Based on the feedback I’ve gotten, the most successful article I’ve put out so far is the article on my Child of Alara Lands Deck. I’ve gotten quite a few emails asking for tips on building and playing the deck, and just as many asking if there’s a way to build the deck on a reasonable budget. For reference, here’s the list I’m playing currently:
[deckbox did=”a62″ size=”small” width=”560″]
The shell of this deck is incredibly flexible and can be built a number of different ways, which is part of why I like the deck so much. The problem with tweaking this list is that once you change one or two cards, say Diamond Valley, then other cards become much worse, like Nim Deathmantle and Child of Alara. If you cut cards like Exploration, you become much more reliant on Azusa, Lost but Seeking and Oracle of Mul Daya, and you have to be more capable of finding and protecting those cards. Because of that, it can be difficult to talk about changes to the deck in vague terms.
While I would like to put out a budget list for this eventually, the focus of this article is to show some of the game play, and a few of the things I think about when I’m playing the deck. I’d like to start that by looking at some opening hands, talking about some of the ways that you could play the hand out, and some of the concerns I might have about keeping the hand. Let’s take a look!
This hand is pretty questionable. You have a turn one Exploration, which can be a HUGE deal, and puts you really far ahead sometimes. However, you don’t have a way to make sure you’ll continue hitting land drops, so it’s completely possible that you’ll play the five lands in your hand and then run out of gas.
However the real problem is that this hand hinges on The Tabernacle of Pendrell Vale. You can run it out early if you think it’ll buy you enough tempo to find something else to do, but it doesn’t interact very well with your Worm Harvest, and makes it difficult to play around cards like Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile. The reason for this is because you don’t have an immediate sacrifice outlet like Diamond Valley, so you have to leave Child of Alara vulnerable to spot removal.
Now, this is a hand. You have exactly enough lands to cast your Life from the Loam, a Summer Bloom to skip directly into the midgame, and then you get to start transmuting Tolaria West for the best land in your deck every turn. This hand is awesome against blue decks, since the only spells that they can counter in this sequence are Summer Bloom and Life from the Loam, and really, who wants to counter those?
In addition to that absurdly explosive and resilient opening, you also get two tutors. How insane is that? Think about how much flexibility that gives you! You could be really aggressive and tutor up an Exploration or Azusa, Lost but Seeking to go nuts. But I play this deck much more conservatively and would be more likely to ride the Life from the Loam and Tolaria West engine for as long as possible, let it get hit by Tormod’s Crypt, then tutor up another engine to keep things going.
This last hand is absolutely insane. Turn one Sylvan Library is really good in Legacy, and is even better in Commander. Your life total is so high that you can afford to pay life to draw out of a glut of bad cards. You’ve even got shuffle effects to dig even deeper, Maze of Ith to keep people off of your back while you find gas, and Gamble for Life from the Loam or for a specific answer.
Now that we’ve taken some time to look at hands, talk about the strengths and weaknesses of them. I think it’ll be helpful to try something completely different, and step through a quick game. For simplicity’s sake, it’ll be a one-on-one starting at 30 life, rather than 40, since game states get out of hand very quickly with multiple players.
Thanks very much to Becca, the girlfriend, for playing the other side of this game and for putting up with me taking forever to write down thoughts and take some pictures as the game progressed. We’re playing against a relatively stock Kemba, Kha Regent deck which means we don’t need an extraordinarily fast hand. Here’s our opening seven:
This is probably me just being greedy, but I think this hand is really sweet. You have a Brainstorm and a shuffle effect, which should find you something to do. If we don’t Brainstorm into gas, then we’ll follow it up with a [card Jace, the Mindsculptor]Jace[/card] and that will find something.
Kemba is on the play, and starts off strong with Snow-Covered Plains into Serra Ascendant. That’s pretty bad news, since we kept a really slow hand without any real ways to interact with a quick clock. For our first turn, we draw Demonic Tutor, which is awesome, since it gives us all kinds of flexibility in the upcoming turns.
In the worst case, we’ll use the Demonic Tutor to find a Maze of Ith to buy us a ton of time to find an answer for the Serra Ascendant. However, we’re not under extraordinary pressure just yet, so there’s no need to use Demonic Tutor that aggressively.
Kemba casts a turn two Stoneforge Mystic, but she fetches a Darksteel Plate rather than a [card Sword of Fire and Ice]Sword[/card] of some variety. Darksteel Plate is a pivotal card in this matchup, but seems a little out of place in a draw this aggressive. Kemba bashes for 6 and passes (CoA: 24, Kemba: 36). We’ll untap, draw Tilling Treefolk, and Brainstorm:
After Brainstorming into three of the best cards in our deck, we’re easily set up to wrath the board with Child of Alara on turn four or five. We’ve got Crop Rotation into Maze of Ith to buy us infinite time, and still have Demonic Tutor to find any additional answers we need.
Kemba, attacks for seven, and we Crop Rotation away a Taiga for Maze of Ith, and Maze the Serra Ascendant (Coa: 22, Kemba: 36). Post combat, Kemba misses a land drop, and plays Skullclamp and Land Tax.
We untap and draw a Secluded Steppe. Since Kemba isn’t applying pressure, all we really have to do is continue to hit land drops, so we’ll cycle Secluded Steppe off of our Tundra, drawing into Tilling Treefolk (again?!). Then we play the Scrubland and Diamond Valley and Demonic Tutor for Life from the Loam. The plan is that [card Life from the Loam]Loam plus Secluded Steppe lets us dig for more lands that do something relevant.
