June 19, 2017

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Back to Basic Lands – Re-evaluating Mana Bases

How many basic lands do you run?

It’s certainly very tempting to pack your deck with as many dual/tri/any colour land for maximum reliability, but as someone who brews at least one deck per week for our podcast (check it out if you haven’t!) I don’t have the time or money to track them all down. Here’s how I handle my manabases.

I love basic lands. Love ’em. I love that they stick around when an opponent resolves a Ruination. I love that I always get to search up as many as anyone else if someone decides to go on a Collective Voyage. And in the event someone decides to make things a lot simpler with a Wave of Vitriol, I don’t want it to affect my mana base very much, and for the nonbasics it does make me sacrifice, I want to guarantee I get to replace them! That vitriolic wave sends us “back to basics” after all. I never want to be the player that doesn’t have the basics to go back to!

Let’s pause for a quick joke:

Patient: Doctor, it hurts when I do this.

Doctor: Don’t do that.

It’s a classic, but it feels a lot like this common brewing conversation:

Someone brewing up their first Commander deck: How many of this deck’s lands should be basic?

Me: All the ones that are nonbasic.

I could never resist the simplicity of that 100-year-old joke, but there is a grain of truth to it. If you run too many nonbasics, you’ll simply have no room left for basics, and you’ll end up failing to find anything when those spells I mentioned earlier get cast. Not moving a strained shoulder is good advice, and so is running some basics!

I always start with an Evolving Wilds, a Terramorphic Expanse, a Command Tower and three dual nonbasics for each colour pair. Throw in one or two cycling lands and you’re all set for lands. Here’s a sample of a typical three-colour land base I’d use. This one’s Jeskai.

Jeskai Simple Land Base

Lands (40)
Island
Mountain
Plains
Azorius Chancery
Azorius Guildgate
Boros Garrison
Boros Guildgate
Command Tower
Evolving Wilds
Forgotten Cave
Izzet Boilerworks
Izzet Guildgate
Lonely Sandbar
Mystic Monastery
Secluded Steppe
Swiftwater Cliffs
Terramorphic Expanse
Tranquil Cove
Wind-Scarred Crag

 

That’s 24 basic lands. Plenty of room for a few specialty lands if your deck’s main strategy wants them. Even more if you’re only in two colours! If you’re running a Voltron strategy, I like to throw in a Rogue’s Passage to make sure I can close games. If you’re going wide with lots of tokens, and you’re running black, a Westvale Abbey can become a threat that’s very tough to deal with. I also like to include a Throne of the High City to get the Monarchy up and running.

If you’re about to put together a new brew, I’d suggest something like this. It’s what I do, and it’s very reliable. I honestly think that pushing too hard towards nonbasics does improve your deck’s consistency, but with diminishing returns, and there’s a real disadvantage to having too few basic lands.

But that’s not the only way we generate mana. I want to highlight a few mana rocks that have come out in recent sets (and one older one) that I think deserve a spot in your default set. Cultivator’s Caravan on the surface is another three-mana rock that produces any colour. But the fact that it’s a vehicle means it’s much more interactive with your opponents than most. The same can be said for Spectral Searchlight.

This is the older one. The key difference is that you can give that mana to any player, making it much more interactive. Sure, an indestructible Darksteel Ingot is fine, but I’d rather be playing politics! And Amonkhet has given us Pyramid of the Pantheon, which admittedly takes a bit of work to get going, but comes down way earlier than a Gilded Lotus.

After taking a closer look at my mana bases, I’ve settled on this sort of plan. It’s easy, cheap and just about as reliable as something bloated with many more nonbasics. I encourage you to give it a try on your next brew and see how you feel about it! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!