Last updated on October 18, 2022
Lands are sacred to many Magic players. They’re considered safe from targeted and mass removal if they aren’t an active threat. But should they really be?
Land destruction is seen as a disrespectful strategy since it denies your opponent the ability to play the game. Denying your opponents lands is a punishing way to control the battlefield, and “feels bad” to play against, especially if the game won’t end anytime soon.
But that doesn’t mean you should ignore them completely! The sanctity of the mana base must end, and I’m here to show we the best way to do it.
Let’s take a look at the best land destruction spells available!
What Is Land Destruction?
Cleansing Wildfire | Illustration by Mathias Kollros
Land destruction is any spell or ability that can remove one or more lands from the battlefield. Since land destruction effects are primary in red and tertiary in black and green, I’m broadening my definition to bit: “remove” can mean a little more than just “destroy.” For example, Boomerang can bounce a land back to its owner’s hand, and Reality Acid can force an opponent to sacrifice it.
The best land destruction cards have the broadest land-only removal plus an upside of some kind. There are a lot of board wipes that hit everything, including lands, but I’m looking at spells with the least impact on your own board. I want one-sided effects and effects you can prepare yourself for. I also avoided specific color hosers since I’m valuing diversity and consistency.
White used to have easy access to land destruction, but this was phased out fairly quickly early on as design moved away from the mechanic overall.
You’d think Cleansing could destroy all lands for three mana, but players usually elect to pay life rather than lose their mana base. Especially in a format like Commander where you start with an excess of life.
Porting land destruction onto a saga brought us Fall of the Thran. It wipes all lands for six mana, and if you can remove it before it allows an opponent to return their lands (or you remove their graveyard from the game) you effectively cast Armageddon for several more mana.
Catastrophe gives you the option to wipe the board of creatures or lands, and creatures destroyed this way can’t be regenerated. Lands, on the other hand, can be regenerated in response. Cast a Reknit alongside this and save a single land for use later!
When wiping just the lands isn’t enough, consider Cataclysm. Its sacrifice effect gets around indestructible and regenerating permanents, and you can prepare for it by only keeping a single of each nonland permanent type (except for planeswalkers) on the field.
Banned in Legacy, banned in Commander, and one of the handful of restricted cards in Vintage, Balance’s unique way of leveling the board lets you set up to not only shut down your opponents’ mana bases, but also their creatures and hands. It’s an insanely powerful card for just two mana, so its format constraints make sense.
Armageddon is one of the original land destruction spells from Alpha. It’s infamous for its power; it wipes all lands from the field for just four mana. This is one of the best and most consistent land destruction spells white has access to, making it the top spot for mass land destruction.
Ravages of War is the Portal: 3 Kingdoms equivalent to Armageddon, so it’s also technically the best. It hasn’t seen a real reprint since its Judge Promo even if it’s not technically on the Reserved List, and that didn’t exactly drive down the price.
Blue denies its opponents’ lands in weird ways. Without access to traditional destroy effects I’ve had to stretch the definition a bit.
Blue can always just gain control of an opponent’s land with Annex. Stealing the single troublesome Academy Ruins can shut down a foe’s combo very effectively, and its broader application to any other permanent makes it a valuable card.
Eventually there comes a time when they’re not able to pay the upkeep cost, making this effectively a very slow Stone Rain!
Shimmer wipes the board of lands every other turn, and only of a single basic land type. It can certainly be punishing when your deck doesn’t share any colors with your opponents’, but that’s not necessarily reliable enough to make this card worth it.
Parallax Tide removes four lands before it vanishes from the field, but with a little proliferation you can keep those fade counters counting up to exile lands every turn. This one requires a little setup but can still lock down opponents for a turn or two when played alone.
The Dark’s Mana Vortex puts the rest of blue’s land destruction to shame. While sacrificing one of your own lands can seem a steep price, you can slow your opponent’s mana base down if you built around including this card.
Bouncing every land to its owner’s hand is almost as good as destroying them all. Most of those lands end up discarded, or better: they keep the lands in their hand and discard valuable spells instead.
