next to me last round, and he presented Yorion as we shuffled for the first game. I generally don’t like this match up since they have tons of answers to Lage (4 Karakas, 4 Swords to Plowshares, 4 Solitude, 4 Flickerwisp, Sanctum Prelate on 2, and Wastelands). The best way I’ve found to beat this deck is get ahead on resources through Exploration/Valakut Exploration, while using Tabernacle and Wastelands to stifle their mana. As soon as they pull ahead on cards it’s generally impossible to win from the Lands side. We go back and forth for a while but I’m able to pull ahead exactly this way with Valakut Exploration and Retrofitter Foundry.

WINCON: Valakut + Retrofitter damage

Game 2: This game goes almost the same way as Game 1. I Crop for Tabby early on and make him use his mana to keep his creatures alive and he falters on his 4th land drop. He works his way up to Stoneforge + Kaldra but I have a Maze to contend with that. I then copy a Stage into another Maze just in case he finds Port or Wasteland. He ends up paying the Tabernacle tax on his Kaldra token which I am ecstatic about since he doesn’t have to do that. I work on generating thopters with Retrofitter and tap out for another Valakut. At this point all of my lands and creatures are tapped but I have RFF untapped, which has the ability to turn a thopter into a 4/4 just by tapping it. He taps both of creatures to attack me and then untaps them to think about it. I don’t see his eyes moving to the side of the field where RFF is so encourage him to attack me by picking up my pen as if to broadcast that I’m ready to take the damage. He turns his creatures sideways and declares them attacking. I immediately put my pen down activate RFF making a 4/4 and block one of his creatures. He concedes next turn. 

I give him the friendly advice after the game that he doesn’t need to pay for the Tabernacle tax for Kaldra tokens since they’re indestructible and he, along with a lot of other players, tend to think Tabernacle says ‘sacrifice’ while it actually says ‘destroy.’ 

WINCON: Retrofitter damage

Match 5: Izzet Delver (WW)

Game 1: I don’t really remember Game 1 so much but I do remember that I Wastelanded and GQ’d my opponent out of the game. It’s very important to be ahead on card advantage through Exploration and Loam in this match up. One main way to win this game is to destroy all of their lands and then put out a Tabernacle to destroy their creatures keeping a Stage as backup in case they try and Wasteland it. And even if they do it’s not the end of the world since the deck runs 4 Loams. Maze does a great job at holding the opponent off until this line can be set up. It was over quickly.

WINCON: Mana denial

Game 2: The next game my opponent puts out a DRC on turn 1 that hangs around the entire game and almost kills me. I end up drawing Endurance and holding it up for a few turns to try and play around Daze. DRC has been a 3/3 for a few turns now and I finally get to the point where I have 4 mana. DRC attacks and I fire off a Crop Rotation that gets FOW’d. I then flash out Endurance in hopes that my opponent doesn’t have another counter spell. He doesn’t, and a 1/1 DRC crashes into my Endurance. I set up generating servos with Retrofitter to hold off a dashed Ragavan since I’m at a low life total and that coupled with a Bolt would be enough to win. My Endurance gets there.

WINCON: Endurance beats with Retrofitter backup

Match 6: Yorion Aluren (WLL)

Game 1: At this point I’m 1st seed (5-0 in matches and 10-1 in games), playing at Table 1. It’s a great feeling until I see where Table 1 is located. There’s about 1 foot between me and the roped off point for the feature match area and all traffic is funneled through this space. It’s extremely hard to concentrate when you’re being bashed by a bookbag to the shoulder or face every 30 seconds and my opponent feels the same. He presents Yorion and I put him on D&T. He wins the die roll and starts off by playing basic Forest into Birds of Paradise. I feel my mind rewire itself as I actually have no idea now what he’s on. I play Tabernacle and pass, he then plays a dual land and passes back. I Wasteland the dual and eventually lock him out of the game since he missed a few land drops. He concedes and for the first time in the tournament I have no idea what I’m playing against or how to sideboard and I feel like that could spell disaster.

WINCON: Mana Denial

Game 2: My opponent more or less starts off the same way and a few back and forth turns later he casts Aluren. I did not see this coming whatsoever and I’ve only played against it online once in my testing so I really wasn’t prepared for it. I did end up bringing in 1 FOV because I feel like I have to if I don’t really know what my opponent is on but I never found it. He proceeds to combo kill me and we go to Game 3.

Game 3: The only outs I have to this other than denying my opponent mana are the REB’s on the Strix or FOV when he’s about to combo off (and I suppose a Blast Zone on 4 but that’s unlikely). We go back and forth for a few turns and my draws are terrible. He combo kills me and my streak is broken. I have a vivid fear that at this point I’m going to lose my next 3 matches and finish 5-4 (all 6-3 records were guaranteed to pay out). I tell him that it’s him that’s the unfortunate one since he’ll have to be at Table 1 the next round and we both laugh. I head out to my car, finish the last of the meals that I brought with me, chug some water, wash my face and try to reset. My mind isn’t feeling as sharp as it was a few hours ago but I presume most people are starting to feel it at this point.

Match 7: Elves (WLW)

Game 1: My opponent leads on fetch > Forest > Green Sun into Dryad arbor. I play out Tabernacle and assume, incorrectly, that they’re on a Depths/Maverick deck. My opponent then plays out a second Dryad and hits me with the first one. I set up my mana and pass back. In the upkeep after Tabernacle tax is paid for, I punishing fire one of the Dryads. A land drop is missed followed quickly by a concession. I do not pick up that my opponent is on Elves (even though this is probably the only deck in the format that plays 2 Dryad Arbors) at this point and end up sideboarding out all but 1 of my Depths, which is a crucial mistake against this deck.

WINCON: Mana denial

Game 2: I mulligan to 5 and keep a sketch hand but feel it’s probably better than a decent 4. My draws were horrible as I drew multiple Mox Diamonds after having played all of my lands. I also quickly realize that I sideboarded incorrectly as my opponent plays turn 1 Allosaurus Shepherd. I die to a couple of 5/5’s.

Game 3: I’m ready now for Game 3 and I’ve re-boarded appropriately. I play land + Mox and hold up Punishing Fire and pass. I destroy their first elf and present Lage next turn off of Exploration. My opponent concedes.

WINCON: Lage

It’s worth noting at this point that, other than dying to Storm on the play, both of my other loses have come from not sideboarding correctly or knowing what I was playing against. A crucial piece of information needed to do well in these tournaments. 

Match 8: Karn Echos (WLW)

Game 1: I knew my next opponent was on Karn Echos. I’ve played against this deck a few times online and the only real threat is Karn. Tabernacle does a great job at keeping Sai’s thopters at bay and Maze can handle their constructs. This is exactly how I win Game 1 and my opponent concedes stating that he thinks we should go immediately to Game 2 and hurry with sideboarding due to time. The clock still shows a healthy 35 minutes however, so I’m guessing that he knows this match up can take a while if the pilots are slow.

WINCON: Mana denial

Game 2: My opponent is really playing quickly now and I’m still unsure why but he begins rushing me a bit too, which I countered by not acknowledging. I played at a healthy speed and kept an eye on the clock throughout the entire match and guess that it may be a tactic to try and rush his opponent into playing sloppy. I attempt to set up a Lage kill but he plays Thought Monitor into Thought Monitor and my Lage is blocked both times. He eventually creates enough servos and constructs to secure Game 2.

Game 3: My opponent barely shuffles and appears to be in a real hurry even though we’re at 17 minutes left on the clock. I tell him that even if we go to time we won’t be on time anymore but he appears not to hear me. The game goes to a healthy 7ish turns and he plays Emry, milling over Aether Spellbomb. I have exactly enough mana to create Lage and play Pithing Needle to name either Emry or Spellbomb. I create Lage, he blocks with his only remaining flier and I slam Needle naming Emry. He draws his final card after being hellbent, looks around at the board state and concedes the game. 

WINCON: Lage

Match 9: Izzet Delver (ID)

We’re finally in the crucial last match of the night and I’m on Table 2. My record is 7-1 with my only loss going to the only undefeated person in the room. My current opponent also has the highest breakers in the room (>70%), so I assume that I’m able to ID into the Top 8. My opponent was extremely confident that only the top 2 tables were mathematically allowed to ID and guarantee to make Top 8. I didn’t see how he could be wrong.

I sit anxiously refreshing the stats to see if I made Top 8 and it finally shows that I have come in 6th place. I’m pretty happy and think to myself that if we can wrap this up quickly I can still make it home before midnight and sneak in 4 hours of sleep before my next day of work. I look over at my friend who’s still with me, ending his day at a cool 6-3 and tell him that I’m going to split if given the option so we can get the heck out of there. We still have a 3 hour drive home and my mind is gone at this point (it’s now 9pm and we’ve been playing for 11 hours).

We get our pictures taken and congratulations are all accounted for and we get the news that we will be entering Top 8 momentarily (someone anonymously submitted that they wanted to play it out). I decide my options might be to use a sick day as there was no feasible way I’d make it home on time anymore, even if I lost my next match, and contemplated which energy drink I would have to consume to stay awake for the drive home.

Quarter Finals: Affinity (LWW)

This match was at the backup feature table and was streamed live on Twitch after the first feature match had concluded. As of this article is has not yet been posted to YouTube but I presume that it will be in the near future. For now, the vod is here: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1152873734

Game 1: I don’t remember much of this game but I remember enough to know that I lost.

Game 2: As we begin shuffling for Game 2 we hear that the feature match is over and our match would begin streaming. The Twitch video can be seen in the link above.

My starting hand was nuts as I lead on Mox > Exploration and fetch land. I then Loam back both of my lands and pass turn. My opponent leads on Karakas and passes back. I Loam on my turn, fetch again to get back as many lands as possible for my Loam, and play Blast Zone and pass back deciding to keep up Crop Rotation. My opponent plays Ethersworn Cannonist which doesn’t do too much against me so I’m happy to see it, and passes back. I Rotate EOT for a Wasteland and tick up Blast Zone to 2 in order to answer his threat if needed and also set up Wasteland + Loam next turn to destroy all of his permanents. I know that the Cannonist isn’t really much of a threat but I figured that if I destroyed all of his permanents he would concede and that’s exactly what happens. I play a Maze of Ith to further lock him out and he concedes. These are the kinds of games I signed up for when I registered this deck. 

WINCON: Mana denial

Game 3: My opponent leads on Saga > Retrofitter and passes to me. I lead on Taiga with a few options but find it’s best to pass turn and tag both of his permanents with my FOV. I’m hoping for a quick concession but he ends up playing another Saga > Retrofitter. On my turn I Wasteland his Saga because I don’t want him to play a sol-land and start pumping out servos. He then plays a Walking Ballista on X=1 and passes back. I decide to keep him off of permanents until I can draw into a Loam and start attacking his lands so I keep Grove hidden and play Stage > Punishing Fire to destroy his Ballista. Over the next few turns I continue to buy back Punishing Fire and take care of his threats before they become something I can’t deal with. My opponent plays Pithing Needle naming Stage and passes back. I draw REB and end up holding it mainly for Emry or Thought Monitor, basically anything that can put him ahead on card advantage. I don’t really have anything going on at this point so I play a Saga myself in hopes to fetch up my Map which would take me from having almost no options to having a bunch of options, hence a better board state. My Saga ticks up to 3 and my mind is just gone at this point as I’m trying to figure out what I want to do. It’s going on midnight and I’m fried. I end up floating mana for Map, however I take a step back as I’m going through my deck and notice that if I just lock up his RFF and play the Maze in my hand his board is essentially null. I end up getting Needle for this reason and miss making a construct as well as waste the floating mana.

My opponent starts counting his artifacts and plays a Thought Monitor and I just immediately let it resolve, as I already have an answer for it in my graveyard and I’d rather try to answer a larger threat with it. My opponent draws into Disenchant and blows up my Needle putting RFF back online. I Fire the Thought Monitor and buy it back EOT, drawing into another Saga, which feels great knowing I can find Map with this one and generate some blockers to hold him off. My opponent is in top deck mode and I put down my defenses by tapping all of my Groves only to have my Punishing Fire Surgical’d.

I draw and play GQ on his Ancient Tomb to take him off of his mana since incremental damage by servos is a way I can lose this game and decide that this is the best option I have at slowing him down. He draws a land, plays it and passes, I make another construct and fetch up Map to get Blast Zone to put my Stage back online. I’m hoping to set up a Depths kill or have the ability to copy one of our Sagas since I’m out of gas. I pass back and my opponent creates a construct with RFF. He attacks with both and I calculate what feels like the hardest math I’ve ever had to do in my entire life. I’m pretty sure double blocking won’t kill both of my creatures…but I can’t be sure since my brain has long since checked out. I double block the construct with my constructs and maze his big creature. I am relieved when the ashes clear.

My turn and I pop the Blast Zone before playing the Tabernacle that I drew to hide information, destroying his Needle and RFF, along with my Exploration that really isn’t doing anything, and pass back after playing Tabernacle. He hits me for 1 and I Stage my Maze. My turn and I draw another Maze and pass back. My opponent then plays a Ballista on X=3 tapping out and everyone at the table (including me) forgets about Tabernacle. The judges step aside and we realize what has happened. I close my eyes for a bit in hopes of recharging and they rule that the creatures are destroyed. My turn and I FORGET AGAIN to pay for Tabernacle since the construct isn’t really on my mind. I pass back and clap my hands when my opponent remembers the Tabernacle tax on his next turn.

I evaluate the board state at this point and realize that I’m dead to this Ballista unless I find an answer and at the moment I draw into Crop Rotation to set up for Lage. My opponent is empty-handed and I make Lage EOT for the win.

WINCON: Lage

Semi Finals: Jeskai Midrange (LL)

I look over at my friend who’s still with me and his eyes are as bloodshot as mine. I tell him he’s a trooper for hanging in there.

Game 1: I don’t remember much of this game but I know that my opponent created a bunch of constructs and killed me exactly even though I made Lage and was about to win the next turn. Incremental damage is surely a way Lands can lose a game.

Game 2: I really don’t remember anything at all about this game except that I made a crucial misplay. My opponent had a Murktide Regent and two dual lands. I had Stage + 2 mana producing lands with a Tabernacle in hand. I drew Wasteland for the turn and immediately used it. As soon as it was in the graveyard I asked if I could take it back as I saw that I had moved too quickly and wanted to copy it with my Stage before using it. I was denied, and played Tabernacle anyway. My opponent misses his next land drop which tells me that if my Stage was a Wasteland I would have been able to destroy his only threat and have a great chance at winning the game. I die to Murktide and my tournament is over.

Final Thoughts

In general I had a great run in the tournament and finished 8-2-1 if you include all of my matches. Although it might be a bit arbitrary to firmly state the exact win conditions for each game since certain strategies may have prevailed at different points in each game my main win conditions were as follows (25 total games):

  • Mana denial: 9 games
  • Marit Lage: 4 games
  • Retrofitter beats: 3 games
  • Construct beats: 2 games
  • Damage through Punishing Fire/Valakut: 2 games

I’m sure there’s a deeper evaluation that can be made here with this data but it’s nice to see how often certain strategies play out and how crucial the new additions of the deck have become compared to older win conditions. 

As a reflection, I asked myself why I thought I did better in this tournament versus the local tournament, which is a fair question that anyone should ask themselves that wish to get better, and the answers that I think make the most sense are familiarity with the meta (and of course variance likely plays a role in there somewhere too) and better sideboarding discipline. Most of the games I lost at the local tournament were due to poor sideboarding choices and a lack of focus on how to best win the game. As I stated earlier, the deck only has a few win conditions and generally speaking 1 or 2 of these win conditions are best versus certain decks so they should be your main focus. You should of course not abandon other lines if the opportunity to win presents itself, but you should know what your deck is weak against and ensure your post board games follow suit. Since most Lands sideboards are roughly identical the only real thing that differs from deck to deck is the quantity of each card each player prefers and almost all of the cards presented there are reactive (except Sphere). This generally leads to a greater focus on either the mana denial or Lage route to victory since the cards that are cut in sideboarding are usually cards that are strictly blank in the match up, which makes sense since Lands is essentially a toolbox style deck and looks to answer everything on Game 1. All things considered it was a hell of a weekend for a dead format.

My Run for the MOCS with Lands by alli

This is the 2nd article in my series for how to level up in legacy. In the 1st article I go over my process and explain what I have done to level up my play. In this article I will explain how I prepared for the MOCS Qualifier and give you a detailed tournament report.

Showcase Challenge

I qualified by getting a Top 8 in the first Showcase Challenge of the season. This took place in early June 2021. This was just 1 week after the release of MH2 and I expected Delver and Affinity to be popular. I didn’t worry too much about Affinity as they seemed weak to Tabernacle, Punishing Fire, Force of Vigor and Marit Lage. Delver, however, was already the best deck prior to MH2 and I only expected it to get better. Prior to MH2 UR Delver was actually quite tricky as they had slowed down and added more cards that could give them card advantage such as the Spellbelly and Expressive Iterations. But more importantly they respected Marit Lage. I saw multiple copies of Petty Theft main and they had both Karakas and Submerges in their sideboard. In order to combat this version of UR Delver, me and the Italian Lands master fmessina started adding Shifting Ceratops to our sideboard. Ceratops was uncounterable and it could be cast on curve with no fear for Daze. It roadblocked all their creatures and didn’t die to Bolt nor Submerge. It also killed quickly if we decided to turn it sideways. MH2 introduced Endurance and the card seemed sweet as a way to improve Doomsday and turn 0 graveyard decks, and it could also be brought in vs Delver. I had a feeling that the Delver decks would adopt Ragavan and possibly also Dragon’s Rage Channeler and Ceratop’s pro blue felt less relevant. I added 2 Endurance to my sideboard but kept 1 Ceratops. 

The event played out like I had expected but it didn’t start well. I won over Affinity in round 1 but then I lost in round 2 to something that I cannot remember right now. In round 3 I am paired against Doomsday and I feel “ok this tournament is over”. But I actually managed to win this match as my opponent messed up a Doomsday pile in game 2. I then go ahead and beat 3 UR Delver decks in a row and I also smash Death & Taxes. In my final “win and in” I am paired against UR Delver again and I win that one 2-0 and advance to the Top 8. I instantly lost in the Top 8 to Sam Rolph (Phil_Hellmuth) on UR Delver, but I didn’t care too much about this at the time. It was late, I was tired, and I didn’t really play my most focused games. This is something that happens to me quite often though. I tend to lose focus once I have reached my goal. I had played super tight in the “win and in” but then in the quarters I kept a risky hand and lost to a Wasteland. I think this is something I can improve going forward.

The Preparation

I got promoted at work right after the Showcase Challenge and I didn’t really play any magic in June. I did follow the online meta though, and I saw that Bant Control was putting up good results in Challenges. Bant Control looked good against Delver, but it also looked good against Lands. Prismatic Ending could answer Exploration, Sylvan Library, and Valakut Exploration, and their main deck Endurance seemed like a pain to play against. They also had 2 copies of Force of Vigor in their sideboards and this card is devastating to play against for Lands. I was worried that Bant Control would take over the meta and I decided to dive deep into this archetype in order to figure out how to combat it. I therefore wrote this article on Lands vs Control. Some people in the Lands discord argued that Prismatic Ending made Sylvan Library bad and that we should swap these for Urza’s Saga. I didn’t agree with this logic. I have played several hundred matches against Snowko, and they played 3-4 Abrupt Decay, and I never felt that Sylvan Library was bad against Snowko just because they had answers to it. In fact Library was one of the best cards against Snowko, and I was confident that it would be one of the best cards against Bant Control as well. I played a few matches against Bant in the first week of July and the matchup was not as bad as I had feared. Their mana was shaky and this made the deck feel easier compared to UWx decks of past metas. It also turned out that Bant wouldn’t take over the Legacy metagame. Instead a portion of the Delver decks morphed into Jeskai decks (some with Urza’s Saga and some with Monastery Mentor) and these decks were able to put up a fight against Bant Control. The Jeskai decks seemed like fine matchups for Lands but I wasn’t sure because I hadn’t played against them. I hadn’t played much against Delver in Leagues either (as it seems like that deck is too expensive for players to play in Leagues). I decided to do some dedicated testing against these decks before the event.

Expected Meta

In order to figure out what other decks that would be popular in the MOCS Qualifier I created a spreadsheet where I wrote down all players that had qualified and their expected deck. 

UR Delver (35%)

I had 9 out of 26 opponents on UR Delver but I was unsure how many of these would swap to something like Jeskai Saga.

DatePlayerDeckOther Decks
2021-06-06stainersonUR DelverNinja
2021-06-06Phil_HellmuthUR DelverJeskai, Lands
2021-06-06Bullwinkkle6705UR Delver
2021-07-18Kentaro_HokoriUR DelverJeskai
2021-07-18TristanjwlUR DelverDelverless, Jeskai
2021-07-18MzBlazerUR Delver
2021-08-08nathansteuerUR Delver
2021-08-08alesha_UR Delver
2021-09-10NonboUR DelverSneak & Show, Bant Control

Non-Blue Midrange (30%)

I had 8 out of 26 opponents on non-blue midrange decks but interesting enough only two of these were on actual Death & Taxes. It seemed like GW Depths (or even Lands) could be more popular than Taxes.

DatePlayerDeckOther Decks
2021-06-06matyo804Death & TaxesJeskai, Lands
2021-06-06jtl005Esper Vial
2021-06-06RNGspecialistAffinityRUG Delver, Snowko
2021-06-06alliLands
2021-07-18MMAPSON125GW Depths
2021-08-08caedyrnGoblins
2021-08-08yawgmothptDeath & Taxes
2021-08-08didackithGW Depths
2021-09-11MechinLandsBant Control

Control (12%)

I had 3 out of 26 opponents on control decks. 

