April 15, 2014

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City of Brass

For my article this week, I’m going to touch on the recently spoiled card:

Mana Confluence

At first glance, it appears to be a functional reprint of City of Brass, although if you delve a bit deeper, there are a few subtle differences. City of Brass deals one damage to you after you tap it for Mana, whereas Mana Confluence requires a one-life investment in order to be activated in the first place. The situations this is relevant are few and far between, and are mostly inherent to older formats. For instance, if your opponent is at three life, you are at one and holding a Lightning Bolt, you can tap the City of Brass for mana, and respond to the damage it deals to you with the Lightning Bolt and kill your opponent - whereas with Mana Confluence this is not possible. A more likely scenario comes up when playing against Rishadan Port. If your opponent forces you to tap your City of Brass, you will still take one damage, but if they tap your Mana Confluence, you will suffer no such pain. Basically, Mana Confluence is almost strictly better than City of Brass, but not entirely.

While Mana Confluence will certainly have an impact on the Eternal Formats (Dredge Decks no longer need to play Gemstone Mine, for instance), I’m going to focus a bit more on the impact to the standard format.

The Mana currently available in Standard is quite powerful. Three colour decks are readily playable, and Scry Lands offer a great way to help prevent flooding. The weakest aspect of Standard has been the multicolour aggressive decks. Two-plus colour beatdown decks have had a hard time being able to cast their spells on curve with half (or more if you’re playing guildgates) their lands coming in to play tapped. Midrange and Control decks are fine with the extra information provided by the scry lands in exchange for not placing as much pressure or the opponent, however, for an aggressive deck casting a one drop on turn one, a two drop on turn two and following it up with another on-curve play on turn three can mean the difference between victory and defeat (particularly when playing against decks with Supreme Verdict). Having access to a land that comes in to play untapped and can produce whatever kind of mana you need is just what the aggro-doctor ordered. The one-life cost is nearly irrelevant when you’re the deck placing the pressure on the opponent.

There is another advantage to having better mana available, and this fact is relevant to the midrange strategies as well. With the full set of scry lands available AND Mana Confluence, it becomes less of a liability to play a full set (or at least more) Mutavaults. Mutavault is silently one of the top three cards in Standard (the others being Thoughtseize and Sphinx’s Revelation). Having a land that dodges sorcery speed removal, mitigates mana-flood (by giving you something to do with your lands) and provides either a blocker, or an additional attacker is pretty unreal. The largest drawback to Mutavault has always been the fact that it only produces colourless mana, making it hard to play a full set in decks that have more than one colour. The addition of Mana Confluence means that decks now have another four lands to smooth out their manabase, and that reduces the risk of playing a higher number of colourless lands. It’s worth noting that the current control decks in Standard likely do not want to play Mana Confluence. Mana fixing is quite powerful already, and the current Blue-White-X decks play more Scry lands than shock lands. A land that can produce any colour of mana is certainly powerful in those decks, but having to pay a life per activation can really add up, especially against the newly powered aggressive decks.

The final point I'm going to touch on is the possible impact Mana Confluence will have on the Block Constructed Pro Tour. There has been some discussion on the potential banning of Elspeth, Sun's Champion. While it's obviously too soon to call for something like that (seeing as Journey in to Nyx isn't even fully spoiled yet), the printing of this land is even more reason that it wont be necessary – for the same reason the land will be effective in standard. Better early mana means better aggressive decks, and while Elspeth is an insanely powerful card, if the opponent is dead before turn six then even the Sun's Champion can't rally a comeback.

Props to Phil Samms and Dan Lanthier for their thoughts on the card. We had a whole discussion about it and it inspired some of the content.

That's all I've got for now! Thanks for reading!