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By: gwyned, gwyned
Feb 13 2012 11:24am
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I. Introduction

One of the big changes that came with the release of Innistrad and the simultaneous rotation of Standard was the sudden lack of any fetch-lands at Common. Prior to this change, the presence of both Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse gave any deckbuilder access to whichever colors he or she preferred, even allowing one to stretch for four or even five colors despite the lack of dual or triple lands in the cardpool. Without such access, it was widely believed that the Standard Pauper metagame would take a strong shift away from Control and move back towards more Aggro strategies, since outside of Green it would be difficult to construct a manabase that would support more than two colors. And for most of the current season of Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, this belief has proven true, with the weekly Top 8 dominated by either mono-color or dual-color decks.

However, in these last few weeks leading up to the release of Dark Ascension online (and the somewhat surprising return of Evolving Wilds), several competent players have demonstrated that sufficient mana-fixing does in fact already exist in the current cardpool to support three or even four color decks, even outside of Green. It is therefore the purpose of this article to examine these options, evaluate their effectiveness, and showcase how they have been used recently by taking a quick look at a couple of relevant decklists.

As always in my articles, let me remind you that the goal of this series is to highlight relevant information about the Standard Pauper format from the results of Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, commonly referred to as MPDC. MPDC is a weekly PRE featuring a Swiss tournament in the Standard Pauper format, with prizes awarded for the Top 8 finishers thanks to the sponsorship of MTGOTraders. If you've never checked out MPDC, I encourage you to browse over to PDCMagic.com for all the information and then come join us at 2:00pm EST / 7:00pm GMT in the /join MPDC room. Season 15 is quickly drawing to a close, and with the release of Dark Ascension this upcoming season would be a great chance to experience the spectacular format that is Standard Pauper.

II. How to Fix Your Mana

Surprisingly, by my count there are fourteen cards that provide mana fixing in the current Standard Pauper cardpool. In this count I have not included cards like Llanowar Elves, since in most cases such cards provide mana acceleration without actually fixing your colors. So here are your options, presented in alphabetical order:

1. Of the fourteen options, six are 1/1 creatures that tap to produce a single mana of a specific color. While reasonable choices in Limited, in any Constructed format such creatures are perhaps the worst option when it comes to fixing mana. First off, generally a 1/1 is only worth about half a card, which means the value that you receive from the creature alone is fairly poor. Second, as a source of mana these are particularly vulnerable, as almost any form of removal will eliminate them. Third, in this particular case there are plenty of solid options for mana-fixing at Green without needing to devote a card to such a fragile mana source. Except in rare cases when one can gain additional synergy from the creature type, these type of mana fixing creatures are usually not good enough for consideration in Standard Pauper.
 

2. Caravan Vigil is an obvious analogue for Rampant Growth. While certainly an efficient way to search out another Land, once again it must be questioned whether or not the effect is worth a whole card. This effect is quite strong when it's in conjunction with a creature like Sylvan Ranger or Civic Wayfinder, but alone is probably not worth taking up a slot in your deck. The Morbid-enabled effect is certainly much stronger, but really would only shine if you could actually play this out on your first turn. Sadly, it should go without saying that this is impossible, at least in Standard Pauper. At least for this format, I have a difficult time imagining a scenario where I would play Caravan Vigil over Rampant Growth, and the latter is hardly a strong choice either except in a handful of specific decks. This has seen very little play, and I would not expect that to change anytime soon.


3. Copper Myr, along with its color-producing brethren, suffers all the same weaknesses as Avacyn's Pilgrim, in that the 1/1 creature is suboptimal value and the fixing provided by it is quite fragile. However, these Myr do have the slightly advantage of being a relevant creature type - Artifact - which certainly has some relevance in Standard Pauper. On the other hand, the majority of decks that take advantage of Metalcraft effects tend to be fairly aggressive. In these decks, a 1/1 for 2 mana isn't exactly ideal, and neither the color-fixing nor the mana acceleration seem to have much of a role to play. Again, while these certainly were a valuable pick in Scars of Mirrodin Limited, they probably will not find much of a home in Standard Pauper.

