Too-Specific Top 10 - Manaliths!

(Manalith | Art by Ryan Yee)

Three CMC, Tap for Free!

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 Replicating Ring is the only mana rock with a converted mana cost of 3 that can make more mana rocks that aren't technically copies of itself?)

In an ever-growing world of EDH optimization, there have been a lot of casualties. Seven-mana monstrosities the world over have been taking a hit for years, sorcery-speed removal with upside has been left behind for more of the same efficient instant-speed answers you would see in Standard or Modern, and essentially any card that isn't an engine or doesn't have an immediate impact is a no-go. Perhaps no card archetype, though, has been as hard hit by this power sprint as the simple Manalith.

Don't get me wrong. You shouldn't be playing the card Manalith, even at the lowest of power levels. There are better budget options in literally every direction that have more upside for the same mana cost. But what about the other mana rocks that cost three? Sure, there are still some that see quite a lot of play, like Worn Powerstone, or the infinite mana machine that is Basalt Monolith. But there used to be a place in just about every Commander deck for a three-color mana rock that would fix all of your colors and ramp you, all at once, and that spot isn't there anymore.

Top 10 Manaliths

All right then, we've established our trip down memory lane. Or have we? What exactly is a Manalith?

As previously stated, a Manalith shouldn't just make mana, it should provide you with access to colors of mana you don't already necessarily have, as well. This immediately discounts cards like Pristine Talisman, which only provide colorless mana, and Midnight Clock, which requires a color of mana to then get the same color of mana. That just leaves the mana rocks which have an established color from the get-go, like Izzet Locket or Savai Crystal. While these can technically fix your mana for you, I still don't think that they "feel" like a Manalith. A Manalith should let you have access to any color of mana you choose, even if that's just you literally choosing a color as it enters the battlefield.

I do, however, think that established mana rocks are fine cards that deserve more respect. So here, have a bonus top ten!

Top 10 "Established" Color Mana Rocks With Three CMC

  1. Izzet Locket
  2. Midnight Clock
  3. Dimir Locket
  4. Rakdos Locket
  5. Azorius Locket
  6. Boros Locket
  7. Orzhov Locket
  8. Izzet Cluestone
  9. Boros Cluestone
  10. Dimir Cluestone

Okay, you caught me. I don't actually think that the various Lockets, Cluestones, Obelisks, and Keyrunes of the world aren't "Manaliths", I just didn't want a top ten list that was half made up of various Lockets.

Criteria: Artifacts that can create any or a chosen color of mana that also have a converted mana cost of exactly 3. As is tradition, all results are ordered by EDHREC score.

10. Cultivator's Caravan

(4,327 Inclusions, 1% of 461,157 Decks)

Hi. I'm Doug, and I'm a Brawloholic.

Not today's Arena Brawl, mind you. No, I got started with Brawl back when it was actually played as a multiplayer format. Made some gameplay videos that never actually got onto the internet, a series of "Brawl Staples" lists on the r/mtgbrawl subreddit, and am currently stubbornly making a full cycle of Historic Brawl "Precons" to try and introduce folks to the side of the game that isn't just grinding against the same three Omnath decks over and over again.

So when I say I'm surprised to see Cultivator's Caravan on this list, know that I say it as someone who remembers fondly sliding it into every possible multicolor Brawl deck. I'm fully aware how great it feels to swing in for relevant combat damage with a mana rock, or to surprise block with it when people forget that it has another mode besides tapping for one. With that said, I've only ever managed to actually include it in one Commander deck, ever, where it got cut about a year later (Ghalta, for those wondering). Much as I love the card, it's just really hard to find a slot for it. Crew 3 is a heck of a lot, and makes it clunky enough that it's often more of a Manalith than a Vehicle, often when you need the latter most. Still, it's gotta be a slam-dunk in a Vehicle deck, right?

9. Skyclave Relic

(4,112 Inclusions, 1% of 461,157 Decks)

If you are looking for a Manalith that I both like and actually play, however, then look no further than Skyclave Relic. For a lot of folks, just the indestructibility of Darksteel Ingot makes it worth the three mana price of admission, but Skyclave Relic gives you all that and a Kicker that gives you three Manaliths for the price of two. Yes, they're indestructible, too.

