January 20, 2016

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Intro to Magic – Colourless Mana

With the release of Oath of the Gatewatch right around the corner, we must prepare ourselves to play! Let’s take a look at the newest mechanic update to the game: the addition of colourless mana. In Oath of the Gatewatch, players will now be able to draft and build decks that include mana that is not associated to any colour. To answer why this is important, we must first take a look at what normal mana is in a game of magic.

As we discussed in the first Intro to Magic article, Planeswalkers (that’s you!) develop a deep connection to the lands that they have traveled to. Each type of basic land produces a different colour of mana, which is then added to your mana pool. This mana can be spent to cast spells based on the casting cost of the spell. For example, Erase costs one white mana, which is produced by Plains. Expedite costs one red mana, which is produced by Mountains.

expedite

Most cards cost more than just a single mana to cast, but don’t require you to use a specific colour to cast them. Anticipate costs one blue mana and one mana of any other colour in order to cast it. The additional mana in a casting cost is known as generic mana, and while it can be paid with the same colour of mana to cast the first portion, it doesn’t need to be. This allows players to build decks that are more than one colour.

So then what is colourless mana?

Colourless mana, is as it sounds – mana that isn’t associated with any of the five colours of magic. Colourless mana isn’t a new type of mana; in fact, it’s been around since the beginning of the game. Cards like Sol Ring have been producing colourless mana for years. Until Oath of the Gatewatch, the colourless mana produced by non-basic lands such as Battlefield Forge could only be used to pay for generic mana costs in spells or activated abilities.

With the release of Oath of the Gatewatch however, we are going to see two big shake ups in how this plays out:

  1. We will finally have a basic land that produces colourless mana. These new basic lands are called Wastes, and have the new diamond symbol on them to represent their mana.
  2. Some cards will require that you use colourless mana in order to cast them or to activate abilities on the card.

wastes

The first change, the addition of the new basic land Wastes, might sound a little confusing so bear with me for a second. Wastes are a basic land which means you can include as many of them as you like in your constructed decks. Wastes, like all other basic lands, produce mana. This mana can be used to cast spells and activate abilities that have a generic cost as it only requires mana to do so, not mana of a specific colour. Oran-Rief Invoker‘s activated ability could be turned on by using eight Wastes. Wastes however, do not have a basic land type or colour, and therefore do not interact with abilities such as Converge or Dominion. So while you could use a Waste to cast Skyrider Elf, it would only enter the battlefield with two counters on it, one for each colour used to cast it.

The second change, which requires you to use colourless mana to cast spells, is a little easier to wrap our heads around. Whenever you see the diamond symbol on a card – be it Warping Wail or Immobilizer Eldrazi – you have to use colourless mana to do cast or activate the abilities. Simple, right?

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So why this change to the basic structure of magic?

Well, let’s go back to look at an earlier example of a card that produces colourless mana. Sol Ring, costs one generic mana to cast, but produces two colourless mana when tapped. This could come off as a little confusing. Things get even weirder when we look at cards like Ally Encampment. Its first ability produces colourless mana for your mana pool. Its last ability uses generic mana. So on the same card we have one symbol that means two different things. Very confusing to new players to say the least! With the addition of a colourless mana base, and an associated symbol, we remove some of the guesswork out of casting spells.

The last question is how do we get our hands on these new Wastes? Unlike other basic lands which can be purchased in land packs, Wastes will currently only be available in booster packs of Oath of the Gatewatch. This means that your best way of getting your hands on this new land other than simply opening packs is to draft them at your local game store! For a list of nights you can draft #atthetower, check out our website’s event calendar.

Well that’s it for this edition of Intro to Magic! Join us again soon as we discuss the different formats of magic that are available to players of the game.