How Do I Explain to a New Player that Strip Mine and Wasteland are Not Remotely Balanced?

General forum

Posted on July 6, 2024, 12:45 a.m. by DemonDragonJ

At a game store where I play, a player who is new to the game believes that cards such as Strip Mine or Wasteland are balanced, since their controller sacrifices those lands to destroy another land, a perfect one-for-one exchange, in that player's mind, but I am seeking to explain to that player that those lands are not at all balanced, since every land that can destroy other lands that has followed has required mana to use its ability and often provides the controller of the destroyed land with a compensation for losing the land, so what words of wisdom can anyone here offer to me, so that I can explain to the new player that Strip Mine and Wasteland are not balanced?

wallisface says... #2

The word "balanced" is quite subjective here, because at face-value these cards are doing fair 1-for-1 interactions. However, these cards are obviously absurdly powerful, and there's a reason Wasteland is in 60% of legacy decks (and would never ever be printed into Modern, Pioneer, Standard etc).

The big reason why these effects are very powerful is because the owning player has agency over abusing them:

  • The Wasteland player has no inherent reason to trigger the ability if they themselves require mana. However, if they are fine with their own mana-resources, they can cripple the opponents if they have limited options. Because lands are almost always required to play the game, these effects can quickly lock the opponent out of being able to play the game at all.

  • You could compare the effect to something like Blood Moon or Back to Basics, where at face-value the card appears to hit all players equally. But realistically if someone is running one of these cards, they're intending to be entirely unaffected by these effects while preventing their opponent being able to play the game. Wasteland similarly might read like a 1-for-1 at face value, but realistically people play this card with the intention of preventing their opponents from being able to play the game.

  • Wasteland is very quickly abusable with recursion effects like Wrenn and Six's +1.

I think overall though, the cards are technically "balanced" - they are doing clean 1-for-1 trades with on-board resources. However, practically speaking, they are played only with the intention create a locked boardstate - one where the opponent doesn't have the resources to cast the cards in their hand.

There is a big reason Wasteland is the most-played land in Legacy, and why it will never be printed into any newer format - but this is more to it being very, very powerful, as opposed to it being "unbalanced". I would say that in multiplayer formats like Commander, Wasteland is entirely fair in insolation, as the player is losing one of their resources to 1-for-1 trade with only one of their three opponents.

July 6, 2024 1:16 a.m.

legendofa says... #3

You're giving up a land that only provides --basically the equivalent of a Wastes--to destroy a land that can provide multiple colors, or lots of mana, or some unique near-uncounterable utility effect.

Instant-speed free land destruction provides a lot of versatility and value. There's almost never a wrong time or bad target. Think about it in terms of creatures. If you could sacrifice a Goblin token or whatever to destroy your opponent's biggest, scariest creature for free, no questions asked, that's the same level of power Strip Mine and Wasteland provide.

Are they balanced? Yes, no, maybe, wallisface covered that well. Are they powerful? Absolutely.

July 6, 2024 3:49 a.m.

DemonDragonJ says... #4

wallisface, legendofa, thank you, for those responses, and I shall remember them, if I ever need to explain why those lands are so powerful.

July 6, 2024 9:09 a.m.

Caerwyn says... #5

Building on what legendofa wrote, Wizards considers to be half as valuable as a colored mana symbol - this is regularly seen in how Wizards costs cards and explicitly seen in the hybrid mana symbols.

I would also build on wallisface’s comment on crippling folks who have few options. This does not only mean crippling folks who have a small number of lands - it can also mean crippling folks who have a decent number of lands but of the wrong lands. If an opponent only has one source of, say, Black mana, blowing up that land could render a large chunk of their cards unplayable until they draw into a new source of Black mana. Particularly in Commander, where casting your general usually requires all your colors and can often put you ahead on the game, a well timed Wasteland on a solitary source of a color might delay casting one’s commander by a turn or more - and that alone can be fatal to someone’s strategy.

July 6, 2024 9:59 a.m.

