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Magic the Gathering, Land Destruction

Updated on June 26, 2011

If spells need mana and mana comes from land, why not just destroy the land? Enter Mtg Land Destruction.

The most hated deck type?

I have heard land destruction called “the most hated deck archetype”. When it is in peak form (i.e. the opponent’s hand is full of cards they can’t play and most of their land is gone) land destruction can be agonizing. But it doesn’t have to be a hated archetype. All you have to do is worn your opponent that you’re playing a land destruction deck, and perhaps throw in a free mulligan when they don’t draw into land. In a casual game where a player has multiple decks, they’ll play a deck that won’t fall apart to land destruction and you’ll have a challenge and hopefully a good game. Trying to get enough stuff out of your hand before your mana base is destroyed makes for a tense game where anything can happen. Land destruction is also a great deck to play test against. When you play against a land destruction deck. It will teach you about your deck’s mana curve. Nothing points out a curve too high than land destruction. Since win conditions tend to run on the higher side, the land destruction deck also points out how the lower end of your deck works. So without further ado, this is how to build a good land destruction deck:

Attack the mana base in every color

The first thing to remember is that every color is capable of attacking your opponent’s mana. They just work differently. White is a good for board clearing destruction (Armageddon). The idea is simple. You design your deck to run or 3 or less mana, then wipe the board with Armageddon. Then move in for the kill. Off course, loading your deck with 12-16 Armageddon effects isn’t particularly effective, so I rate white as the worst land destruction color. Armageddon is a win condition, not something to build a deck around. Blue doesn’t really destroy lands but it is easy to render them unusable. If anyone would claim blue to not be a potent mana killer, they’ll change their minds against a deck of 4 Illusionary Terrains, 4 Mana Shorts, 4 Parallax Tides, and 4 Gigadrowses. (My first land destruction was red/blue.) Red, green, and black all have land point destruction which is the main focus of this article.

3 and 4, the magic numbers

Unless you’re playing against a deck that crumbles in the face of land destruction (see etiquette above), you have a short window to lock someone down with land destruction. You need to be destroying your opponent’s lands on the third turn. The cheapest land destruction cards (with the exception of $40 Sinkhole) cost three mana and need to be played as soon as possible. If you are going to be destroying land (generally the most common permanent in a deck) you’ll be needing to cast land destruction spells every turn, until your intended player has no more in hand. You cannot afford to have to deal with any card from your opponent of four mana or more while you’re trying to tie them down. This does not mean all your land destruction spells have to be three mana but a good portion (i.e. 8) should. You’ll also want to keep your remaining land kill spells at 4 mana, so that they can help bolster that third turn land kill. I wouldn’t play a five cost mana killer unless it was a win condition or if my mana ramp could reliably get that spell cast turn four (i.e probably green). I cannot overstress the importance of your enemy not getting a fourth land drop. By way of example, I was playing against a heavily proxied zombie deck with all the spoils (guy wanted to see if the deck was worth paying $200 to buy). If he had gotten the mana to play Undead Warchief, I would have had to answer, taking time away from my land killing. He would have gotten another land and his deck would have started running as his deck was full of 5 mana nasties. However, he never got that fourth land and I won.

Pick a color:

Red- Red is my first choice when it comes to land destruction. It has what I consider the workhorse of land destruction: Stone Rain. It’s the right cost both in terms of converted mana and its ability to splash a second color should you desire. The only other equivalent is the green Ice Storm (expect to pay $40 a playset). Red also has another workhorse, Pillage. Your opponent often has nonland sources of mana. Creatures can be dealt with by direct damage, and artifacts can be taken care of by Pillage. Its converted mana cost is also three. In addition to these workhorses red brings direct damage to the table. Red is my primary color for any land destruction deck.

Green- Green brings two things to the table: enchantment destruction and mana ramping. However, green seems to me to be a completely illogical color for a land destruction deck. Why go to the trouble of locking your opponents at 2-4 lands when green can just mana ramp into bigger and better creatures? Given green’s problems with creatures I’d never consider this a primary color for land destruction. The mana ramping and enchantment removal could be worth a splash, (Creeping Mold’s a keeper).

