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Mana is a renewable resource in Magic: The Gathering. Mana is generated by some cards, most notably land, and then used to play most of the game's cards and abilities.[1]

Description[ | ]

Designed by Magic creator Richard Garfield, mana is closely related to the game's color system, and alongside it is one of the cornerstones of the game.[2] Mark Rosewater considers the invention of mana system to be part of the Golden Trifecta that made the game successful.[3]

Mana is one of the main limiting factors on what actions players can take at any given time. It is sometimes derided for the variance it introduces to the game, particularly in the form of mana screw. However, the mana system also provides numerous benefits to the game such as pacing and variety and is one of the key innovations credited with Magic's overall success.[1][2][4]

Gameplay fundamentals[ | ]

Mana is a form of magic used to pay the mana cost required to cast most of the cards in the game. It is also used to cover other costs, such as those to activate certain abilities. The most basic mana source is land, though certain spells and abilities can also produce mana.[1][5] A player taps land to add mana to their mana pool; one's mana supply regenerates naturally when lands untap during the beginning phase of their turn. A player that exhausts their supply of mana is considered "tapped out."

The mana system allows the design of cards that differ greatly in power level. Stronger cards with higher mana cost have the inherent drawback of being unusable early, and risk leaving the user tapped out when played. Also, by requiring specific types of mana, R&D can associate mechanics with specific colors. Mana cost is one of the chief tools R&D uses to balance the game.

As players play their lands, they gain access to more mana throughout the game, allowing the use of cards in greater power and numbers. This gives each Magic duel a natural sense of pacing and drama, by ensuring games start slow but eventually build up to an epic conclusion.[4][6]

Colors of mana[ | ]

There are six types of mana: the five colors (one for each of Magic's colors), as well as colorless mana. Mana is represented by mana symbols, or letters that represent those mana symbols.[7] There are six basic lands, which can each tap to generate one mana of the corresponding mana type, but only five basic land types. Wastes, introduced in Oath of the Gatewatch, is a basic land with no basic land subtype, and generates colorless mana.

Symbol Color Basic lands Basic snow lands Mana type Basic land type
{W} or W White Plains Snow-Covered Plains White Plains
{U} or U Blue Island Snow-Covered Island Blue Island
{B} or B Black Swamp Snow-Covered Swamp Black Swamp
{R} or R Red Mountain Snow-Covered Mountain Red Mountain
{G} or G Green Forest Snow-Covered Forest Green Forest
{C} or C None Wastes Snow-Covered Wastes Colorless None

The majority of spells have a cost that includes one or more mana of a specific color or mix of colors; this almost always determines the overall color of the spell. Most colorless cards have purely generic mana costs, but certain spells specifically require colorless mana to cast. Generic mana costs can be paid with any type of mana, colored or colorless.

Attributes of mana[ | ]

The primary attribute of a unit of mana is its color or lack of color (its type). However, other aspects may contribute to how it is tracked or used.

Cards that generate mana sometimes impose restrictions on what the mana may be spent on, ranging from casting a specific kind of spell to activating abilities on certain permanents to special actions like morph or foretell. Others create triggered abilities that apply when the mana is used. Another group of mana-generating cards causes their mana to remain in the mana pool rather than expiring normally at the end of steps and phases. These special attributes are retained when a replacement effect increases or changes the mana produced, but not when other effects "copy" mana after its initial creation.

Conversely, some attributes of mana are checked by cards that use the mana. Most often, these cards care about the colors of mana - possibly including the amount of one color of mana, or the mix of colors used - or what type of object produced the mana, such as Snow permanents, basic lands, or Treasures. These checks may be mandatory or optional; mana meeting optional conditions usually leads to an additional or modified effect. Snow-related conditions and costs have a unique mana symbol, {S}, although it should be noted that any snow mana still has a normal mana type such as "colorless" or "red".

Mana abilities[ | ]

Main article: Mana ability

A mana ability is either:

  1. an activated ability, with no target, and excluding planeswalkers' loyalty abilities, that could put mana into a player's mana pool when it resolves.
  2. a triggered ability, with no target, that triggers from a mana ability and could produce additional mana.

