How to Build a Mana Base Correctly?

Standard forum

Posted on Jan. 15, 2013, 6:48 a.m. by M a g i c a l H a c k e r

So many times, I realize that Magic should be also known as Mathematics: the Gathering.

This is one of those times.

Anyone know an webpage or a program that shows STEP BY STEP how to determine EXACTLY what amount of lands and what kind to run in a deck? How many Evolving Wilds , Shocklands, M10 Dual Lands, Shimmering Grotto , and Transguild Promenade to run in a two color deck, a three color deck, a four color deck, and a five color deck? Including if a certain number of functional lands that tap for colorless or mana producers are included?

I think that something like this could DEFINITELY be quantized and mathematically understood, and that it could then be turned into a computer program, but the old "trial and error" method of mana base building is not even close to effective.

*(Not effective relative to this method.)

January 15, 2013 6:48 a.m.

Takahashiryu says... #2

It's a natural knowledge that comes with time.An empirical discovery that lies within each deck own strategy.

January 15, 2013 7:09 a.m.

That's what they used to say about science. Then they got smart.

January 15, 2013 7:26 a.m.

Demarge says... #4

well you could try out any of the many such mana base calculators found when you google "mana base calculators" or you could spend the time actually making this calculator of your dreams, all it takes is typing up a few hundred to a few thousand lines of code in the right language and with the right engine/compiler.

January 15, 2013 7:36 a.m.

Demarge says... #5

Or you could spend likely a lot less time just getting the hang of trial and error for your mana base...

January 15, 2013 7:36 a.m.

If it's not made already, there should be a reason that it hasn't been done. :/

I disagree. I feel like trial and error spends a lot of time to reach "good enough" when a program like what I said would reach optimal within a couple of seconds.

January 15, 2013 7:53 a.m.

rkreutz says... #7

Doesn't that kind of take the fun out of test games? I'm always tweaking my mana base until I'm happy with it. In fact, I'm more prone to tweak mana than anything else. Just go look up what lands/creatures/spells and whatnot produce the right colors for you and start playing with them!

January 15, 2013 8:30 a.m.

Demarge says... #8

mstancea I meant trial and error will probably be faster than making the program, and such programs have been made, you and I are just too lazy to sift though the google search.

January 15, 2013 8:42 a.m.

eze01 says... #9

It sounds like a good idea on paper but when you actually sit down and try to figure out what numbers to assign things in a program, or what algorithm to use, you run into the same problems you have right now. It depends on so many factors that even if you had a program tell you how many lands to put it who says you could actually trust the results? This may be more true for some decks than others.

For a fairly simple way to calculate your lands count up each mana symbol of the cards you want to play then ratio them and Use as many dual colored lands as you can afford. 9 times out of 10 this will would quite well.

January 15, 2013 9:46 a.m.

VykkDraygo says... #10

That wouldn't work, as even decks with similar mana curves, don't necessarily want the same number of lands. When you build a deck, you should have some idea of what you are trying to do, and how important land drops are for your deck. You need to prioritize some spells over others, which influences color choices as well.

For example, I have a deck that tops out at 4cmc, but I'm running 26 lands. Any less, and I wouldn't have the correct ratio of colors, and I'd miss too many land drops.

You really do just have to test each deck to find the correct number of lands. What gets me though, is the decks that are about .5 lands off. That's annoying!

January 15, 2013 9:59 a.m.

RedZebra says... #11

I think all you mathematically-inclined people should get right to it! I'll just be over here getting color-screwed until you've finished XP

January 15, 2013 10:11 a.m.

Jimhawk says... #12

Here's probably the simplest one with the best interface for finding the right number of basic lands: Simple Land Calculator

There a couple of articles I found on this very site that concern the mathematical approach to finding the proper land ratios for your deck.

Part 1: The Basics

Part 2: The Nonbasics

They're actually well-written and quite helpful. Once you know the correct basic land ratio using a calculator such as the one I posted, you have to tweak it from there according to your deck's nonbasic land needs. There are innumerable factors that come into play concerning nonbasic lands: dual lands and their restrictions, colorless lands and their abilities, search lands and their costs, and so on. These factors cannot be simply entered into a program that can spit out a perfect mana base for a deck. The truth is that trial and error through experimentation is the absolute best way to find out what your nonbasic needs are.

