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By: Tarmotog, Naoto Watabe
May 27 2010 12:38am
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Welcome to One Double O, the place to keep up with the happenings in the 100 card Singleton format.
Apart from the usual tournament data, today I'll be talking about basic lands as the title suggests.
It's not going to be anything mind-blowing but it's one of the core fundamental deck design components that I hope to give a small insight into. As always, there will be some value to look at it for the simple reason that it exists out of a normal deck builder's consideration. For example, Vintage blue mana bases look something like fetchlands, dual lands and a sole Island. Extended mana bases would look similar to that. Standard mana bases have slightly more complexity due to the card restrictions as with the 100 card Singleton format.

---------- One Double O News ----------------------------------------------------

#1 Fall in min player for the Weekend Challenge PE

I'm not sure if this is permanently the case but from what I know, on the week of 20-26 May, the weekend challenge formats have had a change in the minimum entry from a minimum player requirement of 24 to a minimum requirement. This basically means that if you happen to join it at its minimum, you will be guaranteed prizes because the PE pays out prizes to the top 16! From what I know, this and Classic are the highest EV events in the whole of MTGO because of the number of people participating coupled with the prices which pay well for the average and poor standings.

#2 No Changes in the Banlist

As with the past few times, there are no changes to what is banned in the format. No change is definitely not a good thing but let's leave this for now.

#3 New Card Coming Soon: Scent of Cinder

The below will probably be the version that they will use for the promo that would be given in the MTGO event for real life judges with this as an entry gift. Top 8 of each of the two events get a judge art Orim's Chant (that will be in circulation in the future) but we have the normal version available already. The events will be held on 26th June and 2nd July so these cards will be available then. Scent of Cinder comes from Urza's Destiny which will be available some time next year.

#4 Urza's Destiny Release Start on 21st June

In a month's time, we will have the second set of the Urza block coming online. Be ready for an influx of powerful cards!

---------- One Double O Tournament Centerr ----------------------------------------------------

In this section are links to the recent few Weekend challenge top 8 decklists as faithfully provided by the friendly people at Wotc. There will be a listing of the general names of the decks that are in that top 8 so if you are interested in studying a particular deck archetype, you can simply click on the link to access the decklist in full.

100 card Singleton Weekend Challenge on 04/24/2010

GW Aggro
5c Rock
UW Antired
UW + B Control
UW + B Control
UB Control

100 card Singleton Weekend Challenge on 05/01/2010

4c Rock Minus Red
Scapeshift 4c Rock Minus White
UBG Control
Doran Rock without Doran
Naya Aggro
UW + B Control
UW Antired
Monored Goblins

100 card Singleton Weekend Challenge on 05/16/2010

Doran Rock without Doran
RG Aggro
UW + B Control
Monoblue Control
Naya Aggro
Bant Aggro

Comments: It seems that the most common aggro deck in the top 8 is monored and the most common straight up control deck is UW control, most of which splash black to get a little more out of Mystical Teachings or to play the powerful Mind Twist. Rock decks filled with powerful cards that use a nonbasic mana base to support various spells seem to make a large proportion of the top standings as well.

For some reason or another, the Goblin Recruiter chain has been omitted out from the monored lists. This particular change seems quite odd because it has been a popular mainstay in the Monored + goblins lists and it allows an explosive progression of turns from a Goblin Ringleader.
It seems like other than the Scapeshift deck and one bant list with Natural Order into Progenitus, most decks seem quite down to earth or more accurately, progressive in nature. Looks like quick kills aren't popular at the top tables.

---------- One Double O Theory - Basic Lands ----------------------------------------------------

While I've been busy for quite some time, I did manage to test out various ideas for the 100 card Singleton format. As the topic suggests, the topic of interest is on lands.

The research on this particular topic took hold with the addition of Back to Basics into the format. Knowing how potent Back to basics is in the format, I wanted to make decks that can house it and have a large advantage over the metagame that is heavily reliant on non-basic lands. The basic idea was simple: play basic lands and non basic hate.

