Ranking Every Mana Rock with EDHREC – 2021 Edition
(Cursed Mirror | Art by David Gaillet)
Another Trip Around the Sun!
A better writer would probably start off this article with some retrospective take on the year. You know the type: "2021 was not as explosive for Magic as 2020, but it still had some high moments, some low moments, and had decisions that will impact the format for years to come...."
But y'know, I don't want to do a deep dive on Magic's philosophical place over the last year. Many others have already done that for me. I just wanna use the new year as an excuse to talk about cool Magic cards.
So let's do that!
What Have I Missed?
In case this is the first article you've read by me for some reason, I'm Joseph. I'm the resident regnant ranker of EDHREC! Over the past two years, I've ranked every Land, Mana Rock, Planeswalker, and Equipment based on the number of decks they have listed on EDHREC.
However, like most mortals, I am tethered to time! As such, since finishing all those series, new cards have come out that I wasn't able to rank and talk about. Thus, a series of catch-up articles were born.
Yes, I have gone back and reranked every single Land, Mana Rock, Planeswalker, and Equipment with new data. I then added the cards that released in 2021 for each of those criteria, and over the next four weeks (not counting a set review that will happen somewhere), we're gonna go over all the new cards from 2021 and see how they stack up.
Sounds fun to me, and I'm the one writing this, so let's do it! We're starting with the type that has the least number of new additions: mana rocks. Ready, go!
Mana Rocks of 2021
- Eligible Sets: Kaldheim, Kaldheim Commander, Strixhaven, Commander 2021, Modern Horizons 2, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, Forgotten Realms Commander, Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, Midnight Hunt Commander
- Previous number of Mana Rocks: 122
- New Additions from 2021: 14
- New Number of Mana Rocks: 136
Oh! One other quick bookkeeping thing: no Crimson Vow for any of these series. We're still too close to that set's release date for accurate data. Okay, now I'm done. Mana Rocks of 2021: let's jam!
111: Spell Satchel: 800 Decks
Hey, anybody wanna jam some bad, conditional ramp in your spellslinger deck when you could just run Mind Stone?
No? Good talk.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: I’d complain about needing three counters to draw here, but you’re almost never gonna get the three counters to even do it.
97: Component Pouch: 1,766 Decks
I'm getting some Mana Battery vibes off Component Pouch, which I'm not sure is a good thing. Much as I want to love the Mana Batteries, they're super slow, and Pouch doesn't even tap for mana at the start. Think I'll pass on this one.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: It's cute, but not cute enough.
95: Dungeon Map: 1,862 Decks
I wish they had made Dungeon Map a Manalith with upside. If it tapped for colored mana, it’d be similar to Bonder’s Ornament, which is a decent budget mana rock. Tapping for colorless restricts it to mono-colored decks, and the ramp options for those tend to be more flexible/powerful than venturing with Map. The returns on Dungeons are generally going to be much worse than straight draw every turn.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Unless you’re in the dedicated Dungeon deck, like Sefris of the Hidden Ways or Hama Pashar, Ruin Seeker. Obviously, Dungeon Map is one of your best mana ramp cards there.
94: Letter of Acceptance: 2,035 Decks
Dear Letter of Acceptance,
We regret to inform you that you have not been chosen as the best Manalith of the year. Though we respect all Manaliths, the competition this year was very tight, and we ultimately decided to go in a different direction. We hope to continue to see your work in the future.
The Board of Three-Mana Rampers
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: It’s definitely worse than Mana Geode, and that’s my baseline for a Manalith that I'm happy to play, but it's from a recent set, and it's still fine.
87: Ebony Fly: 2,471 Decks
Okay, all y'all playing Ebony Fly should turn around and get a copy of Guardian Idol. How can you pay four mana for a derpy flyer and then just disrespect our two-mana creature boi? It's cruel, I tell ya!
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Ebony Fly is worse than Idol, in my opinion, but has all the same synergy that Idol has with stuff like Jalira, Master Polymorphist, and even has some unique synergy with dice rolling cards, like Vrondiss, Rage of Ancients.
86: Orb of Dragonkind: 2,548 Decks
Completionists among you might remember that I dug Sarkhan, Fireblood as a fragile mana rock for Dragon decks with upside. Well, Orb of Dragonkind is basically a less fragile version of that card. It may not ramp you quite as well as Sarkhan, but you can bet your buttered biscuits it’ll fix your mana for your big spooky Dragons, and for 50 cents to boot! That plus the card draw and being two mana to tie the package together means the time to get these is now, before the price starts to rival Sliver Hive.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: It’s probably not something you need to play in green-based Dragon decks, but even there, it won't be bad.
84: Elementalist’s Palette: 2,625 Decks
I am absolutely not upset that X spell tribal became much more of a thing over the last two years. It was kind of a thing before that; in 2019, we had a couple cards like Rosheen Meanderer that benefited from X spells. Now, though? We've got two years of support with Zaxara, the Exemplary, Unbound Flourishing, and now Elementalist's Palette all doing the same thing: making sure you cast your X spells for the silliest amount possible. Sounds good to me!
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: After seeing this card, I somehow want to build a second deck where the goal is to cast Villainous Wealth as much as possible
79: The Celestus: 3,792 Decks
Congrats to all the Werewolf players! Does The Celestus do anything for us non-Werewolf fanatics? If you don't care about Day/Night at all, this is basically three mana to loot and gain a life, I guess? That's not the most impactful trigger. You can get extra loots off natural Day/Night switches done by opponents, but old school Werewolf players will tell you that no one is gonna pass the turn playing zero spells, and someone casting two spells isn't a guarantee. Probably best to consider the ability to be three mana, loot once, maybe twice if you're lucky.
