Lands, as its name would suggest, plays a very light, but exceptionally powerful, suite of spells. It aims to resolve these spells on the very first turns of the game, and then never worry about again. The exception to this being, naturally, Life from the Loam.
Life from the Loam
This is our bread and butter. This is what enables the deck to exist, and, in a deck full of lands, it is often touted as the legacy- legal ”draw 3 cards” in this deck. It not only returns lands to hand to be used again, but enables digging for those lands as well, via the dredge mechanic. In conjunction with Wasteland, it is a powerful tool for slowing our opponents down and wearing down their resources. In conjunction with Thespian’s Stage and Dark Depths, it allows us to represent a 20/20 monster ideally every turn. With silver bullet lands like Karakas, Bojuka Bog, The Tabernacle at PendrellVale, each of whose value waxes and wanes according to the matchup, we can easily find and counteract our opponents gameplan. It should go without saying, but never play less than 4 copies.
Verdict: Play 4
While Loam is the deck’s bread and butter, this card pushes the Loam engine over the edge. Allowing us to make multiple land drops per turn, it allows us to Wasteland/Port our opponent while putting us ahead on mana, permits us to combo every turn in the mid to late game, and is generally necessary to leverage Loam most effectively.
Playing 4 copies ensures the probability of having it in one’s opener, but generally having copies 2 through 4 in play is redundant and often unneeded. You want to play no less than 4 copies in the deck, however, since the first one is so impactful.
There has been some back and forth on the number of copies to be played, but it is mainly a personal preference. The generally accepted standard is 4 copies, however there are some very successful Japanese players who prefer a 3-1 split between Exploration and Manabond (Hori Masataka, to name one such player), so your mileage may vary. Whether the 4th Exploration would be better as a Manabond is mainly up to personal taste, but I personally encourage playing no less than four.
Verdict: Play 4
Often accurately called the ”one mana land tinker”, this card allows us to single- handedly tutor a land from our deck, at instant speed, to answer any problem, for the low cost of one green mana and sacrifice of a land, which Loam naturally mitigates. This card allows for end of turn 20/20s, is a maindeck answer to a Reanimate on the stack thanks to Bojuka Bog, and is in general, a very powerful card. While being arguably one of the best cards in the deck, it does lose equity in the face of counterspells since the sacrifice of a land is part of the cost: something to be considered while sideboarding. Playing 4 copies is a must, if one is playing Dark Depths and Thespian’s Stage.
Verdict: Play 4
A necessary 4 of, it is one of the best cards in the deck in opening hands, allowing us to have 2 mana on turn 1 without any significant drawback thanks to Loam. In many cases, playing a turn 1 Mox Diamond and loaming back the discarded land sets up our engine nicely while fixing our mana and putting us ahead of our opponents. In the lategame however, it can be a terrible draw. Still, 4 of is essential to ensure we have acceleration in our opening hand.
Verdict: Play 4
Core Spells Total: 16
These are all the spells necessary to make the deck tick. Playing 16 spells gives us plenty of room to play all the LANDS we could ever want! Generally, a land count of 34-36 is the accepted standard. The 8-10 slots that remain give rise to the various flavours/colour combinations of Lands, which we will look at in different sections. However, if you’re new to the archetype, I suggest you look at the staple lands before exploring the different forms of Lands.
The remainder of this section deals with green and colorless spells that are often included in Lands decks. While these are not necessarily requirements for every build of Lands, they are common inclusions and worthy of consideration for all Lands archetypes.
Allowing you to transform life into card advantage, Sylvan Library is a back- breaking turn 1 play against most fair decks, providing you with an easy way to get ahead of your opponents and stay ahead. It works especially well with Life from the Loam since dredging Loam does not count as one of the cards drawn with Library. What this means is that if you dredge, you will have to pay life for any cards you draw that are not dredged. However, should you have multiple Loams to dredge, you can dredge them without having to pay any life for them, no matter how many you want to get back. This means you could see as many as nine new cards if you have three Loams in the graveyard.
Sylvan Library serves as a secondary engine next to Life from the Loam, and most Lands builds will have at least 2, often 3 in colors that cannot play tutors for Loam itself.
Crucible of Worlds
Loam number 5, Crucible of Worlds is great in the matchups where Surgical Extraction can be expected. Sadly it does not dig for cards like Loam does, so while worthy of being in the 75, it is not as good as Loam itself. Oko, Thief of Crowns adds insult to injury by turning it into an oversized land mammal. Still great in most matchups however, and it does have the advantage of letting you use the same land repeatedly in a single turn if you have Exploration in play.
