Yawgmoth’s Whimsy #9: Kill the Lands!
Land destruction means getting your opponent's (or opponents') land off the table and into the graveyard. LD is a staple of all types of Magic; it has been strong in tournament play in the past (Ponza, Legion Land Loss, etc.) and may be viable again (U/B Arena with Befoul, Rain of Tears, Vindicate, etc.)... But others have written that article. I want to look at LD for other, more casual formats – multiplayer and just playing for fun.
Really casual play: In at least one of the circles I play in, LD decks are frowned upon for the same reasons as highly efficient combo decks or Stasis decks — mainly, because preventing players from doing anything is as boring to do, watch, or endure as card tricks leading to"Stroke for 600?" That circle plays Magic with the same decks for hours at a time, and hours of draw, discard doesn't seem that exciting. However, some quirky land destruction decks have been played without anyone complaining because they were unusual... And because I didn't make a habit of it.
Less casual play: In more serious multiplayer games, land destruction has another problem – it is very difficult to Stone Rain enough lands to do more than annoy people. Land destruction works by keeping people from playing their threats – it does no good if you simply slow them down a turn or two. In large multiplayer games, the only effective LD spells are spells like Armageddon and Balance – which wipe out everything. You need methods of killing many lands with one card, preferably without hurting yourself too much. The following decks can do that – better yet, when they work, they can create one-sided Armageddons.
I'm also not going to write about Zuran Orb / Balance / Land Tax decks. I've done that. (My article is in the Dojo's archives.) (And since the Dojo is down as of Sunday night, I can't link to it — The Ferrett) So have many others. These decks work well in multiplayer – and are one reason Land Tax and Balance are generally restricted — so let's move on to something completely different.
**Turning Lands into Creatures ***
Several spells will turn lands into creatures. Living Lands and Kormus Bell are specialized; the first only affects forests, the second only changes swamps. More general spells include Verdant Touch, Natural Affinity, and Nature's Revolt (which is now back in Type II). Verdant Touch changes one land to a 2/2 creature permanently. It has buyback, but expensive buyback. Natures Revolt is an enchantment, and turns all lands into 2/2 creatures. Natural Affinity does the same for one turn. The Life half of Life/Death does so, too... But only for your lands. Not good when the purpose is to kill the creatures.
To make Verdant Touch work, you need Memory Crystals to cut buyback costs. To be effective, you need two in play. At that point, you might as well use Searing Touch - a"one damage for R" spell with buyback to kill the lands, or Evincar's Justice. This might be a decent support combo in another deck, but it's too expensive, too slow, and too many cards to build a deck around.
Nature's Revolthas better possibilities, but has a high (3GG) casting cost. That means your opponent(s) will have some lands in play by the time you cast it. You will need to kill those lands, then find a way to kill future lands. Since the lands are 2/2s, that means a spell like Steam Blast, Cave-In, or Pyroclasm could work, provided you protect your own lands and creatures with Parapet or Spidersilk Armor. The second option is to do damage only to your opponent's creatures, using spells like Simoon or Flame Wave. Simoon does only one damage, not enough to kill a 2/2 land, and needs to combine with something like Nausea, Fire Ants, or Furnace of Rath. The third option is to use something like Levitation / Skyshaper to give all your lands flying, then Earthquake. Finally, Matt Williams posted an interesting alternative on the MTG-Strategy list a few years ago: Plaguebearer. Plaguebearer destroys creatures at a cost of XXB, where X is the creature's casting cost. Since lands have a casting cost of zero, Plaguebearer will destroy an animated land for B. (Ooo, nasty - The Ferrett)
To destroy lands as your opponent plays them, you need something that can repeatedly do two damage. A pair of Tims is a possibility. So is Bullwhip and a good blocker, like an Acridian or Standing Troops. Or an Orcish Cannoneer and CoP: Red. Or a fistful of Shocks. Okay, enough bad ideas. The good ideas: Masticore, Thornscape Master, Karpulsan Yeti (the old Tahngarth), the new Tangarth, etc. If you have Spidersilk Armor in play, Aetherflash is cute.
Here's a quick decklist, with options for cards depending on your chosen format:
My Lands Are 2/3s – the two color version:
24 lands: Forests, Gaea's Cradle, plus G/R duals, taplands, painlands, etc.
4 Nature's Revolt
4 Earthquake or Faultline
4 Spidersilk Armor
2 Lightning Bolt
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Llanowar Elves / Fyndhorn Elves
2 Emerald Charm
2 Uktabi Orangutans or Viashino Heretics
2 Thornscape Master or Tahngarth
2 Angel's Trumpet
This is pretty simple to play. You use the Cradle and Elves to generate some serious mana, get a Skyshaper or Spidersilk Armor in play, then play Nature's Lore and Earthquake for two. With Skyshaper, your land flies, their land dies. If you have just one Parapet, no Skyshaper, and have to waste your elves to get rid of your opponent's lands, do it. Once you have a Nature's Revolt down and your opponent has no lands, it's over. Attack with your lands and creatures. Angel's Trumpet will allow you to attack with your lands, then tap them for mana. Serious beatdown, quickly. Or, if you really like overkill, tap Cradle for Overrun and send everything else. Incidentally, Cradle is a ton of mana when all your lands are also creatures.
The Uktabis, Emerald Charms, and the like provide reasonable enchantment and artifact control. Bolt gives you some removal.
