This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land

Image

From Tabernacle, to the Tomb of Yawgmoth,
From the Rishadan Port, to the Molten Pinnacle,
This land will will affect both you and me.

Lands

Considering the title, imagery and Woody Guthrie homage, you probably could have guessed this article is about lands. Not just your basic assortment of lands though. Today, I’ll be focusing on utilizing lands as your primary route for victory. The amount of reliance on your lands as win-conditions will vary from list to list, but the overall theme will stay a constant.

Now, in a format where (almost) every card in existence is at your disposal, why on earth would you want to focus on questions such as “Should I play two or three cycling lands?”, or the various game-plans surrounding Zuran Orb. For starters, there’s the “rogue factor”. You would be hard-pressed to find a strategy that a dedicated Highlander player isn’t prepared for, but lands comes close to fitting the bill. It is not uncommon for decks to carry little to no answer(s) for lands, be the cause of their grief a pesky Port or a migraine inducing Maze. For instance, while certain aggressive strategies Molten Rain on your parade, the most common disrupt you’ll come across will be in the form of Strip Mine or Wasteland. These however are merely momentary lapses in the natural progression of a Loam deck, and they come at quite a cost for our opponents. Control variants on the other hand, have little to offer in terms of counter-play. Pithing Needle serves as a suitable wrench in certain routes towards victory, but is entirely dependant on the situation at hand. Tectonic Edge is also a fine retort, however certain circumstances must be met for it to function as intended.

While all the cards listed serve their intended purposes (quite well at that), the resilience of Loam/Land engines is quite difficult to overcome entirely.

But, what if there is no “surprise!”.

The gig is up. You’ve been found out. Your opponent happens to be the player that lent you the Dark Depths you’re using this particular evening. Have no fear, for the “rogue factor” isn’t the only reason to take on terrain warfare. If the room is clogged with decks packing reactive spells, then you’re in luck! Mana Leak does not fare well against Valakut triggers, and board sweepers are frankly depressing, when you’re sitting across from a board of multiple man-lands. Of course, we won’t get off that easy. Reactive cards still threaten to muck up certain key spells and sequencing, which forces our engine to run a tad slower than usual. This however can be avoided, by taking more of an attrition route to victory.

Horn-of-Greed
AKA “The Slow Grind”

Loam Pox – 100 Cards – 14 Points
Serge Yager

Artifacts – 7
Chrome Mox
Crucible of Worlds (1)
Expedition Map
Horn of Greed
Mana Crypt (2)
Mox Diamond
Zuran Orb

Creatures – 8
Academy Rector
Bloodghast
Dark Confidant
Deathrite Shaman
Eternal Witness
Knight of the Reliquary
Oracle of Mul Daya
Vampire Hexmage

Enchantments – 11
Bitterblossom
Chains of Mephistopheles
Choke
Drop of Honey
Exploration
Fastbond (2)
Mirri’s Guile
Nether Void
Porphyry Nodes
Sylvan Library
The Abyss

Instants – 11
Abrupt Decay
Constant Mists
Crop Rotation
Enlightened Tutor (2)
Entomb
Grisly Salvage
Mental Misstep
Nature’s Claim
Realms Uncharted
Shadow of Doubt
Snuff Out

Planeswalkers – 1
Liliana of the Veil

Sorceries – 20
Beseech the Queen
Death Cloud
Duress
Gitaxian Probe
Hymn to Tourach
Ice Storm
Innocent Blood
Inquisition of Kozilek
Life from the Loam
Maelstrom Pulse
Mind Twist (1)
Pox
Raven’s Crime
Regrowth
Smallpox
Sylvan Scrying
Thoughtseize
Toxic Deluge
Vindicate
Worm Harvest

Lands – 42
Arid Mesa
Barren Moor
Bayou
Bloodstained Mire
Bojuka Bog
Dark Depths
Flagstones of Trokair
Glacial Chasm
Godless Shrine
Horizon Canopy
Karakas
Marsh Flats
Maze of Ith
Mishra’s Factory
Misty Rainforest
Nantuko Monastery
Overgrown Tomb
Rishadan Port
Savannah
Scrubland
Secluded Steppe
Strip Mine (4)
Tectonic Edge
Temple Garden
The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
Thespian’s Stage
Tranquil Thicket
Treetop Village
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Verdant Catacombs
Wasteland (2)
Wooded Foothills
5x Swamps
4x Forests
1x Plains

Serge is no stranger to playing land-based strategies, often incorporating “prison” permanents when most appropriate. While most of the silver-bullets are meant to tackle opposing creatures, this shell utilizes multiple graveyard engines to grind out a variety of opponents. The beauty of this build is that (nearly) everything in the deck, profitably interacts with (nearly) everything else available to you. The symmetrical effects often benefit your overall game-state, rather than leaving you in a slightly advantageous position. Discarding a Life from the Loam, or sacrificing an Academy Rector removes the task of recovery from such symmetrical effects. It is often the case, that these offerings then replace themselves with cards more suitable for the current game-state.

