Cards that Time Forgot: Mana Edition

Posted in Serious Fun on January 13, 2015

By Bruce Richard

Bruce's games invariably involve several friends, crazy plays, and many laughs. Bruce believes that if anyone at your table isn't having fun, then you are doing it wrong.

I was recently sorting some cards into my collection and happened to notice a few cards that I haven't seen played in a while, though they seemed like they would still be pretty good. I started to put a few together to share with you, but decided I shouldn't be so greedy. I'm sure all of you have cards you run in your decks that you think deserve a moment in the sun. Cards that have been forgotten among all the new, awesome cards. I love Fate Reforged as much as the next player (probably more!), but sometimes the old-school cards need a little shout-out.

I put it to you on Twitter, asking for cards from pre-Ravnica that were fun and/or awesome, that weren't getting played elsewhere. You responded like crazy, giving me more cards than I could possibly use. I did find a small theme of cards that related to mana, so I've focused on those for now. Some are lands, some are mana-producers, and some aren't nearly as pleasant, but are ridiculously effective.

Skyshroud Elf

Skyshroud Elf is one of my personal favorites. This Tempest Elf does it all when it comes to mana. The Elf taps for green, white, or red mana. All by itself, that would be enough to make it a fun card. No Birds of Paradise, but a solid mana Elf. Instead, you can funnel every mana you have through the Skyshroud Elf to get whatever you need. This lets you put cards with ridiculous color demands into your Naya deck, with very little trouble. If you wanted to run cards with double green, double red, and double white in their casting costs, Skyshroud Elf can make it happen.

While the creature is very small, you can often get your bigger threats out quickly after playing Skyshroud Elf, leaving your opponents to decide if they want to get rid of the Skyshroud Elf or the Akroma, Angel of Wrath you just played; or the Akroma, Angel of Fury you'll be playing next turn!

When Tempest was released, I relied heavily on Skyshroud Elf since I didn't have access to all the great lands that were so difficult to find. You can get burned by removal, but Skyshroud Elf was easy to get and worked as a decent replacement. Even now, Skyshroud Elf is easy to obtain.

Soldevi Adnate

Soldevi Adnate gets you mana in a way you would expect a black creature to do it: the Adnate performs a ritual sacrifice of one of your creatures to give you black mana equal to that creature's casting cost. At the time when the card was released, this was a great way to get a lot of black mana for a large Drain Life, or a Pestilence to clear the battlefield.

The problem with the card lies in the restrictions on what you can sacrifice. It needs to be black or an artifact creature, so you are likely leaning toward a mostly black deck. It also doesn't work real well with tokens. If you were hoping to sacrifice your Zombie tokens, you can, you just won't get any mana for them. It works as a sac outlet, but there are so many better ones that can give you a benefit, that it would be a waste to use Soldevi Adnate that way.

In spite of the restrictions, in the right deck, Soldevi Adnate shines! In today's environment, this can be used to make use of a creature that was about to die anyway, getting mana to replace your lost creature with something even better. When you are looking for a card like Griselbrand or another creature that demands plenty of black mana, the Adnate helps make that happen far sooner than your opponents hope or expect.

Hall of Gemstone

Not every card in the list is here because it will net you mana. This World Enchantment[1] card from Mirage offers some fixing, but is more useful as a soft lock to prevent opponents from messing with your spells on your turn. You aren't completely hosing your opponents. The players will get to choose their decks' primary color and get access to that color on their turn; so if they have a way to get rid of Hall of Gemstone, they can. Primarily, though, you want to cast your spells and this card is going to go a long way toward making that happen.

If you are running Hall of Gemstone, it's likely you're running a monocolored deck. There is little reason to try a two- or three-color deck when your lands will only produce one color on any turn. It is also likely you're running green, given the double-green in the mana cost. With Hall of Gemstone, it makes sense to run artifacts and creatures that will continue to get you green mana when it isn't your turn.

Hall of Gemstone | Art by David A. Cherry

Hall of Gemstone is best suited for Commander, where you can only run one copy of the card. Running multiple copies in a deck makes the second copy useless. Playing it will just allow your opponents to choose two different colors to get their decks running. I get that this can help in a Group Hug deck, but it works so harshly against you, it just doesn't make sense. When you are trying to stretch the game out to give yourself more time to get your game-changing spells online, Hall of Gemstone does a great job.

Terrain Generator

As Stephen says, the card gives a helpful nudge to decks with extra lands in hand. If you have ways to load your hand with cards generally, or lands specifically, Terrain Generator works especially well. I like to use it with cards like Simic Growth Chamber or the lands—[2] lands that force you to return a land to your hand to play it.

