Throughout MTG’s history, hate cards for specific scenarios have been a huge part of the game. Many decks in various Constructed formats have relied on playing unique sideboard cards that are designed for certain matchups. Hate cards are often necessary for helping to keep fast combo decks in check or punish strategies that are all-in a distinct card type. For example, the existence of cards like Leyline of the Void and Surgical Extraction help prevent Legacy Reanimator from completely taking over the format.
From graveyard hate to Artifact hate, there are hosers for many card types and situations. However, some of the most brutal examples of hate cards have one thing in common: they affect Lands.
In most games, Lands are a necessary resource to be able to advance your gameplan. If someone cast a Land destruction spell like Armageddon, you may struggle to make relevant game actions for the foreseeable future.
Not all Land-focused hate cards end up being symmetrical, though. Some of the most devastating Land hate cards in MTG’s history are capable of leaving one player completely unable to play spells while the other player is unaffected. Today, we are going to look at some of MTG’s best and most intense Land hate cards of all time, starting with perhaps the most iconic example and one of the most frustrating cards to lose to.
Non-Basic Land Hate
When players think of iconic ways to punish greedy manabases, the first card that likely comes to mind is certainly Blood Moon. Blood Moon is a very scary card to play against. Sometimes, even if you know your opponent might have it, it can be difficult to play around. Using Fetchlands to grab basic Lands is an effective strategy against the card to an extent, but not every deck can afford to do this without drastically affecting the ability to naturally play spells on curve. Still, while Blood Moon can be a brutal card, it does at least incentivize players to play some basic Lands and punish players for trying to just play five-color piles.
In a similar sense, Magus of the Moon has the same effect, but on a Creature. Both cards have their merits, depending on the metagame. Magus of the Moon, notably, dodges cards like Force of Vigor and Boseiju, Who Endures. However, it gets killed by Lightning Bolt, which can be cast even through Magus’s effects since it only costs red mana to cast.
When moving beyond Modern, some Legacy decks have made use of Back to Basics. There have been Azorius lists that play Flooded Strand, Prismatic Vista, and a slew of basic Lands. This both effectively enabled Back to Basics as a strong hate card while also making you impervious to Wasteland, one of the best cards in the format.
Messing With One Basic Land Type
Each of these cards above have wide applications in that they affect all non-basic Lands, regardless of color. Some hate cards in particular are much narrower but can be completely game breaking if they resolve. For example, both Boil and Tsunami are four-mana cards that destroy all Islands. Obviously, when playing against mono-blue decks, these cards are unbelievably strong. However, given the presence of dual Lands and now tri-color Lands in the form of Triomes, these cards can be quite effective even against multi-color decks. Flashfires is another four-mana red land hoser, this time one that destroys all Plains instead of Islands.
Boil is likely the strongest of the group because it can be cast at Instant speed. Being able to respond to an Azorius control player casting a card draw spell on your end step or simply cast Boil on the opponent’s end step and force them to use a Counterspell on their turn is very strong. Cards like Boil can also do a lot of damage against decks with Dryad of the Ilysian Grove in the mix. This is obviously quite narrow, since many decks with Dryad don’t naturally play many Islands, if any, but the potential to completely blow out your opponent is definitely there.
Choke is another card that messes with Islands, this time as an Enchantment that prevent Islands from untapping. Importantly, Choke is Modern legal, whereas Tsunami is not. Choke also can affect Islands played on subsequent turns, assuming the opponent can’t remove the Enchantment. The card hasn’t seen much competitive play as of late, but used to be a strong option when blue-based control decks were more popular.
Other Land-Specific Enchantments
Beyond just ways to destroy Lands of a specific basic Land type or prevent them from untapping, there are a few cards that are capable of either punishing the opponent or benefiting you in some way over time. For instance, Karma is a very old Enchantment that can act as a win condition, assuming your opponent is playing Swamps in their deck. Back in sets like Alpha and Beta where Karma was featured, there were very few relatively efficient beaters to actually win the game with. Cards like Serra Angel were few and far between.
As a result, cards like Karma could singlehandedly win games by themselves. There was a point a few years ago when some MTG Grand Prix events hosted exclusive eight-player Beta draft events that featured the Rochester draft format. Rochester drafts are done with cards from a pack opened at once, laid out for all drafters to see, and players pick cards one by one. This gives players a lot of information about what cards other players, including their future opponents, will be playing. Cards like Karma that could singlehandedly win games on their own were actually pivotal to the drafts themselves. For example, if you knew your first-round opponent picked up an early copy of Karma, it may be best to avoid drafting black.
Karma is a strong punisher card, but there were also cards like Sanctimony that could provide a benefit instead. In the case of Sanctimony, the life gain provided could help you beat opposing red-based burn decks. Sanctimony is definitely not a Land hoser, but has situations where it shines nonetheless.
Breaking Symmetrical Effects
Last but not least, there are some cards that are quite strong, despite affecting all Lands in play in a symmetrical manner. These are cards like Stasis and Winter Orb. Both of these cards make it difficult for players to effectively use their mana each turn. One of the easiest ways to break symmetry with cards like these is to simply be ahead on board. In Commander, this could just mean having a big chunk of mana rocks in play, resulting in you maintaining your ability to cast spells while your opponents continue to struggle.
With regards to Winter Orb, you can also use cards like Urza, Lord High Artificer that can tap Winter Orb on your opponent’s end step right before your turn. This is because Winter Orb’s effect only lasts as long as Winter Orb is untapped. By tapping it before your turn, you get to untap your Lands altogether, while your opponents still can only untap one Land at a time.
Land hosers have a huge impact on games of MTG in a range of different formats. Depending on the nature and metagame of a given format, certain Land hosers will shine more than others. Just be careful, though, as these cards can be a bit frustrating to lose to in a more casual Commander environment. Regardless, these cards add a unique element to the game and can completely swing a match in your favor. Getting to slam a Blood Moon or resolve a Boil that blows up all your opponent’s Lands can be quite satisfying.