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By: MTGOrzo, Sam Hardin
Jul 18 2017 12:00pm
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Lay of the Land

So you've forked over $10 for some reason to join up on Magic: Online. Maybe you've done a phantom draft or played around with some of the free cards. Eventually, you'll have to put some money into this, and if you're like me and love Commander, the idea that buying only a single copy of staples like shocklands or tutors entices you to play.

But where to start?

Let's say you've gone and spent your five tickets provided graciously by WOTC and are at effectively square one; any cards you might have are probably useless, and I have no way of knowing that you pulled an (Engineered Explosions) Masterpiece. With that in mind, let's try and brighten up that collection tab.

Mana Base

The boogeyman of Magic, mana bases are pricey, even on MTGO. While you're not selling a kidney for a playset of Volcanic Island, buying up a top-shelf mana base without a disposable income is daunting. Luckily, I've put together what I feel to be a comprehensive list of the bare minimum playable lands and cheap mana rocks that will allow you to build a foundation for any commander deck going forward.

Disclaimer

This write up will not end in a finished, playable deck. This is specifically highlighting a small investment of less than ten tickets that can be built upon in the Quest for a Collection. Furthermore, unless otherwise stated, decks in this series are geared for multiplayer. Ideally, you would play with friends on a similar playing field and all use this guide to mature your collections together. However, the end decks will be perfectly capable of playing in the multiplayer lobby.

Now with that out of the way on to 

Basic Lands

The backbone of the backbone of MTG, basic lands are invaluable for the beginning commander player. Many arts can be found for a penny each. I recommend buying around 30-35 of a cheap art you like; you can always get new ones if you feel like it.

35 ea. of the five basic lands = about 1.75 tix, more if you're feeling saucy with your land choices. Personally, when researching this article, I chose Tenth Edition basics.

Running Total: 175 Basic Lands = 1.75 tix

Allied Taplands

Allied taplands are the bare minimum of what I would consider running in a deck, though they do exactly what we need in casual multiplayer. Being exceedingly cheap is a happy bonus. Allied Taplands come in three flavors.

1.) Invasion Taplands

Coastal Tower

Add some pre-modern flare to your deck. You can pick up the set of five Invasion Allied Taplands, Coastal Tower, Salt Marsh, Urborg Volcano, Shivan Oasis, and Elfhame Palace for about 0.22 tix.

2.) Coldsnap Taplands

Boreal Shelf

Cool off with some Coldsnap Taplands. The set of five Boreal Shelf, Frost Marsh, Tresserhorn Sinks, Highland Weald, and Arctic Flats will run you a paltry 0.12 tix.

3.) Oath of the Gatewatch Taplands

Meandering River

Return to Zendikar with the OGW taplands. Meandering River, Submerged Boneyard, Cinder Barrens, (Timber Grove) and Tranquil Expanse cost only 0.05 tix all together.

Running Total: 175 Basic Lands + 15 Allied Taplands = 190 cards; 2.14 tix

Guildgates

Azorius Guildgate

For all intents and purposes, guidgates will be equal to taplands. If you put in some spicy gate tech, or maybe even a Maze's End, more power to you. All ten guildgates can be snapped up for a penny a piece in various printings.

Running Total: 175 Basic Lands + 15 Allied Taplands +10 Guildgates = 200 cards; 2.24 tix

Life Lands

Sejiri RefugeTranquil Cove

Taplands with an upside. Allied Life Lands came out in the original Zendikar as the Refuge cycle, and the cycle: Sejiri Refuge, Jwar Isle Refuge, Akoum Refuge, Kazandu Refuge and Graypelt Refuge can be picked up at about ~0.03 tix a land.

The full, ten card cycle was printed in Khans of Tarkir, and then reprinted in Fate Reforged and Eternal Masters.

Allied: Tranquil Cove, Dismal Backwater, Bloodfell Caves, Rugged Highlands, Blossoming Sands

Enemy: Scoured Barrens, Jungle Hollow, Thornwood Falls, Swiftwater Cliffs, Wind-Scarred Crag

Running Total: 175 Basic Lands + 15 Allied Taplands +10 Guildgates +15 Life Lands = 215 cards; 2.64 tix

Bounce Lands

Azorius Chancery

Providing good fixing at the cost of tempo, the Ravnica block Bounce lands or "Karoo" Lands are a popular casual land staple.

Allied: Azorius Chancery, Dimir Aqueduct, Rakdos Carnarium, Gruul Turf, Selesnya Sanctuary

Enemy: Orzhov Basilica, Golgari Rot Farm, Simic Growth Chamber. Izzet Boilerworks, Boros Garrison

Running Total: 175 Basic Lands + 15 Allied Taplands +10 Guildgates +15 Life Lands + 10 Bounce Lands = 225 cards; 2.85 tix

Storage Lands

Calciform Pools

With the slower nature of Multiplayer Commander and the constant tapping out or F8ing to save time, Storage lands allow you to save mana and explosively use at a later time. Printed originally in Time Spiral, these lands are cheap with excellent art. The cycle, Calciform Pools, Dreadship Reef, Molten Slagheap, Fungal Reaches, and Saltcrusted Steppe add on about 0.07 tix.

