Magical Hack – Enter The Maelstrom

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Friday, January 30th – The Conflux prerelease is tomorrow, and with it comes our first taste of Shards-Conflux Limited. But before that first taste tomorrow, we can take advantage of the fact that this set has been quite effectively spoiled well ahead of the game, with the complete set known about a week or so before the pre-release and the names of all the cards “common knowledge” for practically months.

The Conflux prerelease is tomorrow, and with it comes our first taste of Shards-Conflux Limited. But before that first taste tomorrow, we can take advantage of the fact that this set has been quite effectively spoiled well ahead of the game, with the complete set known about a week or so before the pre-release and the names of all the cards “common knowledge” for practically months. To those who want to stay within the spirit of “fair play” or just savor the flavor of the set as it is revealed to them in little snippets tomorrow… this is not the article for you, and I imagine it’s been a rough week avoiding undue knowledge. The leftward-pointing arrow above is for you. To everyone else, well… if you’re familiar with the spoiler on MTG Salvation, this is a first pass at Conflux in sealed deck play, to figure out what’s going on and how it will interact with Shards of Alara in a sealed deck format.

Trying to figure out draft is somewhat too ambitious, because while I’ve figured out a good bit of what is going on, I’m hesitant to say I understand triple-small-set Limited with this set, and would prefer to actually play the cards before trying to figure out how Conflux works as the third booster after two packs of Shards of Alara. But looking at the set and sorting it by commonality can give some interesting information, by figuring out how bomby the Rares are and how important the commons are.

Where Shards of Alara focused on either two-color or three-color play in draft, depending on your opinion of how well the mana-fixing worked for you, in Sealed Deck it was basically a five-color format if you had the fixing to get there. Conflux throws the notion of the shards-based system out from the get-go; sure, there are Bant cards and Esper cards, but the shards focus is clearly overlaid by the number of effects that reward you for having Domain either as it modifies the size of their effect or is required to cast it. It is also enabled by a lot of fixing… there are plenty of ways to get whichever color of mana you desire, and to search out basic lands to your heart’s content.

It’s great that we have fixing… but what can you do with it all? How strong is the set? I remember grabbing my first Shards of Alara sealed deck and being embarrassed at the power level of some of the cards I had to consider as playables, because stuff like Shore Snapper doesn’t excite me but had to be listed as “man with power and toughness” and sorted in the “Playable” category. Looking at the commons can give us an idea of what each color will play like, and how enthusiastic we’re going to be about the bulk of the cards we’re asked to consider.


Asha’s Favor
Aven Squire
Aven Trailblazer
Court Homunculus
Gleam of Resistance
Lapse of Certainty
Rhox Meditant
Valiant Guard

White’s commons are downright weak, as a rule. I’d be content to play Darklit Gargoyle most of the time (… after all, having various colors of mana is likely to be a theme for the set…), be reasonably happy with Aven Trailblazer, and figure Aven Squire is playable pretty much all of the time. I’d figure Gleam of Resistance might be used for its basic landcycling ability rather than its spell ability, because it’s overcosted by a mile, but when you hit later in the game and can cast it, it’s a reasonable trick. And then you have some crappy one-drops, a 2/4 for 4, access to Memory Lapse and an Enchant Creature spell that plenty of people will play at the Prerelease and hopefully not after.


Brackwater Elemental
Constricting Tendrils
Faerie Mechanist
Frontline Sage
Grixis Illusionist
Parasitic Strix
Traumatic Visions
Worldly Counsel

Blue doesn’t impress much either. Unsummon is almost the most exciting card here, just from having played it in Tenth Edition limited, and other than that we have a 2/2 flier for 3 that might do a trick when it comes into play, and a 2/2 flier for 3 that might give us a card. We also get a land-cycling Counterspell as our overcosted spell of choice, and a cycling Dizzy Spell to probably hope we never actually want to cast. Grixis Illusionist is quietly going to be quite impressive, for altering your opponent’s Domain or enabling your own, one in a long line of small tricksy Blue creatures like Amoeboid Changeling and Tidal Visionary that muddles with the key theme of the set and is much better than originally recognized. And if you want to pay three mana for an 0/1 Merfolk Looter, well, our standards sure are dropping every day. Our only creature bigger than a 2/2 sacrifices itself whenever it attacks or blocks… but can do so twice, yay!

