Some Khans of Tarkir terminology:

  • Banners are a cycle of mana rocks that can be sacrificed to draw a card (e.g., Abzan Banner).
  • Wedge lands enter tapped and produce one of three colors (e.g., Mystic Monastery).
  • Life lands enter tapped, gain 1 life when played, and produce one of two colors (e.g., Dismal Backwater).

How do you know how many banners to play in your deck?

I've been practicing with this sealed pool generator, and on average, I get 1 Wedge Land and 2-3 Life Lands. Is that enough mana fixing? Would you guys advise throwing in 1-2 (maybe not 3) banners? Going to the basics of deck building for sealed pool, it's supposed to be 17 lands, 17 creatures, and 6 other spells. If you throw in 2 banners to fix your mana, it would only leave you with 4 other spells.

Am I doing it wrong? Are banners supposed to be counted towards the total land count?

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    Keep in mind that banners aren't only mana fixing, they're mana acceleration as well.
    – GendoIkari
    Commented Sep 21, 2014 at 13:27
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    Posting to register my disagreement with this question being closed; while the question of where to draw the line with mana sources is difficult, the question of "what ratio of mana sources yields the highest expected winrate in most decks" is 100% objective. There used to be a statistician on StarCityGames who wrote nothing but math-based answers to questions like this. I see no reason why this is any more "opinion-based" than other questions of strategy. Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 17:02
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    I've altered the title, and think that this question should be re-opened, as it's an important topic, especially for the next year, and while it is opinion based, it's no more so than boardgames.stackexchange.com/questions/4921/…, which is one of the most debated topics in all of Magic and has not been closed. Compared to that one, this is practically "what's the p/t of a Rampaging Baloth?"
    – deworde
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 16:00
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    Voting to reopen: it's definitely possible to write math-based answers, and even if you write a slightly subjective answer based on solid reasoning about effects of various choices, that's totally fine - definitely not "primarily opinion-based".
    – Cascabel
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 18:00
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    The original question was fine IMHO, even better now.
    – Pat Ludwig
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 18:41

4 Answers 4


Mana fixers can virtually never be counted as full lands because you need mana to cast them.

Let's take the case of the banners specifically. If you swap out a land for a banner, the main difference is the banner:

  1. Costs 3 mana to cast
  2. Can be sacrificed for a card draw

(1) makes them a higher mana screw risk than a land (how happy are you if you mulligan into 2 land+banner instead of 3 land?), while (2) makes them a reduced mana flood risk than a land (sac them if you have nothing better to do with your mana).

They should almost certainly be counted as full spells for purposes of mana ratios, especially if you're also playing lands that come into play tapped.

  • This answer appears to be primarily opinion-based. Banners do not put you at a higher risk of mana screw in sealed Khans of Tarkir. The bombs in Khans are primarily tricolor and cost more than four mana. The curve in Khan's sealed sits on four, because the three drop commons in Khans are underwhelming. Aggro in Khan's sealed is slow for lack of good creatures under four mana, so you feel good dropping a mana rock on turn three. In a wedge set where the format is slow, a banner actually reduces mana screw.
    – Rainbolt
    Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 13:28
  • @Rainbolt: It's an "opinion" based on hard math like almost any other statement you'd make about strategy in this game. And anyway, the stuff I said about mana screw has nothing to do with how good or bad it is to cast a mana rock on turn 3; it's about how mana rocks aren't going to establish your mana base if you can't cast them. Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 16:53
  • How did you relate casting a mana rock to increased risk of mana screw? It's almost like you forgot to write that part of your answer. You are equally likely to make it to three mana with or without a banner. On the other hand, you are more likely to hit four mana with a banner than without. Therefore, a banner decreases mana screw in some situations, does not affect mana screw in other situations, and never increases mana screw.
    – Rainbolt
    Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 17:09
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    @Rainbolt: OP ended with "are banners supposed to be counted towards the total land count?" I opened with "Mana fixers can virtually never be counted as full lands..." and ended with "[Banners] should almost certainly be counted as full spells for purposes of mana ratios..." It's almost like you only read the second sentence of my answer. The things you say are all true if we take for granted we aren't cheating on lands by counting mana rocks as lands, which would be a reasonable assumption if OP didn't literally ask if that was a thing we should be doing. Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 17:23
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    @Rainbolt - if you have more to say, please submit your own answer. I believe Chad understands the point you are making and simply disagrees. Vote your conscience and disengage here. Thanks! (Also, I'm removing much of the back and forth here which seems redundant)
    – Pat Ludwig
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 18:38

18 lands, including all the on-colour heal lands you can get and all the tri-lands in at least 2 of your wedge's colours. Then add banners according to deck speed and colour balance.

The thing to consider with trading Banners for lands, as with any colour fixing rock is "what happens if you don't hit the mana on time". Between morph and delve, Khans is a format where less than 1/3 of the common/uncommon cards in the set require more than 3 mana to cast.

So if you miss your third land drop, you are going to be immediately behind and your opponent can start capitalising on that. And if when you finally draw your 3rd land, your first play is a banner, that's one more turn that you haven't done anything to slow your opponent's pressure or increase yours. If that banner had been a land instead, it would have got you to three sooner.

