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Return to Ridiculous Manabases - Brian Randich (11/25/2012)

With the release of Return to Ravnica, a second helping of one of Magic’s most popular blocks, the ten two-color pairings, or “guilds,” are featured heavily. The new cards are fun and powerful due to the fact that they cost different colors of mana to cast, but that brings up the drawback of making a deck that can cast those spells on-time and efficiently. Between the Invasion, original Ravnica, Alara, and Return to Ravnica blocks, there have been a lot of ways to fix mana between two or more colors, and while all those options are useful when building a deck, they can be overwhelming for players that are either new to the game, new to building a multicolored deck, or returning to the game with the Return to Ravnica set. Because of this, we’re going to go over some ways to determine what mana sources to put in a deck, with a sample decklist without the lands included, and will use the ideas explained below to create a good manabase. All of the examples below are for a 60-card constructed deck, but the concepts can also be applied to a 99-card commander deck with ease. We’ll start with the decklist, then go through the steps of how a manabase can be created, then show how each of those steps works with that decklist.

Now, for an example blue/black deck shell, 38 cards without lands:


Black (17)
4: Hypnotic Specter
Hypnotic Specter
Hypnotic SpecterSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
3
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Specter
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Douglas Shuler
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
Flying An opponent damaged by Specter must discard a card at random from his or her hand. Ignore this effect if opponent has no cards left in hand.

4: Phyrexian Infiltrator
Phyrexian Infiltrator
Phyrexian InfiltratorSet: Invasion
Cost:
3
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Minion
Rarity:
R
Number:
116
Artist:
Darrell Riche
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
2UU: Exchange control of Phyrexian Infiltrator and target creature.

3: Mind Shatter
Mind Shatter
Mind ShatterSet: Morningtide
Cost:
2
Color:
Black
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Number:
66
Artist:
Michael Sutfin
Text:
Target player discards X cards at random.

3: Desecration Demon
Desecration Demon
Desecration DemonSet: Return to Ravnica
Cost:
4
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Demon
Rarity:
R
Number:
63
Artist:
Jason Chan
Power:
6
Toughness:
6
Text:
Flying At the beginning of each combat, any opponent may sacrifice a creature. If a player does, tap Desecration Demon and put a +1/+1 counter on it.

3: Ribbons of Night
Ribbons of Night
Ribbons of NightSet: Ravnica City of Guilds
Cost:
5
Color:
Black
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Number:
101
Artist:
Ron Spears
Text:
Ribbons of Night deals 4 damage to target creature and you gain 4 life. If U was spent to play Ribbons of Night, draw a card.


Blue (14)
4: Man o' War
Man o' War
Man o' WarSet: Starter 1999
Cost:
3
Color:
Blue
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Jellyfish
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Una Fricker
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
When Man-o'-War comes into play, return target creature to its owner's hand.

4: Ponder
Ponder
PonderSet: Lorwyn
Cost:
1
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
C
Number:
79
Artist:
Mark Tedin
Text:
Look at the top three cards of your library, then put them back in any order. You may shuffle your library. Draw a card.

4: Muddle the Mixture
Muddle the Mixture
Muddle the MixtureSet: Ravnica City of Guilds
Cost:
2
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
C
Number:
60
Artist:
Luca Zontini
Text:
Counter target instant or sorcery spell. Transmute 1UU (1UU, Discard this card: Search your library for a card with the same converted mana cost as this card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library. Play only as a sorcery.)

2: Cryptic Command
Cryptic Command
Cryptic CommandSet: Lorwyn
Cost:
4
Color:
Blue
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
R
Number:
56
Artist:
Wayne England
Text:
Choose two - Counter target spell; or return target permanent to its owner's hand; or tap all creatures your opponents control; or draw a card.


Multicolor (7)
4: Dimir Guildmage
Dimir Guildmage
Dimir GuildmageSet: Ravnica City of Guilds
Cost:
10
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Human Wizard
Rarity:
U
Number:
245
Artist:
Adam Rex
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
(U/B can be paid with either U or B.) 3U: Target player draws a card. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery. 3B: Target player discards a card. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery.