We are not amused.


Absorb Vis
Drag Down
Infectious Horror

Pestilent Kathari
Rotting Rats
Salvage Slasher
Sedraxis Alchemist
Wretched Banquet
Yoke of the Damned

Black gets between two and three removal spells at common, but none of them are great. Wretched Banquet is great for clearing the only creature in play, or killing a utility man, but is terrible at killing the most important creature in play, because that frequently is the creature with the most power. But there’s a Domain-based version of Pack’s Disdain, and an Enchant Creature-styled Dark Banishing-type effect, meaning that the next time anything dies, the enchanted creature bites it. At a cheap price it’s probably pretty reasonable. After that you get a Maybe-O’-War, and some teensy tiny creatures. Our landcycling spell is a seven-mana Soul Feast. Small creatures at common is not just Blue’s trick.


Canyon Minotaur
Dark Temper
Fiery Fall
Maniacal Rage
Molten Frame
Quenchable Fire
Toxic Iguanar
Wandering Goblins

Oh my god a Hill Giant. He is indeed a giant among men, and I can only begin to imagine how HUGE the Green creatures must seem in comparison to all of these 1/1’s. The peculiarly-named Kraniocerous is even a 5/2, and one that can grow his butt to considerable proportions if you spend some of that delicious Off-Colored Mana. And then the rest are 1/1’s, but two good creatures worth playing is a lot so far apparently. For spells you get a cycling Shatter for artifact creatures only, which is like playing Volcanic Submersion except this time it casts for two as an instant, instead of five as a sorcery. A Lava Axe that is half as effective against Blue in a world where everyone can generate Blue just as a matter of something they intend to do by deck design… and some more reasonable removal, with a Shock-Banishing and our landcycler of choice being about equal to Pull Under: overcosted and generally ridiculed, but still quite effective. At the worst it landcycles, which is a good thing in this format presumably. Our ‘crappy enchantment’ spell is actually a solid beatdown pump, and one that was played quite effectively to win a Pro Tour in Constructed while beating down, so laugh at your peril.


Beacon Behemoth
Ember Weaver
Matca Rioters
Might of Alara
Nacatl Savage
Scattershot Archer
Sylvan Bounty
Tukatongue Thallid
Wild Leotau

By comparison, these things are huge! Remember that the other colors are rumbling with 1/1’s and 2/2’s, while Green gets multiple 5-power creatures with reasonable butts, a nice-sized Spider in this land of midgets, and a Domain-sized creature that might reasonably turn into a 5/5. The landcycling spell is terrible as you’d sort of expect it to be… Green gets the overpriced lifegain spell, surprise surprise. Plenty of fodder for the bottom of your birdcage, but some big bodies too.

Now let’s hit the interesting commons, because things get more interesting when we hit the multicolored stuff. And, well, more interesting when we hit the Uncommons, but that’s life.

Azorius gets a 3/3 flier for 4 (Esper Cormorants), and a reprinted Galina’s Knight sans any useful creature types (Vedalken Outlander). That Phantom Monster is probably pretty awesome.

Dimir gets a somewhat more tricky Dreg Reavers (Vectis Agents), and a reprinted Vodalian Zombie (Zombie Outlander). Dreg Reavers is still pretty huge by this set’s standards at Common, so hey, no making fun of it.

Rakdos gets a reprinted Shivan Zombie except a Goblin, not a zombie (Goblin Outlander). It also gets a downright interesting “mass removal” spell (Suicidal Charge): for five mana you can give your opponent’s creatures -1/-1… and make them have to attack into your army. A lovely thought, but the application of the -1/-1 is much more important than forcing your opponent to attack, and thus it’s just sort of expensive for what it does: five mana is a fair chunk of change.

