Lands is my pet deck in Premodern, and one of the first ones I built. The core of the deck consists of Exploration, Horn of Greed and lots of lands, around 28–31. With that many lands, you can afford to include multiple utility lands like Wasteland, Rishadan Port and Mishra’s Factory, and still have access to the coloured mana you need. Thus, you actually compensate for some of spell slots that you give up.
A characteristic of many powerful cards is that they let you break the rules of Magic. Time Walk and Time Vault give you extra turns, Ancestral Recall and Wheel of Fortune let you draw more than one card a turn, and Black Lotus and the moxes gives you mana without counting towards your land drops. In Premodern, Exploration also let’s you circumvent that crucial restriction of one land drop per turn. This is powerful by itself, but when combined with Horn of Greed, it also effectively let’s you draw an extra card a turn. Breaking the rules, again.
Moreover, Undiscovered Paradise makes sure that you can keep the wheels spinning if you’ve run out of lands to play. The last piece we need is Enlightened Tutor, for assembling the combo between Exploration and Horn of Greed consistently. This puts us in the Treva colours, but besides having a critical mass of lands, there is quite a lot of flexibility in building the rest of the deck from here.
The first version I built several years ago (aside from minor tweaks) looked like this:
This deck has a lot of overlap with the UW Standstill deck, as it plays Standstill along with traditional control elements like Swords to Plowshares and Wrath of God. The idea is to survive long enough to set up Exploration and Horn of Greed. From thereon, you have the ability to switch gears completely, abusing Time Warp to get even more leverage out of the combo, typically winning with a couple of swings from all of your manlands. This second part of the deck resembles the Turbo Oath deck, which is more of a pure combo deck (read more about that deck here).
This deck has served me well and has been a blast to play, but as people started to catch up and build better decks, I realized that it was too inconsistent and clunky, so I won’t comment in more detail on it. But the main problem is that you depend too much on Horn of Greed to get an advantage. If your opponent realizes this and destroys or counters it immediately, you’re in trouble. You could also get some very clunky hands with multiple Time Warps etc.
So eventually, I reforged the deck completely, trying to make it more consistent and less dependent on Horn of Greed. This is my current version:
This build is further on the control spectrum. The key idea is to combine the (well-known) power of Fact or Fiction with Exploration. With so many utility lands, and the ability to play them fast with Exploration, you’re often happy to pick a land-heavy pile, so splitting will be a headache for the opponent. Sometimes, you also get to live the dream of a turn 1 Exploration into a turn 2 Fact or Fiction. So juicy. And unlike Horn of Greed, Fact or Fiction is of course a very good card in itself, even without Exploration in play. Impulse replaces Standstill in this version, to increase consistency and make things less clunky.
Let me comment on some other choices. Three is the magic number for Enlightened Tutor, since you never want to have two of them in your starting hand. Having the tutors gives you an incentive to play some silver bullets. Humility single-handedly wrecks several game plans and decks (Devourer Combo, FEB, Elves, Psychatog, Stifle-Nought etc), and so I’ve moved a copy into the main deck in this version. Besides Seal of Cleansing I’ve also included Aura of Silence as a tutorable tool versus artifacts and enchantments. Zuran Orb is mostly a life-saver against Sligh, and in particular the only way you can beat Price of Progress in the first game.
As for removal, Swords to Plowshares is still the most flexible and efficient one. But I found that Wrath of God is sometimes too slow versus decks like Goblins and Elves, so I replaced it with Pyroclasm, which is also great with Humility. The odd Wall of Blossoms provides some extra protection versus aggro. If you expect a lot of aggro, you might want to switch out some number of Impulse for more walls.
I’ve added a pair of Decree of Justice as win conditions, besides the manlands. Arguably, they’re even better here than in UW Standstill, adn they’re pretty damn good in that deck.
Last but not least among the spells is Upheaval. Having this as a reset button is crucial versus some decks like Enchantress, if they have e.g. Solitary Confinement in play. Sometimes, Upheaval just makes it faster and less complicated to wrap up a game. Float some mana, replay your Explorations and shut off your opponent completely with Rishadan Ports for a few turns while you finish the job with your manlands.
Finding the right mix of lands might be the hardest part. I’ve tried all sorts of configurations including Coastal Tower, Brushland, Fetch lands, Shivan Reef etc. For now, I’m pretty happy with this mix. You tend to use all of your mana every turn, so Grand Coliseum is actually better than City of Brass here, since the damage quickly adds up. Typically, there is no need for playing Exploration on turn 1, so you can get away with having some of the green sources coming into play tapped.
Price of Progress is a pain, as mentioned. This leads us to the sideboard, which includes the usual set of blue blasts as a countermeasure, as well as Circle of Protection: Red, which conveniently can be fetched by Enlightened Tutor. Sometimes, the circle and a bunch of lands is all you need versus Sligh, actually, if they’re foolish enough to play Sulfuric Vortex.
There are some additional tutor targets for other matchups: Null Rod and Tormod’s Crypt, as well as an extra copy of Humility. Stifle has several applications, but in particular the idea is to win the Decree of Justice race. Dust Bowl is there to further the mana denial plan against control decks.
Gaea’s Blessing is there mainly to protect you from mill strategies, i.e. Devourer Combo and Dementia Drake. Round off with a pair of good ‘ole Disenchant and a Pyroblast. Since you have access to all colours, you have tons of options for the sideboard, so feel free to experiment.
Lands is super fun to play, and it’s really strong too. In my experience, you don’t have any particularly weak matchups. Although your game plan is fairly straightforward, games tend to be interactive and there are lots of small decisions (which land should I tap with Rishadan Port?). There’s a lot of brewing room too, both in the main deck and the sideboard.
What do you think of Lands? I’d love to hear your feedback in the Premodern social media channels!
Until next time!