No Lands Man – By John McMullin

Currently, I own one deck.

It’s a work in progress – my Commander Deck. I tell you it’s near perfect, but then, a week from now I’ll find a half-dozen things I can do to make it better. But, isn’t that a bit obsessive? I would hazard a ‘yes’, so, I’ve decided it’s high time I start focussing my efforts on other decks.

Standard? Sometimes – I like making pauper decks or put strategies together that I know won’t really hold up against the current top tier. Slivers you say? Sure. White Weenie? Been there. After a while, coming up with witty non-winning decks loses it’s appeal too.

More Commander? I think not! I’ve dumped far too much time and money into the deck I have now, that I’d rather just tweak it here and there, and once it’s PERFECT, I’ll maybe consider building another.

What does that leave me with? Really, not a lot so far as the local competitive scene is concerned. Modern is a maze right now, and with rumors of Fetchlands being reprinted soon, not something I want to get into until I have a solid strategy and money to support it. Vintage? Lets rule that out right now. Unless I win a lottery, I will be hard-pressed to afford such a thing as a competitive Vintage deck. Not to mention – who locally would I compete with?

All this has me leaning on Legacy. It’s like Vintage in that it’s a really old format, and, supports some of the neatest cards and strategies in the game. Legacy also sees moderately more competitive play than Vintage does, even if it’s not a lot, but really – I find that Legacy embodies the ‘kitchen table’ atmosphere that MTG started out with long before it got competitive. It’s a niche, a comfortable place. And I want to take myself there again.

So, lets get this party started!

The first matter of business then, is to determine a strategy. How am I going to win? When I first concocted this deck design, it was intended that Grapeshot was the ONLY way to win. After hours of proxy-testing and playing the deck, I learned that there were some other ways to win. So, after some careful consideration, these four cards embody every way I plan to win with this deck, though it’s certainly subject to change.

 

 

So, now we have ways to win. But, how do we get to the point where we can win? How many turns will it take to win? What are the odds of winning or losing? To get answers on these questions, we need to consider what the other 56 cards in the main deck will be. We need to decide what we want to accomplish with every card, and we need to be sure that our mana curve and strategy aren’t muddied up with anything useless.

First, lets take on ‘how do we get to winning?’. Well, Grapeshot relies on # of spells played. Firestorm wants cards-in-hand. Goblin Bushwhacker and the Bombardment want creatures on the battlefield. Is there anything that can help us to achieve these?

 

 

Zero-cost creatures! Being a bit of a veteran Johnny, I learned long ago that low and no cost spells can be easily exploited for synergies and combos. They’re great cogs that can fit into a bigger wheel, and I will use them here with my win conditions. In total, there are 7 different zero-cost creatures in Magic. The others are here:

 

 

So now, with 4 copies of each of the creatures, and one each of my win conditions, I’m up to 32 cards for my deck! Just over half! So – what do I do about the other half of the deck? Obviously going to need some mana in there, if I actually plan to cast my win cons. I’m also going to need some catalysts – something to get my creatures all into play as quickly as possible. No point in using Bombardment or Bushwhacker, if I have no dudes to sac or attack with. I think our best bet is this spell:

 

 

I have to admit I ran a Kobolds(well, zero-cost) deck before, and I used Skullclamp for that. This is much better as it lets me float between Vintage and Legacy, where Skullclamp is banned in Legacy. Great – I now have an engine, with which I can drive toward the win. But, relying on 4 copies of 1 draw spell might not be a smart idea. In the end I opted to include two others, as well as a little bit of recursion. Here is my full deck list:

Creatures(37):

4 x Kobolds of Kher Keep

4 x Crookshank Kobolds

4 x Crimson Kobolds

4 x Memnite

4 x Ornithopter

4 x Shield Sphere

4 x Phyrexian Walker

4 x Elvish Spirit Guide

4 x Simian Spirit Guide

1 x Goblin Bushwhacker

Sorceries(13):

4 x Glimpse of Nature

4 x Ponder

4 x Gitaxian Probe

1 x Grapeshot

Instants(5):

4 x Noxious Revival

1 x Firestorm

Artifacts and Enchantments(5):

4 x Lotus Petal

1 x Goblin Bombardment

Now you get a fuller picture of what this deck can do! Of course, there are all sorts of holes, most notably being that without an early Glimpse of Nature, it’s pretty much game over. That is where Ponder and Gitaxian Probe come in handy. Ponder lets me either rearrange my top 3 cards or shuffle up, then draw 1. For a single mana, I can’t ask for anything more. Gitaxian Probe and Noxious Revival are an excellent pair. I plan to never pay mana for them in the first place, and instead use 16 of my 20 starting life as a resource to pay for these. I can use Probe to get a quick draw when I might be stuck, or couple the Probe with the Revival – allowing me to grab and reuse a spell from my graveyard.

I guess the next question someone might ask me is – “Where are all the lands?” – Well, there aren’t any. And the reason why is fairly simple, but twofold:

1: I wanted something non-traditional. Decks almost always have lands, and this gives me a chance to break the mould.

2: A hand full of land draws mid-stride can ruin my chances at winning with a deck like this.

So, what we end up having then, is a deck that can play everything out without ever putting land on the board! I can cast a number of spells and use the Storm ability on Grapeshot to win, or, sac all the things to Goblin Bombardment. I can pay Goblin Bushwhacker’s kicker cost and attack with a horde of goons, or, pitch my hand to Firestorm. Regardless how you play the deck, all four methods have tested as successful with it. The trick is to let yourself mulligan until you get a Glimpse. If you can manage that, odds are your opponent will never get to have a turn unless they’re playing first…

What’s next then? Well, for starters – a sideboard! It’s going to be rare, but Force of Will is going to cause me lots of grief, as might a bad mulligan or 5. I have to start thinking hard about how to make sure this deck can work more often than not. Any thoughts on that? Feel free to leave them in the comments below, and when I bring this deck online I’ll write an update for you, and hopefully provide some game-play examples!

Thanks again for reading!

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