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Jim Casale – Long-Term Plans: The Mana

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Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to another installment of Long-Term Plans! Today, we’ll discuss the most important part of any Commander Deck: the mana!  But before that, I have a few Commander-related finance calls that I’d like to share with you.

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Commander 2013 was a set with only 51 new cards. Among them are True-Name Nemesis and Toxic Deluge, but there are some less obvious picks from this set. There are a number of cards, like Restore, that are in multiple decks despite being new cards, but there are cards that are especially powerful and only in one deck.  My pick from black for the long term is Baleful Force. This card is a huge creature that comes stapled to an ability that is like a Phyrexian Arena stapled to Verdant Force.  For each of your opponents that does not kill it, it gains you card advantage.  I expect this to be a good long-term spec because it is the most powerful of the Commander “forces.” The only possible downside is the fact that Baleful Force is in the Grixis deck that is currently being popped left and right for the chase merfolk.  A lot of this card’s supply will not end up on kitchen tables and it shouldn’t be terribly difficult to find compared to my other picks from Commander 2013.

Green has two very powerful cards that I think can see a lot of long-term increases in price.  Primal Vigor is a sweet green enchantment that reads a lot like Doubling Season, which is still about $15, even after its reprinting.  There is enough difference between the two that Primal Vigor will probably never reach the same value, but it’s currently one-third of the price for a lot of the same effect.  The other long-term spec I think will be good is Bane of Progress.  It’s a reasonably-costed Commander card that has a unique effect and I think could also be a Legacy player later.  It’s a great reanimation target and can act like a giant wrecking ball through a lot of non-green Commander mana bases.  I have added this guy to my Prime Speaker Zegana deck and I think he’s probably the best six-drop I have.

My last pick is for sealed product of Commander 2013.  I think the decks that will be in most demand are the ones with the worst singles.  People that buy sealed Commander decks want the whole deck because they will likely play most of it as is.  Decks that seem to be selling poorly because speculators and Legacy players aren’t buying them are prime targets for long-term sealed specs. The Heavenly Inferno deck from the original Commander series has some of the worst singles from the five decks in the series but it is worth the most sealed.  My theory is that people that cracked and sold the singles of the more popular decks ended up with a lot more of the important cards as singles and a lot of the decks did not end up with kitchen-table Magic players.  Nobody opened Heavenly Inferno and that is partially the reason why Kaalia, of the Vast is so much more expensive than the other Commanders from the series, even though she is a pretty abysmal one.  My pick of the Commander 2013 sealed product is the Naya deck because of its lack of good singles and its strong and unique Commanders.

Mana Time

Now on to the mana!  Most Commander decks want a pretty substantial portion to be made up of land. Being able to cast your expensive spells often requires upwards of six mana in play.  As a general rule of thumb, I try to play at least 45 lands in all of my decks to start because it’s so much worse to have a handful of uncastable spells than it is to draw too many lands. I have found the website http://manabasecrafter.com/ to be a great resource to use to start picking out lands for decks.  This website includes a filter for your Commander so you can see which lands are legal to include.

Grixis won the poll last time, so Nicol Bolas will be our budget Commander and Nekusar, the Mindrazer will lead our big-spender deck.

Let’s start with Nekusar, the Mindrazer, because there are some important lessons to learn when you have every card at your disposal. It’s easy to think that if you can play any card you should always play non-basic lands over basic lands in three-color decks because they will almost always be superior.  It’s important to note that there is a lot of opportunity cost to tapped lands and we should mitigate that as often as possible. That being said, we want to start first with a mana base that uses the maximum number of reasonable color fixers (no Shimmering Grottos, for example) and we will refine it later once we determine the breakdown of our spells.

For our Nekusar, the Mindrazer deck, we’ll be starting with these lands:

I know what you’re thinking!  I’m aware we don’t really have any utility lands, but don’t worry about that for now.  We will add those to the deck later, when we know what spells are in it.  A lot of utility lands, like Academy Ruins, require a certain density of synergistic cards before  we can consider putting them into a deck. Nothing is more embarrassing than playing an Academy Ruins in your deck when the only artifact you can put on top of your deck is a mana rock.

Now I know I said I really don’t like lands that come into play tapped, but the Ravnica bounce lands are one of the big exceptions to the rule.  They help you reuse some lands like Bojuka Bog and Halimar Depths, which is very useful. Even better, drawing one of them is like drawing two lands, because although you must bounce a land to play them, since they make two mana you need fewer lands in play to cast all of your spells. The fact that they also make more than one color of mana is just icing on the cake.

For Nicol Bolas we need to get a little creative and break some of our rules to achieve a true budget goal.  This is my suggestion for him.

We definitely need to add more basics to the deck to keep our chances of an uptapped land on our critical turn high, but also because there are not many non-basic lands that produce multicolored mana at common and uncommon. Although both of these mana bases are extremely rough, they each give us a basis on which to build our decks, and we can always tweak the lands as we move forward.

