The Five-Color Manabase

The following is a preview, of sorts, of next Monday’s update.  This will be a segment of that update, with minor alterations (and a much different decklist) – but since this section deals with theory that is pretty universal for pentacolor decklists, I wanted to go ahead and separate it for now, so that it can be more easily referred to in the future.  Enjoy!

Coping with a Five-Color

An Atog with a CMC above 3 is as rare as a blue mage who never counters any spells.

How the heck do you build a manabase for a five-color Commander deck? Well, it depends on what the average CMC of your deck is. The higher the average CMC of your deck, the harder it is going to be to consistently achieve all the colors you want. For decks with a low average CMC (like Atog and Sliver decks), your focus needs to be getting all five colors down, rather than getting larger amounts of mana. For decks with higher average CMC (like 5-color control decks), you should limit your card selection to three primary colors, splashing the other two for powerful cards. For 3+splash decks, your best bet is this: build a core 3-color mana base, but include one of each basic land outside the color core for fetching, and several of the 5-color lands listed a few paragraphs below.

It also depends on how fast your deck needs to be. If lands coming into play tapped frequently is going to be a major hindrance to your deck, then your options are going to be very limited.

I will admit that it does seem a bit daunting to build a manabase for a color-balanced deck (I know it was for me when I built my first 5-color Commander deck.) The good news is that you have multiple options. The bad news is, each one comes with drawbacks.

It’s like the designers of this card forgot that fetchlands existed.

The Optimal Manabase: The perfect 5-color manabase uses the 10 original dual lands, 10 shocklands, and 10 fetchlands, preferably with Crucible of Worlds to keep reusing the fetches – and 8-10 utility lands. Of course, this is crazy expensive. Using the TCGPlayer optimizer for conditions up to Heavily Played, the cheapest you can currently get this set of 30 lands for is $1,183.73. So, unless your discretionary spending budget is a heck of a lot bigger than mine, or you’ve been playing since 1994 and have smartly saved up all these lands, this isn’t the manabase for you.

Basic Landfetch: This is the cheapest version of a 5-color manabase you will find. It runs 5-6 of each basic land, and many if not all of the following lands that fetch basics:

Basic Land Fetchers  
Bad River
Flood Plain
Mountain Valley
Rocky Tar Pit
Krosan Verge
Jund Panorama
Naya Panorama
Bant Panorama
Grixis Panorama
Esper Panorama
Evolving Wilds
Terramorphic Expanse

Thawing Glaciers and Terminal Moraine are possibilities as well. Note that the first six lands listed will also fetch shocklands (and duals), just not as fast as the Zendikar and Onslaught fetchlands.

For those who have been spoiled by the Return to Ravnica cycle’s wonderful mana base, this is what a Painland looks like.

Semi-Budget Speed: This is the go-to build if you need your deck to be fast, but can’t afford a mortgage payment to make it happen. It wants 10 Shocklands (which you should have been picking up over the last year), 10 Buddy Lands (the M10/Innistrad duals), and the 10 Painlands – plus several of the 5-color lands listed below. This is not a terribly consistent manabase, but if you just can’t have lands coming into play tapped and don’t have access to the Optimal Manabase, then this is pretty much your best option.

If none of these mana bases appeal to you, and you can afford the speed-loss of having lands come into play tapped, then you can pick and choose from the following options (in addition to basics and basic-fetchers):

5-Color Lands: There are many lands in the game that will produce any color of mana, with either a price or a restriction. You should always have Command Tower, because it’s the only one without any drawbacks. Also, Cavern of Souls is a must-have for any tribal deck, as it produces any color of mana (for tribal creatures) and makes your tribal creatures uncounterable.

Other lands in this category to consider include Vivid Lands (more on these a bit later), Grand Coliseum and City of Brass (1 damage), Rupture Spire and Transguild Promenade (they come into play tapped and cost 1 mana to play), Exotic Orchard (only produces colors your opponents can produce), Forbidden Orchard (gives an opponent a 1/1 token), Mirrodin’s Core (has to charge), Reflecting Pool (only produces what your other lands already can), and Ancient Ziggurat (only for creatures).