3: Clutch of the Undercity
Clutch of the Undercity
Clutch of the UndercitySet: Ravnica City of Guilds
Cost:
4
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
U
Number:
197
Artist:
Pete Venters
Text:
Return target permanent to its owner’s hand. Its controller loses 3 life. Transmute 1UB (1UB, Discard this card: Search your library for a card with the same converted mana cost as this card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library. Play only as a sorcery.)



The first step, after you’ve assembled the rest of the deck, is to set the spells you plan to put in your deck aside and count out the colored mana symbols on the mana costs of each of those cards, and total them up for each color. Hybrid mana symbols will typically count as half of each of their colors, unless you’re running a deck of only those two colors with very few colorless lands, then that card can act like a colorless artifact for determining its cost. Monocolor hybrids, written as (2/B), etc., in a two-color deck will need to take into account how much of each color is in the deck. Sometimes you can cast a Beseech the Queen
Beseech the Queen
Beseech the QueenSet: Shadowmoor
Cost:
6
Color:
Black
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Number:
57
Artist:
Jason Chan
Text:
(o(2/b) can be paid with any two mana or with B. This card's converted mana cost is 6.) Search your library for a card with converted mana cost less than or equal to the number of Ls you control, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.
for 2BB more often than 4B. Common sense should be used for that and Phyrexian mana. A third color is usually just a “splash,” with no more than 4-6 cards from that color, and cards that require no more than one mana of that color. This deck, not counting the guildmages for colored mana symbols, as they can always be cast on turn two, has 30 black mana symbols and 28 blue mana symbols.

Next, look at the mana costs of each of the cards, and try to determine how early or late you would want to play each of those cards. Something like Hypnotic Specter
Hypnotic Specter
Hypnotic SpecterSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
3
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Specter
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Douglas Shuler
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
Flying An opponent damaged by Specter must discard a card at random from his or her hand. Ignore this effect if opponent has no cards left in hand.
, that usually wants to be in play as early as possible, should be valued at 2.5 or 3 black mana symbols, depending on how many you have in the deck, and how much of the deck is black. Something like Magmaquake
Magmaquake
MagmaquakeSet: Magic 2013
Cost:
2
Color:
Red
Type:
Instant
Rarity:
R
Number:
140
Artist:
Gabor Szikszai
Text:
Magmaquake deals X damage to each creature without flying and each planeswalker.
or Consecrated Sphinx
Consecrated Sphinx
Consecrated SphinxSet: Mirrodin Besieged
Cost:
6
Color:
Blue
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Sphinx
Rarity:
M
Number:
21
Artist:
Mark Zug
Power:
4
Toughness:
6
Text:
Flying Whenever an opponent draws a card, you may draw two cards.
, which is typically played later in the game, shouldn’t need such an adjustment.

Conveniently, we have Hypnotic Specter
Hypnotic Specter
Hypnotic SpecterSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
3
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Specter
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Douglas Shuler
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
Flying An opponent damaged by Specter must discard a card at random from his or her hand. Ignore this effect if opponent has no cards left in hand.
s here. We have four of them, and they always want to be in play as soon as possible, so I would change their mana costs to BBB for now. Ribbons of Night
Ribbons of Night
Ribbons of NightSet: Ravnica City of Guilds
Cost:
5
Color:
Black
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Number:
101
Artist:
Ron Spears
Text:
Ribbons of Night deals 4 damage to target creature and you gain 4 life. If U was spent to play Ribbons of Night, draw a card.
is something that ideally is always cast with blue mana, so changing its mana cost to 3UB will help the manabase reflect what the deck wants to do.