Commander decks are not something you just build in a night (well, some are but they end up not being very good) and with this first step we can start brainstorming spells to use in our deck.  As an aside, if anyone has been paying attention to the price of weird Commander cards, I think a lot of new Nekusar, the Mindrazer players are causing a rise in the price of Forced Fruition.

Join me next time when we continue our pursuit of building two sweet Commander decks! Have thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

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Jim Casale

Jim Casale

@Phrost_     -     Email     -     Articles
Jim is a software developer and an avid blue planeswalker. He spellslings in Jacksonville, Florida, and you can feel free to contact him on Twitter at @phrost_.
Jim Casale

About the author

Jim Casale

@Phrost_     -     Email     -     Articles
Jim is a software developer and an avid blue planeswalker. He spellslings in Jacksonville, Florida, and you can feel free to contact him on Twitter at @phrost_.

7 comments

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  1. Lerker

    45 lands? The mana base should not EVER be 100% lands. You need non-land ramp as well to actually speed you up! I usually start with 38 lands + artifact ramp, then adjust up or down depending on my curve. I usually end up with between 31 – 35 lands, but that’s because I’m running green. With Nekusar, I would say 34 – 38 lands is WAY more reasonable, especially once we add in a few signets / talismans and Mana Crypt and Mana Vault.

    Also, Karoo lands are bad. They lead to 2 for 1’s that set you back two turns. I never run them any more because of that one time I dropped a Karoo turn 2 and then they vindicated it on their turn 3.

    Also, Creeping Tar Pit doesn’t fit in this deck and I would prefer a basic land. Tap lands with almost useful abilities are not worth it.

    1. Anonymous

      Thanks for the feedback! I had planned on removing some of the lands next article and replacing them with mana rocks. I usually start with more lands than I need so that I’m able to test in the best mana conditions and if I feel like I draw too many then I can always shave a few later.

      1. Jim Casale

        Whoops, apparently I wasn’t logged in

  2. Jason Alt

    I think there may be a bit of confusion here and it’s my fault. When I posted this to reddit I said this was the “Manabase” and not the “Landbase” and a lot of reactions were “Where are your mana rocks, doofus?”

    Well, I have to assume that Jim is going to include artifacts, including mana rocks, in a subsequent article. That said, I really want some feedback on how many lands we should run given that mana rocks are a likely inclusion.

    45 lands seems like rather a lot.

    As far as individual lands in there, what stays and what should go?

  3. Andrew Colman

    I’m no commander nut, but I love me tonnes of mana sources in my Damia deck, because the more cards I can play the more cards I draw next turn.If i can play 1-2 land every turn of the game, I’m eventually drawing 7 cards per turn, plus all the little extras that the cards I am spending all of my mana on are netting me. I’m not sure if this is so specific to this deck but I hate missing a land drop at any point so I play lotsa lotsa lands. But that’s me, and I am the cube writer not the EDH writer for this site :)

  4. Mark Carlson

    Opal Palace doesn’t really fit the deck. Prime Speaker or Animar or Marath or Ghave etc sure, but Nekusar doesn’t really lend himself to use it well. Could instead be City of Brass.

    I don’t like the Odyssey filter lands, they should just be basics. Or, and I know you said not to worry about utility lands right now, but they could just be Wasteland and Strip Mine. Those are utility lands that don’t require anything more from your deck.

    I’ve stopped using Temple of the False God. In those rare occasions where it’s not working, it’s really bad. Could be Maze of Ith. again, a utility land, but it doesn’t need any support from the deck.

    I’m probably in the minority on this one as well, but I don’t really like the fastlands (Darkslick Shores and Blackcleave Cliffs) would prefer basics. Gotta be able to play around back to basics and blood moon at least a little, and when those ETB tapped, they feel bad.

    To go along with that last point, for a more competitive list, the Ravnica bounce lands are not good. Basics or maybe Urborg + Coffers. Opening yourself up to massive tempo loss from land destruction is not good. They’re fine in a more casual setting.

    Halimar Depths is okay, but not great. A better tapland is Spawning Pool that blocks forever.

    1. Jim Casale

      Thanks for the reply! I don’t know if I don’t like opal palace in this deck yet because although most times its a glorified shimmering grotto, it could grow your general out of range to be killed by specific removal spells. It’s entirely possible it gets cut once we start adding mana rocks but I didn’t think it was so bad as to be left off the list completely.

      The Odyssey filter lands CAN be basics but there is something to be said about their ability to filter colorless mana that we may end up having a lot of once we start adding more utility lands. They are also a strong consideration for the chopping block once we get there.

      There are a lot of people on each side of the Temple of the False God dilema and I can see reasons for both so maybe next article we’ll do a poll to see if we keep it or not.

      I will concede that ravnica bounce lands are really a decision depending on how your local players play edh. My LGS doesn’t have people running a ton of land destruction so they’re not nearly as bad as ones where everyone has wasteland and strip mine.

      I honestly had not considered spawning pool as generally the only marginally playable lands from that cycle are Treetop Village and Faerie Conclave.

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