My Lands Are 2/3s, the Multi-color version:
24 lands: Forests, Mountains, Gaea's Cradle, duals, etc. Sol Ring, 2 Star Diamonds
3 Nature's Revolt
2 Sterling Grove
1 Enlightened Tutor (restricted in T1, use more if allowed)
2 Swords to Plowshares
2 Wave of Reckoning
2 Benalish Heralds
2 Academy Rector
3 Earthquake or Faultline
3 Utopia Trees
4 Birds of Paradise
2 Cloudchaser Eagle or Disenchant
2 Viashino Heretics
2 Radiant's Dragoons, Staunch Defenders, etc.
This deck is built around a number of enchantments, plus ways to search for them. It will work, but opponents with Disenchants and counters tend to cream it. The creature count is also tuned towards my preferences: Slow, solid, have answers to everything and win later, once you have control. Of course, if all your lands are 2/3s and all theirs are dead, winning isn't really going to be an issue.
Nature's Revolt is back in Type II. So is Pyroclasm, and Spidersilk Armor, and Thornscape Master and Utopia Tree are al T2 legal. In theory, the deck is doable in T2, but does anyone really believe a G/R T2 deck can be built around an enchantment? No way that's gonna happen.
**Kill the Creatures **
The other option for a Nature's Revolt land kill deck is to use selective kill cards – but always cards that can get a one for many effect. This can also work, but these decks are still fragile.
I played a G/B LD deck in T2 tournaments, just after Urza's Legacy was released. The deck had Duress, Elves, Priests of Titania, and Birds for mana acceleration; Plaguebearer, Rituals, Dregs of Sorrow, Gaea's Cradle and Eradicate (destroy target non-black creature; it cannot be regenerated; search opponents library, graveyard and hand for all other copies of that card and remove them from the game) for removal. I succeeded in Eradicating Mountains against a Sligh player turn 4, and Islands against an accelerated blue player turn 5. That's pretty good. In another game I was slowly losing to – well, I can't remember what. I had Nature's Revolt in hand, but could not draw anything but Elves, Birds and lands – in other words, nothing to make Nature's Revolt worth playing. Then I topdecked Dregs of Sorrow. I cast Revolt, tapped Gaea's Cradle for a ton of mana, and cast Dregs – targeting nine of my opponent's creatures and lands. At least half a dozen people were standing around, wondering what my deck could possibly do to win."Kill all your lands and creatures, draw nine cards" was a pretty good answer.
The deck worked, but it was not better than Wildfire or the artifact decks running Temporal Aperture, etc. And, once Destiny came out, there was no way a quirky LD deck based around a 5cc enchantment could possibly beat Sabre Bargain, so I hung it up.
**Discarding Lands ***
The third option for trashing an opponent's lands is to make him or her discard them. Here's a very weird deck. It was fragile, but it did work well, way back before Masques. I built it using cards like Fire Whip, Monstrous Hounds, etc. It gains a lot from Apocalypse, though, and I will have to put it back together soon. It's a blast when it works, and very few people will suspect the real threat.
24-28 Lands: Islands, Mountains, plus duals and the new (not old) U/R painlands.
Artifact mana: Sol Ring, some diamonds, Moxen if you've got them.
4 Shocker (critical card)
4 Cheap blockers (Hammerhead Shark, Fog Bank, Wall of Dust, Bottle Gnomes, etc.)
3 Horseshoe Crab (another target for the Dagger to distract people, blocker)
2 Scrivener (returns Sunder to hand), or Raven Familiar, Spire Owl, etc.
4 Quicksilver Dagger (critical)
4 Sunder (critical)
4 Lightning Bolt or Prophetic Bolt
4 Intuition or Impulse or even Accumulated Knowledge
4 Foil or Mana Leak or Confound (you want to stop opponents from targeting the Shocker)
4 Force of Will
2 Seismic Assault (best in small games) or Monstrous Hound / Veteran Brawlers
The basic concept of this deck is to get a Shocker in to play and get a Quicksilver Dagger on it. Shocker is truly annoying – when it does damage, that opponent discard his or her hand and draws that many new cards. That's good and bad. With Quicksilver Dagger, the Shocker can ping for damage, and you draw a card while the opponent cycles his/her hand. Now add Sunder, and your opponent picks up all his or her lands. You tap the Shocker to do one point to your opponent, and your opponent discards his or her hand - including all their land. That is generally pretty good, since it makes it much more difficult for the opponent to cast all the new spells.
As for the rest, it is a very controlling deck. Sunder works for the kill, but it is also a great way of slowing down everyone's development. The deck has a ton of counters and control cards, and can pull more out of the sideboard.
The kill cards vary, and depend on how many people you play at a time. In smaller games, I used Seismic Assault, so I could Sunder, then pitch the land to do damage. That doesn't work in large game multiplayer. Killing four people with Seismic Assault requires pitching forty lands. In larger games, you can add a Scoria Cats, Monstrous Hound, or Veteran Brawlers as a kill card, and as an alternative target for the Dagger. Until you play Sunder, a Monstrous Hound may or may not be able to attack, but it can ping with a Quicksilver Dagger. After you play Sunder, and another land, you should be ahead on land until the end of the game. Then let loose the Hound.
If you have the duals and can handle the colors, Megrim can be brutal with players discarding their entire hands, and lethal after a Sunder. Fastbond or Exploration help get your lands back on the table. Groundskeeper helps when you end up discarding lands, but isn't critical. In larger games, Arcane Laboratory and Foils might be necessary to keep people from trashing the Shockers after you replace all their cards. Suffocating Blast would also help in larger games, since there should always be targets.
So, some strange and wonderful LD decks. If anyone tries these, let me know how they worked. Feedback is always welcome.
Landlord and Purveyor of Swampland for Investment Purposes
* - Living Plane – a Legends Rare selling for $12 a crack – makes all lands 1/1s. This means you can kill off all of a single opponent's lands with a Simoon, or use Tremor for widespread destruction. Otherwise, Nature's Revolt works just as well.