This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series Ancient Wisdom

By Fred Cole aka OLD MAN FRED

its the catFred’s General EDH Disclaimer:
My first exposure to the term YMMV on the internet was on the EDH rules page. After asking six people all at once on AIM what it meant, only one was able to tell me. It means Your Mileage May Vary. That means what I’m about to say, while written to be as broad as possible, is not applicable to every person in every play group everywhere. If some guy in your play group uses Evil Eye of Orms-By-Gore in every deck, and that somehow makes what I’m about to say totally wrong, don’t flame me. Your mileage may vary.

It’s a myth, and I’ve heard it propagated before, at least once, on a certain podcast, that you need dual lands to play five colors in EDH*. That’s a damn lie. Some lies are utterly harmless, and other lies harmful. The lie that you need dual lands to play five colors in EDH is the second category because it constitutes a barrier to entry into a fun, casual format that doesn’t really have any real barriers to entry (other than owning cards). That lie is a conceptual error, and it keeps people from playing the decks and generals they want. After all, who is going to invest money in expensive cards, or use expensive cards in their Atogatog EDH deck?

Today we’re going to shatter that horrible lie that sucks the joy out of life. After reading this, you’ll be liberated, you’ll finally be free of worry, and now you can play your Atogatog deck in all its glory. What follows is suggestions on how to build your mana base on the cheap, without dual lands, without Onslaught/Zendikar sac lands, and without Ravnica block shock lands. This is How To Play Five Colors On The Cheap.

EDH is a special format in that it’s slow, and so it gives you the chance to play things you wouldn’t/couldn’t play in other formats. It’s not glacially slow (despite popular conception) unless you choose make it so. So we can play more CIPT (Comes into play tapped) lands than you might want to play in a typical constructed format where there’s a clock ticking and somebody’s Jackal Pup nipping at your heels.

First of all, get the number right please.
Many years ago I read a complicated mathematical analysis on the correct number of lands in a 60 card deck. After some complicated math, which I skimmed, the conclusion was 24 land in a 60 card deck. Twenty four lands gives you the highest probability of a fourth turn land drop with the lowest probability of a mana flood (depending on how you define the term). What is a “fourth turn land drop”? That means you drop one land on turns one, two, three and four. Ask yourself if you want to have a land drop turns one, two, three and four. The answer, of course, is yes, since you’re playing EDH and playing five colors. If it’s 24 lands for 60 cards, that’s a spell to land ratio of 3:2, three spells to two land, in other words, 40 lands.

So, forty lands is your minimum. Some people think they can get away with 30. Those people are wrong. Play forty, and then some spells and artifact fixers. But don’t play 30 land, especially with five colors, and cry about getting mana screwed every game.

Further, I feel the need to address something: Some people have complained that there are no four color legends to be used as generals in Magic. True enough. Some play groups allow Nephilim to be played as a general. I have no problem with that. Mark Rosewater said in a recent column if he had it to do over again or could change it, he would have made them legends.

The problem is this: Playing five colors is a design commitment. You need to commit design space and resources to playing five colors. You need certain infrastructure in your deck to make the thing come out right.

If you’re going to commit to four colors and play a Nephalim as general, you might as well add the fifth color and play a useful general. The Nephalim were a joke when they were printed. There was one, and only one, that was somewhat playable. Why would you choose to play only four colors, and be saddled with a suboptimal general, just to avoid playing one color? What color are you going to leave out? Every color has something worthwhile to offer. You might as well play five colors and have a semi useful general (Unless you are a combo player, in which case I have no mercy for you).

Onto the lands:

-Vivid Creek cycle: This is a cycle of lands that CIPT, have a couple of counters and fry the counters to produce mana of any color. They’re nice. They’re cheap. They’re easy to get. I don’t use them because I don’t care for them. It’s just a matter of personal preference.