Next, look at any activated abilities of the cards, and how often you would want to use them. The best example I’ve seen of this is: Krosan Tusker
Krosan Tusker
Krosan TuskerSet: Onslaught
Cost:
7
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Beast
Rarity:
C
Number:
272
Artist:
Kev Walker
Power:
6
Toughness:
5
Text:
Cycling 2G (2G, Discard this card from your hand: Draw a card.). When you cycle Krosan Tusker, you may search your library for a basic land card, reveal that card, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.
costs 2G. Over 99% of the time, you will use its cycling ability, and if you hardcast it for 5GG, something has probably gone wrong. Because you will cycle it almost all of the time, it can effectively have a converted mana cost of three, and only cost one green mana when determining colored mana symbols. Spells with kicker and flashback that need at least two different colors of mana to cast the spell and use the flashback or kicker also deserve a bit more attention. Kicker, specifically, will likely change how much you want to pay for the card, even if the kicker cost does not require an additional color of mana, so it might change how you view the total mana cost of the card, and what turn you ideally play it on. If, for some reason, you do not foresee using a particular activated ability, it can be disregarded.

For this step, Phyrexian Infiltrator
Phyrexian Infiltrator
Phyrexian InfiltratorSet: Invasion
Cost:
3
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Minion
Rarity:
R
Number:
116
Artist:
Darrell Riche
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
2UU: Exchange control of Phyrexian Infiltrator and target creature.
is the main consideration. Phyrexian Infiltrator
Phyrexian Infiltrator
Phyrexian InfiltratorSet: Invasion
Cost:
3
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Minion
Rarity:
R
Number:
116
Artist:
Darrell Riche
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
2UU: Exchange control of Phyrexian Infiltrator and target creature.
should be played in a blue and black deck, but the fact that the activated ability needs two blue mana, and because the activated ability is the main reason for playing the card, a deck that has it might want to have more sources that produce blue mana. The Dimir Guildmage
Dimir Guildmage
Dimir GuildmageSet: Ravnica City of Guilds
Cost:
10
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Human Wizard
Rarity:
U
Number:
245
Artist:
Adam Rex
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
(U/B can be paid with either U or B.) 3U: Target player draws a card. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery. 3B: Target player discards a card. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery.
’s abilities are not very relevant with respect to color in the mana base, as they cost four mana to use, and only one mana of a single color.

Now, take another look at the deck for any cheap mana fixers or deck manipulation cards that are included. Deck manipulation cards are cards that usually do one or more of the following: draw a card, scry, or look at and rearrange the top X cards of your library. “Cheap” will often mean a converted mana cost of two or less, and ideally only having one colored mana in its cost. Birds or Paradise, Llanowar Elves
Llanowar Elves
Llanowar ElvesSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
1
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Elves
Rarity:
C
Artist:
Anson Maddocks
Power:
1
Toughness:
1
Text:
T: Add G to your mana pool. This ability is played as an interrupt.
, Sakura-Tribe Elder
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Sakura-Tribe ElderSet: Commander
Cost:
2
Color:
Green
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Snake Shaman
Rarity:
C
Number:
169
Artist:
Carl Critchlow
Power:
1
Toughness:
1
Text:
Sacrifice Sakura-Tribe Elder: Search your library for a basic land card, put that card onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle your library.
and the signet cycle from the original Ravnica block are fine options for mana, and Ponder
Ponder
PonderSet: Lorwyn
Cost:
1
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
C
Number:
79
Artist:
Mark Tedin
Text:
Look at the top three cards of your library, then put them back in any order. You may shuffle your library. Draw a card.
, Preordain
Preordain
PreordainSet: Magic 2011
Cost:
1
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
C
Number:
70
Artist:
Svetlin Velinov
Text:
Scry 2, then draw a card. (To scry 2, look at the top two cards of your library, then put any number of them on the bottom of your library and the rest on top in any order.)
, and Serum Visions
Serum Visions
Serum VisionsSet: Fifth Dawn
Cost:
1
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
C
Number:
36
Artist:
Ben Thompson
Text:
Draw a card. Scry 2 (Look at the top two cards of your library. Put any number of them on the bottom of your library and the rest on top in any order.)
are cheap deck manipulation. Twenty-four lands out of 60 cards is a “typical” number, and a common deckbuilding method is that for every two of these cheap mana producers or deck manipulation or a deck has, it can take away one land. Most combo decks in constructed that were based on the storm mechanic would run four Ponder
Ponder
PonderSet: Lorwyn
Cost:
1
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
C
Number:
79
Artist:
Mark Tedin
Text:
Look at the top three cards of your library, then put them back in any order. You may shuffle your library. Draw a card.
, four Preordain
Preordain
PreordainSet: Magic 2011
Cost:
1
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
C
Number:
70
Artist:
Svetlin Velinov
Text:
Scry 2, then draw a card. (To scry 2, look at the top two cards of your library, then put any number of them on the bottom of your library and the rest on top in any order.)
, and four Serum Visions
Serum Visions
Serum VisionsSet: Fifth Dawn
Cost:
1
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
C
Number:
36
Artist:
Ben Thompson
Text:
Draw a card. Scry 2 (Look at the top two cards of your library. Put any number of them on the bottom of your library and the rest on top in any order.)
when they could. With twelve spells that cost one mana and can draw and scry or rearrange the top few cards, even shuffling if need be, those decks could play eighteen lands easily.

