The 43 Lands archetype has been around since 2006 where it Top 8ed German Legacy Championships. It catapulted its way to the spotlight in late 2009 with several high-profile finishes in StarCityGames.com Open events and was considered a front-runner for GP Columbus in August 2010. At GP Columbus it attained a Top 32 finish in the hands of Eli Kassis. It was one of the best-performing archetypes at GP Madrid in early 2010 putting 6 of 25 pilots into Day 2.
With Survival out of the metagame and combo only played by a few stalwarts like Ari Lax or Bryant Cook Lands is ideally positioned to take over the metagame. Lands posts very strong percentages against the major tribal decks in the format while at the same time being well positioned against Counterbalance decks of all flavors. The deck has the tools to beat almost any opponent especially in matchups that give the Lands player time to develop.
Lands attacks the metagame from an angle few other decks do. Pairing strong mana disruption with powerful artifacts and no maindeck creatures inbred metagamed decks have trouble interacting with it. Even traditionally strong decks like 4C Counterbalance open themselves up to having their mana base decimated by recurring Wastelands knocking a mana-hungry deck down to only one or two mana available in their main phase.
This version of Lands holds few similarities to the builds that rocked GP Columbus. One of the main issues with the builds from 2010 was starting hands containing both Intuition and Manabond. Going Manabond-pass against a blue opponent telegraphs having Intuition and puts you in a tricky position. Your options were to wait and cast Intuition hoping to dodge a Daze or Spell Pierce or simply to discard the Intuition and get the lands in your hand into play. Neither of these options are particularly good for the lands player as it gives the blue player three or more unmolested turns to develop their board position.
Instead of clunky tutors and flimsy manlands the deck has been trimmed down lowering the mana curve to allow interaction from turn 1. The powerful tutors of previous iterations have been removed in favor of more powerful artifacts that can dominate the board as soon as they land. Casting Smokestack on turn 2 when your opponent has only had one land drop can push an opponent out of the game quickly. The same Smokestack can be used to break board stalls and break through a Counterbalance lock in the later portions of the game.
Lands takes an incredibly long amount of time to win games. By bringing it to a tournament one is automatically acknowledging they'll be going to time or close to it every round. One cannot simply pick up Lands and bring it to a tournament. While piloting it one must constantly know how much time is left in the round and how to leverage this information. I am by no means encouraging anyone to play slowly. However there are calculated risks that can be taken or not taken depending on the time left in the round. Using your land drops to Wasteland fetches and lock your opponent out of the game can be a good strategy in game 1 but in game 3 it might be easier to run a manland into a potential Swords to Plowshares while holding up Wasteland to keep it from getting exiled.
By far the most important thing to keep in mind with Lands is “how do I stabilize.” The deck doesn't need to win or even think about winning until the very end. With this in mind many cards are included simply to stabilize at a positive life total.
Card by Card Breakdown
Life from the Loam is the engine of this deck. Although the sideboard offers resiliency when the engine is removed in game 1 most games end with you running over a helpless opponent with the Loam engine. There is no reason to run less than four maindeck unless your tutor package includes Burning Wish.
One of the biggest misconceptions about this deck is the need to Loam constantly. If you have enough lands in hand to make your land drops for the turn there's nothing wrong with drawing a card. There's a decent chance of topdecking a business spell that can help stabilize the game.
If Life from the Loam is the engine of the deck Exploration is where the engine turns into advantage. Drawing three cards a turn is good but not if you can only use one of them a turn. Exploration creates on-board advantage allowing the deck to pummel opponents. Exploration makes every card in the deck better when it's on-board.
Although Manabond has been a mainstay in traditional Lands decks for some time in the past the card has ups and downs. When it's good the card is insane. However Manabond forces early commitment to a strategy and doesn't synergize well with other cards in the deck.
Post-board Manabond is one of the worst cards in the deck and is almost always boarded out. This is because it forces the Lands player to commit to a strategy and go all-in on that strategy very early on. If the Lands player dumps their entire hand on turn 1 they're exposed to a Tormod's Crypt for a complete blowout.
Enlightened Tutor is one of the strongest tutors remaining unbanned in Legacy. Although it doesn't find Ad Nauseam like Mystical Tutor did it ends games all by itself. In game 1 many decks simply cannot beat a hellbent Ensnaring Bridge. Enlightened Tutor expands the range of keepable hands and is difficult to counter with soft permission like Spell Pierce or Daze. Enlightened Tutor also functionally gives the deck more Explorations one of the best cards in the deck.
Against Force of Will the blue player is in quite the predicament. Letting you tutor for a card allows them to Force the target without card disadvantage when it is cast but this will put the card into the graveyard where it can be recurred later in the game with Academy Ruins. Countering the tutor two-for-ones the blue player.
There are only three Enlightened Tutors because hands containing two of them are incredibly awkward as multiple draw steps need to be utilized to find the targets.
Although not as powerful as Enlightened Tutor it synergizes well with the rest of the deck. Entomb functions as a weaker fourth Enlightened Tutor and fifth Life from the Loam. It can also find some of the versatile lands this deck runs off of such as The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale or Glacial Chasm.
Ensnaring Bridge is one of the most powerful cards in the format in a deck that can afford to play the rest of the game with almost no cards in hand. Few decks in Legacy have a way to win through Ensnaring Bridge and those that do rely on hitting a few key outs. A resolved Ensnaring Bridge extends the game for more turns allowing the more powerful Loam Engine to take over.
