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By: themonkey, Dan Hemmann
Mar 21 2011 9:03am
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Back in December ArchGenius wrote an amazing article “Snapshot on Singleton Mana Bases: 100cs and Commander”.  In this article he gives optimized mana bases for all multi-colored decks.  Because these are optimized they are the best money can buy.  Unfortunately these can be very pricey, running from about $77 for a two color deck all the way up to $275 for a five color deck (at the time he was writing).

"We're going to optimize our mana bases!"


We all know how important a mana base should be but what should you do if you don’t want (or can't) to spend that much money on lands?  
"It looks like you need a budget mana base!"
Fortunately Magic Online has a lot of lands that are priced for the more budget conscious of us.  By using budget lands you may not have the best mana base, but you will have a mana base that does the job well in the deck you are running.  
At this point I should point out that I’m writing from the perspective of a Commander player that has no experience with the 100 card singleton format.  In Commander you often have time to develop your mana base.  There will be turns at the beginning of the game where you may not have spells to cast.  Maybe waiting another turn to cast a spell won’t have much impact on the game.  It’s these times where you can play around the weaknesses of a budget mana base and make it work at nearly the same level as ArchGenius’s optimized mana bases.  I assume that a budget mana base would be harder to play around in 100cs than in Commander.
My cutoff for price to be included as a budget land was $1.00 on at the time of writing.  More expensive cards are included if they are part of a cycle.  Lands are listed in order of how good that I think they are.  I’ve tried to find the nicknames for all the cycles of lands.  When I couldn't I just made up my own.
There are many varieties of Taplands that all share the same feature of coming into play tapped.  These slow down your mana development for the obvious reason that you have to wait a turn before you can use them.  This can be mitigated early in the game but their main drawback is late game.  You may be waiting to topdeck a land so you can cast a specific spell and Taplands will make you wait an additional turn after drawing that land. Taplands are most useful in decks that use allied colors because there are very few that tap for opposing colored mana.
M2010 – M2011 Dual Lands
 Glacial Fortress   Drowned Catacomb   Dragonskull Summit   Rootbound Crag   Sunpetal Grove
The “comes into play tapped” drawback of these lands is the easiest to play around.  If you have or can get a basic land of the right type onto the battlefield they can be tapped for mana right away.  This helps a lot in the later game when you want to be able to use a newly drawn land.  These range from $0.30 to $0.50.
Zendikar Refuge Dual Lands
Sejiri Refuge   Jwar Isle Refuge   Akoum Refuge   Kazandu Refuge   Graypelt Refuge
These will always come into play tapped.  However, when they do you get 1 life.  It’s not much, but it’s something.  These are among the cheapest of the Dual lands, $0.04 – $0.08, the entire cycle only runs $0.29.
Shards of Alara Tri-Lands
Arcane Sanctum   Crumbling Necropolis   Savage Lands   Jungle Shrine   Seaside Citadel
The obvious benefit of these lands over the other Taplands is that they give you three different colors of mana.  While most useful in decks that have all three colors, they can also be useful in decks that only use two out of the three in Magic Online.  This is because of the difference between rules for Paper and Online Commander.  In paper, no cards can have mana symbols that don’t appear on your commander.  Online only the mana symbols in the casting costs have to be the same.  This makes these lands useful when you need opposing color mana.  These are also inexpensive, all running $0.12, except Savage Lands at $0.15.
Lorwyn Tribal Dual Lands
Wanderwine Hub   Secluded Glen   Auntie's Hovel   Ancient Amphitheater   Gilt-Leaf Palace
I put these just above the basic Taplands.  They can enter the battlefield untapped if you have the correct tribe in your hand.  Because Commander decks are rarely built around a tribe, they are fundamentally the same as the basic Taplands except that they can be found in opposing colors.  They vary wildly in cost.  Ancient Amphitheater is $0.20, where Wanderwine Hub is a budget unfriendly $4.25.  I’d only pick them up if you need the specific color combination or if they are cheaper than the other Taplands.
            Coldsnap Dual Lands                               Invasion and 8th Edition Dual Lands
Boreal Shelf   Frost Marsh   Tresserhorn Sinks   Highland Weald   Arctic Flats          Coastal Tower   Salt Marsh   Urborg Volcano   Shivan Oasis   Elfhame Palace 
These are your basic Taplands.  They always enter the battlefield tapped and provide no benefit other than mana.  These only appear in allied colors but with two different names you can run both flavors in the same deck.  Coldsnap lands run $0.30-$0.40.  The others are quite a bit cheaper at $0.08-$0.12.
Scars of Mirrodin Dual Lands
Seachrome Coast   Darkslick Shores   Blackcleave Cliffs   Copperline Gorge   Razorverge Thicket