This deck has four Ponder
Ponder
PonderSet: Lorwyn
Cost:
1
Color:
Blue
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
C
Number:
79
Artist:
Mark Tedin
Text:
Look at the top three cards of your library, then put them back in any order. You may shuffle your library. Draw a card.
s, and the only things that cost more than four mana are the three Ribbons of Night
Ribbons of Night
Ribbons of NightSet: Ravnica City of Guilds
Cost:
5
Color:
Black
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Number:
101
Artist:
Ron Spears
Text:
Ribbons of Night deals 4 damage to target creature and you gain 4 life. If U was spent to play Ribbons of Night, draw a card.
and the three Mind Shatter
Mind Shatter
Mind ShatterSet: Morningtide
Cost:
2
Color:
Black
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Number:
66
Artist:
Michael Sutfin
Text:
Target player discards X cards at random.
, if you so choose. There aren’t many expensive spells in the deck, with an average converted mana cost of 3.03 if the Mind Shatter
Mind Shatter
Mind ShatterSet: Morningtide
Cost:
2
Color:
Black
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Number:
66
Artist:
Michael Sutfin
Text:
Target player discards X cards at random.
s are counted as X=3. I chose to put the Mind Shatter
Mind Shatter
Mind ShatterSet: Morningtide
Cost:
2
Color:
Black
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
R
Number:
66
Artist:
Michael Sutfin
Text:
Target player discards X cards at random.
s at a converted mana cost of five because the deck will usually want to cast its spells or transmute with four mana or less.

The type of deck can also suggest a good number of lands to start with. A mono-red aggressive deck with nothing that costs more than four can go with 20 lands, or sometimes even less, while a blue/white or blue/black control deck that needs to make all of its land drops in the early and mid-game might go up to 26 or 27 lands with four signets or cheap artifact mana producers.

