[MTGS Classics] Your Mana Base and You
By Benjamin Ng on August 25th, 2006 · Filed in General Magic · Comments not available just now
Why balancing your mana is important
There are five colors in Magic: the Gathering: Red, White, Green, Blue, and Black. Each color has its own strengths and weaknesses, and among each color are very powerful cards you won’t find the likes of in other colors. So why not play every color, using the best cards from each one?
Mana. The more colors you play, the less likely you are to draw lands that give you the mana you need, which leaves you with dead cards in your hand. Every time you draw a dead card, it's like your opponent casting Fatigue on you. It’s not fun. This article aims to help you solve your fatigue problems as well as turn the most boring 33% of your deck into something worth thinking about.
Basic Rules for Mana Balancing.
How much mana?
Decks can vary from anything between 14 and 26 land, given the cards that go into them. The 14-ish land decks are fairly uncommon; most conventional decks run about 23 land, and it’s a good place to start.
The rough chances of drawing less than 2 land or more than 4 in a hand of 7(which usually means you have to mulligan):
19 Land: 33.0%
20 Land: 31.3%
21 Land: 28.9%
22 Land: 27.5%
23 Land: 26.3%
24 Land: 25.5%
25 Land: 25.1%
26 Land: 25.3%
As you can see, your deck becomes more consistent as you add land until you hit 25 land. On the other hand, you don’t want to end up drawing land later on in the game after you don’t need it, and each deck slot used for land is one not used for a powerful card. A good rule of thumb is to calculate the average mana cost of spells in your deck, not counting cards you don’t intend to pay for and adding the ability costs for permanents, like equip costs or Jushi Apprentice’s ability. For cards with variable costs (like Decree of Justice), use your own judgement.
Double this average (say, 2.2 mana x 2 = 4.4) then add it to 18. This may seem unusually high, but that’s because people tend to lower this number by playing other cards (explained later in the article).
If you’re struggling between a land card and a spell for the last slot of your deck, you may want to consider adding both. A 38 spell, 23 land deck gets mana screwed only 92% of the time a 38 spell, 22 land deck would. 61 card decks only reduce your chance of drawing a 4-of in your deck by 0.11%. Never simply switch out a land for a spell, even to fill a slot of 4; the loss in consistency is dramatic.
It’s pretty shocking how few people do this, because it’s a quick way to get the proper balance of color your deck needs. What you do is:
Count how many cards you have of each color, following these rules:
Double mana cards (like Distress) = + 0.5 cards.
Gold cards count as one mana for each color it is (ie Meddling Mage counts as 1 blue card and 1 white card.)
Cards primarily useful in the early game (like Dark Ritual) = + 0.25 cards.
If a card fits more than one of these rules apply both.
You’ll end up with a number for each color in your deck, like 5x , 21x , 14x
Convert these to percentages (in this case, 12.5%, 52.5%, 35%).
Multiply each percentage by the number of land slots in your deck (if my deck had 24 spaces for land it would be 3, 12.6, 8.4). Round the fractions favoring the less common land, and you have your basic land ratio.
6 or more rule:
No matter what, if you are playing a color make sure to have at least 6 ways to get that color of mana in your deck consistently. (Things like Chromatic Sphere don’t count). Anything less and you won’t draw mana for that color enough to play the cards on a regular basis. In the case above, I would either have to take out forests and mountains to add -producing lands, or include Wayfarer’s Baubles or Sakura-Tribe Elders in my deck.
Replacements to Basic LandBasic land is boring. It only generates one kind of mana, and only one of that mana, and that’s all it does. Yeah, it doesn’t get hit by Wasteland or Blood Moon, but it DOES get hit by the also-common Sundering Titan. There are plenty of good alternatives to just basic land in your deck, and almost every deck plays at least a few nonbasics.
More Color:How often do you draw a couple discard spells and a Forest, or your Birds of Paradise and a Mountain? For a small price, multilands help you play your spells in the early game while your mana is being established, then can provide you with colorless mana once you can generate mana of your desired colors. If you are playing a 3-or-more color deck and don't know which multilands to run, run the ones that produce your minor colors because they are the ones most likely in need of fixing.