Although Ensnaring Bridge is powerful Meekstone provides necessary redundancy to hold off attacking Tarmogoyfs and Tombstalkers. In the middle portions of a game Meekstone can be tutored for and resolved through most soft permission which makes it very difficult for a blue deck to handle. Meekstone allows the deck to live through a single Progenitus hit as well. Despite the poor synergy with other cards like Maze of Ith Meekstone provides key redundancy to the deck. Additionally Meekstone gives the deck an out to Knight of the Reliquary a card that is extremely potent against this deck because it can tutor up additional Wastelands.
Although stabilizing a game is good the ability to lock out an opponent is often necessary to win. Since the only non-permanents in this deck are Loam and the Tutors Lands can keep Smokestack at one infinitely with no other synergies. With Exploration and Loam online Smokestack can go as high as three which few other decks in the format can beat. Lands has a stronger engine than every other deck in the format even the dedicated Smokestack decks in the meta. Smokestack is one of the primary ways of breaking a Counterbalance lock as only a handful of four-drops see play in the format.
In Lands Engineered Explosives has the ability to knock out almost every permanent that sees play except for Tombstalker and creatures cheated into play. Explosives recursion is why this deck has such a strong matchup against the blue decks in the format. Lands has such a high mana density that in the midgame it's common to start casting Explosives for six with sunburst two to completely dodge Counterbalance.
Sensei's Divining Top is an odd choice in this deck but it's a very powerful card. Lands has many different answers for problem cards and permanents and Sensei's Top helps find those answers. Additionally it allows you to keep dredging while searching for Exploration by letting you preview the cards that are going to be dredged. Opening up on turn 1 Sensei's Top against Counterbalance is one of the scariest things this deck is capable of because it allows Lands to find Engineered Explosives and Academy Ruins to blow the game open.
Sensei's Divining Top's second ability creates a way to save Loam from graveyard hate in games 2 and 3 by letting you draw at instant speed. Although this option is rarely used it's a powerful on-board trick.
Zuran Orb turns many of the aggro matchups into a complete joke. The Orb allows Lands to gain life and stabilize in the midgame when it needs to. In conjunction with Bob it allows pain-free drawing. With Exploration Zuran Orb lets you completely outpace a burn deck trying to race you.
One of the big plays to watch out for when playing against Zoo is an end of turn Krosan Grip on Zuran Orb followed by a Price of Progress in their upkeep. If they have enough free mana it's often a good idea to sacrifice enough lands to comfortably survive a Price of Progress without passing priority between each sacrifice.
Mox Diamond is typically run as a three-of or four-of but it's too good to not run four. Although it can provide for some awkward opening hands opening on double-Diamond and Loam puts three mana on the field on the first turn forcing an opponent to try and play catch-up. Mox Diamond also smooths the mana of a very mana-hungry deck; this build of Lands is four colors and all four provide high-impact spells and abilities.
The mana distribution in this deck is slightly different from previous builds. By cutting Mishra's Factory it freed up space to increase the fetchland count by one as well as increasing the dual count.
The three Tropical Islands is somewhat suspect as blue mana is only used for Academy Ruins and Tolaria West. Tolaria West is absolutely critical to the deck's success and having two blue mana is incredibly important.
Both black and white mana are only used as one-shot effects. Additionally decks that pack mana disruption typically want to hold Wasteland for Maze of Ith so the odds of having dual lands wasted is low.
The one Forest provides a great deal of stability to the deck. One of the easiest ways for a Lands player to lose is by being unable to develop their board because they don't have green mana available. This also gives us mana through many of the narrow hate cards such as Price of Progress and Blood Moon.
In the fetchland/dual land-filled Legacy format Wasteland is an incredibly potent card. Wastelands should almost always be used whenever an opportunity presents itself; however there are exceptions. In some matchups such as Counterbalance having an additional land in play can allow Engineered Explosives to dodge a Counterbalance. Post-board Wastelanding an opposing Wasteland to Extirpate it or to safely play a The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale could be required.
Rishadan Port is one of the cornerstones of this deck. It allows all of the virtual advantage created by Exploration and Loam to be manifested against an opponent. Rishadan Port's ability can also be used across turns to cut your opponent off of Counterspell or Extirpate mana on your turn for a single critical turn.
Maze of Ith is the single card that makes Lands as an archetype playable. Maze keeps Lands in the game against aggro and prolongs games against control to allow for engines like Academy Ruins to come online. Maze is the most frequently tutored card in the deck because it synergizes well with the rest of the deck. Many decks in Legacy get by with fewer than ten creatures. Two or three Mazes will stop them cold in their tracks. In conjunction with Tabernacle and Waste-lock even an opponent running a lot of basics may only have a couple in play once our Loam Engine starts.
Despite personally owning two (and being able to obtain more if necessary) there is only one Tabernacle in my list. There's simply not enough tribal in the meta to warrant additional Tabernacles and the card isn't insane in the non-tribal matchups. When I ran two the second would almost always come out against non-tribal decks.
Academy Ruins is an incredibly powerful land and the first thing I tutor for in control matchups. Ruins in conjunction with any of the artifacts can break control matchups wide open recurring either Engineered Explosives or Smokestack.
Academy Ruins is also the deck's back-up win condition. Few decks have the ability to beat recurring Engineered Explosives and failing that recurring even a Mox Diamond and playing it every turn is enough to not deck against an opponent who's waiting to see a win condition.
Tolaria West is one of the secondary engines of the deck and transforms explosive starts into ensnaring midgames. Tolaria West's transmute ability enables it to find almost any card in the deck including Mox Diamond and Zuran Orb. It has two very different functions against Counterbalance decks and non-Counterbalance decks. Against Counterbalance it can find Academy Ruins and later Engineered Explosives to lock an opponent out of a game. Against the non-Counterbalance decks it finds prison elements such as Maze of Ith or Tabernacle. It also creates virtual copies of every other land in the deck making it easier to find a win condition towards the end of the game.
