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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Grim Tidings #29 - Deck Diagnostic Part III

5C Proliferate, Part III – Mana Fixing
Fixing the mana problems for my 5-Color Proliferate should be pretty easy.

Minor Problems
The best way with any deck to figure out what adjustments you need to make is to just play it and see how it does. I’ve done that a lot over the past month, and I’ve thankfully taken notes of what types of problems I’ve had as the deck evolved.

My current decklist is predominantly Blue and Green. Through my tuning process, I’ve whittled down the White, Black and Red components so they are minimized (for the most part). I’ve had some problems though in the last few weeks having enough (any) red and black mana online, as well as getting enough acceleration to start casting spells a turn or two earlier.

As I normally do, I started off with a standard 110 land manabase, with a bunch of additional artifacts/creatures. Why 110? I don’t know. I’ve played this game for a long time and that is what it seems to take.

I dumped in a bunch of the dual lands, shock lands, fetch lands, etc. to get me half-way there. What’s nice about the “core” is that these lands don’t enter the battlefield tapped so I’m never hurting tempo. Then I started adding in the five color lands like the Lorwyn Vivids, Gemstone Mine, and Mirrodin’s Core. Since these lands and counter driven, I opted to not go highlander with them to maximize the chances I could put additional charge counters on them when I proliferate.

The Basics
What was left were my basic lands. I tend to include about 25% basic lands in all of my 5-Color decks. It offers me a little protection against Wasteland, and reduces the massive damage from Anathemancer.

Honestly though, there is nothing wrong with using basic lands. They really are pretty great. They produce colored mana, they are immune to Blood Moon effects, they are fetchable with the majority of the land search spells, and you have a wide assortment of artwork to choose from. Although no one does it, you really could build a 5-Color deck with ALL basic lands and probably do alright.

What’s tricky is figuring out the proper ratios. Fortunately I’m an engineer, so I can build a crafty spreadsheet to figure it out for me. (I'm such a nerd!)

Math Is Not Your Enemy
Can you count? Great! You’re already half way there.

That’s really all you need to do for part one. Count the number cards for each color, including all mono-colored, multi-colored, and hybrid cards. (The Multi-color and Hybrid cards will get counted multiple times depending on how many colors they are.) Artifacts and colorless spells don’t matter.

Write these numbers down. By default, you will have at least 25 cards of each color if you are abiding by the standard 5-Color deck building rules.

(Mono + Multi + Hybrid = Subtotal)
Red: 11 + 12 + 2 = 25
Black: 20 + 11 + 3 = 34
White: 25 + 7 + 0 = 32
Green: 33 + 12 + 2 = 47
Blue: 39 + 6 +2 = 47
Total: 185

Ah! Remember before when I said I thought I had Red/Black/White minimized in this deck? Apparently I don’t. There are quite a few multi-color Red cards that require black and/or white which are driving the subtotals above the 25 card threshold. That’s not a problem, but its good to know.

Now, just calculate the percentage of each color’s subtotal divided by the total:

Red: 25/185 = 13.5%
Black: 34/185 = 18.4%
White: 32/185 = 17.3%
Green: 47/185 = 25.4%
Blue: 47/185 = 25.4%

By itself, this data might be enough to establish a decent ratio of color distribution for you manabase. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really reflect the density of color requirements from spells that require two or more of the same type mana in their casting cost (like the triple UUU found in Sphinx of Magosi).

More Math
For part two, go back and count the actual mana symbols in each casting cost.

Sphinx of Magosi (UUU3) counts as three Blue.
Jace Berelan (UU1) counts as two Blue.
Ponder (U) would be one Blue.
Ancestral Vision (n/a) still counts as one Blue for its Suspend cost.
Plaxcaster Frogling (UG1) counts as one Blue and one Green.
Gilder Bairn (u/g u/g 1) would count as one Blue, since there are two half-hybrid mana symbols.

If something doesn’t exactly fit a category, don’t worry. Use your best judgment. (We round up at the end anyways.) Then do you data as we did before:

Mana Symbols
Red: 27.5
Black: 48
White: 44
Green: 64
Blue: 74

Total: 257.5

Note, it is possible for a color to fall below the 25 card threshold when counting mana symbols, since hybrids only count for 0.5 of each symbol. Then run the percentages as before.

Red 27.5/257.5= 10.7%
Black 48/257.5 = 18.6%
White 44/257.5 = 17.1%
Green 64/257.5 = 24.9%
Blue 74/257.5 = 28.7%

It’s tough to say which methodology is strictly better. I think method one (raw card counting) indicates your immediate needs for starting your opening hand, but method two (symbol density) is more reflective of the long term need.

Since they both contribute value, I prefer to weight them equally, and just take the average between both methods to get my suggested ratios:
Red (13.5% + 10.7%)/2 = 12.1%
Black (18.4% + 18.6%)/2 = 18.5%
White (17.3% + 17.1%)/2 = 17.2%
Green (25.4% + 24.9%)/2 = 25.1%
Blue (25.4% + 28.7%)/2 = 27.1%

I want to apply these ratios to my basic land strategy, so I’ll multiply the average percentages to the number of available slots I have left for my basic lands. Regardless whether I choose to have 25 basic land slots or 100, the ratios of each land type should still fall into these same proportions:

Red 12.1% x25 slots = 3.0 Mountains
Black 18.5% x25 slots = 4.6 Swamps
White 17.2% x25 slots = 4.3 Plains
Green 24.9% x25 slots = 6.3 Forests
Blue 28.7% x25 slots = 6.8 Islands

Obviously you cant have a fraction of a card, so round off your final calculation. I like to round up, since it gives me a little flexibility if I change a few cards every so often without having to recalculate this all over again. Looks like like I need 27 basic lands. I can live with that.

3.0 --> 3 Mountains
4.6 --> 5 Swamps
4.3 --> 5 Plains
6.3 --> 7 Forests
6.8 --> 7 Islands

A Note on Colorless…
Be careful with how many colorless lands you include in any 5-Color deck. You should always include the “Strip Mine Package” (See Grim Tidings #17), but try not to over do it unless the colorless land has an absolutely amazing ability. I thought Novigen and City of Shadows fit the proliferating-counter theme nicely for this particular deck, but I tried not to have many other colorless lands to accidentally screw up my evil plans.

So on to playtesting with these minor tweaks…

Week 4 Results
Yay! There are enough players for Group Games tonight… just what my casual theme deck needs to flourish! And how!

I was quite pleased as my mana fixing proved to work out. I had an ample flow of lands in all of my games, and I rarely waited to get the right color for any particular casting cost.

Overall, I was so impressed that I declared my playtesting efforts were officially over. I have plenty of defensive posture, I am drawing a lot of cards, and my mannose is set. I’m quite glad I spent the time analyzing each of these facets of the decklist.

This series has helped me a lot to think through the basic problems of deckbuilding. I hope you enjoyed reading my ramblings as I thought this through step by step. Next week, I promise I’ll post the actual decklist so you can finally see what the heck my 5C Proliferate deck looks like. Until then...

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