DatePlayerDeckOther Decks
2021-07-18Theo_JungJeskai Saga
2021-07-18McWinSauceBant ControlJeskai Balance
2021-07-18BurrarunBant ControlDnT

Combo (23%)

I had 6 out of 26 opponents on combo but only 4 were on spell based combo and the remaining 2 were on Hogaak (this is a good matchup for Lands).

DatePlayerDeckOther Decks
2021-06-06MoxSquirrelHogaak
2021-07-18VivarusTES
2021-08-08yamaroOmnishowAluren
2021-08-08klashbackSneak & Show
2021-08-08sawatarixDoomsday
2021-08-09ShzockChanHogaak

Testing

I started playing MODO again during my summer holiday in July. I tested various Lands lists in Leagues. I played a white splash for Prismatic Ending, and a blue splash for Engineered Explosives and Flusterstorm, but they all felt worse compared to normal RG. There is a real cost of adding the 3rd color as this means that we have to cut some utility lands such as Urza’s Saga and Ancient Tomb. I also tested various lists with 3-4 Urza’s Saga but I didn’t like them. As we got closer to the event I started focusing on an RG list with 1 Urza’s Saga (it’s primarily for the Bant matchup, but it also makes our deck less linear). Thomas Mechin went 5-2 in a challenge, with an RG list with 3 Maze of Ith and 0 Elvish Reclaimers, the week before the event. He told me that Maze had been very good for him and I agreed that they looked well positioned in a meta filled with Murktides and Kaldra Compleat. I figured that I would play something similar to his list, and this is also what I tested in the final week up to the event. 

Jeskai and UR Delver vs Gul Dukat

I contacted Daniel (Gul_Dukat) on Twitter and asked if he could coach me for this event. I said that I wanted to discuss how I should approach the Jeskai and UR decks and I also wanted to get some practice games in. We talked about the pros and cons for Jeskai vs UR and he told me that he liked the idea of Jeskai as Swords to Plowshares is good against Murktide. But he also said that the UR shell is very tuned and the Jeskai lists were still experimental and he didn’t think that there was a consensus among Delver players on what version that is best. We also discussed the pros and cons of playing Maze vs Elf vs Bolt (more about this further down).

We then played some games where I was on the 3 Maze list. I explained that I was nervous to play against these decks on the draw as I felt that Ragavan would invalidate a big portion of my deck (all Wastelands and Ports). I felt especially nervous to play against Jeskai as their Sword to Plowshares also invalidates Dark Depths and it felt like I could have a hard time executing a consistent gameplan vs these decks. We therefore decided that I should be on the draw in all games to get a better feel for how this played out. In the first match he was on Jeskai and he started with Ragavan on turn 1. Ragavan hits me 3-5 times before I am able to find a Maze to stop him. At this point Daniel also has Young Pyromancer but I have Tabernacle and I never feel pressured. I end up destroying all his lands and eventually win. In game 2 I also manage to destroy all Daniel’s lands. This matchup actually didn’t feel bad for lands. I felt like I had a lot more time then I would have had against Delver and their mana felt super shaky.

We then played 5 games of Lands vs UR Delver, and Daniel had Ragavan on turn 1 in 4 of these. I went 1-4 in these games but Daniel assured me that his hands had been above average and that it would feel much easier on Sunday. There was one game in particular that stuck with me though. Daniel opened with Volcanic Island into Ragavan and my hand had Karakas, Forest, Maze, Exploration and some other cards. I decided to play around Daze and I therefore started with Karakas. Daniel finds a Wasteland for my Karakas, I bounce his Ragavan in response, and he replays it. On my next turn I decide to play conservatively again and I play out Maze instead of Exploration. I end up falling even further behind and when Daniel finds another Wasteland the game is over. The key to winning over Delver with Lands was always to get ahead on mana early and this game showed me that this is perhaps even more true now then ever. Current versions of UR Delver are low to the ground and Ragavan accelerates them into hyperspeed. In my opinion the best card in the Lands deck against Delver is Mox Diamond, and a starting hand with Mox feels much more likely to win then one without it. Similarly the best card on the Delver side is Wasteland. Given that it’s so important to get ahead on mana then I think playing Maze instead of Exploration is wrong in this example. If I had played Forest into Exploration and have had it Dazed then Daniel would have 2 mana and I would have 1 on his following then. He is +1 on mana vs me. However, if I just play Maze then Daniel can play another land and he is now +2 on mana vs me. So if we purely look at mana advantage then it’s actually better to take a hit with Ragavan then to lead with Maze of Ith.

Death & Taxes vs Eron Relentless

As you have seen above I expected non-blue midrange to be the 2nd most popular archetype in the tournament. I asked EronRelentless if we could play the matchup and he said yes. We played 3 preboard and 3 postboard games of Lands vs Death & Taxes and it went well for me. I was happy for the 3rd Maze as it’s so strong vs Kaldra. I think I won all preboard games and most postboard games. I did lose a game to Prelate on 2 and we talked about if I should play some one mana removal such as Lightning Bolt. I felt that it wasn’t really needed because as long as I could control Vial then Prelate would come down too late for it to matter.

GW Depths vs DougesOnTwitch

I was a bit nervous about playing against GW Depths so I reached out to DougesOnTwitch and asked him to get some practice games in. He recorded the games and they can be found here. I have played a lot against Maverick and I am comfortable playing against them because in this matchup I am often able to pressure their mana early and when KoTR finally hits the table I will already be too far ahead. I think this is harder to do against GW Depths because Mox Diamond is a much more reliable mana acceleration compared to something like Birds of Paradise. They also play Crop Rotation and this makes our Wastelands worse. We played 6 games and I lost all of them. To be fair the games were closer than the result shows, and I definitely messed up in a few games where I was ahead. But nonetheless I felt like I needed a better plan against this deck.

My List for the Event

I played a League with an RGw list with a removal suite of 2 Prismatic Ending, 1 Lightning Bolt and 2 Punishing Fire the day before the event. This is about as much removal as you can fit into a Lands deck, and I had to cut Elvish Reclaimers to make room. I wanted Endings as a way to answer Mox Diamond, KoTR and Sylvan Library from GW Depths, and they could also hit Aether Vial and Ragavan from other decks. I went 5-0 in the League and I won over both Death & Taxes and Esper Vial on the way. I did however have some issues casting Ending (it was awkward at times that it was a Sorcery and I also missed white mana on 1-2 occasions). I decided that I didn’t want to run a 3 color deck and I therefore built another version of this reactive Lands deck that had a removal suite of 2 Lightning Bolts and 2 Punishing Fire. This is the difference between the two decks that I considered for the event.

Reactive LandsProactive Lands
Removal: 2 Bolt, 2 Punishing FireRemoval: 3 Punishing Fire, 2 Elvish Reclaimer
Engines: 4 Valakut ExplorationEngines: 3 Valakut Exploration
Mana Acceleration: Ancient TombMana Acceleration: Yavimaya
Sideboard: 2 Endurance, 1 RevokerSideboard: 3 Endurance

I figured that the reactive approach would be better against Death & Taxes, Storm and Show & Tell but worse against everything else. In my testing against GW Depths I had found that Punishing Fire was good as long as I could control their graveyard. They have 2 copies of Steppe so non-recursive removal is not good against that deck. Reclaimer and Endurance are very strong at controlling their yard and I figured that my Punishing Fires would be excellent combined with these cards. I have also found that GW Depths players will be very aggressive with their Sylvan Libraries and I wanted to play creatures that could punish this. Douges also told me that he sided out 2 Swords to Plowshares against Lands and I figured that this made the Reclaimer and Endurance plan even better.

I liked the idea of being proactive vs Depths but the matchup where Reclaimer really shines is against UR Delver. Delver decks play up to twelve 1 mana creatures and this makes non-recursive spot removal worse against them. Sure, we can kill their first Ragavan with Lightning Bolt but they can just play another one. If we instead have a 3/4 Elf in play then all their Ragavans (the one in play and the ones in hand) are dead. Reclaimer also helps find Dark Depths that are at an all time high against Delver decks right now (especially in game 1). 

There were only 1 Storm player and 2 Show & Tell players qualified and I was hoping that they would be paired against a Delver deck in round 1. This way I wouldn’t have to worry about them if I won my first round. The other combo decks that had qualified were 1 Doomsday and 2 Hogaak decks and I figured that Elvish Reclaimer and Endurance would be strong there. 

You can find my actual decklist here, and I had prepared the following sideboard map for the event.

The MOCS Qualifier

I woke up pretty early and went for a run. It was the Ironman in Copenhagen that day and I kind of ended up in the middle of this. I had a lot of energy when I came home so I cleaned my apartment and then took my family out for lunch. I wanted to enjoy time with them instead of going around all day being nervous for the event that would happen in the evening. We went out shopping for toys after lunch and we came home just about 30 minutes before the event started. I sat down in front of the computer, and I closed my eyes when round 1 started and thought to myself “please be UR Delver and please let me win the dieroll”.

Sidenote. I have recorded some of my replays and added audio commentary. These games are added to my YouTube channel. I want to give you a warning that the audio quality is not good. Also, my computer lagged when I tried to watch some replays and I decided not to record all games as it was too cumbersome.

Round 1: UR Delver (Nonbo) 2-1

My Jedi powers seem to have worked as I got paired against Nonbo, on UR Delver, and I won the dieroll. Game 1 gets very interesting because they have Brazen Borrower for my early Marit Lage. I instantly find Life from the Loam and make the 20/20 again but I also make a misplay and attack with Marit Lage into their Murktide Regent (forgetting that they can flash in Borrower to block). Nonbo kills me on the following turn as they cast another Murktide to grow their first one into lethal damage. 

In game 2 I mulligan to a hand with Mox Diamond (best card in this matchup), Life from the Loam, Punishing Fire and Endurance. My opponent has a slow hand with turn 1 Ponder. A bit later they cast Dragon’s Rage Channeler (DRC) and I tried to kill it with Punishing Fire but they cast Brainstorm in response and that turns the DRC into a 3/3. They are stuck on 2 lands though and I start to dredge Loam and find Wasteland and Maze of Ith. After this the game is virtually over and they concede after a few turns of me having all the fun. 

In game 3 I keep a slow hand that can make Marit Lage on turn 4. I keep it because I also have Crop Rotation and Pyroblast. They start with DRC on turn 1 but they are stuck on 1 land. I manage to exhaust all cards in their hand as they use Force on my Crop Rotation and Reclaimer. They also use a Surgical Extraction on my Punishing Fire. At this point they only have a few cards left in hand and I manage to create Marit Lage with Pyroblast backup for their Brazen Borrower.

Round 2: UR Delver (nathansteuer) 2-1

So far everything goes according to plan as most of the combo pilots lose their 1st round and I get paired against nathansteuer, also on UR Delver, in round 2. I lose the dieroll and Nathan starts on Steam Vents into Ragavan. I have mulliganed a slow hand, and my new hand contains Exploration, Elvish Reclaimer, Sylvan Library, Grove, Rishadan Port, and Yavimaya. I draw Dark Depths and try to get a quick start but my Exploration gets countered by Force of Will. Ragavan connects and flips a Sylvan Library that Nathan casts. On my second turn I play out Depths and cast Sylvan Library which resolves. My idea is to find a Stage and create Marit Lage on the following turn but Nathan finds a Wasteland and destroys my Yavimaya. I fall way too far behind on mana and lose this game. In hindsight it was a bit risky to play Depths on my second turn (instead of a land that can produce mana on its own) but it also shows that Wasteland really is the best card from the current versions of UR Delver vs Lands.

In game 2 I have a very explosive hand with 2 Mox Diamonds, Reclaimer, Pyroblast and 3 lands (one of them is a fetch). I get to resolve a 3/4 Reclaimer on turn 1 as my Pyroblast counters Nathan’s Force of Will. Nathan leads on Volcanic Island and DRC. I draw Dark Depths and manage to create Marit Lage that the DRC is forced to attack into. 

In game 3 I mulligan a slow hand and my new hand is Yavimaya, Maze of Ith, Exploration, Reclaimer and 2xCrop Rotation. Nathan leads on Volcanic Island and DRC again. I draw a fetch and find a Forest and try to cast Exploration but it gets Dazed. I am not too sad about this exchange because in practice we have now swapped the Play / Draw in this game. Nathan casts Ragavan on their 2nd turn, and on my 2nd turn I cast Reclaimer before playing a land, hoping that Nathan will Daze it so that I can Crop Rotate for Tabernacle, but it resolves. I then play out my Maze of Ith. Nathan is still stuck on 1 land and passes the turn back to me. I draw Mox Diamond for the turn. I now do a series of plays that I end up getting omega punished for but I don’t think they were necessarily wrong. I play out Yavimaya and then use Reclaimer to swap my Forest for a Tabernacle. Nathan lets both his creatures die in his upkeep and then casts Ponder to find Wasteland for my Yavimaya. I cast Crop Rotation in response but Nathan has another Daze. I went from having 3 mana to 0, as I am left with Maze of Ith and Tabernacle in play, and my Reclaimer dies in my upkeep. 

I have thought about this play afterwards because it really felt heartbreaking but I don’t think my usage of Reclaimer was bad. If I get to untap then I have basically won this game. Nathan had failed to find a land the last couple of turns so I knew that he didn’t have another land (certainly not a Wasteland). I also had Crop Rotation for a potential top decked Wasteland from Nathan’s side and I only get omega punished because he has Wasteland and Daze. I think playing out Yavimaya instead of Mox Diamond may have been wrong though. If I could go back and replay this game then I may have cast Mox Diamond and used Crop Rotation to turn my Maze into a Tabernacle. This way I would have been less susceptible to Wasteland and I would have had Pyroblast for a potential counterspell on Crop Rotation. It also surprised me that Nathan would let both his creatures die so he could Ponder for a Wasteland. I had not seen this line coming and it was very clever of him.

Anyways, after this pretty brutal turn the game ends up in a top deck mode, and we are eventually in this situation. 

Nathan has 1 card left in hand so I know that he cannot have Force of Will, but he can have Daze. I decide that I am not favoured to win this game if it drags out, as my life total is getting low, and if Nathan finds a Wasteland then I am in a really bad spot. I therefore Crop away my Maze in Nathan’s end step (for a land that can produce mana). I hope to draw another land so that I can cast Choke and pay for a potential Daze. Unfortunately I don’t draw a land but I slam Choke anyways and it resolves.

Round 3: Death & Taxes (Phil_Hellmuth) 2-0

In round 3 I am paired against Sam Rolph (Phil_Hellmuth) and I believe that he is on UR Delver. I win the dieroll and I get a bit surprised when Sam reveals Yurion as his companion. He is clearly not on Delver but on Death & Taxes. In game 1 Sam mulligans to 6 and I keep a very explosive hand with Exploration, Crop Rotation, Punishing Fire, Yavimaya, Saga, and 2xWasteland. My idea with this hand is to Crop Rotate for Grove and control his board with Punishing Fire and develop my own board with Urza’s Saga. He manages to get Kaldra Compleat down via Stoneforge Mystic but that doesn’t matter as I find Valakut Exploration and Life from the Loam to run him over in card advantage.

Sam mulligans to 5 in game 2 and I have another very strong hand with 2xMox Diamond and Life from the Loam as well as Crop Rotation. He gets stuck on one land but manages to find an Aether Vial. I destroy the Vial with Blast Zone (that I find with my Crop Rotation). After this turn I have the game under control as he has no real board and I am tapping his land on every upkeep. At some point Sam plays out an Urza’s Saga and I copy it with Stage and then he concedes. 

Round 4: Goblins (Caedyrn) 2-0

I am paired against Eli Goings (Caedyrn) on Goblins. This match is not super interesting as I have very good hands in both games and Eli has bad / medium hands. In game 1 I can make a turn 2 Marit Lage but I cast Sylvan Library instead as I try to play around Karakas for some reason. This was a bit lose but it didn’t really matter as I was so far ahead already. 

Eli mulligans aggressively in G2, and he has a hand with Goblin Lackey but it lines up poorly against my hand of Mox Diamond and Elvish Reclaimer and Maze of Ith. I also have Tabernacle and Life from the Loam and this is too much for the Goblins deck to handle.

This wraps up a dream start of 4-0, and I am locked for Top 8 going into the final round.

Round 5: Jeskai Saga (burrarun) 1-2

In the final round of the swiss I am paired against burrarun and I lose the dieroll. I had them on Bant Control but it turns out they were on Jeskai Saga. My starting hand is good vs a control deck as I have both Sylvan Library and Valakut Exploration. They use Prismatic Ending to destroy my Exploration and then Force my Sylvan Library. On their 3rd turn they play out Urza’s Saga and pass the turn back to me. I jam my Valakut Exploration right into a Daze and feel a bit stupid. I try to copy Saga with Stage on the following turn but they have a Stifle. I am worried that they will find Pithing Needle (and name Stage) with Saga’s 3:rd chapter but they go for Soul-Guide Lantern instead. I draw Dark Depths and can kill them without even using the Crop Rotation that I have had in my hand since the beginning of the game.

My hand in game 2 is also really good as I have both Exploration and Valakut Exploration as well as Wasteland and Crop Rotation. They destroy my Exploration with Ending again and I draw Sylvan Library that resolves on T2. I then Wasteland them in their upkeep but they have a Stifle. They also find an Alpine Moon (naming Stage) with Brainstorm. On my next turn I play out Valakut instead of Wastelanding them and they follow up with a 6/6 Murktide Regent. I find another Valakut and I destroy their Tundra with Wasteland. They play out Urza’s Saga and attack me down to 14. I feel like I have the game under control with Sylvan Library and 2 Valakut Explorations in play (and Crop Rotation in hand). My top 3 cards are bad and I play out Rishadan Port and tap their Saga in their upkeep. They play out a Wasteland and attack me down to 8. I find Loam and get back some Wastelands and try to destroy their Saga but they have another Stifle. They attack me on their turn and I cast Crop Rotation looking for a Maze but their final 2 cards are Force of Will and a blue card. They also Wasteland my only red source and I cannot kill their Murktide with the Pyroblast that I find off the Library in my last turn alive.

In game 3 I keep a hand that can make a turn 2 Marit Lage. They force me to activate Stage with a Wasteland and then play out Karakas to bounce my token. I top deck Life from the Loam but they have Force of Negation. This game ends up in a top deck war that I lose, because they draw more lands than me, and can resolve Narset and Brainstorm to find more action.

Quarters: Goblins (Caedyrn) 2-0

I am playing against Eli again and I unfortunately lose the dieroll this time. Both of us mulligan to 6 and my hand is a bit slow but I have Elvish Reclaimer and the Dark Depths combo as well as Life from the Loam. Eli does not have a T1 play and that surprised me a bit. I cast Elvish Reclaimer and he plays out Rishadan Port and casts Goblin Piledriver, and on his 3:rd turn he plays Wasteland and casts Goblin Cratermaker. I play Tabernacle trying to slow him down and he attacks me down to 14. I then use Reclaimer to get Tabernacle to my graveyard. I get another Stage with Reclaimer. My idea was to copy his Wasteland but this is a mistake, I should just have gotten Wasteland myself. Eli kills my Reclaimer with Cratermaker. On the next few turns Eli casts Goblin Lackey and Matron to find Muxus. He Wasteland my Maze and connects with Lackey. Muxus reveals 4 goblins. I feel pretty dead facing down all these goblins. But luckily Eli does not have one of the Goblins that can give him reach and I use Loam to get back Tabernacle. I actually manage to summon a Marit Lage and kill Eli when I am at 4 life.

I felt pretty dead at this point of the game.

Game 2  is one of these classic Lands vs Goblins games. I have Exploration, Grove and Punishing Fire, and I destroy his early board and then resolve Valakut Exploration and Sylvan Library to start pulling ahead. Eli finds a Relic of Progenitus but it doesn’t really matter as the damage of multiple Punishing Fires is already done.

Semi: UR Delver (nathansteuer) 2-0

Another rematch against nathansteuer on UR Delver and I lose the dieroll again. In game 1 my first hand has no green mana. I mulligan to a good hand that has Karakas for Ragavan and a potential T3 Marit Lage thanks to Mox Diamond. My hand also has Sylvan Library. Nathan starts with Volcanic Island into Ragavan and I play Karakas and pass. Nathan has Wasteland and I bounce his Ragavan in response. Nathan then recast the Ragavan. On my 2nd turn I cast Mox Diamond and Sylvan Library that hits a Daze. Ragavan connects and Nathan also casts Delver of Secrets. But luckily for me Nathan cannot find another Wasteland and I make a Marit Lage that carries this game home.

In game 2 Nathan mulligans to 6 and starts with Volcanic Island into Ragavan again. My turn 1 Exploration resolves and I play out a Maze of Ith. Nathan casts Ponder but does not find a Wasteland. He also casts Delver of Secrets. My hand lines up really well against his board as I have Punishing Fire, Red Elemental Blasts and Bast Zone. Nathan gets all my Punishing Fires with Surgical Extraction but this doesn’t really matter. He concedes when it’s obvious that he will not have any more lands in play.

Finals: Death & Taxes (Phil_Hellmuth) 0-2

I win the dieroll and my opponent mulligans down to 5 cards. I feel pretty confident as I have kept the hand shown below. This hand has a lot of removal plus Valakut Exploration to pull ahead, but it is missing a way to control their mana (Rishadan Port or Crop Rotation for Tabernacle would have made this hand an all star).

