Paying My Rent or Paying for My Commander Mana Base
- Robert Giel
If you enjoy playing multiple Commander decks, getting the perfect mana base can be a huge investment. Fortunately, there are plenty of options that will make your deck run like clockwork without having to invest an arm and leg. Let's look at some of the basic rules I keep in mind when it comes down to the mana base of multicolored Commander decks.
Dual Lands: To Buy or Not to Buy?
Let's first talk about the elephant in the room: Dual Lands.
Dual lands like Underground Sea are without a doubt the best lands. Providing two colors with no downside, in addition to having the basic land types, should be a no-brainer to include in your deck. But with the Reserved List still enforced, these pieces of cardboard are simply too expensive to justify the actual improvement they bring on a deck.
I've heard so many people say: "Well your deck is unfair because you play dual lands."
This is absolute nonsense.
Yes, technically these are the best lands, but ask yourself this: How many games did you win or lose in Commander because of that one dual land? My guess is less than one percent, if any. Dual lands can't make a deck better in a way that a lot of other cards can. I highly advice spending your money on other cards to improve your deck like Mana Crypt and fetch lands before even thinking about buying duals.
A Shocking Insight on Shock Lands
I always see a surprising number of people play shock lands in decks where I personally don't think they make sense. Shock lands like Temple Garden are only good if you run the necessary fetch lands or (green) ramp cards that find lands with the basic land types. Even then, they enter the battlefield often tapped. If you have money to spare and you're looking for a way to improve your mana base, shock lands are a good addition. But make sure you've added the other cards in this article first.
Crack a Fetch Land
We can't talk about dual and shock lands without talking about fetch lands. Fetch lands like Wooded Foothills are great and should be the first lands you buy if you have cash to spare and want to improve your mana base. With that in mind, you don't necessarily need fetch lands to have a good mana base or a Commander deck. It will work just as great without them.
Back to Basics
They might not be as flashy as you'd want them to be, but playing basic lands is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, when playing green, I would go as far as recommend playing a lot of basics. It allows you to play all those efficient ramp cards like Cultivate, Kodama's Reach, Rampant Growth, Sakura Tribe Elder, and many more. It might initially be harder to get your color fixing going, but it's worth it, leaning a bit more into green and playing those ramp spells.
Tap Lands Are Bad and Shouldn't Be Played
Yes, I know. This might not be the biggest revelation of the century, but I have a very strong opinion against lands that enter the battlefield tapped without providing you some kind of advantage. And with a card pool as large as in Commander, we don't have to settle for these. I'm talking about the notorious Gates, the "gain 1 life" lands, and similar tap lands. I see so many people putting this in their decks, regardless of their budget.
The first turns in a game of Commander are more crucial than you might expect. You and your opponents will either ramp, play setup cards like Ponder or Phyrexian Arena, or even already play out your affordable Commanders in a "king of the hill"-type scenario. Playing these lands immediately puts you one turn behind everybody else (provided they are smart enough not to play these lands). So what about that turn 1 Sol Ring? A turn 3 Cultivate? These plays are very likely to happen in a game of Commander, but because of these lands, you are missing out on them.
Two-Color Lands? Check!
I am a huge fan of the check lands like Isolated Chapel and I am convinced that they should be an auto-include in every multicolored Commander deck, regardless of the budget. They are very affordable, efficient, and you can even choose from different artworks! What else can you wish for?
Scry Me a River
As far as tap lands go, I am okay with the Temple cycle from Theros, like Temple of Mystery. They are affordable, ranging from 0.50 cents to 2.00 Euros, and provide (in my opinion) an underrated upside. Ever since we Commander players had to follow the Vancouver Mulligan rule, it has become more challenging to draw reasonable opening hands. Seeing ths land in your opening hand is usefully a sigh of relief. Sure, you might be a turn behind as a mentioned earlier, but preventing a potential brick for the next turns is not a bad trade.
What I also like about these lands is that they stay somewhat relevant in the late game. Top decking lands is usually bad, but playing a temple and getting to peek at your next draw with the option to fix it is good during any state of the game.
The Question of Filter Lands
Filter lands, like Cascade Bluffs, were first introduced in Lorwyn back in 2007 and are an interesting matter. They're not technically a budget option, but Masters 25 did make (some of them) more affordable. Should you play these lands? Technically you don't need to, unless you have some very swingy mana requirements. Filter lands are nice because they enter untapped and fix your colors, but they can also make you brick very hard in combination with each other and non-color proving lands.
More Basic Land Types
Dual lands and shock lands are not your only options for two-color lands with basic land types. Battle lands from Battle for Zendikar like Prairie Stream and the cycle lands from Amonkhet like Fetid Pools are usually a solid choice. They are affordable and have the basic land types, allowing them to be searched via fetch lands and certain ramp cards. The Amonket lands enter tapped, but the fact that they not only have a basic land type but also a useful upside, make them a solid pick. Here's the best part: Most of them can be acquired for less than a Euro.
Pain Lands, Fast Lands, Bounce Lands, Reveal Lands
Pain lands like Shivan Reef can be great in competitive formats when you want games to be over quickly. Their sheer speed outweighs the drawback of having to take damage. In Commander, games tend to go a lot longer, so be careful when adding these lands to your deck. If you desperately need affordable mana fixing and the above suggestions aren't enough, then I think that's when pain lands could be a valuable addition. But with that said, you usually won't need to resort to these lands.
Fast lands like Inspiring Vantage are lands that really shine in competitive formats, but don't add a lot of value in Commander. When you have a 99-card singleton deck, the chances of you drawing one of these before hitting a third land is just too small.
Bounce lands like Rakdos Carnarium are awful in my opinion. Drawing them in your opening hand is just plain bad as you can't play them on your first nor second turn. (During the second turn, you would have to bounce the land you played on your first turn, making it your eighth card in hand, forcing you to discard.) In addition to being slow, they also become prime targets for Strip Mine-like effects. I would not play these lands at all and just play basic lands instead.
Reveal lands like Port Town can be a good addition. However, they usually only work best in 2-color decks, when the chance of revealing an actual card is high enough. These lands get significantly worse as soon as you play three or more colors.
Now It's Your Turn
It doesn't matter what your budget is because there are plenty of options to improve your mana base for your Commander. If you are building a deck from scratch and have a strict budget, then my advice would be to acquire lands in the following order:
- Check lands like Glacial Fortress – They provide the most bang for their buck!
- Scry lands like Temple of Deceit
- Battle lands like Smoldering Marsh
- Cycle lands like Scattered Groves
- Filter lands like Fetid Heath
If money is not an object or if you've already acquired all the above and you're looking to further improve your deck, then get these lands in the following order:
Hopefully this guide will help you make the right decisions when it comes to selecting lands for your Commander decks. Do you use a different strategy? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading and until next time!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.