Coda’s Big Guide to Big Mana

It’s no secret: I love making ridiculously huge amounts of mana.  Back when I played Standard I was known to hardcast Iona and the occasional 15-mana Martial Coup, but it’s only here in the heady atmosphere of EDH that I’ve really been able to let my freak flag fly.  I mean, Worldwake-era Tapout Control was one thing, but having 20+ lands out in front of you in a deck that can do some extremely powerful things with all that mana is something else entirely.

Infinite mana enabler par excellence. Also boring. And ugly.

EDH really redefines your sense of scale.  Standard players look at cards like Storm Herd and Plague Wind and think “jank,” but EDH players look at them and see “reasonable mid-game card.”  That’s not the end of it, though: when you start really pushing the limits of big mana, those 9- and 10-mana whoppers become small potatoes.  You start thinking in terms of the overall fraction of your deck you can vomit onto the table with Genesis Wave, how many times you can Reiterate your opponent’s Prophetic Bolt, or trying to swing against your opponents for quadruple digit damage with Kamahl, Fist of Krosa and a horde of weenies.  The stuff of EDH legend, in other words.  And that’s without infinite combos!  I mean, sure, they exist and see play, but there’s something far more impressive and satisfying about having 60 honest mana on tap than going infinite off of Palinchron and a mana doubler.

Now, there are many roads to big mana greatness.  Monogreen is the most straightforward, given that land ramp and massive fatties are kind of green’s thing.  Monoblack comes in a close second, mostly due to the power of the Cabal CoffersUrborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth combo, but the truth is that just about any color combination can go big – you just need to use the right cards.  The right cards aren’t always obvious or readily available, though, which is why I made this guide.  It’s a step-by-step examination of all the different ways you can get mana on the table in EDH.  Lands, artifacts, creatures, spells, you name it.  Of course, if we’re going to be talking about mana ramp, then there’s really only one place we can start.  The jolly green giant, himself, Primeval Titan.

Get used to seeing this guy. A lot.

Let’s be honest – this guy deserves his own category.  He is, without a doubt, the most important creature in EDH.  If you’re playing green, then you need to play him.  If you’re not, then you need to figure out a way to copy, steal, reanimate, or otherwise exploit your opponents’ titans.  His six-mana cost is easily achievable in EDH, and his ability lets you not only ramp and fix your mana, but also to fetch powerful lands like Gaea’s Cradle, Reliquary Tower, Mosswort Bridge, Maze of Ith, and Boseiju, Who Shelters All, not to mention answers to your opponent’s lands like Strip Mine, Tectonic Edge, and Dust Bowl.

If you’re hellbent on ramping as much as possible right away, then you can certainly find a Cabal Coffers and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and go to town, but that’s not always the best call.  Not only do you essentially direct the entire table’s hate toward you right away, you also leave yourself open to being blown out with some judicious Strip Mine application by your opponents.  If you’re going to go big right away, tutor up a way to protect it, as well.  Namely, Petrified Field.

Personally, the first couple lands I tend to search up are Mosswort Bridge and Temple of the False God.  The temple ramps you by two mana instead of just one (but isn’t as threatening as a Gaea’s Cradle, and the bridge gets you card advantage and it’s own particular brand of acceleration.  Ever used a bridge to cast Tooth and Nail and flash in a Massacre Wurm and Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite mid combat?  For 4 mana?  Such shenanigans are the stuff of EDH greatness, and you have Primeval Titan to thank for it.

Land Ramp

The Ol’ One-for-One

Rampant Growth is the archetype here, but there are plenty of variations – Farseek, Search for Tomorrow, and Three Visits, for instance.  While these can get you to four mana on turn 3, most EDH decks (especially green ones) don’t care about hitting 4 mana early so much as hitting 6 mana as soon as possible.  They’re fine inclusions, and decent manafixing, but we can do better.

One card, two mana. The best kind of math there is.