I play out Mox Diamond with the intention to Punishing Fire whatever Sam plays (in this case it was Mother of Runes) and then slam Valakut Exploration on turn 2. On my next two turns I  draw a few blanks (Taiga and Stage) and on my third turn we are in this spot. I chose to fetch here hoping to flip Exploration or Crop Rotation to really start pulling ahead but I brick.

On Sam’s turn I bounce Thalia with Karakas, and he casts Skyclave to destroy my Valakut Exploration. I draw a Wasteland, and he draws an Aether Vial, and we are now in the following situation. 

My next draw is a Sylvan Library and I feel like I have the chance to pull ahead again. Sylvan Library reveals Urza’s Saga, Punishing Fire and Maze of Ith. I decide to pay 4 life and go down to 11 keeping Saga and Fire. I play out Urza’s Saga and keep Fire in my hand. Sam attacks with Skyclave, I kill it with Punishing Fire, and I also copy Saga with Stage. My idea here is to grind Sam down with multiple Constructs. After the attack Sam casts Recruiter and finds Stoneforge Mystic. My top 3 cards are now all lands (no Grove). I play out Maze of Ith and attack with my token. Sam vials in Stoneforge Mystic and finds Kaldra Compleat on my end step. On the following turn he destroys my Maze with Field of Ruin and attacks me with Kaldra. I create a chump blocker with Saga but I still take 3 damage due to trample. My next 3 cards are kind of blanks again (Reclaimer and two lands) and I play out Reclaimer and make another Construct before my Saga kills itself. This means that our board looks like this.

Things go south from here as Sam vials in Flickerwisp and flickers Recruiter and finds Palace Jailer. He also casts Sanctum Prelate and the game is over.

I feel a bit empty after this game. My hand was good and Sam had mulliganed to 5 but I still managed to lose. This game really demonstrates how important it is to control your Death & Taxes opponent’s mana. If they get going then they can easily grind through Sylvan Library and Urza’s Saga. I like how I approached the first half of this game, and I was unlucky not to find a way to attack their mana, or an Exploration to really pull ahead with my Valakut Exploration. But I also think that I might have chosen the wrong strategy on the turn where I played out Saga and copied it with Stage. I tried to take the aggressive role here and it might have been better to take a more defensive role (as I had Sylvan Library in play). I could for example have played out Maze instead of Saga and copied that with Stage. I could also have used Blast Zone to destroy Aether Vial on a few occasions but I wanted to save it for a potential Prelate. 

In game 2 my hand was also good, as can be seen below, and I started the game by casting Mox Diamond (pitching Tabernacle) and Sylvan Library. Sam also has a good hand with a turn 1 Aether Vial.

I was hoping to find a land in my top 3 cards to cast Valakut Exploration on my 2nd turn but my top 3 cards are Sylvan Library, Life from the Loam and Crop Rotation. I picked up Loam and used my Crop Rotation to swap Taiga for a Rishadan Port and then cast Loam to get back Taiga and Tabernacle. I finally played out Taiga and cast Reclaimer. Sam plays Rishadan Port and casts another Vial and in my 3rd upkeep we are in the following spot.

I chose to not dredge Loam here as I am hoping to find Force of Vigor and start attacking Sam’s mana. My top 3 cards are Urza’s Saga, Wooded Foothills and another Life from the Loam. I cast Valakut Exploration followed by Urza’s Saga and then pass the turn. Sam now Wastelands my Saga and then port me in my upkeep. I use Reclaimer to fetch Blast Zone in response and my top 3 cards are blank again. If I can survive to the next turn then I should be able to destroy both Vials with my Blast Zone and be in a good position. Unfortunately Sam Vials in Sanctum’s Prelate (naming 2 of course) and then use another Wasteland to destroy my Blast Zone. This game quickly goes south from here as I am not able to destroy the Aether Vials and I cannot cast my spells. I end up losing to the following boardstate.

Final Words

I am living proof that it’s possible to compete with the best online grinders even if you don’t have unlimited time to devote to magic. You have to be willing to put in the work and get the basics right though, and you also have to focus (pick a format and a deck). I hope that these two articles have given you the tools to level up in your magic skills. You are always welcome to join the Lands discord if you want more advice from me. 

I also want to stress that a big part of leveling up means lowering the number of mistakes that you make in a tournament. I am often approached by good Lands players asking for advice on certain matchups, but when I write matchup guides these players often find that they already know everything that I write. If you are in this position then you have all the tools needed to be very competitive and what is missing is “just” to play better in high stake tournaments (this is of course much harder than it sounds). For me the key was getting more reps in against good players as this was a way to grow my confidence. 

Let’s give this story the fairytale ending that it deserves. I received the following email from WoTC the day after the event. I guess that I have managed to qualify for the “Pro Tour” playing Legacy Lands. If someone would have told this to 11 year old Albert with his 8 Stone Rain deck then he would not have believed you. It’s still hard to believe honestly.

Some Lessons from 1000 Matches with Lands by aslidsiksoraksi

I picked up Lands around January of 2020, so about a year and a half ago, mostly because Oko had made Miracles a deeply boring deck to play. No longer could I even pretend to lock people out with Counterbalance, and I had to face the fact that blue mirrors just weren’t that fun for me. After Oko, I wandered the blue soup world, trying things like Stryfo Pile and my own weird Bant Knight of the Reliquary decks, but I’m a prison player at heart and none of the decks I played scratched that itch.

So one night, half-drunk and mildly depressed (not because of Counterbalance, just early 2020 was a bit of a rough patch for me), I found a Tabernacle on Ebay and made a reckless bid that would change my life.

After I woke up that morning a little hungover and a lot poorer, I had to pick up the rest of cards and become a Lands player. Not long after, I top 8’d a decent-sized local Legacy event with BUG Lands (Oko was too dang good), and I was hooked. I got MTGO and started playing way too much and now here I am, about 20 months later, with just over 1000 matches of Lands under my belt.

I’ve been tracking my matches since just after that tournament and 1000 is a pretty number, so I thought it would be a good to take this chance to step back and analyze the data. While obviously this is all my own matches, I’ll try to make it as relevant as I can to a wider audience.

Overall Winrate

Over the 1000 matches, I had a winrate of 59.8%, which is a number I’m pretty happy with. Since winrate is probably the most important metric for a deck, lets take a look at how it breaks down over various categories.

Winrate by Event Type

Here ‘weekly’ denotes the usual FNM events, ‘tournament’ could be a local event with higher stakes, but is more commonly a weekend Challenge, ‘practice’ is the practice room on MTGO or practice matches with a testing partner, and ‘league’ means, well, leagues on MTGO. Leagues accounted for 690 of the 1000 matches, so they were by far the biggest group.

From the graph we can see that weeklies are in general softer than MTGO events, at least for Lands. This makes some sense since at weeklies there are often less experienced players, and this makes winning a bit easier, especially when you play a deck that is relatively rare and hard to play against. So if you want to grind store credit at your LGS, Lands ain’t a bad choice.

Probably the two most important numbers are the league and tournament winrates. Overall I managed a 56.5% winrate in Leagues and a 58.8% winrate in tournaments. It may seem surprising that tournaments went better than random league play. If you consider how much more combo there is in leagues, and how much more fair blue there is in tournaments, the numbers make a bit more sense.

Winrate Over Time

There are a couple ways to think about winrate as a function of time. First, let’s look at how my winrate was over the 1000 matches. Here I’ll take the average of every 100 matches to see if we improved over time.

Looks like we never got below 50%, and the winrates have been improving more or less steadily. Of course, it’s hard to tell if this reflects personal growth with the deck or shifts in the meta. So it may be more instructive to look at the winrates in different metagames over the last 1000 matches.

Here we see that in the early Oko era when I started playing Lands, the deck was doing just about fine. Then the companions were printed. The Companion Era, however, was obviously just a broken period for Legacy, so it should surprise no one that we didn’t do too well during that time.

What is a bit more interesting is that after the companion ban, Lands started doing a lot better than it had in the pre-companion meta. This could be in part due to my own improving skill with the deck, but it’s also worth noting that it’s during this period that Valakut Exploration is printed. That card gives our deck a powerful new engine that let it fight back against the Astrolabe-powered control decks of the Oko era.

After Oko, Arcanist, and Astrolabe are banned, Lands reaches even greater heights. The meta at that time had a ton of Delver – this was when some of us even started playing Shifting Ceratops and crushing Delver with it.

Of course, then MH2 came along and totally shook up the meta. Still, with just over 200 matches played during the MH2 era and a winrate just under 66%, I think we can confidently say that this meta is pretty good for Lands.

Play vs Draw Breakdown

I won’t waste your space with a big graph since there are only two options for this category. But here are the facts. Overall, my winrate was 59.8%. On the draw, my winrate was 61.9% over 514 matches, and on the play my winrate was 57.6% over 486 matches.

Yes, that does mean that my winrate OTD was more than 4% higher than my winrate OTP. This is kind of surprising. With 1000 matches, one can’t easily just shrug this off entirely as a function of low sample size, though that certainly could be part of it.

Given how Lands really wants to get ahead on mana and use that advantage to take over the game, it may seem crazy that we’d win more on the draw. But it’s also true that Lands has a lot of ways to take back the mana advantage opponents gain by being on the play. A Mox Diamond or an Exploration can easily put us virtually on the play. Given these catchup mechanisms, maybe the extra card is better than being on the play? Something to think about anyway.

Winrate by Lands Archetype

Now lets take a look to see what the top-performing versions of Lands were.

This graph is ordered by descending popularity, meaning I’ve played with Jund Lands more than any other style of Lands (321 matches). That’s because Jund was the most common version of Lands throughout the Oko era, where having access to Abrupt Decay was very important as an answer to opposing Okos.

The blue line across the graph indicates my overall average winrate. Bars above that line are decks that over-performed, while those below it are less excellent builds.

A few observations. First, RG Saga Lands is the best-performing archetype, followed by RUG and BUG. RG Lands is still above-average, while Jund is below average. Jund’s lower winrate is likely a result of the era in which it was popular, and the fact that RG non-Saga Lands has a lower winrate is probably tied to that as well. I’ve played almost only Saga builds since the release of MH2, aside from a couple leagues and maybe a mediocre Challenge result. So the non-Saga build will have its numbers dampened by play during the Oko era, while Saga Lands will be bumped up since it’s been played exclusively post-MH2. That said, in the 22 matches I’ve played with no-Saga RG lands since MH2 came out, the build only got a 41% winrate; hardly a ringing endorsement (though hardly a large sample size either).

Another surprising thing is how well BG Lands did. Given the power of Valakut Exploration (and the fact that a lot of the BG builds were pretty experimental) it’s surprising to see that a build without VE can do as well as it has. Of course, that could be due to small sample size (only 33 matches).

The high winrates of BUG and RUG are also interesting, and each of those has over 100 matches in the dataset. Perhaps these versions may be worth further exploration, but it’s also possible that their time has come and gone and we’re just looking at old successes not suited to the current meta. Still, it’s clear that these variants can do well and Lands doesn’t have to be strictly RG.

Winrates by Matchup

What are the matchups like? Lets take a look.

Here I added the red line at 50% so one can see at a glance which matchups I tend to win more than I lose. As before, I’ve ordered these by descending popularity, from 232 matches in the ‘Brew/Other’ category, to just 4 in the relatively new ‘Jeskai Tempo’ category.

A few notes on the archeytpes. ‘Knight’ refers to Maverick and 4c Loam – there is a separate category for GW Depths specifically. ‘White Creatures’ is DnT and adjacent decks. ‘Big Mana’ is mostly Cloudpost decks. ‘Graveyard’ covers a wide variety of strategies, from Hogaak to Dredge to Reanimator.

Let’s discuss the bad matchups first. The thing I want to point out here is that Storm and Show & Tell are not nearly as bad for us as they’re usually made out to be. Conventional wisdom is that Lands just auto-loses to combo, especially these decks. While they’re certainly not good matchups, neither is much below 40%; hardly a total disaster. In fact, it’s actually combo-control decks like Food Chain and Aluren that are harder to beat as Lands (though I’ve only got 12 matches against those, so perhaps the data is misleading).

Looking at the other matchups, one thing to note is that the good matchups far outnumber the bad. The top 5 most common decks are all good matchups with over 60% winrates. Despite the joke that everyone claims a good Delver matchup while they lose to the deck, I think we can confidently say that Lands actually does have a good Delver matchup with a 63% winrate over 135 matches.

As for surprises, it’s definitely surprising to see such a positive winrate against Doomsday – 58.3% over 24 matches. I’m sure part of that is playing against people who have just picked up the deck, but it’s encouraging nonetheless. A less happy surprise is how badly I’m doing against traditional BG Depths. Lands is usually considered to be favored there, but I’m not doing too well – I’ll have to figure out that matchup if that deck ever comes back in a big way.

Wrapping Up

Overall, I’m happy to see that I’ve been improving over the course of these 1000 matches. Even if a decent amount of that ‘improvement’ can be put down to shifts in the meta, I think it’s alright to take a little of the credit. With some practice and a lot of help from the community, I’ve gone from a total newbie to someone who has a decent clue and can achieve a respectable winrate over a reasonably large sample size. That doesn’t mean it’s time to rest on my laurels, but its encouraging to know that I’m doing alright.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions going deeper into the data or are interested in how I crunched the numbers, feel free to reach out via the links on the Taiga below. If you’re interested in the code and raw data itself, they can be found on Github. Enjoy 🙂

How to Compete Against the Best with Lands by alli

My name is Albert Lindblom (alli) and I just finished 2nd in the Legacy MOCS Qualifier last weekend. This was an event with 27 players, namely the Top 8 of the last 3 Showcase Challenges plus 3 people that had qualified in Last Chance Prelims. Considering that each Showcase Challenge had +200 players you could say that I competed with +600 (with the obvious risk of double counting) of the most fierce online grinders and came in second. I am super proud of this achievement. This is not the first time that I have run deep in a big online tournament. In fact I have a pretty high confidence that I will do well every time that I play in these events because I have found a strategy that allows me to be competitive in Legacy. I will try to share this strategy with you here. This text will be split into two articles. In this first article I will give you my background, and explain what I have done to level up as a Legacy player, and in the second article I will write about how I prepared for the MOCS Qualifier as well as a tournament report. I hope you enjoy this.  

Like most boomers I don’t have unlimited time to devote to magic. I have a busy family life with an amazing wife, two wonderful daughters, and an apartment plus a summerhouse that needs constant care. I am also the coach of my girls football team two days a week, and I was their home schooling teacher for the most part of last year (when we were in lockdown). On top of this I have a very demanding job. I work as the Head of the Front Office Desk Quant Team in Scandinavia’s Largest Bank, and my team implements the new Technology Platform for our Trading activities in Fixed Income and Derivatives. I am not writing all these things to brag and try to paint myself into some sort of super human because I’m not. Most days when I come home from work my brain is completely washed out, I am so tired that I cannot even muster the energy to cook dinner, and I instead order some takeaway and park the girls in front of an iPad while I take a powernap in the sofa. It’s not productive to turn on MODO on these types of days. My brain is just not capable of making good strategic decisions and I won’t remember the games the day after. I have set up the following schedule for my MODO play and I try to make the most of the limited time that I have to play magic.

  1. Every Monday Prelim (and maybe a League afterwards).
  2. 0-2 additional Leagues each week.
  3. As many big tournaments as I can (Showcase Challenges, Eternal Weekend, etc).

Is this enough to compete with young people that have much more time to dedicate to Magic? Well it can be if we focus and use our time wisely.

How It Started

I have played magic since Ice Age came out in 1995. I was 11 years old at that time and I instantly fell in love with the lore of the game. I also fell in love with destroying lands. Me and my friends didn’t really understand the competitive rules, we thought that we could play unlimited copies of every card, and we had a deck with 7-8 Stone Rains in it. I was actively trying to trade more copies of Stone Rain in order to add them to this broken deck until someone found out that we could only play 4 copies if we wanted to play in tournaments.   

This was one of the first cards that I fell in love with

I took a long break from magic after Onslaught was printed but I picked it up again around 2010 when I moved from Stockholm to Copenhagen. I used to play every Tuesday at our LGS and we had some really strong players there. Andreas Petersen (ecobaronen), Hans-Jakob Goddick (HJ_Kaiser), Thomas Enevoldsen (Scabs) and Michael Bonde (lampalot) were just some of the Legacy All Stars that used to play in these weeklies. I initially had some success with UW Landstill and I then managed to build Storm (TES). I was really successful with this deck for a few years. People told me that TES was a hard deck to play but I felt that it was pretty easy because there were only a few cards from my opponent’s deck that I cared about. Instead of learning combat math, or what type of trades that are beneficial, I could focus on mastering my own sequencing and lines.  

I used my winnings with TES to invest in a Legacy collection and after a while I could play any deck that I wanted. At this point I started switching deck every week and my win rate went down. In 2014 I was the kind of player that would show up 2 times a month and go 3-2 (with the occasional spike). I then moved to London to work as a Quant for a Commodity Trading House, and I had to take another long break from magic.

How It Ended – Why Lands?

I moved back to Copenhagen in 2017 as me and my (Danish) wife wanted our kids to start in a Danish school. I wanted to play Legacy again but I found that most of my old friends had stopped going to the LGS and they now played online instead. I installed MODO and bought a Storm deck. I was doing fairly well until Deathrite Piles became the de facto best deck online. I lost so many times to Hymn + Snap + Hymn that I decided that it wasn’t fun to play Storm. I went back to playing a few different decks (to the normal 3-2 score) before I decided that I wanted to level up. It all started with a guy writing on Facebook that he had a NM English Tabernacle for Trade (not for Sale). I met with the guy and we somehow managed to agree on a Trade (it involved me giving him some HP Power). People in my LGS told me “Lands is a very hard deck to play” but I was excited. The main selling points to me were:

  • It was a Tier 1* deck at the time.
  • It did not lose to Hymn to Tourach. In fact Deathrite Piles seemed like great matchups.
  • I got to destroy people’s lands. 
  • It may be a difficult deck to play, but it’s also a hard deck to play against. It’s a non-linear deck with many options and I figured that it would be easy to mess things up when playing against Lands.
  • It was a niche deck and I thought that if I only dedicated enough time to it then I would get an edge as I would know the matchup better than my opponent.

*I know that Lands is not considered a Tier 1 deck anymore but it’s underrated in my opinion. I think a version of the Prison-Combo-Ramp-Control shell will always be competitive. I have played Lands for 3 years and during this time me and the Lands discord have continuously managed to find a good list for the online meta. Just look at these results from various metas during the last few years.

  • Casey Lancaster won a Starcity Classic at the peak of the RUG W6 Delver meta. 
  • I came in 4th and 10th in the 2 Showcase Challenges where Underworld Breach was legal in Legacy.
  • UG Uro Lands was one of the best decks during the Companion era. Kellen Pastore Top 8’d a Legacy Super PTQ with the deck and I ran fairly deep in one as well.
  • I came 9th (on breakers) in both a Showcase Challenge and an online Eternal Weekend at the peak of the Snowko and RUG Arcanist Delver meta. 
  • I just finished 2nd in the Legacy MOCS Qualifier in the post MH2 UR Delver meta.

Level 0: Grinding Leagues

I have played Lands on MODO for 3 years. During this time I have likely played 4-5 Leagues per week (I play less now but I have also played way more at times). This is 3,000 – 4,000 matches (and +10,000 games) of playing Lands. I have easily played over 100 matches against all common Legacy decks and I have learnt how to approach these matchups and what cards that are good / bad against each of these decks.

Obviously I didn’t play optimally from day one, but I became pretty good rather fast. I was already a decent combo player and the combo aspect of Lands was better and came up more often than I had initially thought. But more importantly, I really enjoyed playing the deck and even when I lost I was learning new lines. At the end of each game I could barely wait to play a new one. I started watching Casey Lancaster (Koleigh1) whenever he streamed Lands and this would teach me a lot. I watched his games and then I played some Leagues and then I rewatched his games. As I watched his stream I used to think for myself what lines I would take if I played instead of him, and at some point I started to realise that many of the lines that he took were also ones that I would have done. This is about the same time as when I started getting 5-0’s in Leagues for myself.

I also realized that jamming games blindfolded wouldn’t get me to the next level. I created a spreadsheet where I kept track of all my results and sideboard plans. I aggregated decks into archetypes that are similar to play against such as Delver, UW, Storm, KoTR, etc. I became more active in the Lands discord and I got help to tune the last open slots in my deck week after week. I wanted to start playing in Challenges but they are at the worst possible time for me. 5pm on a Sunday just doesn’t work for a family guy like myself and I couldn’t make that happen consistently. But around the New Years of 2018 / 2019 I finally had the chance to play in a Challenge and I reached out to Andreas Petersen (ecobaronen) who was the best player that I know from my LGS and I asked him about the expected meta in Challenges. He told me to write down the Top 32 from the last 3 challenges to get my own feeling for the “online winners meta”. I did this, and I am still doing this today, as it’s a great way to learn what decks that are doing well online. 

Example of Challenge Winners Meta during the Underworld Breach era

I was lucky enough to Top 8 this Challenge but I lost to Lands master Dull04 in the Top 8. After this I felt invincible (but that was a false positive) and I wanted to play more High Stake Legacy tournaments. As I couldn’t play in Challenges I organised my own tournament that I called the Nordic Legacy League. I managed to get some very good players to sign up to this one and I got absolutely crushed. This was a true wake up call for me. I remember playing against Death & Taxes and it felt like my opponent knew exactly what to do but I didn’t know what to do. My hands were good and I still lost. I felt truly outplayed.