-The cheap sac lands: Terramorphic Expanse and Evolving Wilds. I was very happy when both these lands were printed. I really like when WotC reduces the barriers for playing multiple colors. Terramorphic Expanse was a huge boon to me. Common and uncommon mana fixing lands have been the trend in the last four or five years. You might as well use both in any EDH deck that’s two colors or more AND has some basic lands. (I once ended up cutting these staples from a deck because the deck no longer had enough basic lands to justify them.)

-The Mirage sac lands: Bad River, Flood Plain, etc. They’re like Terramorphic Expanse, except they get certain basic land types. The advantage is, these are cheaper than their Onslaught cousins. The disadvantage is they’re hard to get a hold of. They were printed in 1996, and around 1998, people put them in their garbage boxes, so they may be hard to find.

-The Shards Tri-Lands: Arcane Sanctum, Crumbling Necropolis, etc. I love these cards. I’m always made my focus on building a very utilitarian personal collection, so if some day I want to build something, I have the basic resources necessary to do it. When these came out, I got as many as possible. In any trade where they were in anyone’s trade binder, I pulled them out. As a result, I have many of them. The CIPT “disadvantage” is no such thing. They are utterly worth playing. Any five color deck should begin with one of each. The Shards Tri-Lands are what allows players without dual lands to play five color.

-Rupture Spire: This was another card that I love. This is so simple, and it’s a common. It’s common and uncommon cards like this that makes five colors available to people without dual lands. This is an auto include. EDH is a slow enough format where this card is playable and essential.

-The five color lands: City of Brass[card]/[card]Grand Coliseum, Gemstone Mine, Exotic Orchard. I have a romantic sentimental attachment to City of Brass. I started playing Magic in 1995. So I saw City of Brass[card] get reprinted in Chronicles. The card is great, but it has an important drawback. No, not the ping. Well, yeah, maybe the ping. That ping a couple of times is no bother, especially in EDH. The problem is it pings every time it’s tapped. So not just when you get colored mana from it, it’s anytime it taps. Some jerk with an Icy Manipulator[/card] can not only tap you down, but ping you, over and over and over. And sometimes that ping can matter late game. Around 2000 or so, City of Brass went out of style, so they should be cheap and easy to get.

When Onslaught came out they fixed City of Brass. Grand Coliseum has the CIPT drawback, and it pings you for any color, but it also produces colorless at no penalty, so later in the game when there isn’t the urgent pressing need for specific color mana, you don’t get pinged, but early game when you have that absolute need for specific mana of specific colors, it’s available. I’m not above playing both in five colors. The good thing is nobody played it, and nobody wanted it, so they should be cheap to pick up.

Gemstone Mine is another card I have a sentimental attachment to. It produces five colors, and comes into play untapped. Otherwise, you could just use vivid lands and get similar results.

Exotic Orchard is indeed a rare. It is the land version of Fellwar Stone, that means it taps for colors your opponent’s lands could produce. So if your opponent has a Vivid Creek, a Command Tower, a Rupture Spire, a City of Brass, a Grand Coliseum, a Gemstone Mine, or many other such lands, it produces five colors without any effort on your part. Just don’t blow up their City of Brass and you’re in business. This is a must include.

-M10/M11/M12 lands: Dragonskull Summit, Drowned Catacomb, etc. If you’re reading this and don’t have a full play set of these lands, please go out and get them. These are rares, but they’re cheap and accessible, and in print. There are certain things every magic player needs in their basic collection, basic deck building elements, so they can build things they want, on the spot, without trading. Lands are part of that. As of this writing, without looking hard, I find Drowned Catacomb (which, if there’s a difference in price, should be the most expensive) at four bucks each. Lots of rares in Magic aren’t worth their high price. These don’t have a high price, and they’re worth the money (These, by the way, are also cards I pick up whenever I see them).

-Odyssey Filter Lands – These have been over shadowded since their printing by other much better lands, but they’re a good compliment, and good filler. The added bonus is that they’ve achieved chaff status and are super cheap to pick up.