A mana ability does not use the stack, and thus cannot be countered or responded to by either player. They can also be activated during the casting of a spell or the activation of other abilities; they don't need to be resolved beforehand. In contrast, spells that directly add mana to a player's mana pool, such as Dark Ritual or Seething Song, are not mana abilities, and use the stack, much like all other spells.

Activated mana abilities[ | ]

Example 1

Llanowar Elves has the ability: "{T}: Add {G}."

Example 2

Swamp has the ability: "{T}: Add {B}."

Triggered mana abilities[ | ]

Example 1

Wild Growth has the ability: "Whenever enchanted land is tapped for mana, its controller adds {G}."

Example 2

Overgrowth has the ability: "Whenever enchanted land is tapped for mana, its controller adds {G}{G}."

Mana costs[ | ]

Main article: Mana cost

Mana from one's mana pool can be required to pay the mana cost of a spell or ability. The mana requirement often includes specific colors. There is a wide variety of mana costs used in the game.

Mana value[ | ]

The mana value of an object is an integer greater than or equal to zero. It is determined by converting each colored mana symbol in the spell's cost to 1 (unless it is one of the two-brid mana symbols {2/W}{2/U}{2/B}{2/R}{2/G}, each of which converts to 2), then adding the results to the generic mana cost of the spell.

For example, spells with mana costs of {2}{G} and {1}{G}{G} both have a mana value of 3.

Before Strixhaven: School of Mages, mana value was known as converted mana cost and commonly abbreviated to CMC.

Storyline[ | ]

Mana is the magical energy that fuels the spells of spellcasters and flows along the leylines of any given plane.[8] Mana can exist at specific positions in physical space, and flow through specific routes. Some points in space can have more mana than others, and mages can draw on specific such "wells" of mana.[9] Many builders are unknowingly drawn to erect monuments at the sites of such convergences of mana.[10] Some animals, knowingly or not, can follow the flow of mana through space,[11] and some trees choose to grow where mana spikes.[12]

A law of reality asserts that its fundamental elements, like mana and aether — cannot be created or destroyed.[13]

Mana can take a variety of forms. In one form it is not perceptible to the typical senses, even though spellcasters can still sense it.[14] It can also take more perceptible forms, including ones where it can be shaped into glowing sculptures[15] and liquid-like states.[16] It can condense into creatures, such as angels or Omnath,[17] or exist inside of some material objects such as plants.[18] Mana can also be shaped in unnatural, largely imperceptible "braids" that flow through space, such as the Implicit Maze. Mana in some forms, such as the The Prismatic Piper, may be able to transcend planes.

It is deeply interconnected with the lifeforce on every plane in the Multiverse, and it can take that role by itself as well.[note 1] When there is little or no mana in an area, things die or become emaciated and weak.[note 2]

Colors of Mana[ | ]

Mana exists in five main varieties, known as colors. Each of these is tied to different traits; red mana, for example, leads to individualism, passion, and freedom.[19]

History and changes[ | ]

Conceptual Origin[ | ]

The term "mana" in association with magic is used by many different cultures, though its more recent usage in fiction and games is generally credited to science fiction author Larry Niven in his The Magic Goes Away series[20]; his conception, in turn, is based on the concept of mana from Polynesian cultures. The designers of Magic paid homage to Niven with the lich character of Nevinyrral and his Nevinyrral's Disk.

Purple mana[ | ]

During the design of Planar Chaos, the developers considered using a new sixth mana color to give the feeling of an alternate reality.[21] They decided on purple as the color, and gave it a place in the color wheel in between blue and black. A new ally and enemy system were invented, in which each color would be an enemy with the color directly across from it, allied with the two colors right next to it, and neutral towards the remaining two colors. Purple's basic land would most likely be "City," though both "Cave" and "Portal" were also very likely.

The team eventually decided to give purple enchantment removal worse than white's, direct damage worse than red's, and take away blue's countermagic and black's force-sacrifice effects to give to purple. However, when they realized that players might be disappointed with a new color that didn't really "do anything new", the team started losing interest in the idea. The concept was eventually replaced with a new class of timeshifted card, and the idea of a "color" that required a new type of mana and land, with abilities from every other color, was later refitted in colorless costs during Oath of the Gatewatch.

Rules[ | ]

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

The primary resource in the game. It is spent to pay costs, usually when casting spells and activating abilities. See rule 106, “Mana,” rule 107.4, and rule 202, “Mana Cost and Color.”

