Tiny Leaders in 2017 and the Dilemma of a Singleton Mana Base
It’s been a while since I wrote an article but like many players there are times when our life away from Magic: the Gathering takes precedence. However, I’ve now moved in with my Magic testing partner, she prefers the term fiancee, so I’ve noticed my time is no longer absorbed with packing or unpacking boxes anymore.
When Conspiracy: Take the Crown came out their was a lot of chatter that we finally had a Sultai Tiny Leader in Leovold, Emissary of Trest at long last, what was to follow was truly remarkable when at a Q & A session at Pax Head Magic Card Designer Mark Rosewater confirmed it was a plant for the format. This is really great news for followers of the format and I wouldn’t be surprised that we get pre-con Tiny Leaders decks released in the next couple of years. Kaladesh rolled up and we got another Tiny Leader we were lacking in Hope of Ghirapur to build a purely colourless deck.
A question that I regularly get asked is how do you create a mana base for Tiny Leaders when you are in a singleton format. So I thought I’d cover off my thoughts for the best lands and types of lands in Tiny Leaders.
The Mana Base of Tiny Leaders
I’ve done some extensive research into the format designing decks to compete at the highest level down to budget decks to allow people to enter the format with minimal expense and still compete. I also wanted to be able to play newer players without totally overpowering them in practice so whilst I kept my favourite commander Anafenza, the Foremost with an all common deck and all an uncommon deck excluding the leader of course.
The first consideration is how many colours is your deck going to be, and your budget. There are plenty of lands to choose from which on a practical level means you won’t struggle to put a mana base together no matter what your budget. The problems will be how many of those lands come at a penalty e.g. coming into play tapped or losing life.
Mono-coloured decks you would think are easily built but with the vast array of cards for Magic’s history available you might find some gems waiting for you. A mono white soldier deck could well benefit from Kjeldoran Outpost whilst in a mono black zombies deck a Bokuka Bog adds utility to the deck.
Two colour decks can be the toughest mana base’s to build as whilst there is a deep selection of lands to chose from you have to manage the number of basic lands you will put in your deck against the number of lands that will come into play tapped.
Three coloured decks I find are the most fun to play as you have access to so many different spells to build decks around, it doesn’t have to be a random selection of the best spells on offer. If you have a reasonable budget you’ll be fine as you can utilise Fetch Lands with either Dual or Shock Lands. With a three colour deck you have three shock lands you can draw on straight away with three dedicated fetches meaning a third of your mana base is covered in two cycles of cards.
I usually find seventeen lands will suffice in the majority of decks, whilst you may only need three lands to cast the majority of your deck, there are going to be times when you want to cast multiple spells in a given turn.
This should be an auto include in any multi coloured deck. It’s also inexpensive allowing great colour fixing at minimal cost.
Fetch lands are always going to be useful, they allow you to get an appropriate land for the colour of mana you need to generate and depending upon your budget Dual Lands, Shock Lands and even special lands like Dryad Arbor which is addition to being a Forest is a creature.
The original dual lands are great but are expensive, I’ve seen competitive decks built for the cost of one land.
Still available and pretty much at reasonable prices with the reprints in Return to Ravnica. These are the lands I see more than any others.
With Kaladesh the cycle of fast lands was completed. These are useful in both two and three colour decks, I find these lands solid in a three colour deck as they can ensure you hit your first three land drops all uptight, after turn three you should be able to cast the majority of your deck with three lands with a few niche cases of “X” spells and kicker effects.
These lands will predominately come into play tapped but give you later game utility of additional creatures. With a 50 card deck the flexibility of an additional creature resource will always be welcome.
These are significantly better in a two colour deck than three colour deck, in a three colour deck you can still colour screw too easily if you other lands don’t match one of the filter land. On the plus side the land comes into play upright.
This is one of the few come into play tapped lands that comes with what I feel is positive upside. The Scrying can be useful at any stage of the game.
Check and Reveal Lands
Check Lands e.g. Glacial Fortress, and Reveal Lands e.g. Port Town I’ll group together as they both work in a similar way working with named basic land types. These lands can work really well but you need to ensure the other lands in your deck have basic land type names to maximise their potential.
These lands e.g. Prairie Stream are useful in ensuring Check/Reveal lands work and can be searched out with Fetch Lands. The only draw back is many decks don’t need to use many basic lands so regularly enter tapped.
Bicycle and Cycling Lands
The dual or bicycle lands from Amonkhet have the benefit of being able to be searched with Fetch Lands or in the late game used to draw a card. The original cycling lands work well in mono coloured decks reducing late game redundancy.
These are excellent options when stuck with budgetary constraints for a three colour deck. I still have decks that run these and to have access to all three colours, albeit being from a comes into play tapped land. There are also Lairs from Invasion that can also be played to generate three mana but these come at a cost of bouncing another non lair to your hand.
I’m happy to play these lands as when you start with twenty five life you have a few extra life to play with when managed correctly. There are better options for three colour decks though come into their own if you need some colourless mana too.
I couldn’t really find a name for these lands but land searching albeit with slower drops is possible e.g. Evolving Wilds, Shards of Alara Panorama’s and Mirage uncommon’s e.g. Bad River all allow you to fix your mana base and thin your deck. However, as Tiny Leaders can be a quick format sometimes missing a play from playing a tapped land can put you on the back foot.
These can be very useful lands and once they are in play generate two mana gives you the potential for bigger “X” spells or multiple spells per turn. Much better in two colour deck but passable in three colours.
Lifelands are generally poor but when on a budget they are passable as the one life gained can mitigate the slowness of the lands.
Guildgates are poor dual lands and whilst they can be used they have few benefits. They can be searched out though with specific spells from Return to Ravnica block.
Tiny Leader Sample Decks
So I’m going to do a couple of examples.
White Weenie deck
This is the mana base I would go with, I’ll explain my decisions below.
Now this could be a risky idea as your bringing in five lands that enter tapped.
Emeria, the Sky Ruin will have sufficient plains to give late game. Mistveil Plains also allows us to manipulate the graveyard back into the library. In a format with plenty of tutors and library shuffling you can get to use cards repeatedly.
Drifting Meadow and Secluded Steppe aren’t plains but are useful as they have cycling and allow you to potentially draw out of a situation.
Now depending upon what type of deck you are playing:
Could also feature, Forbidding Watchtower would be worth a slot if the deck is Soldier based and your running Anthem effects to make it bigger or Mobilisation is being used to give creatures vigilance.
Here is a midrange Abzan mana base that I put together:
Temple of Silence
Temple of Plenty
Temple of Malady
We have three Scry lands as they are inexpensive mana fixing, three dual man lands with an additional Treetop Village.
Three fast lands, filter lands, Command Tower and basic lands is potentially slow as about half the mana base comes into play tapped but if your playing a more midrange or controlling deck it’s surprisingly resilient.
If you want some greater insight into land available for your decks and the types of land available can be found at the link below.
I hope the article has answered a few questions and inspired you to make Tiny Leaders decks with your friends.
I envisage that I’ll do further articles on creatures and spells to help you build better decks going forward.