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By: spg, spg
Mar 30 2009 9:57am
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Explorations #22 - Simple Land Calculator

Please note before we start that today's article is aimed towards new players, casual players, and anyone who wants to check out some basic rules for how to construct a manabase.  This one is NOT aimed towards experienced players, so if you're looking for something like that then look elsewhere!

One aspect of Magic that is very difficult for new players to get a grasp on in how to setup their manabase.  There are a few reasons for this.  First off, it's very common for players to run too few lands.  Why run boring lands when you can run some sweet Craw Wurms or something?  Secondly, it's not exactly easy to figure out the exact right mix of lands to use.  Both of these problems are addressed in the following article:

Mmmmmmmmmana...Five Rules For Avoiding Mana-Screw
Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar

Every once in a while I point new players to that JMS article, which is required reading for this one you're scanning now.  So if you haven't read it, then please do - I'm sure you'll get something out of it.  It's one of my personal favorite article of all time.  Read it now.  Do it.  Please?

I'll wait...

Ok?  Alright, today's article is a bit unconventional - it's more of a supplement to the linked article than anything else.  As you just read In that JMS article, he discusses a way to figure out the rough balance of lands you should be running based on the casting cost of spells in your deck.  I make a lot of decks, and I've found this method to be a fantastic starting point for the lists that I work on.  I used this method many times, so a while back I put together a simple app that lets me quickly and easy perform these calculations - and I figured that it would be something that lots of people could use.

So I spent the evening learning Silverlight (something I wanted to do anyways) and then put together a basic online app to help with these calculations.  Here's the link if you can't wait to try it out:


... but I highly recommend checking out an example.  Here's a quick video where I show how to use SimpleLandCalc on an example deck, Manuel Bucher's Naya Planeswalker deck for Alara Block.  I suggest watching this one in HD, and hopefully you can make out enough of the interface.  Watching it full screen will probably also help.

Finally, there are a few caveats:

  • As mentioned above, you need Silverlight to run SimpleLandCalc.  You probably have Silverlight anyways, it is taking over the internet.
  • SimpleLandCalc only supports single and double mana symbols.  RR works fine, but RRR isn't supported.  Maybe in a future version, although working out the interface is a pain.  Until then, just add another tick to the single mana column.
  • JMS's article was written before the days of things like hybrid mana. I usually add one into the one-column of each hybrid color for every two symbols. If we're running a deck with four copies of Figure of Destiny, then add two into the one-column for red and white.

Please let me know if you have any questions, find any bugs, or have any good ideas.  Thanks for reading, even though there weren't very many words this time around.

Steve Gargolinski


Pretty nice tool by LOurs at Mon, 03/30/2009 - 10:32
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who never does have a mana anomaly in his deck ?
I did a lot of time. Thank to experience, i am managing often to avoid this problem nowadays. Maybe also because we got an huge amount of solution in classic (dual, moxes ...).
However, all stuff about deck optimization is useful for all of us, whatever the format :)

Blade's picture

The available technology covers stuff like this easily, no need to support 'M$-Flash' here, imho.

Are there any other land by Anonymous (not verified) at Mon, 03/30/2009 - 17:02
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Are there any other land calculators out there besides this one that are available either to download or to run online?

I hate silverlight by mrgando at Mon, 03/30/2009 - 17:49
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Why not adoble Flash ( Flex ) or Simply Javascript with AJAX if you want :)

I didn't think Silverlight by spg at Mon, 03/30/2009 - 18:25
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I didn't think Silverlight was going to be such a big deal, the install is completely painless... but here's why I used it:

1. I wanted to try out some new-ish technology.
2. I'm glad I did, since as a programmer/developer it's about 1,000,000 times better to work with than Flash. It is really night and day.
3. Paying $700 for Flash just doesn't seem like money well spent, and I'm not really into using "lite" versions.. If I'm going to be working with something I want it to be the full thing.

Unfortunately it's a bummer that you guys seem to be so against it, so I guess I'll rethink before I do something like this again. Which is kind of disappointing, since I thought it was a really cool framework for an article!

I completely agree (i wonder by NetHwarang at Thu, 11/18/2010 - 11:10
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I completely agree (i wonder what will these people do once the new mtgo client is out? they are gonna quit magic because of silverlight?).

I hate flash, I just spent all night doing a simple program (have you noticed that Flash is the same thing as Basic, but that in addition to "GOTO" you've got frames?)

Thanks for the tool and article.

Why the fuss over silverlight? by Begs (not verified) at Mon, 03/30/2009 - 19:11
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Steve, nice article. I don't see the reason for all the silverlight hate; i didnt have it, but it was a 0.5 second install to see the nifty calc app. Nice work

Silverlight or no by walkerdog at Mon, 03/30/2009 - 20:57
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That is a well-designed script and a nice effot.

I have spent a very long time by Tarmotog at Mon, 03/30/2009 - 21:27
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I have spent a very long time in the game learning how to do what this "simple land calc" does. I take pride in making solid mana bases, especially for limited pools (because I've learnt how to run many colors from the time of ravnica block thru tons of trial and error). I think those "new players", who are the main audience for this article, should really make use of this to make better mana bases.
I saw a "suggest" function in the client (in limited) the other day which I didn't use so I wonder if that that might be similar to this. I don't think it actually exists as a tool for making constructed decks so trying this out can be a very good learning platform to get out of the extreme case of half forest/half plains type of "really simple" mana base which does not take into account the cards in the deck. People neglect the mana base thinking that it's not important but it accounts for half your games really.