Black- Black on its own is always dangerous since it can’t stop artifacts or enchantments. It is best at creature removal, but doesn’t have much of the direct damage that can give a red deck that extra push. Most of the cards that make a black deck a mana eater are long gone (sinkhole, dark ritual isn’t as potent in a 60 card deck) or cost a great deal (Demonic Hordes, Helldozer). Black’s discard abilities aren’t that keen on specifically killing land since just about every card gives the opponent a choice, lets you choose a nonland card, or discards at random. Again, I would recommend this only as a back up for red—especially if you keep finding your direct damage isn’t working as effective creature removal. Like green, the converted mana cost 3 land destruction spells have a color requirement cost of one colorless and two colored mana symbols. Pillage is much better.

Strip Mine- this is the best land destruction card in the game, the only one worth banning in Legacy and restricting in Vintage. It can destroy any land first turn and is uncounterable. There was a time where this card was not restricted in forty card decks. Wizards realized that mistake eventually.

Giving your destruction a little bite:

I would suggest that a land destruction deck should probably have 16 land destruction spells in it. It only behooves you then, to play cards that give your deck some added bite. I’m sure there are more cards then the three I discuss,

Black Vise: this is an evil card, one whose legality has been hotly debated throughout the years. Currently unrestricted in Vintage but banned in Legacy, this card is capable of bringing down tough foes all on its own. In land destruction it is a killer with your opponent often taking three damage from a hand of seven cards they can’t play. Just remember that if your land destruction deck is too potent no one will want to play you.

Ankh of Mishra: this deals two damage to any player when they play a land. My land destruction deck doesn’t need a fifth land (Seismic Assault, anyone?). On the other hand, my opponent has to keep putting lands into play or get burned by my land assault. I don’t play Black Vise but do run 4 Ankh of Mishra. If I get it in my opening hand I usually win the game.

Dingus Egg: I’ve used this before, but I’m not too hot on it. Unlike Ankh of Mishra, which costs 2, Dingus Egg costs 4. Remember those magic numbers, 3 and 4? I find that by the time I’m finished locking down my opponent’s land, I don’t have the land destruction spells left for the egg to be worth it.

Land Destruction, my build
(Consult Gatherer for unfamiliar cards.)

Red Spells          Red Creatures          Artifacts

4 Stone Rain        4 Avalanche Riders     4 Ankh of Mishra   
4 Pillage           4 Martyr of Ashes                         
4 Lightning Bolt    4 Shivan Wumpus        Lands
4 Incinerate        3 Keldon Marauders     
                    2 Keldon Halberdier    23 Mountain
                                           Gemstone Cavern

How the Deck Runs

First step is drawing and mulligans. The key to remember here is to always always mulligan a hand that does not have three lands in it. By definition, a land destruction deck only wins by destroying your opponents land. Destroying land takes a huge commitment and simply can’t survive waiting for your land drop. If, by any chance, you don’t draw a stone rain or pillage don’t worry too much. Starting your land assault fourth turn (particularly when you’re going first) isn’t the end of the world, but missing your third land drop is. A land control deck simply cannot function if you let your opponent slip by a crucial time frame.

This deck is designed on the idea of putting out some weenie creatures/suspending permanents on turns one and two. If your opponent isn’t playing aggro then these creatures can cause a great deal of damage. I have done 7 points of damage with a Raging Goblin before. Turns three and four are for destroying lands. Hopefully so will turn five. After you’ve used as much land destruction as possible, start casting the Shivan Wumpus. It’s not guaranteed land destruction and removal is often quite cheap, but it’s a 6/6 trampler and your opponent’s board shouldn’t be able to handle it. As stated before Ankh of Mishra will tend to do enough damage to let this deck swing for the kill.


Mana ramping is an issue and may let players slip into that soft spot (5 mana) in the deck. Fortunately, pillage kills artifact mana and direct damage kills creature mana. Hope that your opponent doesn’t have a game breaking enchantment. Also note that the land destruction deck, as constructed, will only kill opponents with a curve of three or greater. Decks like Boros can slip under the assault. Martyr of Ashes can help you clear the board, however. Lastly, land destruction falls apart to counter magic, and there’s not much you can do about it. It completely shuts down the engine. Point land destruction is based on one-on-one trades: your one spell destroying their one land. With counter magic it’s one spell for one counter spell and their mana base is unaffected. Land destruction simply fails to counter magic. On the plus side, though, it can beat the snot out of that $200 dollar deck your opponent just keeps beating you with. My land destruction deck beat the aforementioned zombie deck that had a record of 19-0.It was pretty funny to beat someone with an expensive deck that he thought to be invincible.

