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Exploring Valakut Exploration

seems like a fun place to spend a lot of time just exploring, y’know?

At this point Valakut Exploration has proven itself as a solid inclusion in any red Lands deck, and in fact as a good reason to be playing red in itself. If you take a look at the card, it’s not too hard to see why.

Valakut Exploration

Valakut Exploration (VE) works exceptionally well in Lands because it plays into both of our main strengths – it both rewards land drops and fills the graveyard. Without fetchlands, most other decks can’t trigger it more than once a turn. We, however, can easily double-trigger via Exploration or Crop Rotation, and it’s not uncommon for the card it exiles to be a card that can get an additional trigger. It also puts cards in the graveyard when it’s done with them, which means we can get them back with Loam (or just happily dump Punishing Fires and Loams in the yard if we can’t cast them just then).

Here I’m going to do a bit of a deep dive on this card, looking at some common play patterns with the card, what other cards go well with it, and what matchups it excels in.

The Road Map – Play Patterns with Valakut Exploration

Ideally, when VE resolves, you will be able to immediately make another land drop. That means that, all else being equal, you want to play it on turn 4 with another land in hand (turn 2 if you have Exploration). This is extra great if you have a fetchland to drop after resolving it, because then you will immediately get two deeper and have a colored mana source to cast whatever it turns over for you.

Lands has a lot of clever ways to get additional landfall triggers. Most obvious of these is probably Exploration, which pairs nicely with VE. The fact that VE digs you towards its older 1cmc cousin is just icing on the cake.

Crop Rotation is another excellent way to get additional triggers. If you exile a Crop Rotation to VE, you’ll probably want to play it, since it essentially cycles at the same time as it tutors. Even just rotating for a fetchland to get additional triggers can be a real play, especially if you have multiple VE going at once and/or your opponent is at a low life total. Elvish Reclaimer can do a similar job, albeit slower.

One line of text on the card that we haven’t really talked about is the fact that it does damage to the opponent when it dumps the cards into the graveyard at the end of the turn. This can be a legitimate way to win in longer games or games that stall out (the kinds of games Lands tends to naturally create). It is usually pretty slow, however, unless you have some supplemental damage or multiple VE in play simultaneously. Still, even if it isn’t dealing the full 20, VE can be a nice way to nudge people below 20 life so they can be properly bite-sized for Marit Lage.

There’s also a bit of a slick niche rules case to be aware of with this card. Because it dumps exiled cards “at the beginning of your end step,” cards exiled during your opponent’s turn will remain available to you through the end of your next turn. That means that you can, for example, rotate on their turn to get a trigger and then untap and have more mana available on your turn to use whatever you exiled. It also means that if you have to rotate or fetch reactively you’ll get the card on your turn; don’t worry about losing the trigger. Note also that if VE is removed, all the cards exiled with it will remain available to play indefinitely – so crack your fetches and rotate in response to their removal!

Expedition Party – Cards that work well with Valakut Exploration

Basically all of Lands plays well with the card. Crop Rotation and Exploration give us additional land drops, while Loam and Punishing Fire don’t mind hitting the graveyard. Still, it’s worth looking at some less obvious cards.

  1. Ancient Tomb: Tomb has been a flex slot for a long time. Unfortunately Lands could never really use 2 colorless to do anything other than activate Stage. But that changes with VE, and getting VE up a full turn earlier is a nice advantage that Tomb can bring to the table.
  2. Elvish Reclaimer: Reclaimer has been a sideboard option or a 2-of to help beat Delver and Hogaak, but it works well with VE as well since it can function to get an extra trigger every turn. The fact that VE holds cards over to your turn is also nice since we can hold up Reclaimer all turn and then use it EOT if it hasn’t been needed.
  3. Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath: Uro was an all-star in the UG Lands deck that wanted to ramp into Field of the Dead triggers. Well, VE likes extra land drops too. If one wanted to lean in to the Uro ramp aspect of Lands, VE would be a nice additional payoff next to Field; one thing UG sometimes struggled with was finding its engines and payoffs, and VE can be both. The fact that it can dump Uro into the yard if it exiles it is just a nice bonus.
  4. Glacial Chasm: Chasm always had the problem of just keeping you alive while you spin your wheels. Now, if you have chasm and VE in play simultaneously, you get to dig deeper faster to close out the game. Not only that, but VE represents a real win condition. Especially against decks without wasteland, you can often sit behind a chasm lock and just let VE kill them eventually. VE also means you will get one ‘draw’ a turn even as you dredge with Loam, which means you can actually find an Exploration or whatever else you need to make the lock more secure and advantageous.
  5. Fetches/Fetchables: Many Lands builds, especially RG, can have as few as 3 fetchable lands. With VE, running out of fetchable lands isn’t just a bummer because it turns your fetchlands off – it also means fewer triggers. This raises the stock of cards like Sheltered Thicket, which play a role in the deck anyway but also can be fetched. It also means that playing more colors (or just more fetchable lands) makes more sense.
  6. Value Permanents: The worst cards to turn over with VE are narrow, reactive cards. Pyroblast when your opponent has no blue permanents, for example. The best ones to turn over are additional permanents that can generate value – things like Exploration. This means cards like Klothys and Sylvan Library get better, while cards like Pyroblast and Abrupt Decay get a little worse (Decay especially because of its color-intensive mana cost). While it has yet to be explored fully, even cards like Seal of Fire or Executioner’s Capsule could be options to make full use of Valakut’s oracular properties.
  7. Sylvan Library: While it might seem like VE should replace our old treehouse bookshop, the two actually work well together, and some split is probably the best configuration. Library lets you see three cards so that you can definitely find a land for VE, and then it lets you stack your deck so that the triggers exile exactly what you want them to. And VE in turn complements Sylvan Library by letting you burn through more cards more quickly without having to pay life or use shuffle effects to dig.
  8. Experimental Frenzy: Frenzy works a bit like Valakut Exploration in that it’s a non-graveyard value engine. But should you ever have both in play together, your exploration will truly reach a frenzied pace. Since Frenzy lets you see the top card of your deck, you will always know what your next trigger will find (unless, of course, you are playing the land off the top). But what’s extra nice is that VE also lets you clear the top of your deck so you can keep digging with Frenzy. Having both might be overkill, but it will definitely do some killing.
  9. Manabond: While usually only played as a 1-of, Manabond can send VE into overdrive, getting up to 6+ triggers in a single turn via Life from the Loam. Note that since both Manabond and VE trigger at your end step, you can choose how to stack them. This means that you can either prioritize damage (set Manabond to resolve first) or prioritize digging for next turn (set VE to resolve first). If VE resolves first, then the cards exiled via triggers from the lands Manabond puts into play will remain available until your next end step.

Looking Down from the Heights – Valakut Exploration’s matchup strengths

Valakut Exploration generates value over time. As such, it is at its best in matchups that tend to go long. In other words, it excels against control decks. It also does exceptionally well against the fair creature decks like Death & Taxes, where it represents a hard-to-answer value engine that will pull you ahead in the long term.

At 1 life, and there were no answers to Prelate in the top 50 cards of the deck. VE got there.

Against these matchups, VE functions as Lands’ version of Dreadhorde Arcanist – a must-answer threat that can run away with the game in a few turns if it isn’t answered.

Of course, most decks have answers for cards like this now. Snow runs Abrupt Decay, D&T has Skyclave Apparition, and Green Sun decks have Knight of Autumn/Reclamation Sage. But Lands has as lot of heavy-hitting enchantment engines like this; a few more helps overload their answers. Snow has 3-4 abrupt decay to our 3 Choke, 2 Library, 3 VE, 4 Exploration. Adding VE to our roster may not make these matchups into auto-wins, but it definitely helps.

Against Delver, Valakut Exploration’s high cmc makes it something of a liability. Still, if it resolves it will quickly take over the game and the most popular Delver variants have no answer to it once it is in play. If there are some number of 3cmc must-answer permanents you want to have against Delver, this is definitely in the running, though Choke might be stronger all things considered.

Against fast combo decks, it’s probably best to cut VE during sideboarding. It won’t do much against TES, for example, and tapping out for it could cost us the game.

Fiery Obsession – Final Notes on Valakut Exploration

Given all the strengths of the card, the question becomes less ‘should we play it?’ and more ‘how many?’ At the moment it seems like somewhere between 2-3 is the most usual number, alongside 2 Sylvan Library. Typically it replaces Gamble in GRx Lands builds, though Gamble can do work alongside it as well. 2-3 seems like the right number since it’s the kind of card you want to see at least one of in most matchups, especially in the D&T, Snow, Delver metagame that we seem to be in at the moment.

An extra copy can often be found in the sideboard, where it comes in as additional non-graveyard-based threat in matchups where it shines. Still, while 2-3 might be normal, one could easily imagine builds that lean more heavily into Valakut Exploration and run the full playset; perhaps a RUG build featuring Uro. After all, multiples stack well and can quickly churn through the deck to burn out the opponent.

And there you have it! If there’s anything I missed please do let me know, it would be great to have as comprehensive a guide as possible. Until then, happy exploring!

Learning the Playbill: Everything You Could Possibly Need to Know About Thespian’s Stage

“All the world’s a Stage… And one land in its time plays many parts” – William Shakespeare, sorta

Thespian’s Stage is a truly wacky Magic card in the Legacy format. For 2 mana and a tap, you open up a Pandora’s box of bizarre rules interactions, unusual sequencing, game-saving mana fixing, win conditions, and so much more. I have foolishly tasked myself with teaching you all of the ins and outs of utilizing Thespian’s Stage to the best of its abilities in Legacy. This article is heavily slanted towards Lands players and how to use Stage with the other pieces of the Lands deck, but many of the lessons here are also applicable to other Thespian’s Stage/Dark Depths decks. Even if you have not dedicated yourself to the shadowy cabal of Lage, you might learn a thing or two about how we plan to dismantle your deck piece by piece with this powerful utility land. Without further ado, let’s start the show!

The Basic “Gotchas”

These are the essential tools in a Stage player’s playbook. Welcome to Theater 101.

Stage copy Dark Depths

This is the bread and butter interaction that powers the Legacy format’s most brutal and efficient Avatar. Despite how likely one is to play against Dark Depths/Thespian’s Stage in a Legacy tournament, many players have not familiarized themselves with the exact mechanics of summoning Marit Lage. When you tap your Stage to copy Dark Depths, here is precisely what happens:

  1. Stage becomes a copy of Depths. Because the Stage copy did not enter the battlefield, it will not have any counters on it.
  2. You now have 2 legendary permanents named Dark Depths, and are forced to put one of them into the graveyard due to the legend rule. Pro tip: get rid of the one with ten ice counters on it!
  3. Your quick-thawed copy of Dark Depths sees that it has no counters on it and triggers, hoping to sacrifice itself once the trigger resolves and bring out Marit Lage. If nobody responds with that trigger on the stack, ta-da! A shiny new Avatar to lay waste to your enemies.

Now because you are playing against a real person and not a goldfish, there are some things to note about the Stage/Depths interaction that can either work in your favor or ruin your fun:

  1. Opponents who are playing Stifle can interact with the combo at 2 times: they can Stifle the activated ability where Stage tries to copy Dark Depths, or they can Stifle the triggered ability of Dark Depths with no counters trying to sacrifice itself. I say “can,” not “should,” on the second option. See, Dark Depths will always be checking itself for ice counters and trying to sacrifice itself when there are none left. If they Stifle the first Dark Depths sacrifice trigger, it will immediately trigger again! Therefore don’t scoop to a Stifle targeting your triggering, counter-free Depths… but also don’t intentionally mislead your opponent to make them Stifle the combo incorrectly. Always maintain integrity and call a judge if an opponent has a question about the interaction.
  2. Opponents who are playing Wasteland/Ghost Quarter can interact with the combo at both of those times as well, but here the optimal timing is reversed. An opponent who targets Stage or Depths with Wasteland in response to the target has *technically* kept Lage at bay for now, but they could have done better. By letting the Stage copy Depths, and waiting for you to sacrifice your icy Dark Depths to the legend rule, the opponent can Wasteland/Ghost Quarter with that “no ice counters” trigger on the stack. By killing the thawed Dark Depths before the trigger resolves, they will have stopped your Lage and taken out both lands. It’s a painful 2-for-1 interaction, so be mindful and play cautiously to avoid it.

Remember that you can copy your opponent’s Dark Depths as well, if they’re foolish enough to play one against you. In that case, you don’t have to sacrifice anything to the legend rule, so you’ll just a smooth and quick Avatar, no state-based-effects required!

Stage copy Basic Land (Wasteland)

If you find yourself the fortunate fellow to teach a fledgling Legacy player about this interaction, cherish it. Life is all about soaking up these sweet moments. To set the scene: your opponent has just sacrificed a Wasteland, targeting your Thespian’s Stage. But Wasteland has a fatal flaw- it cannot destroy Basic lands. So naturally, we will use 2 mana and tap our Stage to copy a Basic land in play, either our own or our opponent’s. Stage copies the Basic supertype (as well as Legendary and Snow supertypes- more on that later), and becomes an invalid target for the Wasteland’s ability. Wasteland’s ability fizzles and, just like that, our Stage lives to copy another day. Close one!

Stage copy Anything (Pithing Needle)

One of the most troublesome cards for Stage to overcome is Pithing Needle or her older brother, Sorcerous Spyglass. However, you can make it harder for your opponent to truly lock you out of your Stage activations with a simple trick. When your opponent casts Needle/Spyglass, use your Stage to copy another land on the battlefield before the artifact resolves. Once it resolves, your opponent must choose: do they name the card that Thespian’s Stage has copied, in order to neutralize that 1 copy of Stage? Or do they name the card Thespian’s Stage, to neutralize copies you draw later? The answer is not always clear, and at the very least, you’ve saved 1 copy of Stage for later use in the game. Protect it carefully if it will be crucial to achieving a win.

