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Against the Odds: Gruul Lands (Standard, Magic Arena)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 198 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had our first all–Core Set 2020 Against the Odds poll, and Lotus Field came out with a fairly commanding victory in the end. As such, we're heading to Standard today to play a deck I'm calling Gruul Lands. Lotus Field is a unique card. While at its heart it's a land that can tap for a bunch of mana, it comes with the downside of forcing us to sacrifice two lands when it comes into play. The goal of our deck—apart from using Lotus Field for mana—is to turn the downside of sacrificing lands into an upside, with cards like Crucible of Worlds, Wayward Swordtooth. and Cavalier of Flame to take advantage of having lands in our graveyard. Since our deck is really good at getting lands into and out of the graveyard, we also get to play some sweet utility lands like Memorial to War (our Wasteland), Blast Zone, and Field of Ruin, which makes the deck feel a bit like Legacy Lands. Can the land plan work in Standard? What are the odds of winning with a deck built around Lotus Field? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Gruul Lands

The Deck

I have to admit: Lotus Field was one of the tougher Against the Odds cards in a while. Maybe the biggest challenge with building around it is that when you get past everything else, it's just a land that taps for mana. Yes, it taps for a lot of mana, but this still makes it hard to really show off the power of the card. My first attempt was a mono-red ramp list with Blood Sun, and while it occasionally did explosive things like play Chandra, Awakened Inferno on Turn 4, more often than not, it either won (or more often, lost) without Lotus Field doing anything special. Basically, the deck didn't feel Lotus Field-y enough. As such, the deck that we ended up playing—Gruul Lands—was an attempt to take advantage of all of the aspects of Lotus Field. While we can still use it as a ramp card with the help of Wayward Swordtooth, which can also tutor it out, we can also use it to grow Elvish Reclaimers and even use the ability to sacrifice our own lands as an advantage, with the help of Crucible of Worlds!

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Lotus Field itself is tricky. Without support, it's basically just a land drop where we have to sacrifice two lands to get a land that taps for three mana, which isn't really a net gain. As such, the primary goal of our deck is to find support cards to turn Lotus Field from just another land into the centerpiece of our deck.

Trick #1: Elvish Reclaimer

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Elvish Reclaimer does two important things with Lotus Field. First, it gives us a way to tutor Lotus Field up from our library, so we can always have a copy of our namesake card on the battlefield. Second, Lotus Field itself gives us an easy way to grow Elvish Reclaimer into a 3/4 beater. If we have three lands on the battlefield, we can sacrifice one to Elvish Reclaimer to find Lotus Field, sacrifice two more to Lotus Field, and end up with three lands in our graveyard to grow our Elvish Reclaimer. Outside of Lotus Field, Elvish Reclaimer gives us a way to find our utility lands, like Blast Zone, Memorial to War, and Field of Ruin, in situations where they are good.

Trick #2: Wayward Swordtooth and Crucible of Worlds

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Wayward Swordtooth and Crucible of Worlds offer a ton of grindy value with Lotus Field. Wayward Swordtooth allows us to play an extra land each turn, which helps us accelerate into our big finishers. Meanwhile, Crucible of Worlds lets us play lands from our graveyard, which helps us minimize the downside of sacrificing two lands to Lotus Field since we can eventually replay them anyway. Together, the cards are especially scary. Once we can play two lands a turn from our graveyard, we not only greatly develop our mana but can also do things like Field of Ruin twice each turn or replay multiple Blast Zones or Memorial to Wars. 

Trick #3: Kiora

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Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner turns Lotus Field into an insane source of ramp. With Kiora and just a single Lotus Field on the battlefield, we can generate six mana by tapping and untapping our Lotus Field, which is enough to play any of our big finishers. Even beyond Lotus Field, being able to untap utility lands like Blast Zone (so we can add counters and then untap it to activate it in the same turn) or Memorial to War (so we can play it and activate it in the same turn) is quite powerful. Toss in the fact that we occasionally draw some extra cards from big creatures (like Wayward Swordtooth or our Cavaliers) entering the battlefield, and Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner is a great support card for Lotus Field and our deck.

Finishing the Game

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When it comes to killing our opponent, we have two plans. The first is Cavalier of Thorns and Cavalier of Flames, which are both big threats on their own but work well together (and with Lotus Field). Cavalier of Thorns digs through our deck for Lotus Field while also stocking our graveyard with lands that we can replay with Crucible of Worlds. Meanwhile, Cavalier of Flames gives us a big, potentially hasty attacker that ends up dealing a ton of damage if our opponent kills it, thanks to all of the lands that Lotus Field and Cavalier of Flames put into the graveyard. 

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Our other plan for closing out the game is Chandra, Awakened Inferno. With the help of Lotus Field and Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner untapping Lotus Field, we can get the six-mana planeswalker on the battlefield quickly (maybe as early as Turn 4). And once on the battlefield, Chandra might be the least beatable threat in all of Standard. Against aggro, she can wrath away the board with her 3. Against big-creature or planeswalker decks, her X is solid removal, and if we don't need to kill anything, we can start making emblems to kill our opponent slowly, upkeep by upkeep. 

The Matchups

In general, Gruul Lands was at its best against slower, more controlling decks but struggled against go-wide aggro. While Chandra, Awakened Inferno gives us a sweeper, unless we have a fast draw, it can often be too slow against the most aggressive decks in the format. On the other hand, Gruul Lands is really good at grinding out value in slower matchups. Being able to repeatedly play Blast Zone and Field of Ruin from the graveyard is great against some decks, and the combo of Lotus Field to ramp into huge threats like Chandra and our Cavaliers is a good way of stealing games.

The Odds

All in all, we played five matches with Gruul Lands and ended up winning two, giving us a 40% match win percentage, making Gruul Lands somewhat below average for an Against the Odds deck. While we had some games where everything came together and our lands plan felt almost unbeatable, we also had a reasonable number of games where we just played Wayward Swordtooths that couldn't block, tapped Lotus Fields, and got run over by aggro without really putting up too much of a fight. 

As for Lotus Field itself, we had some games where with the help of Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner, we were casting Chandra, Awakened Inferno with just a single land on the battlefield, which is something that only Lotus Field can do. On the other hand, moving forward, we might implement the "Lotus Field Rule" for future polls. While building a competitive deck around a land is possible, it's just so hard to make a land that just taps for mana into a flashy, big moment (which is sort of the core of Against the Odds) that it might be better to avoid lands in the future. Of course, there should be exceptions for lands with cool abilities like Maze's End, but unless a land does something more than tap for mana, it's probably best to leave it on the sidelines for Against the Odds specifically.

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Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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