The best deserts in Magic: The Gathering (MTG)


emphasize

  • Deserts have been around in Magic since Arabian Nights, but are making a comeback in decks like Desert Bloom in Amonkhet and Thunder Junction.
  • Synergistic lands like Survivor Camp and Sandstorm Edge offer unique abilities for specific deck strategies and Commander playstyles.
  • Cards like Ipnu Rivulet and Ifnir Deadlands offer utility and removal options, while the two-color desert from Outlaws of Thunder Junction adds a new dynamic.



The desert appears in Magic: The Gathering as part of the Egyptian-themed Amonkhet and Hour of Destruction sets. Technically, they existed as early as One Thousand and One Nights, in the titular desert land, but it was a full 24 years before Sand Wasteland was redesigned as a fleshed-out card type.

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Their return in Outlaws of Thunder Junction heralds new uses for the desert, not only because more of it is available, but also because the series includes Desert Bloom, a game that uses the desert as a landing deck backdrop Commander Premonition. This deck alone gives players a reason to assemble a bunch of deserts in the same deck.


10 survivor camp

A collaborative place for attackers

Survivor Camp Magic: Party Cards


The Survivor Camp is a desert version of another land called Resistance Settlement. This won't make any sense for a deck that doesn't specifically interact with Desert, but the key here is the second ability, which essentially uses creatures to gain mana.

Tapping a land and a creature for a single mana is pretty bad, but lands like this have a place in decks that actively want to tap their own creatures. Commanders like Aymara, Soul of Concord, and Anne Flash want as many ways to utilize them outside of combat, even if mana isn't required.

9 edge of dust storm

Soon to become a Commander classic

Sandstorm Edge Magic Cards


Sandstorm Edge is like a reverse Rogue Pass; instead of making creatures unblockable, it makes something unblockable. This is much worse because it only takes one creature out of combat, whereas Rogue Passage removes the blocking ability entirely.

Still, Edge is a desert, which means it's a synergistic part in decks that care about the subtype. Second, it's cheaper to start up than Rogue Pass, even if it's just a bit of mana. Third, it has a cool cowboy hat as a solid logo, which is almost enough to kill comparisons on its own.

8 ipnu stream

grinder's desert

Ipnu Stream Magic: Gathering Cards

Who doesn’t love a good mill deck? everyone. The answer is that everyone knows it. Despite this, Mir is still a completely viable win condition. In fact, apart from some infinite combos that can crush Ku instantly, it's actually very difficult to win in Commander by crushing.


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Ipnu Stream is just one piece of the puzzle for Commander decks looking to chew up their opponent's library. The life loss is worth running a card that can barely last the last 12 or 16 cards in someone's deck. It also incentivizes you to find room for some extra deserts in your deck, of which Scavenger Land is a key inclusion.

7 Ramunapu Ruins

Overcome the last two points of damage

Ramunap Ruins Magic Cards

The Ramunapu ruins were once a household name, and it was legal in the standards. Red decks are in their prime, and being able to convert a certain amount of your mana base into damage is a huge boon for getting those last few points of damage.


Unfortunately, Ramunap's success didn't translate well to Commander. This is a card you'll definitely have in your desert deck, and maybe it'll be a backup win condition in a deadlocked game, but in a 40 life format the two damage dealt at this cost is usually negligible Excluding.

6 phantom mesa

A formulaic land for players on a budget

Mirage Mesa Magic Cards

The design of Phantom Mesa has been used many times before on regular farmland, the only difference being that Mesa is a desert. This is completely different for decks that care about deserts, just like Shimmering Valley is ideal for snow decks.

Land like this can also be an effective part of your budget. The effect of this card has the same end result as Evolving Wilds or Vast Terrain, two of the most common budget acquisition sites in Commander. If you're looking for the cheapest yet most efficient mana base, this will work great.


5 Cactus Sanctuary

Reserve a protected area for senior mana commanders

MTG: Cactus Sanctuary Card

Cactus Sanctuary is the only unique desert in Desert Bloom Commander Prep, and it's perfect for Yuma the Proud Protector. As an eight-mana commander, it usually costs much less, but always counts as eight drops in the case of Cactus Sanctuary. .

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There's always a lot of risk in a “living place” like this. Getting killed while the Cactus Sanctuary is still a creature will set you back on land and cost you a fair amount of mana during the turn. Yuma recognizes this and replaces your Preserve with a 4/2 in case it does fall behind. Or sand.


4 Ifnir Death Place

Removed from your mana base

Ifnir Death Land Magic: Gathering Cards

Ifnir Deadlands is the perfect utility land for a -1/-1 counter strategy. It's a small range of decks, especially compared to +1/+1 counter decks, but cards like Hapatra, Poison Vizier and Volrath, Shapestealer take advantage of it well Such a place.

Even without the inherent -1/-1 anti-synergy, Ifnir Deadlands can be used as a small ball of creature removal. This is even repeatable if you have other deserts or a way to repeat this from the graveyard. That alone isn't enough to withstand the damage from using it for mana, but some minor synergy can push it to its limits.

3 Cycling in the desert

Not optimal, but synergistic

Glory Magic Desert: Party Cards


Riding a bicycle is the greatest mechanic in the history of Magic. It makes the game run smoothly and allows you to find the action at any time during the game. It's particularly useful on lands, as it can help fight flooding by exchanging excess lands for different cards later in the game.

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Amonkhet's Bicycle Desert series is being phased out because you can play older, better versions. However, desert typing is crucial for certain decks, and there are Commander decks that don't mind a lot of bikers, even if some of them are worse than others.

2 two color desert

Commonly known as the place of crime

Creosote Stone Southern Magic: Party Cards


Thunder Outlaw unleashes a complete cycle of ten two-color desert cards, with each desert card entering the battlefield tapped and dealing one point of damage to the target opponent upon entry. One hit of damage usually won't make or break a game, but multiple small pings can add up.

These lands were designed with a “criminal” mechanic in mind, as targeting one of these deserts is considered a crime. At worst, they're just minor upgrades to guild gates or equivalent towers, and thus have a place in some budget commander's mana arsenal.

1 scavenging yard

Graveyard Hate Without Commitment

Scavenger Land Magic: Gathering Cards

Graveyard hate is crucial in Commander, no matter what game you're playing or hoping to play against. Almost every deck has some way of using its graveyard, and decks built around this can be explosive.


Scavenger Land is a freebie in any deck that can support some colorless lands. You'll want to look elsewhere for graveyard hate in five-color decks, but it's a great addition to any mono- or two-color deck. You just have to be diligent about keeping activation open and careful not to cut off valuable graveyard pieces.

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