Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Destroying Lands in Magic
In Magic, lands are one of your most crucial assets. They don't require mana to play, and most can tap to provide a resource, but you can only play one from your hand each turn. Whoever controls the most lands usually has the most mana available, and thus can afford the strongest spells.
To gain a mana advantage, you can use the green faction's mana ramp tools to further your own production—or you can employ land destroyers to mess with your opponent's. Because lands are so valuable, not many cards can annihilate them; even so, we've encountered a handful of superb land checks throughout the years. So, which terrain-leveling spells reign supreme?
These are the ten best land destroyers in Magic: The Gathering!
- Armageddon/Ravages of War
- Strip Mine
- Orcish Settlers
- Seismic Spike
- Pain and Suffering
10. Armageddon/Ravages of War
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 4
Armageddon and Ravages of War are the exact same spell, each needing four mana (one white) and functioning as a one-time use sorcery. When resolving, both simply destroy all lands on the field. While this eradicates your units as well as your opponent's, it's a nice way to reset the playing field if your adversaries gain an edge. Plus, if you have white's "Avacyn, Angel of Hope" fielded, your lands will survive the blast since they'll have indestructible!
One of red's several anti-land tools, Pillage only needs three mana—already impressive—and it can decimate either a land or an artifact, granting some nice versatility. Additionally, its victim can't be regenerated, helping ensure your target's destruction. Plus, like other sorceries, even once spent, Pillage is useful for the graveyard-fill conditions of cards with "spell mastery", "delirium", and "threshold" effects.
8. Strip Mine
A land itself, Strip Mine can simply tap to provide a colorless mana, increasing your mana production as most fields do. However, its alternative tap effect lets you sacrifice it to destroy any target land, an excellent trade-off when you're up against legendary arenas like "Gaea's Cradle" or "Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx". Note this places Mine into your graveyard, useful for delirium and threshold (lands don't often enter graveyards due to the scarcity of their removals).
Raze only requires one mana to destroy a land, but you also have to sacrifice a land you control. Thankfully, Raze doesn't specify an untapped land, so you can still use an exhausted mountain to afford it, receiving one final use. After playing Raze, you should have both a sorcery and a land in your graveyard, particularly useful for delirium abilities (which need different types of cards in your graveyard).
6. Orcish Settlers
Not only is this card a fun parody of the famous painting "American Gothic", but it's also surprisingly competitive. Settlers only enters as a 1/1 orc, but for two mana, it's hard to complain. By tapping, sacrificing itself, and spending one red mana plus two X values of your choice, Settlers can destroy X number of lands.
This versatile trait lets you annihilate a single terrain for three mana, but you can potentially remove more if you have the resources, adeptly adjusting to fit your current mana production.
One of the best zombies in the game, Helldoze requires a hefty chunk of six mana, but he arrives with a sturdy 6/5 stats (six power and five toughness). He carries the giant subtype in addition to his undead leanings, and by tapping and spending three black mana, he can destroy a target land!
Doing this each turn should prevent your opponent from every increasing their mana capabilities, and as icing on the cake, Helldozer untaps himself if the destroyed land wasn't basic, letting him reuse his ability (if you can afford it) or attack. I enjoy fielding Helldozer early in matches with green tricks like "Elvish Piper"; fortunately, despite his prowess, he's surprisingly affordable, costing less than three dollars!
Ruination works great for decks that only use basic lands (which usually have just one or two colors). It destroys all nonbasic lands, punishing foes for employing their unique gimmicks.
In commander format, nonbasic lands are commonly used in multicolor decks to help attain different mana types; ransack these borders with a field wipe that will (in the right build) leave your own lands unscathed.
3. Seismic Spike
Yet another red land-destroyer, Seismic Spike takes four mana and simply blasts a target land. After that, you receive two red mana. Thus, Spike's net drain is only two mana, providing you with additional resources to make consecutive plays in the same turn.
2. Pain // Suffering
One of the best fused cards in the game, Pain and Suffering let you cast either or both halves, but since it's a single card, you only need to draw it once. Pain offers an inexpensive discard, forcing a player to toss a card for one mana, while Suffering needs four and destroys a target land.
On their own, each would be a decent if not revolutionary card, but the ability to play either lends them great versatility.
Without a doubt my favorite land destroyer, Sinkhole does what other cards do, but for less mana. Needing the power of just two swamps, this sorcery simply destroys a target land. For such a low cost, I'd expect some sort of drawback like lifeloss, or sacrificing a permanent, but there isn't any—use this surprisingly unknown one-off to adeptly remove any terrain and gain the mana production advantage.
Protecting Lands in MTG
Since land removals are relatively rare, often players don't devote effort towards protecting their fields, but it's smart to have safeguards lest you find yourself up a creek without a paddle. As mentioned earlier, Avacyn (one of the game's best angels) grants all your permanents indestructible, shielding lands from most assaults. "Darksteel Citadel" is naturally indestructible and counts as both an artifact and a land, protecting itself while boosting other cards, and elf ally "Sylvan Advocate" can empower your land-creature duos by +2/+2, useful for green's numerous land-creature strategies.
Lands remain a crucial component to your game's success; be sure to defend them with whatever measures available to your factions. But for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of stadium-scorching spells, vote for your favorite card, and I'll see you at our next Magic countdown!
Questions & Answers
Question: How many copies of "Strip Mine" can I place into one Magic: The Gathering deck?
Answer: Depends on the format in question. As of this writing, Strip Mine is banned in legacy but legal in commander, which lets you include just one copy of any card (except basic lands).
© 2018 Jeremy Gill
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on July 27, 2020:
Jokulhaups is a great card, wiping three different card types for just six mana. Try using it with enchantments, planeswalkers, or indestructible creatures to keep your board state intact.
asdfghjkl on July 22, 2020:
Jokulhaups is my favorite land destroyer because it destroys creatures land and artifacts but leaves planeswalkers unscathed. What are your opinions toward it?
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on November 15, 2018:
Agreed, although even its cycling cost requires a hefty chunk of seven mana. But you're right, it's definitely a potent tactic, especially when you have cards that save your lands from the blast.
NBPAquino from Quezon City, Philippines on November 14, 2018:
I find Decree of Annihilation's cycling ability to destroy lands useful since only a number of spells can counter it. Plus a bonus draw.