The first testing grounds was a mono-colored deck which would have a mana base of just basic lands. Since Back to Basics is blue, that mono-colored deck would naturally be mono-blue.
The first mana base consisted of only Islands and a Wasteland. This would totally nullify an opponent's Wasteland, reduce any lag  to any stalled mana from entering the battlefield tapped lands and also, this would remove unnecessary lifeloss by playing the "pay 1 life" fetchlands. In theory, that seemed like a proper way to start.

Basic Mana Base Ver 1
39 Island
1 wasteland

However, after awhile, I noticed that I wasn't able to maximize the use of various cards in the deck such as Brainstorm, Ponder, Sensei's Divining Top and Jace, the Mind Sculptor (to name a few) without the free shuffle effects of fetchlands which I would naturally chuck into a deck.
The large disparity in the flow of the game led to this simple conclusion: the life loss from the fetchlands is just negligible when compared to the real benefits gained from superior card selection. Thus, I did minor adjustments to the mana base to see how much difference some fetchlands would make.

Basic Mana Base Ver 2
35 Island
1 wasteland
1 Flooded Strand
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Polluted Delta

Even with just 4 fetchlands swapped from basic lands, the difference was observable over the games. Do note that I am still under the "maximize basics" idea so that this (the simple mana base) does not actually become a guide as to how a mono-colored mana base should look like.

The next step is to see how a minimal splash can be executed. Let's say I want Psychatog and Mystical Teachings in my deck so to accommodate the two cards, I have to tweak the mana base again. Once again, the idea is to minimize the presence of non basic lands. This time however, maintaining a zero "permanent non-basic land" is almost impossible because there is no efficient manner to support a splash into another color on the back of just playing basic lands unless I play a substantial amount of basic lands from the color of the minor splash and that would backfire when I draw into multiple copies of that basic lands. Thus, it becomes a necessity that at least dual lands are used to help a minor splash.

Basic Mana Base ver 3
26 Island
1 wasteland
1 Flooded Strand
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Polluted Delta
1 Bad River
1 (Flood Plains)
1 Underground Sea
1 Watery Grave
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Swamp
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Marsh Flats

Just to support that occasional black mana, the mana base had to swap 8 cards away and the end result is not too impressive since it does not consistently provide the black mana. As such, it can be seen that running non-basic lands to some extent is important when not relying on a single color.

Moving on, here is another deck I was testing out. For this particular deck, it would be more beneficial to explain the deck along with the mana base rather than leaving it to just imagination so here's the deck:

Basic Scapeshift.dec
1 Vendilion Clique
1 Kitchen Finks
1 Sphinx of Lost Truths
1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
1 Wall of Blossoms
1 Mulldrifter
1 Bloodbraid Elf
1 Eternal Witness
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Wood Elves
1 Farhaven Elf
1 Venser, Shaper Savant
12 cards

Other Spells
1 Muddle the Mixture
1 Impulse
1 Remand
1 Personal Tutor
1 Early Harvest
1 Rude Awakening
1 Compulsive Research
1 Concentrate
1 Back to Basics
1 Khalni Heart Expedition
1 Cryptic Command
1 Electrolyze
1 Deep Analysis
1 Brainstorm
1 Ancestral Vision
1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
1 Force of Will
1 Jace Beleren
1 Time Spiral
1 Tidings
1 Restock
1 Mana Leak
1 Lat-Nam's Legacy
1 Memory Lapse
1 Cunning Wish
1 Condescend
1 Harmonize
1 Repeal
1 Ponder
1 Kodama's Reach
1 Explosive Vegetation
1 Peer Through Depths
1 Pact of Negation
1 Harrow
1 Nostalgic Dreams
1 Mana Drain
1 Into the North
1 Rampant Growth
1 Fact or Fiction
1 Into the Roil
1 Merchant Scroll
1 Sensei's Divining Top
1 Counterspell
1 Spell Snare
1 Recollect
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Search for Tomorrow
1 Ruination
1 Scapeshift
49 cards
1 Stomping Ground
4 Snow-Covered Mountain
9 Snow-Covered Forest
1 Island
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Taiga
1 Tropical Island
1 Volcanic Island
1 Wooded Foothills
1 Misty Rainforest
14 Snow-Covered Island
2 Snow-Covered Forest
1 Steam Vents
1 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
39 cards


