Have you noticed the mana in Standard is really good right now?
With the inclusion of Gatecrash in Standard, we now have a full suite of ten shocklands backed by another full suite of ten buddylands. This makes it pretty much trivial to run three colors in a deck and almost ridiculous to not at least run that many.
Sounds like it’s time to give you all an updated mana base worksheet.
Today, I’m giving you an updated worksheet along with directions on using it, and a touch of insight into mana in Standard.
The New Mana Base Worksheet
Without further ado, here’s a link to download the mana base worksheet for the current Standard:
This time around the worksheet is an Excel file. Apologies to the Numbers fans out there, but more of you use Excel and it isn’t straightforward to port from Numbers into Excel. Conveniently, I also don’t have to hand code the hypergeometric distribution when I use Excel, either (seriously, Apple, why doesn’t Numbers include that equation?).
What’s the Point of this Worksheet?
The mana base worksheet is built to help you figure out the mana for any deck you’re building, by doing some helpful math about how likely you are to hit the colors you need.
The basic math behind whether you’ll be able to hit the right colors you need can be a little pesky to start with, and it gets even less intuitive when you have the buddylands coming in untapped—or not—depending on the presence of other lands.
That said, the presence of “typed” duals in the current Standard means that the buddylands come in untapped so frequently that you don’t need to think too much about that concern.
In fact, the mana bases are ridiculously good, as we’ll see in some of the examples below.
How to Use the Worksheet
That’s the top part of the worksheet.
There’s one basic rule in using this worksheet—only put numbers into the yellow squares. Don’t mess with the rest of the worksheet.
As you’re trying to build a mana base, just plug the numbers you want to try into the yellow box next to each type of land. For example, in the image above, the mana base we’re building has 3 Plains, 4 Blood Crypt, 4 Godless Shrine, and 4 Sacred Foundry.
The “colors” column lists which colors the land provides—that’s just for your reference while you build your mana base.
All the grayed-out stuff to the right in the worksheet is are calculations required to figure out the numbers the worksheet will be providing for you. Don’t worry about them, but don’t mess with those cells either—you’ll break the worksheet.
As you go a little farther down the worksheet, you’ll see this:
The blue square next to each buddyland shows how likely the land is to be playable untapped around turn three or so, depending on which other lands you’re likely to have on the battlefield at that point.
This number is there to give you some helpful guidance on whether your deck will support efficient use of those buddylands. In other Standard environments, this has been a real question, since your deck often won’t support its buddylands coming in untapped often enough. However, in the current Standard, this usually isn’t in question.
To make that clear, check out the values for Isolated Chapel and Clifftop Retreat in this deck—1.0. In other words, they will effectively come in untapped 100% of the time in this deck. In fact, if you were inclined, this deck could support all but one of the buddylands coming in untapped the vast majority of the time (sorry Hinterland Harbor).
So yeah, mana is really good so far in Standard.
At the bottom of the worksheet you will receive these numbers:
See that one box that’s still yellow? That’s the total number of cards in the deck, and you need to enter it (since the calculations obviously depend on the total number of cards in the deck).
Running down the left side are the tallies for total lands producing each color.
To the right are three sets of calculations looking at the likely availability of colors on turns one through four of the game. We have a “best-case” scenario that assumes that most of your hands are workable, a “safe-case” scenario that assumes that some hands are workable, and a “worst-case” scenario that assumes that many hands aren’t workable.
The current worksheet shows calculations for having each color in turns one through four. You may notice that the percentages sometimes drop for turn three or four—that’s a quirk of how I built the equations in the worksheet, so don’t put too much stock in that behavior.
For example, let’s look at the three cases for this deck with respect to the color red:
• In the “best case” scenario, the deck hits red 81% of the time on turn 1, moving up to 91% of the time by turn 4.
• In the “safe case” scenario, the deck hits red 68% of the time on turn 1, moving up to 79% by turn 4.
• For the “worst case” scenario, the deck hits red 46% of the time on turn 1, moving up to 65% by turn 4.
Since each deck has different standards for what does or doesn’t work as an opening hand, you have all three cases to choose from when deciding if your deck will give you the colors you need.