Finally, as an example from a logic and theory standpoint, how are you supposed to value Wasteland for a mana base? It provides only colorless mana. Shouldn't you just run a basic land that helps make your color ratios better for casting your spells? That's what a computer will think. However, as humans, we have to think in strategic terms beyond simple mathematics. Wasteland is a detriment to reaching my perfect color ratio, but it can utterly and completely mana screw my opponent for the entire game. Is it more important to cast my spells or prevent my opponent from casting theirs? A computer program cannot possibly implement this level of reasoning because it is dependent upon shifting factors such as the metagame, player skill level, the power level of key cards in your deck and your opponent's deck, so on, so forth...

This has been a bit of a ramble, but the key thing to take away is what has been mentioned before: there is no such thing as a "perfect land calculator" because there are too many variables, many of whose value cannot be accurately (or even possibly) quantified.

January 15, 2013 10:51 a.m.

RedZebra says... #13

Extremely helpful post! Thank you for all of that!

January 15, 2013 11:11 a.m.

Lhurgyof says... #14

Just over one third of my decks are delegated to lands. The tappedout deckbuilder is perfect for determining what colors go where. Generally I put all the nonbasics I have in first and then use basics to correct my mana base so that my lands match up to the same ratio as the mana symbols on my cards.

January 15, 2013 1:57 p.m.

zandl says... #15

Unless you have some sort of land-based strategy, Evolving Wilds doesn't really need to be used once Gatecrash hits and we have all the Shock-lands.

Shimmering Grotto and Transguild Promenade aren't really worth it ever in Standard (or anywhere but five-color EDH).

If your deck is 3 colors, just use 8 or 9 shock-lands, 12 M10/Inni duals, and fill the rest with utility lands/basics.

January 15, 2013 3:20 p.m.

acbooster says... #16

What I do is I separate my cards into their respective colors, and see how often a color appears in the cards. For example, if I'm counting black, Murder would count as 2, Golgari Keyrune would count as 1 because of its ability, and Walking Corpse would count as 1. After I count up the mana symbols, I figure out the closest round ratio of lands and work from there. For example, in my Grixis deck, I had a ratio of about 1 red to 1 blue to 2 black, so my mana base consists of 12 swamps, 6 mountains, and 6 islands. I later tweaked this to 10 swamps, 6 mountains, and 8 islands based off of the results from playing with my friends.

As far as dual lands/shock lands go, I include them in the first pooling of mana and adjust the numbers accordingly.

January 15, 2013 7:50 p.m.

DPDickens says... #17

There does seem to be a lot of individual need and subjectivity to this whole discussion. Some decks run heavy because they need to--even if it looks like it'll flood. Burn decks with a lot of X-damage, for instance. On the other hand, I run a deck that looks like it should be land-starved, but so many creatures generate mana or let me dig in my library that I'm usually flooded. I doubt there's one pat formula that will be useful for everyone in every situation.

To hearken back to the beginning of this thread, Takahashiryu said it well: practice and natural knowing will be of more use than a calculation in the long run.

January 16, 2013 8:58 a.m.

Azure124 says... #18

trial and error is the only way. some decks like reanimator may look as if they need 26 lands but with 23 they get flooded half the time. no program can do this it is all done by your experience and the decks individual needs.

January 16, 2013 12:27 p.m.

ijuanda says... #20

Yeah I'm all for tweaking. Playing mtg for me is about having fun and trying to create a deck that I enjoy playing but is also as competitive as possible. As a relatively new player creating combos and mana bases is the fun part. I don't want some program/machine to tell me how I should make a mana base when I think differently. I remember starting out playing on a 2:1 ratio of spells to mana. It took me some while and a lot of mana shortage to see that 20 lands for most 60 card decks just wasn't enough but I'm glad I found out on my own rather than have a program tell me.

