“You’re playing Standard? But there is no Lands! What on earth could you be playing?!”
I am one of the three Lands players in the world. Married, baby, house, job, yada yada. Still slingin’ the cardboard makin’ the opponents bored. Still dredgin’ the loam makin’ all the people run home. I did fairly badly in the Standard Open, but I knew it wouldn’t be too promising considering I didn’t know the format at all. I ended at 6-4 with UWR Control, which was overall a good day for me.
I came to play some Legacy!
I played Lands at an Open series in Cincinnati a few months back and got very frustrated with the deck when I went 3-4-1, probably my worst SCG record to date. I was losing to every Deathrite Shaman that got played against me. I talked to Caleb Durward about it, and he said to take a break from Lands for a tournament, so I took his advice … and played Punishing Lands instead. But the Punishing Fire/Grove of the Burnwillows combo was good enough for me to take third place!
Punishing Lands by Bobby Kovacs, Third at SCG Columbus
Round 1 vs. OmniTell (Zach Hirshell)
I start out with a strong hand, with Life from the Loam, Manabond, and Tolaria West. I begin to activate Rishadan Port, targeting his basic lands, followed by transmuting Tolaria West into another Rishadan Port, followed by a Ghost Quarter. I recur the Ghost Quarter until he cannot find any basic lands.
I keep a hand of Wasteland, Rishadan Port, Mox Diamond, Maze of Ith, Chalice of the Void, Chalice of the Void, and Dark Confidant. He leads off with Preordain, putting both cards on the bottom of the deck. I draw The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale and cast my Mox Diamond … and he casts a Daze. I begin kicking myself for not playing a land beforehand, and my all-in amazing hand turns into a complete pile of garbage. It takes him a few turns before he drops Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
My strong Turn 1 of Chalice of the Void for one goes directly into my graveyard with a Force of Will. I have the loam engine running with Dark Confidant in play, but I cannot find Trinisphere for the life of me. I cast an Intuition, which joins my Chalice in the graveyard with another Force. He draws Burning Wish and searches up Show and Tell, when I realize he only has three cards in hand. I ponder for a minute (not the blue sorcery), and think, “Welp, here’s to hoping he can’t kill me.” He casts Show and Tell, and I windmill slam a card facedown. I flip Ensnaring Bridge … He flips Omniscience … so much for that plan … looks like I’m dead.
He thinks for a minute about what to do, and while he casts Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, he mumbles under his breath how much he hates Ensnaring Bridge! Looks like I may still have a fighting chance. He takes an extra turn, casts Brainstorm, and I start chanting “Big money. No Whammies.” He finds nothing, so I know I have two turns before he draws anything of relevance. I can’t find Tolaria West to get Creeping Tar Pit, and I sided out the Punishing Fires, but I dredge Barbarian Ring and Glacial Chasm with him at 11 life. With two Life from the Loams in hand, I retrieve the lands, and play both. I then begin to shoot him with Barbarian Ring twice a turn, while cycling Tranquil Thicket for that extra shot. He ends up drawing the win, but has no way to interact with Glacial Chasm. Well played, Barbarian Ring. Well played. (1-0)
Round 2 vs. Jund (Bill Piwarski)
After winning the die roll, my hand is three Wastelands, Tolaria West, Intuition, Zuran Orb, and Maze of Ith. After having so much luck last round, my intuition (zing!) tells me I can make something of this hand. I drop Tolaria West and pass. Bayou casts Thoughtseize, and my Intuition goes right out the window and into the graveyard. I draw Tropical Island, and Wasteland his Bayou. Then he plays Badlands and passes. I draw Exploration, and accel into a second Wasteland, and hit his land. He drops Taiga, which also gets wasted as I draw Life from the Loam. I get back three Wastelands, and with 46 minutes left in the round, we move to Game 2.
He casts Inquisition of Kozilek, taking my Exploration so I now have no acceleration. I draw into Ghost Quarter and hit his Swamp. He fails to find, and I say, “How are you not playing a basic Forest!?” He then plays a Forest from his hand, looking about as happy as a penguin in a microwave. Two turns later he drops Dark Confidant, and I take a couple turns trying to wreck his manabase with Wasteland and The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale. I drop to 11 from Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant. I cast my Ensnaring Bridge with Life From the Loam in my hand, and I shut his creatures off from attacking. I begin to pillage (all the puns) his land base with Ghost Quarter. Once he realizes that he cannot do anything ever again, he extends his hand. (2-0)
Round 3 vs. Punishing Maverick (Ryan Johnsen)
My opponent is not thrilled at all to be playing against Lands. “I hate this deck!” He has Life from the Loam, Noble Hierarch, and Punishing Fire … with no Grove of the Burnwillows. He casts Green Sun’s Zenith to fetch Scavenging Ooze with no mana left. I blow it up with Engineered Explosives.
