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Mana 101: What It Is, How to Use It

Jan 31st 2018

Mana 101: What It Is, How to Use It

One of the most important aspects of playing Magic: The Gathering is understanding what mana is and how you’ll use it in the game. The accrual and expenditure of mana can shape your strategy and make or break you as a player. 

What is Mana?

In a previous blog where we explored some MTG lingo, we defined mana as “...a way to quantify magical power.” So mana is, at it’s most basic within the game, a way to keep track of your ability to create magic. You use to do two different things: 

  • Cast spells 
  • Activate abilities 

Each player within the game is going to have a pool of mana to draw from throughout the game. They can increase that pool by using various cards in their deck. Some of the most valuable Magic: The Gathering singles on the market have to do with increasing the mana pool, so that tells you something about the importance of mana to the overall game. Mana comes in six different colors or types: white, black, blue, green and red.

What is Phyrexian mana?

This is a special class of mana that can either be paid for with the mana of the designated color or 2 life.

How to Use Mana

Many of the cards that you wish to play in battle will have a mana cost. This is how much mana you have to spend out of your pool to put that card into play. In the game world, it’s how much magical energy you’ll have to expend.  

How much mana you need to spend is referred to as the “converted mana cost.” This is the total amount of mana, including specific colors as well as hybrids and generic mana combined. So if a card required you to expend five generic mana (mana of any color) as well as three red mana, then the converted mana cost (CMC) is eight. This will be an important number to know when creating your strategy; it’s often better to start the game with cards that have a lower mana cost and build to using your more mana-expensive cards in the middle of your game. This is sometimes referred to as “building the mana curve.”

A Word on the Mana Curve

You can take a deep dive into mana curve building theory if you wish. Essentially, it’s trying to plan out when you are going to play cards of a certain mana cost during the game. There are a number of guides that can help you create your own mana curve strategy, but don’t worry if this is more intense than you want to get when planning your strategy. You’ll probably naturally develop a mana curve strategy over time as you become a more experienced player.

Need More Mana Info?

This brief guide should answer your basic questions about mana, but as you play MTG you are likely to have more. That’s what your local game shop is for! Come into the Dragon’s Lair and speak to one of our awesome team members about your MTG questions. We’ll help you sort out your burning mana-related questions. We also have great booster packs and boxes that can help you build up your deck so you have the cards you need to build a killer mana curve strategy. Come visit us in person or shop our online store today!