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Priemer’s Primers: Lands Ho!

Written by Tyler Priemer on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Legacy

Priemer’s Primers: Lands Ho!

Tyler Priemer

Tyler has been playing TCGs for nearly 20 years. A long brewer with a knack for Legacy, there's nothing he loves more than making crazy decks a reality

Lands are an essential part of Magic. They let us cast our spells. They let us thin our decks and shuffle away our bad Brainstorms. They also let us play one of the most backbreaking control decks in Legacy. Hold on to your wallets, it’s time to talk about Legacy Lands!

A culmination of the most powerful land cards in Magic’s history, Legacy Lands has a little something to handle nearly the entire format, and it all hinges on the power of one card: Life from the Loam. With this engine you are able to recur lands over and over, which doesn’t sound threatening until you remember that Wasteland is a pillar of Legacy. Lands is, ironically, a mana denial strategy at heart, with both Wasteland and Rishadan Port to ensure that the opponent never gets to cast a spell. Legacy is a very mana-light format, with most decks packing only 16-22 lands. The combination of Wasteland picking off nonbasic lands and Rishadan Port keeping the opponent’s basics tapped down creates a nearly-unstoppable lockdown that can keep most decks under total control.

Once the lockdown is in place, Lands wants to do two things: slowly grind the opponent to death with Punishing Fire and Grove of the Burnwillows, or set up to kill with the mighty Marit Lage. Thanks to the M14 Legend rule change, you can activate a Thespian’s Stage copying Dark Depths, choose to keep the Stage, and then sacrifice it immediately to create a 20/20 flying, indestructible token. There aren’t too many ways to stop a 20/20 indestructible creature at instant speed, so odds are that you will get a kill once you attack with Marit Lage, but even if they find a way to stop it, you can always use Life from the Loam to get back Dark Depths and the Stage to do it all over again. The Punishing Fire kill relies on its synergy with Grove of the Burnwillows. By tapping the Grove for a Red mana, you trigger any Punishing Fires sitting in your graveyard. You can then use that Red mana to return Punishing Fire to your hand, letting you cast it again for a net gain of 1 damage every iteration. It’s slow and grindy, but it can be a fairly resilient way to put the last nail in the opponent’s coffin.

But what happens if the opponent resolves a threat? Decks like RUG Delver can stick a creature early enough to get through your mana denial strategy, so in order to combat this Lands runs three copies of Maze of Ith. This Commander all-star can render single-creature strategies useless, buying you plenty of time to get yourself going. For more swarming decks, Lands uses Glacial Chasm to keep themselves from taking damage, as well as The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale to control the number of creatures they have in play. This rent cheque is crucial for keeping the opponent’s board under control, as it not only ties up their mana, it also forces them to destroy whatever creatures they can’t afford to keep around. Glacial Chasm is particularly effective with Life from the Loam, as you can keep sacrificing it and playing it again to ensure that the opponent never gets an opportunity to deal you damage.

One of Lands’s biggest strengths is its ability to generate early mana and power out extra land drops. It all starts with two cards that feel tailor-made for this style of deck. Exploration is an enchantment that allows you to play an additional land each turn. Not only is this great for speeding up your mana, but this card actually stacks if you have multiples. Playing up to an additional four lands a turn is absurd, especially once you start bringing back three lands a turn with Life from the Loam. Another method for ramping that works well with Loam is Mox Diamond, since it not only gives you a free mana, it also gives you a land in your graveyard to bring back with Loam. Finally, we have Manabond. This is Exploration to the extreme, since on your end step you can reveal your hand to play all lands in your hand at the expense of your nonland cards. Once Loam is a factor, Manabond allows you to effectively play three lands every turn by casting Loam over and over.

Lands also employs a package of tutors in Crop Rotation and Gamble. Crop Rotation is an instant speed way to tutor out exactly what land you need at the cost of one of your other lands. Your opponent just Show and Tell out Emrakul? Grab Karakas and return it to sender. About to have one of your Rishadan Ports Wastelanded? Sacrifice it and grab another copy. Crop Rotation gives Lands the flexibility to run several 1-ofs without having to worry about drawing them in a timely manner. Gamble, on the other hand, lets you tutor for any card, then you discard a card at random. Since most of the deck’s core engines are recurrable from the graveyard, this drawback is almost negligible. With Gamble you can even grab a Life from the Loam with no other cards in hand to get it directly into your graveyard, or fetch out a combo piece with Loam already in your graveyard to bring back the following turn.