Stage/Glacial Chasm Loop

Ah, the infamous Chasm Loop. Many a Burn player has told horror stories about a sadistic Lands player who stabilized with a Glacial Chasm right before a lethal Fireblast would kill them, and proceeded to Ghost Quarter every land out of the Burn player’s deck while safely standing on the other side of the icy crevasse. If you’ve ever wanted to see the light in your opponent’s eyes turn to drool dripping from their mouth, Stage and Chasm will make that happen. Here’s how it works:

  1. You will assemble Chasm, 1 Stage on the board, 1 Stage in hand or graveyard, and Life from the Loam or Crucible of Worlds. Bonus points for Exploration, because unless you have a way to deploy multiple lands in a turn, you will not be able to increase the number of lands you have in play (or play new ones – all your land drops will be Stages from here on out).
  2. With Chasm on the board, you are required to pay Cumulative Upkeep of 2 life each turn. You will instead use Stage to copy Chasm with Cumulative Upkeep on the stack, resulting in controlling 2 Glacial Chasms. Note that the Stage copy of Chasm did not enter the battlefield, so you do not sacrifice a land when you copy Chasm. It also was not a Chasm at the beginning of the upkeep, so you won’t have to pay life to keep it around this turn.
  3. Now that you are safe behind 2 Chasms, you can let the original Chasm die to avoid paying the Cumulative Upkeep of 2 life. 
  4. Your land drop for the turn *must* be the other Thespian’s Stage, which you will need in our next upkeep. On next upkeep, you will have a Stage copy of Chasm and another Thespian’s Stage.
  5. Now during your upkeep, the Chasm copy’s Cumulative Upkeep goes on the stack. Again, use the other Stage to become a copy of the Chasm copy, and sacrifice the first copy without paying the Cumulative Upkeep cost.
  6. Finally, use your Loam or Crucible to bring the Thespian’s Stage you sacrificed back to the battlefield. Repeat until your opponent concedes. If you can play multiple lands per turn, use a Ghost Quarter to destroy every land in their deck just to be safe.

This method of winning is immensely satisfying, boring for your opponent, and skill-testing for you. A perfect combo! Always remember that the goal is to NEVER have a moment where you do not have a Chasm on the field. Also, be mindful of the clock and the number of cards in your deck. Dredge 3 adds up in a hurry when utilizing this combo.

Sequencing Considerations

Building on the copying techniques above, we move into some advanced plays for the distinguished thespian. 

Wasteland their Wasteland, Stage copy Basic

This comes up a lot, and it’s good to come out on top of this interaction. If your opponent has a Wasteland while you control a non-Basic Thespian’s Stage, they are likely to blow up the Stage or the land it targets as soon as you spend mana to activate Stage’s ability. Luckily, most Stage decks pack their own Wastelands, so you can force the opponent’s hand. Once you have the mana to activate Stage, use your Wasteland to target the opposing Wasteland. They will be forced to activate their Wasteland or let it be destroyed with no effect, so they will most often target your Stage or another non-Basic land. If they target the Stage, we can use our “Stage copy Basic Land” trick from earlier to save it. If they target something else that you wanted to keep around, simply copy that card before it is destroyed with Stage instead. 

As you sequence your early land drops, try to avoid sticky situations where you leave your Stage vulnerable to a Wasteland due to not having enough mana to copy a Basic land. I lost a particularly painful win-and-in against Eldrazi at a GP due to simply activating a fetchland at a bad time. As I cracked the fetch and picked up my deck to find my Basic Forest, my opponent responded by Wastelanding my Stage when only 1 mana was available on my battlefield. Instead of correctly setting up the Wasteland line from above on my next turn, I lost my only Stage (and shortly thereafter, the match). Do as I say, not as I do.

Stage copy Basic Land (haymaker protection)

This move is Basically the same as the original basic land “Gotcha” from above, but concerns some of the haymaker spells that make Lands decks grind to a halt. In response to the casting of a Back to Basics, Blood Moon, Price of Progress, or From the Ashes, you should attempt to turn as many of your Stages as you can into Basic lands. If you suspect that your opponent has access to one of these cards, try to play conservatively enough to respect their haymaker and keep your Thespian’s Stages tapping for colored mana.

Stage copy crucial land (playing around Surgical/Wasteland, making duplicate Ghost Quarters/Mazes/Ports/mana sources/etc)

Another frequent sequencing trick to know is when and how to play around Wasteland or Surgical Extraction. If your opponent tries to destroy an important land you control and you believe they have a Surgical Extraction ready to purge it from your deck, you should often use your Stage to copy that land in response and use further Stages to continue copying the copy for as long as it’s needed. For example, Surgical on our Wastelands can brutally disrupt the game plan of removing all of our opponent’s mana sources. Before you activate a Wasteland, consider copying it with Stage so that you retain a copy in case of a Surgical. You should also leave up a Stage activation as often as possible when you have a Glacial Chasm or Tabernacle that is crucial to your survival.

Stage can also proactively copy lands that are a crucial part of whatever line you have taken in a particular game. If Rishadan Port is stopping the opponent from getting to 4 mana to play a Jace or From the Ashes, you should likely be making all the extra Ports you can make to keep up with their land drops. If you are going to burn the opponent out with Punishing Fires, start turning your Stages into Groves or Taigas to build up your red mana and increase your number of Fire loops. 

As a personal highlight, I once played Turbo Depths vs ANT, my list containing just one Ghost Quarter as land interaction. I deployed 2 Sphere of Resistance and realized that my opponent would never be able to play another spell if I could remove their lands and Surgical their Lotus Petals. So, painstakingly slowly, I proceeded to tutor out my Stages one by one. Each one copied Ghost Quarter or a Stage copying Ghost Quarter as I destroyed all of my opponent’s lands. I Surgicaled the Petals, Ghost Quartered 5 of their lands, and won with Sylvan Safekeeper attacks. Stick to your lines, and never underestimate Thespian’s Stage!

Stage copy Opponent’s Fetchland (fixing mana/making opponent fetch prematurely)

This interaction looks a bit like a mind game, but it can provide valuable information about your opponent’s cards and fix your colors. If you are short on colored mana and your opponent has a fetchland that could grab a land from your deck, you can use Stage to copy that fetchland. Your opponent has the option to respond by cracking the fetch, which will remove your Stage’s target and fizzle the activation. If they do, you have removed one more mana source from their deck- nice work! If they do not, consider what that means. They could be saving the fetch for a needed Brainstorm shuffle, or are trying to protect their mana sources from your Wastelands and Ghost Quarters. Whatever it means, you now have a fetchland. Remember that Stage never loses its ability to copy other lands, so you are under no pressure to use the fetchland right away if you find other colored mana. You can always save the fetch to become a copy of another land if you need it.

Level-Ups

The tippy-top of bohemian Legacy gameplay. As with all high art, it ranges from head-scratching to awe-inspiring.

Stage copy Legendary Lands

Many decks with Stage utilize cards like Barbarian Ring or Elvish Reclaimer, which require certain numbers of cards in your graveyard to unlock their full power. In a pinch, your Thespian’s Stage can copy a Legendary land on your side of the field to invoke the legend rule and force you to put one of the lands into the graveyard. 

Stage copy Blast Zone

Blast Zone is an incredible tool in the Lands toolbox, offering any color combination a passable Engineered Explosives on a much more accessible land card. However, Blast Zone entering the battlefield with a charge counter stops it from destroying pesky permanents like Moxen, Chalice of the Voids, and swarms of Storm-drenched Goblin tokens. When Stage copies Blast Zone, it becomes a copy without entering the battlefield and therefore without the charge counter (just like the Dark Depths interaction). In Chalice matchups, getting a Stage copy of Blast Zone early can save you from the game-breaking Chalice for X=2, so plan ahead. BOOM!

Stage copy Field of the Dead (tracking your unique land names carefully)

Field of the Dead has been instrumental in pushing long, drawn out control matchups ridiculously in our favor. It is always important to review your current board state prior to making a land drop when you control your Field, and especially so when you start copying Field with your Stages. If you sacrificed a land on a previous turn, had a land destroyed by an opponent’s effect, or otherwise changed the lands on your field, you may have dropped below the seven unique land threshold required for your Fields to trigger. Likewise, if you only have one Stage on the battlefield, turning it into a Field to make extra tokens drops your unique land count by one, which could stop you from making Zombies. As a victim of this miscount on a few occasions, I always like to double count my unique land names before playing a land. If you pass the 7 unique land threshold when playing a grindy game, consider turning your Stages copying other lands into Fields to make additional Zombie tokens. Extra bodies means easier work, even if they’re dead ones!

Stage copy Snow Forest (Field of the Dead)

Stage decks with Field of the Dead have a unique bonus advantage in this current Legacy climate, namely the presence of Snow-Covered Basic lands. If you are running Lands, you should run a Basic Forest, not a Snow Basic, due to the presence of UGx Snow decks all over the format. When Thespian’s Stage copies a Snow-Covered Forest, it counts as another unique land for your Field of the Dead. Small margins matter in a deck like ours, so don’t leave home without a nice Basic Forest.

Song of the Dryads

Some Lands lists have opted to play Song of the Dryads as a sideboard card in the past. This card has a unique interaction with Stage’s copying ability: When Stage’s ability targets the “Forest” (aka the enchanted permanent), Stage will actually become a copy of the printed card! If you enchanted a Griselbrand, your Stage is now a Griselbrand! Remember that this will not work how you want it to with Planeswalkers, however. Once you copy the Forest-’walker with Stage, you will have a copy of that ‘walker with no loyalty counters on it, and your Stage will die faster than Dack Fayden on a WotC promo video. And no, this is not me giving you permission to run Vesuva (But send a picture if you do pull this ‘walker cloning off)!

Stage copy Stage

The Judge in me is legally obligated to inform you that you can use Stage’s ability to copy itself. Each time you do this, your Stage will gain a new instance of the copying ability. Until there is a card printed which cares about the number of activated abilities on a permanent you control, this will be about as useful as your opponents attacking you over a Glacial Chasm. But seeing as it’s 2020, I wouldn’t put it past Wizards to print something like that.

End Step, Copy Dark Depths

Let me know in the comments if you found this guide helpful, and if you would like to see similar card-by-card breakdowns in the future. It was a lot of fun for me to re-examine everything you can do with a Thespian’s Stage; I hope you learned a few new tricks and had fun too!

May your opponents always Stifle the wrong trigger.

-J_Alexander 242

Fmessina 4Seasons Tournament Report – 9/9/2020

Hi all, my name is Francesco Messina (also known as f_mexins on MTGO) and I am a Lands player. There is no other deck that I like, so I wouldn’t be playing MTG without it. I like to call it my “pet deck”, since it is a very niche and complex archetype. I love lands since it is the deck of nature (I love nature, even if it has a “dark side” – just like the deck, that despite its beautiful landscapes, wins by making zombies and witches). Since it does a lot of things, I never feel bored playing Lands. I started to play it seriously during a period of problems with my ex (i.e. depression), and it has provided me a lot of satisfactions (like my GP Bologna run), motivations and good friends. So I am grateful to it.

Before starting the report that lots of people asked me for, I will analyze why I chose to play the pure RG version of lands. After a lot of playtesting and local paper tournaments along with my lands mate and friend Giacomo (JackBattle on MTGO), I had come up with the list for this tournament, but with 2 Klothys as snow-hate. Then Giacomo had the idea to cut Klothys and to put Experimental Frenzy in since Klothys is not a real card advantage engine that is independent from the yard, as Tireless Tracker was in the past (Tracker can be decayed, stolen, or elked so now it is unplayable). In short, the main reasons for Frenzy are: 1) it cannot be Decayed; 2) it provides a strong card advantage that does not depend from the yard and that is synergistic with Exploration. With Klothys, if the opponent is ahead and I’m losing, I will lose anyway.

Thanks to Urawik3, who is one of the best lands players ever, I have started to use the Grasping Dunes tech to stop Dreadhorde Arcanist, a card that gives too much consistency to the Delver archetype. In my opinion, Abrupt Decay is not sufficient to fight the Arcanist since it is not recursive. Since the Delver deck has a cantrip engine and we don’t, if they find the second Arcanist after our Decay, we are in a bad spot. With Grasping Dunes, which can be loamed and/or copied with Stage, one can deal with it without the fear of the second or third Arcanist. I also want to remind the reader that an early Tabernacle with Wasteland or Choke can block
multiple Arcanists: our mana denial plan must be very consistent and aggressive and RG is the best shell to do it. Once we kill Arcanist, and once the manascrew plan is strong (i.e. they cannot cast Oko) the Delver deck is almost the same as the pre-WAR one, but with Force of Negation (that can be played around by playing Punishing Fire in the opponent’s upkeep).

Another answer to the Arcanist is obviously Elvish Reclaimer, which is also good vs the pure graveyard decks (lands is not a graveyard-based deck) that are strong vs Oko soups/fair blue stuff, i.e. Hoogak, Reanimator and Dredge. The metagame of this event, in short, was Oko in his xerox shell (Snow, Delver, pseudo-Miracles) vs brutal graveyard decks such as Hoogak, and some tribal decks (like Elves, turbo Goblins or Dredge/Hoogak grave stuff simply outclass the Elkfest that Oko forces in every game).

Let’s now talk about the various games.

First Round: Snowko (2-0)

There is nothing much to say about this game: g1 I opened an hand with 2 Ports and I drew the third one after some turns, so the opponent was not able to cast Oko before the fifth turn. At that point Field of the Dead was online, and Uro was almost a meme (it died one time to multiple punishing fires for example).

G2 the opponent countered a Library and other stuff, so Frenzy entered into play and finished the game along with 20 zombies.

Second Round: Hogaak (2-0)

G1 I had simply wastelanded the opponent one time and then made a fast 20/20 thanks to Exploration on the play. His hand was not that fast so he conceded.

G2 the game was tricky since his clock was faster and he trophied a depths when I went for the combo. But Elvish Reclaimer took a Tabernacle to slow him down, and then the pieces of another Witch.

Third Round: Young Frankestein (2-1)

This deck is a Delver deck that can reanimate Griselbrand. Since it is not a real Delver deck and not a real Reanimator deck, in my opinion both these plans are weaker than the originals. The deck counts a lot on the surprise factor, but I was prepared for it after sideboarding.

G1, Even if I had Karakas for Griselbrand and Punishing Fire to kill the opponent’s Delvers and Pyromancers, I died from my own Elves, which where reanimated after being killed.

G2 I had spheres on the play from the sideboard, so the manascrew plan (Spheres, Wasteland, Choke) locked the opponent out of the game even if he had double surgical. Then the opp drew only nonland cards (but I had multiple ports on the table), so they were not able to do anything effective.

G3 This game was very similar to G1, but without Elves, since I cut them from the maindeck after sideboarding. In short: Karakas on Griselbrand, Punishing Fire (in his upkeep)/Dunes on his creatures and some manascrew in the meantime.

Fourth Round: Lands (ID)

The opponent now was JackBattle, my friend, so we decided to do an intentional draw to not exclude a double top8. We where confidant about ourselves, since we had done a lot of training/study for this tournament.

Fifth Round: Grixis Delver (2-0)

There is not so much to say here other than that the opponent died from fast Marit Lages and Punishing Fires on his upkeep. G2 the witch was also covered by REB.

Sixth Round: Elves (2-1)

G1 I simply kept a Loam hand that was strong vs fair blue and not vs tribal, so I scooped from turn 4 Order.

G2 I had spheres, Punishing Fire and Gamble/Tabernacle.

G3 was similar to G2, but on the draw (so a bit slower, but I had the Mox Diamond).