Type II: How many Standard decks can you name that are more than one color and don’t involve Green? Maybe one. The lack of decent multilands makes a big impact on the environment. Affinity’s colorless spells and Glimmervoid allowed it to sidestep this huge hurdle that kept the opposition weak.
Tempest-Style Taplands: These are not something to play in multiples. The times you would tap them for colored mana is in the early game when you’re lacking land, and it’s also when the drawback hurts the worst.
Invasion Taplands: Really slow. Drawing one of these when desperate for land is almost as bad as not drawing land at all. It’s playable in decks that take forever to set up (like UW control) and can’t afford the damage City of Brass gives them, but otherwise not playable.
Mirrodin's Core: Let's take the Tempest taplands, and make them give you colored mana at a slower rate. Forget the ability to tap for any color and accumulate counters; a multicolored deck that can get the color it needs only every other turn is doomed. This is one 'core you don't want to play.
Tendo Ice Bridge: Worse than slowness is inconsistency. Unless you’re paying for a Birds of Paradise, Tendo Ice Bridge doesn’t guarantee more than one shot of color and once again the point of multilands is to smooth out the early game. Note that unless playing more than two colors or expecting to use colorless mana extensively, the Bridge is worse than the Tempest taplands.
City of Brass: The only really acceptable multiland in Type II, which of course makes it less playable since it works best in decks with more than two colors. CoB’s heavy damage also encourages quick games, so add it to aggressive two-color decks or not at all.
Extended: Extended only has two more types of multiland than Type II, and yet tricolor decks are completely playable. Just watch out for nonbasic hate.
Painlands: It’s very hard to make a multiland as playable as this one and still fair. The pinging can sometimes cost you the game, but being color-screwed does so far more often. Not playing four of these in a two-color deck is unusual.
Fetchlands: Thins your deck, only hurts you once, immune to most nonbasic hate? Beautiful! On the other hand, you can only get one color of mana and the ability can be Stifled or prevented with Pithing Needle. The deck-thinning effect makes it playable in monocolor, but the effect is pretty minimal so only play it in monocolor if it’s a fast deck that doesn’t care about its life total. Make sure you don't run more fetchlands than basic lands it can fetch.
City of Brass: A painland of every color, but it can’t tap painlessly for colorless. Great for tricolor decks, but drawing two is awful so a lot of decks try not to play more than that number. Combo sometimes does.
Filterlands: Painlands minus the pain plus the horror of not having double colors or another land in your hand. If you play plenty of lands and don’t have many or any one-drops, these are playable. You don’t want too many, though; having only these as land is death. Usually 8-12 multilands is enough to support a deck, but if you really need more consistency or can’t afford to ping try switching in two of these.
Legacy: Playing with many colors in Legacy is easy as pie, given all the great multilands (provided you have the money).
Dual Lands: Does everything a basic land can do, and more. Almost any mana base can be strengthened by the addition of duals. Even monocolor decks often use duals for extra sideboard options. Having an all-dual base can hurt you when nonbasic hate comes around, so running at least a few basics is reccomended. Sundering Titan also goes to town on dual lands.
Fetchlands: In Legacy, fetchlands are even more important as they have synergy with a lot of popular cards like Brainstorm and Crucible of Worlds. But that is not the most important reason. With dual lands, fetchlands can grab any color land you need. If you play Underground Sea and Volcanic Island your Flooded Strands can fetch islands, swamps and mountains! Fetchlands can also fetch basic land to dodge nonbasic hate.
Gemstone Mine: Fetchlands and dual lands in combination allow large amounts of mana variation. When playing four or five colors, however, Gemstone Mine starts becoming a viable option. If the deck is combo and doesn't want the game to go more than three or four turns anyways, this card is a strong possibility.
City of Brass: For decks with more than 3 colors and 3 turns on their mind, such as control. The later inconsistency Mine brings far outweighs the disadvantage that City brings to the control player.
Type I: Vintage's land choice differs little from that of Legacy, so I won't repeat it. There is one difference, however.
