cEDH 101: Mana Acceleration

Welcome back to cEDH 101! In today’s article, I will dig into what makes up the bulk of the mana acceleration of the format, how it’s applied in various archetypes, and how you as a deckbuilder can go about deciding between all the many options on the table. So let’s jump right in! As in all things, categorizing the options available is a great first step. In the case of Mana Acceleration, there are three primary forms that jump out to me. First, you have your creature based mana acceleration. This generally covers the cards known colloquially as ‘mana dorks’ which are creatures that tap for mana. Some popular examples include Birds of Paradise and Deathrite Shaman. The second category would be artifact mana acceleration. This category would contain cards like the ever present Sol Ring, as well as cards like Mox Diamond or Lotus Petal. The third category would be most usefully described as spell based mana acceleration. This can take a few forms, as both Dark Ritual and Nature’s Lore would fit this category. Also some enchantments function as mana ramp, but there’s not many of those. So basically, we have mana acceleration that comes in across every card type, but the predominant versions are Artifacts, Creatures, and Spells.

Just so I can overcomplicate things for you, there’s another possible way to distinguish mana acceleration that is important to keep in mind. Compare Mox Diamond to Lotus Petal. One of these cards provides mana each time you tap it, the other sacrifices, only allowing you to gain mana the single time you activate it. This is the distinction between “one shot” mana acceleration that we’ll call ‘Ritual’ effects, after Dark Ritual, and permanent mana acceleration that we’ll call “Ramp” effects. Taking these two kinds of acceleration together, we can describe all the forms commonly played in competitive EDH. From spell based Rituals to artifact and creature based Ramp, we can describe in two words the card type and the form of acceleration provided. From this starting point, let’s move on to talking about how each of the three archetypes I discussed in a prior article might apply these forms of acceleration.

Starting with the fastest archetype, what kind of acceleration might Aggro decks want in this format? These decks, as I mentioned earlier, aim to trade their cards for a quick win. Because of that, they value speed above all else. Cards like Gilded Lotus might provide you with a sizable jump, from 5 mana to 8 mana, but that’s not going to matter when you’re trying to cast and activate Hermit Druid as soon as possible, which only requires 1G. From this, we can glean that the kinds of acceleration they would like to play will, ideally, get them from 0 mana to 2 mana as fast as possible. This means that the exact form of the acceleration doesn’t matter as much as the initial investment into that acceleration. Ramp or Ritual matters less to Aggro decks than having their acceleration cost 0-1 mana.

After Aggro, we can look to the Midrange decks, generally looking to win a little bit after the first few turns of the game. These decks have more variety in their plays of choice, be it casting a Yisan or an Ad Nauseam. The early game acceleration is important in these decks, as there is a stark difference in power between a turn 1 Yisan and a turn 3 Yisan. Early creature and artifact ramp is going to be the backbone of most of these decks, as being able to leverage the mana advantage over several turns in the mid game is where Midrange decks shine. Supplementing this, in Ad Nauseam based Midrange decks, spell based Ritual mana helps get the storm count up, while assisting with casting Ad Nauseam with protection. So to sum up, artifact and creature based Ramp is the backbone of Midrange decks, with many Ad Nauseam versions supplementing this suite with spell based Rituals.

Last up, we have Control. If you’ve been paying attention, you can probably guess how this is going to play out. Control decks seek to play the long game, spending many turns disrupting opponents while slowly burning through their resources. They want their mana acceleration to stick around. Ritual spells may be nice for quick bursts of mana, but when you’re expecting the game to last for upwards of 6 turns, having the acceleration stick around is key. The only Ritual you could expect to see in a deck like would be Dramatic Reversal, and that’s a Ritual effect that only functions as a combo piece and is predicated on your Ramp suite. Ramp is the only important form of acceleration for Control decks, as they intend to grind out their advantage over the course of many turns.

Now that we have both a working knowledge of how to categorize mana acceleration and how to apply it in general terms to a given archetype, let’s take a look at the more commonly seen options available and how relatively powerful the different choices are.