Traditionally, Lands opts to run a suite of Sphere of Resistance and Thorn of Amethyst as a means to combat spell-heavy decks. Keeping the opponent off their ability to draw out of a lockdown with Brainstorm and Ponder is imperative, and with your maindeck mana denial, adding an additional 1 mana tax to those cantrips makes them nearly unplayable. A miser’s Chalice of the Void is also strong against the cantrip-heavy decks like Delver and Storm, since you can play it on turn 1 and keep them off all of their 1-drops. While it hurts your Explorations and Manabonds, the utility of keeping the opponent off most of their decks far outweighs the negatives.

Krosan Grip is a sort of catch-all for killing artifacts and enchantments. While normally Legacy decks opt for the cheaper options like Nature’s Claim, what really sets Krosan Grip apart is split second. This allows you to destroy the opponent’s cards without them activating them or countering the spell. This is particularly effective against cards like Sensei’s Divining Top, Relic of Progenitus, Thopter Foundry, and Batterskull, which have activated abilities to either protect themselves or get value out of their activations. Krosan Grip puts the kibosh on these shenanigans, and the “can’t be countered” effect is crucial for guaranteeing the destruction of hate cards like Pithing Needle.

Rounding out the sideboard are a pair of Seismic Assault, Bojuka Bog, and Dark Depths. Seismic Assault acts as a backup for dealing with creature decks like Death & Taxes, as it lets you discard lands to deal 2 damage to a creature or player. With Life from the Loam you can dish out 6+ damage a turn with Seismic Assault, which is great for keeping the opponent’s board clear until you can start going to the face. Bojuka Bog is another Crop Rotation target for graveyard-centric matchups like Reanimator and Dredge. Exiling their graveyard at instant speed can shut down these decks at crucial moments, such as when Dredge starts to combo off. Lastly, the fourth copy of Dark Depths is for the longer, grindier matchups like Death & Taxes or Miracles where you may need to combo off several times over the course of the game.


First and foremost, your RUG and UWR Delver matchups are insanely good. You have the ability to keep them off mana for virtually the entire game since they tend to not run any basic lands. Also, barring an unanswered Deathrite Shaman, decks like Shardless BUG and Jund are pretty easy to get in a Wasteland lock. As well, provided you can hit your necessary 1-ofs, Sneak and Show, Dredge, and Reanimator are all easily put away by Tabernacle and Bojuka Bog.

Bad matchups include Death & Taxes, Storm, and OmniTell, as they can all do thing that don’t really care about what you’re doing, all while dodging Wasteland lock. Death & Taxes is not only mono-coloured and thus running several basics, it also runs a set of Aether Vials to cheat their creatures into play. They also have Wastelands and Rishadan Ports of their own, and even run Karakas which can stop your Marit Lages. This matchup is all about being able to simultaneously pick off their creatures with Punishing Fire and Seismic Assault while recurring Wasteland to blow up their nonbasics.

Storm, on the other hand, doesn’t even need lands to combo off and kill you since they can use Lotus Petal, Lion’s Eye Diamond, and rituals to generate their mana. Here you need to stick a Sphere of Resistance as early as possible to keep them from getting started. They only run 2-3 basic lands, so with a Sphere online Wasteland lock is fairly potent. If they’re on the Tendrils of Agony plan, the matchup is rough, but if they’re trying to kill you with Empty the Warrens, Tabernacle can shut their plan down altogether, so you really just have to hope for the best.

Finally, OmniTell is the absolute nightmare, as not only are they mono-Blue, they run Omniscience to get over whatever mana woes you can cause them. Even Karakas doesn’t help against Emrakul since they can simply cast it again, netting even more turns. Your best hope is to get your Spheres and Chalice on board as soon as possible, but even then they can kill you out of nowhere.


Overall, Lands is a very rewarding deck to play. You have the ability to play control, combo, and even aggro by powering out Marit Lage in the early turns. You’re never completely out of options with this deck since you can tutor up whatever singleton land card you need for the situation. The flexibility of the deck and the potential to frustrate and infuriate the opponent once you’ve locked them out of their own deck is just too much fun to pass up, making Lands well worth the investment.

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