A Bounty of Mana

Posted in Top Decks on January 23, 2014

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

There are far too many artifacts that generate mana available in Commander to cover in just one article.

But we all have our favorites. One card that I've come to enjoy is Coalition Relic.

Coalition Relic

There are other options for a three-mana artifact that gives you any color of mana, but the ability to squeeze two mana out of it for one turn is a nice bonus I appreciate more and more as I use it. Being just one mana short is always an awkward moment when you're counting; nobody is a fan of disappointment.

Everflowing Chalice

The other mana maker I've come to adore is Everflowing Chalice. Whether it's on turn two or turn twenty, the ability to leverage whatever mana you have and leap ahead the following turn is powerful. As a fan of big Dragons and even bigger sorceries, making a mass of colorless mana can go a long way.

Unfortunately, neither alone solves a challenging problem: What if you want a lot of colored mana? Gilded Lotus is awesome, but fixed at three mana. Everything else gives you less. What if there was a way to make colored mana, both early and late in the game, for nearly any deck that wanted it, and it could scale anywhere from one to more mana that you'd ever need?

This is Astral Cornucopia, and it's the bounty of mana I've been looking for.

One For All, All For One

Let's be clear: Astral Cornucopia is a card between worlds. At the baseline is spending , netting you one charge counter: This mode is better known as Manalith, among many other names. Spending gets you two charge counters, leaving it a slightly weaker Gilded Lotus. A whopping is needed to get three mana of a particular color out of Astral Cornucopia, but it can go much higher from there.

So what sets Astral Cornucopia part from other options? Flexibility. You can't cast Gilded Lotus on turn three, and you only get one copy of it in your deck. Gilded Lotus is capped at giving you three mana, and Astral Cornucopia isn't. It can fill the same slot as Darksteel Ingot or Coalition Relic, but leaves open bigger opportunities for mana-hungry decks that want "another" Gilded Lotus.

Astral Cornucopia | Art by Aleksi Briclot

That's the beauty and risk of Commander's "only one of any card in the deck" rule: You will always want the most powerful cards available, but the most flexible cards help your deck run better. Astral Cornucopia isn't going to win head-to-head comparisons on mana generation, but it's rare you can include a card in your deck that can maximize your mana-making options at every point of the game.

Last week's preview, Karametra, God of Harvests, asked for both commitment to green and white and casting as many creatures as you can. Going all out for one God is a powerful plan, but it also narrows you down to precisely what that God does. Karametra's lands-for-creatures tells your opponents what's coming, and they'll plan accordingly. With great power comes great limitations.

Astral Cornucopia is on the opposite end. Whether it's for , , or even more mana, all it says is "I'm making mana in a format where we all want to make mana." Maybe I'll cast a mean Dragon. Maybe I plan to wipe the battlefield and leave an army in its place. Maybe all I'm going to do is have everyone draw some cards.

Your opponents won't be able to guess from Astral Cornucopia alone.

Subtlety in multiplayer is a thing of strategic beauty, although the value in multiplayer strategies only goes as far as your opponents enjoy them. While I'd argue there are clear rules for multiplayer engagements, the truth is, your cards and how you play them will be what everyone else at the table pays attention to. Astral Cornucopia won't instantly draw everyone's attention, unless you push an absurd amount of mana through it, but even then, it making lots of mana is so generic it doesn't tell them anything new.

Quiet in Commander is underrated. I'm just as guilty as the next player of looking for nothing but the biggest spell I can cast and going for it on the spot. Many of the decks that come through from the community include their share of over-the-top action at the expense of a quiet focus and dedication to moving the deck forward. Astral Cornucopia for doesn't feel exciting if Darksteel Ingot and Chromatic Lantern are waiting elsewhere in your deck, but when you want to bump your mana up and fix it on turn three you don't have the luxury of waiting to see something else.

If you take nothing else away about Astral Cornucopia, remember that.

Charging Up

There is the other feature about Astral Cornucopia that's worth noting: Charge counters can be manipulated. There have been plenty of decks that take aim at making charge counters work harder, so I'll just recap the highlights you should keep in mind.


Both classic charge counter cards from Darksteel, Coretapper and Dismantle have been beefing up the charge on artifacts for years. Coretapper is repeatable, but has an instant-bonus option with its sacrifice ability. Dismantle can take another charged-up artifact and instead let you create a pile of mana (or vice verse); Gemstone Array is an excellent way to coolly pile up counters for a switch onto Astral Cornucopia if that's your plan. Power Conduit is a slower but safer-for-your-toys way to do it.

Surge Node
Energy Chamber

There are two other cards that can specifically add charge counters to other artifacts. Surge Node is limited to adding six, but Energy Chamber is only limited by your upkeep steps. I can think of worse value propositions than getting a free Rampant Growth every upkeep.

Contagion Clasp
Contagion Engine

Proliferate is the other obvious way to ratchet up charge—or any other type of—counters. While Contagion Engine can have a much larger effect on the battlefield, Contagion Clasp is a quieter way to bump up counters on things. Either is easy to add to decks, since they're colorless.

Fuel for the Cause
Inexorable Tide

If you tap into blue, two spells work well to add a little proliferate to decks. Fuel for the Cause can usually find something big to stop in a game of Commander, but Inexorable Tide is a calm march to build around if you pile up other permanents with counters. In a pinch, green decks can use Plaguemaw Beast to swap creatures into proliferate triggers, and Throne of Geth will do it for any deck with sufficient disposable artifacts.

Unleash the Fury

Will Astral Cornucopia revolutionize Commander? I don't think so, but I'm extremely pleased to add a scaling way to add any color of mana to my Commander decks. Coincidentally, between Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch and the Arcbound army available, I've been dreaming about building a heavily counters-based deck: charge; age; every type of counter imaginable; and, specifically, +1/+1 counters to manipulate and use, are what I've considered so far.

Astral Cornucopia is the perfect fit for a deck filled with offbeat and random components, thanks to how it fixes mana, and I'd like your help pulling together a multicolor "counter" Commander deck: What would you include in a "multicolor counter Commander deck" and why?

  • Feedback via email, in English
  • 300-word limit to describe the cards and/or decklist
  • Counter means not spells like Counterspell, but those that add or use counters of any type on permanents (+1/+1 counters, charge counters, etc.)
  • Name and email required (non-personal information to be used in column)

The Born of the Gods Prerelease events are just over a week away and I can't wait to try the newest action on Theros. If you're not ready to build a Commander deck, Limited events like the sealed deck you'll play at a Prerelease event are a great alternative. (Well, I enjoy a little Limited now and then. Your results may vary.)

Join us next week when we reap the greatest harvest. See you then!

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