From the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

  • 106. Mana
    • 106.1. Mana is the primary resource in the game. Players spend mana to pay costs, usually when casting spells and activating abilities.
      • 106.1a There are five colors of mana: white, blue, black, red, and green.
      • 106.1b There are six types of mana: white, blue, black, red, green, and colorless.
    • 106.2. Mana is represented by mana symbols (see rule 107.4). Mana symbols also represent mana costs (see rule 202).
    • 106.3. Mana is produced by the effects of mana abilities (see rule 605). It may also be produced by the effects of spells, as well as by the effects of abilities that aren’t mana abilities. A spell or ability that produces mana instructs a player to add that mana. If mana is produced by a spell, the source of that mana is that spell. If mana is produced by an ability, the source of that mana is the source of that ability (see rule 113.7).
    • 106.4. When an effect instructs a player to add mana, that mana goes into a player’s mana pool. From there, it can be used to pay costs immediately, or it can stay in the player’s mana pool as unspent mana. Each player’s mana pool empties at the end of each step and phase, and the player is said to lose this mana. Cards with abilities that produce mana or refer to unspent mana have received errata in the Oracle™ card reference to no longer explicitly refer to the mana pool.
      • 106.4a If any mana remains in a player’s mana pool after mana is spent to pay a cost, that player announces what mana is still there.
      • 106.4b If a player passes priority (see rule 117) while there is mana in their mana pool, that player announces what mana is there.
    • 106.5. If an ability would produce one or more mana of an undefined type, it produces no mana instead.

      Example: Meteor Crater has the ability “{T}: Choose a color of a permanent you control. Add one mana of that color.” If you control no colored permanents, activating Meteor Crater’s mana ability produces no mana.

    • 106.6. Some spells or abilities that produce mana restrict how that mana can be spent, have an additional effect that affects the spell or ability that mana is spent on, or create a delayed triggered ability (see rule 603.7a) that triggers when that mana is spent. This doesn’t affect the mana’s type.

      Example: A player’s mana pool contains {R}{G} which can be spent only to cast creature spells. That player activates Doubling Cube’s ability, which reads “{3}, {T}: Double the amount of each type of unspent mana you have.” The player’s mana pool now has {R}{R}{G}{G} in it, {R}{G} of which can be spent on anything.

      • 106.6a Some replacement effects increase the amount of mana produced by a spell or ability. In these cases, any restrictions or additional effects created by the spell or ability will apply to all mana produced. If the spell or ability creates a delayed triggered ability that triggers when the mana is spent, a separate delayed triggered ability is created for each mana produced. If the spell or ability creates a continuous effect or replacement effect if the mana is spent, a separate effect is created once for each mana produced.
    • 106.7. Some abilities produce mana based on the type of mana another permanent or permanents “could produce.” The type of mana a permanent could produce at any time includes any type of mana that an ability of that permanent would produce if the ability were to resolve at that time, taking into account any applicable replacement effects in any possible order. Ignore whether any costs of the ability could or could not be paid. If that permanent wouldn’t produce any mana under these conditions, or no type of mana can be defined this way, there’s no type of mana it could produce.

      Example: Exotic Orchard has the ability “{T}: Add one mana of any color that a land an opponent controls could produce.” If your opponent controls no lands, activating Exotic Orchard’s mana ability will produce no mana. The same is true if you and your opponent each control no lands other than Exotic Orchards. However, if you control a Forest and an Exotic Orchard, and your opponent controls an Exotic Orchard, then each Exotic Orchard could produce {G}.