Tranquil Thickets provide a convenient way of increasing the deck's green mana count while contributing to the card advantage of the Loam engine. Tranquil Thicket provides another function especially in games 2 and 3. It allows one to play around graveyard-based hate by dredging Loam back to one's hand in response to the activation of Tormod's Crypt. Even in game 1 Thicket lets one play around Vendilion Clique by never passing priority with Life from the Loam in hand. The way to do this is to draw normally for the turn with Life from the Loam in the graveyard. Then cycle Tranquil Thicket in one's first main phase. Replace the draw with a dredge and then immediately cast Life from the Loam targeting Tranquil Thicket and whatever other lands one chooses to return.
Ghost Quarter is a very versatile card in Lands. It has the ability to destroy the mana base of an opponent by recurring Ghost Quarter until the opponent fails to find additional lands. Second Ghost Quarter can be used on your own land as an impromptu fetchland to find the basic Forest especially in response to a Blood Moon or Price of Progress.
Most Legacy decks don't run many basics and even the mono-colored decks run many utility lands such as Rishadan Port in Goblins or Mutavault in Merfolk. Typical three-color decks will have only three or four basics total. While playing Lands it's important to keep track of how many lands both basic and dual your opponent has in his or her deck. Many games are won simply by grinding out an opponent until they no longer have the ability to cast spells.
Glacial Chasm has three separate abilities: you cannot attack; when it comes into play sacrifice a land; and cumulative upkeep pay two life. The first ability is barely relevant and only something that should be kept in mind to avoid accumulating penalties. The second ability is marginally relevant as it necessitates an Exploration or Manabond in play to maintain the lock. The lock can also be maintained with just a Zuran Orb as Chasm can stay in play for two turns by paying two life and sacrificing the Chasm with the trigger on the stack to restore the two life lost. The third ability cumulative upkeep is one of the hardest decisions in the deck. It's a hefty sacrifice but one with massive tradeoffs. Every turn you stay alive under Chasm allows for more land drops and more of a board presence to be constructed. In a vacuum I'll pay two life to keep Glacial Chasm around because that allows for more lands to be put onto the battlefield creating advantage.
An over-reliance on Chasm should be avoided as many of the decks that Chasm is best against have the means of destroying it typically through Wasteland in Goblins or Merfolk. Also against Zoo Chasm can be broken with a timely Price of Progress.
Karakas occupies one of several flex slots in the deck. Its role is mainly to deal with three creatures: Gaddock Teeg Iona Shield of Emeria and Emrakul the Aeons Torn. It also has fringe benefits by bouncing Mangara of Corondor. Although Karakas isn't as relevant as it was when Survival and Reanimator were still heavily played in the format the creatures all have the ability to end games quickly if they're not dealt with.
A quick note about Karakas. It's frequently boarded out as it's not particularly good in most matchups. However if you suspect an opponent has Gaddock Teeg (or can have it) keep Karakas in the deck as without Smokestack or Engineered Explosives many matchups become far more difficult.
Creeping Tar Pit is the last maindeck card to discuss as it is by far one of the least necessary cards in the deck... That is not to say the card is without merit. Rather that this deck needs to play a win condition and Tar Pit is one of the most reasonable and cost-efficient win conditions available. Creeping Tar Pit's three power has the ability to end games in a reasonable number of turns. The real beauty of the card however is being unblockable. This allows Creeping Tar Pit to slip past creatures tied up by Maze of Ith and attack a player or alternatively a planeswalker. Creeping Tar Pit is one of the primary counters this deck plays to a resolved Jace the only other being Engineered Explosives.
As a general note about sideboarding Lands is highly flexible. There are no absolutely necessary cards in the sideboard and running answers to individual decks is perfectly acceptable. In many ways Lands is a 65-card deck with a ten-card sideboard. The deck has a great deal of flexibility in moving cards between the maindeck and sideboard. Currently bullets like Karakas Zuran Orb the second Engineered Explosives or Meekstone exist as extensions of the sideboard.
Storm combo is widely considered one of the worst matchups for this deck as Lands lacks both a clock and Force of Will. Hence my strategy is to devote board slots to very strong hate cards that are still playable in other matchups.
This card is the crux of the deck post-board. An unanswered Dark Confidant is so incredibly powerful and many games are won off the back of it without ever resolving another spell. Dark Confidant can be played in this deck even when you're at a low life total; the maindeck has an average converted mana cost of around .6 and slightly higher post-board. It's important to remember what the most life you can lose at any flip is to preemptively sacrifice lands to Zuran Orb.
Dark Confidant comes in against almost any matchup because it represents a strong conundrum to most opposing players. The easy sideboarding guide for other decks is -removal +grave hate. Dark Confidants create an opportunity for opposing players to make mistakes siding out the wrong cards and letting us run over them. Even when players expect Dark Confidant they need to sideboard out business spells to deal with Bob while Lands takes out a handful of cards that are overall weaker.
In the combo matchups Dark Confidant provides a clock albeit not a fast one while also drawing us into hate.
Krosan Grip is not in the sideboard for Counterbalance. Even when boarded in against decks containing Counterbalance it should only rarely be cast on Counterbalance. Instead Krosan Grip is in the deck to eliminate the most effective hate card opponents can bring to the table: Pithing Needle. Every other card can be dealt with by using Engineered Explosives or Oblivion Stone recursion.