The Fab Five

Cultivate, Kodama’s Reach, Explosive Vegetation, Hunting Wilds, and Skyshroud Claim.  As far as I’m concerned, these five spells belong in every deck running green.  While these won’t accelerate you up to three or four mana, each of these spells nets you not just one but two land for the price of a single card.  Not only is that twice as much manafixing, that’s card advantage, plain and simple.  When your game plan centers around getting stupid amounts of mana on the board, the drop in speed is a small price to pay for efficiency.

Group Hug

If you’re feeling like sharing a bit of the land-love, it’s hard to beat the efficiency of New Frontiers, Collective Discovery, and Veteran Explorer.  Then again, while these cards are powerful, they’re also extraordinarily dangerous to play.  Sure, you get a ton of mana, but so does everyone else.  They do have the advantage of punishing people who run too many nonbasic lands, but most well-built decks will have at least 10 or so to dodge Blood Moon and take advantage of Path to Exile.  All that said, it could be pretty hilarious to use these with Leonin Arbiter and Aven Mindcensor.  Props to you if you manage to pull it off.

Creatures

We’ve already covered Prime Time up above, but there’s a whole host of smaller creatures who help ramp you up into your big threats.  On one hand, they all only get you a single land.  On the other, they also give you a body to chump, sacrifice, or pick up equipment, and are easily recurrable.  Some of the most commonly used standouts are Solemn Simulacrum, Wood Elves, Farhaven Elf, and Sakura-Tribe Elder.  I tend to prefer the more focused Fab Five I discussed above, but then again I don’t have many sacrifice or equipment decks.

Everything Else

Reap and Sow tends to have a rather large following, as does Mwonvuli Acid-Moss, but I’ve never been terribly impressed.  I figure if I’m gonna blow up some lands, I’ve got plenty of creatures and lands that will do that just fine already.  New Horizons sees some play, but as awesome as searching up 3 lands is for 3 mana, threshold is notoriously hard to come by in the early game.  I’ve seen Edge of Autumn played a bit as well, but it’s never seemed particularly good.

Land Fetch

Janky, but surprisingly awesome.

Keeping it Basic

There are a number of spells that search for basic lands (or forests, which is either better or worse, depending on your deck) and put them in your hand, but most of the options here are pretty lackluster compared to their cohorts in the Fab Five.  The only one in green I’d ever consider running is Seek the Horizon, and that’s only in a deck with Azusa, Lost but Seeking as the general.  That said, there are some notable non-green cards that you should definitely pay attention to.  Two of my favorites are Armillary Sphere and Journeyer’s Kite.  Yes, they’re not a particularly good deal, but when you’re not playing green they’re actually pretty decent.  They also fix your mana like a champ, which is useful in some 3-color combinations like RWU and WBR.  Tithe and Land Tax are also great non-green ways to get more lands in hand.

Finding that One Land

It’s no secret that Cabal Coffers and Gaea’s Cradle are both broken and absolutely hilarious.  If you’re running them, then you want to make sure you have as many ways to find them and get them into play as possible.  Aside from Primeval Titan, there’s a couple ways to tutor them up.  Sylvan Scrying is the old standby, and Expedition Map is the relative newcomer.  The map is particularly notable in that it, itself is tutorable by another EDH standby, Trinket Mage.  Barring both of those, when you absolutely need to get a particular land into play as soon as you can, you can take the card advantage hit and sac a land to play Crop Rotation.

The best one-drop ever?

Creatures

I’ve never been particularly fond of creatures like Civic Wayfinder and Sylvan Ranger that fetch lands to your hand when they come into play.  Given all the other options out there, it just seems like you can do better for your two or three mana.  There is one exception for me, though: Krosan Tusker.  Not only can it be a beater in the late game, you can cycle it in the early game to search up a land and draw a card.  You can even reanimate it after you cycle it!  Now that’s value.

