Ranking Every Mana Rock with EDHREC – Part 6: Non-Speedcubing
(Doubling Cube | Art by Mark Tedin)
Battle Lines Have Been Drawn
Shh! Keep your voice down. As I've said before, I write these articles ahead of time, so I've just been apprised of the situation: with Core 2021, Dogs are now a real creature type!
Now you may think "Oh, that's neat, I can finally build some cute Doggo decks," but it is not "neat"! Now Wizards has opened the floodgates for Cat people and Dog people to have the battle of the ages. Before this, the Cats were placated by the lackluster "Hound" creature type, but now that the Cats have a true contender for "household pet creature types" with Dogs, there's going to be a bloodbath when the Cat EDH players try to strike against this new foe. Don't be fooled by the propaganda of Rin and Seri, Inseparable. Wake up, Sheep! It's only a ploy to buy time! The Dog people have to be ready.
So I've been prepping ahead. I've hidden this message in a seemingly regular article where we rank every mana rock based on how many decks they have on EDHREC. Prepare yourself! Get your Basilisk Collar ready and wrap your Chalice of Life in bubble wrap to keep it safe on the shelf. The battle will be long and arduous. Who knows what‘ll happen if Bird fans enter the fray!
60: Vessel of Endless Rest: 2,553 Decks
This is another one I have soft spot for. Back in 2012-2013, this was definitely an excellent budget Manalith. During that time, options for mana rocks that tapped for five colors were sparse, especially if you didn't have money for cards like Coalition Relic. This card was a cheap three-mana rock that occasionally got a creature out of a graveyard. Back then, totally happy to play it! Nowadays, it's just outclassed. The odds of putting a card back to draw it again later is ludicrously low, and we have much better suites of graveyard hate and five-color rocks, so, unfortunately, it just doesn't do enough to justify including now. Sigh.
Wait, what do you mean there's weird decks running this? Grenzo, Dungeon Warden? Famously known for making Howltooth Hollow playable? Scion of the Ur Dragon is also running it as a way to rebuy key Dragons? Tunnel Vision combos? Vessel, when I give this great speech about how you had a moment in the sun before being unable to keep up with the times, you can't ruin that by still being playable!
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: I still think that most decks don't want it, but if you want to build bottom of library tribal, here you go!
59: Fractured Powerstone: 2,686 Decks
The Planar Die is a mechanic from the Magic variant Planechase. Basically, by rolling the die, you can travel through different planes that all have different effects on the game. Each player gets one free roll on their turn, but each additional roll costs one more mana each time. Fractured Powerstone is actually one of the best mana rocks you could have in Planechase games because odds are good that you can probably find a plane that'll synergize more with your deck if you keep rolling.
None of that is why the card actually sees play. Sure, some groups might play Planechase every week, but it's definitely not most people's cup of tea. No, it's seeing play mainly because it's a two-mana rock with no downside. We'll discuss the hip, new craze of two-mana ramp later, but Fractured Powerstone feels very lackluster. Sure, it enter untapped, but it's also $2 for a card that's secondary ability does absolutely nothing in non-Planechase games. There are a lot of two-mana rocks. Even if you're playing straight colorless, I can name seven different two-mana rocks I'd run before Powerstone. I wouldn't chase after this one.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: And if you are running Planechase every week, might I recommend the eternity map variant?
58: Midnight Clock: 2,704 Decks
What the heck is this? Why did no one tell me about Midnight Clock? Why have I never seen this card in play?! This card looks nuts. Even if you never put a counter on it, it's a personal Timetwister with Suspend 3. That's an excellent way to refill your hand! Are people not aware it gets counters on each upkeep?
The biggest issue with mana rocks is drawing them later on. Clock can ramp you early on, but it's still a good draw late game. Maybe there's the odd circumstances where you want to keep your hand, but you can always bounce the Clock or just not play it out. I'm really confused how I've never seen this card at my EDH tables. Any wheel deck like The Locust God wants this. Heck, any blue deck should consider it. It's a mana rock that's also a free wheel. I don't even feel like I need to explain why the card is good. Look at it!
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: Very rarely do I run into a recent card and have this strong of a reaction of surprise that it's not seeing more play.
57: The Lockets: 2,786 Decks
(Izzet Locket: 5,448; Dimir Locket: 4,055; Orzhov Locket: 3,686; Boros Locket: 3,397; Azorius Locket: 3,252; Rakdos Locket: 3,097; Selesnya Locket: 1,727; Simic Locket: 1,525 Golgari Locket: 1,948; Gruul Locket: 1,278)
I know a lot of people are down on the Lockets. Heck, I was, too, for a while. They're slow mana rocks that only tap for two colors with an okay-but-expensive-and-color-intensive ability. However, I think that as someone with a fairly large collection, there was a simple fact that I missed when evaluating these: mana rocks are expensive.
Sure, most know that Mana Crypt is a $70 card, and maybe you marvel at the $4 price tag of Sol Ring, but did you know that a Signet is about $2-4, or that a Talisman is between $1-3, or even that Mind Stone is $1-2? Granted, none of these are a lot of money on their own, but buying all of these mana rocks for one deck is probably going to be $7-10, maybe more. Is that something you really wanna tell new players that they have to do before they can spend money on more exciting cards? It feels like an unnecessary restriction.