Forbidden Orchard: While generally disrespected in other formats, Orchard has had a major impact on Vintage by turning the mediocre Oath of Druids deck into a Tier 1 powerhouse. Orchard gives Oath an uncounterable, free way to trigger Oath that provides mana, which is light years better than any alternative. It is not currently seen outside this deck archetype, as its drawback is not well-suited for control decks who may not be able to sustain repeated attacks from small creatures.
Especially for decks that don't use creatures or card draw, an extra mana is something akin to an extra turn. Speed kills, and being able to play your game-enders one or four turns faster than normal is a huge advantage.
Type II: There are only two playable kinds of lands in Type II that tap for more than one mana, and every Tooth and Nail Player knows what they are. Neither are bad, so let’s have a look at the pros and cons.
Cloudpost: Three of them give you enough mana to cast your fat artifacts, and you only need two of them to get an effect. That’s about all they have on Urzatron in terms of mana generation though, as Post comes into play tapped which slows you down enormously each time you play one of them. Especially if Plow Under makes you do it again. The ability to only get six mana from the Posts the turn you lay the third one makes them just generally worse than Urzatron; the only edge they have is their compactness, filling 4 slots when Urzatron must fill at least 9 and usually 12. If you play the Post, I suggest four Reap and Sows as they help lessen the blow of the CITP tapped-effect.
Urzatron: Much better than Cloudpost when the lands don’t get “upgraded,” much more likely to be randomly drawn and three of them gives you all the colorless you need for an entwined Tooth and Nail. The downside? 12 slots is a lot for nonbasic colorless land, and you end up with a 21% chance of a Forestless opening hand given 24 land. There’s only a 6% chance of that with Cloudpost. If you play Urzatron, it's probably best that you don't splash any colors.
Extended: 2-mana lands in Extended come with huge drawbacks, and tend not to be worth it.
City of Traitors, Depletion Lands, and Saclands: Each of these fit the same purpose: they give fast mana, but if they don’t die within a few turns of them being played they’re a waste. Losing lands is no small matter, so these mana accelerants only go in decks that aim to end the game with one or two big spells, like Aluren, Sneak Attack, or Balancing Act. Non-transient mana acceleration is only a bit slower, so these lands tend to go in combo decks with redundant pieces that are only concerned with achieving their combo (as opposed to stopping the opponent's plans).
Cabal Coffers: Worse than a swamp unless you have 4 swamps in play, in which case it's still worse because it has an activation cost and is nonbasic. After turn 5, however, it allows for huge Nantuko Shades and Consume Spirits. Don't factor these in when counting land, and add them like you would a 6-mana spell; sparingly.
Legacy: Because Legacy is significantly slower than Vintage, Legacy combo decks tend not to rely on the double mana lands as much.
Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors: Some fast colorless in an environment where one of the main strengths is an easy rainbow. They are not used as combo accelerants but as means of getting creatures onto the table at a faster pace.
Vintage: Any card you see here will never, ever be printed again.
Tolarian Academy: The land that started the infamous "Combo Winter," Tolarian Academy frequently sees use in combo and heavy artifact decks. Both decks use Moxen to increase the artifact count often making Academy tap for four or more mana. Combo decks use the mana to play multiple draw spells like Brainstorm or Ancestral Recall, or to provide the large amounts of colorless mana required for game-breaking spells like Mind's Desire or Yawgmoth's Bargain. Artifact-based strategies use the mana burst from Tolarian Academy to play expensive artifacts like Smokestack or Juggernaut faster.
Mishra's Workshop: Workshop's consistent mana acceleration, allowing for fast play of typically overcosted artifacts, allows for one of the few viable aggro strategies in Legacy. It also enables decks such as Stax, which plays cards with an average mana cost of between 2 and 4, to carry out its game plan consistently.
Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors: In Vintage, these are often used as "budget" replacements for Mishra's Workshop by players who can't afford the very steep price tag for four Workshops.
More Utility:Lands that are just lands are so boring. Who wants to draw a 7th swamp or Llanowar WAstes when your hand is empty and both players are racing to topdeck a threat? For a little less consistency, you can get some use out of your lands other than just mana.
