Even before the ban, I was deeply investigating Lands and its variations, trying to come up with a great solution to Miracles. These investigations led to red-green splash blue (for Academy Ruins/Engineered Explosives/Walking Ballista) and red-green splash black (with Burning Wish, Boseiju, Who Shelters All, and Tsunami). Most of these ideas came from fellow Lands ringer, Dave Long, who has one of the highest win rates in Legacy tournaments in the mid-Atlantic region.
Since the ban, I now believe that straight red-green 35 Lands is the best version for a multitude of reasons:
- Its mana base is rock solid. All of the above versions had issues with their mana bases, and forced you to cut down on the number of Grove of the Burnwillows and hence Punishing Fire (usually substituting a Molten Vortex, which is worse with dredging Life from the Loam than Punishing Fire).
- You play 4 of all of the best cards in straight red-green (Gamble a.k.a. Demonic Tutor, Crop Rotation a.k.a. Tinker, Life from the Loam a.k.a. landcestral Recall, and Punishing Fire a.k.a. recurring Shock).
- Because you play 4 of all of the tutors, it’s more likely you can race combo decks like Sneak and Show or Storm in game 1, which are traditionally bad matchups.
After a bunch of streaming and testing, I arrived at the following list:
Red-Green 35 Lands
There are a bunch of notable changes from before.
- Riftstone Portal hasn’t aged particularly well, especially when 50% of the decks play Deathrite Shaman now, making it an unreliable way to get value out of your excess fetches and lands that don’t tap for mana.
- Sheltered Thicket over the second Tranquil Thicket has proven to be fantastic. It’s a split card of fetchable tapped Taiga and “bad” cycling land.
- Barbarian Ring has a lot of utility versus Sanctum Prelate and Mother of Runes (just ask Craig Wescoe about that from Grand Prix Louisville!).
- Ancient Tomb as a sideboard card increases the chances of having a turn-1 lock piece, since now you can have the possible combinations of lock piece + Ancient Tomb, or lock piece + green land + Crop Rotation, or Mox Diamond + 2 lands + lock piece.
- Thorn of Amethyst over Sphere of Resistance as a 4-of allows for the natural curve of Thorn of Amethyst into Tireless Tracker versus combo. If you prefer to hedge more for Food Chain and Elves, it’s fine to swap those numbers.
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
The most common matchups I expect in the Grand Prix are the following:
- Grixis Delver/Four-Color Delver
- Death and Taxes
- Sneak and Show
- Sultai and Bant Midrange decks with Leovold, Emissary of Trest and True-Name Nemesis (a la Reid Duke style)
Your game plan is to kill all of their lands with Wasteland, or go for a fast Marit Lage. If you’ve managed to kill all of their lands, then The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale serves as a Plague Wind. Post-board, you need to be wary of Surgical Extraction, Submerge, and Diabolic Edict as ways to interact with your graveyard and Marit Lage. I would describe this matchup as extremely favorable. If you can afford the time, Gamble for a cycling land protects your Life from the Loam from Surgical Extraction.
I cut Glacial Chasm because it’s bad versus Deathrite.
There are no two ways about it: Decks with Lotus Petal tend to be atrocious matchups in game 1. You are looking for a fast combo here, because anything else is unlikely to be good enough. Game 2, things change a lot due to your plethora of lock pieces, plus the newly added Ancient Tomb.
Death and Taxes
The games turn into a long grind. Trying to turbo out a Marit Lage versus the deck with 4 Swords to Plowshares, 2-3 Karakas, and 4 Flickerwisp is just asking for trouble. Instead, you are the control deck in this matchup. With enough time, you have inevitability in the form of Wasteland recursion for all of their Karakas, Barbarian Ring, and Punishing Fire as another form of recurring creature removal. Sanctum Prelate + Mother of Runes is the scariest combo, but Barbarian Ring neatly gets around that (so try to go for a fast Crop Rotation to get Barbarian Ring and use Thespian’s Stage to copy it). Post-board, they get access to a bunch of hate cards like Pithing Needle, Rest in Peace, and maybe Cataclysm (which in conjunction with Rest in Peace is quite annoying).
Sneak and Show
Another fast combo with Lotus Petal means another pretty poor matchup in game 1. Occasionally you can steal game 1 when they cast Show and Tell, and you complete your combo off the Show and Tell (by putting in the missing piece, since Show and Tell allows you to put a land into play). This is a matchup where maindecking Karakas would occasionally win you some games, but if they have Griselbrand, you’re generally dead. Unfortunately, even post-board, the matchup doesn’t improve that much due to the fact that they also pack Blood Moon and still retain their fast combo.
I would classify these decks as favorable matchups with the caveat that True-Name Nemesis or Leovold might be able to kill you if you don’t play carefully. Life from the Loam does get around Leovold’s “no extra cards” clause, but trying to Wasteland or use Rishadan Port on an opponent who has Leovold, Emissary of Trest in play is not a good plan.
Post-board, they generally have Surgical Extraction and maybe Diabolic Edict to interfere with your game plan, but I still think Lands is favored. Tireless Tracker generally comes in to fight the attrition war (try to only play it when you can get a Clue alongside it).
Tips and Tricks
There are a ton of tricks in this deck:
- Thespian’s Stage can copy any land. This includes opponent’s lands (to play around Pithing Needle in a post-board game) or creature lands (such as versus Landstill). You can also copy a basic land to “counter” a Wasteland activation on your Thespian’s Stage.
- If you have Grove of the Burnwillows plus Krosan Grip, you can abuse split second to get around Surgical Extraction. You put Krosan Grip on the stack targeting an artifact or enchantment, then respond by using Grove of the Burnwillows for red to return Punishing Fire. Since Krosan Grip has split second, no one has priority to cast spells.
- Conversely, if someone is attempting to Extirpate your Punishing Fire, you can use Grove of the Burnwillows to return it in response.
- You can pay 30 mana to make a Marit Lage. This most commonly occurs when your opponent has successfully resolved a Pithing Needle on Thespian’s Stage.
- If you have a cycling land and only a single Life from the Loam in your graveyard, and you know or suspect your opponent has Vendilion Clique, you can use the cycling land to dredge Life from the Loam in your main phase so you can immediately cast it.
- Try to assess if you can wait on Gamble, because if you’re able to pad your hand with Life from the Loam, the better your odds of Gamble working for something that isn’t Life from the Loam or a land.
- If you’re going to cycle your land to take a random draw, you generally should do it in your main phase in case you draw into Mox Diamond.
- A lot of post-board games come down to Wasteland wars involving Thespian’s Stage and Dark Depths, especially versus decks that have no removal for the Marit Lage.
- In mirrors or semi-mirrors, you can use Thespian’s Stage to copy your opponent’s Dark Depths to make a Marit Lage. Similarly, try not to expose your Dark Depths in mirrors.
- Casting Gamble for Tranquil Thicket is generally the way to play around Surgical Extraction on Life from the Loam in a post-board game.
With Legacy, there are a ton more matchups and tricks than the ones I’ve listed, but you can only discover them through countless repetitions versus a variety of opponents. Given enough practice, you’ll gain an intuition of what matters in a matchup without having played it before.
I hope to see more people flying the Lands flag at Grand Prix Las Vegas!