Postcards From LD

Posted in Feature on April 3, 2002

By Ben Bleiweiss

Hello, we’re in the middle of Land Destruction week here at Before we get going, I’d like to thank everyone for all the letters they’ve sent me over the last month. I’ve tried to respond to all of them (Aaron dumped a ton of them on me all at once), and I really appreciate all the fine comments that you, the reader, have sent in. As so, I’d like to address a couple of topics. This will be quick, because we have a lot of Land Destruction goodness to cover this week!

  1. Under current Oracle wording, Zur's Weirding does not cause a discard, but instead causes the card to be placed in the graveyard. While it still works well with flashback, it doesn’t work at all with madness cards (frown!). My old article has since been edited.
  2. It’s been pointed out to me that Jaya Ballard was prominently featured in one of the Ice Age novels, where she’s still alive and kicking as a planeswalker. You go girl!

What about the poll from Flavor Text Week, you ask? It was a close one!

Who Is the Bigger Badass?
Jaya Ballard204451%

Anyhow, onto the real deal: leveling Mountains, pulverizing Plains, burning down the Forests, sinking the Islands, and draining the Swamps. Presented for your enjoyment: Everything you wanted to know about Land Destruction but were afraid to ask!

A note for our newer readers: any time you see a card name in a different color, like this: Sinkhole, you can click on it to see the card.


The Ice Age expansion introduced several mechanics to Magic, including Illusions of Grandeur, Barbed Sextant, and Snow-Covered Island (for those sticklers out there: Cyclone and Jeweled Bird from Arabian Nights were technically cumulative upkeep and cantrip cards before those terms existed). Since Ice Age was the first stand-alone set, Wizards wanted to see what would happen if you had basic lands that behaved differently than other basic lands. History will show that this was not the best card concept ever (who needs ten basic lands?), but that didn’t stop the set developer from hosing snow-covered lands from here till Tuesday. Icequake added one point of insult to injury. Thermokarst took that one point back. Avalanche a whole load of snow-covered lands at once. To really make things sad, the one anti-land destruction card in the set couldn’t even save your snow-covered lands! (Hallowed Ground)


Every color in Magic has an enchant land which can destroy lands, except for one: white. Red gets Orcish Mine and Steam Vines, green gets Kudzu and Spreading Algae, black gets Blight, and blue gets the oft-lamented Erosion. White does get the only enchant lands which PREVENT lands from being sent to the graveyard: Consecrate Land and Equinox. But the unique distinction of having the only enchant creature which doubles as a land destruction spell goes to red with Destructive Urge.


Can’t these lands just get along? While there are almost no artifacts in Magic which will destroy an opponent’s land (the all-powerful Chaos Orb being the sole exception), all these lands are big player-haters in their own right. Strip Mine takes out land on the table, while Wasteland and Dust Bowl are choosier in destroying only those very special lands. And by last count, those non-basic lands numbered in the hundreds.


Well, Rancid Earth and Icequake might hurt just a teensy bit. Orcish Mine, Choking Sands, and Despoil will hurt a bit more. And hey, Dingus Egg makes everything hurt! Stench of Evil and Desolation only hurt if you’re one of those white mages. Pox makes it hurt all over at the same time. Steam Vines shares the pain, while Aftershock and Fumarole only pain you to play them. Earthlink and Burning Sands let you feel the pain of your creatures, while Devastate is a pain in everyone’s butt. Goblin Gardener will only hurt you when he feels pain. It might be a pain to choose what to do about Lava Blister. Wildfire isn’t pain; it’s a complete stay at the hospital. Pain/Suffering really is more Suffering than Pain, though.


Want to blow up all the lands at once? Try Armageddon for that quick, clean taste of land-free living. If old school isn’t your style, you could just rid yourself of Plains (Stench of Evil, Flashfires), Islands (Tsunami, Boil), Forests (Acid Rain) or your choice (with Wake of Destruction). Can’t decide to kill lands or creatures? May I recommend the new-improved taste of Catastrophe? Or for those who like starting over (and over and over), we have this tasty beverage known as Jokulhaups available for your consumption. Or you could try new Jokulhaups, Obliterate. Of course, you might have Devastating Dreams of the Impending Disaster of Global Ruin from all this carbonation. Just don’t get caught in the Epicenter of the Tectonic Break when you hear the Rumbling Crescendo of an upcoming Cataclysm, or you’ll surely find yourself without Balance. And for those who don’t want to leave the party alone, be sure to bring the Desolation Angel with you.


Want to take out two lands for the piddling price of one card? Try Dwarven Landslide, Earth Rift, Flowstone Flood, or Rain of Salt. Some even use Tornado for the same effect, while others turn to Orcish Settlers and Mine Layer.


Befoul and Minion of Leshrac destroy a land or a creature.
Demolish and Pillage destroy a land or an artifact.
Creeping Mold kills a land, an artifact, or an enchantment.
Aftershock kills a land, an artifact or a creature.
Desert Twister, Tornado, and Vindicate kill all four types of permanents!


Fumarole and Goblin Grenadiers kill both a land and a creature.
Nightscape Battlemage kills a land and also bounces creatures.
Decimate kills all four permanents, but only all at once!


Land destruction doesn’t always put you ahead of the card count. Dust Bowl requires a land sacrifice to get going, while Keldon Arsonist takes two. Raze and Tremble both leave you down a card, as does Flowstone Flood should you buy it back. Shivan Harvest takes a hefty creature requirement (although this is lessened by any token creatures you might have in play). Scorched Earth might destroy the most lands selectively at once, but you’ll always be down a card after you’ve cast it. You need to pitch cards to Seismic Mage (so counting himself, it’s a 2-for-1..or 3-for-2…and so forth).


City in a Bottle will only destroy lands with the Arabian Nights symbol. I hope you aren’t playing that mono-red deck with those vanity mountain! Likewise, Golgothian Sylex hits only those pesky Antiquities cards, while Apocalypse Chime nerfs a whopping five lands from Homelands. Remember, a card’s expansion is determined by the expansion symbol on the card, so Chronicles Urza lands (the Urza's Mine, Urza's Power Plant, and Urza's Tower) will be destroyed by the Golgothian Sylex, while Fifth Edition versions of these cards will not.


Don’t go using those Rishadan Ports and Dust Bowls to kill just any old land, because suddenly they might be countered -- and destroyed themselves -- by Teferi's Response. And as many red players have found lately, Price of Glory might not be the best answer to a white mage: once he drops Sacred Ground, he has infinite mana during your turn! I’ve heard many a story about the white/red mage casting double Urza's Rage on turn 3 thanks to the opponent's Price of Glory.


The worst, absolute worst, bottom-sucking, soul-wrenchingly, horribly-headache-inducing worst land destruction spell ever came from The Dark. Let’s not beat around the bush here; the card is Erosion. It costs to cast. It doesn’t outright destroy the land; you can choose to pay life to negate the effect each turn. All it basically does it simulate Cursed Land or force you to tap a mana to keep the enchanted land around. There are a few advantages to Erosion though, over let’s say Sinkhole. Most of them involve having a higher casting cost for when you pitch cards to Pyromancy, however.

Well folks, I’ve barely got land to stand on at this point, so I think I’ll head on off into this gaping chasm, and hopefully all these amazingly destructive spells will clear out in time for next week’s column, where I promise safer footing and a distinct lack of unsafe ground.

Next Week: How they fixed Magnetic Web.

Ben may be reached at

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