Gruul gets Yavimaya Barbarian back, only without any meaningful creature types (Nacatl Outlander), and the Domain-crunchy Exploding Borders. I like a Lava Axe or Scorching Missile to the face, and I think this is going to do some good work in the format. But hey, I also liked Frenzied Tilling, so I have a soft spot in my heart for stupidly-expensive mana-fixing.

Selesnya gets an overcosted attempt at a Staunch Defenders (Rhox Bodyguard), but hey, it has Exalted and does a pretty good imitation of Staunch Defenders, so we can forgive it for only being a 2/3 for 5, we play similar bodies just because they have Exalted for the same price nowadays. Oh, and of course, Llanowar Knight functionally returns (Valerion Outlander), again sans any useful creature types.

And then we have the colorless stuff:

Armillary Sphere — 2
Artifact (Common)
{2}, {T}, Sacrifice Armillary Sphere: Search your library for up to two basic land cards, reveal those cards, and put them into your hand. Then shuffle your library.

One of the two best commons in the set, if the set is as Domain-based as it looks. Pretty awesome.

Bone Saw
Mana Cylix

Two more mana-fixers, with Kaleidostone being a sort of twist on the Elsewhere Flask theme from Shadowmoor and Mana Cylix being a formerly-terrible card that may live a new life here in Reprints-land. Bone Saw is a weak equipment, but weak equipment still sees play.

Rupture Spire
Land (Common)
Rupture Spire comes into play tapped.
When Rupture Spire comes into play, sacrifice it unless you pay {1}.
{T}: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.

The other best common in the set, the land that you should be hoping for in great numbers in this world of five-color spells that break the world right open. Heck, it’s even amazing just for three-color decks, being a common version of the Shards tri-lands that is always the right one for your color combination. Having an effective casting cost of one makes it your turn-two play and can be harsh on the mulligans… these as your only lands is wrist-slitting-worthy… but like Ravnica’s Karoos, these are well worth any risks they ask you for, and the trivial price they place on your development while they’re at it. It may not count as each basic land type, but it acts like it, which is important for this gold set.

But overall the commons are weak, and you’ll find a lot of the cards you’re gaming with will not make you so very happy. Shards already had some pretty weak cards regularly making their way into sealed pools, and this just accentuates that even further. So many of your pool will be just crappy 1/1’s, it’s a shame. Some of them will even be Rare! Whee! Unfortunately, Conflux commons feel even weaker than Shards commons, with the saving grace being the common mana-fixers. This means that the higher commonalities are going to be what dictate the power of your card pool, since you can’t just open a pile of Branching Bolts and Oblivion Rings and expect things to go your way. I’m going to skip the Uncommons for a moment to look at the rares, to figure out how swingy the Rares are going to make the format. Shards feels pretty swingy because of Ultimatums and huge Dragons, and I’d heard a lot of grumbling during the Shards sealed PTQ season about how it was a Mythic-or-Bust format where you had to open a Planeswalker or two Dragons if you wanted a chance at the Top Eight.

Junky –Mark of Asylum, Sigil of the Empty Throne, Master Transmuter, Telemin Performance, Kederekt Parasite, Font of Mythos, Exotic Orchard
Solid – Scepter of Dominance, Wall of Reverence, Inkwell Leviathan, Scepter of Insight, Nyxathid, Scepter of Fugue, Bloodhall Ooze, Goblin Razerunners, Cliffrunner Behemoth, Cylian Sunsinger, Noble Hierarch, Soul’s Majesty, Charnelhoard Wurm, Giltspire Avenger, Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer, Knight of the Reliquary, Meglonoth, Sphinx Summoner
Bomby — Martial Coup, Extractor Demon, Banefire, Rakka Mar, Voracious Dragon, Worldheart Phoenix, Paleoloth, Blood Tyrant, Magister Sphinx, Obelisk of Alara

