Armageddon | Illustration by Chris Rahn
Watch out for kidney stones!
Games like Magic are full of tension and conflict. You might have a plan for how the game will go, but your opponents also get a say. Their interventions are to be expected, but some game actions are less appreciated than others.
That’s right! We’re talking land destruction today, but not just any land destruction. We’re talking mass land destruction. All 27 mass land destruction effects are here for you to plan some chaos, so come sample this booming buffet!
What Is Mass Land Destruction in MTG
Boil (Amonkhet Invocations) | Illustration by Philip Straub
Land destruction spells can destroy lands when they resolve or as one of their abilities. A lot of these effects destroy just one land, but mass land destruction destroys lots of lands at once.
Mass land destruction usually comes on instants and sorceries, but it can also be a creature, planeswalker, or enchantment ability. The phrasing “destroy all” is very common, but some effects specify the number of lands to destroy.
Effects that destroy multiple permanents act as mass land destruction if their wording doesn’t specify “nonland,” but I’m focusing on wordings that specifically mention lands. Neat trick: unless the spell uses “target” phrasing, mass land destruction effects are one of the few ways to remove a hexproof land.
As much as I’d like to talk about Terastodon (I like me a pachyderm), Violent Ultimatum, or Grenzo's Rebuttal, these cards are either optional land destruction or cards that have it as a by-product. Same goes for Urza's Sylex; it’ll destroy a bunch of lands if the table has more than six each, but land destruction isn’t its day job. Bearer of the Heavens and Soulscour are also out because they focus on land mentions, but a card is fair game if it includes lands among the permanent types it sweeps.
No discussion of land destruction is complete without a way to measure the salt content, or how rage-inducing these effects can be. Watch out for our new and improved Salt-o-Meter!
#24. Rain of Salt
Don’t let the name fool you: Rain of Salt isn’t that great of a mass land destruction spell. Six mana for two lands is an abysmal rate when you can get them all for that much.
Salt-o-Meter: Desalinated Water
#23. Orcish Settlers
Kudos for the art. Otherwise, meh. Orcish Settlers’ ability comes as a double X spell, which drives up the cost. You need to sink two to get two lands, seven to get three… that’s just inefficient.
Avalanche is an X spell that only targets snow lands. It’s virtually useless unless sideboarded, or if you expect to face snow decks. The St. Bernard can stay in its kennel.
Salt-o-Meter: Ice Melter (not fit for human consumption)
#21. Rumbling Crescendo
I’m not into this tune. Rumbling Crescendo is a very slow mass land destruction play. You need five mana just to get started, and then time. A bunch of time.
Don’t expect to see this one topping the charts any time soon.
Salt-o-Meter: The salt you feel when you got ready to go out but the venue’s full before you arrive
#20. Scorched Earth
As an X spell, Scorched Earth is a far better rate than we’ve seen so far. Unfortunately, you also have to discard as many lands as you want to destroy. It’s never simple, isn’t it?
Salt-o-Meter: A gym session’s worth of sweat
#19. Boil + Boiling Seas + Tsunami
Boil is obviously better because it’s at instant speed, but Boiling Seas costs just as much. Island-specific wiping also grabs non-basics with the Island type, so that’s neat.
Tsunami is Boiling Seas’ green cousin. Not much to say apart from that.
Salt-o-Meter: Blue Cheese
#18. Wake of Destruction
Unless you’re going for basics, Wake of Destruction is probably going to be a little bit more useful in non-singleton formats. It’s a bit expensive for a targeted land sweeper.
Salt-o-Meter: A friendship that ended badly
#17. Desolation Angel
You’re pretty much at a disadvantage if you ever cast Desolation Angel without kicking it. That brings the total to seven mana for this flier with a land sweeping ETB. Okay rate, but that kicker feels mandatory. Points docked for that, dude.
Salt-o-Meter: Angel Tears
#16. Numot, the Devastator
Numot, the Devastator offers you diet mass destruction on a body. It’s an ability you can only activate if Numot has dealt combat damage to a player, and it only nets you two lands at a time. Its stats and flying should help you get more than one activation, but the total number is up in the air.
Salt-o-Meter: That pinch of salt you pitch over your shoulder before every meal
#15. Bend or Break
At least nobody’s losing all their lands. Bend or Break has the potential to split the salt between the caster and the pile-chooser.
When everyone’s unhappy, that’s what we call a compromise.
Salt-o-Meter: Bar Pretzels
#14. Burning of Xinye
Again, nobody’s going for Bust (that comes later). Burning of Xinye only takes from your mana base and one opponent’s, but then it wipes any creature with four or less toughness. Brutal.
