Landing On The Top Of The Loam

Bobby Kovacs won SCG Legacy Open: Detroit and recently made Top 8 of the 2012 Legacy Championship with Lands. Read why you should consider investing in this deck for tournaments like the SCG Legacy Open coming up in Minneapolis.

"Haha, I don’t think your deck could ever beat this deck!" —Chris Kronenberger

The date was June 19, 2010 in Berea, Ohio. I was playing W/U/R Landstill in a Grand Prix Trial and miraculously made the Top 4. My luck had just run out, though, as I lost to a rogue blue control deck designed and piloted by Chris Kronenberger. I was trying to win a GPT not for the byes, just for the prize (I had already won a GPT earlier in the month—bigger Legacy tournaments were hard to come by). I took the prize for 4th place, bought the last two Explorations I needed, and the "Lands" legacy began the following week.

For those of you who don’t know who I am, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Bobby Kovacs. I have a degree in mathematics, I am married, I have a house, and I play Lands in Legacy. I began to play Magic in 1994, with only one break between Odyssey and Champions of Kamigawa. I began to play Magic competitively with the release of Ravnica. My track record is not too impressive, with

  1. Multiple SCG Open Series Top 64s
  2. SCG Legacy Open: Detroit Champion
  3. Top 8 of a PTQ for San Juan
  4. Top 8 of the 2012 Legacy Championship

I am slowly getting there.

I have played Lands nonstop in Legacy since 2010. It is my favorite deck, and unless they unban some more ridiculous cards like Time Spiral, I will probably never stop playing it. Some call it stubborn, some call it crazy. I like to think of it like anything else in the world. If your favorite ice cream is Cherry Garcia, you most certainly will not buy Chunky Monkey. If you’re in love with Toyota Supras, you don’t go and buy a Buick Skylark.

My list of Lands is as follows:

There is a good deal of debate about some of the choices I’ve made for my current list. Patrick Chapin mentioned while commentating on my decklist that, "Manabond should be an auto four-of." Manabond is a good card and I love having an opening hand with it, but sometimes the card is not good. It makes you discard nonland cards, which could give away information to your opponent. You do not want to trigger it with Intuition in your hand or any of the artifacts in the deck.

People tell me Raven’s Crime is a lot weaker than Enlightened Tutor. In a format rife with RUG Delver and Sneak and Show, Raven’s Crime is better. Making the opponent discard their countermagic to resolve Ensnaring Bridge is just too good. In a format with a lot of people playing Maverick, Enlightened Tutor is better since Cursed Totem shuts the deck off from doing anything. People say Oblivion Stone is not necessary in the current meta, but with Sneak and Show and planeswalkers, I feel it is necessary.

Krosan Grip seems less good since the format is full of RUG decks, but there are cards that you need to destroy after sideboarding, such as Blood Moon, Back to Basics, and Leyline of the Void. Some people like Mindslaver in the deck, some like Smokestacks, and some even like Worm Harvest. The functionality of the deck allows you to do pretty much anything you want and makes any artifact good. There is no right or wrong way to build the deck. A couple decks that stand out to me are:

Our decks have many similarities while maintaining some individuality. Alex wins with Creeping Tar Pit and Mishra’s Factory, Felix wins with Worm Harvest, Celestial Colonnade, Mishra’s Factory, and Creeping Tar Pit, and I win with just Creeping Tar Pit. There is no right or wrong strategy. The one thing these decks have in common is you do not want to be sitting across from it! If you have experience playing against the deck, then you have an idea of how explosive it can be and the different angles it can attack you from. I cannot count the amount of people I have defeated this year who talk with me after the game about how they’ve heard of the deck but don’t know how it functions.

The theory is simple. You lock your opponent out of the game, whether it is locking their lands out with Rishadan Ports and Wastelands or locking them out of the game with Academy Ruins plus Oblivion Stone / Engineered Explosives. Once that is achieved, then you kill them with Creeping Tar Pit. Sometimes it takes fourteen minutes, and sometimes it takes 41 minutes.

A lot of times I will have people locked out of the game seven or eight minutes into the round and will not kill them right away just to pass the time. This can be seen in a lot of the records of the four tournaments listed below. Smart players will notice that they do not stand a chance at a certain point and go to game 2 hoping that they can win the next two games in a row, which does not happen very often.