He leads off by fetching into a Plains to cast Mother of Runes. My deck, being as uneventful as possible, just plays a land. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben joins the Mom as my life total begins to fall. Dark Confidant comes down to begin the card advantage, but only after Thalia, Guardian of Thraben takes me down to 12. After he Wastelands my Maze of Ith, I find a second one with Dark Confidant and begin to attack his manabase. Bob finds me Cursed Totem, which makes it in play, then he finds me Crucible of Worlds. Now I’m at seven life. I cast Punishing Fire to kill my Dark Confidant, because I don’t feel comfortable going to any less with Punishing Fires in his deck. I end up with double Exploration, Crucible of Worlds, Ghost Quar.. “Good game. I’ll scoop to Ghost Quarter.” (3-0)
Round 4 vs. Aluren (Chris Day)
What is this guy playing? I start out strong with a pair of Rishadan Ports, but all I am seeing are Preordain, Brainstorm, and Islands. If this is that Dream Halls/Omniscience deck, I’m going to need a miracle (no pun this time) to win. I recall playing him previously somewhere and decided he was on a version of Storm. I Tolaria West for Zuran Orb, and begin to feel pretty good knowing that when he casts Tendrils of Agony, he will need close to 20 spells to kill me. He casts Brainstorm, and then fetches for a basic Forest …
(I would like to reiterate (keeping it going) a main topic from an earlier article I wrote about playing two or three turns ahead of the game. There’s plenty of decisions in the decision tree. You have to climb that tree, ripping through it limb by limb to get to the right branch. I just fell out of the tree.)
… “Coiling Oracle. Go.” Is this guy really playing what I think he’s playing? I begin to tap his green sources, and Tolaria West for my Ghost Quarter. I hit his Forest, he snags another one, and with the second Ghost Quarter activation, we move on.
Astonished by what he’s playing, I sideboard in all the combo hate. I stumble a little when he casts Thoughtseize on my Chalice of the Void, but I feel I have enough Wastelands to keep him stalled. He plays a fifth land, cracks a fetch, and then all of a sudden, I realized this is not Aluren at all. This is a Natural Order/Progenitus deck. He gets Progenitus, and after siding out my Ensnaring Bridge, I just lose.
The Coiling Oracle really stuck out to me, and I was torn between which branch to climb … so I just cut the tree down. I sideboard in Trinisphere for the Aluren combo (if it exists), and Ensnaring Bridges for Progenitus. He plays Viridian Shaman to blow up Trinisphere, then plays Coiling Oracle and Dream Stalker, beginning to swing. I find Tabernacle, and after Wasting a lot of his lands, the guys all die. He drops Imperial Recruiter to find another Recruiter. He still has Forests, but I have Ports at this point.
We are headed for time in the round, and I begin to play very fast. I make mistakes, forget to draw a card, miss an opportunity (bazing!) to get Punishing Fire back to kill him — things that aren’t too big of a deal. I have Dark Confidant, Creeping Tar Pit, and Punishing Fire, but I can only take my opponent to two by Turn 4 of extra time and he draws a card. He has no green sources left in his deck, so there is no possible way he could have done anything relevant for the rest of the game. He gives me the win. Chris Day — I said it during the match, and I’ll say it again — thank you, and I totally called it! (4-0)
Round 5 vs. Jund Goblins (Mark Sun)
My hand consists of five lands (two Grove of the Burnwillows) and two Intuitions. I keep it in hopes that his hand is not as aggressive as a normal Goblin deck would be. He drops Deathrite Shaman on Turn 1, and I draw Punishing Fire. He casts Goblin Warchief and gets in there for two. I have no choice but to burn the Shaman. He proceeds to cast Goblin Matron into a Goblin Piledriver, swinging me down to 10 life. I play another land and burn his Warchief to avoid the haste creatures for the next turn. He swings with the Piledriver and the Matron, taking me to six. I draw Mox Diamond, and now I have enough lands to burn both the other creatures. He begins to flood on mana, drawing few to no creatures, and after I fire off one Intuition for three Explorations, and another Intuition for Life From the Loam, Tolaria West, and Wasteland, the transmuted West for Zuran Orb sends us to Game 2.