Level 1: Professional Coaching

After the Nordic Legacy League I decided to try and level up my game. I wanted to play better against better opponents and I wanted to feel like I could compete in premium events such as Showcases and Legacy PTQ’s. I contacted Andreas Petersen and asked him if he wanted to become my coach and he said yes. I didn’t really know what to expect for the first session but it was great. We started by talking about my prerequisites and my goals. I explained that I had a limited amount of time that I could spend on MODO and why I was playing Lands. I also explained that I had no interest in broadening my skills and that I wanted to learn how to play better against better opponents. We talked about how I could make stupid punts in high stake games, or how I could lose the oversight when I was under pressure, or how I could make super risky plays because I thought that I didn’t have a chance to win against a better opponent.

We also played a League together and I specifically remember how we crushed a Grixis Control opponent. It was cool to see how Andreas played our game from our opponents perspective. He would for example say something like “our opponent will try to sneak in a win here by casting Angler and then try to take us down to Bolt + Snap + Bolt range. Can we Gamble for Maze to prevent that from happening?”. This was interesting because it was not something that I had really done before. I had many sessions with Andreas over the next few months and we did dedicated training of Lands vs Delver, and Lands vs Taxes, and Lands vs Maverick. In these sessions Andreas would sometimes stop and ask me “can you guess what cards that are in my hand right now?” This was fantastic training. 

I would also take screenshots of interesting plays and then we would discuss them together. I would explain why I took a certain line and then we discussed if we thought it was the correct play or not. It became quite obvious that I would often base my conclusions on the outcome of my plays and this is a bad idea. I could say things such as “this play was bad because my opponent had Daze and I lost”. Andreas would stop me and say that I need to judge my plays based on the information that I had at the time. Did I make the right play given the context I was in? When trying to improve our ability to see the optimal line, with imperfect information, then it’s not always helpful to draw conclusions based on the actual outcome of a given play.     

These sessions were hard but they really helped me to improve as a player. In January 2020 they paid off big time as I Top 8’d my first Showcase Challenge.

I also became friends with Jörg Heinrich (EronRelentless) around this time. We both had spreadsheets with MODO data and we started sharing these with each other. Jörg asked me if I wanted to do dedicated matchup training and these sessions largely replaced the coaching sessions that I had with Andreas. I still take sessions with Andreas before big events though. Jörg has taught me a great way to do these sessions. We first play 3-6 preboard games and then 3-6 postboard games. This gives a great feeling for the matchup and there is less focus on “who did win”. After each session we discuss the matchup on Discord. I have started doing similar sessions with other Legacy grinders and in my opinion this is a more effective way to improve your skills compared to jamming Leagues.

Level 2: Legacy Podcasts

Another thing that has helped me level up my deck building and also helped me keep me on top of the Legacy meta is to listen to Legacy Podcasts. My favourite Podcasts are Elo Punters, EverydayEternal and Eternal Glory. I try to listen to these when I am alone and have time to focus. Here are two key takeaways that I used in the MOCS Qualifier this last weekend.

  • Be proactive (Daniel Goetschel). Daniel once said something along the lines: “A reactive card such as Mana Leak is only good if you also have a threat that can give you an advantage every turn that it stays in play”. Once I really had understood this sentence then it changed how I build my deck, but also how I mulligan and sequence my plays.
  • Ignore (unpopular) bad matchups (Julian Knab). Julian once said something along the lines that if you want to win a tournament then you have to get lucky also in the matchup lottery. It is therefore better to ignore (unpopular) bad matchups in order to have a better edge against more popular decks. This is something that I used in the MOCS Qualifier. I knew that only 1 Storm player and 2 Show & Tell players had qualified and I built my sideboard to be worse against them but better against Delver and GW Depths.

Level 3: My Current Level

I am currently at a level where I feel that I can compete with the best online players in Legacy. It will never be easy to play against me. I will show up to large online tournaments with a deck that is tuned for the expected meta, and I will know my role in every matchup (and most situations). It is also likely that I have more reps in a given matchup compared to my opponent. I no longer get nervous when playing in PTQ’s or Showcases and it’s unlikely that I will completely punt a game. I still make mistakes of course but I make less mistakes now compared to 2 years ago. Finally, I don’t get tired after 7-8 rounds of high stake Legacy, and I often find myself playing better the longer the tournament goes. 

This does not mean that I expect to Top 8 every tournament that I join, but I will have the basics right, and I expect this to allow me to win most of my matches. If I am then also able to play tight at the right spots, and if I am having a bit of luck, then it will often take me there.

OK, this was all in the history and process section. In the next article I will write about the Showcase Challenge that I Top 8’d in order to qualify for the MOCS Qualifier and what I did to prepare for this high stake event. I will finish that article off with a detailed tournament report including video recordings. Stay tuned!

Shooting Monkeys in a Barrel – 2nd with RG Lands in the 8/21/21 Legacy Challenge

Lately it’s become an almost nightly ritual for me to unwind by watching ancient Legacy matches on Youtube. And while the Saturday Challenge does start at 5am my time, I was not about to skip this important activity. So late on Friday night, I was curled up watching GP Prague 2016, round 7, Death & Taxes against Shardless BUG. Watching Enevoldson duck and dodge, weaving circles around these BUG value decks inspired me to take my own dumb no-cantrip toolboxy pile of cards and see if I couldn’t destroy some blue mages myself. Since you’re reading this and no one writes reports for 0-3… you can probably imagine that I was somewhat successful.

Decklist

https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/4243952#paper

The Lands community has been sort of torn lately on how many Sagas to play. Some are on just 1 for utility, some on 4 and a pile of artifacts. Personally I’m not on the full 4 since you can quickly run out of meaningful targets and your mana gets unstable as they kill themselves. But still, the upside of producing blockers/threats and having access to a whole new toolbox has been very powerful. When you consider that via Expedition Map each Saga is essentially a very slow crop rotation, then you could say this build is running a virtual 8 land-tutoring effects. That makes assembling Lage against Delver very easy, and on top of that you get access to Needle which can stop opposing Wastelands or Vials or Knights. So I landed on 3 Saga as my final number.

The downside of Saga is that you have to commit a lot of slots to it, and that usually means you end up playing less Rishadan Port, which is very sad because the card is super cool. But it’s also not at its best right now in my opinion. In this list the singleton Port is essentially Wasteland #5, could be something else if need be.

As for other notes, the spells are pretty much just all the normal spells you’d play – perhaps 4 Valakut Exploration is a bit more than some but the card is an absolute powerhouse against everything non-combo, so I was sold on it. 3 Maze is a concession to the fact that you want t1 answers to Ragavan, as well as answers to Murktide Regent. If I were making any changes to the list, I might cut the Spellbomb for a Retrofitter Foundry since an extra Maze covers creatures well and it would be nice to have a more real threat to get with Saga. I’m not playing Reclaimer because although the card is amazing, without it I can trade up against all creature interaction and still have a ton of blockers, threats, and selection thanks to Saga.

The sideboard is also pretty stock at this point. You got your Blasts, your artifact and enchantment hate, your GY hate, and your Spheres. Choke is taking up the 2 flex spots and that’s because, well, the card wins games. Given how little combo there is lately, however, it may make sense to just not play all those Spheres and find some more interesting or flexible tools.

With all that said, let’s get to it!

Tournament

ROUND 1 – Jeskai Delver

G1

I mull to 6 OTD and my opening hand has Diamond, Exploration, Valakut Exploration, Stage, Depths, and Karakas. Against Delver this hand is just a slam dunk; can make Lage on turn 2, has Karakas for Ragavan, and can follow up with Valakut Exploration if those plans fall apart. It just needs to draw a land and it should be good to go.

I draw the land, and my Karakas draws out their Wasteland since they want to make their monkey work. I make Lage pretty soon thereafter and the monkey doesn’t get to do anything.

G2

In the second game my hand is a bit slower but we’ve got Diamond, Punishing Fire, Grove, Endurance, Stage, Wasteland, and Pyrite Spellbomb. Lots of interaction on all fronts, and this hand sets up a lot of great topdecks since Loam can wastelock them and any of our virtual 11 Dark Depths can help call Marit Lage.

Should be great but my opponent shows me white mana for the first time when they Prismatic Ending my Diamond and then Waste my Grove. Suddenly I’m on just a Wasteland as my mana source, not feeling too good.

So I Waste them back but a few turns later they drop a giant dragon on my face. Still, I’m able to play a Map and find a Maze to stem the bleeding, and Punishing Fire helps deal with a little baby DRC as I buy enough turns to get my mana under me. Their next DRC gets ambushed by my Endurance and now it’s Dragon vs Maze & Endurance, but I’m the one with a Valakut Exploration on the table.

Valakut Exploration leads to OG Exploration leads to Choke leads to Crop Rotation for Marit Lage and the game is over.

1-0

ROUND 2 – UR Delver

My last opponent I was able to look up and know they were on Delver from the get-go. This time, however, my opponent is more inscrutable, and it looks like they usually play Aluren? Which is not an ideal matchup for me.

But it turns out they’re actually playing Delver so that’s great.

G1

Keep a 6 on OTD that is pretty slow, with just Saga, Blast Zone, Waterlogged Grove, Punishing Fire, Crop Rotation, and Pyrite Spellbomb. I can’t even use 2 of my spells and the only green source I have will cost me life but it’s more or less ok I guess…

My opponent leads on Ragavan, I lead on the Exploration I just drew, but it gets Dazed. The next few turns see my opponent get a lot of treasures and play out a Delver against my motley collection of lands like Saga. Lucky for me, Delver decks are super soft to Blast Zone these days so I rotate for Zone, saccing the Saga with its final chapter on the stack. Blast Zone mops up their board and next turn they scoop to my Life from the Loam since they see I’m about to get back Saga and Blast Zone. Seems slightly hasty but I’m not complaining. Delver has been low on Force of Negation these days and that leave them with zero answers to the Loam engine MD. Without any threats on the table maybe they felt it just wasn’t worth the time.

G2

My opening hand has the combo, a forest, Loam, Map, and two red cards (Punishing Fire and Pyroblast). Forest is good since it’s basic, bad since it means I can’t cast these spells.

I lead on map and figure I’ll just sorta assemble the combo and try to go from there. My opponent plays DRC and a Wasteland to make my life difficult, so I figure I should be more defensive. I tutor up Grove and start going to work on their threats. Murktide takes off Delirium for DRC so I tag it with Pfire and then Pyroblast the dragon. When the dust settles it’s their two Volcs and an Island to my Taiga, Grove, Stage, and Forest, me with Loam, Saga, and Depths in hand, though they did Surgical my Pfires.

They find another threat in Delver, while I’m doing silly things like copying their Wasteland to bait it out. Soon their board is full again with two Delvers and a Channeler. But I manage to fade the lethal Delver flip and trade a construct for a baby Delver when it attacks. Next turn I make Lage (baiting Wasteland may have been silly but it did the job). They can’t find the Bolt they need to finish the job and Lage takes us home to the icy depths.

2-0

ROUND 3 – Jeskai Standstill

These games were long slog fests, since that’s the kind of game Standstill generates. That said, Standstill the card is probably at its absolute worst against Lands, so I can’t complain too much.

G1

OTD again, keep a 6 with no acceleration. It does have Crop Rotation, Saga, Loam, and Blast Zone, along with the mana to make these things work, though.

My opponent just slams a turn 2 Standstill and I’m internally quite happy, especially since they don’t immediately follow it up with Saga. Instead, my Saga is able to do some work and I make a couple constructs.

They do eventually find their Saga though, and theirs is slightly better since it can find Retrofitter Foundry and crack open the Saga mirror. I find Map with mine since I didn’t want to Needle something that wasn’t even in play, but in retrospect needling Foundry probably the better play. I follow up this misplay with another when I refuse to pop my Blast Zone to kill their Foundry, instead using my mana to go find Dark Depths with my Map.

That enables me to make Lage the next turn, but Foundry is a pretty good answer to Lage and I’m bleeding life against a big construct and some servos.

Eventually I do get around to breaking my Blast Zone, and they break their own Standstill to Stifle the ability. Things are looking pretty dire as their army just keeps growing; I Rotate for the Maze that will save my life… but my opponent, who hasn’t cast a spell for several turns, has some countermagic. Go figure.

G2

It’s ok, I tell myself. Let’s just slam some Chokes and make this easy. My opener doesn’t have Choke but it does have Field, Saga, and Wasteland, along with all my colors, a Pyroblast, and a Crop Rotation. Seems solid, let’s do this.

We trade resources a bit in the early game and I get a Saga going and even do the Stage thing where you copy it and make an eternal robot factory. There’s also a Depths in my hand, though they have Karakas to hold it back.

A few turns pass (making a robot factory takes a long time) and eventually they get their own Saga and drop a Standstill on me. I’m a little surprised, since I have Blast Zone for any Foundry, an eternal Saga, and a Field that is close to making Zombies. They can Needle one of those things but not all of them…

Soon enough they’re forced to pop their own Standstill and draw me into Choke. While they can apply pressure at that moment, I am able to stabilize thanks to Choke and my own robot factory (though my dumb butt made it a Volcanic Island earlier so now it gets hosed by my own Choke).

With Choke in play they are very low on resources and my Field is coming online. Things are dicey for a second when they play a Murktide, but I have the Waste for their Karakas, Rotation for a Maze, and the Depths to make a Lage.

G3

My hand is Stage, green lands, Endurance, Map, Exploration, and Blast Zone (which is kind of becoming the MVP of this tournament now that I think about it). Seems fine – we can accelerate and find whatever land we need to shore up the situation until we draw a real engine piece.

My opponent starts off a bit slow and takes the aggressive line of Forcing my Map. They do follow that up with a Saga, so I guess they just didn’t want to get Wasted. I’ve drawn a Force of Vigor, however, so I copy their Saga with my Stage and let them do their construct thing while I just develop my mana.

Force of Vigor ends up tagging the Needle they got and one of their robots, and I’m sitting on my stage-saga and a pile of lands, with Endurance and Punishing Fire in hand. Meanwhile they’ve got a 1/1 construct and a couple Jeskai duals on their side of things. Things are looking good.

But then I get a bit greedy and toss my Endurance into a Daze. Then they Stifle my Stage when I try to turn it into a regular land. THEN they play True-Name Nemesis. In Magic, as in life, things sure can change fast.

That Blast Zone from the opener trades with their Nemesis and I find another Saga, a regular one this time. My opponent Stifles its ability to make robots. Stifle put in a lot of work for them, kind of impressive. But I draw into Choke and then a second Saga, and then finally find Loam.

With Loam and two Explorations, and my opponent with only three forever-tapped lands, the party is over before Lage even shows up.

3-0

ROUND 4 – GW Depths

GW Depths is a matchup I used to be very scared of. Now, having played it a lot more and with 4 Valakut Exploration in the deck, I think it’s pretty manageable. I’m hesitant to say either side is truly favored, but it no longer feels like I’m always fighting to survive. Saga also helps a lot since Needle is an ace in this matchup.

That said, the matchup can be massively complicated and your gameplan can change frequently based on the boardstate. My opponent was no slouch either so I did not have an easy time of it.

G1

We’re on the play, and our opener is just a massive slam dunk for this matchup. Mox Diamond, Exploration, Valakut Exploration, and then Stage, Saga, Wasteland, and Grove. Give me a Loam and the game may as well already be over.

I slam VE on turn two and just start dropping lands all over the place while roaring through my deck. Add a few constructs to the mix and suddenly the chip damage from VE is starting to look pretty real. My opponent is gaining a little traction with a Knight and their Reclaimer. But their life total is quite low at this point and I’m able to make 3 landfall triggers in one turn to wrap things up.

Ok, let’s just do that again please!

G2

My hand this time is a little slower, but it has good tools. Diamond can get us on the table fast enough, and we have Loam, Stage, and Maze so we shouldn’t just die too fast.

My opponent, however, has a turn 2 Knight thanks to GSZ for Dryad Arbor. Knight is probably the best creature against Lands and I can’t find my Valakut Exploration (or even just regular Exploration). They use their Knight to get together the combo pieces, and while I have a Maze, a Ghost Quarter, and a lot of Stages, I don’t have much else.

Here’s a Depths puzzle for you. You’re my opponent – win next turn without casting a spell.

My opponent saw the line and masterfully maneuvered through several layers of interaction where they Waste my Ghost Quarter, so I Ghost Quarter their Stage, so they Fetch a Depths and copy it, so I copy their Depths, so they copy their Depths with the second Stage…

Well played, opponent. I lose.

G3

Force of Vigor is a very mean card that only Lands players should be allowed to play, that was my big takeaway from this game. My hand is solid but my opponent has an early Force of Vigor to hit my Valakut Exploration and Diamond. Then they have Endurance for my Loam and follow it up with Sylvan Library. I struggle for a while but the game is essentially over.

3-1

ROUND 5 – UR Delver

Ok, Delver again. Thank god, this time I won’t have to think so much.

G1

My opener is another greatest hit – Exploration, Loam, Valakut Exploration, plus Grove, Stage, Wasteland, and Tabernacle. I snap it off, regretting only that I’m on the draw so their Daze is live against my Exploration.

They lead on DRC and do in fact Daze my Exploration. Next turn they replay the land and cast Ponder. I draw a Crop Rotation for my turn and take a pretty risky line where I rotate my land for a Wasteland. This line is pretty bad against any countermagic, but if it resolves I get to Waste their land and play Tabernacle to kill their lil’ angry person.

We dodge the countermagic and DRC is too angry to pay their tithe so it dies. They don’t seem to have much in the way of further creatures so I just cast my Loam, figure I’ll get things going a bit. They Force of Will it, and I’m a bit confused until they follow up with Wasteland on my only green source. Nice move opponent.

But they don’t have any threats to follow it up, and another green source shows up pretty soon thereafter. From there it’s only a couple turns until we resolve Valakut Exploration against their empty board and they scoop.

G2

On the draw and both players mull to 5. Usually this favors the Lands player since they have a lot of catchup mechanisms like Loam and they can also win with just a pair of the right pair of lands.

In this case, my final 5 is Endurance, Exploration, Saga, Forest, and Wasteland. They have the t1 DRC, and the Daze for my Exploration (maybe jamming it early wasn’t right in this context). Then they land a second DRC and things are looking a little shaky. But I find a second green source and a second Endurance. My first one gets hit with Unholy Heat, but it still makes their girls into 1/1s. The second eats a force and now my opponent is on no cards.

Meanwhile, I’ve still been playing lands, including a Depths and a Saga, which is now creating a blocker. They attack into it and bolt me in combat, trying to surveil their way into lethal delirium, but they can’t get there and my construct eats a Channeler.

Next turn, my Saga dies into a Map which dies into a Stage which dies into Marit Lage. My opponent has zero cards in hand and I’m at 2 life. Their first draw finds them Expressive Iteration which turns on Delirium, but doesn’t find a burn spell. DRC has to attack into my 20/20 and it dies. My opponent follows her into the underworld, like poor Orpheus pursuing his lost Eurydice.

4-1

ROUND 6 – Moon Stompy

Moon stompy is a weird matchup. Lands is basically just dead to a Blood Moon in g1, especially a build like mine without Reclaimers. Games 2 and 3, however, seem to be all about getting your opponent to help you make Marit Lage. Or, if they don’t play a moon, you can almost always just outvalue them since they will spew a ton of cards to set up an early threat, and we have the acceleration to keep up (plus we can always just make Lage the normal way).

G1

Fairly confident my opponent knew what I was on (pretty easy to find out if you have the patience to type my incomprehensible screenname into Google). They mull to 5, make a t1 Moon, and while I make a show of trying to burn them out with Valakut Exploration, we both knew it wasn’t gonna happen.

G2

My hand has Diamond, Exploration, Loam, Valakut Exploration, Stage, Wasteland, and Saga. My opponent is on 5 cards again. I can’t answer a moon effect but the hand is so good if they don’t have a moon that I keep it anyway.

They don’t have a moon. I Waste every land they play for a few turns (the new Den of the Bugbear they play means they have a lot of nonbasics) and am about to make Marit Lage.

Unfortunately, they land a Magus of the Moon just in the nick of time. Fortunately, I draw Punishing Fire myself. I kill their Magus and Lage emerges from the moon this time instead of her usual icy prison.

G3

My opener once again cannot answer Blood Moon. Their opener can do nothing except make a Blood Moon as they go from 6 cards to 0 on turn one just moon me. Rude.

But the game isn’t over and I have a ton of turns to dig through my deck for Force of Vigor and, hopefully, Dark Depths. That’s essentially what happens as they keep playing lands and lock pieces while I find a Depths and a Force of Vigor to go with it a few turns later.

5-1

ROUND 7 – Elves

Elves is a very interesting matchup. It usually ends up being a race to the combo, and we have a lot more tutors for our pieces than theirs, at least in my experience. The matchup is a lot easier if you have Glacial Chasm and to be honest I almost registered one (I lost a win-and-in to Elves in the last Challenge and was feeling sour). I was kicking myself a little for that, and was also a bit nervous since I knew my opponent was a master of the archetype and had actually tested the matchup with him before where he stomped me thoroughly. But there was nothing to do about it now, so I just took a deep breath and said a little prayer to Mama Lage for luck.

G1

I’m on the play and my hand has Exploration, Stage, and a green source, among other things. That puts me at 7 topdecks that can make a t2 20/20. Lage answers my prayers – the top card of my deck is Dark Depths.

G2

My hand is an interesting one and I almost mulligan. It’s Loam, Waterlogged Grove, Map, Saga, Diamond, Valakut Exploration, and Tabernacle. Tabernacle is a monster in this matchup, but we have no combo pieces and the engines we have are slow. If my opponent has even just a Cradle, they can blank Tabernacle and go nuts on us. Still, I keep, reasoning that Tabernacle will buy us some time and we do have Map so that is sort of a combo piece in a way.

