Superior Numbers – Loving Lands that Limit Losses

You Got Nothin’ to Lose

Welcome to¬†Superior Numbers, where I conduct numerical analysis on cards and deckbuilding trends using just a little bit of math. This week I’m going to put those things to work telling you about some lands that help you lose less.

Yep, I’m gonna talk about “not losing” as opposed to “winning”. There’s plenty of other articles about that whole victory thing. Did you know Craterhoof Behemoth ends games? It does, and putting one in your deck increases your chances of walking away with the W. Done.

Not losing, though? That’s a little different. That’s what you do while you wait to have enough bodies in play to cast that ‘Hoof, and today I want to talk about some lands that make that happen. Why lands? Because they can go in any deck. There are some silver bullet not-gonna-lose cards in specific colors, but those might not do you a lot of good if you can’t legally run them. Lands, though? We all run lands, and these are some lands that keep you from losing.


I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me?

Strip Mine and Wasteland are both better than these three, and some folks like Dust Bowl because it sticks around. The first two are also $20 or so each, and Dust Bowl is sitting around $10, whereas the three cards above can be purchased for $1. If you have Strip Mine and Wasteland, obviously run them, but regardless of which you’re running I’m going to posit that every EDH deck you build should have 2 if not 3 land destruction lands, full stop.

Why?

Card Number of decks
Cabal Coffers 21,801
Cabal Stronghold 11,337
Dark Depths 4,933
Field of the Dead 9,508
Gaea’s Cradle 8,756
Growing Rites of Itlimoc 17,901
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx 31,047
Serra’s Sanctum 2,983
Storm the Vault 5,422
Westvale Abbey 12,306
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle 6,507

 

The above cards will win the game for your opponent if left unchecked, and they’re all in a LOT of decks. The mana that Coffers, Stronghold, Cradle, Sanctum, Nykthos, and the two transforming Ixalan enchantments can generate can be almost insurmountable, while Depths and Abbey will throw a creature at you that can be impossible to deal with, and Field of the Dead can generate a ton of 2/2 Zombies even without Landfall trickery. Valakut can deal lethal off of a Scapeshift or Splendid Reclamation, or at the very least make it miserable to keep a creature alive and in play.

Those are just the obvious ones, too. An alpha strike on an opponent with an activated Vault of the Archangel can gain so much life that it effectively buys someone multiple turns before they die. An Inventor’s Fair might be able to go get a Mycosynth Lattice that locks you out of the game.

You will almost always need to stop those things from happening or else you will just lose, and, unlike some problems, every single deck can run answers to these land-based threats. Find a spot for them. You will not regret it, and they’ll make you lose less.

Some notes on the bargain land removal lands:

Field of Ruin does ramp the other two bystander opponents by one land, but proportionally there isn’t really a difference between everyone being at six lands and using your Strip Mine to remove a Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx to knock things to 5/5/6/6 or using the Field of Ruin to turn that 6/6/6/6 to 6/6/7/7. You do run the risk of mana-fixing a bystander opponent, or ramping them into their big turn early, but that’s a fairly low occurrence, and probably worth the risk if you don’t want to drop $20 on a Strip Mine.

Field can also be used to screw up an opponent’s top deck tutor or recursion from a Academy Ruins-type effect, and that shouldn’t be overlooked given how predominate those effects are; Vampiric Tutor is the fourth-most popular black card on EDHREC, after all.

Ghost Quarter lets our opponent replace a land, but it should be noted that it doesn’t have to target an opponent. I’ve seen a desperate player blow up their own land to fetch a basic of a color they desperately needed or to desperately get a shuffle effect with a Future Sight when they needed an answer on top of the library. With some kind of Crucible of Worlds effect out to play lands from the graveyard, it can be used as a desperate way to proc Landfall triggers, as well. None of those are reasons to run Ghost Quarter, really, given they’re one-in-500-game-type plays, but they’re definitely worth noting.


Goodnight you loser, you midnight moonlight user

Scavenger Grounds should be in every single deck, and if you disagree it’s because you’re wrong, you’re drunk, or you’re Joey “as a necromancer myself” Schultz. Possibly all three.

