Too-Specific Top 10 - A Mox By Any Other Name
(Black Lotus | Art by Christopher Rush)
Free, for a Price
Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know that Paradise Mantle is the only zero-cost Equipment that can give you mana?)
Since very shortly after Magic's original Alpha printing in 1993, it's been known exactly what cards sit atop the pile. Black Lotus quickly gained legendary status as the most broken card that would ever be printed, and got a price tag to match shortly thereafter. The rest of the Power Nine also ballooned in price, but still none more so than the other free spells. While the five-color cycle of Mox Pearl, Mox Sapphire, Mox Jet, Mox Ruby, and Mox Emerald never reached the levels of the infamous Lotus, itself, they nonetheless were in high demand as Wizards of the Coast realized that zero-cost mana rocks were too powerful to ever be printed without severe drawbacks ever again.
That doesn't mean that they never tried, though.
Top 10 Lotus/Moxen Knockoffs
With the infamy of the Mox cycle and Black Lotus, itself, R&D would have had to have been crazy to not try to capitalize on it. As such, we've seen printing after printing of cards that are a shout-out to these super-powerful artifacts, even as recently as our last Standard set in the form of Nyx Lotus. That particular version is much more on the safe side than some of the other options that have kept to the zero-cost stipulation over the years, however.
With that in mind, then, let's see if we can't take a look at a few of the more powerful versions that have been printed over the years, and find out where they fall as far as popularity in the Commander format. To do so, however, we will have to, as usual, figure out what exactly is meant by our rather broad category. "Lotus or Moxen knockoffs" could mean a lot of things, so let's see if we can't tighten that down to what exactly does and doesn't spring to mind when we think of newer versions of these Power Nine staples.
First of all, every card I've discussed so far has been an artifact that makes colored mana. This seems to be a defining characteristic of both a Mox and a Lotus, cancelling out powerhouse cards like Sol Ring and Mana Crypt, which only make colorless mana. There is also undoubtedly the zero-mana casting cost link, as well, but that cuts out some of the more balanced-yet-popular cards like Gilded Lotus, which have a more reasonable price to get them in play. It also includes cards like Astral Cornucopia, which don't really seem to fit the bill, either, as you can cast them for zero but they won't actually make any mana if you do so. With that in mind, let us further stipulate that we can both count zero-cost artifacts with the actual "0" on them instead of an "X", and anything that has the words "Mox" or "Lotus" on it, as well. That should get us down to where we need to be while still ensuring we hit all of the relevant cards.
Criteria: Nonland artifacts with the words "Mox" or "Lotus" in their name, or that cost zero mana (not "X" mana) that can directly or indirectly create colored mana. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.
10. Lotus Bloom
(1,535 inclusions, 1% of 297,839 Decks)
For those that aren't aware of Clockspinning and Jhoira's Timebug, it's very possible that you've never actually seen this card played. Even under those magical Christmas-Land scenarios, however, Lotus Bloom is still pretty slow, and is basically a dead card if you draw it anywhere past turn four or five. All that said, however, I am a bit surprised to not see this in some of the artifact decks out there that have access to graveyard recursion and Rummage effects. Daretti, Scrap Savant seems like a natural fit there, allowing you to Goblin Welder for three mana every turn or to just pitch this for a real card if you don't have three turns to spare.
For those looking for single-use only, however, the most popular inclusion for Lotus Bloom at this point is Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder, which allows you to Cascade into three mana, effectively turning your Brainstorm into a Dark Ritual.
9. Nyx Lotus
(2,273 inclusions, 1% of 297,839 decks)
Nyx Lotus has been the subject of a lot of debate since being released in Theros Beyond Death two months ago. As a four-mana artifact that enters the battlefield tapped, it has to have a lot of upside to even enter consideration. While it can be argued that it has exactly that, there is also the "win more" aspect of Devotion that has to be considered. While it's very possible you'll be tapping this for eight or nine in a mono-color deck, it's also very possible you'll play it into a board wipe and have paid four mana for absolutely nothing.
In other words, there's no doubting that Nyx Lotus can be very powerful. It's also just rather slow and risky, which isn't a trade that everyone is willing to make.
