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The Ultimate Guide to Effective Mana-Bases

Updated: Oct 15, 2023


Command Tower Art
Command Tower - Art by Evan Shipard. © Wizards of the Coast

8 by 8 EDH - How to build a great Mana-Base!

The 8 by 8 EDH System is a strategy first approach to EDH deck building that aims to build fun and reliable decks. The system is founded upon a few simple principles that help guide strategy decisions, making deck design and building much quicker and easier.


Previously I did a bit of a deep dive into power levels and how the 8 by 8 EDH System helps guide you to a better power rating system based on the strategy recipe:


Alternatively if you are new to the 8 by 8 EDH System and want to start from the beginning go here:

I keep the list of Scryfall queries on my personal ad-free and cookie free website here but you can find them all below as well. One additional thing I will recommend is taking a moment to learn Scryfall query syntax, as its very useful for finding cards in general. I will include a section on this in my next article about Good and Bad Strategies.


What To Expect

This guide aims to cover the following:

  • give insights to different land types and their impact on strategy

  • identify the different requirements for different kinds of mana-bases and provide some templates and Scryfall links to help you find lands

  • discuss the impact of competitive play on the mana-base of the 8-by-8 EDH System

  • go over improving reliability of more complex mana-bases

  • discuss the benefits of bounce lands


TLDR

  • Before building a mana base it first helps to understand the types of lands, as your mana-base design can synergize with other strategies or sub-themes in your recipe

  • Mana-bases each have their own requirements and type considerations, the more colours you need to support, the less value utility lands have in the deck, and the more important fixing lands become

  • Competitive mana-bases often aim to be diverse(4 colours) so they can include more dual lands, and can fix their mana without having lands enter tapped, but also replace some lands with "free mana rocks" so they can ramp really fast

  • focusing mana on a specific colour (in a multi-colour build) will help improve ramp reliability

  • mana/land artifacts (signets, moxes or even land tutor artifacts) offer a reasonable way to smooth out issues with lands, but be careful of over-commitment (spells similar to Vandalblast will wipe you out!)

  • bounce lands while not competitive, still offer great versatility and increase your mana density (average mana per land)


Land Types

There are a few main types of lands:

  • basic - mountains, islands, plains, swamps, forests and wastes

  • fixing - lands that either provide multiple types of mana or provide a way to convert mana

  • utility lands - lands that provide activated, passive or triggered abilities to give you some additional benefit (buffs, card draw, special effects like unblockable or flash, dealing damage, creating creature tokens etc.)

  • cycling lands - lands that can be either discarded to draw a new card or discarded to tutor a basic land to your hand (form of fixing as well)

There are a few further strategy subsets that are quite important to consider:

  • fetch lands (sacrifice) - there are fast and slow versions, and some have wider reach than others (enters tapped or not, basics only or just by type etc.)

  • bounce lands (I will discuss these further) - increase mana density but at the cost of returning a land and enters tapped

  • triomes - three typed lands, also cycling lands

  • shock lands - can enter untapped at the cost of 2 life, has types

  • creature lands - either by making creature tokens or by becoming creatures themselves

  • gates - now one of the most awesome janky land types, I made a special query that tries to find all gates and gate dependent cards Gate Search. Its not perfect (as its hard to focus the search only on cards that refer to actual gate types) but its still fairly useful.

When designing your recipe, its important to know what kinds of lands will help augment your main strategies. Think about things like, if I am concerned about card draw, maybe include some cycling lands. Or I need more sacrifice outlets, so maybe lands that have an ability to sacrifice creatures. Lands don't just need to be about mana or fixing.


Mana-Bases

I have plagiarized a bit from my personal (8by8edh) website for this section, but its just too useful not to share.


Before continuing I want to give you an example of some of the query syntax I use on scryfall including a way to get rid of any pesky Alchemy/Arena cards from the search.


Here is the query for colorless lands (select it, copy and paste into Scryfall search):

t:land f:commander produces=c -o:{w} -o:{u} -o:{b} -o:{r} -o:{g} -is:digital


  • Make sure there are no spaces before or after the colons ":" or equals "="

  • "t" refers to card type eg. land

  • "f" refers to format eg. commander (commander legal cards)

  • "produces" refers to produces mana eg. "c" (colorless) or "w" (white) or "u" (blue) or "b" (black) or "r" (red) or "g" (green); to set this up to cover more produces wrap that part of the query in round brackets and introduce or's eg. "(produces=w or produces=b or produces=c)" for orzhov black or white;

  • "o" refers to search oracle text (basically any text in the ability/effect part of the card)

  • The "-" before each means remove cards in this subset, so in this query we are removing any that make colored mana, but sneakily by checking for the color in the oracle text eg. -o:{g}

  • Most importantly, "-is:digital" will remove any digital cards but without also removing their non-digital version. The problem Alchemy gave us is cards with the same name, but wrong ability text (which is really confusing and frustrating!). You will think you have found a cool card with some awesome unique ability.. only to find its digital only or not the same as the printed version... gaaah!


