Good morning. I hope you had a great weekend, but it’s time to get back to work. I’ve finally had time to get through the first homework assignment, which I’ll pass out at the end. It’s clear that you all put at least a little effort into it, but some of you need to slow down and think about your decks’ details a lot more. I recognize some of you from last Extended season, and most of those people did well. However, if you’re new to this format your instincts may need a little work.
The most egregious offenses were in your manabases. Extended offers us tons of choices, so I’m not surprised that some of you had things wrong. However, with a little thought about the major issues, most of the errors I saw can be avoided. Today we’ll learn how to build fetchland-based manabases that allow us to play all of our spells without being “too good” and hurting us more than they need to. I’ll also touch on the other kinds of mana that the format can support.
There will be a quiz at the end. It will not cover all of the material, and I will tell you when the material that is fair game had ended. I can’t force you to take the quiz since this class is graded Invite or No Invite by the world, but I think it is instructive and valuable if you haven’t thought about Extended mana on your own before.
Onslaught’s fetchlands define Extended. Almost every deck uses them, and they let us build wild manabases using tons of colors that actually work. Most of the time, you want every fetchland in your deck to be able to get every color you play. You also usually want at least one copy of each basic land that your fetchlands can find, with a few exceptions. You need to make sure you play enough things to fetch; running out of findable lands is somewhat embarrassing, so don’t let that happen to you in public. It’s also embarrassing if you run out of basics and have to take pay two life for your mana the turn you fetch.
If your deck plays two allied colors, start with the four appropriate fetchlands and decide later if you want more. If you play three colors or more, you’re probably going to need more fetchlands than that, and the mix is going to be something you need to put some thought into. I don’t want to give you any hard and fast rules because there aren’t any, but always make sure you know why you’re playing the lands you’re playing.
Ravnica’s dual lands are awesome. In combination with fetchlands, they give you the ability to build as crazy a manabase as you want and have it still work. The things you can do with manabases in this format are utterly staggering; for example, Richard Feldman posted a four-color deck that had only twenty land and sideboarded a card that cost two mana of the fifth color. That manabase worked. That’s something. If you can dream up a reason to play an extra color in your deck, you can probably support it with only two land slots, or maybe even one.
They also suck in a lot of significant ways. They can hurt and playing them in quantity means you will actually draw them as opposed to just searching them out. You do not want this to happen, because it will cost you two life for your mana or they come into play tapped. This is not desirable and will be really bad for you if you have to make that tradeoff more than a few times in one game. Fetchlands are much better when you draw them because you can choose to just get a basic land if you need to.
Because your fetchlands will find duals for you, you should be playing the absolute minimum possible of each dual land. The first dual land of a particular combination that you play gives you the option of searching for it. The second one gives you the chance of drawing a redundant copy of it that forces you to take two when you need a mana that turn. Whenever possible, you should play exactly one of any given dual land you want. If you play two, you had better be able to justify exactly why you need them both. Playing more dual lands than you absolutely need will mean that you can almost always cast your spells, but that you could also cast your spells consistently while taking less damage from your lands.
Some decks will not have fetchlands at all. This probably means you are two colors, or you have a crazy manabase that I’ll cover later. If you’re two colors without a ton of fetchlands, playing four appropriate dual lands is close to costless so go ahead and do that.
Basics are awesome. They don’t hurt at all, unlike the other staple lands. Playing a basic land feels to me almost as good as cheating sometimes in a format that is this defined by painful lands. You need enough basics that your fetchlands can get them when you don’t want to take three for an immediate mana, and enough that your basic land-searching effects don’t run out of things to fetch if you have such things.
However, basics are only awesome in extremely large quantities if you have a good reason for them. Good reasons include Destructive Flow, Vedalken Shackles, and Early Harvest. If you aren’t playing one of those cards yourself, you might do well to think about how Destructive Flow and Magus of the Moon affect you. If you can protect yourself from it by playing enough basics to function under one, then think about doing that. Otherwise, playing more basics than you absolutely have to with a fetchland manabase is silly; you can’t function under mass nonbasic hosers anyway, so the extra basic lands you play are a missed opportunity.