Like this article? Check out my other articles on multiplayer politics: parts One, Two, and Three.


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    • starvagrant profile image

      starvagrant 5 years ago from Missouri

      Stuart, I'm a veteran at doing just about anything to attack someone's mana base. Destroying is simply the most direct. Ensuring someone's lands are tapped before they can use them works wonders: Power Sink (a counter spell), Mana Drain, Gigadrowse, and Stasis all achieve these effects. Changing land to useless types works as well, so does stealing someone's lands. Getting rid of alternative mana sources works will too. I ran a vicious Blue/Red control deck that utilized just about every method (other than getting players to discard lands before the could play them before they could be played:

      Power Sink: counters spells and saps mana

      Lightning Bolt: bye bye elves

      Pillage: destroy lands and artifacts

      Illusionary Terrain: switches all lands of one type to another

      Stone Rain/Strip Mine: destroy lands

      Orcish Squatters: steals a land instead of doing combat damage: protected by Power Sink and cleared through with Lightning Bolt and Control Magic.

      To the best of my knowledge it never lost a game. But then I got bored with magic without new cards and new players to try something else.

    • profile image

      Stuart 5 years ago

      For land destruction I generally find that you don't particularly have to "destroy" all of your opponent's land. I can normally just render it useless to them by throwing spells like Contaminated Ground, Psychic Venom, Convincing Mirage, Phantasmal Terrain, etc at them. Against white land destruction is cake; Between the cards Gloom and Flashfires, you'll never have to see another angel with all those OP stats *cough cough Akroma cough cough* again!

    • profile image

      martinnetsims 5 years ago

      hello beverley i got it from a mate so here is there link

      and some info , there very helpful ,tell them martin netsims said you would sort him out

    • profile image

      Miguel 6 years ago

      I understand standard probably couldn't rock a land destruction deck but have you not thought of using cards like "Deceiver Exarch" to "tap target permanent" to maybe not destroy opponent's lands but to render them useless. I forgot my past experiences but i remember using a birthing pod on turn 4 to pull out "acidic slimes" and "frost titans" and "deceiver exarchs" to keep my opponent at 3 mana and eventually with copy creatures like "phantasmal image" and "phyrexian metamorph" to completely get rid of my opponent's lands. Ah good times... but basically my point is there are other ways to mana stall your opponent then just simply destroy them.

    • profile image

      Svankensen 6 years ago

      There is a good 2 mana land destruction red spell: Scorched earth. It is a sorcery, RX, discard X lands, destroy X lands. With four in your deck, plus sol ring, strip mine, Ancient tomb and gemstone caverns (i had one before they went over the roof, same as sol ring), you have pretty good chances of getting a second turn land destruction going. I personally play with a few more colourless lands like desert or Barbarian Ring, for exaple, kill those pesky 2 mana protection from red white critters.

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

      Interesting game.

    • starvagrant profile image

      starvagrant 7 years ago from Missouri

      You forgot Sinkhole. Dark Ritual does make playing black tempting in a land destruction deck. A dark rit into land destruction will solve land destruction's worst match up, which is countermagic. However, after the switch from 40 card decks to 60 card decks, getting a dark ritual in your opening hand just isn't reliable. After years of running red as my primary land destruction color I also wouldn't feel comfortable giving up the ability to destroy artifacts. A signet from the Ravnica block is going to give you headaches even if your opponent has 1 or 2 lands.

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      Nicolás 7 years ago

      Starvargrant, I think you left out many black cards to destroy lands. I stopped paying Magic like 10 years ago, but I'm getting back on it, and let me tell you that my black land destroyer does very good against today's deck as it did years ago:

      4 Choking Sands

      4 Rain of Tears

      4 Icequake

      4 Befoul

      1 Strip Mine

      All but Befoul are 3 mana cost so if you get anu of thos cards and a dark ritual in your starting hand you'll be destroying lands from the first round, wich will stop any counter blue deck (I hate those).

    • starvagrant profile image

      starvagrant 7 years ago from Missouri

      I'm keenly aware that wizards has decided not to print effective land destruction spells for a while. I don't know if it's official permanent policy, but land destruction hasn't been an option in standard since Lorywn-Shadowmoor. It is not a tournament format.

