In order to better appreciate the sideboard choices made, let us analyze first the typically played sideboard cards against Lands. The most commonly played sideboard hate cards encountered as a Lands pilot generally involve graveyard hate first and foremost, and then subsequently non basic land hate.
1. Opposing Graveyard Hate
Graveyard hate can be divided into two main categories: Targeted and Mass Removal. Targeted removal includes cards like Surgical Extraction, Scavenging Ooze and occasionally Faerie Macabre:
Generally, any Snapcaster or Delver deck will play Surgical Extraction. This is to be expected, as Snapcaster Mage allows fair blue decks to recurr Surgical Extractions by flashing them back for maximum efficiency and flexibility, given the instant nature of both cards. The presence of Surgical is even further exacerbated by the printing of Mystic Sanctuary, allowing fair blue decks to repeatedly use Surgical Extraction by simply putting it back on top of their deck.
Surgical Extraction can be played around by simply holding up Grove of the Burnwillows if the target is Punishing Fire, or a cycle land if the target is Life from the Loam. Indeed, cycling occurs at instant speed and is essentially ”uncounterable,” so it is an ideal way to save our Loams. When used in conjunction with Crop Rotation for either Grove or a Canopy Land, it is rather simple to protect against Surgical Extraction, provided one plays attentively. Similar play patterns also allow us to deal with Faerie Macabre.
Scavenging Ooze is probably the second most common form of targeted graveyard hate, but unlike others it can often show up in opposing maindecks. It is harder to play around because, while played in only a few decks such as Maverick or Nic Fit, it is tutorable by Green Sun’s Zenith and serves as a clock in addition to graveyard hate.
Unlike targeted graveyard hate, mass graveyard removal instead is usually played in slower, more grindy fair matchups. In particular, Death and Taxes tends to play Rest in Peace (though Surgical Extraction and Faerie Macabre are not unheard of) while Leyline of the Void is played by 4C Loam, Maverick, every variant of Post, and occasionally in Reanimator. Naturally, expect a slight amount of variation depending on metagame; the above is just a basic rule of thumb.
Against these cards there are two main things to remember. First, bring in enchantment and artifact removal. Force of Vigor in particular shines in these kinds of matchups as it can often destroy both their graveyard hate piece and a tertiary artifact like Aether Vial or Chalice of the Void. Second, you can play around these to some extent by not keeping hands that are too dependent on the graveyard. In sideboarded games you should in general not lean as heavily on the graveyard as your opponent will be ready for it in one way or another, but if your hand is just utterly cold to Leyline, for example, you should consider whether it is strong enough to risk that.
You can also cycle to return a Loam in response to Rest in Peace to have it in hand and rebuild after Rest in Peace is removed; similar moves can be made against opposing Bojuka Bogs as well. Still, if no answer is found, you will need to rely on other tools in the matchup. This is why you often find Lands sideboards with one or two non-graveyard based threats that are brought in to supplement the primary game plan.
2. Nonbasic Land Hate
Among the non-basic land hate cards we have the following four: Blood Moon, Back to Basics, Winter Orb and From the Ashes. All of these are very mean and not allowed so if you’re planning to play them against Lands players just don’t.
Joking aside, From the Ashes is probably the scariest, as it is often a lategame one-sided Armageddon that can reset us to the beginning of the game, making it very hard to rebuild (though not impossible). This card is to be expected from the 4/5C ”Snowko” decks, that hinge on Arcum’s Astrolabe to fix their mana and cast all their spells. It really cannot be played around, outside of very specific sideboard choices (which we will explore below).
Blood Moon is far less scary with the printing of Force of Vigor, as we can remove it for free without having to worry about having access to our green source. In fact, Blood Moon can even be a liability for our opponents since it causes Dark Depths to enter the battlefield without any counters, as it is a mountain. Hence, this can be used to a Lands’ players advantage, by simply playing Depths before destroying the 3 mana enchantment, getting a free 20/20 in the process. Nonetheless, Blood Moon is still quite strong against us and is often played by Red Prison, sometimes by Reanimator (in the form of Magus of the Moon) and sometimes can be seen from the 4/5C ”Snowko” decks and UR Delver.
With the existence of Mox Diamond, Blood Moon, Back to Basics and Winter Orb become far less scary, at times even hindering opponents (especially Winter Orb) more than us. We can simply play around these cards by holding up mana/land drops and waiting until we have enough to cast Krosan Grip or the aforementioned Force of Vigor, not to mention through simply cycling through our lands and getting them back with Life from the Loam. Indeed, Winter Orb, while good on paper, in practice rarely does much against us.
Expect Back to Basics from Snowko decks, Stoneblade, and generally any fair blue deck that plays a large number of basics. Expect Winter Orb occasionally out of Delver decks. Other miscellaneous cards may include enchantment removal, such as Golgari Charm for our Explorations, Force of Vigor for our Explorations and Moxen, as well as Disenchant, or such cards like Cataclysm. These will be discussed more specifically in the different matchups below.
3. Sideboard Choices
The prime reason Lands enjoys such a longstanding and privileged position in the Legacy metagame is mainly due to its resiliency and its raw power against fair decks in game one. Being excellent at preying on fair strategies, it is in turn far worse against combo decks, with Show and Tell and High Tide being mostly unwinnable before sideboarding (and even pretty difficult in games 2 and 3). Hence the sideboard is generally broken up into 3 main categories of cards, with a couple flex spots left over to be chosen at the pilot’s personal discretion.
These three categories are:
- Enchantment and Artifact Removal
- Answers to Combo and Sphere Effects
- Non Graveyard Dependent Win Conditions
Generally these choices are dependent on pilot preference but it is highly recommended to play some of the above, especially for people unfamiliar with the deck.
Enchantment and Artifact Removal
These cards (primarily Krosan Grip and Force of Vigor) are essential for removing the enchantments and artifacts opponents may pit against us, many of which have been noted above. Rather self-explanatory, we bring these cards in from our sideboard in nearly every matchup. In addition to the fair matchups where we want enchantment/artifact removal, we also bring them in vs such decks like Sneak and Show/Omnitell (Krosan Grip is a great card here), as well as the various flavours of Painter Combo (Krosan Grip is another slam dunk here as well). We generally play anywhere between 2-4 copies of these types of effects, as they are important to ensure our Loam engine remains active and that access to the graveyard remains. That said, they become less necessary than one might think because we also bring in the third category, Non Graveyard Dependent Win Conditions, as an accompanying strategy.
Answers to Combo and Sphere Effects
Usually the largest subset of cards played in a sideboard, this is to compensate for our abysmal combo matchups before sideboarding. In some cases these matchups dramatically improve after sideboarding (ANT/Storm being one, Reanimator being another), while others still remain poor (Show and Tell, Painter depending on build).