There is one creature that stands head and shoulders above all the rest (albeit well beneath the knees of Primeval Titan), though.  Weathered Wayfarer.  It lets you tutor up a land – any land! – every single turn.  And it costs just one mana.  So, yes, you can cast this on turn 1, then find Cabal Coffers on turn 2, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth on turn 3, and then whatever the heck you want every turn thereafter.  Now that’s value!

Mana Dorks

Let it be known that I hate mana dorks.  They’re great for a couple turns, until someone wraths and sets you way, way far back in your mana development.  I guess if you’re doing an elfball combo-style deck, then you could justify it, but really, why spend cards and tempo on a creature that’s going to die sometime around turn 5 or 6, anyway?

That said, if you are going to play mana dorks, play the good ones.  Bloom Tender is pretty nice in 5-color decks, but note that it doesn’t really fix your mana, just give you more of what you already have.  Elvish Archdruid and Priest of Titania are pretty excellent in elf decks.  Birds of Paradise is about boring and mediocre as it gets, but it does fix your mana like a champ (until it dies).

Basically, what it comes down to is the old “awesome in Constructed, crappy in EDH” problem.  Cards like Noble Hierarch were centerpieces of powerful Standard decks, but in a multiplayer environment that focuses on the long game they just don’t measure up.  They’re powerful and a bit faster than most land-based ramp, but the price you pay for that speed is a much, much more fragile manabase.

Mana Rocks

Yes, it's broken. But it's our kind of broken.

The Brokenness

The only reason we talk about the Power Nine and not the Power Ten is because Sol Ringis an uncommon.  It’s just disgustingly good (better than the moxen, in fact), and if the recent Commander precons are any indication, it’s become something of the EDH community’s pet card.  Kind of a “Yeah, we know it’s broken, but we love it anyways” thing.  Granted, while a T1 Sol Ring gives you a huge head start, the multiplayer nature of EDH does help rein in most of the brokenness that’s liable to occur.

Sadly, Sol Ring is not the only broken mana accelerator out there.  Mana Crypt.  Mana Vault. Basalt Monolith.  Grim Monolith.  While one Sol Ring isn’t going to seal a game for you, chaining a couple of these together early in the game probably will.  I’ve heard that dropping Terastodons and casting Time Stretch when your opponents are still on three mana is pretty good.  It can be amusing to break the format now and again, but I’ve found that nut draws like the one I described above usually don’t make for very satisfying games.  So while you’re more than free to run broken mana accelerators out the wazoo, I’ll just stick to my ridiculously shiny foil Sol Rings, thank you very much.

Signets

On one hand, they only net you one mana, so they occupy the same space as Rampant Growth.  Oth the other hand, they’re pretty fantastic for color fixing.  Not only can they turn colorless mana into colored, they give you two colors.  I’d never run them in a deck that has access to green, but in decks that don’t I’d run every one I could.  Note that there are plenty of similar artifacts like Marble Diamond and Coldsteel Heart, but they’re all pretty much just worse than the signets.

It's not free, but on the other hand, it does stick around after you tap it.

Getting Big

Generally, with mana rocks you want to look for the same things that you do in land ramp: namely, getting more cards out than you put in.  Granted, mana rocks don’t actually get extra cards out of your deck like a Cultivate will, but if you tap an artifact for two mana, the effect is essentially the same.  There are a whole host of artifacts that can do this: Worn Powerstone, Sisay’s Ring, Ur-Golem’s Eye, Thran Dynamo, Khalni Heart Gem, and Gilded Lotus are some of the best.  Also notable is Everflowing Chalice, which is as big as you want it to be.

Mana Robots

While there are plenty of artifact creatures that generate mana, none of them are worth playing.  Remember my whole screed against mana dorks above?  My opinion of mana robots is pretty much that, only they have fewer redeeming characteristics.

