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MTG: How to Build the Perfect Mana Base for a 40-Card Deck


About the Limited Format in Magic: The Gathering

Two of the biggest challenges of the limited format (draft or sealed) are having access to the correct mana sources and using the correct amount of lands in your 40-card decks.

Unlike with the constructed format, we will only have access to the non-basic land cards present in the booster packs that we will open, as well as to the basic lands. Therefore, it will not be possible to have access to the 4x of any single dual land or all the manadork or manarocks available. That's the beauty of the limited format.

In fact, the limited format, in my opinion, is the best format for really seeing a player's deckbuilding skills. It is no coincidence that the limited format is joined to other formats in the most important tournaments for Magic: The Gathering.

What About Deck Copying?

A common saying (or should I say rant?) is that those who play constructed formats can copy the winning decks from the big tournaments and take them to their local tournaments. But that's impossible for limited players, as every draft is a unique and unrepeatable experience.

Yes, it is possible to draft the same expansion several times, but the pool of available cards will be different each time, and the opponents will also behave differently.

Scryfall is a great resource for viewing Magic: The Gathering cards while here on Hubpages. You can find tons of interesting articles about new expansions or learn the basics of the game.

Scryfall is a great resource for viewing Magic: The Gathering cards while here on Hubpages. You can find tons of interesting articles about new expansions or learn the basics of the game.

How Do You Gear Up for All This Variance?

Of course, there are several ways to get ready for a limited event, such as following spoilers about the new expansion and reading the various reviews available on specialized sites. This information can be useful to help you understand how to get the most out of your picks. It also helps you plan whether you need to increase the priority of any taplands or other mana-fixing tools in relation to the different archetypes available.

In addition to this, however, there are also good rules for choosing both land and non-land cards.

How Many Land Cards Should You Use?

For the land cards, it is a good practice to use about 17 to 18 lands out of the 40 total cards. This breakdown should be consistent for most limited decks in 95% of cases. I recommend switching to 16 lands only for particularly fast decks, i.e., those with low-cost cards.

The opposite case, i.e., switching to 19 lands, is only recommended in those cases where there are many ways to take advantage of manasinks. The word "manasink" refers to all cards that can use excess mana for additional effects, such as drawing additional cards or enhancing a creature's characteristics.

How Do You Handle the Colored Requirements?

Another important piece of advice in deck construction for the limited format is to consider the specific colored requirements of the cards when creating the manabase.

  • Single: For example, cards with a cost of "G," "1R," or "2B" are called cards with a single colored requirement and can easily fit into all decks.
  • Double: However, cards with a cost of "1GG," "2BB," or "3WW" are considered cards with a double colored requirement and require some special attention when placed in a limited deck in large quantities.
  • Triple: Cards with triple colored requirement such as "GGG," "1UUU," or "2WWW" should only be used in single-color decks, as the manabase can hardly support both them and other colored requirements with consistency.
  • Single per Color: Cards costing "WU," 1GR," or "2RBU" fall into the category of cards with a single requirement for each color they represent.

Credit to Frank Karsten for this awesome table.
In this way, we can define how many sources of colored mana we need in relation to the mana requirement and the turn in which the card must be played.
A "2G" card in turn 3 requires about 8 green source

Turn 1Turn 2Turn 3Turn 4Turn 5Turn 6Turn 7+

Single Color Requirement








Double Color Requirement








Triple Color Requirement








Why Do We Have to Look at the Colored Requirements?

Checking the colored mana requirements is critical to being able to build the manabase effectively. It's also crucial for enabling us to play all our best cards when we really need them.

By looking at the colored mana requirements of our cards, we will be able to understand how many sources of a specific color we should have in our manabase. For example, a basic forest corresponds to a green mana source, just as other basic land corresponds to a mana source of the corresponding color.

Choosing and Using Taplands

A tapland (by this name, I mean all lands that come into play tapped and that can provide mana of different colors present at lower rarities to balance the limited environment) can count as a mana source for each color it can produce when it comes capped. For this reason, taplands are usually taken in fairly high picks, especially if the expansion has a good propensity for archetypes based on two or more colors.

If our card pool is made up of all cards of the same color, we can simply add the corresponding lands and move on to the next phases. In this case, taplands are not added as they would slow down the deck due to their entry into the game tapped, unless they provide other types of bonuses.

Creating a Multi-Colored Manabase

To create a multi-colored manabase instead, we need to see which cards in our deck have the greatest deckbuilding restrictions. Once these are resolved, all the others will be automatically playable without problems.

For example, a card that costs "G" and must be played in the first turn is more restrictive in terms of colored mana than a "4G" card that we will play starting on our fifth game turn. Generally, in order to use a card with a single colored mana requirement on our first turn, about 10 sources of the color in question are sufficient. So, we will need at least 10 lands that can produce that color in order to play it consistently.

Can You Play Two Colors Within the Same Deck?

Potentially, if cards with mana value of 1 weren't particularly good or we couldn't find any in our pool, we could reduce the requirement to 9. That way, we could easily play 18 lands with 9 lands of color A and 9 lands of color B.

In this case, where there aren't too many issues with colored mana requirements, playing two colors within the same deck is actually a natural choice for many draft decks unless there are particularly strong rewards from playing a single color (such as playing a MonoGreen Elves tribal deck).

Tweaking the Number of Mana Sources per Color

If it is not necessary to play a card with a single colored requirement in the early stages of the game, such as when we add only a few cards as a splash with a "4G" card in a red deck, we can reduce the number of green mana sources down to a number of about 7 or 6.

In this case, where we expect to play a lot of low-cost red cards and only a few high-cost green cards for closing, 11 red and 7 green sources can be played.

Dealing With Double-Colored Mana Requirements

If, on the other hand, we play a lot of cards with double-colored mana requirements, we will have to increase the corresponding number of mana sources required. Also, we will have to start making detailed choices on what to insert and what to leave out of the deck.

A card with a double-colored requirement played on the second turn (such as a "UU" card) requires approximately 14 sources of the required color, leaving little room for any additional colors.

In this case, we can opt to play two fairly even colors but with a slight predominance of the color sources with the greater requirement (but be aware of the fact that we will not always be able to play the card requested in turn 2). Alternatively, we can focus more on just one color and move the splash to a second color only for the final stages of the game (turns 7+) with cards with higher mana costs.

In the first option, we might use 10 sources of the main color plus 8 sources of the secondary color, or we could move further towards a subdivision of 13 sources of the primary color and 5 sources for the splash of the second color for the final stages.

Are Cards With Triple-Colored Requirements Necessary?

If there are many cards with triple specific requirements, we will have to ask ourselves if they are really necessary for our deck or if they are simply "nice to have." Usually, this type of card is often created as a support for single-colored decks as all land support must produce the same type of mana; therefore, we must ask ourselves if it is really fundamental to our strategy or if it risks making our deck less stable.

In some cases, giving up these cards to make the deck more stable may be a good choice.

© 2021 Christian Allasia