Scars brought a new type of Tapland into the mix.  These have a more aggro flavor, entering untapped if you control two of fewer other lands.  While an improvement over basic Taplands in many formats, in Commander you would rather have your lands come out untapped in the mid to late game rather than the early game.  So even though they are a little better than the basic Taplands, at an increased cost of $0.40-$1.15 I’d rather pay less and buy the others first.
These lands won’t give you colored mana, but they will search out land from your deck that can give you colored mana.  This can give you the added benefit of deck thinning so you draw more spells and less land in the late game.  I've heard of people playing them in mono colored decks just for the deck thinning.
Shards of Alara Panoramas
Esper Panorama   Grixis Panorama   Jund Panorama   Naya Panorama   Bant Panorama             Terminal Moraine
I love the Panoramas.  They get you colored mana if needed, but slower and at a greater cost than Taplands.  They are better than the Taplands in the late game because they can enter the battlefield and give you 1 colorless right away.  Then you can pop them when you have the extra mana.  These can also be used even if you only play two out of the three colors they fetch even in paper Commander because they don’t have any colored mana symbols.  This is good for opposition color decks where your choice of budget lands is limited.  As a bonus they are dirt cheap, running $0.02-$0.03.  I included Terminal Moraine because it functions just like the Panoramas, only it can find any basic land for a higher mana cost.  It’s $0.05.
Mirage Fetchlands
Flood Plain   Bad River   Rocky Tar Pit   Mountain Valley   Grasslands          Terramorphic Expanse   Evolving Wilds
These function at the speed of Taplands.  You have to wait a turn before you see any mana.  Terramorphic Expanse and it’s twin, Evolving Wilds, are in this group because they function at the same speed as the Mirage Fetchlands.  Mirage lands enter tapped and fetch untapped lands, TE and EW enter untapped and fetch tapped lands.  TE and EW fetch all the basics while the Mirage lands only fetch two different types each.  I use them all.  Mirage lands are $0.20-$0.40, TE is $0.02 and EW is $0.12
Odyssey Dual Lands
Skycloud Expanse   Darkwater Catacombs   Shadowblood Ridge   Mossfire Valley   Sungrass Prairie
I rarely see the lands played which is quite surprising.  Pay one mana of any type and you get two mana of allied colors.  They don’t come into play tapped so they don’t slow down your mana development.  The fact that you might have an extra mana floating about isn’t much of a drawback.  They also provide a good way to convert colorless mana from a Mystifying Maze or Reliquary Tower into colored mana. Price ranges from $0.35 to $1.25 making them some of the more expensive budget lands.
These lands are called Bouncelands because when they come into play you have to return a land you control to your hand.  Sometimes you can use the bounce in your favor to recycle a Bojuka Bog or a Halimar Depths, although that slows down your mana development more than bouncing a basic.  
Ravnica Bouncelands
 Azorius Chancery   Dimir Aqueduct   Rakdos Carnarium   Gruul Turf   Selesnya Sanctuary   Orzhov Basilica   Izzet Boilerworks   Golgari Rot Farm   Boros Garrison   Simic Growth Chamber
These lands are fairly common in Commander decks.  The land being bounced can first be tapped for mana, giving them the same functional delay as Taplands.  They have a couple other drawbacks other than speed.  Tapping for two mana of two different types they can leave you with floating mana.  Also they are prime targets for land destruction lowering your potential mana by two.  They are popular because they occur in both allied and opposition colors, provide two mana, and at $0.03 – $0.12 they fit within everyone’s budget.
Invasion Lair Bouncelands
Dromar's Cavern   Crosis's Catacombs   Darigaaz's Caldera   Rith's Grove   Treva's Ruins
I want to like the Lair Lands more than I do but I find most of the time they slow down mana development too much.  They bounce lands like the Ravnica lands, but don't make up for it with extra mana.  In decks where mana fixing is more important than speed they might be worth including.  I'll also throw them in a deck just for the flavor.  If I'm using Crosis, the Purger as my commander it feels cool to put his (her?) Catacombs into play.  $0.19-$0.38
Vivid Lands 
Vivid Meadow   Vivid Creek   Vivid Marsh   Vivid Crag   Vivid Grove          Tendo Ice Bridge
These lands from Lorwyn are an inexpensive and great way to fix mana in three, four, and five color decks.  You only get to use them for off mana twice, but rarely that's a problem.  I’ve had very few games where I’ve used more than one token from each land.  At a budget friendly $0.08 each they are a great value.  I’ve also included Tendo Ice Bridge because it has similar abilities. However it’s not a big enough improvement to justify the $1.00 price tag.
Time Spiral Storage Lands
Calciform Pools   Dreadship Reef   Molten Slagheap   Fungal Reaches   Saltcrusted Steppe
These lands more of my favorites that you rarely see played.  They can immediately be used for colorless so they don’t slow down your mana development like Taplands.  Whenever you have extra mana at the end of a turn you can make a storage counter.  After doing this a little while it's pretty easy to wind up with a handful of counters.  These counters can either be used one at a time or all at once for decent mana acceleration.  As a bonus tapping the Storage Land isn’t required to remove counters so you have a lot of flexibility.  At $0.04 -$0.08 they’re a bargain.
