Yawgmoth’s Whimsy #197 – All Your Manabases Are Belong To Us

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Ravnica, for all practical purposes, has rotated out of Standard. People are working on new-Standard decks for States, which is just a couple of weeks away. A few staple cards will be leaving — but the biggest change will be to manabases. Let’s look at what goes, and what stays…

Ravnica, for all practical purposes, has rotated out of Standard. People are working on new-Standard decks for States, which is just a couple weeks away. A few staple cards will be leaving — but the biggest change will be to manabases. Let’s look at what goes, and what stays.

As an example, here’s a recent Tier 1 Standard deck. Let’s look at what that loses, once Ravnica block rotates out.

R/U/W Blink
Adam Yurchick
2007 U.S. Nationals – Standard

3 Island
2 Plains
2 Azorius Chancery
2 Nimbus Maze
3 Shivan Reef
1 Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]
4 Steam Vents
4 Sacred Foundry
2 Hallowed Fountain

4 Court Hussar
4 Lightning Angel
4 Riftwing Cloudskate
3 Venser, Shaper Savant
3 Grand Arbiter Augustin IV
2 Numot, the Devastator
1 Aeon Chronicler

4 Azorius Signet
4 Remand
4 Lightning Helix
3 Momentary Blink
1 Sunforger

The non-mana cards that the deck loses are significant: Court Hussar, Grand Arbiter, Remand, Lightning Helix, and the lone Sunforger. However, the manabase is hardest hit. Here’s what goes:

2 Azorius Chancery
4 Steam Vents
4 Sacred Foundry
2 Hallowed Fountain
4 Azorius Signets

That’s half the manabase. It is also a lot of the speed and consistency in the manabase. The duals allowed you to consistently have colored mana available on turn 1 — and to do so at a cost of two life. The closest replacements are the painlands — and dropping a Brushland on turn 1 in a G/W Gaddock Teeg deck will probably cost you more than two life over the course of the game. It also reduces the likelihood of having Gaddock on turn 2, since you simply don’t have as many lands that can provide both Green and White on turn 2 without something coming into play tapped.

How bad is coming into play tapped?

It is that bad. It really is. About the only comes-into-play tapped lands that people have been willing to play are the Ravnica Karoos (e.g. Azorius Chancery) and Treetop Village.

I can recall seeing decklists with painlands in every Standard format, whenever the painlands are legal. In Eighth Edition, Wizards replaced the painlands with the Invasion taplands (e.g. Coastal Tower.) They were almost never played. For that matter, Coldsnap includes a cycle of tap lands — starting with Boreal Shelf. How often have you seen that land played, even in U/W Snow decks?

At first glance, Ghitu Encampment may look like a great addition to the Mono-Red and G/R Greater Gargadon decks. It is a beater that dodges Damnation, etc. However, I still have never seen a Red deck running the Encampment.

In short, coming into play tapped is, indeed, that bad.

The same thing is true of land fetchers that put land into play tapped. Take Terramorphic Expanse as an example. It costs you a turn before you can get the mana. Sure, you use it if you have no alternative, but it is still a significant drawback. That’s why it is played in Limited, where people have no alternatives, but very rarely in Constructed outside of Block.

Many of the new duals come into play tapped, unless you reveal something from your hand. In the past, many writers, including me, have written about why revealing cards is bad. It’s worse when the card you need to reveal is bad. Reveal a Giant? Reveal a Merfolk?

I don’t think so.

I’ll get to the lands later. First, let’s look at the big losers in the rotation.

The Losers

When I first started writing this, I was going to use a Boros decklist as an example, but I dumped it. Boros does not look good, at least so far. As an example, it’s almost as useless as Kird Ape. Kird Ape was good because you could reliably have Red mana on turn 1 and a Forest by turn 2. Now you can’t, but that’s irrelevant because you can’t have Kird Ape either.

Let’s look at cards that are still legal, but lost a lot of value.

The card that may have lost the most utility is Flagstones of Trokair. In Ravnica / Time Spiral Standard, you could cycle Edge of Autumn and get any other color of mana with your Plains. In the new Standard, you get a Plains. Not a IslandPlains or ForestPlains — you get a Plains. Your only choices are artwork and snow-covered or regular.

Edge of Autumn hasn’t really lost much utility. You can still play Flagstones, and cycle for “free.” You can also play it in aggressive decks — it does fetch lands early, and cycles without much damage later on. Of course, if someone comes up with a land destruction deck for States (not unlikely, even if it is not good), you can always cycle away a land targeted for destruction. That said, Edge of Autumn is moving closer to a Street Wraith quality cantrip, instead of Remand quality. That said, it’s still better than Rampant Growth.

