To Wasteland, or not to Wasteland...

In an effort to actually be able to play Vintage competitively more than 4 or 5 times a year I pulled the trigger and took a deeper dive into a MODO collection. I have ran a riff on Mentor Silence in the past 2 daily's, cashing Sunday (beating outcome oath 2x) and then going 1-2 drop in last nights 27 person showing (losing 2x to outcome mentor).

I will share my list below, but one of my biggest struggles over my past 7 tournament matches (plus a number in play room) is "Wasteland, or don't Wasteland?" I have played blue or combo almost my entire Magic career, so Waste/Strip effect usage is not usually something I have had to understand. With all the Workshops, Ancient Tombs and low land count combo decks, the Tempo gain from waste/strip effects are appealing, even in Gush decks that want to maximize the amount of islands played.

I could spend 5 hours coming up with scenarios, but here are 2 that came up for me in the past week or so...
My hand (on draw) : Delta, Waste, Preordain, Preordain, Force, Mentor, Mox Ruby

My opponent's turn 1 is Ancient Tomb->Thorn....So now on the draw I know my opponent is on Shops or Eldrazi, but regardless that thorn is bad for my hand, especially if they have their own strip effect, so I snap counter with force pitching a preordain. My opponent passes and I top deck Mentor what? I have no Probe, so I have no way of knowing what my opponent is on, but I suspect wasteland. I can fetch for a basic Island and preordain, but then I am cutting myself from white which I will need to try and jam an early mentor, so I decide to run out mox ruby and waste the ancient tomb. Well just my luck, my opponent drops Shop, Sol Ring, Ballista and Ravager. I am able to dig but find no answers and a tangle wire and revoker on my ruby close that game out

What would you have done in this situation?

Scenario 2...
My Hand (on Draw) Wasteland, Volcanic Island, Fetchland, Ponder, Baby Jace, Mental misstep, Flusterstorm.

My Opponent goes T1 Seat of Synod Ponder, I misstep, they misstep back...defending the ponder with a misstep tells me this spell is important, and the Seat gives me 99% information about what I'm playing against...something with outcome and probably a very low land count. Without much thought, I waste the Seat, thinking that I may not get a chance to waste an academy and If i can screw him off lands and possibly metalcraft my hand can inch ahead with flusterstorm (assuming I got another turn) ready as backup. My opponent plays sea, sensis top and passes. I ponder on my next turn to try ultimately shuffle the 3 away trying to hit a stony silence, but whiff. My opponent plays a fetch, some artifacts and passes, I whiff on my draw again and play baby jace, My opponent plays academy on their next turn, thoughtcast, shuffles with top and passes. I draw a land, loot into more land, cant flip jace and have to pass the turn. My opponent plays outcome's plus top with the artifacts in play allowed him to pay for flusterstorm, and I lost from there.

Had I held the wasteland, my opponent would not have had the mana for fluster, and who can say what would have happened, what would you have done?

last edited by Brass Man

here is my list...

3 polluted delta
3 flooded strand
3 tundra
2 volcanic island
2 island
1 strip mine
1 wasteland
3 mox
1 karakas
1 black lotus
3 monastery mentor
1 vendillion clique
3 baby jace
2 dack fayden
2 gitaxian probe
3 gush
1 ancestral recall
1 time walk
1 brainstorm
1 dig through time
1 treasure cruise
1 ponder
1 fragmetize
3 preoedain
4 force of will
3 mental misstep
1 spell pierce
1 flusterstorm
1 pyroblast
3 swords to plowshares
2 Stony silence

Scenario 1: Playing mana denial vs the mana denial deck has never worked for me. Here, you’re not gaining tempo from wasting because you don’t have a threat on the board. I would fetch for basic Island and Preordain to find a white source.

Scenario 2:

Had I held the wasteland, my opponent would not have had the mana for fluster, and who can say what would have happened, what would you have done?

This is three turns, with a Top, past your Wasteland. The game’s entirely different if you don’t waste. I think your rationale for wasting here is solid. I think I would be more inclined to think that protecting the Ponder signals they are low on business rather than mana, so I’d probably have gone Volc for Ponder for permission, but that’s a personal call.

