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Lands or Spells?

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This is a question that comes up regularly enough, but one I think is always worth addressing. This time it comes to us from user /MasterNeo27 on Reddit. The question: When slowly buying a deck, is it better to buy the expensive lands first, or the expensive spells first?

Lands or spells first?
Lands or spells first?

It's a question that doesn't have an easy answer, and most of the responses here seem to be leaning toward "it's a balance." That said, when it's one or the other for a player building a new deck, "it's a balance" doesn't really help.

So what is the right answer? Again, I'll join the "it depends" chorus, but with a qualifier. Suppose you're building, as the example in the question posed, Splinter Twin in Modern. Do you buy the fourth Scalding Tarn or the fourth Splinter Twin first?

I'll try to sum it up like this. If you're playing a focused deck like Splinter Twin that really needs the Twins to work, I would absolutely prioritize that over land. After all, adding the fourth Twin means a lot more in consistency than adding the 23rd land. Plenty of players across Magic get by in two-color decks just using basic lands. While obviously that's a little different in Modern, you need to figure out which has more of an immediate impact in your deck than any hard-or-fast rule of spells or lands. For instance, if you're running a three-color UWR deck in Modern, that fourth Arid Mesa probably means more than a second Sphinx's Revelation.

Corbin Hosler

Corbin Hosler is a journalist living in Norman, Oklahoma (also known as the hotbed of Magic). He started playing in Shadowmoor and chased the Pro Tour dream for a few years, culminating in a Star City Games Legacy Open finals appearance in 2011 before deciding to turn to trading and speculation full-time. He writes weekly at QuietSpeculation.com and biweekly for LegitMTG. He also cohosts Brainstorm Brewery, the only financial podcast on the net. He can best be reached @Chosler88 on Twitter.

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5 thoughts on “Lands or Spells?

      1. It also depends on the format. If you’re building a new legacy deck for example I would almost always target the landbase first (duals, Ports, Karakas, Cradle, etc…) as reprints are generally (though not always) out of the question.

        In addition to this, the land base is often more expensive. Consider Goblins, D&T, Elves in which by buying the landbase you effectively get the most expensive out of the way.

        You can then make smaller purchases (which aren’t exactly cheap but still a long way from a dual) over time to aquire the rest of the deck.

        1. Certainly that is the case for Cradles in Elves but because it is a combo deck that doesn’t care about life total you can play it with Shocks instead of Duals but without Natural Order and Glimpse of Nature you don’t have an Elves deck. The only matchup I have found has been significantly worsened by using Shocks has been Burn.

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