Extirpate is not in the sideboard for graveyard strategies. While it's a strong card against Dredge or other Loam decks they're not the reason for Extirpate. Instead Extirpate exists as a foil to opposing Wastelands. Playing Lands is far easier against opponents when they no longer have Wastelands in their deck.
Extirpate has the potential to win games on turn 1 as well. Against some decks such as Canadian Threshold or BUG Tempo decks they only run four of a dual to support a particular color. Turn 1 Wasteland followed by a Mox Diamond and Extirpate on a dual can make an already easy match a cakewalk by stripping the mana required to cast Tarmogoyfs out of an opponent's deck.
Extirpate also allows Lands to find what opponents have in their hand and deck. This isn't always relevant but good against decks like Goblins or Merfolk that can board in Blood Moon and Back to Basics respectively. It also gives vital information for what other cards to play around such as Daze Spell Pierce or Counterspell.
Extirpate is one of the most difficult pieces of hate for a Storm player to play through mostly because it's unexpected. After an Ad Nauseam stripping away an Infernal Tutor or removing a mana source can turn an easy kill into a scoop.
Sometimes catchall answers are required. Oblivion Stone provides an out to an incredible number of cards especially opposing permanent-based hate such as Magus of the Moon that are hard to deal with otherwise. While it's not particularly good in any mainstream matchup there's an incredible amount of diversity in Legacy and having one tutorable catchall is very strong. This is also one of the only ways to beat a deck like Combo Elves Enchantress or Dragon Stompy.
Tutorable Storm hate which is always strong. If possible this should be set at one against most forms of Tendrils-based Storm. It's always a judgment call between playing Chalice at zero or letting them take a turn and potentially kill you. I tend to gamble as Chalice at one shuts off far more of their relevant cards than Chalice at zero.
1 Null Rod
Null Rod is not in the deck as Storm hate per se but rather to address the Affinity matchup a matchup that gets far better once you have the two-mana hoser. It's also backbreaking against the new MUD lists that have been popping up.
Null Rod is a dangerous card to play in Lands because it's rather symmetrical. There are still a large number of cards in Lands that get shut down under Rod but it tends to not matter all that much as it's very strong in the matchups it's boarded in for. Null Rod makes correct sequencing far more important as it will cut off a Mox Diamond that had previously been used to fix a splash color.
Ethersworn Canonist is the strongest piece of Storm hate in this deck mostly because it beats for two. Although there are many answers to Canonist finding them becomes more difficult for Storm players. Canonist also maintains utility in other non-interactive matchups by slowing the game down to allow for backbreaking engines like Smokestack to come online.
Crypt is the miser's graveyard hate card in this deck. It's tutorable via both E-Tutor and Tolaria West making up for only running one. Our matchups against graveyard decks are fairly good already so only having one Crypt isn't that big of a deal.
Go ahead; look up what this card does. Now look at how many creatures in Legacy have activated abilities. This card is a strong prison element against decks running Mangara of Corondor while also shutting off Qasali Pridemage. In the Goblins matchup this shuts down Goblin Sharpshooter Siege-Gang Commander and Skirk Prospector which can be used together to break traditional lock pieces.
Prison is yet another concession primarily to the Goblins matchup. If the deck isn't running green it doesn't have an out. If it is running green it only has Krosan Grip. Although it fulfills a similar role to Ensnaring Bridge it's far harder to kill by being an enchantment. It synergizes with both Tabernacle and Maze of Ith creating a very potent lock.
Cards Not in the Deck
Intuition is an incredibly powerful midgame tutor; however it's held back by being a midgame tutor. At three mana Intuition becomes far easier to counter in the control matchups either by allowing an opponent to draw into Force of Will or simply Spell Piercing the tutor. Enlightened Tutor allows a pilot to tutor on turn 3 while playing around Spell Pierce.
Intuition doesn't synergize well with the rest of the deck. Turn 1 Manabond with an Intuition forces one to hold back on advancing their board position because to use Manabond requires ditching the Intuition. Even on turn 3 or 4 Intuition can't be cast on the same turn as using Rishadan Port to delay an opponent. Maze of Ith also plays poorly with Intuition.
Intuition also makes it very difficult to handle some problems. For instance answering Leyline of the Void using Chris Woltereck's build of Lands requires the Intuition pile of Ray of Revelation Smokestack Engineered Explosives. On top of being undone by a single counterspell or Krosan Grip the pile is incredibly slow at dealing with Leyline.
Gamble is an incredibly powerful turn 1 tutor effect but it requires the deck to run red. Red contributes very little to the deck that can't be solved with other colors. Additionally Gamble can put the tutored card into the graveyard and the deck has no way to recur Enchantments.
One of the biggest reasons Gamble was cut from older builds was a high-profile Top 8 match between Chris Woltereck and Alix Hatfield. Woltereck had his Manabond stripped from his hand after Gambling for it.
Contrast this to running Enlightened Tutor which guarantees the card chosen will be in your hand the following turn. Enlightened Tutor can't find Loam but it will be able to prolong a game with Ensnaring Bridge or get Crucible of Worlds to do a bad impression of Life from the Loam.
How many lands get significantly better at instant speed? One mainly. Glacial Chasm in response to Price of Progress is cute. Beyond that the deck has more efficient tutors for most roles. Bojuka Bog is also good at instant speed but graveyard-based matchups are few and far between.
Additionally Lands in this form struggles to maintain a high enough land count so cutting business spells for a tutor for lands is weak.
Barbarian Ring is not as good as one would expect in Lands. It serves two functions in the deck; two damage to an opponent and two damage to a creature.
