Landing Wins in Commander

Hello again fellow Commander lovers! Today I am going to be discussing mana bases for competitive 1v1 EDH and traps to avoid. It may come as a shock to you, but when filtering your choices, certain lands fetch more appeal and optimizing your mana base should be high on your to-dual list. It is karootical to cast your spells on time or else you will be scrying a river of tears when your opponent gets the tech edge over you.

Let’s jump right in!

Strip Mine is the most powerful land in competitive Commander. It should make every deck list regardless of color and strategy. In fact, it’s so good that—

Oh wait… they banned it? Oh well, good riddance!

Seriously though, Strip Mine was far too powerful for 1v1 as there was very little downside to playing it. It would lead to many unwinnable games in combination with Life from the Loam or Crucible of Worlds. I love powerful cards and strong plays, but Strip Mine was pushing it. It didn’t come as a surprise that Wizards stripped this land from our mana base forever.

Remember the first tip from my last article:

“Play enough lands (with few lands that come into play tapped). Approximately 39 is ideal.”

Mana bases in 1v1 EDH won’t differ too much from typical optimized Commander decks. But you should expect your mana resources to be taxed in this format, and depending on your particular deck, you may find that you should lean toward more lands than less. Typical 1v1 decks will usually play between 38 and 40 lands and while that may seem like too many, 99-card decks can sometimes be unwieldy. With the most powerful fast-mana spells banned, you will have to rely on playing relatively fair with land drops, and you will often want to make them throughout the entire game. Good ol’ traditional MTG.

Because of the high density of counterspells, discard spells, and other disruption, you will find cards like Signets and other ramp spells drop significantly in value. If you play a couple of mana accelerators in a game just to have your payoff spell countered, you will find that to be a losing strategy. Casual EDH is more about speed than efficiency, where competitive 1v1 is more about value, efficiency, and consistency. You will see fewer cards like Kokusho, the Evening Star, Tooth and Nail, or Deadeye Navigator, and more cards like Inquisition of Kozilek, Force Spike, and Miscalculation.

If you look at recent deck lists from 5-0 Commander Leagues on Magic Online, you can observe a few points regarding mana bases. The optimal number of lands is between 38 and 39, with some 4-color lists going to 40 and some mono-colored lists going to 36/37.

For multicolored decks, you will want to play as many of the following as possible.

Onslaught/Zendikar Fetchlands

My pick for the best fixing lands in the format. Combined with ABU duals and shocklands, these provide immediate and unconditional fixing. Paying 1 life is even less of a cost with a starting life total of 30. They fuel powerful delve spells like Dig Through Time and Treasure CruiseTasigur, the Golden Fang and Logic Knot, and with cards like Ponder, Brainstorm, and Sylvan Library to filter your cards better.

ABU Dual Lands

For 2-color fixers nothing beats the originals. They are pricey, but there is no perfect replacement for them. Expect to see them frequently.

Ravnica Shocklands

Second only to original dual lands, shocklands also have the upside of coming into play untapped. The importance of casting your spells on time cannot be understated and 2 life has even less impact than in 20-life formats.

As for how many to include, 4-color decks should play 10 fetchlands, 6 dual lands, and 6 shocklands. 3-color decks should play 9 fetchlands, 3 dual lands, and 3 shock lands. 2-color decks should play 7 fetch lands, 1 dual land, and 1 shock land.

Other lands that should always make the cut barring extreme circumstances:

Command Tower is a must-have for decks that contain 2 colors or more, so that’s a given.

Wasteland is one of the strongest lands in the deck because it can answer any problematic land the opponent plays. Its ability to be recurred can also win games on its own, and the opportunity cost is minimal.

Cavern of Souls is the most powerful single land in the format at this time. Control matchups where one player draws Cavern of Souls drastically swing in that player’s favor as they are guaranteed to resolve their general. A surprise Cavern on a turn where the opponent left up mana to counter your general can even waste a whole turn from the opponent. Additionally, the recent banning of Strip Mine has made it all the more likely that your Cavern will stick around for the whole game.

Additionally, you will want to play enough basics to play around Blood Moon/Ruination effects. Of course, there are times where you won’t play some of the above lands, but I would start most of these the majority of the time.

The following lands are good for some decks but not all:

Ancient Tomb is excellent for decks with easy mana requirements and 30 life makes the cost less acute. Still, against some generals you will need to watch how many times you tap this land for mana as the damage can rack up with fetchlands, Mana Confluence, Sylvan Library, and attacks from the opponent.

