Legacy Maverick vs Lands: Matchup Analysis
Welcome back to the fourth instalment of the GreenSunsZenith’s Maverick matchup series! This monthly series is a breakdown of how Legacy Maverick pilots should approach different strategies in the format with the assistance of an archetype expert.
Albert Lindblom (Alli on MTGO) is a well-known Lands player who has some impressive results with the deck. Last year, Alli had a great run where he managed to qualify for 2 of the 24+ player Legacy showcase events, tallied up a few Legacy Challenge Top 8s, and finished 9th in one of the Eternal Weekend events.
A huge welcome to Albert and thank you for coming on the GreenSunsZenith.
Table of Contents:
Below are two 75s considered stock decklists for both Maverick & Lands. Although this article will focus on the Abzan build of Maverick, I will touch on the other builds where relevant.
2. Introduction into Lands
Lands is not your vanilla Legacy deck. First of all, we play 34+ lands – although, it’s only 10 of these that produce coloured mana (the rest have some sort of spell based effect on the game). Lands is a non-linear deck that can take on many different roles in a matchup.
- Prison: We have recurring Wastelands, Rishadan Ports and Tabernacle to limit our opponent’s access to mana.
- Control: We have Punishing Fire as a board control tool for creatures and planeswalkers, and we also have Blast Zone as a recursive board wipe.
- Combo: We have a two-card combo in Thespian’s Stage, plus Dark Depths that creates a flying 20/20 monster, and we have Crop Rotation to find this combo at instant speed.
- Ramp: Valakut Exploration combined with normal Exploration can quickly ramp us to 7+ lands and then Field of the Dead will start generating an enormous amount of 2/2 zombies.
3. Matchup History
I have the following four-step plan to win over Maverick.
- Step one is to get ahead on mana. This means my acceleration pieces in Exploration and Mox Diamond are key in the matchup.
- Step two is to land an engine that will give me an advantage every turn that it stays online. Sylvan Library, Valakut Exploration and Life from the Loam are all great engines in the matchup.
- Step three is to tax my opponent’s mana. This way, I can continue to accrue an advantage from my engine turn after turn while my opponent struggles to execute their gameplan. The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, Rishadan Port and Wasteland are key cards at this stage (but also Punishing Fire on the mana dorks). Ideally, we want to stop our opponent from having three mana to play Knight of the Reliquary or four mana to cast Green-Sun Zenith for the Knight.
- Step four is to win the game. Field of the Dead is the preferred win condition as they play Swords to Plowshares. However, the combo finish of Dark Depths shouldn’t be underestimated. During each of my opponent’s turns, I will ask myself if I can safely kill them in one swing by casting Crop Rotation for Dark Depths. It can be difficult for my opponent to navigate their mana, with Tabernacle and Rishadan Ports, and if there is any point in the game where they let their guards down (and tap all their white sources), then we can punish them and end the game on the spot.
Please note that I am sometimes forced to switch the order of Step two and Step three in my plan (it can be play / draw dependent).
Maverick’s gameplan is pretty similar in many ways.
- Early acceleration is key to getting ahead of quick starts from Lands and making sure you’re not locked out by Rishadan Port and Wasteland in the early-mid game
- An early Knight of the Reliquary or Scavenging Ooze is crucial, but make sure you respect Punishing Fire.
- In a build with only 1 maindeck answer (Qasali Pridemage or Knight of Autumn) to an enchantment, know what you need to hit (Exploration without Loam or Valakut Exploration is generally safe to keep on board). This is a matchup where additional maindeck removal in Skyclave Apparition or Abrupt Decay is very well positioned.
- One threat is often not enough. Build up your threat base to pressure through Maze of Ith and before a Field of the Dead can come online. Also, keep a watch on your creature to mana ratio for Tabernacle.
- Know the role of each of your Wastelands. This is a pretty big one as you can’t afford to hit a land your opponent doesn’t actually care about or run yourself into a Crop Rotation blowout. Lands has a very awkward manabase when they don’t have a Mox Diamond start, so being able to pressure their green sources can be a very viable strategy for Maverick.
How have you found the matchup between Maverick and Lands ?
I used to think the Maverick matchup was very difficult. This is because they have a fairly stable mana base, good graveyard hate, clean answers to Marit Lage and virtually eight copies of Knight of the Reliquary that is a huge pain to play against.