Against an opponent Barbarian Ring is typically a ten-turn clock which is on the slow side. Additionally with only Loam to recur it a Lands player needs thirty cards in their deck to be able to kill an opponent at twenty. Barbarian Ring sacrifices itself which delays board development especially without an accelerating enchantment in play.
There are four creatures that see Legacy play that a Lands player would want to kill on sight: Dark Confidant Gaddock Teeg Yixlid Jailer and Withered Wretch. Of these Dark Confidant sees a significant amount of play; Gaddock Teeg can occasionally come out of the board; Yixlid Jailer almost never shows up; and Withered Wretch is not played at all currently. So realistically Dark Confidant and Gaddock Teeg are the two creatures to focus on. Dark Confidant provides significant advantage but the only decks running it are currently B/G/W colored decks that can do little to stop tutoring for and resolving Engineered Explosives. Gaddock Teeg which stops most win conditions as well as Engineered Explosives can be dealt with via Karakas which makes it largely irrelevant.
If you feel that a way to kill creatures is warranted consider Cabal Pit which deals with hate bears with ease and can gain two life in a pinch. Also it's in a more conducive color (black) than Barbarian Ring.
Worm Harvest is a very cute card in Lands putting a large amount of tokens into play... or so it seems. However in reality there are rarely an incredible number of lands in the graveyard as the deck wants to keep lands in play. Worm Harvest costs five mana which makes it more of a liability against Counterbalance-based decks than the alternatives such as Mindslaver or Smokestack which are far harder to counter.
Riftstone Portal seems good but its effect simply isn't necessary. Riftstone allows loaming during Blood Moon which is convenient but by no means powerful. Both of these cards aid in casting win conditions but once you reach a game state that casts win conditions it's largely irrelevant as the game is already won. Urborg can be used alongside sideboarded Raven's Crime but Raven's Crime isn't very good either.
Mishra's Factory is a mana-producing land that enters the battlefield untapped and doesn't add colored mana. Oh and once a game is won Mishra's Factory forces an opponent to scoop. That's about it. You can ignore delusions of blocking with Factories or turning them sideways for profit at any point besides when an opponent has zero lands in play. If you try to use it as a blocker it will almost always be met with Swords to Plowshares.
Mishra's Factory is okay against decks still playing Nimble Mongoose and passable at stopping turn 1 Lackey. Mishra's Factory can also be Wastelanded or sacrificed to Zuran Orb to remove Bridge from Below. Beyond that Mishra's Factory is just an untapped colorless mana source.
Sorcery-speed graveyard destruction isn't as good as one would expect. While passable against Dredge and strong in the mirror neither of those decks command enough popularity to warrant a maindeck slot. Even post-board Tormod's Crypt is simply a more efficient and easily recurrable answer.
Volrath's Stronghold is not nearly as profitable as one would expect. Dark Confidants will rarely end up in the graveyard. Especially in situations where Dark Confidants are dredged it's largely irrelevant. The game has already been won if you're recurring Life from the Loam as the opponent doesn't have hate online.
Volrath's Stronghold creates a deckbuilding conundrum. By maindecking it an opponent can see that the deck will be bringing in creatures post-board and will keep in Swords to Plowshares. If Volrath's Stronghold is boarded then precious sideboard space is being wasted on lands.
Cephalid Coliseum has the ability to pull a Lands player far ahead in card quality. However it comes at the expense of a land drop and requires threshold to get value. Losing a land drop hurts the deck a fair amount. More importantly this build of Lands has increased tutor power to land an enchantment as well as Sensei's Divining Top to find one.
Horizon Canopy is similar to Cephalid Coliseum except it provides “real” card advantage. Horizon Canopy solves many of the issues with Manabond by allowing the Lands player to save Loam from graveyard hate. However Horizon Canopy still suffers the same problem that Cephalid Coliseum does; it takes up a land drop to get card advantage as opposed to taking a land drop for board advantage. Horizon Canopy also costs life to activate and this life loss adds up over a long game.
Worldwake brought a cycle of five very powerful manlands. However Creeping Tar Pit is the only manland worthy of play in this deck. Although the deck runs the colors to support Celestial Colonnade Colonnade simply isn't worth the space in the deck. First it requires a commitment of six lands essentially to attack anything. This is a serious liability as oftentimes against decks that play Counterbalance and Jace the deck will have only a handful of lands already in play. Creeping Tar Pit at only four mana opens up a large degree of tactical flexibility to remove a Jace including recurring Engineered Explosives and swinging with Tar Pit while casting Engineered Explosives every other turn.
Vesuva has one very powerful effect going for it: It enables double-Chasm lock a lock that no aggro deck can break. Double-Chasm involves having Glacial Chasm with one age counter on it with Zuran Orb and Exploration / Manabond in play. Play Vesuva copying Glacial Chasm. On the following turn pay two life for Vesuva and sacrifice Glacial Chasm to Zuran Orb to gain two life. From here repeating the two steps will lock the game up allowing you to advance the game state in other ways.
Vesuva is a weak card on its own however and relies on other cards in play to be strong. The real issue then is Vesuva is only good once you're already winning. It doesn't help catch you up when you're behind and need to find something especially because it comes in tapped and has a delayed impact on the game.
Mindslaver is a very mana-intensive win-condition but is basically guaranteed to win a game barring some strange circumstances (such as against Hypergenesis with four Progenitus and four Emrakul but that matchup can be won by tapping City of Brass repeatedly).
With the departure from Intuition and four Manabond builds the deck simply no longer generates the incredible amount of mana it once did. Smokestack is a far more useful card throughout much of the game than Mindslaver is as it has an impact a turn after it's cast as early as turn 4. Smokestack also gives the opponent a decision every turn which can allow them to make a mistake.