      As for casual play you can have fun without the whining if you just tell your opponent you'll be running land destruction. This will allow your opponent to select a deck more resilient to land destruction and this usually leads to fun games. I admit it's also a great way to wipe the smirk off an arrogant player. If you have a player that always wins with $20 win conditions. Tired of Legacy Weapon or Angel of Despair? Hear's your answer. I knew a guy that bragged about a zombie deck that had beat his wife's 19 decks. But oops! all his workhorses were 4+ mana, and he never got a fourth land.

    • LennyP profile image

      LennyP 7 years ago from Iowa

      Unfortunately Wizards has decided that land destruction is unfun and refuses to print anymore effective land destruction cards leaving the only good ones in eternal formats. Decks are too fast in those formats for land destruction to be effective. That would leave casual formats for land destruction but my experience is you will just hear a lot of whining if you prevent people from playing their huge spells in casual play. Of course some people feed on the whines.

    • starvagrant profile image

      starvagrant 7 years ago from Missouri

      Was unaware of the cards repercussion and lava blister. I think any of the points we are making come from a much different idea of a land destruction deck. I cannot afford sinkholes which make second turn land destruction possible. I don't have any mana acceleration. Maybe I should, but my deck is quite full of cards already. I start destroying lands turn 3 and keep destroying them until I run out of land destruction cards. Against such a deck holding countermagic until needed would be productive. Your land destruction deck is obviously much quicker than mine (though I don't know how you can play a Ravnos bounce land first turn for a signet turn two).

      As for running a no-creature deck, of course I think about it. I never enjoy magic games that I don't have to work to win. (As mentioned in my hub I tell people ahead of time when I play land destruction to make sure I have a good match.) I find creature light decks best suited to this kind of play.

      However, I never play a truly play a creatureless deck. There's nothing that can seal a game like a timely Bogardan Hellkite or Mahomatti Djinn. Furnace of Rath, which seems to be a favorite for you, is one of those cards powerful enough to finish the game on its own, but I do not own any.

      It's also important to note that when you run no creatures that every opponent creature is a threat, even the one drops. A single Vampire Nighthawk (or similar card) can keep a small army at bay. Of course, your opponent is probably packing creature destruction and not playing creatures nulls 8 cards (estimate) in his/her deck. I've won some big multiplayer games because I played a creature light deck against a runner up that couldn't beat that wasn't based on creatures. (If you're curious it was a blue/red urza tron deck with 3 fireballs and the massive scrying ability provided in the underrated future sight expansion.)

      Of course, I have a nice hub on how to win big multiplayer games with practically no power/creatures via politics of course). Check it out. Maybe you could suggest some cards.

    • profile image

      Kervhart 7 years ago, they know how to play counter decks....the best counter decks I've seen I have thrown down against here. It's not that they don't know how to play, it's that they drop something to help with their counters/survivability.

      Also, as for unconventional red deck is a no-creature deck. All I have are lands and instant/sorcery spells. Because of that I have to not only deny, but burn as well. I don't mind if one spell is countered because I can throw down something like Molten Influence, which is a win-win for me in either instance.

      Also, because of my win-condition demands high mana for the burn spells such as Banefire, I usually play along the lines of: T1:Rakdos Carnarium, T2:Rakdos Signet Land. So on Turn 3 I play a land and have 5 mana, meaning that I can cast 2 LD cards: Either a Sinkhole+StoneRain, StoneRain+LavaBlister. Sub StoneRain for Pillage or other 3 mana LD(there's a few) and you can see the versatility and options you have. Yeah he might take 6 damage instead of losing his Izzet Boilworks...but I don't care because it puts me that much closer to killing him off. And if I force him to use all his mana/counters on say...SeismicSpike next turn, I can throw down a Furnace of Rath immediately after the counter safely. Next turn I hit him with LavaBlister again and he either loses his land, or sucks on 12 damage ontop of the 6 he already took. By now you can put a Price of Glory on the field because he either can't counter it, or you play MoltenInfluence on his counter and he'll die if he takes the damage.

      I assume you do well placing creatures in your deck, but I find with a Repercussions on the field I can kill off their creatures AND them for next to nothing. Pyroclasm clearing off their creatures AND doing ALL that damage directly to them.

