I recently wrapped up my Top 20 best decks in Legacy series, and though Grixis Delver earned the #1 spot on my list, I’m convinced the actual deck to play is Lands.
One reason that Grixis Delver earns the title of Legacy’s best deck is its stranglehold on the winner’s metagame percentage. Grixis Delver has moved up to roughly 15% of the winners’ metagame, as opposed to Lands’ rather modest 4%. There is no arguing around that point—Grixis Delver has been getting the job done in recent Legacy tournaments.
On the other hand, Lands’ smaller piece of the winners’ metagame pie likely results from the fact that it makes up a much smaller percentage of the overall field. I wasn’t able to locate a statistic for the conversion rate of each deck into Top 8, but I speculate that Lands and Grixis Delver would have similar numbers.
Grixis Delver may have more Top 8s overall but those numbers come on the back of a much higher number of Grixis decks in the field than Lands by a large margin. On top of that, Lands and Loam strategies have favorable Delver matchups. Finally, I’d wager that the dollar amount plays a role in its relatively small metagame share, especially with the continued recent Mox Diamond price spikes:
You need lots of green to play green…
I’ve heard the argument that Grixis Delver is relatively the same cost to play as Lands. While this is true, not all money cards are created equal. The bulk of the cost to play Delver comes from the pricey duals like Underground Sea and Tropical Island. I agree the cost is relatively even if a player wants to buy the deck from scratch, but that isn’t typically how players build decks.
Players are simply more likely to have dual lands from other decks they’ve played in the past. Commander decks, etc. The key factor being that they are more flexible cards to own, since they go into lots of different decks over time. The money cards from Lands are pretty specifically linked to just one deck.
Also, it is worth noting that there are a lot of Revised dual lands in existence compared to Tabernacle or Drop of Honey. I’m glad that Underground Sea wasn’t only printed in Arabian Nights, as it would likely be a $5,000 card!
Lands’ metagame percentage is hindered by access and price of cards. Lands’ representation in the winners’ metagame is likely lower than it would be if more players were able to cobble the cards together to play it. Secondly, Grixis Delver’s metagame share is likely higher than it would be if there were more Lands decks in the field since Lands is a natural predator of that archetype.
Hot take: If accessibility to cards had no bearing on what people were able to play in Legacy, if Legacy tournaments were essentially proxy events, we’d see significantly lower Grixis numbers and significantly higher Lands numbers. I hypothesize both decks would have relatively event percentages.
All of this suggests what I believe to be true: Lands is likely the best choice to play in a large Legacy tournament (if you can assemble the 75).
Give Me Lands, Lots of Lands
Let’s look at lists.
Sam Black, 3rd place at Grand Prix Seattle
I would expect nothing less from Sam Black. His lists are always flawless.
The deck is basically a resource denial combo/control deck. What could a deck even do that would be more powerful, flexible, or better than that? The deck attacks and cripples opposing mana bases while generating copious amounts of card advantage and has a two-card “win the game” combo. The deck is serious business. It’s great at defending against opposing creature decks and can grind out control decks.
The Achilles heel of the Lands deck is that it isn’t good at defending against all-in combo decks. Obviously, it is difficult to win an attrition-based game against a deck that can win quickly off few resources. The sideboard is designed to transform into a deck that can better combat these decks via Sphere of Resistance and Chalice of the Void.
Which means that Lands isn’t down and out against any particular matchups since it can just fire off a Lage Token and race.
I would play something close to Black’s list. If I spent all week tuning a list (which I have been), I feel confidant that I’ll end up playing at least 73 of Sam’s current 75. I like the idea of adding a second Drop of Honey to the sideboard, because dropping another $1000 card to the board has to make it better, right?
With that being said, let’s take a look at a few other decks derived from the Lands family tree (which is Forest).
Conor Folse, 3rd place at Legacy Preservation 1K Series
Aggro Loam is an interesting deck. Some folks were disappointed it didn’t crack my Top 20 Legacy decks. It narrowly missed, largely because its winners’ metagame percentage was low.
I would describe this deck as The Rock. Unlike Lands, the Aggro Loam deck pushes the board control axis harder and drops the combo finish. It also makes great use of Chalice of the Void to lock fair decks out:
This cup is 100% empty no matter how you look at it.
The deck can strip away opposing lands and has even more ways grind down opposing creatures. Dark Confidant helps keep the assembly line rolling.
Overall, I do think that Aggro Loam is a strong deck.
The last deck I’d like to touch on doesn’t actually play any copies of Life from the Loam. It is Loamless Turbo Depths. The deck has turbo in the name, so you know it’s great.
Shadow_pt, 5th place in an MTGO Legacy Challenge
I’ve described Lands as a resource denial combo/control deck. The Aggro Loam deck took the archetype and moved it far down the spectrum into heavy board control. The Turbo Depths deck takes the combo axis and pushes it hard in the other direction.
The deck foregoes messing with your opponent’s mana and grinding out their resources by going straight for the throat with the Dark Depths combo. In fact, it even has a Vampire to reinforce the theme!
The nail in the coffin.
The deck has two seperate ways to combo off with Dark Depths (the other being Stage) and maxes out on disruption:
Keep it secret, keep it safe…
You don’t need to be a genius wizard like Gandalf to know that making a fast 20/20 and protecting it is a great way to end games of Magic!
I also love the Sylvan Libraries in the sideboard of this deck. I’m interested in trying them out in other Loam decks.
One pillar, three decks, 100% fun. It is interesting to me how Lands is sort of the flagship deck that has now spawned multiple sub-archetypes of itself.
A deck like Aggro Loam takes some of the inherent Loam synergies and pushes on them to become a more effective control deck. Turbo Depths pushes the combo to the limit.
I prefer the original flavor of Lands and appreciate that it is flexible and does so many things well. The ability to adapt from matchup to matchup offers a lot of potential to find ways to win.
It’s hard to go wrong with any of these three decks.
One of my favorite Magic stories (that I actually witnessed) came during an Extended PTQ that allowed Invasion block cards.
Aaron Brieder (local grinder) was playing against a Mono-Blue Tron opponent. The Tron player had a bunch of lands, but no Tron. Brieder had the win on board as long as nothing too crazy happened during his opponent’s turn.
The Tron player ripped the last Tron piece and slammed it onto the battlefield. Then he giddily slammed and activated a Mindslaver. In his excitement, the Tron player reached across the table as to take Aaron’s hand to start playing his turn. It was sort of all in one motion: slam Tron, tapped all lands, binned a Slaver, and reached across the table to start playing Aaron’s turn.
Aaron’s reaction was priceless and perfect. He calmly put his hand up to signal “halt,” as if he were a police officer. Indeed, he was the fun police on that day. He puts up his hand and coolly said:
“Hold on there, blue mage. I’m playing green over here.”
The natural enemy of Mindslavers everywhere.
It was awesome.
Anyway, blue decks like Grixis Delver may be on everyone’s mind in Legacy these days, but I’m going to take a cue from Aaron.
“Hold on there, blue mage. I’m playing green over here.”
If you want to put these Delver decks in a Bind, the best option may be to go green.