Counter-Bounce: This is a manabase style I have developed for my own Sliver Overlord deck. It’s slow, but consistent. It utilizes lands that tap for any color but have diminishing counters on them, and the 10 Ravnica karoos to bounce them back to your hand once you’ve used all the counters:

Don’t even THINK about trying to play these in a 5-color deck unless you intend to turn the bounce effect into a benefit.

Counter-Bounce Lands  
Counter Lands: 7
Vivid Meadow
Vivid Grove
Vivid Marsh
Vivid Crag
Vivid Creek
Gemstone Mine
Tendo Ice Bridge
Ravnica Karoos: 10

Azorius Chancery
Boros Garrison
Dimir Aqueduct
Golgari Rot Farm
Gruul Turf
Izzet Boilerworks
Orzhov Basilica
Rakdos Carnarium
Selesnya Sanctuary
Simic Growth Chamber

Alara Taplands: Two-color taplands are too much of a hindrance for a five-color manabase, but the cycle of three-color taplands can definitely benefit such a deck. These lands are Arcane SanctumCrumbling NecropolisJungle ShrineSeaside Citadel, and Savage Lands.

You ever wonder if the Commander format is just one big Dimir conspiracy?

Artifact FixingChromatic Lantern is a godsend. It’s a colorless Prismatic Omen (which you should totally also have.) Any cheap artifacts that produce any color are also worth considering: Coalition RelicDarksteel IngotColdsteel HeartFellwar StoneManalith, and Mox Diamond. Just remember – artifacts are much easier to destroy than lands!

Sample Deck

So here’s a sample deck I built for fun, but haven’t had the chance to play yet. I wanted to take the “Basic Landfetch” mana base to the extreme, and run a deck full of cards that reward you for having basic lands, and punish your opponents for having nonbasic land. The deck wants to get to one basic of each type on turn 5, at which point the deck “turns on.”

Rainbow Road  
Child of Alara
Lands: 38
Jund Panorama
Naya Panorama
Bant Panorama
Grixis Panorama
Esper Panorama
Evolving Wilds
Terramorphic Expanse
Bad River
Flood Plain
Mountain Valley
Rocky Tar Pit
Creatures: 21

Magus of the Moon
Knight of the Reliquary
Fusion Elemental
Horde of Notions
Maelstrom Archangel
Etched Monstrosity
Bringer of the Black Dawn
Bringer of the Blue Dawn
Bringer of the Green Dawn
Bringer of the Red Dawn
Dune-Brood Nephilim
Witch-Maw Nephilim
Yore-Tiller Nephilim
Solemn Simulacrum
Bloom Tender
Consecrated Sphinx
Enchantments: 10
Back to Basics
Blood Moon
Destructive Flow
Primal Order
Collective Restraint
Spirit of Resistance
Genju of the Realm
Maelstrom Nexus
Khalni Heart Expedition
Sorceries: 15

Price of Progress
Global Ruin
Allied Strategies
All Suns’ Dawn
Shard Convergence
Kodama’s Reach
Rampant Growth
Wrath of God
Akroma’s Vengeance
Hallowed Burial
Final Judgment
Instants: 9

Worldly Counsel
Dominaria’s Judgment
Mogg Salvage
Refreshing Rain
Snuff Out
Reverent Silence
Bant Charm
Spell Crumple
Artifacts: 5

Door to Nothingness
Legacy Weapon
Fist of Suns
Gem of Becoming
1 Crucible of Worlds
Planeswalkers: 1
Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker

4 thoughts on “The Five-Color Manabase

  1. hey man, Im opening a section on my website for Commander. Would like to know if you want to write any type of articles about commander? I can give you your own column and link it to your blog.

    • Sorry, I can’t commit to anything like that right now. At the moment I’m just trying to figure formatting out so my work doesn’t look like crap, and get back in the habit of writing content again (haven’t been actively writing in a few years.)

      Maybe in a couple months I’ll be in a position where I want something more than a 12-or-so reader affair, but for right now I just want to focus on the work itself.

      Thanks for the offer, though. It’s very much appreciated.

  2. Pingback: Bands With Awesome: A Commander Blog | Commander Decklist – Ultimate Doubling

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