I get a little lucky and my opponent does not have Cradle. They develop slowly, and though they are able to start applying a little pressure, I’m also able to draw a Stage. Unfortunately, there’s a Collector Ouphe jamming up my colored mana and my Map, so I can’t really do much with all this.

They’re chipping in, and eventually I find Blast Zone to kill their Ouphe (told you that card was the MVP). They have white mana, but they have to use it to pay the tithe, so I can go for Lage pretty safely.

6-1 and locked for top 8

QUARTERFINALS – GW Depths

I had never top 8’d a Challenge before and it’s been a goal of mine for a while now, so this was a dream come true. Still, I didn’t want to get into the whole ‘happy to be here’ mindset – why stop at top 8 when we could win the whole thing? So I focused in and resolved to make more Marit Lages than anyone has ever even dreamed of.

In the quarters I came across the same opponent that had given me my loss in the Swiss. A little spooky but it also gave me a chance to redeem myself.

G1

I’m on the draw with 6 cards: Diamond, Pfire, Tabernacle, Map, VE, and Bog. Not amazing but if we can find some lands maybe we can set up VE and go from there.

My opponent seems to be moving slow, with nothing but a t2 Library. They pay 8, cast Reclaimer. I kill it with fire. They pay another 4, cast Sylvan Safekeeper. I play VE, and have another in hand.

At this point my opponent is low enough (7) and has little enough pressure that my plan is just to burn them out with my Valakut Explorations. I need to avoid dying to the combo and try to get as much landfall as possible but also my deck is a giant pile of answers to the combo and ways to get landfall triggers so… we get there.

G2

My opponent is on a mull to 5 and I’m on a medium 7 with Grove, Saga, Spellbomb, Force of Vigor, Exploration, Pfire, and Endurance. Not exciting but more or less fine I guess.

We trade resources a bit and they go to 0 cards to play Ramunap Excavator, a card I truly do not like to play against. Luckily I’m able to kill it with my two burn spells together, but not before I get wasted into oblivion. So now my only mana sources are a Diamond and a Saga with 2 chapters on it. I draw a land for the turn, float mana with Saga, find Diamond, and cast my Endurance just to have a creature to pressure them and hopefully take the game home in a few turns.

Unfortunately they draw PE to kill and then a Sylvan Library to get them back in this. I’ve got just a Crop Rotation and a dinky little Rishadan Port.

Another brain teaser – we just sacced Port, what would you get?

I thought that since they’re at 15 with only 1 card, I don’t want to let them go hard with Library. So I rotated for Saga in their end step, figuring I could make a couple robots that would be quite large and kill them pretty quick. The other play was to hope to find a land or else pitch my whole hand to cast Force of Vigor on their Library.

I’m not sure I did the right thing, but I did it. Unfortunately, their 1 card was a Crop Rotation too, and they Wasted my Saga before it could even make mana. From there I was too far away from casting Force of Vigor in time and they took over the game with an army of Elvish Reclaimers.

G3

So we’re on to game 3, but at least I’m on the play this time. My hand is Diamond, Exploration, Loam, Needle, Map, Karakas, and Bog. Needs to draw some lands but we have Loam and Exploration, that’s what we play this deck to do. Let’s go!

My opponent hits my Diamond with Prismatic Ending and I have no colored mana. I end up having to crack my Map for a fetchland but a few turns later we’re under way again, and they’ve done nothing but make land drops and End my Exploration in the meantime.

Unfortunately, when I finally go to Loam back my fetch so I can get red and cast the Valakut Exploration I drew… they have an evoked Endurance for my graveyard. And then they rotate for Bog to tag the Loam as well! That’s a lot of resources from them though and when all is said and done they’re on three lands and two cards, while I’m on 4 lands (Waste, Karakas, Forest, and Bog), staring at the two VE in my hand and dreaming of red mana.

We play draw-go for a while but I eventually do find red mana. They find an elf, but I Needle it. I play out both my Valakut Explorations and get to enough mana to cast double Punishing Fire. Since Endurance has mopped up their graveyard, this means they can’t really land a creature that’ll stick.

While they have FoV for my Valakuts, I’m able to keep the board clear. They’re 6 minutes below me on clock and getting into the red as the turns tick by and I keep killing the creatures they play. Their only way to win from here seems to be finding the Depths to go with their Stage. I port their Stage each turn to hold it off, and like I said, my deck is a pile of answers to that combo. They concede with 30 seconds on their clock after I’ve found more Valakut Explorations and am pretty firmly in the drivers seat.

7-1

SEMIFINALS – Eldrazi Post

G1

With no idea what my opponent is on, I mull to 6 and keep a reasonable Loam, Diamond, Stage, Needle, Depths, Grove. Needs a land to make a turn 3 Lage, and can do it through Wasteland thanks to Needle. If you’re wondering why there are so many mulligans in this report, Lands mulls a lot but it also mulls pretty well, as this hand shows.

My opponent leads on Eldrazi Temple and I am ecstatic. Anything can happen, of course, but Eldrazi is usually quite easy for Lands. I summon the Witch on schedule and win.

G2

Another 6, this time with Pfire, Grove, Maze, Diamond, Stage, and Valakut Exploration. This is a hand that should do fine against Eldrazi Stompy. Turns out my opponent was on Eldrazi Post (didn’t see any of those posts in g1, though maybe the Cascading Cataracts should have clued me in?).

They have a Chalice on 1, and TKS follows soon after. I’m trying to set up the combo here but it’s taking some time as I have to wait for a Saga to get a Map and then sac that and the whole thing. By the time I get there it’s been telegraphed for ages. My opponent plays a Karakas and their Chalice stops my Crop Rotation from answering it. I lose to TKS beats.

G3

On the play my opener has Exploration, Force of Vigor, Depths, Blast Zone, Maze, and Saga. Another hand that will Saga into the combo if you want it to. I play Exploration and Saga, getting myself set up. My opponent plays multiple ancient tombs and a Grim Monolith over the next turn, which leads to Karn and an Ensaring Bridge. I am too vigorous for Bridges, however. What’s more, a strange twist of fate causes the baddest robot in the multiverse to be murdered by one of Urza’s lil’ ol’ constructs.

At this point I’ve got two 3/3 constructs and my opponent is at 14 from their own Tombs. They go to 12 to cast a Spyglass naming Stage (there is a Depths and a Map on the table, after all). But even if Marit Lage isn’t invited, the constructs know how to party without her, and take the game home in a couple attacks.

8-1

FINALS – Jeskai Delverless

I knew I’d be playing against either this or Doomsday in the finals and was really hoping it wouldn’t be Doomsday. I’m essentially never going to win against a practiced Doomsday pilot and Kai is much more than just practiced. So when it was another fair blue deck that got through to me, I figured I might actually have a shot.

That said, I must confess that I often feel a little lost playing against these Jeskai piles. I don’t really know what to expect – are they on DRC? Do they play Swords or is it just Prismatic Endings and Bolts? Do they have Force of Negation? Wasteland? Who knows anymore?? If you have any advice on this please let me know.

G1

I’m on the play and I mull to 6 keeping three lands, Exploration, and two Valakut Exploration. I feel like I just cannot lose, if even one of these VEs sticks I will just run away with it.

My Exploration resolves, and on turn 2 I jam VE into a possible Daze, thinking I have a second one anyway and I want to get on the table. They have the Daze. Next turn I can’t really play around Daze because I only have 3 mana available. And they can’t have the second Daze, can they?

They do. I’m dead in the water after that and don’t draw anything particularly relevant while some monkeys and a True Name kill me.

G2

My hand is Ghost Quarter, Port, Wasteland, Saga, Taiga, Diamond, Needle. Not super exciting but the mana denial can buy us a lot of turns and we have Saga for a threat and selection.

My opponent, however, has an early monkey that I can’t really interact with right away. Saga promises to make some blockers, but they have Alpine Moon to get rid of it.

When True Name joins the unanswered monkey, I fall to the JMML plan – Just Make Marit Lage. I’m doing ok on that front – I have all the combo pieces and just need the turns to play them and activate. Unfortunately, my opponent flips a Crop Rotation with their Ragavan and rotates for a Wasteland. That’s one more turn it’s gonna take me, and probably the last turn I can afford, even if they don’t have any burn spells. Next turn their monkey steals a Loam, so they get back their Wasteland and do it again. I can’t make Lage in time now and I die as my old Nemesis and a new one join forces to crush me. Feels a bit bad to go out on a monkey-stealing story but so it goes, the card is good.

8-2 for 2nd place

As someone who just picked up Lands in January last year, I was overjoyed to have made it as far as the finals of a Legacy Challenge. I’ve done well at local events, but up to now had only middling results in these Challenges, and to finally break the top 8 and even make the finals felt like a vindication of all the time I spent on this silly deck. Big ups to the whole Legacy and Lands community and in particular to Jarvis Yu, whose coaching helped me a lot and made me realize that I actually do want to do well in these events.

If you’re looking to pick up the deck, be assured that while you may lose in the finals of an event to some bad monkey beats, you will crush fair blue decks most of the time. In fact given the current meta, with there being only one real combo deck in Doomsday, Lands feels very well-positioned. It’s a prison-control-combo-aggro deck that can kill on turn 2 and plays several tutors and insane value engines in Loam and Valakut Exploration. What’s not to like?

I hope you enjoyed this report as much as I enjoyed the event. Until next time, may Lage preserve us.

Lands vs Control by alli

There is always a viable form of a control deck in the Legacy format and there are many great players that almost exclusively play control. If you run deep in a Legacy tournament you can expect to play vs control one time or another in the tournament. I hope this guide can give you an idea on the roles and strategies that are effective versus the various flavours of control decks. But I also want to give you a heads up that this is a fairly tricky matchup, and games tend to go long, so there are many chances to mess things up (from both sides). This means that the person with the most experience will have an edge, and I therefore recommend that you do dedicated practice of this matchup.

Matchup History

I started playing Lands in the peak of the Czech Pile era. During this time (but also after Deathrite Shaman was banned and up until Modern Horizon 1 came out) the Legacy control decks came in two distinct forms namely UW and 3-Color control.

UW decks were naturally good against Lands because they built their deck to ignore most of our strategies and cards. First of all they played many basic lands so our Wastelands were often dead and this made the Prison role hard to execute. They also had clean answers to Marit Lage, in the form of Swords to Plowshares, and this made the Combo strategy unreliable. Finally, it was difficult to control the board with Punishing Fire as they had recursive counterspells in Counterbalance, or threats that were hard to interact with such as True-Name Nemesis or Monastery Mentor. Their top end with Jace or Entreat could also go over anything we did, and if this wasn’t enough they often played main deck Back to Basics to completely lock us out. I did not enjoy playing against these UW decks as I felt unfavoured (especially in G1) and the games would often go long so I would spend a lot of time drawing bad cards and losing. 

3-Color control decks were in many ways the exact opposite of the UW decks as most of our cards, and all of our strategies, were good in this matchup. They had a shaky manabase and we could Wasteland them out of many games. Marit Lage was also a reliable kill because they were Grixis or BUG coloured and didn’t have access to Swords to Plowshares. Further, their discard based disruption did almost nothing against us as our hands were typically filled with lands and recursive cards. I really enjoyed playing against these 3-Color control decks as I felt favoured (especially in G1) and the games would often go long so I would spend a lot of time drawing good cards and winning.

Overall I felt that Lands was a great choice vs the fair blue decks at this time. Half of the fair blue decks were on Delver (and we were favoured vs these) and at least half of the blue control decks were on 3-Color control (and we were favoured vs these). This meant that we were favoured in +75% of the fair blue matchups. On top of this the hate that we played against Storm and Show and Tell (such as Choke, Pyroblast and Sphere of Resistance) lined up well vs the UW control decks, and this meant that in the post sideboard games we could adopt a heavy Prison role and I felt favoured in the post sideboard games.

Then Modern Horizon 1 was released and everything changed. Arcum’s Astrolabe was an absolute nightmare printing for Lands as an archetype. It effectively made all control decks into “UW” (although they often played 5 colors). All of these decks now had access to Swords to Plowshares and Oko as clean answers to Marit Lage, and they played many basic lands to blank out our Wastelands and Prison plan. They often also played non-basic hate in the form of Blood Moon to lock us out. These decks were also harder to Prison out because their “late game cards” were cheaper and they could often operate solely on Forests and Swamps and hence Choke was unreliable. Not everything was bad though. We also got a new printing in Field of the Dead and this card gave us access to a new Ramp strategy (on top of the Prison, Control and Combo strategies that we already had access to). The Ramp strategy is very effective against control decks and we could adopt our deck to optimise this angle if we wanted to gain extra percentage points against control (such as playing Uro and Primeval Titan for example). We also got the printing of Valakut Exploration and this card quickly replaced Gamble in RG Lands decks. Valakut Exploration is a card advantage engine that doesn’t rely on the graveyard and it’s very good at fueling Field of the Dead.

As you all know Arcum’s Astrolabe has since then been banned and this was a huge benefit for Lands against the blue control decks. Modern Horizon 2 has also been released and this set has given new tools to both sides. In the rest of this article I will explain how I approach the current iterations of control decks in Legacy.

UW Control

There are currently four different flavours of UW control decks that come to my mind, and I have tried to give them a short description below. 

  • Bant Control is by far the most popular UW control deck in today’s Legacy meta. It is built to abuse Uro (sometimes together with Sylvan Library). These decks have played up to four copies of Force of Negation (yuck) alongside Mystic Sanctuary. If you have not lost to this combination before then I can assure you that it feels just as bad as it sounds. The latest version of this deck seems to cut down on Force of Negation as they have picked up Prismatic Ending to answer resolved permanents. They still have plenty of answers to Loam though as they now play Endurance in the main deck. Bant Control has a fairly shaky manabase and it’s a better matchup today compared to during the Astrolabe era in my opinion.
  • UW Miracles (with Mishra’s Bauble and Predict) is very similar to the UW Miracles decks of “pre Modern Horizon 1” and it has a rock solid manabase and plays annoying cards such as Counterbalance, Entreat the Angels and Back to Basics in the main deck.
  • UWr Sharkstill is an interesting deck because even though it’s a (more or less) two coloured deck the mana base is fairly shaky since they play Hall of Heliod’s Generosity and Blast Zone, and the red splash is certainly not free from their side. G1 is a fairly good matchup for Lands as Standstill is not a good card vs us. After sideboarding the games get harder as I expect both Monastery Mentor and the red non-basic hate.
  • Esper Mentor is really just a Grixis control shell that plays Swords to Plowshares instead of the red cards (it could as well have been listed under 3-color control). I think this is the easiest of the UW decks because they only play 4 basics and their discard based disruption is not effective vs Lands.

There is also a fairly new UWR deck that plays Ragavan and Urza’s Saga and Standstill. This deck has shown impressive results online but I don’t consider this a control deck and hence I won’t cover it here. I do think Lands is favoured vs this deck though.

Game 1

This is the one matchup where mana acceleration is not crucial (especially if we are on the play). I would rather keep a hand with Sylvan Library than Mox Diamond against UW control. I have also found that good UW players tend to counter our engines instead of acceleration and I therefore value engines higher than acceleration in my starting hand. If I for example mulligan to 6 and see a hand with 2 Explorations and 2 Sylvan Library then I will bottom one of the Explorations. In the following section I will explain the various Lands strategies that are available against the UW matchup.

Strategy 1 – Prison-Ramp

What does good look like in the Lands vs UW matchup? Imagine that we get to untap with Exploration, Valakut Exploration and 4 lands in play on turn 3. It’s very hard to lose from this position. Valakut will “draw” 2-3 extra cards per turn, we will have plenty of mana and can use Rishadan Port to stop our opponent from casting their spells, while also making 2-4 zombies on every turn. This gamestate can be achieved when we have a good hand i.e. one that contains both mana acceleration and an engine (ideally two engines to ensure that one sticks around). This is how I would rate our various engines in this specific matchup.

  1. Valakut Exploration is in my opinion the best engine against UW decks. It’s important to optimize how we sequence our lands once we have Valakut in play. We should ensure that we have green mana open after we play our first land (just in case we will flip Exploration or Crop Rotation). Also, if our opponent cast a spell that will destroy Valakut then we should respond by fetching and / or casting Crop Rotation as any card flipped with Valakut can be played even if Valakut is destroyed. Actually the EOT trigger doesn’t happen if Valakut is destroyed and we can play the exiled cards indefinitely.
  2. Sylvan Library used to be the best possible card against UW decks but it has gotten worse due to their effective answers in Prismatic Ending, Narset and Hullbreacher. It is still a good card in the matchup and an early Library often leads us to victory. If I resolve an early Library then I will use my life aggressively in order to get ahead on cards before my opponent finds an answer. Swords to Plowshares on Marit Lage will also give us 5 new cards and hence if I have Sylvan Library in play then I am  more inclined to summon the 20/20 monster.
  3. Elvish Reclaimer can be an engine if we also play Flagstones of Trokair. This combination will ramp us one land per turn and get us closer to having Field of the Dead online. It’s unlikely that the Elf will survive though as they have plenty of answers to creatures.
  4. Life from the Loam is probably the worst engine against UW control as these decks are built to ignore many of our lands (so getting 3 back is not that strong). It is also often difficult to get lands into our graveyard in this matchup and Loam can be stranded in our hand. UW decks also tend to play recursive counterspells, such as Force of Negation plus Mystic Sanctuary or Counterbalance plus Brainstorm / Jace, and the recursive nature of Life from the Loam is less useful in this matchup.

If I am lucky enough to get to untap with an engine then I will go heavy on the Prison role as I want to maximise the number of turns where my engine gives me an advantage. 

Screenshot of what good looks like in the Lands vs UW control matchup.

Things don’t always go according to plan as our opponent runs counterspells and removal such as Prismatic Ending. Luckily it is possible to play the Prison-Ramp strategy even without an engine online (I call this the naked Prison-Ramp strategy). I have won many games against UW control without casting a single spell. Lands cannot be countered or targeted by their removal and it’s therefore possible to leave our opponent with dead cards stranded in their hand while we are getting closer and closer to having 7 lands with unique names in play. We also have plenty of mana sinks and can use our mana even if we are not casting spells. Here are some early indicators that the naked Prison-Ramp strategy can be viable.

  • My opening hand has both Field of the Dead and multiple copies of Rishadan Port.
  • My opponent leads with a non-basic land into Ponder and chooses to shuffle.
  • My opponent misses their 2nd or 3rd land drop.

Let’s delve deeper into the Prison angle of the Lands deck as this is so important at this point in the game. Rishadan Port is my favourite magic card and here are some more pointers on how to use it against the UW deck. 

  • It’s obviously best if we have more Port activations then our opponent has lands and we should therefore copy Rishadan Port with Thespian’s Stage to maximise the effect. 
  • We should set a stop in our opponent’s upkeep and in their draw step. This way if they float mana in response to our first Port activation then we can pass priority and force them to tap more lands (if they for example want to cast a card with flash such as Ice Fang Coatl or Snapcaster Mage). We can now use our remaining Port activations in their draw step to tap down their remaining lands.
  • We should tap our opponent’s fetch lands in their end step. If they crack the fetch in response to our Port activation then we can tap their land in their next upkeep and the “protection” that a fetch provides is gone. If they choose to not crack their fetch in response to our Port activation then we have the chance to Waste their tapped fetch on our turn (assuming that we draw a Wasteland or have one sandbagged in our hand).
  • If our opponent continues to draw lands and end up with more lands then we have Port activations then we have some interesting choices about which lands we should target with our Rishadan Ports.
    • Blue is the hardest and most risky color to try to cut off. It’s hard because most of our opponent’s lands produce blue mana and it’s risky because many of our opponent’s blue cards (such as Brainstorm, Ice Fang, Snapcaster Mage, Hullbreacher, Predict) can be cast at instant speed. However, it can sometimes be a good idea to try to cut them off blue as it prevents them from casting Ponder and Preordain to dig for more lands.
    • Green is a good color to take out against Bant control as they have some green sorcery speed cards that are strong against our mana denial plan (such as Abundant Harvest, Sylvan Library and Uro). It’s not completely without risk though as both Ice Fang and Endurance can be cast at instant speed.
    • White is probably my default color to target against non-green UW decks. It’s a safe choice as all white threats (such as Monastery Mentor, Stoneforge Mystic, Entreat) are deployed at sorcery speed. 
    • Red and Black are typically not a priority in G1 as there are few red or black cards that we care about in the pre sideboard games. This changes after sideboarding though as there are plenty of great non-basic haters in red (such as Blood Moon and From the Ashes). 
  • Dark Depths can be used as extra copies of Rishadan Port. If we have Thespian’s Stage and Dark Depths in play then our opponent will not be able to use all their white mana while also holding up mana for Swords to Plowshares. In this situation the Dark Depths combo is effectively a “free” Rishadan Port.
  • Tabernacle can be used as extra copies of Rishadan Port activations. We will let our opponent pay the upkeep cost for their Ice Fangs and / or Snapcasters before we use our Ports on their remaining lands.

I find that the naked Prison-Ramp strategy wins if we continue to draw more lands than our opponent. At some point we will have found Field of the Dead and then once we have obtained 7 (unique) lands in play the game is effectively over. We can now turn gears and copy Field with Thespian’s Stage to effectively start creating 4-8 zombies on every turn. This will quickly overwhelm our opponent. 

