You CAN Play Type 1 #67: The Control Player’s Bible, Part XIV.1: Building A 5-Color Mana Base After Onslaught

“The Deck” players everywhere are looking at Polluted Delta and Flooded Strand and scratching their heads. It’s not a question of whether or not to use the fetchlands, but how… And years’ worth of mana-tuning intuition is suddenly out the window.

The Control Player’s Bible, Book I (The Fundamentals of 5-color control)

Part I: Overview

Part II: History, 1994-1996

Part III: History, 1996-2000

Part IV: History, 2000-2002

Part V: A sample control mirror match

Part VI: Playing the core cards: Counters and tutors

Part VII: Playing the core cards: Card drawing and removal

Part VIII: Playing the Sapphires

Part IX: Playing the Jets

Part X: Playing the Pearls

Part XI: Playing the Rubies

Part XII: Playing the Emeralds

Part XIII: The Sol Rings: Rounding out”The Deck”

Part XIV: Building a 5-color mana base

Part XIV.1: Building a 5-color mana base after Onslaught

Part XV: The best and worst 5-color mana cards

The Control Player’s Bible, Book II (“The Deck” v. Aggro)

Current Index of Book II

I guess it shows the depth of”The Deck” when your Bible needs a rewrite even before it’s half-written. Oh, well…

In other news, I finally got to”meet” Benjamin Rott, a.k.a. Teletubby, the best German Tools ‘n’ Tubbies (TnT) player on his side of the Atlantic (if not both). I came home at midnight after a party and a good amount of gin, and he was on his way to his own dinner and beer.

With no Manila typhoons causing power problems and no German ISP kinks, we put in a solid two hours of post-Judgment playtesting. Expect to see the long-delayed TnT feature very soon.

In other I news, here’s a tidbit straight from the dinosaur’s mouth:

From: eric taylor

To: oscar tan

Sent: Saturday, November 16, 2002 12:11 AM

Subject: type 1

looks like chapin is going to start working for r&d. i’m pretty sure he’s going to be (as one of his side duties) put in charge of handling t1 banned/resricted list and starting up at least one sizable prize type 1tournament per year. and no he’s not on e-mail. . . yet.  He’ll probably get [email protected], though, when he gets hired.

— edt

Welcome news for people familiar with Pat Chapin’s passion for the game! (Let’s just hope he doesn’t make green too good while he’s at it…)

“The Deck” meets Onslaught

When I wrote the article about”The Deck”‘s mana base (the original Part XIV), I never thought anything would shake it up dramatically, not since the original dual lands met Arabian Nights’ City of Brass. Discussing cards that had to be included in that article, John Ormerod mentioned the Mirage fetch lands like Bad River. I replied that they’d be in if only they didn’t come into play tapped, the worst possible sin of lands in a format with an extreme tempo.

Fast forward to 2002 and Onslaught.

“The Deck” players everywhere are looking at Polluted Delta and Flooded Strand and scratching their heads. It’s not a question of whether or not to use them, but how… And years’ worth of mana-tuning intuition is suddenly out the window.

(If you haven’t read it yet, I discussed the Onslaught fetch lands in general in the last part of my Onslaught review. It was put up two weeks ago.)

I took a conservative initial approach and went down to three duals each and one less City of Brass to try three fetch lands.

Three members of the Paragons mailing list initially argued they would mana or color screw their control decks (color screw referring to getting green mana, double colored mana, or more of a color whose source was just hit by Sinkhole or Wasteland).. One of the more subtle reasons cited was recovering from your own Balance/Zuran Orb trick, in addition to Sinkholes and Wastelands.

Matt D’Avanzo’s initial opinion was to fit as many as realistic.

John e-mailed,”Surely the new lands are nuts?! Is this the end of the line for City of Brass?”

Eric Wilkinson also reported that Mikey Pustilnik, on the other end of the Atlantic in New York, had the exact same reaction.

I imagine you were as excitedly confused when you saw the spoiler.