Running Total: 175 Basic Lands + 15 Allied Taplands +10 Guildgates +15 Life Lands + 10 Bounce Lands + 5 Storage Lands = 230 cards; 2.92 tix

Trilands

Arcane SanctumSandsteppe Citadel

The allied trilands of Alara and enemy trilands of Tarkir are excellent 3+ color fixing on a budget, normally the most expensive types of manabases.

Allied: Arcane Sanctum, Crumbling Necropolis, Savage Lands, Jungle Shrine, Seaside Citadel

Enemy: Sandsteppe Citadel, Mystic Monastery, Opulent Palace, Nomad Outpost, Frontier Bivouac

Running Total: 175 Basic Lands + 15 Allied Taplands +10 Guildgates +15 Life Lands + 10 Bounce Lands + 5 Storage Lands + 10 Trilands = 240 cards; 3.09 tix

Cycling Lands

Secluded SteppeDrifting Meadow

Single color cyclers from Onslaught and Double generic cyclers from Urza's Saga give incidental draw when flooded and are a land when needed. Easily swaps into a basic's slot.

Onslaught: Secluded Steppe Lonely Sandbar Barren Moor Forgotten Cave Tranquil Thicket

Saga: Drifting Meadow Remote Isle Polluted Mire Smoldering Crater Slippery Karst

Running Total: 175 Basic Lands + 15 Allied Taplands +10 Guildgates +15 Life Lands + 10 Bounce Lands + 5 Storage Lands + 10 Trilands + 10 Cycling Lands = 250 cards; 3.48 tix

Vivid Lands 

Vivid Meadow

Fixers for two color up. They have a built-limit, but it's usually more than enough time to find those other colors you're looking for. The cycle Vivid Meadow Vivid Creek Vivid Marsh Vivid Crag Vivid Grove has been reprinted many times and can easily be picked up for a penny each.

Running Total: 175 Basic Lands + 15 Allied Taplands +10 Guildgates +15 Life Lands + 10 Bounce Lands + 5 Storage Lands + 10 Trilands + 10 Cycling Lands + 5 Vivid Lands = 255 cards; 3.53 tix

Urza's Legacy Creaturelands

Forbidding Watchtower

Dual Colored creaturelands are outside of the budget of this series (right now! remember, this is assuming you are starting at square one with nada.) However, these creaturelands are usually worth considering in mono and two-colored decks.

The cycle Forbidding Watchtower Faerie Conclave Spawning Pool Ghitu Encampment Treetop Village vary in price from 0.01 tix to nearing 0.30, but they are, in my opinion, very good for the decks I mentioned.

Running Total: 175 Basic Lands + 15 Allied Taplands +10 Guildgates +15 Life Lands + 10 Bounce Lands + 5 Storage Lands + 10 Trilands + 10 Cycling Lands + 5 Vivid Lands + 5 creaturelands = 260 cards; 4.05 tix

Other Lands

Command Tower

Command Tower is the symbol of the format, it is paradoxically the best and worst land ever printed. Any deck with more than a single color can make good use of this card, and playing it solidifies the sense that you are playing something fundamentally different.

0.60 tix

Temple of the False God

Temple of the False God is often thought to be the poor man's Ancient Tomb, while the tomb is now more affordable thanks to Vintage Masters, the temple serves as a good way to get a leg up towards the late game, and is cheap to boot.

0.12 tix

Terramorphic ExpanseEvolving Wilds

Terramorphic Expanse and Evolving Wilds replace the Onslaught and Zendikar fetchlands in this list. While much slower and less versatile than their rare cousins, these fetch up basics just fine, which should be the backbone of a simple multiplayer EDH deck.

0.01 tix ea.

Mistveil Plains

Mistveil Plains allows you to "rebuy" cards in your graveyard for a single {W}. It also has the plains subtype, allowing it be fetched by cards that care about basic land types.

0.07 tix

Halimar Depths

Halimar Depths acts as a simple third of a Ponder, which on a land, is fairly handy. Take care not to find three duds on top! Ignorance is bliss, as they say.

0.04 tix

Bojuka Bog

Bojuka Bog is a staple in even highly tuned black commander decks. The ability to exile an opponent's graveyard for effectively {B} is powerful, though playing it on the first few turns always feels like a waste.

0.04 tix

Running Total: 175 Basic Lands + 15 Allied Taplands +10 Guildgates +15 Life Lands + 10 Bounce Lands + 5 Storage Lands + 10 Trilands + 10 Cycling Lands + 5 Vivid Lands + 5 Creaturelands + 7 Misc. Lands = 267 cards; 4.95 tix

That brings us to just under the 5 tix given to you when you fire up your MTGO account. If you've got a few more bucks burning a hole in your pocket, continue on into the world of affordable mana rocks.

