Keeping up with the trend of the past few articles, we’re going to cover another deck with a long history in the Legacy format: Lands. This deck is one of the most unique-to-Legacy decks out there and is an extremely appealing strategy to a decent amount of players. With expert Lands players putting up excellent results with the deck this past weekend, including two finals appearances in both the traditional Legacy Challenge and the Legacy Showcase Qualifier (read: just about the highest stakes Legacy event possible), now seemed like the perfect time to address the deck.
We’re going to take a look at the list Magic Online player aslidiksoraksi used to come in second place in the normal weekend Challenge. The list that Magic Online user alli used in the Showcase Qualifier does have some differences, but that might be more reflective of that being a small event with a known player list, rather than a more general Lands list. Lands is a complicated archetype with a lot of moving pieces but it is rather well-positioned at the moment, so an in depth look at the archetype should be beneficial. For some additional content, LSV just recorded a video using the deck on Magic Online.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the deck list.
Legacy Lands by aslidiksoraksi
Through all of the changes over the years the core strategy has remained: use Life From the Loam to generate incredible amounts of card advantage. This is often backed up by acceleration like Exploration, which helps you pull way ahead on mana as well. This will allow you to recur cards like Wasteland and Rishadan Port to deny your opponents access to mana. In order to safely do this, Lands uses cards like Maze of Ith and the Punishing Fire/Grove of the Burnwillows combo to manage the board, both of which can be facilitated by dredging and casting Life From the Loam. When you’re ready to end the game (read: need to win quickly), a 20/20 made from Thespian’s Stage and Dark Depths will do the job and, along with Life From the Loam, will do the job on repeat.
While these are the core elements of the deck, there’s a lot more to it and these days, Lands has a ton of alternate game plans. Let’s take a look at the card choices and explore all the options it has available.
The aforementioned Life from the Loam is the reason this deck exists. Every land in this deck has the ability to do something impactful or generate an advantage, so returning up to three with every use will quickly bury opponents in card advantage. The dredge ability both facilitating the engine and ensuring that you’ll always be able to recast Loam really drives the whole deck. Every aspect of the deck is built around this and while this deck no longer runs cards like Gamble to tutor for Loam, that’s more reflective of the fact that this deck (like every deck I have covered recently) has gotten some potent new printings and no longer needs to rely on Loam as its only engine.
This is one of the reasons this Lands doesn’t need to rely on Gamble anymore. Valakut Exploration is a very potent engine that synergizes extremely well with Life from the Loam and mana acceleration. It’s pretty important to pair this with Exploration, as that will allow you to actually play the lands you hit off of it. However, one of the nice things about Valakut Exploration is that, unlike Loam, it actively digs you towards your important noncreature spells. Additionally, it also acts as a faux win condition in situations where you might not be able to attack with a Marit Lage.
These are the backbone of this deck and a major reason this deck has persisted in a format as brutal as Legacy. Both of them allow you to cement your mana advantage as early as turn one and perfectly synergize with Life from the Loam. While they’re both high among the cards you want to start the game with, since this deck is most often gated by the amount of mana it has in play, they do certainly work differently. Mox Diamond is a lot better at facilitating early Life from the Loams, but Exploration really makes Loam shine. In addition, Exploration provides the clearest route to fast victories, as a turn one Exploration can enable you to make Marit Lage on turn two.
While Gamble has proven to be unnecessary as of late, Crop Rotation kind of does it all. This deck is full of lands that serve a specific function but might not be optimal to have in every game. Crop Rotation provides access to that toolbox consistently but its utility doesn’t end there. It’s one of the best tools for enabling a consistent combo and, importantly, by keeping a green mana available, it does a great job at negating the effect that Wasteland has.
Punishing Fire has proven itself to be an obnoxious engine for creature decks to deal with. However, it’s the type of removal engine that is contingent on the appropriate body sizing. In Legacy right now, X/2s aren’t as common as they used to be with Delver decks moving towards Dragon’s Rage Channelers. However, it’s still a potent way to keep the board stable so running two copies is a relatively low investment for a fair amount of gain.
