The Basics of Lands

The Basics of Lands

This week we delve into deck building and mana bases.

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I always appreciate articles like this that discuss the strategies and techniques behind deck composition. I've been playing casually on and off for 10 years, but I didn't start thinking at this level until recently. I went with 40 non-land/20 land builds for years, but then I started reading articles like this and I think my deck building is much better.

There are so many rules and exceptions to rules to building a mana base, you could break it down into multiple articles, based on format, deck construction, and your highest CMC. I built a deck last night where the highest CMC in my deck was a flashback of 6, but it was on a utility spell. My highest CMC on a spell was just 4. The fact that it was a mono-color deck that could reduce the highest cost on anything other than my flashback spell to 2 meant I didn't have to run as many lands as normal.

The deck had a total of 20 lands, and 3 of them were primarily utility, rather than mana producing. I never ran into problems where I couldn't afford anything after turn 4, and as soon as I started running behind the curve, I was able to ramp things back up thanks to the timely draw of a single card. That card was Land Tax.

Of course, this deck is vintage soldier tribal, so your mileage may vary.

I don't usually think about lands much... Not as much as I should anyway.

I usually go 22 lands if my deck is mono colored, which it usually is. I try to keep the highest CMC around 4 as well.

The biggest problem I have though is adding in none basic lands to the the mono colored deck. I never really know what to add. I'm currently running a mono black vampire deck. It's in the modern format.

If I'm getting out my comfor zone with a dual colored deck, then I go for 24-26 lands. That's apparently pretty common. My standard is U/B with drowned Catacombs as the only dual colored land. I can't afford any Darkslick Shores :B. I'm lucky I got all my Inkmoth Nexus's in packs...

Well, nevermind, I see that question was answered in the post. Derp.

aidutcher:
I always appreciate articles like this that discuss the strategies and techniques behind deck composition. I've been playing casually on and off for 10 years, but I didn't start thinking at this level until recently. I went with 40 non-land/20 land builds for years, but then I started reading articles like this and I think my deck building is much better.

I'm glad to hear it! I found that 40/20 decks work well enough with friendly mulligan rules, but when you don't get a free mulligan(or two) the extra consistency of a few more lands is crucial.

vxicepickxv:
There are so many rules and exceptions to rules to building a mana base, you could break it down into multiple articles, based on format, deck construction, and your highest CMC.

This is so true. In fact, I did write two and a half articles, but I wanted to say as much as possible, so I ended up going with this iteration that sort of summarized the whole mess. As I mentioned, I may be coming back to this in later weeks for more specific treatment.

MrMixelPixel:
I don't usually think about lands much... Not as much as I should anyway.

If I'm getting out my comfor zone with a dual colored deck, then I go for 24-26 lands. That's apparently pretty common. My standard is U/B with drowned Catacombs as the only dual colored land. I can't afford any Darkslick Shores :B. I'm lucky I got all my Inkmoth Nexus's in packs...

That seems about right. 22 Lands should typically get you your 4th land by turn five on the play, though in the cases where you're trying to cast a 4-CMC critter on turn four, you might consider adding a couple of utility lands to get up to 24. That seems to be the magic number for 4 lands on turn four.

Also, yeah, Scars lands are so expensive. In other news, in case anybody still needs Inkmoth Nexus, you can get two of them in the Gleeful Flames Event Deck, although I'm still a bit puzzled as to why they're in there.

Also, yeah, Scars lands are so expensive. In other news, in case anybody still needs Inkmoth Nexus, you can get two of them in the Gleeful Flames Event Deck, although I'm still a bit puzzled as to why they're in there.

Probably due to high demand in the current meta. Inkmoths are run in both Tempered Steel and Wolf Run Ramp, in addition to other decks who might use them. It's like why they put Sol Ring into the Commander precon decks, though they're much more useful to those decks than the Inkmoths are to the Gleeful Flames deck, apparently.

Edit: Ooh, Hellrider's going to be in there too! I love that card.

