Too-Specific Top 10 - Hybrid Mana

(Quandrix Cultivator | Art by Filip Burburan)

Stirring Controversy Mana Bases!

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 Sapling of Colfenor is the only hybrid-mana card that can both gain and lose you life with a single ability?)

The Ides of March have passed, and Streets of New Capenna spoiler season doesn't fully get going until early April. What's a content creator to do but manufacture some controversy by mentioning hybrid mana?

Top 10 Hybrid Cards

Now, the list itself this week won't really be living up to the Too-Specific name. That's okay, we'll do artifacts that trigger via artifacts and Cats next week to make up for it. For the time being, I'm more interesting in wading into one of the most controversial suggestions for rules changes in the Commander format: hybrid cards and their color identity.

There's little question that allowing hybrid cards to be used in either color they possess, as the mechanic was intended, would affect gameplay. It would especially provide some additional options for mono-white, a prospect that I'll admit has me salivating a bit. Being able to put Kitchen Finks in a high-powered Heliod deck, for instance, would be a heck of a boon. Mana Tithe might feel like a thematic stretch to include in a lot of white decks, but Judge's Familiar would slot right in. In my personal color pie opinion, Lurrus of the Dream-Den isn't a black card in any fashion, and should just be a mono-white card anyhow (a mono-white card that would be up there with Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle in power level, only it could be a Companion in any mono-white deck).

However, this wouldn't just help colors that could use a deeper card pool (by the way, check out last week's EDHRECast on powerhouse commons for a great list of the options you have at common in white). It would obviously help powerhouse colors as well.

Kitchen Finks in mono-green is even more of a problem than it would be in mono-white. Keruga, the Macrosage, an under-the-table cEDH star, would be a staple of any deck that played big green creatures. Manamorphose is one of the best Storm enablers in Magic, and would all of a sudden be showing up in every Izzet deck. Murkfiend Liege is suddenly an all-star in Elfball. The list goes on. None of it is world-shattering, mind you, but it is nonetheless impactful.

However, most people aren't arguing that hybrid mana should be allowed to stretch color identity for any other reason than that fact that it already does exactly that in ever other facet of Magic. The entire above argument essentially boils down not to any alarming conclusion, but rather to a simple "it doesn't really change anything at a core level". Just to be sure, though, why don't we look at the most powerful examples through the lens of what they would add to the meta?

Criteria: Cards with hybrid mana in their casting cost. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.

10. Beseech the Queen

(10,607 Inclusions, 2% of 522,131 Decks)

Beseech the Queen may not seem like it has much to do with the hybrid mana conversation, but it could technically be a colorless card if the rules were changed, and while a six-mana tutor may not seem like it would be very impactful, six mana in a colorless artifact deck isn't much at all, and there are almost no tutors available in the colorless color identity. This is not to say that Beseech the Queen would be a staple, by any means, but I do think it would see relevant play in a hybrid world.

9. Sundering Growth

(10,690 Inclusions, 5% of 214,721 Decks)

On the other hand, I don't think Sundering Growth would have the same fate. Populate is a fine mechanic for the token decks of the world, but there are 420 token decks in mono-green and mono-white combined, as opposed to Selesnya's 2539. Combine that with Populate being a better mechanic in decks with large tokens, the much less popular version of the theme, and I'm not sure we'd really see much of an impact on Growth's numbers at all from the hybrid perspective.

8. Zirda, the Dawnwaker

(Helms 1,061 Decks, Rank #289; 10,025 Inclusions, 4% of 227,930 Decks)

Similarly, Zirda, the Dawnwaker isn't a card you see all the time as it is, despite it being an absolute house. While its Companion clause is one of the most difficult to pull off, that doesn't mean that this thing couldn't slot into most 99s in Boros already and make them substantially better, and that's before you even get into all of the combo potential. However, Boros is a weird hole of hipsters and counter-culture, so maybe it isn't surprising that a good number of the brewers out there aren't just slamming the best cards into their decks just because they're the best cards.

Make Zirda playable in mono-white or mono-red, though, and that changes the entire dynamic. Remember, it's not just the mono-colored versions of these decks that will be able to take advantage. Thrasios now goes "a lot" very easily without having to go infinite. Emiel the Blessed becomes downright scary and probably incidentally infinite with any number of cards (lookin' at you, Wood Elves). Xantcha, Sleeper Agent now has a better return on investment than Fireball, and that's before you even take into account that you'll be drawing cards as well. Mirror Entity becomes an Overrun for a single mana that can be done offensively or defensively. Soulbright Flamekin is one of the best rituals in the game all of the sudden. Heck, Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero Rebels becomes playable for maybe the first time in the history of the format!

The scary decks get scarier, and your Phoenix tribal gets playable, you decide which end of the spectrum you care more about.

7. Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner

(11,630 Inclusions, 5% of 245,795 Decks)

Precisely as is supposed to be the case when it comes to hybrid cards, Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner isn't bringing anything new to either blue or green. As we saw a few weeks back, blue is more than capable of untapping permanents as well as drawing cards. While it is a bit of a bend to give green the ability to untap any permanent instead of just creatures or lands, it's a small stretch, and nothing that hasn't been done before. In the same vein, blue doesn't usually get card draw attached to creatures entering the battlefield, but it's not exactly a stranger to it, either. In other words, what Kiora would bring to the table under a hybrid color identity rule change wouldn't be anything you can't do with two different cards right now, but rather just a good option that can do both at once, in either green or blue decks.