A great colourless answer to problematic permanents like Oko, Thief of Crowns, Dreadhorde Arcanist and other high loyalty/toughness permanents, Engineered Explosives’ utility is inversely proportionate to the number of colours being played. It is also weak to the increased countermagic present in the format, and can be rather mana intensive, as well as be mediocre in the face of Oko. If you are playing blue, it becomes more useful since it can be reused with Academy Ruins, but more on that later.
These cards instead either hose entire archetypes or easily swing the game in your favour yet are generally too narrow to be played maindeck. However all of these have seen sideboard play at one time or another, and most still do:
A repeatable 2 mana crop rotation? I’m listening. And it becomes a sizeable clock with little to no mana investment? Sure, I’ll take four! Talk about the little elf that could!
While playing 4 is overkill, this card is very good. Its utility cannot be under- stated, as it
– Gets any land we need, or the combo.
– Can stonewall opposing creatures.
– Is a relatively fast clock.
– Can easily be cast under Spheres.
This card generally supplants Tireless Tracker (see below) in many builds, as it is usually bolt proof too. Either are fine, it depends on personal preference. Usually played in 2-3 copies.
Another all star Lands has gotten in the last 5 years, it transforms land drops into card advantage, all the while becoming a sizeable clock. While still a great card, its small body and its mana cost have contributed to its decrease in popularity of late, as Field of the Dead and Elvish Reclaimer have largely supplanted it in most lists. It performs better than Reclaimer against Eldrazi, but Reclaimer is generally stronger against combo, which is in many ways more relevant. Nonetheless, Tracker remains an excellent all around choice that gives Lands a win condition that does not depend on the graveyard. Usually played in 2-3 copies.
Excellent hoser of the cantrip cartel, it punishes greedy blue decks and has great synergy with Rishadan Port. It is a must counter permanent that will run away with the game upon resolution. Great against any blue heavy deck, which is a majority of the legacy metagame. Usually played in 2-3 copies.
Manabond can lead to some of the most explosive openers Lands is capable of. You can set up Marit Lage as early as turn 1 or get field online as early as turn 2, for example. In some situations it can function as having several Explorations in play at once.
Unfortunately, it also does not do much past turn one unless you have Life from the Loam as well. Choosing to use it also makes it impossible to cast any reactive spells, maybe for the rest of the game. Because of its all-in nature, it is usually dropped in favor of Explorations. Still, some lists play one, sometimes over the 4th Exploration. It is exceptionally good in lists that want to maximize Field of the Dead.
A great card, however the Split Second effect has had less relevance since the departure of Sensei’s Divining Top. Still great for hitting Batterskull and Aether Vial, as well as Grindstone, though the flexibility and relevatively free cost of Force of Vigor (see below) somewhat outclasses it. Usually played in 1-3 copies.
Force of Vigor
Two for the price of one? And can be cast for free under a Blood Moon? Consider me convinced! This card is gas. It always being a 1 for 1 and often a 2 for 1 is very, very good, to a point that it has ousted Krosan Grip (the card previously played in the sideboard) as the Enchantment/Artifact removal spell of choice. Great for dealing with Blood Moon, Leyline of the Void, Back to Basics and Rest in Peace, as well as pesky artifacts. An all around solid card from Modern Horizons.
Worth noting, by the way, is that Force of Vigor’s alternate casting cost is worthless in the face of the Karn the Great Creator and Mycosynth Lattice lock. Because Mycosynth Lattice makes all cards colourless, one is no longer able to exile a green card as part of its alternate casting cost. Nonetheless, it’s general utility, especially against commonly played graveyard hate, means that you’ll usually see 2-3 copies in Lands sideboards.
Drop of Honey
This card, an reference to the folktale ”The Drop of Honey” from One Thousand and One Nights, a collection of Arabian fables, is a boon against creature heavy decks. For the low cost of one green mana, it continuously reduces the power on the battlefield, while at the same time impeding your opponent from committing further to the board. Coupled with Tabernacle and mana denial in the form of Wasteland and Rishadan Port, it can easily overwhelm opposing creature decks.
Not played much until the printing of True-Name Nemesis, it is now somewhat common in the sideboard as a way of keeping the battlefield clear as well as removing hard to remove threats like the aforementioned True-Name Nemesis. That said, when True-Name Nemesis is less popular, it becomes less necessary to play Drop. It’s also worth mentioning that Drop of Honey is expensive in paper. If cost is a limiting factor, it’s role can be played by cards such as Kozilek’s Return or Engineered Explosives. Usually played in 1-2 copies.