January 16, 2013 3:29 p.m.

acbooster says... #21

@ijuanda: Yeah when I started I was told that a good ratio was 24 lands to 36 non-lands, and so far it's been working great. :D That's one of the things I love about MtG though, is that there is no sure-fire way to build a deck or to win.

January 16, 2013 6:47 p.m.

Honestly it seems to be more intuition some just pick up on. Dual lands are essential to building stable mana base, though you can make do without, it is just not optimal. My suggestions to help you know what to look for:

1.) You usually need to have an idea what the main theme of the deck is, that is to say, what colors are going to be more prominent. In 3 color decks, usually 2 make up the majority of the deck while one takes a sort of secondary role.

2.) Look for double color symbols. Hellrider is a double red, your mana base whatever you are playing needs to be consistent enough--you have a high chance of having 2 red sources--to be able to cast him turn four. Double colors are difficult to run sometimes, especially is 3+ colors, make sure if you are running double in a 3 color, it is your primary color. E.g. say you are running Red Green White (Naya--> since this seems to be a big deck predicted to be played) you will need to pick what your primary colors will be, some might want to run Strangleroot Geist , his dual green will make it to where you need 2 green mana on turn 2, meaning your land base will want a slightly higher number of green sources: Stomping Ground , Temple Garden s etc. then you decide the accompanying color, which might be either white or red and make sure that constitutes another majority. Often times in naya you only need one white mana to cast anything, so it is generally a good idea to have a majority of green and red to hit those double colors.

3.) As stated above, and expanding out on it a bit, look at which color only requires 1 of that color to cast it. You need a will not need that color to be as prominent (see example mana base).

4.) Determine your Curve. Are you playing big guys or little guys? Often if you curve out at 2 or 3, you will be running about 17-20 lands, 3-4 will be 22-23 lands, 5-6 will be 23-24 lands depending on your theme and 7+ will be 24-26, again depending on theme

5.) Deck theme. Control lists often run 25-26 lands, bant and rug can wing a little less because they have land fetchers/ mana guys at their disposal and can run 24. Ramp will be 24-26, l usually am fine with 24, especially when wolf run was my deck of choice. Aggro, unless you have mana guys or are running on a ridiculously low curve, in today's standard you will be most likely running 23 lands, which is optimal for dual and tri colored decks. red decks today are generally fine on 19-22.

Mana bases differ for each person, usually you need to figure out what works for you, generally I have to build my deck as 62 card lists, running 23 in aggro and 25 in control. Ramp is the only list I am able to keep at 60 running 24 lands.

January 17, 2013 9:40 a.m.

Sample Mana Base: Naya Aggro

4x Stomping Ground

4x Temple Garden

2x Sacred Foundry

3x Sunpetal Grove

1x Gavony Township

1x card:Slayers' Stronghold

3x Rootbound Crag

2x Clifftop Retreat

3x Forest

Pain lands work well in naya, generally you have life gain to make up for the loss of life early game, Thragtusk and Huntmaster of the Fells  Flip inter alia help recover. Still, it might not hurt to reduce the number of shock lands a tad for more basics.

Sample Mana Base: Esper Control

4x Watery Grave

4x Hallowed Fountain

2x Godless Shrine

4x Isolated Chapel

2x Nephalia Drownyard

3x Glacial Fortress

2x Drowned Catacomb

2x Island

1x Swamp

1x Plains

Control's man colors are almost always blue and white, blue for the counters and draw and white for the board wipes. As well, it is not as concerned with lands coming in tapped, it spends its first 3 turns getting to some answers usually.

Mana Base Example: Valakut Ramp/ Wolf Run Fun--> RG

I thought this might be a fun attempt, but nevertheless it shows a good example of a dual colored list, remember it has land fetchers like Primeval Titan and Farseek to help it ramp up, this is a modern list to let you know. wolf run might help the list, but I am iffy on the addition of inkmoth, you need those mountains

4x Stomping Ground

3x Rootbound Crag

3x Karplusan Forest

2x Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

2x Forest

2x Kessig Wolf Run

9x Mountain

A bit experimental, but remember you have a theme, ramp up to a Primeval Titan (2g) and start dumping out mountains for valakut. Most lists will also run the zendikar tap lands like Misty Rainforest , but those have always been too rich for my blood. Hope this helps.