Since this is an Urza’s Saga deck, these are the tutor targets that are the most effective in Lands. Expedition Map is a really cool inclusion for this deck as it’s a pretty reasonable card to naturally draw. Pithing Needle and Pyrite Spellbomb, on the other hand, do help the deck in some specific circumstances so having access to them does go a long way.
The fastest way Lands has to win, this combination of cards has been a staple of the format since Thespian’s Stage’s release. This combo is at its peak here, where you can both accelerate it out with cards like Exploration, as well as rebuy it with Life from the Loam if need be. Thespian’s Stage does have a fair amount of utility in this deck as well, since there are plenty of meaningful lands to copy so make sure you’re always keeping an eye on your targets.
The mana denial part of the deck is a huge part of its success. Wasteland is a completely unreasonable Magic card and this deck maximizes its power by rebuying it as often as possible. Ghost Quarter is an important element of that plan, since most players will prioritize basic lands to play around Wasteland. This opens the door for a recursive Ghost Quarter to put their basic lands under a tremendous amount of stress and potentially destroy them all.
Rishadan Port plays a similar role to Ghost Quarter, as it gives you a way to disrupt an opponent’s mana if they search up some basic lands. While Rishadan Port is more commonly played in larger quantities, it’s a bit worse in this current metagame than it would otherwise be. Part of the reason for this is the increased speed of the format, as using Port turn after turn can be pretty slow. In addition, Port used to be most effective against some of the slower decks of the format, like Miracles, but those decks have become more difficult to disrupt in that manner because of cards like Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. These factors combined make Port a little bit less effective at the moment.
Blast Zone is one of the most valuable lands in the deck. It functionally gives you the ability to answer any permanent eventually and there are plenty of permanents that make life difficult for this deck, from Ensnaring Bridge to Chalice of the Void. It’s also a relatively effective removal spell against decks that are trying to go wide. To top it all off, it can be recurred with Life from the Loam, which will go a long way towards locking players out of the game (and is also part of the reason Punishing Fire isn’t as important in large numbers).
Not many decks get to play graveyard in the main deck, but with Crop Rotation in the deck, this becomes an extremely valuable tutor target.
This card single handedly gives Lands a clear, dominant plan against control decks. Once it hits the battlefield, it becomes a ticking time bomb for any deck that’s trying to make it to the late game. It gets even more potent once you add Thespian’s Stages to the mix, and Crop Rotation helps it happen more often.
A much needed mana source and combo piece with Punishing Fire, Grove of the Burnwillows is an important piece of this deck. Be mindful about using the colored mana ability since that might put your opponent above 20 life and allow them to survive an attack from Marit Lage.
Karakas is extremely well positioned at the moment and, as with every other utility land, this deck takes advantage of it particularly well.
There are times where this deck would play less Maze of Iths depending on the texture of the creatures in the format. Right now, with Murktide Regent running rampant, Maze of Ith is extremely important and it even gets better with Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth in the deck.
Against just about any creature deck, Tabernacle is going to make their life pretty miserable. It’s even more potent when you combine it with the mana denial aspect of the deck, which can turn it from annoyance to one-sided Plague Wind.
The most recent addition to the archetype, Lands is very likely the best deck in the format when it comes to abusing Urza’s Saga. Not only can you recur it on repeat with Life from the Loam, but this deck generally has an abundance of mana in play with which to use the ability. In addition, the fact that this tutors up Mox Diamond is pretty massive here, since that’s a card this deck always wants to have in play. Finally, this deck also has additional synergy by combining Saga with Thespian’s Stage, which gives you the ability to continue making Constructs even after Saga is off the board.
This card fills the role of recurring Life from the Loam at will. This space is either filled with a Horizon land, like Waterlogged Grove, or a cycle land, like Tranquil Thicket. There are advantages to both, but the Horizon lands promote having lands in play, which is what this deck is look to do.