Veil of Summer
Pyroblast/Red Elemental Blast on steroids, it makes all of your spells uncounterable until EoT, as well as making you and your permanents hexproof from blue and black, and would be worthy of consideration on that count alone. However, it also draws a card if an opponent has cast a blue or black spell in the turn it was cast. This card has so many applications, both reactive and proactive, it would require an article all by itself.
Some important ones are as follows:
– Veil allows you to force through lock pieces, like Chalice and Choke, against counter heavy decks, neutering their ability to play Magic.
– Veil protects your permanents from Decay and Marit Lage from an Oko, Thief of Crowns +1 activation or a Brazen Borrower.
– Veil protects your combo against Assassin’s Trophy.
– Veil protects you from discard, turning it into a 2 for 0 when played in response.
– Veil protects your permanents from bounce spells like Vapor Snag and Hurkyl’s Recall.
– Veil protects Loam from Surgical Extraction; merely choose to dredge in response when Veil draws you a card.
– Veil protects Crop Rotations, which are usually a prime target for opposing counterspells.
-Veil protects you from Intuition and Predict, as well as Jace the Mind Sculptor.
This card is very powerful, and allows for some great proactive and reactive plays. Don’t leave home without it. Usually played in 2-3 copies.
Sphere of Resistance/Thorn of Amethyst/Chalice of the Void
This trio of cards make the faster combo matchups winnable, and are a necessity in a Lands sideboard. A split is fine, based on personal preference and taste, but playing any less than 4 total is a mistake. The card does serious work with Choke/Rishadan Port. It can be used against cantrip decks as well as combo decks such as storm, but in matchups where tempo is important such as Delver, Sphere can be a bad idea. That said, it can slow down blue-based control decks quite dramatically and is excellent if you have Dark Depths/Stage threatening them so that they have to hold up mana.
Sphere of Resistance is usually played in 4 copies. Often a 5th copy of the effect is played as Thorn of Amethyst, however, and Chalice of the Void has seen play as well, depending on personal taste.
Nissa, Vital Force
Such a great planeswalker in slower matchups, it makes for a fast clock as it can use its ultimate ability after one activation, where all of your land drops become redraws. Its + ability turns your lands into big 5/5 beaters, and its – ability returns any permanent to hand from the gy. So, what’s not to like?
Its mana cost mainly. While being a huge counter magnet, it also is seriously outclassed by some of the other 2019 planeswalkers, like Oko, Thief of Crowns and Karn the Great Creator. When played, it is played in 1-2 copies, as a way to defeat control decks and Death & Taxes.
Another powerful ”sphere effect,” it is a potential sideboard choice as a fifth sphere effect, similar to Chalice of the Void or Thorn of Amethyst , given both its synergy with classic sideboard staples such as Krosan Grip and Tireless Tracker, as well as Rishadan Port. In multiples it is quite bad however, and therefore usually only one is played, when it is played at all. Usually played in 0-1 copies
Once a worthy consideration in the SB, it had fallen out of favour until very recently. Now however, with the printing of Field of the Dead (and other cards), it is enjoying a bit of a resurgence. It can be a very valuable card in fair matchups, as itis easily ramped into, and provides value even if immediately removed. Titan is enjoying a resurgence in some unique Maverick-Lands hybrids, thanks also to the printing of Dryad of the Ilysian Grove. These decks which have a playstyle very similar to the Amulet Titan deck from modern. When played, it is over (or alongside) Elvish Reclaimer or Tireless Tracker generally, and played in 1-2 copies.
Boseiju, Who Shelters All
A relic of the past, this card used to be great against CounterTop decks, allowing for the casting of Loam even under a counterbalance lock, as they had no real way of dealing with it.
Nowadays, with the departure of Sensei’s Divining Top, Boseiju is not as useful. While it still has applications in some matchups, Field of the Dead has taken its spotlight, as it is generally better in the matchups where you want Boseijiu. Still worthy of consideration, as Lands has ways of mitigating the life-loss, but there are certainly better options. The choice is up to you, it is very meta-dependent however. Usually played in 0-1 copies.
Another new addition to our arsenal, it has surprising amounts of flexibility despite the narrowness in application it would seem to present, as it painlessly answers problematic cards such as Dreadhorde Arcanist as well as counters Show and Tell, two must answer cards. It also handily cleans up most of Death and Taxes creatures, as well as removes unflipped Delvers. Dependent on meta, it is usually played when combo is rampant. Usually played in 0-1 copies.
The preceding cards are the main choices available to green. As green is the core color of Lands decks, these are thus the core spells available to all variants of Lands. More sideboard cards are available as colours are splashed and will be indicated in their respective sections. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy exploring the different archetypes.