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Silvestri Says – 30 Lands Revisited

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Recently a number of people have come up to me and talked about selling out of Standard for a bit and coming back after the rotation of Shards block. The reason? Not Mythics or the current price of the game; many of them owned all the cards necessary to play a top tier deck or had enough stuff to buy into a Legacy deck. Perhaps it was balance? Again no, as the field has opened up a bit since a few months ago. Rather it’s the nebulous concept of fun and feeling like you're actually playing the game. There’s no great way to describe their issues even though I’m sure everyone who has played Magic for a notable period of time has felt them before.

I just want to remind people that if you feel like you aren’t getting enjoyment out of this hobby that sometimes it’s for the best to take a step back and look into other endeavors. Don’t immediately jump to the conclusion Magic is dying or that you’ll never have interest in the game again and decide to dump all of your cards. It happens whenever you do anything long enough, especially if the activity involves a winning and losing component to it. I was getting pretty burnt on drawing until this weekend when I finally got to sell some of my stuff and now I’m ready to go again. Magic was much the same way a scant year ago when Faeries was seamlessly replaced by Jund as the deck that everybody wanted to play if they felt like winning.

Breaks are good for you and they allow the juices that got you into the game in the first place to come back without it feeling forced. Unless your friends do this every few months, it’s best to just let people drift away from the game and be ready to bring them up to speed when they return. Note that I said drift away from the game, as the community itself is separate for many players. I know if I quit Magic tomorrow and never played the game again, I’d still be happy hanging out with many of the friends I made through it doing other activities.

It was the concept of bringing fun back that originally led me to playing the 30 Land deck I wrote about a couple of months back. Now I enjoy winning, so I was quite sure it could do that, but it also gave me a lot of room for decision making and I could go back over my losses and pinpoint where a sequencing error or mismanaged risk caused me a loss. Unfortunately that deck has become antiquated and no longer works, but a couple of friends asking me to revamp it and the Grand Prix: DC results sparked my interest in it once again.

The best matches for the deck were always control decks since you could just play a better long game against them even without running very many planeswalkers. You’d eventually ramp into infinite mana and then slam Mind Spring or just attack with multiple manlands a turn. In some games you could win simply by resolving multiple [card]Martial Coup[/card], essentially trumping their own Coups each time. The problem now is that Jund was never that good of a matchup and the alternative versions of it, Geo Jund and Vengevine Jund, are even harder to beat. Still it isn’t all bad news; we finally have non-Jace Planeswalkers worth using like [card]Gideon Jura[/card] while Control and Mythic are a good chunk of the metagame.

For reference, this was my last pre-ROE version of the 30 Lands deck.

[deck]
4 Celestial Colonnade
3 Glacial Fortress
1 Seaside Citadel
1 Sunpetal Grove
2 Halimar Depths
3 Forest
3 Island
1 Plains
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Stirring Wildwood
4 Tectonic Edge
4 Path to Exile
2 Bant Charm
3 Oracle of Mul Daya
3 Day of Judgment
3 Rampant Growth
4 Explore
4 Mind Spring
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
3 Martial Coup
[/deck]

By the end of that format I had figured out what the most crucial elements of the deck were and attempted to use the remaining slots to cover up my weak early game. Against a deck like Jund or Mono-Red you really needed to have an immediate answer to the first threat they cast or the ability to play Jace or Day of Judgment on turn three. All of the other problems could effectively be traced to Martial Coup not pulling enough weight in matches. It would always require multiple Martial Coup to end the game (if it even did) while a single large [card]Mind Spring[/card] would almost always win the game if it resolved.

While 30 Lands didn’t gain anything insane from Rise, [card]Wall of Omens[/card] was a big help for early defense without giving up card economy and the influx of huge spells opened up some late-game options. One card which immediately caught my eye was [card]All is Dust[/card], which I like even more as every deck in the format adapts planeswalkers. After playing with the new Wrath for a bit, I’m about ready to shelve Martial Coup for good. Destroying any planeswalkers on the board has just been of more use to me than the 5 Soldier tokens which almost always would be reduced to blockers or killed by [card]Maelstrom Pulse[/card]. Of course it was still a 7 mana Wrath and having learned my lesson the first time around about having too many expensive spells I quickly found 2 was about right for many matches.

Of course what Rise also brought to a deck featuring 30 land was the ability to run gigantic game-ending monsters. Whenever I tried them out though I always ran into one or two problems depending on the configuration of the deck.

