In the early years of Magic, mana bases were quite loose. In Pro Tour New York 1996, for example, George Baxter made it to the quarterfinals with a mostly-black aggro deck splashing Erhnam Djinn and red burn spells. But since he only included six green lands and nine red lands, he could only cast Erhnam Djinn or Lightning Bolt on curve 75%-80% of the time—far from consistent. Given that Baxter was the author of several early Magic strategy books, you can imagine that mana base theory was underdeveloped at that time.

These days, mana bases tend to be more consistent, and the math behind them is better understood. I recently made a contribution in my last article, titled “How Many Colored Mana Sources Do You Need to Consistently Cast Your Spells? A Guilds of Ravnica Update.” If you haven’t done so yet, you should check it out. Today, I will apply its tables and recommendations to the mana bases of the Top 8 decks from the October 6 Magic Online PTQ.

The Top 8 decks from this tournament represented eight different archetypes, mostly midrange and control, across various color combinations. The deck lists were quickly copied by competitive players offline and online, and they are a good representation of the week 1 metagame for the new Guilds of Ravnica Standard, albeit an incomplete one.

Most notably, Mono-Red Aggro did not make the Top 8 of the MTGO PTQ, despite being the most popular Standard archetype overall according to MTGGoldfish on October 11. But since my main interest today is to analyze mana bases, that omission is fine with me. After all, a 22-Mountain mana base is trivial.

Let’s dive in to discover how the best Standard decks also have the best mana bases.

Golgari Midrange

Yamakiller, 1st place

This black-green midrange deck emerged victorious. Fueled by the newly printed Assassin’s Trophy, it embodies the spirit of “The Rock.” This classic archetype name originates from an ancient black-green midrange deck featuring Phyrexian Plaguelord and Deranged Hermit, which were respectively nicknamed “The Rock and his millions” after professional wrestler Dwayne Johnson. The origin of Magic deck names is wild.

The cards that constrain the mana base the most are:

  • Jadelight Ranger. To cast it consistently on-curve, under the assumptions and definitions from my previous article, you need 18 green sources. The deck has 18 green sources (including the playset of Llanowar Elves, which collectively count as 2 green sources) so that’s perfect.
  • Llanowar Elves. To cast it consistently on turn 1, you need 14 untapped green sources. Since Woodland Cemetery doesn’t count, the deck only has 12. But given that a turn-2 Llanowar Elves is still fine, I can accept the 86.3% turn-1 consistency resulting from 12 sources.
  • Golden Demise and Plague Mare from the sideboard. To cast them consistently on-curve, you need 18 black sources. The deck only has 16 black-producing lands, so we’re slightly short, but not by a lot. I can accept the accompanying 88.0% consistency, especially for a sideboard card. What’s more, the card selection offered by the play set of Merfolk Branchwalker counts as nearly a full black source as well.
  • Golgari Findbroker. Gold cards are slightly more involved than mono-color cards. If we consider the 8 dual + 8 Swamp + 8 Forest mana base only, then a simulation I coded indicates that you will have BBGG mana 90.0% of the games where you have at least four lands on turn 4 (after mulligans, on the play). But I like to have slightly higher consistency for 4-drops, so the recommendation from my last article was to take the requirements for 2BB and 2GG spells and increase them by one. This results in the claim that to cast Golgari Findbroker consistently on-curve, you need 17 black sources and 17 green sources. The deck has 17 black sources (including District Guide) and 19 green sources (including District Guide and Llanowar Elves), so that’s enough. The number of sources is even higher if you count the card selection from Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger as 1-2 additional sources of both green and black for 4+ mana spells.

All in all, the mana base of this deck is fine, and I wouldn’t make any changes.

Grixis Midrange

Tetezinho, 2nd place

This deck features the some of the best answers and threats available in the Grixis shard. The creature base in particular is filled with powerful new creatures from Guilds of Ravnica: Doom Whisperer, Thief of Sanity, and Lazav, the Multifarious.

Regarding colored mana consistency, we can count the surveil effect from four Thought Erasure and two Lazav, the Multifarious as one additional source of each color, at least for 3+ mana spells. (In reality, since the deck has more black lands than red ones, it’s closer to 0.9 red source and 1.3 black source, but let’s round it all to the nearest integer for convenience.)