Initial test

To start somewhere, this was my pre-Judgment deck, before trying Cunning Wish and fetch lands:

“The Deck”, Oscar Tan, August 2002

Blue (18)

1 Ancestral Recall

1 Time Walk

1 “Mystical Tutor

1 Merchant Scroll

4 Mana Drain

4 Force of Will

1 Misdirection

1 “Stroke of Genius

1 Braingeyser

1 Fact or Fiction

2 Morphling

Black (6)

1 Yawgmoth’s Will

1 Mind Twist

1 Vampiric Tutor

1 “Demonic Tutor

1 Chainer’s Edict

1 The Abyss

White (3)

1 Balance

1 Swords to Plowshares

1 Dismantling Blow

Red (2)

1 Gorilla Shaman

1 Fire / Ice

Green (2)

1 Sylvan Library

1 Regrowth

Artifact (1)

1 Zuran Orb

Mana (28)

1 Black Lotus

1 Mox Sapphire

1 Mox Jet

1 Mox Pearl

1 Mox Ruby

1 Mox Emerald

1 Sol Ring

1 Strip Mine

3 Wasteland

1 Library of Alexandria

4 City of Brass

1 Undiscovered Paradise

4 Underground Sea

4 Tundra

3 Volcanic Island

Sideboard (15)

4 Red Elemental Blast

1 Scrying Glass

1 Blue Elemental Blast

1 Swords to Plowshares

2 Circle of Protection: Red

1 Pyroclasm

2 Powder Keg

1 Ensnaring Bridge

1 Aura Fracture

1 Moat

Revamping the mana base, I initially tried:

Mana (28)

7 Lotus + Moxen + Sol Ring

1 Strip Mine

3 Wasteland

1 Library of Alexandria

3 City of Brass

1 Undiscovered Paradise

2 Polluted Delta

1 Flooded Strand

3 Underground Sea

3 Tundra

2 Volcanic Island

1 Tropical Island


-1 City of Brass

-1 Underground Sea

-1 Tundra

-1 Volcanic Island

+2 Polluted Delta

+1 Flooded Strand

+1 Tropical Island

The fetchland insertions were conservative changes to the existing mana slots. The Tropical Island tried to milk the fetch ability, in case you had a Sylvan Library or Regrowth stuck in hand. Three extra reshuffle effects, of course, would make Sylvan happy. The one-Tropical idea was something I always frowned on when I saw it in beginners’ decklists posted in forums, but it was something that had to be tried with the fetch lands.

As expected, the lone Tropical Island stunk. The fetch lands hardly made it more useful, since you’d always fetch black and red or white before you’d go for green. And if you were playing aggro with a Sylvan in the opening hand, it would stink to fetch the Tropical and then topdeck Balance or Swords to Plowshares.

And going back to the original argument, the Tropical in your opening hand was worse than a basic Island. It didn’t make a color you needed early, and you’d still have to wait for Cities for the green later on if your opening Tropical got destroyed.

The fetch lands, however, were working as advertised. The mana base became more resilient, and I could quickly stabilize into the right blue, black and white or red mana sources. No more staring at two or three Volcanic Islands against aggro, with Fire/Ice at the bottom of your library.

The Tropical Island immediately became Volcanic again. The way my mana base felt, though, I also tried the strange step of cutting Sylvan, reducing my green to a single Regrowth.

If you haven’t tried the fetch lands, they seem to encourage you to focus on three colors. You play the dual or two in your opening hand to get two out of three colors, then fetch the color you’re missing. Sylvan, good as it was, sometimes sat in my hand waiting for a City of Brass, and the fetch lands only made you more impatient. Besides, I’d gone down a green source.

Breaking The Mold

With this thought, I was intrigued by e-mail from Matt dated October 14. As an extreme test encouraged by Eric, he tried replacing all his Cities of Brass with Polluted Deltas. Playtesting against Eric, he reported no mana problems at all, and even said,”The fetch lands were either just as good or slightly better than a City. There was one game where, had Eric Cities been fetchlands he would have been way better off (thanks to a barrage of early Strip Mine).” (To clarify, though, he wasn’t advocating a complete phaseout of Cities; it was just a test.)

Of course, without Cities, he no longer had green mana sources. This was the intriguing part: Hell with it, he just replaced his Mox Emerald with the fourth Wasteland and cut green altogether.

That’s right, Matt D’Avanzo, Beyond Dominia’s Sylvan Librarian, the man who insists,”Sylvan is still the sh*t!”

His line of reasoning suddenly made the fetch lands better. Again, you have to realize that”The Deck” has spells in five colors, but really focuses on three at a time.

In other words, it’s not really a five-color deck.

I emphasized that myself in past articles, but it took on new meaning as I recalled the times Sylvan sat impatiently in my hand with the new mana base..

Even after I cut Sylvan and the experimental Tropical Island, Regrowth would sometimes sit uselessly as well. In Limited, you’ll prefer a resilient mana base over an off-color bomb, so I took Eric and Matt’s lead:

Mana (28)

6 Lotus + 4 Moxen + Sol Ring

1 Strip Mine

4 Wasteland

1 Library of Alexandria

2 City of Brass

1 Undiscovered Paradise

2 Polluted Delta

2 Flooded Strand

3 Underground Sea

3 Tundra

3 Volcanic Island


-1 Mox Emerald

-2 City of Brass

-1 Underground Sea

-1 Tundra

+1 Wasteland

+2 Polluted Delta

+2 Flooded Strand

As Matt later said:”Regrowth and Sylvan both win games. However, so does deck thinning and a consistent mana base.”

