The question I get asked most when I post deck templates and deck lists is this:

“Do you really run 14 mana fixing spells in your decks?”

Let me put this question to rest. Yes, I absolutely run 14+ mana fixing spells in the vast majority of my decks. My personal decks have two staple numbers- 38 lands and 14 mana fixing spells. Higher curves will have both more lands and more ramp. My signature with deck building is usually low curve, high speed decks that rely on card synergies (non-infinite combos) in place of individually powerful cards.

Math

Before everyone gets too excited about my mana distribution, let’s look at some very simple math. In a recent Star City Games Open Top 16, land counts ranged between 21 and 25. The clear majority of decks ran 24 lands; that’s 40% of the deck dedicated to lands in a Standard deck. Now, compare that to the 38% of lands run in an average Commander deck.

Unless a Commander deck has a lower curve than a Standard deck, you are going to need to run mana fixing to get on the same consistency level to be able to reliably cast spells.  Looking at the actual decklists, nearly half the decks ran a significant amount of fixing in Courser of Kruphix, Sylvan Caryatid, Elvish Mystic, and Xenagos the Reveler. Some even go beyond that to run Nissa, Worldwaker. Another 20-30% of those deck makeups are fixing and mana fixing. If a Standard deck can regularly run 60-70% as mana and ramp, then as a reality check going with 52%+ in a commander deck shouldn’t be shocking.

I’m not saying that you should feel compelled to follow my lead on mana, but it shouldn’t be seen as an incredible or outlandish amount of mana to pump into a deck.

Multi-Purpose

As many readers are probably screaming at their monitor or getting ready to post into the comments, not all of those cards are just ramp. They are attackers, creature buffs, lifegain, and card advantage as well. When I say I put fourteen mana ramp/fixers into a deck, it’s not literally fouteen Sol Rings and Cultivates. Whenever possible, mana fixers should be able to do more than just make mana. Let’s look at my oldest deck, Arcum Dagsson;

  1. Mox Opal
  2. Mox Diamond
  3. Mana Crypt
  4. Sol Ring
  5. Mana Vault
  6. Voltaic Key
  7. Grim Monolith
  8. Silver Myr
  9. Plague Myr
  10. Mind Stone
  11. Power Artifact
  12. Mana Drain
  13. Metalworker
  14. Basalt Monolith
  15. Solemn Simulacrum
  16. Thran Dynamo
  17. Clock of Omens
  18. Tezzeret the Seeker
  19. Gilded Lotus

Some of these cards are obviously here for more than making mana – Clock of Omens, Tezzeret, and Voltaic Key have a lot of utility. Sad Robot and Mind Stone provide card draw. Mana Drain doubles as a control spell. The Monoliths, Power Artifact, and Metalworker are used in infinite combos. All the creatures do double duty as Arcum targets. That leaves six cards that are there just for mana; however, even they can be used for more than that.  Karn, Silver Golem or Tezzeret can make artifacts become creatures to attack or as targets for Arcum. They are resources to give up to tutor with Artificer’s Intuition, Reshape, and Transmute Artifact. As artifact mana, they also get around being locked when Arcum puts a Winter Orb out to slow down the green decks.

Mana fixing doesn’t have to be the exclusive purpose for everycard that can be considered mana fixing.

Playing with Heavy Ramp

One of the concerns people have voiced to me is that with so much ramp, the deck would be more likely to have dead draws of nothing but land and ramp. I use a 1:1 ratio of fixing to card advantage in decks to counteract this. That means for every card that provides mana fixing, I have at least one card that tutors, draws, scrys, etc. That way, I still have access to the more fun parts of the deck while also progressing my mana position. In Arcum, the mirror nineteen are;

  1. Artificer’s Intuition
  2. Beacon of Tomorrows
  3. Blue Sun’s Zenith
  4. Codex Shredder
  5. Consecrated Sphinx
  6. Cryptic Command
  7. Fabricate
  8. Kuldotha Forgemaster
  9. Mind Stone
  10. Planar Portal
  11. Scarecrone
  12. Scroll Rack
  13. Sensei’s Divining Top
  14. Solemn Simulacrum
  15. Staff of Domination
  16. Tezzeret the Seeker
  17. Transmute Artifact
  18. Treasure Mage
  19. Trinket Mage

The 1:1 ratio is important to me as I have a solid belief that you don’t get to play the cards you really want based off just the speed of a deck or its consistency. If a player really wants to experience their full deck, they should aim to both be able to have their favorite cards in hand, and also be able to cast them as soon as possible.

Conclusion

The goal of having 14+ mana fixers and 14+ instances of card advantage is not based on a desire to win as many games as possible. I landed with those numbers because I prefer contributing to a Commander game more than I like watching a Commander game. If I include Warp World in a deck, you can be sure that I am hoping to cast it for some crazy chaos shenanigans. This gives me the best chance of that.

All of that said, I will still stick with a theme to a fault. I don’t think that either mana or card advantage should take away from a theme. The flavor of my deck is more important to me than straight efficiency; if you look at my Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker deck, you won’t see the same ramp as in Arcum. You will see cards like Basal Thrull, Blood Pet, and Ashnod’s Altar in place of ‘better’ cards.

Hopefully next time you see one of my lists, you won’t think I’m quite as crazy as you did before.

-STP
@SwordsToPlow