In that case, you should figure out how many basics is the maximum amount you will ever want to draw and/or search up in a normal game, and then play that many. Having too many basic lands in your deck for no reason is another form of having “too good” mana. Fill up the rest of your monocolor land slots with cards that do interesting things and otherwise imitate basics, like the ones in the next section.
Ghost Quarter exists, so it’s not a bad idea to play a random basic land even if you otherwise have no use for it. Enduring Ideal players did that in Valencia, Blue/Green Tron players have random Islands with no reasonable way to find it, and so on.
Goofy Non-Basic Lands
This category includes Academy Ruins, Okina, Shizo, Pendelhaven, Urborg, and their ilk. They all do interesting things for very little deckbuilding cost. If you have room after your fetchlands, duals, and basics, then play appropriate ones. Urborg is basically a good idea in any Black deck that has room; the others are deck-dependant, but are awesome when they are relevant. There are also other lands out there that I didn’t mention, like Oboro or Mikokoro. I’m sure someone will surprise me with something I forgot existed before the season is over. All of these cards are great ways to get free value out of a land slot that would otherwise go to a basic land.
Here we have Treetop Village, Ravnica’s bouncelands, the Onslaught cycle lands, and other similar things. These lands will hurt you indirectly if you are playing a fetchland-dual manabase. Every hard comes-into-play-tapped land you play will increase the likelihood that you have to put a dual land into play tapped and take two. Keep this in mind and do not go overboard with them. The only land that I think is worth this drawback in massive quantities is Treetop Village, but it’s so good that I think it’s the best land in the format. Any normal Green deck should be trying to fit as many of these in as possible if it doesn’t have a good reason not to.
The quiz material ends here.
One Turn Big Mana
This is basically Invasion’s sacrifice lands and Lotus Bloom. For those who intend on having one big turn that costs mana and then going home, these are great. Enduring Ideal, TEPS, and I guess Balancing Tings if you are feeling frisky are the important existing players who want this. You could also do something wacky like Tooth and Nail. Unless you’re doing one of these things, stay away.
Building a manabase with Invasion sacrifice lands is somewhat tricky. You have to think about how well each available land supports what you do in the turns before you go off, as well as how they support what you do when you go off. Hopefully you can balance these two desires. The situation is made worse by the fact that you only get four of each of these, so you will probably need a little help to get the right colors even if you do your job perfectly. Balancing Tings plays Vesuvas and Terrarions, TEPS plays lots of Chromatic Stars and Chromatic Spheres, and Enduring Ideal has other real lands playing backup roles. You’ll have to do something similar to make a manabase work with mainly these lands.
Long Game Big Mana
The most important thing in this category is the Urzatron, with a supporting role played by Cabal Coffers/Urborg. Decks that rely on this should be interested in doing things that cost a lot of mana and happen over many turns. Cabal Coffers/Urborg can fit into a “normal” manabase, so that’s not such a big deal. The Urzatron, however, demands a lot of space. Trying to play more than two colors in a Tron deck is asking for trouble. Also, avoid playing heavily colored cards in a Tron deck. Getting two mana of your main color consistently can even be an issue. Either way, you need to support these manabases with land search cards like Tolaria West, Gifts Ungiven, Sylvan Scrying, or Living Wish. Also, make sure that you are doing something impressive enough with the rest of your deck to justify all that work.
Two kinds of people will play these. The first is the kind of person who plays 44 artifacts in one deck. The second is the kind of person who is playing marginal effects that interact with artifacts, like Thirst for Knowledge, Trinket Mage, and Shrapnel Blast. These lands are vulnerable to randomly getting killed when you don’t expect it, so try to play the very minimum that you can get away with. For example, Remi Fortier played exactly one artifact land at the Pro Tour to go with his Trinket Mages. On the other hand, if you’re playing Affinity, then there’s no saving you from that weakness so don’t worry too much about it.
Five Color Lands
These are for when you absolutely must have all five colors. They start with City of Brass and Gemstone Mine, and move into Tarnished Citadel and Forsaken City if you are desperate. All of these lands hurt a lot and only make sense if you are planning on playing very few turns of Magic. This means you are flipping your deck over with dredge, Cephalid Illusionist, or Mind’s Desire, or perhaps playing Enduring Ideal without Sensei’s Divining Top. If you want to play Magic for a more than a few turns every game, this job is better served by fetchland-based mana.