Seventh Round: Hogaak (1-2)

This time the Hoogak player opened very strong hands, so the game was very problematic. I think that Hoogak is one of the best legacy decks at the moment, since it does not really suffer from gravehate and can close the game turn 2 without problems. And, fundamentally, it ignores Oko, Uro, Astrolabe and Arcanist.

G1: My hand was fine, but he closed the game anyway turn 2 or 3.

G2: With spheres on the play, Tabernacle and other stuff, after a long grind I got him.

G3: I kept a hand with Loam, the combo, Tabernacle and Wasteland, but no acceleration. I have done this choice because if he had a weaker hand than his usual ones, if I drew a gamble or an acceleration, I could have won. Obviously he had the turn 2 kill.

Eighth Round: D&T (2-1)

The first game I had Exploration and Library and the Sanctum Prelate (which is the only really problematic D&T card for us) arrived too late.

G2 he had turn 3 Prelate and RiP. His clock was fast, so even with Frenzy, which ignores both Prelate and RiP, I conceded.

G3: A turn 1 Exploration and a turn 2 Frenzy gave me too much advantage. His only possible play was Cataclysm, but before it I had gambled for Force of Vigor to cut off his vials and/or an eventual RiP. So the recovery process, after a Vigor on the vial, was very easy.

TOP8: SPLIT

I finally arrived fourth, and my mate JackBattle first. We (i.e. all the top8 players) decided to split. In particular, since Milan is not that close to Bologna and we had to go to work early on Monday, me and Jack where very happy to not play anymore.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Besides the game, this day was also beautiful due to its human aspect (playing a paper tournament this big was a real relief after all the COVID paranoia of the last months). So I want to thank all my friends for their love and support. In particular Giacomo, who is really clever and rational in everything (I am more the intuitive/instinctive/aggressive player/guy here) and Lena, who traveled from a far-away city to deliver a custom ML Token (a real lucky charm I would say) that I had commissioned from her. In the company of a very good friend, or a very sweet girl, one must always do things very well to make a good impression.

JackBattle_ 4Seasons Tournament Winner Report – 9/9/2020

JackBattle_ won the 4Seasons Tournament in Italy with his take on RG Lands. His report (in Italian) can be found here.

What follows below is that report translated into English by our very own Morgormir! Here it is:

4Season Winner Report

Hello everyone, my name is Giacomo Battaglia and I’m a Legacy player belonging to DD-Team. For this edition of 4Seasons I opted to bring Lands, being the only deck I enjoy playing. During the last month or so I playtested the deck extensively with my teammate and friend Francesco Messina, and after having attempted all the flavours of Lands we came to the conclusion that no splash was necessary, but that a straight RG version metagamed for the tournament (as we expected a lot of Delver and Snowko) was perfectly satisfactory.

This is Fmessina’s deck, but the decklist is the same

In the following paragraphs I outline the games I played, unfortunately I do not remember the names of the pilots who I didn’t know.

Round 1: DnT 2-0
The matchup is very grindy, but both games I lead the matchup with the most troublesome cards for my opponent, which are Tabernacle and Punishing Fire. Opponent never sees Sanctum Prelate which could have been the only problematic card out of their deck.

Round 2: Burn 2-0
My opponent was seated at a table near mine during round 1 so I already knew the deck they were on. I know that drawn out games often result in a loss for Lands, and that mana denial is a losing proposition. I win the die roll and set up both games for a turn 2 20/20, so both games were very short.

Round 3: RUG Delver 2-1
The matchup is really close. My primary plan is to prevent them from playing Magic, and my backup is Marit Lage in case things go south.

They lead on Delver of Secrets G1, and I have Wasteland and Tabernacle in hand. I lead on Wasteland, and since they don’t have a second land, Delver dies to Tabernacle the turn after. The game ends shortly thereafter where my opponent is unable to develop their board.

G2 is very drawn out. I see very little action and my opponent too, even after a couple Arcanist attacks, which has no spells to flashback in the graveyard. Later in the match, they draw into cantrips and burn spells sending me to 0.

G3 I remove 3 Arcanists thanks to Grasping Dunes, REB on Oko and Wasteland Lock to bring the game to a close.

Round 4: UB Shadow 2-0
A favourable matchup for me, both games I find Grove of the Burnwillows which keep my opponent off their gameplan. G1 they present a fast Reanimate on Street Wraith but Elvish Reclaimer rotating for Bojuka Bog solves that problem, and the game is all downhill from there.

G2 I keep them at a high life total, keeping them off mana with Rishadan Port and close out the game with Choke backed up by REB.

Round 5: Lands (Messina) Draw/Split
I meet my friend and testing companion. We’re both doing very well and decide to not play, in order to both enter top 8. A risky decision, but seeing as the list is performing so well we’re convinced it’s possible.

Round 6: Snowko 2-0
G1 I have a very strong opener with Loam, Exploration, Stage and Depths. My opponent never found any countermagic and I assemble the token every turn in short succession. They make a couple Angels off of Entreat but it’s not enough.

G2 I play an Elvish Reclaimer very early, and my opinion plays Blood Moon, leaving them with poor mana as they don’t have any Astrolabes. Oko follows soon after, but eats a ReB; Humility is attempted as another out, so I activate Reclaimer for Depths, which has no counters thanks to Moon. Jace is their follow up play, which I remove with my second ReB; EoT I break both Humility and Moon with Force of Vigor to make the 20/20 and close the match.

Round 7: DnT 1-1
G1 takes forever. I win through Prelate thanks to Zombies. Marit Lage eating a Plow allowed me to draw many cards off Sylvan Library.

Round 8: Dragon Stompy 2-1
G1 They play a turn 1 Trinisphere with City of Traitors and SSG into Goblin Rabblemaster the turn after. Once I get to 3 mana I rotate for Tabernacle to slow them down, and win by a hair thanks to Marit Lage.

G2 2 Chalice come down t1, one on 0 and the other on 1. Karn follows suit the turn after, which gets Liquimetal Coating, keeping me at 2 mana and off the Krosan Grip I have in hand.

G3 They play a turn 1 Chandra, I Wasteland their City. Another Sol Land, two mana off Chandra and Karn follows, which gets Coating again, targeting my Taiga. I Ghost Quarter my Taiga in response to get basic Forest, and I break Liquimetal Coating EoT with FoV.
My opponent gets Sorcerous Spyglass the following turn and sees K-Grip, 2 Depths and a Stage, the last of which they name. I have 2 lands in play at this point, and the following turns my opponent makes a couple of misplays, allowing me to close out the game and match thanks to K-Grip on Blood Moon, while having Depths out with no counters.

I finish the tournament here with a score of 6-0-2 and end up first in the Swiss. Top 8 is split among us given the late hour. My friend Francesco also is in the Top 4 with the list we built together. I thank my teammates and everyone I had a chance to chat with, as well as the TOs for having organized a wonderful event in anything but easy circumstances.

State of Lands 9/2020

Over the course of the year thus far, the Lands community has gathered data on 944 matches played. Below we crunch the numbers on that data.

First a couple disclaimers –

  1. No fudging – all losses are losses, all wins are wins. While this may seem obvious, anyone who has tracked their data knows the temptation to put down a loss from a stupid misplay as a win. But stupid misplay losses are still losses, and should be counted as such. Same goes for when your opponent just ‘got super lucky.’
  2. Skill Level – relatedly, this data does not take into account what might be called the ‘skill level’ of the players, whether the opponents or the Lands pilot. It includes data from FNMs where your buddy is playing a meme deck, and it includes data from playing against pros on MTGO. As to the skill level of the pilots, I can’t speak to that to preserve anonymity. I can say however that about 2/3s of the data came from my own matches, and I picked up the deck in February and started tracking about a week or two after getting my Tabernacle. That said, there’s a certain self-selection bias here – people who track their data are probably taking their play more seriously on some level, and those willing to submit it are probably happy with their performance.
  3. This data spans the whole year (well, at least from February), so it includes information from the Breach & Companion meta. I consider that a feature, not a bug, as it is interesting to see how Lands did against those decks.

The overall idea is that all the differences in luck or skill come out in the wash when one has enough data.

With all that said, let’s get down to it! First, the question on everyone’s lips – is Lands ban-worthy??

The average winrate over these 944 matches was 56.51%.

So by WotC’s criteria, Lands is a broken deck and you should probably be playing it.

Let’s take a look at how that winrate breaks down relative to opposing archetypes. For a chart of how decks were categorized, look here. Some decisions are perhaps questionable (is Urza Echo really a Chalice deck?) and others make sense only from a Lands-player perspective (a whole category for Knight of the Reliquary decks), but at the end of the day some categorization had to be made, no system was perfect, and we did the best we could.

In the graph below, we see the winrates against different major archetypes. Archetypes are ordered by meta share, which can be found on each archetype’s label.

Because the data is ordered by meta share, we can see that Lands is favored against the top 5 decks in the meta, or roughly 60% of the meta (though of course the category of ‘Other’ varies a lot).

On the level of individual archetypes, this data more or less confirms what most Lands players already know. We are favored in fair matchups (see tribal, delver, and control) while less favored against combo (Storm, Show & Tell). The delver matchup is less favored than many might like, just about 55%. Control is more favored than some might have thought, though straight UW control is actually worse for us. The worst form of control to be paired against is combo-control (think Food Chain and Aluren) as those decks don’t need to compete with us for inevitability, and instead can simply threaten a win at any moment.

With regard to combo, the Storm and Show & Tell matchups seem less bad than many Lands pilots feared, with Storm even coming out as about 50/50. The graveyard-based combo decks (Reanimator, Dredge, Hogaak) come out as generally positive matchups. Even Doomsday turns out to be about a 50/50 matchup.

Our best matchups by far are against Big Mana decks like Post and tribal decks like Elves and Goblins. This makes sense since tribal decks rely on creatures and are thus extra vulnerable to Punishing Fire and Tabernacle. Big Mana decks are extra soft to wasteland. Both decks tend to have few answers to Marit Lage. That all combines to make for great matchups on the Lands side.

Now let’s see which version of Lands seems to perform the best.

Before discussing these results, it’s worth noting that Jund was by far the most popular variant, with almost 450 matches to its name. UG, RG, and BUG each had about 100-120. The other variants were all around 40-50.

Looking at the results, it seems like while Jund may have been very popular, BUG is secretly the best-performing archetype. One could try to explain this away by saying that Jund’s lower average is just a function of its popularity, with Jund coming down to the true average where BUG’s 121 matches didn’t normalize as much. Still, BUG seems like a good avenue to explore in the future, as does UG. Both of these overperformed, and had a decent number of matches to make their performance meaningful. BG is another point we could consider looking at – it had a 60% winrate. This was over only 43 matches, but it is still promising.

The remainder of this article looks more closely at certain opposing archetypes to see exactly what kind of Delver (for example) is the most difficult.

From the Delver breakdown we see that Death’s Shadow is a quite good matchup. This makes sense, since they run few basics and even just giving them life with Grove can impact their gameplan. Conversely, BUG, Grixis, and UR are less good. Luckily, BUG and Grixis are much more rare (and their numbers here are not high, so the data might be misleading). UR however, has the advantage because of its basics and its ability to run Blood Moon.

Let’s look at Storm next:

In the eternal battle between ANT and TES, it seems ANT has the edge in the Lands matchup. This is probably because of their stronger ability to play a long game; post-board games against Storm tend to drag on under a sphere or two. Indeed the fastest, most all-in storm deck (Belcher) is actually a favored matchup for us. This is probably because they can lose to Tabernacle when they go for goblins and have so little interaction overall. A turn 1 sphere on the play is often enough to win the game on the spot against them, for example, as is mulliganing to Mindbreak Trap on the draw. The data here also confirms what everyone already knew – Breach was a broken deck.

Next is control:

Here we find the continuation of a theme. Decks with stable mana and answers to Marit Lage are harder to beat than the decks without. UWx control decks, for example, are tough, while BUG and Stryfo Pile are relatively easier to beat. Snowko straddles the center, since some versions play fewer Swords to Plowshares.

It’s also interesting that decks like Food Chain or Aluren are quite difficult for Lands. It make sense, since these decks (especially RiP Helm, which runs Swords), can attack from two angles, and their combos can be hard for Lands to interact with.

Depths is next – this is a matchup that has traditionally been described as favored, but our overall winrate was below 50%. Let’s see why.

Well here we can see the culprit – Slow Depths. For some reason Slow Depths (which includes traditional BG as well as BUG and GW Depths) is quite a difficult matchup for us. GW depths has Knight of the Reliquary, which has always been hard for us, and in general it can be hard to fight off the combo while also answering threats like Dark Confidant. I suspect that the abysmally low winrate there is at least in part due to small sample size (9 matches), but it does show a general pattern.

Turbo Depths, on the other hand, is strongly favored, as many probably already knew. Playing against Lands is a 50/50 matchup, which may surprise you until you realize that we’re playing Lands ourselves so…

The last category we’ll look at is the Tribal decks.

Perhaps nothing too surprising here. Humans and Slivers, the most straightforward beatdown decks with the fewest card advantage engines and the most fragile manabases, are the best matchups for us. Elves is the worst tribal deck to be paired against because of it has its own combo and can pressure us pretty well. Merfolk and Goblins both have their angles of attack that make them slightly more difficult than Humans or Slivers.

Overall though, no deck in this category is below a 70% winrate, so Lands players paired against tribal decks should feel good about the matchup.

And there you have it! Thanks to everyone who shared their data and made this collection possible. If you are interested in the raw data or the methods used to manipulate it, you can find the data and the computations themselves here. I encourage anyone to work on the data and create any other graphs they find interesting; it would be a pleasure to post them here or in their own article.

Thanks for reading! – aslidsiksoraksi

Lands vs Delver – a complete guide by alli

Delver is the most popular archetype in Legacy and it is important to know how to navigate this matchup if you want to succeed in a tournament. This has historically been a very good matchup for Lands as most of our lands (Dark Depths, Wasteland, Maze of Ith) are strong and we have inevitability with Life from the Loam. However, I think that the matchup has gotten harder in 2019 / 2020 as new printings have improved the Delver side (Dreadhorde Arcanist, Force of Negation, Oko, Thief of Crowns, and Brazen Borrower to name a few). I still believe that we (can build our deck in a way so that we) are favoured but the games are often interactive and the skill level of the pilots will have a large impact on the outcome of the match. 

Playing against Delver also means that we should talk about Delver decks and their core principle. I think the German Lands Master Jon Knoll has described this well. 

Delver ALWAYS need to be ahead on the board. If they’re behind, they lost. Sometimes this can be a marginal advantage like a single creature but no lands – and if they use FoW/FoN to delay your answers for just a little bit, it might be already enough. Playing Delver is like a “resource dance” where you control your opponent and play out marginal gains because it’s not about winning by a lot but winning at all

It often feels like good Delver players always have the right card at the exact right time. This is because they are really good at valuing their resources, and they will utilize their cards optimally already from turn 1.