One important thing to note, is that there is a common misconception that all “land” decks are looking to accelerate their mana. In truth, the importance lies in the playing of lands, rather than ramping to a specific point.

That said, there are certainly certain land strategies that are looking to hit a critical point through Rampant Growth style effects.

stf64_valakut
#ToTheDome

Ladies, and gentlemen, straight out of Berlin, we have a 4-Colour Scapeshift list from the mind of YouTube and HighlanderMagic.info sensation, Tabrys. Keep in mind, this list was designed with the “European Highlander” format as the focus.

4-Colour Scapeshift – 100 Cards – “European List”/ 12 Points
Tabrys

Artifacts – 1
Sensei’s Divining Top (2)

Creatures – 19
Dimir House Guard
Dryad Arbor
Eternal Witness
Farhaven Elf
Grave Titan
Imperial Recruiter
Inferno Titan
Overgrown Battlement
Primeval Titan
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Snapcaster Mage
Solemn Simulacrum
Sylvan Caryatid
Sylvan Ranger
Thragtusk
Vine Trellis
Wall of Blossoms
Wood Elves
Yavimaya Dryad

Enchantments – 1
Sylvan Library

Instants – 11
Abrupt Decay
Brainstorm
Clutch of the Undercity
Fact or Fiction
Fire // Ice
Intuition (2)
Izzet Charm
Lightning Bolt
Lim-Dul’s Vault
Mystical Teachings
Worldly Tutor

Planeswalkers (2)
Garruk Wildspeaker
Jace, the Mind Sculptor (1)

Sorceries (29)
Arc Trail
Beseech the Queen
Bonfire of the Damned
Cultivate
Damnation
Demonic Tutor
Edge of Autumn
Faithless Looting
Farseek
Firespout
Forked Bolt
Green Sun’s Zenith
Grim Tutor
Inquisition of Kozilek
Into the North
Kodama’s Reach
Life from the Loam
Maelstrom Pulse
Nature’s Lore
Personal Tutor
Ponder
Preordain
Rampant Growth
Recoup
Scapeshift (1)
Search for Tomorrow
Skyshroud Claim
Three Visits
Wheel of Fortune (1)

Tabrys’ build showcases a diverse threat configuration, flexible recovery options (primarily utilized versus opponents with heavy permission or hand-attack) and resilience through recycling resources. The selection of library manipulation and board sweepers, allow for a more steady-as-she-goes approach to victory. Rushing to combo via Dark Depths + Thespian Stage or Valakut + Scapeshift isn’t always your primary concern. Where more traditional Scapeshift builds might falter, this list offers counter-play against decks that simultaneously apply pressure alongside disruption, such as White Weenie or UG Sorenson (Tempo). However, against an unsuspecting opponent, the game can be swept up by an end-step Crop Rotation for either piece of the Thepths 2.0 combo.

It is worth noting that within the European Highlander format, certain cards that would (possibly) preform well within this archetype are currently banned. If one were looking to port this list to a Canadian Highlander meta, please consider some of the following choices:

  • Entomb
  • Gifts Ungiven (2)
  • Mystical Tutor (3)
  • Natural Order (1)
  • Strip Mine (4)

Entomb, Gifts and Strip Mine would allow for additional flexibility, and the possibility for a Scapeshift/Loam hybrid list. Configuring such a list for a competitive scene would require quite a lot of testing, trial and (assuredly) error.  If after reading through these lists, you’ve developed a hankering for some landfall triggers, might I suggest sleeving up something more forgiving to these less learned in the practice of rotating crops.

Other possible colour combinations/strategies could include:

  • Naya Ramp w/ Loam + Scapeshift
  • Bant Tapout Control
  • BG Loam Engine

images (3)

The Deep End

Something to keep in mind, is that while the strategies listed both utilize lands much more so than your typical archetype, they aren’t limiting themselves to relying solely on them as a route to victory. It is important to have options when approaching deck construction, as not every game goes as planned. Being open-minded towards all aspects of your colour(s), will ultimately be more rewarding than creating fictitious limitations. In addition, don’t feel as though what you are doing is boring or not interactive. Different people enjoy different aspects of the game. That is what makes Magic such an enjoyable experience. Be it with an indestructible 20/20, or by wasting away all their lands.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be pretty. It just has to work.

Cheers,

Benjamn

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