An alternative (although harder to execute) way to win is to tap down all of our opponent’s white mana sources and then assemble Marit Lage in our opponent’s end step. Ghost Quarter can be used to destroy basic Plains, and Thespian’s Stage can copy Ghost Quarter to give us more copies of this effect. It’s a good idea to keep track of how many basic Plains that are played in the UW decks of the time (it typically varies between 1 and 3). It’s super important to be patient here. It’s not uncommon for me to pay 30 mana (over many turns) to naturally assemble Marit Lage. Thespian’s Stage will often make more use as another copy of Rishadan Port instead of as a “1 for 2” trade when assembling the 20/20 token.

I have found that the naked Prison-Ramp strategy can lose games where our opponent draws more lands than us (especially fetches are strong against this strategy). If they are able to cast a card such as Sylvan Library or Uro or Jace, then they will start to accrue an advantage each turn, and this will help them find more lands and counterspells. It’s important to delay this point as long as possible. If we already have Field of the Dead online when they are able to cast Sylvan Library or Jace then we can often handle the situation. In my experience the only cards, from the UW deck, that can outclass Field of the Dead are Shark Typhoon and Entreat the Angels, and both of these cards are hard to resolve under Rishadan Ports. If they do manage to sneak in a big Entreat then the only answer that we have is to copy Blast Zone with Thespian’s Stage in order to create a Blast Zone with 0 counters on it.

There can be a tension between our expensive cards, such as Valakut Exploration, and the Prison-Ramp strategy. Force of Will / Force of Negation can be cast even with no untapped lands and if we spend all of our mana to cast Valakut, and have it countered, then the game can be over as the UW player will now have all their lands available on the following turn and can deploy one of their snowballing threats. If we continue to draw lands, and are able to use our mana on Rishadan Port and Dark Depths activations, then there is often no need to expose ourselves to the tempo gain of Force of Will. Life from the Loam is cheaper than Valakut Exploration but I also have patience with Loam. It’s often better to cast Loam on turn 4 (to ensure our 4th land drop) instead of turn 2 or 3. This way we can use the mana from one of the lands that we returned to activate Rishadan Port on the following turn. 

I think the decisions on how to navigate the naked Prison-Ramp strategy is the hardest part of the Lands vs UW control matchup and inexperienced players will lose games where they cast their spells on the wrong turn.

Strategy 2 – Uncounterable-Aggro

This is a new strategy that is enabled by Urza’s Saga. In this strategy we try to blank our opponent’s counterspells by letting our lands do the heavy lifting. Let’s assume that our hand has a Mox Diamond and Urza’s Saga. In this case we can have two 4/4’s and an Expedition Map in play at the end of our 3rd turn. Expedition Map can find another Saga and at the end of our 6th turn we can have four 7/7 Constructs, one 1/1 Servo, and a Retrofitter Foundry in play. This is pretty good for a single uncounterable land (although we did also put in plenty of mana into this sequence). 

Thespian’s Stage can copy Urza’s Saga and this interaction is broken in a slow matchup such as against UW control. If we copy a basic land with Stage in response to the “search your library” trigger then the Stage actually gets to keep the ability to make constructs. We now have a token generator that is immune to non-basic hate such as Back to Basics. I have won many games against UW control where I used Crop Rotation to find Saga at the end of my opponent’s turn and copied it with Stage. We can execute this line as soon as we have 3 lands in play. It’s important to note that we need 6 mana 2 turns later in order to activate both Saga and Stage (to make constructs) on the same turn. Saga can find Mox Diamond on its 3rd Chapter, and this ramps us, so we can get there from 3 lands if we have 3 extra lands in hand. If we don’t have 3 extra lands in hand then it’s safer to start this chain with 4 or 5 lands in play. This sequence requires less resources than Field of the Dead and can be executed earlier in the game.

Urza’s Saga also has the nice upside of making both Life from the Loam and Crop Rotation better against UW control. Urza’s Saga will naturally hit our graveyard and it’s a great land against UW decks and it therefore “fixes” 2 of Loam’s historical problems in this matchup. Crop Rotation is weak against decks with counterspells since it’s a “1 for 2” trade if we get it countered. But if we rotate away Urza’s Saga in response to the “search your library” trigger then it’s only a “1 for 1” trade if Crop Rotation is countered (it’s even a “2 for 1” trade if the counterspell is Force of Will).

I think the Uncounterable-Aggro strategy is strong against UW decks but it’s not guaranteed that it will lead us to victory. UW decks are very good at answering creatures and Swords to Plowshares plus Ice Fang / Endurance can lead to complete blow outs. Also, this strategy is mana hungry and it can be hard to execute it at the same time as we put pressure on our opponent’s mana. This means that we expose ourselves to scenarios such as Terminus or Dress Down plus Uro or Jace on the same turn. 

I want to talk a bit more about Dress Down. Bant control currently plays 2 or 3 copies of this card (primarily) as an answer to Urza’s Saga. Dress Down can come down at instant speed and it kills all constructs (as it turns them into 0/0’s). If my opponent is signaling that they have Dress Down then I will wait until their end step to make tokens. We typically don’t want to make new tokens on our own turn pre-combat (even if this will grow our other constructs) as they will then all die to a flashed in Dress Down.

Not all Lands decks go all in on Urza’s Saga, as they require many slots, and they tend to compete with either Rishadan Port, Sylvan Library or Valakut Exploration. Further, some of the 1 mana silver bullets are sub-par cards that increase our chances of bad top decks. My current opinion is that the 1st Urza’s Saga is very good as it makes us more non-linear and it improves the control and midrange matchups. However, I don’t think that it’s worth maxing out on Urza’s Saga. This can of course change depending on the metagame and if they print new cheap artifacts.

Strategy 3 – Combo

Going for a fast combo kill is not recommended against UW decks as they have plenty of answers to a 20/20 and it’s bad to set ourselves back 2 land drops. There are however certain edge cases where I will create a Marit Lage token into open white mana.

  • If I feel extremely behind on board then I may go for a hail mary Marit Lage. Say for example that my opponent has a Monastery Mentor and will kill me on the following turn.
  • If I have an unanswered Sylvan Library then I am more inclined to create a 20/20 monster. It feels great to gain 20 life with Sylvan Library in play.
  • If I have Exploration and Life from the Loam but nothing else going then I may try to start creating a 20/20 on every turn and try to outrun my opponent’s removal. This is risky though as Force of Negation or Endurance can stop the recursion.

A more common combo line is if my opponent taps out on their turn when they have a blocker such as Ice Fang, Baleful Strix or Endurance in play. I have won many games where I create Marit Lage in my opponent’s end step and then untap and kill their blocker. This line is better if we play Abrupt Decay as removal instead of Punishing Fire.

Even though I won’t typically create Marit Lage into open white mana I do like to “Sword check” my opponent. If my intention is to pay 3 to remove 1 counter from Dark Depths at the end of my opponent’s turn then I will tap my lands so that Thespian’s Stage is the last land that is being tapped. This way it can look like I am actually copying Dark Depths with Stage.

  • If my opponent has Swords to Plowshares in hand then they will typically let the Dark Depths trigger resolve instantly. 
  • If my opponent stops and thinks in response to the Dark Depths trigger then I can get a read that they don’t have Swords to Plowshares. I have even had opponents that concede when I remove 1 counter from Dark Depths this way. This actually happens more often than you would think (especially in MODO Leagues).

Game 1 from the UW Perspective

In order to ensure that I have not missed anything important I did reach out to the UW experts Marcus Ewaldh (Iwouldliketorespond), Thomas Mechint (mechin), and Anuraag Das (AnziD) and asked them how they approach G1 from the UW side. This is what they told me.

Marcus

If I don’t run graveyard hate in G1 then my opponent will eventually get Field of the Dead online and I need to figure out a gamestate where I win before or despite that. This mostly revolves around cheesing in an Entreat the Angels, or having Stoneforge Mystic + Kaldra Compleat, or Monastery Mentor, or Uro (if I am playing that card). Jace is also very good in this matchup as it’s very hard for the Lands deck to remove him. We can use Jace to find a few counterspells and then start fatesealing our opponent while we temporarily counter Life from the Loam with Spell Snare and Force of Will. We can also use Jace to find more counterspells while we beat our opponent down with Snapcaster Mages.

In the early game it’s key to develop our mana with basic lands. I also try to have a play that I can do in response to a Rishadan Port activation (this way I can get some tempo). We can usually get a lot of extra time if Force of Negation hits a Life from the Loam, or if Force of Will hits an early Valakut Exploration.

Dark Depths is something that I have to respect but the Lands deck now has Field of the Dead and Urza’s Saga so Depths is not as important as it used to be. I also don’t think that Swords to Plowshares on Marit Lage is a game winning play in G1 if the Lands deck already has Life from the Loam going.

Finally, it’s also important to know how much our and their cards are worth in different situations. This is something that comes with experience and it’s not something that can be generalized. Field of the Dead is scary in the lategame but unless our opponent has Life from the Loam it’s only one or two 2/2’s per turn. In this case we need to have navigated the game to a spot where it’s OK that our opponent get’s one 2/2 on every turn. If we use Ponder to find Swords to Plowshares for a zombie token then we are doing something wrong. We will lose that game a few turns later and the Ponder could have been used better. 

Thomas

My G1 strategy is to construct a robust manabase and quickly find a Swords to Plowshares (in order to not die early). I won’t focus on Exploration but on Loam or Valakut Exploration, and I try to kill my opponent with planeswalkers.

I usually lose games where my opponent has an unanswered Sylvan Library or Valakut Exploration, or when I have mana issues and get rekt by Wasteland and Rishadan Port.

I mostly win games when my opponent has slow starts, or hands that lose to one counterspell / removal spell.

Anuraag

Historically the Lands vs Control matchup has always been very exciting, though not in a traditional sense. The pre board game boils down to which player can successfully prevent the other from executing their primary game plan. Lands will attempt to leverage Life from the Loam to snowball cards like Exploration and Valakut Exploration into hard mana lockdown via Rishadan Port or an unstoppable onslaught of Zombie tokens from Field of the Dead. For modern day UW, the plan is to use a combination of cards like Endurance and Force of Negation to prevent the proactive Lands strategy and find a window to resolve a game-ending haymaker like Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Shark Typhoon. 

When CounterTop was legal, executing the UW control plan was particularly easy as the deck was very consistent at assembling the artifact-enchantment duo with a CMC 2 card on top to lock out Loam and Punishing Fire. After that, find Swords to Plowshares to shut down Marit Lage and the game was wrapped up. Nowadays though, the matchup is much more complicated as the RG deck has significantly evolved since the “good ol’ days”. 

The baseline plan for new age control in the matchup is pretty simple – draw your whole deck and counter everything your opponent tries to do. It’s no surprise UW has a million tools to do this, but what really changed things was the printing of Oko, Thief of Crowns and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. These two cards fundamentally changed the matchup by bringing to the table tools control previously could not leverage optimally – a reliable board presence, ramp, card draw, and life gain. Pairing these cards with Sylvan Library allowed for crazy games where Oko could swiftly tempo out the Loam opponent or Uro could gain too much advantage. 

The biggest evolution I felt from the Lands side to match these new cards was the inclusion of haymakers like Sylvan Library, Pyroblast, and for a while even Abrupt Decay at the expense of more all-in cards like Gamble. What this meant to me was a something far more dangerous than “teching out” a list. It meant a shift in framework, a new approach to the matchup that involved playing far slower than before, but loading the deck up with far more cards that could single-handedly win the game. 

So how do I approach the matchup then? Well… relatively the same. Draw your whole deck and counter everything. But wasn’t that always the plan? Well yes, but prior to a certain set the matchup was relatively close in that the control didn’t actually have very many good maindeck answers to what the Loam strategy was trying to accomplish. It was basically Force of Will critical enchantments and Force of Negation Loam or bust. Literally if even a single Library or Valakut Exploration stuck or Loam went unchecked for a few turns the game was over on the spot, full stop. That sounds scary, but it was still close as UW still featured upwards of 7 or 8 free counters in addition to planeswalkers that could help find them. 

However now, with Modern Horizons 2 released, two cards have fundamentally changed the matchup. Enter Prismatic Ending and Endurance. Prismatic Ending may be the most ridiculous removal spell of all time. It just… answers everything that control previously struggled with. Chalice of the Void? Check. 2019 Planeswalkers? Check. Sylvan Library? Valakut Exploration? Check, check. The card is quite simply too versatile and in my opinion a 4x in any control maindeck. Even Endurance is insane – maindeckable Loam hate that can profitably block Delver of Secrets and chump Marit Lage to enable sorcery speed removal? Sign me up! The point is, while control was able to keep up sometimes against Lands before MH2, the introduction of new maindeckable cards relevant in the matchup means there’s actually an overabundance of answers for the threats Lands presents. 

This translates to a shift in macro strategy for the control side. Now we are allowed to put a higher emphasis on drawing cards since all our answers are just so generically good in the matchup. Obviously the age-old mantra still applies – fetch basics and develop your mana so you don’t lose to Wasteland or Rishadan Port. But spending more card slots on Sylvan Library or Jace the Mind Sculptor is suddenly more reasonable, as is taking more tempo turns to draw cards off Uro for example because you’re more likely to find a critical Endurance or Force of Negation.

Here are some other short notes on cards I like in the matchup and have in my maindeck.

Dress Down: Excellent against Urza’s Saga, another grindy “Library-esque” card designed to outvalue control. Dress Down removes the abilities of the artifacts to get +1/+1 for other artifacts, making them measly 0/0 creatures that instantly die.

Shark Typhoon: This is the answer to Field of the Dead. 2/2 Zombies are cool, but they are no match for 5/5 Sharks. The fact that the Shark tokens also have flying is huge as it mitigates Marit Lage effectively.

Sideboarding from the Lands side

My sideboard tends to have somewhere between 5-8 cards for the control matchup (this is excluding Sphere of Resistance). Sphere is a defining card because if we take them in then we are almost certainly playing a heavy Prison strategy in the post sideboard games (and the games where we simply run our opponent over are less likely to happen). I like to ask myself “if we both are casting spells, who wins?” and if the answer is my opponent then I will bring in the Spheres. To be a bit more specific, I tend to bring in Sphere vs UW decks with Monastery Mentor but I don’t like to take them in vs current iterations of Bant control (as Prismatic Ending is such a good answer to Sphere and they play plenty of creatures so they can put pressure on us under a Sphere). It can also be play / draw dependent if I take in Sphere of Resistance or not. I also think Sphere of Resistance is better if we play Urza’s Saga and in these builds I am much more inclined to take them in.

All in all this means that we need to find somewhere between 5-12 cards to side out. I like to go down to 30 lands in the post sideboard games and there are some obvious choices such as Tabernacle, 1-2 Maze of Ith, 1-2 Wastelands, Karakas and Bojuka Bog (unless they play Uro of course). I will also cut some Crop Rotations (and all Gambles if I play them), and I will shave down on Mox Diamonds and Explorations as mana acceleration is not important in this matchup. Life from the Loam is the worst engine and this can be shaved as well. Punishing Fire is a good card to handle planeswalkers but I don’t feel like I want all 3 copies. I will now give a bit more flavour to the cards that I like to bring in against the UW control decks.

Pyroblasts

These cards are exceptional against UW control as they can answer most of their problematic cards (such as Jace, Teferi, Narset, Shark Typhoon, Back To Basics, Hullbreacher, True-Name Nemesis) and they can also help to force through our key cards against opposing counterspells.  

Prison Cards

  • Choke will win games where it resolves at the right time. Our UW opponent will have answers to Choke so we really want to resolve it when they are already tapped down. My favourite line is to wait for them to cast something like Back to Basics or Jace. Then I will Pyroblast that spell, untap and slam Choke. There is literally no better feeling in magic for me. 
  • Sphere of Resistance is another prison card that I sometimes take in (as explained above). Sphere is very good alongside Choke as our UW opponent will often be forced to tap out simply to cast their cantrips. We are now in a spot where we can cast Choke without risk of it being countered.

Additional Engines / Bombs

If I have additional engines and bombs in my sideboard then I will for sure take them in vs UW control. This is how I rank the commonly played engines / bombs against UW decks.

  1. Primeval Titan is probably the best possible bomb as it wins the game on the spot and it’s immune to Force of Negation (also to Force of Will if we play Cavern of Souls). Primeval Titan will find Field of the Dead and another land such as Thespian’s Stage or a fetch and this will almost surely ensure that Field is turned on. Unless our opponent untaps and casts Entreat the Angels or Shark Typhoon then I don’t think that we can really lose after a resolved Primeval Titan. Titan has gotten a bit worse since UW decks started playing Dress Down. 
  2. Field of the Dead is typically my main plan against UW decks and I sometimes have a 2nd copy in the sideboard. I really want to have 2 copies against these decks as I am also shaving down on Crop Rotations and it can be hard to find Field on time otherwise. 
  3. Valakut Exploration is one of our best cards against UW control and if I have additional copies in the sideboard then I will take them in.
  4. Tireless Tracker is a great card in this matchup and we will win most games where we get to untap with her. Even if they remove her instantly we are often left with one or two Clues. Tracker is also better if we play Urza’s Saga as the Clues help grow our Constructs.
  5. Chandra, Awakened Inferno is an uncounterable bomb that cannot be killed with Prismatic Ending. I never really liked Chandra, as 6 mana is so expensive when I also want to use Rishadan Port, and she doesn’t straight up win once she is resolved. I think that current iterations of Bant control can race a Chandra with Uro and Endurance.
  6. Klothys, God of Destiny used to the very good vs Uro builds as she was unkillable and answered all future Uro’s as well as their Ice Fangs. Klothys would also eventually win the game on her own. However, after the printing of Prismatic Ending as a clean answer to Klothys I don’t think this card is good anymore.

Disenchant effects

It used to be mandatory to take in 3 Krosan Grips vs UW control as an answer to Counterbalance, Rest in Peace and Back to Basics. I find that current builds of UW decks focus more on planeswalkers than enchantments and it’s not certain that I will bring in Force of Vigor in this matchup. It depends on what I see from my opponent.

Example of a sideboard map

Here is an example of how I could sideboard vs Bant control in a RG list with 1 Urza’s Saga.

Cards to take out

  • -1 Mox Diamond
  • -1 Exploration
  • -1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
  • -2 Elvish Reclaimer
  • -2 Dark Depths
  • -1 Crop Rotation

Cards to take in

  • +1 Pithing Needle
  • +2 Choke
  • +2 Pyroblast
  • +1 Red Elemental Blast
  • +2 Force of Vigor

Here is an example of how I could sideboard vs Bant control in a RG list with 4 Urza’s Saga.

Cards to take out

  • -1 Exploration
  • -1 Mox Diamond
  • -2 Maze of Ith
  • -1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
  • -1 Wasteland
  • -2 Dark Depths
  • -2 Crop Rotation
  • -1 Pyrite Spellbomb

Cards to take in

  • +4 Sphere of Resistance
  • +2 Choke
  • +2 Pyroblast
  • +1 Red Eleemental Blast
  • +2 Force of Vigor

Sideboarding from the UW side

Marcus has told me that he likes to bring in disenchant effects, non-basic hate, graveyard hate, and additional win conditions in exchange for all non-free countermagic and sweepers. I will now put some flavour on the cards that I often see from UW decks post sideboard.

Non-Basic Hate

UW control tends to have 1-2 copies of non-basic hate in their sideboard. This is how I would rank the non-basic hate against Lands.

  1. Blood Moon is a slam dunk against Lands as it shuts down all of our strategies. It’s a 3 mana card that will blank all lands that we have in pay and all lands that we will draw in the future. It even stops us from casting our own spells. Sure, in magic christmas land we can remove the Blood Moon and get a “free” 20/20 but I find that this never works against decks with Force of Will. 
  2. From the Ashes is a one sided Armageddon in this matchup. This is often enough to crush us. From the Ashes do cost 4 mana and if I see it in G2 then I will bring in all Sphere of Resistance and really push the Prison angle in G3. 
  3. Back to Basics has to come down early in order to make a difference. A timely Back to Basic will still win games, but if it comes down when we already have Field online it is often too late.
Life from the Loam Hate

I expect UW control to have 2-4 answers to Life from the Loam mostly in the form of graveyard hate. This is how I would rank the commonly played answers to Life from the Loam.

  1. Rest in Peace is a permanent answer to both Life from the Loam and Punishing Fire. Rest in Peace can also give the control deck virtual card advantage as now all of my remaining Life from Loams become dead draws.
  2. Relic of Progenitus is very good if it comes down early. The “tap ability” is often enough to keep my graveyard empty and this turns off all future Loams that I draw and provides virtual card advantage. Relic can also be cycled later for additional value or if the UW deck is desperately looking for a specific answer such as a Swords to Plowshares.
  3. Endurance can slow me down but it’s not a permanent answer. However, a hard cast Endurance is very good because it also provides a clock. I don’t have many ways to kill Endurance in post sideboard games.
  4. Surgical Extraction removes all copies of Life from the Loam. However, if I have already used Loam to get 3 lands back, and then it gets hit by Surgical, I am now up 3 cards and this does not feel bad. Surgical can also hit Punishing Fire but it is fairly easy to play around Surgical if we have multiple Groves or Grove + Stage in play.
  5. Meddling Mage is an answer to Loam or Punishing Fire but we have plenty of answers to Meddling Mage as we take in Blasts. 
Disenchant Effects

I do expect the UW deck to take in around 2 disenchant effects and these are of course very good vs Lands. I actually think disenchant effects are better than graveyard hate against us.