The cards that constrain the mana base the most are:

  • Golden Demise. To cast it consistently on-curve, you need 18 black sources. The deck has 19 black sources, so that’s enough.
  • Essence Scatter. To cast it consistently on-curve, you need 13 blue sources. The deck has 15 blue sources for turn 2, so that’s more than enough.
  • Thought Erasure. To cast it consistently on-curve, you need 21 total sources that can produce blue and/or black. The deck has 25 such lands (everything except the basic Mountain) so that’s more than enough.
  • Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. Since this deck has ample black sources, we can roughly treat Nicol Bolas as a 2UR card. With this 26-land mana base, according to the earlier-referenced gold card simulation, you will have 2UR mana 93.1% of the games where you have at least 4 lands on turn 4 (after mulligans, on the play). Generally speaking, I would want 11 red sources, 11 blue sources, and 17 red/blue sources for a 2UR spell. This deck, including the surveil spells, has 12 red sources, 16 blue sources, and 21 red/blue sources, which is enough to cast Nicol Bolas consistently on-curve.

For 3-color decks, I always check how many taplands there are. This Grixis deck should not have any trouble in that regard. Sulfur Falls has 10 basics of the right type (so it will enter the battlefield untapped most of the time in the early game) while Dragonskull Summit and Drowned Catacomb have 15 basics each of the right type (so they will enter the battlefield untapped nearly every time).

All in all, the mana base is more than fine. You could even consider cutting a land from the deck, likely a Sulfur Falls. If you do that, you would still have enough colored sources for everything, and I believe that 25 lands would be enough for the average converted mana cost of the deck’s spells. Alternatively, you could replace Sulfur Falls with a Field of Ruin or other colorless utility land.

Jeskai Control

LimitedPower, 3rd place

This starts off like a regular Jeskai Control deck before going off the deep end with Azor’s Gateway and Expansion // Explosion. It may be a bit ambitious, but I like the combo.

If you manage to transform Azor’s Gateway before taking damage, then you could tap Sanctum of the Sun and fire off a lethal Explosion right away. But even if you fell into the single-digit life totals, you might still be able to deal 10 damage and draw 10 cards. Either way, since you’re not planning to naturally cast Expansion // Explosion in the early game, I chose not to include it in the colored sources analysis below. But I will mention that in a 27-land deck with Chemister’s Insight, several other midgame card draw spells, and ample blue sources, 11 or 12 red-producing lands will suffice to cast Explosion for X=2 or X=3 consistently on-curve.

The cards that constrain the mana base the most are:

  • History of Benalia from the sideboard. To cast it consistently on-curve, you need 18 white sources. The deck has 14 white sources, so that’s definitely not enough. I don’t mind being a little short for a sideboard card, but the deck doesn’t even have enough white sources for Settle the Wreckage, which requires 16. I would put that as the minimum to aim for.
  • Sinister Sabotage. To cast it consistently on-curve, you need 18 blue sources. The deck has 21, which is more than enough. So I’m already thinking about replacing a few Islands with Plains.
  • Deafening Clarion. To cast it as a gold card consistently on-curve, you need 12 red sources, 12 white sources, and 19 red/white sources. The deck has 11 red sources, 14 white sources, and 22 red/white sources. Adding an extra red source would be nice. Right now, with the current mana base, you would only have 1WR mana 85.5% of the games where you have at least 3 lands on turn 3 (after mulligans, on the play). This would increase to 89.2% if you turn an Island into a Sacred Foundry.

All in all, this deck has an overdose of blue sources but a lack of white sources. Moreover, Meandering River is far from great. To solve this, my suggestion would be to cut one Meandering River, one Sulfur Falls, and one Island to add one Sacred Foundry, one Clifftop Retreat, and one Plains.

Sadly, you cannot get enough blue sources for Sinister Sabotage and enough white sources for Settle the Wreckage without running at least three Meandering River in a 27 land deck. Hence, the mana bases of base-Azorius decks (whether they splash red or not) will remain mediocre until we get Hallowed Fountain.

My suggestion, in line with the card choices of several other successful Jeskai players, would be to forget Sinister Sabotage and to rely on Essence Scatter and Ionize for countermagic instead. That will alleviate some pressure on the blue side of the mana base, allowing you to cut a few Meandering Rivers for Plains. Alternatively, I would consider cutting History of Benalia from the sideboard.

Esper Control

Blackout28, 4th place

This control deck features a good collection of countermagic, sweepers, removal, card draw spells, and win conditions from the Esper shard. Ten 4-drops seems like too much to me, but my focus today is not on mana curves.

The cards that constrain the mana base the most are:

So the mana base of this 27-land deck is rock-solid, and I didn’t event count the scry from Search for Azcanta and search ability of Field of Ruin as a fractional extra source.

The white splash comes at a low cost, as Isolated Chapel and Glacial Fortress would be Swamp and Island otherwise. Both lands have 10-11 lands of the right basic type, and Drowned Catacomb has even more. Adding two Evolving Wilds, overall the mana base is similar to one that has four guaranteed taplands. That’s somewhat high, and I definitely wouldn’t want another tapland, but right now it seems manageable.

