R/G Lands

Vs R/G Lands

(last updated 5/31/18)


Role:  Aggro

Best cards (main):   Flickerwisp, Serra Avenger, Sanctum Prelate

Worst cards (main): Swords to Plowshares, Umezawa’s Jitte, Mirran Crusader

Best cards (side): Rest in Peace, Pithing Needle, Cataclysm

Revoker targets: Mox Diamond, Molten Vortex

Best Generic Sanctum Prelate Number: 2

Sample Decklists

David Long, 16th place at a Legacy Classic on 4/10/16

William Laxton, 1st place at a Legacy IQ on 5/15/16

Deck Strategy and Key Cards

The deck names “Lands” most commonly refers to a R/G land-based legacy deck, and the discussion that follows will be about that deck.  There are other “Lands” decks in Legacy, most notably a RUG Lands deck with Intuition and Tolaria West; this version has a greatly increased ability to tutor, and often grinds out the end game with an Engineered Explosives and Academy Ruins lock. A Turbo Depths deck has been picking up in popularity as well; it attempts to remove all the counters from Dark Depths as quickly as possible with cards like Vampire Hexmage.  Much of what you read below will be useful for those matchups as well, but there are important differences between the archetypes.

Unsurprisingly, the Lands deck seeks to control and win the game via Lands.  Though the numbers vary a little bit from deck to deck, the Lands deck has around 35 lands and a number of ways to recur them or play additional lands.  Life from the Loam is the lifeblood of this deck, and it allows the Lands deck to effectively draw three cards per turn.  Loam allows the Lands player to dig for important, matchup-specific lands quickly while also dampening the impact of opposing Wastelands.  Things get a little nutty once the lands player gets an Exploration and a Tranquil Thicket, as they can start playing multiple lands and dredging Loam multiple times.

The deck most frequently wins by assembling Thespian’s Stage and Dark Depths.  Thespian’s Stage copies Dark Depths, and then the Legend rule kicks in, forcing you to sacrifice one of the two copies.  You then opt to keep the Thespian’s Stage, which conveniently has no ice counters.  This in turn means that you will sacrifice the Thespian’s Stage copy and create a Marit Lage token.  The 20/20 Avatar tends to end games very quickly, and if it doesn’t, Loam the Stage and Depths back and try again!

The deck plays a number of problematic lands that can stop aggressive decks in their tracks, most notably, The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, Maze of Ith, and Glacial Chasm.  Between Life from the Loam and Crop Rotation, these cards can come out of nowhere and make life difficult.

Lands plays one of two removal packages, both of which wreck small creatures.  Expect to see either Punishing Fire alongside Grove of the Burnwillows or Molten Vortex. Recent lists sometimes play both, as playing Molten Vortex reduces the deck’s reliance on the graveyard, provides a quicker kill when paired with Life from the Loam, and gives the deck a removal spell that isn’t shut out by a Sanctum Prelate or Counterbalance on two. Some decks even run a single Seismic Assault for that same reason.

In addition to Wasteland, Lands has either Rishadan Port or Ghost Quarter as supplemental mana denial. Both can be pretty annoying, but Ghost Quarter is likely worse for us as the game goes long. The Lands deck is perfectly content to literally run you out of basic lands before going for a kill, and, with Exploration that’s a legitimate path to victory against many of the basic-light decks of the format.

The Matchup and Important Interactions

The Land deck has inevitability.  As the game goes long, the Lands deck becomes more and more favored.  Your goal is to disrupt the Lands deck just enough to push 20 damage.  On the hands where your opponent makes an early Marit Lage, you may be forced to use a Swords to Plowshares on it.  The good news is that you aren’t dead.  The bad news is that you gave them 20 more life to work with, and they will likely try again in 1-2 turns.  Whenever possible, leave an Aether Vial on 3 counters so that you can Vial in a Flickerwisp to blink the token instead.  On that note, Flickerwisp can also blink a Mox Diamond to potentially destroy it if your opponent does not have any lands in hand.

Your Wastelands and Rishadan Ports are going to feel a little mediocre in this matchup.  When your opponent has Life from the Loam and Exploration, you are eventually going to lose the mana war.  Your lands are often used for tempo plays rather than true, long-term mana denial.  You’ll often find yourself Wasting a Maze of Ith, Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale,  or Glacial Chasm to push damage.  The best possible use of Wasteland is on a Thespian’s Stage after it has copied a Dark Depths, but before your opponent has sacrificed it; this effectively is a double Wasteland, as your opponent already sacrificed the original Dark Depths.  Be careful about Wastelanding an untapped Thespian’s Stage though, as your opponent can just copy a basic land to avoid its destruction.

To reiterate the above point, your Wastelands need to be tactical and timed rather than just fired off at the first opportunity. The Lands deck is going to have ~37 lands; you aren’t going to take them off the two mana needed to cast Life from the Loam most of the time. In very rare circumstances where you also have
a Revoker on Mox Diamond, you may be able to temporarily knock them off a color, but that plan isn’t sustainable for long.