  1. Force of Vigor is absolutely backbreaking. This is probably the best card that can be sided in vs Lands outside Blood Moon. There is no worse feeling than having your dream hand of Mox Diamond plus Sylvan Library absolutely blown out by Force of Vigor. Force is also cheap enough that it can easily be cast under both Sphere and Choke. 
  2. Wear // Tear is a one mana answer to Choke, Valakut or Sylvan Library. It also has the upside in being able to hit both a Mox or Sphere and one of these enchantments.
  3. Engineering Explosives is very good if I am on the Sphere plan. Explosives should be cast with X equal to 1 if I have 1 Sphere in play, and X equal to 0 if I have 2 Spheres in play. This way the control player only has to tap 2 lands to resolve Explosives but they are still able to give it 2 counters.
  4. Disenchant / Force of Nature / Wilt are all good cards against Lands as they can hit one of our key engines.

Game 2 and Game 3

I don’t think that the post sideboard games are dramatically different from G1 as we have the same overall strategies available. However, there are a few differences.

  • It will be harder for the Lands deck to stick an engine as the UW deck will have brought in answers. In particular Life from the Loam feels unreliable as an engine post sideboard as we have sided out lands (so dredging Loam is worse) and they have taken in graveyard hate. I am typically very happy if I can trade my Loam for 3 lands.
  • Both players will have cut many of their dead cards and less games are decided by whoever draws the right half of their deck.
  • Both decks will have options to lock the other player out of casting their spells and both decks also have answers to these in the form of counterspells and removal. Some games will therefore become a delicate dance over who can cast their lock piece last. I have won countless games where my opponent has slammed Back to Basics on turn 3, and then I destroy it with Force of Vigor, and counter their Force of Will with Pyroblast, and then finally untap and slam Choke. I have also lost countless games in the other direction i.e. where I slam Choke and then they counter it and untap and cast Back to Basics.  

I tend to play the post sideboard games a bit slower and with even more patience. I prefer to cast Sylvan Library on turn 3 with Pyroblast backup then on turn 2. I do like to slam Sphere of Resistance as soon as possible though as these should come down early in order to make it harder for my opponent to cast their early cantrips.   

Game 2 and Game 3 from the UW Perspective

Marcus has also given me some great pointers on how he approaches the post sideboard games from the UW side. He told me that post sideboard he considers Sylvan Library, Valakut and Choke as must answer threats but that Sphere of Resistance is only really scary if the Lands deck has a fast hand with another threat.

He also uses Back to Basics and other non-basic hate to put “fear” into his opponent’s head, and stopping them from tapping out. It’s typically good for the cantrip deck if the Lands deck slows down and holds mana up for Pyroblast. 

Marcus finally said that although it’s important to control the graveyard for Life from the Loam (and Punishing Fire) he is not that worried about Loam in the post sideboard games. He explained that the UW deck has many ways to contain Loam and the card is only really scary if we also have Field of the Dead or Valakut online.

3-Color Control (no white)

3-color control (no white) are either BUG or Grixis coloured decks. These decks are not popular in the current meta as Prismatic Ending seems to have removed any incentive to play black in your control deck. BUG decks can play annoying creatures such as Leovold, Scavenging Ooze and Endurance but I still find them much easier than the UW decks.  

We can adopt the same general strategies against 3-Color control as against UW control. They are just more effective here. It’s easier to adopt the Prison role as Wasteland is better against these decks, and more importantly Dark Depths is significantly better against these decks (as they only play a few and clunky answers to Marit Lage).

Final Words

Lands vs control is an interesting matchup that highly rewards practice. Both decks are built to ignore a certain part of each other’s cards. We don’t play creatures and our lands are uncounterable (so we can sometimes ignore Force of Will and Swords to Plowshares) and the (UW) control deck is built to minimize the impact of Wasteland. This means that some games are won by whoever draws the right part of their deck. 

Other games are complete slam dunks where we for example lead with Exploration into Valakut Exploration and run our opponent over, or where they manage to Force of Negation or key engine and then return the Force with Mystic Sanctuary and counter everything else that we do (while also drawing extra cards every turn with a Narset, Jace or Sylvan Library). 

But many games are determined by key decisions on either side. If they counter the wrong spell they can easily end up losing the entire game and hence how we sequence our spells matters. Similarly if we cast an expensive engine at the wrong turn, instead of holding mana up for Rishadan Port, we can also easily lose a game.

Finally, the games tend to go long and both sides have lots of game actions to perform. Time is therefore often the most important resource in the game and I will try to always be “ahead on the clock” when I play this matchup. If I go into G3 with 10 minutes on the clock and my opponent has less than 5 minutes then I feel extremely favoured to win. They will be forced to take risks and play aggressively and I can slow the game down with Sphere, Choke and Rishadan Port.  

I think a normal RG Lands build is unfavoured vs UW control and favoured vs BUG and Grixis control. But the difference is not big and we can build a Lands deck that is favoured vs all control decks. It is often enough to add a 2nd Field of the Dead to make us favoured vs UW control, and if we cut Dark Depths and play Uro, Primeval Titan and Cavern of Souls we will be very favoured vs the normal UW deck. However, if they decide to play multiple copies of the red non-basic hate then the matchup can easily flip to their favour.

I hope this article has given you an insight into this matchup, and I hope that you all get to experience the feeling of resolving Choke when the UW deck is tapped out. 

Good luck and high five!

How to Play Naya/4c Lands by Squid

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Introduction

Hello, my name is Squid (Twitter: @SquidJPN).

I started playing Lands in October 2020 and have been running Naya/4C lists since the end of the year.

My main results are:

  • 01/03 Legacy Challenge: 5th place (4C)
  • 07/10 133rd KMC with 98 participants: 6th place (Naya) (KMC is a Legacy tournament in Osaka, Japan)

I’ve also got a few Magic Online trophies.

I’m writing this because I’d like to increase the number of Naya/4C players, and I’d like to suggest an improvement to current Lands lists.

Also, please note that this article assumes that you already have some knowledge about playing Lands.

日本語版はこちらで読めます

A Japanese-language version of this article can be found here.

What is Naya/4C Lands?

The first thing that sets this deck apart from the basic RG Lands is the Reclaimer package.

The benefit of this package is that we can sacrifice Flagstones of Trokair to activate Elvish Reclaimer’s ability to increase the number of lands on the battlefield at instant speed.

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The basic strategy is to combine this trick with Valakut Exploration and Field of the Dead to gain advantage in the fight.

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Decklist

Here is the list I used at 133rd KMC.

キャプチャ

(https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/4115012)

At first glance, the mana base looks fragile, but it is stable with 15 white mana sources, 15 green mana sources, and 13 red mana sources.

The Reclaimer package consists of 4 Reclaimers, 2 Flagstones, and 4 Plains.

The number of copies of Field of the Dead and Valakut Exploration depends on the speed of the meta, but it should be between 1 and 2 copies for Field of the Dead and between 2 and 4 copies for Valakut Exploration.

Currently (right after the release of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms), the meta speed is generally faster due to the prominence of UR Delver, so only one copy of Field of the Dead is in the list.

I’m still building a 4C list, but this is what the list looks like now.

(https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/4149423)

Both lists have 31 lands, which is a small number for a Lands deck, but the mana acceleration effect of the Reclaimer package makes it difficult for mana screw to occur. Color screws can occasionally happen in the first few turns, but mulligan well to avoid it.

The Merit of the White Splash

Another reason other than the Reclaimer package to splash white is the abundance of removal spells and hate bears.

We can play Swords to Plowshares, the strongest removal spell in Legacy format.

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Of course, if we play this card, we will be able to remove huge creatures that are difficult to deal with in basic RG Lands.

We can also use other great removal cards such as these.

In particular, Council’s Judgment is a card that can deal with True-Name Nemesis, which is difficult to deal with except by countering it.

Another good point of white is that you can choose from a variety of excellent hate bears.

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With these cards, we can expect to see an improvement in combo matchups, something that Lands is supposed to be bad at.

In particular, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Ethersworn Canonist serve as strong anti-storm and anti-SnT cards.

Hushbringer can disable Doomsday (Thassa’s Oracle’s ability is triggered when it enters the battlefield).

For 4C, we can hire Meddling Mage. This will also shut down combo decks that rely on a specific spell like Doomsday and SnT.

The Drawback of the White Splash

The downside to adding white to the deck is that we’re running out of space, as we can see from the fact that we only have 31 lands in our deck. We only have two copies of Punishing Fire and three copies of Thespian‘s Stage. This makes it difficult to play useful lands such as Rishadan Port, Ghost Quarter and Glacial Chasm. If the meta allows it, we might remove the Punishing Fire package.

We also have too many lands that work only as mana sources, which is both an advantage and a disadvantage. In addition, because of the high ratio of spells in the deck, it is not very strong to dredge for Life from the Loam. If we do, we‘ll often end up with three spells dredged, so we‘ll have to be very careful about when we decide to dredge.

Playing Guide Summary

Now let’s talk about the actual playing strategy.

We will divide the game into three steps.

Imagine up to the second step with your first hand and make a mulligan decision.

The following is an ideal example.

1. Preparation (Turns 1~3)

Accelerate our mana with Mox Diamond and/or Exploration, and set up Elvish Reclaimer and Sylvan Library. The goal here is to reach at least 3 mana, and if possible, 4 mana.

2. Deployment (Turns 3~5)

The goal here is to set up Valakut Exploration and accelerate our mana for Field of the Dead.

3. Finishing (From turn 5~6)

If Valakut Exploration is safe at this moment, we’ve already won. Crush our opponent with a horde of zombies or run them over with Marit Lage.

1. Preparation (Turns 1~3)

Our goal here is to connect to Step 2, Deployment. We’ll talk about how to actually play, and how to decide to take a mulligan.

Sample Hand 1:

We have Elvish Reclaimer and Flagstones of Trokair. And they lead to Valakut Exploration. It’s a great hand.

Forest→Reclaimer

(Next Turn)Flagstones→Activate Reclaimer to search Plateau and another Flagstones

(Next Turn)Valakut Exploration

If we can get this far, we win.

Sample Hand 2:

This is the hand that will eventually lead to Punishing Fire and Grove of the Burnwillows combo to deal with our opponent’s first action. And VE waits for its time.

If we can delay our opponent’s action with removal spells or Wasteland, keep it even if it’s too slow for what we want to do.

If we’re playing first, start with fetch land; if we’re drawing first and our opponent has a basic land, start with fetches; otherwise, start with Wasteland.

Sample Hand 3:

Sylvan Library can be played on the first turn. We can also see an early Valakut Exploration. If we can deploy our enchantments earlier, that’ s excellent.  We’ll keep it.

Plains→Mox Diamond(Discard Bojuka Bog)→Sylvan Library

If we think we are opposing the Delver deck and drawing first, play Sylvan Library 1 turn later.

Sample Hand 4:

This is a little difficult.

The only thing that can be deployed is the Reclaimer, so it depends on whether or not they stay on the battlefield.

We have two copies of Wasteland, Maze of Ith, and Swords to Plowshares, so if we are drawing first, we can keep it. If we know we’re playing against a creature based deck, such as Delver, we might keep it even if we’re playing first. We play Wasteland first to take care of Daze, and then cast Mox Diamond.

Sample Hand 5:

It’s not very good, and like example 4, it relies on the Reclaimer.

If we have Elvish Reclaimer but no Flagstones of Trokair, we can decide whether or not to bring in Flagstones by looking at our opponent’s lands and moves on the first or second turns. If our opponent doesn’t have any removal, we may be able to connect to Thespian’s Stage from Flagstones.

If the Reclaimer doesn’t stay on the battlefield, let “Life from the Loam” and “Wasteland” dance.

Forest → Reclaimer

If the Reclaimer survives the next turn: Savannah → Activate Reclaimer

If the Reclaimer doesn’t survive: Wasteland or Maze of Ith (keep green and white mana source in our hand)

Sample Hand 6:

That’s the worst. There is nothing to deploy. We also have two copies of Flagstones. In this situation, it’s the same as if we had mulled down to six or five, since we have four lands only for mana. If our hands are like this, we should take a mulligan in 0.5 seconds.

Sample Hand 7:

The spells are great, but the lands don’t match. It’s rare that we get a first hand that doesn’t fit like this, but make a mulligan decision with an idea of what we’re going to do by turn 3.

2. Deployment (Turn 3~5)

The goal here is to deploy Exploration, Sylvan Library, and Valakut Exploration.

When these three cards are on the battlefield together, the game is over.

Check the top three cards with Sylvan Library, and put a land card on the top, and we’ll be in the same situation as if we were casting Ancestral Recall every turn.

If Valakut Exploration is countered, we’re going to have a hard time generating value, so be sure not to be countered with Daze, and cry when it’s countered with Force of Will.

Also, always keep the combo of Thespian’s Stage and Dark Depths in mind, so that we can aim for a sudden death.

3. Finishing (From turn 5~6)

Valakut Exploration helps to find a second copy, and once we have multiple copies, victory is at hands. It’s like an enchantress deck with infinite resources to destroy our opponent.

The strategy so far is based on Sylvan Library and Valakut Exploration, but don’t forget that this deck is Lands. Be flexible and think deeply about what we can do to win the game.

Valakut Exploration

I’m going to talk about the core of this deck, Valakut Exploration, and the techniques, tricks, and knowledge associated with it. There is also a full article on this card on this site here.

1. Fetch lands

This is a basic trick that we use most often. When a fetch land comes into play and triggers VE, we can activate the fetch land before the triggered ability resolves and resolve the trigger twice in a row. In this way, the land we want to bring with the fetch land will not be exiled, and the library is thinned a little. Taiga or Forest are the preferred lands to bring in here, so we can play Elvish Reclaimer or Exploration when exiled. It also means that we can keep plains in our library to bring in with Flagstones of Trokair.

2. Thespian’s Stage and Flagstones of Trokair

You have VE on the battlefield, but no lands in your hand… that’s okay! Let’s activate the Stage targeting Flagstones. The legend rule allows us to send the original Flagstones to the graveyard, which will bring us a plains card and trigger VE. Even without VE, this technique can have various side effects such as fixing mana colors, thinning our library, and synergy with Life from the Loam.

Flagstones’ ability will not trigger if there are replacement effects on cards going to the graveyard in play  such as Rest in Peace or Leyline of the Void.

3. VE, Flagstones, and Legend Rule

If we play a new Flagstones when we already have a Flagstones and VE on the battlefield, one of the Flagstones will go to the graveyard and we can search for a plains. In this case, the ability of VE is also triggered, but the ability of Flagstones and the ability of VE are put on the stack at the same time, so it doesn’t matter which one we resolve first. If we resolve Flagstones’ ability first, we can exile two cards in a row, just like fetch lands do.

4. Reclaimer Package and VE

If we sacrifice a Flagstones with a Reclaimer when we have VE on the battlefield, it’s a bit tricky.

Activate Reclaimer→Resolve Flagstones→Resolve VE→Resolve Reclaimer’s ability→Resolve VE

If we play with paper, the shuffling is a bit troublesome, and there is a possibility that the land we want to bring with the Reclaimer will be exiled. Let’s pray for it.

By the way, the ability of Flagstones is “may” ability. So it is possible the land we want to bring with Reclaimer is exiled. So if we don’t want the land we want to bring with Reclaimer to be exiled, we don’t have to bring plains.

5. Keep a land card in your hand.

In the middle of the game, when we have time and don’t seem to have any use for mana, keep a land card in our hand. We may draw VE, and if we don’t have a land card right after setting it up, it’s a useless vanilla enchantment.

6. Sevinne’s Reclamation

Be a little careful when flashing back Reclamation from the graveyard. If we want to put a land and VE together, target the land with the original Reclamation and VE with the copy.

7. We can play exiled cards even if VE is removed.

VE’s ability to send cards to the graveyard triggers at the beginning of your end step.  If VE is removed before the end step, this ability is not triggered and we can play cards exiled by VE at any time afterwards. It’s like having more cards in our hands.

Extra Tips

Here is some knowledge and tricks to help us play this deck.

1. Sevinne’s Reclamation and Chalice of the Void

This is especially useful against Red Prison and Stompy. When we cast Reclamation targeting a Reclaimer which was countered by CotV so that we can put it on the battlefield.

2. Elvish Reclaimer, Thespian’s Stage and Dark Depths.

If the Stage is already on the battlefield, activating the Reclaimer’s ability and bringing the Depths to copy it requires 4 mana, not including the Stage.

3. Other potential sideboard cards

Ipnu Rivulet

This is the ultimate anti-Doomsday weapon, used in 4C. If we add blue cards after the sideboard, put them together to count as blue mana source.

Deafening Silence

This is a combo counter card that can almost certainly be played on the first turn. Delay the combo and beat them with the creatures.

Flusterstorm

I like this card. Let’s target Doomsday, Show and Tell, and Storm spells.

Throes of Chaos

Not half the people who see the card’s name will immediately think of its text. Use it as an additional advantage source in slow matchups.

Pyroclasm

Burn down the elven forest.

Oblivion Ring, Cast Out

Put them in against SnT and control decks with a lot of PWs. It’s good that Cast Out can be cycled.

Seal of Cleansing

If we use Sevinne’s Reclamation, this is a good synergy.

Council’s Judgment

Huge enchantments or artifacts, Planeswalkers, True-Name Nemesis, anything can be removed with this one. It’s also good for removing Kaldra Compleat.

Nevermore

Meddling Mage in mono white. Use it in Naya.

Angel’s Grace

This is an anti-Doomsday and anti-Storm card. Our opponents literally can’t win the game.

It would be too long to list more than that, so I’ll stop at 10 cards.

Use your favorite sideboard cards according to your preference and the meta.

Conclusion

Thank you very much for reading this far. This is the first time for me to write an article about a deck, so it may have been difficult to read for some points. If you have any questions, comments, or requests, please feel free to contact me (Twitter: @SquidJPN).

See you in the next article, ” Guide for each Matchup”.

– Squid

tim – AZ Legacy City Champs Win – 7/11/2021

Part 1: The List

After the release of MH2, I had been playing a lot of urza’s saga versions of the deck, to reasonable modo-league success.  The main list I used was similar to what is shown here but with:

  • Maindeck: -2 ports -1 field +snow forest +4th saga or depths.
  • Sideboard: -needle +field

I really like maintaining a high colored-source count – and think the 2nd forest helps a lot in matchups where your mana is under pressure like delver (casting sideboard hammer endurance through wasteland) or miracles (activating staged urza’s saga through back to basics).  I always regret registering 14, and think people are missing that shaving groves and/or fetches affects your even-more-fragile red count, which is vital in games where you want to be able to blast, and/or punishing fire multiple times.  

However, in the two weeks before the tournament, I was a bit overcome by events and hadn’t had the time to iron out the last few slots in the list.  I also hadn’t played any paper legacy in over a year (50% of the reason I’ve stopped playing Sylvan Library is to avoid manual dexterity violations) and was completely in the dark about the Phoenix metagame.  I was expecting the top three decks, based on last year’s information, to be Bant Control, UR Delver, and Taxes.   I was also expecting people to be extremely prepared for saga, since the Jeskai saga deck had just been breaking out on Modo – nightmares of getting my board serenitied, forced of vigor or melted down put the fear into me so I moved the field to the main. We’ll talk about this more later, but that was a mistake –  field is not good in your heavy saga deck because you spend so much time wastelanding yourself.  I knew that going in, many players better than me had said as much, but I was playing scared (If I actually wanted to commit to this metagame call I should have just gone to 1 or less saga.). I also cut two lands mostly at random for rishadan ports – I wanted a bit more hedge against the bant deck and opposing sagas. I had 5 sphere effects because that’s what you do as a lands player who wants to pretend to care about the combo matchups – registering a thorn is a sacrifice to ensure you don’t get matched vs lotus petal.  The sideboard needle was inspired by dull04 as a flexible 6th card against combo decks that also can force action in fair matchups.  So on the Thursday before the tournament, I sleeved it up, locked in my list and didn’t think about legacy until the event – stopping last-minute min/maxing is key to the mental game.  

The metagame ended up having almost zero bant (replaced by the surprising popularity of jeskai saga), but a good amount of UR delver and Taxes.   I think if I ran it back I would play:

  • Maindeck: -field -yavimaya +port +snow forest

I sided field out in 7 of my 11 matches, and never activated my own field of the dead all day.   Meanwhile ports were great against the white decks and fine in some of the delver matchups.   

Yavimaya was exactly fine, but I want my 2nd basic back just for manabase stability reasons – could also imagine keeping it and cutting the 3rd port for the basic.  Also might miss Yavimaya once I can’t have it. Tbd.

I would also consider dropping pyrite for cursed scroll or maybe the 3rd punishing fire.  Pyrite was clunky all day, which is why I’m recommending a card that costs 3 to activate and sometimes does nothing… but my saga opponent had it and I was jealous.  

Quick note that I don’t want to claim to be any sort of expert – I’m a good enough player to get over the threshold where luck can carry me to victory…   I also was playing against a lot of people who didn’t seem to have a good handle on their Lands matchup and/or had built their decks in ways that didn’t respect it. I faced zero land hate harsher than wastelands, and got surgicalled once all day.  That said I 4-0’d my modern FNM with Esper control the night before the tournament so obviously I’m the next PVDDR and my word is gospel.

Part 2: The Event

The tournament is in Phoenix, an almost two hour drive from my house, at a store I’ve never heard of.  My darling cat had chosen this week to invent a new game where she aggressively wakes me up at 5:00 each morning and I haven’t played a match of legacy this month.  So I’m at peak performance.  The plan is simple – also in Phoenix is an excellent south indian restaurant called Udupi Cafe.  I’m going to drive up, cast some loams, and drop in time to get a dosa.   Now, it’s important to remember that Udupi Cafe’s Saturday hours are 11:00am-3:00, 5:00pm-9:00.  With a 12:00pm tournament start there’s an awkward break 3:00-5:00 where I might be out of the tournament before the dinner menu opens, so I bring my Kindle just in case. 