During the summer of 2019 (just before Modern Horizon came out), there was a period of 2-3 weeks where Maverick was one of the best decks online. This was because it was good against the previous best deck UR Delver (that had just received Dreadhorde Arcanist). I really struggled to win over the Maverick decks at the time and this was one of the reasons why I started playing Abrupt Decay in Lands.
However, we have since then received two huge printings in Field of the Dead and Valakut Exploration. Valakut Exploration can run over an active Knight, and Field of the Dead is the perfect win condition as it is not stopped by either Swords to Plowshares or Karakas. I think the matchup is now slightly favoured for the Lands side and I really enjoy playing it. I also don’t feel like I need Abrupt Decay anymore.
Ali’s broken down the matchup really well. From the Maverick side, I felt much better positioned before the printing of cards like Blast Zone, Field of the Dead and Valakut Exploration. With big creatures that can interact with Lands’s manabase and graveyard, the deck lined up very well against the main strategy of pre-2019 lands.
Back then, Maverick had multiple answers for their main win condition in Marit Lage via Karakas, Swords to Plowshares and Wasteland. Scavenging Ooze shut down Life from the Loam which had a huge impact on a Lands pilot’s ability to get going and allow Maverick to build out further pressure. On top of that, Knight of the Reliquary is a huge creature that not only fetches mana and utility lands on command, but also dilutes the power of opposing Wastelands and Rishadan Port’s.
Green Sun’s Zenith brings this all together for Maverick, giving you up to 8 virtual copies of Knight of the Reliquary and 5 of Scavenging Ooze. Being able to grow these threats out of Punishing Fire range can also cause a huge strain on the Lands player’s ability to grind through them.
Three of the big shifts in the matchup over the past few years have been the additional printings of:
- Win conditions (Field of the Dead)
- Engines (Valakut Exploration)
- and removal (Blast Zone) for Lands.
Maverick is a deck that disrupts your opponent’s plans long enough to create a boardstate that overwhelms them. When your opponent only has one engine or one path to victory, that makes this strategy all that much easier to put together. Keeping your Lands opponent off their graveyard as a resource and holding up Karakas, Wasteland or Knight of the Reliquary to answer their 20/20 gave Maverick pilots a pretty cruisy road to victory. The three printings above have really changed how that narrative goes. Double the win conditions, double the engine, and double the removal.
Field of the Dead
Field of the Dead is another big printing as it’s given Lands a win condition that’s arguably harder to deal with for Maverick. If a Lands player starts out with a quick Exploration into either Life from the Loam or Valakut Exploration, Field of the Dead can be online in as little as 3-4 turns. If your opponent plays carefully, they are going to create an advantage even if you have a Wasteland open. Not only is a single Field of the Dead an issue, multiple can be put in front of you to deal with thanks to Thespian’s Stage.
Maverick has some fantastic 1:1 removal in Wasteland and Swords to Plowshares. However, when your opponent is playing out multiple creatures or lands a turn, your removal can become inadequate very quickly. Sure, Wasteland has an important role in the matchup, but its power is incredibly diluted when your opponent is playing multiple lands each turn. It means Maverick pilots need to be more patient with their own Wastelands and really understand the role of each one in the matchup.
The printing of Valakut Exploration has given Lands another engine enabler that doesn’t use the graveyard. This has had a pretty substantial effect on the matchup, as graveyard hate is no longer the be-all-end-all for shutting down Lands’ ability to go wide with their manabase. Most Maverick decks are only running a lone Qasali Pridemage or Knight of Autumn in their maindeck, so the uptick in enchantments from Lands maindeck (Exploration, Sylvan Library, Valakut Exportation) really pressures Maverick to use their removal wisely. Obviously, Abrupt Decay is another great answer for these but has also seen itself dropped from some Abzan maindecks.
Blast Zone is another big printing for Lands. With re-curable removal thanks to Life from the Loam, Blast is a clean answer to threats such as Knight of the Reliquary or Scavenging Ooze. Blast Zone is also a very good way to remove your early mana acceleration. It’s very hard to play around other than having a Wasteland open at all times (thanks to Blast Zone needing to be tapped in order to gain counters), but it’s just something you can’t always afford to play around. Blast Zone is so well positioned against Maverick, it’s sometimes my target with Ooze (even over a Loam) if I only have access to a single activation. The chance of them getting it back with another copy of Loam is just too good to allow.
Do you have any thoughts on which archetype is easier / harder to beat?
Green-White Maverick is hard to play against because it has a stable manabase. If my opponent can fetch basics in the early turns, it can be hard for me to control their mana. And this means that the Knight of the Reliquary can come down fairly early before I get my Valakut Exploration online.
