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Teaching an New Panther Old Tricks


Lord Windgrace
One of the things that makes Magic unique is the variance introduced by our resource cards - our lands. Get too many and your spell density isn't enough to keep up with your opponent. Get too few and you will have most of your business stranded in your hand as you forlornly topdeck another spell you can't play. The best player doesn't always win and while it can be frustrating to lose to your mana, it keeps the game exciting and decks that focus on ensuring smooth mana ramp are prepared to do battle far better than decks that aren't. Over the years I have been playing, the "correct" number of lands to run in a 60 card deck has grown from 20 to 24 or 25 as people try to mitigate their losses to something they can control. But lands are more than a "don't lose to not enough or too many of these" condition - far from it. Many lands have abilities beyond merely tapping for mana (I am verging on explaining that lands have non-mana abilities to my readers, this isn't how I wanted this paragraph to go).

The point of discussing lands at all was to point out that a legitimate strategy in several formats is to build a deck around just lands and cards that support lands. Commander in particular is a great format for building a deck with 50 or more lands and using their non-mana abilities to win the game. After all, it's far easier to get lands into play than any other permanent - you can play one per turn for no mana and sometimes you can play even more. If they do more for you than merely tap for mana, you can develop your board faster than the opponent, and even though the abilities typically stapled to lands give you incremental, grindy value rather than explosive value (for the most part - see Dark Depths, Cabal Coffers, and Bojuka Bog). Tabernacle, Glacial Chasm, Barbarian Ring - lands are sometimes just free spells that are easy to recur, usually trigger other things when you play them, are easy to tutor for and can't be countered. What's not to love?

People were very disappointed with the Lord Windgrace preconstructed deck and I think a lot of that stems from the fact that they heard it was themed around lands mattering and that theme felt very thinly supported by the deck which seemed, in practice, to pull in a few different directions. Luckily, you don't have to play with Gyrus, Waker of Corpses or Thantis, the Warweaver if you don't want to. In fact, if all you take from the deck is Lord Windgrace, that's perfectly fine because the deck I want to use Lord Windgrace for doesn't have a ton of flex spots. We are going to run quite a few lands in the deck. You wanted a grindy, lands matter deck, readers? Well buckle in because you're about to get more lands than you can handle.

My goal for the deck is to run at least 50 land cards, and for the lands to feature directly in the function of the deck - if not in the win condition than at least as part of value engines that help me break parity with our opponents. I want the support infrastructure of the deck to both synergize with Lord Windgrace and the lands in the deck and I want a viable deck that doesn't cost a million dollars (Sorry, Tabernacle and Drop of Honey). Finally, I want to see if we can learn something about 75% deck-building by brewing a pile of mostly lands and ramp. After four and a half years of this column, new guidelines are fewer and farther between but you never know. Let's look at what a Lord Windgrace lands matter deck would look like in the hands of a 75% building lunatic like me.

Lord Windgrace | Commander | Jason Alt

Seismic Assault
This looks... fun, but it also looks pretty close to a lot of stock lists. I was hoping to innovate a bit more, but what this deck lacks in originality, it makes up in explosivity.

I like the opportunity to blast people with Seismic Assault fueled by Ad Nauseam but that wasn't my innovation. I feel like my contribution to the deck was relatively minor apart from paring down a lot of non-lands and adding more basics to make cards like Boundless Realms worth it. I also added Reito Lantern, Groundskeeper, and Creeping Renaissance to make sure we can get lands back in our hand if we want them there rather than having them go straight from our yard to in play leaving us unable to reload and do some more blasting with Seismic Assault.

If you wanted to do more Seismic Assaulting, in addition to Reito Lantern you could add Junktroller, Epitaph Golem, and Vessel of Nascency to make sure you can churn back through your deck. Being able to get Ad Nauseam back would be helpful so you would want to add more Eternal Witness effects (I recommend spells like Regrowth to keep your mana curve low and not dome yourself to death with Ad Nauseam). You're basically all-in on Borborygmos Enraged and/or Seismic Assault but the rest of the deck can do some work.

If you don't think filtering with Sylvan Library and Abundance are enough, and drawing with Phyrexian Arena and Horn of Greed isn't drawing you down to the non-land cards you need, I think you could see your way clear to running a few tutors. With the small number of non-lands compared to most decks, it can sometimes be difficult to ensure you draw what you need. I might confine it to Green-based, creature card tutors rather than running Demonic Tutor et al. I included a few already like Green Sun's Zenith and Realms Uncharted, but Worldly Tutor, Sidisi, Undead Vizier and a few more could help smooth things out for you. You might even run something mana-intensive but powerful like Seer's Sundial if you want to draw a lot of cards.

