Last week I talked about five-color manabases in Commander, while briefly touching on my three-color build of Maelstrom Wanderer’s manabase. Today I plan to drill down into those three-color manabases and the ways that they are similar and different to two-color ones. I could have also spent some time on mono-colored manabases, but the truth is that they’re all about balancing basics against the utility lands that support your basics, and that’s not a very long discussion. So let’s talk three-color manabases! And let’s start with a card that made a lot more sense in last week’s discussion.

Which card, one may ask? Maze’s End! The card is basically a better Thawing Glaciers in many ways, and that makes it a prime card for inclusion in three-color manabases. Now, five-color decks have access to all ten gates, which makes Maze’s End a natural inclusion in those decks. Three-color decks have access to three gates, which makes Maze’s End less of a target for ire. Since you can’t win the game with the card, people are less likely to freak out if you’re using it. But at the same time, being able to tutor three duals out of your deck, even if they’re not the best duals, is a powerful ability, and slowly gets you ahead on card advantage.

Now, obviously this trick inclusion doesn’t work in two-color decks, since they only have one potential gate for Maze’s End to pull. And due to restrictions put into place by design, there aren’t four-color generals, period. So basically it’s five-color or three-color for Maze’s End, not the widest set of choices. But I think it’s neat to take a relatively cheap card like Maze’s End and find use for it in a wider context. It’s fun!

Speaking of which, I’m also a fan of Chromatic Lantern in three- and two-color decks. The nice thing about Chromatic Lantern is that it shortcuts a minor, time-consuming aspect of many Commander games: tapping your lands correctly. Now, in most decks, that’s actually a bigger deal than it would seem. Some of the cards that are the most fun to play in Commander are often quite color intensive, and playing with two or more colors means that there will be times when you have to carefully plan out how you are going to tap your lands so that you keep open options for different potential scenarios. In a competitive format I am totally on board with this particular level of skill-checking, but I like to play my Commander games on a looser level. Thus, my reliance on Chromatic Lantern. When it’s out, you just have to be able to count your total mana, and unlike some of the other options for this ability (Prismatic Omen, Joiner Adept, Mycosynth Lattice), Chromatic Lantern does something useful while giving you this freedom: it ramps you like any good mana-rock should.

Let’s look at an example: the manabase and mana enablers I am running in my Sedris, the Traitor King deck.

Sedris, the Traitor King

Artifacts: Chromatic Lantern; Coalition Relic; Dreamstone Hedron; Gilded Lotus; Izzet Keyrune; Sol Ring; Solemn Simulacrum; Talisman of Dominance; Talisman of Indulgence

Color: Command Tower; Crumbling Necropolis; Dragonskull Summit; Drowned Catacomb; Sulfur Falls; Tainted Isle; Tainted Peak; Vivid Crag; Vivid Creek; Vivid Marsh; Maze’s End; Dimir Guildgate; Izzet Guildgate; Rakdos Guildgate; Dimir Aqueduct; Izzet Boilerworks; Rakdos Carnarium

Utilities: Bojuka Bog; Desolate Lighthouse; Halimar Depths; Reliquary Tower; Shivan Gorge; Thespian’s Stage

Basics: Island x5; Mountain x5; Swamp x

It amuses me that I ended up pulling this deck as an example. I was thinking about using Ghave, Guru of Spores, before I realized I had talked about him fairly recently. So I picked Sedris basically at random, with no real memory of the manabase. That it includes both Maze’s End AND Chromatic Lantern, in a three-color deck, warms my cockles. Whatever a cockle may be. Point is, they’re good, they’re really, really good. And fun!

Anyway, a Grixis deck is going to obviously need some artifact support in the mana department. Green decks have a better shot of avoiding the rocks, but Esper and Grixis both have to lean a bit more heavily on the brown cards. What can brown do for you? A lot. In this case, I have three early (t1 or t2) drops that help get me into the part of the curve I actually have fleshed out; there isn’t a ton of action in the deck before turn three or four and you don’t always have the right lands. Then there are the later boosters, Dreamstone Hedron and Gilded Lotus. Dreamstone Hedron is nice because it turns into cards in the late game, by which point I should have plenty of mana. Gilded Lotus is great because not only does it give me the mana to cast all the color-intensive spells in the deck, but because it naturally produces Sedris, the Traitor King’s Unearth mana. BBB can pay for 2B, after all.


The original Ravnica block’s cycle of guild-themed common bounce-lands are often called Karoos, after this early cycle of cards from Visions.

With the lands you can see my usual pattern. If it’s a shard, I’ll include the appropriate trip-land from Shards of Alara, and occasionally supplement it with the appropriate Lair. If it’s a wedge, I’ll curse Commander 2010 for not including wedge-themed trip-lands, and then usually supplement it with a few more random duals. The Vivid lands also serve to make perfect mana a couple of times, but without a particularly strong proliferate theme that’s not something I’m going to want to rely too heavily upon. Still, a Vivid land is very good at turning the bounce from the Karoos from disadvantage to synergistic power play.


The Loothouse!

With the utility lands I took an eclectic touch. Desolate Lighthouse is an obvious inclusion, since the looted card becomes advantage later when I get Sedris out. That’s actually the same reason I’m running Izzet Keyrune over Izzet Signet, but I digress. Thespian’s Stage is a no-brainer, since it’s the best land in EDH right now (measured in fun, of course). Reliquary Tower also fits that category, and Bojuka Bog and Halimar Depths are both pretty standard issue. What surprised me, looking over this list again, was the inclusion of Shivan Gorge. It’s not a particularly expensive card, and it’s not on theme. Down the line that might come out in favor of Nephalia Drownyard, which I think has greater overally synergies in the deck.

All that, and the most expensive land in the deck (I think), is the $4 Sulfur Falls, that was printed just two years ago. And it plays like a charm, and I think that highlights the point of these articles. You don’t need to have the most disgusting manabase possible. So-called “budget” manabases can usually do just as good of a job as the fancy ones at least 80% of the time, and those remaining 20% are going to land you in situations where you have to think harder about your mana issues, and confront the potential shortcomings of the rest of your deck build.

But that’s just me! I’m not a huge combo player in Commander, and even my ramp decks aren’t built in order to put away my opponents as quickly as possible. The truth is that I love complex games of Commander, and all the different wrinkles that can arise in this format. And closing out games fast isn’t why I build the manabases I build. I build to give me the freedom to do fun things, while not providing such a smooth ride that I accidentally end the game before I’ve had a chance for a good time.

Maybe I play with my food, but I truly believe the point of EDH is to play.

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