Some of the Rares stink, and even some of the “Solid” rares are not ones I’d want to write home about. Exotic Orchard I list as junky but the honest truth is it still is going to tap for useful mana, it’s just not as reliable as say Rupture Spire, which I’d rather have in its place. A good number of the rares are within the reasonable spectrum, good but not too good… and then we hit the Bomby rares, which are either Dragon-sized fliers or repetitive effects or just stupid bombs. Extractor Demon, Voracious Dragon, Worldheart Phoenix, Blood Tyrant and Magister Sphinx all earn the ‘Bomb’ label by being Dragon-sized fliers, while Obelisk of Alara earns it by dominating creature combat once it’s in play and Paleoloth earns it by being a Yawgmoth’s Will for your fatties that will domineer any mid- to late-game fight. Rakka Mar is the weakest bomb and it only churns out free 3/1’s every turn, with Haste on them and Haste on itself to get the work started right away, and then we have Martial Coup as the latest game-swinging Wrath variant and Banefire as the dumb Fireball that ends games. Ten out of thirty-five of these rares are somewhat bomby, so the chances are pretty good for each and every Prerelease pool to have some big dumb flier or other stupid card to have to beat, and good luck if yours doesn’t.

Mythic Rares:
Mirror-Sigil Sergeant, Ethersworn Adjudicator, Thornling, Apocalypse Hydra, Child of Alara, Conflux,
Maelstrom Archangel, Malfegor, Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, Progenitus

For the large part the Mythic Rares here are pretty awesome. While the high-cost ones like Progenitus and Conflux are pricier than we really think about up front, for that same mana you can get Nicol Bolas and utterly destroy an opponent by stealing their best creatures and blowing up stuff all around. Apocalypse Hydra and Ethersworn Adjudicator in particular seem dumb, since they throw around free creature removal at a reasonable price, and the weakest of the Mythics is our big-mana ‘draw five’ spell, the namesake for the set. One out of every eight rares might just be something stupid and hard to deal with… good luck beating a Thornling in a fair fight.

Weak commons and bomby, game-swinging Rares do not encourage me to love the format, so let’s look at the commonality in between: the game-changing Uncommons that we won’t see often, but which may very well define our card-pools.

Aerie Mystics
Celestial Purge
Nacatl Hunt-Pride
Paragon of the Amesha
Path to Exile

White gets a pair of removal spells, one being pretty awesome removal, the other being a bit situational… but probably just fine in a world where everything important is a bunch of colors and your very best cards probably have UWGRB in their mana cost. For creatures, we see the potent Paragon of the Amesha, and two other solid bodies: a 3/3 flier for 5 who can pass out Shroud as-needed to your team, and a 5/4 who can take a break from attacking to force the opponent into bad blocks. Path to Exile sounds awesome but do remember that its downside gets amplified in this world of Domain colors; turning on the opponent’s Domain effects and five-color spells when you turn off their best card in play might have unexpected consequences.

Controlled Instincts
Cumber Stone
Scornful Aether-Lich
View from Above

Blue’s offerings are somewhat more middling. Cumber Stone has a small effect for its price, and one that doesn’t help against big monsters… but there are plenty of circumstances when what it does is enough, especially in this world of small creatures. Controlled Instincts is somewhat sketchy removal but like Celestial Purge it hits enough of the things that matter that it might just be playable anyway… pretty much everyone plays Green in sealed deck, and the ability to lock down a Green monster or five-color bomb is a good ability to have. View From Above is an odd card… if you get it working it has its own built-in Buyback and can send an entire team over the top for the win, and so deserves attention. Scornful ther-Lich is sort of weak and unimpressive even if you can get him fully operational, while Esperzoa is an undercosted build-around-me creature that swings mightily in the air or just plays huge blocker if you have an artifact-light deck.

Corrupted Roots
Grixis Slavedriver
Voices from the Void

Black’s color-hoser is sad and unplayable, a terrible Psychic Venom variant that needs no further attention. Dreadwing is a teensy tiny 1/1 that can sometimes smack in the air for four damage, presuming you have access to Grixis mana. Grixis Slavedriver is an expensive man but one with extra benefits, and between his leaves-play ability and Unearth I imagine I’d grow to appreciate him at least as much as I’ve come to appreciate Undead Leotau in Shards limited… a creature I never played at first, only to later learn I wanted him almost all the time and would happily play two copies in a deck. Voices from the Void is a bad, expensive discard spell… but there are plenty of situations where that is a good thing to have in Sealed play, and should be thought of as basically a Fugue you can use if that sounds like something you’d want in your deck. At the worst it’s sideboard fodder against slow decks, and worthy of attention as an option even if it’s not part of the main plan. And then we have Fleshformer… if Paragon of the Amesha is awesome because it can use Domain mana to rule the air with Exalted Angel-like stats, Fleshformer gets attention because he becomes powerful and evasive while also probably killing a creature with each activation, ruling combat and winning the race if you have the time and Domain mana. Since the format seems pretty slow, and well set up to getting Domain mana, I figure it’s likely an amazing little card.

