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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Grim Tidings #3: 5C Manabase Basics

(Contributed by John Kozlowski)
My first two articles (part1, part2) for Grim Tidings have been pretty advanced in terms of 5-color deck construction. I’d like to slow things down a bit and explain some basic manabase techniques to improve your 5-color experience.

5-color Magic is a format that requires you to build a deck of at least 250 cards, with a minimum of 20 cards from each color. I encourage everyone to go to the actual link, but basically all cards are legal, except for the Unglued/Unhinged expansions, and there is a special Banned/Restricted list specific to this format. Highlander is optional, but extremely fun.

Forty Percent
My first piece of mana base advice is simple: Play with around 90 to 100 lands and/or mana sources. I get asked this question all the time by new players, because they have never built a deck of this size before. The same rule that applies to 60 card decks applies to 250 card decks: 40% mana is about right. If you play less than 90, you’ll likely find yourself screwed more often than not. If you play more than 100, you’ll start to get flooded. I like to use 90 lands, and have about 10 +/- additional sources from creatures or artifacts to help smooth and accelerate my colors.

A Simple Sample
With this basis framework in place, there is still a lot of consternation that you need an expensive manabase to build a competitive 5-color deck as well. It doesn’t hurt to have the original duel lands, but you would be surprised what is available recently and/or cheaply. Consider this very simple 90 card highlander manabase (And remember, Highlander is optional!):

14x Forest
9x Plains
9x Swamps
9x Mountains
9x Island

10x Painlands from 10th Edition
5x Time Spiral Storage Lands
5x Coldsnap CIPT Dual Lands
5x Lorwyn Vivid Lands
5x Shards Tri-lands
5x Shards Panorama Fetch Lands
1x Gemstone Mine
1x Terramorphic Expanse
1x Shimmering Grotto
1x Vesuva
1x Treetop Village

This mana base is a great starting point for 5-color decks. It primarily uses cards available in the last two years of Magic from the Lorwyn / Shadowmoor / Alara blocks. I would argue that this has been the best two year period for mana fixing that has ever occured in the history of the game. There has never seen so many variations on multi-colored lands in such a concentration! The majority are uncommon too, making them very accessible to new players.

Common fetch lands such as Terramorphic Expanse, and the Shards of Alara Panoramas are acceptable too. I would never fault a new player for using the Vivid Lands from Lorwyn or the Shards Tri-lands, even if they do (to my chagrin) come into play tapped.

With a little research, you can find many alternates from the older Magic expansions. Torment provided a cycle of uncommon “Tainted Lands” which work well if your deck is Black-centric. Odyssey provided a cycle of filter lands precursor similar to the Shadowmoor Hybrid-lands. In most cases these lands can be obtained for no more than $1 each, if not less.

Don’t be afraid of using basic lands! Sometimes people are misled to think that non-basic lands are always better than basics because they do something special. True, many non-basic lands provide multiple colors or “do stuff”, but don’t underestimate the power of a basic land. They always come into play untapped, and always provide colored mana without any strings attached. They are immune to hosers like Wasteland, Anathemancer and Price of Progress. Sometimes just using a basic land is the best solution.

You may notice from the sample manabase I provided above that I included 14 basic forests in comparison to 9 from the other colors. Green has always been an excellent for color-fixing, featuring famous cards like Llanowar Elves and Birds of Paradise. Most players agree it is the best color for fixing and acceleration. As a result, many 5-color decks become green-centric, and contain a higher proportion of green cards compared to the other four colors.

Beside Birds of Paradise, there are actually many cards that have similar abilities you may not be aware of. Utopia Tree is about 80% less expensive than Birds, and has the exact same ability. So does Gemhide Sliver, and it is Common! Fixers such as Druid of Anima, Skyshroud Elf, and Urborg Elf provide access to 60% of the color wheel in the common slot too.

Green also provides a few unique solutions that are not creature based. Crap rares such as Prismatic Omen and Scapeshift can be found fairly easily, and quickly provide access to all five colors upon resolution. Green provides enchantments like Utopia Vow and Fertile Growth which help as well. There is no denying that Green can solve many problems with your manabase.

Meanwhile, I highly recommend playing artifact sources of colored mana. Its impossible to get color screwed to not be able to cast these fixers, because by their nature, most artifacts are colorless. There are many cheap artifacts that produce colored mana, such as Fellwar Stone, Spectral Searchlight, Darksteel Ingot. Fellwar Stone is a fairly great source, because in most games it provides you access to all five colors within the first two-three turns.

Do not forget about Scuttlemutt either. This is an extremely versatile card as well, for not only does it produce any color mana, it is a 2/2 creature, it has a secondary color changing ability, and its common!

I hope this explanation helps debunk any fears that all 5-color manabases are valued at $100s of dollars. I’ve tried to provide many inexpensive solutions that are likely already part of collection to smooth out your mana fixing. If you follow these guidelines, you should find its really not as hard as you think.

1 comment:

The_Magi said...

My personal favorites tend to be the Planshift tri-lands.

They not only give you access to three color in one land (which is of so rare), and function as a bounce land, allowing you to return a used up charge land to your hand, for a repeat performance.

These are also super budget friendly at under a dollar a piece. I foiled my set out for about $8 bucks.