I think a big part of it, as people have said before, is emergent game design. Wasteland and Strip Mine will only get more and more powerful the more land recursion is built into the game, and related is that it benefits greatly from the graveyard unbalance in the game, in a way that other lands don't.

It's somewhat comparable to the idea that the ABUR lands became much more powerful with the printing of fetches.

Not seeing these interactions with other cards is understandable for new players who haven't had as much time to absorb that knowledge.

July 6, 2024 4:13 p.m.

sylvannos says... #7

Just proxy up the following and play it against the person in question:

Lands by Dominic Harvey

...and swap out 1x Boseiju, Who Endures, 1x Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth, 1x Dark Depths, one copy of something that doesn't do anything against the person (i.e. cut Bojuka Bog if they don't have graveyard strategies), and put in 4x Strip Mine.

They'll understand why Strip Mine is broken once you lock them out under Sphere of Resistance and Life from the Loam.

July 8, 2024 3:32 p.m.


July 8, 2024 4:19 p.m.

Just to stand up for the new player, who (probably) isn’t here: I can see how it would be confusing to a new player how someone would get upset over strip mine when there is a seemingly unending parade of lands that do all sorts of wild things (which that player likely doesn’t own yet). It’s easy to lose track of how CRAZY useful some of these new lands are. When you compare them, and strip mine, to a regular basic... none of them might look balanced.

July 8, 2024 8:40 p.m.

wallisface says... #10

Also to back up FormOverFunction, the cards are perfectly reasonable and mostly-fair in every format they’re legal - particularly anything multiplayer. They only really feel oppressive in casual 1-v-1 kitchen-table magic (and, admittedly, they are very powerful in those formats like Legacy where they are legal).

Nobody should have any issue with these being run in Commander, for example.

July 8, 2024 8:53 p.m.

plakjekaas says... #11

There is an issue with running these in commander; it's an excellent way of making someone feel targeted. If your Selesnya Sanctuary gets blown up by Wasteland while the third player's Thespian's Stage is left alone, prepare for some conflict.

If someone gives up one of their lands to eliminate one of yours in a multiplayer setting, that's very balanced, but also easily interpreted as spiteful vs. proper threat assessment.

Even though Strip Mine is probably very good in any commander deck with 3 or less colors, I'm not running it in any because of those feelbads, because of Commander being a social format instead of a competitive one.

I prefer Ghost Quarter, replacing the land you blow up with a basic, without the mana investment a Demolition Field needs. When that happens to be a Strip Mine, you can blame the target for building their deck with too few basics :P

July 9, 2024 5:54 a.m.

wallisface says... #12

plakjekaas I get what you’re saying, but a lot of that reads as more an issue of player-maturity over the card interaction.

In multiplayer formats like commander it’s almost always disadvantageous to be doing any kind of 1-for-1 interaction with an opponent, as it puts you and that player behind while your other 2 opponents get further ahead. So i wouldn’t really expect anyone to be bothering to do any such interaction unless they’re forced into doing so to avoid losing the game.

I get in practicality people can make dumb plays, perform petty actions, or just generally be douches - and the reality is that some people will use those lands to create feel-bad moments for no warranted reason. I’d argue those people would find a way to do this regardless of whether they had Strip Mine in their deck or not.

July 9, 2024 7:25 a.m.

plakjekaas says... #13

That is true, just like a gun makes a better tool for murder than a knife, Strip Mine is a better tool for salt than Murder, but neither will stop someone with bad intentions.

However, touching the lands in casual formats does come across as a bigger a*hole move than removing a creature or an artifact, or even counterspells. Armageddon is generally more hated than Farewell in that context.

Lands make you play the game, you're not removing my permanent with Strip Mine, you're hampering the ability for me to cast my spells and play the game. Most casuals will get more mad for being prohibited to play than to have your plays answered. Mana screw is a feel bad, but external intentional mana screw is rage-inducing.

July 9, 2024 9:23 a.m.

wallisface says... #14

Agree 100%

July 9, 2024 4:14 p.m.

Please login to comment