Today's Flores Rewards Friday will be divided into four parts:

1. Treatise on the mana base
2. Easter egg
3. That time I kicked myself, and finally
4. The solution

For the super boring amongst y'all, y'all can go ahead and jump to "the solution" (NOT recommended).


Treatise on the Mana Base

To start, let's talk about the All-Stars mana base, how we got there, and how we might make it better!

Despite the catalyst of Siege Rhino, the deck only has a total of four white pips; and despite the Sidisi engine it only has a total of five blue ones (and that fifth pip on Sagu Mauler isn't even inside the deck's germ). That means we can get away with about eight sources of white and blue mana (respectively); which is further discounted by the presence of Satyr Wayfinder and Sylvan Caryatid. Yes, yes...eight sources is more than either four or five actual pips to cast with those sources.

On balance we need about fourteen black sources because this deck is nothing but BB on Whip of Erebos, Hero's Downfall, Soul of Innistrad, etc.

It goes without saying that we will take more black, blue, and white mana if you're giving it away but fourteen and eight are where the boundaries are.

The tricky thing when making a mana base like this is that we are pretty much stuck playing slow lands. Being four colors we can't really get away with relying on fast / painful mana alone; we will start with Opulent Palace and Sandsteppe Citadel. That makes for at least eight lands that always enter the battlefield tapped.

What many players ask at this point is how many lands that enter the battlefield tapped are too many; this is not the right question. The right question is how many lands we have that come into play untapped. Think about it like this: There isn't actually an upper limit to how many lands you play that come into play tapped for purposes of your minimum mana access. You can always add more and more up to sixty. Your deck will be flooded if you add too many, but that is a different problem.

Long story short, the accepted answer is fourteen. You want at least fourteen lands that enter the battlefield untapped (and for this deck, as many of them being green as possible).

So for a deck that is going to have about twenty-four lands we need:

• Fourteen lands that enter the battlefield untapped
• Fourteen lands that make black
• Eight lands that make blue
• Eight lands that make white
• Lots and lots of green

Once you know all these things, the mana base makes itself!

Now given that we must Must MUST play eight clan-lands, that means we only have sixteen lands to play with.

The first four are obvious: Llanowar Wastes. Llanowar Wastes satisfies both our desire for black mana and our desire for lands that enter the battlefield untapped.

You might notice that between our eight clan-lands and four Llanowar Wastes we have twelve sources of black already. What next? I was tempted to play Temple of Malady, but the presence of Courser of Kruphix lets us accomplish a little cheating: Polluted Delta is a quasi-source of black mana that also lets us cheat on a blue source without adding too many non-green producing lands.

One Plains to go with four Windswept Heaths gives us the implication for our balance of Forests. We even have five total basics appropriate to four copies of Windswept Heath; it's not "wrong" to play "too many" fetch lands, but I hate it. So...super happy with 4+1. Ta-da!

4 Forest
1 Island
1 Plains
1 Swamp
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Opulent Palace
1 Polluted Delta
4 Sandsteppe Citadel
4 Windswept Heath

• Number of lands: 24
• Number of lands that enter the battlefield untapped: 16 (better than 14 target!)
• Number of sources of green mana: 20
• Number of sources of black mana: 14 (on target)
• Number of sources of white mana: 9 (better than 8 target)
• Number of sources of blue mana: 6 (oh no!)

So why did I go through all of this to fail at the one yard line?

Well, from one dimension you can say that the "eight sources for a single pip" guideline is for traditional sixty-card decks; this deck actually functions "smaller" than sixty thanks to Courser of Kruphix and Satyr Wayfinder (who are both also good at getting lands, and digging for blue lands). You can also point out that six blue sources is actually a larger number than the actual count of blue pips in the deck.

All of these things would be true.

But instead I will just tell the truth: Monday's deck was an Alpha build, and we only improve by making mistakes and consequently making adjustments based on them. If I were to actually play this deck I would revise to this mana base:

3 Forest
1 Island
1 Plains
1 Swamp
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Opulent Palace
1 Polluted Delta
4 Sandsteppe Citadel
1 Temple of Mystery
3 Windswept Heath
1 Yavimaya Coast

• Number of lands: 24
• Number of lands that enter the battlefield untapped: 15 (down one, but still better than 14)
• Number of sources of green mana: 20 (deuce)
• Number of sources of black mana: 14 (deuce)
• Number of sources of white mana: 8 (on 8 target)
• Number of sources of blue mana: 8 (now on target)

We could have gone with two copies of Yavimaya Coast or two copies of Temple of Mystery; I am enthused by neither taking extra damage on an ongoing basis nor having a ninth land that enters the battlefield tapped. BUT! It's not clear what is best at this stage of this new deck. Mana Confluence and Evolving Wilds are also options, mind you. What is sure is that our cards are powerful and that being able to cast them is likely to put us in good position to score in this Standard format.


Easter Egg:

Not sure if Frank did this on purpose, or should I say purposss.