Artifact Ramp

One of the first things you will probably learn in Commander is that artifact ramp is king. Every deck has access to it, and almost every deck benefits from having some form of artifact ramp. Artifact ramp is less resilient than land ramp, but is more abundant for all colors. Truly excellent artifact ramp costs a pretty penny, but, luckily, there is a whole host of usable ramp to be had.

Signets

Azorius Signet

My personal favorite bit of artifact ramp, the signets both ramp and fix mana at two generic themselves, a real bargain! Reprinted in supplements from here to kingdom come, the signets have a home at every 2+ color deck. Yes, even the green ones. The signets, one for each guild on Ravnica, hover around 0.02 tix each and are available in a variety of arts and printings.

Running Total: 267 Lands + 10 Signets = 277 cards; 5.15 tix


Talismans

Talisman of Progress

The Talisman cycle - Talisman of Progress, Talisman of Dominance, Talisman of Indulgence, Talisman of Impulse, and Talisman of Unity - offer a bit more speed than the signets with the same fixing at the cost of life. They work well with giving you that last bit of mana and utilizing all your cards that sometimes lead to awkward lines with the signets, but the pain can sometimes deter repeat usage. The talismans range from 0.01 to 0.05 tix.

Running Total: 267 Lands + 10 Signets + 5 Talismans = 282 cards; 5.30 tix

Borderposts

Fieldmist Borderpost

Perhaps the most controversial inclusion on this list, the Borderpost cycle Fieldmist Borderpost, Mistvein Borderpost, Veinfire Borderpost, Firewild Borderpost, and Wildfield Borderpost are a cycle of mana fixing artifacts that can simultaneously take the place of dual lands and also ramp with their alternate casting cost. The cycle runs about 0.04 tix ea.

Running Total: 267 Lands + 10 Signets + 5 Talismans + 5 Borderposts = 287 cards; 5.50 tix

Diamonds

Marble Diamond

The Diamond cycle - Marble Diamond, Sky Diamond, Charcoal Diamond, Fire Diamond, and Moss Diamond are simple, Rampant Growth-esque artifact ramps. Good in most colors, but I'd personally avoid the green. Their simplicity and effectiveness command a slightly higher price, and a blackborder set will put you back about 0.40 tix.

Running Total: 267 Lands + 10 Signets + 5 Talismans + 5 Borderposts + 5 Diamonds = 292 cards; 5.90 tix

Other Artifacts

Sol Ring

The king of artifact ramp and competing only with Mana Crypt and the Moxen, Sol Ring unfortunately belongs in every commander deck. Because of its power however, it can lead to blowout games. Banned in 1v1 commander on MTGO, Sol Ring still has a home at the Multiplayer Tables

0.80 tix

Mind Stone

Like the Diamond cycle, Mind Stone costs two and taps for one. Tapping only for colorless is traded with both coming into play untapped and having the ability to exchange itself for another card.

0.12 tix

Prismatic Lens

Prismatic Lens is almost a synthesis between Mind Stone and the Diamond cycle. It comes into play untapped and adds a colorless, but can't cantrip itself. However, unlike the Mind Stone, the Lens can filter mana into any other color.

0.03 tix

Darksteel Ingot

Darksteel Ingot is a workhorse mana rock. Normally, CMC 3 rocks don't do much, but the tapping for any color and Indestructible push it over the edge. The Ingot is almost always a safe turn three play in multiplayer.

0.03 tix

Chromatic Lantern

Chromatic Lantern, the other CMC 3 rock, does quite a bit more that its Darksteel cousin. In addition to tapping for one of any color of mana, the Lantern also gives that ability to every land you control, turning all of your lands into versatile copies of their former selves.

0.40 tix

Hedron Archive

Hedron Archive is Mind Stone's big brother, doing everything the stone does at a factor of times 2. Not every deck wants it, but the ability to draw two cards slots it heavy into several lists.

0.04 tix

Gilded Lotus

Why Gilded Lotus and not, say, Thran Dynamo? For my money, and about a ticket less at that, one extra mana to produce three of any one color is more valuable than producing three colorless. Gilded Lotus has a home in any deck trying to go big or go home. Also, compared with the paper version, Gilded Lotus' cost online is much easier on the wallet.

0.16 tix

Running Total: 267 Lands + 10 Signets + 5 Talismans + 5 Borderposts + 5 Diamonds + 7 Misc. Artifacts = 299 cards; 7.60 tix

In Conclusion & Going Forward

299 cards at less than 8 dollars, 3 if using the 5 given by WOTC. Add in your first commander and make it an even 300. These 300ish cards are the basis of decks you can build going forward. While your collection grows, some of these cards will fall out of favor. Maybe you don't like how slow storage lands can be, or using artifact ramp in a heavy green deck. This is not a definitive list on what cards must be in a commander deck, but merely a solid foundation to build your decks on your Quest for a Collection.

Next time, we'll be taking these cards and using them to start our first deck for under 10 tix! 

If you want to learn more about commander on MTGO, check out www.youtube.com/mtgorzo for live gameplay and commentary. Hope to see you at the tables!