Dragonsoul Knight
Hellspark Elemental
Ignite Disorder
Viashino Slaughtermaster
Volcanic Fallout

Red gets a Steam Blast as its spell, and an uncounterable one at that, which is key because there really isn’t a lot of mass removal in this set but there are plenty of creatures that die to this spell. Ignite Disorder is probably too weak as a color-hoser spell for the main deck… at least the Blue and White ones actually dealt with a card no matter its size… while Hellspark Elemental has far more Constructed applications than Limited ones. Viashino Slaughtermaster is not a high-power card but it is a good little two-drop, hitting for 2-4 depending on the situation, and threatening all blockers with less than three toughness thanks to his ability to grow and First Strike them… even four-toughness men trade in combat with him, making him a high-quality two-drop. And then there is Dragonsoul Knight… there is something to be said for flying over for a whole mess of damage, and that is what Dragonsoul Knight does, and like his White cousin Paragon of the Amesha, he starts as a 2/2 for 3 with First Strike, solid stats overall. All three of these Domain-mana Uncommons are good, but this one is the scariest to face when your life total is at risk, because seven damage of flying, trampling goodness is a lot coming at your face.

Filigree Fracture
Gluttonous Slime
Sacellum Archers
Shard Convergence
Spore Burst

Green gets the short end of the stick, with neither removal nor remarkable creatures, and overall weak spells. You get a Naturalize and an Ordered Migration that sadly doesn’t fly… and a four-mana spell to complete your Domain, putting the other four colors’ lands into your hand directly. It’s powerful, yes, but not acceleration… and early in the game it places the lands in the worst place possible, your full hand, blunting its effect. It is nonetheless a potent fixer if for no other reason than that it gives you all your colors and +3 cards overall, while pulling four lands out of your deck so you draw more gas… underestimate it at your peril. Sacellum Archers is a solid tricky creature but nothing truly impressive, and the best Green uncommon is the creature with Flash… a creature with its own reasonable stats, Devour, and which works at the right speed to eat your creatures that are trading in combat. Gluttonous Slime is likely the best Devour creature we’ve seen short of the rare slot, and is likely to be underestimated.


Two Colors:
Hellkite Hatchling — RG — A weak Dragon may still end up being a Dragon.
Vagrant Plowbeasts — GW- A huge man that makes all your five-power men basically impossible to kill.
Jhessian Balmgiver — WU — A Samite Healer / Dwarven Warriors combo, tapping to prevent a damage or send a man through unblocked.
Countersquall — UB — Negate with benefits.
Shambling Remains — BR — An efficient attacker with Unearth, sort of like Ashenmoor Gouger.

Three Colors:
Elder Mastery — UBR — An expensive and unplayable Enchant Creature spell.
Scarland Thrinax — BRG — Nantuko Husk on crack.
Knotvine Mystic — RGW — A potent accelerator that can jump you from three mana on turn 3 to six mana on turn 4.
Skyward Eye Prophets — GWU- A six-mana Snidd that draws you an extra card a turn.
Sludge Strider — WUB — A “fixed” Disciple of the Vault. Even a fixed Disciple can be scary, though.

Five Colors:
Fusion Elemental — WUBRG — A vanilla 8/8 for 5.

At Uncommon, our Gold cards tend to stick to the two- or three-color model, and some shards don’t get a good spell while others get good things all around. Fusion Elemental begins to show us what the Rares continue to preach, which is that with five colors of mana at your fingertips, great deals are in the offering.


Artifacts –
Manaforce Mace — Equipped creature is Gaea’s Mighted.