Cryoclasm, on the other hand, has lost whatever vague vestiges of playability it may have had. Wizards has been working to eliminate land destruction as a archetype for a while, but this change is huge. In Ravnica block, a ton of lands were Islands or Plains. In the new world, they aren’t. Look at the R/U/W Blink example above — in that deck, Cryoclasm could hit twenty of the lands. In a post Ravnica world, it is going to hit maybe one in four at best.

So, let’s look at what still works. Color fixing and mana acceleration is still available. Most — but not all — is also Green.

Green Color Fixing

Here’s the list:

* Abundance
* Birds of Paradise
* Civic Wayfarer
* Edge of Autumn
* Evolution Charm
* Fertile Ground
* Greenseeker
* Into the North
* Joiner Adept
* Rampant Growth
* Search for Tomorrow
* Sylvan Scrying
* Elvish Harbinger

That’s over a dozen cards that find some way of producing any color of mana. Some are better at it than others — for example, if I need Blue mana early, I would rather have a Birds of Paradise than Abundance, for example, but they will both get me there eventually. Many are also almost unplayable — but they all exist. Green can fix mana.

Green Mana Acceleration without Color Fixing

While the previous list can get produce mana of any color, other Green options can only produce Green mana — but do so more rapidly that just hitting land drops. The new Standard also includes a bunch of those cards.

* Hunting Wilds
* Leaf Gilder
* Llanowar Elf
* Mwonvuli Acid-Moss
* Overgrowth
* Seedguide Ash (when goes to graveyard)
* Treefolk Harbinger

These cards will only produce Green mana, and/or fetch Forests. In the new Standard, fetching a Forest and fetching a Basic Forest mean the same thing — which means that these cards cannot fix colors. Other than Llanowar Elves, most of these are unlikely to be playable anywhere outside of Limited, but stranger things have happened.

Skyshroud Ranger is also available. It is mana acceleration, in any color, provided you have spare lands in hand.

Non-Green Color Fixing / Land Search

Moving outside Green, the color known for mana fixing, the options become fewer and clunkier. I found four colored cards that can fix mana colors and/or accelerate mana production:

* Celestial Dawn
* Dreamscape Artist
* Tideshaper Mystic
* Korlash, Heir to Blackblade

Obviously, Celestial Dawn has no potential at all, and Korlash only fetches Swamps. The two Blue cards seem way too slow for anything outside of limited, but they exists. At one time, some control decks ran Weathered Wayfarer, so maybe Dreamscape Artist is not completely impossible — just very unlikely.

A few artifacts also fix mana or provide mana acceleration. These include:

* Chromatic Star
* Coalition Relic
* Coldsteel Heart
* Composite Golem
* Gauntlet of Power
* Lotus Bloom
* Mind Stone
* Paradise Plume
* Prismatic Lens
* Springleaf Drum
* The Totems (e.g. Phyrexian Totem)
* Wanderer’s Twig

Once again, these range from very good (Coalition Relic, Prismatic Lens) to mediocre / specialized (Lotus Bloom, Coldsteel Heart), to stuff you would never want to use for mana fixing (e.g. Composite Golem.) Some are strictly worse than previous versions: Wanderer’s Twig, for example, is Wayfarer’s Bauble at half the mana to activate, but it puts the land in your hand, not into play. You cannot get an extra land drop that way.

In short, artifacts will allow a lot of color fixing, provided you don’t mind waiting a couple turns for the results. That seems fine for a world where a lot of deck will just want to splash for a turn 4 Tarmogoyf.

Finally, we do have five-colored lands — more or less. The following cards can get you any color of mana, if the stars are right.

* Gemstone Caverns
* Gemstone Mine
* Shimmering Grotto
* Terramorphic Expanse
* Tolaria West
* Vesuva
* Vivid Marsh (and friends)

These all have drawbacks. Gemstone Caverns requires you to have it in your opening hand and, in effect, take a mulligan. Gemstone Mine has limited uses — the Vivid lands mimic the Mine, and come into play tapped. Vesuva also comes into play, and needs the right target. Shimmering Grotto is the newest option, but it isn’t really new. It is, in effect, a reprint of School of the Unseen, albeit with half the activation cost. School of the Unseen was never playable anywhere, to the best of my knowledge. (Note — I did play it, in casual, along with cards like Mirrodin’s Core. It’s a Prismatic Lens that doesn’t accelerate, and does cost you a land drop. Unless artifact destruction becomes ubiquitous, I don’t see it.)