Boros Dragons

Fellepastier, 5th place

The cards that constrain the mana base the most are:

  • Goblin Chainwhirler. To cast it consistently on-curve, you need 23 red sources. The deck has 24, so that’s all good.
  • Justice Strike. To cast it consistently on turn 2, you need 13 white sources. The deck only has 9, so that’s a problem. Now, it wouldn’t be an issue if  you were always planning to hold Justice Strike until turn 5 for Lyra Dawnbringer. But if you would plan to cast it on turn 2 to not fall behind against aggro decks, which will happen often because the deck doesn’t have a whole lot of other 2-drops, the availability of white mana becomes a problem.

To increase the consistency of casting Justice Strike, I would suggest the addition of 1-2 Boros Guildgate instead of 1-2 Mountains.

I would give a similar recommendation for Steel Leaf Stompy decks splashing for Assassin’s Trophy: Aim for at least 10 black sources. For such decks, I would definitely start with eight duals and one Swamp. The basic is useful because opponents might have Field of Ruin or Assassin’s Trophy. You could get a tenth source by adding Golgari Guildgate, by adding District Guide, and/or by including a bunch of explore creatures. No matter which choice you make, I do believe the extra colored mana consistency is worth it. Remember that the R/B Chainwhirler decks from last Standard generally had 11 black sources too.

Izzet Spells

Grantfly, 6th place

This deck is built around the best instants and sorceries in the Izzet guild, which are made even more potent by Goblin Electromancer and Crackling Drake. Clearly, exploiting instants and sorceries is what this guild is best at.

The cards that constrain the mana base the most are:

  • Crackling Drake. To cast them consistently on-curve, you need 17 blue sources and 17 red sources. The deck has 17 of each in its land base, which is perfect. Indeed, considering only the 11 dual + 6 Island + 6 Mountain mana base, the previously mentioned gold card simulation indicates that you will have UURR mana 95.7% of the games where you have at least four lands on turn 4 (after mulligans, on the play). It should be even better in reality because you can count two Opt and one Search for Azcanta as an additional source for each color.
  • Niv-Mizzet, Parun from the sideboard. To cast him consistently on-curve, the requirements are the same as for Crackling Drake. Specifically, with this deck’s mana base, you will have UUURRR mana 97.1% of the games where you have at least six lands on turn 6 (after mulligans, on the play). In case you were curious: This would fall down to 93.6% if you were to replace two Izzet Guildgate with one Island and one Mountain.
  • Shivan Fire and Shock. To cast them consistently on turn 1, which could be important against aggro decks, you need 14 red untapped sources. The deck only has 10, which is low. But since the turn-1 burn spell only comes up in a fraction of the matchups, I don’t see this as a big issue. Turn-1 Izzet Guildgate followed by a burn spell on turn 2 is usually also fine.

The mana base of this deck is very solid, although I might cut one of the Izzet Guildgates for an extra Mountain. The consistency of casting Crackling Drake on-curve would fall down to 94.1% as a result, but that’s acceptable. In my evaluation, this would be outweighed by the favorable reduction in the likelihood that a tapland screws up your curve. But I wouldn’t cut another Izzet Guildgate beyond that—retaining two of them is fine.

Abzan Midrange

Lavaridge, 7th place

This is an Abzan deck that can exploit Wildgrowth Walker with a large number of explore creatures. The explore ability on Seekers’ Squire and Merfolk Branchwalker also help to dig deeper in your deck. Together, the group of these six 2-mana creatures approximately count as an additional source of each color.

Many creatures in this deck provide some kind of card advantage, and you can keep the value train rolling with the hybrid part of Find // Finality, which can be cast with every two lands from the deck.

The cards that constrain the mana base the most are:

  • Vraska’s Contempt. To cast it consistently on-curve, you need 16 black sources. The deck has 17 black sources (including the 2 mana explore creatures), which is excellent.
  • Jadelight Ranger. To cast it consistently on-curve, you need 18 green sources. The deck has 18 green sources (including the 2 mana explore creatures), which is perfect.
  • Golgari Findbroker. To cast it consistently on-curve, you need 17 black sources and 17 green sources (and no basic Plains). Since the deck has 17 black sources and 18 green sources, that’s all good.
  • Duress from the sideboard. If you want to cast it on turn 1, you need 14 untapped black sources, whereas the deck only has 7. But you don’t need to play Duress on turn 1. Sometimes, Duress is even better on turn 4, for example to snag Settle the Wreckage at the perfect moment. So this is not an issue.
  • Knight of Autumn. To cast it consistently on-curve, you need 11 white sources. The deck has 11 (including the 2 mana explore creatures), which is perfect.