There are many different flavours of Delver decks and this is how I would rank them in terms of how hard they are to play against.

  1. UR Delver is hardest because they play basic lands and resilient threats such as Dreadhorde Arcanist and True-Name Nemesis. UR Delver also plays main deck answers to Marit Lage in the form of Brazen Borrower as well as sideboard bombs in Blood Moon and Price of Progress.
  2. UW Delver is also harder than the 3-color versions because they play basic lands as well as Swords to Plowshares to answer our Marit Lage. They also play annoying sideboard cards such as Back to Basics.
  3. RUG Delver has a shaky manabase but very powerful cards.
  4. Grixis Delver has a shaky manabase but resilient threats in the form of Gurmag Angler and Dreadhorde Arcanist. Bitterblossom can also be a pain to play against.
  5. Death Shadow is the easiest version as they have a shaky manabase and no card advantage. Their threats also line up poorly against both Maze of Ith and Grove of the Burnwillows.

This guide is written from the context of Dark Lands, with 2-3 Abrupt Decay in the main deck, but these concepts are also valid for the other color combinations of (Thespian Stage plus Dark Depths) Lands.

Game 1

The most important aspect of this game is to get ahead on mana. We are the clunkier deck so we want to have access to an early Mox Diamond or Exploration. It’s unlikely that we will beat a Delver deck without mana acceleration. 

The G1’s where we win typically involve either of the below scenarios.

  1. We resolve a T1 Exploration and make a 20/20 on T2 that our opponent fails to answer. I think this strategy is very good vs current iterations of RUG Delver as their only G1 answer to Marit Lage is Oko, Thief of Crowns and we can often play around that card.
  2. We disrupt the opponent’s early threats and then make a 20/20 on turn 3-5 that our opponent fails to answer.
  3. We get ahead on mana by resolving an early Exploration or Mox Diamond and then manage to Wastelock our opponent. Ideally we also find a Tabernacle along the way to wipe our opponent’s board.

I do not have any real statistics to back this up but my gut tells me that Scenario 1 and 2 happens more often than Scenario 3 in G1’s against Delver.

The G1s where we lose typically involve either of the below scenarios.

  1. Something goes horribly wrong with our plan and we fail to limit their mana and hence they take advantage of their lower curve and overrun us with threats. If you ever find yourself in the late game and your opponent has 5-6 lands in play then you will have most likely lost this game. Here are some examples of things that can go horribly wrong against Delver in G1.
    1. We have T1 Exploration but they have a Force of Negation for our Life from the Loam and we fail to find a second one.
    2. They play T1 Delver and then counter our Exploration.
    3. They have a Wasteland for our only green source and we cannot cast our spells.
    4. We have a fast Marit Lage but they have an answer (such as Oko, Thief of Crowns or Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft). 
  2. Our opponent goes fetch land into fetch land into Dreadhorde Arcanist and we do not have an immediate answer. Dreadhorde Arcanist is such an overpowered card that it will run away with most games where he gets to attack.
  3. We manage to control their mana but we stabilize the board too late (when we are below 3 life) and they top deck a Volcanic Island for the lethal Lightning Bolt. These are the games where our choices did end up mattering. I suggest that you revisit these games afterwards and look for small decisions that made you lose. Here are some examples of misplays that I have done against Delver opponents in these types of games.
    1. I chose to draw too many cards with Sylvan Library.
    2. I chose to play Wasteland instead of Rishadan Port and this ended up delaying my 20/20 one crucial turn.
    3. I tried to play around Daze instead of just killing the Delver on the spot and hence I fell too far behind.
    4. I chose to Wasteland my opponent in my main phase (instead of during my opponent’s upkeep) and my opponent had Stifle and then access to all mana on the following turn (and could cast Tarmogoyf or Oko, Thief of Crowns).
    5. I overvalued the Tabernacle + Wasteland + Loam plan against an onboard Delver (and my opponent kept drawing more lands). 
    6. I played out Grove of the Burnwillows instead of Taiga and accidentally put my opponent on 21 life and then I couldn’t kill him in 1 turn.
    7. I attacked with a low life total into an opponent at 21 life (or an opponent who was able to block) because I trusted my Maze on board to defend myself next turn against attackers. I then died to a Wasteland on the next turn. A better play would have been: Attack, deal damage, use Maze on my own Marit Lage and be immune to Wasteland next turn.

Sideboarding from our side

I tend to have 6-8 sideboard cards for the Delver matchup. In order to make room for these cards I will take out 2-3 lands (Karakas, Ancient Tomb, and the 4th Rishadan Port are lands that I often cut) and some number of Gamble and Crop Rotation. Sylvan Library can also be shaved but I prefer to keep them in (at least when I am on the play). We can also cut Field of the Dead and / or Bojuka Bog but I will not cut Field unless I bring in additional win conditions (because Surgical on Dark Depths do happen in post sideboard games) and I will not cut Bog vs Delver decks that play Dreadhorde Arcanist.  Here are the types of cards that I like to take in.

Additional Removal

I expect our opponent to bring in answers to Marit Lage so I prefer to take a control / prison role in the post sideboard games, and this means that I want to have access to additional removal in my sideboard. As a general rule I want to have 4 clean answers to Dreadhorde Arcanist in the post sideboard games. This can be a combination of Abrupt Decay, Lightning Bolt, Elvish Reclaimer, and Drop of Honey (drop is the worst of these cards to answer Arcanist but it’s very good when True-Name Nemesis is popular in your meta). 

Anti-Counterspell Cards

I really like Pyroblast as it’s a flexible card that can help us resolve a key spell but it can also kill a Delver or Oko and even protect Marit Lage from bounce. Veil of Summer is also a good anti-counterspell card that has additional upside in saving Marit Lage from bounce and protecting Life from the Loam from Surgical Extraction (because of the draw a card trigger, not because it protects Loam, be sure to dredge). I currently prefer Pyroblast over Veil but if discard spells become more popular then I can see myself switching the two. 

Prison Cards

Choke will win most games where it resolves and it’s an absolute all star in the matchup. How to optimally Choke a Delver opponent is a science in it’s own but my general recommendation is to have a bit of patience and look for the optimal spot (either when the opponent is tapped out or when you have no other good use for your mana). I also want to mention that Rishadan Port and Choke are best friends. I know that there are some Lands decks that have shaved on Rishadan Ports for more copies of Ghost Quarter. I personally don’t like to do this, as it makes us worse against control and combo decks, and I also believe that Rishadan Port is almost as good as Ghost Quarter against Delver decks if we also run Choke.  

The Japanese superstar Urawik3 has told me that he likes to bring in two Sphere of Resistance (in RG Lands) when he is on the play against Delver decks. I can see the appeal, as this can stop our opponent from casting spells and it is also a soft answer to Dreadhorde Arcanist, but it can also be dangerous as it will make our opponent’s soft counters and Wastelands better (our opponent will most likely take out some number of Daze against us but I still prefer to bring in more removal than Sphere of Resistance).

Creatures

I like to bring in creatures as they are an answer to Dreadhorde Arcanist, that cannot be countered by Force of Negation, and they can also kill our opponent if our Dark Depths would be removed by Surgical Extraction (or if our opponent presents a permanent answer to Marit Lage such as Bitterblossom). Sideboarded creatures also allow us to adopt a playstyle of mana denial plus pressure and this makes us more non-linear. I expect my Delver opponent to bring out some number of Lightning Bolts against us (but not all of them) and this makes creatures better as well. This is my personal rank on how the creatures that are commonly played in Land’s sideboards line up against Delver decks.

  1. Elvish Reclaimer is an absolute all star in. He is cheap to cast and can come down early and roadblock a Dreadhorde Arcanist (and he can even kill an attacking Tarmogoyf due to block plus Bojuka Bog). He also gives us access to a recurring Crop Rotation and this allows us to play around their Wastelands (and Submerges) it will give us an endless stream of our own Wasteland (and Tabernacle) or find the Dark Depths combo.
  2. Tasigur, the Golden Fang is a fairly new technology that is very strong against Delver decks. He is cheap and will outgrow Dreadhorde Arcanist and Hooting Mandrills (and even Tarmogoyf sometimes). His activated ability will also take over the game if it is left unchecked for a few turns and it has great synergy with both Sylvan Library and Life from the Loam.
  3. Tarmogoyf is a gigantic monster that will roadblock an opposing Dreadhorde Arcanist and Hooting Mandrills. I think this card is strong against in particular UR Delver but it is unlikely that I will play it as it has limited usage in other matchups and no real synergy with our deck.
  4. Tireless Tracker is mediocre in the Delver matchup, as she is clunky and dies to Lightning Bolt, but I will typically take in 2 copies whenever I decide to add her to my sideboard. Tireless Tracker plus Exploration is an engine that doesn’t use the graveyard and we will win most games where we get to untap with her (on an even board).

Example of a Sideboard Map

Here is an example on how I would sideboard with Dark Lands with 3 Abrupt Decay in the main deck.

-1 Karakas
-1 Tomb
-1 Field / Port / Sylvan Library
-2 Crop Rotation
-2 Gamble

+2 Pyroblast
+1 Red Elemental Blast
+2 Elvish Reclaimer
+2 Choke

Sideboarding from their side

Delver decks typically have 5-8 cards to take in against us. I have spoken to a few very good Delver players, such as Ark4n, LearnToLove6, TheStyle and mechint, and it seems like the consensus is to take out all 4 Daze on the draw and 0-4 copies on the play (it was actually not a consensus among these players on how many Daze they should take out vs Lands when they are on the play). I also expect my opponent to shave on some number of Lightning Bolts and conditional counterspells. Here are the types of cards that they typically will bring in against us.

Graveyard Hate

They will take in 3-5 cards to fight against Life from the Loam. This is my personal rank on how the commonly played graveyard hate lines up against Lands.

  1. Klothys, God of Destiny is an all star against us and I expect most RUG Delver decks to play 1-2 copies of this card (as it is also very good in the Snow matchup). Klothys is impossible to remove and she will not only turn off our Loams and Wastelands but she will also increase their clock (and eventually kill us on her own). We cannot really play around Klothys, except for adopting a heavy mana denial plan, and if she resolves then she will negate our mana denial plan as she helps produce mana for the Delver deck.
  2. Surgical Extraction is the best possible answer to the card Life from the Loam. I currently expect all Delver decks to play 2-3 copies of this card. In the olden days (when we still played Tranquil Thicket) we could do a delicate dance around Surgical Extraction in order to play around it. This is not really the case nowadays as we will at most play 1 copy of Nurturing Peatland, and Crop Rotating for Nurturing Peatland (in order to save our Life from the Loam) is not something that comes up often. However, you can play around it by maximizing the initial value of your Loam (try to be patient and ensure that you actually get 3 cards back the first time you cast Life from the Loam). If our opponent decides to target a Wasteland or Dark Depths with Surgical Extraction then we can use Elvish Reclaimer or Crop Rotation to find another copy and place it safely in play.
  3. Tormod’s Crypt or Leyline of the Void are typically played when graveyard decks are very strong (such as during the Underworld Breach era earlier this year). I do not think that it is worth it to side in answers to Leyline (even when they play it) and we already have 2-3 Abrupt Decay for the other cards (but I think most Delver decks will be forced to use their Tormod’s Crypt quite early anyways). 

Removal for Marit Lage

You should expect our opponent to bring in 2-3 answers to Marit Lage for the post sideboard games. This is how I rank the most commonly played answers to Marit Lage.

  1. Vapour Snag is the best answer to Marit Lage as it is an instant speed answer that is impossible to play around (we have already won the games where we are able to deny our Delver opponent of all mana so this doesn’t really count as playing around Vapour Snag). I think this card is less common nowadays but I still see it in some UR Delver decks.
  2. Bitterblossom is a great answer to Marit Lage and it is commonly played out of Grixis Delver. Bitterblossom is good because the Delver deck can play it proactively and it is an answer that is also a threat. We do have answers to this card in the form of Abrupt Decay, Tabernacle, Punishing Fire, and a copied Blast Zone with 0 counters, but it is a pain to play against an early Bitterblossom.
  3. Karakas is annoying as this is a permanent answer for our 20/20. I see this card in some RUG Delver sideboards (sometimes together with 1-2 Crop Rotations). Most Delver players will not play out this card (in order to save it from Wasteland) so it is possible to play around it by casting Crop Rotation for Dark Depths and making the Marit Lage in our opponent’s end step.
  4. Petty Theft (Brazen Borrower) is a good answer as it can be cast at instant speed and it often leaves a 3/1 body to put pressure on us and hence give us less time to find a Life from the Loam in order to re-summon the 20/20. Petty Theft costs 2 mana though and it will often be hard for the Delver deck to keep up this mana and also deploy their own threats. If you ever find that your (UR) Delver opponent is not playing cantrips nor playing a threat when you have the possibility to summon a Marit Lage then your Petty Theft alarm should go haywire and you should start looking for ways to play around this card. 
  5. Submerge is the most popular bounce spell right now (as it is good in the RUG Delver mirror) and this is also the worst card against us. It is fairly easy to ensure that we don’t have a Forest in play when we summon our Marit Lage. We can use Elvish Reclaimer or Crop Rotation to get rid of our Forest and we can even Wasteland ourselves.

Winter Orb

I often see my Delver opponent bringing in this card against me and I find that 60-70% of the time it wins the game for me instead of for my opponent. If we have Tabernacle, or Mox Diamond, or just a good hand with Exploration and Life from the Loam then this card will actively hurt our opponent. 

Blood Moon

This is played as a 1-of out of UR Delver and it will win 99% of the games where it resolves. We do play 2-3 copies of Abrupt Decay but I find that these don’t really line up against Blood Moon as the Delver opponent can just cast the card when we are tapped out. I typically won’t bring in dedicated answers to Blood Moon (such as Force of Vigor) as these will be dead in all games where our opponent has not drawn their single copy of Blood Moon (and this will end up costing us more losses in the long run).

Game 2 & 3

Post sideboard games differ from G1’s in the sense that.

  • Life from the Loam is worse (as a recurring engine) since our opponent has graveyard hate.
  • Marit Lage is more vulnerable (as a win codition) as our opponent has brought in answers to it.
  • Our life total will be less pressured as we have more removal spells and our opponent has taken out some number of burn spells.
  • We will have a 3 mana bomb in Choke, and they may have their own 3 mana bomb in Klothys or Blood Moon (on top of the potential Oko from G1).

