Recently, I decided to jump feet-first into Magic Arena‘s Historic format by building and playing Sultai Field of the Dead. As I play any new deck, I find myself swapping cards in and out of it – attempting to shore up the deck’s weaknesses or improve its consistency. But with Sultai Field of the Dead, I found myself tweaking one key aspect of the deck over and over again: Its manabase.
Why Sultai Field of the Dead’s Manabase Is So Important
Because Field of the Dead requires you put seven differently-named lands into play before it begins producing zombies, Field of the Dead decks must play as many different lands as possible. This means balancing the number of basic lands, dual lands, tapped lands, untapped lands, and utility lands you play in such a way that you can:
- Play your early-game spells on time. (This is why the deck plays more than one of each shockland.)
- Access some number of “silver-bullet” lands, like Blast Zone or Arch of Orazca, via Golos, Tireless Pilgrim (whose main job is finding Fields of the Dead, but can grab any other land in a pinch).
- Maximize your Field of the Dead triggers.
- Possibly even activate Golos’s activated ability – by including lands that produce red and white mana.
That’s a lot of knobs to turn, and over the past few weeks, I’ve been turning them. I haven’t settled on a final manabase for Sultai Field of the Dead just yet, but these are the variations I’ve either tried out or considered.
Arch of Orazca, Blast Zone, or Field of Ruin?
Because Sultai Field plays so many lands, you can fit at least one extra utility land into the deck alongside Field of the Dead. I’ve considered, played, or seen others play:
In the early ranks (Bronze, Silver, and Gold), Blast Zone saved my bacon numerous times. It allowed me to blow away several Knights of the Ebon Legion, Pelt Collectors, and other one- or two-drops against aggressive decks, and I even used it to destroy Bonecrusher Giants and Questing Beasts a few times.
However, after I hit Platinum, Blast Zone served less of a purpose. There, opponents playing their own Fields of the Dead outvalued me by playing Arch of Orazca, Castle Vantress, or both. As a result, I’ve considered swapping my Blast Zone to Arch of Orazca.
I would not, however, play Field of Ruin in this deck. The deck already has access to five land destruction spells (Assassin’s Trophy and Casualties of War), and you likely don’t need another one (unless you are playing against only Field of the Dead and Maze’s End decks).
Why No Guildgates or Circuitous Route?
When I started playing Sultai Field, I played one of each appropriate Guildgate and three copies of Circuitous Route. But so many times, I drew a Circuitous Route in the late game when many other cards would have bought me an extra turn or allowed me to turn the corner against an opponent.
Or rather, I haven’t looked back until now. I’ve loved the ability to cycle Migration Path in spots where an Assassin’s Trophy or Ritual of Soot off the top is more necessary than two additional lands. I know that ability has won me games I would have otherwise lost. But I’ve had a harder time tracking the games Migration Path’s inability to find Guildgates may have lost me.
You see, Circuitous Route doesn’t just ramp you – it ramps you while providing two differently-named lands that put you closer to activating Field of the Dead. Oftentimes, Migration Path puts me up only one additional land name, slowing my Field of the Dead activations by a turn or more.
I know Migration Path does not allow me to activate Field of the Dead quite as quickly as Circuitous Route would, but I don’t think I’ve lost any games to that fact. (Though again, that’s hard to track.) I do know I’ve won games because of its cycling ability, so I’m sticking with it (and no Guildgates) for now.
Shouldn’t You Be Trying to Activate Golos?
Recently, I realized that if I was not playing Guildgates, I could likely play lands that would let me activate Golos’s free spells ability.
After all, all I’d have to do is swap Thornwood Falls for Ketria Triome, and Jungle Hollow for Indatha Triome. The deck’s mana would get no worse, and I’d gain the ability to activate Golos in incredibly long games – which seem to be occurring more and more in Platinum.
While navigating the field of Black-White Vampires, Tempered Steel, and Gruul Aggro decks I found in Bronze through Gold Historic, I figured that the lifegain lands’ single point of life was likely worth more than the statistically-unlikely ability to activate Golos. But as I find myself fighting more and more mirror matches (some people are playing five-color field with Yorion as a companion, and it is beating the heck out of me), I’ve decided it might be time to try out this tri-land change.
I’ll likely try this experiment over the next few weeks (and mess around with adding an Ugin, the Spirit Dragon to the deck after Core Set 2021 releases) – and if I can persuade myself, I’ll hopefully be sharing some video content featuring Historic Sultai Field soon. Until then, may your own mana always be perfect.