4. The other source of mana fixing from Scars of Mirrodin came by way of Horizon Spellbomb. This is perhaps one of the trickier pieces of mana-fixing to evaluate. For a total of , you receive a basic Land from your library and get to draw another card as well, essentially replacing the Spellbomb. It also is flexible, allowing you to crack it as early as Turn 2 if your need for the additional Land is strong enough to miss out on the cycle-effect. Furthermore, the fact that it is an Artifact that can be dropped as early as Turn 1 or slotted in whenever you have a spare mana certainly is relevant. In my opinion, assuming one can make use of the mana fixing and can generate synergy with Artifacts, Horizon Spellbomb is probably a solid choice. While certainly not the strongest or cheapest method of mana-fixing at one's disposal, it is not only flexible but generally good value as well, and thus definitely an option worth considering for Standard Pauper.

5. Back in Shards of Alara there was a Common cycle of Artifact obelisks that tapped for one mana of the three colors of that particular shard, and they rarely saw play outside of Limited. Fast-forward to Magic 2012, and a strictly better version was printed: Manalith. For the same casting cost, one gets an Artifact that can be tapped the turn it comes into play to produce a single mana of any color. However, even this upgrade has seen very little play in Standard Pauper. While the fixing it provides is certainly solid, I suspect it is the presence of a significant amount of Artifact destruction that makes this less than ideal. In the same way that it is a liability to trust your fixing to a 1/1 creature, relying upon an Artifact, at least in the current metagame, seems too much of a risk. That said, this Artifact probably deserves some consideration, if for no other reason than to enable one to splash for the Flashback cost of a card like Forbidden Alchemy or Ancient Grudge.

6. Mycosynth Wellspring like its counterpart Ichor Wellspring, does not appear to be very good at first glance. Other than contributing towards Metalcraft or other cards that care about Artifacts, the card does nothing once it comes into play. And the ability to fetch a land, while not bad, is itself often not worth a spell slot in your deck. However, once you pair this card with another that allows you to sacrifice Artifacts, the true value of this card shines through. Kuldotha Rebirth, Artillerize, or even Manic Vandal are all viable options, allowing you to get a 2 lands for the price of a single card. And assuming one can also take advantage of other cards that care about the presence of Artifacts, Mycosynth Wellspring goes from subpar to quite strong. In fact, in the right deck a full playset of this card alone can easily provide enough fixing to gain access to three different colors, and perhaps even enable a four or five color strategy.

7. Other than Fetchlands, Rampant Growth is the most prevalent Common that enables mana-fixing for Green based decks. Its strength is certainly in the fact that it not only searches out any Basic Land in your deck but also acts as an accelerant. Played out on Turn 2, Rampant Growth ramps you up to four mana on Turn 3, giving you a slight edge in the development process. Whether this effect is worth a spell slot in your deck is fairly deck-dependent, but in general Standard Pauper is slow enough that the effect has not proven to be very critical. Additionally, while this card is certainly solid, Green often has access to better (or at least more interesting) options, which also contributes to the minimal amount of play Rampant Growth has seen in the recent metagame. Should Green continue to grow in strength and popularity, this card could easily see more play in the future; indeed, there is at least one current strategy where this might already be viable.

8. One of my very first card discussions in Standard Pauper revolved around this card; specifically, whether or not it was better than Terramorphic Expanse. My argument was simple - unlike Fetchlands, Shimmering Grotto actually taps for mana the turn it comes into play. The problem, of course, is that while this is true, it increases the casting cost of any spell that relies upon it for color fixing by , which is not an insignificant cost, particularly in a more aggressive strategy. Nonetheless, at least in the current metagame, Shimmering Grotto is about as good as it gets. Land-based color fixing will always be superior to spell-based, due to the simple fact that one need not devote a spell slot to accomplish this role. It also seems to be the right fit for decks looking to splash another color merely to Flashback a spell with a mana cost whose color is otherwise unrepresented in the deck. In any case, I suspect even after the release of Dark Ascension this will continue to see play.

9. Traveler's Amulet plays a similar role to Caravan Vigil, in that it gives you a cheap method of fixing your mana. Naturally, it suffers the same limitations as well, since it takes up space in your deck that would otherwise be devoted to spells. Worse, it even takes an extra mana to do so! On the other hand, Traveler's Amulet has actually seen play, thanks to two advantages it has over the Vigil. First, it is colorless, giving decks without access to Green mana fixing. This allows one to slot these in as pseudo-Lands, reducing your total Land count by approximately 1 for every 2 Amulets in your deck. Second, it is an Artifact, giving it synergy with other strategies that are fueled by Artifacts. In general though, I would not rate this as a great card, and with the reemergence of Evolving Wilds I would expect this to not see much play going forward, except in fringe cases where the card has particularly relevant synergies as an Artifact.