SCG Legacy Open: Cincinnati

Round 1: Jeremy Souther – Affinity – Won 2-0
Round 2: Ramah Triplett – Junk – Drew 1-1-1
Round 3: Chris Funk — U/W Stoneblade – Won 1-0-1
Round 4: Troy Tasker – Bant – Won 2-0
Round 5: Justin Swalding – Shot in the Dark – Won 1-0-1
Round 6: Josh Glantzman – Punishing Maverick – Drew 1-1-1
Round 7: Justin Brisentine – RUG Delver – Won 2-0
Round 8: Terell Boaz — U/W Stoneblade – Won 1-0-1
Round 9: Chris Anderson – Elves – Lost 0-2

SCG Legacy Open: Columbus

Round 1: Donald Halinka – Enchantress – Won 2-1
Round 2: Gary Smith – Hive Mind – Lost 0-2
Round 3: Lukas Parson – RUG Delver – Won 2-0
Round 4: Dan Musser — Mono-Blue Control – Lost 0-2
Round 5: Alex Hamilton – Welder MUD – Won 2-1
Round 6: Eric Lennartz – Esper Stoneblade – Won 2-1
Round 7: Chris Brinkerhoff – Dredge – Won 2-0
Round 8: Riley Curran – Elves – Lost 0-2
Round 9: Jason Coleman – Sneak and Show – Won 2-1

SCG Legacy Open: Detroit

Round 1: John Plazza – Goblins – Won 2-1
Round 2: Ryan Skoczen – Maverick – Won 2-1
Round 3: Nicholas Smith – Maverick – Lost 1-2
Round 4: Andrew Dilley – RUG Delver – Won 2-0
Round 5: Thomas Reddinger – Team America – Won 2-0
Round 6: Raymond Perez – Maverick – Won 2-0
Round 7: Kurt Burbulla — B/W Stoneblade – Won 2-0
Round 8: David Goldfarb – Affinity – Won 2-0
Round 9: David Goldfarb – Affinity – Won 2-0
Round 10: Jeremy Stowe – RUG Delver – Won 2-1
Round 11: Caleb Durwurd – Elves – Won 2-1

2012 Legacy Championship

Round 1: Jesse Liu – Esper Stoneblade – Won 2-0
Round 2: Joe Krause – Goblins – Won 1-0-1
Round 3: Dan Powers – Sneak and Show – Won 2-0
Round 4: Dylan Jones – Sneak and Show – Won 2-0
Round 5: Michael Rabey – RUG Delver – Won 2-1
Round 6: Mark Sun – RUG Delver – Won 2-1
Round 7: Nicholas Rouse – RUG Delver – Won 2-1
Round 8: Ben Steiner – Hive Mind – 0-0-3
Round 9: Brad Campbell – Goblins – 0-0-3
Round 10: Ben Steiner – Hive Mind – Lost 0-2