Lands –
Ancient ZigguratPillar of the Paruns for creature spells, great fixing for Fusion Elementals, poor fixing for activated abilities like on Dragonsoul Knight.
Reliquary Tower — Colorless mana, with a bonus effect that doesn’t matter to us.
Unstable Frontier — This set’s Shimmering Grotto, but able to give an extra bonus to Domain if you have a land that is not itself wearing an unique basic land type.

All in all, the Uncommons aren’t game-swinging, but there are some very powerful gems and a good focus on Domain Mana. Having now seen it all we can see that no, really, we’re going to have to try to win the game with small creatures and break through stalemated board positions, and if not for the bomb rares we’d be playing Ice Age sealed deck all over again. The focus is clearly on Domain mana, and the aggression level even lower than in just plain Shards of Alara… so the rules of deckbuilding and game-play are pretty clear:

1. There is plentiful mana-fixing, between Shards’ lands plus Obelisks and Conflux’s landcyclers and Domain-completers like Armillary Sphere, in addition to common five-mana color-fixers such as Rupture Spire. Five-color decks will be the rule, not the exception. This means that correct mana-bases will be the key difference between victory and defeat. It’s something that was pretty much true in Shards limited, and is even more important in a format where you want to have the Domain in play and cast spells or use activated abilities off of all five colors of mana. We’ll have an example below.

2. The format is slow, and the power level is swingy. The extra card from drawing first may be the decisive difference between victory and defeat… granting yourself an extra card while denying the opponent theirs. Almost no deck in the room will be able to properly capitalize on this intentional sacrifice of tempo for card advantage, because we’re all being asked to play with such junky creatures. If you’ve ever played Masters Edition Limited with either ME1 or ME2, you might have a bit of an idea of how the format plays out, because there is a dearth of good creatures and the format is somewhat defined by bombs.

3. Removal is not plentiful, and tends to have key restrictions to its use. Big creatures are a safe investment, so while you’re going full five colors, pack some Green fat and ride it to victory. In the absence of dumb rares, Big Green Men is the most reasonable strategy, because each of the other colors stretch so hard just to get a decent creature it’s not even funny. Only Red has a decent common creature, and some of the other colors don’t even have a decent Uncommon creature to their name. To get a good creature you basically have to pay Green mana, or Gold mana… or open a rare.

For figuring out mana-bases, you’ll want to weigh in on a few different angles. Is it good enough to cast spells with all five colors of mana, or are you actually trying to assemble the Domain to maximize your effects? They’re very different questions, and the nonbasic lands in this set will vary in utility depending on the answer. You also have to figure out if you need that mana for creatures, for spells, or for activated abilities… after all, Ancient Ziggurat is good mana-fixing, but doesn’t help you pay Domain mana into Fleshformer or Worldheart Phoenix.

A key mistake I expect will come up is players looking at their five-color lands and figuring they’ll cover the off-colors for your five-color spells and effects, only to fail to realize they are leaning on it for two colors there, not just one. Imagine you have a base-Jund deck splashing some powerful Domain effects (and thus wanting to maximize their chances to get either four or five different unique land types into play) and some powerful Gold creatures. We also have a Dragonsouled Knight, so we want all five colors of mana in the mid-game to turn on our beater, so even if we are based in one Shard, we’re splashing the other two colors of mana and actually want to see it.

We have the following lands to work with:

Bant Panorama
Jund Panorama
Savage Lands
Rupture Spire
Unstable Frontier
Ancient Ziggurat

We also have an Obelisk of Grixis we’re going to play, and cards with the following mana costs:

RG (Nacatl Outlander)
1G (Nomadic Elf)
GRB (Sprouting Thrinax)
2R (Dragonsouled Knight; wants WUBRG as an activated ability)
2G (Macta Rioters; wants Domain in play)
3G (Cliffrunner Behemoth)
3R (Canyon Minotaur)
3B (Dreg Reaver; has Cycling)
WUBRG (Fusion Elemental)
WUBRG (Child of Alara)
2GRB (Carrion Thrash)
2WGR (Rakeclaw Gargantuan)
5G (Canyon Thoctar)