Or... you could just run mono-coloured and run just basics + utilities (inkmoth etc.).

TheAweDude:
Or... you could just run mono-coloured and run just basics + utilities (inkmoth etc.).

Aside from mono-Red and mono-Green, the other three colors don't really have a major advantage by themselves. Blue/Black is a strong color combination, and so is Blue/White. Green/Red has obvious synergy, and even Green/White has a dedicated deck. Even Black/White is getting some love.

Black is making a comeback, but slowly. Red is easy to sideboard against, but can be pretty devastating in the right hands. Green got some love with Dark Ascension but wasn't doing very well before that (I'm looking at you, Strangleroot Geist).

Plus, 2+ colored decks are fun to play. My favorite combination is Blue/Green (Simic represent), for example. You're also forgetting that a lot of the utility lands (at least in Standard) are based on two colors. Nephalia Drownyard, Kessig Wolf Run, Stensia Bloodhall, Gavony Township, Grim Backwoods, Moorland Haunt, Vault of the Archangel.

There are only a few colorless utility lands. Inkmoth Nexus, Haunted Fengraf, Phyrexia's Core, Buried Ruin, Contested War Zone, Evolving Wilds and Ghost Quarter. Inkmoth is about the only useful utility land that doesn't require a colored activation.

Haunted Fengraf isn't very reliable because it costs three mana and sacrificing it to retrieve a random creature from your grave.

Contested War Zone's bonus is nice, but it was mostly used in the deck Cloudpost and TurboFog because you could use cards like Fog to stop combat damage so you wouldn't lose the land.

Phyrexia's Core requires you sacrifice an artifact to gain one life, which isn't very good unless you're running a myr deck, and then only maybe. Ghost Quarter is useful, but retrieving it is difficult outside of a Sun Titan deck (Tectonic Edge did it better), and Evolving Wilds is just a mana fixer.

It's just not feasible to use colorless utility lands right now. Innistrad is an enemy color block, and even before that, multicolor decks have always been viable.

I've always ran the age-old 40/20 composition, but now that I'm starting to play more competitively I've needed to revise that. Plus, since I play legacy, I can get away with running very few lands with no problems, especially with true duals.

Frylock72:
There are only a few colorless utility lands. Inkmoth Nexus, Haunted Fengraf, Phyrexia's Core, Buried Ruin, Contested War Zone, Evolving Wilds and Ghost Quarter. Inkmoth is about the only useful utility land that doesn't require a colored activation.

I dunno man, those Dark Depths are colourless. But I guess it's not like anyone uses its ability. We all just drop Vampire Hexmage and beat.

Frylock72:

TheAweDude:

Contested War Zone's bonus is nice, but it was mostly used in the deck Cloudpost and TurboFog because you could use cards like Fog to stop combat damage so you wouldn't lose the land.

...you're doing it wrong. Contested war zone is dreadful in turbofog, as turbofog by near definition contains no dudes. Which makes warzone at best poor in this deck. Same with cloudpost; you're planning to win with some enormous monstrosity like emrakul, so the 1 damage from warzone isn't much of a bonus for the risk.

Warzone is ok in affinity-style decks where the colourlessness of the mana isn't an issue and it can do 4-8 damage over a couple of turns. It's still pretty risky.

[quote]
Phyrexia's Core requires you sacrifice an artifact to gain one life, which isn't very good unless you're running a myr deck, and then only maybe. Ghost Quarter is useful, but retrieving it is difficult outside of a Sun Titan deck (Tectonic Edge did it better), and Evolving Wilds is just a mana fixer.

It's just not feasible to use colorless utility lands right now. Innistrad is an enemy color block, and even before that, multicolor decks have always been viable.

GQ is fine. It is good against nexus and other lands. Sure, tech edge is better, but it's like saying edge is no good because wasteland which is no good because stripmine; you play with the tools available.

And there are plenty of other lands getting play. Drownyard, wolfrun, gavony township, moorland haunt; all seem better than bad to me.

