“I attack with my general and activate my Cabal Coffers to make 16 black mana, put it into my Kessig Wolf Run and kill you with general damage” – Prossh player
Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published on August 20, 2014. We’re flashing back to some of our best from the past several years every Friday, because what’s old is new again. Lands are always worth giving a second look in EDH, and every set makes that even more true. Here’s how to keep the tierra down in the dirt.
Only three non-basic lands are banned in Commander: Library of Alexandria, Karakas, and Tolarian Academy out of the possible 482 non-basic lands ever printed. Outside of the color identity rules in commander, the availability of non-basic lands means options are abundant.
Non-basic lands in a Commander deck are robust due to two factors. First, a non-basic land doesn’t take up an extra functional slot in your deck. The land fulfills the function of another card in your deck, thus replacing it and freeing up a slot. For example – Volrath’s Stronghold means you cut and replace Raise Dead.
Secondly, lands are the most resilient permanents in Commander. There are fewer effects that destroy lands than any other permanent, playing lands can’t be countered, and there is real social stigma attached to land destruction in Commander.
I am here to dispel the notion that non-basic lands are sacrosanct; rather, you should treat them as a resource, just like a creature or artifact. In any game, players will play threats and other players will play answers to deal with those threats. If utility lands run amuck in your games, consider adding some answers. This will create more opportunity for interaction among players, and these interactions will create a more enjoyable experience for you and your fellow players.
In my Double Down, I offer pairs of cards to address sticky situations or threats you may encounter in a Commander game. These pairings are tied together by a common theme, and both cards can probably be found in a bargain box somewhere at your local game store.
Double Down: Hate on a stick
If you need a non-basic land blown up, call Dwarven Blastminer and Dwarven Miner, stalwart brothers for all your needs. These dwarves are handy creatures that fit in any red deck and can menace to your opponent’s mana base. At two mana, these two can be played in the early game to blow up non-basic lands while other players are ramping, or destroy those powerful utility lands that are already getting on your nerves. Sometimes blowing up a land is the only viable option you have, so don’t skimp here.
Double Down: Bring on the pain
Another method to deter non-basic lands is corporal punishment. Primal Order & Anathemancer inflict damage based on the amount of non-basic lands a player controls. These effects punish mana bases that rely too heavily on non-basic lands and players that ramp non-basic lands heavily. Fair warning – punishment effects might turn the table against you if other players see these as hazards to their gameplan.
Double Down: A little help from our friends
The last theme will focus on buffing your creatures. Cards like Wilderness Elemental & Mercadia’s Downfall use your opponents’ resources against them. Wilderness Elemental is a powerful low-cost creature that can become really large and in charge if there are plenty of non-basic lands on your opponent’s board. Mercadia’s Downfall can buff an entire attacking army and finish off any opponent with a sizeable non-basic manabase. Notice that I said “attacking creatures,” not just your own. It can also be used politically on other players’ turns to swing the game in your favor. This particular theme leverages the amount of non-basic lands your opponents control to improve your odds of winning, an angle not often used in this format.
Non-basic lands are some of the most powerful cards in Commander, and they fly under the radar because lands aren’t all that flashy by nature. Strong deck-builders view utility lands as a resource, just like any other card type in Commander. As Wizards continues to bring more, more varied, and better utility lands, understanding them and responding with appropriate will grow in importance if you want to stay competitive at the Commander table.
Talk to me!
What are some of your favorite methods to deal with non-basic lands? Where’s the line between acceptable answers and overboard land-destruction in your metagame? What are the hidden gems? I would love to hear your comments and feedback below.
As a special thanks, I would like to give @RyanSainio a shoutout for creating the graphics for this column on a short notice. Ryan is a fellow member of our local playgroup, and provides great content and insight to the Commander community. In addition, he is an awesome Commander player, and he has to deal with my shenanigans every week. He deserves the props!
Until next time,