-Invasion lands, Coldsnap lands, Zendikar duals – These are all cycles of uncommon CIPT simple duals. The Invasion ones have no tricks, the Coldsnap ones are snow Lands, the Zendikar duals gain you one life when they come into play. When I saw the Zendikar ones I thought that WotC must be out of ideas for them. These are all really cheap. The Invasion ones were even reprinted. There’s no shame in playing them. There are other options that are better, but not everyone has access to every card. If you’re going to play the Coldsnap ones, I recommend including one of each basic snow land and Into the North, which lets you tutor up a snow land of your choice.

I want to say that the above suggestions are by no means exhaustive, and my General Disclaimer still applies. Don’t let anyone look down on you for playing with these in place of ten dual lands and 10 sac lands. I have a deck like that, and I often leave it at home because if it gets stolen, I’m probably out nearly a grand. And if there’s a thief in the store, he’s got an eye on the deck with ten dual lands, not the deck with Rupture spire.

There’s also a potential political advantage. If you’re at a store, and you’re playing in an EDH pickup game with people you don’t necessarily know, who would you attack? The guy with five beta dual lands on the table? Or the guy with the white bordered Costal Tower and using Atogatog as a general? If they start to beat down on you, you can play your trump card: “C’mon. You’re really worried about the guy with the Atogatog deck?”

So get out there! Build your five color deck! And don’t let anyone tell you that you need dual lands to play five colors in EDH!

*I call it EDH. I’m old and it’s hard to change. I use old terms and it takes me a few years to adapt. Also: It’s less keystrokes.

Fred’s Bonus:
Just so no one thinks I’m being unfair to Atogatog, and to show I put my money where my mouth is, here is the list for my Atogatog EDH deck, presented without comment:


The Atogs:
Dr. Teeth

The Artifacts:
Zuran Orb
Mycosynth Wellspring
Temporal Aperture
Tumble Magnet
Akroma’s Memorial
Icy Manipulator
Nevvy’s Disk
Crucible of Worlds
Ichor Wellspring
Darksteel Plate
Plague Boiler
Crystal Ball
Myr Matrix
Mimic Vat
Horn of Greed
Fellwar Stone
Expedition Map

The Creatures:
Hanna, Ship’s Navigator
Qasali Pridemage
Myr Propagator
Trinket Mage
Myr Retriever
Myr Sire
Mother of Runes

The Spells:
Life from the Loam
Fact or Fiction
Constant Mists
Distant Memories
Realms Uncharted

The Enchantments:
Rites of Flourishing
Mirrari’s Wake
Heartbeat of Spring
Oblivion Ring
Trade Routes
Battle Mastery
Asha’s Favor
Maelstrom Nexus
Seal of Cleansing
Sylvan Library
Frozen Æther

The Lands:
City of Brass
Grand Coliseum
Exotic Orchard
Krosan Verge
Skarrg, the Rage Pits
Gods’ Eye, Gate to the Keikai
Volrath’s Stronghold
Kabira Crossroads
Khalni Garden
Terramorphic Expanse
Urza’s Mine
Urza’s Tower
Urza’s Power Plant
Darksteel Citidel
Ancient Den
Tree of Tales
Seat of the Synod
Vault of Whispers
Great Furnace
Savage Lands
Crumbling Necropolis
Arcane Sanctum
Jungle Shrine
Seaside Citadel
Three of each basic land

**Okay. I’ll include one comment. Stasis is in here for a reason. Without it, Chronotog is an utter and total piece of shit. I’ve won many games with finely tuned Chronatog-Stasis decks. This deck is neither finely tuned, nor designed to get the lock out and working. There’s one veto-able tutor. In fact, the lock (the third part being [/card]Frozen Æther[card]) depends on drawing and casting three specific cards in a 100 card singleton deck. This deck has no counters, no disruption, and, frankly, no way to stop anyone from breaking the lock once I play those three cards. That’s why I feel justified in playing one Stasis in the deck. I mean, its an Atog deck ffs.

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