April 2, 2019

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Your Commander Mana Rocks Are Outdated

When's the last time you updated your Commander decks's mana rocks? Maybe things are fine as is, but innovation means always challenging the accepted norms!

I'm going to look at some classic "staple" mana rocks we use and see if we can't find a place for some newer, less used ones.

I want to start comparing Gilded Lotus with Pyramid of the Pantheon.

Let's consider what having them in our opening hands would mean. Gilded Lotus comes down for five mana, and gives us three back. We're down two, and we never look back. It's a simple equation, but are we taking into consideration the fact that, if we play it at our first opportunity, we're giving up a potential five-mana play so we can either hold up a three CMC instant? Or have a small follow-up? If your deck has a low curve, that might be reasonable.

Pyramid of the Pantheon, or "Builded Lotus", as it's cleverly nicknamed, comes down for a single mana. Possibly on our first turn. It ends up giving us back one mana for every two we spend on a brick counter, so although we're making smaller plays up to then, we don't skip a bigger play to finish it later. I think that advantage is worth considering.

Now let's now consider later game draws. If we draw Gilded Lotus late, we'll still be able to budget a fair bit of mana for other spells and still get it on the board. This is where it's effective cost of "two" comes in handiest. I don't think we can count the Pyramid as a "mana sink" for any real gain here. We'll need to weigh the mana rock more heavily as a late game play, since it won't be in the top dozen cards of our deck very often. Gilded Lotus is still our best "three mana of any colour" rock, but having gone through the exercise, I may want a Pyramid in a deck that is a little more casual and has a looser mana curve. Seems appropriate as a budget option too.

Next, let's look at a pair of single-mana artifacts that aren't technically mana rocks, but they help us get more. Wayfarer's Bauble vs. Renegade Map.

Wayfarer's Bauble has a leg up on Renegade Map in the sense that it's going to put that land into play, rather than put it into our hand. Spent all at once, Wayfarer's Bauble has us pay three all together to get one extra for future turns. Fastest case scenario, we cast it on one, use it on two, and then we're one mana ahead. That is, until we miss a land drop.

The Renegade Map's disadvantage is that we can't use it all at once, but only ever costing us one is a plus. Renegade Map catches up to Wayfarer's Bauble on the turn we miss a land drop. How many turns was that? If it was two, we're basically even on mana spent, and the map fit way better in our curve. I think I'd want to know I'm hitting land drops five turns in a row, but that's not always likely. Now let's consider a late game draw. Since that's the case that's a bit more common, I think I like map there.

I think I'm pro-map now. I may have wayfared my last bauble.

In the three-costed, give one mana of any colour category, we have Darksteel Ingot vs. Cultivator's Caravan

The three mana rocks we have to choose from are pretty vast in numbers. Darksteel Ingot makes an appearance in many decks due to its ability to withstand an inevitable Vandalblast. But in my experience, some sort of "destroy all creatures" effect is much more common. Boards get emptied a lot. Being the first to be able to take meaningful action is crucial.

This is where Cultivator's Caravan gets a leg up. It is incredibly satisfying to be able to cast a creature after the battlefield has been wiped clean, and be able to swing with a 5/5. It's an effective haste creature which I have used to take out more than one planeswalker sitting smugly post-wrath. Being able to get in immediately after someone resets is a great way to throw off the caster of the wrath, or whoever you feel needs to get checked! Since they're exactly the same early or late, this is an easy Caravan upgrade for me.

So, after considering some upgrades, I've found a couple I'm very happy with. I'll stick to my Gilded Lotus for the most part, but I'm always happy to think about little improvements to my decks here and there.

What are your favourite mana rocks? Do you update them as sets come out, or are you pretty much set in your ways out of familiarity? Let me know here in the comments!