Type II: The only real risk to playing nonbasics in Type II is extra damage from Molten Rain, because nonbasics aren’t really common enough in the format to be hated against. You may see a Sowing Salt or Ayumi, the Last Visitor here and there, but that's it.
Blinkmoth Nexus: Two-color decks are already more shaky in mana than they’d like to be, and a 1/1 flyer isn’t aggressive enough for decks packing green. Monoblue doesn’t like to weaken its shackles and it has Meloku for fliers, so it doesn’t really work there either. The only place Nexus works is MBC or maybe monored, where it’s decent but nothing amazing.
Stalking Stones: Like Nexus, but MBC has less use for a land that becomes a permanent creature since it can’t dodge Death Cloud. MUC can use it, but its ability overlaps with Meloku. Of course, Red wants nothing to do with a 6-mana ability.
Hall of the Bandit Lord: Never. Coming into play tapped slows down your game a lot, which is not what a deck that can utilize Haste wants. Every time you use this land, it should play a creature that can do 3+ damage to your opponent in one turn. Otherwise it’s just a waste of life.
Boseiju, Who Shelters All: Nice against Blue for Cranial Extractions, Tooth and Nails, and the like. Otherwise bad. Sideboard it unless you play T & N, in which case you can put it maindeck to [card]Sylvan Scrying[card] for it.
Blinkmoth Well: A more expensive Rishadan Port, but only for Talismans. If it has a use, it's for abusing the artifacts that only work when untapped. Otherwise, its useless.
Legendary Lands: If you’re playing Legends, why not? Unless you’re playing Vedalkan Shackles or Beacon of Creation. These protect you from Kiki-Titan to an extent, but don’t play more than one; the bonus isn’t worth potentially drawing a dead card when you need a land. Every now and then your opponent will kill it with his own copy when you’re mana screwed, but this should only happen as often as you get to do it to him. And watch out for the 7/3 Legendary Landwalker in Saviors.
Extended: Wasteland. Don't play more nonbasics than you have to, but don't shy away from playing them since they're awesome.
Manlands: Coming into play tapped is a pretty hefty cost, as is three mana a turn for a creature. The only worthwhile one is Treetop Village. Blinkmoth Nexus again suffers from giving colorless mana, and is only useful in Affinity where a Cranial Plating can be attached to it.
Rishadan Port/Wasteland: Denying your opponent mana for a very small cost. Great for fast decks, especially with Tangle Wire.
Barbarian Ring: Sacs for 2 damage, but often ends up costing you that much in pain. Ring also disagrees with Grim Lavamancer. That doesn't keep me from running them, because sometimes 2 damage is all you need.
Artifact Land: I hope these don't require explanation. Raffinity only.
Volrath’s Stronghold: Very good for maintaining pressure or surviving Brain Freeze. Also a great deterrent against mass removal or large attacks, since you’re guaranteed to topdeck a threat and your opponent isn’t. Rock decks, which can quickly generate the mana needed to fuel the Stronghold, benefit the most, but any Black deck with a fair amount of creatures can benefit from it.
Legacy: Super-mana fixing from dual lands means more room for utility lands. And a lot more room for nonbasic hate.
Wasteland: From killing manlands to stopping that one vital blue mana being used for a Counterspell, Wasteland can almost be noted as a auto-include in most aggro decks.
Manlands: The most common man land where the mana base of duals and fetch lands easily supports the lack of coloured mana. Mishra's Factory is also the most splashable and turns up in a lot of decks. The next playable manland is Faerie Conclave... again the support of the other lands and mana sources mitigates the Conclave coming into play tapped.
Vintage: Land wins games. It's beautiful.
Library of Alexandria: This card frequently breaks the stalemate between two control decks by rewarding the cautious player with an additional card draw every turn. It also provides colorless mana if achieving the requisite seven cards isn't likely to happen this turn.
Wasteland and Strip Mine: Aggro decks with typically small mana requirements use them to slow down the opponent enough to deal the damage necessary for a win, while control decks will use them to stabilize the early game while they set up hands full of answers for the opponent's strategy. Some Vintage decks use Crucible of Worlds in an attempt to parlay the advantage of these cards into a game-winning lock where the opponent can't maintain land on the table.
