Mana Dorks are creatures that can be tapped down in order to generate mana. Magic has had Mana Dorks since the beginning, with the cards Llanowar Elves and Birds of Paradise getting printed in Alpha. Mana Dorks appear primarily in Green, as it is the Color that is best at generating mana. Green has by far the best selection of Mana dorks, in fact, this list is made up exclusively of Green cards. There have been a few Mana Dorks in other colors, but they are typically conditional (like Karfell Harbinger) or come with downsides (like Vesper Ghoul).
For the purposes of this list, in order to be a good Mana Dork, a card must meet a few key criteria…
- Be unconditional. The 10 cards we are recommending should be universally useful, and able to slot into any deck. While Priest of Titania is a great Mana Dork, you need to be in an Elf tribal deck for it to work. Similarly, Sanctum Weaver is an amazing Mana Dork in Enchantment-based decks but loses its appeal in decks not focused on amassing a huge number of Enchantments. The same goes for Metalworker which would otherwise rank right near the top of this list.
- Be self-sufficient. A good Mana Dork should produce the mana by itself. There are several Mana Dorks that can only provide value by tapping other cards down as well. Cards like Jaspera Sentinel and Citanul Stalwart. These cards fall far below the power level necessary to go into a Commander deck.
- Be cheap. Mana Dorks are most useful in the early game, providing you with resources to get ahead of the rest of the table. While in the right decks, cards like Deathbloom Ritualist and Accomplished Alchemist have the potential to generate significantly more mana than Llanowar Elves you really want your four and five mana cards to be threats in their own right, rather than just a means of generating resources.
Whether you’re building a Raggadragga, Goreguts Boss deck or you just want help generating mana for your high-cost spells these 10 cards are good choices.
10. Llanowar Elves
Llanowar Elves is the archetypal Mana Dork. It’s simple but effective. Invest one mana into this card, and then get that mana back turn after turn, so long as the Llanowar Elves remain alive. Fyndhorn Elves and Elvish Mystic are both functionally the same card, so if you need more copies of this effect you can run it alongside these other Elven Druids. The original Mana Dork still definitely holds up after all of these years.
Biophagus is a pretty new Mana Dork from the Tyranid Preconstructed Commander deck. For one extra mana compared to Llanowar Elves, Biophagus gets a series of extra bonuses that, arguably, make it a better card. First of all the Biophagus can generate mana of any color, rather than just Green. Secondly, the Biophagus gives any creatures cast with its mana ability a +1/+1 counter. Finally, Biophagus has two additional toughness. If you’re in a +1/+1 Counter deck, or just run a lot of Creatures, Biophagus is a useful card to have around.
8. Gyre Sage
Gyre Sage, initially can’t generate any mana at all. The sage gains a +1/+1 counter whenever you play a creature with greater power or toughness than it and can be tapped down to generate a Green mana for each +1/+1 counter it has. It takes a bit of homework to make Gyre Sage good, but once you’ve played out a few creatures stronger than it, you’ll be generating a huge amount of mana every turn.
7. Incubation Druid
Incubation Druid generates one mana of any color your lands could produce but, if it has any +1/+1 counters on it, it generates three of that mana instead. Incubation Druid can also give itself three +1/+1 counters by paying five mana using its secondary ability “Adapt”. This card forms a natural comparison with Gyre Sage which we have ranked just behind it on this list. Incubation Druid has the higher floor, but Gyre Sage, arguably, has the higher ceiling. Incubation Druid comes out narrowly ahead, as it can generate mana of a wider range of colors. Either one of these Mana Dorks works great though, especially in +1/+1 counter focussed decks.
6. Birds of Paradise
Another Mana Dork from all the way back in Alpha. While Birds of Paradise comes with one less power than Llanowar Elves it more than makes up for this by being able to generate mana of any color and by having Flying. Flying seems an odd choice of an ability to put on a Mana Dork, but it may just save your life when an opponent attempts to swing in with an airborne threat.