These cards can range anywhere from Trinisphere to Thorn of Amethyst, to Sphere of Resistance and even Chalice of the Void; nowadays, given the speed of the format, Mindbreak Trap is also a card worthy of consideration. The distribution of these cards is highly pilot dependent, but one usually plays anywhere between 4 to 7 of such effects, as they are crucial for our worst matchups. These cards should always be brought in against combo decks, to varying degrees of efficiency (Storm and Reanimator being the most effective, Sneak and Show, Painter and other more fringe combo decks being less so).
Sphere effects can also be useful against slower cantrip-based decks like 4c Control or the other “Blue Soup” decks. In tandem with cards like Choke or Rishadan Port they can lock control players out of the game and allow us time to make use of our slower win conditions like Field of the Dead. Cards like Sphere that can play this dual role against both combo and fair decks (Pyroblast is another example) are particularly valuable in a Lands sideboard.
Non-Graveyard Dependent Win Conditions
These cards are necessary to supplement our gameplan in games 2/3 when our opponent brings in graveyard hate/land hate. We want these cards a large majority of the time, as a way to clock our opponents without relying on the graveyard, especially in slower matchups. While nowadays Field of the Dead does a lot of the work for us, as it has exceptional synergy with Sphere of Resistance and other taxing effects, some sideboard slots should still be allotted to this category of cards.
The primary tools in this group are usually creatures or planeswalkers like Tireless Tracker, Primeval Titan, Oko, Thief of Crowns, Chandra, Awakened Inferno, Nissa, Vital Force or Elvish Reclaimer. In the past, cards like Knight of the Reliquary and Dark Confidant could see play as well. Before up to 4 sideboard spots were dedicated to this category, however with the adoption of Field of the Dead the need for such cards has lessened, though they are still invaluable in several matchups.
This leaves a couple spots free to be filled as the pilot desires. There are a myriad of choices, but the most common ones are Drop of Honey (for creature matchups), Pyroblast/Red Elemental Blast (for countering/destroying hay maker blue cards like True Name Nemesis and Back to Basics), and graveyard hate, generally in the form of Leyline of the Void (for Reanimator/ANT/Dredge as well as the mirror and other value based graveyard decks like Stryfo Pile).
This concludes the overview of our Sideboard Choices, now we will see how our matchups face up.
In any open field the following decks are to be expected:
Before continuing, however, I ought to provide a quick disclaimer. The following section is to be taken as a general guide as to what sideboard cards to value in the corresponding matchups, as well as an aid in understanding why such choices are made. Hence it is not a hard and fast guide, set in stone. The best advice I can offer is to play with Lands to get a feeling for your own preferences and playstyle, as personal experience trumps any guide. Many sideboarding choices are highly dependent on personal taste and playstyle, and of course on metagame changes. So the following section of the primer seeks only to offer explanation regarding the choice of certain cards over others.
In addition, I will be using the following terminology to describe matchups:
Very Favoured/Unfavoured (65/70+ to 35/30-) Favoured/Unfavoured (55/65 to 45/35)
Slightly Favoured/Unfavoured (55/45 to 45/55 and) Even (50/55 to 50/45)
So without further ado, let’s get to the individual matchups themselves.
RUG/BUG/Grixis/UR Delver – Even to Favoured
For a complete article on the Delver matchup written by Lands master alli, check here.
In this matchup we are generally favoured, as we often adopt the prison/control role, seeking to use Wasteland on their mana sources, and use board control like Tabernacle and Maze of Ith to avoid life loss. This is especially true against the 3+ colour versions of Delver, as they typically play no basics. This means our Ghost Quarter is essentially Strip Mine in those matchups, and we can easily tax/lock them out of the game in all three games. The matchup is closer now however, thanks to Force of Negation, Brazen Borrower and Dreadhorde Arcanist, as they can now exile Life from the Loam in game 1 and keep hands with less action and more counters thanks to the extreme card advantage Dreadhorde Arcanist provides.
You are the prison deck here, but it is generally unwise to board in Sphere of Resistance, as it can often lock us out of the game more than it does them. Notably, Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath is one of our best cards in the matchup, as they have no real way of dealing with it out side of tempo plays (like bouncing it), and it permits us to stabilize against early aggression thanks to its lifegain as well as stonewall opposing creatures and churn through our library.
Against Delver and really any deck playing Wasteland, it may be prudent to make the Marit Lage token before your opponent’s first main phase on their turn, as it cuts off their ability to play Wasteland and have an answer to our Dark Depths. This is true for both Delver, as well as 4C Loam and Turbo Depths, not to mention Maverick and Death and Taxes.
The best cards in the matchup is uncounterable creature removal like Blast Zone and Abrupt Decay as well as Wasteland and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath (nearly impossible for them to remove). 3C versions are generally soft to Wasteland lock, so getting it online is a good idea. Be careful of Surgical Extraction on Loam, which can be played around with cycle lands/canopy lands. We usually mitigate this by boarding out some number (usually 2) of Loams and hedging on non graveyard wincons as well. Crop Rotation is generally bad vs permission decks, as it can be an easy 2 for 1, which is not ideal against Wasteland decks.
Veil of Summer can be great for ensuring lock pieces like Chalice of the Void(on one) and Choke resolve, spelling often game over, or even protecting from a bounce spell on Marit Lage. Blasts are great for destroying blue permanents or countering True Name Nemesis/Force of Negation on Loam.
For more information on the Delver matchup, see the guide written by alli here.
Out: Crop Rotation, Gamble, Karakas, Bojuka Bog, Ancient Tomb, Sylvan Library, Life from the Loam (1-2), Glacial Chasm, Academy Ruins, Tolaria West, Field of the Dead (unless playing UG).
In: Drop of Honey, Engineered Explosives, Pyroblast,Red Elemental Blast, Choke, Elvish Reclaimer, Tireless Tracker, Oko, Thief of Crowns, Veil of Summer, Warping Wail, Boil, Chalice of the Void (on one for Dreadhorde Arcanist), Crucible of Worlds, Leyline of the Void (if Grixis, as it makes Gurmag Angler and Dreadhorde Arcanist far worse).
Cards they bring in: Surgical Extraction, Vapor Snag, Brazen Borrower, Winter Orb, possibly artifact destruction like Ancient Grudge (rare however).
4/5C Snowko Control – Even
While we were previously favoured against 4C control decks generally, today the matchup is much more even thanks to the plethora of tools the archetype has received. Between Arcum’s Astrolabe hurting our Wasteland strategy and fixing their mana to play all sorts of spells (Abrupt Decay to name one), Force of Negation randomly exiling Life From the Loam, and the presence of non-basic land hate thanks to Astrolabe in the form of From the Ashes/Back to Basics/Blood Moon, the matchup is far closer than it was pre-Modern Horizons.
The matchup is favoured for UG builds, as Field of the Dead is nearly unbeatable (Back to Basics does essentially nothing against it) and allows us to present a clock as fast as such cards like Oko, Thief of Crowns and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. For other flavours of Lands, the matchup is even. Sylvan Library is one of our best cards in the matchup, especially in tandem with lifegain. Tolaria West can be quite good as well.
