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How to Play Every Mana Symbol in Magic: The Gathering

Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.

Mana Symbols in Magic

In Magic, you can play one land from your hand each turn, and you "tap" these lands for mana that helps you cast other types of cards. Most cards require one or more specific colors, so you'll need corresponding lands to play your spells.

We'll go into more detail below, but whether you're new to the game or an advanced player, you might not have seen each special mana variant. So, how can you properly cast all types of cards? Here's everything you need to know about mana symbols in Magic: The Gathering!

ColorBasic Land

Red

Mountain

Green

Forest

Blue

Island

White

Plains

Black

Swamp

The Five Basic Mana Symbols in Magic

In their upper-right corner, every cards lists its cost, and most simply need the proper color or colors. Let's look at the example above, the artifact "Mage Slayer". Its red symbol must be fulfilled by a red mana, and its green by a green mana—you can't substitute other colors for those slots. However, the colorless "1" listed can accept any mana type, whether red, green, or something else.

In this card's text, you'll also see an equip cost of "3". Since this doesn't specify any symbols, you can again spend any type of mana on it. Consult the above table for a review on what types of basic lands supply each color, and remember that many non-basic lands can tap for multiple colors.

Colorless Mana Symbols in Magic

In addition to the five colors, some cards offer colorless mana. Usually, colored mana is superior to colorless since you can substitute colored for colorless, but not vice versa.

However, a few cards, like the above "Kozilek, the Great Distortion", have unique diamond-shaped colorless symbols. These act similar to colored mana in that you have to spend colorless on them; you can't swap in colored like usual. Use basic "Wastes" lands or artifacts like "Sol Ring" to produce colorless mana for these.

Looking at Kozilek, we see that two of his mana has to be colorless, while the other eight can be anything; colored and colorless would both work fine.

Divinity of Pride mtg

Divinity of Pride mtg

Hybrid Mana Symbols in Magic

On the above creature, "Divinity of Pride", we see unique hybrid symbols that depict two colors, in this case, black and white. For these, you can spend either color for each slot. So, to pay for Divinity, you could use three black mana and two white, four black and one white, all black, or any other combination. But you couldn't use other colors or colorless.

These symbols are beneficial because they provide flexibility in how you cast your cards. However, EDH players should note that your commander has to have both colors to include the card in your deck. For instance, while you can spend only black mana on Divinity, your commander's color identity must contain both black and white to include her in your deck.

Flame Javelin mtg

Flame Javelin mtg

Colorless Hybrid Symbols in Magic

Similar to the previous entry, these symbols accept either of two mana types, one being a color (red in this example), one a colorless slot that accepts any type. However, for the colorless, you have to spend any two mana, making it easier to use the card's preferred color.

So, the ideal way to cast "Flame Javelin" would be to pay three red mana. But you could also do two red and two colorless, one red and four green (or any other color), or six non-red. Note that the converted mana cost of Flame Javelin is always six regardless of how you actually cast it.

Phyrexian Metamorph mtg

Phyrexian Metamorph mtg

Phyrexian Mana Symbols in Magic

We see the above creature, "Phyrexian Metamorph", has three colorless symbols that accept anything, and one unique "Phyrexian" symbol. These symbols can be any color; in Metamorph's case, it's blue.

To satisfy it, you either need to spend the proper type of mana (blue in this example), or pay two life. Thus, to cast Metamorph, you could pay any three mana plus one blue, or you could spend any three and forfeit two life.

Again, these symbols are nice since you have some flexibility in how you cast your card. Plus, you'll often see a reminder in the card's text on how to satisfy the symbol in case you forget.

Snow Symbols in Magic

While rare, cards occasionally have "snow" mana symbols, like the above artifact "Arcum's Astrolabe". These are similar to colorless mana slots in that you can spend any type of mana on them; however, the mana must come from a source with the "snow" card type.

So, you could use any type of snow land, like a "Snow-Covered Island", or even a snow creature that taps for mana, like "Boreal Druid". To check if a card is a snow permanent, simply look in the middle of the card where its types are listed; if you see the word "snow", it can satisfy a snow symbol.

Genesis Wave mtg

Genesis Wave mtg

Variable (X) Symbols in Magic

Some cards have an "X" in their cost. You can spend any amount and type of mana on these values; the more you pay, the better effect you'll receive. In the above sorcery "Genesis Wave", you must pay three green mana and an X value (again, from any mana type) of your choice.

For this spell, you reveal the top X cards of your deck and can play any permanents with cost X or less for free, so the more mana you pump into X, the more cards you reveal and the bigger your upper casting limit will be.

Shalai, Voice of Plenty mtg

Shalai, Voice of Plenty mtg

How Many Colors Should You Use in Magic?

Your Magic deck can include as many colors as you want it to, but the more types of lands you juggle, the more you risk missing out on a needed color, so find a theme that works for you. Some decks only run a single color, others tackle all five, and each style has its pros and cons.

Remember that your deck in EDH format can only contain colors within your commander's color identity, and that the identity includes costs in the card's text. For instance, the above "Shalai, Voice of Plenty" only needs white mana, but counts as white/green thanks to her activated ability. But for now, as we await new mana symbols from Wizards of the Coast, vote for your favorite mana type and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!

© 2019 Jeremy Gill