In short, if you're playing any card on this list without a huge synergistic theme tie-in, it should probably be Skyclave Relic instead.

8. Dragon's Hoard

(5,875 Inclusions, 1% of 461,157 Decks)

Speaking of theme tie-ins, Dragon's Hoard! Dragon's Hoard is the type of card that makes me want to go off on a brewing spree with some Proliferate cards and as many versions of Clockwork Dragon as I can find, before I remember that the logical commanders for such an endeavor are either Korvold, Fae-Cursed King or Ramos, Dragon Engine. Even in your more typical Dragon deck, however, Dragon's Hoard stacks up counters quick while ramping you, then translates them into cards in the late game. And given that I'm already a huge fan of Izzet Locket and the like, I can heartily endorse Dragon's Hoard as a better alternative for the Dragon-inclined, as you'll most likely draw multiple cards off of it in addition to getting a bit of extra mana with a side of color fixing. And if that's not what a Manalith is all about, then I don't know what is.

7. Manalith

(6,502 Inclusions, 1% of 461,157 Decks)

You know what I don't think Manaliths are all about, though? Manalith. I'd say that I'm sad to see that it just doesn't cut the mustard anymore, no matter how you like your sandwiches... but that's just not true. Manalith has always been a boring card in everything but name, and the fact that it was such a staple in preconstructed decks for so long really shows just how unimaginative most preconstructed decks were. Rust in pieces, Manalith. For those of you still playing it, I really can't stress enough how many better and more interesting options there are out in the world. So here, here's a ten-part series from Mr. Megill going over all the options and further maligning the good name of this puny rock. It may be the inspiration behind this here Top Ten list, but I'll never tell!

6. Coalition Relic

(9,697 Inclusions, 2% of 461,157 Decks)

After our brief foray into the Precon effect, then, why not go head-first back toward Manaliths that work well with Proliferate? Coalition Relic can stack up an extra turn of mana under normal circumstances, but if you've got the likes of an Atraxa, Praetor's Voice or a repeatable Clockspinning working for you, then you can really start generating some mana with this little rock. What did surprise me, just looking through the Top Commanders section on Coalition Relic's page, though, was the amount of general use Coalition Relic is still seeing. Don't get me wrong, it makes sense that Sen Triplets wants access to every color of mana, but there are definitely better options out there to do that if you're not using any sort of counter or untap shenanigans.

5. Heraldic Banner

(9,889 Inclusions, 2% of 461,157 Decks)

Where I'm not confused on inclusions is Heraldic Banner. If white weenie and token decks are still happy to pay two for Honor of the Pure, then mono-color go-wide decks the world over are ecstatic to pay three to get a mana rock and a pump for the whole team all at once. If anything, however, I'd say that these numbers are still a little light. There are a lot of mono-color decks out there, and if they care about creatures at all then this is a good choice for them. Heck, even in my two-color build of Persistent Petitioners, I'm always ecstatic to see this thing, and I'm not even planning on swinging!

4. Mana Geode

(10342 Inclusions, 2% of 461157 Decks)

And now... back to the boring. Or is it? Is Mana Geode strictly better than Manalith? Provided there's not a Torpor Orb in play, yes. But that doesn't really mean that it's much better, does it? Well, it turns out that maybe it is. The newly printed Eligeth, Crossroads Augur and other versions of scry tribal love this thing, as does color-heavy top-deck tribal, like Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign and Aminatou, the Fateshifter.

Where this thing has really found a forever home, however, is in blink decks. Scry 1 may not be blowing anyone's socks off, but it certainly does more for you in the long run of a deck where you're blinking most of your board every turn than a Signet ever would.