      Ever think of running a no-creature deck? It's a fun and quite refreshing way of playing the game.

    • starvagrant profile image

      starvagrant 7 years ago from Missouri

      Price of Glory has some anti-counter potential. I was unaware of this card. It is my estimation that no one in your group knows how to run counter magic against land destruction. You play lands and hold the counters in your hand until the land destruction player tries to kill your land. By the time you run out of counter magic you'll have enough lands to neuter any deck not playing global land removal. Unless the land destruction player gets an awesome 1 or 2 drop you can take all the time you want against point land destruction. A two-drop w/Negate in hand fourth turn is how it's done.

      I do know about Tremble, but not quite sure why'd you'd play point land destruction in a multiplayer setting. However, I'm all for unconventional decks so have at it if it works.

    • profile image

      Kervhart 7 years ago

      Let me do a little bit of rezzing here, but have you ever put in Price of Glory? 3 mana that PREVENTS you from being countered. On Turn 2-3, most blue decks in my area drop something, which means they don't have mana for a counter, which means my Glory hits the field. Next turn I Pillage, either he loses one land or losses 2-4 depending on his counter. Fact of the matter is is that he isn't gonna counter Pillage, which means my Stone Rain next turn will most likely not be countered, and so on and so forth. It's also very useful against a deck that holds a special in hand, nothing says F*** **U like hiting them with a lava axe with furnace of rath on the field. Yes that prot from red saved them 10 damage, but it also killed 3 of their lands doing so, which means the lava axe next turn will do 10 damage. Also in a large multiplayer(We run quite a few 7-10 player games here), a tremble will kill huge amounts of land for only 2 mana. Yes it sets you back one turn, but if you have a two-mana land(Rakdos Carnarium), it doesn't set you as far back as it does your opponent who you've already killed their non-basics. And having multiples of those Rakdos means that you can slip in a few black LD cards if you felt as well. A Sinkhole wouldn't hurt, or a Doom Blade for cheap creature defence.

    • profile image

      markus 7 years ago

      haha I have the exact same experience with a zombie deck. it was once the most powerful deck in my group. but whenever he plays against me, his only chance was when he's able to bring down his Soulless One. I have to agree with the counter magic. The problem with counter magic decks against land destruction is that it can run on at least two or three lands without any creatures in play. the key is to be fast because blue is slow at first. so i guess a red/green land destruction with a set of elves would have a better chance than a pure red deck in my opinion.

    • starvagrant profile image

      starvagrant 7 years ago from Missouri

      I agree. Four lands does seem to be the event a point land destruction deck must avoid. However, I try my damnedest not to put my players in a position to concede. I tell people I'm playing land destruction beforehand. This eliminates the bad matchups. Land destruction rips through any deck that relies on 4+ drops. By the way, there is a bad matchup for land destruction, and that is counter magic.

      As an aside, I once played a proxied zombie deck that my opponent said had beat all 19 of his girlfriend's decks. He never got that fourth land and was quickly taken care of.

    • profile image

      markus 7 years ago

      i've been using land destruction decks ever since i had an opponent who used one. from my experience, if my opponent was able to put down four lands (if he's lucky), he gets a 50% chance of winning, the only challenge you will get in my opinion. i put in some earthquake/fault line cards for those nasty weenie creatures. i destroy creatures with direct damage. and when i've gained viable land advantage, i put down muscle creatures (4/4 creatures above) for the kill and sometimes my opponents just concede. land destruction deck is pretty useful against any type of deck in my opinion.

    • starvagrant profile image

      starvagrant 7 years ago from Missouri

      Sorry JD. Standard's options for land destruction in current standard (Zendikar/M2011/Scars) are pitiful. Simply put you need land destruction cards that cost 3 or less. Otherwise your opponent gets too much time. If you want a control style deck than black's discard abilities are quite robust. (Duress, Liliana's Caress, Mind Sludge, etc.) I do not have extensive experience with this kind of deck though.

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      JD Fitz 7 years ago

      I was planning to build a land destruction deck on the Standard. Good thing I stumbled upon your article.

      COuld you also make one for the new Standard Eldrazi/M11/SOM ?

    • danatheteacher profile image

      Dana Rock 7 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Another awesome article-Thanks!