10. Last, but certainly not least, is Viridian Emissary. Out of the many Green creatures that act as a pseudo-Fetchland, this may be one of the more interesting, in that it does not require itself to be Sacrificed to access that effect. Instead, for a very reasonable , one receives a 2/1 creature that often will not only trade with a creature on the other side of the virtual battlefield but will also fetch out a land in the process. Compare this to a card like Dawntreader Elk, which for the same cost gives you a 2/2 creature that can either search out a land or trade off with an opposing creature, but not both. While certainly not as good as Civic Wayfinder, Viridian Emissary is probably the best Green spell for mana-fixing, and one that almost any deck with access to Green should be running. This card already has a strong presence in the metagame, and I expect to see much more of this Elf Scout in seasons to come.

III. Three Decklist Examples

So with that analysis behind us, let's take a look at three recent decklists from MPDC that illustrate how deckbuilders have been putting these options to good work to construct some interesting three, four, or even five color strategies.

Hexproof
Played by Adner in MPDC 15.13
Creatures
4 Aven Fleetwing
4 Gladecover Scout
4 Sacred Wolf
4 Viridian Emissary
2 Auramancer
18 cards

Other Spells
4 Lifelink
4 Ponder
4 Spectral Flight
4 Travel Preparations
3 Trollhide
2 Think Twice
21 cards
Lands
6 Forest
6 Island
5 Plains
4 Shimmering Grotto
21 cards

Gladecover Scout

 
Hexproof was the earliest three color strategy to see success in MPDC this season, and regardless of your thoughts on the viability or fun-factor of this particular deck, it does illustrate how easy it actually is to access three colors even without Fetchlands. In this case, there is a even distribution of each of the three Basic Land types, augmented by a full playset of Shimmering Grotto and Viridian Emissary. Additionally, access to this fixing is enhanced by Ponder and Think Twice, which gives the deck a efficient way to assemble whichever pieces of the combo it needs, whether that be a creature, an Enchantment, or merely that missing mana source. Given its relatively low average casting cost, one might even be able to slide in multiple copies of Traveler's Amulet and reduce the total number of Lands to increase the deck's consistency as far as mana fixing is concerned.


In this deck, created by the very capable deckbuilder pk23, we see a good diversity of mana-fixing, all but guaranteeing that the deck will be able to access each of its spells pulled from four out of the five colors. The deck runs a full playset of both Shimmering Grotto and Traveler's Amulet, the latter of which in this particular deck act almost as virtual lands, given that the deck has no particular Artifact synergies. Multiple copies of Viridian Emissary also give additional methods of seeking out needed mana sources. Finally, similarly to the previous deck, these sources of mana-fixing are further enhanced by the ability of this decklist to quickly and efficiently draw and filter cards thanks to Forbidden Alchemy, Think Twice, and Altar's Reap. If you are looking to construct a 4 color manabase, I would definitely recommend using this list as your starting point.


Although our final decklist has yet to see much success in recent MPDC events, MrNancy has managed to construct a manabase that seems to have found a strategy to (somewhat) reliably access all five colors. This particular build is almost fully dependent on the fixing provided by Mycosynth Wellspring. In the best case scenario, one could see a single Wellspring fetch three different colored lands: one as it comes into play, a second when it returns to play after being bounced by Glint Hawk, and a third after being sacrificed to fuel Kuldotha Rebirth! This list also includes a full playset of Shimmering Grotto to fuel its spells while waiting to access the necessary Basic Lands. However, in my estimation, this probably is not sufficient. Given the possible synergy with Fangren Marauder, it would seem to make sense for this deck to include either Traveler's Amulet or Horizon Spellbomb in the list. Adding multiple copies of Viridian Emissary would also seem a wise inclusion. Nonetheless, this deck is certainly illustrative of yet another strategy one might utilize to access multiple colors.

IV. Conclusion

So, now you know what options are at your disposal when it comes to mana fixing in Standard Pauper, and hopefully these lists have inspired you to create a multicolor brew of your own! In closing, let me remind you that if you would like a sneak peak at my content before it goes live here at PureMTGO.com, you can always browse over to YouTube.com, search for "gwyned42," select one of my video-casts, and click the Subscribe button. You can also now follow me on Twitter at the username gwyned42; check out my profile here and click on Follow. Let me also extend a special thanks to all my fellow Standard Pauper players who have taken the time to thank me for these articles. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my thoughts, watch the videos, and comment on my articles. See you next time!