Man lands: These typically only see play in Fish and Landstill, two decks relying on Standstill as a draw mechanism. Since this deck needs win conditions that aren't spells, lands that can temporarily become creatures enter the mix. The two most commonly played are Faerie Conclave, which produces blue mana and also makes a flying creature, and Mishra's Factory, which becomes markedly better in multiples.
Bazaar of Baghdad: Bazaar shares the distinction with Library of Alexandria as being one of a very few card in Magic that references a real-world location. It most commonly appears in two archetypes: Worldgorger Dragon and Madness decks.
Dragon decks use the Bazaar in hopes of drawing a Dragon or win condition like Ambassador Laquatus which it can then discard and reanimate to win the game. When forced to play a slower game against control decks, it can mitigate the net card loss of Bazaar by discarding Squee, Goblin Nabob. Bazaar is particularly useful in this archetype because the Dragon's two triggered abilities causes it to leave play and reenter play untapped, so it can be used during the unbounded loop until such time as the win condition hits the graveyard.
Madness decks use the Bazaar to draw cards they can't play with Madness (like Wild Mongrel) while dumping free or cheap Madness cards into the graveyard.
Boseiju, Who Shelters All: While coming into play tapped is typically enough to prevent a land from seeing play in Vintage, the power this land can provide in the right matchups is worth it. Forcing a key spell like Mind Twist to resolve can often result in a game-breaking situation. The land is most often played in slower control decks who are more likely to deal with a heavy "wall of counters" and can afford to "lose" the land drop for a turn. Combo decks typically cannot tolerate the delay in receiving mana, and often play other self-damaging spells making Boseiju more dangerous.
Replacements to Land
Tired of taking up too many slots in your deck for land, or looking to ramp up faster than 1 mana a turn? These cards lower the amount of land you need for your deck and don’t have a "1 per turn" rule, in exchange for more vunerability and sometimes requiring an investment of mana.
Artifacts: Artifacts can tap the turn they come into play and provide the non-Green decks with the ability to get quick mana in exchange for being much easier to destroy and often having not-so-friendly drawbacks. Overdoing it with artifact mana can leave you in pain or with no mana at all.
Chrome Moxen can replace land at a 1:1 ratio.
Artifacts costing 2 can replace land at a 2.5:1 ratio.
Type II: Green is better than artifacts for mana acceleration and aggro doesn’t need much mana accel, so artifacts are not very widely used. Hate to combat Shackles and Equipment, however, still make them a fairly risky prospect.
Chrome Mox: I personally hate these. They’re a turn faster than another land, but they cost you an entire extra spell and it’s easy for the opponent to destroy, trading two cards for one. They’re very fast, and if you have a deck able to refill very fast or run something very devastating first turn like Slith Firewalker it can be worth it. Otherwise the threat you imprint on the Mox is probably worth more than the acceleration. Discarding a card to be able to play 2 lands in one turn doesn’t make sense to me.
Talismans: Decent, if unspectacular. If trying to make a two-color deck without Green, these are your best mana fixers while also giving some acceleration that you’re missing by not playing Green.
Star Compass: If Talismans are 2 mana painlands, Star Compass is a 2 mana basic land. (It's not a fixer, so run it only in monocolor decks). If you want accel for your monocolor nongreen deck and don’t like the pain given by Talismans, here you go.
Guardian Idol: A two-mana Mishra’s Factory that can’t pump itself. Being an artifact is cause for some concern, but it’s extremely versatile which is always good. MBC can use this well.
AEther Vial: Allowing creatures to be played twice as fast for free and as instants, AEther Vial is ridiculous and should be put in any weenie deck.
Chrome Mox: As I suggested before, Chrome Mox is only worthwhile for first-turn plays. Decks that benefit greatly from two mana the first turn like NO Stick, Life or GAT have reason to run a few Chrome Moxen, as does Goblins since once Ringleaders start hitting, the red player has no shortage of cards in hand.
Wild Growth: It’s not an artifact, but it fits. A “free” [card]Llanowar Elves[/carad], Wild Growth is a bit harder to kill than the Elves but decks that run Llanowar Elves are doing so partially because it can attack and be equipped. It’s very decent for mana acceleration, but that’s all it does.