Guide to Closing Out a Game with Mindslaver
Step 1: Call a judge. (makes things easier / faster)
Step 2: Announce your intention to create a shortcut.
Step 3: Tap three lands including a blue land and Academy Ruins in one pile six lands in a second and four lands in a third. (Use the four lands for any Urborg-ed Maze of Ith or Rishadan Ports in case they have counters.)
Step 5: Ask your opponent to reveal their hand. Say "Draw a card" then evaluate their hand. Play only cards that can interfere with your lock such as Force of Will leaving everything else in their hand. Continue this until they have seven cards in hand. At that point say "You now have seven cards in hand; I'll choose to draw-discard for the remainder of the match" and flip over cards into their graveyard.
This whole process should take no more than three minutes tops.
Alternate Win Conditions
See this link for a guide of alternate win conditions.
Other Cards for Suggestion
Arcane Lab Rule of Law Sphere of Resistance Ray of Revelation Ancient Grudge Treetop Village Nantuko Monastery Pithing Needle Phyrexian Revoker Mindslaver Leyline of Sanctity Aeolipile Cursed Scroll Mana Vortex.
Starting Hands and Mulliganing
Lands is a deck that does not need a large amount of mulliganing. The most important part of a starting hand is the ability to interact with an opponent. This is more important than anything else. Additionally Life from the Loam is the single card that you're looking for in a starting hand. I would keep a six-land Life from the Loam hand regardless of what those six lands were assuming I could cast the Loam.
One of the other underappreciated plays is to not cast Life from the Loam. While some players believe this deck wants to be Loaming constantly that is not the case. The deck should Loam with a purpose. As long as Lands makes a land drop every turn it's better to draw for the turn with the hope of finding business spell.
These are not intended to be definitive or in-depth guides to a matchup. Rather they exist to establish the key cards in the matchup and how I sideboard in them. Typically -2 Manabond +2 Dark Confidant in every matchup as a start. Manabond is terrible post-board because you go completely all-in and hope your opponent doesn't have Crypt.
Also play around T2 Relic of Progenitus in every matchup unless you know for a fact the opponent doesn't run it (New Horizons or similar). In practice a starting hand involving fetchland Mox Diamond second land Life from the Loam should be played out as: fetch for a dual Mox Diamond discarding the second land then cast Life from the Loam for only one of the lands. This forces an opponent to either pop Relic of Progenitus to take Loam or allows us to get the Loam Engine online.
Matchup ratings go from Very Favorable - Favorable - Even - Unfavorable - Very Unfavorable. I don't want to assign percentage points as a good or bad pilot on either side will move percentages by 30 points or more.
Counterbalance (No Thopter Foundry)
Thopters differs dramatically from other Counterbalance decks. Typical Counterbalance decks have a matchup that hinges on their resolving a four-mana sorcery-speed spell and riding it for the rest of the game. If it's Jace or Natural Order Lands has answers and game 1 is largely about hitting the answers and resolving them.
Priorities in this match are to find Tolaria West to in turn find Academy Ruins + Engineered Explosives. There are arguments for finding either card first although I typically go for Ruins. This allows Lands to dredge every turn to try and find Engineered Explosives and keeps the Counterbalance player honest by leaving a two on top. Game 1 they most likely have no out to Explosives lock. When casting Engineered Explosives one can choose any value for X and specifically designate the colors paid into it for sunburst. Engineered Explosives for six with sunburst two will slip past Counterbalance with ease. Sensei's Divining Top is amazing if you draw it before Counterbalance as it lets you find anything to win the game.
This is one of the matchups where you shouldn't try to win game 1. Explosives lock will win the game for you eventually and a smart opponent should scoop to that. If an opponent doesn't scoop let them drag the game out as long as it takes for them to deck out.
Post-board their only relevant card is Pithing Needle on Ruins. Everything else can be dealt with via Explosives.
-1 Zuran Orb
+2 Krosan Grip
Counterbalance (With Thopter Foundry)
This matchup is far harder primarily because they have a rock-solid mana base that is hard to disrupt. Additionally they have Crucible of Worlds and a resolved Crucible of Worlds makes the match very difficult to win.
The keys to the matchup are to try and get Academy Ruins in hand (and not in play) as soon as possible and use Smokestack to win the game. This is a matchup hurt a lot by not having Mindslaver in the deck as Smokestack can be countered by Counterbalance easily with Moat and Enlightened Tutor to set it up. Pithing Needle is a serious problem in this matchup as well.
-2 Maze of Ith
-1 Zuran Orb
+2 Krosan Grip
Previously a very difficult matchup this match has become passable. Meekstone answers most of their creatures although letting them hit even once can be an issue. The deck runs both Wasteland and Stifle so be careful exposing Mazes to getting Stifled. They typically run either Spell Pierce or Daze but not both. Since their threats cluster at three mana keeping them off of that should be a primary goal.
-1 Zuran Orb
Slightly Positive isn't exactly accurate as the build of Thresh and player skill can move it either way. The most important part of this matchup is to not Wasteland unless it wins you the game. Their deck can win games on one land just fine. The only time Wastelanding them is acceptable is once you're way ahead on the board typically in game 1 with Exploration and Loam online. Also if you know they play Magus of the Moon or they signal it by running multiple basics and fetching them trying to keep them off three lands is a valid strategy.
The goal post-board is to have as many live topdecks as possible. Also don't run out two Dark Confidants ever as Fire / Ice is a blowout. This is one of few matchups where Explorations come out but it's more important to just keep hitting land drops and making a mana advantage than to come out of the gate faster.