Two Color Options:


Blue/White decks have some reasonable options. Adarkar Wastes is solid. Nimbus Maze is a good dual land, although it will not produce colored mana on turn 1, and won’t let you play something like True Believer on turn 2. However, since U/W decks are generally control decks, it is not a bad option, since it generally will give you the options you need later in the game.

Calciform Pools is also available. Charge-up land — like Calciform Pools – are best in control or other decks that want a lot of mana — and fairly useless in aggro or beatdown decks unless those decks expect to finish with an X-spell of some type. U/W control decks can use Calciform Pools. U/W Control decks could even use a couple copies of Boreal Shelf, although U/W is probably almost the only color combination that would not find the slow speed fatal.

Finally, control decks can also play Prismatic Lens and Coalition Relic, which will also help smooth mana over the long run.


Black/White decks have almost nothing to help, other than Caves of Koilos. None of the Future Sight future duals are B/W, and the tribal B/W land has not been printed. The only other “helper” the deck gets is Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, which can let Plains tap for Black mana.


Red/White is in pretty much the same boat. Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] is in color, but the only dual available is Ancient Amphitheater. Ancient Amphitheater is basically a comes-into-play tapped land, unless Favor of the Mighty is both more playable than it seems and you have it in hand.


Green/White decks are in good shape, despite not having a tribal land. Brushland is, like all the painlands, playable. Horizon Canopy is a slightly-improved Brushland, because it cycles. Arctic Flats and Saltcrusted Steppe are no better than their counterparts in other colors, but since G/W is also Green, it can make use of all the good green color fixers and accelerants.


Blue/Black is in decent shape. In addition to Underground River, U/B has River of Tears, which is a playable dual land. U/B is also generally a control color, meaning that Prismatic Lens, Coalition Relic, and Dreadship Reef all work in the deck. U/B may find a place for a Frost Marsh or two, and can make use of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. Secluded Glen is, basically, Frost Marsh numbers five through eight, or vice versa, unless you are playing against G/W and find a 2/2 Control Magic on a stick useful.


This color combination has exactly one non-basic land that can help: Shivan Reef. That’s it — although it may be able to make use of Prismatic Lens and Coalition Relic, as well as lands like Terramorphic Expanse and Gemstone Mine. It’s not impossible, but this is not the easiest mana combination to make work.


Blue/Green has the same land issues as Blue/Red — the only Blue/Green land is Yavimaya Coast. However, Blue/Green does get access to all the mana fixing and land fetching Blue offers, which is not inconsiderable. If these are your colors, then you should be okay starting with Birds of Paradise and/or Fertile Ground. That combination will get you there.


Black/Red has a nice selection of playable dual lands. Sulfurous Springs is a painland like any other, but Graven Cairns is one of the best of the Future Sight dual lands. Auntie’s Hovel is better than Tresserhorn Sinks, because you have a number of playable Goblins. Finally, Red/Black also has Molten Slagheap and the ability to make use of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. Overall, this color combination is set up pretty well.


Black/Green has its painland: Llanowar Wastes. No surprises there. The tribal land, Gilt Leaf Palace, is surprisingly good. Having an elf in hand is not that tough a job — unlike Giants and Merfolk, elves are quite playable. Green/Black also benefits from Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and all the good Green mana fixers and accelerants.


Red/Green also benefits from all the Green mana fixers and accelerants, but unlike Green/Black, it relies on them. Red/Green has its painland, and a passably good dual in Grove of the Burnwillows, but nothing mind-blowing. It does not have a tribal land, so far, and neither Fungal Reaches nor Highland Weald are cards that Red/Green has much (if any) use for.


Ravnica is gone. Manabases are going to be shakier and less forgiving.

I’m not saying that multicolored deck cannot work. They can. For that matter, I can make a Coalition Victory deck work. It will consistently win on turn 6 or 7. That is not the point.

Any multicolored deck is possible, especially if you use comes-into-play tapped lands and Coalition Relic. The problem is that such decks are slow. They drop turns here and there as they wait for lands to untap and mana colors to become available.

Being slow is not a good thing.

The point is that multicolored decks still need to be fast enough to stop the fastest beatdown, burn, or combo decks in the format. Having a reliable manabase that can give you every color you need two turns after you are dead is not useful.

You need to test your decks — especially against the fastest and most consistent decks in the format. Even the mono-colored ones.


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