Medallions: Consider how much mana this will save you when comparing this card to an actual mana producer. Do you cast, on average, more than a spell a turn after turn 2? If so Medallions are better mana savers than Talismans or Elders (assuming the spells benefit from the Talisman, of course).
Aether Vial: See description for Type II.
Legacy: Legacy has a large amount of free mana cards. What is more important is that Legacy has a large amount of the restricted free mana cards from Vintage. It is quite easy to create large amounts of mana in the first few turns.
Chrome Mox: Most decks that play Chrome Mox are aggressive in nature so inherently have a better time dealing with the card loss. Angel Stompy is a prime example of this. It uses the faster mana of the Chrome Mox to cast a morphed Exalted Angel as fast as possible and then morphs it the following turn.
Lion's Eye Diamond: While giving a huge 3 mana, its downfall is often too steep for most decks to cope with. Lion's Eye Diamond is usually used in misguided Blue/Green Madness decks in an attempt to get a turn one Roar of the Wurm or Arrogant Wurm. It is also used in the very fast two-land Belcher combo deck.
Dark Ritual: There are no broken cards that can’t be accelerated out a different way to justify using black (Legacy’s poorest color) for Dark Ritual.
Mox Diamond: Legacy is too land dependant for the Mox Diamond to be effective. Your lands pretty much give you prismatic anyways.
Vintage: If any six cards can be said to define Vintage as a unique format, they would be the five Moxen and Black Lotus.
Moxen: These cards enable the entire storm combo archetype, which consequently renders archetypes that might be considered "fast" in other formats useless. Many a game has been won by denying opponents the acceleration provided by the moxen through the use of spells like Gorilla Shaman, Chalice of the Void, and Null Rod.
Since there are so many anti-moxen cards floating around in the Vintage environment, one must be careful when substituting them for basic land. While beginning Vintage players often have the conception that all six cards are an "auto-include" in every deck, there are a couple of reasons why they may be partially omitted:
1) Off-color moxen might as well provide colorless mana, which is not always useful.
2) Decks like Fish often play Null Rod, which would shut down their own Moxen just as effectively as the opponent's.
3) Budget. Power is expensive. Decks lacking power may compensate with hate like Null Rod.
Black Lotus: Black Lotus is not just a major accelerant in some combo decks: it's actually part of the win condition, such as in an Auriok Salvagers deck which can get inifinite storm count and infinite mana from a Black Lotus in the graveyard.
Sol Ring: Often the first artifact accelerant included after the Moxen and Black Lotus, the Ring is a welcome sight in any deck with high colorless mana requirements as it has no drawback.
Mana Crypt, Mana Vault, and Lotus Petal: All these cards are popular, but do not see play in every deck due to their drawbacks. They are usually restricted either to combo decks that need every available mana accelerant or Workshop prison decks that need every permanent in play possible. Most Workshop decks also play Tinker, which can get the Crypt or Vault out of play if the life loss starts to become a problem.
Lion's Eye Diamond: LED's synergy with Yawgmoth's Will, as well as the ability to sacrifice it and float mana in response to a draw-7 like Timetwister, got this card restricted in Vintage. Its use is typically restricted to combo decks and Madness decks, where the LED can be sacrificed for mana to be spent on a Madness card that was in the player's hand.
Chrome Mox and Mox Diamond: Both promote 2-for-1 card disadvantage: surrendering two cards from the hand for one mana. To that end, neither is seen outside of the fastest combo decks.
Mana Creatures:Fast and more threatening than lands (Unless they’ve been Rudely Awakened), Green’s creatures have always been great ways to get 3 mana on turn two, and always will be. They are very fragile, however, so be wary of depending too much on mana sources that can be killed with [card]Umezawa’s Jitte[card] or Fire//Ice.
Mana creatures costing 2 can replace land at a 3:1 ratio.
Mana creatures costing 1 can replace land at a 2.5:1 ratio, or 2:1 If you want to be safe.