Postboard games therefore slow down and they tend to be more about resource optimization and mana denial. It is unlikely that we will simply run over our opponent with recurring Life from the Loam, and likewise I will not just jam a Marit Lage in games where I am already ahead. There is no need to expose myself to something stupid like Vapour Snag + Surgical Extraction if I have the game in a state where my opponent’s board is empty and I control their mana. Patience is key in order to win these types of post sideboard games and when I find myself in these situations I will try to read what cards my opponent can have in their hand and play around these (to the extent possible). I have had games where I have resolved a Choke, with several Rishadan Ports in play, and then decided to not cast another spell for the rest of the game. I did not want to give my opponent the opportunity to Daze a spell and return one of the tapped lands to their hand. I opted to simply discard to hand size each turn and wait until I naturally drew the Thespian Stage plus Dark Depths combo (and I also destroyed all my Forests with my own Wastelands) before making the 20/20 for the win.

This does not mean that we cannot win one of the post sideboard games with a fast Marit Lage. If I have a T2 Marit Lage (ideally one that can play around Submerge) then I will jam almost every time. Also, if we are behind (say we have mulliganed and our opponent has some pressure and they have managed to remove all of our Life from the Loams with Surgical Extraction) then I will of course create a hail mary Marit Lage at first opportunity. But it is important to understand what our opponent can have and when it is appropriate to try to play around these cards. This is not easy, and it requires practice, and I still mess it up from time to time (especially when I am tired after a full day of work or if I am distracted at home with screaming kids). 

Important Cards

In this last section I have tried to highlight my thoughts on some of the most important cards in the Lands vs Delver matchup.

Wasteland (from our side)

Wasteland is one of our best cards in the matchup as their deck only runs 14-15 colored mana sources (and only 6 lands that actually tap for coloured mana) so it’s relatively common that we can wastelock them out of the game. Here are some common situations with Wasteland and my thoughts around them.

Wasteland vs T1 Delver

We are on the Draw and our opponent leads with Volcanic Island plus Delver of Secrets. A common question from the Lands player is if we should Wasteland here or lead with Exploration (into a potential Daze). I will typically lead with Exploration as it is important to get ahead on mana in this matchup and even if they Daze the Exploration we are actually ahead on mana in this game. Here are some situations where I will lead with Wasteland though.

  1. Our opponent has mulliganed. This makes it more likely that they kept a 1 land hand and the T1 Wasteland can win this game for us.
  2. If I have kept a hand with multiple Wastelands but no answer to Dreadhorde Arcanist then I am also inclined to lead with Wasteland. This is because if they Force the Exploration, and then slams Arcanist, our hand is useless and we will most likely have lost this game on the spot. 
  3. If I suspect that our opponent runs Stifle then I am also more inclined to lead with Wasteland now when our opponent is currently tapped out. 

Wasteland vs Marit Lage

Wastelanding is a symmetrical effect i.e. it puts both players down a land so it is important to understand when to not use the Wasteland. There are typically two scenarios where it is correct to not Wasteland our opponent. 

  1. We are too far behind. Say for example that we are being beaten down with 1-2 Tarmogoyfs and our opponent has a few lands in play. In this situation our only out is to assemble Thespian Stage plus Dark Depths so we should typically not Wasteland them (even if we have Loam going) as we want to get to 4 mana faster. We also want to save our Wasteland in case our opponent finds a Wasteland of their own (as this will enable us to make a Marit Lage by wasting our opponent’s Wasteland and hence forcing them to use it (and then we can copy our Dark Depths in response to their Wasteland activation).
  2. If my plan is to make a quick Marit Lage then I typically will not use my Wasteland. Say for example that my starting hand has Wasteland and Mox Diamond and Rishadan  Port and Thespian Stage and Dark Depths. In this situation it is better to lead with Mox plus Port as we can Port our opponent T1 and T2 and still summon a Marit Lage on T3. 

Wasteland (from their side)

Wasteland is also one of their best cards as it can cut us off green mana as well as stopping us from making a Marit Lage. I think many Delver opponents will try to color screw us and this is something that we can take advantage of. Say for example that we are on the play and we have an excellent starting hand like the one below.

In this situation I will lead with Taiga into Exploration into Rishadan Port, as this will indicate that I am low on green sources, and it may trick my Delver opponent into going T1 Wasteland our Taiga (and this will put us way ahead on mana which is key in this matchup). 

Daze

Daze is a very important card in the Delver matchup and all Delver decks will run 4 copies of this card in G1. I will play around Daze if it doesn’t cost me anything such as in this sequence.

Another time when it’s free to play around Daze is if my opponent has no board on T3 and we draw Choke. In this case it’s basically free to wait until T4 to slam the Choke. Speaking about Choke, I did mention this above but, if we have resolved Choke then we need to be super careful with casting new spells as Daze will allow our Delver opponent to pick up a land and then play it out again untapped. This is extra important if we are at a low life total and afraid of Lightning Bolt.

However, in many other situations playing around Daze will mean that we end up taking too much damage just to die to a Lightning Bolt or Bolt + Arcanist + Bolt at a later stage. If our opponent is pressuring our life total then I will typically not play around Daze. What we can do instead is to sequence our spells in a way so that our opponent is being hurt by the lost land drop. Here are some basic examples of this.

  • Tabernacle Level 1.  Assume that we are on the draw and our opponent starts with Volcanic Island plus Delver. Our hand is Mox Diamond and Tabernacle and Life from the Loam and some other stuff. In this scenario I will lead with Mox Diamond as if our opponent Daze it here then we can play Tabernacle and kill the Delver.
  • Tabernacle Level 2. Let’s assume that our opponent from above replay their Volcanic Island into another Delver but then miss a few land drops. In this situation our opponent will tap their Volcanic Island every turn and hit us with the Delver. There is absolutely no reason to play around Daze at this point (if our opponent uses Daze here then they will lose their Delver at the next upkeep). I will happily ensure that I am tapped out and then cast Crop Rotation or Punishing Fire in my opponent’s end step.

Stifle

If our Delver opponent is on the play and leads with “land go” then my Stifle alarm goes haywire. If the land was a Volcanic or Tropical Island then I am 99% sure that our opponent has Stifle but if it was a fetch land then it is possible that our opponent has kept a hand with 2 fetches and Dreadhorde Arcanist. Stifle is a pain to play against as it can shut us of colors by targeting our fetches and it can also counter a Wasteland activation (or god forbid a Blast Zone activation) and it can slow down Marit Lage by one crucial turn. It cannot stop the Marit Lage completely, as if our opponent stifles the Dark Depths trigger it will just retrigger, but it can slow us down by countering the Thespian Stage activation. 

I will typically try to play around Stifle as íf our opponent holds up mana every turn then we are actually slowing them down (it is similar to a “free” Rishadan Port every turn). If we have no way to play around the Stifle then we should fetch or use our Wasteland in our opponent’s upkeep. This is because in this way we are at least making them use their mana to cast Stifle and hence they cannot spend this mana on something else until next turn.

Conclusion

Overall, much of how to play against Delver is built on the premise we led with; Delver needs to stay ahead on board. If we are able to deny them this advantage, we can usually come out ahead in the matchup. Of course, doing that takes a strong understanding of how both decks play out and the various interactions between our tools and theirs. My aim in this article has been to share my own understanding of those interactions; hopefully it has been informative.

This article was written by alli; he can be found on twitter at alli_on_mtgo.

How Not to Play Against RUG Delver – a game analysis from the NRG Legacy Open

This past Sunday I had the pleasure of playing in the NRG Legacy MTGO Open. After a 4-0 start I went into round 5 with pretty good breakers, and with a good chance of just drawing in to top 8 should I manage another win.

I was playing a fairly stock Jund Lands list, with nothing too special in it. I ran two maindeck Field of the Dead and two Maze of Ith because I expected a lot of control and a lot of Delver, and those expectations were correct.

The event was open decklist and in round 5 I was paired against RUG Delver. I felt pretty good about this as I had just beaten RUG in round 4. Moreover, looking at my opponent’s decklist I noticed a couple key things. First, they had no Force of Negation. Second, they had no Dreadhorde Arcanist. Instead of these they had more big green beaters (Goyf, Mandrils) and 3 Stifles. In fact, their entire threat package was green, and the only red cards in the maindeck were 4 Lightning Bolt and 2 Chain Lightning. Their sideboard had virtually no graveyard hate, not even a lonely Surgical Extraction.

All this made me feel even more confident. Force of Negation is a huge problem for people who want to cast Loam over and over, and Arcanist is one of the scariest cards from Delver. Not having to deal with those AND not having to think about Surgical should make the matchup an easy one.

Little did I know that my opponent was a truly skilled wizard and would eventually end up winning quite convincingly in 2 games.

I made a number of play mistakes in those games, particularly the first one, and I thought it might be instructive for me (and hopefully for you, dear reader), to go through that first game and see exactly what went wrong.

Before I get to that though, I should just say that none of this is intended to take away from my opponent’s victory. I don’t really understand the weird logic behind it, but I know some people seem to think that if it’s their mistakes that lead their opponent to victory, then somehow that victory is undeserved. I couldn’t disagree more – I made mistakes, my opponent did not, and the better player won. This is purely an educational exercise, not an excuse.

With that said, let’s get to it!

I was on the play in game one, and drew this as my opening hand:

This hand has removal and an engine, but no accelaration. Against Delver, especially Delver without Arcanist, the matchup is all about tempo. You will lose if they keep you off balance long enough to kill you, but if you can pull out ahead and deny their mana effectively, you can usually turn that into a win. This hand also has only one green source, and a nonbasic one at that; if my opponent has a Wasteland I’m just dead in the water. Last, I can’t cast the Decay or the Gamble, so we’re on a virtual 5-card hand until we draw a fetchland or a Diamond.

I mulliganed, and got this:

This hand may seem land-light, but if we can get Loam to resolve we should be good to go. Knowing they have no Force of Negation, this hand has a great chance of setting up a waste-lock, and it has removal to boot. I put back Sylvan Library here; Crop Rotation and Punishing Fire were other options. I kept those because Crop Rotation for Tabernacle is a key way to get your mana denial to really pay off, and Loam should offset the negative effects of sacrificing a land should it get countered. Punishing Fire was a piece of removal I felt I wanted so that I could deal with an early threat.

In retrospect, both Crop Rotation and Fire were operating as removal in this hand (since Rotation was basically set to find Tabernacle). In the opponent’s list, Fire only kills Delver, so it may not have been worth keeping over the Library.

Regardless, we kept Diamond, Loam, Rotation, Punishing Fire, Wasteland, Port.

I played these such that at the end of turn 1 my field looked like this:

I discarded Port to Diamond because I wanted to have a Wasteland in play and ready to go next turn should I want to Waste them. Then, naturally, I loamed it back.

My opponent played fetchland into Delver. On turn 2 I dredged Loam to find new Lands, so that at the beginning of my main phase, this was the board:

At this point, maybe take a moment to consider what you would do. I believe the correct play is waste my opponent’s land, play Port, and then cast Loam on the Peatland and two Wastelands in the graveyard. This puts our opponent back on no mana, lets us cast Loam for the full 3 lands, and does not give our opponent a window to use Daze to protect their land or try to counter our spell.

Of course, in the moment, I took a much more aggressive line, one that probably cost me the game:

My thinking here was to rotate for Tabernacle and then waste them so that the Delver would die. This line is too aggressive for a couple reasons. First, if the Crop Rotation is countered, as happened here, then wastelanding becomes a horrible idea since you’d be relying on the top of your deck to find the next land to cast Loam. Second, even if it isn’t countered, wastelanding is questionable because again, you’d be relying on the top of your deck to find the mana for Loam. It is easy to lose track of the fact that many of your spells and spell-lands put you down on mana in the long term, and I made that mistake here.

With this done, I couldn’t really waste my opponent. Their Trop lived to tap another day, and on their turn as Wasteland joined it. This was a dangerous situation as my mana was already precarious.

I had no Loam to dredge, so I took a natural draw, finding Gamble. At the start of my main phase on turn 3, the situation was this:

At this point, if I do not tap my Wasteland, my opponent can’t really waste me, since I’ll just waste them back. Still, I do need to start Loaming; just passing the turn isn’t really feasible. One option might be to Gamble for another land, probably Grove, and try to start Loaming next turn.

I didn’t really consider that; if the land you Gamble for is discarded (a 1 in 3 chance, so not unlikely), you’ve gained nothing and lost a turn of possible dredging and land drops. Instead, I chose to cast Life from the Loam on the lands in my graveyard (Port, Waste, Peatland). I don’t hate it, since the upside is good, but it’s a high-risk Gamble.

This point was when the initial mistake of the turn before really came back to bite me. By Dazing the Loam, my opponent not only ensured that they’d be able to waste my Wasteland with no fear of retaliation, but also stopped me from filling my hands with the lands I’d need to recover. Any countermagic on Loam here would give them this advantage. If I had wasted them and loamed last turn, however, they wouldn’t be able to cast non-free countermagic and I’d have too many lands in hand to worry much about their Wasteland.

After this, my opponent once again failed to flip their delver (thank goodness for the small things). They played a fetchland and wasted my Wasteland, as predicted.

After my draw step on turn 4, the field was this:

Luckily, I drew the second land that I needed. With no Loam in hand though, I couldn’t use it. My plan here was to play the fetchland; on their next upkeep I could fetch and then use Punishing Fire to kill their Delver. This should buy me the time I need to recover and get my mana underneath me.

So I passed the turn, and on the next upkeep, did as I said. They didn’t have the Stifle, but they did have the Spell Snare. Punishing Fire was countered. I also make another crucial mistake – I fetch a Bayou instead of my basic Forest. Forest and Diamond can cast every spell in my deck; there is no reason to get a Bayou. The error lets my opponent further cement their mana advantage by playing a second wasteland:

These Wastelands are effectively functioning as time walks, since every time I go down to one mana, I can’t dredge Life from the Loam. So this turn (turn 5 now) I will take another natural draw. Luckily I find another land – a Ghost Quarter. I play it and pass. I could have Gambled but anything I found would go straight to the graveyard; there’s nothing I want to put in there at the moment.

Unfortunately for me, my opponent not only plays a third Wasteland, but also a Hooting Mandrils to go with it. Their clock has sped up a lot, and it’s not really looking good. Luckily, their Wasteland and my Ghost Quarter are in a staring match, so I get to untap with two mana.

Here’s the situation in my draw step on turn 6:

There is perhaps an interesting question here of whether to dredge or to draw. I opted to dredge. Reasons to draw would be to find Punishing Fire and try to kill Delver. But with only one of those left in the deck, dredging seems to be solidly better. It will be difficult to fight through Wasteland and two creatures, but Maze of Ith could maybe get there.

I take the dredge, mill nothing of real consequence, and cast Loam on Bayou, Wasteland, Wasteland. I then play Wasteland and activate it targeting their Volcanic Island.

In retrospect, even if the game is all but lost already, this was another mistake. My way to survive is to find Maze of Ith or at least Punishing Fire/Grove to hold off their creatures. I do not have Tabernacle so hitting their mana is not a route to safety. Trying to use Maze as an answer, however, loses to their Wasteland. But I can try to get around that by hitting their Wasteland, so if I’m hitting a land that is the one to hit.

