The Basics of Lands

Joshua Vanderwall | 14 Mar 2012 16:00
Hexproof - RSS 2.0

For land composition, you'll want to start with the mana symbols you noted before and breaking down your lands based on the number of mana symbols of each color. Say you have a deck with 20 Green mana symbols and 15 Red. That makes your deck composition 57% Green and 43% Red, so utilizing only 24 basic lands, you'll get roughly 14 Forests and 10 Mountains. Next look at the color requirements for individual spells, and decide whether this mix of lands will actually support all of your spells. Say you hope to be able to cast Slagstorm on turn three, the double Red requirement is going to be difficult with only 10 Red sources in the deck. In fact, you shouldn't expect to see a second red source until around turn five. Enter dual lands. In this situation, we're looking to have 2 Red sources available by turn three, which means we need 2 in 9 cards to be red sources, thus we need 13-14 Red sources in the deck. By including RG dual lands, Copperline Gorge and Rootbound Crag, in place of 4 Forests, we can get the requisite Red sources without infringing on our Green base. We can also make room for utility lands like Kessig Wolf Run here by removing one Forest and one Mountain for another dual land, which fills the color slots for both, while only taking up a single land spot. Swapping 4 Mountains and 4 Forests for the other 4 dual lands, we've now got room to include 4 utility lands while maintaining 14 Red and 14 Green sources. We're now looking at 6 Forests, 6 Mountains, 4 Copperline Gorge, 4 Rootbound Crag, plus 4 Utility Lands. Most Wolf Run decks look to include 6 utility lands including 4 Inkmoth Nexus and 2 Kessig Wolf Run, though, so where do we go from here? Keeping in mind that Wolf Run also includes plenty of mana acceleration, we can opt to simply cut a Forest in favor of a utility land, and, like the Pros, run 25 total lands to make room for another, since we don't want to lose out on any of our other colored sources.


Now that you've got your spells and lands sorted, it's time for the ultimate test. Playtesting. You'll want to playtest as much as possible in order to fine tune your land choices. If you find that you're consistently heavy on one color and short on another, you can try swapping out a basic land. If you're running a split of Scars duals and M12 duals (see below) and your lands are coming into play tapped at crucial moments, it may be worthwhile to reexamine your choices there and tweak the split. I personally like running the M12 duals with plenty of basic lands to ensure they come in untapped, as the fact that Scars lands always come in tapped after turn three is usually troublesome. Since no deck is ever perfect, this part of the process is ongoing. As you make tweaks to your spells from playtesting, you're going to have to rebalance your lands to accommodate, and as you get more games under your belt with the deck, you'll have a better idea of how your mana base is working and what changes might be beneficial.

Pros Breaking Rules

Now let's look at something a bit less straightforward like Raphael Levy's Frites 2.0 which looks to use all five colors. This is a bit of a stretch of Rule Number One above, so naturally I want to talk about it. I'd like to point out that he's only using a pair of M12 dual lands, which require basic lands in play to come in untapped. The rest of his duals are all Scars dual lands, which come in untapped as long as you control two or fewer other lands. The implication here is that many lands in the deck are coming into play tapped after turn three, so we expect to have our game plan roughly underway by that point. Looking at the colors, it's apparent that the deck is primarily Green with almost 50% of mana symbols, plus the early turns will want to see green for the acceleration, so the inclusion of 6 Forests in addition to the 10 other Green mana sources seems perfectly reasonable. Next in the color pie is White, which makes up almost 1/3 of the deck, but gets very little love by way of land inclusion seeing only 6 land-based sources. The reasons for this seem twofold. First with Birds of Paradise and Avacyn's Pilgrim in the deck, you've got plenty of White mana acceleration. Secondly, the primary source of White mana symbols is Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, which we'd actually be looking to put into the Graveyard so we can reanimate with Unburial Rites, leaving Lingering Souls and the Unburial Rites flashback as the primary sink for White mana. Of course, being able to eventually hard-cast an Elesh Norn is an excellent backup plan. Red and Black each make up roughly 10% of the color pie, but the Red spell, Faithless Looting wants to be cast earlier in the game than Black's Unburial Rites. As such, Red gets 9 sources to Black's 6 to better facilitate having Red mana early in the game for Looting. Finally, Blue has only the Flashback cost on Tracker's Instincts, so the mana sources are scarce, including only 2 lands in a pair of Darkslick Shores.

So how do you cultivate your lands when building a new deck? Do you use similar methods, or do you have your own technique?



Q: If Phantasmal Image is cast on something with Undying, does it still get the +1/+1 counter when it dies? Will the same happen for a token resulting from Cackling Counterpart?

A: When Phantasmal Image copies, say, Strangleroot Geist, it copies all copyable characteristics of the Geist, including the Undying ability. When the Image dies, it's Undying ability will trigger, and will bring it back to the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter. When it re-enters the Battlefield from the Undying ability, the Image's own ability allows it to choose another creature to copy. It still gets the +1/+1 counter, but it can now copy a different creature, if so desired.
For the token created by Cackling Counterpart, it does get the Undying ability which triggers when it dies but, since it's a token, when it hits the graveyard it ceases to exist as a State-Based Action, thus it cannot be brought back to the Battlefield when the Undying ability resolves.

706.2. When copying an object, the copy acquires the copiable values of the original object's characteristics and, for an object on the stack, choices made when casting or activating it (mode, targets, the value of X, whether it was kicked, how it will affect multiple targets, and so on). The "copiable values" are the values derived from the text printed on the object (that text being name, mana cost, color indicator, card type, subtype, supertype, expansion symbol, rules text, power, toughness, and/or loyalty), as modified by other copy effects, by "as . . . enters the battlefield" and "as . . . is turned face up" abilities that set characteristics, and by abilities that caused the object to be face down. Other effects (including type-changing and text-changing effects), status, and counters are not copied.

110.5f A token that's phased out, or that's in a zone other than the battlefield, ceases to exist. This is a state-based action; see rule 704. (Note that if a token changes zones, applicable triggered abilities will trigger before the token ceases to exist.)

Comments on