Kemba Land Taxes up three Snow-Covered Plains, equips Stoneforge Mystic with a Skullclamp, and bashes. We’ll maze the Serra Ascendant again and take two (CoA: 20, Kemba: 36). A post combat Puresteel Paladin is all Kemba can muster.
We untap and draw Arid Mesa, which is awesome since we want to play Life from the Loam this turn. We’ll play Arid Mesa, crack it for Hallowed Fountain. Then Tilling Treefolk gets back Verdant Catacombs, Arid Mesa, and crack Verdant Catacombs for Godless Shrine (CoA: 18, Kemba: 36). Now we’re easily set up to wrath the board with Child of Alara next turn and still have an engine to keep developing our board, and we’re still at a very healthy 18 life!
Kemba Land Taxes for another 3 Snow-Covered Plains, and then goes a little nuts. She casts a Umezawa’s Jitte, and then [card Stoneforge Mystic]Stoneforges[/card] in a Darksteel Plate to hit Metalcraft.
Puresteel Paladin picks up all the equipment, and Kemba crashes in. Again, we’ll Maze the Serra Ascendant, and we’ll block Puresteel Paladin with Tilling Treefolk, and then sacrifice the Tilling Treefolk to Diamond Valley before damage (CoA: 21, Kemba: 36). Post combat, Kemba moves the Darksteel Plate to Serra Ascendant and discards a Ranger of Eos and a Soul Warden, holding the lands to help deal with Strip Mine and The Tabernacle of Pendrell Vale.
We untap and draw Entomb, which is AWESOME with this Life from the Loam! We’ll start by playing an Arid Mesa and cracking it for a Plateau. We can Life from the Loam back our Arid Mesa, Verdant Catacombs, and Taiga and crack Arid Mesa again for Temple Garden.
Kemba is under a lot of pressure to put together some kind of offense or we’ll just start digging for better lands with Life from the Loam and lock her out. She drops a Sol Ring into Expedition Map and tutors up a Tectonic Edge for our Maze of Ith, and then bashes in for 6 (CoA: 17, Kemba: 42).
We untap and dredge Life from the Loam, hitting Glacial Chasm, Tolaria West, and Overgrown Tomb, aka two of the best lands left in our deck. Well, I suppose we should start wrapping this game up, right? So we’ll cast [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Jace[/card] and bounce Serra Ascendant. Now we’ve got to think about what we’re going to do with this Life from the Loam and Entomb.
What we want to do is assemble Glacial Chasm, Emeria, the Sky Ruin, and Dryad Arbor as a soft lock. We can add Vesuva and Zuran Orb for a hard lock. We have Verdant Catacombs to fetch Dryad Arbor, and Tolaria West to find Zuran Orb, so the most efficient way I can think to do this is to Entomb Emeria, the Sky Ruin.
Then we’ll Life from the Loam back Tolaria West, Glacial Chasm, and Emeria, the Sky Ruin, and play the [card Emeria, the Sky Ruin]Emeria[/card]. Notice that, since we’ve been fetching up white duals, [card Emeria, the Sky Ruin]Emeria[/card] is already active, and will be recurring a Child of Alara next turn!
We untap, [card Emeria, the Sky Ruin]Emeria[/card] Child of Alara into play, and draw Azusa, Lost but Seeking, which will let us do some broken stuff, but let’s [card Jace, the Mind Sculptor]Jace[/card] first. We Brainstorm into Manabond, Sylvan Library, and Realms Uncharted. Since Manabond will do the same thing as [card Azusa, Lost but Seeking]Azusa[/card], but better, we’ll put back [card Azusa, Lost but Seeking]Azusa[/card] and Sylvan Library.
The pile that I went with was Vesuva, Petrified Field, The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, and Academy Ruins. Vesuva and The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale are parts of your lock, while Petrified Field will let you use your land drop to get back any other land in the pile, just to replay them with Manabond.
Kemba gives us Petrified Field and Academy Ruins, so we use the Petrified Field to get back [card The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale]Tabernacle[/card] and then discard our hand to Manabond. In response to the Glacial Chasm trigger, we fetch a Dryad Arbor and sacrifice that. Once we Life from the Loam back Vesuva, we’ll have basically locked Kemba out.
For those unfamiliar, here’s how the lock works. You have one Glacial Chasm in play, pay the upkeep, and then play Vesuva as a copy of Glacial Chasm. On your next upkeep, pay the first upkeep for Vesuva and sacrifice the Glacial Chasm to Zuran Orb to make up the life. As long as you can keep alternating Vesuva and Glacial Chasm, you have two Glacial Chasms in play protecting you!
Well, the end of that game was a lot drier than I intended it to be, but the details really are necessary when you’re playing a deck like this. Being able to take advantage of the mechanics of these combinations of cards is really important, since it lets you play around everything but very specific combinations of cards. Hopefully this was a helpful look under the hood for those of you interested in the deck!
Next week you can expect a return to form; I’m letting my inner-Johnny cut loose a little with a budget combo deck that is built around cards like Prismatic Lace. I’m especially interested to see what people thought of the format of this article, looking at gameplay rather than deck construction. It’s not something I’d want to do often, since this was a ton of work, but it was certainly an interesting change in perspective. Let me know!
@cag5383 on Twitter