The morning of the tournament, I put a pot of tea on (using the last of my good yellow) and do a quick workout (wizard poker is a full-contact sport so I want to be warmed up).   Then I gas up my 2015 Honda Fit and start driving.   I listen to Florist’s “The Birds Outside Sang” (Emily Sprague, known magic player) on the drive up.  I skip back to hear “Thank You” a total of three times.  This is what the kids call “Manifesting.”

I roll into the store 25 minutes before tournament start and pay my 30$ to the cashier.  I ask for a deck reg sheet, and am informed that it’s all online. The future has left me behind.  They ask if I have a Facebook.  I tell them “I mean, vaguely.”  This is apparently obstructive enough that they hand me a macbook to type my deck into some google form.   I imagine myself  just straight omitting or miscounting a card from my reg sheet, which is done as a single line in a pedestrian textbox typed on an unfamiliar keyboard.   Nobody deck checks me all day so we never find out.

I look around the room and see that the two people who were also considering coming up from Tucson are absent.  “It’s so far,” they say.  Well it’s a long road to the finals either way.  I recognize legacy celebrity Tony Murata (into_play on twitch).   We’ve played exactly once and I don’t feel like bothering him with a parasocial relationship, so I chill until round one pairings come out, and then continue to chill until round 1 repairings are up (they told everyone at signup to enter the code into the app but magic players are known for being unable to follow basic directions).  72 players in attendance.  I think about my lunch order.  How many leftovers do I want?  

Round 1 v Elves (W: 2-1, 1-0 overall, Field to Sideboard 1-0).

I sit down at table one and make a joke about how that’s the last time I’ll be seen there (this is foreshadowing).    I start shuffling up and my opponent comments that based on the glance of a card I just revealed I’m playing the same deck as their wife and they can’t possibly win.   I joke back that they’re assuming a level of competence I don’t think I’m going to deliver while silently cursing myself for what I’m sure will be a long series of dexterity failures.  

Game 1: I play the tabernacle then combo and they die. 

Sideboard: -1 loam, 2 valakut, bog, field +needle, 4 spheres.

Game 2: They put a leyline into play and I mentally pump my fist.   I don’t think this card matters in the matchup.  I have a tabernacle and sphere but they have ouphe and enough mana to pay for dorks and are beating down.   I eventually waste them low enough that they have to sac everything but the ouphe and I triumphantly cast my pyrite spellbomb to kill it and free my diamonds.   Listeners at home will have already realized that you can’t kill ouphe with spellbomb. I had aggressively fetched for my lone basic forest (why would you do that against elves), so when a trophy kills my tabernacle i’m too far down on mana to do anything and die to the horde.  Fixing both of those plays would have given enough mana to combo.

Game 3: They have a slow start with another leyline against through my turn 2 sphere into tab.  They trophy the tab again and I create Marit Lage, a 20/20 black avatar creature token with flying and indestructible but they rip successive cradles to cast endurance through the tabernacle while I waste them in the abyss.  Apparently they had lethal with allosaurus pump if they rip the 3rd cradle but I didn’t consider it because math is for blockers and I don’t plan on blocking. 

After the match, my opponent shows me their sideboard plan which doesn’t involve any copies of run afoul, basically the only card that I’m scared of.

Round 2 v UR Delver (W: 2-1, 2-0 overall, Field to Sideboard 2-0).

My opponent sits down and politely introduces themselves.  They’re playing all printouts (which is allowed by tournament rules).   I appreciate that they took the effort to do that instead of what I’ve seen other people doing and sharpie-ing over other cards, which I find impossible to parse.   Defs came in planning to lose because I miss that a scoured barrens is actually wasteland or an island was secretly volcanic. 

Game 1:  They go turn 1 volc into ragavan, then force my exploration.   Ragavan flips only lands off the top, but they bolt my constructs and eventually I die to 200$ goblin piker.   

Sideboard: -field, 2 valakut, tomb, 2 crops +3 endurance, 3 Blast

(Maybe i want pithing needle in this matchup but I don’t want to figure out what to cut for it)

Game 2: They have a channeler, but it isn’t flipping so the clock is abysmal.  I’m wasting them really aggressively to try and keep them from cantripping, and use bog to hopefully block regent.   When they surveil a submerge into the graveyard I know the game is over – they have at least one in hand and I’m pretty sure their other cards are force + murktide.  So I eot rotate into force pitching regent, then untap, put a dark depths on the table and make marit lage, a 20/20 black avatar creature token with flying and indestructible.   Using my giant brain I have cleverly sandbagged two forests in my hand so they can’t cast their second submerge and we go to game three. 

Game 3: Now that I know they are on submerge I don’t play any forests, bait a wasteland with saga, make a token on turn 4 and they scoop.  Game is easy when they only play 5 mana answers.   

Round 3: UR Delver (W: 2-1, 3-0 overall, Field to Sideboard 3-0)

We’re back at table 1.   The player sitting next to me is someone I know is on ANT and makes a joke about all the filthy blue players clogging the high tables.   I comment that not playing blue in legacy is handicapping yourself.   I was on miracles the one time I played the ANT pilot and got completely ruined. Not smart enough to cast ponder. 

Game 1:  I go forest, exploration, saga and my opponent remarks that they had kept a hand that was good in the blue mirror.   I have successfully deployed psychological warfare.  They play a delver and we enter a race between my constructs and their 2 delvers.  I’m winning the race until they cast a maindeck TNN.  I ask them why they’ve decided to build their deck well when there are all these shiny new cards they could be playing.   They tell me that TNN is super good but I already know that and force it on blocking duty for my 4/4s.  A second TNN flips the race even though I summon the witch – they have maindeck borrowers and my opponent is rewarded for smart deckbuilding.

Board same as last round. 

Game 2: We enter the same game as before but my constructs get borrowed and they can’t find a true-name.  The tabernacle is keeping them from developing too much and karakas pins their ragavan.  Eventually they clear the tabernacle and have murktide+delver against my 5/5 constructs with punishing fire surgicaled.  They have one card in hand and appear to be considering it.   I make a joke about meltdown for 1.  They say “I guess so” and cast meltdown for 1. Shit.  I use my 2 diamonds which are my only green sources to crack map for stage, with depths in hand.  I see the stage on top of my library while searching and laugh.   Draw a second stage anyway the next turn decline a maze activation and show them Marit Lage, a 20/20 black avatar creature with indestructible and flying. 

Game 3: They have turn 1 delver which I punishing fire.  I waste them a few times and they are stuck on one land v ports for a few rounds.   Eventually they recover and play a murktide, which I blast.  I’m getting low on life against their delver when I draw into the combo.   They don’t have a borrower, I blast their delver and we enter Witch Time. 

This match was some of the most fun magic I’ve ever played and I’m really glad I was lucky enough that my opponent never cast a true-name in any postboard games.  

Round 4: UR Delver (W: 2-0, 4-0 overall, Field to Sideboard 4-0)

At this point I’m 3-0 and drop to table 4.  I wander around the room and scout the competition.  I immediately forget every linkage between face and deck type but definitely feel like I’ve prepared for my future matchups.  

Game 1: My opponent did not get the memo that they should play a bunch of TNNs and Borrowers so their ragavan flips lands for a few turns before getting karakas’d and their channeler is held off by maze before I waste their wasteland and combo in response.  Marit Lage, a 20/20 black avatar creature token with flying and indestructible, eats their delirious channeler and then eats their face. 

Same board as R2.

Game 2: My opponent is burning through their deck with channelers but I’m keeping them off with a maze and bleeding slowly.   I’m at two life when I play an urza’s saga, they overreact and dump their hand of 4 one-drops.   I rotate for blast zone, pick up the 4-for-1 and sweat bullets hoping they’ve sided out their bolts.   They cast a bunch of iterations but can’t find anything before I loam back my saga and kill them with constructs. Probably would have lost this one if they’d taken it a bit slower.

At this point I’m 4-0 and need one win out of the next 3 to probably make top 8. Delver matchup is feeling great.  Another lands player from the discord stops by to say hi, they’re 3-1 and really don’t want to have to play the mirror.  I’ll just keep winning and we’ll never worry about it.  I eat some almonds and prunes from my bag.  I walk down to the dollar store and buy a gatorade.  Hydration is essential and I left my refillable waterbottle at work.

Round 5: Madness (L: 0-2, 4-1 overall, Field to Sideboard 5-0)

I’m top seed and playing the pair down.  A bunch of scenarios flash through my eyes  where I lose and torch my breakers and get 9th.   

Game 1:  I’m on the draw and keep a medium hand with a diamond and a turn 3 lage + loam / waste.  They go badlands into burning inquiry.  We spend more time in this game randomizing discards than taking game actions, I lose my acceleration to the casino, decline to rotate for tabernacle thinking I can wait a turn to combo, and die to rootwallas + vengivine. 

I have no plan for my sideboard here so I bring in force, sphere, endurance and take out a pile of cards including field of the dead.  

Game 2: I keep a hand with sphere, combo pieces and endurance + pitch.  I endurance their turn 1 vengevine, draw expedition map instead of the mana source I need to combo and then die to rootwallas.   Rootwalla is the red delver and this is the most aggro legacy deck I’ve ever seen. Full respect. 

I take the L, consider dropping (our round was so blistering we have over 30 minutes left in the round and maybe I should just go get in position for 5:00 reopening of indian food).  I decide to stick it out for one more, but consider going on tilt. I decide not to go on tilt, eat some almonds and read a few chapters of Hugo-Award-Winning Novella “How to Lose the Time War” instead.  Book is pretty, not sure if I love it yet.   Other Lands player got the win so we’re in the same bracket and my nonsense alarm starts going off.  

Round 6: GW Depths (Unintentional Draw: 1-1, 4-1-1 overall, Field to Sideboard 5-1)

I dodge the Lands mirror and sit down against a player I know is on GW Depths.   They make a comment about beating their opponent through pithing needle with stage copying port.   I know I’ll be protected from that mistake because my needle is only naming knight.   This is a matchup I haven’t played enough and was pretty worried about.

Game 1: They go hard crop rotating for a fetch to save their reclaimer with pyrite spellbomb.  I put my bog into play after damage killing it.  They cast a knight but can’t buff it and it dies to punishing fire.  I untap with valakut on turn 5 or so and the game is over. 

Sideboard: -1 mox -1 ancient tomb -2 depths -1 tab + 3 endurance +1 force +1 needle 

Game 2: They have a bunch of prismatic endings that kill my explorations and valakuts then force my diamonds leaving me with zero colored sources.  They have an active reclaimer that they’re pushing up the chain but aren’t drawing any action.  Eventually they get field of the dead and start making zombies.  I leverage my ports to get a copy of their field but have less land volume than them and have trouble keeping up with zombies.  I use endurances to flash kill their reclaimer and eat zombies, but forget to maze a 4/3 knight of autumn and go from 12 to 8 unnecessarily.  Math is for blockers and I’m not doing it.  They are drawing stages and copying field while I draw mox diamonds and I eventually die to the alpha strike.  This game took over 30 minutes and we’ve got 1:30 on the clock going into game 3. 

Game 3: I make two constructs and have punishing fire grove but it’s not enough to get them to zero in 5 turns.  It’s possible I should have boarded in all my depths for yolo purposes over field / saga types of things.  I’m not actually the main character so my opponent doesn’t offer to scoop to me and we pick up a draw.

Round 7: Lands (Win: 1-0, 5-1-1 overall, Field to Sideboard 5-2)

And here we are.  Taking my draw last round means I need to win out to guarantee top 8.  Rolling into the Lands mirror just as we feared.  My opponent is 5-1 but because of my unintentional draw last round we can’t just draw to get two lands decks into top 8.  I feel bad here for letting down team tabernacle.  We shuffle up and get ready for the height of competitive magic the gathering. 

Game 1: We both mull to 5.  I pyrite my opponent’s reclaimer and we play silly buggers wasting each other for a few turns before I resolve valakut and run away with card advantage.  

Sideboard: -2 depths -1 tab -2 maze -1 pyrite +3 endurance +3 force

My opponent scoops to me after game one and goes home for brisket equity.  Thanks mate.  Hope we’ll make it pay off.  I got back to the dollar store to get a bottle of water.  I’m pretty anxious that the cashier will judge me for buying two separate items on the same day but honestly she was probably completely unbothered.   I read two more chapters of Time War and get hydrated.   People clap for top 8 announcements which is imo pretty gauche.  Loud clapping is something they invented in a time before people realized laudanum was bad for you.

Top 8:  Death and Taxes (Win 2-1, 6-1-1 overall, Field to sideboard 5-3)

Top 8 agrees to split prizes. Usually I’m on team “no splits kill them all” but it’s top heavy enough that the split (190$ credit at a store in a different town) is better than any finish below second and first place still gets an invitation to the master’s tournament at the end of the year so there’s still reason to compete.   It’s past 6 right now so I’m not planning on getting past top 8 in order to hit my dosa timing.  At this point I’ve eaten only almonds and prunes in the last 10 hours and my stomach is starting to hurt.  Someone mentions that top 8 is supposed to be open decklists, which is good to know. It turns out they hadn’t actually printed them out so I’m saved from the risk of comparing to my hastily-typed list from the morning and my opponent and I trade boxes to inspect lists ourselves.   

They’re on classic Death and Taxes, nothing fancy, 60 cards, Kaldra, 1 prelate.  With 2 rip 2 surgical 1 prelate 1 cataclysm in the board.   I think this matchup was extremely good prior to modern horizons 2 but Kaldra is basically unanswerable from the Lands deck which forces you to actually kill your opponent instead of just grinding for years which used to be the plan.  

Game 1: I keep a hand with diamond, reclaimer, loam.  They swords my turn 1 reclaimer then play stoneforge fetching kaldra.   I don’t have an answer for the stoneforge and try to loam for tabernacle (they have only two lands) while making Marit Lage every turn, but I keep flipping combo pieces and eventually they skyclave my exploration and I slow down.  I draw a punishing fire and think “now I can get my lage through flickerwisp”, they give it pro red and I swing triumphantly while forgetting that creatures with flying can literally just block other creatures with flying.   Bad look.  I die to dorks a few turns later.  

Sideboard: -1 diamond -1 loam -tomb -bog -ghost quarter -2 depths +3 force, 3 endurance, 1 needle

I think some number of endurance is decent, it blocks well. 3 might be too many.

Game 2: I keep a hand with force, two green cards, forest and stage + saga.  This is a great hand in the old version of the death and taxes matchup but ignores the new version where kaldra instantly kills you.  My opponent unfortunately knows what they are doing and casts turn 2 stoneforge for kaldra compleat.  They make a comment about it being sortof boring that that’s basically always the right choice.  I say “yeah these new cards are really good” while putting my urza’s saga into play.  They warp in kaldra on 3 and start beating.    I untap on turn 4, seeing the entire lands community laughing at me for losing to Taxes, which as everyone knows “is basically free,” topdeck my one-of dark depths and put it into play.  My opponent plays a land, swings for 6 and I decide it’s time to go for broke and just take it without blocking.   They tank for a bit before tapping out for cataclysm.  I know from seeing their deck that they don’t have solitude so I create Marit Lage, a 20/20 black Avatar creature token with flying and indestructible. I am very clear to everyone who will listen that I intend to not sacrifice the token to cataclysm, and we go to game 3.  My opponent apparently was just stuck with a bunch of graveyard hate in hand.

Game 3:  This one is on camera https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1083075225?t=00h30m46s.   This is what the matchup looks like when your opponent doesn’t get to put Kaldra into play.  My opponent mulligans and plays turn 1 vial so I decide to not play around surgical and go super aggro with mana denial. Maybe they went lower on graveyard hate after getting spooked last round by the token. I have an unanswered exploration + loam, force the vial before it reaches 3, my opponent tutors for prelate, I pfire their recruiter when they try to path it for mana, and they never cast another spell as the constructs roll in.  There’s a judge call in the middle where I miss my saga trigger but it’s a simple rewind.  Definitely getting sloppy in hour 10.

Top 4: Jeskai Saga (Win 2-0, 6-1-1 overall, Field to sideboard 5-4)

We check out each other’s decks.  My opponent is on the new hotness, a deck that I can’t believe exists – Jeskai Saga Control.  I’ve also never seen it played so maybe it’s busted but it’s a 3 color control deck with zero basics that can’t play any nonbasic hate outside of wastelands and only 2x artifacts as graveyard interaction.  I roll through their list and am pretty sure I can only lose if I brick completely and they kill me with goblin piker.  They want to wait for the madness v BR reanimator match to finish in order to be on camera but it’s after 7 and I want to blitz this match and eat Indian food so I convince them to jam round 1. 

Game 1: This one is unfortunately not on camera – it’s probably the sweetest game of the night.  I keep seven with zero colored sources.  Waste waste tab stage saga loam blast zone.  I didn’t bother counting but I thought the jeskai deck only plays 3 ragavan, and as long as they don’t play it on turn one I literally can’t lose.  They go fetch pass. I play stage.  They play saga.  I untap on turn 3, waste their saga.  They fetch tundra and stifle.  They are baited and outsmarted.   I play another waste and waste their tundra.  They have one land in play and it’s going to waste itself without generating value.  I deploy my own saga, we chat about the saga / stage interaction.  I make constructs, they cast murktide, murktide chumps the constructs, they cursed scroll themselves for lethal, revealing 3 force of wills.  I cast zero relevant spells. 

The badlands mirror finishes up – BR Reanimator defeats Madness.  I think to myself that either way badlands is a bad matchup for lands.  This joke does not deserve your respect but I’m pretty delirious. 

Sideboard: -1 mox, -4 crop -1 reclaimer -2 depth -1 tab.  +3 force +3 blast +3 sphere.  

In retrospect I’m pretty sure this might be the wrong sideboarding, their answers to spheres are unaffected by sphere (prismatic, explosives), and I think  would rather have the endurances to delay murktide and block in order to get access to our wildly superior endgame.   I also considered pithing needle to emergency shut off their wastelands or something but forgot to bring it in.  

Game 2: On Camera at https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1083075225?t=01h31m50s.

My opponent has a turn 1 ragavan.  It’s 8:30 pm.  I need this game to be over right now so I’m not playing around daze.  Exploration resolves, then gets ending’d.  Ragavan flips sphere which I try to convince my opponent to cast.   They decline.  Valakut also doesn’t get dazed.  I have a second one in hand.  Ragavan flips exploration.   I joke that that actually seems good for them.  They take the bait and cast exploration, putting them crucially behind on artifact count and revealing that they have a bunch of lands in hand. They vomit 1 drops to 1 card in hand and their last card isn’t stifle so I get my second 4-1 blast zone of the day. They make another mistake the next turn by tapping out for murktide instead of getting full value from their sagas.  I see they have only one card in hand so I blast the murktide and waste a saga. They make the same mistake tapping out to ending my valakut.   Next turn force cleans up their last saga and a retrofitter construct and I’m free to become the better saga deck.   I played field on turn 1 this game and never activated it.  

Finals: BR Reanimator (Win 2-0, 7-1-1 overall, Field to sideboard 6-4)

I know my opponent is on reanimator, and gave the other Lands player their one loss in regulation.  Matchup is pretty terrible but endurance has given you some turn 0 interaction, just of a type that’s pretty easy to play around.  Game 2 of Semis went too long, it’s now too late to drive to Udupi.  Something along the lines of “I came here to win at magic and eat dosas, and one of those things is off the table” floats through my head.

We compare decks.  It’s a shame my opponent won’t be baited into bringing in their reverent silences but I get to see that they have no Tidespout, no children, no magus.  Instead they have the two targets from Modern Horizons 2, Archon and the Angel that gives protection from anything.    Both of them have apparently been completely off the chain.

Full match on stream: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/1083075225?t=01h55m07s

Game 1:  I have the play being third overall seed.  This probably ups my winrate 20%.   I open close to the best 7 possible – green source, 2x crop, loam stage gq saga.  As long as I don’t get t1’d with Chancellor, I have bog through a discard spell.  My opponent keeps 7, I sweat through pregame actions, zero chancellor.  They try to turn 1 an ashen rider by unmasking self, zero protection.  I bog them leaving angel and petal in hand. They draw lands, I deploy saga, they looting into a reanimated chancellor, my constructs are 6/6, chancellor chumps.  I miss lethal by not getting pyrite spellbomb, they scoop anyway.  

Sideboard: -2 loam -2 valakut -1 reclaimer -1 exploration -1 pyrite -2 punishing fire -field -zone -tab +3 force + 4 sphere +1 thorn +3 endurance +1 needle

Game 2:  Great hand with endurance + 2 green cards, sphere, stage, waste, depths.  Our opponent knows what they signed up for and is uninterested in protection, going for turn 1 unmask self, reanimate grislebrand. I endurance pitching exploration, and draw a second endurance because we literally cannot lose.  I sweat a minute on turn 2 tapping myself out of endurance to cast sphere, they entomb in response which requires me to fade another reanimate.  I do and I untap, drawing a colored source.   They loot some more creatures into the grave and go for exhume which I endurance again.  That taps me off of the combo but my opponent scoops it up.

The win qualifies me for the end of the year masters event which means I don’t have to drive to phoenix for every monthly, and I think has min cash or something?  Who knows I’m starving and my phone is dead but I’m pretty sure I know where a waffle house is.  I walk outside into a gathering storm.  It’s the best weather in the world, the air is thick and wet and humming with electricity.

I make it to waffle house.  It’s closed. Lightning strikes in the distance.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waffle_House_Index

I listen to Bell Witch’s “Mirror Reaper” on the drive home.