If someone casts a Rise of the Dark Realms, Living End, Living Death or overloaded Mizzix’s Mastery, you will lose, because almost nobody casts those cards unless they’ve set up a game-winning graveyard. It doesn’t have to be that dramatic, though. Gyrus, Waker of Corpses bringing back a Fleshbag Marauder when your Uril, the Miststalker is suited up like he just left Saville Row can also lose you the game. Kess, Dissident Mage getting an extra turn off of a milled Time Warp might be enough to ensure that you never get another turn. Even something as simple as stopping someone from casting a Skeletal Scrying that they pulled off a Fact or Fiction can be enough to keep an opponent from turning the corner.

And hey, if you’re looking for another reason to run the land destruction lands, taking out someone else’s Scavenger Grounds before you make your own big graveyard play is as good a reason as any.


I want a name when I lose

Homeward Path isn’t right for every deck. I firmly believe that you should have multiple land destruction lands and a Scavenger Grounds in every list you build, but I’m not sure that the same is true for Homeward Path. Still, it’s a really good card that, while maybe a little meta-dependent, can also keep you from losing games by keeping someone else from winning them.

In some decks, losing your commander is tantamount to losing the game, and there’re plenty of ways out there to lose your commander. Control Magic is in 4,107 decks, Treachery in another 2,466, and Bribery in 4,449. That’s just direct obvious theft effects, too. Animate Dead can steal from any graveyard, and it’s in almost 22,000 decks. Sepulchral Primordial is in 8,774 decks and can steal a thing from each graveyard.

And class, what’s the rule with Expropriate, a card that shows up in 5,692 decks? Always choose ‘money’. We don’t want them to get too many turns, even if it means they steal our stuff. And if they steal creatures, Homeward Path can bring it back later.

It’s not just cards in the 99, either. There are 387 Merieke Ri Berit decks in our database and another 277 lead by Rubinia Soulsinger. Gonti, Lord of Luxury isn’t restricted to creatures, but you can bet that the pilot will take one if it’s the best option, and there are another 622 Gonti decks populating EDHREC.

Homeward Path will not win you games, short of someone using Bribery to snag an Avacyn, Angel of Hope from your deck before casting Jokulhaups without noticing your untapped nonbasic (a thing I’ve actually seen happen). It will, however, keep you from losing, and you need to not lose before you can win.


‘Cause we have all been losers

Lightning Greaves is the 9th most popular artifact in decks in the last two years and Swiftfoot Boots is number 11. That’s it. That’s the pitch.

Need more? There are 18 different commanders with either hexproof, conditional hexproof, or the ability to grant hexproof, and another four with shroud. Some of them are quite popular, too; Narset, Enlightened Master heads 1,498 decks, Uril the Miststalker leads another 641, and Sigard, Host of Herons has 551.

Asceticism and Privileged Position are popular cards as well, showing up in over 14,000 decks combined.

This is the pair of lands that I’m most ambivalent about, though I’m not sure why. I see Greaves and Boots a lot, but when I’ve ran Lighthouse I never seemed to have it when I saw them, or never saw them when I had it. It’s also probably also a meta call; if you see an Uril deck twice a night then these are much more effective than in an environment where you don’t. Still, when they work, they make it a lot harder for you to lose.


Baby, even the losers get lucky sometimes

This is a topic I’ll probably revisit down the road with some color-specific cards, but for now I wanted to touch primarily on the lands as they can slot in almost anywhere, short of maybe a really color-greedy five-color list.

Are there any other particular loss prevention lands you run in every deck? Is Glacial Chasm consistent enough to make the cut? What about Maze of Ith? Sound off in the comments below, and as always, thanks for reading!

Dana is one of the hosts of the EDHRECast and the CMDR Central podcast. He lives in Eau Claire, WI with his wife and son. He has been playing Magic so long he once traded away an Underground Sea for a Nightmare, and was so pleased with the deal he declined a trade-back the following week. He also smells like cotton candy and sunsets.