Cartography has been political since the beginning of history. The act of making a map has an intrinsic relation to the boundaries governments set. Creating a world within a page for others to see manufactures a perception on the world it depicts. This could be a fabrication. John Smith created new towns and territories to bolster his and England’s reputation around the New World of the Americas. Alternatively, the cartographer could have gaps in their knowledge, yet still be influenced by their society and the political perceptions they carry. Spain and Portugal split the world in half and claimed a treaty by which each one owned one half of the world. Portugal didn’t realize they could have North American territory too if they had an accurate map. Choosing who crafts a map makes a world of difference.
As in geography, a land’s influence on a game of Magic is not to be understated. The player with the largest land count has the most to do. Given equal power levels, the player ahead on lands becomes a serious threat. They have resources you do not. Politically this is difficult to deal with for the player in that position, but strategically they are best off. There are a few things you can do to mitigate becoming a political target regardless of your resources. As always, it is all to do with perception.
Before setting sail to play with the powerful lands, we must first find an explorer with the ability to find this precious resource. Ixalan being on the horizon we are not looking to adventure with any rookie cartographer. Thrasios, Triton Hero is the hero we deserve. His Merfolkyness is perfect for our pitstop onto the plane of high sea adventure. He finds us new lands. Let’s explore our new conquests.
Expedition Map, and land tutors like it, are powerful resources to have at your disposal. They fetch up lands that end games (Dark Depths), or cards that stave off death (Glacial Chasm). Crafting your battlefield with too many of these lands creates tension for other players at the table. You don’t want your manifest destiny to ensure others conquer you. Tutoring for a few key pieces is important to begin with, but don’t get too hasty all at once. Set your board up first with pieces that lead to the long game, then begin to use your Tempt with Discovery later in the game.
Tempt with Discovery is an important piece, but it can backfire. If no other players are tempted you could have a four mana Sylvan Scrying, or it has become popular for others to grab Wasteland with the tutor. Even still, getting triple Wastelanded would not be bad considering you are the Crucible of Worlds player. Using these sorts of tutors when you have shown other pieces like The Gitrog Monster is a strong signal.
The political game you play with these lands is not one of manipulation, but rather a game of managing perceptions. You are attempting to convince others your maps are simply ramp, or at least not a real threat. This can be done with active politicking like helping other players with your own Maze of Ith or Spires of Orazca. More commonly my approach is something subtle. Sequencing is more important than usual when playing powerful lands. Playing an early Dark Depths or even a Creeping Tar Pit over basics or simple shock lands can be too much too soon.
Graveyard mechanics have a history of being too powerful. Casting Gamble for Life from the Loam is a huge red flag. Similarly, sequencing your graveyard actions can be vital to your survival. How you play with the graveyard directly affects the political climate of the game table. With the play above you are very likely to see immediate attention. Other players will begin to tutor for hate against you and actively see you as the largest threat. In many cases, this is the right play to make. You will simply want to be doing the most powerful thing available to you, but to be clear, you don’t want to reveal your hand too early. If you have no reason to Gamble for your Life from the Loam, then consider what could be similarly powerful, but attract less attention.
I want to be clear here that it is never okay to actively deceive other players about what you have played or about the game state in general. There is a huge difference between playing the political game and out right lying. I never personally lie while playing Commander, even with meta issues like treaties, but it is especially immoral and wrong to give others a false sense of the board state. Hide your buried treasure with sequencing and a good poker face, but never with falsehoods.
There are great ways to play the politics with what’s in your graveyard. It is an open book to players. Show them you have an answer to the threat on the board and they may be willing to let up on some of the pressure. You could earn a favor if you can Regrowth your Constant Mists that you Grisly Salvaged away a few turns back. Skullwinder is a similarly powerful and political card that can be used to great effect with other players buried treasure. The open information can be a hindrance to your plans, or it could be your best asset if managed correctly.
As with many of my lists, this one has a few win conditions. I let the gardens run rampant here. The number of ramp cards in here could lead to some dead draws, but I attempted to mitigate that by having many versatile land tutors that double as ramp. Tutors mean you can quickly find your Dark Depths and Thespian’s Stage combo. This combo is actually much more effective in 60-card formats, but it is still nothing scoff at here either.
We can also act like an Omnath, Locus of Rage deck by ramping out lands to produce a huge field of powerful elementals. The ramp here similarly works well with Zendikar’s Roil or triggering Tunneling Geopede repeatedly. Working more with the graveyard in a similar way can also prove fruitful. The Gitrog Monster and Titania, Protector of Argoth synergize to break out elementals every turn and draw you into other win conditions.
Lastly, if your graveyard has been shut off, and you have lost your other win conditions there are a couple things you can do. Busting skulls with an “X” equals twenty Exsanguinate feels dirty in all the right ways. This is one of the reasons I chose to use Vial Smasher the Fierce over any of the other partners. I knew with this much ramp there is a good likelihood of playing huge spells. Besides our goblin friend doming people, we can simply Revel in Riches. This powerful new card doesn’t need other treasure producers to win games. A well timed Blasphemous Act can set you up for victory. You can sugar coat the play with Glacial Chasm, but often you will need nothing more.
I hope you are as excited to foray into the land of dinosaurs and pirates as I am. As more of the set releases there may be some fantastic additions that I didn’t add here. The explore mechanic seems powerful with this type of lands matter deck. As you may be able to tell I am enamored with the newest transform cards. Let me know if there is something you are excited to play with in Ixalan. Is there something I missed for this deck? How would you build political lands matter deck? Let me know what you want to see from future articles. Thank you so much for reading!