G (Might of Alara; wants Domain in play)
B (Bone Splinters)
BG (Necrogenesis)
2R (Dark Temper)
1RG (Branching Bolt)
3 (Obelisk of Grixis)
2RG (Exploding Borders – searches for a land, wants Domain in play)
4U (Covenant of Minds)
5R (Fiery Fall; has Basic Landcycling: 1R)

We have two cards that want Domain, but we can live without having the full Domain in play for… and a mess of creatures and spells of various colors. Let’s break it down:

Spells want:
G – 4
R – 4
B – 2
U – 1
W — 0

Creatures want:
G — 10 (11, activated abilities)
R – 8
B — 5 (6, activated abilities)
U — 2 (3, activated abilities)
W — 3 (4, activated abilities)

For lands, we have one true five-color land (Ruptured Spire) and one Shimmering Grotto-type five-color land (Unstable Frontier), both of which we will consider two free splashes of each color. We also have Jund Panorama, Bant Panorama, Savage Lands, and Ancient Ziggurat, which is a free mana of whatever color for creature spells but useless for activated abilities or non-creature spells. We also have an Obelisk of Grixis, plus the ability to cycle for a basic land or search one out with Exploding Borders. Assuming we include one Plains and one Island for that Bant Panorama, and minimum of one of each land for Jund Panorama, we have the following:

Savage Lands
Ruptured Spire
Unstable Frontier
Ancient Ziggurat
Jund Panorama
Bant Panorama
Obelisk of Grixis

We have room for seven more basic lands. So far we have the following:
Red — 6, 7 for creature spells
Green — 6, 7 for creature spells
Black — 6, 7 for creature spells
Blue — 5, 6 for creature spells
White — 4, 5 for creature spells

But it’s worth noting that we’re leaning on most of the same multi-lands for each of these colors, and relying on them to fix both White and Blue on our five-color effects, in addition to fixing our Jund mana. Considering we actually have a Blue spell and want to have basic Island in play at least some of the time, I’d imagine we actually want a second basic Island, just so we can rely a little bit less on our nonbasic lands for Domain mana and actually spend Domain mana a reasonable amount of the time. The rest should go to Swamps, Mountains and Forests, and we have six slots left to fill. One clearly should be a Swamp, to bring us up to seven true sources since we have a reasonable number of Black spells even before we account for Domain mana, and that gives us five for Red and Green together. Two of those as Mountains and the remaining three as Forests give us the following mana-base:

4 Forest
3 Mountain
2 Swamp
2 Island
Savage Lands
Ruptured Spire
Unstable Frontier
Ancient Ziggurat
Jund Panorama
Bant Panorama
Obelisk of Grixis

Red — 8, 9 for creature spells
Green — 9, 10 for creature spells
Black — 7, 8 for creature spells
Blue — 6, 7 for creature spells
White — 4, 5 for creature spells

This helps make it reasonably likely that we will see both Red and Green mana in the early game, have a solid shot at having Black to go with it for the Jund spells when we’re ready to start casting them, and won’t have to wait too long to get Domain mana into play and start leaning on those five-color spells. And since we have a decent amount of fixing, and various basic lands, we’re very likely to have a Domain of three, which is probably the minimum before the Domain cards are worth it… and by the end of the game with a little work can make it the full Domain of five land types.

Careful mana calculation is required to avoid key pitfalls like leaning on the same nonbasics for all of our colors when it comes to paying Domain mana for something, and remembering that the downside on Ancient Ziggurat means it is not able to help splash for Covenant of Minds. We’ll likely be skipping our turn two for mana-fixing… two Panoramas and a Ruptured Spire all but guarantee it… but we should be able to consistently cast our spells. But would you have expected our base-RG deck to need as many Islands as Swamps to pay for all its splash cards? Not before having to deal with Conflux… and it’s a set that will reward careful attention to mana-bases as well as greedy use of splash cards, even moreso than Shards of Alara did.

Of course, everything changes when we move from Sealed to Draft… but that’s a topic for another article. In Sealed, you don’t get to pick your friends after all…

Sean McKeown
s_mckeown @ hotmail.com

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