Mana

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Mana is a renewable resource in Magic: The Gathering. Mana is generated by some cards, most notably land, and then used to play most of the game's cards and abilities.[1] Designed by Magic creator Richard Garfield, mana is closely related to the game's color system, and alongside it is one of the cornerstones of the game.[2]

Mana is one of the main limiting factors on what actions players can take at any given time. It is sometimes derided for the variance it introduces to the game, particularly in the form of mana screw. However, the mana system also provides numerous benefits to the game such as pacing and variety, and is one of the key innovations credited with the Magic's overall success.[2][3][1]

Gameplay Fundamentals[edit | edit source]

Mana is a form of magic used to pay the mana cost required to cast most of the cards in the game. It is also used to cover other costs, such as those to activate certain abilities. The most basic mana source is land, though certain spells and abilities can also produce mana.[1][4] A player taps land to add mana to his or her mana pool; one's mana supply regenerates naturally when lands untap during the beginning phase of his or her turn. A player that exhausts his or her supply of mana is considered "tapped out."

The mana system allows the design of cards that differ greatly in power level. Stronger cards with higher mana cost have the inherent drawback of being unusable early, and risk leaving the user tapped out when played. Also, by requiring specific types of mana, R&D can associate mechanics with specific colors. Mana cost is one of the chief tools R&D uses to balance the game.

As they play lands, players gain access to more mana over the course of the game, allowing the use of cards in greater power and numbers. This gives each Magic duel a natural sense of pacing and drama, by ensuring games start slow but eventually build up to an epic conclusion.[5][3]

Colors of Mana[edit | edit source]

There are six types of mana: the five colored (one for each of Magic's five colors), as well as colorless mana. Mana is represented by mana symbols, or letters that represent those mana symbols.[6] There are six basic lands, which can each tap to generate one mana of the corresponding mana type, but only five basic land types. Wastes, introduced in Oath of the Gatewatch, is a basic land with no basic land subtype, and generates colorless mana.

Symbol Color Basic Land Card Mana type Land type
{W} or W White Plains White Plains
{U} or U Blue Island Blue Island
{B} or B Black Swamp Black Swamp
{R} or R Red Mountain Red Mountain
{G} or G Green Forest Green Forest
{C} or C None Wastes Colorless None

Although most colorless cards have purely generic mana costs, certain spells specifically require colorless mana to cast. In contrast, generic costs can be paid with any type of mana, colored or colorless.

Mana abilities[edit | edit source]

A mana ability is either:

  1. an activated ability, with no target, and excluding planeswalkers' loyalty abilities, that could put mana into a player's mana pool when it resolves.
  2. a triggered ability, with no target, that triggers from a mana ability and could produce additional mana.
Examples of activated mana abilities
  • Llanowar Elves has the ability: "{T}: Add {G} to your mana pool.".
  • Swamp has the ability: "{T}: Add {B} to your mana pool.".

Examples of triggered mana abilities

  • Wild Growth has the ability: "Whenever enchanted land is tapped for mana, its controller adds {G} to his or her mana pool."
  • Overgrowth has the ability: "Whenever enchanted land is tapped for mana, its controller adds {G}{G} to his or her mana pool."

A mana ability does not use the stack, and thus cannot be countered or responded to by either player. In contrast, non-permanent spells (instants, sorceries, etc.) that add mana to a player's mana pool, such as Dark Ritual or Seething Song, are not mana abilities, and use the stack like all other spells.

Mana costs[edit | edit source]

Main article: Mana cost

Mana added to one's mana pool can be specifically required to pay the mana cost of a spell or ability. However apart from that there is a wide variety of mana costs used in the game.

Converted mana cost[edit | edit source]

See also: X.

The converted mana cost (commonly abbreviated CMC) of an object is an integer equal to or greater than zero. It is determined by converting each colored mana symbol in the spell's cost to 1 (unless it is one of the hybrid mana symbols {2/W}{2/U}{2/B}{2/R}{2/G}, each of which converts to 2), then adding the results to the generic mana cost of the spell. (For example, spells with mana costs of {2}{G} and {1}{G}{G} both have a converted mana cost of 3.)