But more likely I should just play Wasteland, use it to stare down their Wasteland, and then try to find Maze next turn with Gamble.

Last, if I’m hitting a blue land, there’s a good argument for hitting the Tropical Island over the Volcanic. Trop casts all their threats, Volcanic casts only their burn spells. Hitting Volcanic here was mostly muscle memory from playing against Arcanists, but with open decklists it was likely a mistake.

Regardless, my opponent untaps, plays a fetchland, and then uses it to cast Oko. The game is well and truly over at that point, even though I dredge over both the combo pieces in the last turn.

My opponent definitely had a little luck in finding three of their Wastelands, but then my opening hand was quite strong as well and I likely could have navigated the game in a way that would have diminished the effect of their Wastelands. In particular, casting Crop Rotation on turn 2 stands out to me as the most punishing mistake. It can be easy to get so excited about wasting your opponent that you forget that using a wasteland sets you back on mana as well.

So if I were to list primary takeaways from this game I would note these:
(1) When setting up to enact a waste-lock, prioritize your ability to cast Loam over your need to hit the opponent’s mana, especially against decks that run Wasteland themselves.
(2) Delver plays a lot of countermagic. Usually, unless it’s turn 1 and you’re on the play so that the only relevant counterspell is Force of Will, you will have to draw out at least one or two counterspells before an important spell sticks.
(3) Crop Rotation is not the right card to draw countermagic out with. If I had held Sylvan Library and bottomed Rotation, turn 2 would have been much less punishing; indeed it would have been a 2 for 1 in my favor, albeit at a loss of tempo.
(4) Fetching basics against Delver is a valid strategy, and with Diamond in play it is likely just the right move 9 times out of 10.
(5) When wastelanding, have a plan about why you are targeting this land and not another. This could be a plan about cutting a color (so think about what color and why) or about denying them access to a utility land. Whatever it is, a plan should be in place.

That about wraps it up. If you’re reading this, I hope you’re able to learn from my mistakes. If you’re me, well, I hope you learn from them as well.

If this kind of article is one you enjoy, do let me know as it is fun to write and I have no shortage of games I’ve messed up to go back over and study.

Lots of love and thanks for reading!

Deep Dive into Dark Depths

So if you’ve played much of any Legacy, you’ve probably figured out that Dark Depths can be used in combination with Thespian’s Stage or Vampire Hexmage to quickly and easily create the 20/20 Marit Lage token. And, in case it wasn’t obvious, Marit Lage can quickly and easily end the game in your favor.

So here I’m not gonna talk about the combo, but instead about when to do it and what your opponent can do to disrupt it. Just to be up front, I’ve made my Marit Lages almost entirely from a Lands perspective, and haven’t played dedicated Depths decks much at all. So a lot of this will be from that angle. Still, it should be pretty applicable, and I’ll try to mention Depths cards that I’m aware of as we go.

When to go for it – Gameplan

Well, Marit Lage kills people fast, so why wouldn’t you just go for it? Two main reasons. First, making a 20/20 takes a good deal of resources. It’ll cost you two lands and usually about a turn’s worth of mana if you go the stage route. Hexmage is easier, but it still represents a cost. Also, the combo is often your way to win, so you don’t want to blow that for nothing. Second, there can be value in holding the combo up as a threat. If you’re able to play a long game, just keeping up the threat of a 20/20 forces opponents to respect it by not tapping out so that they can represent answers. In this way, Depths combo can work as a kind of pseudo-port while you develop an alternative game plan (eg. Field of the Dead or beating with your creatures).

Making Marit Lage then is something you do when either (a) your back is against the wall and you just have to pray to the Eldritch terror as a kind of twisted Hail Mary; or (b) when you put your opponent on very few outs and feel you have a good chance to just kill them. With Lands, (a) happens against a lot of combo decks that have a much faster clock than you otherwise, and can just draw out of your mana-denial tools. It also happens in games that are just going quite badly on board. (b) happens against certain decks that simply don’t play many outs, especially maindeck. Delver is an example of this (usually just 2 or so Brazen Borrower main), as are 12 Post decks where the only common answer is Karakas. You can also engineer a situation where (b) is true just by playing the game in a certain way – porting them off white sources, for example, to cut out Swords to Plowshares as an out.

Last, it can also be right to go for it if you have a way to mitigate the cost of comboing. Life from the Loam is the key card here, especially in combination with Exploration, since at that point you can just make 20/20s every turn.

When to go for it – Phases

What phase you choose to summon the icy horror in is a matter of what you want to play around. Most often you want to make Marit Lage at your opponent’s end step. This plays around all sorcery speed answers and gives you the most information about what your opponent is doing. 

The main reason to make Marit Lage before the end step is to play around Wasteland, since you can’t respond to them putting Wasteland into play. If you decide that your opponent is more likely to have Wasteland than any other answer (often the case against Delver), then you’ll have to decide between making Marit Lage on your turn or on their upkeep. If your opponent is tapped out, acting on your turn stops them from untapping and potentially casting a spell to disrupt you. If they aren’t tapped out, waiting until their upkeep can force them to use any mana on their turn instead of yours.

Things can get a little murkier if you’re using Crop Rotation to find the combo, since at that point you have to play around countermagic as well as Wasteland and other answers. Usually you’ll still want to wait until the end of their turn so that they’ll (hopefully) tap out. However, if you want to play around Wasteland and countermagic, you may want to rotate in their upkeep, since this will play around Force of Negation. Of course, if you fear Spell Pierce more than Force of Negation, it may be better to rotate for the token on your turn if/when they’re tapped out. There’s also some consideration to playing the crop rotation in response to draw spells if you want to avoid them drawing into the countermagic that would stop you, but that will let them know you’re going off, so they’ll look for other answers with their cantrip. You can see how Crop Rotation kinda complicates things.

It can be tempting to create a 20/20 blocker in the middle of combat to eat a creature. Surely waiting until the end of the turn is lost value at that point? It seems to me that it’s rarely correct to do this, as it enables your opponent to use sorcery speed answers, especially planeswalkers, to eliminate your monster. I’d make this play if I needed to block to avoid dying, or perhaps to avoid falling to 3 life against an opponent with Lightning Bolt. But usually it’s safer to just take your licks since Marit Lage will repay your opponent 20fold. You don’t want to get blown out by the second main phase Karakas or Oko.

Common Answers

The remainder of this article will be a list of what answers opponents can play. For each answer, I’ll name a few decks that commonly play them and give some notes on how to play around them. Some answers are in play and visible, those I’ll name. Others are represented by available mana, those I’ll name by the mana your opponent must hold up to represent them. This is important because it is their mana that is the information you actually have access to, and being attentive to the mana opponents hold up allows you to better identify bluffs on their part by seeing how consistently they actually hold up that mana.

Wasteland / Ghost Quarter 
Wasteland stops the combo by destroying Dark Depths (or the Dark Depths copy) when it has 0 counters on it and is triggering to create Marit Lage. You can play around it if your opponent doesn’t have one yet by creating Marit Lage in their upkeep, before they have a land in play. If they have one in play already, you will need to force them to use it before you combo off. You can do this with Wastelands of your own, for example. You can also tap their Wasteland with your Rishadan Port. If you have extra Thespian’s Stage’s and a chunk of mana, you can copy their Wasteland to get things going. Pithing Needle on Wasteland is another trick often used by more dedicated Depths decks.

Played by: Delver, Depths, Death & Taxes, Maverick, 4c Loam, Lands… lots of people

Blockers
Sometimes your opponent, rude as they are, will have flying blockers. These are almost never any real threat to Marit Lage, but they can buy your opponent turns to find answers or deploy sorcery speed ones. Sejiri Steppe’s protection can help punch through, or you can use removal to kill their creatures. The most obnoxious thing here is if your opponent has Mother of Runes to go with their blocker. At that point, you’ll need to eliminate the mom somehow, and then get through their blocker. If you are worried about dying on the crack-back, don’t forget that you can use Maze of Ith to give Marit Lage pseudo-vigilance by untapping her in the combat damage step after damage has been applied.

Played by: Miracles (coatl), Death & Taxes (Flickerwisp), 4c Control (strix or coatl), Maverick (Scryb Ranger), and many others.

Planeswalkers & other sorcery speed answers
With Oko & Teferi joining Jace in the gang of walkers-who-kill-Lage, there are now a lot of walkers that make Marit Lage sad. The best way to play around these is by comboing on your opponent’s end step. Your opponent will likely try to set up a situation where they can block and then use their walker. You’ll be able to see this coming if they have a blocker in play; watch out for a walker follow-up if the walker isn’t in play already. More surprising is when the blocker is Ice-Fang Coatl. You can see if their plan is something like coatl+oko by seeing if they leave UG up to flash in the snake.

Played in: Control decks, RUG Delver, BUG Lands, some combo (Teferi)

Lifegain
Lifegain functions a lot like a blocker in that it stops Marit Lage from killing the opponent in one turn, thereby giving them a chance to deploy sorcery-speed answers to her. Probably the most common lifegain sources are Oko’s food tokens and Uro’s ETB trigger. Both of these gain your opponent only 3 life, so if they’ve cracked a few fetch lands, you can still put them to 1 or 2. It may be worthwhile to put them down to 1 and try to constrict their mana by stopping future fetches (though this is not really workable against an opposing Oko as he’ll just gain them the life they need). If you have some burn or other creatures, they can finish the job. If not, you’ll want to weigh the risk of opposing walkers into your decision to go for it.

Played in: UGxx control, 12 Post 


One blue mana represents, most commonly, Vapor Snag. As with a decent number of these, there’s no direct way to play around this except by holding back. You can use port to tap their mana at the end of the second main phase, if they leave themselves open to such a trick. Dedicated Depths decks can beat this, and the other targeted spells I’ll mention, with things like Crop Rotation for Sejiri Steppe or Not of this World. In this case, even Veil of Summer would do the trick.
Notably, one blue mana can also represent Stifle, also out of Delver. Stifle doesn’t stop the combo, but it does slow it down by one turn. If you want to play around this, try to catch your opponent untapped. This is where making the token on your turn can be useful.

Played by: Delver

1U
This usually represents Brazen Borrower, one of the most commonly played answers out there at the moment. The above notes about holding back, using port, or having defensive spells apply here. Also worth noting is that for the decks that play it (usually Delver), 1U is not an insignificant amount to hold up. If they do not have a threat in play, or if you’re fairly stable, you can force them to keep it up and effectively almost Time Walk them.

Played by: Delver, some 4c Control

W
This is Swords to Plowshares mana. Port them off white, blow up their astrolabes. Sometimes it is correct to just gain 20 life, especially against more aggressive decks like Death & Taxes. Against more controlling decks, using the threat of Lage as a port is often best, since your long-term gameplan with Lands is more about a protected Loam engine and Field of the Dead. With Depths, you’ll want one of the protection spells like Not of this World.

Played in: Death & Taxes, Miracles, Maverick

GB
GB represents Assassin’s Trophy, which in this case is essentially an instant-speed Ghost Quarter. It doesn’t hit Lage, but rather the Depths as it triggers, so things like Sejiri Steppe won’t work. Decks that play it are often multicolored and it is most common in Stryfo Pile. In those cases, since you’re against a slower control deck, just holding up the combo is fine. Moreover, their manabase is relatively fragile, so you can use wasteland, port, or ghost quarter to take them off the relevant colors.

Played in: Stryfo Pile, BUGx control

1B
This is edict mana! It could be Diabolic Edict but is more likely Liliana’s Triumph. These cards will make you sacrifice a creature, and if your only creature is Marit Lage, well then the decision is forced. To play around this you can do the classic fetch-for-Dryad Arbor trick. But if you don’t have arbor in your deck, this will be a little tricky. Manlands or just having extra creatures would do the job in a pinch.

Played in: Pox/MBC, some UBxx Control decks

2R
2R is relatively rare to see but it represents the Gone side of Dead // Gone, a card that sometimes sees play in Moon Stompy or Delver sideboards. It is essentially a red bounce spell, so everything about Brazen Borrower or Vapor Snag applies here. It’s probably not worth playing around unless you’ve seen it before in that same match, since the card is pretty rare.

Played in: Moon Stompy, some Delver

G
With G, your opponent is representing Crop Rotation. Crop Rotation can find Wasteland to disrupt your combo or, more often, Karakas to eliminate Marit Lage once you’re through. If you anticipate Karakas, then a defensive spell would work here (though not Sejiri Steppe, since Karakas is colorless). Otherwise, you can try to tempt your opponent to use the crop rotation in some alternative way – Wastelanding them gives them an opportunity to avoid its ‘sacrifice a land’ clause, so sometimes you can push them into using their rotation that way. 

Played in: Infect, Lands, Depths, Green Post decks, occasionally RUG Delver

Ensnaring Bridge
This is a sorcery speed answer, so you’ll be able to see it coming. The way to beat it is to have spells that remove it or to strangle their mana so that they cannot play it. It is often played in tandem with Karn, Great Creator, so it’ll cost them a virtual 7 mana. Surely you can stop them from getting to that? If not, well that’s what Abrupt Decay and Force of Vigor are for.

Played in: Karn decks, Moon Stompy

Submerge
Although this card doesn’t see a ton of play, the list wouldn’t be complete without it. Submerge is free, so you won’t see it coming. If you suspect they have it, you will want to avoid playing a Forest. This may involve Wastelanding your own duals if it’s already too late. At least you don’t have to draw Marit Lage next turn.

Played in: Infect, some RUG Delver

Aether Vial
Aether Vial is not an answer to Marit Lage in and of itself, of course. But it can represent an answer. At 4, it represents Palace Jailer, who’s regal prison is big enough to cage Lage. At 3, it represents Flickerwisp, a creature that despite being a 3/1 can somehow send Marit Lage to the shadowrealm and keep her there. At 2 it can represent a blocker like Kitesail Freebooter or Serra Avenger. Beware – that blocker might buy time for a Flickerwisp next turn. 

Played in: Death & Taxes, Humans, Goblins (though not as problematic in this last)

Karakas / Maze of Ith
These are answers you will see on-board before going off, so you will be able to avoid playing to them. Maze is only a temporary answer until you find Wasteland, Port, Needle, or anything else. More problematic is Karakas. Most Karakas decks are also Wasteland decks, and most (with the exception of DnT & Humans) run only 1 Karakas next to 4 Wasteland. Against these decks it can be better to make Marit Lage in their upkeep to dodge Wasteland, even knowing that they could have Karakas, simply because that’s how the odds play out. Of course, if you can play through Wasteland (eg, you have a Wasteland of your own), there’s no reason to take the risk. Many Karakas decks are also Crop Rotation decks, however, so be aware that G open can represent a surprise Karakas.