Among the best cards in the matchup is the aforementioned Sylvan Library, as it allows us to refill our hand with ease. Another one is Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Primeval Titan, especially when paired with Cavern of Souls. The main gameplan in this matchup is to get Field of the Dead online as fast as possible while slowing down your opponent via Wasteland and Sphere of Resistance.
Be careful of From the Ashes, as there is not really a way to combat it directly outside narrow options such as Warping Wail and Hydroblast/Blue Elemental Blast.
In this matchup you are generally the beatdown, as it is hard to keep up once they get their engine of Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Oko, Thief of Crowns online. However, it is rather easy to clock them quickly, especially with more focused builds such as UG. Dark Depths is not generally the way you win, as they have Ice-Fang Coatl, Swords to Plowshares and lifegain from Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Oko, Thief of Crowns to put them over 20.
Be wary of singletons such as Cling to Dust in game one, which is sometimes played in the maindeck. A good idea is to use either Engineered Explosives or Blast Zone to destroy their Astrolabes, as the deck is rather reliant on them. Force of Vigor is another option provided you have other answers to their enchantments.
Out: Crop Rotation (2-4), Ancient Tomb, Life From the Loam (1), Glacial Chasm, Dark Depths, (1-2, depending on if they play white). Punishing Fire (1), Tabernacle (unless you see Monastery Mentor).
In: Tireless Tracker, Oko, Thief of Crowns, Primeval Titan, Chandra, Awakened Inferno, Nissa, Vital Force, Pyroblast, Red Elemental Blast, Force of Vigor, Krosan Grip, Choke, Boil, Sphere of Resistance/, Thorn of Amethyst, Veil of Summer.
Cards they bring in: Surgical Extraction, Leyline of the Void (rare), Back to Basics, From the Ashes, Blood Moon, Return to Nature, Disenchant, Assasin’s Trophy.
Death & Taxes – Favoured
The aggro-prison matchup against D&T used to be quite even, however several new tools available to us have changed that. Blast Zone is a slam dunk against them, as well as Force of Vigor from the board, and they can really only hope to stall us long enough to eek out a win. The deck is particularly reliant on Aether Vial, so attacking that avenue is definitely reasonable. Naturally, Punishing Fire shows its power here, as we can easily keep the board empty of threats. Be careful of Sanctum Prelate on 2, as in some builds (RG in particular) it can shut off both our Loam engine and our Punishing Fire engine and thus essentially the whole deck. Phrexian Revoker turning off Mox Diamond can also be a problem. Tomik, Distinguished Advokist can be a beating as well, though we can play around this thanks to Blast Zone and Karakas. Their Wasteland plan seeks merely to put us on the back foot, and getting to the midgame generally always ensures victory. Field shines in this matchup and if you can get it online they will have to race it – generally a losing proposition.
In post sideboard games, expect such cards as Rest in Peace, Cataclysm, Surgical Extraction, Disenchant, Faerie Macabre and sometimes Leonin Relic-Warder. Once again, we’re the control role, trying to make the matchup last into the mid/lategame. Mainly seeki to leverage our role, be careful not to attempt a quick win, as Death and Taxes is excellent at exploiting weaknesses/stumbles and has many answers to Marit Lage; in particular be wary of Aether Vial on 3, which enables Flickerwisp on our Marit Lage token.
Out: Ancient Tomb, Life from the Loam (1-2), Bojuka Bog, Gamble (optional).
In: Force of Vigor, Krosan Grip, Ancient Grudge, Oko, Thief of Crowns, Tireless Tracker, Elvish Reclaimer, Drop of Honey, Kozilek’s Return, Engineered Explosives, Plague Engineer.
Cards they bring in: Rest in Peace, Cataclysm, Surgical Extraction, Faerie Macabre (rare), Pithing Needle.
Maverick – Favoured
This matchup is very similar to Death and Taxes, though instead of relying on Aether Vial to clog up the board, Maverick seeks to use Green Sun’s Zenith and Dryad Arbor as well as other creatures like Noble Hierarch or Birds of Paradise to abuse Gaea’s Cradle. Their marquee card is Knight of the Reliquary, which is used to get utility lands such as Wasteland, Karakas and sometimes Maze of Ith, in addition to the aforementioned Gaea’s Cradle. Being very creature heavy, Punishing Fire shows its true power in this matchup, cleaning up most of their creatures, including Knight, if sequenced properly (be sure to rotate for Bog AFTER hitting Knight with Punishing Fire). In addition to Punishing Fire’s strength, other valuable cards are Abrupt Decay for dealing with problematic permanents, and Engineered Explosives, for keeping the board clean. It probably goes without saying, but The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale is one of our strongest cards in the matchup.
Mana denial paired with Tabernacle and pinpoint removal is the secret to winning the matchup. Be careful of Knight; a good Maverick player can put us on the back foot with it and well timed Wastelands. Be vigilant regarding Knight activations for Bojuka Bog as well. Out of the maindeck, another card to be careful of is Scavenging Ooze, which a Maverick player will generally always prioritize getting with GSZ (Green Sun’s Zenith). In the sideboard, expect from Maverick cards like Leyline of the Void, Surgical Extraction and potentially more copies of Scavenging Ooze.
Out: Ancient Tomb, Karakas, Life from the Loam (1), Gamble (optional).
In: Oko, Thief of Crowns, Tireless Tracker, Elvish Reclaimer, Force of Vigor, Krosan Grip, Engineered Explosives, Abrupt Decay, Plague Engineer.
Cards they bring in: Leyline of the Void, Surgical Extraction, and possibly more Scavenging Oozes.
Stoneblade – Favoured
Stoneblade’s primary gameplan is to suit up a beater and ride it to victory. The deck is very good at both playing the control role as well as fast beatdown, and its best beater, True Name Nemesis can be very hard to deal with, especially if equipped with a Sword or Batterskull. The strength of their generally 2 colour manabase allows them to also play such cards as Back to Basics in the main 60, with additional copies often in the side. In our maindeck, Rishadan Port and Tabernacle are among our best cards, as keeping them constrained on mana in order to avoid True Name Nemesis hitting the table is essential. Blast Zone in case True Name Nemesis enters play is an excellent maindeck out, so try to play Blast Zone on 3, which incidentally also answers Back to Basics. Glacial Chasm lock is often necessary in RG builds, and they have difficulty dealing with our card advantage engines in Punishing Fire and Life from the Loam. Engineered Explosives is an excellent choice here, as it is another maindeck out to True Name Nemesis. Abrupt Decay pulls its weight as well, by targeting Swords and Back to Basics. Getting to Field of the Dead activations is often game-winning. You are generally the prison role in this matchup, save few cases where a fast Marit Lage can get there.
From the sideboard you have such cards as Pyroblast/Red Elemental Blast, Drop of Honey, Force of Vigor/Krosan Grip, and perhaps Ancient Grudge. Getting a 2 for 1 with Force of Vigor is generally easy here as well, so try to save your Blasts for True Name Nemesis. One can also play around Back to Basics by simply making enough land plays to hard cast Force of Vigor/Krosan Grip. Choke and Boil are obvious includes as well, where as Drop of Honey is a great (though slow) answer to True Name Nemesis. Alternatively, board wipes such as Kozilek’s Return are quite good too. Sphere of Resistance can do good work here as against most slower cantrip decks as it slows them down significantly.