These lands provide colorless mana for free, but it will cost you 1 life if you use them for colored mana.  How often you need colored over colorless mana will dictate if you should include these or not.  If they are costing you only 1-2 life a game they are worth it.  At the 4-5 life loss range I’d use other lands.
Painlands that Enter Untapped
Adarkar Wastes   Underground River   Sulfurous Springs   Karplusan Forest   Brushland   Caves of Koilos   Shivan Reef   Llanowar Wastes   Battlefield Forge   Yavimaya Coast
These are the Painlands that I’d go to first.  They can immediately be used for mana so they are faster than Taplands.  In addition the Apocalypse flavors come in opposition colors, something rare in budget lands.  Prices vary greatly at $0.25-$0.60.
Painlands that Enter Tapped
Salt Flats   Caldera Lake   Pine Barrens   Scabland   Skyshroud Forest          Grand Coliseum
These Painlands from Tempest have the drawback of entering tapped so they aren’t an improvement over basic Taplands.  I’d only use them for additional opposition color fixing or because of the lower price tag, $0.12-$0.30.  The exception is Grand Coliseum from Onslaught.  It’s a great include in decks of three or more colors at $0.25 (one eighth the cost of the similar City of Brass).
Tainted Lands
Tainted Field   Tainted Isle   Tainted Peak   Tainted Wood
Tainted lands are a great include for Black decks that run enough Swamps.  In these decks they can provide immediate colored mana.  Without enough swamps I’d rather use Taplands.  They are still worth picking up at $0.20 -$0.40.
Cloudcrest Lake   Waterveil Cavern   Lantern-Lit Graveyard   Pinecrest Ridge   Tranquil Garden   Thalakos Lowlands   Rootwater Depths   Cinder Marsh   Mogg Hollows   Vec Townships
I’ll reach for any other dual land before I include these.  I want lands I can use every turn, not every other turn if I need colored mana. I bet most other players feel the same which is why they’re at the rock bottom price of $0.04 each.
Non-Cycle Dual Lands
These are only useful in decks of the right color, but in those decks they are often better than Taplands.  I hope we eventually get an entire cycle like the first two.
Nimbus Maze Nimbus Maze
A great way to mana fix for White/Blue decks with enough basic lands.  $0.60
Krosan Verge Krosan Verge
Another great land that should be in every deck running Green/White because it fetches a Forest and a Plains at the same time. $0.40
Riftstone Portal Riftstone Portal
The Genesis of lands.  If you have a way to get it into a graveyard you won’t have any mana fixing problems in a Green/White deck.  $0.05
5-Color Lands
These lands range from amazing to useless.  Their main benefit is in decks with three or more colors.
Situational 5-Color 
Exotic Orchard Exotic Orchard
Usually you will share at least one or two colors with your opponents making this land worth playing.  Note that this gives you any color an opponent’s land could produce, not that they could generate.  So if they are playing a three color deck and have a Vivid Land with at least one token, you will be able to tap for any color mana. $0.60
Ancient Ziggurat Ancient Ziggurat
Useful in decks with a lot of creatures.  A useless card for anything else. $0.15
Springjack Pasture Springjack Pasture
I probably include this land in more decks than I should because I love making goats, even at a cost of five mana each.  Getting to sacrifice them for mana and life is just icing on the cake.  $0.40
Meteor Crater Meteor Crater
I’ve used this card before, but usually by the time I’m able to cast a permanent of a color I no longer need to fix that color.  That’s why I no longer use it.  $0.97
Primal Beyond Primal Beyond
Only good in a deck with a lot of Elementals.  Otherwise use something else.  $0.90
5-Color With A Cost
Mirrodin's Core Mirrodin's Core
I always include this land in 3+ color decks.  It's fast late game, giving you colorless mana right away.  You need tokens for colored mana, but if you remember to add counters with leftover mana you should wind up with more than you can use. $0.40
Rupture Spire Rupture Spire
Another auto-include for 3+ color decks.  It will slow you down the turn it comes into play but after that you have a land that can produce any color at no additional cost for the rest of the game.  $0.02
Shimmering Grotto Shimmering Grotto
It will cost you two for one if you need a certain color, but you can tap for colorless as soon as it comes into play.  The more colors you need, the more valuable this land is.  $0.03
Unstable Frontier Unstable Frontier
Basically the same as Shimmering Grotto but uses a different mechanism.  The mechanism could be useful to protect your non-basic lands from targeted non-basic land destruction, but this would be so rare that to me this isn't a real improvement over the Grotto.  $0.04
Rainbow Vale Rainbow Vale Once you tap this land you may never see it under your control again.  It’s only use would be in a group hug deck.  $0.08
Thran Quarry Thran Quarry
The sacrifice triggers at the end of every end step.  It won’t last in a Commander game unless you have a very reliable way to produce creature tokens.  $0.60
"What mana base is right for you?" 