Doubling (or Tripling) Down

One of the hard and fast rules of magic is that you can only play one land from your hand per turn, right?  Well, there’s actually quite a few cards that let you get around that limitation.  Azusa, Lost But Seeking is the most blatantly powerful one, especially considering that she’s a legendary creature.  I used to have an Azusa deck.  It was notorious for getting 20+ mana on the table by turn 6 or 7.  Oracle of Mul Daya is another extremely powerful option.  Not only does she let you play another land per turn, she helps you draw nothing but gas by letting you play lands off the top of your library.  Rites of Flourishing is a group hug staple that also draws everyone extra cards, but aside from group hug decks and decks that seek to abuse effects like Storm Cauldron, I don’t think it’s really worth it.  Gaea’s Touch is an oldie-but-goodie that you can sacrifice for a little mana boost once you’ve exhausted the lands in your hand, and Exploration is about as simple an implementation of the effect as you can get.  One of the most deceptively powerful ways to dump all the lands in your hand on the table is Burgeoning.  Its power scales with the number of players in the game, so it’s conceivable to drop it on turn one, then untap on turn two with four or more lands in play.  Not too shabby.

Mana Doubling

Sharing the Love

Mana doubling is incredibly potent, and as such it usually gets a great deal of hate directed toward it.  One way to make it stick around longer is to extend the benefit to everyone with spells like Mana Flare and Heartbeat of Spring.  Of course, while doubling your opponents’ mana may stop them from blowing up your mana doubler, it’s also going to give them twice as much mana.  More than once I’ve seen someone drop a doubler only to have their opponent go off like a rocket on their turn and then destroy the doubler, so that the person who cast it in the first place doesn’t get any benefit at all.

Basically one of the reasons to play monocolor in EDH.

Keeping it On-Color

One way to limit the benefit your opponents get from your doubler is to use cards like Gauntlet of Might, Gauntlet of Power, Vernal Bloom, Keeper of Progenitus, and Extraplanar Lens that limit the doubling to a single color.  These are usually only worth running in monocolor decks, but they do have the upside of only doubling a few of your opponents’ lands.  Suffice it to say, if you’re monocolor, you should probably run at least one of these.

Selfish Mana

Tired of having to give your opponents a taste of your delicious mana buffet?  Well, there’s a host of cards that are right up your alley.  Mana Reflection is the simplest and most powerful of these – note that it doubles the amount of mana that anything adds to your mana pool.  That means that Gaea’s Cradle taps for 18 where it would have once tapped for 9, and that Sol Ring taps for 4 mana.  Mirari’s Wake and Caged Sun both only give you one mana per land tapped, but they also have the benefit of buffing your creatures as well.  Speaking of creatures, Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger is also a decent mana doubler with a spectacularly dickish second ability.  He’s extremely fragile, however, so unless you want to grief your opponents into paroxysms of frustration I’d leave him on the bench.  Finally, there’s also Doubling Cube, which is both incredibly powerful and somewhat restrictive.  It requires you to completely tap out before activating it, so it’s mostly useful in powering out huge X-mana spells or buying back things like Reiterate and Capsize over and over again.

Lands to Watch Out For

I have tapped this land for 34 mana. Then untapped it, and did it again. Twice.

Gaea’s Cradle, Serra’s Sanctum, and Cabal Coffers both have the potential to make absolutely disgusting amounts of mana.  Of course, that only gets more obscene once you start untapping them and tapping them again with cards like Deserted Temple, Garruk Wildspeaker, Argothian Elder, and Krosan Restorer.  Remember that these lands are often targets for removal (no, you can’t complain when someone kills your Cradle), so make sure you have ways to get back lands from your graveyard.  Petrified Field is one of my favorites, but Life from the Loam, Grim Discovery, and Crucible of Worlds are all excellent choices as well.

 

16 comments to Coda’s Big Guide to Big Mana

  • Devin

    Been playing EDH for a long time, and this is an EXCELLENT tutorial on mana-fixing in the format. I’ve made many of the same points to some friends who are new to the format when they’ve been in the preliminary stages of building their decks. I recently constructed a Riku deck, and him being a mana-hungry beast, I am indeed running the big 5 you listed above, as well as the land-fetching green dudes you mentioned.