This deck is simple to explain. The deck is a ramp style deck that tries to maximize the number of lands in play. The kill condition of the deck is the use of 2 "potential one card kill", Scapeshift and Rude Awakening, both of which have a requirement to fulfill before becoming a 1 card kill: having enough lands in play. In this deck, Scapeshift has access to a total number of 8 mountains which means that the full extent of the Scapeshift kill is limited to a maximum of 24 damage and the minimum number of lands required to go off is 7. For Rude Awakening, the number of lands required to win can be counted by counting how many lands can get past the blockers and potential removals. A clean kill would require 10 lands in play and none of them having summoning sickness.

Again, the reason for the deck's existence is to test the limitations of basic lands. This time, alongside Back to Basics is Ruination. As to which is the stronger card, I would say Back to basics because Ruination works only once and topdeck recovery is possible. Back to basics maintains the advantage throughout the game, making it the better choice.

Let us observe the mana base:

Basic Land Mana Base ver 4
1 Stomping Ground
4 Snow-Covered Mountain
11 Snow-Covered Forest
1 Island
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Taiga
1 Tropical Island
1 Volcanic Island
1 Wooded Foothills
1 Misty Rainforest
14 Snow-Covered Island
1 Steam Vents
1 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

This can be split into mainly: Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, 4 mountains, 13 forests and 17 islands since the dual lands hide the additional mountains.
As one can tell from the decklist, it is mainly UG with red only for 3 cards and the Scapeshift kill. The main flaw to the mana base comes from the "half-half" split of the 2 main colors of the deck.

Let me elaborate. Given my personal restrictions on the basic lands, this split would naturally be the answer. Since I have more blue cards, I tilt the split towards blue. This is probably the most logical way of doing it but it is important to realize that this mana base is not capable of supporting a 2 color deck consistently in the long run.

What am I saying? If one would run the deck, this flaw is easily covered by the fact that the deck runs mana fixing and draw fixing which allows the deck to move back on track even after a bad start. If this were any other deck, you would easily be mana screwed when chunks of one particular basic land type come together without the other. The idea of 50% probability hides this as the variance of the draws that don't always give 2 of each basic land type when you have 4 lands. I'd say for every 5 times you get a 2-2 split, you'd probably get a 3-1 split thrice. This means that a basic land heavy mana base needs to be supported by low mana requirements or the deck will not work in the long run. To reduce the magnitude of this problem, the deck has no other choice but to run a Tropical Island to help smooth out the early turns.

The lessons from this experiment are simple: 

#1 Any monocolor deck, regardless of color, should put in some fetchlands.

Even in simple mono-colored decks, fetchlands allow for maneuver around cards such as Oust and Memory Lapse while adding graveyard count for threshold or Tombstalker payment. (Sensei's Divining top), which should go into any deck that is not hindered by its presence, becomes much better with an occasional shuffle.

The key to using fetchlands is to not crack them until you have to.

The next question to this is how many fetchlands should a deck play? While the effects of the presence of fetchlands are undeniable, fetchlands do have their own restrictions placed on them.

- If you don't have enough targets, the fetchlands can backfire at crucial points of the game.
- Every (odyssey and zendikar) fetchland scratches off 1 point off your total life.

flooded strand

For a single color, there are 4 "1 life fetchland"s, 2 "mirage fetchland"s and 2 Terramorphic Expanse. If only to add free shuffles, the 4 "1 life fetchland" should suffice unless you are willing to let your lands enter the battlefield tapped. Of course, there are other possible cards such as the panorama lands (eg Grixis Panorama) which can be useful if your deck does not run color intensive spells.