I mulligan to six cards, and keep a hand of Mox Diamond, Punishing Fire, Exploration, Wasteland, Misty Rainforest, and Ghost Quarter. He plays AEther Vial on Turn 1 and passes the turn. I draw Life From the Loam and drop my whole hand except the Punishing Fire. He ups Vial to one, plays a land, and passes. I dredge Loam, hitting some lands. I Wasteland his land, then cast Loam to get it back. He puts Deathrite Shaman into play at the end of turn, but I burn the little guy before he can make his debut. He casts another Vial and passes the turn. I dredge into Grove of the Burnwillows, which I immediately put in play to get back Punishing Fire, before Ghost Quartering his Badlands. “I fail to find” comes out of his mouth before he returns to his turn and ticks the Vials up. He begins to get out Ringleader, Krenko, Mob Boss, and Matron, but my “state of the art” Karakas sends Krenko back to where he came from. Before I find any type of hard lock, I dredge into Academy Ruins, and he scoops up his cards with Ensnaring Bridge in the graveyard. (5-0)
Round 6 vs. Shardless BUG (Adam Kosier)
I mulligan to six and keep a very solid hand with two Tranquil Thickets and a Loam. He plays Deathrite Shaman and passes. I cast a Mox, discarding Thicket, cast Exploration, and play two lands. He Wastelands a land, and plays Dark Confidant. I draw and then attempt to cast Loam, targeting the Thicket. He knows this will not end well, so he Force of Wills the Loam. He plays Tarmogoyf, and before I go to my turn, he activates Shaman, targeting Life from the Loam. “Whoa, whoa, whoa, cycle this Thicket!” I get very excited since this means I get to keep some card advantage going.
I dredge into Wasteland and Barbarian Ring. I do not have threshold though, so I cast Loam, targeting the Wasteland, Thicket, and Ring. I play Barbarian Ring, then a Wasteland, then I discard Tranquil Thicket to Mox Diamond, and Wasteland a my own Tropical Island to obtain threshold, torching the Deathrite Shaman right out of the game. At this point, he has Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant out, but Ensnaring Bridge keeps them from doing much of anything. I get Tabernacle in play, then begin to Waste his lands. (6-0)
Round 7 vs. UWR Delver (Tom Genzman)
I’m not very happy to be playing against this deck, just because of the insane amount of Stifles, Geist of Saint Trafts, and Snapcaster Mages. But after drawing my opening seven with one land in it, I mulligan to six and could not ask for a better hand. I have Punishing Fire, Grove of the Burnwillows, Mox Diamond, Exploration, Wasteland, and Life From the Loam. I quickly lock him out of lands.
This game went the exact same way as Game 1, except he plays Surgical Extraction on Punishing Fire. I have Ports and Wastes, though, and we play a bit of draw-go while the Creeping Tar Pit just kills him. (7-0)
I was very excited to double draw-in with Jesse Liu and Todd Anderson and Top 8 the tournament. It had almost been a year since my last SCG Top 8, when I won a trophy at Detroit. I was ready to add another trophy to my collection.
Quarterfinals vs. Bryan Hockey
I didn’t take very good notes. Bryan was a very nice guy, and I mentioned to him about three times before we played how excited I was that he didn’t have Geist of Saint Traft in his deck or sideboard. I win Game 1 with a Punishing Fire killing everything he plays after he takes about half my life. In Game 2 he surgically extracts the Punishing Fire and something else, but I end up getting Zuran Orb with a Tolaria West while I’m at seven life, and at that point he will not be able to kill me with damage. So the search for Jace, the Mind Sculptor begins. It’s a whole lot of draw-go at this point, but I end up dredging Academy Ruins, and he scoops once it hits play. He knew it was not a good matchup from the beginning, but he tried a lot harder than a lot of my opponents did, so I have nothing but respect for him.
Semifinals vs. UWR Delver (Tom Genzman)
The SCG coverage for this match can be found here. Spoiler alert for those not interested in reading about the match: I lost.
I had no business in my opening hand, and I didn’t really draw into any (or any acceleration, for that matter). My deck had treated me so well that I thought I could pull it off. After I mulligan in Game 2, I just hope he didn’t keep a hand with Surgical Extraction. He did, and my luck finally ran out for the weekend. Tom Genzman may look like he has a mediocre hand in the picture on the website, but he Stifled (bazing! Last one, I promise.) my trip to the top of SCG Columbus, and I walked out with my dreams devastated (……!).
I had a great weekend seeing all the players, which is most of the reason I keep coming back for more. The deck treated me very well. Punishing Fire helps fight a lot of the new archetypes that are emerging, while helping out the old ones as well. Although I do miss running Raven’s Crime, it is not a card that is needed in today’s metagame. Enlightened Tutor is debatable, but the fire just helps you auto-win against Esper Death Blade. Oblivion Stone underperformed, which I am not surprised about, since Punishing Fire deals with a lot of the creatures and planeswalkers. All of the “silver bullets” in the deck (Engineered Explosives, Ensnaring Bridge, Zuran Orb, Crucible of Worlds) were outstanding, even without multiples in the main board due to dredging Life From the Loam and casting Intuition.
To all my fellow Lands players out there, just stick with it. You may get knocked down time and time again, but the reward with this deck is phenomenal. Just keep durdling, making people rage quit, and dredgin’ that loam.
… And to all the people that don’t, here is what you do:
Buy yourself a Tabernacle.
Play some real Magic.
It’s that simple. I hope you enjoyed this story/nonsense, and feel free to ask any questions. I will see you at SCG Somerset!
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