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Judge School
MTG cards

Mana abilities

Hi everybody, welcome to another class of the Judge school.

This smallest possible class is dedicated to mana abilities. I have already given definitions for them and refered to them in many articles, but I decided to sum up the information on them in one place.

Fun fact, “mana” is a Polynesian word meaning power supposedly contained in objects.

605.1. Some activated abilities and some triggered abilities are mana abilities, which are subject to special rules. Only abilities that meet either of the following two sets of criteria are mana abilities, regardless of what other effects they may generate or what timing restrictions (such as “Activate this ability only any time you could cast an instant”) they may have.

605.1a. An activated ability is a mana ability if it meets three criteria: it doesn't have a target, it could put mana into a player's mana pool when it resolves, and it's not a loyalty ability. (See rule 606, “Loyalty Abilities.”)

605.1b. A triggered ability without a target that triggers from activating a mana ability and could put mana into a player's mana pool when it resolves is a mana ability.

Examples of mana abilities:

Lion's Eye Diamond Doubling Cube Valleymaker

Lion's Eye Diamond has a mana ability, but it cannot be activated if you do not have priority.

Doubling Cube has an activated mana ability.

Valleymaker's second ability is a mana ability. It does not target. You choose the player as the ability resolves.

Overgrowth High Tide Extraplanar Lens

Overgrowth represents a classic example of a triggered mana ability.

As High Tide resolves, it creates a delayed triggered mana ability that is effective until the end of current turn.

Extraplanar Lens' second ability is a mana ability.

Note the wording of triggered mana abilities. They say “Whenever you tap a permanent for mana”. This event has a strict definition in the rules:

106.10. To “tap a permanent for mana” is to activate a mana ability of that permanent that includes the {TAP} symbol in its activation cost. See rule 605, “Mana Abilities.”


Heritage Druid Deathrite Shaman

despite the fact that Heritage Druid has an activated mana ability, its tapping while activating the ability will not be a triggering event of such kind.

despite the fact that the first activated ability of Deathrite Shaman gives mana and has the tap symbol in its cost, it doesn't trigger mana abilities beacause it is not an activated mana ability (it is targeted).

605.5. Abilities that don't meet the criteria specified in rules 605.1a-b and spells aren't mana abilities.

605.5a. An ability with a target is not a mana ability, even if it could put mana into a player's mana pool when it resolves. The same is true for a triggered ability that could produce mana but triggers from an event other than activating a mana ability, or a triggered ability that triggers from activating a mana ability but couldn't produce mana. These follow the normal rules for activated or triggered abilities, as appropriate.

605.5b. A spell can never be a mana ability, even if it could put mana into a player's mana pool when it resolves. It's cast and resolves just like any other spell. Some older cards were printed with the card type “mana source”; these cards have received errata in the Oracle card reference and are now instants.

Let's take a look at abilities that aren't mana abilities:

Sakura-Tribe Springcaller Braid of Fire Lotus Cobra

The triggering event of each of these abilities is not activating a mana ability, so none is a mana ability. More details are available about Lotus Cobra.

Mana Reflection Koth of the Hammer Soulbright Flamekin

Mana Reflection doubles the mana gained from mana abilities of other permanents, but it is a static ability that creates a replacement effect.

Koth's second ability isn't a mana ability because it is a loyalty ability.

Soulbright Flamekin's activated ability isn't a mana ability even if it resolves for the third time because it targets.

Seething Song Dark Ritual Manamorphose

Spells cannot be mana abilities.

605.2. A mana ability remains a mana ability even if the game state doesn't allow it to produce mana.

Example: A permanent has an ability that reads “{TAP}: Add {G} to your mana pool for each creature you control.” This is still a mana ability even if you control no creatures or if the permanent is already tapped.

605.3. Activating an activated mana ability follows the rules for activating any other activated ability (see rule 602.2), with the following exceptions

605.3a. A player may activate an activated mana ability whenever he or she has priority, whenever he or she is casting a spell or activating an ability that requires a mana payment, or whenever a rule or effect asks for a mana payment, even if it's in the middle of casting or resolving a spell or activating or resolving an ability.

605.3b. An activated mana ability doesn't go on the stack, so it can't be targeted, countered, or otherwise responded to. Rather, it resolves immediately after it is activated.

605.4. Triggered mana abilities follow all the rules for other triggered abilities (see rule 603, “Handling Triggered Abilities”), with the following exception:

605.4a. A triggered mana ability doesn't go on the stack, so it can't be targeted, countered, or otherwise responded to. Rather, it resolves immediately after the mana ability that triggered it, without waiting for priority.

Example: An enchantment reads, “Whenever a player taps a land for mana, that player adds one mana to his or her mana pool of any type that land produced.” If a player taps lands for mana while casting a spell, the additional mana is added to the player's mana pool immediately and can be used to pay for the spell.

You may read about acquiring and losing abilities related togaining basic land types in the article “Abilities and effects”.


Which of these abilities are mana abilities?

Forbidden Orchard City of Brass Centaur Garden
Mana Flare Grinning Ignus Altar of Shadows
Blinkmoth Urn Overabundance Heart of Ramos

Can you “Pin a needle on Lotus Petal”? What will be the result?

Pithing NeedleLotus Petal

How much mana will you gain if you activate the ability of a Forest while controlling Mana Reflection and Vernal Bloom?

Mana Reflection ForestVernal Bloom

How much mana will you gain by activating the ability of Heritage Druid, tapping the druid and two Llanowar elves while controlling Mana Reflection?

Mana ReflectionHeritage Druid Llanowar Elves

While controlling a Forest and Heartbeat of Spring, you cast Sol Ring by paying it with mana gained from Boseiju, Who Shelters All. Then you cast Primal Command and your opponent responds with Mana Leak. What happens?

Heartbeat of SpringBoseiju, Who Shelters All

You chose red for the Gauntlet. The cunning opponent controls Infernal Darkness. You intend to get mana from two Mountains and “paint it red” with the Filterland. How much mana of what types can you gain?

Infernal DarknessGauntlet of PowerGraven Cairns

Which of these abilities are blocked with Damping Matrix?

Damping Matrix Tangleroot Radha, Heir to Keld
Pili-Pala Myr Moonvessel Astrolabe

You judge a Legacy format tournament with Regular REL. A player with Stifle in his hand asks you: “Is the Birdie's ability activated?“ What will you answer?

StifleBirds of Paradise

Read the rules and enjoy the game!

Written by Irina Samonova, L2

Translated by Witas Spasovski, L1

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Irina Samonova © 1999-2017

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