Well, Well, Well

Posted in Feature on May 8, 2003

By Mark L. Gottlieb

The Magic game has an illustrious history of breaking its own rules. That’s one of the most fun aspects of the game: nothing is sacred and anything can change. This philosophy was immediately established in Alpha when a seemingly crucial rule like “You lose the game if you have 0 life" was smacked around by Lich. Stasis said untap steps didn’t exist, which is tough because players usually need those. Rolling Stones says Walls can attack. Vernal Equinox says enchantments can be played on your opponent’s turn. How much crazier can you get than that?! Just wait . . .

The Magic game also has an illustrious history of mana storage. (Stay with me, now.) The ability to pay for an expensive spell with a couple of turns’ worth of mana was immediately established in Alpha with Basalt Monolith, which did nothing but set aside 3 mana for later. Green Mana Battery and its ilk stored up mana over many turns. Hollow Trees did much the same thing. The read-it-eight-times-to-understand-it Ice Cauldron set the stage for the entire mechanic of echo. How much crazier can you get than Ice Cauldron?! Well, here’s the answer.



One of the fundamental Magic rules has been broken. A rule so much a part of the backbone of the game that the mind boggles at what you can do when it’s not there. But it’s gone. When you have Upwelling in play, mana pools don’t empty at the end of a phase. Mana burn doesn’t exist. If you tap all your lands during your upkeep to put 6 mana in your pool, you can save it till your main phase. Then it carries over to combat. No combat tricks? Keep the mana for later. Use it on your opponent’s turn. Hang on to it until your next turn when you can tap your lands again for a total of 12 mana. (Just be sure to remember how much mana of each color you have!) Upwelling is yet another of the many ways in which the Scourge set encourages you to play with huge creatures and spells.

Rules Corner: Mana Burn

From the Comprehensive Rulebook:

300.4. When a phase ends (but not a step), any unused mana left in a player’s mana pool is lost. That player loses 1 life for each one mana lost this way. This is called mana burn. Note that mana burn is loss of life, not damage, so it can’t be prevented or altered by effects that affect damage.

Of course, there’s a catch. It’s called Disenchant. Or Naturalize, or Demystify, and so on. Picture it: You’re sitting around on your opponent’s turn, grinning from ear to ear. You’ve got 18 mana in your pool, and you can’t wait to untap and take the game with a single Great Chicago Fire–sized Blaze. But a measly Ray of Revelation takes out your Upwelling. Suddenly it’s your lunch that’s upwelling, because just like when gravity sees a hang glider giving the natural order of things the raspberry and says, “Oy! Get down here!" when Upwelling vanishes, the Magic rules remember that it used to think mana burn was a good idea and can’t remember why it was letting things slide. That sizzle is the sound of you frying for 18.

So how can Upwelling be abused? Pairing it with Seedborn Muse is so nasty you run the risk of getting pelted with rotting vegetables and/or fish. Of course, extremely large spells seem like a natural fit as well. How can you protect yourself from Upwelling’s drawback? One good idea is to leave mana sinks on the board. A mana sink is a permanent with an activation cost that can be paid over and over. If you find yourself with 12 mana that you need to spend right away, you could do worse than to change Mistform Wall’s creature type twelve times in a row. And a strategy that answers both questions is to carry instants with X in the cost. I’m sure you old-timers remember Stroke of Genius and Volcanic Geyser. New possibilities include Read the Runes and Starstorm.

So how about some decks? The following selections are very rough, partially because I couldn’t playtest Upwelling decks on Magic Online, but mostly because my brain is just buzzing with the possibilities. There are so many directions to travel, and the game is so different with Upwelling in play, that I’m pleased to announce that I’m at a loss. It’s unexplored territory, and that’s very exciting. Magic amazes me when it transforms itself into a brand-new game before my eyes.

Everyone Out

The purpose of this deck is to play Evacuation, Mistform Wall, and Biorhythm on the same turn, with Counterspell backup. That’s only 18 mana; it should be no problem. Syncopate, Read the Runes, Mistform Wall, and Compulsion all keep you out of Disenchant trouble. Counterspell protects Upwelling and, along with Aether Burst and the Wall, keeps you safe in the early game while you set up.


Download Arena Decklist
Sorcery (2)
2 Biorhythm
Enchantment (7)
3 Compulsion 4 Upwelling
Land (24)
12 Forest 12 Island
Other (4)
4 Aether Burst
60 Cards

X Files

One of the questions about Upwelling is whether it’s better than Mirari’s Wake. The Wake doubles your available mana rather than just letting you save it. It also pumps up your creatures. The white mana requirement isn’t that hard to manage with Krosan Tuskers and fetch lands within reach. But why fight? Why pick favorites? Can’t we all be friends? Yes, and the results are obscene. Putting Upwelling, Mirari’s Wake, and Seedborn Muse together will cause tidal waves to rip through your mana pool. The clutch of X spells in this deck (Blaze, Firecat Blitz, Earthquake, Starstorm, and even Goblin Dynamo) salivate at the notion of finally being used to their full potential. X can stand for any number, but it so frequently stands for some weenie number like 2. Let the boys out to play! Be aware that this deck provides less protection from disenchants though, with only Starstorm and the Dynamo available to drain your mana pool at a moment’s notice.

X-tremely Big

Download Arena Decklist

If you increase the white commitment or just go for a green-white build, you could probably find a place for such goodies as Phantom Nishoba; Akroma, Angel of Wrath... and Scourge will also offer some insane options.

The fun doesn’t end there, though. It’s just beginning. Hard-cast Hypnox! Go nuts with Riptide Replicator! Toss Upwelling into a multiplayer game and watch the ensuing chaos with that half-deranged smirk you get whenever chaos ensues! Find a place for it in an Emperor deck! Pair it with Sterling Grove! Sucker your opponent into filling his or her mana pool, then disenchant it yourself to cause heavy mana burn! And most importantly, of course, have fun! It’ll be hard not to.


Mark may be reached at houseofcardsmail@yahoo.com. Send rules-related Magic questions to ask@wizards.com.

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