Ranking Every Mana Rock with EDHREC – Part 4: I Need a Zero!
(Lotus Bloom | Art by Mark Zug)
Save Time Now, Ramble More Later
Hello! Here in series, we rank every mana rock based on number of decks they have on website. Usually funny here, but now, no space. Word count too high. Needed more space for talk on Manalith. So caveman speech here to save time. You busy person, me busy person. Go!
82: Gemstone Array: 1,015 Decks
Gemstone Array is not a good card. It's a Celestial Prism that you can activate multiple times. Sure, you can store mana, but the rate of two mana for one mana is so bad, it's not ever really worth doing. It's a bad effect, but it's completely unique. Maybe my Scryfall-fu is lacking, but I couldn't find a card that filters mana like Array. A lot of them are restricted to one use like Prophetic Prism. The closest I found was Mycosynth Lattice, which has a ton of extra baggage, and Nomadic Elf, which is a fragile creature. If you want to use mana from commanders like Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix as colored mana, Array is probably your best option.
Or that's what I would've said until this happened:
Yeah. Not every day the new set influences these articles like this. Chromatic Orrery does almost everything that Gemstone Array does but better. Sure, Orrery can't store mana for future turns, but Array is bad at that job, anyway, so you might as well run a card like Kruphix, God of Horizons for that. If you want to make colorless mana into colored mana, I think I'd play Orrery over Array every time.
Now, Array isn't completely worthless. It still has synergy with stuff that specifically cares about lands like Taniwha, and it’s better with stuff that cares about counters like Vorel of the Hull Clade, but it was already pretty niche, and now a good chunk of its uniqueness has been usurped.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Them's the breaks, unfortunately.
81: The Obelisks: 1,078 Decks
(Obelisk of Grixis: 2,076; Obelisk of Esper: 1,736; Obelisk of Jund: 611; Obelisk of Bant: 487; Obelisk of Naya: 480)
I thought we were done with strictly worse Manalith, but no! I forgot about these. I saw some people talking about the Cameos as mana rocks that tap for your colors but don't tap for opponents' colors if said opponents steal your mana rocks. Here're some more of those, I guess. Beyond that, pick any other Manalith, and it probably does more than these.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Definitely low on the scale of Manalith playability.
80: Pentad Prism: 1,138 Decks
Pentad Prism is a card that does absolutely nothing very powerfully. At first glance, paying two mana now for two mana later doesn't seem worth it, but the fact that you can play it early on really propels it into a great mana rock. People love their Fellwar Stones and Arcane Signets because turn-two ramp is critical for getting commanders like Rafiq of the Many out quickly. Prism may be temporary ramp, but it can be that critical ramp when you need it most. When you really wanna cast that Morality Shift ASAP, Prism is two mana towards that on turn two. Then it just sits there, waiting to be picked up by Paradoxical Outcome or sacrificed to Goblin Welder. That's not even mentioning Proliferate shenanigans like Evolution Sage where this card can create multiple mana a turn. I don't think it goes in every deck: you're still throwing away a card for a tiny gain, but if you really want to cast something quickly, it’s worth considering.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: I keep running into Jeremy's colorless Sunburst deck while writing these.
79: The Keyrunes: 1,321 Decks
(Dimir Keyrune: 2,050; Izzet Keyrune: 1,809; Azorius Keyrune: 1,800; Rakdos Keyrune: 1,645; Orzhov Keyrune: 1,349 Boros Keyrune: 1,318; Golgari Keyrune: 935; Simic Keyrune: 718; Selesnya Keyrune: 718; Gruul Keyrune: 503)
I thought about splitting up this cycle, similarly to how we did the Totems, but I just don't have much to say on these. They don't have the history of the Totems, and a lot of the creatures on these are pretty meh. Good thing my Simic Keyrune has hexproof to prevent the many kill spells people would spend on it.
That said, these still fill the traditional hole that manlands need to, and they do it quite well. A lot of decks have synergies with creatures dealing damage, while others like sacrificing creatures for value. These decks would probably benefit from playing the Keyrunes because they're all super cheap to activate. The stats on something like Orzhov Keyrune don't really matter because it's ramp that's also is a dork for Priest of Forgotten Gods. The only ones I think are bad are the Gruul and Selesnya ones, and that's just because there's not a ton of synergy that doesn't involve attacking. All the others should probably see more play.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: Special mention to Dimir Keyrune for being the best creature for Commander, and Boros Keyrune for being really good at holding Sunforger.
78:Orazca Relic: 1,354 Decks
People do know Commander's Sphere exists, right? I can't think of a scenario where you'd play Orazca Relic over Sphere. Tapping for colorless makes it pretty unappealing. Even colorless decks have Mind Stone, and Hedron Archive. When exactly would someone want Orazca Relic, specifically?
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Maybe in a mon-color, uber-budget deck, but even then, it still seems clunky.
77: The Banners: 1,355 Decks
(Mardu Banner: 2,063; Jeskai Banner: 1,934; Sultai Banner: 1,059; Abzan Banner: 871; Temur Banner: 848)
I have a soft spot for the Banners, as they were some of the first mana rocks I played. I very rarely had the mana to crack these, but when I did, it was a neat bonus. Nowadays, I'm not playing these in practically any deck. I did just mention Commander's Sphere, which is better in almost every way, but the banners aren't unplayable. Unlike Orazca Relic, they actually fix a thre- color deck's mana. They're also less than a quarter. Similar to Transguild Promenade, these meet the bare minimum of playability. Replaceable with any number of options, but definitely functional enough.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Someone better be filling out the Scale of Manaliths. There will be a test.