You could add a lot more landfall creatures if you wanted. It may make it tougher to play Ad Nauseam (the main thrust of this deck as I built it) but you could play an even more grindy game. Add Nesting Dragon to join Turntimber Sower and Avenger of Zendikar and, if you do, add Parallel Lives which is great with Lord Windgrace's ultimate ability. You can further add Akoum Hellkite, Ob Nixilis, the Fallen and Rampaging Baloths. You can dispense with "cute" cards like Reito Lantern and just crack people with Ob Nixilis and Splendid Reclamation rather than Seismic Assault. It's easier to disrupt than Assault but it is explosive and fun. It's also pretty stock for Lord Windgrace and I wanted to add a little bit of my own twist so I didn't go with an obvious landfall build here but if you did, it would be powerful and probably just as much fun.

Finally, there are some lands I added and some I didn't that I wanted to discuss briefly because I tend to gloss over my landbases to the extent that people make fun of me on Twitter for never discussing why I always just jam Reliquary Tower in a deck without thinking. I'm a big believer in mana bases being heavily reliant on personal preference and while deck composition is something I feel comfortable waxing philosophical about, I think people will tend to jam the lands with which they're comfortable and which they can afford. However, this deck made some choices for reasons and let's discuss them a bit.

Ghost Town
Dust Bowl
Glacial Chasm

Ghost Town is a card that has only recently come into Vogue. With Landfall, Burgeoning, and lots of other players at the table, you can really generate some value and you can guarantee you've always got a land to play. I'd buy like four of these while they're still affordable - they do a lot of work in a lot of decks.

Dust Bowl is probably my favorite way to get lands into my own yard. It's a repeatable way to deal with cards like Cabal Coffers and doesn't help them like Ghost Quarter or require you to have a Crucible, like Strip Mine. I wish Dust Bowl got more love, although enough people are aware of this card that me harping on it too much is going to turn into one of those reddit posts where everyone is all "Did anyone else see that underrated gem called Moon?" Dust Bowl is the Duncan Jones' Moon of lands, but Moon was great and so is this.

Glacial Chasm is hilarious in decks that can replay lands from the yard. Why pay cumulative upkeep when you can continue to run this out? Make sure to let it go to the yard the turn you want to swing out.

Barbarian Ring
Haunted Fengraf

Barbarian Ring seems a little "dinky" but it's the win condition in the Legacy Lands deck some of the time. If you can play extra lands every turn and play lands from the 'yard you can do 6-8 damage a turn with this mammer jammer fairly easily. Eight uncounterable damage a turn really adds up.

Haunted Fengraf might deserve a look. We have so few creatures and all of them are so high-impact that you're bound to always get something consequential and this could be a good loop with an empty yard and Sakura-Tribe Elder.

Dakmor Salvage
Blighted Fen

Dakmor Salvage probably belongs in any deck with The Gitrog Monster and it does work here. Make sure to take a second to review how the cards interact before you sleeve up - I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Blighted Fen might get a look when I sleeve this up (after I finish 3 other decks including a Competitive version of White Taigam that I have always wanted to build but never bothered until now) because it's grindy and slow but so is Lord Windgrace and with Excavator and Crucible, you could really make someone feel the pain. Lands are sometimes less powerful than spells but they are pretty easy to recur in a deck like this and they're also nearly uncounterable and that makes them worth using.

"Bicycling" or "Bi cycling" lands like Sheltered Thicket got cut because I didn't want too many lands coming into play untapped or ending up in the yard where they couldn't be used to Seismic Assault them. I think the first thing you do if you're taking out the Ad Naus Assault package is add bi-cycling lands. I don't know about the regular cycling lands that only tap for one color since I want enough basics for Boundless Realms to do work, but it's worth testing. We are running closer to 50 lands than 37 and it's easy to forget that.

What do we think? Which of the potential build paths I suggest appeals to you? Is this too close to a stock list to give me any credit or did I open your eyes to some new possibilities? What's your favorite non-basic land that I didn't mention that you want everyone to know about? Leave it in the comments below. Thanks so much for reading. Until next time!

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