Lands as a deck is designed to prey on aggro decks. This matchup hinges largely on three cards in the Zoo player's deck: Price of Progress Burning-Tree Shaman and Magus of the Moon. The first one is the only card that sees serious play although the Shaman can show up alongside Green Sun's Zenith and Magus of the Moon has popped up in some sideboards.
Zoo matches are largely dictated by the speed of their draw. Fast openers involving three creatures by turn 2 are harder to handle than openers involving multiple Tarmogoyfs. The general strategy is the same but faster Zoo hands dictate immediate responses. Glacial Chasm lock is difficult to beat but they have the ability to burn out a Lands player in their upkeep. Only running two Manabonds makes this match more difficult.
There is no sideboarding in this matchup as Lands is pre-boarded against Zoo. Depending on what is in the Zoo deck Krosan Grip can be included but this is typically only necessary against Blood Moon. The deck is absolutely cold to Magus of the Moon from Zoo and there's little point trying to bring in hate since Zoo can win the game incredibly quickly once it hits.
Merfolk is not a very interactive deck. They play some taxing counters and Force of Will but that's about it. Their clock is slower than Zoo's. Game 1 is just a race to establish a board before they clock you. It's very important to not run spells into their soft counters unless absolutely necessary. Game 1 they have basically no out to Ensnaring Bridge besides Standstill + Spell. This is still a three-mana play that needs to be done through Tabernacle and Rishadan Port which is not the easiest thing in the world to do.
+1 Null Rod
When talking about the Goblins matchup it's easier to evaluate how to lose the match instead of how to win it. Typically Goblins will play early drops including Goblin Lackey or Goblin Piledriver and get in for ten or so damage. Then Lands will find a lock piece in some capacity either Ensnaring Bridge or Glacial Chasm lock. At this point Goblins needs to use Siege-Gang Commander or Goblin Sharpshooter to win the game or push through enough damage with a Wasteland.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when playing against Goblins is to play incredibly quickly. Goblins only has a few routes to win but even on a locked board Goblins has the ability to win so games drag on longer than they should. This is by far the matchup I have drawn the most in tournament play.
+1 Cursed Totem
Post-board matchups become far more interesting as Goblins can board in Blood Moon. Typically you want to hold Krosan Grip in hand even if an opponent is reliant on Vial because of how easily Blood Moon can blow us out. Remember that Tabernacle or Glacial Chasm can be used for Mana to Krosan Grip an opposing Blood Moon which makes it easier to destroy it.
Like most matchups the Dredge matchup depends heavily on the individual cards played by the Dredge player in particular their Dread Return targets. If a Dredge player is maindecking Iona Shield of Emeria the matchup becomes difficult as we can be cut off of Life from the Loam. If they're running a Vindicate effect the matchup is also difficult as Ensnaring Bridge no longer saves us. However Lands has several advantages against other decks – Dredge has few ways of interacting with Lands and only runs around 16 total lands making Wasteland incredibly relevant especially in conjunction with The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale.
The keys to this matchup are to land Bridge which slows them down tremendously. Also Wastelanding an early land can cut them off of draw spells.
-1 Entomb (keep this in over K-Grip)
-1 Zuran Orb
-1 Manabond (keep this in over K-Grip)
+2 Krosan Grip (to deal with opposing Leylines. If you don't see it G2 these can be brought out)
Typically Extirpate will target Dread Return as their primary paths to victory involve recurring large monsters. We have a tremendously powerful late game by recurring Tormod's Crypt with Academy Ruins.
The Storm matchup is incredibly difficult for Lands in general as Lands does not play counterspells nor does it have a fast clock or a way to pressure an opponent. That isn't to say the matchup is unwinnable but against a skilled pilot a tremendous amount of luck is required to win even a single game. Typically Lands needs to play an early Zuran Orb and put enough pressure on an opposing mana base to force them to combo off with no mana floating.
-4 Maze of Ith
+1 Null Rod
Extirpate is one of the stronger cards to board in this matchup but since so many cards in the maindeck are dead against Storm they provide value by disrupting the combo deck typically by stripping either Ritual effects or Tutors.
When faced with a choice of what to Enlightened Tutor for the best option is Ethersworn Canonist. This provides a reasonable clock against an unsuspecting opponent and forces an opponent to wait a turn between finding a hate card and casting it.
In the Storm matchup I typically mulligan any six- or seven-card hand that cannot deploy a hate-piece on turn 2.
Chalice at 1 vs. Chalice at 0
Given the option I'll always try to play Chalice at one even if it means cutting off other spells in my deck. A Storm opponent can still use artifact mana to cast an Ad Nauseam but without one-mana rituals the kill is far harder. Chalice at one also avoids the poor synergy between Chalice at zero and Null Rod.
The Rock (B/G/W Junk)
The Rock is a matchup that tends to take a long time to play out both because their deck plays a large amount of disruption and this is one of the few matchups where it's common to run into opposing Extirpate.
In game 1 your primary goal should be to answer their two relevant creatures: Knight of the Reliquary and Dark Confidant. An unopposed Dark Confidant is incredibly difficult to answer as The Rock will be drawing into more mana sources and Vindicates to punch through our Maze of Ith and Ensnaring Bridge.
Post-board Extirpate can be played around by using Rishadan Port to tap opposing black sources casting Life from the Loam and then returning it via a cycling land. However I find this process to be tedious and ineffective and only bring it up here for the sake of completeness. My strategy to beat Extirpate is through the use of soft-locks and alternate card-advantage engines. Maze of Ith in conjunction with Engineered Explosives can keep many opposing creatures at bay. Additionally I tend to hold off exposing Life from the Loam to Extirpate for as long as possible ideally casting it only for Academy Ruins Maze of Ith or Tolaria West and hopefully multiples of them.