Reality Acid saw play in a semi-popular Pauper deck, lovingly nicknamed “Acid Trip.” Acid Trip decks worked by casting this on an opponent’s land and then blinking it from the field with Dream Stalker or Kor Skyfisher to sacrifice that land immediately. This is a brutal combo to execute with just commons and makes for some of the best targeted land destruction available to blue.
Land destruction is tertiary in black. The color used to have a lot more access to land destruction but it’s been slowly phased out over the years.
Finally, a hose for snow cards! Not like they’ve been a dominant archetype in one format or another since the dawn of time.
Icequake is a weaker Choking Sands. It punishes your opponent for running snow lands but can still destroy any basic you need to remove. It’s a fair Stone Rain replacement in mono-black decks, even if it only pings for one damage.
Choking Sands can only hit non-Swamp lands, but it also has an upside of Shocking your opponent if that land was nonbasic. Most land destruction cards focus on removing nonbasic lands, so another three mana Stone Rain is always useful.
Rancid Earth is another 3-mana targeted destruction spell with a Pestilence-like effect that triggers if you reach its threshold. This card only sees play in a fringe mono-black land destruction deck in Pauper along with Choking Sands and Icequake.
Helldozer’s repeatable ability is what makes it shine. It’s a heavy investment, running you nine mana before you even see that ability on the stack, but the potential to untap and destroy another land is very strong. This can be a brutal land destroyer with a little set up and build around.
The Reserved List card Demonic Hordes is what Helldozer was trying to fix. For a similar six mana you get a creature with a repeatable land destruction ability, but with a major drawback in its upkeep cost. The first time you miss that trigger and lose a land feels awful!
Land destruction is primary in red so there are a lot of options! Let’s hop right in.
Pillage’s versatility makes it useful in a main deck. Targeting an artifact means it won’t always be a dead draw in your hand, plus its target can’t be regenerated. You finally found an answer to that Welding Jar.
Tremble gets every player to sacrifice a land and that’s a fair trade for two mana, especially if you’ve prepared by ramping extra lands into play or casting mana rocks to move your mana base away from lands.
Finally you have Tectonic Break, the Raze/Tremble that gets as many lands as you have mana to burn. It’s much more favorable as a late game play over the other two, which make great turn 1 and 2 plays.
Stone Rain is another original land destruction spell from Alpha. It’s the weathervane by which I’m measuring the rest of the land destruction spells.
We know that can destroy a single land at common rarity, so I’ll compare the rest of the spells against this card.
I love these dudes. What looks like a 1-time land destruction effect is actually an easily repeatable effect that shines in aristocrats and reanimator strategies. For example, I play Avalanche Riders over and over again, letting it die to its own upkeep cost and returning it to the field in my Alesha, Who Smiles at Death Commander deck.
You can consistently destroy a land or two every turn while putting some damage on the board with other sacrifice and reanimation outlets available.
You’ll squeeze out another small spell with this on turn 4 in most decks, slowing your opponent down and just barely generating the slightest advantage.
Worldfire’s recent unbanning in Commander has filled me with ecstatic joy. This previously junk rare now sees play as one of the most effective board wipe/game enders available in Magic.
Bringing everyone down to one life and wiping their hands, graveyards, and the entire battlefield clean basically ends that Commander pod in the next few turns, regardless of who hits another land first.
Bow before the mighty Jokulhaups! This resets the board for six mana, full stop. It’s great for a red deck that’s running out of steam by turn 6 and typically sees play in Commander.
Epicenter is just “average” for five mana, until you meet its threshold requirement. Five mana to wipe the board of lands in red is about as good as it gets.
The Portal: 3 Kingdoms‘ Burning of Xinye is a funky board wipe with odd wording. You could technically target your own indestructible lands with it (Darksteel Citadel, Modern Horizons 2’s “bridge” lands, etc.), saving you from any land destruction while punishing your opponents.
Wildfire is the “fixed” Burning of Xinye. It gets arounds the destroy clause by changing it to a sacrifice effect. Importantly, it hits “each player” instead of just an opponent, making it slightly better in some situations than Burning.
Land destruction is also tertiary in green, but I’d argue less so than black. Its land destruction is limited but not awful overall.
