Mana, Mana Value, And Mana Cost

Are you a Quiet Speculation member?

If not, now is a perfect time to join up! Our powerful tools, breaking-news analysis, and exclusive Discord channel will make sure you stay up to date and ahead of the curve.

Tapping In

Welcome back to another installment of rules stuff. This week we're looking at mana, mana values, and mana costs. Mana is the lifeblood of the game, so I figured it'd be a nice thing to talk a bit about.

This article is sponsored, in part, by Urza's Saga, as I'll explain later.

What's the Mana With You?

Mana is Magic's primary resource, most commonly used to cast spells or activate abilities. If an effect mentions "colors" of mana, it means white, blue, black, red, or green. On the other hand, if an effect mentions "types" of mana, it means any of the colors or colorless. Something like Reflecting Pool could add colorless mana with its ability since it makes "one mana of any type." However, City of Brass could not, since its ability makes "one mana of any color."

Mana Manipulation

Sometimes mana comes with restrictions or riders, like mana produced by Ancient Ziggurat or Cavern of Souls. If I activate Cavern of Souls while I control Mana Reflection, I'll get two mana of the chosen color. Each of them has the rider.

If, on the other hand, I activate Cavern of Souls and then activate Doubling Cube, the mana added from Doubling Cube will not have the rider. This is because Doubling Cube only doubles the type of unspent mana I have available.

If I activate Cavern of Souls while I control Kruphix, God of Horizons, and would lose that mana, it becomes colorless but still has the rider. Kruphix doesn't completely "blank" the mana, it just changes its type to colorless. Any other effects that mana might have still apply.

Mana Value

Magic changed the term "converted mana cost" to "mana value" with the release of Strixhaven: School of Mages. Basically, an object's mana value is the total amount of mana in its mana cost, regardless of color, represented as a whole number. For instance, the mana value of Grizzly Bears is 2. Every object in the game has a mana value.

If something has no mana cost, like Living End or Ancestral Vision, its mana value is 0.

Generally, the back face of a transforming double-faced card has the same mana value as its front face. That is, Thing in the Ice // Awoken Horror's mana value is 2, and A-Brine Comber // A-Brinebound Gift's mana value is 3, no matter which face is up. However, if something is a copy of the back face of a TDFC, its mana value is 0. This is true even in weird situations where a double-faced card becomes a copy of another.

A melded permanent has the total mana value of the front faces of the cards that make it up. For instance, Brisela, Voice of Nightmares' mana value is 11 because it's made up of Gisela, the Broken Blade with mana value 4 and Bruna, the Fading Light with mana value 7.

{X} in a cost only contributes to mana value while the spell is on the stack. If it's not a spell, {X} is 0.

Welcome to Splitsville

A split card's mana value is determined based on where it is. If I cast it, it has the mana value of whichever half I cast (or the sum of its halves, if I cast a fused spell). Anywhere else but the stack, it has the mana value of the sum of its halves. For example, if I cast Alive of Alive // Well, its mana value is 4. If I cast Well, its mana value is 1. If the card is just sitting in my hand or graveyard, its mana value is 5.

Mana Cost

Mana cost actually matters a lot more now than it has in the past thanks to Urza's Saga and Jegantha, the Wellspring. In fact, these two cards made me choose this as my subject this week.

A card's "mana cost" is what's printed in the top right corner of the card. As mentioned earlier, Living End has no mana cost. Generally speaking, if a card has no mana cost, it has what's known as an unpayable cost. We'll double back to what that phrase means in a bit.

Someone asks me something like "Why can't Urza's Saga find Engineered Explosives?" at least once a day. While Engineered Explosives does have a mana value of 0, that's not what Urza's Saga cares about. Instead, it's looking specifically for the card's mana cost. The mana cost must be printed {0} like Lotus Petal or {1} like Colossus Hammer. Any other mana cost won't work.

...So This Is Strange

At first blush, Jegantha, the Wellspring and Embodiment of Agonies look similar. They both care about a card's mana cost, right? Well... yes, kind of, but there's a slight difference.

709.4b The mana cost of a split card is the combined mana costs of its two halves. A split card’s colors and mana value are determined from its combined mana cost. An effect that refers specifically to the symbols in a split card’s mana cost sees the separate symbols rather than the whole mana cost.

Magic Comrepehensive Rules

This means that a Jegantha deck can't play Fire // Ice, because it has the {1} symbol twice. However, as far as Embodiment of Agonies is concerned, Fire // Ice has a mana cost of {2}{U}{R}, which is the same mana cost as Steam Augury.

Luckily, Jegantha is unique in caring about unique mana symbols, so it should be an easy enough weird thing to remember.

Mana Value and Mana Cost Commonalities

Effects that somehow modify what a card costs to cast don't affect the card's mana value or mana cost at all. A Lotus Petal cast while an opponent controls Thalia, Guardian of Thraben still has mana value 0 and mana cost {0}. Similarly, Altar of Dementia still has mana value 2 and mana cost {2} if I control a Blood Funnel. Kicker and any other additional costs also don't affect mana value or mana cost.

That brings me back to those unpayable costs I mentioned earlier. An unpayable cost remains an unpayable cost even if it has some cost-increasing effect. That is, it's not possible to cast Ancestral Vision for {1} while an opponent controls Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. The cost is effectively {1} + unpayable, which is still unpayable.

You can only cast these kinds of spells if you have an alternate cost to do so. The most common way, as many modern players are aware, is to cascade into them with something like Violent Outburst (or Bloodbraid Elf for the boomers out there).


At this point, the word "mana" doesn't mean anything to me anymore because I've typed and read it so many times. This phenomenon is called "semantic satiation."

Go forth, then, and experience fewer judge calls involving Urza's Saga. Please, I'm begging!

That's all until next week. Same great time, same great channel website.

Question of the week: What's the most expensive (in mana, not in dollars) spell you've ever cast?

Join the conversation

Want Prices?

Browse thousands of prices with the first and most comprehensive MTG Finance tool around.

Trader Tools lists both buylist and retail prices for every MTG card, going back a decade.

Quiet Speculation