Out: Ancient Tomb, Maze of Ith, Karakas, Bojuka Bog, Gamble, Punishing Fire (1-2), Life from the Loam (1-2), Crop Rotations (1-3, depending on how counter heavy the Stoneblade version is).
In: Oko, Thief of Crowns, Tireless Tracker, Elvish Reclaimer, Force of Vigor, Krosan Grip, Ancient Grudge, Drop of Honey, Kozilek’s Return, Engineered Explosives, Abrupt Decay, Plague Engineer, Sphere of Resistance.
Cards they bring in: Back to Basics, Rest in Peace, Leyline of the Void, Surgical Extraction, Disenchant, Council’s Judgement, Vendilion Clique.
4C Loam – Even to Slightly Favoured
This matchup is rather hard to quantify, as by being the one of closest “Lands decks” that isn’t Lands itself, the matchup is quite swingy, and both decks may win out of nowhere. At times, the Loam player will simply have a curve that you cannot reliably beat (like turn one Dark Confidant into turn 2 Knight of the Reliquary thanks to Mox Diamond. Or they’ll simply lose to one or two Wasteland activations. Their manabase is extremely greedy, and almost non functional without the additional aid that Mox Diamond brings them. Our best cards in the main 60 are our Wasteland and Loam engine, as well as Tabernacle to constrain them on mana. Punishing Fire mops up their Dark Confidants and planeswalkers like Liliana of the Veil quite handily. Be careful of overcommitting to the board, and be wary of Abrupt Decay on Exploration/Sylvan Library, as they’re invaluable in the matchup.
From the sideboard we have such tools as Force of Vigor and Krosan Grip to deal with Leyline of the Void, which they will always bring in. Non-graveyard based win conditions such as Oko, Thief of Crowns and Tireless Tracker are great here, though non-Decayable threats are even more desirable. When unsure what to bring in, Veil of Summer has some merit as well, as their Abrupt Decays all have excellent targets and losing an Exploration can often be the cause of a loss. Abrupt Decays are great as Knight of the Reliquary can be quite problematic, and expect Scavenging Ooze in the main 60 given they play a small Green Sun’s Zenith package.
Out: Ancient Tomb, Karakas, Life from the Loam (0-2), Gamble (optional), some number of Punishing Fire (if No-Red Loam or BUGW), Field of the Dead (optional).
In: Force of Vigor, Krosan Grip (for Leyline of the Void), Oko, Thief of Crowns, Tireless Tracker, Chandra, Awakened Inferno, Abrupt Decay, Veil of Summer (optional), Leyline of the Void, Red Elemental Blast/Pyroblast (if they’re on a blue build).
Cards they bring in: Leyline of the Void, Scavenging Ooze, Bojuka Bog, and sometimes, though rarely, Golgari Charm.
Cloudpost/Eldrazi Stompy – Favoured to Very Favoured
This matchup is quite easy. Their manabase is extremely soft to Wasteland, so getting the Wasteland + Life from the Loam engine going ASAP is key. The matchup is slightly harder vs the Eldrazi version, as they can get under you and kill you with a fast enough start, but once again, Wasteland is an all star here. Accompanying Wasteland vs the Eldrazi Stompy version is The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, ensuring their board stays under control and doesn’t overwhelm us with their cheap and efficient threats. The third card we have access to in the maindeck is Maze of Ith, as it keeps their Thought-Knot Seers and Reality Smashers from killing us. Finally, the deck has very few ways (even none) of beating a Glacial Chasm lock with Thespian’s Stage. In addition to all of this, a fast Marit Lage is nigh unbeatable. It’s usually preferable to make Lage on our own turn because they often play Wasteland; once Lage is in play their only outs are 1-2 Karakas.
Because of their manabase’s weakness to Wasteland, expect them to play cards such as Pithing Needle and Sorcerous Spyglass. Somewhat more common in the Cloudpost version rather than in Eldrazi Stompy is Karn the Great Creator as a win condition, which however is quite slow and easy to deal with provide we leverage our Wastelands adequately. Green-based versions of Post are harder to beat as they often have a lands package of their own and their Reclaimers and Rotations give them flexibility in the face of our threats. Against that version, mana denial is still strong as they can’t really function without sticking nonbasic lands, but Lage is a strong plan B.
From the sideboard we bring in cards such as Force of Vigor, Ancient Grudge and Krosan Grip, as well as bring in our Non Graveyard Dependent Win Conditions like Oko, Thief of Crowns and Tireless Tracker/Elvish Reclaimer. Expect to see Leyline of the Void from their sideboard, or potentially such cards like Tormod’s Crypt and Relic of Progenitus, which can be wished for out of the sideboard with Karn the Great Creator.
Out: Karakas, Bojuka Bog, Field of the Dead (vs Eldrazi Stompy), Gamble (optional), Blast Zone (Eldrazi Stompy), Maze of Ith (vs Post), Tabernacle (vs Post), Life from the Loam (0-1), Sylvan Library (vs Eldrazi Stompy), Engineered Explosives, Abrupt Decay.
In: Force of Vigor, Krosan Grip, Ancient Grudge, Tireless Tracker, Oko, Thief of Crowns, Elvish Reclaimer.
Cards they bring in: Leyline of the Void, Surgical Extraction (rare), Tormod’s Crypt, Relic of Progenitus, Pithing Needle, and Sorcerous Spyglass.
Red Prison – Unfavoured before sideboarding, Favoured after sideboarding.
This matchup is pretty straight-forward. They attempt to play a lock-piece and then beat us down with cards like Goblin Rabblemaster until we die. Chalice of the Void on one on the play can be backbreaking, but Blood Moon is by far the scariest card in game one. Be careful to fetch for your basic forest (here having fetches that all get forest is very important) and play as conservatively as possible. Punishing Fire is your friend here, as it mops up virtually all their creatures, and The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale is especially important to keep them from going wide thanks to Goblin Rabblemaster’s combat triggers.
We do not really have too many cards in game one to deal with a resolved Blood Moon, however we are favoured if they do not play it. Abrupt Decay does serious work with our basic forest and Mox Diamond (but be careful of Karn the Great Creator!), as we can answer most of their problematic permanents in this way.
From the sideboard, Force of Vigor makes this matchup almost trivial, as it easily two for one’s them (in a deck that sacrifices card quality for early mana advantage). It is without a doubt your best sideboard card in the matchup. It can also help us to make Marit Lage since if the Dark Depths enters play when Blood Moon is already out, it will enter with no counters. Destroying Blood Moon at that point will cause Depths to trigger and make Lage immediately, without the help of Stage.
Bring in Tireless Tracker and Elvish Reclaimer, as they are great at stonewalling opposing creatures and producing card advantage (Elvish Reclaimer in particular gets your basic forest, which is very important). Do not be afraid to Gamble or your sideboard cards.
