In Magic, you may set 1 land every turn. You “may”. It is an option. Magic is not a game so simple, there are advantages to take when not setting a land and keeping it in your hand, especially in limited. I am going to explain why sometimes it’s good to keep a land in hand and sometimes not.
Purpose of Not Setting a Land
The main reason to no set a land is to bluff. Having unknown cards could makes your opponent play around it and don’t go with the optimal way.
Bluffing is a way to value your extra lands and converted it in life points.
Avoiding Discard Spells to Protect Your Other Cards
Keep lands in hand to discard it on a 《Caligo Skin-Witch》 to protect your important spells is a way to value your extra lands.
Use It as a Discard with Other Cards
If you are running this kind of card, it is important to keep an extra land to discard for it.
If you have cards which value your lands when it comes into play in your deck, it is a reason to keep it.
Make Your Opponent Play Discard Spell for Nothing
Let say you have 4 lands in play and 1 in hand that is the only card you have. If you set it, your opponent will not play his 《Divest》. If you keep it, he could use it to discard what he thinks could be a 6-mana creature you couldn’t cast. If you set the land then draw a 6-mana creature you couldn’t cast, he will discard it with 《Divest》.
Prepare an Upcoming 《Armageddon》
If you stop setting lands, it prepares the post 《Armageddon》 game.
Troubles You Can Have When Not Setting a Land
Let’s divide it in 2 kinds of situation, when you have multiple lands in hand and when you have only one.
Case 1: When You Have 2 or More Lands in Hand
Maximum Mana Cost in Your Deck
When you have 2 lands in hand, you have to think about what is the most expensive spell in your deck (counting Kicker or other kind of additional cost).
If you have 2 lands in hand, 8 lands in play and a 《Josu Vess, Lich Knight》 in your deck, not landing means that you will not be able to cast the Kicker cost if you draw it next turn.
Spell with X
Same as the previous point, but here the maximum mana cost is infinite and if you have a spell like this in your deck, it’s a reason to play a land every turn.
Mana Cost with Multiple Same Color Mana Symbols.
Activate Abilities Which Needs Mana
Not only Mana cost matter. Activate abilities which need mana also. A 《Slimefoot, the Stowaway》 is basically a 3 + 4 + 4 + 4 etc…. When you decide to play a land or not, you have to think about this too. If the land you put in play matters or not.
If You Have Card Which Animate All Your Lands
Not landing is basically missing damages with this kind of card.
Not Playing Around Some Counter Spells
Not playing a land could make a useless 《Syncopate》becoming relevant.
Case 2: When You Have 1 Land in Hand
If you have 1 land in hand, and no spell which needs 2 more lands in play, it could be a reason to not set this land.
If you draw another land, you put one in play and pass. If you draw a spell which need this extra land you can still play your land before.
OK but this is not all the time that easy.
Having Special Lands in the Deck
Next turn you draw a basic land, sacrifice 《Memorial》 and found a creature.
It would be bad if you can’t cast it because you didn’t set a land 2 turns before. It will be worst if your opponent cast a 《Divest》.
When a Spell Gives You an Extra Land
Let say you have 6 lands in play and a land in hand, and you are passing not setting it. Next turn, you got a 《Divination》 which gives you a land and a《The Eldest Reborn》. Since you didn’t set a land, you will not be able to cast it after your 《Divination》.
You decide to play the 《Snapper》.
As we said, you can protect your spells with your lands in hand. If you have only a land in hand, you are risking to discard. You have to determinate if this land matters more than a bluff.
When Your Opponent Is Playing an《Upheaval》 Effect
When your opponent is bouncing multiple permanents, to be able to recast a maximum you need to setup your lands.
Conclusion -Set or Not-
Setting a land or not is an art. For the same situation, you could have both, GOOD AND BAD, points of setting a land. At this moment, you will have to think about probabilities and consequences and it will become more difficult to make the right choice.
Imagine that you want to play around a discard two cards to protect your spell in hand, but also being able to play your 10-mana spell if you draw it. What will you do?
You have to think about the previous turns. To know if your opponent had opportunity to cast a discard two or not, if you take the risk only for a top deck, or if he could already have it in hand. You also have to think about cards in your deck which needs this land to be set. Calculate probabilities to draw one of these spells…
In a limited tournament, I highly recommend you to practice a maximum of games with your sealed deck during byes or between rounds to accumulate knowledge about what cards are in your deck. It is important to do it to be able to take the right decisions later, when you will have to think about your next draws.
Practicing before an event in limited is important to know what card you are bluffing.
Magic is an awesome game where the simplest thing like setting a land could become more complicated if you want to play perfectly.
Thank you for reading.