Abzan Maverick is also hard to play against because Abrupt Decay is a clean answer to my engines in Sylvan Library and Valakut Exploration. Kaya, Orzhov Usurper is also a pain to play against.
I have not played much against GWR builds or BANT Maverick but I expect their mana to be easier to attack than the other variants. Klothys, God of Destiny and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath are of course good cards against Lands, but I still suspect these variants will be easier than the others due to their shaky manabase.
From a Maverick perspective, I’d say it’s a close choice between GW and Abzan when it comes to the most favoured archetype of Maverick against Lands. The ability to run off basics is very nice against Wasteland but can catch you if your opponent has Rishadan Port. Most GW lists have been running Skyclave Apparition which gives you more outs to the enchantments Lands now has access to.
Abrupt Decay in Abzan is huge if you’re playing it, as otherwise you’re most likely looking at a lone Qasali Pridemage or Knight of Autumn as your interaction with opposing enchantments. Kaya, Orzhov Usurper has seen a drop in play since the latest bannings but is still a very interactive planeswalker in this matchup. Kaya deals with Mox Diamond, Exploration and in the right position, can exile Loam, Punishing Fire or additional lands from your opponent’s graveyard.
Which cards in Maverick do you think are notable in the matchup and why?
Birds of Paradise and Noble Hierarch are super important from the Maverick side as these will stop me from getting ahead on mana (remember step one of my plan above).
Sylvan Library is a very good card as it can come down early and draw cards for my opponent. I will not really pressure your life total, so you can be fairly aggressive with your Library. This changes a bit if I have a Valakut Exploration in play though.
Knight of the Reliquary and to a lesser extent Scavenging Ooze are both great at stopping my engines (they don’t stop Valakut Exploration).
Questing Beast is the perfect top-end card from the Maverick side, as I will typically use my life total as a resource and go down quite low before I start killing all their creatures. Questing Beast makes my Maze of Ith dead and it can lead to complete blow outs.
Knight and Ooze always come to mind when you think of the creatures that have the most impact against Lands, but I couldn’t agree more with Ali’s comments on Questing Beast. Having a creature that turns off Maze of Ith and Glacial Chasm is game breaking, especially when your opponent doesn’t see it coming. Being a 4/4, it’s hard to beat outside of double Punishing Fire, and Karakas isn’t the greatest out against a deck running Wasteland.
4. Sideboarding Strategy
How to do you sideboard against Maverick?
I will take in any additional removal that I have access to in my sideboard. I have historically run up to 2 copies of Drop of Honey (primarily for this matchup), and I think this card is unique enough to warrant an explanation. Drop of Honey is one of the only RG cards that can answer large creatures (such as Knight of the Reliquary), and the card fits well in the Prison-Control role that I want to take in this matchup. If my opponent leads with a mana dork, I love to play out my Drop of Honey on my first turn. This gives my opponent the hard choice of either time-walking themselves (to get rid of the Drop) or overextending and trying to race it. Both of these scenarios are good for me. If they time-walk themselves, I can push the Prison role, with Wasteland and Rishadan Port. If they overextend, I can push the Control role with Maze of Ith, and continue to accrue card advantage from my Drop of Honey.
Force of Vigor has good targets in both the equipments and Sylvan Library (and sometimes also Leyline of the Void). If I expect Leylines from my opponent, I will take in all 3 copies of Force of Vigor – otherwise, I may only take in 1 or 2 copies.
Tireless Tracker is another great card in this matchup as it will generate an enormous amount of card advantage and grow bigger than all their creatures.
I typically take out some copies of Dark Depths / Thespian’s Stage (but not all of them). It is possible to shave a Life from the Loam (because they have a lot of graveyard hate post-sideboard) or Crop Rotation (because it implies card disadvantage). Here is how I would sideboard with our example decklist.
+ 2 Tireless Tracker | + 2 Force of Vigor
– 1 Dark Depths | – 1 Thespian’s Stage | -1 Sheltered Thicket | -1 Life from the Loam
I expect my Maverick opponent to take in extra graveyard hate in the form of Surgical or Leyline and they also sometimes run hatebears such as Sanctum Prelate or Tomik. They may also bring in some extra answers to Marit Lage (or upgrade their existing answers) in the form of Path to Exile.