Terrain Generator[3] is another card that is a great landfall enabler. I liked to run it in my deck featuring Meloku the Clouded Mirror, Roil Elemental, and Rampaging Baloth.

TerrainFall Generator

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Meloku and the Soratami put lands back in your hand for a benefit and Terrain Generator helps to give extra landfall triggers, particularly once your land count starts climbing into the absurd.

Petrified Field

Petrified Field sits there quietly on your battlefield, until you need it. The most straightforward need it assists with is mana fixing. You sacrificed a Flooded Strand earlier to get an Island, but you still haven't found a second one? Petrified Field lets you get the Flooded Strand out of the graveyard and find the Island you need. It also works well with cards like Gemstone Mine or Sandstone Needle. These cards give you a nice mana boost, but always seem to die…just when you really need them.

While this is helpful, I expect what all of you were thinking when you saw this card was, "What a great landfall enabler!" I know! Just as you were running out of lands to play, Petrified Field grabs one out of your graveyard.

Oh, and Petrified Field also happens to return a lot of the utility lands back to your hand. Lands like Kessig Wolf Run and Maze of Ith tend to get destroyed, so having a land that can get them back is great. Petrified Field also lets other lands that have to be sacrificed to get their effect do double duty. Bojuka Bog and Wasteland get the opportunity to do their thing more than just once. I guess that's a nice side benefit.

Mana Web

Hall of Gemstone is a great way to stall your opponents by limiting their mana. Mana Web works in much the same way. Rather than limit the color of mana available, Mana Web limits when you can use your mana. Once you tap that first Plains, they are all getting tapped. This forces your opponents to decide if they really want those combat tricks, since it will leave them without mana for the rest of the turn. Mana Web quietly says, "Your opponents can either cast their permanents, use combat tricks, or cast spells on opponents' turns." This is powerful.

As someone who plays a lot of nonbasic lands, I particularly hate this card. If you're playing just basic lands, you can tap all your Plains and cast a spell, leaving all your Forests available for a different spell. If you opt to use mana from your Blossoming Sands to cast the card, now every land that could produce white or green mana gets tapped. When you are running a lot of nonbasic lands that produce more than one color of mana, Mana Web can leave you completely tapped out after casting just one spell. If you're a newer player with a limited card pool, Mana Web can be a great equalizer against players who run a lot of fancy lands. Cards like Stirring Wildwood or Celestial Colonnade become almost useless since tapping the mana to make it into a creature will likely force the land to tap.

Another downside to consider is very playgroup-dependent. Mana Web can really slow your games down. Newer players and players who are less methodical are forced to slow down and really think through every action they want to do in a turn to make sure they are still able to do as much as possible; or at least the most important thing. This can lead to long, slow games that really aren't any better. If long games or slow players are an issue with your group, think carefully before adding Mana Web to your deck(s).

Rainbow Vale

The obvious use for Rainbow Vale is with Zedruu the Greathearted. After you give Rainbow Vale to an opponent, he or she has the choice of letting you gain a life and draw a card, or using Rainbow Vale and returning it to you before your upkeep. This makes Rainbow Vale virtually all upside in this kind of deck.

You can also try to find an opponent running a deck with multiple colors, who can see the benefit of passing the Vale back and forth between the two of you. In this way, you both get the full benefit of the card with no real downside. Working together can be fun!

That said, I think Alexander has it right. The best way to play Rainbow Vale is to use it and encourage everyone to pass it around freely. Rainbow Vale gives you and everyone you play with extra mana of any color you need! With the right group, this can be a blast—accelerating everyone into the fun, crazy part of the game. A regular land taps once per round, granting a single color of mana once, to you, until your next untap. Rainbow Vale can give each player in the game an extra mana of whatever color he or she needs, on every single turn. If you're willing to give players extra cards, one extra mana is just adding to the fun!

That wraps up this edition of the Cards That Time Forgot. I'll be running this idea back again in the future, so if you find you have an all-star in your decks that isn't getting the recognition it should, drop me an email…and it may show up next time!

Bruce Richard



[1] A world enchantment is basically just an enchantment. You can treat it exactly the same. The only difference is that if a second enchant world enters the battlefield, the first one is removed. This applies whether a second Hall of Gemstone enters the battlefield or a Concordant Crossroads enters the battlefield. There are only 26 of them, so it will likely not matter in most of your games.

[2] There was a series of land from Invasion block that tapped for one of three different colored mana. They each had a subtype “Lair.” When they entered the battlefield you had to return a land to your hand that wasn’t a Lair. They were named after the five dragons from the block. My personal favorite was Darigaaz’s Caldera. I had two copies of Darigaaz, so how could I not run the land?

[3] I think of SimCity and other games of its ilk whenever I hear the name. Ooh, I sense an idea for a theme deck coming on!

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