There are lands that can produce multiple colors of mana, such as the “guildgate” or “bounceland” cycles from the Return to Ravnica and Ravnica blocks, respectively. In addition, Invasion and Zendikar had lands for allied colors that could produce either color of mana. However, all off the aforementioned lands enter the battlefield tapped, and while those do make the colored mana requirements easier to fulfill, too many lands that enter the battlefield tapped can slow down a deck. In the most extreme example, a black-red Ravnica-inspired Rakdos deck that wants to go turn one unleashed Rakdos Cackler
Rakdos Cackler
Rakdos CacklerSet: Return to Ravnica
Cost:
5
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Devil
Rarity:
U
Number:
220
Artist:
Ryan Barger
Power:
1
Toughness:
1
Text:
Unleash (You may have this creature enter the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it. It can't block as long as it has a +1/+1 counter on it.)
into turn two Rix Maadi Guildmage
Rix Maadi Guildmage
Rix Maadi GuildmageSet: Return to Ravnica
Cost:
2
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Human Shaman
Rarity:
U
Number:
192
Artist:
Karl Kopinski
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
{B}{R}: Target blocking creature gets -1/-1 until end of turn. {B}{R}: Target player who lost life this turn loses 1 life.
into turn three unleashed Hellhole Flailer
Hellhole Flailer
Hellhole FlailerSet: Return to Ravnica
Cost:
3
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Ogre Warrior
Rarity:
U
Number:
167
Artist:
Steve Prescott
Power:
3
Toughness:
2
Text:
Unleash (You may have this creature enter the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it. It can't block as long as it has a +1/+1 counter on it.) {2}{B}{R}, Sacrifice Hellhole Flailer: Hellhole Flailer deals damage equal to its power to target player.
into turn four Rakdos, Lord of Riots
Rakdos, Lord of Riots
Rakdos, Lord of RiotsSet: Return to Ravnica
Cost:
4
Color:
Multicolor
Type:
Legendary Creature
Sub Type:
Demon
Rarity:
M
Number:
187
Artist:
Vincent Proce
Power:
6
Toughness:
6
Text:
You can't cast Rakdos, Lord of Riots unless an opponent lost life this turn. Flying, trample Creature spells you cast cost {1} less to cast for each 1 life your opponents have lost this turn.
cannot afford to have any lands that enter the battlefield tapped to slow it down a turn. Most decks that are slightly slower, or have somewhat strict color requirements, can usually use up to four or so easily. Control decks typically won’t do much in the early turns, so they can have more, as the lands can be played on early turns when the deck has no cards it can cast, so the drawback of slowing the deck down is essentially negated. Terramorphic Expanse
Terramorphic Expanse
Terramorphic ExpanseSet: Time Spiral
Color:
Land
Type:
Land
Rarity:
C
Number:
279
Artist:
Dan Scott
Text:
T, Sacrifice Terramorphic Expanse: Search your library for a basic land card and put it into play tapped. Then shuffle your library.
is a nice option to have, as it will get the color that is needed the most at the time, and all lands that search your deck for a land and put it into play will thin out the deck, even though it is by a very small amount.

I’m not going to put any nonbasic lands in the deck to keep things simple. There’s room for 22 lands in the deck at the moment. To know how many of a certain type of basic land you should add, start by counting the number of spots for lands and the number of colored mana symbols for that color. Then, count the rest of the colored mana symbols for the deck, and determine the total number of colored mana symbols. The number of basic lands for a certain color that you should add, divided by the total number of lands in the deck should be approximately equal to the total number of colored mana symbols for that color divided by the total number of colored mana symbols for the entire deck. If you modified the cost of a card in an earlier step, use the modified cost . Hypnotic Specter
Hypnotic Specter
Hypnotic SpecterSet: Revised Edition
Cost:
3
Color:
Black
Type:
Creature
Sub Type:
Specter
Rarity:
U
Artist:
Douglas Shuler
Power:
2
Toughness:
2
Text:
Flying An opponent damaged by Specter must discard a card at random from his or her hand. Ignore this effect if opponent has no cards left in hand.
was changed from two black mana symbols to three, and Ribbons of Night
Ribbons of Night
Ribbons of NightSet: Ravnica City of Guilds
Cost:
5
Color:
Black
Type:
Sorcery
Rarity:
U
Number:
101
Artist:
Ron Spears
Text:
Ribbons of Night deals 4 damage to target creature and you gain 4 life. If U was spent to play Ribbons of Night, draw a card.
was changed from 4B to 3UB, so our modified totals are 34 black mana symbols and 31 blue mana symbols. As an example, let’s try to figure out how many swamps to add to this deck.

There are 34 black mana symbols out of 65 total colored mana symbols, after modifications. Black mana symbols make up 52.3% of the total colored mana symbols, so swamps should make up approximately 52.3% of the lands. Out of 22 lands, this comes to 11.5 swamps. Because there are more black spells in the deck, and most of them need two black mana to cast, I like rounding up to 12 swamps, and, therefore, 10 islands.

This example was a simple, two-color deck that did not use all of the concepts that were explained. However, in decks with more colors or more interesting color balances, thinking through all of these things can make even the most complicated manabases easier to create. Playing a lot of limited will give you more experience and a better feel for just how much to change a deck’s manabase based on specific converted mana costs and activated abilities. Despite the long explanation, this usually doesn’t take more than a few minutes when building the deck, and it will help all of your decks perform better.


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