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Against the Odds: Standard Land Destruction

Hello everyone and welcome to episode seven of Against the Odds. First off, I would like to thank all of you for voting in last week's Against the Odds poll. We more than doubled our previous record for most votes cast at over 6,000! Amazing!

When all the ballots were counted, Standard Land Destruction came out as the clear winner, garnering 30% of the vote. This result was followed by Zada, Hedron Grinder at 25% and Void Winnower at 17%. Losers Felidar Sovereign and Legacy Allies drop off the ballot entirely. As such, Zada, Hedron Grinder and Void Winnower will get another shot at glory this week. They will be joined by perennial also-ran Tainted Remedy and two new options. But first, we have some lands to destroy! 

Battle for Zendikar Standard Land Destruction Flawless Victory

Flawless Victory. 

Funny story, when it became clear Land Destruction was going to win, I got a message from Richard (Mr. Goldfish himself) saying something like, "I think you really screwed yourself putting Land Destruction on the poll. There's no way that will work." After thinking about it for a minute, I realized he was right. Wizards HATES land destruction (LD) along with other fun cards like Stasis, Counterspell, and Mind Twist. What are the odds Wizards would even let a semi-playable LD deck slip through the cracks in Standard? Probably against the odds. Going into these videos I expected to lose a lot this week, but the great thing about Against the Odds is, you never know what will happen once the camera starts rolling.

Before I spoil too much of the fun, let's get to the videos. First a quick reminder: if you enjoy Against the Odds and other video content here on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish Youtube Channel to keep up with the latest and greatest.

Against the Odds: Land Destruction Intro

Against the Odds: Land Destruction Games

The Deck

The deck is fairly straight forward. We have 11 two-mana ramp spells between Rattleclaw Mystic, Leaf Gilder, and Whisperer of the Wilds. There are 15 four-mana land destruction spells in Crumble to Dust, Demolish, Reclaiming Vines, and Volcanic Upheaval. This saturation maximizes our chances to start destroying lands on turn three and continuing to destroy lands every turn for the rest of the game. 

When we get to start destroying lands on turn three, all of our four-mana LD spells turn into pretty good approximations of Sinkhole thanks to the Battle for Zendikar slowlands, which usually come into play tapped (assuming we focus on destroying basic lands), setting our opponent back even further. Finally, we finish off the game with some combination of Outpost Siege (generating insurmountable card advantage) and Dragonlord Atarka. Atarka not only cleans up any little creatures that slip through the cracks, but she provides a fast, evasive clock. 

One thing that stood out during the course of these matches is just how greedy Standard players are being with their manabases. In some matchups we don't need to destroy every land. We just need to destroy two or three of the right lands to severely disrupt our opponent's plans. Our 5-Color Bring to Light opponent scooped with five lands on the battlefield just because he (or she) couldn't cast any of his (or her) important spells. 

The Matchups

First off, dedicated aggro decks are our truly bad matchup, especially in game one. They don't care about us killing their lands since they can easily kill us with only one or two mana. As a result, our sideboard has a massive twelve slots dedicated to Atarka Red and RG Landfall decks. We get to swap out almost all of our land destruction spells for Wild Slash, Feed the Clan, Fiery Impulse, and Roast. In the post-board games we play the control role, killing everything our opponent plays, staying alive with Feed the Clan and eventually sticking a Dragonlord Atarka to take the game over. 

Against almost everything else we have a reasonable matchup. This of course assumes we get our turn two mana dork into turn three land destruction draw, which happens quite often thanks to the construction of our deck. So instead of talking about matchups in general (they all play out the same, with us destroying a bunch of lands and hoping Dragonlord Atarka is good enough), let's look at the right lands to destroy in some of the most played decks. 

  • Jeskai Black: It's really hard to cut this deck off Red-White-Blue unless you can hit Mystic Monastery with Crumble to Dust. Typically I aim for Black sources, since they only have three in their deck. You can cut off nearly a third of their non-land plays in Kolaghan's Command, Crackling Doom, Utter End, and Tasigur, the Golden Fang by destroying their black mana.
  • GW Megamorph: It doesn't especially matter here since they play eight White and Green sources. Our best bet is to deny them enough lands to flip Den Protectors or cast Wingmate Roc or Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. We can clean things up with Radiant Flames
  • Abzan: Hitting all four Shambling Vent with Crumble to Dust is a big game. That leaves Abzan with only three White sources in the deck, crimping their powerful double White spells: Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Wingmate Roc
  • Esper Dragons: For some reason this deck skimps on White sources, playing only Prairie Stream. I typically start there, cutting them off of Dragonlord Ojutai and Ojutai's Command, probably their best path to winning the game. Just be sure to kill Jace, Vryn's Prodigy as early and often as possible, even if it means taking down one of your own mana dorks with Radiant Flames
  • Esper Control: Focus on either White or Black, depending on how the match plays out. Avoid jumping back and forth between the two if at all possible. 
  • 5-Color Bring to Light: Hitting almost any land is good since the deck only gets three or four sources of each color. I typically focus on keeping my opponent off Blue mana first. The secondary goal is to cut off the right mana to cast Siege Rhino. I assume this play holds true for most four-/five-color decks, although I haven't played many of these matchups.
  • Mardu Midrange: Crumble to Dust is extremely punishing here since Mardu plays four copies of Nomad Outpost, Shambling Vent, and Caves of Koilos
  • Abzan Red/Blue: I love how the "wedge plus splash" decks are labeled. Their name tells you what lands to kill. Start with the splash color (it usually has the least colored sources) and go from there. 
  • UB Aristocrats: Crumble to Dust the Sunken Hollow and your opponent may only have one or two Blue sources left in their deck. Going for the next Blue source means you lock your opponent out of Whirler Rogue, Sidisi's Faithful, and a ton of sideboard counters. 

The Odds

The odds of winning with the deck are shocklingly high. Going into the videos, I expected to win one out of every five games (20%). In the end we posted a winning record, going 3-2 in matches. I'm pretty sure we could have gone 4-1 if we didn't run into mana issues in a couple of our losses; for instance, not drawing a green source in game three against Atarka Red with multiple Feed the Clans in hand. We managed 8-6 in games, which puts our match and game winning percentage at just below 60% (57.14% to be precise). 

Oddly, for an Against the Odds deck, I would actually take this one to an FNM. I plan to play more with the deck on Magic Online as well, maybe splashing Black for Languish and Ob Nixilis Reignited. Ob Nixilis is basically an Outpost Siege that can Murder a creature. Battle for Zendikar Land Destruction actually feels competitive. Even when we lose, the salt we provoke from our opponents makes the whole experience worthwhile. Standard players simply don't know what to do against land destruction. They are not expecting to get punished for their greedy manabases, and it feels good to come along and dish out some justice to players for pushing the envelope too far.

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Anyway, that's all for today. Leave your thoughts, ideas, and opinions in the comments. You can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive. 

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