76: Tome of the Guildpact: 1,479 Decks
I, uh, I'm not quite sure how this slipped through the cracks. I said in part 0 that anything that didn't tap for mana as a primary function wasn't going to be on here, yet I very much doubt anyone is playing a five-mana rock just because it taps for mana. Can't do anything about it now, unfortunately. At least it's got the mana rock aesthetic unlike Phyrexian Altar, but I have a feeling fans of a great big stone ditch might be knocking on my door soon.
Anyway, Tome of the Guildpact. The question is basically how many multicolored spells you need to run to make this card appealing? Obviously, something like Niv-Mizzet Reborn running 63 colored cards and 36 lands is going to want this card, but what about, like, 30? What about like 15? I can imagine a deck that isn't themed around multicolored cards that happens to run enough that Tome might draw them an extra card each turn. That's pretty appealing from a mana rock, especially in Mardu or Bant decks. The problem is when it isn't doing that, it's a five-mana do-nothing card, so there's a definite risk. I don't know when you cross the threshold to needing this, but if you put it in your deck and you play a game where it does nothing, that probably means your deck didn't reach that threshold.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Fans of The Great Henge, I’ll probably get to it at some point.
75: Altar of the Pantheon: 1,555 Decks
It's the hottest deal on the market: we're selling our award-winning Manalith with a new ability to increase any devotion! That's right, any devotion! Help your five-color Karona, False God God tribal deck, or increase the power on Anax, Hardened in the Forge, all completely free with your purchase. But that's not all! Act fast, and we'll throw in the ability to gain one life every time you tap it! (Note, only works with Gods or Godlike beings.) All this for the low, low price of three mana. That's right! Three mana! You won't find a better deal on Theros, so come on down to Heliod's Mana Rock Emporium, where we wanna rock!
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: Jokes aside, I'd probably play Altar over most mana rocks in decks that had a devotion commander. It's free relevant upside.
74: Corrupted Grafstone: 1,589 Decks
I really want Corrupted Grafstone to be good, but it never is. It's a two-mana rock that can potentially tap for any color, and is only a quarter to boot. It seems perfect for graveyard decks. That downside is super easy to get around, right?
Not really. The issue is that cards have to actually get in your graveyard, which requires casting a spell that puts cards in your graveyards, which means that you probably have some colored mana already. By the time Grafstone can actually produce the mana that you need, it's probably, like, turn 4-6, which makes it significantly less appealing. Not to mention that it straight-up doesn't make mana without cards in a graveyard. Every time I play it, I'm pretty unimpressed, and yet I still think the card should be good. It's a two-mana rock! There has to be something here. The High Synergy cards aren't actually graveyard decks at all, they're spellslinger cards like Faithless Looting. While I see some of the same issue there, it does seem easy to cast a Ponder turn one into Grafstone turn two. Perhaps these decks can make this card worth it?
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: I'm still holding out hope for this thing, but no luck yet.
73: Honor-Worn Shaku: 1,635 Decks
This card has found a very odd home in Superfriends decks. I guess it's not like Planeswalkers are going to tap for anything else, so this is kind of free value, but on the other hand, this is the best thing you can think of to abuse planeswalkers? "Yes, you know what would make Nicol Bolas, Dragon God better? If it was also a Boreal Druid!" This just feels too cute. Shaku is worse than a lot of ramp that superfriends decks could be running, and while it works well with multiple planeswalkers, if you have multiples planeswalkers, why aren't you winning the game?
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: Don't take that to mean that this is a bad card. Some legendary tribal decks might want it, and for commanders like King Macar, the Gold Cursed, this is the best mana rock they could ask for.
72: Mox Tantalite: 1,662 Decks
71: Lotus Bloom: 1,790 Decks
I did not plan for these to be so close together, but since they are, let's talk about them both because they fulfill a similar role. On their own, they’re pretty bad. You can never cast these because they have no mana cost. Suspending one of these on turn one means that you can expect these to ramp you on turn four, which is fine, but not spectacular, and that's the best-case scenario. Worst case is drawing this late game when it does nothing. As fair mana ramp, these are both bad.
There are, however, two types of decks that really benefit from these artifacts. First is Cascade decks. Having a zero-costed artifact to spin into off of Brainstorm or Sol Ring is excellent. Sure, some decks will already have a zero-drop like Living End, but not every deck can take advantage of these cards. Having one of these for Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder or The First Sliver to incidentally spin into is just free value and is worth the awkwardness of drawing them.
The second is any artifact deck that can get these in the graveyard. Daretti, Scrap Savant loves having a free Black Lotus or Mox Diamond he can get back at any time. I think both of these cards would see more play if they were cheaper. I would especially play Tantalite way more if it wasn't $6. As is, they are expensive niche cards, but fit their niches quite well.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: I definitely don't think they're underplayed, but I do think they probably deserve more respect.
Artifact Mana is Always in Season
Me still have no space for outro. What you think about these cards? You find success with Corrupted Grafstone? You have spot for no-cost mana tappy thing? Tell me using words on internet! Bye!