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Lands of the Lost: Mana in the New Standard

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

I am writing this article as a warning to you.

Your mana is about to be bad.

You’ve seen the land of milk and honey. That beautiful world is being ripped away from you with this rotation. No more 3 color decks with 24 lands, all of which can cast your Boros Reckoner and still be useful when it comes time to Sphinx’s Revelation.

Fear not! I have seen times when the spells were very good and the mana fixing was scarce. This mana was so bad we had to play pain lands. These lands cost us life every turn, not just on the first one, and there were still copies of City of Brass everywhere! These were two color decks mind you. Things were bad. But those times have passed and we have learned from them. I have solutions to keep the spells a-churning in this new era of everything coming into play tapped.

The thing you have to remember is that without proper lands to cast your spells you don’t get to play at all. Imagine all the games you never got to your third land. Now you have that to worry about but also games where you’ll never get to your second mana of a color; or even see your second color at all if you’re not building your deck right.

Solution 1: Adjust the curve

I’m going to just shoot a decklist out here. Its something I’ve been mentally kicking around when I saw some cards I thought were interesting from Theros.

So the point of the deck is to play off the fact that many spells target your guys, also Selesnya has some sweet two drops from the last sets that help out. Do you see the problem with this deck? If you said you’re trying to cast Green one drops as well as two drops that cost WW, you are absolutely correct. I’m even forced to play a Selesnya Guildgate. This requires me to do one of two things. Either give up turn one as my land having to come into play tapped or dealing with the fact I will have another turn where I am basically repeating the previous turn.

I don’t like the first plan. This can put me on the back foot against decks that are already casting their one drops. The goal of the deck is to take advantage of all the guys having counters, so a first turn Experiment One is very good and probably the best thing I can be doing. The final thing is that I won’t always have a tapped land as there are only four of them, eight if you count the Temple Gardens.

This moves us onto plan B which is setting up my deck so that repeating turn one does not put us behind in any way. In order to do this, increasing the number of single mana cost creatures will be critical. To this end, four copies of Dryad Militant make the cut. I’m not simply doing this because of my love of extended art promos, which I think should be more abundant- the card also helps with things that we are interested in doing. It makes our previous turn 1 very good. Making Experiment One have two power allows for some very aggressive attacks before any real control deck gets to Supreme Verdict mana.

The other thing you want to do in this deck building situation is increase your 3 drops as the goal is to totally omit turn two. This leads me to the fantastic hand refiller of Chronicler of Heroes and the unmatched lifegain of Unflinching Courage. Here’s the new list.

I took the Opportunity to upgrade into another card drawing spell. I think Warriors’ Lesson is good but it feels like a win more card as well as highly unstable. You’ll also notice that I’m able to split my basics more evenly due to the double colors not existing as much. These types of small things can mean the difference between getting to play Magic and sitting there with your hands doing nothing but putting extra wear on the sleeves by flicking them against eachother.

Solution 2: Being Selective

In my previous example I had a clear idea of what theme I wanted to play on and what cards fit into that theme. Now I’m going to show you a deck that gets supported by having a second color in it. This allows the deck to be more resilient to pressures put on it.

So in this case, the deck just needs filling out. The synergy between Chandra and the scry burn cards is already quite strong. Young Pyromancer is an obvious inclusion as it generates tons of value. The blue cards allow us to have a bit of refuel with Steam Augury and Izzet Charm as well as creating a situation where the game can be won quickly with Spellheart Chimera. None of these spells require more than one blue and generally casting them in succession is not the plan. This leaves us with only being required to have one blue source available to gain these advantages, and we don’t even need the mana on a specific turn. The deck has lots of other things to be doing before it needs these cards to help end things. This understanding of the structure of the game can be the advantage you need to win certain matchups. Knowing when your deck is moving from controlling the board to needing to end the game quickly allows you to play as aggressively or as conservatively as you want with your mana. In this example, the deck has a strong opening with the new Firedrinker Satyr and cheap burn, a midgame that allows you to stay in it with Chandra, Pyromaster and Young Pyromancer. Finally, Spellheart Chimera and Steam Augury are the closing salvo which can conveniently come early if the draws play out that way.

These are just two examples of ideas that allow us to play the cards we want to play, but there is an alternative to this. The idea is highly advocated by and sometimes attributed to hall of famer Zvi Mowshowitz. Zvi’s line of thinking promotes only playing decks that the mana allows you to play. This type of design guarantees you get to play Magic more often than not, but does not always let you play with the most powerful cards. I think this is where the scry lands come in and these types of decks will definitely be out there and bring a lot of consistency to the table. Look for my next article to talk about these types of decks building decisions.

Overall, I like the fact that mana isn’t perfect anymore. It brings me back to a time when people had to think and make some hard choices about what type of cards were worth playing in their decks. The days of being able to cast Boros Reckoner, both halves of Lingering Souls and Blasphemous Act in consecutive turns did not show the true amount of creativity that Magic has locked inside of it. The coming months will really let you flex your creative muscle as mana constraints bring about interesting deck building choices.

Thanks for reading,

Taylor Gunn

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