Land Tax: A King’s Ransom at a Minimal Expense

Land Tax seems reasonably innocent.  All you get are 3 basic lands per turn, and only if you have less lands in play than your opponent.  However, while it was in Type 2, it was one of the only cards that offered true, repeatable, and cheap card advantage.  Also, it’s a whole lot less innocent in a format with Armageddon.  The card found a home in a deck referred to as “ErnhamGeddon.”  It’s a pretty simple strategy: play a big creature and blow up all the lands.  Land Tax provides a nice head start in restoring the land base, one an opponent would have a hard time matching.  Zuran Orb was a good way to make use of lands that were already getting binned, but it was still a difficult road.  It was also a great way to control the number of lands you had in play to ensure getting that Land Tax trigger if you were the one playing Land Tax.

Land Tax also had implications for Extended.  There’s no point in me re-typing what others have already painstakingly written up: the GP Atlanta Coverage offers a quick look into Land Tax’s history, as it was also the first sanctioned Legacy tournament to feature the card since legacy was born way back in 2004.

The Land Tax + Scroll Rack combo has been around since Tempest first came out.  Alongside a U/W Miracles shell, it can be devastating, turning Temporal Mastery into Time Walk time and time again.  It has also been an addition worthy of consideration in CounterTop decks.  The next few tournaments should determine whether or not the card remains unbanned.  We shall see. 

Black Summer: Darkness Rising

An old article on StarCityGames.com titled (surprise, surprise), “A History of Necropotence,” and written by Jim Grimmet, serves as an excellent primer and source of decklists surrounding the infamous Necropotence. Why was Necropotence SO GOOD, and why does it still make nerds everywhere squeal with delight?

Simply put, it stands among the best card advantage engines ever printed.  Sure, you pass up on your draw step, but what you gain surpasses it by far: “Pay 1 life: draw a card (EDIT: essentially).”  I cannot conceive of a more flavorful, beautiful, and at the same time extremely powerful black effect.  Players originally scoffed at the card, but people started catching on quickly and Necro was born.  For months, the entire metagame revolved around it.  Decks of that period HAD to have game against Necro to stand a chance.  Among Necro competitors of the time was a nasty little combo concoction called Pros Bloom:

4 Undiscovered Paradise
3 Bad River
7 Forest
6 Swamp
5 Island

4 Infernal Contract
4 Impulse
4 Vampiric Tutor
1 Three Wishes
2 Memory Lapse
1 Power Sink
1 Elven Cache
1 Emerald Charm
4 Cadaverous Bloom
4 Natural Balance
4 Squandered Resources
4 Prosperity
1 Drain Life

Sideboard:

3 City of Solitude
4 Elephant Grass
1 Elven Cache
3 Emerald Charm
1 Memory Lapse
1 Power Sink
2 Wall of Roots

The basic goal was to ultimately fuel a lethal Drain Life.  You would do this by casting Prosperity and filtering those cards through Cadaverous Bloom into a larger Prosperity into cadaverous bloom into a MASSIVE  Prosperity into a lethal Drain Life.  The problem with combo decks is their need to assemble the components (har, har… get it?).  Very hard to do against Necro… Necro will trade one-for-one all day, and will ALWAYS come out ahead.  Disruption is a complete disaster for a deck like this.  Getting hit with Duress, Hyppies, and Stupor will ruthlessly cripple hands, and the deck just reloads when it’s done.

Another attempt at stemming the tide of Black Summer was a Winter Orb lock deck.  Winter Orb was a soft-lock alongside Icy Manipulators to keep the lock in place.  If that wasn’t bad enough, since the deck featured a ton of artifacts as mana sources, it functioned without access to mana from its lands, leaving its opponent floundering in tapped lands and creatures, with a gripful of permission to quash any artifact removal or attempts at casting spells.  Still, this was not enough.  Necropotence, despite its weakness in the later stages of the game, managed to pull wins  from it with hand disruption, pump knights, and other nonsense (depending on the variant).

Other decks that had some time in the limelight: Turbo Stasis, U/W control, counterpost, and Sligh.

One of the best breakdowns of the metagame of that era (well… technically, it’s just after black summer) I could find was in Mike Flores’ e-book titled Michael J. Flores: 10 Years of Decks, Thoughts, and Theory.  An excellent read.  Strongly recommended.

Despite the strength of the Necropotence deck, some decks were able to outlast it.  The pump knight version of Necro was weak to Serrated Arrows and Armageddon.  In addition, Black Vise, though restricted, eliminated Necro’s much-relied upon resource: its life total.  Disenchant also gave decks a chance.  Notice: two of the aforementioned cards are white.  If you could stem the tide of the early aggression, get lucky with a turn 1 Black Vise, eliminate lands or a Necropotence, or get a Serrated Arrows out, you had a decent shot of beating one of the most dominant decks ever conceived.

That’s about it!  Hope you enjoyed it.  Next week (hopefully) I will have the next installment of this deck series.  Again, I would strongly recommend Michael J. Flores: 10 Years of Decks, Thoughts, and Theory.  Especially if you liked this brief, incomplete, and cursory glance at part of Magic’s past.

Minor changes, a potential migration, and a new article series

I have been contemplating a move to WordPress for some time now because it has a lot of the more powerful features available to it.  Performing this move would be a bit of work for me, but it would probably be worth it in the long run.

I have also decided to switch to Gatherer as the site I will link to in articles when I mention specific cards (e.g. Lotus Petal).

When trying to put together a Pauper cube, I had a terrible time rounding out the red in it.  I couldn’t decide if I had enough burn spells or if I had too many, and had trouble with the higher end of the curve.  This got me searching for information and thinking a whole lot about set and card design, as well as card evaluation.  My search yielded a wonderful bounty, which will serve as a base for this article series about some of Magic’s most infamous cards and decks:

1. Black Summer: Darkness Reigns
2. Land Tax: A King’s Ransom at a Minimal Expense
3. If Others Have Illusions of Grandeur, Perhaps it IS Better to Give than to Receive

and more! (Might submit some of them to EssentialMagic.com or perhaps other sites)

Here, you can find one of my main sources if you wish to get a head start.