Edit: Also, 'strad is not an enemy colour block. All the tribes are adjacent colours. Yes, the duals are enemy colour but they are there because they could sneak the flavour, not because it fits the block terribly well. There are a few cross colour flashbacks, but that doesn't mean it is an enemy colour block. Allied-colour friendly cards outnumber enemy friendly ones by a significant margin.

SL33TBL1ND:
I've always ran the age-old 40/20 composition, but now that I'm starting to play more competitively I've needed to revise that. Plus, since I play legacy, I can get away with running very few lands with no problems, especially with true duals.

Frylock72:
There are only a few colorless utility lands. Inkmoth Nexus, Haunted Fengraf, Phyrexia's Core, Buried Ruin, Contested War Zone, Evolving Wilds and Ghost Quarter. Inkmoth is about the only useful utility land that doesn't require a colored activation.

I dunno man, those Dark Depths are colourless. But I guess it's not like anyone uses its ability. We all just drop Vampire Hexmage and beat.

Well, I was talking Standard only.

Frylock72:

mrverbal:

Contested War Zone's bonus is nice, but it was mostly used in the deck Cloudpost and TurboFog because you could use cards like Fog to stop combat damage so you wouldn't lose the land.

...you're doing it wrong. Contested war zone is dreadful in turbofog, as turbofog by near definition contains no dudes. Which makes warzone at best poor in this deck. Same with cloudpost; you're planning to win with some enormous monstrosity like emrakul, so the 1 damage from warzone isn't much of a bonus for the risk.

Warzone is ok in affinity-style decks where the colourlessness of the mana isn't an issue and it can do 4-8 damage over a couple of turns. It's still pretty risky.

Frylock72:
Phyrexia's Core requires you sacrifice an artifact to gain one life, which isn't very good unless you're running a myr deck, and then only maybe. Ghost Quarter is useful, but retrieving it is difficult outside of a Sun Titan deck (Tectonic Edge did it better), and Evolving Wilds is just a mana fixer.

It's just not feasible to use colorless utility lands right now. Innistrad is an enemy color block, and even before that, multicolor decks have always been viable.

GQ is fine. It is good against nexus and other lands. Sure, tech edge is better, but it's like saying edge is no good because wasteland which is no good because stripmine; you play with the tools available.

And there are plenty of other lands getting play. Drownyard, wolfrun, gavony township, moorland haunt; all seem better than bad to me.

Edit: Also, 'strad is not an enemy colour block. All the tribes are adjacent colours. Yes, the duals are enemy colour but they are there because they could sneak the flavour, not because it fits the block terribly well. There are a few cross colour flashbacks, but that doesn't mean it is an enemy colour block. Allied-colour friendly cards outnumber enemy friendly ones by a significant margin.

I'm aware that the color-activated utility lands are seeing play, but the point is that Inkmoth and Ghost Quarter are the only two non-color activated lands that are good, so The Awe Dude's comment doesn't work, at least in the confines of Standard. Besides, learning how to work a mana base is a good skill to have.

Balancing manabases is an essential deck building skill; arguably the most important one since it's the easiest to overlook and screw up.

Really; I cannot tell you how many matches I've won on account of my opponent getting flooded/shorted on Games 1 and 2...or lost for the same reasons but to me.

Frylock72:

I'm aware that the color-activated utility lands are seeing play, but the point is that Inkmoth and Ghost Quarter are the only two non-color activated lands that are good, so The Awe Dude's comment doesn't work, at least in the confines of Standard. Besides, learning how to work a mana base is a good skill to have.

Yeah. Right now those are the only two I regularly see locally.
For a time, we had Mystifying Maze as some nifty tech in M11. Underused, but quite good for a time. It generated tempo vs CawBlade for a while anyway, and ended many a game on technical oversight whenever the two dudes running Artifacts and their Etched Champions came out to play.

off topic question: i have Manabarbs out and 9 life, opponent has 3 life. he plays Sorin's Vengeance. What happens?

 

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