I like aggressively wasting in both scenarios for the reasons you lined out (low land count decks/potential tempo gain). In #1, you still lose that game even if you don't waste, so I like the chance to mise a win. Ballista makes playing naked mentors much riskier now against shops, so holding the waste to cast one without a probe seems like a less likely path to victory than just wastelanding them and hoping they are mana screwed (since they lead with a tomb and not a workshop). In #2: Academy is the high value waste target, but sitting on one try wait for it rarely works since they can just play it the turn they need the mana.

This all comes from the bias of a person that plays decks that tend to reward aggressive wastelanding (BUG DRS decks).

Some of this sounds like deck construction. Why are you playing all these cards you need to play turn 1 along with Wasteland?

But anyway I wouldnt have wasted in either sitiuation as you need to start casting those horrid preordains. It does almost nothing if you dont play it early against these shops/storm decks.

Wasteland can be played to gain tempo by slowing your opponent to let your favourable board position lasts longer such as getting more attacks from your threats or activating your planeswalkers more times before it is answered. It can also be used to lock out opponents from casting any spells.

The second approach won't work that often especially without backup from additional mana denial. It's a riskier play since the play has a high fail rate. It's only good when opponent has no sufficient mana in hand or on top of his deck to cast his spells in hand. Sometimes it's a gamble worth taking since mana screw is your most likely path to victory.

I wouldn't give too much worth to Workshop playing Ancient Tomb first. They will almost always sandbag their Workshop if they can afford it. It's to protect it from turn 1 Wasteland.

Scenario 1:

I wonder if there isn't an entirely different line here? What if you DON'T Force the Thorn in the first place?

On your turn you can dodge the question of Preordain vs Tundra and play Wasteland + Ruby. That lets you pass with a Force up ... it opens your own Wasteland to his, but that's completely fine - you still end up killing one of his lands, but you're tempo-positive on the exchange, and he only has 2 mana to play something scary (which can't be another Sphere through his own Thorn) if he actually does, you still have Force. You could play fetch-island-ruby instead, but I think playing Wasteland here is better for those reasons, and plays around Strip Mine while you're at it.

So assuming he doesn't Wasteland, he gets to play one or two threats, and you have the Force for the scarier one. Worst case scenario - he leads with a Sphere, so you HAVE to counter (because you won't be able to counter the next threat), and then plays something scary for 2 ... but in that situation you're no worse off than if you Forced the first Thorn - you end up in the exact same situation (1 sphere, 1 threat), because you wouldn't have had the answer to his second sphere.

If you had made that play against the actual hand your opponent had, the following would have happened.

shops turn 1 - Shops player plays Tomb and Thorn.
mentor turn 1 - You play Wasteland, Mox Ruby
shops turn 2 - Shops player plays Workshop, Sol Ring, Ravager, and a 2/2 Ballista - you tap the Ruby to Force of Will the Ballista.
mentor turn 2 - play Fetchland, cast a turn 2 Mentor through a Thorn you don't care about, with a Preordain in hand - likely enough to handle a Revoker, Tangle Wire, and a small Ravager.

Alternatively, if he had the Revoker in hand from the beginning, he would, on his turn 2, Lead with Revoker->Ruby, which you would be forced to counter, and follow that up with Sol Ring, Ravager, Ballista @ 1. In that scenario you still get a turn 2 Mentor, which he is probably forced to kill by sacking the Ravager to the Ballista. You'd rather have the Mentor in play, but in this scenario he has 0 ravager, 0 ballista, 0 revoker, and you have 3 mana ... the alternative play of "Force your Thorn>Waste your Tomb still results in no Mentor on your board ... but you have 2 less mana and he has 3 more threats.

This is easy for me to say with the hindsight of what your opponent's hand was, but I think for most possible hands you end up the same or better with that sequence.

Scenario 2

I don't like Wasteland here, but for reasons people haven't brought up yet. A turn 1 seat should be setting off alarms in your head that your opponent is on an Outcome deck. Ignore the fact that your opponent may or may not have a Tolarian, the issue here is not keeping up a Flusterstorm when you had the option to.