Beyond that, there's another threshold at 5, where creatures can unmorph that can actually just kill other morph creatures rather than trade. Again, once your opponent gets there first, you can't profitably send your morph creatures in any more.

So the answer is "if I stick on 2, I can't play the banner, and I'm probably going to lose". So you want to avoid that. Your risk appetite may vary, but here are the stats.

Sealed is of course one of the more bomb focused formats, but one of the wonderful things about bombs is that they can wait a few turns till you find your splash, as long as your opponent can't kill you in the meantime. Which is exactly what will happen if they're hitting you for multiple turns because they were on curve and you weren't. They'll also hit their bomb faster.

Note also that a lot of the Khans cards are mono-colour, and the common multicolours all have morph. You're rarely going to require 3 colours until turn 5 or 6, and even then, you could well have stuff to do if you've built your pool to focus on 2 colours with a 3rd splashed.

And finally, remember that to cast a multicolour card you still need the mana. Having 4 mana in three colours does not help you cast a Zurgo, because he costs 5.

My advice, from listening to the Limited Resources podcast, is 18 lands and 0-2 banners depending on your fixing requirements and your deck speed. The more you can focus on 2 colours, the less you need the banners. The more controlling your deck is, the more it can afford the tempo loss of playing the banner out. But you're playing the banners as a patch to handle a lack of colour fixing with an option to cycle, not as lands. You might be able to go 17/2, using the ramp and cycling from the banners to mitigate any missed drops, but 17/1 is going to hurt more than it helps.

If you can play a mostly black-white warriors splashing red for Zurgo, out go those banners. If it's blue-black-green delve that Scouts for key tri-colour cards and needs to hold the ground then pour in the mana into Villainous Wealth, in they go. Remember, if you're mana flooded, you always can crack the banner on your opponent's end step.

Obviously, the better your land fixing is, the less you need the banners. Also remember that an off-colour tri-land that covers 2 of your colours (e.g. Abzan triland in a Mardu deck), counts as a heal land for the purposes of fixing.

Addendum: Based on post-pre-release discussion and comment, my initial opinion would seem to be borne out. The LRR team suggest that "You have much better things to do on turn 3 than cast a banner", and you'd normally do it only to help in a situation where you need more than fixing than your dual/tri-lands can be provide. This is always a bit of a judgement call, even if you can work out the probabilities, the consequences will depend on your deck and your opponents (e.g. you'll get more punished for colour screw by an aggressive opponent, but your deck may be able to stabilise better without the banner).


Not specific to KTK, but my rule of thumb for limited environments has been to count non-zero cost mana sources as half lands, with a limit of about 1/3 my land count total reduction.

For instance in your example I would count 1 of those banners as a land. So 16 lands, 17 creatures and 5 other spells plus the two banners.

Note as a word of caution that I am used to efficient green methods or 2 CC artifacts that act as land, so this rule of thumb may not be applicable for 3 CC artifacts.

The reason I count like this is because there are two stages of mana. Your first couple of turns where you are using mana to start the game, and later when you have enough mana to spend mana to get more. You only count as half because the non-zero mana sources are only valuable in the second portion.

Finally I mention non-zero mana sources instead of lands due to my favorite form of limited being a powered cube.


Would you keep a hand with 3 banners and no lands? Would you keep a hand with 2 banners? what about 1 land, 2 banners? well, you should not, so the answer is NO, you can't fill lands slots with banners.

Furthermore, the banners can be sac if you are mana flooded, eliminating the problem of get them in addition to lands. You can play 2 or even 3 of them if you play bombs in 5-6 manas, because the important thing here is, as a comment says, they are accelerators too, so it is very likely you will play your 5 mana bomb in 4 turn, even if it is a 3 color or it is in your splash color. Eventually you will have more mana than your more expensive card, so you will start to burn your banners, getting more relevant cards.

To my taste (I do very well in sealed), 17 lands and 2/3 banners maximizing your bombs. (In KTK you could even play 2 main colors and 2 splashes if you get enough good lands and banners, so you can put in almost every bomb you get).

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    This answer draws an invalid conclusion based on a few examples. Counter example: in a deck of containing only spells with a converted mana cost of {5}, 16 lands plus 1 banner is almost always superior to 17 lands. The only thing you have really proven is that there are some cases where banners cannot replace lands.
    – Rainbolt
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 19:15
  • @Rainbolt Your "counter example" is a fallacy. Your are saying 0 banners. I said play the banners + your normal lands. 17 lands + 1 banner is strictly superior to "16 lands + 1 banner" idea. The probability of get your banner is the same (1/40) and your probabilties of 5 manas in 4th turn are more. Then, why you would put in a banner instead a land??? If you play just 5 mana spells, you need hit 5 lands in 5th turn of 4 lands + banner in 4th, you cannot afford a 4 mana game. As I explained, mana flood is not a risk with banners, so there is no reason to no add them to the normal land count. Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 14:35
  • @Rainbolt Can't edit my comment so I will add: "Your are saying 0 banners" means "In your example you are implying that I said 0 banners and that's a lie". Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 14:42

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