Today’s topic is not nice. We are going to dive into the wonderful world of land destruction in Commander. Land destruction, like stax and hatebears often gets a bad reputation. A reputation that leads some people to dismiss the whole archetype. In this article, let’s discuss land destruction. What is it, how you can make it a part of your game plan, and why every Commander deck deserves a little land destruction.
Types of Land Destruction in Commander
Land destruction can be broken into two camps. Single target, and mass land destruction. Single target deals with one land. Stone Rain, Strip Mine, and Sinkhole all fit this definition nicely. Those of you playing eternal formats are likely familiar with some of these as well as the big bad, Wasteland. They are cornerstones of the format.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have mass land destruction. Cards like Armageddon, Upheaval, and Sunder fit this category. These are much more contentious. Mass land destruction is a double-edged sword. If the opponent’s board is empty, and you have a 1/1. Casting Armageddon almost guarantees a slow and painful death for the opponent. The problem is “almost.” Mass land destruction puts you ahead but sometimes does not guarantee a win. Similar to casting Windfall with a Narset in play. You’re likely very ahead, but it doesn’t mean you win automatically.
Why Destroy Lands?
A major reason for playing land destruction is to deny your opponent colored mana. This has become more important in recent years. We have seen several excellent three-plus-color commanders. Taking a turn to destroy a land could be vital in disrupting your opponent, throwing off their game plan. Top targets include Triomes, Dual Lands, and Rainbow Lands.
Classics like Strip Mine and Wasteland are excellent options. They are usually not my first option in Commander unless the deck really benefits from it. Consider, that the prior cards excel in formats like Legacy and Vintage because it is an “even” trade. In a multiplayer game, this is not the case. In a four-player environment, you and one opponent have each gone down one land. Meanwhile, you have two opponents untouched. While Strip Mine and Wasteland are both excellent includes, keep this disadvantage in mind. This has led many to play Demolition Field. You and the opponent each search for a basic land when you use Demolition Field. This is less effective at color denial. But, it keeps you on pace.
When going for color denial it is important to consider what the opponent has access to. While it is tempting to destroy a Triome sometimes it is correct to destroy a basic land. For example a player with a Plains, Bayou, and Overgrown Tomb in play. It might be correct to destroy their basic Plains to prevent them from having access to white mana.
Magic has plenty of powerful lands that can dominate the game. Cabal Coffers, Gaea’s Cradle, and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx can generate massive amounts of mana. Land destruction helps keep this in check. In general, a simple Strip Mine can help deal with these problematic permanents. Utility lands can easily go unchecked in casual settings. It is key to disrupt them when possible.
Utility lands come in many forms. Whether it’s card advantage, protection, or some other functionality it is important to have a way to attack your opponent on these fronts. You can check out our whole article on utility lands here!
Land Destruction can have some cute interactions here and there you should be aware of. Here are a couple of ideas to keep in the back of your head.
Manipulating Top Decks
Ghost Quarter, Demolition Field, and Boseiju, Who Endures allow the opponent to search their deck for a basic land as compensation. This can be used to deny the top card of their deck. This is useful if they searched a card with Vampiric Tutor, or kept a card on top of their deck with Scry or Ponder.
If an opponent has telegraphed a play you might be able to destroy a land between steps and phases. This can deny them access to mana and their spell. For example they Worldly Tutor for a card during your end step. You may be able to destroy a land before their turn to prevent them from casting the tutored card.
Strip Mine, Ghost Quarter, etc. are all activated abilities. It is incredibly hard for the opponent to counter these abilities. Stifle, Nimble Obstructionist, and Bolt Bend are examples of cards that can. While these are fringe in their own right it is good to be aware of what, and cannot interact with your effects.
Incidental Land Destruction
While we have focused mostly on lands that destroy other lands some spells also destroy lands. Most Stone Rain effects are bad in Commander. However, many staples can destroy any permanent, including land.
Notable examples include Beast Within, Generous Gift, Assassin’s Trophy, Vindicate, Wild Magic Surge, and Chaos Warp. You are likely already playing some of these cards. Be aware of what cards can destroy lands. It might not come up often. It just might save your skin when facing down a powerful land.
Land Destruction Combos & Commanders
Strip Mine Locks
Strip Mine locks involve playing multiple Strip Mine effects in one turn to starve players of their mana. An example of this is Crucible of Worlds and Azusa, Lost But Seeking. This will allow you to play Strip Mine up to three times per turn. From here you can whittle down your opponent’s lands over time. Depending on the situation you may want to focus on one payer that is ahead or spread the love around the table. This can slot into a deck such as The Gitrog Monster, Lord Windgrace, or Tatyova, Benthic Druid. The commanders here lend themselves to the strategy while also getting additional value.
One-Sided Mass Land Destruction
Mass Land destruction can become a potent win condition when used as a combo piece. Armageddon combined with Heroic Intervention or Teferi’s Protection is a nasty one-sided interaction. While you do not win on the spot you will hopefully be so far ahead that your opponents no longer have a chance! Usually, this acts as a combo win. Sure you haven’t won but you’re so far ahead the usual response is to simply shuffle up for game two.
With all of that said I hope you learned something about land destruction. Whether you’re running utility lands or going for an apocalyptic land wrath don’t be afraid to blow up a couple lands! What are some of your favorite ways to destroy lands?