('Twas an accident, but I did leave it there on purposss. - Frank)


That Time I Kicked Myself

So, like last week, I decided to forego my own prize-giveaway rights this week.

Why?

Here's our scenario for the week:

What did I do?

I snap-played Forest, Elvish Mystic.

This is one of those plays that I knew was wrong as soon as I clicked the Forest; but once I played the Forest I basically had to play the Elvish Mystic.

This play is not the best, I knew it was not the best as soon as I made the click, so couldn't in good conscience reward anyone for making it.

So what's wrong with Forest à Elvish Mystic?

I've played tons and tons of Sylvan Caryatid / Courser of Kruphix Magic these past weeks, but always in Green Devotion shells. My decks from the Open and the Grand Prix Trial had a sum total of four lands that entered the battlefield tapped each. You were more likely to be Nykthos-screwed than pinned under too many slow-lands with those decks.

So the myelin in my green-playing brain just got super used to playing Elvish Mystic immediately. Elvish Mystic is a powerhouse first turn play in either Devotion or GR Rabblemaster decks due to the ability to hit a godly three on turn two. It's actually quite good in this deck too, sometimes.

But not when all your other spells in hand are all BB.

The Elvish Mystic play only pays off if you draw Sylvan Caryatid immediately, less than 8% of the time; that means that playing the accelerator actually sets you behind 92+% of the time. Why? You are essentially committed to playing back-to-back slow lands to play any of the BB cards you already actually have. You have no possible draws that let you play a turn two Courser of Kruphix, but playing turn two Elvish Mystic lets you play any of your four drops on turn three (and as we've noted at length, the four drops are hella gas).

While you can actually play Satyr Wayfinder if you draw it with the Elvish Mystic play, it doesn't actually help you get into BB range unless you flip one of six cards; I don't think that this is an angle to play for.

Ergo, 100% of all prizes now hinge on the answer of this week's Celebrity Guest!


The Solution

This week's solution comes care of Celebrity Guest and reigning Rookie of the Year Jared Boettcher!

Jared?

"So the play in my eyes is Opulent Palace tapped, and ship the turn back.

"Starting off with my opponent passing after playing the Abzan tri-land leads me to believe he's either on Abzan or the mirror (unlikely). After that I can figure out how to sequence my next couple of turns and prioritize what cards are more important and how reactive I need to be.

"Assuming he's on the normal non-Deathdealer Abzan plan, I want to be able to cast Hero's Downfall on turn three in case he plays a Sylvan Caryatid into Siege Rhino; that way he can't over-pressure me with Wingmate Roc. That also lets me play Elvish Mystic + either tap-land or Forest + Sylvan Caryatid if I draw Caryatid next. This still allows me to play Hero's Downfall on turn three and not lose too much of a tempo swing. This play also allows us to play Whip on turn three, assuming we draw Caryatid or non-tap land, and assuming our Elf lives for a turn.

"The only way we get punished for this is if he Thoughtseizes on his turn two, but he's probably going to take whip, which we can't really protect this early anyway. All of our other important cards besides Wayfinder are three or more mana, so playing the Mystic on turn one doesn't accomplish anything relevant or beneficial. It instead makes us strain our mana and potentially Time Walk ourselves."

Jared Boettcher's Play: Opulent Palace tapped, pass.


Jared and I chatted a bit about Opulent Palace versus Sandsteppe Citadel on this one. Given our current hand, if we play Opulent Palace we are very likely to play Sandsteppe Citadel on the second turn and vice versa (along with the Elvish Mystic). One is slightly better if we draw Sidisi and one is slightly better if we draw Siege Rhino, but 1) there is an equal chance of drawing either at this point, and 2) other things have to happen in order to make one better than the other anyway. So, there isn't a huge difference between these two plays in terms of what we can do but there is a difference in terms of what we represent.

My instincts were that Sandsteppe Citadel is better because when you see Sandsteppe Citadel I think you invariably say to yourself "oh, a Siege Rhino deck" (which we are). My thinking here is that we can slightly hide our identity. Yet I don't think that it is necessarily the case with Opulent Palace that you say to yourself "oh, a Brood Tyrant deck" (which to be fair, we are). Opulent Palace has a much broader range of spice. There is a mite better bit of gamesmanship on the U land versus the W one, but little game play difference in terms of our capabilities; and seizing on even minor bits of gamesmanship can increase our wins over time.

So!

For his play of Opulent Palace, Nate Willis takes home $25 in TCGplayer store credit.

For his play of Opulent Palace, Jonathan Berg also takes home $25 in TCGplayer store credit.

Make sure you send a message (not a wall post) to our Facebook page - MTGatTCGplayer - to claim your prizes!

Congratulations to Nate Willis and Jonathan Berg! You've made the same play as (if Reddit can be believed) the next Kai Budde.

Thanks for reading and thanks for playing everyone! I'll be back Monday, with hopefully a vote in my own column again.

LOVE
MIKE

Jared Boettcher is the reigning Rookie of the Year. He is an Open Series champion, platinum level pro, and one hell of a mage. You can follow him on Twitter at @illethia