Chrome Mox is nice, but it costs a card. You will love it on early turns, but it will mock you if you draw it later in the game. Most people who play Chrome Mox correctly are interested in ending the game quickly or have profitable things to do with it if they draw it after the speed boost is irrelevant. If you want a speed boost sometimes and don’t have a good way to deal with drawing one late, then you can do something like play exactly one of them instead of a land. It may look ugly, but it’ll work just fine and you won’t ever draw more than one and be sad, because you’re only playing the one.
There are tons of Green cards that can help you with your mana. Search for Tomorrow, Birds of Paradise, and Sakura-Tribe Elder are all cards that have been accepted by the world at large as good enough, but you can branch out into other things if you want. These cards let Green decks get away with fewer fetchlands and dual lands, but may require them to play more basics. They also tend to function more as acceleration than fixing, so don’t rely on them too much.
Okay, we’re almost done with the period, so it’s quiz time. I am going to give you a deck without a manabase, and you will propose a land base and justify all the choices you made. I encourage you to actually do this in a word processor before looking at the answers. In all cases, assume that a correct manabase for the maindeck as given can support all sideboard cards you would play, so it doesn’t matter that you don’t know what they are. My own answers follow the quiz, which may or may not be correct (I think they are!) but will demonstrate the kind of thought you should put into your manabases.
Please do not interpret my choice of decks in the questions as my stamp of approval that they are good; I chose them all because of how instructive their manabases are and for no other reason. I also do not stand behind the correctness of the details of the nonland cards in these lists, because I haven’t had time to test much lately due to a family vacation over summer break. The important lesson here is the process of building mana, not the decks themselves.
Fill in the lands. Justify your proposed manabase.
Question 1: Aggro Loam
Question 2: Gifts Rock
Question 3: Doran
You have fifteen lines of white space before my answers start. Good luck!
My Answer to Question 1
This is a deck built to abuse Life From the Loam, so we are going to build our lands around that card. We are heavily Red and Green, and we splash Black. We almost certainly want all of the fetchlands of our appropriate colors, so we start there. We are also going to want cycle lands in quantity so that we can use Life from the Loam to go through as many cards as possible. We won’t have spare Black mana, so we will play all of the Red and Green ones. This gives us:
Now we have nine slots left to support the fetchlands with basics and dual lands. We have eight fetchlands and four Birds, so we can play the minimum of our Black sources- one each of Swamp, Blood Crypt, and Overgrown Tomb. We have double Green and triple Red casting cost cards, so it’s reasonable to think that we will want access to two Stomping Grounds. Life from the Loam means that we will be sacrificing fetchlands multiple times in a game, and we are going to want to use that mana immediately a lot of the time, so we finish with two each of Mountain and Forest. Our completed mana:
This deck and manabase is essentially what Kenji played at Grand Prix: Dallas. It’s a simple manabase, but it’s definitely fine. You get full credit if you have Ghost Quarter instead of a few of these lands. That season, some people played two Ghost Quarters in this deck instead of the second Forest and the fourth Bloodstained Mire; they are very synergistic with Life From the Loam, and help against combination decks that use Invasion sacrifice lands for mana. I personally think it is wrong because from experience I think this manabase only barely gives the colors the deck needs and shaving colored sources from it is very greedy- there are currently only twelve lands that let you play a first turn Birds, and Seismic Assault costs a lot of Red mana- but I’m not going to fight it that hard because I know how powerful it is.
My Answer to Question 2
This deck is a solid four colors. Note that this deck will need two Green mana, two Black mana, a Blue mana, and a White mana to function well. We have Sakura-Tribe Elder, so we need to be conscious of having enough basic lands. We want at least one dual land of each of the six two-color combinations we care about. We also want some fetchlands; we aren’t Red, and Green is our main color, so I’ll start with 4 Windswept Heath and two Polluted Delta. This leaves us with a total of 17 lands:
We need two Black mana a decent amount of the time and Sakura-Tribe Elder is going to be competing with the fetchlands to find basics. If we play only one Swamp, we might draw it and still want to Elder or Delta for one, so I think we should play a second. The same goes for Forest– we might draw one, search up another one, and still want to be able to find a third, so we’ll add another one.