3. Darksteel Ingot

(35,667 Inclusions, 8% of 461,157 Decks)

There is no such limelight for Darksteel Ingot. Sure, there's the fact that you can play all the destroy effects in the world and still keep your extra mana a turn. However, Skyclave Relic lets you do that now too, and I'm not sure that there was ever that much demand for Jokulhaups tribal anyhow. There are also some side-cases, like Sydri, Galvanic Genius and Starke of Rath, that have their own reasons for keeping an indestructible artifact around, but that's still just a sliver of these 35,000 inclusions. In fact, if you take all the inclusions from the 18 Top commanders on Darksteel Ingot's page, only about half of which appear to maybe have a half-decent reason for playing it, you only come up with 4007.

No, what we're seeing here is pure and simple, the Precon Effect. Darksteel Ingot has been printed in both Commander AnthologiesCommander 2017, 2016, 2015, 2013, and the original Commander set in 2011. Put simply, it's in a lot of decks because it was already in a lot of decks, whether it had a reason to be there or not.

2. Chromatic Lantern

(69,553 Inclusions, 15% of 461,157 Decks)

Chromatic Lantern, on the other hand, has far from outlived its usefulness. Grabbing a mana rock that can get you a single pip of mana that you may not have had before can be a decent enough effect for three mana, but getting that and allowing your lands to tap for any mana as well is absolutely huge. In fact, where Chromatic Lantern may shine the most is not in having access to a lot of different colors of mana, but rather having a ton of access to a single color of mana repeatedly with lands of any type.

Many engines rely on having the ability to activate an effect or cast a spell over and over again. This is often achieved through some sort of infinite loop, but Chromatic Lantern makes going to such lengths unnecessary, as with it in play all of your lands can tap for the pip of mana you need to activate your ability over and over again. Make 37 Hippos with Phelddagrif to feed that Suture Priest, Cycle through every land in your deck with Tectonic Reformation, or bounce and cast Flickering Ward over and over again to get all of your Enchantress triggers. Where it may be the most ludicrous, however, is in a deck I can't believe doesn't even appear on its top commander list, Kenrith, the Returned King. If you're playing Training Grounds and not Chromatic Lantern, you're only doing yourself a disservice.

1. Commander's Sphere

(86,728 Inclusions, 19% of 461,157 Decks)

If you're just looking for all-around goodness, however, then there's always Commander's Sphere. Sure, it's probably not the most efficient ramp you could be playing, but it does the job just fine, and ditches itself for a card when you need that more. Where I often see Manalith as a boring and suboptimal choice, when I see Commander's Sphere all I find myself thinking is "that'll do". It's not shiny, it's not going to take a game over (although I have seen quite a few mana added and cards drawn with the likes of Sun Titan), but you're not really ever unhappy with it, either. Early game you get a bit of ramp, then get to draw a card later. Late game, you slightly sigh, play it down, add a mana back, then sac it to draw a card. In other words, you just Cycled. Nothing to hate about that.

Honorable Mentions

This whole list was inspired during Joseph's run through all the mana rocks in Magic, specifically when he got to Manalith at #40 overall. As such, I would be remiss not to go ahead and finish out the full list in Megill style, especially since the numbers are so manageable.

The Rest of the Manaliths!

11. Cryptolith Fragment
12. Altar of the Pantheon
13. Vessel of Endless Rest
14. Spectral Searchlight
15. Scuttlemutt
16. Alloy Myr
17. Bonder's Ornament
18. Fountain of Ichor
19. Spinning Wheel
20. Opaline Unicorn
21. Replicating Ring
22. Sol Grail
23. Phyrexian Lens
24. Altar of the Lost
25. Mad Science Fair Project

He also made me promise that I'd put in a good word for Fountain of Ichor, one of his favorite underplayed rocks. Having played Standard in the days of Chimeric Idol, I do have a soft spot for artifacts that moonlight as creatures, and I have to agree with him that having a 3/3 on demand is worth a bit more credit than people are giving it. Three mana is a whole lot easier to come by than Crew 3, too!

While I'm giving shout-outs, keep an eye on that there new Replicating Ring. It ain't gonna stay at the bottom of the pile for long, I can assure you.

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?

Finally, what is your favorite Manalith? Did you recognize the clever pun before you read it thirty times (because I didn't until I typed it about half that many)? Are you planning on picking up any of these options?

Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the slightly more expensive table that still, effectively... is a table.

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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