Type II: Umezawa’s Jitte discourages the use of mana-producing creatures, but otherwise they are playable. The reason they aren’t (played, that is) is because of the plethora of less fragile alternatives in an environment that isn’t centered on speed, as well as a high number of spells that benefit from high land counts.
Birds of Paradise: Always good, enables turn 2 Trolls/turn 3 Plows and can deliver beats with SoFI or a pre-charged Jitte. Try not to depend on it, though; 1 toughness is very little. It also doesn't boost your Beacon of Creation, Vedalken Shackles, or Meloku, the Clouded Mirror.
Vine Trellis: A decent blocker or a decent mana producer, but not both. The 0/4 body makes it hard to kill and more relevant lategame.
Myr: If you want acceleration out of Green on a creature, this is for you. However, needing acceleration suggests not being aggro or using much equipment and you want your mana acceleration to be as stable as possible. So why play these over Star Compass?
Birds of Paradise: Good for the same reasons as in T2, except Extended is much more focused on speed. Birds are usually worth playing over Sakura-Tribe Elders due to the extra turn of mana, and the ability to fly over opposition.
Familiars: See Medallion. Requiring a friendly color and being a creature tends to make Familiars worse than Medallions, but the double-color reduction is nice. Also post-rotation legal whereas Medallions are not.
Llanowar Elves: Almost always worse than Birds, but if you’re really dependent on fast mana and run equipment/enchant creatures, go ahead.
Werebear: Slower, but potentially big. But not that big. Not worth the loss of speed unless you’re playing a Threshold deck.
Priest of Titania: The one time Elves > Birds. Capable of generating huge amounts of mana quickly, the Priest is the driving force behind Trinity and will be missed in the rotation.
Birds of Paradise: Even in a fast format like legacy birds see play, usually in the more control-oriented creature decks. Nothing much else to say other than it's faster than most mana creatures.
Rofellos: The main fuel of the decks that revolve around Survival of the Fittest. Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary can produce lots of mana in a short time especially when combined with Anger and/or Quirion Ranger.
Elvish Spirit Guide: Two types of deck usg ESG: Bad 10 land stompy decks (green beats) and combo decks that are not reliant on one source of mana. The one free mana is not brilliant but it can be vital to a deck's speed and ability to go off in one turn instead of multiple turns.
Type 1: A side effect of all the powerful artifact-based mana acceleration in Vintage is that most of the mana-producing creatures are rendered obsolete. Creatures can't be tapped for mana the same turn they enter play, and Type 1 is based on doing things NOW instead of waiting for cards to come online.
Metalworker: Metalworker synergizes with Vintage's artifact accelerants by turning them into mana before you've even cast them. "MUD" decks typically played one first turn off a Mishra's Workshop or a Mox and Ancient Tomb, then held back until the next turn when Metalworker could generate 6-10 mana enabling the player to cast all the artifacts in his hand.
Elvish Spirit Guide: A green Lotus Petal. This card saw considerable play in combo decks before the restriction of Trinisphere, as it was one of the few ways combo decks with very low land counts could "get started" by casting its other accelerants like Sol Ring. Since Trinisphere is now restricted, the threat of a combo deck having to face one first turn has greatly diminished, and ESG has shrunk in use.
Skirk Prospector: Prospector sees play only in the Food Chain Goblins archetype. Its primary use is as a surrogate for Food Chain to dump Goblins that are really only useful for comes-into-play abilities, like Goblin Matron, to get out the stronger attackers like Goblin Piledriver.
Search: Bet you were wondering where Sakura-Tribe Elder would show up. Actual land search is not the only way to lower your land count; simply drawing cards will eventually get you more land.
Land search costing 2 can replace land at a 2.5:1 ratio.
Land search costing 1 can replace land at a 1.5:1 ratio.
Free land search can replace land at a 1:1 ratio.
1 mana cantrips(1 mana for 1 card) can replace land at a 2:1 ratio.
Type II: Only Tooth decks play Sylvan Scrying and Reap and Sow, so they won’t be discussed because they’re horrible in any other deck.
