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Insider: Your Manabase and You

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I’m about waist deep in Limited PTQ season, which is normally a pretty awesome time for me. Unfortunately, I find this to be one of the most awful sealed formats I’ve ever had the pleasure to participate in. None-the-less, the grind rolls on as I try to get as prepared as possible for the upcoming GP San Diego here in my home town. Part of this process has involved some roadtrips, one of which is a newer member to our clan of grinders. As he falls deeper and deeper into the world of Magic we all love, he’s starting to “binderize” his cards, and add value to his events through trading, and slowly build a constructed deck. He was so focused on trading for pieces to build Solar Flare, by the time he had the deck nearly built, it had fallen out of favor in the metagame, and he said, “Why do I even bother?!” I told him his methodology was all wrong.

In this game, you have to be able to cast your spells. 5-color decks have been impossible since the rotation of Reflecting/Vivid manabases in Standard, and are very unlikely to exist ever again. Just like you need appropriate mana to cast your spells, you need an appropriate manabase to build any constructed deck, or to maintain any respectable tradestock. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing the Tier 1 stock U/B control deck, or a Tezzeret deck or a homebrew U/B infect deck, you’re gonna need 4x Darkslick Shores. End of story.

Unlike my roadtrip cab-mate, my binder is actually kind of bare of most of the highly desirable non-land cards. I tend to ship those out as quickly as possible, when they see any type of spike in price. Spells are volatile, they fall in and out of favor as soon as a new article goes up on StarCityGames.com. Lands on the other hand, are stable. Stable is good. At the end of every event, i hope to have more lands in my binder than when I left, and less spells. I don’t expect pricing to change much before my next opportunity to trade. About 3-4 months ago, I reccomended stocking up on Scars lands before rotation, at the time they ranged from $2-4. Now you see why. I’m really glad I kept playsets of each tucked away so I can play with them, I’ve since cashed out all extras I had for Legacy goodies in the last couple weeks.

Darkslick Shores: ~$10-11
Seachrome Coast: ~$12-13
Copperline Gorge: ~$8-9
Blackcleave Cliffs: ~$4-5
Razorverge Thicket: ~$9-10

Cue the music: “One of these things just doesn’t belong here, one of these things just doesn’t belong. One of these things just ain’t like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong.”

Can someone tell me why Blackcleave Cliffs is half the price of the next cheapest Scars land? Sure, B/R is not exactly a hot color combination in standard right now, but neither is U/W really. Mono R decks are splashing G for Kessig Wolf Run, and there’s not enough vampires to support the sweet Vampire tribe we’ve seen thus far. It is presumed that with the arrival of Sorin at somepoint in this block, that the Vampire tribe will get continued support, and B/R decks always have a way of poking back into Standard. Does this mean buy up any Blackcleave Cliffs you can find? Eh, maybe not, but picking up a set if you need it seems fine, and holding on to any extras you already own for a spike in price seems even better. I’d even suggest trading away extras of the others and getting a hold of some Blackcleave Cliffs. You should be able to get about 2-for-1 or more. Standard season is a ways away, so even if the other Scars lands dip back down a bit, there will be another spike when season rolls around. Be prepared to jump in on a dip if you haven’t already.

I want to also make a quick comment on Inkmoth Nexus. It’s hot right now at $15, which is not that surprising. A lot of decks can play it. Keep in mind Reflecting Pool was a reprint (before Mythics existed) that went in almost every deck and it got up to as high as $20. That’s got to be the absolute ceiling for a Standard rare land. I wouldn’t expect Inkmoth to creep any higher than it already has.

In the world of post-Mythic Magic, WotC has claimed to keep manabase at the Rare slot, keeping it affordable. Unfortunately, lands are the only thing that are used in such a large span of decks, and even though they aren’t mythics, can fetch a pretty penny. The best strategy for anyone trying to get into the game is living off the cycle of Standard Manabases. As you increase value with each transition you can be increasing volume on your speculations year after year. This has been a big part of my speculation model as I rebuild my collection going forward.

What does this tell us about Innistrad lands? Quite a lot actually. These are starting to fall in price rapidly as product is opened, but remember this article next year around this time when you “missed the chance” to make money on the Innistrad lands. It’s a cycle, and using each year’s knowledge to build for next year is crucial. Notice, unsurprisingly, that the Blue lands reach the highest peaks. This explains why I’m trading all of my Isolated Chapels for Sulfur Falls and Hinterland Harbors. B/W is not often a desirable combination, and a year from now I hope to cash in on some of these long term speculations. In the meantime, I get to assure myself access to any manabase for any deck, and at worst will have to borrow a few key spells to attend an event. Build your collection on a solid manabase, and you will have the tools to succed year in and year out.

7 thoughts on “Insider: Your Manabase and You

  1. What do you think the chances are that these will get reprinted in M13? That's really the only thing thats holding me back from getting in on some as the prices fall.

    1. Pretty slim IMO. Not sure why, maybe its the names, like "razorverge" and "darkslick" are all very mirrodin/phyrexian names. fits on that plane better than "drowned catacombs" "glacial fortress" more generic names.

    2. I just realized you may have been referencing the Innistrad Lands. Hm. Really hard to say. I would think that because standard season typically starts before the m13 release, you'll have a chance to get out of them if you need to.

  2. Hey Chad! I've been picking up Blackcleave Cliffs for a while now, even buying 2x Foils from Medina about a month ago for $5 ea! I also feel they are a stong buy since this is the first set of a new block, and we have 2x more sets to go that will build on what they're doing in Innistrad. They are def trying to push a B/R vampire tribe, so it's only a matter of time before these will be back in demand. (LOL check out that article I submitted to you!)

    I'd like to point out however that the U/W (Seachrome Cliffs) ARE seeing a TON of play right now, just not in U/W control… U/W aggro-geist is where it's at! 3 of the top 8 decks at GP Hiroshima played them as 4x. 🙂

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