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MTG: How to Build a Perfect Mana Base for a 60-Card Deck

I've been playing Magic: The Gathering for some time, and today I want to share my tricks.

Mana Confluence

Mana Confluence

Why Is Building the Right Manabase so Important in MTG?

I started playing Magic as an amateur with the Scourge expansion (2004), and I started playing competitively starting from the Tenth Edition (2007). One of the most underestimated issues by players who fail to become pro players is the importance of the mana base in deckbuilding.

The task of the manabase is to allow us to cast the right spells at the right time; it seems obvious, but it is not so simple to put into practice. Some players get caught up in the beautiful descriptions of spells and their amazing effects but forget that if they can't cast them, they are completely useless.

A good mana base must be built to complement the rest of the deck; neither side must prevail.

The Player must therefore understand what the deck requirements are and ask himself the following questions:

  • How many lands does my deck need according to its gameplay?
  • How many basic lands do I need? How many non-basic/duals?
  • How many Enter The Battlefield Tapped (ETBT) lands can I put in before slowing the deck too much?

Decide the Number of Lands in Relation to the Gameplay

One way to figure out how many lands you need to play is to define the top of the mana curve (to do this, you need to check the Mana Value, a.k.a. CMC, converted mana cost of the cards in your deck) and the archetype (aggro, combo, midrange, control, etc.).

The extremes are single-color hyper aggro decks to multi-color control decks where the number of lands can range from a minimum of 18-19 to a maximum of about 27-28 lands. Generally, the others are on the 23-24 lands.

An 18-land deck must be extremely quick to close the game and must not have Mana values greater than 2. A 28-land deck is a control deck that must play lands every turn until it reaches the maximum of its mana curve (7 +).

In control decks, it is forbidden to lose land drops.

Another important point is the number of lands with ETBT effects on the total number of lands played. As ETBT, we mean those that 100% enter tapped (therefore not Shocklands, checklands, etc.).

The more aggressive decks don't play them because they do not want to be slowed down (their strength is their speed), while the slower decks can play some of them for mana-fixing reasons or additional abilities.

However, it is always recommended to keep their number to a minimum so as not to worsen the match-up against fast decks (from zero to 6-8 in relation to the speed of the metagame).

This card has a Mana Value of 1 because it only cost "G" to cast

This card has a Mana Value of 1 because it only cost "G" to cast

Manadork, Mana Rocks, and Ramp

For the uninitiated, not only can lands produce mana, but in fact, some creatures and artifacts can also generate mana. These are called Manadork and mana rocks, respectively.

The Llanowar Elves card is one of the best-known Manadorks in green and is often played on turn 1 to be able to cast 3-cost spells one turn early (so on turn 2 and not turn 3).

Generally, the ability to play "early" is called Ramp and is mainly focused on green.

To build the perfect manabase, it is also necessary to consider the presence of any manadork or manarocks. Creatures typically have summoning sickness and therefore cannot create mana in the same turn they are played but can do so on subsequent turns if they are not removed.

Instants and sorceries can also help ramp by taking lands from the deck and putting them into play tapped; these additional lands can serve from the next turn.

This card has a Mana Value of 4 because cost "2 + B + B" to cast.

This card has a Mana Value of 4 because cost "2 + B + B" to cast.

Manasink

Manasinks are cards that love excess mana as they can offer us additional bonuses.
The example above is a card that can grow a lot if fed abundantly with generic mana (any color) and black mana. These types of cards are usually very strong in Limited (Draft or Sealed), but some have also been played in Standard (e.g., utilities land).

In this case, I would have to consider the mana to be able to cast it on turn 4, and I might think about putting some more black mana than normal to be able to activate it 3 times on turn 6, 4 times on turn 8 and so on.

When Nicol Bolas told me he can do better manabases than me....

When Nicol Bolas told me he can do better manabases than me....

Specific Color Requirements

The card above is an example of a mana-intensive card, meaning that it needs more mana of a specific color to be cast. Fortunately, not all cards are that hungry.

When playing Magic, we will normally come across cards with single requirements of a color ("Green," "1Red," "2Black"), double specific requirements ("GreenGreen," "1RedRed"), or even triple specific requirements ("1BlueBlueBlue").
Multicolored cards can be broken down as single requirements ("BlueBlack" = Single "Blue" + Single "Black," "GreenRedRed" = Single "Green" + double "Red").

To solve my problems, I made this table which takes the mana requirements (single, double, or triple) in relation to the game turn:

 T 1T 2T 3T 4T 5T 6T 7+

Single Requirement (C)

14

13

12

11

10

9

8

Double Requirement (CC)

X

20

19

18

17

16

15

Triple Requirement (CCC)

X

X

24

23

22

21

20

Basic lands count as 1 for the color they produce.

Dual lands count 1 for each color they produce.

Pathways count 0.8 for each color because they can’t produce both colors.

ETBT lands count 1 for each color they produce but only from the next turn.

Manadork and Mana rocks count as 0.5 because they can be removed and usually only from the next turn.

Fetchlands count 0.8 for each color they can take (if I only have a basic forest, only 0.8 Green regardless of the number of fetches).

So from the table to cast "Llanowar Elves," we need 14 sources of green mana in order to cast it on Turn 1. So in a 22-land deck, 14 must produce green mana.

To cast a "Cruel Ultimatum" card on turn 7, we would need at least 20 sources of black mana, 15 blue sources, and 15 red sources. 20 + 15 + 15 = 50, so in a deck that plays 28 lands, many (most) of them must be dual lands ( or Tri-lands) in order to cast this card.

This card has a Mana Value of 3 because cost "G + G + G"

This card has a Mana Value of 3 because cost "G + G + G"

Casting "Leatherback Baloth" on the third turn requires 24 sources of green mana (if we include "Llanowar Elves" in the same deck, sometimes we can cast it on T2).

This is just a small explanation for a much larger and more varied topic (40-card limited decks? 99-card commander decks?) So if the topic is appealing, I can make an article about these decks, too.

Let me know in the comments below!

© 2020 Christian Allasia

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