    • 106.8. If an effect would add mana represented by a hybrid mana symbol to a player’s mana pool, that player chooses one half of that symbol. If a colored half is chosen, one mana of that color is added to that player’s mana pool. If a generic half is chosen, an amount of colorless mana represented by that half’s number is added to that player’s mana pool.
    • 106.9. If an effect would add mana represented by a Phyrexian mana symbol to a player’s mana pool, one mana of the color of that symbol is added to that player’s mana pool.
    • 106.10. If an effect would add mana represented by a generic mana symbol to a player’s mana pool, that much colorless mana is added to that player’s mana pool.
    • 106.11. If an effect would add mana represented by one or more snow mana symbols to a player’s mana pool, that much colorless mana is added to that player’s mana pool.
    • 106.12. To “tap [a permanent] for mana” is to activate a mana ability of that permanent that includes the {T} symbol in its activation cost. See rule 605, “Mana Abilities.”
      • 106.12a An ability that triggers whenever a permanent “is tapped for mana” or is tapped for mana of a specified type triggers whenever such a mana ability resolves and produces mana or the specified type of mana.
      • 106.12b A replacement effect that applies if a permanent “is tapped for mana” or tapped for mana of a specific type and/or amount modifies the mana production event while such an ability is resolving and producing mana or the specified type and/or amount of mana.
    • 106.13. One card (Drain Power) causes one player to lose unspent mana and another to add “the mana lost this way.” (Note that these may be the same player.) This empties the former player’s mana pool and causes the mana emptied this way to be put into the latter player’s mana pool. Which permanents, spells, and/or abilities produced that mana are unchanged, as are any restrictions or additional effects associated with any of that mana.

Mana symbols[ | ]

Main article: Numbers and symbols

Mana and mana costs are represented by various symbols with equivalent text-only representations, such as {W}/{W}, {C}/{C}, {3}/{3}, {R/G}/{R/G}, and {U/P}/{U/P}.

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

Mana Symbol
An icon that represents mana or a mana cost. See rule 107.4.

Mana pool[ | ]

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

Mana Pool
Where mana created by an effect is temporarily stored. See rule 106.4.

When an effect produces mana, that mana goes into a player's mana pool. From there, it can be used to pay costs immediately, or it can stay in the player's mana pool. Each player's mana pool empties at the end of each step and phase.

The phrase "mana pool" has been removed from the card text, starting with Dominaria. The concept continues to exist in the game rules. If a player is instructed to add any amount of mana, that player adds that mana to their mana pool.

Mana burn (Obsolete)[ | ]

Main article: Mana burn

When a phase ends, any unused mana left in a player's mana pool is lost. Up until Magic 2010, a player would also lose 1 life for each unspent mana lost this way. This was called mana burn, and because it was the loss of life instead of damage, it could not be prevented or altered by effects that affect damage. Mana burn was eliminated from the game with the rules overhaul that took place during the release of Magic 2010.[22]

See also[ | ]

Notes[ | ]

  1. On Shandalar mana was so dense that it gained consciousness and could reflect itself in form of elementals. A similar phenomenon is to be found on Zendikar.
  2. These effects can be seen in the Dead Zone and Time Spiral-era Dominaria.

References[ | ]

  1. a b c Reid Duke (2015 July 06). "The Basics of Mana". Wizards of the Coast.
  2. a b Mark Rosewater (2006 June 05). "As Good As It Gets". Wizards of the Coast.
  3. Mark Rosewater (March 11, 2024). "Looking Back, Part 1". Wizards of the Coast.
  4. a b Mark Rosewater (2011 May 23). "Mana Action". Wizards of the Coast.
  5. Mike McArtor (2014 November 13). "Oh the Huge Mana Tease". Wizards of the Coast.
  6. Mark Rosewater (2004 February 20). "Starting Over". Wizards of the Coast.
  7. Mark Rosewater (2004 October 04). "Change For the Better". Wizards of the Coast.
  8. Doug Beyer (February 06, 2008). "The Mana Bond". Wizards of the Coast.
  9. Return to Ravnica: The Secretist, Part One, Knocking on Doors
  10. Flavor text of Manalith (Magic 2012)
  11. Flavor text of Gnarlid Colony
  12. Flavor text of Turntimber, Serpentine Wood (Zendikar Rising)
  13. Valerie Valdes (October 20, 2023). "The Lost Caverns of Ixalan - Pawns". Wizards of the Coast.
  14. Return to Ravnica: The Secretist, Part One, The Path Bellow
  15. Guildpact (novel), Chapter 2
  16. Guildpact (novel), Chapter 7
  17. Omnath, Locus of Mana
  18. Springmane Cervin
  19. Priest of Urabrask (New Phyrexia)
  20. Words of Magic, by Allen Varney
  21. Paul Sottosanti (January 29, 2007). "The Color Purple". Wizards of the Coast.
  22. Aaron Forsythe (2009 June 10). "Magic 2010 Rules Change". Wizards of the Coast.