Green has access to general permanent removal, and one of the best spells for it is Beast Within. Giving your opponent a 3/3 token is a tough sell, but the versatility of targeting any permanent is widely considered worth it.
Best Multicolored Land Destruction
Unsurprisingly, a lot of the multicolor land destruction spells include black, red, or green. White’s appearances may surprise you, though!
You absolutely need to cast Desolation Angel with its extra kicker cost. You’re left with a 5/4 flier and no lands if you don’t. But board wiping with a guaranteed permanent sets you up for a destructive next turn.
Army Ants can become a real menace, especially if you have several lands to spare. Pair it with a repeatable land recursion effect like Crucible of Worlds and you’ll have a punishing board presence in no time.
I’ve seen some incredible plays from Realm Razer over the years. It’s an excellent finisher in a Mayael the Anima deck, locking the board down once you’ve amassed a field of threatening Combustible Gearhulks and Ilharg, the Raze-Boars.
The terror of the skies and casual EDH games everywhere, Numot, the Devastator is the go-to for land destruction-themed Commander decks. Numot has access to a lot of the best land destruction effects in red and white as a commander, and its ability is two Stone Rains for the price of one!
Ajani Vengeant’s final loyalty ability destroys all lands a single player controls. This is effectively a game ender.
You may have noticed most land destruction effects are symmetrical to prevent this exact scenario.
#6. Ark of Blight
A total of five colorless mana to destroy a single land isn’t surprisingly strong, but it’s what you can expect from an effect available to all colors. Not great, but not useless in all scenarios.
Five mana to cast, five mana to equip, and then needing to connect with your opponent all make this a tough sell. But the simple threat that you could makes this a useful tool even if you never pull off the board wipe.
Banned in Commander, Sundering Titan is the colorless land wipe. It crushes multicolor and mono-color mana bases alike in a typical Commander pod. Eight mana might seem like a restrictive cost, but formats like Commander make those high-end spells easy to cast.
A midpoint between the peak of Strip Mine and the nadir of Encroaching Wastes, Dust Bowl has a repeatable effect that can lock opponents out of their nonbasics with a fair amount of consistency. You need lands to spare to activate it but you can always sacrifice this to itself if you need to.
Strip Mine is probably the best targeted land removal in the game, and definitely the best available in colorless. It’s basically “free” to play on your turn as a land and it can tap, sac, and destroy a land the turn it comes in.
Okay, so destroying everyone’s lands just for fun isn’t great Magic. You also need an “out” or some way to synergize with those effects. Otherwise you’re just stalling the game.
Crucible of Worlds has many uses, but the most obvious is playing your lands back from the graveyard with ease. Once you’ve wiped the field, you’ll probably need access to one color or another to finish the game without a handful of lands, so Crucible is a good trick to keep in your pocket.
Once everyone’s lands have hit their graveyards, why not help yourself with a little Shaman’s Trance? Sure, you only get one land from the grave this turn, but you can consistently grab your opponents’ mana if you can repeat this effect with something like Elite Arcanist.
For one more mana than a Stone Rain, you can destroy a land and deal damage to your opponent equal to the lands in their ‘yard. This makes the perfect capstone to a game filled with Razes and Pillages.
The best way to prepare for a land wipe is to not rely on your lands at all. Nonland mana sources come in all shapes and sizes. You could heavily invest in Llanowar Elves and other mana dorks or fill your field with Signets and Gilded Lotuses. The well of nonland mana sources goes deep, so drink up!
Worldfire | Illustration by Izzy
Messing with your opponents’ mana bases shouldn’t be perceived as sacred. Denying resources is a key part of any competitive multiplayer game, and Magic is no exception.
Sure, it can “feel bad” to lose all your lands to Armageddon only for your opponent to not end the game. But hear me out: what if you did that too? What if we normalized attacking mana bases to deny powerful combos and infinite mana-generators? What if we put our foot down and said, “No, I won’t let the green deck win the pod this time.” I think it’s worth a shot.
What do you think? Did I miss any important land destruction spells? Should players use land destruction at all? And is it worth building an entire deck around? Let me know in the comments or over on Draftsim’s Twitter.
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