Greetings Travelers! Welcome to another edition of Barely Budget Brews, a series that takes on the challenge of brewing up the best possible Commander deck under $100. Commander is a passion of mine but unfortunately my wallet has a hard time keeping up with my passion. Let’s search far and wide for the biggest bang for our buck while still being competitive.
This week we will be discussing one of the most important aspects of any Commander deck: mana rocks. A loose definition of a mana rock is a colorless artifact that provides consistent mana. While there are a host of artifacts that provide mana at the cost of sacrificing them, I am focusing on those which do not need to be sacrificed. It is very rare you will find a Commander deck without any mana rocks.
Mana rocks like Chrome Mox and Mox Diamond act as huge accelerants to pull ahead in the early game while also providing our colors early on. Other rocks like Mana Crypt, Mana Vault, Sol Ring, and Grim Monolith are looking to push our mana ahead 2-3 turns. All of these cards are way out of our price range, with the lone exception of Sol Ring. We want to be as competitive as possible, while still retaining some of the raw power level of the non-budget options. This will usually take some concessions such as increases in mana cost, slightly decreased effects, or sometimes even a creature that mimics a mana rock. Let’s take a look see what kind of options we can come up with to trim the cost off some of our favorite non budget options.
Here is a list of the rocks that I spend most of my time using in my budget decks.
These are not your typical mana rocks. They are not designed to accelerate your mana through the turns. They are designed to do something with your mana when you are not playing on curve. You can find yourself playing a 3 drop on turn 5 and investing mana into one of these rocks to enable an explosive turn later on.
Mana rocks that do not provide color are a risky but sometimes very rewarding inclusion to your deck. These rocks tend to either have an additional ability tacked on like Mind Stone or give you more mana at a discounted rate like Thran Dynamo. Hedron Archive and Dreamstone Hedron give card draw to any colored deck. Including these in your 3-color deck is not advised due to the need for specific colors. 2-color decks can usually get by with these, but beware as you sculpt your deck. If you find yourself with lots of difficult mana in your early drops then drawing one of these could mean being behind.
Conditional mana rocks are usually aggressively costed, at but with some kind of stipulation attached. Pillar of Origins of an all-star in a tribal deck but a liability in most other decks. Star Compass is an all-star at fixing the most difficult mana bases provided you are running basics. Prismatic Geoscope is a staple for 4-5 color decks but hitting all those colors is difficult for budget builds.
Mana rocks that give you access to any color are invaluable to 3+ color decks. One of the biggest drawbacks to deck building on a budget is that mana bases tend to built on either slow or single colored lands. Getting all 3 colors in an opening hard can be difficult, so packing your deck full of these rocks is a must. Chromatic Lantern is the king of Any Color rocks. Giving you the luxury of not worrying about how to tap your mana makes your turns infinitely easier to navigate. Coalition Relic‘s recent print in Masters 25 bumped this once-expensive rock into more budget territory. It doubles as a storage rock and an any colored mana producer.
Not much to say when talking about single color rocks. Oftentimes these rocks are paired with Paradox Engine combos in order to provide floating colored mana without paying some kind of life loss. Khalni Gem can be an interesting include if you have some valuable lands with enter the battlefield effects that you don’t mind picking up for a later turn. The Myr cycle can give a huge boost to mana pools when paired with abilities that un-tap creatures. More mana for the storage rocks mentioned earlier!
Standouts: Diamond cycle, Gilded Lotus
Guild Colors / Wedges / Shards
These are the rocks that I start with a majority of the time when I am building my 2-3 color decks. I can not even think of the last time I did not include one of the signets in my decks. Most of these rocks do something besides provide mana at the price of being slightly over-costed. Using the ramp in the early turn and cashing it in for a card later on is exactly what you want to be doing once you are deep in the late game.
Standouts: Signet cycle, Locket cycle, Talisman cycle
Even though we can not use the best of the best, we can still smooth out our mana with the best of them. Did I miss any of your favorite mana rocks? Sharing ideas and giving advice is the spirit of EDH and why Magic: the Gathering is such a wonderful community to be a part of. Until next time!
Chris Johnson, better known as Destructo, has been in the game for over 20 years. A simple man with tastes spanning every format but who’s true love is Commander. He has always focused on the “gathering” aspect of Magic: the Gathering. You can always find him knee deep in a multiplayer game, brainstorming some fresh budget brews, or just talking shop about the game he loves.