The only case in which a spell's converted mana cost can ever vary is for spells with {X} in the mana cost. When an object with X in the mana cost is on the stack, X equals whatever value was chosen for it when it was put on the stack. In any other location, X equals 0.

Within the worlds of Magic[edit | edit source]

Mana is the magical energy that fuels the spells of spellcasters.[7] It is deeply interconnected with the lifeforce on every plane in the Multiverse, and it can take that role by itself as well.[note 1] When there is little or no mana in an area, things die or become emaciated and weak.[note 2]

Leylines[edit | edit source]

In Magic, leylines are ancient mana paths that flow and crisscross each other across a given landscape. All worlds have a network of leylines. They are often found rather than cast.[8] For example, leylines formed the Implicit Maze on Ravnica[9], coalesce into the gods of Amonkhet[10] and connected the hedrons of Zendikar.[11] Nahiri created cryptoliths on Innistrad to bend the leylines to her will, and to summon Emrakul. Eldrazi are known to follow leylines. [12]

History and changes[edit | edit source]

Conceptual Origin[edit | edit source]

The term "mana" in association with magic is used by many different cultures, though its more recent usage in fiction and games is generally credited to science fiction author Larry Niven in his The Magic Goes Away series.[13] The designers of Magic paid homage to Niven with the lich character of Nevinyrral and his Nevinyrral's Disk.

Purple mana[edit | edit source]

During design for Planar Chaos, the developers considered using a new sixth mana color to give the feeling of an alternate reality.[14] They decided on purple as the color, and gave it a place in the color wheel in between blue and black. A new ally and enemy system was invented, in which each color would be enemies with the color directly across from it, allied with the two colors right next to it, and neutral towards the remaining two colors. Purple's basic land would most likely be "City," though both "Cave" and "Portal" were also very likely.

The team eventually decided to give purple enchantment removal worse than white's, direct damage worse than red's, and take away blue's countermagic and black's force-sacrifice effects to give to purple. However, when they realized that players might be disappointed with a new color that didn't really "do anything new", the team started losing interest in the idea. The concept was eventually replaced with a new class of timeshifted card.

Comprehensive Rules[edit | edit source]

From the Comprehensive Rules (Commander 2017 (August 25, 2017))

  • 106. Mana
    • 106.1. Mana is the primary resource in the game. Players spend mana to pay costs, usually when casting spells and activating abilities.
      • 106.1a There are five colors of mana: white, blue, black, red, and green.
      • 106.1b There are six types of mana: white, blue, black, red, green, and colorless.
    • 106.2. Mana is represented by mana symbols (see rule 107.4). Mana symbols also represent mana costs (see rule 202).
    • 106.3. Mana is produced by the effects of mana abilities (see rule 605). It may also be produced by the effects of spells, as well as by the effects of abilities that aren’t mana abilities.
    • 106.4. When an effect produces mana, that mana goes into a player’s mana pool. From there, it can be used to pay costs immediately, or it can stay in the player’s mana pool. Each player’s mana pool empties at the end of each step and phase.
      • 106.4a If a player passes priority (see rule 116) while there is mana in his or her mana pool, that player announces what mana is there. If any mana remains in a player’s mana pool after he or she spends mana to pay a cost, that player announces what mana is still there.
    • 106.5. If an ability would produce one or more mana of an undefined type, it produces no mana instead.

      Example: Meteor Crater has the ability “{T}: Choose a color of a permanent you control. Add one mana of that color to your mana pool.” If you control no colored permanents, activating Meteor Crater’s mana ability produces no mana.

    • 106.6. Some spells or abilities that produce mana restrict how that mana can be spent, have an additional effect that affects the spell or ability that mana is spent on, or create a delayed triggered ability (see rule 603.7a) that triggers when that mana is spent. This doesn’t affect the mana’s type.

      Example: A player’s mana pool contains {R}{G} which can be spent only to cast creature spells. That player activates Doubling Cube’s ability, which reads “{3}, {T}: Double the amount of each type of mana in your mana pool.” The player’s mana pool now has {R}{R}{G}{G} in it, {R}{G} of which can be spent on anything.

