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Playing Lands in Legacy

Written by Kevin King on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Legacy

Playing Lands in Legacy

Kevin King

Kevin King is from Baltimore, has finished in the top 4 of the 2015 Legacy Championships, 2nd at SCG Worcester and top 64 of Grand Prix Chiba. When he is not blind flipping a Delver of Secrets, you can find him on Lands. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @Yahappynow

If you’ve been playing Legacy for any length of time, you’ve probably played against the Lands deck. Lands uses cards like Wasteland, Rishadan Port, and The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale to control its opponent’s resources while setting up the Thespian’s Stage and Dark Depths combo for a flying, indestructible 20/20 to the face. The standard maindeck has been relatively unchanged since Kurt Spiess pioneered the RG combo lands build back in 2013.

To illustrate how little that deck has changed, Jarvis Yu’s winning list from Grand Prix SeaTac is only five cards different in the main after two years. Understandably, the deck has felt pretty solved until recently. It was favored against most decks in the format game one and and we just accepted that it had some terrible matchups in Miracles and Combo, which we compensated for with a very focused board. But that wasn’t good enough for innovators like Kurt and Dave Long.

If you took a peek at the Top 32 decklists from SCG Philly, you would notice three players on a new black-splash RG Lands list. Dave, who worked on the changes with Kurt, ended up losing to eventual champion Noah Walker in Top 8 after a 12-2-1 run in the swiss. Rudy Briksza and I played the same list (though I opted for more Sphere of Resistance in the board) each for a 11-4 record for 24th and 19th respectively out of 755 wizards. All said, the only three players on the list ended 45 rounds with a total of 10 losses and a draw. That’s a powerful deck.

I have always liked the standard combo lands deck, but black mana makes the deck feel brand new. The addition of 3 Abrupt Decay in the main at the cost of removing the Punishing Fire package for a Molten Vortex removal plan means that previously terrible matchups like Miracles and Painter actually become competitive. Some players are even finding room for Punishing Fire in the Bayou build by getting a little greedier with access to black mana.

The sideboard is where the new changes really shine. Having tools like Thoughtseize and Duress against storm, plus Dark Confidant to help you draw them, is everything the old RG lists’ awkward sideboards have been looking for. Being able to go lighter on Krosan Grips because you already have Abrupt Decays opens more sideboard slots for disruption. Basically, Lands loves a long game. Against combo you want to worry about not losing first and not being stopped from winning second (but keep an eye out for the fast combo hand). Thoughtseize for this reason is a much better card for us than Grip. It takes Infernal Tutors and Sensei’s Divining Tops early and takes Pithing Needle and Swords to Plowshares when you decide to turn the corner and win. Krosan Grip, by contrast, only hits things like Pithing Needle against Storm, or if you’re lucky, a Lotus Petal they played early. Yes, everyone seems to have a story about that Storm player who played Lion’s Eye Diamond and gave you priority to Krosan Grip it, but don’t play to that line.

Since Philly, a number of the more active Lands players have adopted the black splash, but gone halfway in. There are plenty of games where you need removal and you know a Vortex will get forced and you wish you still had Punishing Fire. In those games, going for the combo is often your best line, though the best thing about Punishing Fire was always that you “draw” your removal as a side effect of digging for your combo. Recognizing both the power of black mana and the need for recurrable removable, this is my current 75:

A few general notes:
-Don’t be afraid to cast Gamble as Demonic Tutor when you need to. Wait as long as you can so your hand is as big as possible, then just jam. Sometimes you get got and that’s okay.

-Various combinations of Thespian Stage, Glacial Chasm, and Exploration with a Life From the Loam can be the hard lock against many decks. Practice these loops at home. Just actually get out your deck and practice this. It’s how we beat Burn.

-Play like everyone always has Surgical Extraction or Rest in Peace post board. Sometimes you have to play into it, but convince yourself of that fact before you pull the trigger.

Mirror: Do not rely on the combo in the mirror. While getting lucky with a fast combo can happen, between Karakas, Maze of Ith, Glacial Chasm, Wasteland, and their own Thespian’s Stages, the deck is just well set up to beat its mirror. Just remember that the player who has the Exploration advantage and recurrable Wastelands is the player who will eventually win. I win more mirrors by scoops to Punishing Fire loops than I do to actually attacking them. Molten Vortex is a faster win than Punishing Fire, so play to that line in the burn race games. Abrupt Decay priority goes: Manabond > Exploration > Mox Diamond, with the caveat that if Diamond is their only colored mana, it’s potentially devastating to lose.

Combo: You are just the worse combo deck game one. You will want to race them to the win while controlling what elements you can: Bojuka Bog for Storm, Abrupt Decay for Painter, etc. We gain a lot of points post board, especially vs Storm. Sphere of Resistance is tough to beat, but watch out for Abrupt Decay and Rain of Filth. Don’t board into Spheres against Painter. Their spells are already so cheap, yours are actually the expensive ones. Plus if they land a Painter’s Servant, they can Pyroblast your lands. Board into all four Dark Depths and race, again while leaving up answers as possible.

Miracles: Against Miracles, easy mode is sticking an early Molten Vortex. Mainboard, they have to draw the Council’s Judgement or race you. In every game you don’t see the Vortex, you’re going to need to set up as many combos as you can. Look out for opportunities to set up Porting all of their white mana and making an end step token, but play assuming you’re going to have one or more of them Swords to Plowsharesed. Go after their mana aggressively. If they play a dual from hand early to cast a cantrip, Waste it immediately. If you draw a Rishadan Port, use it. Post board, we get Sphere of Resistance and discard to take their spells and make the ones they keep cost more. These games play similarly to pre-board games, but Rishadan Port is more powerful and you want to be less free with your yard. Things like Rest in Peace, Back to Basics, Blood Moon, and floating a Wear//Tear to Counterbalance are all devastating so be careful about leaving yourself vulnerable to any one of those.

Stompy: Against Pasta or similar stompy, just play Wastelands. They can’t beat it and between recurring Wasteland and playing a few Maze of Ith, it’s an easy enough matchup. Their boards are generally not favorable as well, so just don’t get surprised by a hasty 5/5 pumping the Eldrazi Mimic on board for surprise wins.

Fair: Fair decks, especially Delver decks, and especially Grixis, are deceptively live against us. Big threats like Tarmogoyf and Gurmag Angler present very real clocks to contend with while Deathrite Shaman ruins our engine. I used to shave some of the combo speed for the control angle, but it’s looking more and more like we might actually want to just race those decks. Besides Submerge, they have few answers to a fast combo, so why not just take advantage of that? Big note: If you can, represent Tranquil Thicket at all times that your Life From The Loam might get hit by Surgical Extraction.

Death and Taxes: Our deck is positioned favorably game one with the dangers being 1) losing the race and 2) not killing Mother of Runes. Even if we make a token, they have things like Swords to Plowshares in the best case and Flickerwisp off of Aether Vial in the worst to remove Marit Lage. Control the board and be patient and you’ll get most games. Post board they will have Rest in Peace and maybe Pithing Needle, so be ready. They may even have something like Absolute Law. Don’t use your yard too much, kill their Mother of Runes, and don’t die. Simple enough.

All in all, I am very happy with where the deck stands and I do think it’s one of the better lists out there. I’m very excited by the new direction the deck has taken, which I think was an overdue concession to a format that is prepared for us. Sure the Dark Lands variant was piloted in Philly by some great players, but a deck’s 34-10-1 record at an Open should really speak for itself. If you’re still on RG, definitely test the new hotness and if you’ve never played Lands before, I can’t recommend it enough.

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