Salt-o-Meter: Spicy Pepperoni
#13. From the Ashes
Here’s an interesting combo. From the Ashes claims your opponents’ nonbasics, but it lets them search for basics in their library to replace them.
Hey, wait a sec! This is just a mass landfall trigger in disguise.
Salt-o-Meter: Saline Flush
#12. Fall of the Thran
There’s absolutely some salt with Fall of the Thran’s first chapter. This saga’s second and third chapters undo some of its damage, so it’s a little less overwhelming than some of the other options.
Salt-o-Meter: Saltine Cracker
Ruination is better at being selective because it targets all nonbasics. Utility lands, dual lands, tri-lands, all gone. Some opponents can recover from that better than others, but it’s a better sweeper than focusing on Islands or snows.
Salt-o-Meter: Your local bar’s yearly tequila shots
#10. Myojin of Infinite Rage
If you’re looking for mass land destruction, you’re locked into casting Myojin of Infinite Rage from your hand. That’s going to cost you a whopping 10 mana, and it’s not the only spell that expensive on this list.
The real shenanigans start if you proliferate to give Myojin of Infinite Rage multiple indestructible counters.
Salt-o-Meter: Salted Caramel Mocha
#9. Ajani Vengeant
Unless you proliferate a bunch of times at instant speed soon after casting Ajani Vengeant, opponents are going to see the land destruction coming. If not as a guarantee, at least as an option. Ajani’s ultimate only targets one opponent, so at least it misses your part of the table!
Salt-o-Meter: Reduced Sodium Potato Chips
#8. Impending Disaster
Another effect that opponents will usually see coming, Impending Disaster is attractive because it’s so cheap: it’s a 2-drop! It needs to survive to your next upkeep at the earliest, which leaves it vulnerable to enchantment removal before paying off.
Salt-o-Meter: Morgan Spurlock’s bloodstream at the end of Super Size Me
#7. Boom // Bust
Boom // Bust is a split card that either gets two lands, or all lands. The mass land destruction is a bit expensive, but Boom can be a good early trade for an opponent’s nonbasic.
Salt-o-Meter: Cinema Popcorn (prepared by the rookie)
While Boom // Bust gives you situational versatility, Catastrophe gives you target versatility. You can sweep lands or creatures, with the bonus of preventing creature regeneration.
Salt-o-Meter: Pickle Juice
#5. Armageddon + Ravages of War
Don’t worry, I won’t start quoting Steven Tyler. Four to wipe all lands is a damn good rate. Armageddon and Ravages of War are mechanical clones, so pick your poison.
Salt-o-Meter: Local Chip Stand Fries
Devastation gives you creature and land destruction for seven mana. It’s at sorcery speed, but this is the kind of reset you probably want to be the first to build from anyway.
Salt-o-Meter: A freshly refilled water softener
Jokulhaups takes Devastation, then also destroys artifacts and prevents regeneration all around. Do you pronounce it with a hard or soft J?
Salt-o-Meter: A Year’s Supply of Horse’s Salt Licks
#2. Decree of Annihilation
The land destruction is on the cycling ability.
The land destruction.
The cycling ability.
Decree of Annihilation is a far more powerful destruction spell if you cast it, but that feels somewhat secondary.
Salt-o-Meter: Pacific Ocean
You can’t do better than to Obliterate everything if you want to make sure your land destruction sticks. It’s a spell that can’t be countered and it covers artifacts, creatures, and lands. More expensive, but aren’t you looking for cost certainty?
Salt-o-Meter: Dead Sea
Best Mass Land Destruction Payoffs
Mass land destruction is an aggressive action to commit to; most of its options are all or nothing. Some decks focus on it as their theme, looking to shut down opponents at all stages of the game. My tongue is already forming blisters just thinking about it.
Some effects, like Dingus Egg, can pay you off when a land goes to a graveyard. In this case it deals damage to that land’s controller. Most mass land destruction also affects you, so you’ll have to make sure you have the life to absorb such a big hit.
Otherwise you usually use mass land destruction as a disruption tool, or a setup for another play. You don’t need lands if you intend on swinging for lethal damage so you may as well take away everyone’s mana to reduce the chances that something goes wrong.
Myojin of Infinite Rage | Illustration by Kev Walker
Land destruction is one of those game mechanics that makes most Magic players suck their teeth. More destruction, more salt and bitters! You’ve been able to destroy lands for nearly as long as you’ve been able to tap them, so don’t expect it to fully disappear anytime.
What do you think of mass land destruction? Do you play any land destruction decks? Do you use any of these cards in other decks? Let me know in the comments below or over on the official Draftsim Discord.
All this talk of salt, and I’m getting thirsty. Stay hydrated and take your meds, everyone!
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