 #2 Any deck should try to utilize nonbasic lands.

Any deck can benefit from running at least some nonbasic lands. There are exceptions to why one should minimize the use of nonbasic lands such as the use of cards like Back to Basics or Price of progress or Blood Moon and other symmetrical effects that attack nonbasic lands but other than those instances, almost every deck can benefit from having nonbasic lands in the deck because a nonbasic land is usually worth another card in addition to a normal basic land itself.

For example, Treetop Village is like a creature + a Forest. Salt Marsh is like a Swamp + an Island or is maybe something equivalent to a fraction of a mana fixing spell. While not exactly the best description, this illustration shows that the free effects themselves are worth some value in terms of a spell card. As such, these incremental "mini cards" can add up to make a 60 spell 40 basic land deck into a pseudo 65 spell 40 land deck by just being used.

Minimizing the use of nonbasic lands, as mentioned above in the case of running symmetric hate, does not mean running 0 nonbasic lands because it is definitely worth running a few because every deck should be able to find a reason to play one. Zero pollution is not optimal in the real world too.

smoldering Spires

#3 Every deck should run some basic lands (unless it contradicts with what the deck wants to do)

As much as nonbasic lands provide some edge to a player, playing nonbasic lands come with a certain degree of risk, specifically from cards that mess with nonbasic lands. It is not uncommon to see Wasteland used as a time walk in this format and some decks run powerful cards, such as (Dwarven miners), that are able to lock a player out by severing the resource of mana. Having basic lands allows one to maneuver around these cards and hopefully provide any deck with more time to react against such situations.

Apart from hate, running basic lands can ensure that fetchlands can work more optimally since they now give you more choices such as preempting nonbasic hate or just having a legal target to search for. Having basic lands in a deck is the same as having a natural safety net which will increase one's chances of winning. Path to Exile is also a good reason to run basic lands.

Sadly, there are decks that don't have such luxury such as 5 color decks that demand access to various mana early in the game. In those decks, having basic lands turn up is probably the worst possible case. Such decks can only hope that they have enough to overcome nonbasic hate because the costs of running basic lands are just too high.

---------- Last Words ----------------------------------------------------

For those of you who have been accumulating Urza's Saga packs, it might be worth it to hold them back to sell during the release events of Urza's Legacy. Hopefully the people at Wotc have planned out a good way to go about executing the release events so that we, the players, will be able to obtain cards at "more affordable" prices.

As always, I have to say that 100 card Singleton is truly one of the most profitable formats to get into. A quick scan around the various formats would lead you to this conclusion and it's never too late. Pick up a deck from the tournament records and try out the format! (Not all decks run dual lands but having them would let you play more decks)

Tarmotog on myMTGO.com


One thing: Krosan Verge is a by Paul Leicht at Thu, 05/27/2010 - 01:43
Paul Leicht's picture

One thing: Krosan Verge is a great fetch giving you 2 for 1 exchange for a 2 turn delay (if you drop it turn 1). Another: Panoramas are just as good fetches as any pay 1 life, sac this land out there except that they only get basics and then only 1 of 3 types. Still imho they are worth thinking about. Expedition Map is a great (potentially reusable) fetch that costs 3 mana (1 + 2). True the land comes to your hand but that is all just fine for landfall, etc.

panoramas do not come close by rainin6 at Fri, 05/28/2010 - 16:53
rainin6's picture

panoramas do not come close to comparing with sac-lands and are not worth thinking about "imho"

1. as stated, they only get basic land compared to getting duals or rav-duals with sac-lands.
2. you need to pay one mana to activate the panoramas.

that being said, on the other hand:

1. you don't lose a life.

As with anything, context is by Paul Leicht at Fri, 05/28/2010 - 18:30
Paul Leicht's picture

As with anything, context is king.