From them we can expect very few cards, as their maindeck is already rather well suited to shutting down our deck. Keep in mind they may bring such cards like Relic of Progenitus or Tormod’s Crypt as an added measure against our Life from the Loam engine. Occasionally, they’ll bring in more copies of Ensnaring Bridge as well, and try to kill us with Chandra, Torch of Defiance or a Mycosynth Lattice lock.
Out: Karakas, Bojuka Bog, Ancient Tomb, Sylvan Library, Field of the Dead, Life from the Loam (optional), Engineered Explosives, Blast Zone (optional).
In: Force of Vigor, Krosan Grip, Ancient Grudge, Abrupt Decay, Tireless Tracker, Oko, Thief of Crowns, Elvish Reclaimer, Spell Pierce, Drown in the Loch (optional),
Cards they bring in: Leyline of the Void, Tormod’s Crypt, Relic of Progenitus, and perhaps artifact destruction like Fiery Confluence.
Goblins/Merfolk/Slivers/Humans (Fair Tribal) – Favoured
Like the fair creature based fair decks from before (eg. Death & Taxes, Maverick) this plays much similarly, where The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale is one of our best cards in conjunction with Wasteland and Life from the Loam, as we want to tax their mana as much as much as possible so that the board remains clear. These decks lean heavily on Aether Vial (Goblins less so, thanks to Goblin Lackey) to produce board advantage, so targeting that as an avenue of attack is ideal. Another matchup where Punishing Fire does an amazing amount of work, cards like Abrupt Decay and Engineered Explosives are also great here for mopping up troublesome permanents like the aforementioned Aether Vial. Most of these decks have the same primary gameplan with some differences. A key card to be aware of however is Tomik out of Humans, which can be a real problem for us; Karakas provides a clean answer.
In the case of Goblins, they often attempt to go wide with cards like Goblin Lackey, Goblin Ringleader, and now Muxus, Goblin Grandee. All of that can be dealt with easily via Tabernacle. Be careful of Stingscourger on our Marit Lage token, as well as Sling-Gang Lieutenant, which can kill you even through Glacial Chasm. Similarly to the Death and Taxes matchup, we are trying to stay alive long enough to get our engines going, which is somewhat easier when compared to Taxes as Merfolk doesn’t play Wasteland and Goblins typically has faster (but less disruptive) starts. Slivers occasionally plays Wasteland, but otherwise is like Merfolk – trying to play many lords to kill you fast.
Regarding Merfolk, they play a more tempo oriented game rather than attempt to swarm you. Everything in their deck (besides True Name Nemesis) dies to Punishing Fire unless they have Lords out, they cannot realistically win with a Glacial Chasm out, and they have a difficult time answering a fast Marit Lage. The only worrisome card they can present is True-Name Nemesis, which can get under you in lightning fast starts, but once again, the com bination of The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale and Wasteland/Rishadan Port does immense work in our favour. Blast Zone is excellent at answering True Name Nemesis before sideboarding, as already noted in the Stoneblade matchup.
All of these decks are relatively soft to Marit Lage. Goblins has Wasteland and Karakas, Merfolk has Merfolk Trickster and Brazen Borrower, Humans has Karakas and Deputy of Dentention, and Slivers has Galerider Sliver, especially in combination with Hibernation Sliver. These outs, however, are relatively few and difficult to assemble; if you have a hand with a fast Lage it can often get there.
Post-board we have our disposal such cards as Drop of Honey, Engineered Explosives or Kozilek’s Return, as well as of course Plague Engineer. Choke and Boil are all-stars against Merfolk, and some consideration can be made to playing Veil of Summer as well.
Out: Ancient Tomb, Karakas (keep in against Humans), Life from the Loam (optional) Gamble (optional), Field of the Dead (optional), Bojuka Bog, Crop Rotation (against Merfolk).
In: Oko, Thief of Crowns, Tireless Tracker, Elvish Reclaimer, Force of Vigor, Krosan Grip (for Goblins), Abrupt Decay, Engineered Explosives, Plague Engineer, Kozilek’s Return, Choke (vs Merfolk), Boil (vs Merfolk).
Cards they bring in: Tomik, Distinguished Advokist (Humans), Brazen Borrower (Merfolk), Surgical Extraction, Leyline of the Void.
While most, if not all of Lands fair matchups are slightly favoured and better, it compensates for such dominance by having generally abysmal combo matchups, though some these can improve to being favourable depending on sideboard construction and tight play/practice. As a rule of thumb, you want to always mulligan (within reason) to some form of turn 1 interaction, and a means to play it. Sphere of Resistance is our all-star against Combo in general.
Sneak and Show/Omnitell – Very Unfavoured (Unfavoured after Sideboarding)
This is easily our worst matchup in the format, with Sneak and Show being marginally better than Omnitell. The matchup is nearly impossible to win game one, and can be extremely difficult after sideboarding, especially if our opponent puts in Omniscience off Show and Tell, as we have an extremely difficult time dealing with it before it kills us. Accepting you will lose game one is the norm, and the matchup becomes slightly unfavoured to even after sideboarding against Sneak and Show, but still bad vs Omnitell. This is because we can easily deal with a creature put in with Show and Tell (usually Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Griselbrand), thanks to Crop Rotation for Karakas, but this becomes much harder against creatures put in off Sneak Attack or Omniscience.
Expect to see very few sideboard cards from them, occasionally Release the Ants and a bit more rarely Stronghold Gambit. Sometimes they’ll play cards like Blood Moon or Surgical Extraction, but the matchup is so lopsided that just trying to combo on their part is correct.
Our best cards before boarding are Wasteland, Rishadan Port and Karakas if they only Show and Tell in a creature. Post sideboard games we bring in a large amount of our sideboard against them, to compensate for the uneveness of the matchup. Expect to bring in Krosan Grip/Force of Vigor (Krosan Grip7 is an all-star here with its Split-Second), a fast win condition (Tireless Tracker and Elvish Reclaimer are very good here) as well as all of your “Answers to Combo and Sphere Effects” cards, like Sphere of Resistance, Chalice of the Void (best played on 1, to stop cantrips) and Thorn of Amethyst. Pyroblast is great here, and Mindbreak Trap can do some work. Don’t be afraid to keep in Gamble, as the one mana tutor is great in faster matchups for finding answers/sideboarded cards/combo pieces of our own.Choke and Boil are game winning cards, especially Choke when paired with Rishadan Port.
Out: Maze of Ith, Tabernacle, Life from the Loam(2), Abrupt Decay, Engineered Explosives, Punishing Fire, Field of the Dead, Blast Zone, Bojuka Bog.
In: Sphere of Resistance, Chalice of the Void, Thorn of Amethyst, Mindbreak Trap (optional),
Pyroblast, Red Elemental Blast, Force of Vigor, Krosan Grip, Ancient Tomb, Elvish Reclaimer, Oko, Thief of Crowns (can answer a creature put in), Primeval Titan (gets Karakas to bounce their fatty and can be put in off Show and Tell), Thoughtseize, Duress.