Birds of Paradise’s relatively low place on this list is because its strengths are, arguably, more relevant in Constructed formats other than Commander. Birds of Paradise’s low cost is one of its greatest assets. This is immensely useful in Modern games where every turn counts. Commander games tend to last longer than Modern games do, however, meaning that slightly more expensive Mana Dorks which can generate a lot of mana, tend to be more useful than Cheaper Mana Dorks which can only generate one. All the same, Birds of Paradise is an absolutely amazing card and should be an auto-include in any four or five color decks.
5. Ignoble/Noble Hierarch
Although they were released many years apart, Ignoble Hierarch and Noble Hierarch are exceedingly similar cards. Noble Hierarch can be topped down to give you one mana in any of the 3 Bant colors, whilst Ignoble Hierarch gives you a mana in any of the 3 Jund colors, collectively covering the entire color pie. What pushes these Hierarchs up above Birds of Paradise despite the fact that neither can generate all five colors or Fly is the fact they both have Exalted. Exalted is an ability that provides a +1/+1 buff whenever a creature you control attacks alone. While this is most useful in Voltron decks, which are designed around the concept of repeatedly attacking with one very strong creature, attacking alone is something that happens frequently and incidentally enough that Exalted can prove very useful.
4. Selvala, Heart of the Wilds
Selvala, Heart of the Wilds hails from the second Conspiracy set. This card’s three mana cost is pretty steep for a Mana Dork, but there’s definitely the potential to get a return on your investment here. By tapping Selvala, and paying a single Green, you gain X mana in any combination of colors where X is the power of the strongest creature you control. The payout from this can be huge.
Selvala also has a secondary ability that allows any player to draw a card when they play a Creature with more power than any other Creature in play. Since in order to have Selvala in your deck you need to be playing Green, the color of big creatures, you should hopefully be able to benefit from this bonus more than each of your opponents.
3. Devoted Druid
Devoted Druid is a difficult card to rank. Devoted Druid has Llanowar Elves’ ability, alongside the ability to untap itself if you put a -1/-1 counter on it. By itself, the card isn’t a hugely powerful Mana Dork, but there are a huge number of cards that allow you to generate infinite mana using the Druid. Vizier of Remedies prevents the -1/-1 counters from being placed on Devoted Druid, whilst still allowing it to untap. Luxior, Giada’s Gift negates the stat penalty that the -1/-1 counters would provide, allowing the Druid to stay alive. Swift Reconfiguration turns Devoted Druid into a vehicle, meaning it will no longer die when the -1/-1 counters drop its toughness below zero unless, for some reason, you decide to crew it.
Devoted Druid probably has the highest potential to generate mana of any of the cards on this list, but it does need to be built around slightly in order to achieve this.
2. Bloom Tender
Bloom Tender is a five color deck’s ideal Mana Dork, and still a pretty decent card in other contexts. In an absolute worst-case scenario, Bloom Tender is a Llanowar Elves that costs one additional mana. In a best-case scenario, this card will be cranking out a whole WUBRG rainbow of mana every turn and putting Jeganatha, the Wellspring to shame. Bloom Tender isn’t worth using in one color decks and probably isn’t worth the price in two color decks. Once you start getting to three colors or more though, this card really begins to sing. Remember if your Commander is in play, then Bloom Tender will always be able to reach its full potential since your Commander features all of the Colors of your deck in their identity.
1. Circle of Dreams Druid
Gaea’s Cradle is one of the best lands in the game, commanding a price tag in the hundreds of dollars. Circle of Dreams Druid provides the same effect as the cradle, but for less than $10. Both the druid and the cradle give you a Green Mana for each creature you have in play. This effect is exceedingly powerful, especially in creature token-based decks, where you can rush out a huge number of creatures very quickly.
Now Circle of Dreams Druid isn’t quite as good as the cradle. As a creature it’s easier to remove than the Cradle, it doesn’t have Haste, meaning it can’t be used the turn it enters play and it costs three Green mana, which is pretty pricy for a Mana Dork. All the same, Circle of Dreams Druid has the potential to generate such a huge amount of mana that these downsides are, largely, irrelevant.
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