Mana Confluence and City of Brass are guaranteed to fix and enter the battlefield untapped. But similarly to Ancient Tomb, you have to be careful how often you tap them, and for that reason, they should only make decks with extreme mana requirements.

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is actually a great way to mitigate Ancient Tomb and Mana Confluence, as well as enable multiple black mana per turn. Additionally, it can turn fetchlands into mana producers along with the occasional Dark Depths or Maze of Ith. And of course, heavy-black decks benefit from the wombo-combo of Urborg plus Cabal Coffers to drown yourself in more mana than you can imagine.

Lastly, Rishadan Port is a wonderful way to lock down your opponent’s mana and slow down the game a turn or two. It is similar to Wasteland as it can always check one opposing land. But unlike Wasteland, it can still tap for mana after it does. It has a ridiculously high price tag on Magic Online, which is a bit of a bummer, but for those who have one, absolutely use it if your deck’s mana requirements permit it.

You will generally want to avoid the following lands. Not all of them are unplayable but I would look elsewhere when building your mana base.

Tri-lands from Shards of Alara and Khans of Tarkir

Tri-lands may be reliable mana fixing, but entering tapped is too much a downside. Playing lands tapped reduces your chances of being able to curve out or cast your spells on time.

Vivid Lands from Lorwyn

Similarly to tri-lands, Vivid lands provide perfect fixing but at too great a cost.

Conditional fixers like the tainted cycle from Torment or Nimbus Maze:

Coming into play untapped is nice and these lands do always produce colorless. But these lands are far too inconsistent in the mana fixing department.

Even in 4/5-color decks these lands entering play tapped are too detrimental.

These lands have too many instances where they are either inconsistently fixing or not powerful enough to mitigate their downsides. It’s a shame because I love Temple of the False God in casual EDH.

Bouncelands from Ravnica

These lands are the ones I am most tempted to add simply because I love value, and Bouncelands are essentially 2-for-1s in land form. But the tempo loss from having one bounced or destroyed is backbreaking and too common to run the risk. There are plenty of ways to take risks in competitive 1v1 EDH and many of them have substantial rewards. But when it comes to risks, do not take them with your lands.

The following are lands that are not as good as the traditional fetch/shock/duals, but sometimes make the cut to fill the deck out.

Theros Temples

Temples are sometimes acceptable depending on your deck list. They can help dig for gas in the late game and hit land drops early. Be careful about overloading.

Worldwake/BFZ Man Lands

Creaturelands are the tapped lands I play the most often. They provide the best late-game topdecks as far as lands go, and provide needed pressure to planeswalkers. And hey, no Strip Mine FTW!

Shadowmoor/Eventide Filter Lands

These are fine fixers and can come in handy when you are having trouble casting double-casting-cost spells. It is nice to be able to play a turn-1 Ponder off an Island and then a turn-2 Hymn to Tourach off of Sunken Ruins. I would steer clear of these if you are playing a large amount of colored 1-drops. They are better than the Odyssey filter lands, however.

Checkland Cycle from M11/Innistrad

These work fine because, more often than not, they come into play untapped. If you do not have access to a dual/fetch/shock mana base these become much worse, though.

Fastlands from SOM/Kaladesh

Fastlands enter the battlefield untapped early, which is ideal because that is where it is most crucial to have access to the 2 colors immediately. The more expensive spells in your deck, the worse these become.

Painlands

Painlands are perfectly acceptable because they enter untapped. Be careful of taking too much damage from City of Brass/Mana Confluence and fetches. It can add up fast.

Cycling Duals from Amonkhet

Cycling lands have the same upside as Temples late game but are superior because they can be cashed in to help dig for something fresh. They are pretty awful to play early game, though. If you have Life from the Loam or other ways to abuse them, their value goes up and they count toward cards like Vedalken Shackles and High Tide.

BFZ Duals

I find myself playing these only if my deck is basically 1 color, splashing a second. Because they can be fetched out and the deck usually contains a high number of basic lands, this is a suitable home for them.

Whew. That’s a lot of lands, and there are so many things to consider. There are plenty of creative and interesting ways to tweak and tune your Commander decks and remain competitive, but I find having an optimal mana base to be the best starting point. There is no substitute for consistent access to all your colors and even optimally built 3- and 4-color decks in this format seldom have mana issues.

Join me next week where I discuss the metagame, and the many powerful commanders you can employ. What are your favorite lands to include in your decks? Let me know in the comments. Thanks so much for reading and until next time, may they never have the Wasteland.

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