5-Color Commander: Building a Budget Mana Base

Command Tower
There are some fun possibilities with five-color Commander decks, but building an effective mana base seems like a daunting process. How can you get access to every color you need without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on expensive lands? Let me show you!

I've always liked the idea of the "superfriends" Commander deck — Planeswalkers give you so many levers to pull, and assembling a superhero team is a classic trope, whether you prefer the Justice League, the Avengers, or more obscure teams like the Thunderbolts or Honor Gaurd. But for years I assumed there was no way I could build it because it would be too expensive to get all those fetches and shocklands, not to mention Revised duals. I eventually decided to see if I could build it on a budget, using whatever Planeswalkers I already had sitting in binders or toiling in other Commander decks. The proliferation of Planeswalkers in recent years means there are quite a few that are relatively inexpensive, too. Admittedly, any deck with 20 or more Planeswalkers is not going to be strictly budget-friendly, but if you avoid the Jace, the Mind Sculptors of the world, it's actually not too bad.

Then, there's the mana base. It feels like you need a lot of expensive lands to even have a chance, but you can build an effective five-color deck without a single rare land. Keep in mind that, though I was building this for a superfriends deck, the same tech can apply to a sliver deck, a scarecrows/changelings deck, or even the four-color decks coming out later this year (unless you're playing {W}{U}{B}{R}, in which case you'll have to make some larger adjustments).

Your first instinct is going to be to not use any basic lands at all. Just use every common and uncommon land that makes two or more colors, most of which come into play tapped. The problem here is you are entirely at the mercy of chance when it comes to finding the colors you need. You might wait six or seven turns before a land that makes White mana turns up. You can ameliorate this problem somewhat by emphasizing Blue and including plenty of card draw or looting effects. That's a perfectly valid approach; but, after some experimentation, I found it didn't work as well as emphasizing Green.

Using the "Green first" approach, you run two of each basic land type, plus an extra two forests (for four total forests). Then you use a suite of mana fixing Green spells, plus a few artifacts, that can get you exactly what you need. Cards like Farseek, Rampant Growth, and Explosive Vegetation grab whatever you need at the time, and you have just enough basic lands to make it work. Plus, the mana ramp helps you get to Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker mana a turn or two faster. Good old Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse do solid work here as well.

Your next ten lands should be the tri-color lands that come into play tapped. Any one of them takes care of 60 percent of the colors you need. They're invaluable in a five-color deck, and they're very inexpensive. Then, make room for all five Vivid lands. They'll do so much work even if you don't have a Reflecting Pool handy, and by the time they run out of counters you've probably already found the other colors you need.

Finally, fill out your land slots with a variety of lands that make all five colors. Cards like Rupture Spire, Unknown Shores, and Shimmering Grotto seem slow, but slowing down a little isn't always a terrible idea in Commander, especially if the deck tends to draw hate from the rest of the table (as superfriends and slivers do). If you're willing to toss in a rare, City of Brass is certainly budget-friendly, and Mana Confluence isn't too bad either. Rainbow Vale is fun with the right group of players, and Exotic Orchard is better the more people are at the table.

Horde of Notions
We're not done with our ramp spells yet, however. Now that we've added a bunch of non-basic lands to the deck, we need ways to find them. Spells like Realms Uncharted, Tempt with Discovery, and Sylvan Scrying will grab whatever tri-color land you need to get all your colors, or even your Command Tower. Expedition Map is a good call here, too. Finally, use a few slots in your deck for cheap artifacts that make any color of mana. Commander’s Sphere is great, Chromatic Lantern is amazing, and Manalith gets the job done. No need to mess around with Cluestones or Keyrunes.

Now that the mana base is settled, there are a few odds and ends to keep that five-color engine running smoothly. First, most of your lands come into play tapped, so you might as well throw in that Amulet of Vigor you've been saving. Orb of Dreams levels the playing field, but won't win you any friends. Though it is hilarious in a superfriends deck when it causes, for instance, your Tamiyo to enter the battlefield tapped and you give everyone your real-life version of the shrug emoji. Frozen Aether and Kismet are options if you want to push farther into this "slow everyone else down" direction.