Cavern of Souls is a special-case consideration, since it won’t be able to provide colors for all your spells. So that you can compare how the deck performs with or without Cavern powering your spells, you can type the number “1” in the indicated space—or leave it blank.
With the “1” there, the Caverns will count for providing all colors. This will let you know how well the mana base provide colors for the named creature type. With that space left blank, the Caverns will provide no colors, which will let you know how the deck’s mana base performs in providing colors for the things you aren’t naming with Cavern.
You should always include the number of Caverns you have in the deck in the yellow box.
A new addition to the mana base worksheet is all this stuff—cards that fix colors but aren’t lands themselves.
The mana base worksheet factors these cards in for the turns on which they actually matter. For example, the Farseeks in your deck do nothing on the first and second turns, but start mattering on the third turn when you’ll potentially have fixed your mana with them.
And Now, on to the Mana Being Really, Really Good
So that’s the spreadsheet, and hopefully enough instructions for you to use it. With that done, let’s look at a few decks from the Pro Tour to see how mana works in the current Standard.
This is Ben Stark’s Esper Control deck from Pro Tour Montreal:
Here are the three cases for this Esper deck. I’ve color-coded the percentages approximately like so, for easier viewing:
Here are the cases:
Although there’s a mild difference in percentages across the deck’s three colors in the “Best” case, the general message here is that the deck is reasonably good at hitting its mana in both the “Best” and “Safe” cases. In the safe case, the Esper deck is at about 80% to hit its blue and white mana right out of the gates, and is around 75% to hit its black mana on most of the early turns.
That’s pretty good for a three-color deck, especially compared to earlier Standard formats.
Here’s Owen Turtenwald’s Jund deck from Montreal:
Owen’s deck features that mainstay of the current Standard format, Farseek. That brings up a useful question for building mana bases in Standard right now—is Farseek about fixing mana, or acceleration?
Here are the deck’s three cases without those Farseeks:
The “Safe” case gives us a clean read on what this deck is good at without its Farseeks—making green mana, with black mana as a close second. This is a pretty logical approach to take for a deck that plans to fix with Farseeks and to accelerate with [card arbor elf]Arbor Elves[/card].
Here are the deck’s three cases with those four Farseeks:
The best-case scenario gets marginally better with those Farseeks, but the safe- and worst-case scenarios become significantly better, which is what we would hope to get from mana fixers.
Even without the Farseeks, the Jund deck is actually a little better than the Esper deck at hitting its colors. With the Farseeks, Jund has a firmly reliable mana base.
Here’s the Kessig-flavored Bant Control deck Melissa DeTora played in Montreal:
Here are the deck’s three cases (and yes, this time we’re already counting the impact of its Farseeks):
Some of the PT Gatecrash commentators called Melissa’s deck particularly tricky to play, and the chart above might show us one reason why. Unlike the other decks we’ve reviewed so far, this Bant list can genuinely have trouble hitting its core colors—something that may be reflected in how many mulligans Melissa took in the quarters at Montreal.
There were no 18+ point Bant decks without some kind of splash at PT Montreal. Here’s the other take on Bant with a splash, as played by Team Panik’s Matthias Hunt:
Here’s this deck’s breakdown:
That’s actually even rougher than the Kessig-splashing variation on Bant. Matthias did choose to go for more than just a pure black splash, since he was not simply powering the Drownyards, but also those early-game Abrupt Decays.
In contrast, here’s a Bant deck with just a simple black splash for Drownyard, as played by Mike Mahaffey at the Atlanta Standard Open:
Here’s the breakdown for this deck:
This is clearly a more robust mana base, pretty much on par with Stark’s Esper list in terms of hitting its primary colors.
We’ll close today’s look at Standard mana with the deck Tom Martell piloted to a win in Montreal:
Here’s the mana base breakdown for this deck, counting the [card cavern of souls]Caverns[/card]:
Here’s the manabase breakdown for this deck, minus the Caverns:
Go Build Your Own
So with those examples in mind, hopefully we all have a feel for how mana looks in Standard these days. I hope the worksheet is useful for you, and do please let me know if there are any additions or improvements you’d like to see.
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