What To Take Away From These Stats

  1. Lands does not lose to RUG Delver. Although RUG Delver has a good matchup against the whole format, RUG will need to be very lucky and the Lands player will have to have a very slow hand for RUG to have a chance. Raven’s Crime will attack their hand, Wasteland will attack their mana base, and Maze of Ith will stop their creatures.
  2. Lands does not lose to any type of Stoneblade deck. Attacking creatures with equipment are no match for four Maze of Ith and recurring Engineered Explosives.
  3. Lands does not lose to Maverick very easily. Maverick has some very difficult cards to beat, such as Scavenging Ooze, Knight of the Reliquary, and Aven Mindensor. However, based on acceleration like Exploration and Tutor effects such as Intuition and Tolaria West, this matchup is favored. Cursed Totem is a card Maverick cannot answer and will shut the deck off completely.
  4. Lands has a very good tribal matchup against decks like Goblins and Merfolk. Four Wastelands is often not enough to get through the Glacial Chasm lock. Goblins does have a better chance with TukTuk Scrapper in their maindeck, but Raven’s Crime will shut off Merfolk’s countermagic to get Ensnaring Bridge to resolve.
  5. Dredge can be a hit or miss depending on their opening hand. Glacial Chasm will shut Dredge down about 80% of the time since there is no way to get rid of it in their maindeck. Ensnaring Bridge and The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale usually end games, as well as having Bojuka Bog in the main deck and the ability to recur it.
  6. Affinity is almost a bye since they are very light on land and there are so many cards in the deck that shut down their board. Engineered Explosives, Oblivion Stone, Glacial Chasm, Ensnaring Bridge, The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, and Maze of Ith are all very good cards in this matchup.
  7. Sneak and Show is a matchup people do not think is good. I disagree. Show and Tell is as broken for you as it is for them. With one Karakas and three Tolaria West, it almost seems too easy to bounce their guys. Rishadan Port and Wasteland will lock their lands down. Raven’s Crime will shut down their strategy to go "all out" in one single turn. I made Dan Powers discard a Karakas when he was trying to build up a strategy in his hand. Cursed Totem shuts off Griselbrand from drawing cards.
  8. Elves is a tough matchup. The main thing you need to do in this matchup is have Glacial Chasm online by turn 3 and assemble a way to deal with Scavenging Ooze right afterwards. Explosives and Ruins can help a bit, but by no means do they allow you to win. Tabernacle is not that good either since all of their Elves produce mana. The sideboard plays a big role in allowing you to win with Chalice of the Void, Cursed Totem, and Dark Confidant to kill them quicker.
  9. Combo decks are still tough matchups. Lands relies on the Belcher player to make Goblins. If they do, you can easily win with The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale and Raven’s Crime. If they go Belcher, the outcome is much worse. Ad Nauseum decks can be beaten a lot easier since they rely on nonbasic lands and Chrome Mox, which are easily destroyed. Raven’s Crime can slow the deck down enough to make it to turn 4 or turn 5 to shut their hand out completely. Hive Mind is almost an auto-loss unless you get a perfect hand of Life from the Loam, Raven’s Crime, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, Mox Diamond, Mox Diamond, Exploration, fetchland that can make them discard their hand in three turns, which is pretty sick against everything I guess. Spiral Tide is pretty much an auto-lose as well, since Porting their lands is often not good enough and they will cast High Tide in response. The match can be won, but it takes a lot of the right cards at the right time.

Lands is not a very common deck. I was the only person playing it at the SCG Legacy Open in Detroit. There are a couple reasons why Lands does not see as much play as it deserves. The first reason is that the deck is not cheap. The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale alone is over $300. When you add in the Explorations, the Mazes, the Ports, the Intuitions, the Wastelands, and all of the other cards, the deck totals at a little over $2,000. That is about 33% more that RUG Delver.

Lands does not have very many cards in it that can be played in other decks. You can use Force of Wills, Tarmogoyfs, and Vendilion Cliques in a handful of other decks. You can use one Maze of Ith in Maverick. When you get to cards like Tabernacle, Exploration, and Rishadan Port, the playability is much narrower. This means you must be devoted to build this deck. 

The other reason is that the deck is very difficult to play. You don’t just flip Delver of Secrets and swing for 6-7 turns or Aether Vial in Goblin Piledrivers and Goblin Warchiefs. There is a lot of decision-making, such as determining Tolaria West targets and Intuition targets. You may Intuition for Life from the Loam, Academy Ruins, and an artifact against Affinity. You could Intuition for a Life from the Loam, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, and Raven’s Crime against combo. You have to play two or three turns ahead of the game.

I know this may sound untrue, but take my final match in Detroit against Caleb Durwurd as an example. When I cast Intuition, I got Glacial Chasm, The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, and Tropical Island at the end of turn. I knew that I would get Chasm out the next turn so I could not lose for a few turns. I got the Tropical Island so when he destroyed my Mox with the Viridian Shaman in the following turns, I would have green mana to still loop the Chasm, and The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale was a decoy to get inside my opponent’s head to get Priest of Titania the next turn instead blowing my Mox Diamond up. I thought all of this through before I resolved Intuition. This is not just a deck you can pick up and play the next day. It takes a lot of time to learn how to play it.

The Lands community is growing little by little every day. I met three more Lands players at Gen Con this year, which had been turned on to the deck for its outstanding performance in recent tournaments. As long as RUG Delver and Esper Stoneblade maintain a good portion of the metagame in these big tournaments, expect to keep seeing Lands near the top as well. So if anybody is up for a real challenge and would like to join the Lands "rebellion," here is what you should do:

  1. Buy yourself a Tabernacle.
  2. Play some real Magic.

It’s that simple. I hope you enjoyed this story/nonsense. I will see you in Atlanta, GA at the SCG Open Series featuring the Invitational!