The only concern I had while looking at the mana base is the large number of taplands. Counting the collection of checklands as two taplands and adding the three Memorial to Folly, the combined number of taplands is relatively high. It’s still acceptable because the Memorials add utility and because the deck has no 1-drops, which means that you can use your first turn to play a tapland. Nevertheless, I would consider turning one Memorial to Folly into a Swamp.

I have also seen Abzan Midrange versions that stretch the white splash to include Lyra Dawnbringer. It wouldn’t fit in the above mana base yet, but you can get there fairly easily: If you replace two Memorial to Folly with two Isolated Chapel and count the playset of Jadelight Ranger as an additional white source, then you’re basically at the 14 white sources required to cast Lyra Dawnbringer consistently on-curve.

Boros Angels

Alicoco, 8th place

This red-white deck showcases various synergies. For example, Adanto Vanguard can gain indestructible to survive Deafening Clarion. Alternatively, by withholding the sweeper effect, you could combine the lifelink effect of Deafening Clarion with Resplendent Angel and any other attacker to produce a 4/4 Angel token.

The deck also features minor tribal themes: Knight of Grace is boosted by History of Benalia, while all the Angels are boosted by Lyra Dawnbringer.

The cards that constrain the mana base the most are:

  • History of Benalia and Resplendent Angel. To cast them consistently on-curve, you need 18 white sources. The deck has 20, which is more than enough.
  • Lightning Strike. To cast it consistently on turn 2, you need 13 red sources. The deck has 13, which is perfect.

The mana base seems perfectly fine. You have more white sources than the recommended minimum from my tables, but a little extra consistency never hurts. Especially when the deck is so full of 1WW cards, it’s better to have 97.8% consistency than 94.0% consistency. It might not seem like much, but these differences do add up over an entire tournament.

Nevertheless, I would consider trying one Field of Ruin or one Arch of Orazca instead of a Plains. Ultimately, it’s a trade-off between mana consistency and extra utility, but I think the deck can afford one colorless utility land. Or at least, I would say it’s worth testing.

As a final remark, if you would add new cards that are more restrictive on the mana base, like some 2RR spell, then you could fit it in Boros Guildgate at a relatively low cost because the deck currently doesn’t have any 1-drops. But for now, Boros Guildgate is not necessary.

Bonus Deck List: Selesnya Tokens

Eric Shoopman, 1st Place at SCG Team Open on October 6

There was one major multicolor archetype that did not make the Top 8 of the Magic Online PTQ: the one that requires you to bring a suitcase filled with different tokens. The finals of the SCG Team Open featured two Selesnya token decks, and the archetype looks powerful.

The cards that constrain the mana base the most are:

  • Legion’s Landing. To cast it consistently on turn 1, you need 14 untapped white sources. Since Sunpetal Grove and Flower // Flourish don’t count, the deck only has 13. But I can accept the 89.1% turn-1 consistency resulting from 13 sources.
  • History of Benalia. To cast it consistently on-curve, you need 18 white sources. Including Flower // Flourish, the deck has 21 white sources, which is more than enough.
  • Vivien Reid from the sideboard. To cast it consistently on-curve, you need 14 green sources. Including Flower // Flourish and District Guide, the deck has 18 green sources, which is more than enough.
  • Emmara, Soul of the Accord. Since we have ample white sources, we can treat it as a 1G card, just like Saproling Migration. Hence, we need 13 green sources. Including Flower // Flourish, the deck has 16 green sources for turn 2, which is more than enough.

Given that Flower // Flourish gives more than enough white and green sources, I would consider replacing one Sunpetal Grove or one Forest with one extra Plains, just to increase the likelihood of casting Legion’s Landing on turn 1. A second Arch of Orazca might be an option, but you’re almost never going to activate two in the same turn, so it’s probably best to keep it as a 1-of.

Finally, it’s worth noting that District Guide is not necessary for colored mana consistency in this deck. I don’t mind the inclusion because it’s a great support for March of the Multitudes, but you don’t need District Guide to make the mana work in this deck.

Conclusion

The top decks in Guilds of Ravnica Standard generally have excellent mana bases. I found it interesting to discover that the recommended minima from the tables in my last article closely matched the number of colored sources for many spells in various decks.

Still, there were a few eyebrow-raising moments. When I saw the Jeskai Control deck that was running History of Benalia with only 14 white sources and the Boros Dragons deck that was running Justice Strike with only 9 white sources, I explained how these numbers should be raised.

But in conclusion, I am happy that the multicolor mana in the new Standard is good enough to cast our spells consistently on curve. It should make for enjoyable games and a good format.