It’s Time to Play Land Destruction in Standard

Three-color decks have a weakness: arson.

Land destruction, especially in Standard, is normally not worth playing. However, there are rare moments in time when a card like Stone Rain starts to look a lot more appealing. This is one of those times.

The goal of a land destruction deck is fairly simple: you want to prevent your opponent’s deck from functioning properly. This is done by stranding spells in their hand, by removing their lands from the battlefield. It is an axis that can mean your opponent essentially doesn’t get to play Magic.

Let’s jump into why land destruction is suddenly more important in Standard than it has been in a very long time.

The Best Standard Decks Have Intense Color Requirements

Raffine's Tower
Hengegate Pathway

Before the addition of Streets of New Capenna we saw a lot of two-color decks in the format, but now three, four, and even five-color decks are seeing play. This means more stress being put on manabases in general. The cycle of New Capenna Triomes that produce three different colors of mana are essential for many decks, and if you are able to destroy them, you can cause serious problems.


Esper Midrange

Market Price:$373.75

Maindeck, 60 cards

Sortsort deckCreature (16)

  • 1Legion Angel
  • 4Luminarch Aspirant
  • 1Malevolent Hermit
  • 3Obscura Interceptor
  • 4Raffine, Scheming Seer
  • 3Tenacious Underdog

Planeswalker (7)

  • 3Kaito Shizuki
  • 1Lolth, Spider Queen
  • 3The Wandering Emperor

Sorcery (1)

  • 1Emeria’s Call

Instant (4)

  • 4Vanishing Verse

Enchantment (6)

  • 2The Meathook Massacre
  • 4Wedding Announcement

Land (26)

  • 4Brightclimb Pathway
  • 4Clearwater Pathway
  • 2Deserted Beach
  • 1Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire
  • 4Hengegate Pathway
  • 1Hive of the Eye Tyrant
  • 1Plains
  • 4Raffine’s Tower
  • 2Shattered Sanctum
  • 3Shipwreck Marsh

Sideboard (15)

  • 3Legion Angel
  • 1The Meathook Massacre
  • 2Duress
  • 2Go Blank
  • 2Negate
  • 1Nimble Larcenist
  • 1Portable Hole
  • 3Ray of Enfeeblement

Many players consider Esper Midrange to be the best deck in Standard right now, or at least the one that’s most heavily played. There’s a variety of nonbasic lands here as you can see, which are necessary to cast cards like Raffine, Scheming Seer in a timely fashion. We also see cards like Nimble Larcenist and Obscura Interceptor as well, so if this deck doesn’t have one land of each color, it’s not going to function properly.

How Land Destruction Works in New Capenna Standard

Once you start to add more colors to your deck, well, it becomes more and more difficult to play lots of basic lands. Many decks in this Standard format don’t play many basic lands. And in this particular Standard format, not having basic lands can be particularly punishing.

Cleansing Wildfire
Dire-Strain Rampage

Many of the land destruction effects in Standard actually allow your opponent to search up a basic land in order to replace the destroyed land. I am talking about cards like Field of Ruin, Cleansing Wildfire, Dire-Strain Rampage, and Boseiju, Who Endures. If they don’t have a basic land to search out of their deck when you cast your Cleansing Wildfire, then it becomes a two-mana Stone Rain that draws a card.

Boseiju, Who Endures

Market Price: $34.74

Field of Ruin

Some of these land destruction options that allow your opponent to search for a basic land, like Boseiju, Who Endures and Field of Ruin, are commonly played cards. The reason why these cards see a lot of play is because they are also lands, so they don’t need to be used to destroy opposing lands in order to function. In fact, the first copy of Boseiju, Who Endures is mostly a straight upgrade over a basic Forest.

However, once we start to talk about playing a full playset of Boseiju, Who Endures, or cards like Cleansing Wildfire, a deck moves outside the realm of normalcy. Having lots of these sorts of “soft” land destruction effects that allow the opponent to search for a basic land is an effective strategy. The first of these land destruction effects usually means the opponent is able to search up a basic land, but in a format where decks play very few basic lands, the second time you destroy a land the opponent may have already run out of basic lands to search for.

Once a land destruction deck runs the opponent out of basic lands, it can take over the game.

Gruul Land Destruction


Gruul Land Destruction

Market Price:$277.18

Maindeck, 60 cards

Sortsort deckCreature (6)

  • 2Titan of Industry
  • 4Shigeki, Jukai Visionary

Sorcery (20)

  • 4Strangle
  • 4Cleansing Wildfire
  • 4Thundering Rebuke
  • 4Dire-Strain Rampage
  • 4Burn Down the House

Enchantment (8)

  • 4Fable of the Mirror-Breaker
  • 4Waking the Trolls

Land (26)

  • 2Gnottvold Slumbermound
  • 4Forest
  • 4Mountain
  • 4Field of Ruin
  • 4Cragcrown Pathway
  • 4Rockfall Vale
  • 4Boseiju, Who Endures
Waking the Trolls
Shigeki, Jukai Visionary

This streamlined best-of-one list used by CovertGoBlue should provide a good idea of what a land destruction deck in this format is doing. Between Cleansing Wildfire, Dire-Strain Rampage, Boseiju, Who Endures, Field of Ruin, and Waking the Trolls you can run the opponent out of basic lands very quickly. In the late game, Shigeki, Jukai Visionary can be used to bring back land destruction spells you already used from the graveyard.

Thundering Rebuke
Burn Down the House

The deck does need some ways to stop whatever early aggression your opponent might have access to while you are busy destroying their lands. This is where removal like Thundering Rebuke, Strangle, and Burn Down the House comes in handy. A dedicated land destruction deck like this one doesn’t need to worry much about deploying threats of its own. Once you have dealt with your opponent’s early creatures as well as many of their lands, it becomes easy to finish the game off.

Land Destruction Is a Metagame Call

By choosing to play a deck based around land destruction you are targeting a specific metagame, like the one in today’s Standard environment. Playing a land destruction strategy can be very rewarding, or quite punishing, depending on the deck you are playing against. For instance, aggressive decks that also have access to basic lands are going to be a real problem for a deck like the one above. On the other hand, Gruul Land Destruction is going to have a good matchup against the Esper Midrange deck with only one basic land in it.

As a rule of thumb, aggressive decks are challenging for land destruction decks, while slower, more controlling decks are easier matchups. Against slower decks you have more time to cast your land destruction spells while your opponent isn’t pressuring your life total very much.

The good news is that aggressive decks don’t seem to be that popular in Standard right now, which is a great argument to go out there and destroy some lands.

Is Land Destruction Good for the Game?

I believe part of the reason why historically land destruction decks haven’t been more competitive is that WotC doesn’t want to promote land destruction cards too much, and for good reason. Is it fun to play against a deck that is trying to destroy your lands? I believe most players’ answer to this question is no.

It will be very interesting to see exactly how much play these sorts of land destruction strategies end up getting, as the New Capenna Standard format is still young. The New Capenna Championship is approaching quickly, and an off-the-radar strategy that aims to blow up lands could be much more competitive than people think.

Most of the time a deck focused on land destruction isn’t taken seriously, but that is about to change.