The Role Of City of Brass

Certain decks can’t replace 5-color lands like City of Brass and even Gemstone Mine, such as combo decks with power cards from all the colors. But since I said”The Deck” really isn’t a 5-color deck, why bother with Cities?

In fact, yanking just two Cities has the welcome side effect of giving you a few more life points (ironically, something that Sylvan would’ve loved). If you can’t appreciate this, try giving yourself a three-City opening hand against Sligh.

I feel that you need a couple of five-color producers, though, as insurance. The simplest scenario: Imagine holding Swords to Plowshares, Chainer’s Edict, and Fire/Ice in your opening hand, playing against Sligh.

Other times, you’ll need a backup source in a particular color. Imagine fetching a Tundra only to see it Sinkholed, for example. Also imagine needing to cast Moat or holding two Red Elemental Blasts. Basically, the fetch lands help you reliably generate one of from each nonblue color, and City of Brass tempers that.

On the Paragons list, Matt D’Avanzo got the last word. He e-mailed a convert to the new Neutral Ground gospel:”Did I not tell you you’d love them as soon as you tested it?!  Leaving in Cities is fine, if you’re a big old wuss – er cautious. It runs perfectly fine without any, but if you want some insurance then by all means run one or two.”

That wasn’t directed at me, but after more testing, I felt I wanted to go down one more City or Undiscovered Paradise. I was using the insurance policy, but just not often enough.

A fifth fetch land is probably pushing the envelope too far out, though. Also, replacing the fifth Wasteland with a colored source is possible, but TnT is leading a resurgence of multicolored aggro. The Paradise stays because of the random mono blue decks I encounter online.

That leaves me with:

Mana (28)

6 Lotus + 4 Moxen + Sol Ring

1 Strip Mine

4 Wasteland

1 Library of Alexandria

1 City of Brass

1 Undiscovered Paradise

2 Polluted Delta

2 Flooded Strand

4 Underground Sea

3 Tundra

3 Volcanic Island


-1 Mox Emerald

-3 City of Brass

-1 Tundra

+1 Wasteland

+2 Polluted Delta

+2 Flooded Strand

The new”The Deck”

I think I’ll be sticking to this mana base or something very close to it (say, I stick another City back in or replace the last Wasteland).. It demands a change in play style, though, since you’re forced to change the spells. You might go so far as to say that playing”The Deck” post-Onslaught and post-Judgment is like adjusting to playing it post-Urza’s Saga.

Losing Sylvan Library is probably as noticeable as Weissman giving up Disrupting Scepter after 1996. No more first-turn bomb against control or discard. No more well-timed tutoring to change your top three cards. And no more wondrous sight of paying eight life to draw against fat-filled aggro like The Funker.

Ah, good times.

Losing Regrowth, though, is a headache since Yawgmoth’s Will becomes your lone recursion card. You lose your Ancestral-Regrowth-Ancestral trick, but you also lose your ability to retrieve specific cards from a used-up Dismantling Blow to a destroyed The Abyss.

Replacing Regrowth in the build I’m now using looks hopeless. Eric Wilkinson proposed bringing Recall out of retirement, and I tried it but didn’t like it. Early, you’ll just pitch it, since Ancestral-Recall-Ancestral is pathetic; pitching even a land early hurts. Later, it’s a gamebreaker – but then again, so are most things that cost upwards of five mana.

After Recall, well… Relearn is limited and just turns Ancestral Recall into Concentrate. Timetwister has its own issues. You can always use green over red, but losing Red Elemental Blasts against control makes you scratch your head even more than losing Regrowth. (And the cons of losing white was discussed with the KrOathan idea.)

You’re simply forced to optimize every card you draw, and cut to the chase and win before more threats are thrown against you. In other words, you’re punished even more for mistakes by an already complex deck.

Hopefully, over the next couple of months, we’ll see which mana base is really the best after Onslaught. Then we’ll only have to worry about the spells…

Oscar Tan

rakso on #BDChat on EFNet

University of the Philippines, College of Law

Forum Administrator, Star City Games

Featured Writer, Star City Games

Author of the Control Player’s Bible

Maintainer, Beyond Dominia (R.I.P.)

Proud member of the Casual Player’s Alliance