I think it's much better to start with cards like the Lockets that are uber cheap. Plus, don't forget that Guilds of Ravnica was very recent and was opened a ton. It's much better to encourage new players to play cards that they already own, as opposed to obscure cards that they have to make the effort of finding. The Lockets are fine. They're fixing for two-color decks and have flood protection. They meet the requirements people play mana rocks for. When someone's looking to make their deck more powerful, I'd recommend upgrading to rocks like Signets, but when building for the first time, or building budget decks, it's really not going to be worth the dollar or two to move up.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: I really don't think the barrier to entry is as high as it looks.
56: Cryptolith Fragment: 3,064 Decks
This is one of those cases where I'm going to say, "Oh, there's no way Cryptolith Fragment will ever flip over. Few games will have all opponents at such low life." And then it turns out that everybody sees it flip so much they call it "Flapjack McGee", so I'll just say that's not primarily why it's seeing play. Similar to Phyrexian Lens, this card will trigger any life loss shenanigans, like Vilis, Broker of Blood, while having the added bonus of hitting opponents to assist commanders like Neheb, the Eternal. If you don't have cards like that, it's not worth it to randomly hurt yourself, but when you do, this is a rock you'll happily play.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Just Right: And to the people that are flipping this every game, look out for Spirit Mirror.
55: Springleaf Drum: 3,179 Decks
Obviously, this can be in the same decks as Honor Worn Shaku that need ways to tap their own creatures, (Kalamax, the Stormsire says hi!), but I'm also kinda into it as just a regular mana rock in creature-dense decks. It's one mana, and it makes summoning sick creatures, creatures that can't attack, or any other creature into a mana dork. If you're running 30-40 creatures that can come down early, this seems like a excellent piece of ramp.
Over, Under or Just Right? Underplayed: If you try and make your own mana rock definition, you're almost assuredly going to exclude Springleaf Drum at first. It's got to be a mana rock, but the addition cost makes it difficult to fit with any traditional definition.
54: Guardian Idol: 3,250 Decks
May I present the best 'man-a' rock of the format. Guardian Idol should be the default two-mana rock for any deck that has creature synergies. It enters tapped, which is fairly awkward, but it's just so cheap to activate. You can tap this for mana to activate its ability, so sometimes this can be one mana for a dork to feed to Arcum Daggsson, or you can pay the two and attack to trigger Winota, Joiner of Forces, or Odric, Master Tactician. Honestly, the real issue is that it taps for colorless. Some decks really rely on rocks to color fix and Idol does nothing for you there. However, this should be the first card after Sol Ring that comes to mind when a deck needs a non-colored mana rock.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: Play this before you even think about Fractured Powerstone.
53: Seer's Lantern: 3,313 Decks
Similarly to Magnifying Glass, Seer's Lantern isn't really worth playing on its own, but there might be decks that care about scry enough that it's worth the cost. I'm not as high on Seer's Lantern because scrying doesn't quite do as much heavy lifting as Clues secretly did, but I still think it shouldn't be overlooked. This card in Grenzo, Dungeon Warden is cute as a way to smooth out draws and set up Grenzo flips. Plus, again, colorless decks will take any way to mitigate the lack of card advantage. Again, it's not for most decks, but some decks might actually benefit from this thing.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Underplayed: Not a high underplayed, but a moderate one.
52: Sphere of the Suns: 3,378 Decks
This mana rock wasn't even on my radar until Mitch from Commanders Quarters started putting it in his budget decks, and I do think Mitch shows this card has a very real place. Ignore the downsides for a sec: this is a two-mana rock that can tap for all five colors. That's really hard to come by. There're times where the commander is cheap enough, and needs to be out ASAP, that it's worth playing this card to ensure that that can happen.
However, I think budget decks should still be wary about playing this. Most decks would probably rather play a three-mana rock like Fountain of Ichor. It costs one more, but is permanent ramp, enters untapped, and has upside. Most budget decks play slightly slower anyway, and if they aren't 100% commander-centric, they'll often trade a bit of speed for a better card. I'm gonna say that the card is overplayed, but you should still respect it. It can do work.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: We're gonna have the two-mana ramp discussion. Be patient!
51: Doubling Cube: 3,833 Decks
I have a chip on my shoulder about Doubling Cube that I finally get to talk about.
There seems to be this perception that Doubling Cube is a ramp card, and... no. No, it's really not. Cube takes seven mana before it's mana positive. It take a really long time before Cube actually produces the insane turns you dream of. The thing is, when you already have 20+ mana before Cube, you could have probably won the game already. 99% of games I see Doubling Cube in, you could remove it and the game would be relatively unchanged.
So let's just call it what it is. Doubling Cube is excess incarnate. Casting X spells for 60 instead of 30. Going off with Kruphix, God of Horizons even harder than it already does. Using Cabal Coffers to make your mana pool a public health violation. This is what Cube is for, and there's nothing wrong with this, but we have to stop lying to ourselves. Accepting that Cube is completely unnecessary makes Cube even funnier when it goes off.
Over, Under, or Just Right? Overplayed: I know it hurts, but we have to move on.
The Mana is Actually Just Mana X2
Alright, I think that threw the Cat Warriors off my track, but just to be safe, you better let me know what you think! Am I too high on the Lockets? Have you flipped a Cryptolith Fragment? Let me know in the comments! Until next week!