January 17, 2013 10:01 a.m.

zandl says... #24

Fetch-lands in Modern are used mainly as the icing on the mana-fixing cake. Also, they slightly increase the consistency of your draws each time you use one. And in combo decks like Splinter Twin /Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker , that's actually very relevant.

January 17, 2013 3:56 p.m.

I run them when I can, I sadly only have a playset of Arid Mesa s. I think one of the few lists I have actually seen that does not require them all that much is TRON. Still, agreed, Storm and Kiki-twin cannot run without those, as well as the old jund dredge-retrace list. Fetch lands work well to fetch out the lands you need in a situation, for example: using Verdant Catacombs to fetch out a Stomping Ground to play Kird Ape turn one.

As far as building your mana base algorithm/program, it would be difficult, the program would need to be able to read the mana curve and symbols as well as the number, and be able to determine the general theme of the deck based on the presence of certain cards. Then it would need to make adjustments based on p(opening hand playable) and perhaps a few subsequent hands to determine if the land draws are consistent enough to drop lands up to a point where the mana base is satisfied to play what you need. Then some error would need to be accounted for-->human error in shuffling, unable to simulate perfect randomness.

As every one says, the first few decks you make of a deck type will be trial and error, then you will begin to have an instinct as to what your mana base will look like. It is different for everyone. My friend can play his jund list perfectly, I start to play it and I find myself readjusting the mana base heavily, adding an additional land and jumping up the green land count. It has to do a bit with "luck," if you will.

January 17, 2013 10:34 p.m.

xantos says... #26

It's honestly extremely difficult to make a program that works as you want it to. Think of all the things you need to take into account for, say, just a standard mono-blue midrange deck. The program would need to consider how fast the deck is (how many 1-drops vs 5-drops there are). For example, if you have a Colossal Whale , it's going to need more mana. However, if you run a lot of Divination or Opportunity , then you're going to be needing fewer lands. How about a Thassa, God of the Sea ? Because then you're scrying every turn and probably need a little less mana. An Omenspeaker might also bring down the amount of mana needed. If you're playing a lot of counterspells, then you're going to want more mana - but again, what if you have a Dissolve ? Then, of course, there's the problem of "special lands." How does the program know how many Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx this deck should have? If your devotion to blue is less than 3, Nykthos is pretty useless, so the program needs to understand that even devotion matters. There's also Mutavault - how many of these do you run? That's going to depend if you have a tribal deck, or run a bunch of Master of Waves . Also, if you have a lot of cards like Tidebinder Mage or Nightveil Specter , this deck is going to need more blue mana - something that Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Mutavault don't give. And I'm sure there's other stuff that the program needs to know to make this work.

And that's just for a mono-colored Standard deck.

January 19, 2014 9:05 a.m.

Yes, I agree it can be very complicated, but is there anything in the game that prevents it from being understood from a mathematical perspective, regardless of how difficult that may be?

January 19, 2014 9:17 a.m.

xantos says... #28

No, magic is definitely Mathematics: the Gathering. It's just not out there yet for the reasons I've mentioned.

January 19, 2014 9:21 a.m.

zandl says... #29

Oh, god. All the necro-bumping.

January 19, 2014 12:53 p.m.

I put the romance in necromancer.

January 19, 2014 1:07 p.m.

cr14mson says... #31

40% land
40% creature
20% spell

January 19, 2014 3:02 p.m.

acbooster says... #32

This thread died. A YEAR AGO. WHY CAN'T PEOPLE JUST LET IT DIE.

January 19, 2014 3:04 p.m.

cr14mson says... #33

for people who weren't here a year ago

January 19, 2014 5:36 p.m.

HsinHaoWang says... #34

Number of instances of a colour X Number of lands total / Number of cards in the deck = Number of mana sources of that colour needed. Do this for each colour in the deck and add them up; if the amount is higher than the number of lands total, then the amount of spillage states the number of lands that must absolutely be dual lands. Then you supplement your mana base with additional duals and fetches.

March 6, 2014 9:51 a.m.

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