Unfortunately I'm not going to be able to answer this for you. ArchGenius gives his lists for every color combination because his selections are so good they can work in any deck.  What lands you use will depend on how much colored mana you need balanced with how much you can mitigate the drawbacks of budget land.  In some decks you might need lots of colored mana, requiring the use of many of the lands listed.  In other decks you might be able to get by with almost all basics with just a few dual lands thrown in.  You might have a few of the more expensive dual lands in your collection so you might not need to use many budget lands.  I guess what I'm saying is...



Even though budget mana bases are very deck dependant, I will list my budget five color mana base as an example.  I use this for my all Slivers deck that only contains 40 land, 59 slivers, and Riptide Replicator (which has a Sliver in the art).

Two of each basic land, Ancient Ziggurat, Exotic Orchard, Grand Coliseum, Mirrodin's Core, Rupture Spire, Shimmering Grotto, Terminal Moraine, Evolving Wilds, Terramorphic Expanse, Unstable Frontier, Shards of Alara Tri-Lands, M2010-2011 Dual Lands, Vivid Lands, Panoramas

Purchase it here from at a cost of $6.58, or about 1/40th of ArchGenius's recommended list for five colors.


Thanks by silverwyvern4 at Mon, 03/21/2011 - 11:30
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no offense to your good work, by LOurs at Mon, 03/21/2011 - 12:26
LOurs's picture

no offense to your good work, but take a look to that excellent but older article :

Awesome article by PatrykG at Mon, 03/21/2011 - 12:58
PatrykG's picture

I just wanted to say how useful this article will be for those who can't afford the really expensive cards.

And LOurs, if you read the article, he specifically states that this is for those on a budget, and references the article you mention.

Did you read it before posting? Specifically THE FIRST LINE?

I thought i did a good read, by LOurs at Mon, 03/21/2011 - 13:57
LOurs's picture

I thought i did a good read, but I definitly missed something. sorry for that then :p

Vey usefull, thanks. Maybe a by Nagarjuna at Mon, 03/21/2011 - 17:16
Nagarjuna's picture

Very useful, thanks. Maybe a second part about mana fixing on a budget beyond lands would be nice too!

Good stuff. I was thinking by Leviathan at Tue, 03/22/2011 - 02:43
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Good stuff. I was thinking about doing something similar at some point, but you beat me to it. And you got funnier pictures than I would have.