“Hi, my name is Matt. And I’m a land destroyer.”
Over the holidays, I had the pleasure of hooking up with my friends back home and playing a bit of Commander. In the process, I learned that far fewer of their lands had been destroyed while I was gone.
I quickly fixed that.
Commander players’ opinions on land destruction, especially mass land destruction, are mixed. Personally, I’m all for it. And the reason why can be summed up by, of all things, a Karate Kid quote:
Okay, in hindsight, that exact clip might not be what convinces you land destruction isn’t evil (I mostly remember the saying from a JLA comic where Plastic Man uses it, but I digress). But if you remove the ham-fisted ’80s villain motivation, ignore that wonderfully wicked sensei smile, and translate the saying into Magic-ese, it becomes:
“If a man can’t tap for mana, he can’t cast spells.”
Just like in the Karate Kid, there are rules in Magic. Land destruction violates none of them, even Commander’s Social Contract. Commander encourages interactive play, and land destruction is interactive, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Because all land destruction is, is a resource denial strategy, and there are tons of ways to interact with those. Even when they’re coming for your lands.
If you know you’re playing against a deck that packs land destruction, play like it when possible. You wouldn’t run all your creatures into a wrath without a plan, and the same holds true for lands.
As an example, during one of our holiday games, I somehow managed to not become the bad guy (“You either die with your lands blown up, or you live long enough to blow up everyone else’s lands.”) because our Jhoira of the Ghitu player was threatening to Jokulhaups for most of the game. In this scenario, I ramped to about seven mana and then began holding lands and mana rocks in my hand. I wanted to be able to rebuild should the Jokulhaups go off, and I put myself in position to be able to top-deck a Kiki-combo should Jhoira pull the trigger (she didn’t, but that’s another story).
Another way to mitigate land destruction strategies? Play more lands. Commander decks with 36 or less mana sources are asking to lose to even slow land destruction strategies like repeated Acidic Slimes, because those decks are less likely to draw the lands they need to respond. If you’re constantly relying on mulligans to find just enough lands to cast your first ramp spell each game, you’re likely not playing enough lands. Don’t be surprised when smart opponents recognize that and start blowing them up.
Personally, I like to run about 40 lands, alongside a bevy of ramp spells and mana rocks, to make sure I draw enough mana both early and late in the game. I also make sure to include ways to draw past or filter extra lands from my hand, in case I do somehow flood. Of course, I’d rather draw too many lands than not enough. (Remember, if a man can’t tap for mana, he can’t cast spells.)
There are other ways to interact with the players coming for your lands, including counterspells and making your lands indestructible (turns out, you don’t care so much about Jokulhaups when you have an Avacyn in play). But in a format of Acidic Slimes and Rite of Replications, and Woodfall Primuses and Reanimates, you should be prepared for land destruction.
Especially if I’m at your table.