MONO COLOR


Mono-colour mana-bases are the simplest to build, and you can often get away with using only basic lands. I would recommend not oversaturating with colourless utility (avoid more than 12 colourless, unless this is a colourless build), and as a general rule have no less than 12 basic lands.

  • 12 basics

  • 23 Utility (avoid too many colourless options unless this is a colourless build)

Here are some links to Scryfall land searches to help find lands for each of this kind of mana-base:


2 COLOR


These mana-bases are also fairly simple to setup. You definitely don't want to have only basic lands in this kind of mana-base as its very risky. I can't tell you how many times during playtesting I had situations where I am flooded with one kind of land and not the other. Fixing Lands are absolute gold in decks with 2 or more colours. You still want to avoid having too few basics, as this hinders your ability to ramp effectively.


Some lands like Snarls or MDFC work best in this type of mana-base, and lose effectiveness in higher colour counts. This is primarily due to limitations they impose on themselves. You can't tutor an MDFC to the battlefield and choose the side, it only allows the primary side. And a snarl will most likely enter tapped as you are less likely to have an appropriate basic in your hand if you have a more diverse mana-base.


Proposed Breakdown:

  • 12 basics

  • 8 Fixing

  • 13 Utility

Colourless utility lands become less helpful as your number of colours increase, so be careful of adding too many to decks that prioritize fixing over utility.


Here are some links to Scryfall land searches to help find lands for each of this kind of mana-base:


3 COLOR


I separate fixing and fetch into tow different categories even though they seem to be similar. Fetch does fix your mana, but typically fetch lands needs basics to function well. They should never out number your basics, and if you are going heavy into land ramp, then consider increasing your basic land count. The ultimate fixing lands are those that produce 3 colours or more of mana, the worst are transmute lands that need one mana to make one mana (2 lands to make one... not a great conversion).


Proposed Breakdown:

  • 12 basics (4,4,4)

  • 8 fetch

  • 8 fixing

  • 7 Utility

Here are some links to Scryfall land searches to help find lands for each of this kind of mana-base:


4 COLOR


Much the same as 3 colour mana-base, the expectations are about the same. There is one big caveat here, you will always have access to one good ramp colour. This must form the predominant basic land colour, and this ensures that your ramp spells can be mostly that colour and ensure more reliable ramping.


Proposed Breakdown:

  • 12 basics (6,2,2,2)

  • 8 fetch

  • 8 fixing

  • 7 Utility

Here are some links to Scryfall land searches to help find lands for each of this kind of mana-base:


DOMAIN OR WURBG


Avoid utility lands as much as possible with a 5 colour mana-base. They help you the least in this break down. Fetch lands are most valuable here as they make sure to fix your mana based on your specific needs. The best lands are those that can produce any colour of mana, but also those that can be tutored because of a type. Gates are also now much better supported and can help you win a games (Mazes End)!


Proposed Breakdown:

  • 15 basics (7,2,2,2,2)

  • 8 fetch

  • 8 fixing

  • 4 utility

Here is a link to a Scryfall land search for this type of mana base:


Competitive Impact

Competitive mana-bases aim to support cheaper spells, and want to ramp really fast. They are also less worried about board wipes as they have free counter spells that can save them. This means the formula for an 8 by 8 EDH Recipe can be a bit different:

  • 1 Commander (second is allocated to a strategy slot)

  • 27 lands

    • 4+ fast fetches

    • 2+ dual lands

  • 8 free/cheap rocks or dorks

  • 64 spells (the rest of the recipe)

Here we are treating the free rocks (like moxes, lotuses or mana crypt) as if they are an extra land. This allows much faster ramping, even being able to play commanders turn 1. Most fast fetch lands can be played if enough colours are supported, and also most of the expensive dual lands (that don't enter tapped). This allows tutoring and mana fixing to happen really quickly without much downside (apart from some loss of life).


You definitely do not want lands to enter tapped in a competitive setting, so its better to increase the colours in the deck (use partner commanders) than to feel like you need a tapped fixing land.