I can image some decks that would jive with that. I've brought up my Mono-White Reanimator deck, and The Celestus is a windmill slam inclusion to get Silver Seraph and friends into the graveyard. That's where Celestus is going to shine most: when the looting significantly matters. Three mana to 'desperation loot' is better than nothing, but it's never gonna be good. For a dedicated reanimator strategy, though, three mana to pitch something for your God-Pharaoh's Gift is something you'll happily do. It's not often gonna be as good as Manascape Refractor or Chromatic Lantern, but for specific decks, it might be the rock that ties the deck together!
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: I keep wanting to call this card "the Celestes," but I think that's just what you call multiple copies of the best mountain climbing simulator ever made.
74: Crowded Crypt: 4,382 Decks
So Crowded Crypt is seven mana to make something like 6--10 Zombies that can attack once? Hrmmmmmmm....
Don't get me wrong, that ability can be very good. With Eloise, Nephalia Sleuth, that's a million Clues. It could be so much more, though. Cracking the Crypt takes the entire turn to do. If it cost three or four to crack, I could maybe squeeze in something else to make the tokens do something the turn they come in. As is, there're too many empty board scenarios where Crypt doesn't do anything to make me really want it, unless I know it's always gonna be bananas in my deck.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: We're getting real close to a cycle of mono-color Manaliths with upside.
61: Strixhaven Stadium: 6,098 Decks
Let's acknowledge that it's gonna be difficult to win with Strixhaven Stadium without winning all at once, and if you have ten creatures that can get in, it's going to be very likely that those creatures would win you the game through damage soon anyway.
With that said, why the heck would you not play this? Do you just hate fun? Otherwise, there's no reason not to sneak this in any token deck for the potential jank wins. It's like playing Mortal Combat in a graveyard deck for the potential surprise win, except that Strixhaven Stadium still ramps you on the games when you aren't pulling the rug out from your opponents.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: I see no downside here. Why wouldn't you play a card that makes wonderful stories for free?
57: Sol Talisman: 6,202 Decks
I've gone over the uses of these Suspend mana rocks before, like Lotus Bloom and Mox Tantalite, but for non-completionists, there're two main homes for these rocks: the Cascade decks, and decks that can recur them from the graveyard, like Osgir, the Reconstructor.
In the latter, I think Lotus Bloom is the better zero-mana artifact to get. It sacs itself, and it has more explosive power, so cheating it into play is probably going to be more impactful. If you need another artifact to synergize with, Sol Talisman is still pretty good, and it's cheaper than Tantilite (seriously, why the heck is that card still $7), so it's definitely in the conversation.
In the former, I think Sol Talisman is actually better than Bloom or Tantilite. Cascade decks often won't have a lot of random artifact synergies, so Talisman sticking around and tapping for more mana makes it the best random hit of the three. Passing grade overall here.
Over, Under or Just Right? Just Right: It does compete in the Cascade decks with the zero-mana spells, like Inevitable Betrayal, but it's also less than a dollar, so I think that's still a good home for it.
53: Cursed Mirror: 9,420 Decks
Now this is a Manalith! Early game ramp that does a serviceable job, but is still a super great draw late game, where it could become anything at all, from a Vilis, Broker of Blood to a Korvold, Fae-Cursed King to an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. There's not much I have to say here, not because I don't adore this card, but because the power and nonsense speaks for itself.
Over, Under or Just Right? Just Right: Definitely the Midnight Clock for red.
48: Replicating Ring: 11,192 Decks
On power level, I'd consider Replicating Ring to be similar to Mana Geode but perhaps a bit more explosive. Mana Geode is guaranteed value right away even if the value is kinda mediocre. Ring needs eight turns to go off, and even when it does, there's no guarantee you'll be able to use that mana. You can technically speed it up with Proliferate cards, but that feels a bit magical Christmasland-y for me. Sometimes it'll be great, but often it won't do much.
From a fun standpoint though, Replicating Ring is one of the best mana rocks you can play, and I 100% understand it.
Over, Under or Just Right? Just Right: If you expect me to only evaluate cards on power level, you clearly have not read much of this series
39: Liquimetal Torque: 13,732 Decks
As soon as Liquimetal Torque was spoiled, it was destined to rank very highly on this list, and it didn't even matter what the text did. It's a two-mana rock from a recent set. Fractured Powerstone does nothing except tap for mana in 99.9% of Magic games from a set that 99.8% of Magic players have never heard of, and it's in 4,000+ decks. Liquimetal Torque is newer, cheaper, and from one of the most beloved sets ever. You could make the second ability "Tap: Find a Shrek Pinball machine and give it all your money" and it would still probably top this list.
That doesn't mean we can't still do some very silly things with this card. The upside they gave this card is just Liquimetal Coating, one of the most Jenny/Johnny cards possible. Everything from Glissa Sunseeker to Karn, the Great Creator to Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient to many, many, many others cards adore the sheer volume of things you can do with this. I'm super happy this card exists because it's ramp that also might be the best card in a given deck, and that's a rare sight!
Over, Under or Just Right? Just Right: Screw the two-mana ramp bit, I'm going off with King Macar, the Gold-Cursed!
I Love Goooooooooooold
That's one snapshot of 2021 done! How did Mana Rocks fare this year? Is there a rock that is severely underplayed or overplayed? Have you any large grand sweeping Mana Rock beliefs that must be displayed? Let me know in the comment. Until next week, when we continue our stroll through 2021!