1. They wouldn’t do enough for the cost
2. I’d have to warp the deck around them to make them useful

Unfortunately the problem with the Eldrazi is the same I had with [card iona, shield of emeria]Iona[/card]: they didn’t end the game the turn they hit play (and typically not the turn after either) and were dead in situations where even [card]All is Dust[/card] and [card]Mind Spring[/card] were perfectly reasonable options. That’s a point where it’s just too expensive to ever reasonably see play without some sort of major cheating going on. Hence point number two where I adapted the decks to be able to actually use the Eldrazi effectively. The problem with that approach is you either end up with a deck worse than Polymorph in every reasonable way or you end up with a Block deck and little in the way of early defense (the problem with the first deck!) and terrible mulligans.

Instead I found an old classic via Adam Prosak’s GU Ramp deck, [card]Avenger of Zendikar[/card]. This guy actually ended up being perfect for what the newer version of the deck wanted. Instead of ramping into Martial Coup and clearing the board and having a tiny sucky army, I could ramp into Avenger and have a burly army capable of just beating up anything on the other side of the table. Even [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card] doesn’t look that impressive against seven 3/4’s and a 5/5 monster. Obviously Avenger isn’t the perfect solution, but to have a creature capable of winning the game immediately and providing tons of blockers if it wouldn’t was more than enough for me.

[card]Day of Judgment[/card] was the next on the chopping block because of the new makeup of the metagame. If you consider the decks you absolutely need to be prepared for, you’ll find that only Mythic really worries about Day of Judgment and prepares accordingly. Just like Martial Coup, as good as it is against this deck, they still have [card]Dauntless Escort[/card], [card]Negate[/card] and [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] to reduce the damage of any sweeper you run. Against Jund the card was never that good against any iteration of the deck and [card]Vengevine[/card] decks will laugh in your face as you take a billion after clearing the board. It could still be used as a sideboard option, but for maindeck defense I rather rely on the [card]Path to Exile[/card] and [card]Wall of Omens[/card] plan backed by planeswalkers and [card]All is Dust[/card].

As I mentioned previously, the remaining card I wanted to fit in was [card]Gideon Jura[/card]. Not only did it provide a good complement to the manland beatdown, but it allowed for some additional defense that wasn’t a necessarily a one and done spell. Against control, while not as effective as [card elspeth, knight-errant]Elspeth[/card] in ending the game, [card]Gideon Jura[/card] provides a threat that has to be dealt with quickly in some capacity. Speaking of Elspeth, I did try her in the maindeck for a while, but she couldn’t match the immediate impact of Gideon and since the deck was already well suited against control I left her to the sideboard.

After some additional tweaking I ended up with this version of the deck:

[deck]
4 Wall of Omens
2 Oracle of Mul Daya
3 Avenger of Zendikar
4 Path to Exile
2 All Is Dust
4 Mind Spring
4 Rampant Growth
4 Explore
2 Gideon Jura
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Tectonic Edge
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Forest
3 Island
4 Plains
3 Stirring Wildwood
4 Celestial Colonnade
3 Khalni Garden
2 Glacial Fortress
Sideboard
4 Negate
3 Day of Judgment
3 Oblivion Ring
3 Elspeth, Knight Errant
2 Telemin Performance
[/deck]

Note that the sideboard is a bit more generalized than it would be ideally. There are options like [card]Kor Sanctifiers[/card] and [card]Celestial Purge[/card] which are both valid options for different types of metagames. [card]Kor Firewalker[/card] and [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card] was a great combination to take on red decks previously, but since they aren’t that prevalent in my local meta I don’t worry about them.

One thing you may of noticed in the most recent list is the drop in land count down to a paltry 28. Sadly over time I found the 30 Land moniker just wasn’t warranted as I constantly wanted to add one or two more business cards to the deck over land. With the re-addition of the 8th accelerant, cutting [card]Treasure Hunt[/card] and the value of [card]Halimar Depths[/card] dropping dramatically there was just no reason to keep so many lands in the deck. With 28 lands I was still hitting my first four land drops in the vast majority of games and with so many cards either cantripping or fetching me extra lands I added more spells to the deck.

Now I’ve got to get going for testing the new version of this deck in case I’m attending SCG Seattle, which seems more and more likely based on this past weekend selling art and MTG stuff. Maybe I’ll be rocking Bant Ramp, maybe I won’t, but I know it’ll be fun either way, and that’s the important thing.

Josh Silvestri

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