Artifacts

Lotus Petal – Ritual: Going from 0 to anything is big. It’s a quick burst of mana when you need it, turns on your Mox Opal, etc.

Lion’s Eye Diamond – Ritual: Significantly more mana for significantly more associated cost. Discarding your hand before you can put the spells from it you want on the stack make LED a more niche application. Often seen in conjunction with wheels or Ad Naus, it is a nice burst of mana before you draw a pile more cards. Also it combos with Auriok Salvagers as well as fits into the traditional Doomsday piles with Gush and Yawgmoth’s Will.

Chrome Mox – Ramp: One of the most commonly played artifacts in the format, Chrome Mox is a nice legal moxen that has you ‘pay for it’ with a card in your hand.

Mana Crypt – Ramp: Actually in every single cEDH deck. You have no reason to not play this. Mana Crypt into Null Rod is a strong start at many tables. It’s amazing.

Mox Diamond – Ramp: Another card played in something like 98% of the most popular decks. 0 drop ramp that produces colored mana for a minor cost is basically amazing.

Mox Opal – Ramp: More niche than the last Moxen, Mox Opal requires artifact density to be useful. Many decks don’t reach this threshold, given that it’s still in consistent as early game ramp at 18 other Artifacts, but it’s great mid combo!

Mox Amber – Ramp: Another niche Mox. I hope they keep doing this kinda thing. They’ll punt in our favor eventually. This one mostly only goes in decks with 2 cmc commanders like Baral, or some slower Thrasios builds. Great budget option for Thrasios decks as well!

Lotus Bloom – Ritual: Literally only for Yidris. I think Sharuum used to jam this too? But yeah. This isn’t useful for anyone else.

Sol Ring – Ramp: Hell of a card. Mana Crypt without the drawback for 1 mana. Worthwhile in basically everything that exists.

Mana Vault – Ramp: This one is also excellent, but a bit more consideration has to be made before running it. Three colorless mana is a lot, but you need to be able to make use of it. In addition, it doesn’t untap and pings you every draw step you don’t untap it. So in slow and grindy control decks, consider how you could untap this before slotting it in. And in decks with very little generic cost, consider if you can make use of the three colorless mana it provides. Typically the answer is still yes.

Jeweled Amulet – Ramp: This is kind of a one cost mana rock? Having to split up over two turns is unfortunate. This card isn’t very good, which is why it sees so little play. But some decks don’t have other options, so here we are.

Signets – Ramp: Some of the best worst two drop mana rocks out there. These make colored mana, but a specific pair of colored mana. Which can be tricky to use in a similar way to Mana Vault mana. Also they cost mana to activate, so they can lead to some awful sequencing to be able to make optimal use out of them. Play them in your primary colors. Consider them in your secondary colors, but don’t assume you should run all you can.

Talismans – Ramp: These, on the other hand, are gas. And we’re all waiting on Wizards to finish the cycle off. I have high hopes for some recent sets. Modern Horizons, let’s see how this ages. Anyways, these are always being run in your primary colors, and typically in your secondary as well.

Fellwar Stone – Ramp: Also basically in everything that runs two cmc rocks, it usually makes every color of mana. Great card. Wish there were more.

Copy Artifact – Ramp: So this isn’t an artifact. But when it’s in play it is. Sooooo we’re throwing it in here. Also an excellent two cmc rock, since it can be much better than that. It can be a Thran Dynamo courtesy of Teferi, it can be a Paradox Engine courtesy of the fizzled Thrasios player, or it can be your own second Scepter for fun Dual Scepter lines. Also it’s RL to please by your copies now while they’re still sub $30.

Grim Monolith – Ramp: Like Mana Vault, but more abusable. Combos with Power Artifact for infinite colorless, which is cool. Doesn’t untap naturally, which is less cool. Solid ramp piece.

Everflowing Chalice – Ramp: Kinda yuck, but it scales which can be cute. Doesn’t see a ton of play, but it’s an option. Also super cheap which is fun for budget Paradox Engine builds who want a 20 mana producing rock.