      • 106.6a Some replacement effects increase the amount of mana produced by a spell or ability. In these cases, any restrictions or additional effects created by the spell or ability will apply to all mana produced. If the spell or ability creates a delayed triggered ability that triggers when the mana is spent, a separate delayed triggered ability is created for each mana produced.
    • 106.7. Some abilities produce mana based on the type of mana another permanent or permanents “could produce.” The type of mana a permanent could produce at any time includes any type of mana that an ability of that permanent would produce if the ability were to resolve at that time, taking into account any applicable replacement effects in any possible order. Ignore whether any costs of the ability could or could not be paid. If that permanent wouldn’t produce any mana under these conditions, or no type of mana can be defined this way, there’s no type of mana it could produce.

      Example: Exotic Orchard has the ability “{T}: Add to your mana pool one mana of any color that a land an opponent controls could produce.” If your opponent controls no lands, activating Exotic Orchard’s mana ability will produce no mana. The same is true if you and your opponent each control no lands other than Exotic Orchards. However, if you control a Forest and an Exotic Orchard, and your opponent controls an Exotic Orchard, then each Exotic Orchard could produce {G}.

    • 106.8. If an effect would add mana represented by a hybrid mana symbol to a player’s mana pool, that player chooses one half of that symbol. If a colored half is chosen, one mana of that color is added to that player’s mana pool. If a colorless half is chosen, an amount of colorless mana represented by that half’s number is added to that player’s mana pool.
    • 106.9. If an effect would add mana represented by a Phyrexian mana symbol to a player’s mana pool, one mana of the color of that symbol is added to that player’s mana pool.
    • 106.10. If an effect would add mana represented by a generic mana symbol to a player’s mana pool, that much colorless mana is added to that player’s mana pool.
    • 106.11. To “tap a permanent for mana” is to activate a mana ability of that permanent that includes the {T} symbol in its activation cost. See rule 605, “Mana Abilities.”
      • 106.11a An ability that triggers whenever a permanent “is tapped for mana” or “is tapped for mana [of a specified type]” triggers whenever such a mana ability resolves and produces mana or the specified type of mana.
    • 106.12. One card (Drain Power) puts all mana from one player’s mana pool into another player’s mana pool. (Note that these may be the same player.) This empties the former player’s mana pool and causes the mana emptied this way to be put into the latter player’s mana pool. Which permanents, spells, and/or abilities produced that mana are unchanged, as are any restrictions or additional effects associated with any of that mana.

Mana burn (Obsolete)[edit | edit source]

See also: Mana burn.

When a phase ends, any unused mana left in a player's mana pool is lost. Up until Magic 2010, a player would lose also 1 life for each unspent mana lost this way. This was called mana burn, and because it was loss of life instead of damage, it could not be prevented or altered by effects that affect damage. Mana burn was eliminated from the game with the rules overhaul that took place during the release of Magic 2010.[15]

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. On Shandalar mana was so dense that it gained consciousness, and could reflect itself in form of elementals. A similar phenomenon is to be found on Zendikar.
  2. These effects can be seen in the Dead Zone and Time Spiral-era Dominaria.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. a b c Reid Duke. (2015 July 06.) “The Basics of Mana”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  2. a b Mark Rosewater. (2006 June 05.) “As Good As It Gets”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  3. a b Mark Rosewater. (2011 May 23.) “Mana Action”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  4. Mike McArtor. (2014 November 13.) “Oh the Huge Mana Tease”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  5. Mark Rosewater. (2004 February 20.) “Starting Over”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  6. Mark Rosewater. (2004 October 04.) “Change For the Better”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  7. Doug Beyer. (February 06, 2008.) “The Mana Bond”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  8. Doug Beyer. (July 07, 2010.) “Target: Face”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  9. Magic Arcana. (January 24, 2006.) “Guildpact's Leyline Cycle”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  10. Ken Troop. (April 26, 2017.) “The Hand That Moves”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  11. Ari Levitch. (July 15, 2015.) “Limits”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  12. Ari Levitch. (July 06, 2016.) “Campaign of Vengeance”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  13. Words of Magic, by Allen Varney
  14. Paul Sottosanti. (January 29, 2007.) “The Color Purple”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.
  15. Aaron Forsythe. (2009 June 10.) “Magic 2010 Rules Change”, magicthegathering.com, Wizards of the Coast.