Played in: Lands, Depths, Death & Taxes, Humans, 12 Post, Eldrazi Stompy, some Infect


Thanks for reading! I hope this has been informative, even if many long-time players have already internalized a lot of this. My aim is for this to be a kind of living document, so if there are answers or play patterns I’ve missed, please don’t hesitate to contact me and let me know. Thanks!

BG Lands in Lands in the MTGO Legacy Challenge – 4/5/20, 35th

Good morning all y’all this is aslidsiksoraksi AKA ‘slid and we’re back with another grand tournament report with the world’s finest deck, Lands. This time we didn’t do too amazing, just a casual 5-3 and out of prizing on breakers but y’know what, I like making tournament reports and if you think 5-3 ain’t worth reading then just don’t read it, no one’s forcing you! So anyway… here we go!

The deck:

4 Life from the Loam
4 Exploration
4 Mox Diamond
4 Crop Rotation
You get it, this is Lands

4 Abrupt Decay
Sometimes people play permanents you have to interact with

2 Elvish Reclaimer
3 Sylvan Library
1 Cling to Dust
Consistency is king. And Cling to Dust seemed fun.

4 Thespian’s Stage
3 Dark Depths
1 Field of the Dead
Lands for winning

4 Rishadan Port
4 Wasteland
1 Ghost Quarter
Lands for your opponent not playing

1 Forest
1 Snow-forest
2 Bayou
2 Nurturing Peatland
1 Wooded Foothills
1 Windswept Heath
1 Misty Rainforest
Lands for casting spells

2 Maze of Ith
1 Karakas
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
1 Blast Zone
1 Ancient Tomb
1 Cabal Pit
Lands with cool effects (yes making 2 mana is a cool effect)

Sideboard:
1 Field of the Dead
2 Thoughtseize
2 Drop of Honey
4 Sphere of Resistance
2 Choke
2 Tireless Tracker
2 Force of Vigor
Answers and threats and the like

I ended up landing on straight BG because it is streamlined and has stable mana and because I didn’t have enough rental credit to play the BUG list I wanted (Uro, why you so expensive?). No regrets on the decklist side really, the deck played nicely and did exactly what it was supposed to do.

Rd 1 – RUG Delver (I won’t give names, I’ll let the MTGO people keep their anonymity)

We’re on the draw. They open on Trop, Ponder. I figure it’s delver or maybe some snowko pile. Play an Exploration and luckily they don’t Daze it. They play another land, pass. I play out two more lands, including stage, and I have a Crop Rot in hand. I figure I go for it if they tap out. They tap out for Oko. I rotate, it resolves, I win.

Bring in drops and chokes, cut some number of rotations and the lands that are bad (looking at you, Karakas). They open on a dual, Ponder. I play Ghost Quarter and Mox Diamond. Quarter them and well, you can’t find what isn’t there so they now have no lands. They miss their next land drop. I play Port and Reclaimer. They miss another land drop and scoop.

This was the fastest match of the round and the first round I ever played in a challenge… feeling good!

1-0, I love being a Phantom Tiger

Rd 2 – BUGr Snowko

I’m on the play with two Crop Rots, Exploration, and some mana. I play Exploration, play another land, pass. They play land, Astrolabe, go. I feel like I want to get some mana denial going so I rotate for port, start porting them. They land a Coatl followed by an Oko and elk their Astrolabe. I decay Oko. Start taking 4 a turn from the Elk and its lil Snake buddy. I’m sitting on a bunch of lands that don’t do anything and I’ve drawn 2 more Explorations that also… don’t do anything. They play Uro, he goes to the underworld, and I try to use my final Crop Rot for Bog so he won’t come back. They Force, I scoop. It’s possible I should have just gone for the combo with two Crop Rots and not bothered with the Port, but hey ya live and ya learn.

G2 I mull to five looking for green sources, never put much together, and get run over by the BUG value train. GGs.

1-1, my enthusiasm is tempered.

Rd 3 – Green Cloudpost

I’m on the play and my hand is 6 lands + Exploration. But there’s a stage, a waste, a port, and a Karakas, so I figure I can do stuff until I draw something good. Lead on Exploration, and another land. They start their story with the classic Once Upon A Time (though didn’t this story really begin with Exploration? I guess that was just the table of contents or something) and follow that up with Needle on Wasteland, which is sad because, well, I play Wasteland. I start porting them and play out a Reclaimer. They play a pair of Cloudposts and a Candelabra, which apparently is pretty good against Rishadan Port? Who knew. I draw into Depths, play it out with about a million lands in play. I opt not to Port so I can Port a Karakas should they have one. They don’t have one. Marit Lage rules the skies.

I board in Trackers and Thoughtseizes. Think about Spheres but decide against it as I don’t have a ton to cut. Don’t have much for this matchup but it’s pretty favorable anyway. I keep a hand that has Decay and a turn 2 Tracker. Draw Thoughtseize for the turn and Seize ’em up – they show a bunch of lands (3 Glimmerpost?) and a Crop Rotation.  When you have no choices, it’s an easy choice to make. I play Tracker, start wasting them out a bit, and keep their life to a respectably below-20 number. I’m just plugging away with my tracker and a Depths in play, when they play Stage and Stage MY Depths. The nerve! But actually this was all part of my master plan since I have a slow-rolled Karakas for this situation, so I actually just sorta stone-rained them. And we’re back on the Tracker beats. I’m playing Lands, wasting them, etc, until I find Crop Rotation. So at the end of one of these turns I decide I’ll rotate, and I sac my Karakas (it was that or Forest, and I wanted to keep up the option of Decay). I go to make Marit Lage, but they Rotate for their own Stage and make their own Marit Lage? Again? Dang. So now there’s two 20/20s staring at each other. The tension is just mind-boggling except I Loam back my Karakas, bounce theirs and that’s it baby.

2-1, Back in it!

Rd 4 – BUG Urza

From the moment they play turn 1 Emry I know this is gonna be a wild ride. I actually feel kinda like I’ma get ’em, because I go to Cling their first Emry activation. But they have the Force of Will for it. I guess they really wanted that Lotus Petal. Which actually makes sense, since I have them Waste-locked and all they have is an Emry in play. Fast forward a bit, they’re drawing a lot of cards with Emry+bauble, but I’m drawing a lot of cards with Loam. The difference is I have lands and they don’t. Eventually we take Emry to the Pits and I put together the combo. GG.

Bring in Force of Vigor, Thoughtseize and Tracker. Thought about Choke or Sphere but these lists are on less baubles and more threats, and also less Islands… didn’t seem worth it.

G2 I mull to 6 trying to find something fast but end up keeping 4 lands Loam, Library. I just play lands one at a time like a total chump, playing Library on turn 2 on the draw, which is not really that impressive when your opponent had turn 1 Emry and turn 2 Karn. They Petty Theft my Library just to add insult to injury. I play it out again. They don’t actually have a ton of pressure (surprised they didn’t go for Liquimetal Coating off Karn; they chose Crypt instead). But I’m just too far behind and they’re drawing too many cards and eventually they kill me.

G3 I have a hand with a fast Marit Lage via Crop Rotation as well as a bunch of Wastelands. I make Marit Lage on turn 2, decay their strix, and smack ’em for 20. A thing of beauty.

3-1, the rally is real!

Rd 5 – Monored Painter

I recognize their name, so I look them up on the ‘ol spreadsheet and see that they’re the Painter player I lost to just the day before. This is not a pleasant matchup. G1 I mull to 6, and I have a hand with Library, Cling, and the combo pieces, but no acceleration. I figure it’s fine since Cling is good against them. And lo and behold I draw Exploration and set up to summon the queen of darkness on turn 2. Their turn they tap out for Painter, so I make her on my turn to play around Blast on Stage/Depths. But then they play Ensnaring Bridge? Really? Who plays that card?? I play Library to start digging towards Decay, but they blast it. I play Reclaimer to find Blast Zone, but they play Magus of the Moon. I play Mox Diamond so I’ll have black mana, but they blast that too. At this point my out is drawing another Diamond, another land to pitch to it, AND the Decay. They set up the combo and I die. It started so well, how did it come to this?

I bring in Force of Vigor, Tracker, and Thoughtseizes. Think about Spheres but I’m not sure there’s enough to take out for ’em.

G2 we’re on another mull to 6, this time with just Exploration, Stage, and a lot of mana-denial. You have not lived until you’ve ported a City of Traitors and then they just have to sac it without getting the mana. Anyway, they play out some artifacts and stuff, including a Painter, but can’t seem to find much of anything else. I Thoughtseize them and see that they’re sitting on basically nothing. A couple turns later, we find Crop Rotation and, well, at this point you’ve probably figured out that Crop Rotation goes well with Stage. Feeling kinda lucky to have pulled that one out, they had a pretty weak draw.

G3 my hand is Decay, Thoughtseize, Peatland, 2x Port, & the combo. They open on Tomb > Ichor Wellspring. I Seize their hand, take their Bridge (phew), and see blast, lands, Recruiter, and a Sundering Titan. Spicy. I figure they can recruit Painter and then blast messes up my combo, but I can get there if they tap funny or I go fast. So imagine my surprise when they recruit not Painter, but Welder. In retrospect this makes a lot of sense since they can weld back Bridge and draw cards with Wellspring. Exploration speeds me up a turn, and I put it all out there. He’s got the active Welder, so I’m sure he thinks he’ll be fine. Shouldn’t have trusted a goblin to build a Bridge though, that thing was very susceptible to Decay.

4-1 and feeling strong. Had to get some luck to beat this one but Marit Lage really came through.

Rd 6 – Sneak & Show

The nemesis of all Lands players. The matchup isn’t as horrible as it’s rumored to be but it is not what you want to see. Also, maybe it’s just me but I can never tell if they’re on Show & Tell, early plays always look like slow delver or control hands. That’s what happens this G1, as I keep Crop Rot, Stage, Diamond, 2x Port, and some other stuff. I start the game off on the draw with Diamond + Port, follow it up with land, then another Port, and they’re on two tapped islands and miss a land drop. Feeling pretty fine. But next turn we learn just how traitorous a city can be when they go City + Petal into Show and Tell, and they show me Emrakul. I try to rotate for Karakas, but they Force me to stop. GG.

Board in Spheres and Choke and Trackers and Thoughtseize. Board out everything.

G2 plays out more or less how every win against Sneak does. I actually have a great hand despite a mull to 6. I Seize them, and they have 4 lands, Show, and Sneak. I take Show. Turn 2 I play Choke. Turn 3 I play Sphere and Port and start stone raining them. A couple turns later I’ve got the combo and Marit Lage comes out to upstage that other tentacle monster.

G3 I’m on the draw and my 7 is Diamond, Stage, Karakas, Wasteland, and mana. I think for a sec as I could maybe do something with Stage if I get lucky and Karakas is good… but nah, we need lock pieces. So I’m on a mull to 6 again with a fast Choke and Port via Exploration. Not fast enough though as they show Emmy turn 2. I can’t find Karakas and die. If I could have known the future before it was present, my past would certainly be different. Still, I think the mull was right.

4-2, a bit sad… but still live for top 32!

Rd 7 – Esper Vial

Ok these were long and grindy games for the most part so I’ll skip over some of the details. G1, otd, I keep Exploration, Diamond, Loam, Stage, and mana. They force the Exploration, which, ok, fair (I’m gonna draw another one next turn anyway). Their turn 2 sees them play Meddling Mage on Life from the Loam. Wow how did they know I play that card? It’s ok tho, I can just make a 20/20 if I can’t out-value them. Plus I can draw Decay as an out. Then they make another Mage, this one on Crop Rotation. Marit Lage slips further out of my grasp. I’m porting them but they’re hitting me for 4 a turn, then 5 thanks a Strix. I die with the named cards in hand.

Bring in Trackers, Choke, & Drop. Thought about bringing in Force of Vigor but I figure all it really hits is Vial and I have Decay for that if I really want. Board out weaker lands, a Depths, that kind of thing.

G2 I keep a hand light on mana but heavy on removal – Diamond, 2x Decay, Tab, Waste, Drop, and Library. T1 Library always feels good. They have t1 Vial, I decay it. They stall out for a bit on 2 lands, I deploy Tracker and Reclaimer. Reclaimer goes farming. Tracker is doing her whole investigating thing while my opponent throws out Recruiter for Meddling Mage. Mage names Loam, as all good Mages do. I’m at just 8 from Library, and their stuff represents a real threat, so I deploy Drop. It gets Forced. Luckily, I have some spare honey. Drop #2. But they keep spamming Recruiters and my Tracker eats another Swords… I’m pretty low on life and I’m forced to Decay the Mage. Drop keeps eating Recruiters and it kinda looks like they’ll be able to kill me through it. But Cabal Pit saves me by killing another creature and the board is clear. At this point it’s my Library, 2x Exploration, Choke, Stage, Blast Zone, Diamond, and Forest against their (tapped) Island, Plains, Swamp. My hand is 2 Diamonds, which may be worth a good chunk of money but are not worth a ton of wins right now (actually they’re not even worth money, this is MTGO and I rented them, but shhh). I find Port and now they’re on one swamp in their main phases. I find Depths, tap their plains to cut Swords, and kill them. Phew.

G3! I’m on a mull to 6 with another t1 Library-and-hope-it-finds-something hand. They’re playing and fetching duals, which is interesting. I guess they wanted WW so they could eat my Library with a Leonin Relic-Warder. I land Reclaimer, port them. They vial in Mage on Decay. My next turn I draw Wasteland, waste them to 1 land, and rotate for Tabernacle. Mage can’t pay his tithe and Decay is live again. Next turn, however, the Tabernacle is sort of hosing me as I have to pay for my Reclaimer and don’t have the mana to Loam back the Wasteland. In retrospect I probably should have just gone for it and let Reclaimer go so that I could waste their last land and wipe the board. Cuz now they find a basic, and by the time I waste them back to 1 mana, I’ve had to lose Reclaimer anyway. So now I’m Loaming away, but taking a few hits from their Relic-Warden. Decay their Vial to really choke their mana. Play a Tracker and a fetch. They attack Relic-Warden into it and I figure two clues and my Library back is a fair trade, so I block. Now I have a Library too! But they’ve got Rest in Peace 😦 My Decays are stretched real thin (this is why people play Punishing Fire). Anyway fast forward a bit and they have Mage, RiP, and they play Soulherder. I was planning to Decay RiP, but I’m too low on life and have to hit Soulherder to survive. Tracker comes out to block. But then Mom comes out to stop blocks. I’m one Mage hit from dying (Mage on Reclaimer, btw). Have to find Maze or Decay. Find Maze after cracking two clues; we’re back in it. I’m at 2, with Tracker + Maze and a ton of lands facing down Mom, Mage, Vial, RiP, and 4 basics. I think I can get there since I have just found Stage and Crop Rot, but it’ll take a few turns to play out. They play Soulherder. We’re still stable, block + Maze is good. Soulherder is getting bigger though… I find another Rotation and then Library shows me Choke. They scoop to Choke on their 2 tapped islands.