6. Fiend Artisan

(11,748 Inclusions, 5% of 228,397 Decks)

I don't know that I'm breaking any headlines here, but Fiend Artisan is busted. It's busted in Golgari, it would be busted in green, and it would be busted in black. This Birthing Pod variant not only comes out earlier, it's also more flexible with the "or less" wording, and it can swing through for a finish in the late game if you've managed to fill the graveyard. Sure, it can't climb the ladder like Birthing Pod and Pyre of Heroes, nor can it tap the turn it comes into play like they can, but there's certainly enough upside here that this card would see a lot more play if it was opened up to either color instead of needing both.

5. Cold-Eyed Selkie

(12,078 Inclusions, 5% of 245,795 Decks)

If Ophidian is fine and Ohran Viper is fine, then Cold-Eyed Selkie must be fine. My question is, when are we getting the mono-white version of this card?

4. Vexing Shusher

(12,302 Inclusions, 6% of 212,561 Decks)

For green, Vexing Shusher isn't anything they can't get from a ton of other sources. Sure, they'll say "creatures" on them, but that's what they're going to want to do anyhow, by and large. For red, however, Vexing Shusher would be a huge deal. As a color that tends to win through huge damage spells, huge stacks of spells, or both, this thing would be a great addition to the team.

3. Saheeli, Sublime Artificer

(17,686 Inclusions, 8% of 232,577 Decks)

On the other hand, despite how magnificently good we all know Saheeli, Sublime Artificer is, I don't actually think that it would get that much of a boon by being included in the either/or category. "Noncreature" does a lot of work, so it's possible that you'd see this show up in Enchantress builds and the like, but overall, I think what you'd get is what we already see: spellslinger and artifact decks playing this card (most of which are already blue and red anyhow).

2. Ashiok, Dream Render

(28,496 Inclusions, 11% of 259,623 Decks)

Self-mill, however, is something that is needed across a broad spectrum of strategies and colors. Ditto for graveyard and tutor hate. As such, I would actually predict that of all the hybrid cards out there, Ashiok, Dream Render would see the most increase in play numbers if there was ever a change to the hybrid rule. Sure, it's a boring good card that doesn't particularly fit any given theme, but it's not like Counterspell does either, and we all know that's seeing some play. Let blue decks or black decks play Ashiok, and there will be a mountain of decks that slot Ashiok in because their pilots feel like they can't afford not to.

1. Deathrite Shaman

(43,559 Inclusions, 18% of 237,058 Decks)

This may come as a Shock to many of you, but I've never really liked Deathrite Shaman in Commander. Coming from 60-card environments back in 2010 when I started EDH, I did the same thing with my initial foray into the format, slotting in this powerhouse of a card simply because I knew it was a powerhouse. However, in 90% of EDH play, I don't think it's that swell! If you're not a lands deck and you're not playing off-color fetches like some sort of monster, then chances are good that this isn't a mana dork most of the time, which just leaves the life loss ability (which is a bit of a pittance that you're not going to want to hold open mana for most of the time) and the lifegain effect (which is fine if you need it to guarantee some triggers).

So unless 18% of Golgari-plus decks are lands decks or high-powered, then I would challenge the idea that this needs to be such a ubiquitous card.

Still, it's no secret that cEDH has a huge impact on our numbers, and this is a one-mana mana dork. In other words, it would absolutely see a huge boost in numbers, especially from the black decks that don't have access to green out there.

Honorable Mentions

As my original commanders were Wort, the Raidmother and Sapling of Colfenor, I'd be remiss if we didn't go over all of the great hybrid commander options:

Top 10 Hybrid Commanders

  1. Zirda, the Dawnwaker
  2. Yorion, Sky Nomad
  3. Sygg, River Cutthroat
  4. Jegantha, the Wellspring
  5. Rhys the Redeemed
  6. Gyruda, Doom of Depths
  7. Lurrus of the Dream-Den
  8. Oona, Queen of the Fae
  9. Obosh, the Preypiercer
  10. Kaheera, the Orphanguard

I want you all to know that I am personally offended that Umori wasn't even close to making this listCompanions make up more than half of the 17 legal hybrid commanders, and the "Oops, All _____" commander is second from the last? Sacrilege.

As for the rest of the hybrid stalwarts that didn't quite make the cut, there are some good ones! I already mentioned Manamorphose and Kitchen Finks in the intro, but what about Master Warcraft and Murderous Redcap? I still can't believe Mistmeadow Witch is only played in 5,198 decks! One of the best blink cards out there, and it's only in 2% of decks that have blue/white in them!

Nuts and Bolts

There always seems to be a bit of interest in how these lists are made (this seems like a good time to stress once again that they are based on EDHREC score, NOT my personal opinion), and people are often surprised that I’m not using any special data or .json from EDHREC, but rather just muddling my way through with some Scryfall knowledge! For your enjoyment/research, here is this week’s Scryfall search.

What Do You Think?

I tried my best to cover this contentious topic solely from the perspective of what would change if hybrid was changed in Commander, but I must admit, I've always been in the "you put the cards in your multicolored section when you organize your cards, so they're obviously multicolored" camp. That might feel like a childish criteria, but if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck....

Finally, what is your favorite hybrid card? Do you think you would play it in more decks if it was more available?

Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the table with the zebra-stripe tablecloth (also, there's a birthday party at 3:00, so hurry it up, you guys!).

Doug has been an avid Magic player since Fallen Empires, when his older brother traded him some epic blue Homarids for all of his Islands. As for Commander, he's been playing since 2010, when he started off by making a two-player oriented G/R Land Destruction deck. Nailed it. In his spare time when he's not playing Magic, writing about Magic or doing his day job, he runs a YouTube channel or two, keeps up a College Football Computer Poll, and is attempting to gif every scene of the Star Wars prequels.

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