I am trying to figure out a good 3 color mana base in a standard constructed deck. It seems like there is a pretty straight forward answer if your wallet agrees. 4 shock lands of each of 3 colors=12
4 check lands of each of 3 colors=12

there are your 24 lands.
The shock lands work for the check lands so it's not an issue

Any deck running 3 colors would most likely be mid or control, so let's assume that we are not thinking about agro here.

Are there any disadvantages with doing this? Would a loadout like this affect pacing or become too much of a toll on the life total?

The only other problem I can think of is not being able to benefit from cards like Assassin's Trophy or Settle the Wreckage. Should these cards be a consideration when creating my mana base?

  • 1
    It real depends on the deck you are thinking about running. Also consider that you will most likely need more of one mana color then the other.
    – Styxsksu
    Jun 6, 2019 at 14:23

2 Answers 2


Yes, going all shock and check lands has disadvantages. Running one to three basic lands is recommendable for any 3 color deck.

As you already noted, the lack of basic lands can be punished by certain powerful cards that are balanced by allowing the opponent to search a basic land. In Standard, these are Settle the Wreckage, Assassin's Trophy, and Field of Ruin. In fact, 3 color decks are so common that dedicated land destruction decks have sprung up that look to punish the extreme cases of decks running only non-basic lands. The latter 2 cards mentioned above are cornerstones of that deck, together with Casualties of War.

Another problematic aspect to the approach is inherent and largely independent of the specific meta:

To use shock lands immediately, you have to "shock" yourself, which can put you in a precarious situation against any form of aggro deck.

To use check lands immediately, you have to have a shock land in play already. With 50% check lands, it is not uncommon to have a starting hand with all lands being check lands, which means your mana base will be a full turn behind the curve, which is a great tempo disadvantage in almost any matchup.

To alleviate these problems, it is worth considering to replace some of the check lands with basics of the type you need the most. One to three basic lands can greatly reduce 2 of the 3 mentioned problems. Typically, running shock lands is preferrable to running check lands, because having the choice between a tapped land and 2 life loss is typically better than running the risk of being forced to play a land tapped.

Example: at 24 lands total, with 12 shock and 12 check lands, you have the following probabilities that all the lands in your starting hand are check lands:

  • 1 land: 50%
  • 2 lands: 24.5%
  • 3 lands: 11.7%
  • 4 lands: 5.5%

If you run 24 lands total but only 9 check lands and 3 basics, the probabilities to get all check lands in the starting hand are reduced to:

  • 1 land: 43.7%
  • 2 lands: 18.6%
  • 3 lands: 7.7%
  • 4 lands: 3.1%

The exact number of basics to run entirely depends on how color-hungry your specific deck is, but if your deck in its current form cannot afford to run basic lands at all, you should probably adjust the spells of your deck rather than run the risk of all non-basic lands.


Hackworth's written a great answer. I'll add a few things:

  1. As you mentioned, any deck running 3 colors is likely to be midrange or control. That means they probably want more than 24 lands. You can fill in the gaps with basics, conveniently getting around the drawback of being weak to Assassin's Trophy & Field of Ruin (nobody is playing Settle the Wreckage right now).

  2. Remember to consider your mana requirements. If you're trying to cast the UUUU spell Mass Manipulation, adding a third color has a very high cost. The all-24-duals mana base you're thinking of is usually fine with C or CC casting costs, but CCC or CCCC spells are probably out of reach. You'll also have to accept that sometimes, you will be color-screwed.

  3. The final, and significant, drawback of running these all-duals mana bases is that you'll often be forced to shock yourself. Against decks that don't have reach (that is, the ability to directly attack the opponent's life total without having to connect with a creature), this is less of a problem because you could play a big blocker using the shockland and opponent cannot attack. However current standard's premier aggro deck, mono red aggro, is loaded with burn spells and very capable of punishing you for shocking.

Having said all that, tri-color decks are still very viable, and many standard decks utilize all-dual mana bases.

  • As an addition to point 2: 16 of a color is really only needed if you absolutely must have it on the first turn, or you need two by turn 3-4. Does your deck really need 1CC or 2CC cards of three colors? I also suggest trying mtgoncurve.com
    – JollyJoker
    Jun 7, 2019 at 7:20

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