The second commander deck I ever made was an artifact based deck led by Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer. Over the years it has gone through a lot of changes, but its most recent iteration has been an equipment based deck with some token generation on the side. While I’m pretty happy with how the deck performs now, I’m still fine tuning it:

My most recent adjustment was to add a copy of Hedron Archive to the deck. This added a third “mana rock” (a noncreature artifact that produces mana). The deck already had copies of Sol Ring and Boros Signet, but I felt the deck needed one more mana source. Which rock to include was not an easy decision; there are a lot of good options, so how did I come to my decision?

Mana rocks are some of the most commonly used cards in commander; they are an easy and reliable way to accelerate your game plan, whatever that may be. Being non-creature permanents, they survive a lot of the mass removal spells that get used in the format, unlike the mana creatures that you might consider using. Being colourless cards, they can be cast in any deck, and there are even ones for each colour identity!

One of the other reasons you see a lot of mana rocks in commander is just how many have been printed over the years. Most blocks have at least one such artifact, so most players have one in their collection. With so many options, you might ask: are these artifacts really that different from one another? Does it really matter if you use one instead of another?

Just because they all make mana doesn’t mean that they are all the same. Here are some factors you might want to consider when choosing which mana rock to use:


One of the big reasons to use a mana rock is to help produce several different colours easily. Three, four, and five colour decks in particular can have trouble drawing the right lands to cast everything in their hand. A card like Manalith, the most basic of mana rocks, could be what you need to produce that one missing colour, salvaging your entire game. Most mana rocks will help fix your mana, so there are plenty to choose from. That said, some of the better options for colour fixing include Chromatic Lantern, Coalition Relic, and Gilded Lotus. Depending on your deck, cards like the old Fieldmist Borderpost, Troll-Horn Cameo or Obelisk of Bant could also work, even though they only produce a few colours. It is useful to note that sometimes it’s good have access to all five colours, not just the ones in your deck: when facing down cards like Norn’s Annex or Chain Lightning, having a mana rock that can produce any colour of mana could be handy.


If you’re less concerned about colour fixing, either because your deck already has enough from its lands, or because it only has one (or no) colour, there are many mana rocks that produce more than one colourless mana. The ubiquitous Sol Ring is the obvious example, producing two mana for the cost of only one. (I could write an entire article about Sol Ring, but suffice it to say it’s the most commonly used mana rock in commander for a reason….) Other examples of these faster mana rocks include Thran Dynamo, Worn Powerstone, Everflowing Chalice, and Sisay’s Ring. They are not as efficient as Sol Ring by any stretch, but for some decks they might be worth including to supplement the Ring.


Most mana rocks cost 3 mana. Manalith, Darksteel Ingot, and the cycle of Eye of Ramos are a few at this cost, and there are many more (71, others, at last count). 3 mana is not insignificant, and not all decks can justify spending an entire turn to increase their mana generation. Most decks can afford that small delay, especially if they are planning on casting big spells as soon as possible. For decks that don’t include green spells like Rampant Growth, even a card like Manalith is a reasonable inclusion, despite its cost.

There are a few mana rocks that only cost 2 mana to cast, like the cycles of Diamonds, Talismans and Signets. These cheaper cards are worth considering for a deck on the basis of their 1 mana discount alone. By costing less it makes it easier to play it while still having enough mana to cast something else on the same turn. This is especially true if the mana rock can be used right away, like the Talismans, since it can refund half of its cost right away. This makes a Talisman effectively cost 1 mana to play! By allowing you to both accelerate your mana and develop your board with another spell, these 2 cost artifacts are significantly more appealing than their more expensive counterparts in most decks.

By constrast, the mana rocks that cost 4 or more mana need to provide enough additional value to merit their use in a deck. They can still be good to include, but you’ll want a really good reason to use a 4 cost mana rock when there are so many cheaper options. Perhaps you want to store mana between turns with the Mana Batteries? Maybe you want to generate more than one mana with a single card like Gilded Lotus or Dreamstone Hedron? These effects can be big, like jumping you straight from 6 mana to 9, but the higher the casting cost of the mana rock, the more skeptical you should be about its inclusion in your deck. If it’s not amazing for you, you should at least consider replacing it with a mana rock with a lower casting cost.

There’s still a lot more to talk about here, including what drawbacks certain mana rocks have, and the utility of their non-mana abilities. I’ve run out of time this week, so we’ll have to delve into all of that next time.

Until then, I’ll be tending to my rock garden!



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