This card is a lot better than Riftstone Portal and almost fits under the mana acceleration part of the deck. Turning cards like Maze of Ith and Dark Depths into mana producing lands is a massive deal for this deck and this is one of the Crop Rotation targets that facilitates your primary game plan the most.
This deck doesn’t actually play that many mana sources, which is kind of funny. However, once you get a stable source of green mana in play, Life from the Loam mitigates the downsides of this pretty substantially, so I would certainly prioritize a Forest somewhat early.
Against decks with Islands, it doesn’t get much better than Choke. Since this deck has so much mana acceleration, it’s not unreasonable to get this out as early as turn two and it really warps the way your opponents have to play the game. It’s especially effective in conjunction with Rishadan Port, since you can tap down their fetchlands that they were saving and force them to commit to getting an Island (or just tap down their untapped Islands).
As in all of these Deck Guides, we see that the power and versatility of Endurance really makes a mark. It helps against the worst matchup, Doomsday, while also just further making the Delver matchup better (as well as against decks like Dredge).
Along with Endurance, playing Force of Vigor gives Lands a lot of free spells post-board. It really helps make the deck a lot more efficient against decks that might be doing some faster, more powerful things.
While this card is generally a great card in Legacy, with Murktide Regent in the format it becomes a necessity.
Lands struggles against combo decks, so a card like Sphere of Resistance really makes those matchups far more manageable. Since Mox Diamond provides the requisite acceleration to cast this on turn one, it can really swing those matchups in your favor.
- Thespian’s Stage can copy opposing Dark Depths to make a 20/20 for you, so be on the look out for that.
- There is a phase in between the declare blockers step and your second main phase (the damage step), where damage has already been dealt but it is still combat. You can use Maze of Ith to untap Marit Lage during that phase to have an unstoppable blocker.
- Despite only playing a single Rishadan Port, you can use Thespian’s Stage to make more of them if you think it’s going to be important.
- You don’t have to pay for Marit Lage when you have a Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale in play, since it is indestructible.
I could legitimately see so many different sideboarding options in this matchup. In general, I think all of the clunky and slow cards can easily be cut, since the matchup is much more brutal than it used to be. I think Punishing Fire is actually too narrow in the matchup since it doesn’t really kill half of the threats anymore. In addition, they will be bringing in graveyard hate so it’s not as reliable of a plan anymore. That’s part of the reason I’m suggesting to bring out some Loams, since Valakut Exploration is an engine that doesn’t rely on the graveyard. The cards I’m suggesting bringing in are all of the ones that concern me the most as someone who plays Delver decks a lot, so I think I’d stick to those eight.
I could see bringing in Endurance but I think Bojuka Bog will do a better job keeping Uro in check. Field of the Dead is by far the best plan here, so I’d work hard to get that online ASAP. They will have a lot of basics so I think trimming a Wasteland makes sense. Choke could be lights out if you time it well, but they do have answers to it now in Prismatic Ending.
Death and Taxes
In: 3 Force of Vigor
Relying on Marit Lage is tough in this matchup. They have so many answers for it and the swing in tempo when they answer it is pretty serious. With Skyclave Apparition in the mix, I don’t think Valakut Exploration is that reliable either. If you can get Punishing Fire online it can really make their life difficult but Aether Vial does a good job at sidestepping your mana denial plan. Force of Vigor does help there, as well as against Rest in Peace, so that should make that aspect of the matchup a little easier.
Just like every other non-blue deck, this is a tough matchup. A lot of the cards you bring in are pretty strong in the matchup though, so it does get better post-board. Racing to a Marit Lage is certainly the fastest way to end the game, so if you can keep a hand that can set that up it should be pretty effective. I don’t think Punishing Fire/Pyrite Spellbomb are actually worth bringing in to burn them out post-Doomsday because you don’t have any other source of damage to make that work.