Thankfully, sideboarding is pretty straightforward for Lands. Gaddock Teeg & Thalia, Guardian of Thraben don’t really have a role in the matchup as their taxing effects just don’t line up well. Collector Ouphe is always interesting and really depends on your own strategy. If you’re a player who’s going to go after their mana early on, then Ouphe turning off Mox Diamond fits well into that strategy.
I would look to side in additional graveyard hate and removal for enchantments. Leyline of the Void is a great way to slow down Lands’ ability to get going, but I’ve been caught a few times where they’ve slammed a Valakut Exploration and taken over the game. If you’re still on the fence about what removal is best to run in Maverick’s sideboard, check out my primer on graveyard hate.
As a Maverick player, you cannot let Lands get out of the gates quickly. You need to make sure you can shut down their engines (Life from the Loam and Valakut Exploration and to some extent, Sylvan Library) as quickly as possible. Loam is covered by graveyard hate but the enchantments can be a little harder to hit. This is where cards like Skyclave Apparition, Knight of Autumn, Council’s Judgment or Force of Vigor allow you to control how long these cards stay in play for.
5. Tips & Tricks
If you want to use Punishing Fire to kill Knight of the Reliquary you first have to let the damage resolve and then you Crop Rotate for Bojuka Bog. If you use Bog to nuke their graveyard first, your opponent can activate the Knight in response to your Punishing Fire and grow it into a 3/3.
Always ensure you maximise the value of your Tabernacle (the card cost 6k USD after all). This means you should let your opponent pay for all their creatures before you use Rishadan Port on their remaining lands. If you have Punishing Fire you should also use it in your opponent’s upkeep (after they have paid for the Tabernacle triggers).
Your life total is a resource. Maverick doesn’t have reach, and you can take a few hits before you start killing their creatures.
Questing Beast ignores both Maze of Ith and Glacial Chasm but it can be bounced with Karakas.
Dark Depths can be used as a Prison card. If we get Thespian’s Stage and Dark Depths into play before our opponent has landed a Knight, it can be really awkward for them. If they tap out, they will die, so we will effectively get 1 “free” Rishadan Port on each turn. This is even better if they have Thalia in play.
Scryb Ranger can be flashed in and effectively counter a Wasteland activation. If I suspect Scryb Ranger from my opponent (for example, if they passed on turn 2 with 2 mana up), I will use my Wasteland in their upkeep to make them spend the mana for Scryb Ranger on their turn.
Sometimes we are forced to become the “aggressor” in this matchup. Not all games go according to plan. Say for example that we have failed to land an early engine and our opponent has just resolved a Knight with white mana up (and we have the combo in play). In this scenario, I am likely to just make a Marit Lage. We are not winning a long game versus an active Knight (unless we have Valakut Exploration), so it can be better to try to end the game on the spot.
As always, against Wasteland decks: If our Maze becomes crucial for our survival on the opponent’s turn, then we should not even use it on their turn. Instead, we attack with our Marit Lage and then use Maze on our own token after damage has been dealt. In this case we’re just weak to Karakas but not to Wasteland.
One small tip I’ll add is sequencing Wasteland and Ramunap Excavator against Lands. I’ve seen Lightning Bolt and Abrupt Decay in Lands lists for additional removal. If you’re wanting to double waste your opponent with the same Wasteland using Ramunap, make sure you Wasteland before casting or GSZ’ing for Ramunap. This way, your opponent can’t remove Ramunap in response to the Wasteland sacrificing. If you Wasteland then play Ramunap, your opponent doesn’t have priority to stop you from getting back your Wasteland.
Lands have the best discord in the entire MTG community. All Lands masters are in there and the discord is very active and helpful. There is also a dedicated Lands website with a great primer to the deck as well as articles and videos. You can reach out to me on Twitter if you have more questions.
A huge thank you to Albert for coming on the GreenSunsZenith for this matchup discussion. The Lands vs Maverick matchup is one of my favourites to play (shoutout to local Lands aficionado Allen), so putting this together was a really enjoyable experience.
If you’re looking to improve your matchup on either side of the table: Practise. Practise. Practise. Try a mix of 3 pre-board games then 3 post-board with a friend or player in your local area to get a really good understanding of how each deck performs.
Have a thought that wasn’t covered above? Comment below and let me know what you’d like to see!
As always, play well, play fair, and I’ll catch you soon.
7. Coverage & Resources
I had the pleasure of joining AnziD in the commentary booth as Albert piloted Lands vs. Maverick expert Achillies27. Check it out!
Here are timestamps to MTGO leagues where I’ve played against Lands while on Maverick. If you enjoy this content, consider subscribing to my YouTube channel!