Kodama’s Reach: I can't think of a time when this isn't better than Harrow. Okay, Harrow is an instant. But Kodama's Reach guarantees 5 mana next turn, which is an extremely important number. Three mana doesn't give you any guarantees, however. Reach gives you more lands, but only after you have them to begin with.
Sakura-Tribe Elder: Finally a cheap alternative to BoP that works. A bit more expensive, but more reliable and able to attack or block. Eternal Witness can also fetch this for more land if needed. And it thins your deck, unlike BoP. Amazing.
Rampant Growth: Looks pretty mediocre compared to Kodama's Reach and Sakura. That's because it is. Unless you're already running both and are in desperate need of mana generation, never play this.
Wood Elves: For green, Rampant Growth on a 1/1 for 1 more mana. Normally nobody would care, but the large amount of Equipment Green plays makes it threatening whereas Growth isn't. The Forest also CIP untapped, offsetting the extra mana you paid to play it.
Serum Visions: Digs three cards deep, like another one-mana Blue spell we all sorely miss. With 22 lands, a turn-1 Visions will get you a land next turn 87% of the time. Don't think that means you can switch out lands for Visions, at least not at a 1:1 ratio.
Solemn Simulacrum: Marvin (sad robot? get it? forget it) is pushing the line when it comes to mana generation. He does so much more than that, and at a hefty four mana most decks are already able to play most of their spells by the time he hits. In short, no matter how many Marvins you have, they won't allow you to skimp on mana.
Wayfarer’s Bauble: Elder for the nongreen for 1 more mana. Well, more like Rampant Growth for 1 more mana. Its advantages over Star Compass are that it thins the deck, fixes your mana base (though if you're playing more than one color the second should be green) and is hard to stop with Naturalize, but 3 total mana instead of two means you won't be accelerating with this card. Control decks only.
Extended: The best land search has been printed recently. Can you tell?
Kodama’s Reach: See type II, although 5 mana is not nearly as important in Extended.
Sakura-Tribe Elder: See type II, though the loss of speed compared to BoP is much more painful in Extended.
Serum Visions: See Type II.
Brainstorm: Brainstorm's actually worse at getting you your 2nd land than Serum Visions is, though if Brainstorm is combined with fetchlands it's very slightly better than Visions since you get the land immediately more often.
Land Grant: counterable, discardable fetchland for Forests only. Unless you're already playing both forest fetchlands already and are serious about pulling out all the stops, these probably aren't worth the slight advantage they give to stompy decks.
Crop Rotation: One of the few true filter spells used. It is often used to fetch the obscene mana producing lands from the Urzas block, ie Gaea's Cradle and Serra’s Sanctum. It is also sometimes used to fetch a manland like Mishra's Factory or land destruction in the form of Wasteland.
Land Grant: Spectacular in combo decks, especially Belcher. It increases Storm count with no mana cost and puts a much-needed Bayou or Tropical Island in hand, allowing some combo decks like Meandeck Tendrils or Belcher to run only two or three lands.
Crop Rotation: The most common uses for this are in combo and Workshop prison decks, which use it to find Tolarian Academy. Workshop prison decks also love using this to find the restricted Strip Mine so they can punish the opponent's mana base every turn in conjunction with Crucible of Worlds. Include a Fastbond in the mix and Rotating for Strip Mine becomes a one-sided Armageddon.
So, to summarize:
- Determine how much mana your deck needs by averaging the CMC of spells, doubling and adding to 18.
- Determine mana balance by calculating the ratios of colors in your deck.
- Ensure that each color has at least 6 reliable sources of mana.
- Add multilands for consistency.
- Add any utility lands that might be helpful.
- Add mana acceleration to lower the land count or speed up the deck.
You’re done! I hope you've learned something reading this, more specifically how to make a better mana base and improve the consistency of your draws.
Thanks to Binary and Qwerty for analysis of legacy and vintage!, iloveatogs for the sparse art
By Benjamin Ng on August 25th, 2006 · Filed in General Magic · Comments not available just now
About Benjamin Ng
Benjamin Ng is a Freeshman at University of California Santa Cruz, and has played MtG for 10 years. He'd always be up for a game of Apprentice extended if the campus firewalls weren't Nazis about AIM