8. Paradise Mantle
(2,309 inclusions, 1% of 297,839 decks)
If there is arguably one artifact that should have been edited out of this list, it's probably Paradise Mantle. That said, while it's artwork shouts out to Birds of Paradise, it's overall design definitely screams "fixed Mox". And it can definitely be argued that it's done its job there well. While you'll see a lot of inclusions in decks with commanders that care about being tapped like Emmara, Soul of the Accord and King Macar, the Gold-Cursed, you're rarely seeing inclusions in general good-stuff decks.
While we're also seeing a few inclusions for Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain, the more purpose-made commander for Paradise Mantle is probably Sram, Senior Edificer. He both allows you to draw a card for zero mana and then begin producing mana with him. Sure, you're mono-white so it's debatable on whether or not you need it to be any color, but extra mana is extra mana!
7. Lion's Eye Diamond
(2,678 inclusions, 1% of 297,839 decks)
Lion's Eye Diamond was one of the first attempts at a fixed Black Lotus, and it proved in fairly short order that, no matter how steep the hill to climb is, three mana for nothing is just too good. This continues to be true to this day in Commander as well as several other eternal formats, as more pricey builds of Muldrotha, the Gravetide and Emry, Lurker of the Loch will remind you, given the opportunity.
Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero would also love to be abusing this card in much the same recursion-every-turn fashion, but it turns out that the kind of folks who will spend $200 on a mana rock typically aren't the kind of people who will choose to play Boros. Who knew?
6. Mox Opal
(8,202 inclusions, 3% of 297,839 decks)
While it's not typically considered as powerful as Lion's Eye Diamond, Mox Opal is considerably cheaper. Combine that with the fact that it's a natural fit in artifact decks that can afford it, and it's not just edging out the competition, it's already ahead by a mile. At almost 6,000 more inclusions, Mox Opal is almost a staple of high-powered artifact decks, seeing play in 35% of Urza, Lord High Artificer decks, 31% of Teferi, Temporal Archmage decks, and 25% of Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain decks.
As for whether or not Mox Opal fits the definition of a "fixed" Mox... Let me just say that I'm glad it was printed in Scars of Mirrodin and not during the dark times of Mirrodin and Affinity for Artifacts.
5. Mox Amber
(8,438 inclusions, 3% of 297,839 decks)
Or, to put it another way... Mox Opal should be higher than Mox Amber on this list. The reason it isn't is because it costs $55 as opposed to $20. Even with that discrepancy, however, Mox Amber is only seeing play in 200 more decks total, and that's in a format where, by design, you always have access to a legendary creature.
The problem is that unless your commander is very cheap, such as in the case of Fblthp, the Lost or Isamaru, Hound of Konda, it's difficult to count on Mox Amber to actually make you any mana. Even in that situation, it's also very easy for it to become useless to you when your commander is removed, and it won't help you recast them.
That means that the best use of Mox Amber is in decks that are constantly putting legendary permanents onto the battlefield. Whether that be going old-school with Reki, the History of Kamigawa and Captain Sisay, or updating things a bit with Kethis, the Hidden Hand, Mox Amber really shines through when it comes to decks that just care about laying down Legends.
Although it is worth noting that this is the fourth card in a row on this list to feature Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain in its Top Commanders section... Is Mox Tribal a thing?
4. Mox Diamond
(11,467 inclusions, 4% of 297,839 decks)
When fixing Black Lotus proved impossible early on, Wizards instead tried fixing the Moxen with exactly the same results. Instead of discarding your whole hand and then having to find a way to recur it, however, Mox Diamond only requires you to have an extra land sitting around to ramp you a turn. For zero mana.
As you might imagine, this early success got Mox Diamond added to the Reserved List right alongside Lion's Eye Diamond, and it has a price tag to match. Despite this, you can see that the Diamond of the more Moxie variety has more than five times the number of deck inclusions. While this is an area I try to steer clear of as it's not my background, it would appear that most of those inclusions are directly on the back of Competitive EDH decks, which shouldn't really come as a surprise.
After all, the aggressive ramp of Mox Diamond, where you give up a land and a card slot to move ahead one turn, doesn't really fit the play style of slower decks. It only makes sense if you're driving ahead at full steam, and it really matters that you pull a turn ahead early because everyone else is, too.
3. Lotus Petal
(12,445 inclusions, 4% of 297,839 decks)
"All right, we tried discarding your whole hand to replicate Black Lotus... What about if we just make it one mana, instead?"