While it doesn’t kill you quickly, Punishing Fire paired with Grove of the Burnwillows is perhaps Land’s easiest path to victory. Gamble and Life from the Loam can find both pieces of the combo, meaning Lands will pretty consistently have access to this soft lock. Mox Diamond and Exploration help to fuel this mana-hungry plan; while one Punishing Fire per turn is problematic, two or three is devastating. Since so many of D&T’s creatures die to Punishing Fire, the Lands player can pretty easily whittle down your board until you have nothing left or until a card like Maze of Ith keeps everything else under control. Mother of Runes will protect something temporarily, but a Punishing Fire on your end step followed by another Punishing Fire on their turn will answer that as well. Keep in mind that this combo can be pointed at your life total once you run out of creatures, draining you for one life per recursion cycle.

Serra Avenger and other 3+ toughness creatures like Brimaz, King of Oreskos  are pretty ideal in this matchup, as they survive a Punishing Fire or Molten Vortex activation.  Similarly, getting a piece of equipment (especially a pro-red sword) on a creature can give your opponent fits.  Remember that you are the aggro deck here, and you are trying to close the game out as quickly as possible.  One difficult to answer threat with a touch of disruption can often steal the game while your opponent is still looking for a Loam or looking for the necessary lands.

As far a rules interactions go, take a look at The Tabernacles at Pendrell Vale‘s oracle text: “All creatures have “At the beginning of your upkeep, destroy this creature unless you pay {1}.”  This means that remembering the Tabernacle trigger is your responsibility, not your opponent’s; if you do not, it is resolved with the default choice, and you will lose all your creatures.  Feel free to put a die on top of your library or to put a land directly under your creature to help you to remember to pay.

Sanctum Prelate is an all-star in this matchup. Just name two. It shuts off both Life from the Loam and Punishing Fire, the two cards that you care the most about.


The sideboard has two primary methods of attack for Lands: graveyard hate in Rest in Peace and land hate in the form of Pithing Needle.  These are not permanent solutions, as the Lands deck is usually siding in four Krosan Grip to deal with your hate.  Of particular note, Pithing Needle usually names Thespian’s Stage, but if your opponent copies a different land with that Stage prior to the Pithing Needle, you may want to name the card it copied, as Thespian’s Stage does indeed copy the name of that card as well as its abilities. That being said, if you also have a Flickerwisp, you can still name Thespian’s Stage with the Pithing Needle, and just blink the Thespian Stage that copied another land afterwards.

You may have other cards that are relevant to the matchup.  If you are playing Cataclysm, this is one of the best times to use it.  While it does not win the game on its own, it does buy a ton of time.  When paired with a Rest in Peace, your opponent loses enough resources that the game is likely over.  Fiend Hunter and Path to Exile are great ways to eliminate a Marit Lage token that don’t give your opponent 20 life.  Sword of War and Peace provides protection from red while also vastly increasing your clock.

I used to side out some number of Swords to Plowshares in this matchup, but I’m becoming more unsure about that.  Swords to Plowshares can be a trap.  While it is a one mana out to their primary win condition, it comes at a great cost.  As the aggro deck, giving the control deck 20 life is not a winning proposition. With another lock piece like Rest in Peace, you’ll potentially have time to do that extra damage, but without it, you’ve probably given them more than enough time to rebuild.  Your opponent may sideboard in as many as four Tireless Tracker, making the Swords a little more powerful than they were in game one. If you have the option, Path to Exile is great at killing Marit Lage and friends with minimal drawback, as the Lands deck, surprisingly, often only has a single basic land.

After that, the sideboarding gets a little trickier.  You are probably fine cutting  Mirran Crusaders, as they line up poorly with opposing removal.  If your opponent is on the Punishing Fire build of Lands with no Molten Vortex, you could consider boarding out some Phyrexian Revokers; they shut off Mox Diamond, but are otherwise mediocre.

Closing Thoughts

Prior to the printing of Sanctum Prelate, I considered this matchup relatively even to slightly unfavorable.  I had a positive personal record against Lands, but I was not thrilled to play against it, especially when the pilot was experienced. Prelate helped this matchup quite a bit. Loam and Punishing Fire give Lands superior inevitability in game one. Stealing game one used to be rare without a very aggressive start, as their inevitability was daunting without Rest in Peace as an eventual out. Sanctum Prelate temporarily gave us a hard, game one answer to those cards. Unfortunately, the Lands players adapted. Barbarian Ring tends to be the card of choice to deal with Prelate, and not even Mom can save it. The matchup has probably drifted back to slightly unfavorable.

The matchup is quite skill intensive, and a slip up on either side often determines the game.  I would encourage you to play quickly and to prompt your opponent to make a decision if they are thinking for an unreasonable amount of time.  This is one of the matchups in Legacy that will most likely result in an unintentional draw, especially if your opponent boards in odd hate like Peacekeeper (Yes, this actually happened to me during an Open).

I recommend that you come prepared for the Lands matchup in particular if you are playing in an event anywhere between DC and New Jersey; there is a very strong following of Lands players in the region, especially in Baltimore, and you can expect those players to travel for events and do relatively well.  I often play Brimaz, King of Oreskos as well as a Surgical Extraction in my sideboard when I play events in the Baltimore area.  Be careful with casting a Surgical Extraction on a Life from the Loam, as a savvy Lands player might respond by cycling Tranquil Thicket to dredge it out of the graveyard.

Data as of 5/31/18
Win rate with WW D&T: 6-5 (54.5%)
Win rate with RW D&T: 6-3 (66.7%)