Cards they bring in: Release the Ants, Blood Moon, Surgical Extraction, and more rarely, Stronghold Gambit.
Reanimator – Unfavoured
RB/UB Reanimator is another hard matchup (though very dependent on the winner of the die roll), though definitely easier than Show and Tell. This is because we have several silver bullet answers to the creatures they may cheat in, such as Karakas and Maze of Ith. We also have Bojuka Bog, which can sometimes just win the game when rotated for in response to a reanimation spell. In addition, it is easier to tax their mana as they often play more mana acceleration at cost of a lower land count, and a typical Reanimator list plays around 14 lands (two of which are basics, which is good to know for Ghost Quarter related reasons). They use their life total aggressively, so do not be afraid to try and get a win with Punishing Fire in game one, if the possibility presents itself.
In the matchup we generally have no problems dealing with one reanimated creature, but any more than that can be difficult. A turn 1 Griselbrand is not impossible to beat, but a followup creature the same turn can be lights out, especially if it is Ashen Rider, or even more troublesome, Tidespout Tyrant. Be aware though that Veil of Summer protects us and our permanents from both of these cards, in addition to discard. The RB version is for all intents and purposes a lot faster than the UB version, however the UB version (rarer) employs countermagic in the form of Force of Will and uses cantrips to set up its draws, while potentially boarding into Show and Tell after sideboarding.
After sideboarding we have access to such cards like Sphere of Resistance/Chalice of the Void (0 may be reasonable to shut off fast artifact mana, on 1 however it turns off Entomb, Dark Ritual, Reanimate and Faithless Looting, in addition to discard) and Thorn of Amethyst, as well as Mindbreak Trap and Leyline of the Void. Surgical Extraction on Griselbrand can result in a win, as it is their main engine and all their other creatures are definitely manageable with the tools at our disposal. Once again, Gamble may be kept in according to personal taste, as it is a fast way of finding sideboard cards. From their side they will often board in Magus of the Moon, Leyline of the Void, Tormod’s Crypt, and sometimes Reverent Silence or Serenity (in case of a white splash) if they suspect Leylines from us. The strategy here is to delay them as much as possible and attempt to lock them out of the game, or play a fast Marit Lage game one if possible.
Out: Tabernacle, Life from the Loam (2), Engineered Explosives, Abrupt Decay, Punishing Fire (be wary of Magus of the Moon however), Sylvan Library, Field of the Dead, Blast Zone.
In: Sphere of Resistance, Thorn of Amethyst, Chalice of the Void, Ancient Tomb, Leyline of the Void, Force of Vigor, Krosan Grip (though not as essential), Mindbreak Trap (optional), Veil of Summer, Choke (vs UB Reanimator), Tireless Tracker, Elvish Reclaimer, Oko, Thief of Crowns.
Card they bring in: Ashen Rider, Tidespout Tyrant, Magus of the Moon, Leyline of the Void, Serenity, Reverent Silence, and sometimes Archetype of Endurance.
Storm – Unfavoured
Somewhat easier than Reanimator, as they can become too taxed game one between Wasteland and Rishadan Port, it becomes even easier after sideboarding. We want to occupy a prison role in the matchup, and are aided by our Sphere effects. From the sideboard we have access to several screws against their deck, Sphere of Resistance/Thorn of Amethyst/Chalice of the Void, Force of Vigor to destroy their artifact mana should they try to play through Sphere effects, and Leyline of the Void if ANT (Ad Nauseam Tendrils), as they often attempt a Past in Flames line. Veil of Summer singlehandedly nullifies a Tendrils of Agony, and Mindbreak Trap gets around Veil of Summer as well.
Engineered Explosives is also a good way of dealing with their mana producing artifacts, as they are all 0 mana. ANT tends to be somewhat slower, not usually comboing off before turn 3; whereas TES (The Epic Storm) can combo on turns 1-2 (and usually does). Usually these decks play between 14-16 lands, with 1-2 basics, something to keep in mind for Ghost Quarter. The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale is also a very good card should they try for a fast Empty the Warrens kill, which may be something they either wish for with Burning Wish or tutor with Infernal Tutor, especially in post sideboard games.
From their side one can expect to see Chain of Vapor/Echoing Truth to bounce our Sphere Effects, Surgical Extraction to try to exile our Life from the Loam engine, and Pulverize (usually played out of TES) to destroy our artifacts.
Out: Life from the Loam (2), Punishing Fire, Abrupt Decay, Field of the Dead, Maze of Ith, Blast Zone, Karakas, Bojuka Bog (vs TES)
In: Sphere of Resistance, Thorn of Amethyst, Chalice of the Void, Mindbreak Trap, Veil of Summer, Choke, Leyline of the Void, Surgical Extraction, Ashiok, Dream Render (for Past in Flames lines), Thoughtseize, Duress, Elvish Reclaimer, Tireless Tracker, Oko, Thief of Crowns, Force of Vigor, Ancient Grudge.
Cards they bring in: Echoing Truth, Chain of Vapor, Pulverize, Abrupt Decay.
Hogaak/Dredge – Favoured
This matchup is definitely slanted in our favour. The only way they can really kill us is a fast Altar of Dementia combo kill, milling our whole library. Barring that, all of our answers line up very well with their threats, and Tabernacle in particular can be a huge problem for them. Wasteland against Hogaak is also excellent, as we want to tax their mana so Tabernaclecan keep the board clean. Note that Hogaak generally plays around 18 lands, and often none of them are basic; therefore, Ghost Quarter is functionally Strip Mine.
Another obvious play is to rotate for Bojuka Bog at the opportune moment, in order to keep the graveyard empty of Vengevine or Bridge From Below. We are the Prison deck in this matchup, so from the sideboard we have such cards as Leyline of the Void (an obvious inclusion), and Sphere of Resistance to tax their mana further. Expect them to play cards like their own Leyline of the Void, Force of Vigor and Abrupt Decay/Assassin’s Trophy.
Regarding Dredge, this matchup is rather easy as well. Manaless Dredge in particular is an easy matchup, as we can rotate for Bojuka Bog and not expect any interaction generally outside of a flashbacked Cabal Therapy, and The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale does quite a bit of work at keeping the board clean; in fact, it is likely the best card in the matchup. LED Dredge is very similar, yet slightly more explosive thanks to Lion’s Eye Diamond. Your greatest threat here is Ichorid, which gets around Tabernacle triggers and can clock you quite handily in multiples. We do have ways to deal with them, however, from Punishing Fire to Maze of Ith to Glacial Chasm (they cannot beat this card generally; a lock with Thespian’s Stage even less so). Fast Marit Lage tokens are also nearly impossible for them to overcome; they can only hope to clock us and win before this occurs (true for Hogaak as well).
Out: Karakas (can be left in vs Hogaak), Punishing Fire (optional), Life from the Loam (1-2), Sylvan Library, Field of the Dead, Engineered Explosives, Abrupt Decay, Field of the Dead, Blast Zone, other utility lands like Academy Ruins.
