Umara Wizard | Zendikar Rising
23, Apr, 24

Lackluster MTG Precon Mana Bases May Finally Be Improving!

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Article at a Glance

Since their introduction in 2011, preconstructed Commander decks have become a staple within the MTG product calendar. From their humble once-per-year origins, preconstructed Commander decks have exploded in popularity, along with the format. Now, we’re on track to see at least 24 brand-new MTG Commander precon decks launch in 2024 alone.

Thanks to these non-stop releases, Commander has undoubtedly become the most accessible format, by far. Unfortunately, as successful as they’ve been, preconstructed Commander decks aren’t exactly perfect. Not only do the power level and reprint quality of precons vary dramatically, but one element is consistently a letdown.

Regardless of the cost or theme of a precon, it seems that the mana base is a consistent problem. Thankfully, following comments from MTG’s Principal Designer, it appears this unfortunate trend may be getting better. There’s even a chance precons may start getting their own dedicated land cycles!

A Persistent Problem

Sunscorched Divide

As many MTG players will know, precons having disappointing mana bases is nothing new. Previously, the explanation for this has centered around the familiar foe of reprint equity. Since Wizards wants to keep selling packs and products, they can’t make any one thing too good at its price point. Due to this, the mana base for preconstructed decks is seemingly sacrificed every time.

Speaking in a recent video, Gavin Verhey revealed that the issue has a lot more nuance than that. Thanks to the long and deeply entrenched history of MTG, making the mana base for a precon is easier said than done. According to Verhey, who makes a great many Commander precons, this is especially a problem for enemy-colored decks.

For much of MTG’s history, the enemy color pairs were very rarely supported with both new cards and lands. This problem was especially pressing until the release of Apocalypse which released in 2001. Here, the cycle of enemy-color Pain lands was finally finished off after first starting in 1995’s Ice Age.

Unfortunately, while Apocalypse was somewhat of a turning point, the enemy colors in MTG are still underrepresented. To this day, some cycles, such as the Battle Lands from Battle for Zendikar are missing. Thankfully, Wizards of the Coast’s Commander team may be fixing this problem sooner rather than later.

Starting this trend, Wizards of the Coast recently finished the Filter Land cycle from Odyssey. First appearing in the Fallout Commander decks, and again in Outlaws of Thunder Junction, this 20-year-old cycle has finally been finished. In their video, Verhey explained how finishing this cycle required careful planning and coordination with Magic’s other design teams.

Confusingly Incomplete Cycles

Grove of the Burnwillows

Toward the end of their recent video, Verhey admits “We’ve never done much in the way of making new Dual Lands.” Thankfully, Verhey followed this remark by stating that “if people think these go well, it potentially opens us up for more of these in the future.” As we mentioned previously, there are certainly a fair few cycles that could do with being finished.

Currently, BFZ’s Battle Lands, Amonkhet’s Bicycle Lands, the Sac-Draw Lands from Streets of New Cappena, and many of Future Sight’s land cycles are all unfinished cycles. Unfortunately, each of these unfinished cycles isn’t phenomenally powerful, but they’re nonetheless potential design avenues. Out of the myriad options, personally, the “Opponent Boon Lands” from Future Sight feels the most deserving of being finished.

Currently, only one card in this cycle exists; Grove of the Burnwillows. Selling for around $6 on average, there’s clearly decent demand for this thrice-eprinted card. Thanks to this, it stands to reason that the missing nine cards would also be rather popular in Commander. Since the downside isn’t too major by any means, these lands could quickly become a reliable staple within precons.

In a similar vein, it’s utterly baffling that cycle of “Changing Lands” hasn’t been expanded upon. Right now, only River of Tears exists in this cycle, however, this card has been reprinted five times. Throughout the 17 years of its existence, no new card in this cycle has been made. If anything, this just shows that Wizards cycle-finishing experiments are obviously a new innovation.

Given the potential design space, obviously, we hope that Wizards will continue allowing precon designers to finish cycles. Now they’ve trialed this first experiment, we can only hope the next new cards will be arriving soon.

A Brand New Land

Aggressive Crag

On top of finishing off cycles, Verhey concluded their video with a very exciting reveal. Depending on the player reaction, there’s a real chance that new MTG precon decks could get their very own land cycles. Given there’s literally infinite potential for these new cards, they could be a fantastic boon for future decks.

On top of any hypothetical new cycles that Wizards could devise, Verhey also noted the popular, yet surprisingly un-reprinted, Bond Lands. First appearing in Battlebond, these lands are perfect for Commander as they enter tapped “unless you have to or more opponents.” Sadly, during their video, Verhey didn’t confirm this cycle would finally be concluded. Instead, Verhey simply noted this “sounds like a topic for another video someday,” so we’ll have to wait for that to know more.

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