I think you're overthinking his Misstep. Hitting your Misstep doesn't necessarily mean the Ponder is important, it could just mean that he like using Misstep aggressively ... or he has another Misstep in hand ... or he has a more important one drop (like the Divining Top or an Ancestral) and wants to take any other Missteps out of your hand before you can untap with Misstep+Fluster in the same turn.

It could even be that the the Ponder WAS important to his hand, but because he had too MUCH mana and not too few - in which case Wastelanding him here actively makes his hand better. Outcome has a low land count, but it doesn't have a low mana count, and unlike the Shops player in the previous game, he had no reason to play out any artifact mana before passing, so you didn't really have any objective information that he was short on mana

last edited by Brass Man

As general rule of thumb when on the draw, wasting (on turn one) a land that has been used to do something (whatever) is just loosing more tempo and not the best of play. There are exceptions of course.

In scenario 1, I definitively agree with the line of play that Brass Man suggested (keeping the force for the real threat that was coming next turn).
Moreover, when you did waste you did not know yet if your opponent was on shop or eldrazi. It is important since wasting an ancient tomb against eldrazi is more relevant than doing the same against shop (where you definitively want to hit the workshop).


I think there are a lot of exceptions. It's more important to consider where the opponent is in their mana development and what they might play. In the above example, an ancient tomb means that their an eldrazi temple away from thought-know seer or a workshop away from fleet wheel cruiser. If I didn't have an answer in my hand to that possible play, I might find it worthwhile to waste a tapped land before my opponent gets another main phase. Having said all of that, in this particular case, I agree with let the thorn resolve and play wasteland and ruby with mana for FoW. On the next turn, I would plan to counter his first big play (fleetwheel or thought-know seer), then play my land drop and preordain using fetch (island) plus ruby and waste his land that produces the most mana in hopes of cutting them off another big play now that my hand is out of answers, assuming the preordain didn't result in anything that changes the analysis.


I agree that you should consider their mana development but most importantly IMHO you should consider also your own mana development and balance it all.

  • If they play ancient tomb and pass, i would seriously consider wasting the tomb as it is clear hint that their opening hand contains high casting cost cards. In that scenario, wasting put them behind farther than me (even more if i have a mox too).
  • If they play ancient tomb + a cc2 card (whatever), wasting the tomb would be making a bet you are most probably going to loose. I agree that hitting a critical land with the good timing could be a winning play but i think the timing is not good here. If you are against MUD, the most probable is that they have 2-3 mana cards in their opening hand. They would never have kept a hand with only an ancient tomb and since MUD are playing nowadays with quite a low curve, it is most probable that wasting the tomb won't prevent them to play their threat next turn. More over, what is your position after you waste them : exactly the same as before the turn 1 with one less land in hand (and them too) but they have something on the field (you lost tempo). As you are playing against a mana denial deck, you might really need that land later and your mentor will hit the field one turn later than it may have (if it ever). Basically, you slow them down a little but you slow yourself much more.

To make it short, i think that on the draw you should first build your mana base before trying to hit his own. When you waste his tomb, you may expect that you got yourself one more draw before the heavy threats are coming down. But what are the probability that you draw what you need (even with brainstorm, ponder, ...) ? I am not sure it is worth the cost (i.e the loss in tempo).

last edited by albarkhane

@vaughnbros said in To Wasteland, or not to Wasteland...:

Some of this sounds like deck construction. Why are you playing all these cards you need to play turn 1 along with Wasteland?

I agree with most which has been said in this thread, but I think this quote is particularly important. You've got to ask yourself why you're playing Wastelands in your deck. Is it to play a mana denial strategy? In some cases (combined with Stony Silence) it can be, but against Shops it's almost never correct to do so. And usually when playing a build like this it's not to deploy a mana denial strategy. It's often not even to make a tempo play but to hit critical lands; I usually see Wastelands as additional Strip Mines which many decks play as a one-of to hit an important land like Bazaar of Baghdad, Karakas, Tolarian Academy, Library of Alexandria or Cavern of Souls.

For what's it's worth, I wouldn't have Wasted in either scenario (and I 100% agree with BrassMan to let Thorn resolve in scenario 1).

last edited by Griselbrother
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