In: Force of Vigor, Krosan Grip, Ancient Grudge, Leyline of the Void, Surgical Extraction, Ashiok, Dream Render, Oko, Thief of Crowns, Tireless Tracker, Elvish Reclaimer, Sphere of Resistance, Chalice of the Void (vs Hogaak), Ancient Tomb.
Cards they bring in: Leyline of the Void, Force of Vigor, and Abrupt Decay/Assassin’s Trophy.
Depths – Slightly Favoured
This is one of the best and most skill testing matchups in Legacy, reliant on many microdecisions and interactions. There is an amazing amount of fighting on the stack (as much, if not more in some cases, than in your typical blue deck), with both sides having a myriad of instant speed answers to various threats each side presents. Their plan is to get under you as soon as possible with a fast Marit Lage, as one you have the Life from the Loam + Wasteland lock going, it can be hard, if not impossible, for them to beat (target their Urborgs with Wasteland, as it can be quite a blowout considering Dark Depths doesn’t tap for mana). Their lightning fast starts can be unbeatable, so try to stay alive long enough to set your engine up. Their best card after making Marit Lage is Not of this World, as it protects their token from being bounced with Karakas or untapped with Maze of Ith. Additionally, they often play some number of cards to insulate against Wasteland; mainly Pithing Needle and Ghost Quarter when looking to combo off. Their discard is generally useless unless on the play, in which case taking a Crop Rotation, Gamble or Exploration (in addition to sideboarded cards) can be quite painful.
Before boarding, our best answers to their gameplan are the aforementioned Wasteland, followed by mana denial like Rishadan Port. Maze of Ith and Karakas can both be excellent answers to a Marit Lage token, however be careful of blowouts resulting from Not Of this World and Pithing Needle. Here your Dark Depths are a liability, so they are the first cards to come out, as they can be copied with opposing Thespian’s Stages (remember, the same is true for our own!). Be wary of Bojuka Bog as well, as it can put a wrench in our gameplan if not played around.
Slower Depths builds will have Dark Confidant and even sometimes Tarmogoyf, so you will need to respect their ability to grind by leaving in some creature removal. This matchup is much harder than the Turbo versions as they attack from multiple angles. Still, mana denial can go a long way, and they generally lack the engines we have.
From the sideboard we bring in such cards as Force of Vigor to answer enchantments and artifacts like Pithing Needle and Leyline of the Void; occasionally they will play Sylvan Library as well. Here Elvish Reclaimer and Oko, Thief of Crowns are both excellent cards, as the former tutors all our answers in the form of lands, while the latter can deal with resolved Marit Lages or put us over twenty life. In the same way, Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath is another excellent card, as it ensures we can stabilize at above twenty life while looking for answers.
They may bring in cards like Surgical Extraction, Leyline of the Void, and possibly Abrupt Decay or Assassin’s Trophy to answer our permanents. Be wary of Force of Vigor as well, as they can often hamstring us with it as easily as we can hamstring them.
Out: Bojuka Bog, Tabernacle (vs Turbo), Dark Depths (leaving one in is fine), Punishing Fire (vs Turbo), Life From the Loam (1), Blast Zone, Engineered Explosives.
In: Force of Vigor, Krosan Grip, Ancient Grudge, Oko, Thief of Crowns, Tireless Tracker, Elvish Reclaimer, Ashiok, Dream Render, Surgical Extraction, Abrupt Decay.
Cards they bring in: Leyline of the Void, Surgical Extraction, Force of Vigor, Dark Confidant, Abrupt Decay, and Sylvan Safekeeper.
Painter Combo – Unfavoured to Slightly Unfavoured
Painter combo seeks to use Painter’s Servant and Grindstone to mill an opponent’s library, causing them to deck themselves. It was a very tough matchup, but has gotten easier thanks to both Blast Zone and Force of Vigor. Their combo is pretty straightforward and newer versions use the graveyard more heavily thanks to the new inclusion of Goblin Engineer. Karn, the Great Creator can cause problems for us as it lets them simply play a waiting game and eventually lock us out with Mycosynth Lattice.
In addition to this, Painter Combo has (thanks to Karn), the ability to play a number of sideboard silver bullets to wish for even in game one, such as Ensnaring Bridge, Tormod’s Crypt, Relic of Progenitus and occasionally Pithing Needle. However their scariest card in game one is Blood Moon by far, which can lock us out of the game while they combo off. Here we are generally the fast beatdown, looking to combo off as soon as possible with Marit Lage, as the token is quite hard for them to answer, even after sideboarding (their main outs are Ensnaring Bridge or Pithing Needle). Notably, after resolving a Painter’s Servant, they may attempt to employ Pyroblast as a way of destroying our permanents after naming blue. This can disrupt our combo but, ironically enough, Veil of Summer can protect us from this.
In the maindeck we do not have many answers to a resolved Blood Moon, so prioritizing basic forest and Mox Diamond is very important. To be kept in mind is the power of Abrupt Decay in the matchup, as it can answer a resolved Blood Moon – simply tap for mana in response. Moon can also enable our Dark Depths, just as against Red Prison.
After sideboarding we have access to Force of Vigor and Krosan Grip (here Krosan Grip shines over Force of Vigor thanks to Split Second, even if it only hits one artifact or enchantment), as well as win conditions that do not really care about Blood Moon. Oko, Thief of Crowns and Elvish Reclaimer are both great, as the former can answer our opponents artifacts (be aware of the fact however that Oko’s +1 ability does not turn off Painter’s Servant’s color-changing ability), while the latter can get our basic forest out for us.
Out: Tabernacle, Life from the Loam (1-2), Maze of Ith, Glacial Chasm, Bojuka Bog, Karakas, Blast Zone (optional), other utility lands, Punishing Fire (optional).
In: Force of Vigor, Krosan Grip, Ancient Grudge, Leyline of the Void, Surgical Extraction, Oko, Thief of Crowns, Tireless Tracker, Elvish Reclaimer, Null Rod, Sphere of Resistance, Drop of Honey (optional).
Cards they bring in: Pithing Needle, Tormod’s Crypt, Soul-Guide Lantern, Relic of Progenitus, and, albeit a bit more rarely, Surgical Extraction or Leyline of the Void.
Elves – Slightly Unfavoured to Slightly Favoured
This matchup can either be very easy, or very hard, depending on draws and hands. We are the control element, seeking to keep the board as clear as possible without letting them combo off and play a Natural Order, getting Crater- hoof Behemoth to swing for lethal damage. The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale is one of our best cards, as it keeps the board clear of threats while making it difficult for them to combo off. Naturally, their counter to this is Gaea’s Cradle, which is a “kill on sight” card for us. The Life From the Loam + Wasteland engine is very important to tax their mana. Punishing Fire is another great tool we have at our disposal, surgically removing threats after they have paid the Tabernacle tax, as well as board wipe cards such as Enigineered Explosives and Blast Zone. In particular, removing a Heritage Druid or Quirion Ranger/Wirewood Symbiote is especially important, as they are among your opponents’ main engines for producing mana, alongside the draw spell Glimpse of Nature. Glacial Chasm is a maindeck answer to a resolved Natural Order for Craterhoof Behemoth that the deck has no maindeck outs to, and this is another matchup where Chasm shines, doubly so with Thespian’s Stage.