Very close games. BG is supposed to be worse against creature decks (and it is, a bit), but we still have a lot of good tools.

5-2, one more win and we’re in for prizes!

Rd 8 – Dredge

Well I told you how this ends at the beginning, but it’s really all about the journey isn’t it? Something like that anyway.

G1, they run me over. I needed to find Crop Rot for Tab, but couldn’t in time.

G2, I mull to 6 keeping Cling, Reclaimer, Diamond, Waste, Stage, Peatland. Play out Reclaimer & Peatland, hold up Cling (pitching Stage). Wanted Waste to make Tab good, wanted Peatland to make Cling happen on t1 while I couldn’t do anything with Reclaimer. They play rainbow land, Putrid Imp. I think I’m overvaluing Tab here, as I play Wasteland, waste them, and Rotate for Tabernacle to kill the Imp. Take those nasty zombies to church. In retrospect I probably should have held up Reclaimer to Bog them, but I figured they could play through that with Imp by just pitching a second dredger if I Bog the first. While that may be true, when they played Cephalid Coliseum, LED, Breakthrough, I realized my mistake, as Reclaimer for Bog could have broken that up quite nicely. After dredging about 40 cards, they have a ton of a zombies and a Hogaak. On my turn, I have to pay for Reclaimer (another unforeseen drawback). There are a couple more turns and I actually assemble the combo but it’s too late as they use Coliseum to pay for Gaak and their Ichorids get me.

Still learning the lines against Dredge for sure. Bog placement is a delicate thing.

5-3, and end up 35th on breakers. A bit disappointing but considering there were 190-something players and it was my first Challenge, I’ll take it.

Overall the deck felt great. While I think I might tweak a few cards, I really liked the stable manabase and the no-frills way this kind of build plays out. Library and Reclaimer give you a lot of consistency, and Decay gives you a lot of flexibility. You lack the recursive removal engines (barring Loam + Pit), so Vial matchups are worse, but I think Reclaimer and Tracker as big fat blockers are enough to balance those out in tandem with things like Drop of Honey. MVP of the day was probably Thoughtseize, though that little Cabal Pit over-performed for me as well.

Any comments on plays or general suggestions are welcome! And if you’re ever interested in watching me try to figure my way through matches with Lands, you can find me streaming at twitch.tv/aslidsiksoraksi_ (now with bonus DepthsCam for watching deep sea creatures!)

Thank you for reading 🙂

BUG Lands at the Denver Long Live Legacy Tournament – Top 4

Good morning folks, this is aslidsiksoraksi AKA ‘slid reporting in with some BUG Lands top 4 action from the Denver Long Live Legacy tournament. Wotc & StarCity hung legacy out to dry, but we brought it back in to get wet!

The list:

4 Exploration
4 Mox Diamond
4 Crop Rotation
4 Life from the Loam
play lands get lands

3 Oko, Thief of Crowns
3 Abrupt Decay
3 Sylvan Library
do stuff to the board. when will WotC finally print the planeswalker that is also a land?

4 Thespian’s Stage
3 Dark Depths
1 Field of the Dead
win cons

4 Rishadan Port
4 Wasteland
1 Ghost Quarter
mana denial

3 Wooded Foothills
1 Windswept Heath
1 Misty Rainforest
2 Tropical Island
1 Bayou
1 Nurturing Peatland
1 Waterlogged Grove
1 Forest
We do have to cast spells sometimes, unfortunately

2 Maze of Ith
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Karakas
1 Creeping Tar Pit
1 Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
1 Blast Zone
Lands with cool effects

Sideboard
2 Elvish Reclaimer
3 Sphere of Resistance
1 Chalice of the Void
2 Veil of Summer
2 Choke
1 Drop of Honey
1 Abrupt Decay
3 Force of Vigor
A bunch of stuff for fighting combo decks and some hedges against creatures

I played BUG Lands, and the list is largely a copy of lists by Shinji and others on the Lands discord. But according to my decklist sheet I played ‘the wonderful miracle of nature,’ created by God themself. Because if you think about it, land is a miracle of nature, and so is Lands.

Got to the venue early, kinda nervous because I have been bombing weeklies with the deck for the last month, which was also the entirety of the time I’ve been playing Lands. But I’m always happy to just jam some spells and maybe donate some wins to my buddies so… let’s do this.

rd 1 – Austin

While we shuffle, I see a cabal ritual on the bottom of his deck and I just mentally sigh and think to myself well I guess this is the kind of day I’m gonna have. Storm is not my best matchup.

Sure enough, g1 he sees mox diamond into stage and says ‘this is gonna be a fun matchup’ before paying life for cards off the top of his deck ad nauseum and storming me out.

I board in everything but drop of honey and abrupt decay and board out a bunch of creature-management lands, the loams, the libraries, and some other stuff.

g2 I keep tropical island, 2 veil, crop rotation, sylvan library, exploration, sphere of resistance. Trop, pass. He ponders. I cycle a veil, find a second land, then a third. Exploration, land, sphere. He’s looking sad. We durdle for a few more turns as he pays mana for his rocks, but I get there with a beautiful Dandan Artist Proof 20/20 token.

g3 I’ve got diamond, port, forest, fetch, crop rotation, and some other lands. He cantrips turn 1. I’m over here thinking well I can port him turn 1 that’s not so bad, but then my mind wanders to some bizarre idea that I should pitch the fetch to diamond or something… so naturally on my turn I play the fetch instead of the port and am instantly sad. Next turn port, port him. He cantrips. Turn 3 I play stage. I don’t port him. This is usually a tell that I have rotation and am going to kill you. But it could also be a tell that I have veil and am gonna blow you out. He sits there in the tank for a while. I pull my green land out to the side and sorta shake it there to remind him I could veil at any time. He passes the turn, I rotate end step and win. Turns out he had the kill but was spooked. Better lucky than good, I always say.

1-0, and, in the grand tradition of Angel Stompy reports, I am a Phantom Tiger

rd 2 – Dustin

Dustin is one of those badass pox players with their whole deck altered and signed and everything. Unfortunately pox is very bad against life from the loam and sylvan library. g1 I have t1 library and t2 oko. He does some stuff to stop me, and I’m at 3 life by the end (if you would taste the wisdom of the trees, be prepared to salt it with your blood), but I get there by elking my diamonds.

Bring in decay and some force of vigor. They have a lot of artifacts and enchantments. Cut some creature hate lands and shave a Loam since I want to be less graveyard-dependent.

g2 he’s got a thoughtseize for my library. I’ve still got exploration, crop rotation, and a few rishadan ports. So we go porting for a while and I do find a replacement Sylvan Library. I go very low on life against a pair of mishra’s factories, but eventually I find Loam, and then I find the combo. He’s got a bridge but Marit Lage has flying so why would this even stop her?? I dunno but Force of Vigor takes out the bridge and it’s smooth sailing.

2-0 I’m a phantom wurm. Hopefully stay a phantom all day.

rd 3 – Ivan

Ivan is a very nice person who is playing UR Delver. UR is kind of harder for Lands since they have basics. Abrupt Decay is in the deck in large part to deal with Arcanist, so you have to save it for that, and if they have a fast hand it can be difficult to get there.

g1 he has a fastish start, but I manage to stabilize around 10 life with my maze against his delver. He bolts me to 7 and I start to think is he really gonna bolt me all the way down? Kinda scary and I’m not playing chasm so… He bolts me again. 4 life. Then he plays bedlam reveler. At this point I’ve got 6 lands in play. I have a maze in play, a maze in the yard, a field of the dead in hand, and a life from the loam. I figure I can make the field for the zombie to block the reveler, but then I just lose to bolt or wasteland. Or I can loam for the maze and be safe against both creatures, and lose only to wasteland. I take the second line. He doesn’t have wasteland this turn, but he finds it the next. And wastes my Maze. I do get 1 zombie, but apparently stealing a zombie is just an act of petty theft? Seems like kind of a big theft to me since it stole the whole game… I die.

Bring in choke, decay, drop, and the reclaimers. Cut karakas, bog, field, and shave some rotations and loams.

g2 I have a diamond and a port and maybe a decay and a drop. I play a few lands and port him a bit, he cantrips for a delver. I drop the delver down, draw a choke. I sorta slow-roll it so that I can play around daze and land the choke against 1 untapped land. He doesn’t have his only real out of second land into brzen borrower, so I start porting his lands to keep him to 1 mana and he scoops shortly thereafter.

g3 was a nailbiter. I’m just playing some lands like a normal magic player, and mazing his little delver, when he has the audacity to drop a true-name nemesis. Now, I’m Persian and I can tell you that no two people say my name the same (and that’s not even mentioning my utter gibberish screenname). So I don’t even have a true name. But the universe rights itself as I draw the combo pieces and a wasteland to protect them against his wasteland. I even draw an exploration to do it a turn faster, and drop them all on the table. Make a 20/20 on his upkeep. He’s hitting me a bit but I’m at a higher life total than TNN can really race. He cantrips frantically. Passes. Our Snow Princess eats his delver. His turn. He ponders. I see it on his face – first card, no, second card, no, third card, shrug. Shrug is good for me. He draws that one, it’s a ponder, he ponders again. No luck. Handshake. We did it boys.

3-0 I’m a creature Magic has yet to print

rd 4 – Nathaniel

Nathaniel is a super nice guy who plays Death and Taxes. In the first game I have a turn 1 oko against his plains, go. I feel pretty good about this. He plays Thalia, I make an elk. He plays Flickerwisp and undoes two full turns of Oko-ing. I take back the part about him being nice. Oko starts taking some hits on his flawless abs and incredibly fat ass. I figure I can still get there, make another food, elk it. He flickers that one too! Oko dies. I die shortly thereafter.

I bring in decay, drop, force of vigors, and reclaimers. Shave on loams and cut bog and a few depths. The depths plan is bad here since they have karakas, swords, and vial’d flickerwisps to kill it, so you’re more on the grind plan.

g2 he gets out ahead kind of fast, with thalia against my oko again, with a vial also joining the party. I play drop of honey, he plays stoneforge. I start to eat his creatures as well as the elked vial, while oko starts taking some minor hits. I elk the sofi he found and there’s a bit of a snafu where drop should have been sacrificed the turn before and I get a warning but we restore the game to everyone’s satisfaction. At this point I’m at about 7 from library and random beats, and he’s got elked sofi and no cards in hand because he’s just dropping a bunch of dorks into play. I find a Loam and waste his Karakas but it’s not looking good until… I find crop rotation to go with my stage. He goes for a lethal attack, but here’s a surprise 20/20. Got there.

g3 sees me have double port and tabernacle against his revoker. Revoker beats me down a bit but I eventually draw crop rotation to pair with my stage. Again I do the cute thing where I don’t port them out completely, inviting them to please, sir, cast a spell. He obliges by tapping out for I think Thalia. I rotate in response and that’s all she wrote.

4-0 I’m an Everlasting Lich. Record so good they only printed it on a playtest card.

I ID into top 8. 4-0-2, second seed. Top 8 doesn’t want to split because top 4 makes so much more or something like that so we play it out.

Quarterfinals – Matt Nass

Kinda spooked to play against Matt Nass as I’ve heard tell he’s pretty good, to put it mildly. He’s on elves today, which I guess makes sense, but I’ve only played against elves once with Lands and I remember losing in no short order. Looks like only baby prizes for me 😦

g1 I mull to 5. He has t1 green sun’s for arbor. I have exploration into a non-wasteland. Turn 2 sees some more dweebs, including elvish visionary. I play a turn 2 oko and make a food. Turn 3, more dweebs and a symbiote to go with the visionary. This guy likes to draw cards. On my turn I’m feeling very lucky as I find the combo and play it out. Maybe we get there? Nope, he has natural order. Good game.

I board in Chalice, drop, reclaimers, and a couple spheres. Maybe should have brought the rest of the spheres in but I figure I have to go fast too so I shouldn’t hamper myself too much. I board out bog, karakas, maybe a loam… the usual suspects.

g2 I’m on the play. Trop, exploration, stage. He green sun’s again for the arbor. Turn 1 I could play two more lands and rotate for the combo, but I figure elves can also just kill you sometimes. In retrospect, maybe not on turn 2, but I have been turn 2’d by them before so… Instead, I play the lands, rotate for the depths, and play the chalice on 1. He squints into the green sun and sees a visionary, draws a card. I untap, he plays nothing really important, and I kill him. All tied up baby. Maybe we can actually do this.

g3 I have what I imagine to be the nut draw of exploration, stage, tabernacle, port, wasteland, life from the loam, and a fetch. So I play exploration stage again. He plays dryad arbor. I waste it, play the port. He plays cradle. I loam, waste it. He misses a land drop and I’m feeling pretty great. Next turn though he finds a forest and plays needle. I copy port, with stage, he names port. On my turn I have the decay for the needle and I port him out. But he has yet another land and plays Quirion Ranger. That guarantees him one green mana a turn. I’ve seen what elves can do with that mana. Not cool buddy. I play the tabernacle to try and choke him out a bit more, and start loaming for the combo. He plays a nettle sentinel. He’s got two creatures. I find the combo, play it out. We got lethal next turn, and I’m holding up a decay to go with it. No way we lose this. On his turn, he bounces his forest and plays heritage druid. Makes three green mana. Casts glimpse. Maybe we do lose? 2 green floating. He plays symbiote. 1 Green floating, and two tapped elves. He plays Nettle Sentinel. Nothing floating, 1 untapped elf in play, and 1 symbiote untap available. I figure this is the choke point and decay the Heritage druid.

Turns out that the line worked. He couldn’t make more mana and glimpse fizzled. Praise Lage.

Top 4 split. Since the first place seed lost to 8th, I technically got 1st place, which is the best kind of first place. Great tournament.

Deck felt good. A bit torn on Oko. He definitely won some games either directly by messing with the board or indirectly by just stalling things out. He fills the ‘repeated removal prison piece’ spot for the deck, which is nice. But I think I want to switch to more traditional lists, possible Jund. Decay was amazing all day, so I don’t think I want to give that one up just yet.

Props to Rob and Vilo for setting this up, Wizard’s Chest for hosting, the Black Gold crew for putting 3 in the top 4 and being generally awesome and supportive, Peter for lending me the Chalice that won me a game in the quarters, everyone in the area for coming out and making this a great event (biggest we’ve had in ages and first of many, I hope), and to Marit Lage for being the true queen of the night.

Thanks!

Oh and if you ever want to watch me fumble my way through leagues with Lands: twitch.tv/aslidsiksoraksi_