Innistrad Midnight Hunt Free Preview

Innistrad: Midnight Hunt previews are in full swing, and we were fortunate enough to be given a free preview card of our very own by Wizards of the Coast to share with you all.

Today's preview is a reprint of a card that is currently Standard-legal. However, it is about to rotate, and its absence has already been critically noted in the MTGArena Standard 2022 format, resulting in a card needing to be temporarily banned. Figure it out yet?

Field of Ruin

That's right, Field of Ruin! Field of Ruin is an important safety outlet, providing a flexible answer for problematic lands that might otherwise threaten the stability of the format. In this case, the problem card in question is Faceless Haven, specifically in combination with The Book of Exalted Deeds. Because Faceless Haven gains all creature types, that includes Angel, making it an eligible target for the Book's activated ability. Once the land has the ability preventing you from losing the game, it maintains that ability even when it ceases being an Angel creature. As there are few answers to lands in Standard, and even fewer when Throne of Eldraine, Theros: Beyond Death, Ikoria, Lair of Behemoths, and Core Set 2021 are removed from the mix, this combination can make it impossible for a player to lose, which can result in a stalemate on Arena if both players can set up this combination or if the Exalted Haven player cannot close the game out themselves. Without round time limits or personal timers like in paper tournaments and MTG Online, nor the ability to draw a game intentionally, the Arena software does not have a graceful way to resolve this stalemate.

Enter Field of Ruin. It's a card that's easy to main-deck and provides an eventual out to an Exalted Haven, and as it requires only colorless mana to use, any deck can make use of this. With a reprint in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, the upcoming Standard will still have this safety valve after Theros: Beyond Death rotates out the previous printing of the card.

History

Field of Ruin comes from a long pedigree of land destruction on lands. The earliest iteration was Strip Mine, appearing in Magic's second ever expansion. Magic's initial set, Alpha/Beta/Unlimited had only basic lands and the original Dual Lands, but by Arabian Nights, non-basic lands with powerful abilities like Library of Alexandria and Bazaar of Baghdad were introduced. Antiquities took this even further, with cards like Mishra's Workshop. Mishra's Factory, and the UrzaTron lands, as well as Strip Mine as a handy, universal answer to all these powerful lands popping up. Of course, Strip Mine itself ended up being a large problem itself, and ended up being restricted and then banned in Standard, banned in Legacy from its inception, banned in Extended at its creation, and restricted in Vintage.

A few years later, Magic took another crack at this with Wasteland. Restricting Wasteland to hitting non-basic lands made it harder to completely land-lock the opponent. Wasteland still ended up being incredibly powerful, and to this day is a defining feature in Legacy. The next attempt, Dust Bowl, threaded the needle a bit more closely. Adding a significant mana cost to the activation prevented it from being used too early to lock players down, and the repeatability meant it could be used in the mid to late game to answer multiple problematic lands, making it a mainstay in midrange and control decks of the era, though largely too slow for current Legacy play.

There have been other attempts at these types of lands over the years. Ghost Quarter lets the targeted land's controller find another land to replace it, mitigating the land-lock component while still allowing it to be used early enough to stop significant problems. This makes it one of the few cards that's fast enough to hamstring Tron in Modern, as it can destroy one of their Urza pieces in the first two turns before they get to produce 7 mana. The basic they replace it with is nowhere near as threatening. Ghost Quarter also occasionally shows up in Legacy, especially in the Lands deck, where Exploration and effects like Crucible of Worlds or Life from the Loam allow it to be played repeatedly, depleting the enemy library of basic lands and grinding them out completely. This is especially powerful in matchups where the opponent doesn't run any basic lands, like most three-color Delver lists. However, it was never as great in Standard, where lands weren't quite as impactful as Modern Tron, nor as easy to run your opponent out of basics as in Legacy.

Tectonic Edge is another attempt that ended up being well-balanced. As it can't be used until the opponent has four lands, it is very hard to land-lock people with it, while still being an effective and efficient mid to late game answer to problematic lands. Encroaching Wastes, by contrast, was definitely tuned too far in the weak direction, and never made much of an impact.

Which brings us to Field of Ruin. First printed in Ixalan, it was clearly intended as a possible answer to powerful transforming lands like Search for Azcanta // Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin and Thaumatic Compass // Spires of Orazca. It costs a little mana to utilize, meaning it can't be deployed super early, and it replaces the land for your opponent, providing Ghost Quarter's mitigation. However, it also finds a land for the person using it, making it less of a tempo sacrifice than Ghost Quarter. It effectively combines Ghost Quarter with Terramorphic Expanse, and the combined utility makes it useful enough to be widely played across formats.

In Standard, Historic, and Pioneer, Field of Ruin frequently shows up in control decks, where it answers problematic lands.




In Modern, it's played in control decks in the same kind of way, but that's not the only place it shows up. U/B Mill makes particularly good use of it, as it forces a search to make Archive Trap free, and the additional land entering the battlefield triggers Hedron Crab and Ruin Crab for extra mill, in addition to the answer it provides.


Field of Ruin even shows up occasionally in Legacy, especially in Yorion, Sky Nomad builds of Death & Taxes, where it provides additional Wasteland type effects that are needed at 80 cards while still keeping your own land count high enough to cast Yorion. It's especially effective against greedy Delver decks that can't replace their land.


There's one more format where Field of Ruins shows up: everyone's favorite multiplayer-casual format, Commander! Field of Ruin actually specifies that each player goes to find a land, not just the controller and the victim. While overall this can be problematic, as it puts the uninvolved players up a land, there are certainly decks that want to do that. Group Hug type decks frequently enjoy ramping the opponents, out of generosity, political manipulation, or to have them play stronger cards to steal and take advantage of. The most fitting place for Field though is Ob Nixilis, Unshackled, who triggers for each opponent, making them each lose 10 life and sacrifice a creature. It can also be utilized with cards like Stranglehold, Aven Mindcensor, or Opposition Agent, which can each block your opponent's from taking advantage of the effect, or cards like Psychic Surgery, Psychogenic Probe, and Cosi's Trickster that penalize the opponent for shuffling.

There you have it: a brief history of land destruction lands and how they have culminated in Field of Ruin, a flexible multi-format answer. It's not every day that you see an uncommon preview card that you know will see play across almost every format.

Comments
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This new art is beautiful!
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The art is very evocative. Also, heck yeah to Nexus getting a preview!
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