Gj Steve.

This looks like a cool app. by Shivad Drake at Tue, 03/31/2009 - 08:13
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This looks like a cool app. Well done. Has anyone compared it to the "Suggest Land" app on MTGO 3.0? Do they calculate the same way?

If anyone knows, that info by spg at Tue, 03/31/2009 - 08:19
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If anyone knows, that info would be great... I tried to mess around with it, but I couldn't even find the function - then I was told that you can only use it while building decks for limited? I never play limited, which explains why I couldn't find it.

Mana suggestions by Thomas David Baker (not verified) at Tue, 03/31/2009 - 09:48
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Nice article and nice app.

I think the app may have a bug though. For:

W 0 1
U 6 0
B 15 1
R 3 0
G 8 0

suggests 1-4-11-2-6 which would mean I would be unable to cast the WW spell. Why I would be playing such a terrible mix is another question but 0 or 2 plains seems definitely better than 1 for that combination.

Thanks for your efforts!

Yes, you are right about by spg at Tue, 03/31/2009 - 09:55
spg's picture

Yes, you are right about that... I think the best thing to do in this situation is to probably add some sort of notification along the lines of, "Hey man, you can't cast your WW spell".

Cool Application, Steve by Rerepete at Tue, 03/31/2009 - 16:54
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Thanks for programming this aplication. It looks real slick.

I took the testing of it a bit further than above poster. I set land to 1, and U,B,R,G all to one single mana count then rest as W single mana to make 60. I then decreased the W and increased land count to see what would happen...

Here is what I found: (Total land(range), #W,#U,#B,#R,#G land counts)

1-10, all W
11-17, 1B, rest W
18-22, 1U, 1B, rest W
23-26, 1U, 1B, 1R, rest W
27-32, 1U. 1B, 1R, 1G, rest W
33-34, 1U, 2B, 1R, 1G, rest W
35-36, 2U, 2B, 1R, 1G, rest W
37-38, 2U, 2B, 2R, 1G, rest W
39-41, 2U, 2B, 2R, 2G, rest W

When you start with the other colors, you find the single lands are added in the order of B,U,W,R,G. All the singleton colors should show up at the same time.

That said, I have it added as a button in IE8.

Any suggestions of how to take into account alternate costs like upkeep, morph, echo, transmute, activation costs, etc.??

The issue you're seeing there by spg at Tue, 03/31/2009 - 17:53
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The issue you're seeing there is that the "desired" number of lands is in fractions, when (of course) you can only deal out lands in whole numbers. So, for example, a deck may want 4.56 Swamps and 19.12 Islands. When we get in this situation, I add 4 Swamps and 19 Islands into the deck, and then do my best to deal out the "leftover lands" in the proper colors based on the fraction remaining.

The situation you forced, is where there's a leftover land and each color (other than white) wants it equally. In this situation I do give them out in the color order that you figured out (nice job, btw). So let's say that your deck wants 4.9 Mountains, 4.9 Swamps, and 10 Islands. After giving out 10 Islands, 4 Mountains, and 4 Swamps, there's one land left over. Mountain and Swamp want it equally as bad, so I have to make a choice which one to give it to. This is what you are seeing.

I wonder if it's better to provide information about these "leftover" lands, and say something like: this deck wants four Swamps and nineteen Islands. This doesn't divide evenly, so there's one land left over.

I believe the MTGO suggest by Katastrophe at Wed, 04/01/2009 - 02:38
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I believe the MTGO suggest land feature simply counts your mana symbols, calculates the ratio, and then adds lands up to 40. So if you build a 30 card deck it'll add only 10 lands. And of course, it only checks the printed casting cost. It ignores activations and such.

Just imagine Jay saying "Ghitu Encampment? I'm gonna tick it up one. Mistmeadow Witch? Tick each one once, then go back and add another one."

And of course if you're the by Katastrophe at Wed, 04/01/2009 - 02:50
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And of course if you're the greedy player who puts 4x Gaea's Cradle in a mono-green creature-based deck, you're gonna get everything you deserve. You can't write a program to solve everything. :)

Now if only there was some way to implement Jay's chart which relates mana curve, land count, and deck strategy. You program fails if some noob orders 20 land. But then again, who said this was for idiots? Even if you're playing 17 non-basics your land choices will get down to "2-4 Swamps, 2-4 Islands, pick 3" and this tool will tell you how to slot your last 3 lands perfectly.*

*Unless you're fearing the Lord of Atlantis beatdown. Then the correct answer is 3 Swamps...

hmm to bad theres no option by Anonymous (not verified) at Mon, 09/21/2009 - 23:29
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hmm to bad theres no option for duel lands or anything like that... at leeast the m10 would be nice...

Nice work. I can say I'll by debolt1369 (not verified) at Tue, 09/29/2009 - 16:47
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Nice work. I can say I'll appreicate this kind of tool as I seem to come up with so many different decks in any given week. Most of them are casual, but still, a couple here and there try to be competitive.

EDIT: Now, I've got this in by debolt1369 (not verified) at Tue, 09/29/2009 - 16:49
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EDIT: Now, I've got this in my browser, right next to magiccards.info and my Youtube account. This thing is gonna be so nice.