Let's take a look at the five-color budget mana base in action. Here is the superfriends deck I built it for. My friends and I call it the Great Lakes Avengers deck since it was built using the "worst" Planeswalkers, although over time I've added to it and the lineup is a bit more formidable. My goal is 25 Planeswalkers total — not quite there yet. I'm currently running Horde of Notions in the Commander seat because Progenitus drew even more hate than a board full of Planeswalkers usually does, and Horde actually does good work pressuring opponents while staying up to block.

5-Color Superfriends — EDH | Ed Grabianowski

Commander (1)
Creatures (6)
Planeswalkers (23)
Spells (33)
Lands (37)
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In addition to the mana fixing Green spells and artifacts, the cards in this deck fall into three general categories:

1). Planewalkers matter. These cards are obvious choices, including all the oaths except Chandra's (which is bad even in a two-player game, and utterly inconsequential in multiplayer), Call the Gatewatch and Deploy the Gatewatch, and The Chain Veil. Call the Gatewatch is simply great for getting the exact Planewalker you need for a given board state, or just whatever one seems most fun. Deploy the Gatewatch will completely whiff now and then, but most of the time you will drop a pair of Planewalkers directly onto the battlefield and yell, "Avengers, Assemble!" and just feel really good about life, at least for a little while. The Chain Veil can make this deck do insane things, so much so that I'm running one Fabricate just to double my chances of drawing it.

2). Fog effects. A few early trial runs showed me that everyone at the table freaks out about Planeswalkers, even when they're not doing anything terribly threatening. It's almost impossible to protect them when everyone starts gunning for you. Fog effects do a really good job of keeping Planeswalkers alive. We want to cheapest ones possible, since we want to be casting more Planeswalkers each turn, but still keeping mana up for a Fog if needed. Moment’s Peace is especially good, since most opponents forget it's in your graveyard, and you can surprise Fog them with an empty hand. The versatility of Dawn Charm, frost effect from Tangle, and life gain from Respite all make those exemplary Fog cards as well.

3). Five-color fun. Some cards that you would normally never look at twice become really interesting when you've got easy access to all five colors. The deck is mostly creature-less, not counting all the tokens your walkers generate, but Woodland Wanderer is too good to pass up. A 6/6 with trample and vigilance is exactly what you need to hold off attackers and put pressure on your opponents. Brilliant Spectrum, Etched Oracle, and Painful Truths can refill your hand when needed, and gaining five life every turn from Clearwater Goblet will keep you in the game. All Suns’ Dawn is ridiculous in the late game ("Oh look, all those Planeswalkers you desperately fought through my Fogs to kill are now back in my hand!").

There are a few odds and ends in there, like removal spells (Gild exiles things and gives you mana fixing) and a sweeper or two, plus a couple of cards that are just fun in Commander. Watching your opponents debate which mode on Library of Lat-Nam to give you never gets old. Privileged Position protects your superteam, and Reclaim can bring them back from the dead. You could throw in Eternal Witness for more of this kind of effect, too. But for the most part the win condition is to ultimate one of your Planeswalkers in a way that hopefully ends the game, or at least makes it possible for you to kill everyone with various token creatures. As I tweak and evolve this deck, I want to add a few more Planeswalkers, then start diversifying them so I don't have as many different versions of Jace and Sarkhan in the deck. Drawing multiple versions of the same Planeswalker can leave one dead in your hand, and occasionally makes Deploy the Gatewatch a huge bummer.

Keep in mind that, when this deck starts humming and you have four or five Planeswalkers on the board, your turns can take a very long time. You're essentially casting four or more free spells every turn, each of them usually bringing a bunch of cool but complex interactions. Be aware of this and plan your turns as well as you can ahead of time to keep the game moving and keep it fun for your friends. In fact, I'm considering cutting a few Fog effects so that they're more of an emergency save that happens once or twice a game, rather than the total shut down they can be when you're running seven of them along with lots of card drawing. If you're the only one at the table having fun, that's not a good Commander deck. Be cool, Commanders.

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