While the control role is the correct role to take here, a fast Marit Lage can be nigh impossible for Elves to answer, so if given the chance, it is reasonable to attempt a fast kill, especially before sideboarding, as we lack artifacts to tax their mana further with. Sylvan Library can be good, however it is often at times rather slow.
From the sideboard we bring in such cards like Sphere of Resistance or Chalice of the Void to slow them down, Force of Vigor for Leyline of the Void, and Elvish Reclaimer orOko, Thief of Crowns/Tireless Tracker to get around graveyard hate. Another very good card in the matchup is Mindbreak Trap, which is great at answering a Natural Order after a long chain of cast creatures, as well as Flusterstorm, even if the latter is somewhat more narrow.
Out: Karakas, Bojuka Bog, Maze of Ith, Sylvan Library (optional), Field of the Dead (optional), utility lands like Academy Ruins, Life From the Loam (1-2).
In: Sphere of Resistance, Chalice of the Void, Force of Vigor, Krosan Grip (for Leylines), Ancient Tomb, Mindbreak Trap, Tireless Tracker, Oko, Thief of Crowns, Elvish Reclaimer, Drop of Honey, Plague Engineer, Kozilek’s Return.
Cards they bring in: Leyline of the Void, Abrupt Decay, Assassin’s Trophy, Surgical Extraction, Scavenging Ooze, and occasionally a Crop Rotation package with Karakas and Bojuka Bog.
Mirror (Lands) – Even
As already foreshadowed when discussing 4C Loam, the mirror can be extremely lopsided and swingy, making it hard to form any coherent strategy, so the matchup is best played according to personal taste and experience, since most games are decided in the first couple turns. Both decks have great topdecks naturally, which can make or break a match, but these depend greatly on the colours one is playing. Given the frailty of our manabase, it is always ideal to try to take our opponent off coloured mana with Wasteland, preventing opposing Life from the Loam and Wasteland locks; in particular, Bojuka Bog is great for reducing your opponents outs and exiling their Loams (exiling their Bog is particularly excellent).
As against Turbo Depths, Dark Depths is a liability here, so consider that before playing it to the board. Such cards as Tabernacle and Punishing Fire are all but useless, for obvious reasons, but Maze and Karakas can have some utility against opposing Marit Lages. Fetching for your basic Forest first is ideal, as you can ensure that you are able to continue Loaming without much difficulty; likewise, remember you only play one basic (and so does your opponent), so Ghost Quarter is a wonderful card in the mirror. Engineered Explosives is a decent card, however Abrupt Decay reigns supreme in the matchup. Also of note, like with Turbo Depths, is the importance of Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Oko, Thief of Crowns. These cards can put you over twenty life, provide a fast clock, and in Oko’s case, answer to Marit Lage, all while providing a non-Life From the Loam engine with which to win. Another powerful card in the mirror is Sylvan Library, which often enables one side to pull ahead of the other with ease.
We generally bring in cards like Force of Vigor, Tireless Tracker, Leyline of the Void, and Surgical Extraction, depending on sideboard configuration. There is not a hard and fast better version of Lands when it comes down to the mirror, given all the possible sideboard options, colour configurations and even pilot skill. That said, there are some key cards to be identified in the matchup, which are as follows:
Sylvan Library: Insanely good in the matchup, as neither side is threatening each other’s life total. Usually who resolves this first and has access to more triggers wins.
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath: Another very powerful card, as it is a self contained engine, is independent of Loam, puts us over twenty life, and churns through our deck, all while ramping us.
Oko, Thief of Crowns: The best planeswalker in Legacy, just a few activations can put us over twenty life and assemble a noteworthy army of 3/3 elks. Independent of the graveyard, it is the best threat that we can topdeck in the mirror.
Abrupt Decay: The best answer to all the permanents in our deck, as it removes Oko, Thief of Crowns, Exploration and Sylvan Library, it is undoubtedly the best answer at our disposal.
Gamble: Similar to Sylvan Library in most cases, as it doubles as extra copies of Life from the Loam, our principal engine. More copies of Gamble means more copies of Loam, something not to be underestimated.
Force of Vigor: It allows us a 2 for 1, as it destroys Mox Diamond, Exploration and Sylvan Library, which can be crucial in a match and often allows us to pull ahead.
Sideboarding here is especially dependent on personal taste and the pi- lot’s preference, even more so than in other matchups.
Keeping that in mind, in the mirror the hierarchy of Lands decks in the mirror is loosely the following:
(1) BUG Lands, thanks to Oko, Uro, and Abrupt Decay in the main deck. As with 4C Loam, Abrupt Decay is the best card in the mirror, as it answers Exploration, Oko, Thief of Crowns and Sylvan Library.
(2) RUG Lands, thanks to Oko, Uro, and Engineered Explosives in the maindeck, as you have more live topdecks that can simply win, similarly to BUG. Trading Engineered Explosives for Abrupt Decay in this case can be a downgrade, as Explosives also removes your permanents.
(3) Jund Lands, thanks to Abrupt Decay; however the lack of relevant topdecks that other versions enjoy (such as Uro or Oko) can decrease odds of winning simply due to fewer threats.
(4) UG Lands, thanks to Oko, Uro and Primeval Titan; however ramping into Field of the Dead is difficult under repeated Wasteland activations, and a fast Marit Lage can be difficult to deal with.
(5) Classic RG Lands, as it has a lack of both answers and threats even after sideboarding compared to other colour pairings.
Once again, keep in mind that these are merely observations based on lists; pilot skill factors far more in matchup than choice of colours.
Out: Tabernacle, Dark Depths (leaving one in is fine), Field of the Dead (optional), Punishing Fire, Gamble (optional), Ancient Tomb.
In: Oko, Thief of Crowns, Tireless Tracker, Elvish Reclaimer, Force of Vigor, Krosan Grip, Leyline of the Void, Surgical Extraction, Ashiok, Dream Render.
Cards they bring in: see above.
With that we conclude the sideboarding section of the Primer. Some general trends may have stood out to you if you were reading this straight through. First, we almost always aim to be less graveyard-dependent in post-board games. After all, it is in those games that our opponent will bring graveyard hate against us. Second, decks without basics tend to be easy matchups, and decks without basics that rely heavily on creatures even more so. On a related note, decks without clean answers to Marit Lage are also typically good matchups, unless they are combo decks that can simply outrace our Lage. Bad matchups are fast and explosive decks that can get under our mana denial plan; typically combo decks.
We hope that this primer has been helpful. If you have any specific questions please feel free to contact us or join the Lands discord and ask them there (a link can be found on the Additional Resources page).