- Wizards of the Coast, probably, circa 1997
I don't know who at R&D had fast mana, Lotuses, and Moxen in their head in the late nineties, but someone absolutely did. First it was Lion's Eye Diamond printed in Mirage in October of 1996. This was closely followed by our number three card, Lotus Petal, printed in Tempest in October of 1997. This was then immediately followed in the very next set by our number four card, Mox Diamond. They then took a set off before plowing into the insanity of Urza's block, which was also filled to gills with fast mana rocks.
Maybe the Lotus Petal gambit of "it's Black Lotus but for one mana" worked, however, because Lotus Petal isn't on the Reserved List, and it doesn't cost $200, it costs $10. Actually, thanks to the newly printed Mystery Boosters, it now only costs $6. That doesn't mean it's not extremely powerful, but it does require a bit more work to abuse. All that said, however, it's the same decks that were abusing Lion's Eye Diamond that are using this, as well, so take from that what you will.
2. Chrome Mox
(16,673 Inclusions, 6% of 297,839 decks)
I don't know about you, but I play about 37 lands in most of my Commander decks. I do have one Lazav, the Multifarious deck which has an average converted mana cost of about 2.1 that only plays 33, and a Golos, Tireless Pilgrim Cycling deck that plays over 40. But by and large, 37 is where I aim.
Unless you're running an artifact deck, then, one could fairly safely assume that most of those other 62 cards could be Imprinted on Chrome Mox. Which means that Chrome Mox is even easier to get online than Mox Diamond, and costs a fifth the price. With all that in mind, it's not surprising to find that this is also a Competitive EDH staple, played in mostly the same exact decks. I was surprised to find, however, that it wasn't our number one card...
1 . Gilded Lotus
(42,991 Inclusions, 14% of 297,839 Decks)
Until I saw what was. At the end of the day, casual is king, and Gilded Lotus is right there for it. Recently reprinted down from $15 to $4, once again everyone can afford to slide this into any and every deck they own. While many have correctly stated that that "every" part isn't correct and that cheaper, more efficient options should be utilized, instead, that has in no way stemmed the tide.
And for me, I'm a fan of that. There are enough fast games of Commander pushing "75%" decks higher and higher in power level. There should always be a slot for this card, and it should become the calling card for those levels of play where it's still a great option to lay down on turn four or five and pass the turn, unconcerned that you may never recover.
Since we're talking about free spells that cost an arm and a leg, I figure it's also only fair to list off the contenders in order of their price tag:
- Black Lotus: $14,280
- Mox Ruby: $2,800
- Mox Sapphire: $2701
- Mox Jet: $2535
- Mox Emerald: $2450
- Mox Pearl: $2400
- Mox Diamond: $274
- Lion's Eye Diamond: $194
- Mox Opal: $57
- Chrome Mox: $45
All right, that was a little unfair, but who doesn't want to check in on how ridiculous Power Nine prices are every once in a while? For those that aren't aware, the top six cards of that list are banned in Commander, and as such probably shouldn't be included as part of any EDH top ten lists.
As for the more legitimate version arranged by price...
- Mox Diamond: $274
- Lion's Eye Diamond: $194
- Mox Opal: $57
- Chrome Mox: $45
- Mox Amber: $19
- Lotus Petal: $10
- Lotus Bloom: $7
- Mox Tantalite: $5
- Nyx Lotus: $5
- Gilded Lotus: $4
I'm kind of sad that Mox Tantalite just barely got edged out of the running. It would have been our number eleven card if we'd kept the list going, but strangely it would appear that Cascade decks prefer the instant three mana from Lotus Bloom rather than the long-term extra mana rock.
What Do You Think?
This list has brought up the Power Nine, the Reserved List, Competitive EDH, and fast mana, all topics with no small amount of controversy surrounding them.
So, with that in mind...
And finally, do you play any of the shout-outs to the original Mox and Lotus? Do more people need to be playing these zero cost options despite them being more and more watered down? Were there any shout-outs we missed? Does the top end of this list need reprints to bring the costs down?
Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the expensive gaming table in your friend's basement that wobbles, has a leg that is about to fall off, and generally has a slope to it. That felt top is nice, though.