Enchantress is a very difficult deck for Lands to defeat as Lands does not play many cards that interact with it well. One of the few efficient ways for Lands to defeat Enchantress in game 1 situations is through the use of Rishadan Port to curtail mana development and recurring Engineered Explosives to beat their draw engines. Enchantress doesn't have a good means of beating Glacial Chasm lock which can be used to our advantage. (They potentially have Blood Moon Ground Seal or Emrakul to beat it.)
-1 Zuran Orb
-4 Maze of Ith
+2 Krosan Grip
NOTE: Ensnaring Bridge is kept in in this matchup despite their not running many creatures as they have the ability to cast Emrakul. Karakas is boarded out because they'll just hardcast Emrakul. Smokestack is boarded out as their engine is more efficient than ours.
The post-board matchup becomes better as we can do a poor impression of a beatdown deck. Oblivion Stone and recurring Oblivion Stone is one of the best ways we have of defeating Enchantress. However care must be taken against Karmic Justice; this enchantment is their primary way of defeating sweepers and can ruin our board position as well. Tormod's Crypt is in the board as a way to hopefully beat Replenish.
MUD Stompy / Stax
Like most matchups MUD Stompy decks have several cards that can dramatically alter how the game plays out. In game 1 we essentially get to play a game of “Land the Ensnaring Bridge.” Most versions of the deck simply don't have an out to game 1 Ensnaring Bridge. There is one way a MUD opponent can beat Ensnaring Bridge however and that is with Goblin Welder. This requires Lands to put an artifact into their graveyard most likely a Mox Diamond without a land in hand or dredging back Loam. In the matchup Loam should almost never be dredged instead drawing cards naturally.
-1 Zuran Orb
+2 Krosan Grip
+1 Null Rod
Post-board Lands gains Null Rod while MUD gets only Chalice of the Void if they choose to bring it in. Chalice is not particularly effective at anything besides shutting off Enlightened Tutor or countering our Mox Diamonds.
Aggro / Combo Elves
Aggro and combo versions of Elves are different decks but have several common trends between them. First The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale typically does little to stop them. Second they have tutorable artifact hate in the form of Viridian Shaman. Fortunately the deck has issues beating Glacial Chasm lock outside of hard-casting Emrakul and this has the potential to win games.
+1 Cursed Totem
Black / Green and Taxes
Green and Taxes as a deck is positioned very well to defeat Lands. Primarily it has many solutions to permanent-based hate including Mangara of Corondor which beats any lock piece. They also play Knight of the Reliquary Noble Hierarch Qasali Pridemage and potentially Jotun Grunt. In total this makes for a very rough matchup game 1. However it's possible to beat all of these cards as their overall clock is very slow. Karakas can keep their Karakas off the table which is very useful. It can also lock their Mangara of Corondor from ever getting un-summoning sick.
Against Jotun Grunt the single most important consideration is to not lose Life from the Loam. As long as you have Loam you have the potential to win. Once Loam is stripped from the graveyard your chances of winning go down a lot.
+1 Cursed Totem
This is the matchup where Cursed Totem shines the brightest. Their entire deck is comprised of creatures with activated abilities and the Totem turns them all into Bears.
50/50 of course?
The Lands Mirror is one of the most awkward and interesting mirrors in the world. The primary goal is advantage. Whichever player is capable of putting more lands onto the battlefield will win almost without fail.
The mirror can also be over on turn 1. In one tournament match my opponent led with Tropical Island Manabond putting in two Mishra's Factories Tranquil Thicket discarding Intuition and Life from the Loam. I also had a Manabond draw putting in a Wasteland Rishadan Port and a Tranquil Thicket. If the Tranquil Thicket was any other land I could've Wastelanded and Ported him off of green mana ending the game on turn 1.
Aggressively using Engineered Explosives to keep an opponent off of their enchantments is vital as is Wastelanding them where possible.
-4 Maze of Ith
-1 Zuran Orb
Post-board games become even more awkward as both players will presumably be bringing in similar cards namely Dark Confidant and Extirpate while boarding out some number of Maze of Ith. This opens up another way of running over an opponent by resolving several unanswered creatures. Ensnaring Bridge can stay in as an opponent may have Meloku the Clouded Mirror or Worm Harvest. Zuran Orb needs to come out immediately as life totals don't matter too much in the mirror and more importantly an opponent can Mindslaver you tutor up Zuran Orb and use it to wrath the board.
Lands provides a unique challenge to play as it's far different from any other deck in Legacy. Through the strengths of the Life from the Loam engine Lands has the ability to dominate many of the tribal and control decks in the format and with Enlightened Tutor can drop game-breaking bombs.
Lands at GP Columbus (Report) - Stephen Menendian - http :// www . starcitygames . com / magic / legacy /19791_ So _ Many _ Insane _ Plays _ Why _ I _ Played _ Lands _ at _ Grand _ Prix _ Columbus . html
Match play-by-play - Stephen Menendian - http :// www . starcitygames . com / magic / legacy /19378_ So _ Many _ Insane _ Plays _ Grand _ Prix _ Columbus _2010_ Exclusive _ Future _ Finals _ Coverage . html
My Tournament Reports:
1st Place at The Portal Moxen tournament Bethlehem PA
http :// www . mtgthesource . com / forums / showthread . php ?19206- A - Moxen - Victory -1 st - Place - at - The - Portal - s - Mox - Tournament