    Regarding Cradle, Cabal Coffers, Tomb… Not to sound overbearing, but I personally think they should all be banned from the format. We have banned them in my playgroup, as they are just too powerful and we don’t all want to have to bother with each of us injecting a handful of land-kill cards into our decks. I think the argument that you should be running a ton of land-kill cards in your deck to deal with these kinds of things is pretty weak. I should have to alter my deck-building to deal with a few one-off lands that can completely break a game? Yeah, that sounds fair. Green and Black are already two of the more powerful colors in the format (Green, I think, being THE most powerful, by far. Thanks, Genesis Wave and Eldrazi.), and the removal of these lands could go a long way toward scaling back that power level.

    I know I’ve commented extensively on a previous article, but just thought I’d say that your site is quickly becoming one of my favorite Commander pages to visit. Well-constructed, thoughtful and sensible write-ups. You seem to have a really good grasp on what is “right” about the format and what can be outright degenerate. I really appreciate that and will be recommending your site to friends who read about the format. Thanks for being a balanced voice!

  • Krooton

    How come there is no mention of Yavimaya Elder. He is amazing card advantage, almost as good as Solemn Simulcrum, perhaps better. I think he deserves some credit.

  • TheDaR

    Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant is perhaps the ultimate big mana card.

    There’s nothing like saying ‘Genesis Wave for 67’.

  • Coda

    Sasaya…okay, wow. Haven’t seen that one played before. Basically a Coat of Arms for your lands. She’s super-specialized, though. I can see building a deck around her as a general, but unless you’re going through some pretty extreme contortions you’re not going to activate her any time soon.

    And yeah, I missed Yavimaya Elder. The 2/1 Armillary Sphere that draws you a card, too. While he’s good, the only decks I’ve really been happy to see him in are five-color decks that need the fixing and Azusa, Lost but Seeking decks that can slam the extra lands into play immediately. In most of my other decks I prefer dedicated ramp spells that accelerate my mana.

  • Kotarg

    What’s your take on Thawing Glaciers? I see no mention of it here, but it’s one of my favorite EDH fixers, and I recommend it to everyone. Granted, it is kinda slow, but it completely fixes mana issues.

  • This is the best magic blog I have ever found. Keep up the good work!

  • mr_ocean

    Thawing Glaciers plays really nicely with Amulet of Vigor. Combine with anything that untaps target land (Garruk, Ancient Citadel, Krosan Restorer) for broken mana deliciousness!

  • Brad

    I know this is an old post, but through the miracle of the Interweb, I’ve just found it(it’s a great article, by the way). If you are reading this because you’ve just found this page as well, and are interested in adding some mana ramp, the Big Five are a great reference, and I’ll add a sixth: Far Wanderings. So long as you have 7+ cards in your graveyard, it will let you search for 3 basic lands and play them all(tapped).

    As to the above comment regarding banning lands like Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and Gaea’s Cradle, that’s just silliness. If an opponent plays a card that gives him an advantage, or that sets you behind, or that generally irritates you, it is up to you to make sure that you have some way to respond to that. For EDH, I really like Ghost Quarter for political correctness. Not only can I remove the offending land, but I let you replace it with a basic land. I’m solving my problem with your land, and I’m not just destroying lands(any serious land destruction basically turns the whole table against you in my playgroup).

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  • Tucker

    lol all these advertisement comments. Great article!

  • Benji2u

    This is the second article I have read of yours and have found it very helpful.. I like EDH better than the “standard” it requires more creativity.. a bank account and 20 cards do not make a wizard. look forward to reading the rest of your page.

  • Benji2u

    I have now read 2 of your posts both have been very helpful! I find I like EDH far better than “standard” a bank account and 10 cards dont make you a wizard.. I find EDH to be far more creative and adds a “personal” touch to everybodies decks even if they are all the same color. Look forward to reading the rest of your page.

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