We have three spots left. I’m okay with doing a number of different things in those slots. The only thing I’m not okay with, however, is more basic lands other than a fourth Forest. My own choice would be two Treetop Villages and a second Overgrown Tomb. The Overgrown Tomb may look like I’m going against my own advice, but in actual play I have often wanted access to a second one when I already had White and Blue mana and was sacrificing a Heath or Delta, so I know that it’s useful. I’m also slightly concerned about the quantity of Black mana sources in my deck if my Birds are dying that often. The second Tomb will give me twelve, which makes me feel marginally better. Treetop Village is simply awesome, and I’m a little disappointed I only have room for two, but life goes on. I would also give full credit for up to two Golgari Rot Farms, which are good if you decide that Treetop is not for you. I don’t like the third Overgrown Tomb even though I respect various people who I have seen playing it; I think the mana works without it, and an eighth Ravnica dual land without a real need is just asking to take lots of unnecessary damage from lands. Treetop causes similar problems, but it’s such a strong card that I think it’s worth it.
My final manabase is:
My Answer to Question 3
Okay, this is the hard one. You have only three colors, so it’s extremely likely that whatever you came up with will allow you to cast your spells consistently. It’s also possible that you made your manabase “too good” and you are taking more pain than you absolutely have to.
Casting all of our spells requires two Green sources, two Black sources, and one White source. We clearly want fetchlands. We’ll start with six, and we’ll figure out how we feel about that number once we get close to finishing. Green and White are allied colors while Black does not have a friend in this deck, so we will use four Windswept Heath and two of whatever Black fetchlands you want. We’ll want at least one of each of the three appropriate dual lands. We also want a Swamp, a Plains, and at least two Forests. Our colors will clearly not be much of an issue if we do this right, so let’s get the four Treetop Villages in right now. Let’s look at where we are:
This is only seventeen lands. We need five more. Let’s first go into legendary lands, since we could clearly play a lot of basics but we want to avoid it if we can help it. Shizo and Okina help support Doran, and Urborg will give us all the Black mana we ever want, so those are in. Now is the interesting part. This manabase is awesome-looking because of how little pain it will cause us, but let’s look at colors. As of now with those three additions, we have only nine lands that can make White, eleven lands that make Green on the first turn, and eleven lands that make Black. Chrome Mox helps, but we have only one and it doesn’t give us any one color consistently so I am ignoring it. That is simply not going to be enough White and Black if anyone is killing our Birds of Paradise, and it’s barely even enough Green to support those Birds. We are going to need more multilands. I’m going with one more Temple Garden and Overgrown Tomb. These are not ideal, but it’s still only five total Ravnica lands and we actually need every last one of them to cast our spells. Also, Ravnica lands are better than any of the other multicolor land options, so that’s what we play. It’s worth noting that you will probably never want to fetchland up a second Temple Garden, so you might consider a seventh fetchland in that spot instead, but I don’t mind drawing Temple Garden. The second Overgrown Tomb is something that you’ll want often enough that I like it. My final manabase is:
4 Windswept Heath
2 Polluted Delta
2 Overgrown Tomb
2 Godless Shrine
1 Temple Garden
1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
1 Shizo, Death’s Storehouse
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Treetop Village
If Destructive Flow and its ilk become more popular, you could cut the legendary lands for basics and it’s possible that that would be enough basic lands that you could operate under such a card. I tend to believe that you don’t draw enough land with only twenty two total to consistently get more than two or three basics in a game, which is not going to let us cast our spells under a Flow so I decided just to ignore that. You get full credit for having no legendary lands only if you have thirteen or more total basic lands and fetchlands and you did it because you were thinking about Flow. Otherwise, shame on you for not trying to get more out of your basic lands. You also lose points if you had more than five Ravnica dual lands.
Fetchland manabases are complex, and building one without thinking much about it is a recipe for problems that will sabotage your tournament performance. Think carefully about the mana that you play and make sure it’s doing everything it can for you while hurting you as little as possible. I hope this was instructive.