The Commander’s Chair – Land Base
Today I will be discussing building a land base for your Commander deck. I knew I would have to write this article when I started this series. I have been delaying it, because lands are just is not the most fun topic to discuss. However, almost every deck in Magic needs to play at least some lands. I build a land base for Commander in a similar fashion to the way that I build a land base for a 60 card deck. When building a land base you need to know if you will need to know;
- The number of lands your deck needs
- The number of basic lands vs. non-basic lands you should run
- The color requirements of your lands in relation to your deck
- If your deck can replay lands from the graveyard
For the purposes of demonstration I will once again be using one of the new preconstructed decks. I do this because they are decks that are easily purchasable and accessible to everyone. In addition, the main complaint about these decks is that they have a very weak mana base. Today I will be using Devour for Power for our example deck. If you have not seen the decklist you can see it here – Devour for Power
Number of Lands
The first thing we need to figure out is how many lands the deck needs. Devour for Power comes with 40 lands included, but Political Puppets only runs 34. When you decide to upgrade the land base, you should not assume the deck already runs the correct land count.
The easiest way to see how many lands you need is by looking at your mana curve. In Devour for Power deck, the majority of the cards land in the 2-7 mana cost range. That means we are going to want to aim for having 5 mana by turn 5. This is a convenient number since it means we will be able to reliably cast the Mimeoplasm. Mana accelerants can help us get there. We need to take them into account as well.
With 99 cards in the deck, we would need to run around 42 lands to give of odds of drawing 5 lands by turn 5. [lands desired/(starting hand + cards drawn by desired turn)*cards in the deck] We can count every 2 mana accelerants as an additional land, rounded down. The deck currently runs 7 mana accelerants, which can cover around 3 of the decks lands. This means that the Devour for Power deck should be running around 39 lands.
Basic v. Non-Basic
The Devour for Power deck is already running nearly the correct number of lands. That means the weakness in this particular deck comes from the quality of the mana base. The Devour for Power deck runs 27 basic lands. Running basic lands is not a bad thing. In my opinion every deck should be running at least a few basic lands in their deck. My base formula for basics to non-basic depends on the number of colors in a deck.
- Mono Colored Decks – 85% Basic Lands, 15% Non-Basic Lands
- Two Colored Decks – 70% Basic Lands, 30% Non-Basic Lands
- Three Colored Decks – 30% Basic Lands, 70% Non-Basic Lands
- Five Colored Decks – 15% Basic Lands, 85% Non-Basic Lands
According to this metric we would want only 12 basic lands in the deck. While this is a decent way to decide, but it does not take into account the type of mana accelerants you play in your deck. If you are playing with a ton of basic land search you will want more basic lands in your deck. If you play with zero basic land searches you probably could care less about playing basic lands. The Devour for Power deck runs 3 basic land searching cards and 4 mana producing artifacts. If we go just on the type of mana acceleration we use we would want to be running 17 lands in the deck. [Basic Land Search/All Mana Accelerants*Lands in the Deck] I take these two numbers and average them together to get our land count – 15 Basic Lands and 24 Non-Basic Lands
Once we have outlined what kind of lands we are using we need to start filling in the gaps. For this we need two pieces of information.
- How many mana symbols of each color are in the deck?
- How much does your deck depend on casting the Commander?
According to tappedout.net, there are 15 Blue, 29 black, and 15 green mana symbols in the deck. The general is good but the deck is not dependent on him. I will add an additional two mana to each category to account for a slight emphasis on the commander. It may be that your Commander is so crucial that this whole formula will revolve around it. If that is the case you might want to count each mana symbol in your commander as high as 5 times. For The Mimeoplasm, it leaves us with an adjusted total of 17 blue, 29 black and 15 green mana symbols. If we apply those proportions to our basic lands, we end up wanting to put in 4 Islands, 7 Swamp and 4 Forests into the deck.
With 24 lands left to assign in the deck, we want to apply the same proportions to the non-basics. Since most non-basics should be able to produce more than one color we can adjust the amount from 24 mana symbols to between 35-36 mana symbols. Using the proportions from the basic land calculation we see that we need at least 9 blue producers, 17 black producers and 9 green producers.
When selecting lands for a deck many people go straight to a fetch land + dual land mana base. The problem is that it is expensive and many times unnecessary. I include fetch lands + dual lands in decks that contain a Crucible of Worlds or some other way to recur lands. I also use duals in the event that my land search cards do not denote basic lands and instead opt to select a land type. All of these are especially good if you can play more than one land each turn. Saldy, Devour for Power has none of these options and consequently is ill suited to run a pricey land base. Instead you just want lands that can produce the colors you need. Non-basics will be made up of utility lands and lands that produce multiple colors for the deck. When all is said and done the land base for Devour for Power should look more like this;
|1||Creeping Tar Pit|
|1||Jwar Isle Refuge|
|1||River of Tears|
|1||Temple of the False God|
To show how much of improvement this is compared to the original land base, look at the chart to the right of the decklist on Tappedout.net. You can see that there are 12 green producing lands for 15 green symbol, 14 blue producing lands for 15 blue symbols and only 17 black producing lands for 29 black mana symbols. Our new mana base has 19 lands that can get or produce Green Mana, 23 lands that can fetch or produce blue mana and 30 lands that can get or produce black mana. Despite all the increases, we are running 1 less land than the deck originally played. We freed up room and fixed the poor mana base.
I hope you can find this useful when it comes to putting together a land base for your Commander decks. If you have any questions or want any deck advice, you can email me at email@example.com. Next week, and from then on, I will be posting on Monday. I hope everyone gets a chance to check out our new author and my friend, Chris VanMeter’s new series. He is a great player. If you read his article you will notice your play skills improving. I also started a new blog called Swords to Paintbrushes. I am going to be posting card alters on the site, so if you are into alters go check it out.
Have a great week!