Custom Card Game Design

Basic Duals

My Shandalar set requires a lot of mana fixing, as it’s supposed to support monocolor as well as five-color archetypes. Of course, a monocolor deck doesn’t need mana fixing, but maybe you want to splash a second color. For both of those deck types, common dual lands are a welcome sight.

So, I designed ten ETB-tapped duals. Here they are:

Alright, basic duals . . . why?

Because they are possible now that Wastes are a thing and I believe they would do a lot of good for the game.

  • Basic duals give a clear signal to newer players that you can and should build multicolored decks. You associate mono-red with Mountains, mono-green with Forests, but there’s nothing that represents the two color combinations, which have become more and more important since basic lands were invented.
  • Basic duals can be reprinted to be kept in Standard instead of having to invent new duals, such as Cinder Barrens, every set. The reprints can have a new art each time, just like normal basics, and players can collect and play with the ones they like the most.
  • Basic duals allow you to build budget multicolor decks. The price tag is especially a problem in Commander, a casual format, where people often don’t want to spend as much money on their decks, but where the mana base alone can cost more than 100$. That is, unless you want to fill up the deck with an unreasonable amount of basics and be color-screwed every game.

Basic duals communicate very elegantly that you can build multicolored decks, and you should play the appropriate basic duals to make your mana better, but playing multiple colors comes at a price. The duals aren’t very good. Unconditional ETB tapped is a huge downside.

Now that I’ve argued the positives, what are the potential problems with basic duals existing? Let’s look at their impact on each format:

  • Standard: You can balance basic-fetchers in Standard around the existence of these duals. No damage is done.
  • Modern: Basic duals would have a significant impact on Modern. You can make yourself immune to Blood Moon if you want to, which I think is a very good thing (**** Blood Moon!). They can be fetched with Search for Tomorrow and Sakura-Tribe Elder and therefore be played in Scapeshift decks. But that’s a minor upgrade the deck would get, and wouldn’t throw things out of balance.
  • Legacy/Vintage: No chance. They’re too bad.
  • Commander: Here, the basic duals would have the most impact. Now you can build budget multicolor mana bases, and you can even improve the mana bases of non-budget decks significantly, by cutting traditional basics for these new duals. Remember, in Commander you have to play a lot of basic lands, so that your land fetchers are never dead. I play about twenty basics in my Mayael Commander deck and I get color screwed frequently. Basic duals mean less mana screw, and more fun.

Alright, I’ve made my case. Let’s talk about the actual implementation. Like Wastes, basic duals don’t have basic land types and have their mana ability written in the oracle text. And just like on Wastes, that mana ability is omitted on the card. The only visual clue of its mana ability is the semi-transparent mana symbol. I hope that this representation is clear enough. Of course, the ETB tapped part can’t be omitted on the card.

Then the names . . .

River: River combines water and plains. A perfect fit in my book.
Cavern: I don’t know an elegant word for “underwater cave.” Cavern was the closest option.
Chasm: Chasm is mountain-y and sounds evil.
Highland: A wooded mountain region.
Meadow: The options were Meadow or Glade. Meadow is closer to Plains than Forest, while for Glade it’s the other way around.
Desert: Nothing really that fits perfectly. Desert works, and if any of the duals is a desert, it should be the white-black one.
Falls: A waterfall is water on a cliff. Fits perfectly. Shorten it to Falls, because Waterfalls sounds awkward.
Jungle: Swamp is already a forest-y terrain, so finding something in between Swamp and Forest is hard. I think Jungle works.
Mesa: Obv . . .
Pond: The options are Pool, Pond, or Rainforest. I’m not sold on Pond yet.

Got alternate ideas for the names? Tell me in the comments!



11 responses to “Basic Duals

  1. Gustosückerl February 3, 2016 at 11:45 am

    Awesome idea!

  2. Gustosückerl February 3, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    Sorry for the short comment, I also meant to say that those lands are good, but could be potentially a problem with cards that put lands onto the battlefield untapped. Not a huge problem, but still

    • antaresmtg February 3, 2016 at 1:47 pm


      If you say Search for Tomorrow (which puts the card into play untapped) for a basic dual, it enters the battlefield tapped anyway. Don’t know if that’s what you meant.

  3. adventmtg February 13, 2016 at 8:58 am

    These seem really interesting… Would the work the same way wastes do in draft, where you’d have to open them in your pack if you plan on using them?

  4. antaresmtg February 13, 2016 at 9:58 am

    Yea, in draft you can treat them just like regular common duals, say Guildgates.

  5. Inanimate February 20, 2016 at 3:14 am

    Pond could be Spring, perhaps, but that doesn’t seem that much better.

    • antaresmtg February 20, 2016 at 2:19 pm

      How about Lagoon?

      Changes I’ve already made:
      River -> Coast
      Desert -> Barrens (Desert already exists. A good enough reason to change the name.)

  6. Volvary March 26, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    These lands wouldn’t even be played in Scapeshift just because they have no basic types.

    Apart from that, theses would be one of the best thing to happen to Magic in so long.

    • antaresmtg March 27, 2016 at 6:37 am

      I think you’d want to play one or two so that your Sakura-Tribe Elders / Search for Tomorrows can fetch them.

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