Mind Stone – Ramp: Like Chalice, it works. It exists, and it draws a card if you’re floundering, so that’s not too bad a backup mode.

Prismatic Lens – Ramp: I’ve seen this card’s mana fixing mode come up exactly once, but it was quite relevant at the time. Yet another generic cost colorless producing two drop rock.

Voltaic Key – Ramp: This isn’t strictly a mana rock, but it’s functionally so in a lot of ways. One to cast, one and tap to untap your Mana Vault? Smells like a two cmc rock to me! Also does cute things with Sensei’s Divining Top (like drawing your deck with a Paradox Engine).

Basalt Monolith – Ramp: Another card to combo with Power Artifact. At this point we’re moving into the realm of “cards Teferi plays for combo functionality” and away from “these are good mana rocks.”

Serum Power – Ramp: I’m just playing. But technically, yes. This is ramp.

Thran Dynamo – Ramp: Big fat fatties like this are for Teferi since he combos with a significant amount of mana across a significantly smaller amount of permanents.

Gilded Lotus – Ramp: This is not to be played in basically anything else. Please don’t jam Gilded Lotus into a Scepter/Engine deck. Please don’t jam Gilded Lotus into your MAN model homebrew. You’re just asking to be blown out in the worst way.

Creatures

Simian Spirit Guide – Ritual: One of the few ritual type creatures. These spirit guide’s are a nice little burst of mana at the start when needed. Mostly only for deck’s that are creature heavy or can abuse them, like Prossh or Gitrog.

Elvish Spirit Guide – Ritual: The other one.

“Dryad Arbor” – Ramp: It’s technically a creature. It’s only ramp when you can Green Sun’s for it, which isn’t a common line in this format. But it is occasionally the line.

Llanowar Elves – Ramp: One drop dorks that produce colored. These are great. They get less great the more colors you add and the less you rely on green mana. Flavor to taste.

Elvish Mystic – Ramp: See Llanowar Elves.

Fyndhorn Elves – Ramp: I feel like we just covered this.

Elves of Deep Shadow – Ramp: Black mana is much better though, so expect to be running this more than the third Llanowar Elves clone.

Avacyn’s Pilgrim – Ramp: White mana isn’t much better, but sometimes you need extra white sources. Wotc, where was our Blue one of these in Ixlan block?

Noble Hierarch – Ramp: Basically the best dork ever. Tied with the next two for a variety of factors. This one makes blue and green, which is sweet. Exalted is also actually fairly relevant with Tymna, letting her swing past a lot of formally lethal blocks and gain you more life than ever.

Deathrite Shaman – Ramp: [Tired planeswalker joke]. This card is amazing. And in a format where every deck runs 4-10 fetch lands, he’s a consistent and easily assumed active mana dork. Plus graveyard hate. Plus life total pressure. Plus life gain source.

Birds of Paradise – Ramp: Casually makes every color of mana since 1993. Play it. No excuses.

Boreal Druid – Ramp: This one sucks, but if you need a concentration of one drops, he exists. Colorless mana from a dork is just painful. But he can help activate your Mouth of Ronom too so there’s that.

Orcish Lumberjack – Ramp: Mostly ramp. Losing your lands may seem nuts, but he is a +2 reusable dork, which is pretty cool. Mostly just seen in Prossh at this point.

Bloom Tender – Ramp: Not only is this card nuts with Tymna, it also combos with Freed From the Real! Excellent two drop mana dork, and the baseline I tend to compare others to.

Priest of Titania – Ramp: This absolutely meets the baseline set. Higher ceiling on mana. No ceiling on mana, actually. But all green. Doesn’t just count your dorks, so be sure to keep a close eye around the table for the elf count. Overall, great ramp piece.

Channeler Initiate – Ramp: This is ramp in a very tight pinch, but it’s really just a combo piece for Necrotic Ooze decks, alongside the next card.

Devoted Druid – Ramp: See above. They kinda stink on their own, but they do let you make infinite mana!

Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary – Ramp: A card that sure looks like it’s weaker than one of our currently seen commanders, Selvala. But I guess Rofellos is still banned since he’s clearly more broken than Flash Hulk.

Selvala, Heart of the Wilds – Ramp: Draws cards, makes mana scalable off your biggest bro. Solid card all around. No wonder it’s a commonly played commander. Maindeck, not a whole lot of play since it’s far easier to build around her than to incidentally utilize her.

Metalworker – Ramp: Used to get jammed in Teferi decks. Now it’s mostly relegated to Arcum. Can make a lot of mana fairly quickly, but is also a three drop without haste.

Selvala, Explorer Returned – Ramp: People try to run this as a commander, but drawing cards for your opponents is suuuuuuuper bad. Sometimes Sisay uses it as a way to win, by decking the opponent after you stick your Dosan or whatever, to try and not die to the cards you’re feeding everyone.

Skirge Familiar – Ramp: Kinda. And even this is mostly getting cut from modern Gitrog builds I think? But it’s technically ramp! And a mana source, so people can’t respond to it!

Spells

Dark Ritual – Ritual: The titular card for the ritual type, Dark Ritual is great. If you’re in black and not doing staxy kinda things, you’re almost certainly on Dark Ritual.

Bubbling Muck – Ritual: I was about to type ‘High Tide, but for Swamps’ but then realized I didn’t do High Tide yet. So uh, it doubles your Swampy mana. This is decent in decks like Sidisi ANT and such, but most lists don’t need or want that much Black mana, and don’t play enough Swamps to support it effectively.

Songs of the Damned – Ritual: This one is mostly just seen in Sidisi Buried Alive, but any Storm Razaketh deck could run it. Oh. So yeah, this is mostly just for Sidisi Buried Alive.

High Tide – Ritual: From what used to be the backbone of a whole archetype of Storm to an occasionally played footnote in cEDH. High Tide can bring some nice mana acceleration, but unless you’re in a heavy Blood Moon meta, you’re probably not looking to warp your mana base to abuse High Tide in any significant way, so it’s more like a Dark Ritual for Blue at this point.

Cabal Ritual – Ritual: Bigger Dark Ritual. Good stuff. Turn on Threshold before you cast it or it’ll be sad times.

Summer Bloom – Ramp: If you have lands to put into play, this isn’t half bad as a two cmc ramp spell. Usually that won’t be the case in many games, which is why this spell sees minimal play. But if you wheel a lot and have no concise routes to victory, maybe this can help you bridge the gap!

Nature’s Lore – Ramp: A fun “variant’ on Rampant Growth effect, this and the next one are playable in cEDH because not only do they not specify that the Forest in question has to be a basic, but they also put it into play untapped, functionally costing only a single mana!

Three Visits – Ramp: Seriously though, when is this getting a reprint?

Enchantments



Utopia Sprawl
– Ramp: A nice piece of ramp that will see play over some of the weaker one drop elves, and helps get around Cursed Totem metas. Also is a viable ramp source in Divergent Transformations decks that can’t afford to play another creature.

Wild Growth – Ramp: More of less the same kinda card as Utopia Sprawl. Minor differences, but if you’re on one you’re likely on both on principle.

Carpet of Flowers – Ramp: An incredible ramp piece, in a specific meta context. Obviously, this is useless if you never see Islands on the other sides of the table. But this is cEDH. And if you don’t see Islands on the other side of the table, you sat down at the wrong table. Or your meta is super warped and generalities don’t apply to you. But if you’re average, this card is amazing.





I think that’s basically everything. Obviously not literally every option was covered since there are actually hundreds of mana rocks and dorks alone, but these are the primary playable ones that you can reasonably expect to see with consistency, and play with consistency. Hopefully this has helped provide some points for you to think on with your own deckbuilding: about whether or not rituals are worth including, about whether or not you need to run enchantments to get around Cursed Totems, or move to more creatures to beat a Null Rod. Every part of deckbuilding is an exercise is meta analysis, and exactly what kind of mana acceleration you include is no different. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time in cEDH 101: Card Evaluation and the Color Pie!

-Dan

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