Mana Focus

Mana focus refers to the concept of tilting your basic lands (and sometimes the non-basic fixing) in favour of a main ramp colour (usually green, or white). This mainly impacts decks that are 3 or more colours. Here you want to guarantee that you can ramp effectively, so you lean on that colour, and make sure most of your lands can produce it.


Its possible to use more artifacts to fix things for you but this does increase risk greatly. Imagine building your board and then getting wiped, and all you are left with are 3 lands... not a great feeling. Its better to hedge your bets and diversify into land ramp (tutor to battlefield) as well. Basically, don't rely only on signets or moxes, instead cards that tutor to the battlefield should form at least half of your ramp.


You are hedging your bets against stax that impede your ability to tutor lands, or falling victim to a board wipe (creatures/enchantments/artifacts). So balance is important.


Bounce Lands

In my opinion, for casual players, bounce lands are some of the very best lands you can have in your deck. This is for two main reasons:

  • they increase mana density (lands that produce 2 or more mana, are very strong)

  • and make sure you hit an extra land drop, with 1 fewer lands

Most players who don't like them, simply get annoyed because you can't often play them before your first cast. What I mean by this is that bounce lands will return a land to your hand. So if you play one on turn two without casting anything (like a dork or rock), you will likely end up discarding a card which is frustrating. I would argue in this case that your actual issue is a mana curve problem. You really need to ensure you have sufficient cheap spells that you can play on turn 1 or 2. Its always tempting to build decks that are very top heavy (lots of expensive spells), but just be aware that this is making the deck less reliable. To compensate players will often then put more lands in, but this will inevitably slow your deck down. So you will always struggle to make things happen when you need to. (some players will complain that their ramping opponents decks are too competitive, when meanwhile, yours is just really slow... when it doesn't need to be).


There is always a risk that you get hands full of bounce lands which are unplayable without at least 1 basic, but the 35 land formula gives you a reasonable 2.5 lands per hand probability and if less than a third of your lands are bounces it shouldn't happen to many times that you end up with hands full of bounces. There is a secret to making this work better though. If you want to really harness the full power of bounce lands (4-5 colour build), then consider the following:

  • you will probably want some ways for lands to enter untapped (there are plenty cards now that allow lands to enter untapped

  • there are more than just the 10 bounce lands, there are 5 mono-colour versions and a colourless one (the mono-colours expect you to bounce a basic land of their colour which makes them less reliable, but Guildless Commons is decent)

  • you will want your ramp strategy to support allowing you to play extra lands

  • you can build your lands like a toolbox (bounce an MDFC land back to hand and use its other side, or a land with a channel or cycling ability)

  • you may want some "play lands from graveyard" abilities so you can recover ability lands or re-use your fetch lands (that sacrifice themselves)

I tried combining these into a glorious experimental advantage engine under Atraxa The Grand Unifier alongside mana amplifications like Nyxbloom Ancient, and boy was it was a sight to behold! The deck was stupidly strong in the late game, and we watched helplessly as Atraxa could so easily get re-cast over and over again... (yes, I let my friend who hates bounces pilot it, and he seemed to really enjoy the outcome). So if I can make him smile with bounces, I'm sure I can put smiles on your faces too.


Final Remarks

My main goal with this article was to provide helpful guides for both understanding how to build effective mana bases and also to provide ways to find lands for different mana-bases.


The more colours a deck needs to support, the less value colourless utility lands are needed and the more fixing is required. Its also important to keep a balance between basics and non-basics to not run into fringe or extreme problems. Make sure you have enough basics to ramp properly.


Having ways to more easily find lands to fit our deck strategies is very helpful when building decks. Lands are often left out in strategy discussions, as they usually carry the highest cost when building a deck. Finding fringe lands that can do the same thing but at cheaper prices is always a good thing.


Land totals need to change for competitive settings, but this is only because we hoping to ramp even faster (not as sustainably). Competitive games don't try and take a long time to win, so probably don't need 20 lands on the table like in a jank showdown.


In the next article I will be discussing strategy and how to recognize good strategies for your recipe: The Ultimate Guide to EDH Strategy


You may now be wondering a bit more about other ways the 8 by 8 EDH System can help you build better decks, and I hope to explain more in some upcoming guides, so make sure you subscribe/follow @intothe99podcast on YouTube and Instagram to keep up-to-date!


Thank you for taking the time to read this guide, and I hope that you found it helpful! You can find me on Instagram as well as a bunch of my decks and 8 by 8 EDH Recipes (in the Primers) on Moxfield if you do have any questions @thunder.emperors.command

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