Hey there, folks. I know it’s Born of the Gods spoiler season, but I want to wait until the full set is spoiled to make any guesses about the way some of these cards will play in Commander. In the meantime, check out our biweekly updates to see the Hipsters of the Coast hivemind in action. I’ve even contributed once or twice; it’s been a fun exercise. You can find it right here.

In the meantime, I want to go back to the basics for a bit. Basic lands, specifically. I am tired of looking at all of these Commander articles in which the decklists include ridiculous manabases for no reason other than the Commander writer has a full set of revised-era dual lands and all ten fetchlands. I know the temptation to do this quite well; one of my first EDH decks had a similarly busted manabase, and it really changed the atmosphere of the session. The kid playing Exploration (EXPLORATION) got salty that I was using perfect mana, and it really gave my five-color Scion of the Ur-Dragon deck a blistering edge that was unneeded.

It’s not just power disparity that has moved me away from those types of manabases, though. Sometimes I get the sense that I’m one of the few Commander writers who keeps more then ten EDH decks together at any given time. Right now I am at a high-water point: my family has 22 EDH decks put together. Want a list?

“That’s a lot of generals,” Dana said after I read her the list. And she’s right! It’s a lot of decks to have simultaneously put together, and on top of it we play Modern and Legacy from time to time. Less lately, but we still want to be able to put together a deck for one of those formats without having to dig through the EDH stacks every time. We tried that, and believe me it’s unpleasant.

This has gotten me to be a lot more conservative about my manabases. Necessity is a harsh mistress, sure, but now that Chromatic Lantern is a card there aren’t a lot of excuses for just slotting the same basic manabase into every deck, and not examining what each deck wants to be doing. Take Maelstrom Wanderer, for instance. The deck runs basically every green ramp spell, including the ones that can search out non-basics. Given that, here are all the non-basics I am running:

Hinterland Harbor, Rootbound Crag, Sulfur Falls, Alchemist’s Refuge, Desolate Lighthouse, Kessig Wolf Run, Opal Palace, Thespian’s Stage, Moonring Island, Madblind Mountain

That list could easily include every RUG-colored dual land I own, fetches, and plenty of other power cards, but it doesn’t. Instead, the non-basics are there to come into play untapped, for the most part. The exceptions are Moonring Island and Madblind Mountain, but those are included because they fit the deck’s theme: knowing what the top card of my library is going to be. Moonring gives me the info and Madblind lets me change it, and Farseek, negating the “comes into play tapped” drawback, can search out each one of them.

My point is the deck would probably be better with fetchlands and powered mana. But why go there? It certainly doesn’t need those cards, and the emphasis on all of those green ramp spells makes fancy lands seem like unnecessary excess. Which is not to say that one should never play with fancy or nonbasic lands. Just that there’s a benefit to examining why each deck is running them to see if there are reasons to cut back.

Next, I am going to show two different five-color manabases, from Scion of the Ur-Dragon and Sliver Overlord. Are you ready?

Scion of the Ur-Dragon

Gates: Maze’s End; Azorius Guildgate; Boros Guildgate; Dimir Guildgate; Golgari Guildgate; Gruul Guildgate; Izzet Guildgate; Orzhov Guildgate; Rakdos Guildgate; Selesnya Guildgate; Simic Guildgate
Shocks: Blood Crypt; Breeding Pool; Godless Shrine; Hallowed Fountain; Overgrown Tomb; Sacred Foundry; Steam Vents; Stomping Ground; Temple Garden; Watery Grave
Misc: Exotic Orchard; Grand Coliseum; Rogue’s Passage; Temple of the False God; Thespian’s Stage
Basics: 1 Plains; 1 Island; 3 Swamp; 4 Mountain; 5 Forest

Sliver Overlord

GatesMaze’s EndAzorius GuildgateBoros GuildgateDimir GuildgateGolgari GuildgateGruul GuildgateIzzet GuildgateOrzhov GuildgateRakdos GuildgateSelesnya GuildgateSimic Guildgate
5 Color: Command Tower; Exotic Orchard; Vivid Crag; Vivid Creek; Vivid Grove; Vivid Marsh; Vivid Meadow
Basics: 4 Plains; 4 Island; 2 Swamp; 2 Mountain; 8 Forest

As you can see, both are vaguely budget. Admittedly, the decks would be more reliably overpowered if I just threw the same expensive manabase into both, but it’s not needed. The decks do different things, and therefore have slightly different needs. Both keep the Maze’s End/Gates theme, because I’m playing Maze’s End in all the decks that might mise the win, but Scion includes the cycle of shocklands as well because it’s running green ramp spells and Eternal Dragon, both of which care about basic land types. Eternal Dragon would be pretty weak in a deck with only one Plains, and it’s just so on theme that it’s worth it to get a little fancy. But Scion fixes its deck with the green sorceries, so the 14 lands that produce green mana should keep me in business until the really crazy shenanigans begin.

Sliver Overlord, on the other hand, doesn’t use the green spells to fix its mana. Instead, this is a mana cleanser deck. By that I mean it runs Mycosynth Lattice/Prismatic Omen/Chromatic Lantern/Joiner Adept, all of the cards that give you perfect mana. Failing that, there’s the fallback of Manaweft Sliver and Gemhide Sliver, and should all else fail there’s a variety of sliver-related blue draw spells to get me to one of these keystones. As such, it can afford to skimp on the shocks in favor of a five-color cycle of lands. In this deck, I actually have 18 sources of green mana, which is usually enough to get either one of my mana-cleansers online, or barring that lets me search out one of my mana-slivers.

Again, the decks would clearly be stronger with fancy manabases, but an already strong deck like this is just going to combo off immediately every game I play with it. And that’s super boring to me! In both cases, budget manabases force me to play with a greater degree of skill than would otherwise be needed. Sliver Overlord can still combo off in about five different ways, but instead it plays like a creature deck most of the time, giving me plenty of different ways to bash in. Similarly, while I did remove the flagrant combo from Scion of the Ur-Dragon (I shucked my initial version back in the day when they gave me a three-card combo with Necromancy/Animate Dead, Worldgorger Dragon, and then Shivan Hellkite), the deck still functions in such a way as to give me a complex, and interesting, decision tree almost every turn.

They’re both still strong decks. Hell, practically every five-color EDH deck is going to be strong compared to the field, since those decks have literally no restrictions to them outside the generally applicable rules of the game.  But just because you CAN play all the colors, and all the lands to make sure all your colors come up, doesn’t mean you should.

Anyway, I’ll continue writing about this topic next week, after which point I’ll be spending some time talking about how Born of the Gods looks for the Commander format, and those of us who love it so.  So, next week, manabases for the less-than-five-color decks!

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